10th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Sir Littleton Groom) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
Leases - Kerbing and Guttering
– Has Has the Minister for Home and Territories read the evidence given by Senator Elliott before the Public Accounts Committee regarding leases in the Federal Capital Territory? If so, will the Minister enquire into the startling allegations made by the honorable senator ?
– I have not seen a report of the evidence tendered by Senator Elliott, but I shall inquire into the startling allegations which the honorable member says were made.
– To allay the anxiety of lessees, will the Minister for Home and Territories inform the House whether the Government has come to a decision as to the validity or otherwise of the charges proposed to be levied by the Federal Capital Commission for kerbing and guttering?
– This matter has occupied my attention for some time ; it is still under consideration, but I expect to submit a recommendation to Cabinet next week.
– The Melbourne newspapers report experiments which have been conducted by Government officers in connexion with the defrosting of refrigerated meat. As this matter is of great importance, particularly to the meat export trade, will the Minister make a statement to the House as soon as reliable information is available?
– If the new defrosting process can do all that is claimed for it it will be of tremendous value to Australia. I am awaiting a report from the Chief Veterinary Officer, and as soon as it is available, I shall be pleased to supply the information to honorable members.
– Is the Commonwealth assisting in the defrosting experiments, either financially or by making available the services of expert officers?
– No, but the Chief Veterinary Officer of the Commonwealth has been in attendance during the experiments.
Amalgamation of 3LO and 3AE.
– Is the PostmasterGeneral aware that an extraordinary meeting of the shareholders of 3 A.E. has been convened for the 18th May to confirm the amalgamation of that company with 3LO and that the scheme provides that the revenue derived from broadcasting in Victoria, which exceeds £130,000 yearly”, shall be divided between these two companies, whereas previously 3LO took 70 -per cent, of it? Having regard to the fact that such a vast revenue is obtainable from the listen ers-in, now numbering throughout Australia nearly 300,000, of whom more than half are in Victoria, will the Minister do something to protect this large number of people from being fleeced by a great broadcasting combine ?
– Everything possible will be done by the department to assure to listeners-in throughout Australia the best possible broadcasting service.
– Has the Treasurer noticed that considerable dissatisfaction is being expressed with the excessive valuations placed by the Land Tax Department on both rural and urban lands through the departmental practice of adopting as the basis of valuation sale prices, which are often the result of keen competition? Will the Treasurer confer with the Commissioner with a view to substituting the fair productive or rental value of the land as the basis of valuation for taxation purposes?
– The determining of a proper basis of valuation for taxation purposes is a complex and difficult problem which has occupied the attention of the Commissioner on many occasions. The basis now employed is considered fair, especially as provision has been made for the appointment of appeal boards, before which any dissatisfied taxpayer may have his valuation reexamined at a minimum cost to himself. Tour such boards have already been appointed.
– Objection is taken to the composition of the board.
– The composition of the boards is as provided for by a statute of this Parliament.
– Can the Treasurer say to what extent the loan recently floated by the Commonwealth in New York was over-subscribed?
– I am unable to state the exact amount, but the loan was heavily over-subscribed, and was only on offer to the public for one and a half hours.
– Last night, in a moment of anger during the dinner interval, I addressed to the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan), within the precincts of this House, the most offensive epithet that one man could employ towards another. As it was overheard by a number of honorable members, I openly and frankly express my regret for having made use of such an insulting term, and apologize to the honorable member for Batman for having applied it to him.
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear !
– Will the Prime Minister inform the House of the extent to which the Commonwealth is likely to co-operate with the States in alleviating the distress of soldier land settlers, many of whom, in Victoria particularly, have received notice to quit their holdings and to look to the Commonwealth for some other form of repatriation? What progress has been made with the investigation which the Commonwealth instituted, and when is the House likely to receive a clear statement of the position?
– As a result of discussion at a conference in Sydney last year between Commonwealth and State Ministers, the Commonwealth Government promised to appoint a competent person to investigate fully the position of soldier land settlers in all States, with a. view to determining certain general principles which might form the basis of possible further assistance by the Commonwealth to the States, so that the problem of our financial responsibility in connexion with this phase of repatriation might be deters mined once and for all. Mr. Justice Pike, of New South Wales, was appointed to conduct the investigation on behalf of the Commonwealth, and has already visited Tasmania. I understand that he will proceed to Western Australia almost immediately and will afterwards visit the other States. There has been a certain amount of delay in the conduct of this inquiry, as His Honour must defer his visits to the States until their governments have prepared the necessary data for his information.
– Will the Prime Minister make representation to the Meteorological Bureau in Western Australia in regard to the very unsatisfactory weather reports received from that State, which is the only one in respect of which we are without such information for several days in the month ?
– I shall inquire whether anything can be done to improve the meteorological service.
– In regard to the recent report of the Chairman of the Development and Migration Commission against the inclusion of the Dawson Valley Irrigation and Land Settlement Scheme in the list of public works to be carried out with the funds to be provided under the Migration Agreement, will the Prime Minister say whether the promised further investigation in regard to the utility of the land and the practicability of the scheme is yet complete? When does the Commonwealth Government expect to be able to come to a definite decision in regard to this matter?
