10th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Sir Littleton Groom) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– (By leave)- I desire to announce to the Souse that I have been appointed Leader of the Opposition and the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) Deputy Leader.
– On behalf of the Government, and, I think I can say with the utmost confidence, of all honorable members,I extend to the honorable member for Yarra and the honorable member for Darling, congratulations upon their appointment to their high and honorable positions.
– Some time ago the Minister for Trade and Customs promised that accommodation similar to that which exists on the Sydney waterfront would be provided for waterside workers at the Newcastle picking-up depot. Is the Minister aware that whilst certain accommodation has been provided at Newcastle, half of the hall formerly used has been converted into a storeroom, with the result that at times there is not even standing room for the men attending there for employment, and that no lavatory accommodation has been provided? Willthe Minister inquire into this matter?
– I know that certain accommodation was provided at the Newcastle picking-up depot, but in view of the honorable member’s statement I shall call for a report upon the subject and communicate the result to him.
– Is the Prime Minis ter prepared to make a statement in regard to the Empire Exhibition proposed to be held in Sydney?
– I hope to be able in the course of a few days to introduce a bill relating to the proposed exhibition, and at the second reading stage I shall make a full statement to the House.
– Owing to the increasing difficulties in connexion with the shipping services between the mainland and Tasmania, it is possible that many industries in that State will be obliged to close down because of their inability to get adequate supplies of sugar. Will the Prime Minister consider the advisability of establishing a sugar depot in Hobart in order to assure a regular supply of sugar to the Tasmanian jam factories and other industries to which that commodity is essential? .
– I shall have inquiries made as to the practicability of the honorable member’s suggestion.
Afghan Lessees -workers’ Compensation.
– Will the Minister for Home and Territories take advantage of the presence in Canberra of the Government Resident of Central Australia to ascertain if it is true that the North Australia Commission or some other Government authority has granted leases to Afghans adjacent to the established camp of aborigines at Alice Springs? If that has been done, will the Minister take steps to correct this obvious evil?
– I shall make inquiries from the Government Resident of Central Australia who is now at Canberra.
– In view of the statement by the Attorney-General a few days ago that it is his intention to introduce an amending Workers’ Compensation Bill at an early date, will the Minister for Home and Territories consider the advisability of framing ordinances for North and Central Australia similar to the Workers’ Compensation laws now operating in the States?
– The matter will receive consideration.
– I have previously brought under the notice of the Minister for .Trade and Customs an anomaly, if not an inadvertence, in the reciprocal treaty between New Zealand and Australia, in regard to the importation into the Dominion of durasbestos manufactured in the Commonwealth. Did the Minister say on Tuesday that his recent negotiations with the New Zealand Government had not disclosed the possibility of any re-arrangement in regard to the importation of that commodity into the Dominion?
– I informed the House that in regard to butter the new duties passed by this House would operate at the expiration of the six months’ notice pending which the duties set forth in the trade agreement would continue to operate. The negotiations in regard to other commodities are not complete, and the particular one to which the honorable member referred has not been lost sight of.
Quality and Cost of Cement
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow :-
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
In view of the alarming increase in the traffic in cocaine and similar drugs, and the difficulties experienced by State authorities in its suppression, will the Government give early consideration to the question of making it a serious Offence under the Federal laws for any unauthorized person to be found in possession of cocaine or other prohibited, drugs, as recommended on a recent occasion by the Commissioner of Police for New South Wales, who expressed the view that such a law would materially assist the police in their work of suppressing illicit drug traffic?
– Consideration has been given to this matter as explained by me to the House on Tuesday last. The control within the States of dangerous drugs is essentially a State matter, but the Commonwealth powers regarding importation will be used to their utmost to suppress this traffic A proclamation is now being issued applying to cocaine the same penalties as apply to opium and making it an offence punishable by imprisonment to illegally import cocaine or to be in possession of cocaine so imported. Further inquiry is being made as to the advisability of taking similar action regarding other dangerous habit forming drugs, and the States will be co-operated with in every possible way.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The replies to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
The Bagot Roads Board is employing several men on road construction work; others have been given employment in connexion with the erection of oil tanks at Darwin; whilst others are engaged as casual labourers inthe cargo bond. Some of the men have left the Territory. Inquiries are still proceeding in regard to the remainder, and I am hopeful that it will be possible to provide for them also.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Having regard to the interest of the primary producers in cheap freights, will he inform the House whether any of the States are still charging light dues on shipping, notwithstanding that the whole cost of lighting the Australian coast is borne by the Commonwealth: if so, what States, and what dues are they charging?
– The information is being obtained.
German Development Project
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Whether he has given his consent, under the provisions of the War Precautions ActRepeal Act, for a German company or a company of any ex-enemy country, to own and work a coal mine or mines in Australia; if so, to what company has the consent been given, and to what country does the company belong?
– No consent of this nature has been given.
asked the Prime
Minister, upon notice -
-I would refer the honorable member to the statements made by me during the course of the speech delivered in this House on Tuesday, 24th April, indicating that this matter bad received and was receiving the careful attention of the Government.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The replies to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
– On the 24th April, the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) addressed to me the following question : -
I am now in a position to furnish the following information : -
– On 28th March, the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) asked the following questions : -
I am now able to furnish the honorable member with the following information for the latest periods available: -
The following paper was presented: -
Commonwealth Film Censorship. - Report for the year 1927.
Ordered to be printed.
Debate resumed from 29th March (vide page 4303) on motion by Mr. Paterson -
That the bill be now read a second time.
. - I regret that my first act as the newly appointed Leader of the Opposition must be to support a Government bill, but I promise to make amends later. Thi3 is a simple measure to give effect, as the Minister for Markets (Mr. Paterson) explained when introducing it, to the wishes of the States that are producing dried fruits, and as such it meets with the support, I think, of all honorable members. A situation arose in the fruit-growing districts that has been explained on many previous occasions. We have had for some time a surplus of dried fruits because of the extension of soldier settlements. About 80 per cent, of those fruits has to be exported because the Australian market absorbs only 20 per cent, of the production. The Australian market is profitable while the export market is unprofitable, and to ensure a fair proportion of each grower’s pack being exported, the States set up boards to control the marketing of dried fruits both in Australia and abroad. Everything progressed satisfactorily in the States concerned - South Australia, New South Wales, Victoria and Western Australia. Those States fixed quotas for export, and legislated to provide for the confiscation of supplies should that be needed to regulate the market. But an appeal in South Australia to the High Court alleging the unconstitutionality of the action of the States was made and upheld. The arrangement come to by the States was quite reasonable. As SO per cent, of our dried fruits has to be exported, it would obviously be unfair to allow some growers to market the whole of their produce in Australia, thus forcing others to export more than their fair proportion to the unprofitable market abroad. Some growers have asked why there should be any interference with the marketing of their produce, but I would point out to them that there has for many years been interference in the form of a high protective tariff, which has considerably benefited the growers of dried fruits in this country. I claim therefore, that it is reasonable to ensure by legislation to each grower his fair share of the profitable Australian market. I do not anticipate any opposition to the bill from honorable members. The Development and Migration Commission made an investigation into the industry, and in its report it urged that the Commonwealth and States should co-operate in passing legislation to give power to boards to regulate the marketing of dried fruits in Australia and abroad. The only question is whether the Minister for Markets and the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) are satisfied that there is constitutional power to do what we are now proceeding to do under this measure. I do not pretend to be a constitutional authority, but I have more than a doubt on the subject. It would be a mistake to pass legislation only to have it challenged, because we can be well assured that the gentlemen who tested the law .in South Australia will test it again against the Commonwealth Government. We should make sure that we have the power to carry out the provisions of this ‘measure. It has been made manifest on numerous occasions that the Commonwealth Parliament has not the power to enact much of the legislation required in the interests of the people of Australia. If there is a doubt about the constitutionality of this measure, we should frankly say so and ask for an extension of our powers. Hitherto the State authorities have been opposed to extending the powers of the Commonwealth, but in this case the State authorities have asked for our assistance. The Commonwealth Parliament is severely handicapped through lack of constitutional power in regard to this and other matters. The straightforward and most satisfactory course to pursue would be for the Government to make reasonably sure of the constitutional position, and if it believes that we have not the power to pass legislation of this description, to admit it. It should then ask the people to clothe it with greater power. It is unsatisfactory for us to have to defend our legislation in the law courts. Ministers are responsible for the introduction of legislation, and, as I believe that if a measure of this description could be constitutionally administered it would be beneficial to the industry, I intend to support the bill.
– I appreciate the novel method the Government has adopted to deal with the difficult subject of interstate trade. I trust that this bill will be passed, and that it will have the desired effect on the dried fruits industry. My main purpose in participating in the debate is to ask the Minister for Markets (Mr. Paterson) a question in relation to the butter industry. Great difficulty is experienced in the interstate marketing of butter. Arrangements have been completed for the orderly marketing of our butter and cheese with the States, and by means of the Dairy Export Control Board overseas. Conditions in interstate markets are often chaotic. The local market is undermined for our producers by reason of butter from one State being sent to another State to meet periods of excess production in one State and temporary shortage in another. This .has a particularly detrimental effect upon the Queensland butter industry. The situation there at present is that we are forced to export overseas a box of butter for every box that we obtain from another State. As the price realized for butter oversea is considerably less than that realized for butter sold locally, our producers are consequently at a considerable disadvantage when butter is imported into Queensland from another State. The price of butter is lower oversea in consequence of the competition which we have to face from foreign producers. As a matter of fact, the price obtained for butter sold overseas has a considerable effect upon the price of butter locally. What this industry needs is an organization to ensure orderly marketing of butter and cheese sold interstate. I should like the Minister for Markets to give me an assurance that if the Government finds this a successful method of dealing with interstate trade in the dried fruits industry, it will apply it to the butter industry, if invited to do so by the butter and cheese organizations in the Commonwealth.
.- I am not prepared to discuss this subject at length, but I approve of the introduction of the bill. The history of the dried fruits industry has been very interesting. Although there was a protective duty years ago, the lack of organization among the growers rendered it ineffective. The growers, acting upon the individualistic principle of “ every man for himself,” grew their fruit and hawked it around while the buyers stood off, played one grower against another, and eventually bought the fruit for prices far below its real value. The industry passed from that phase when the Australian Dried Fruits Association was formed, and became probably the best example of organized primary industry that we have. Although the association has always been supported by an overwhelming majority of the fruit-growers, a section of them, known as outsiders, did not participate in its operations. To obtain an advantage for themselves, they were prepared to sacrifice the interests of their fellow-growers. It is well known that the Australian price for dried fruits is usually higher than the price oversea, and the outsiders have consistently exploited the local market and refused to take their share in the export trade. We had during the war an interesting illustration of the rapacity of these persons. For a time the price of dried fruits oversea was higher than the price in Australia. I take this opportunity of saying that it is to the credit of the local dried fruits industry that prices were not increased here during the war as they might have been. The growers, by voluntary action, kept the price in Australia down to about £80 per ton, while the price oversea reached as high as £120 per ton. The outsiders deserve no credit for this, for just as they endeavour to sell the whole of their products locally while the price is higher in Australia, so they endeavoured to ex”port the whole of their output while the price was higher oversea. As the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) has said, there is great necessity for complete federal control of this industry. I recognize that the Government has only limited powers in this regard. When we were discussing the referendum proposals prior to the last election, I urged the Government to seek an increase in its power over primary industries, but unfortunately it did not do so: I urge now that at the earliest possible opportunity it should request the people to clothe it with complete power over not only the dried fruits, but also over all other primary industries. At present the dried fruits industry is being buttressed by a number of legislative enactments passed by the Commonwealth and State Parliaments. In setting up export control boards for the dried fruits, canned fruits and butter industries the Government undoubtedly acted wisely. These boards are practically compulsory export pools. At present the position of the dried fruits producer is not happy, for it costs him approximately £120 to produce £100 worth of fruit. The Government has requested the Development and Migration Commission to investigate this subject, and, if possible, to find a remedy for it. ] understand that a conference on the subject is to be held shortly. The importance of the matter will be realized when I say that the dried fruits industry has to export a greater proportion of its produce than any other Australian industry, with the sole exception of the wool industry. Prior to the repatriation activities, 80 per cent, of the dried fruit was consumed locally and the other 20 per cent, exported; but to-day the position is reversed. Eighty per cent, is thrown on the world’s markets, and world’s prices today are such that the growers cannot profitably carry on the industry. Last season began with a disastrous frost, and ended with a heavy rain, which badly affected the quality of the grapes and greatly diminishing the quantity. The quality of the fruit, of course, is a highly important factor in thu success of this industry. Pending its reorganization, as suggested by the Development and Migration Commission, the Government should grant to the growers a bounty upon export. The tremendous increase in the exportable surplus was caused by the repatriation activities of the various State governments, which gave little heed to the markets that would be available for the fruit. The industry experienced a boom during the war, because of the profitable prices obtained in1 Australia and the abnormally high rates commanded by dried fruits overseas. But when our soldiers were returning something had to be done to employ them. They were settled on the land by the thousands. At Red Cliffs, within a few miles of my home, 700 were placed on orchards. About 1,000 were given blocks in the Mildura irrigation area, and a large number were settled in South Australia. But it was like putting men into an already overloaded boat. The industry is now over producing, with the result that, in addition to the soldier settlers being in a bad way, the pioneers in the industry are also “ up against it.”
– They are swamped.
– Undoubtedly. Therefore the industry has a special claim for an export bounty.. The older growers had no voice concerning the Government repatriation activities, and the soldier settlers at least deserve consideration and protection.. I do not accuse the present Government of laxity.’ It has done a great deal for the industry, and the introduction of this measure shows its further willingness to help it. I grant that without reservation; but I strongly appeal to the Government to consider the special claim that the industry has for a bounty on its exportable surplus, which has to be sold in open competition in the world’s markets. The bounty should be sufficient to pay the difference between the ascertained cost of production and the prices received.
– Would that not perpetuate the evil of over-production?
– At the moment, I am not discussing what it might lead to. I am contending that the in-“ dustry has a special claim on the Government in view of the fact that the repatriation policy is responsible for its presentunsatisfactory condition. It would be unnecessary to determine, arbitrarily, the amount of the bounty. The Development and Migration Commission, or some other body, should impartially investigate the cost of production, and if it were ascertained that the average cost at the sheds was £45 a ton, and the price received overseas was £40 a ton, the bounty for that year could be fixed at £5 a ton. Although the industry has not expressed an opinion on this point, my personal view is that if the prices received overseas should return to the industry more than the cost of production, it should favorably consider the payment of the additional sum into an equalization fund,which would be available for the purpose of contributing to the cost of the bounty in subsequent years when the price received might fall below the cost of production. The growers have to contend with not only uncertainty of prices in the world’s markets, but also uncertainty in climatic conditions. On the other hand, their costs of production are fixed. A grower with 10 acres of orchard has to dispose of 8 acres of his crop in the world’s markets ; but he is compelled to pay Arbitration Court awards, not only to the fruitpickers but also to the men employed to do ploughing, pruning, and all other work connected with the whole orchard. The grower receives a guaranteed price for the 2 acres of his fruit that is marketed locally ; but he has to take what he can get for that from the remaining 8 acres. That seems to me most unfair. At a recent deputation I asked the Minister for Markets what would be the position of the grower if, after he had had the benefit of the work of the Export Control Board, and all the Government advertising and other assistance, he still received less for his fruit than the cost of production. The Minister replied that he would have to “ face the music.” That, I think, was a rather callous statement, and the growers of dried fruits rather resent it. They would not complain so much if similar treatment was accorded other industries in their requests for assistance. If it be the policy of the Government to tell these growers, who are compelled to market 80 per cent. of their crop in competition with the produce of the cheap labour of Mediterranean countries and who pay the highest ocean freights and the highest production costs in the world, that they have to “ face the music,” it is anything but fair.
– Especially if the Minister is calling the tune.
– Quite so.
– And there are so many tunes.
– Yes ; the bewildered grower scarcely knows where he stands. I stress the urgency of obtaining increased Commonwealth powers to enable all primary industries to be placed under Federal control. The object of all primary producers today is to have their industries controlled.
The old system of individual marketing has gone for all time. On every hand there is a clamour for compulsory pools. Whatever may be said regarding voluntary co-operation, it is undeniable that it is beyond the power of any human being to evolve a system of marketing, whether it be of dried fruits, wheat, butter, or any other product, that will be accepted voluntarily by every person engaged in the industry. The sooner we face that fact, the better. There is an urgent necessity for complete federal control and the scrapping of the system under which five or six State acts of Parliament are superimposed upon Federal acts. I again stress the point that has been repeatedly made by returned soldier settlers, the Australian Dried Fruits Association, and others who are engaged in the industry, that an immediate investigation should be made into the claim for the payment of an export bounty upon dried fruits sufficient to wipe out the difference that now exists between the cost of production and the prices which are received in themarkets of the world. The bill has my wholehearted support.
.- I agree with some of the remarks of the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart), and disagree with others. This bill has been introduced with the object of assisting in the disposal of the dried fruits produced in the States of South Australia, Victoria, and New South Wales. The Commonwealth Government proposes that no grower in any of those States shall sell his product in another State.
– That is not so.
– I disagree with this action, because I am totally opposed to government interference with any industry.
– This legislation was asked for by the States.
– That may be so ; but I contend that they should rely upon their own laws. The whole tendency of this and similar legislation in recent years has been to drive people off the land instead of to induce them to engage in production. During the last few years 70,000 . men have ceased to produce. Production can be increased only by harder work ; not by legislation. Returned soldiers were placed on the land to grow not only dried fruits, but also many other products. In almost every instance they have failed, not because of any lack of energy on their part, but because they have found it almost impossible to make headway against the conditions that have been brought about by the legislation which has been passed. As the honorable member for Wimmera has said, it costs £120 to produce £100 worth of dried fruits. Awards of the Arbitration Court and other conditions which have been imposed by’ different governments have had the effect of raising the cost of production. Before the Minister for Markets (Mr. Paterson) gained his present position, he initiated a voluntary butter pool, which increased the price of butter to the consumer by 3d. a lb. The cost of living is continually advancing, and the natural result is an upward trend in the wages bill. One is led to wonder where all this will end. The honorable member for Wimmera has advocated the payment of a bounty to the dried-fruits growers. I agree with him that if the Government, by legislation, increases the cost of production the growers should be assisted by way of a bounty. I have in my electorate the dried apple industry, the condition of which was brought to the notice of the Development and Migration Commission. The chairman of the commission sent his officers to Tasmania to investigate the industry, and subsequently paid a personal visit during which he obtained all the information which was available regarding the cost of production, and the prices obtained in London. At a meeting which he held with representatives of the growers he said “ Do you think that if we were to assist you this industry could be made to pay?” I was present at the meeting, and I answered that it could be made to pay if it were assisted as had been the canned fruit, the dried fruit, the butter, and many other industries. At the present time only Tasmanian dried applies are being marketed in Australia, and the Government expert has stated that they are as good as the dried applies which are produced in any other part of the world. Yet the Development and Migration Commission have stated that they cannot see their way to recommend to the Government the granting of a bounty of Id. or 2d. a lb. !
– The honorable member is going beyond the scope of the bill. He is discussing a recommendation of the Development and Migration Commission.
– I am endeavouring to show the difference between the dried fruits that are produced in Tasmania and those that are produced in other parts of Australia.
– The bill deals only with trade and commerce with other countries and among the States in certain specified dried fruits.
– I am asking that a bounty be paid with respect to the dried apples that are produced in Tasmania. I cannot see why I should be debarred from bringing that matter before the Minister.
– The honorable member may show how the bill can be extended to other industries.
– The Development and Migration Commission has refused to recommend a bounty for this industry, and says that it cannot be stabilized, but it has never been given a fair trial.’ In regard to the bill itself, as I do not believe in Government interference with private industry, I shall on principle vote against the second reading.
– The honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Seabrook) seems inclined to conduct a vigorous campaign on behalf of the apple industry, but he offered a good deal of opposition to a proposal for a compulsory pool, which would have helped the industry considerably. This bill embodies the principle of compulsion. It is amusing to find the Government, which on occasions has held up its hands in holy horror at proposals for compulsion, now introducing that very principle in this bill, which, in effect, tells the producers of dried fruits how and where they shall dispose of their produce. I believe in what is proposed, but it is another instance of the many inconsistencies of the Government. We have been told that this legislation is necessary because some individual or individuals challenged the legality of a State Government’s operations in this field, and I agree with the Leader of the
Opposition that interested individuals will probably endeavour to upset Commonwealth legislation on the subject also. I hope that a test case will be taken to the High Court. I do not presume to anticipate the judgment of the highest tribunal in the land on a point of constitutional law, but, having regard to the present personnel of the High Court bench, and expressions of opinion by eminent lawyers, I believe that legislation by this Parliament upon this and other specific matters will be held to be constitutional. No doubt “the Minister will assure us that the Government is strenuously endeavoring to induce the British people to take increasing quantities of our exportable products. We all are aware of the obstacles that confront us, Spain, Italy, Greece and other southern European countries are amongst the greatest suppliers of dried fruits to the United Kingdom, and their products are able to compete successfully against Australian products, mainly because of the cheap labour they employ, and partly because of the considerable amount of British capital invested in their industries. We shall have little hope of making headway in the markets of the United Kingdom, until the British Government is prepared to grant - as it has often professed itself willing to do - such protection to Empire products as will almost exclude the commodities of our cheap labour competitors. It is true that the Old Country gives us a generous measure of assistance in connexion with most of our exportable products; the British market is our best, but it is also a very fine market for foreign countries in which lower standards of living and longer hours of labour prevail. We desire for our fruit-growers and other rural producers, reasonable hours of labour and a fair return for their energies, but we shall have little chance of extending the dried fruits industry, and also maintaining those conditions unless we can obtain a greater foothold in the British market. Having regard to the fact that Britain requires annually £400,000,000 worth of foodstuffs in excess of what she produces, it is obvious that the finest market open to us is that among the 45,000,000 people of our own kith and kin iri the United
Kingdom. Whilst we are grateful for what the Old Country is doing to foster the sale of our primary products, we believe that much more could be done. Australia buys £70,000,000 worth of British goods each year, and, in view of that generous support of British workmen and industries, it is fair to ask the people in the United Kingdom to give a greater measure of patronage to our primary products. In regard to wool, we need no assistance. It is true that some growers are hinting that the day is not far distant when a bounty on wool exports will be necessary, but that view is unduly pessimistic. All the information one can gain is to the effect that competitors with Australian wool producers are far behind them in regard to both quantity and quality, and I am confident that for many years to come our wool-growers have little to fear from the competition of other parts of the world. The dried-fruits industry is in a different category. A few years ago it was remarkably prosperous, and was regarded as almost a close corporation. The producers at Mildura, Benmark, and other centres, were able to dictate the prices to be paid by Australian consumers, and the output was not much more than sufficient to meet the local demand; but in recent years the industry has expanded considerably. Many returned soldiers were told of the wonderful successes achieved at the irrigation settlements, and were encouraged by Commonwealth and State Governments to engage in the production of dried fruits. The result has been that instead of selling 80 per cent, of our products in Australia, and exporting the balance, the local market is able to absorb only 20 per cent, of the present increased production, leaving SO per cent, to be sold abroad. That position is. very serious. Whether the suggestion made by the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart) would relieve the producers of dried fruits, I cannot say; but I am strongly of the opinion that unless, through the good offices of the British Government we can induce the people in the United Kingdom to give us greater tariff assistance, there will be little opportunity to extend our trade in these commodities. I hope that the Ministry will continue to negotiate with the Imperial Government for better conditions, so that at no distant date the British market, which is now almost flooded with the products of the cheap-labour countries bordering the Mediterranean, will be almost monopolized by Australian fruits. If we could induce the British Parliament to place an embargo on the imports from cheap-labour countries, Australia could easily dispose of the whole of its surplus dried fruits in the United Kingdom.
– Is not the Labour party in Great Britain opposed to the principle of granting preference to dominion products ?
– No. It is the one party in British politics which is trying to get at the kernel of this matter. I do not say that the British Labour party as a whole has adopted this policy, but certainly some of its most prominent members believe that Great Britain should no longer -encourage the production of foodstuffs for its market by cheap labour, and under conditions that are notin conformity with advanced sociological opinion.
– Order! This bill deals primarily with overseas and interstate trade in certain dried fruits, and the honorable member is not in order in comparing the policies of rival political parties in the United Kingdom.
– I believe that the British market will be the salvation of our dried-fruits industry. The Australian market is already well supplied at reasonable prices. The effect of this bill will be to make every grower accept a fair proportion of the less profitable export trade. That is fair, and the principle will be approved by 95 per cent. of the growers. But others, in the absence of compelling legislation, would refuse to take the risk of competition in the overseas market, and would endeavour to dispose of the whole of their products in the more favorable home market. Because ofthe possibility of a selfish minority acting in this way, compulsion is necessary. It is the right thing to do. By that compulsion there is an opportunity for a fair deal being given to the producers of dried fruits. I believe that the honorable member for Wimmera will agree that unless we make greater inroads into the
British market and dispose of more of our dried fruits there, the position of the industry here will become very perilous indeed.
– Perhaps if we take a greater percentage of the products of Great Britain, that country will take more of ours.
– We must remember that Great Britain requires to import a considerable quantity of food-stuffs every year.
– Great Britain must export to pay for its imports.
– The Old Country must import food-stuffs. The balance of trade is considerably in its favour, and therefore it should be prepared to absorb periodically the whole of our dried fruits. Unfortunately, we have as our competitors a considerable number of British capitalists, who have invested in the dried fruits industries of foreign countries, and are making huge profits because of the employment of cheap labour. Notwithstanding that, there should be a big effort made by us to obtain a greater share of the British market, and to receive more consideration from Great Britain because therein, to a great extent, lies the salvation of our dried fruits industry. I support the bill, and I hope that under its provisions the growers will benefit more than they anticipate at present.
– I do not apologize for taking up a few minutes in discussing the bill, because the Minister, in his secondreading speech, stated that in the introduction of this measure the Government was taking a very significant step. I realize that this is not the time for a general discussion about pools, because there will be an opportunity for that later, particularly in reward to wheat pools when the motion of the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney) is being discussed, and possibly in regard to dried fruits if, as is stated by the newspapers, in view of the recommendations of the Development and Migration Commission, further legislation concerning dried fruits is to be brought down to this House this year. I make no apology for not supporting the bill. It was introduced at the request of the South Australian Government, but the Board of Control operating in that State was appointed by a Labour Government, and there is no particular reason why I should support it. In addition, the inquiries regarding dried fruits generally were made by the honorable John Gunn, a former Labour Premier of South Australia. I know that gentleman, and am aware that he is a man of ability, but there is no reason why I should be governed by his views on the dried fruits industry, since they are likely to be largely affected by his socialistic opinions, which are well known. During the last four years a considerable number of acts relating to dried fruits have been passed by one parliament or another. The Commonwealth Control Board was established in 1924, and the State Governments commenced to appoint boards in the same year. This bill has been introduced, apparently, to overcome a difficulty that has’ arisen under the operation of a series of acts of parliament, and, as I have said before, it is understood that a more far-reaching bill will be introduced later, giving effect to the recommendation of the Development and Migration Commission to eliminate a great many of the packing sheds. I mention these things to show that with the establishment and growth of control boards, compulsion gets closer and closer, and government control of the industry becomes greater and greater, until, as the Minister said in his second-reading speech, the chain is complete. I should think that by the time the chain is complete the unfortunate victim will be throttled. At any rate, we are approaching what appears to me to be an entirely untenable position. I disagree entirely with the statement’ of the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart) that there has been constant satisfaction with the boards of control. He is entitled to speak for his own district; but there are other districts in which dried fruits are produced, and my own belief is that boards of control are becoming the reverse of popular. At times I live in a district which is producing a considerable quantity of dried fruit, and I know that during the last few years, while the works of the board of control nave been increasing, the dissatisfaction of the producers has been growing. The honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Seabrook), the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers), and myself, when legislation dealing with the control of fresh fruits was before this House last year, expressed our opposition to the proposal, and the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) suggested by , interjection that Tasmania would very likely reject the proposal altogether.’ Generally, it was assumed by honorable members that the pool would be accepted with avidity by the fresh fruit producers. However, the vote was heavily against the establishment of a control board for the apple and pear industry.
– Not heavily.
– The proposal was rejected by a considerable majority. That indicates that in this country there is great doubt whether these control boards serve the purposes for which they are established. One reason for that is that since the boards have been operating regulations have been framed very freely. I have constantly received regulations relating to the dried fruits industry, and however intelligible or otherwise they may be to me, I am certain that to many of the growers they are perfectly unintelligible. The provisions of the bill appear to be somewhat drastic. For a breach of clause 3 there is to be a fine of £100, or imprisonment for six months. That is a fairly heavy punishment to give any man who carries his dried fruits out of one State to another, although he may live just at the border, without getting a formal licence issued by what is called a “ prescribed authority.” Sub-clause 3 of that clause provides that any dried fruits which have been, or are in process of being, carried in contravention of this measure shall be forfeited to the King. I read that sub-clause as having a retrospective effect, and applying to any dried fruits that have been carried from one State to another before the passing of this legislation, which, in consequence, will be forfeited to the King. In that event that provision will operate in the case which has been determined by the court, and determined in such a way as to make necessary the passing of this legislation. Clause 4 contains the following provisions: -
The Governor-General may make regulations, not inconsistent with this act, prescribing all matters which are required or permitted to be prescribed, or which are necessary or convenient to be prescribed, for carrying out or giving effect to this act and in particular for -
prescribing the conditions (which may include conditions as to the export from Australia of dried fruits by or on behalf of the person applying for a licence) upon which licences may be issued;
prescribing the maximum quantity which may be contained in a consignment of dried fruits which may be carried from a place in one State to a place in Australia beyond that State without the issue of a licence under this act;
prescribing the kinds and quality of dried fruits for the carriage of which from a place in one State to a place in Australia beyond that State a licence shall not be necessary ;
prescribing means of identifying the dried fruits to which a licence relates ;
conferring upon prescribed authorities and officers powers of entry on, and inspection of, places where any process in connexion with the drying of fruits is carried on, or on or of any places where dried fruits are, or are believed by a prescribed authority or officer to be.
That is a very wide provision to deal with a minor case, because I do not suppose that there have been many instances of dried fruits being taken over the border. The bill looks very much like using a steam hammer to crack a nut. Respecting the formation of a dried fruit pool, I, of course, adhere to my previous statements. Under a pool it is impossible to check the wisdom of
Bales. All that the producer receives is a cheque with a statement showing what proportion he has received and the prices realized for sales in certain months and generally; but he cannot follow the sales of his own fruit. It has been asserted that muddles have been made by control boards in selling the produce that has come to them. If such muddles do occur it will be apparent to honorable members that it would be impossible for a producer to check the sale of his particular fruit. Even if he were able to do so he would have no alternative but to continue delivering his fruit to the board, for there is no other method of selling it.
– That would apply to all pools.
– That is so; but for the moment I am referring to the DriedFruits Board. The point has been raised whether the provisions of this bill are constitutional. The Minister in introducing the measure made a few observations on this subject. The honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) said by interjection “ There cannot be uniformity if the industry does not exist in all the States. The Minister replied “ There can be uniformity of a kind, I think, to satisfy the provisions of section 99.” That seems to indicate that there is good reason to doubt whether a measure of this description can be legally administered. It appears inevitable that if the bill is passed its validity will be tested in the court. The fact that different quotas of sultanas for home sale have beenlaid down for different States must also be taken into account in considering the constitutionality of the measure. It has been provided that the quota of sultanas for local sale for New South Wales should be 75 per cent., and for the other sultana-producing States 15 per cent.
In the course of his second-reading speech the Minister laid down certain principles which he submitted should weigh with honorable members in considering this bill. He said -
All the States concerned have passed State legislation to control intrastate trade and have asked the Commonwealth to do what we now propose.
That, I submit, is not in itself a sufficient reason for the Commonwealth introducing a bill of this character. Such action should not be taken unless it can be demonstrated clearly that it is in the interests of the industry to take it. The Minister also said -
Polls have been taken not only throughout the Commonwealth in connexion with the Commonwealth export control board but by each of the State boards, and these show that a substantial majority of the producers are in favour of the scheme.
It would be perfectly natural for the State boards to show a majority in favour of the scheme seeing that it must result in the strengthening of the position of control boards generally.
– I think I said that a poll had been taken of the producers, not of the boards, in each State.
– If the Minister will refer to the Hansard report of his speech I think he will find that he said that polls had been taken not only of the producers but of each State board. The Minister also said -
The control proposed to be exercised in this way will be undertaken substantially by the producers themselves.
I venture to question the accuracy of that statement. If honorable members will refer to the principal act they will see that it provided for the setting up of a federal board of seven members, one of whom was to be elected by the GovernorGeneral as the representative of the Commonwealth Government, three by the growers of New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia, one by the growers of Western Australia, and the remaining two, who were to be men of commercial experience, were to be appointed by the Governor-General.
– At the request of the growers.
– I do not think that a provision of that kind appears in the act.
– It is none the less a fact.
– That may be the case; but there is nothing to that effect in the act. Since the Minister takes the point, I ask him who were the producers that requested that two gentlemen of commercial experience should be appointed? I do not know who the two commercial appointees are, and I am not, making any attack upon them.
– They are two of the ablest commercial men in Melbourne, and men of very high standing.
– So much the better ; but what producers asked that they should be appointed ? There was no general power in the producers to request such an appointment. The “Minister may be satisfied that the board represents the wishes of the producers, but it is by no means clear that, as a whole, it represents the producers. Although four of its members are definitely appointed by the fruit-growers, the remaining three may never have grown any fruit. The Minister also said -
This industry is very -efficiently organized for the purposes of marketing.
Seeing that it has such a big measure of Government control behind it, it would be indeed strange if it we’re not strongly organized.
I regard this bill as an additional, though by no means the most important link, in the chain which the Minister desires to make complete. I know a little about the dried fruits industry, and something of the difficulties which it has experienced for several years, but I do not regard the general system of Government control to which it is being subjected at present as being likely ultimately to benefit it or the growers and, therefore, like the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) I consider that the bill should be opposed.
– As several honorable members have questioned the legality of this bill, and as it represents a new departure in federal legislation, I conceive it’ to be only proper that I should say something upon the rather difficult legal and constitutional questions which are involved in it. I shall confine my remarks to that aspect of it. The measure is described as “ a bill for an act relating to trade and commerce with other countries, and among the States in certain dried fruits.” Every honorable, member is aware of the system of export control boards which has been introduced by this Parliament, and supplemented by State legislation, to control domestic trade. By this means the Commonwealth authorities have sought to place the regulation of trade in certain commodities, such as dried fruits and dairy produce, in the hands of Commonwealth and State boards. This bill has been introduced in consequence of a decision given by .the High Court in the case’ of James versus the State of South Australia, which is reported in volume 40 of the Commonwealth Law Reports on page 1. This volume only reached the Parliamentary Librarian to-day. The South Australian legislation for the regulation of the dried fruits industry, which is on the same lines as that passed by other State Parliaments concerned, provides among other things for the setting up of a board in South Australia to determine from time to time where and in what respective quantities the output of dried fruits shall be marketed, and it authorizes the board to divest the owners of dried fruits of their property in the fruit and to vest it in the State. The person concerned in the case to which I have referred, refused to obey the directions of the board with respect to bearing his share of the export quota, and in cornsequence the dried fruits owned by him were seized by the State authorities. The grower then took proceedings in the High Court in order to establish what he conceived to be his rights. The High Court held that the . section of the South Australian statute which enabled the State authorities to prescribe where and in what quantities dried fruits should be marketed was invalid in so far as it affected interstate trade, but that the section of the act which enabled the State to acquire the dried fruit, and by acquiring it to become the owner of it and to sell it where it desired was valid. ‘Accordingly it is theoretically possible by exercising the power of acquisition for a State, to operate the present system of control and marketing of dried fruits, including the requirement that every person commercially producing dried fruits shall bear his fair share of the burden of export. But such a system would be inconvenient, and there are other objections to it. It would be necessary for State Governments to acquire compulsorily and to sell all dried fruits which any person endeavoured to sell interstate so as to defeat his export obligations. An appeal was therefore made to this Parliament to place the system upon a better basis by introducing this legislation.
In order to appreciate the power this Parliament has to deal with this matter, it is necessary to examine section 92 of the Constitution. Honorable members are aware that one of the objects of federation was to remove customs barriers between the States, and thus introduce a system of interstate freetrade within the Commonwealth. ‘ It ‘w:i.s thought that section 92 effectively achieved that object. The section reads -
On the imposition of uniform duties of customs, trade commerce and intercourse among the States, whether by means of interna.! carriage or ocean navigation, shall be absolutely free.