– The proposals submitted by the Queensland Government for the development of the Dawson Valley were fully investigated by the Development and Migration Commission. That body, not the chairman alone, decided that it was inadvisable at the present time to proceed with the whole scheme, but action is being taken to investigate the possibilities of the area, and to decide whether it would be advisable to carry out portion or the whole of the suggested plan of development. These investigations will occupy a considerable period, and it will not be possible for some time to make a definite announcement of thepolicy of the Commonwealth Government in regard to the scheme.
asked the Minister for Markets, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are : -
asked’ the Minister for
Works andRailways, upon notice -
– The information will be obtained.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are : -
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are: -
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
How many questions dealing with the activities of the Federal Capital Commission on which the Minister has promised to obtain information have not yet been answered?
– Five questions upon notice, two of which were asked yesterday, have not yet been completely answered.
In committee (Consideration resumed from 26th April, vide page 4404).
In this act, unless the contrary intention appears - “ dried fruits “ means any of the following
Kinds of dried fruits, namely, dried currants, dried sultanas, and dried lexias.
– I move -
That the following words be added to the clause - “and includes any currants, sultanas and lexias which are partly, but not completely, dried”
The object of the amendments is to extend the definition of what are to be regarded as dried fruits under this measure. This course has been suggested to us by the State DriedFruits Boards. It was found by the Victorian board that a certain quantity of fruit only partly dried had been sent across the Murray into another State, and in that way the quotas for local and interstate trade had been disregarded. A conference of the Commonwealth Export Control Board and the various State boards was summoned, and the bill as it stood at the second-reading stage was placed before those bodies. As the result of that conference, various amendments were suggested, and most of the amendments now to be submitted to the committee originated from that gathering.
– I presume that the term “dried fruits “ in this clause does not include dried apples and apricots. I anticipate that, on account of the plentiful crop of apples in Australia this year, our output of dried apples will be much greater than ever before.
– The measure will not deal with dried apples or any other kinds of dried fruit except those mentioned in the definition.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 3. (2.) Prescribed authorities may issue licences, upon such terms and conditions as are prescribed, permitting the carriage of dried fruits from a place in one State to a place in Australia beyond that State. (4.) A prescribed authority may require any person to give security, in such form and to such amount as the prescribed authority thinks fit, for compliance by the person with the terms and conditions of any licence granted to him under this act.
Mr. PATERSON Gippsland (Minister for Markets) [11.20].- I move-
That after the word “ licences,” sub.clause (2), the words “for such period and” be inserted.
The object of the amendment isto bring the measure into line with the various other export control acts.
, - Looking at clause 4, it seems to me that the whole matter will be governed by regulations. Ordinarily speaking, I have an objection to what may be termed legislation by regulation. Although all regulations must conform with the principles of the measures to which they relate, we know that in some cases they run almost into volumes. But if copies of the regulations in force were made available whenever an amending measure was under discussion honorable members could refresh their memories in regard to them. This would be serviceable to the committee in the consideration of the present bill.
.- I should like more information than has been supplied as to the meaning of “ prescribed authority.” Those engaged in the dried fruits industry are under the impression that they will, to a great extent, control this scheme, subject, of course, to the approval of the Minister. The term “prescribed authority” is vague. Surely it would have been possible to say in the bill exactly what it is contemplated shall be done. The prescribed authority appointed by the present Minister might be very different from the authority that would be appointed if another Minister were in power.
– It is proposed to use the existing DriedFruits Boards as the prescribed authority, but it is not considered desirable to mention them specifically in the bill. It is conceivable that it may be necessary to have a Commonwealth prescribed authority in a State in which there is not a dried fruits board.
Amendment agreed to.
– I move -
That the words “ amount as the prescribed authority thinks fit,” sub-clause 4, be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ amounts as are approved by the Minister.”
It is felt that, if the bill were passed in its original form, too much would be left to the discretion of the prescribed authority.
– The prescribed authority could operate in one State only.
– That is so. It is considered wise to change the wording of the sub-clause in the manner that I have indicated, so that the Commonwealth Minister may have a check upon what may be done.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendment (by Mr. Paterson) agreed to-
That the word “granted,” sub-clause (4), be omitted, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “ issued.”
.- I move-
That the following sub-clause be added: -
Where a prescribed authority is satisfied that any person to whom a licence has been issued under this section has contravened or failed to comply with any term or condition of the licence, the prescribed authority may cancel the licence, and the licence shall thereupon cease to be of any force or effect.
When the bill was first brought down, it was thought that power to cancel the licence would be given by clause 4, paragraph a, which sets out that regulations may be brought down prescribing the conditions upon which licences may be issued. It was considered sufficient to prescribe as a condition of a licence that it could be cancelled in the event of its being contravened. But the request was made by the Dried Fruits Boards that this provision should be embodied as a subclause in the bill rather than that the matter be left to regulations. The Government readily complied with that request.
.- I do not question the necessity for the amendment, but should there not be some method of appeal to the Minister in regard to such matters as this. There will probably be five or six different boards operating in the respective States. If no board operates in a particular State, the Commonwealth will have to appoint an authority of its own. Under the amendment, cases of hardship may arise in the future through licences being cancelled without appeal from the decisions of the authorities that cancelled them. There should be some means whereby a person whose licence has been cancelled can appeal to the Minister. I am afraid that with different boards operating in the respective States we shall not have uniform conditions. Necessary though the amendment is, it might be advisable for the committee to go a little further than this provision goes. There should at least be an appeal to the Minister by any aggrieved person whose licence has been cancelled. The cancellation of a licence is a very important matter to the people who are engaged in growing and exporting dried fruits. It may even jeopardize their livelihood. It is of the greatest importance that they should have a channel through which they may seek justice in the event of a dispute occurring between them and the prescribed authorities. If an appeal to the Minister were provided, that gentleman could decide the matter on its merits. When passing legislation we should always provide an opportunity for a person with a grievance to appeal against decisions like these.
.- I was not in the chamber when this legislation was passed. While I am aware that the dried fruits industry needs all the assistance and every possible facility for trading that we can give it, the Minister is aware that I hold the strongest possible objections to this class of legislation. I am aware that it is not competent for me to take exception at this stage to what I regard as a fundamental interference with the right of the community to indulge in interstate trading. If this interference is introduced in the dried fruits industry it may also be introduced, in connexion with greater industries. I am not surpised that already the Minister finds it necessary to introduce policing regulations to carry out the act, and I predict that these regulations will be the forerunners of many similar harassing restrictions. We have men separated by an arbitrary boundary from a logical and legitimate market, which is denied to them, except under conditions imposed by individuals who do not and cannot understand their industry as they do. This new clause is another significant indication of what we may expect from the too frequent interference with the trading of primary producers that is now becoming a feature of our legislation. Traders are subjected to hampering conditions which make it almost impossible for them to carry on. Certainly they are robbed of all feeling of security in their operations. In my electorate there are many people engaged in the business of fruit-growing, people who ask nothing from the Government except to be left to manage their businesses in their own way. They are now to be burdened by inspection into the manner in which they conduct their business, which will hamper them and make their activities insecure. These policing regulations will make the men engaged in this industry so uncertain that many will quit the industry, merely because of the harassing conditions imposed upon them. I do not think that it is of any use my taking exception to these restrictions at this stage. Evidently the Minister finds it necessary to seek these additional powers. They make difficult the lot of men who, in exercising their discretion, may run foul of the local policing authority and be subjected to the risk of losing their licences.
Mr.Charlton. - Would not the difficulty be overcome if such people hadthe right of appeal?
– I agree with the honorable gentleman that the right of appeal is necessary, but the Minister would not be familiar with local conditions, and could not properly adjust the trouble. The Minister is centrally situated in Canberra, remote from the place where the trouble occurs. He would have to rely on information submitted by his officers, the “ prescribed authority “ mentioned in the act, and the result would almost certainly be unsatisfactory. I reiterate my emphatic disapproval of these all too frequent interferences with the right of a man to trade as he desires.
I do not believe that this class of assistance will be helpful to fruit-growers. This leg-roping of one industry is merely a beginning, and may eventually spread to all of our primary industries. I must leave it at that. I do not suppose that it is possible to suggest a workable appeal board, but I urge the Minister to give some indication that machinery will be provided whereby aggrieved persons may have their wrongs satisfactorily re-
– Replying to the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers), I point out that this measure is being brought down at the expressed request of the whole of the States engaged in the dried fruits industry. While I agree with the honorable member that the less machinery of this character the better, regulations of this kind will be necessary so long as those engaged in the dried fruits and other industries do not conform to the precept “love thy neighbour as thyself.” It is essential that we should ensure that dried fruit-growers shall have equal opportunities of obtaining the advantages of the Australian market, and that they shall share the disadvantages, if any, of the overseas markets. That isthe whole purpose of this measure.
Regarding the point raised by the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton), I believe that that may be readily met by prescribing as a condition of the regulations that in the event of the cancellation of a licence the Minister may be appealed to.
-When the second reading of this bill was in progress I entered my protest against it. The bill represents not only a further instalment of policing legislation, but another instance of a very undesirable form of legislation which, in my opinion, is too often submitted to this House. We are asked to pass a bill which really does not contain any details by which we may judge as to its future operations. This is really a bill to empower the making . of regulations. The very clause that is before us says, “ except as provided by the regulations,” so that even the special provision for licensing with which we are dealing may be subject to regulations, which may largely annul the provision. This is an extraordinary form of legislation. The regulations will dominate the act. I have on previous occasions referred to the growing tendency in our Commonwealth legislation to pass an act placing the real power of control in the hands -of a department by the issue of regulations. It is perfectly true that regulations may be allowed by a vote of this House, but that is a cumbersome and ineffective form of control. These regulations are now coming before the House in so large a volume that it is impossible for honorable members to read, much less interpret, or amend them. I protest against that procedure, and I renew my strong objection to the system of licensing or control. I quite understand why our primary producers are demanding an increasing proportion of Government assistance in the form of control of their own markets, because of the unbalanced condition in which our economic circumstances have been placed. Such undue privilege has been given to the manufacturing industries in Australia, to the grave detriment of the primary producers, that in sheer desperation the latter section has had to come to this Parliament to demand a similar share of protection.