Those words appear to be absolutely clear until one asks the simple question “ absolutely free from what ?” Then one begins to realize the difficulties associated with the subject. Obviously it does not mean that there are to be no charges for the transport of goods. It could hardly mean that, whatever the condition of goods - even if prejudical to the public health and liable to spread disease or peststhey are to pass freely from State to State. This question has been before the High Court on several occasions, and its history is rather chequered. In or about the year 1915, there was the wheat acquisition case, reported in volume 20 of the Commonwealth Law Reports, which arose under a New South Wales statute that empowered the State authorities to acquire the property in wheat, whether it was or was not the subject of an interstate contract. This legislation was part of a concerted set of war measures designed to secure the complete control of our wheat in the interests of the Australian, and the British and other allied forces, and populations. Attempts to evade that legislation were made by persons who had made interstate contracts. They contended that their interstate dealings were exempt from any legislative interference. The High Court held that the New South Wales legislation was legislation with respect to property and not legislation with respect to trade, and that there was nothing in the Constitution preventing a State from acquiring, under legislative authority, the property in any commodity, whether it was or was not the subject matter of interstate trade. At a later date, the case of Foggitt Jones and Company versus the State of New South Wales, reported in volume 21 of Commonwealth Law Reports, at page 357, was decided. A New South Wales Act declared that all stock and meat in New South Wales should become and remain, subject of the Act, and be “ held for the purposes of, and kept, for the disposal of His Majesty’s Imperial Government in aid of the supplies for His Majesty’s armies in the present war.” It further provided that “ forthwith, upon the making of any order in writing under the hand of the Minister, all stock and meat mentioned in such order shall cease to be the property of the then owner or owners thereof, and shall become and remain the absolute property of His Majesty.” There were also consequential provisions. It was held by four justices of the High Court, a fifth justice expressing a doubt, that this act, in so far as it purported to authorize the Government of New South “Wales to prevent the interstate carriage of meat and stock, was an interference with interstate trade and commerce, and was invalid as being an infringement of section 92 of the Constitution. The next case arose under a Queensland Act, and in almost identical circumstances. That was the case of Duncan, versus the State of Queensland and another, reported in volume 22 of the Commonwealth Law Report, page 556. The Queensland Act was substantially in the same terms as the New South “Wales Act, which, as I have said, was held to be invalid. The Queensland Act was held by five justices to be valid, though two justices were of opinion that it was invalid, and the decision in the Foggitt Jones case was therefore overruled. It was held that, although the Queensland Act undoubtedly interfered with and prevented the interstate transport of meat, and stock, yet the act was not invalid, because the Government had the power to deal with the incidents of property in goods. One of the incidents of property was the power to send or sell interstate, and. it was able, by aptly framed legislation, to denude the owner of this attribute of property, and authorize the acquisition by and vesting in the State of the right to prevent the owner from sending his goods across the border.
– Were those war measures ?
– Each of the three cases to which I have referred arose under State, not under federal, legislation, and the consideration of their validity was not in any way associated with the defence power of the Commonwealth.
– They were passed for war purposes.
– These acts were passed for war purposes; but I have indicated the reasoning upon which the decisions were based. In the last case, there was a distinction between dealing with the rights of property and dealing with the rights of trade. If a State likes to legislate with respect to even a single incident of property, that of disposition, it was held to be able to do so by withdrawing commodities from the sphere of trade. In 1920, the case of W. and A. McArthur Limited versus the State of Queensland and others was decided. It is reported in 28 Commonwealth Law Reports, page 530. This case arose under a Queensland price-fixing act which’ made it an offence to sell any commodity for a price other than that fixed in pursuance of that legislation. McArthur and Company, a well-known Sydney company, carried -on business in Queensland through travellers, who sold at prices in excess of those fixed by the Queensland legislation. Some of the contracts were made between Sydney and Brisbane, and some involved the transport of goods from Sydney to Brisbane in satisfaction of contracts. Accordingly, the question of interference with interstate trade was raised. In this case, four justices, two others dissenting, held that the Foggit Jones case had been wrongly over-ruled, and had been rightly decided. Certain of the justices also held that the last case to which I have referred - Duncan versus the State of Queensland - which had overruled the Foggit Jones case, had been wrongly decided. Therefore the position now is that by majorities varying in degree and extent, the Foggit Jones case was first decided and then over-ruled by the Duncan case. Then Duncan’s case was over-ruled, and the Foggit Jones case was reinstated. Honorable members will, accordingly, realize that I am speaking on sure ground when I say that it is certain that there is a considerable degree of uncertainty about the legal position, but so long as the last decision is maintained as being the law - and, apparently, the law is settled by the latest decision, and by the
James case, to which I referred in my opening remarks - the law may be taken to be as expressed in the McArthur case. In that case it was held, to put it shortly, that a State had no power to fix the price of interstate sales. Dealing with the words “ absolutely free,” in section 92, the majority justices said -
The primary meaning of these words used as they are with reference to governmental control, is that the subject matter of which they are predicated is to be “ absolutely free “ from all governmental control by every governmental’ authority to whom the command contained in the section is addressed.
There is, therefore, to be no governmental authority exercised over interstate trade and commerce, by any governmental authority to whom section 92 is addressed. It is necessary in order to follow the reasons upon which the decision is based to consider another provision of the Constitution. The Constitution not only provides that interstate trade shall be absolutely free, but it also provides under section 51 that this Parliament shall have power to legislate with respect to trade and commerce with other countries and among the States. Honorable members will, therefore, at once see what the problem was that presented itself to the high court. How can interstate trade and commerce at once be absolutely free, and at the same time a subject for legislation by the. Commonwealth Parliament ? Most legislation imposes some form of restriction. It is conceivable, however, that legislation may not impose any form of restriction or restraint. Legislation may be entirely empowering and permissive; but even such legislation generally imposes a restraint upon acts outside the power and beyond the permission contemplated by the legislation. It is, therefore, very difficult to formulate in one’s mind a coherent system of ideas that will leave acts of trade and commerce at once absolutely free, and also as full a subject for legislation by the Commonwealth as are the other subjects mentioned in section 51 of the Constitution. A solution of the difficulty was discovered by the High Court in the McArthur case, and it is upon the principle enunciated by the High Court in that decision that the bill now presented to the House relies. The High Court decided that section 92 was a prohibition addressed not to the Commonwealth, or the Commonwealth Parliament, but to the States and to State activities. At page 556 of the report, in the majority judgment, the inquiry “ Is the Commonwealth bound by section 92?” is answered in the following way: -
The present case has involved a closer examination of this question than any previous occasion upon which the court has considered it. The result has been to convince us, notwithstanding dicta in previous cases, that the true office of section 92 is to protect interstate trade against State interference and not to affect the legislative power of the Commonwealth.
That is the latest and the ruling decision upon this matter. At the time when it was given it occasioned very great surprise to many persons who were interested in the subject. If honorable members are sufficiently interested in the conflict of opinions they will find them expressed in the arguments used by counsel before the court, which include some highly admirable arguments of my own.
– Are they in agreement with those which the Attorney-General is now using?
– I am not now submitting arguments; but merely expounding the law as contained in the judgment of the court. I hope that I have indicated clearly to honorable members the basis of that decision. It is difficult to see in what way this Parliament could legislate with respect to interstate trade if that trade were to be absolutely free in the sense that it was free from interference, control or regulation by this Parliament. The law so expounded entitles this Parliament to legislate upon the subject of interstate trade. In order to illustrate the position I may say that under the decision to which I have just referred, it is, apparently, within the power of this Parliament again to impose border duties in Australia, provided there is no discrimination against, and no preference to, any State or part of a State.
– Provided all the duties were uniform.
– Distinctions have been drawn between “ uniformity “ and “no preference,” though possibly they amount substantially to the same thing. I hope that honorable members will not misunderstand my motive in giving this example, and will not represent me as having said that border duties ought to be imposed. Before the decision in the McArthur case I venture to think that this legislation would not have been suggested; but after that decision had been given the position was entirely changed from what it had been understood to be, not only among legislators and the public generally, but also among members of the legal profession who were particularly interested in this subject. This bill is founded upon the entirely proper assumption, which this Parliament is entitled to make, that the law, as expounded in the McArthur case, sets out the true position, so that this Parliament is entitled to legislate with respect to the carriage of dried fruits from one State to another when that carriage falls under the head of trade and commerce among the States; that it is within the power of this Parliament to require a licence to be taken out as a condition precedent to such transport being allowed, and that penalties can be imposed for a breach of the conditions of the licence and upon the act of carrying without a licence.
– Would not discrimination still apply?
– Section 99 of the Constitution reads -
The Commonwealth shall not, by any law- or regulation of trade, commerce, or revenue, give preference to one State or any part thereof over another State or any part thereof.
That is a very difficult provision to interpret. It has been examined in the High Court, I think, on only two occasions. They were in connexion with differentiating awards made by the Arbitration Court, and in the Cameron case, under the income tax law. In the case that arose under the Arbitration Act a distinction was drawn between conditions which were imposed by the law itself and those which arose out of the different circumstances to which the law was applied. I do not feel able to give with respect to that section information along the lines that I have endeavoured to follow in relation to section 92. In the case of the latter I have sought to place before the House a connected and coherent account of the development of judicial opinion, and to show that -we have reached a stage at which the law is clear. I agree that this legislation must be carefully administered and that the regulations made under the act must be so framed as not to ‘ contravene section 99 of the Constitution. So far as I can see, the bill does not in any way infringe that section. It is perfectly general in its terms, and does not discriminate between States or parts of States, or give preference to any State or part thereof.
– Would it be possible for the Commonwealth to take the action proposed by the bill without the concurrence or in defiance of the wishes of a State?
– Undoubtedly; but if such action as this were taken without the concurrence of the States it would be a “ one-legged horse.” No system of marketing control could work under federal legislation alone.
– Will the provisions of sub-clause 3 of clause 3 apply to the James case?
– They will not. Those fruits were not carried “ in contravention of this act,” because “ this act “ was not then in force, and it cannot come into force until it has been passed by both Houses of the Commonwealth Parliament and assented to by the Governor-General.
– Cannot the clause be read retrospectively?
– The clause refers to fruits “ carried in contravention, of this act.” Nothing which was done prior to the passage of the act can be in contravention of it, unless there is another clause which makes the operation of subclause 3 of clause 3 retrospective. There is no such other clause. The words to which the honorable member has directed attention - “ any dried fruits which have been or are in process of being carried in contravention of this act “ - have been inserted with the object of covering the case of fruits which have been carried in contravention of the act, and in order to make the act really effective. , Unless some such provision was inserted it would be impossible to seize fruits after the carriage of them had stopped. I rose merely for the purpose of stating the position with respect to section 92, because in the course of the debate that question was raised, and I considered that, having regard to the intricate nature of the subject, honorable members were entitled to an exposition of the legal questions involved.
– I wish first of all to congratulate the Minister (Mr. Pater son) upon his complete and very desirable reversal of form. The other day he introduced to this House a bill that was almost unanimously disapproved of by the growers in an industry which is closely allied to the dried fruits industry. To-day he is in charge of a bill which has the almost unanimous approval of the growers of dried fruits. Reference was made by the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) to the desirability of Great Britain making such greater provision in her preferences as would lead to her importing more of our dried fruits and other products. I remind that honorablemember that we enjoy our present preferences in spite of, not because of, any interest which was taken in the Australian primary producer by the Labour Government in Great Britain. The honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Duncan-Hughes) referred to the polls that have been taken in connexion with the marketing of fresh fruits. There is a distinct difference between that case and this. Whereas the polls taken in relation to apple and pear control resulted in a defeat of the proposals, the principles of this bill, and the control of the dried fruits industry, have received the approval of a large majority of the growers on several occasions. There has been a good deal of trouble, if I may so term it, in connexion with the dried fruits industry; but the operations of the Dried Fruits Control Board have now reached a stage at which the growers are receiving great benefit. When the board first took control of the industry some mistakes were made, as was only to be expected; but as the result of experience during the first year of its operations, when, for instance, fruit was held too long in London and had to be sold at a loss, the position is now much better. It is easy to be wise after the event; and the board has undoubtedly profited by the experience, and during the last two years there has been an improvement in prices obtained by the growers as the result of more effective marketing methods. This measure has been introduced to make completely effective the legislation passed by State governments, and had it not been for a rather unfortunate case in South Australia, there would probably have been no necessity for it. Up to that time the Dried Fruits Control Board was operating effectively. We have just had a long exposition of the law from the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham), who has quoted various judgments of the High Court, which seems to have expressed conflicting opinions. Apparently the High Court has now reached a decision, and we are endeavoring to legislate in the direction in which the court has ruled. The High Court judgment is interesting in that it proves that the States can effectively control this industry simply by commandeering, by purchasing, the whole of the dried fruits in their respective States. But that is a very cumbersome arrangement, and this legislation seems likely to operate more effectively in the interests of the fruit-growers. I am interested in the measure because I believe it will be of benefit to the growers.
– What of the consumers ?
– They will be in the same position as now; they pay Australian parity for that portion of the crop which they consume. That is only fair, because this Parliament has imposed upon the primary producers some very heavy handicaps in the matter of customs duties, and in other ways.
– The only difference is that the profits on the Australian sales will be more equitably distributed.
– Yes. I hold rather a unique position, inasmuch as 1 represent growers in the old and new fruitgrowing areas, and also in the nonirrigated and irrigated areas. In the past there has been a sharp difference of opinion between those engaged in fruitgrowing in the old and new areas, and in the non-irrigated and irrigated lands. There has been a good deal of post-war planting, for which this Parliament and the Parliaments of the States, in connexion with their repatriation policies, have been largely responsible. Previously the growers in many districts were in a fortunate position, because practically the whole of their crops were disposed of in the Australian market, and had the natural protection of the overseas freight to Australia, as well as a low duty. The position was then completely reversed. The growers on old-established areas found that they were losing their old markets and were being deprived of their livelihood. Naturally, they fought hard against the suggestion of control, and would not become associated with organizations such as the Australian Dried Fruits Association. Generally speaking, those engaged in fruit-growing on the non-irrigated areas and on the older settlements do not now continue their opposition. I took up the matter with an organization of growers in South Australia, which had not come into the control scheme, and which pointed out to me that approximately 600 to 800 tons of currants were coming from Western Australia and were being sold at about½d. a lb. cheaper than the price fixed by the growers in Australia. They maintained that the position was unfair, that the whole of the control should be removed, and that they should sell on the Australian market at any price that they could get. I pointed out that if a few hundred tons of currants coming from Western Australia affected them adversely, the position would be worse if the whole of the Australian fruit crop was thrown on the Australian market. I said that if that were done I doubted very much whether they would get1d. a lb. for their product, and although at the outset they did not agree with my contention, after a certain amount of discussion they admitted that I was right. This measure would not have received my benediction had it been framed with the intention of placing the industry under government control, as I believe the more governments keep out of business the better it is for the country. The bill, however, provides for the appointment of a board, the majority of the members of which will consist of growers elected by the growers, who will control their own business. . From what I know of the growers engaged in this industry I can say that they are quite capable of controlling the business, which they thoroughly understand. I am glad that the Minister (Mr. Paterson) believes in relying upon the growers in this instance, and trust that he will see the light in this connexion in relation to other similar legislation. As the growers are almost unanimous, the measure should receive the support of the House. When the growers are not in agreement on the question of the control of an industry Parliament should be very careful ; but when we find as we do in this instance that approximately 95 per cent. of those to be affected are in favour of it, we should not have any doubt. I support the bill, and trust that it will bring to the growers, and to the country generally, those advantages which we confidently anticipate.
.- Although I intend to support the bill I am not interested in the phase of it to which the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Parsons) referred. We can grow fruit equal to that produced in any country in the world, and I believe that those engaged in the industry will see that it is successfully sold in the markets of the world. It has sometimes been said that Australian growers have been somewhat careless in their packing methods, and have not taken the trouble to make their product sufficiently attractive to enable it to be readily saleable at satisfactory prices on the overseas markets or to ensure continuity of supply. Although the honorable member for Angas is opposed to government control of the industry, and believes that those engaged in fruit production should be able to conduct their own business, he must admit that when they require assistance they come to the Government very quickly. During the debate reference has been made to the judgment of the High Court, but I do not know ‘ why Parliament should be bothered with the decisions of that court. As governments introduce legislation which in their opinion is in the interests of the people. Parliament should not be concerned with the decisions of the High Court. Is not Parliament supreme ? Are we not here to deal with great questions affecting the nation? Certain individuals who feel that they will be detrimentally affected by legislation passed by Parliament endeavour, by raising technicalities and quibbles, to move the High Court to upset what Parliament has done. The will of the people, however, is expressed through their Parliament, which should not be influenced by decisions of the High Court. Parliament is the highest tribunal in the land, and is not responsible to the High Court. We are capable of interpreting the Constitution. Parliament passes measures which it believes are in the interests of the people, but there are some who wish to thwart the will of Parliament. If such persons desire to go to the High Court we have no power to stop them. The Australian Constitution is founded upon that of America. I was a member of the Federation League, and with the late Sir Edmund Barton, R. E. O’Connor and others took a prominent part in the activities that preceded the union. We adopted the American Constitution as a model in order to commend federation to the Australian people. Because it was the only way in which we could get the union we accepted some principles with which we did not agree.
– The honorable member is going in.to too much detail in constitutional matters having no connexion with the bill.
– May not a layman differ from the Attorney-General?
– In reply to questions raised by the honorable member for Boothby, the . AttorneyGeneral quoted certain constitutional cases. The honorable member for East Sydney is now discussing matters which are extraneous to the bill.
– I do not agree with the Attorney-General’s opinion. He is not the first lawyer I have tackled; the practical experience of laymen often upsets the theories of legal minds. If this legislation is declared ultra vires the people who are adversely affected will work with greater zeal for an amendment of the Constitution. It is always very difficult to get the people to understand what is involved in a proposed amendment of the Constitution. This legislation will serve to illustrate one of the purposes for which increased power is required by the Commonwealth Parliament. When a lot of legal questions are put on a referendum ballot-paper, the devil himself cannot tell what they mean, but a simple issue like that contained in this bill can be understood by the people. If some crank seeks to stifle the aspirations of the National Parliament by having this legislation declared invalid, I shall energetically support its reference to the people by referendum. Nobody in the community fights more strongly “for his own interests than does the nian on the land, and if this proposal is successfully challenged, the rural producers will be ready to help to induce the people to give greater powers to this Parliament. The High Court has always been composed of men for whom I have had the highest respect, but the Justices who sit on the bench to-day have a wider vision than had their predecessors. It is for this Parliament to legislate as it thinks proper, and I am confident that the High Court as at present constituted will take a broad view of the Constitution.