– The primary producers have the right to do that.
– I do not dispute their right, but it is inadvisable from an economic point of view. The only justification for it is that it tends to bring the practice of granting government privilege to the ground, and it is due to the failure of the so-called Country party to effect that reduction of privilege to the manufacturers of this country to which, by their platform and their public speeches, they are committed. They have failed to exercise their influence in that direction, and so are trying to propitiate their country supporters by demanding an equal measure of protection for them.
– They must be a powerful body.
– It appears to me rather an exhibition of weakness, but the honorable member is entitled to his own view. The system of licensing interference with private enterprise is not only wrong economically, but dangerous to the future welfare of this country.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 4 -
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 . . . .
.- The Minister assured me a little while ago that the prescribed ‘authority was to control the procedure provided for in this clause. I suggest as an amendment that it should be stipulated that the Governor-General may, on the recommendation of the prescribed authority, make the necessary regulations. I wish to have the regulations approved by the growers as well as by the Government, which seems to me to be a very wise precaution to take. I have had a very extensive experience of departmental administration, and I know that some officials who have never officially been outside of their offices in their lives, are quite prepared to run all the industries in the country, and to impose all sorts of extraordinary regulations for that purpose.
– The prescribed authorities are the growers’ representatives.
– I want the regulations to be made on their recommendation.
– That is always done.
– Not under this act. Regulations may be- made without in any way consulting the “prescribed authority.” That does not seem to me to be in conformity with the spirit of the bill. Seeing that the measure has been introduced for the purpose of assisting the growers in the marketing of their fruit, we should defini tely provide that regulations may not be made against their wishes.
Mr.PATERSON (Gippsland- Minister for Markets)- [11.47].- The intention generally speaking is that regulations shall be gazetted on the recommendation of the prescribed authority. That practice is invariably followed in connexion with our various export control boards. At the moment I see no objection to the insertion of a few words to make it clear that the regulations must be recommended by the prescribed authority.
Amendment (by Mr. Gregory) proposed -
That after the word “ may “ first occurring, the following words be inserted - “ on the recommendation of the prescribed authority.”
.- It appears to me that the amendment will simply complicate matters. I understand that it is proposed to set up boards in every State. Is it contemplated that each of these shall be able to recommend direct to the Minister that certain regulations shall be gazetted?
– No proposal for a regulation could be entertained which was not unanimously approved by the various State authorities.
– I am not clear that the bill provides that safeguard. I am not opposed to the prescribed authority recommending regulations, but J want to see a workable provision inserted. It must be apparent to every honorable member, that any regulations which are made must have uniform application throughout the Commonwealth. Is there any machinery in the bill to ensure that that will be the case? The measure will be unconstitutional if regulations are made which do not have a uniform application throughout the Comonwealth.
– It is the duty of the Minister to see that only regulations of a uniform character are approved.
– I submit that there should be something in the bill to ensure that this .will be done. If the Minister can remove my doubt as to the authority of the State boards to recommend regulations which may not be uniform in character I shall be satisfied.
.- Th The chief principle of this measure is that the growers of our dried fruits shall, in the main, control, through State boards and a central board, the marketing of their product. If the Minister has power to make regulations without consulting the local boards the industry will be open to a certain amount of undesirable governmental interference. If the amendment of the honorable member for Swan is agreed to, it will not be obligatory upon the Minister to gazette every regulation that is recommended. He will still have to bear the responsibility for recommending the gazettal of only uniform regulations.
– I am not in agreement with the proposal of the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) although I agree with him in disliking the general provisions of the bill. If the amendment is agreed to, the whole business will be left in the air. It may be a good thing from the point of view of the growers to have complete control of their industry, but we must bear in mind the possible effects of this proposed legislation upon the general public. I do not think that a handful of current-growers, or for that matter the growers of any other kind of dried “fruit, should be able to dictate even under an act of Parliament, the conditions under which they will market their fruit.
– The Minister is not bound to accept their recommendations.
– If he does not do so the object of the bill will not be achieved. I submit that the last word in respect of the administration of any act of Parliament should rest with the Government and not with any “ prescribed authority.” Under paragraph (/) of the clause the proposed prescribed authority would, if the amendment were carried, even have the power to say what power should be conferred upon it, and under paragraph (g) it would have the power to fix the penalties for any breach of the regulations or conditions of a licence. These are matters which should rest ultimately with the Government. If the amendment is agreed to, the power of the Miniser will be undesirably curtailed.
– I object to the amendment, partly for the reasons advanced by the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Duncan-Hughes), but also for other reasons. It appears to me that if it were carried there could be no “ prescribed authority “ until the “ prescribed authority “ had recommended its own appointment. I submit that there should be provision elsewhere in the bill for the setting up of the proposed “prescribed authority.” The meaning of “prescribed “ is surely “ prescribed by regulation.”
– Is it not possible to prescribe by an announcement in the Government Gazette.
– I do not think so. Apparently it is intended to leave everything in connexion with this measure to be determined by regulation. We should at least provide for the setting up of the authority which is to make the regulations. Apart from my objection to the intended effect of the amendment, I submit that it is faulty from a drafting point of view. I do not agree with the statement of the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) that everything is satisfactory when a certain group of producers have control of an industry.