.- The consideration of this bill involves two questions, (1) whether it is proper for the House to pass such legislation, and (2) whether it has power to do so. In regard to the first question, I do not propose to say much. The bill merely extends a principle that is already in operation. I do not believe that it is proper to pass legislation of this kind, which gives consideration to only sectional interests, without due regard to the effect upon the remainder of the community. This legislation seems to have been drafted with a view to promoting the interests of the producers only, and with complete disregard of the interests of the great mass of the consumers. However, I have expressed my opinion to that effect on other occasions, and I do not propose to say more on the subject now. In regard to the legislative competency of this Parliament a layman hesitates to express an opinion, but I listened with the greatest care and appreciation to the lucid statement by the Attorney-General. He put the facts so clearly that even one ignorant of legal principles could thoroughly understand their meaning. It will certainly be a shock to many people who are not lawyers to learn that the Constitution is not what they thought it was, and that it would be possible for this Parliament to impose border duties against a State. I do not anticipate that such a thing would- ever be done, but the High Court has decided that it might be done without infringing the provisions of the Constitution, and the Attorney-General has said clearly that this Parliament has power to legislate in the manner proposed in the bill, provided only that there is no. discrimination against any State in contravention of section 99. I cannot see how regulations can be made under this bill without discriminating in that way, but perhaps the Attorney-General’s ingenuity will overcome the difficulty. The kernel of this legislation, however, will be found not in the bill, but in the regulations to be made thereunder. The Attorney-General seemed to have some doubt as to the meaning of section 99, and said that it would be very diffcult to operate this proposed legislation without infringing that provision of the Constitution. Whether or not it is being infringed we cannot say until the regulations have been framed and tested. Therefore we are asked to vote on this bill more or less in the dark. If the House agrees with the principle involved it may pass the bill, but the matter will not end there. It seems to me extraordinary that we should legislate in such a way that the real power will be contained in the regulations to be drafted and put into operation by the Government. The only step possible after regulations have been made will be to test the constitutionality before the court. Whatever may be the desires of this Parliament, the decision of constitutional issues does not rest with it. If the regulations to be made under this legislation are thought to contravene section 99, I have no doubt a test case will be taken to the High Court by whose decision this Parliament will be bound. The court has already declared that the constitutional provision relating to freedom of interstate trade means that such trade shall be free only of restrictions by any State Parliament and not by the Commonwealth Parliament. Any restriction on trade, whether by the Federal or the State authority, will be equally objectionable to the people. The purpose of this legislation is to prevent the free marketing of goods from one State to another, and it opens up an extraordinary vista of possibilities. The honorable member for Fremantle spoke of surplus hams in
New South Wales being sold in Western Australia at prices very much lower than prevailed in the State of origin; in other words, the market in New South Wales was maintained by dumping in Western Australia. The same practice has been followed in connexion with jam and other manufactured commodities. That cannot be prevented, and I consider that it should not be prevented. Curiously enough, the reverse position exists with regard to dried fruits. Western Australia, having a surplus of dried fruits, sends that surplus to South Australia, where the growers of that commodity are in arms against the importation. If the growers of the one product have a right to protection against competition from the growers in other states, the growers of other products have an equal right to similar protection. But such a procedure merely prevents the consumer obtaining the benefits of commercial competition. I am entirely against the object of this bill. Its legal aspect was clearly stated by the AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Latham) and all that we can do is to leave it to the honorable gentleman to puzzle out how he can make regulations under it which will not be an infringement of section 99, and leave those interested to defend their rights as ordinary traders of the community by “appeal to the High Court.
– I am pleased that the Government has introduced this bill. There is need for greater government supervision in order to give the growers of dried fruits a chance of success. Not only is there the sympathetic aspect that many of our returned soldiers have gone on the land and engaged in this industry, but there is also the fact that large areas in the different States, particularly in Western Australia, have been planted with vines. On the Murray River vines have been planted especially for participation in the dried fruits industry, and similar activities in otherareas could be quoted almost indefinitely. From a health point of view the consumption of dried raisins ranks very high indeed, and for that reason, if for noother, we should endeavour to assist the industry in every possible way. Much could be done by appointing: general agents, something like commercial travellers, to boost the business in the East. If a reliable firm could show the Government that it had a chance to open up trade in the East it should be the duty of the Government to assist to pay the expenses of the representatives of that firm in the endeavour to open and build up our trade in new centres. I have in mind a Chinese resident of Australia, Mr. H. Louey Pang, who is performing a great service to this country by exploiting our dried fruits in the East. Mr. Pang has resided in Australia for something like 35 years and he is held in high repute in commercial circles in Melbourne. He took something like 200 tons of our dried fruits to the East, and I understand from a letter that I have received from him that the whole of that consignment has been disposed of. If Mr. Pang were given the opportunity to advertise Australian dried fruits to only a fraction of the extent that American dried fruits are advertised in the East, I am confident that “his efforts would result in the placing of large quantities of our dried fruits in that market. He has opened up business communications in Canton, Shanghai, and Hongkong, making Shanghai his principal centre of operations. The market for our products is there. Historical writings clearly show that China has a greater percentage of poor in its population than any other country, but those versed in the history of that country know that there is a larger population there able to purchase such goods as our dried fruits, particularly in the form of dried raisins. Mr. Pang assured me that our dried fruits not merely rivalled but surpassed in- quality the “best American product. That fact should be “broadcast. Once our product becomes favorably known in the East, provided we maintain a standard of excellence and give value for money, we shall bc able to establish there a durable market that must increase as time passes.
The Government has my full approval when’ fostering measures of this description. It is well known that Australia produces more dried fruits than can be consumed locally, and we must seek markets abroad. Those engaged in– the dried fruits industry will welcome “any assistance given to them by opening up trade with other portions of the world. I wish the Government good luck in its efforts, and, while agreeing with my friend the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. West) in his remarks on the legal aspect of the proposal, I also agree that “ the law is an ass “ at all times when one is opposed to it, although the opinion may be different when the position is reversed. I feel confident that . the Attorney-General will admit that the more simple the law the easier it is for the people to understand it and to observe its provisions.
.- One or two points were raised this afternoon to which it is my duty to reply. The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann) appeared to think that the object of this bill was to harass interstate trading and render it more difficult. The bill certainly deals with the regulation of interstate trading, but it is not designed for that purpose alone. Its main object is to insure that each grower of dried fruits shall export his fair share of that product and enjoy his fair share of the generally more profitable market within Australia. It is merely a means to that end. As the Commonwealth Government cannot constitutionally lay down, directly, an export quota which -must be followed, it proposes to use this power of inter: state regulation to bring about the same results, by making it a condition that before interstate trading can be .indulged in the export quota must be observed.
The honorable member for Moreton (Mr. J. Francis) inquired whether the Government would be prepared to initiate similar legislation to deal with the dairying industry if that legislation were sought by those engaged in it. Even if such legislation were introduced it would be of little use to the dairying industry because, except in Queensland, the State legislation which would be necessary in order to make its marketing organization complete has not yet been passed. No doubt, if the dairying or any other industry put itself in the position- that the dried fruits industry is now in, and if each State passed the necessary legislation and was unanimous in its request to the Commonwealth Government to introduce a measure similar to this, the Commonwealth Government would consider the request.
The honorable member for Wimmera, (Mr. Stewart) when discussing the bill this afternoon, took the opportunity to express the opinion that a bounty should be paid on dried fruits, and in doing so referred to a deputation which waited upon me some time ago, of which he was a member. The honorable member described my treatment of that deputation as “callous.” I wish to say that I have never been, and never will be, either callous or unsympathetic to those who, like myself, are primary producers, people who have to face the difficulties of overseas marketing, and who come to me to see if I can assist them to surmount their difficulties. On that occasion the honorable member asked not merely for a bounty, but that Government should definitely establish the principle of making itself responsible for export losses. He asked that if an industry had an exportable surplus, the Government should regard it as its responsibility to make up the difference to the producer between the price which would be obtained overseas for the exportable surplus and the price that he could expect to obtain on the Australian market. I informed the honorable member and the other members of that deputation that that was an economic impossibility to which neither this nor any other Government could agree.
– Is not a similar procedure followed with regard to butter ?
– No. The honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Seabrook) stated that he was totally opposed to this legislation because he regarded it as Government interference with trade. The honorable member referred in regretful tones to the fact that a request which he had made for a kind of benevolent interference by the Government in the form of a bounty on dried apples had not been granted, and charged that refusal against the Development and Migration Commission. As a matter of fact, the recommendation was made by the Board of Trade. It is rather remarkable that the honorable member should be anxious to have Government interference of that nature and yet be unwilling to assist the Government to give to producers something which they themselves desire in order to put themselves in a better position to carry on their business and make themselves less dependent upon bounties and similar concessions. Not very long ago the honorable member took a leading part in opposing an offer which was made by the Commonwealth Government to introduce legislation to assist the applegrowers, and which, had it been accepted by those growers, would possibly have rendered unnecessary the bounty sought by the honorable member.
The honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Duncan-Hughes), referring to the Dried Fruits Export Board of South Australia, reminded the House that it was brought into existence by a Labour Government, and seemed to regard that as one reason why it should not be incumbent upon him to give this measure any support. Though the legislation establishing that board was introduced by a Labour Government the request made from South Australia for the legislation with which we are now dealing, was by the present Government of South Australia. Such gentlemen as the Honorable Mr. Cowan and the Honorable Malcolm Mcintosh are extremely anxious that this bill should be passed. The honorable member for Boothby will therefore realize that not only Labour Governments are interested in the passage of this legislation. The. passage of similar legislation in Victoria was at the instigation of a non-Labour Government, and to-day there are four dried fruits exports boards operating in Australia: one in each of the States of Western Australia, South Australia, Victoria, and New South Wales. The honorable member will realize that there are two Labour and two non-Labour Governments equally interested in this proposal to grant additional powers which they have sought regardless of their shade of politics.
The honorable member for Boothby referred to what he described as certain muddles in marketing, and which, I presume, he laid at the door of the Export Control Board. I can assure him that that board is probably one of the most efficient examples of export marketing machinery to be found anywhere in the world. Some of the erstwhile critics of that board, gentlemen of perhaps a conservative type of mind like the honorable member, who a year or two ago were loud in their criticism of its work, and who did not believe in the system of appraisement which the board adopted in the Old Country, are to-day loudest in their praise. They have been absolutely converted, and I hope that in time even the honorable member will join the ranks of those who believe that some good can be accomplished by export control boards.
– Provided that they are a success.
– There is no doubt whatever about the success of the Dried Fruits Export Control Board. It has done wonders. The honorable member also alluded to the composition of the board and suggested a doubt whether it represented the primary producers more than, perhaps, the commercial side of the industry. Not only are there four growers’ representatives on the board, but they are all growers. The two commercial representatives were’ appointed to the board at the express wish of the dried fruits producers of Australia. I can give the honorable member some information respecting the calibre of those gentlemen, about which he appears to be uninformed. One of them was the representative of the Commonwealth at the recent Economic Conference at Geneva. That fact should dispel from the honorable member’s mind any idea that there is not on the board men of high commercial standing.
– Who is that?
- Mr. Bell, the Managing-Director of Robt. Harper and Company, Melbourne. That gentleman has also been decorated by the King for services rendered to Australia in a civil capacity. The Commonwealth is exceedingly fortunate in being able to obtain the services of such gentlemen who, in accepting these responsibilities, are prompted solely by a desire to do something for Australia.
I very much regret that the Government will be unable to proceed with this bill beyond the second-reading stage, because it was only some few days ago that we were able to get together the various State Dried Fruits Boards and the Commonwealth Board. These bodies, after focussing their attention on the subject matter of the bill, have made certain recommendations for minor amendments which have been suggested to them by their administrative experience in the various States. With the permission of the House, those suggestions will be embodied in the bill at the committee stage, as minor amendments. They do not in any way affect the principle of the bill, but are designed to improve it in the direction of making it more practicable and workable. I commend the bill to the House.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Debate resumed from 30th November, 1927 (vide page 2300), on motion by Mr. Latham -
That the paper be printed.
– I propose to avail myself of the opportunity which this motion offers to refer to the more important aspects of the work of the League at the Eighth Assembly. The notice-paper, honorable members will observe, contains also a motion relating to the proceedings at the Seventh Assembly; but that referring to the Eighth Assembly has been put first, in order that all League matters up to date may be discussed. The Australian Delegation at the Assembly in September last consisted of Senator Sir George Pearce, VicePresident of the Executive Council; Sir Granville Ryrie, the High Commissioner for Australia; and the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Ley). In addition, as substitute delegates, there were present Professor Sir William Harrison Moore, until recently Dean of the Faculty of Law at the University of Melbourne; and Mrs. I. H. Moss, of Victoria, who was asked to act as a substitute delegate in accordance with the now well-established policy of the Government that a woman should be present to represent Australia at -the meetings of the Assembly of the League.
The Eighth Assembly of the League opened in an atmosphere of dissatisfaction, disappointment, and general discouragement. There were several reasons for that. The first was the failure of the Three-Power Naval Conference, which had so recently been held at Geneva, to arrive at any agreement on the subject of naval disarmament. It will be remembered that the President of the United States of America invited that conference to assemble and that a difficulty arose with respect to the size and armament of cruisers, which was not solved before the conference terminated. That was one element which produced, as I have said, a feeling of disappointment and discouragement at the opening of the Eighth Assembly. Further, there were the difficulties that had presented themselves to the Preparatory Disarmament Commission of the League, which had been endeavouring to draw up a scheme that would be acceptable to the States members of the League for general disarmament in relation to land, air and sea. “When that commission came down to details, and considered the actual requirements of a definite treaty or agreement on the subject, it was found very difficult to obtain any great measure of assent. There was again the feeling on the part of some of the smaller States, openly expressed at the beginning of the conference, that the greater Powers, including particularly those referred to as the Locarno Powers, had taken it upon themselves to settle matters by a procedure which was not along League lines. They had met for the purpose of discussing important matters of interest to the civilized world, but of particular and special interest to themselves, and some objection was taken to these separate conversations upon the ground that the effect of them was to diminish the importance of the League. At the meeting of the Assembly, however, assurances were given that satisfied the Assembly as a whole that there was no intention to prejudice in any way the importance of the League, but that practical considerations made it necessary for the Powers, between whom specific questions arose, to meer for the purpose of discussing them. The Locarno agreement itself had been filed in the offices of the League, and it was recognized that that agreement had made a greater practical contribution to security in Europe, and, therefore, to the diminution of the danger of war, than anything that had happened since the Treaty of Peace. All who were present at the Eighth Assembly of the League agree that the discussions were remarkably frank, and that the result was that the feeling of uneasiness to which I have referred, and which manifested itself at the opening gathering, had completely disappeared when the Assembly separated. In that respect the Eighth Assembly was a distinct success.
The Eighth Assembly, like its predecessors, and for the same reason, devoted a considerable part of its time to the question of security and the settlement of international disputes by peaceful methods. It is quite normal that each Assembly should place this matter, together with the closely allied subject of disarmament, in the forefront of its discussions. , One of the principal objects for which the League was founded was the organization of peace and pacific relations, so as to render as difficult as possible recourse to arms for the settlement of international disputes. It is on this ground that at each assembly of the League so much attention is given to what may be called the machinery side of security, in an endeavour to arrive at methods and means acceptable to the nations for enabling them to meet for the purpose of discussing problems of security or to provide other machinery for the determination of questions affecting security.
We, in Australia, should, and I think we do, fully realize that there exists within the League a strong feeling that no avenues should be left unexplored which might in any way tend to make more efficient the existing means for the peaceful settlement of disputes which inevitably arise between nations or for providing new methods for dealing with these questions. Accordingly every year proposals for improving the state of security of the nations are brought before the League. The existence of the Locarno treaties, and the almost universal recognition of the valuable results that have followed from them, have had the effect of stimulating inquiry towards the discovery of some general form of agreement between the nations, capable of adaptation to particular circumstances, which may result in the application of the Locarno principles to wider areas in the world.
At the Eighth Assembly of the League a movement made itself very clearly felt for strengthening all the existing methods of preserving peace between the nations and for making recourse to war more difficult and onerous than ever. During the early stages of the Assembly there was a considerable amount of discussion upon the Geneva Protocol of 1925, which had succeeded the Treaty of Mutual Guarantee of the previous year. It was proposed by the Netherlands delegation that the Protocol discussion should be re-opened, but this course was deprecated by the British delegation, and by one of the authors of the Protocol, M. Politis, of Greece. Our own first representative also expressed the view that it would be unwise to revive the discussion of the Protocol itself at that juncture. The Polish delegation, however, proposed a motion with the object of prohibiting all wars of aggression. This was unanimously adopted by the Assembly, and may therefore be regarded as representing the considered judgment of the nations represented.
It is not out of place for me to remark at this point that all the nations that are commonly regarded as the great Powers of the world, and which are members of the League, were represented at this Assembly by their Foreign Ministers. The Foreign Ministers of the great Powers are busy men, who carry heavy responsibilities, and they would not attend the meetings at Geneva unless they considered them important and significant. The fact that in increasing numbers Foreign Ministers are finding themselves, almost as a matter of course, at Geneva in September, is in itself a tribute to the good work which the League is doing. The motion carried at the instance of the Polish delegation cannot be said to add anything to the Covenant, or to alter the machinery of the League, or the obligations which already rest upon the members of it, but it is important as expressing the unanimous sentiment of the nations. It reads as follows: - “ The Assembly, “ Recognizing the solidarity which unites the community of nations: “ Being inspired by a firm desire for the maintenance of general peace: “ Being convincedthat a war, of aggression can never serve as a means of settling international disputes and is, in consequence, an international crime: “ Considering that a solemn renunication of all wars of aggression would tend to create an atmosphere of general confidence calculated to facilitate the progress of the work undertaken with a view to disarmament: “ Declares : “ (1) That all wars of aggression are, and shall always be prohibited. “ (2) That every pacific means must be employed to settle disputes of every description, which may arise between States. “ The Assembly declares that the States members of the League are under an obligation to conform to these principles.”
The motion serves to keep before the minds of the governments and peoples of the world that there is a strong feeling against aggressive warfare which is every year developing and crystallizing.
– Were not similar motions carried at previous Assemblies?
– They were, but this motion is expressed in more detail, and is more definite than those to which the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) has referred.
– It is a confirmatory resolution.
– It is confirmatory and emphatic, and indicates the real mind of the nations. It shows, as I have said, that the feeling against, and condemnation of, aggressive warfare is increasing..
In the Third Committee the Norwegian delegation which, as usual, wasted by Dr. Nansen, submitted a draft optional convention for compulsory arbitration in international disputes. I shall not read to honorable members the terms of the convention, although they are important from the point of view of their possible adoption; but it is desirable that I should indicate the views of Norway on this question. The draft convention provided, in the first place, that the signatories should submit to judicial decision questions of every kind arising between them that were not settled within a reasonable time by the ordinary means of diplomacy. It also provided that all legal disputes, including disputes in which the parties were in conflict as to their respective rights, should be submitted to the Permanent Court of International Justice. It provided, further, that the Permanent Court of International Justice should have the duty and power of determining whether or .not a dispute fell within the class of legal disputes. With regard to other than legal disputes the draft convention provided that the procedure to be followed should be that the parties concerned should by agreement appoint a committee of arbitrators. If they failed to agree upon such a committee the Council of the League should, by majority if necessary, settle all points remaining in suspense, constitute the committee of arbitrators, and settle the number, personnel and .powers of the committee. The draft convention also included a provision that the parties undertook to accept and carry out in good faith any award that was made. That is what is generally described as an “ all in “ arbitration agreement. After examining the proposal, the First Committee, which deals with all juridical matters, formed the opinion that it required detailed investigation and reported that it did not consider itself to be in a position to consider -the matter in detail at that Assembly. It recommended the Assembly to consider the drafting of a general convention for compulsory arbitration. The Assembly carried a motion in which it recommended the progressive extension of arbitration by means of special or collective agreements, including agreements not only between States which were members of; the League, but between States which were and States which were not members of it. I may say in passing that about 80 arbitration treaties have been registered with the League since the war. Investigation is proceeding on the subject of arbitration, and it is possible that some form of treaty will be devised which may be considered suitable for adaptation and moulding to meet’ special1 cases’;
Honorable members will recognize that there already exists . the statute constituting a permanent Court of International Justice, and that in that statute there is an optional clause. I refer to clause 36, which is so described because it is optional for States which adhere to the statute to adopt this particular clause or not, as they think proper. A State which accepts the clause is absolutely bound to submit to arbitration certain classes of disputes, which are recognized as being suitable as a general rule for determination by a legal tribunal. These are, firstly, disputes which involve the interpretation of a treaty; secondly, any question of international law; thirdly, the determination of any fact which if established would be a breach of international obligation, and lastly, the nature and extent of the reparation to be made for breach of an international obligation. Those may not be the precise words of the statute, but they are substantially accurate. The question of the adoption of the optional clause of this statute was discussed at the Imperial Conference in 1926. Honorable members will recollect that a reference is made to it in the report of that Conference. Several nations have accepted the clause, and are, therefore, bound to compulsory arbitration in the cases to which it refers; but none of the great Powers have, to my knowledge, absolutely and unconditionally accepted it. The Imperial Conference decided that the question was of such fundamental importance that it required further consideration and examination. It was agreed that no part of the Empire should take independent action in connexion with it, but that there should be full consideration before anything was done. The Common-wealth Government is now engaged in a consideration of this subject, and particularly of the optional clause. We hope to be in a position at an early date to communicate with the other parts of the Empire with the object of arriving at a common agreement on the matter.
– May. not the optional clause be signed with reservations?
– That is so. Probably ‘honorable members will allow- me to refer in general terms to some questions which have to be considered in determining whether or not such a clause may be accepted. All who have examined this subject recognize that there is a difference between justiciable and nonjusticiable disputes. Justiciable disputes are those which are suitable for judicial settlement, such as those which depend upon a conflict of rights or the existence of a duty. A non- justiciable dispute is of an entirely different character, and cannot be settled by the application of any rule of law which specifies or defies rights. The distinction may be best illustrated by comparing what is done by judges in a court of law with what we do in this Parliament. The matters which are submitted to judges in an ordinary court of law are those which involve, first, the ascertainment of facts; secondly, the interpretation of a law which the court does not make; and, thirdly, the application of that law to the facts. That is the ordinary course of judicial procedure, and, accordingly, a judge is able to discharge his duties as a judge independently of, and apart altogether from any political views he may hold. In this Parliament, however, it would be impossible for us to determine the matters that come before us in a purely judicial manner apart from any opinions of our own. They are political questions. Judicial questions are determined by a rule of law prescribed by some external authority which a judge interprets and applies’. In the absence of any such rule judicial procedure is, speaking generally, not applicable. For example, this House has just passed the second reading of a bill dealing with dried fruits. That measure may be thought by some of us to be very wise: by others it may be thought to be illadvised; that is the point upon which we have to make up our minds. No judge acting as a judge is able to determine such a matter, because it is a political and not a judicial question. In exactly the same way there is in the international arena a distinction between justiciable matters, that is to say, questions of a legal nature, and non-justiciable matters or questions of a political nature. The ordinary method of judicial procedure may be applicable to one class of questions, but a great many people think - in fact mostpeople are of the opinion - that it is not at all applicable to questions of a political international character. Even in the case of matters which might properly be submitted to judicial determination, there are difficulties which arise in international affairs that do not exist in the case of individuals. Take for example the second class which is mentioned in clause 36 of the Statute of the Permanent Court of International Justice, the class relating to questions of international law. The difficulty is that international law is a much more vague body of law than that to which we are accustomed. It has no statute-book. It depends upon the writings of jurists and upon the practices of nations as interpreted by jurists, together with, in some very limited regions, sets of rules which have been agreed upon by the nations.
– And upon treaties.
– That is what I am referring to; sets of rules which have been agreed upon, such for example as the Declaration of Paris. An international court is not balanced by any international legislature. On the other hand a national court is balanced and controlled by a national legislature that has the power to prescribe the law which the court has to apply. There is no such legislature in the case of an international court, and international law cannot be said even by its warmest advocates and friends to be as discoverable or discernible as ordinary municipal law, to use the word which is applied to the law of a particular country. Accordingly in agreeing to submit a matter of international law vo a court consisting of judges drawn from the nations of the world and sitting, as a rule, in a panel of nine, it must be recognized that there is a considerable element of uncertainty. In the same way the determination of a fact which, if it existed, would amount to a breach of an international obligation raises the whole issue as to what is an international obligation, and, therefore as to what may be the international law dealing with any particular subject-matter. In these circumstances, therefore, the question of adhesion to the optional clause is not as simple as it might appear to be at the first examination. I refer to this subject for the purpose of saying that these particular problems are now receiving the careful consideration of the Government. It is hoped that it may be possible to arrive at a solution of them which will enable Australia to join with other parts of the Empire in some degree of adherence to the clause with reservations.
One final point I mention in connexion with this optional clause is that it is unlikely that any part of the Empire would desire that disputes between it and any other part of the Empire, if they should, unfortunately, arise, should be referred to a court of justice sitting at The Hague, instead of being determined by discussion between the leaders of the Governments of the two Dominions concerned, by a decision of the Imperial Conference, or, if a legal issue arises, by a decision of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. In- the recent difficulty which arose between India and South Africa, with regard to Indians in Natal and the Transvaal, an adjustment was reached by discussion between the representatives of India and those of South Africa. It is very unlikely that any such conclusion would have been reached by the arbitrament of a court consisting of foreign jurists. The nature of the matter at issue was such that it could not be determined by any court. In the same way the determination of a question arising out of the fixing of the boundary between Ulster and the Irish Free State was remitted to and decided by a special committee of the Privy Council. When Canada and Newfoundland had a dispute as to the ownership of Labrador, that dispute was determined by the judicial committee of the Privy Council, with the result that a large area, containing many millions of acres, was adjudged to belong to Newfoundland and not to Canada, although part of the mainland of North America. That decision has been accepted by Canada, and Newfoundland is no longer an island, but has quite a considerable continental domain. We have, therefore, within the Empire means of settling our differences, and it is unlikely that any part of it would desire that those differences should go to a court largely representing foreign nations and sitting in Europe. There seems to be not the slightest necessity for the adoption of any such procedure in relation to matters which arise between the various parts of our Empire.
– Supposing all efforts at settling disputes within the Empire failed, what could be done?
– I am not prepared to deal with such a contingency as a hypothetical question.
I should like now to say a few words on the subject of disarmament, which was one of the fundamental questions set down for consideration at the Eighth Assembly of the League of Nations. Up to the present I have dealt with arbitration and the allied subject of security. The situation in regard to disarmament when the Assembly met was that the Preparatory Commission, which had been set up to prepare the programme for an international disarmament conference, had progressed so far at its third session in March and April last as to draw up the provisional text of a draft convention, which was to be the basis of discussion at a proposed disarmament conference. Owing to inherent difficulties the text did not cover all the points on military, naval and air armaments that had been discussed, and the commission accordingly was obliged to confine itself to indicating the points on which unanimity had been reached, and the reservations submitted by the various delegations on behalf of the powers which they represented. The text drawn up by the commission is divided into five chapters, dealing with effectives, material, budgetary expenditure, chemical warfare, and miscellaneous provisions. That text was first of all forwarded to the Council of the League, and was discussed to a considerable extent. The Eighth Assembly considered a number of proposals in regard to disarmament, but, as I have already said, there was a considerable degree of disappointment at what was felt to be the lack of active progress in the matter. The resolutions carried were -
I have already referred to that resolution. The reason for setting up a subcommittee on arbitration and security was that it was found impossible to make any progress in regard to disarmament unless the nations could feel that they had a reasonable or satisfactory degree of security. Then it was discovered, as on other occasions, that it was impossible to give the nations security unless some reliable method of dealing with disputes, other than by war, was provided.
The Preparatory Disarmament Commission has held two sessions, one in November and December last year, and the other in March of this year. At both sessions Russia was represented for the first time, and proposals were put forward by its representatives. Their proposal at the first session was for the total abolition of all land, naval, and air forces. Their second proposal, at the March meeting, was for a proportionate reduction of the forces of all nations. A German proposal has been made for more detailed statistics of armaments under the provisions of Article 8 of the Covenant of the League, which provides for the interchange of information as to armaments. At both sessions endeavours were made to reconcile the different opinions of the various nations in order to arrive at a unanimous draft convention. That work is still proceeding, but has not yet reached any practical result.
The Security Committee met in December and set up three subcommittees to deal with the three phases of its work - first, arbitration agreements; secondly, security agreements; and thirdly, machinery to enable the States, members of the League, to perform their obligations. The committee has since held another meeting at which a British memorandum on arbitration and security was read setting out the views of the British Government on the distinction between justiciable and non-justiciable disputes, and generally upon the subject of arbitration. The British memorandum also urged the view that it is more likely that general security will be furthered by the conclusion of specific agreements relating to different regions where actual difficulties exist than by the adhesion of all States to some one general form of agreement guaranteeing or professing to guarantee the safety of other States.
One of the difficulties of this subject is that it is a poor service to the cause of peace to enter into agreements, that are not understood to be real and significant by the people of the countries whom they affect. An agreement in general terms, signed by a large number of nations, is not likely to be as well supported by the people of any specific country as a regional agreement dealing with the problems that present themselves to the people of that country and its immediate neighbours. In saying that, I am endeavouring to interpret the view of the British Government. The Security Committee had before it a memorandum prepared by Dr. Benes and the rapporteurs of the three sub-committees that were appointed. Taking the first important point covered by this memorandum, much emphasis was placed upon the fact that the Covenant of the League of Nations already affords a large measure of security, and, if applied, will prevent war in the large majority of cases. It is quite true that the legal mind can detect in the covenant the gaps and fissures to which reference is often made; but, from the practical point of view, a war would seldom slip through - if I may use the phrase - by reason of one of those gaps or fissures. The Covenant itself, therefore, already provides a large measure of security. The second point notable in this memorandum is the expression of opinion from different sources that special agreements dealing with specific subjects may advantageously be adopted. If real collective agreements can be made, well and good; but, if not, then special treaties’ dealing with particular regions are desirable. The committee was unanimous as to the need for regional security agreements ; but there is the division of views, which I have sought to indicate, between those who want an all-round treaty to which’ all the nations will be a party, and those who think that existing practical problems should be attacked, and, if possible, settled one by one, as in the case of Locarno. The committee has prepared a series of model treaties relating to the subjects of international arbitration and security, which are to receive further consideration.
There are one or two smaller matters which were raised at the Eighth Assembly to which I propose to refer. In 1926, the Government of Finland submitted a proposal for establishing a fund that might be used to support States that were the victims of unjust aggression, and to enable them to provide themselves with means of defence. That subject was referred to the Finance Committee of the League, which has reported that the only practicable scheme would be not to create a sort of international war chest, but to adopt a plan by which the credit of a State, which might otherwise find difficulty in raising necessary loans, might be strengthened by an international system of financial guarantee. That subject is receiving further consideration as being one of the necessary preliminaries to disarmament, so that if a State disarms, and is unjustly attacked, it will at least have the necessary finance and credit with which to defend itself.
One of the most important activities of the League, the least spectacular, is the work being done in the direction of the codification of international law. I have already referred this evening to the difficulties that arise in determining the substance of international law, as well as in applying it when discovered. The cause of many of the difficulties that are holding back some of the nations from agreeing to a greater measure of arbitration than they are prepared to accept at the present time is the uncertainty of international law. If international law is codified, in proportion to its codification, it will ‘become easier for the nations to accept the jurisdiction of the Permanent Court of International Justice. Progress is gradually being made in this direction, but it is naturally slow. The work is of a technical character, it is uninteresting to the public generally, and much of it is unintelligible to them. But progress has been made, and five subjects have already been accepted as suitable for codification. Three of these matters are being put in hand, and the preparatory work is being undertaken in connexion with them. A committee of the League is dealing with this subject, and I am glad to be able to say that our Australian representative, Professor Harrison Moore, has been asked to act as the British representative on the committee on account of his wide knowledge and experience of international law. It is hoped that the first codification conference will be held in 1929, and, if it takes place, I trust that it will be possible for Australia to be effectively represented at it. The subjects with which this conference will deal are nationality, territorial waters and the responsibility of States for damage done in their territory to the persons or property of foreigners. Those are three important subjects, and are just the type of matters out of which international difficulties and disputes arise. If progress can be made by establishing a universally accepted system of law on those subjects, it will be worth a great deal.
Two other matters which the Commonwealth amongst other countries has agreed to be ready for codification are diplomatic privileges and immunities - a thorny subject out of which great international difficulties arise, because it affects national prestige - and the matter of piracy, which is still prevalent in certain waters. Other subjects are also under consideration in relation to the possibility of codification.
I draw attention to the fact that a British dominion, Canada, has been elected to the Council of the League. That is a recognition of the status of the Dominions in the League, and I am sure that most of us will welcome this recognition of the service that Canada is able to render.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
– The work of the recent International Economic Conference resulted in certain resolutions ‘dealing with commerce, industry and agriculture, being brought before the Assembly. The Assembly endorsed the resolutions of the Conference, and recommended them to the favorable consideration of all the governments interested. As this matter has been dealt with in a separate report submitted for the Australian representatives to the Conference byits leader, Sir David Gordon, I do not propose to deal particularly with it, other than by inviting the attention of honorable members to the remarks of the first
Australian delegate, Sir George Pearce, particularly his reference to the restrictions upon trade by the prohibition of exports and imports, licences and tariffs. Speaking in the Assembly, Sir George Pearce said-
Australia was in a somewhat different position in the economic sphere from most of the countries represented at the Assembly. Many of those countries had had centuries in which to develop and expand their primary and secondary industries, and in which to build up those accumulations of capital so necessary for the development of a country. Australia had had for the greater part of it less than a century in which to develop, and, we could not reconcile it with our view of national growth that we should be satisfied with being merely hewers of wood and drawers of water “ for older and more economically advanced nations. We had learned during the Great War how necessary it was that we should be able to supply ourselves with certain essentials of national life and security. Freedom of trade and immigration must he conditioned by something approaching equality of standards of living and of economic status. Whilst welcoming the results of the conference, and promising that they would receive that earnest consideration that was their due, Australia must reserve the power to safeguard her national and economic life, as was recognized in the Covenant of the League as the right of all nations.
It will be seen that while Sir George Pearce expressed the appreciation of Australia of the work done, he, at the same time, invited the attention of the representatives of the other nations to the special circumstances of Australia as a young country. He pointed out that Australia was in a less developed state than that of most of the other countries represented, and therefore a different economic policy from that applicable to more developed territories could be justified in her case.
Among other matters brought before the Assembly was a proposal for the creation of an international relief board, the object being to make provision for the relief of communities overtaken by disaster, such as earthquakes, floods, famines and epidemics. A conference held in July. 1927, drew up a draft convention for the establishment of an international relief union, and suggested that an initial fund be formed by. contributions from the governments connected with the League in proportion to their contributions to the League itself, and that further funds be raised by voluntary contributions, both by governments and individuals, as well as by existing relief agencies. It was proposed that an international relief union be established under a convention to be submitted for the approval of the nations concerned. It is obvious that many difficulties would arise in the administration of such a fund. The whole matter will receive further consideration when the definite proposals are received by the Government.
The Finnish delegation raised the question of alcoholism, to which it is fitting that I should make some reference. Many of the’ delegates thought that the notice given was too short ; others that the proposal made was rather indefinite. It was proposed that the smuggling of alcohol should be treated on an international basis by means of a general convention, and that the health committee of the League should deal with the subject of alcoholism. The Government considered that the smuggling of alcohol was a matter for the nations concerned, and that it would be wiser to allow each nation to administer its own laws on the subject. While recognizing the importance of the subject, the Government considered that the control of alcohol was outside the scope of the Covenant, which, while containing specific provisions as to the supply of alcohol in mandated territories, makes no other reference to the subject. Honorable members are aware that the prohibition and the control of alcohol, and allied questions are among the most controversial subjects which enter into political life. The Government held that, notwithstanding their importance, it would be a mistake for the League to enter into an arena in which the dispute is so keen, and, at times, so bitter, as it is upon these subjects. The League has a great deal of international work to do; and it would be a misfortune if, by interesting itself in matters of such a controversial nature, it gave rise to the suspicion that it associated itself with either one side or another. The decision of the Government does not mean that it regards the subject of alcoholism as unimportant, but that some subjects can be more effectively and satisfactorily dealt with as domestic affairs than if handled upon an international basis. Were the League of
Nations to support a particular view on the question of alcoholism, its action might be keenly resented in some quarters. The Government, therefore, felt that on such a subject it was better for the League to remain silent at present. But, seeing that the League is charged with special duties in relation to the protection of women and children, a proposal that a special inquiry be instituted as to the effects of alcohol on women and children was not viewed in the same light. The Government felt that it would be a proper thing for the League to undertake an inquiry along those lines.
I have endeavoured to place before honorable members the major questions dealt with by the last Assembly of the League, and the issues to which our delegates directed their attention. In the report honorable members will find the details of the discussions on subjects other than those to which I have referred, including the views expressed by the Australian delegation. Our representatives to the Assembly report that the League of Nations is an active and real force in the affairs of the nations. They have returned with faith in the League as an agent for peace, and they ask us to reaffirm, by the adoption of- this report, the view that, though the League is not perfect, even as no human agency is perfect, it is the only agency at present existing for the active promotion of peace throughout the world upon lines which are likely to be effective. I ask honorable members to agree to the motion, and thus to reaffirm their substantial faith in the principles underlying the League of Nations.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Charlton) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 15th March, 1927 (vide page 430, vol. 115), on motion by Mr. Latham -
That the paper be printed.
.- Seeing that we now have before us the report of the Eighth Assembly of the League of Nations, I suggest that the two discussions be taken together in order to expedite the business of the House.
– It is desired that this document be printed; but the discussion can take place in connexion with the report of the Eighth Assembly.
– As I shall have another opportunity of discussing the work of the League of Nations, I shall at this stage content myself with supporting the motion that the papers in connexion with the report of the Seventh Assembly be printed.
Question resolved itv the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 24th April (vide page 4338), on motion by Mr. Pratten -
That the paper be printed.