– I did not say that everything was satisfactory.
– The argument of the honorable member was that the virtue of the bill - if it contained any virtue at all - consisted in the fact that it proposes to give control of the industry to the producers themselves. Such a contention has not my approval. I can see no reason why any section of the community should be authorized by act of Parliament to take toll of the rest of the community at their own sweet will.
.- The conflict of opinion that has developed out of this discussion raises the question whether it is intended that the Minister shall be guided in his administration of the act by the advice of the growers, or whether there is to be direct governmental control of the industry. I object to the bill, lock, stock and barrel. It is an interference of an unwholesome character with interstate trade, and if a similar principle were applied to the whole of the industries of Australia they would quickly be wrecked. This action is being taken out of consideration for the dried fruits industry, because it finds it self in a very bad state. Whether wisely or unwisely, a large number of men have engaged in the fruit industry in a small way, and there has been over-production in an attempt to remove from the world’s markets those who supplied such markets with their requirements of fruit before the crisis developed in the affairs of the nation. In other words, it is an attempt by Australia to effect a balancing of markets and to compel every fruit-grower to supply up to a certain percentage of the require-‘ ments, both at home and abroad. The legislature is really endeavouring to set up a condition of commercial idealism, and it is not possible to do that by legislation. I should like the AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Latham) to explain whether there is to be governmental control of the industry under such regulations as this, or any succeeding government, may in its wisdom impose; or whether there is to be control by the industry itself, with the State and Federal governments fawning upon it.
– The honorable member has not made a complete statement of all the possible alternatives.
– I have indicated the character of this legislation. If there is to be straightout government control, the Minister should say so. The clause, as it stands, will give the Government control under any conditions which the present or any future Ministers may impose. If it is intended that there shall be set up certain boards to advise the Government, it will be within the power of the Government to act only on the recommendation of those boards. It rests with the Government to extricate itself from the dilemma in which it is placed. It is a departure from the recognized principles of government to farm out its responsibilities to extra-governmental authorities, but that has become the fashion within recent years. Honorable members are entitled to a clear pronouncement on the matter.
.- The bill does not represent a farming out of the responsibilities of the Government, but it gives effect to its very definite view that, while in some industries a degree of regulation is necessary, governments as a rule are the worst bodies that could possibly be chosen to exercise that regulation.
– That is certainly true of the present Government.
– The proposition would be equally true of the best government that could be selected from the other side. In the modern world there are industrieswhich can compete effectively against their large-scale competitors only if they are organized for marketing upon a largescale basis. If production is to any considerable extent in the .hands of smallscale producers and the producers cannot unaided deal with their marketing problems. There are only two ways to establish a marketing organization which will enable them to sell their products upon reasonably profitable terms and to free themselves from the market irregularities which occasionally are deliberately produced by powerful competitors. Either the Government must itself establish that organization or it must provide the industry with the means to do so. That is the principle upon which export control boards have been appointed in certain industries, in the marketing of whose products there are special and peculiar difficulties. Success in marketing does not depend solely upon the quality of the product; other factors have to be considered, such as continuity of supplies and variation of market prices. The latter in turn are dependent not only upon the supplies which at any given period are available, but also, unfortunately, to a considerable extent upon trade and commercial manipulation. In those circumstances, a small producer is unable to sell his pro.duct in a market which is thousands of miles distant from the place in which it is grown unless he has at his disposal an organization that is sufficiently powerful to counteract the influences to which I have referred. That, generally, is the justification which exists for a degree of control in relation to the marketing of the products of certain industries. Very great care has been exercised in the legislation which has been introduced by this Government, to see that the control of the exportable surplus of any product remains in the hands of the industry itself and not of the Government. Many governments might be influenced by political considerations, and it is most desirable that those considerations should be kept out of trade. Much as I appreciate the merits of the present Government, I realize that its members are not endowed with special insight and inspiration in the actual conduct of trade or industry merely by reason of the fact that they hold commissions from the GovernorGeneral ; and I do not believe that any mem- ber of the Government holds a different view. But we all recognize that it is our responsibility to assist Australian industry and trade; and if means can be devised which will enable those who are actually engaged in the trade or industry to control it in such a way that they are able to compete in overseas markets under conditions which favorably affect their profits, there is no reason why those means should not be adopted. The Minister for Markets (Mr. Paterson) has already explained that it is proposed that the authorities which will issue licences dealing with interstate trade shall consist of persons who are representative of the growers and will exercise their powers under the provisions of State acts. The effective control under this act will consist in the issue of licences to engage in interstate trade. That is the central provision of the measure. Neither the Government as a whole nor the Minister in particular will have any say as to whether a particular application for a licence shall be .granted or refused; those licences will be issued by the authorities in the different States. Accordingly, those authorities will control all operations.
– Assuming that a licence was wrongly withheld , or subsequently cancelled, what power would the Minister have to intervene?