.- I regret that honorable members have not had a fuller opportunity to peruse the report of the royal commission which was appointed to inquire into the movingpicture industry in Australia, and to read carefully the speech which waft delivered last Tuesday by the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Pratten) when he moved “ That the paper be printed.” I speak somewhat at a disadvantage, because until this morning I was unable to obtain a copy of the Minister’s speech. When I learned that the debate was to be resumed this evening, I went hurriedly through the speech, and I desire now to express a few opinions upon what I consider is one of the most important industries in Australia, and one which exercises an effect of far-reaching importance.
The royal commission was clothed with extensive powers, and approached the consideration of this matter purely from a non-party political stand-point. It had upon it representatives of all parties. During the course of its investigations it held 147 sittings, at which it took evidence from 244 witnesses. It travelled throughout Australia, and under the tactful chairmanship of the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Marks), its investigations were conducted in a most impartial manner. Its field of inquiry embraced generally the whole of the moving picture industry, and in particular -
The commission approached its investigation with a good deal of caution, because to-day the picture show is the most popular form of entertainment in Australia. It is commonly known as the poor man’s entertainment, and in many of the country towns in Australia it is practically the only entertainment that the peoplecan enjoy. Its power for either good or evil cannot be over-stated. One witness went so far as to say that the film was more powerful than the press and the pulpit combined. In the opinion of those who are engaged in the industry, and are acquainted with the details of attendances and the great influence which is wielded by the film, it is an industry of very considerable and far-reaching importance. It is estimated that over 2,000,000 persons every week, and approximately 100,000,000 persons a year, attend the picture theatres in Australia. There are 1,250 of those theatres, and they give employment directly to 20,000 persons; while the amount of capital invested in the industry is approximately £25,000,000. In the past, Australia, and, indeed, the British Empire generally, has not recognized the vast importance of the movingpicture industry. The United States of America have done so, and consequently they to-day lead the world in film production. They have realized to a greater extent than any other country its propaganda value, and have frequently expressed the belief that “ trade follows the film “. They recognize that if they can send to all other countries films which will advertise their industries and their customs, trade will inevitably flow to them. It is estimated that in America 50,000,000 persons attend the picture shows every week, and that in the British Empire the average attendance of every man, woman, and child is twenty a year per head of population or 100,000,000 a year in all. That is an illustration of the remarkable audiences reached by the film, and of the necessity which exists for regulating this great industry and making its effect a good instead of an evil one. We have in Australia picture theatres that compare favorably with those that are to be found anywhere else in the world. Some of those that have been established recently are wonderfully well appointed. The Capitol, in Sydney, gives three performances daily. It has seating accommodation for 3,500 persons, its programmes are shown three times a day, and it is filled at every screening.
The Imperial Conferences that have been held in recent years have recognized the influence that can be wielded by the film within the British Empire. A resolution which was carried by the economic sub-committee of the Imperial Conference eighteen months ago was as follows: -
Recognizing that it is most important that a largely increasing proportion of films exhibited throughout the Empire should be of Empire production, the conference commends the matter for the consideration of the Empire governments, with a view to early and effective action to deal with the serious situation now existing.
A further recommendation of that subcommittee reads -
That the governments of the various parts of the Empire should encourage the production of films within the Empire by -
Effective customs duty on foreign films ;
Ample preference or free entry for films produced within the Empire;
Legislation to prevent “blind” or “block” booking;
The imposition of requirements as to renting or exhibition of a minimum quota of British films.
Several royal commissions in England have inquired into the moving picture industry. Their recommendations are exceedingly interesting, and, in my judgment, were largely responsible for the quota legislation which was introduced recently in that country. One has to admit that much loose talk has been indulged in with respect to what is alleged to be anti-British propaganda in American films. One of the worst offenders in this connexion is Senator
Guthrie. According to Hansard of the 3rd March, 1927, that honorable senator stated -
As the industry is conducted at present it is an absolute menace to the British Empire. . . I am aware that some people will suggest that I am exaggerating the danger, but after a careful study of the industry in all its aspects I honestly believe that both as regards the prestige and trade of the Empire, as well as the moral well-being of its peoples, the film industry as conducted abroad is a menace.
On the 11th August, 1926, the honorable senator is reported to have said -
The picture business is in the grip of foreign combines.
Senator Guthrie availed himself of the opportunity to give evidence before the commission, but he failed to substantiate either of those charges. Numerous misleading statements that he made regarding the refusal of picture houses in Australia to screen Empire pictures were effectively rebutted by witnesses representing Australian picture houses.
-. - What is the proportion of American films that enters Australia?
– Approximately, 90 per cent.
– That is a fairly good grip, is it not?
– Certainly; but we cannot blame America for that. If she can lead the world in film production, the credit belongs to her.
– I blame them for misrepresentation in their films.
– No one can justify misrepresentation either in films or in any other direction. But it must be confessed that there is a good deal of loose talk regarding anti-British propaganda in American films. We must realize that the films are made in America primarily’ for the American market of 120,000,000 people. Films that are made in England, Australia or Germany, naturally have some propaganda value, unintentional though it -be, in favour of those countries. There is no intentional anti-British propaganda in the American films that are sent to Australia.
– I do not accept that statement.
– If the honorable member had had the opportunity that I and other members of the commission have had of hearing the evidence which was tendered, he would admit that Senator Guthrie’s statements were absolutely disproved.
– I judge by what I have seen in the pictures.
– I may mention that at; instance of alleged anti-British propaganda referred to by Senator Guthrie was the depicting of the English gentleman as a fop. I and other members of the commission witnessed the screening of a British picture, and to our amazement we found that it also depicted the English gentleman as a fop, a dude, and something to be scoffed at.
– That was a recent production.
– -As the honorable member for Wentworth says, it was a recent, production. If it had been made in America certain fanatics in Australia would have said that it was intentional anti-British propaganda. It was nothing of the kind. Senator Guthrie also referred to the alleged great American combine that was operating in Australia. I had heard so much respecting this foreign combine that I commenced the investigation in the full belief that we should be able to discover a huge American octopus having a strangle-hold on the industry in Australia ; but after a very careful and searching investigation we found that the only combine was Australian in its composition, consisting of Union Theatres Limited and Hoyts Limited, which control respectively 42 and 116 of the principle picture theatres in Australia. It is a very effective combine. The evidence of the representatives of the American distributing houses, which are really branch companies in Australia of a parent company in America, all went to show that the Australian combine hud the American distributing companies in the palm of its hand, and frequently was able to dictate the prices to be paid for films. That places a different aspect on the matter mentioned by Senator Guthrie. Undoubtedly an Australian combine is operating, and from recent reports published in the press it is likely that there will shortly be an amalgamation of Union Theatres and Hoyts Limited.
– Is the honorable member supporting such a combine?
– I am not supporting any combine; I am directing attention to misleading statements made by certain gentlemen who have a sort of hysteria for Empire films, and who believe that practically every film produced outside the Empire is anti-British in sentiment. Senator Guthrie also said that he knew that between £4,000,000 and £5,000,000 is sent to America every year for the purchase of films. As a member of the royal commission on the moving picture industry, I had opportunity to obtain authentic evidence on this point, and found that the total amount remitted to America for this purpose was about £800,000 a year.
– Is income tax paid ou that amount?
– No, but it should be. The whole matter is sub judice. In prewar days Germany and France led in the matter of film production, but during the war these nations were engaged in other directions, and it was then that America came into the film business, and consequently made rapid progress. American producers were able to obtain the services of the best artists from practically every country in the world. They were also able to obtain the services of the best directors of film production, whose films were readily bought up in every country. These directors and producers developed the industry to such an extent that with the assistance of a cosmopolitan collection of artists, actors and actresses, their pictures were eagerly sought. These productions soon became of a high standard, and to-day the motion picture industry in America is the eighth largest industry in that country. According to the Department of Commerce of the United States of America the following industries are of greater importance than the motion picture producing industry: - Iron and steel products; manufacture of textiles machinery; chemicals; meat packing; automotive and lumber. It has been freely stated in American picture journals that the film business is the third largest industry in America; but, as the Department of Commerce states, it is not the third but the eighth. The investments in the business in America total approximately 1,500,000,000 dollars or £300,000,000 sterling and 300,000 people are employed in its various branches. No fewer than 50,000 people are occupied in producing American films. The weekly attendances at picture theatres in America total 50,000,000; and £155,000,000 is paid for admission every year. As there are 20,500 picture theatres in America, honorable members will see the great extent to which the industry has been developed in that country. Honorable members will have some idea of the difficulty confronting Australia, and indeed the Empire, in fighting the American film industry when I say that America produces 95 per cent, of the pictures exhibited in the picture theatres of Great Britain. Practically 95 per cent, of the pictures shown all over the world are produced in the United States of America.
– And yet the honorable member says there is no combine.
– There are combines of all kinds in America. The producers in that country have practically a monopoly of the market, because they produce all that the world requires. There is no American combine in the film business in Australia. Pictures of a very high standard are produced in America, and their exhibition in Australia gives employment to 20,000 persons, whilst the money invested in the business is returning dividends to a large number of shareholders.
– Without American production, the picture theatres in Australia would be closed.
– The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Marks), who has closely studied the whole situation, tells us that if we were not receiving American pictures, the picture theatres in Australia could not remain open, because they would not be able to obtain supplies. In these circumstances we must give America credit for what she is doing in the film business. The honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins) interjects that a good deal of what America produces in this direction is of an inferior quality; but that can also be said of the productions of other countries. I have seen some of the cuts made in British films by the Commonwealth Censor, which are an absolute disgrace to British producers. They were just as salacious as those taken from some American films.
-More so in many instances.
– Yes. The average standard of American films to-day is higher than that of those produced in other parts of the world; and it is well that we should recognize that fact. We should, therefore, not jeopardize the interest of the picturetheatre business, which, asI have said, employs 20,000 persons in Australia. The American branch companies engaged in importation and distribution to Australia for exhibition purposes include the following : -
Famous Lasky Film Service Limited, First National Pictures (Australia) Limited, Fox Film Corporation (Australia) Limited, Metro-Gold wyn Mayer Limited, United Artists (Australia) Limited, Universal Film Manufacturing Company (Australia) Limited.
All of those “ pup “ companies representing American houses have representatives on what is known as the Motion Picture Distributors Association of Australia, a trade association, of which Sir Victor Wilson is president, and whose duties are primarily to safeguard the interests of the American importing companies. All the evidence tendered to the commission disclosed that there is keen competition to-day amongst these rival companies, and that some of the methods adopted in order to secure business are, one must admit, questionable.. Those engaged in the business in Australia are very keen and are out to beat the other fellow if they can, which disproves the statement that there is a huge combine. These companies pay fabulous salaries to their Australian managers, some of whom receive more than the Prime Minister, or the Minister for Trade and Customs. They also receive liberal expenses. They are paid more than three times the allowance granted to members of the Federal Parliament. Most of these distributing companies operate under an agreement with an American corporation having its headquarters in America, and the companies in Australia are really branch companies of the parent organization.
– They are “ pup “ companies.
– Yes, and established for the purpose of evading payment of Commonwealth income taxation. A percentage of the earnings received in Australia is credited to the parent company, and a balance is retained in Australia to cover the cost of distribution, overhead expenses, and the upkeep of the local office.
– Most of the managers are paid a high salary for showing a loss.
– Yes. From 50 per cent. to 65 per cent. of the receipts handled by these branch companies is transmitted toAmerica. Against America’s share in some cases the duty paid in Australia and the censorship charges are debited.
– A duty of 1½d. a foot is a joke.
– Yes, it is much too small. The remittances from Australia to America for film hire are between £740,000 and £800,000 per annum, and income taxation is paid only on the profits made by the branch companies, many of which operate at a loss. Although they show a loss on their operations in Australia, they remit large sums to America on which no Commonwealth taxation is paid.
– Some of these companies pay their secretaries £2,000 a year.
– Yes, in some cases the managers receive £3,000 a year and liberal expenses.
– Is that a book-keeping entry ?
– No, they actually receive that amount. The New South Wales Government taxed the profits now going to America under the Income Tax Management Amendment Act of 1925, and the Income Tax Amendment Act 1925, which provided that -
Any person who pays or agrees to pay or credits to any person whose principal place of business is outside the State, any money as consideration for the purchase or lease for exhibition in the State of any motion picture not manufactured in the Commonwealth shall be deemed to bo the representative of the foreign taxpayer, and the amount shall be deemed to be taxable income of the foreign taxpayer.
Under that provision the New South Wales Government levied taxation upon the money remitted to America by the Australian branch companies. In August, 1927, an application was made to the Supreme Court of New South
Wales, when the court ruled that the act was ultra vires. The matter is still the subject of litigation. The Commonwealth Taxation Department has had the whole question under consideration, but up to the present the opinion is held that the Commonwealth has no legal right to levy taxation upon such profits. Not one penny of taxation on the £800,000 which goes to America every year is paid into the coffers of the Australian Treasury. I want the Minister to keep that in mind, and also the recommendation of the commission on the subject. Australia affords a very lucrative field for exploitation by American film companies, which make large profits in this country and pay practically no taxation here, because the “ pup “ company in Australia is frequently made to run at a loss, and no taxation is paid on the £800,000 remitted to America annually.
– Yet honorable members opposite have suggested that no such thing exists.
– Either the honorable member misunderstands the whole position, or he is merely facetious. I suggest that he should read the report of the commission. I have stated that no American film combine operates in Australia. The contentious subject of the quota system came in for a great deal of discussion before the commission. All the importing companies, with the exception of those exclusively engaged in importing British pictures, opposed both an Australian and an Empire quota. They want absolute freedom to exploit the Australian market. The attitude of the showmen, with the exception of thos? in Queensland, is against a quota. Mr. Albert Edward Huckerby, General Secretary of the Australian Theatrical and Amusement Employees’ Association, Melbourne, said that he’ represented 20,000 employees in the picture-show business, and that he was not opposed to a reasonable quota. At the same time he urged that nothing should be done by the Commonwealth Government that would seriously interfere with the profits made by the picture houses of Australia, lest large numbers of employees in his union should be turned out of work. Mr. Huckerby claimed that people could not be forced to go to picture shows for entertainment. Many thousands of people prefer to go elsewhere for their entertainment.
Being an ardent protectionist and a. believer in the doctrine of preference to everything Australian, I started’ out on the investigations of the commission firmly of the opinion that Australian films were not receiving a fair deal, and were boycotted by an American combine. My opinion was influenced by what I had read in the newspapers and by what I had been told by people who claimed that they had studied the subject. Some newspapers, and responsible men such as Senator Guthrie, claimed that there was an absolute bar against all Australian films imposed by the picture houses, allegedly because of the influence of American interests. After I had heard the evidence I changed that opinion somewhat. I discovered that not one penny of American money is invested in any picture house in Australia to-day. That statement is based on a careful perusal of many balance-sheets and on evidence from all quarters. The commission soon found that a good Australian picture had no difficulty in obtaining a showing in Australia. The proprietors of picture houses stated that all that they wished to do was to sell entertainment to the public and, provided that they were offered a good Australian-made picture that would produce a profit, they would readily show it. They intimated that they. very naturally, preferred to have absolute freedom to buy in the world’s market and obtain the best films offering, without government interference.
– How did the producers of “ For the Term of His Natural Life “ fare?
– That film has had a wonderful success in Australia. It was produced by Australasian Films Limited at a cost of, approximately, £50,000. The same company also produced “ The Adorable Outcast/’ and took up the distribution of “ The Romance of Runnibede,” which was produced by Philips Films Production Limited. Both of those companies stated that they did not want any quota; that they would have no difficulty in obtaining a satisfactory release in Australia for any picture that they produced, as their pictures were of a high standard. In order to attain that standard they brought to Australia an expert American producer, and “ leads “ to take the principal parts. Mr. Raymond Longford, who is regarded as the outstanding Australian” producer, was of the opinion that the most effective method of encouraging Australian picture production was the establishment of an Empire quota in which would be included pictures made inany part of the Empire. He said that he would have no difficulty in getting any of his products included in the Empire quota. He felt confident that Australia could produce pictures of as high a standard as any imported from England; that a natural feeling of patriotism which existed among Australian showmen would influence them to consider Australian films favorably. Other small producers, many of them inexperienced, wanted a separate Australian quota. I viewed a large number of their pictures, and while many of them indicated great promise, I can quite understand the hesitancy of picture showmen about giving them a long run in their theatres. There are, approximately, 1,250 picture showmen in Australia, and although large profits are made by the two great picture combines - Union Theatres and Hoyt’s Limited - many of the smaller men are making little more than bare wages. That applies particularly to showmen in the country centres of Queensland,Western Australia, and Tasmania, from whom we took evidence. While admitting that I am an out-and-out protectionist, desirous of boosting the Australian article at all times, I believe that, when dealing with the picture industry, a Government must be careful about compelling showmen to show Australian pictures if the public do not wish to see them.
– Why should a Government force a person to look at an Australian picture any more than force him to wear an Australian hat ?
– There is wisdom in the remark of the honorable member for
Fawkner. Any quota legislation must be reasonable and of such a nature that it will not inflict hardship on the picture houses of Australia. If a picture is not up to standard people will not go to see it, and picture houses would have to close and pay off their employees if compelled to show unsuitable productions. Unfortunately, some of the inexperienced picture producers in Australia do not. realize that fact. That is why, after considering all the evidence, I support the recommendations of the commission -
That, subject to reciprocal arrangements being entered into by the Commonwealth Government with other parts of the Empire, an Empire quota be introduced. 2. (a) That, in every picture theatre in Australia, other than “ long-run “ theatres, there shall be screened during the first year of the quota period, feature films of Empire origin to the extent of 5 per cent. of the total number of feature films exhibited in such theatre during the year, with a minimum of ten such feature films.
The report also urges that due notice shall be given so that there may be ample time in which to produce Australianmade pictures or to import pictures from other parts of the Empire. A very necessary recommendation is made in the report that every film which it is desired to include in the quota shall first be submitted to the appeal board for determination as to whether it is of the required standard of merit. If some such provision did not exist a number of unscrupulous company promoters would tour the country inducing people to invest capital in mushroom companies for the purpose of producing films. Those companies would probably have inexperienced staffs, and would produce inferior films, expecting them to be shown by picture showmen under the provisions of the quota legislation. Such a provision would safeguard the interests of picture showmen in Australia. As the average number of feature films that each picture house shows yearly is 200, 5 per cent. would represent a quota of ten films per annum. It is evident that the proposed quota is reasonable, and, if insisted on will give a certain moral support to the Australian producer who is deserving of assistance. In a town where there are three picture shows 30 Empire films would be shown in a year. The leading Australian producer, Mr. Raymond Longford, said that an Empire quota such as has been recommended by the royal commission, would suit him and other Australian producers. I recognize, however, that to enable the Commonwealth to introduce legislation to enforce the quota it will be necessary to obtain specific powers from the States as recommended by the commission. Australia should become a pictureproducing country. It has many natural advantages, including an ideal climate. Our population is versatile, and our men and women have proved themselves capable in all walks of life throughout the world. They have become leaders in athletics, science, art and literature, and there is no reason why our people should not be successful as pictureproducers. To-day some of the outstanding personalities, including producers and artists, in the film business in America are Australians. These have been drawn to America because of the huge salaries that are paid there, and we could not expect them to come here to produce films unless they were given a reasonable measure of encouragement. I also subscribe to the following recommendation of the royal commission : -
That, subject to recommendations by the Appeal Board -
The last paragraph of the recommendation is very necessary, because the encouragement of inferior films would damage Australian production instead of assisting it.
– Has any Australian picture been shown in other countries?
Mr.FORDE. - Yes. Australian pictures have been shown successfully in Great Britain. Evidence was given before the royal commission by the various distributing companies that they felt confident that Australian productions of a high standard would obtain a ready sale even in America. They were also confident that there would be no difficulty in getting a satisfactory screening of such films in Great Britain. There isalso to be a reciprocal arrangement under the quota system, Great Britain to include in its quota Australian productions. New Zealand and Canada have introduced similar legislation, and South Africa has the subject under consideration. The Minister for Trade and Customs, referring to the proposed reward of merit for the best films produced in Australia in any one year, said -
The Government agrees in principle with recommendations 20, 21 and 22 regarding films produced in Australia, and a careful investigation will be given to the best means of giving effect to them.
I presume,of course, that something satisfactory will he done,but there is nothing definite in the Minister’s statement. He has promised to give consideration to the recommendations, and he agrees with the principle of giving an award of merit. I am keenly desirous of helping the struggling Australian producer. The concensus of opinion amongst witnesses before the commission was that awards of merit, in addition to the Empire quota, would afford considerable assistance to the bona fide Australian producers, all of whom say that they do not fear the supervision of an appeal board, whose duty it will be to consider whether a film is of a standard sufficiently high first to warrant a reward of merit, and, secondly, to come within the quota.
I am pleased to note from the Minister’s speech that the Government intends to adopt the royal commission’s recommendation to bring about uniformity in film censorship in Australia, and also to make uniform the laws relating to the motion picture industry. The benefit to be derived from that step must be apparent to all.
– The honorable member, of course, realizes that we are in the hands of the States so far as that recommendation is concerned.
– I quite realize that, and for that reason the commission recommended that a conference should be convened of representatives of the Commonwealth and States with the object of inducing the States to hand’ over to the Commonwealth the powers necessary to enable it to legislate for the film industry. The Government Of Victoria has for some time had an arrangement with the Commonwealth Government to censor all films, and I understand that it has been working satisfactorily. There is no State censorship in Victoria. At present, there is State censorship in New South Wales, Tasmania, and South Australia. The South Australian board consists of eight persons, including two women, and it has inspected only 27 films during the last ten years. The State censorship depends largely upon the Commonwealth censorship, which the States have found, generally speaking, to be quite satisfactory.
– A quantity of films has been rejected, both in Tasmania and in South Australia.
– I admit that there are leakages in the Commonwealth censorship, but that is only to be expected, because one censor cannot hope to please all sections of the community. There are two women on the Tasmanian Board. It has been said that the Commonwealth censorship should have greater powers. In this respect the commission reports : -
The censorship of cinematograph films’ imported into Australia is conducted in pursuance of regulations made under the Customs Act. Provision is contained in the regulations for the registration of imported films, and for the censor to approve of the film conditionally or unconditionally or to reject it. Registration will not be granted in the case of a film which in the opinion of the censor -
Is likely to be injurious to morality or to encourage or incite to crime.
Is likely to be offensive to the people of any friendly nation.
Is likely to be offensive to the people of the British Empire; or
depicts any matter the exhibition of which is undesirable in the public interest.
Those are wide and far-reaching powers, but the present Commonwealth censorship, being administered under provisions of the Customs Act relating to the control of the importation and exportation of commodities generally, is subject to constitutional limitations, and does not apply to films that are made in Australia for exhibition within Australia. The Commonwealth censorship only operates when those films are exported to other countries for exhibition. Consequently a film may be produced in New South Wales and shown anywhere within the Commonwealth without the Commonwealth censorship having the power to decide whether it is fit for public screening. Because of the restricted constitutional powers of the Commonwealth, advertisements and other matter printed in Australia cannot be censored. In some instances, the advertisements are repellent and suggestive.. At times the influence they exert on the public mind is much worse than that of the film to which they relate. In the past a great deal of advertising matter has been offensive, but the Minister, acting in conjunction with the Commonwealth censor, conferred with the film, importers, who promised not to have printed in Australia any advertising matter that would not have been passed if imported. Women’s organizations throughout Australia placed before the royal commission convincing evidence of the need for a woman representative on the Commonwealth Censorship Board. Women play an important part in the home. They mould the character of the future generation. About 80 per cent, of those who visit picture shows to-day consist of women, girls and children. The most frequent patrons of picture shows are girls and boys of adolescent age, and for that reason the censorship should be effective and strict, although not so rigid as to preclude the screening of films of a reasonable type.
– Did the commission obtain evidence respecting the intellectual standard of films?
– Yes. Generally speaking, the intellectual standard of pictures is not high. While it is difficult to point to any specific instance in which a film has had a demoralizing influence upon an individual, I must confess that the influence of many films upon the masses has not been good. Some films have a high educational value, but many which come here from America and every other place where films are made, are trash.
– Is it true, as reported in the press some time ago, that, generally speaking, films are manufactured to suit the intelligence of a child nine years of age?
– I disagree with that statement. After seeing motion pictures in every part of Australia I have a much higher opinion of them than that.
I am glad that the Government has seen fit to adopt the recommendation of the commission that a woman should be appointed to the Board of Censors. Such a move must have beneficial results. While, generally speaking, the Commonwealth censorship of films has been fairly satisfactory during the last few years, I must say that some pictures of very doubtful value have been released for exhibition. These leakages are referred to in the report of the commission.
– I have made inquiries into the instances mentioned in the report, and have ascertained that they occurred while the Censor was on leave.
– In Mr. W. Cresswell O’Reilly the Commonwealth Government has a most valuable officer. To censor films satisfactorily a person requires special qualifications, such as a wide knowledge of humanity, and a good knowledge of art, literature and drama. Persons with these qualifications are not easily found, but Mr. O’Reilly has discharged his onerous duties creditably. I can quite understand that his subordinate officers, who might be called upon to censor films during his absence on leave, would not be able easily to maintain the high standards which he has set. The Government was also fortunate in obtaining the service as Chief Censor of a gentleman with the ability of Professor Wallace, and I am glad that he has been invited to become the chairman of the Appeal Board. One could not listen to the evidence which was submitted to the commission in favour of the appointment of a woman censor without realizing that such a move would be wise, and I hope that, after the newly-constituted Board of Censors begins its work, the screening of any pictures of an objectionable nature will be a thing of the past. Under the existing regulations importers have the right to appeal to the Minister for Trade and Customs against any decision of the Chief Censor, but the Minister is a busy man. “ Although he has given a great deal of his time to the film industry, he has had frequently to delegate his powers to his subordinate officers. [Extension of time granted.] I appreciate the courtesy of honorable members in allowing me to complete the speech which I have prepared. I shall not abuse their indulgence. I am glad that the Government has adopted the recommendation of the commission that an appeal board should be set up. The commission recommended a board of five persons, for the reason that, in its opinion, it was preferable to have a larger personnel to deal with appeals than to censor the pictures in the first place; but I shall be gratified at the appointment of a board of appeal of either five or three persons.
The imposition of an additional duty of -Jd. per lineal foot on films imported under the general tariff is, in my opinion, justifiable. The industry can well afford to pay this impost, and, seeing that the revenue from it, which will amount to about £44,000 per annum, will be used to improve the standard of pictures and stimulate the production of films in Australia, there should be no objection to it. The adoption of the recommendations of the commission will involve an expenditure of about £20,000 per annum, so that the increased tax will meet the ‘proposed new expenditure. As the extra tax will involve those who attend picture shows in Australia in an additional expenditure of only one-tenth of a penny per head it should not cause any outcry. Entertainments such as picture shows are a luxury, and therefore may rightly be called upon to bear some measure of taxation. The motion picture industry of Australia -has up to date “escaped very lightly in this regard.
I trust that the Government will take early steps to arrange a conference between representatives of the Commonwealth and the States with the object of introducing uniform legislation in regard to this industry, and particularly to provide for the sole Commonwealth censorship of films. It is also desirable that the earliest possible steps shall be taken to give effect to the proposal of the commission to grant awards of merit to locally produced pictures. . I trust that the States will by their active co-operation make it practicable for the Government to introduce without delay legislation to provide for a quota system in Australia.
It is also highly desirable that the Commonwealth and the States shall co-operate to encourage the use of suitable educational pictures in the schools of Australia. At the Maroubra Public School, in New South Wales, a special room and equipment have been provided for the showing of educational films, and the results have been highly satisfactory. Educational films are also shown regularly at a number of other important schools throughout Australia. Numerous educational films are available to illustrate production methods in the pottery, iron and steel, sugar,- cotton and other important Australian industries, as well as industries in other parts of the world. The members of the commission were quite satisfied that educational films could be used in the schools with most beneficial results,, particularly in the country districts of Australia. In the not distant future Australia should be producing pictures of a high order, worthy of comparison with the best produced overseas. Given a stricter censorship of motion pictures, and a gradual improvement of the standard of films, such as must follow the adoption of the recommendations of the commission and the co-operation of the Commonwealth and State authorities, we should soon have reason for gratification by the edifying nature of the pictures screened in the film houses throughout Australia. This would be all to the advantage of the generation of Australians which is now growing up.
.- In view of the Government having intimated that it had decided to ask my cooperation when placing the report before the State Governments to assist it in giving effect to certain recommendations which the commission has made I did not intend to participate in this debate; but on second thoughts I have decided that it might be as well to elaborate certain parts of the report. First of all I must express my personal thanks to my brother commissioners for the invaluable assistance they rendered to me throughout the whole of our proceedings. Very early in our investigations it became apparent that the commissioners did not intend to take party considerations into account in discharging the onerous duties which had been placed upon them. They realized that they had a difficult task in hand, and entered upon their work in a spirit which deserves every praise. I think I may say without exaggeration that the report which has been presented is worth while. The Government has itself shown that it is so, for it has almost adopted our recommendations in toto. Those that have not been altogether adopted involve considerations which affect the State governments. But I trust that the day is not distant when I shall be able to say that the whole of our proposals have been adopted.
I must compliment the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Pratten) upon the manner in which he has during the last few years discharged his obligations in relation to the censorship of motion pictures. The members of the commission have seen many pictures in the course of their inquiries, and have realized the difficulties with which the Minister was faced. I have made investigations at Hollywood on three or four occasions when I have visited the United States of America, and I know the difficulties which a censor has to meet. One morning in Melbourne we were present at the private screening of a film which had been banned by the censor. Personally I wondered why it had not been passed. For the life of me I could not see why the censors had banned it, yet they were unanimously of opinion that it should be banned, whilst I, as chairman of the commission, thought that the film should be released. On the other hand, I have seen many films, and so have my brother commissioners, which should not have been released; but when we made inquiry to find out why they had been released we came up against the crux of the whole problem. It was given in evidence by Professor Wallace, and has been repeated in a report by Mr. O’Reilly on a film recently exhibited in Sydney. It is that, although a particular film may contain some very doubtful incidents, such as a super-sex appeal treated rather roughly, if it is of a highly artistic or dramatic nature the censors will pass it. If honorable members will look at the report of the commission they will find that we dealt specificially with that problem, and stated that we were not in accord with that particular view of film censorship. In comparison with the very large number of feature films released for exhibition, over 700 each year, the leakages are few, but these few may have a very detrimental effect upon the people of our community, and ought not to be passed. That really sums up the position in regard to the censorship and these leakages.
The report of the chief censor tabled to-day contains a division headed, “ Victorian Act and Classification “
There is a film act in Victoria which the State has asked the Commonwealth to administer. This report states that 25 per cent, of the feature films released for exhibition in Victoria were marked, “Unsuitable for children,” and the censors’ comment is as follows: -
We are of opinion that it would be better, once a classification of adult and children’s films is made and sufficiently announced, a procedure which we strongly endorse, the responsibility for allowing their children to see films marked as unsuitable for them should be thrown upon the parents of the community.
When the commission made its recommendation on this point it had not seen that report, but it came to the same conclusion. We had a great deal of evidence on the matter. We were told by many witnesses that they were worried about the effect of films upon children, and that hundreds of youngsters who attended pictures on week nights were unfit for school next day because they then were suffering from watery eyes, were listless, and their brains were tired. A lady professor of education who came before us in Adelaide expressed that opinion. She was asked, “Are you really worried about this?” She replied, “We are.” She was asked, “ What do you suggest ?” Her answer was, “ We suggest a regulation that will prevent children from going to picture shows from Monday to Friday.” We investigated this particular matter very thoroughly, and we saw that there were many difficulties in the way of restraining young people from attending pictures at night. We had almost unanimous evidence that there was in Australia a lack of parental control, and that the parents did not really mind their children going to see anything at a picture show. We had to meet this difficulty, and have done so by suggesting a grading system by a censorship board. I ask honorable members, the press, and the public to read our report on this point carefully, and note the reasons which actuated us in making that recommendation.
I want the press also to read carefully that portion of the report of the commission which suggests that the States should transfer to the Commonwealth the power to legislate in certain directions in regard to the film industry. The trade throughout the Commonwealth is unanimous in asking for one control ; but unless the Commonwealth is given the necessary power it cannot legislate in the desired direction to promote Australian production. We have advocated a quota of 5 per cent. for the first year of Empire films in which Australian films would come, but without the requisite power the Commonwealth can do nothing in the matter other than perhaps legislate by means of regulations under the Customs Act - a back-door method. We have advocated that a contract for the hiring of films should not extend beyond twelve months, but without the necessary power we cannot impose that restriction. Those are only two important matters of many in regard to which the Commonwealth is practically powerless. The Americans are pretty smart people - I have a great admiration for them - and if the Commonwealth has not the power to legislate in the direction required, they will see that no films other than American are shown in Australia and, in consequence, Australian production will be postponed for years, and perhaps for ever. They will, no doubt, offer contracts to Australian showmen so advantageous in terms for the supply of first grade films,not for one or two years, but for three, four or five years, that they will block out for those periods and, perhaps, as I say, for ever, the screening of films produced in Australia. That difficulty can be overcome if the States will only see the need for giving control to the Commonwealth. I do not know that the States can have any prejudice against Commonwealth control at the present time. The commission has recommended to them the right to have a film reviewed by the Appeal Board. There are local boards in New South Wales, Tasmania and South Australia. The New South Wales board does not really to any major degree function, but the boards in Tasmania and South Australia do, and the people of those States would not like to give up their rights of censorship unless the Commonwealth censorship is what they would like it to be. But when they read the report of the commission they will see that our recommendation is to have not one censor, but three - two men and, what the States want, a woman, each of whom will have a separate projection room. In any case of doubt, a film can be put on one side for subsequent review by the whole consorship board. If there is still doubt, the film can go on to the Appeal Board for review, and even when a picture has been released and is being exhibited in the theatres it may still, at the request of a State Minister, be sent back to the Appeal Board for review. Those provisions should satisfy the States as regard the censorship and induce them to grant the request of the commission that the Commonwealth should have power to legislate on certain matters. The points we seek to establish are set out on page 26 of our report under the heading “ Conclusion.” We say -
In making the various recommendations contained in this report your commissioners are aware that there are several phases of the industry in which the Commonwealth’s powers are limited by the Constitution, and that to embody these recommendations in a legislative enactment it will be necessary for the Commonwealth Government to approach the various States with a request that under placitum (xxxvii) of section 51 of the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act, the States should, by legislation, refer’ the matter to and confer the necessary powers on the Commonwealth. From their investigations your commissioners believe that there would be little difficulty in inducing the States to pass legislation giving the Commonwealth the sole power to control - (a) the censorship of all fims exhibited for profit and also of all films produced in Australia, providing provision was made for a State Minister to demand a review by the Appeal Board of any film, the exhibition of which was deemed objectionable.
If the States gave the Commonwealth power to legislate in this direction they would still have the right to ask for the review of any objectionable film. At present the Commonwealth Censorship can deal only with imported films, or exported films. It cannot deal with a film made in Australia for exhibition in Australia. It is necessary for the Commonwealth to have the power to do this -
At present we can, under our customs regulations, deal with all printed matter coming into Australia, but we cannot control matter printed or copied in Australia. Wewant the Commonwealth to have that power -
We must have some control over the exhibitor in the matter of the quota. If we are to enforce exhibitors to show 5 per cent. of Empire films in the first year, we must have power to impose a penalty on those who do not obey that instruction.
I have already dealt with that matter. The commission advises limiting the period to twelve months - and also the necessary power to compel the exhibition of the quota of Empire films recommended by your commission in this report.
In other words we are asking for Commonwealth power to control the production, distribution and exhibition of moving pictures. Without this power the rest of the report of the commission dealing with the encouragement of Australian production is not worth the paper on which it is written. I am firmly of opinion that the Government, acting so rapidly as it did by increasing the duty on the very day on which the report of the commission was tabled, will annoy the importers. Those men are keen business men, who will do what they can to block anything further being done to restrict the showing of American films in Australia. When the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr.Forde) was speaking I interjected that, without American films coming in, our picture shows must close. We owe a debt of gratitude to America for sending to us some wonderful films. The King of Kings, which will be screened to-morrow night in Sydney for the first time in Australia is, I think, the greatest film we have ever seen. At the same time, we want to see Australian films on the screen, and if the Commonwealth does not get this power to enforce the quota the Americans will be found encouraging the exhibitors to enter into very long contracts with them, thus making it practically impossible for Australian producers to get their pictures on Australian screens. I hope the States will see that this is a genuine and sincere request by the members of this Parliament who drew up this report that they should help towards Australian production by granting what the trade throughout Australia was unanimous in asking us to give them - one uniform control by the Commonwealth. We hope the States will help us in that direction. The industry badly wants Commonwealth control. In the Melbourne press the other day I noticed a statement attributed to the Premier of Victoria, in which he expressed satisfaction with the working of the Victorian Act - under the control of the Commonwealth, of course, it is working well - and also the hope that the other States might be induced to follow the example of Victoria. I am quite sure that when he made that statement he could not have had the report before him. I have endeavoured to obtain a second copy of it, but without success. I have been inundated with requests for copies. At least 2,000 should be printed, because no less than 1,300 showmen will want to read it.