– The authorities will be appointed under regulations. What can be made, can be unmade. If the administration of a particular authority should be unsatisfactory, it will be entirely within the power of the Minister by regulation to change the constitution of that authority. It is not at all likely, however, that action along the lines suggested will be taken on arbitrary grounds. The regulations ought to make provision with respect to the tenure of office of the authorities and the limitation of their powers. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory), has proposed that the regulations shall be made by the Governor-General in Council only upon the recommendation of the authorities. I submit that it is impossible to make such a provision, because, as the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann) has stated, the “ prescribed authorities themselves cannot come into existence until they have been prescribed.” Under the Acts Interpretation Act “ prescribed “ means prescribed by the act or by regulations. If this measure provided, for instance, that the authorities should be A, B, and C in Victoria, and D, E, and E in South Australia, those authorities would be prescribed by the act, but in the absence of such a prescription, prescribed in this measure means prescribed by the regulations to be made under the act. There is no method of constituting the authorities other than by regulation, and, therefore, no authority can come into existence until regulations prescribing it have been made. Accordingly, if no regulations could be made except on the recommendation of .” prescribed authorities,” and no authority could be created except in accordance with regulations, it follows that there could be neither regulations nor authorities.
– Any succeeding government may prescribe a new set of regulations and conditions.
– That is so in connexion with every act which empowers the making of regulations.
– The whole character of the measure may be altered by regulations.
– No; regulations cannot be inconsistent with the language and purposes of an act. At times it is necessary to have a more or less elastic system of regulations in order that they may be adapted readily to meet changing circumstances and conditions. Legislation is a process that occupies time, and can only be accomplished when Parliament is actually sitting. Unless we are to introduce an absolutely rigid system of control it is necessary to leave a good deal to be done by regulations. One of the most important features of the system which this bill introduces is its elasticity and flexibility to meet changing circumstances. Nevertheless, the power to issue licences upon which the operation of the act will wholly depend will be with the authorities, and not with the Minister, but if regulations could be made only on the recommendation of a prescribed authority confusion might result, and the scheme become unworkable. When there are several authorities must they confer before a regulation can be made, or will the recommendation of a single authority suffice? The honorable member for Swan will see that his amendment will introduce unnecessary complications. I remind the committee that all regulations of this character are capable of disallowance by Parliament.
– I sympathize with the Attorney-General in his effort to prove by his considerable legal learning that government control will not be government control. The Government also deserves sympathy because of the presence amongst its occasional supporters of two die-hard protagonists of private enterprise. They belong to the past; they are for private enterprise in season and out of season. The Government, whilst professing similar beliefs, is not so consistent in its conservatism. It does endeavour occasionally to keep pace with modern thought and development. It bees that private enterprise is breaking down all along the line, and that in many industries government control is absolutely necessary to buttress private enterprise. By a necessarily laboured argument the Attorney-General sought to convince the committee that regulations will be issued, not by the Government, but by prescribed authorities which will consist of representatives of the growers; therefore, the growers will control their own industry, and will decide whether any of their number shall or shall not send his fruit from one State to another. Thus, said the learned gentleman, there will be no government control of the industry. Surely we are introducing a new order of government if a group of men in any industry may constitute themselves an authority to dictate the flow of interstate trade. Obviously, any authorities prescribed under regulation by the Government will become agents of the Government, and, for the purposes of the act, will be the Government. They will have the authority of the Government behind them in carrying out the purposes of this act, and the industry will be controlled by the Government. Otherwise, the control would have no authority behind it.
In differing from the Attorney-General I am not agreeing with the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers), lc is remarkable that in some things the ministerial supporters are 100 per cent, advocates of private enterprise, and unreservedly opposed to government control. In respect of other matters they are forced by the logic of facts - as year after year, and age after age, one industry after another gets into difficulties, and is forced to ask for Government control and assistance - to accept the principles in which honorable members on this side believe.
– Secret socialists !
– That is what they are. On one occasion the present Treasurer described the Nationalist Government then led by the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) as fig-leaf socialists.
– He has improved the Government since then.
– I am not sure that he has. Certainly the Government is frankly and unqualifiedly socialistic in some matters, though adhering to its conservative worship of private enterprise in others. I supported this bill at the second-reading stage, and I support it now. The industry asked for Government control. Boards were set up, representative of the growers and the State Governments, for the regulation of the industry in order to maintain a fair balance between the local market and the export trade.
– Who pays for those boards ?
– It is immaterial whether they are paid for by the growers or by the Government; they are government agents exercising powers on behalf of the Government under an act of Parliament. I believe that it is absolutely essential to assist the dried-fruits industry through its difficulties, and I differ entirely from those honorable members who are prepared to allow it to languish, and many men to be ruined because of the fetish of private enterprise. The honorable member for Swan would be well advised to withdraw his amendment.
.- Although I think that I was justified by the language of the bill in moving my amendment, I bow to the superior legal knowledge of the Attorney-General, who has told the committee that the amendment would be impracticable. Therefore,
I ask leave to withdraw it. As this legislation is introduced in the interests of the growers, I desired that any regulations issued under the act should first be approved by the boards which will be representative of the growers. Of course, the Minister would still have power to disallow any regulations. I recognize that the present Minister for Markets is very sympathetic to the growers, but this power of regulation might be dangerous in the hands of an unsympathetic Minister.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
.- I hardly know whether to congratulate the Attorney-General upon his lucid exposition of the fact that he agrees with a policy that he professes to disown or upon his support of the Leader of the Opposition in a policy from which he has dissociated himself. The Minister began by saying that a government was the worst possible authority that could he chosen to control an industry. He then proceeded to justify the fullest possible control by the Government, because, although he tried to make out that the Government appointment of authorities was not an exercise of government control, he afterwards went on to say that if any of those authorities did wrong, the Government could remove them and appoint fresh ones. I want to know how any government could possibly profess to take such action unless it possessed all the knowledge necessary to control the industry, and was acquainted with the work done in the industry sufficiently to enable it to judge whether the decision of the authorities was right or wrong. While the Attorney-General contended that the Government was not qualified to control the industry, he explained that if it were not properly controlled by the prescribed authority the Government would have to do it. This only shows into what a dangerous position we can drift when we once meddle with clear and definite principles.
The Leader of the Opposition referred to a number of honorable members as “ die-hards,” and said we were the antique survivors of private enterprise, which was failing dismally everywhere. That is only another instance of the different interpretations that may be applied to the causes of given circumstances. Personally, I think that there are a great many persons in this country to-day who disagree entirely with the conclusion of the Leader of the Opposition, and have formed the definite opinion that the difficulties in which many of our industries now find themselves are due, not to the failure of private enterprise, but to the utter breakdown in practice of the system of government control. This method of control is based on airy principles that have not been tested by experience. As they have touched more and more deeply the personal interests of individuals in the community, they have failed utterly to accomplish the ends promised for them.
– Yet the influence is growing.
– I - I doubt it very much.
– The latest evidence of it is supplied by the dried fruits industry.
– This is a measure of despair, and does not approach the problem in the proper way. The Leader of the Opposition congratulated the Attorney-General upon keeping pace with modern thought. What he calls the pace of modern thought is fast becoming a breakneck pace.
– It is a matter of modern necessity, too.
– Whether or not that is so can only be proved by experience. The so-called “ die-hards “ are at least consistent in their attitude, and have been able to bring forward arguments to support their attitude, which, up to the present time, have not only not been disproved, but are daily being confirmed. We do not know what we are legislating for by this bill. We have been told that there will be six authorities, one in each State, and that they will have control of the industry. Is there any reasonable hope of this control being exercised equitably? I do not wish to raise interstate comparisons; but, if there is a board in each State, whose recommendation is to prevail? The board in Tasmania might hold a different view from that in South Australia, and the Western Australian board might not be able to agree with the Queensland authority.
– There must be coordination between New South Wales and Victoria.
– “ Co-ordination “ is one of those pleasant expressions like “that blessed word ‘ Mesopotamia ‘ “ ; but it never takes one anywhere. It generally results in the subordination of the interests of the smaller States to those of the larger States. We should not pass bills such as this without delving into their probable effect. How can six distinct authorities operate equitably? It has been rightly said that even under the powers to be conferred on them, they will interfere in some way with the freedom of interstate trade. The fact that we give them authority from this Parliament to do so will not largely alter the method by which they will do it. It is most improper that one State, or even a majority of the States, should be allowed to prescribe a system of control that will be detrimental to the other States. It is a most mischievous proposal.
– It should not necessarily be detrimental.
– The industry is asking for it.
– That is one of the reasons why it should not be granted. A highwayman might ask for a licence to prey upon the travelling public; but should he receive it?
– Does the honorable member think that the Attorney-General would grant such a licence?
– I do not know that he would be more innocent in that respect than other honorable members of this House. The industry asks for this system and, therefore, it is to have it! The Attorney-General said that the export market had been against the industry, and the whole trouble was due to the conditions of that market; but we know perfectly well that the difficulty arises from domestic conditions. Instead of trying to bring about control to artificially effect the export market, why do we not proceed to remove the difficulties associated with our domestic production? That would be the sensible way of dealing with the problem because, admittedly, we can only alter the export market condititions by placing a heavy burden upon the general community. Various domestic difficulties are at the present time hampering primary production; but it is no use trying to get over them by laying additional burdens upon the rest of the community. When we talk of a proposal being of benefit to Australia, do we mean that it will benefit the people as a whole, or only a certain section? This measure is devised to benefit a section only, by increasing the burdens of the people generally, which are becoming so heavy as to far outweigh the benefits derived by the sections that are said to profit. Therefore, I contend that the scheme contemplated by the bill will not be beneficial to Australia as a whole, and when we have to decide between benefits for a section and the diminution of the burdens of the rest of the community, the interests of the general public must prevail. This bill reverses that principle. I am showing that the clause under consideration gives additional power to a section of the people to interfere with freedom of trade and the interests of the remainder of the community. Therefore, we should not permit the proposed regulations to be made. The whole bill is cursory and sketchy in the extreme. The details of administration should have been set out in the measure, so that we could discuss them fully, knowing what powers were to be conferred and within what limits the ^authorities were to act. The bill should be withdrawn. “We should not be asked, metaphorically, to buy a pig in a poke.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
.- I agree with the provisions of this clause, and with the general principles of the bill. To all intents and purposes, its machinery is very similar to that of the Dairy Products Control Act. That act has been beneficial to Australia generally, and a particular blessing to one of the greatest industries that we have in Australia.