– Does the honorable member think that we should be asked to discuss the report before we have had an opportunity to read it?
– I am sure that honorable members are under a great handicap in that regard. Perhaps the Minister may see a way out of the difficulty.
– It is only fair to say that I arranged to have 100 copies ready for honorable members on Tuesday.
– Then what has become of them ? I endeavoured to discover what bricks were likely to be thrown at the commission in consequence of its recommendations. So far, the press of Australia generally has not had a chance to express its opinion on the report ; but I notice that the Sydney Daily Telegraph had a small leader on the subject. Although its opening comments were rather eulogistic, it concluded by saying that it was absurd to put an industry in a cast-iron jacket. I wish that that journal had proceeded to justify that comment. The commission has been most lenient in its recommendations regarding the showmen. It suggests that they be required to show 5 per cent, of the available Empire films in the first year. If I were a showman, and there were very few quota films available, why should I be compelled to exhibit a similar film to that being shown by a rival theatre a short distance away? That phase and others have been dealt with in the report. The commission does not attempt to hold a “big stick” over anybody. An exhibitor, if he is dissatisfied, may go to the Appeal Board, and, with a man like Professor Wallace as chairman, he would be sure to obtain relief if he had a good case. No less than 241 persons, representing every branch of the industry, came before the commission, and said, “ Strengthen the censorship, because 110,000,000 visits to picture shows are made in Australia annually, and what the. people see on the screen has a greater effect upon their minds than what they read. You are apt to make or mar a nation by the class of pictures shown to them.” We have recommended that the censorship be strengthened by relieving the one censor of a task that is impossible of accomplishment. Imagine the brain-wearying work of a man endeavouring to censor four or five long feature films daily from Monday till Friday ! That the work is too strenuous for one man is the reason why leakages occur. Therefore, the commission advocates the appointment of three paid censors - two men and a woman. Then the distributor was highly dissatisfied with the censorship. One leading showman came to me personally - he should not have done so, but I was naturally anxious to learn all I could - and said, “ I cannot carry on my business. I have had about twelve films censored in the last fortnight or three weeks.” I replied, “ There must be something seriously wrong with the pictures you are getting, if Mr. O’Reilly has turned them down.” When I heard the other side of the story I found- that the censor was justified in rejecting them. On page 6 of his report for 1927 tabled to-day, at the end of the paragraph dealing with the efficiency of the censors’ np, Mr. O’Reilly states -
If any change is contemplated, it will be necessary to see to it that the censor’s authority is not frittered away. It would be better to have no censorship at all than a censorship whose decisions are not respected.
So the censor himself has asked for further power. The commission proposes that it should be given to him, and that two others should be appointed to assist him. The commission, when in Adelaide, questioned the suitability of certain films for public exhibition, and on returning to Melbourne we saw queues of people waiting to see a picture to which exception had been taken. Some of them were filthy films, and we endeavoured to discover how they had come to be released. Professor Wallace said that he had not seen them at all. We learned that some of them had been passed by the lantern operator. When we inquired why this person had censored a certain film, the explanation given was that the censor himself could not possibly get through the work, and the exhibitors were waiting for it. When we had the lantern operator before us he said that, after further consideration of the matter, he would not pass the film if he saw it again. He realized that the picture made an ultra sex appeal, and should not be allowed on the screen. With a woman on the board with two men, they will get through the work more expeditiously and more satisfactorily than in the past.
– Will the three censors act separately or conjointly?
– Separately. If they have a doubt regarding a film, they will put it on one side, and the doubtful pictures will be reviewed by the board of three. If there is still. a doubt, the matter can go to the appeal board. With these progressive stages, I do not think that there will be as much trouble in the future as has occurred in the past. I asked one of the largest film importers if he would be satisfied with that arrangement, and he replied, “Undoubtedly; that is what we want.” The importers are not satisfied with an appeal to the Minister concerning a rejected or severely cut film, but prefer an appeal board. The commission advocated a board of five; but the Government has seen fit - and I make no complaint against its decision - to limit the board to two men and a woman. I agree with the honorable member for Capricornia that the women of Australia put up an unanswerable case in their claim for representation on the board. Men like Sir James Barrett, the eminent Melbourne surgeon, and other leading citizens, favoured the inclusion of a woman; and even Professor Wallace, when the question was put to him, said he saw no objection to it, if the right woman were appointed.
– Even Sir Victor Wilson said he would agree to that, if he had a voice in choosing the woman.
– That is so, and I trust that the Government will select the right person. I am sure that my fellow commissioners will join me in that hope. If the woman makes the slightest mistake, she will have the American film interests up in arms at once. She will need to be of strong character, so that those interests cannot affect her judgment. The honorable member for Capricornia has already dealt with the subject of the boycott of British films. It may be interesting to know how the reports on that matter found their way into” the pres3 in Australia and London. The commission had before it copies of cables published in the British press, stating that British films taken to Australia could not be shown there. What actually occurred was that one or two Englishmen saw a chance of making money by buying British films in London for a few hundred pounds, and making thousands of pounds out of them by taking them to Australia. In one instance, for a British film for which they paid about £700, they asked one exhibitor to pay £400 a week for its exhibition in one theatre, and some hundreds of pounds for its release in the suburbs. When the picture showmen refused to accept films on such conditions, these “carpet-bag” men sent long articles to the press, in which they referred to the boycott of British films. The result was that the people of Australia were misled into be.lieving that there was in reality a boycott of such films. Mr. Raymond Longford, an Australian who has produced some wonderfully good films in Australia, including “ The Sentimental Bloke,” made the same complaint about the difficulty in getting Australian films exhibited; but when the commission, under its powers, called upon witnesses to produce their books of account and other documents, it found that practically every film produced in Australia had been shown both by Union Theatres Limited and Hoyt’s in their chain of theatres throughout Australia. The commission found no evidence of an American combine. On the contrary, it is satisfied that no American money is invested in Australian picture theatres. It is true that with about 95 per cent, of the films shown in Australia being of American origin, the American picture producers control the Australian screen ; but that is not conclusive evidence of an American combine. Until about twelve months ago scarcely any films, other than. American, were available in Australia. America dominates the picture industry; but there is no evidence that American producers are exercising a strangle-hold upon it. Exhibitors are glad to get American films; otherwise, their theatres would have to be closed.
– How do the charges made for American films compare with the amounts charged for British films?
– Many Australian showmen have paid almost twice as much for British and Australian films as for American films of equal quality. In some cases they have done so notwithstanding that the Australian or British films have not been great box office attractions. In recommending the quota system the commission proposes that for a film to be regarded as of British origin 75 per cent, of the money spent on its production must be paid to natural born’ or naturalized British subjects. The commission is agreeable to the introduction of one foreign star or producer to each picture. Personally, I should prefer that both a star and a producer from abroad be introduced, in order that the whole of the business may be learned. Unless an accomplished star from whom they can learn is available in Australia, aspirants for film fame will have to go abroad to acquire proper training.
I hope that the commission’s recommendations in relation to awards of merit will speedily be approved. It seems to be the only way to meet a difficult situation. Some of the witnesses who appeared before the commission advocated the establishment of a national studio, or studios. Apart from the question of cost - it was estimated that approximately £150,000 would be required for the purpose - many difficulties would arise. Chief among them would probably be the situation of the studios. Canberra was suggested as a suitable situation; but if a national studio were established at the national capital, a producer in “Western Australia would be at a disadvantage compared- with a producer in Sydney. The expense of conveying the east from Western Australia to Canberra would make the cost of the picture too great. Other witnesses favoured the establishment of schools of cinematography at the several universities; still others advocated various methods of training Australians in the production of pictures. The commission, however, is “ of the opinion that the granting of awards of merit together with the Empire quota is the most effective way of establishing the film-producing industry in this country. By such means the production of good films and of stories suitable for filming would be encouraged. Where considered desirable, the Appeal Board should have the power to call upon experts for advice. Only this evening I received a telegram from a friend of mine, who is one of Australia’s largest suburban picture exhibitors. He deplored the proposed increase in duty because, he said, it will be passed on. Of course, it will be passed on! I have a copy of the contract which Australian exhibitors have to sign with the American distributing companies, and it provides that should the duty be increased at any time, the showman must pay the difference. He, in turn, may endeavour to pass on the extra cost to the public; but as, according to the figures given by the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Pratten) it will amount to only 3s. 4d. a performance, it is too small to cause any worry, and there will be no excuse for passing it on to the public. The report states why the commission advocated the increased duty. Additional expenditure will be involved in connexion with the awards of merit, and the ‘enlargement of the censorship staff. The salaries of the censors also should be increased. Mr. O’Reilly has been performing his duties for the “marvellous” salary of £600 a year. It is nothing short of a tragedy that a man who is censoring pictures seen by 110,000,000 people, and is thus indirectly charged with the responsibility of moulding the character of the nation, should receive only £600 a year. I trust that the Government will see that the three censors are paid an adequate salary. Additional funds will also be required for the provision of appropriate premises, with three projection rooms, the fitting up of which will cost, in each case, £750; a proper room for the display of the huge advertisements and posters that are used in the industry; and accommodation such as will obviate the risk of fire. A further avenue of expenditure may be the installing of the cinema in the schools of Australia. America has raised that branch of the industry to a high state of proficiency. At the Maroubra, New South Wales, public school, 20,000 feet of film are shown to the scholars every week. I hope that the Commonwealth Government will endeavour to assist theStates financially to put the cinema into the schools. It is a wonderfully efficient instrument for educating the scholars. The Maroubra public school was an eyeopener to us. Every class in rotation views, daily, films relating to the subjects upon which they have had lessons during the day, and the examinations prove that wonderful results have accrued. The Commonwealth Government might assist with a film library of - educational films gathered from all parts of the world, which could be made available to the schools for a nominal feeThe extra duty was recommended, also as an additional measure of preference to the Motherland. For the reasons that I have stated, I had no hesitation in joining with my brother commissioners in making that recommendation. Before criticism is offered of the report, based on the references to it that have appeared in the newspapers, I ask that every word be read, because the first page has a bearing on the last. It is one story dealing with the people’s greatest form of amusement, and it deserves the most serious consideration. I ask the
States to keep an open mind on the question until the Minister, and, I hope, I also, can place before them the exact position. It will then be realized that this is a sincere non-party gesture from this Parliament to the Parliaments of the States, in the hope that they will help us to obtain what the trade throughout Australia has asked for, namely, a uniform law. Such a measure could then be introduced in this House, governing the whole of the industry. Australian production will be fostered by the introduction of the quota of Empire films, the limitation of contracts, and the adoption of the other recommendations in the report.
.- As the report is a unanimous one, and apparently, has received the full approval of the Government, and, I hope, of honorable members generally, I should not have spoken on this matter but that the speech delivered by the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Pratten) on Tuesday, led me to believe that there might be a false impression of the intentions of the commissioners when they framed the report, particularly in regard to increasing the powers of the Commonwealth. May I preface my remarks by stating that one cannot fail to realize the enormous importance of the films to the people of Australia. At the present time it is their greatest source of amusement, as the attendances throughout Australia amply prove. It must also be realized that no greater power exists for propaganda purposes, and the building up of a national sentiment. It gives to the people of Australia an acquaintance with those who live in every other part of the world. It depicts lifo in Japan, China, Alaska, and other countries, and must, consequently, tend to broaden the opinions of the people generally. There is an old saying, that trade follows the flag. The evidence which was placed before the commission left no room for doubt that, to a very large extent, trade follows the cinema. The screening of American pictures in South America has had a pronounced influence upon the people of that country, and has tended to the building up of American as against European trade.
Then again, there is the educational influence, of which the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Marks) has already spoken. The cinema is undoubtedly an instrument for either good or evil. A most important aspect is the censorship. Children have very retentive memories; therefore they must witness only the best class of picture. There is an old Chinese proverb which says that one picture conveys to the mind as much as does the reading of 20,000 words on the same subject. While that may be a slightexaggeration, there is not the least doubt that what people see has, in many cases, a far greater influence upon their minds than what they read. Parliament must not be led astray in the slightest degree in connexion with what the commission has recommended, particularly in the matter of granting additional powers to the Commonwealth. It is not desired that there should be an amendment of the Constitution as forecast by the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Pratten) yesterday, and if that impression is gathered by the States, great difficulties may arise. If the Minister will clearly state the powers the commission requires, I do not think there will be any great difficulty in providing fairly efficient control of the cinema industry of Australia. The moving picture industry is of great importance, and can not be efficiently administered without further powers being granted by the States. I strongly urge the Government to introduce legislation covering the film industry, which is too important to be controlled by regulations. Greater powers are required, and sub-section 37 of section 51 of the Constitution provides -that : -
The Parliament shall subject to this Constitution have power to make laws for the peace, order, and good government of the Commonwealth with respect to … . matters referred to the Parliament of the Commonwealth by the Parliament or Parliaments of any State or States, but so that the law shall extend only to States by whose Parliaments the matter is referred or which afterwards adopts the law.
The States should be approached with the object of inducing them to pass legislation giving the Commonwealth the specific powers required, many of which are necessary if effect is to be given to the recommendations of the commission. The commission suggested, for instance, that the distributors and exhibitors of imported pictures should be registered as they are under the British act; but we have not the power under the Constitution to insist upon that. Additional powers will be required also in connexion with the quota system, and in controlling the class of entertainments provided for children. I do not think there will be the slightest difficulty, provided a specific request is made to the States. They would have the right to revoke the power conferred if they so desired ; but that would not be likely if the Federal censorship was sound and efficient. The honorable member for “Wentworth (Mr. Marks) referred to the recommendation that a’ State Minister should have the right to demand from the appeal board the review of any picture which was deemed objectionable and also to apply to an appeal board to review any picture released by the censor. The right to appeal to an appeal board to review a picture was demanded by numerous witnesses, who in many cases were most emphatic that some change was required, particularly in connexion with the class of pictures shown to children. They strongly contended that greater attention must be paid to this phase of the business. I am sure that unless the States were satisfied that the censorship would be improved, there would be great difficulty in inducing them to give complete control to the Commonwealth. The commission has recommended the appointment of a censorship board, upon which there should be a woman. The success of such a board will depend largely upon the qualifications of the persons appointed. Care should be taken to secure the services of a broadminded woman - not one of those always looking for trouble - who has had a wide experience of life, and preferably one who has reared a family. Such a woman would be preferable to a spinster, who might have other qualifications, but would not be so suitable as one of the type I have mentioned. In the States the commission visited there were expressions of dissatisfaction with the censorship as it has been conducted in the past. I do not think there were any complaints against the department, the Minister controlling, it, or the censor. The members of the commission were fully conversant with the difficulties with which the department has been confronted in the past, but in Tasmania and South Australia, the local censorship boards have turned down picture after picture approved by the censor, and have refused to allow them to be shown.
– Was that during the last ten years?
– I think I am correct in saying it was in the last three years. Numerous women witnesses, who emphasized the necessity of a strict censorship board, did not wish to give up the right of the local board to reject pictures.
– I admit that some years ago the censorship required some alteration.
– I am not criticizing the Minister who, as well as the censor, has done good work. I am not making any complaints, as I know the difficulties the department is up against. I realize, however, the enormous importance of the cinema, its effects for good and also evil particularly upon children, if pictures are immoral. I wish to again impress upon the Minister the fact that the women of Australia will not agree to losing control unless assured that a strong censorship board will be appointed, and one which will pass only the best class of pictures. Many complaints were made by women’s organizations. In Victoria and New South Wales there are special leagues known as Good Film Leagues, who pay officials to inspect and report on films. In South Australia they spoke of forming a similar league, their objective being the showing of a better class of film. From the outset of the inquiry there was a strong demand for the quota system for the building up of an Australian industry. Some witnesses advocated a quota of 25 per cent., and others demanded a quota of 50 per cent, of Australian and British films. I do not think that there is a single agent of a British picture producer in Australia to-day, and but few Australian pictures suitable for the exhibitor are available. British producers have made marvellous efforts during the last two years to win back the trade that they lost during the war, and science is helping them to combat the unfavorable climatic conditions with which they have to contend. The commission realized that a quota of anything like 25 per cent. would be quite unworkable, and ultimately agreed to begin with a quota of 5 per cent. of Empire pictures, to be increased gradually as desired. As the Commonwealth is to be called upon to provide a considerable amount of money for awards of merit and other monetary encouragement to the industry, I am glad that commonsense prevailed, and that the Government imposed an additional½d. a foot on films under the general tariff, which should bring in an increased revenue of something like £35,000 per annum. The commission recommended that awards of £5,000, £2,500, and £1,500 should be given for meritorious pictures of Australian production, but those prizes need not be given unless the Board of Appeal is satisfied that the pictures are really of merit. A lady, Mrs. Macdonald, when giving evidence in Adelaide, urged that awards of merit should be made each year for the best films produced in Australia - pictures which would build up national sentiments, be of high moral standard, and contain humour, but not containing propaganda which might be prejudical to international relations or likely to promote illfeeling with other countries. Such a suggestion, emanating from a lady, indicates that our womenfolk can bring intelligence and common sense to bear on national problems. I readily agreed to the duty of 2d. a foot, because I realized that as the commission was recommending increased expenditure, particularly for prizes for Australian productions, it should suggest the ways and means. Moreover, this method was recommended rather than the provision of a high quota which would seriously embarass exhibitors and perpetuate the Government policy of indiscriminate protection, which, in this case, could not be passed on and would cause many showmen to close their theatres. The commission also recommended the granting of bonuses not only for the best pictures, but to clever writers who produced scenarios of value.
The chairman of the commission mentioned the specific value of the educational films. In California special arrangements are made to hire out educational films to schools, literary institutions, or any one desiring to lecture on practically any subject. Mr. Gibson has imported over 1,000 such films into Australia on all subjects. The commission felt that the Government should endeavour to assist the States in introducing the educational film into schools, as it is generally admitted that the mind retains better what is seen than what is heard.
The subject of the Performing Rights Association did not receive exhaustive treatment because it was before the law courts, and the commission did not wish to deal with a matter that was sub judice. That association has made many impudent and arrogant demands, and it is time that we had some amendment of our copyright laws. Only recently the Italian Government has amended its copyright laws in certain directions, and I wondered why it was able to do so when we had not that power. Without any alteration of our Constitution I believe that the Commonwealth, by proper representation to the States, could obtain their co-operation in this matter. Victoria has already granted certain powers to the Commonwealth, and I feel confident that if suitable representations were made to the other States they would readily assist this Government to deal with the problem. At present there is no control over posters produced in Australia, some of which are as lewd as any that are imported. Such things should come under one uniform control. I ask the Minister for an assurance that the censorship board will be such that the women of Australia can be assured that the pictures screened in future will be of a cleaner and better type than some of those that have appeared in the past.
Debate (on motion by Dr. Maloney) adjourned.
House adjourned at 10.40p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 26 April 1928, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1928/19280426_reps_10_118/>.