– Order! I remind the honorable member that clause 4 is under discussion. I admit that the scope of the clause is very wide, and that I have allowed certain latitude in its discussion ; but the honorable member must connect his remarks with the clause.
– I resent the remarks of the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann), who referred to the fruit-growers as highway robbers.
– I did not say that.
– The honorable member said that the Government would clothe them with such powers that they would be able to direct the pistol at the head of the community. This legislation was desired by the primary producers associated with the fruit-growing industry, and it is being introduced - to advance their welfare. Clause 4 merely grants an important industry the right to control its own business, much the same as the Companies Act confers a similar right on those to whom it applies. This bill will give primary producers the right to control and market their own produce, not only in their own interests, but in the interests of the general community.
.- The honorable member for Perth objected to the granting of the powers conferred by this measure, and stated that their efficacy had not been proved by experience. That charge cannot be connected with the dried fruits industry. For a number of years that industry has been carried on successfully under a system of growers’ control, and experience has proved that it can best be carried on under co-operative control with Government aid. This clause is being introduced at the suggestion, and with the approval, of the people who have carried on the industry so successfully. Recently a fly has appeared in the ointment, and all the good work of the past is likely to be undone by the action of a few greedy men. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) referred to “ die-hards,” and claimed that private enterprise was dying. Something was also said about consistency, the Leader of the Opposition and the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann) alike claiming credit for that virtue. I am not a believer in government control, and I do not think that there is anything in the argument that one must do this and that merely to be consistent. As Emerson puts it, “ A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.’-‘ I have received letters from individual growers and others asking me to support this measure, while the only opposition to the measure has been from one or two dried-fruit dealers. I shall read a letter which 1 have received from Mr. J. B. Murdoch, of the Waikerie Co-operative Fruit Company Limited,. South Australia, who is a grower member of the Australian Dried Fruits of Australia board of management and of the
South Australian State Dried Fruits Board which reads -
Dried Fruits Act 1928.
Dried fruit growers throughout the South. Australian section of the River Murray Valley view with alarm the opposition of certain members to the above act. Producers here in unmistakable unanimity have asked for and supported the principle of control, and believe its effective continuance is vital to the industry. Constitutional difficulties in the administration of the present State acts necessitate the proposed Federal measure. In South Australia a certain small section of dried fruits dealers are in opposition to anything in the nature of control. These dealers now realize that, failing the passage of the proposed bill, they will be able to take full advantage of those constitutional difficulties previouly mentioned, and sell 100 per cent, of their fruit holdings on the profitable home market. As it is impossible for the growers to get back their production costs without averaging their home and export sales, it will be readily seen that this loophole in the act would be of enormous advantage to any firm availing themselves of it. I am writing this letter as a grower and a growers’ representative, to bring to your notice the extreme urgency of the matter, and to ask, on behalf of all South Australian growers, for your support when the bill again comes before you for consideration. In conclusion, I would like to point out that such a measure as that proposed ensures a degree of stability to those directly dependent on the industry for their livelihood; and is only making effective legislation now enacted in four States.
I agree entirely with the views set out by Mr. Murdoch. I might add that I received that letter after I made my second-reading speech supporting this measure. I am personally acquainted with Mr. Murdoch, Mr. Kay, and others on the State and Federal Dried Fruits Boards, and I am confident that while we have such men available to act on those boards, and prescribed authorities, neither the growers nor the consumers of Australia will have anything to fear. The alternative to a control such as is contemplated is to allow a few speculators to corner our output. They would smash the market and ruin the growers. The sultana, currant and lexia vines would go out of bearing, and Australia would have to import its requirements of those articles instead of consuming home-grown products, and building what is rapidly becoming a profitable export market. I support this clause and the general principles of the bill, which I believe to be inthe true interests of the community generally.
– I am confident that this measure will be of great assistance to the dried-fruits growers. It has been said that it amounts to government control of the dried fruits industry. I do not agree with that. I regard it as an attempt by the Government to help the growers to market their produce in the most profitable way. We know that it will institute a kind of fruit pool. If the growers were without a restrictive measure of this nature, they would be at the mercy of the consumers, and would have to accept unprofitable prices for their produce. I have listened carefully to the speeches that have been made on this bill, and shall refer particularly to the remarks of the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann), who objected strongly to the control proposed by the measure. The honorable member failed to see why any section of the community should have power to take toll from the rest of the community at their sweet will. Under our protective system those engaged in our secondary industries already have that power, which is a necessary corollary of the system. Surely the primary producers are entitled to a similar right. We have to pay whatever prices are asked for the products of our secondary industries, and the producers of dried fruits or any other primary product should have some control of their markets. I cannot understand the arguments of the people who wish to deny them that right. Primary producers are unable to obtain protection except by bounties, and such measures as this.
– I cannot allow this debate on clause 4 to develop into a tariff discussion.
– There is a very good tariff duty on dried fruits.
– The Leader of the Opposition objected to the proposals of the Government because, he claimed, they will enable the growers to dictate what should be the prices for their products.
– Oh, no ! I am the most enthusiastic supporter that the Government has on this measure.
– I thought that the honorable member said something to that effect. The honorable memberfor Perth was very insistent on that phase. The dried-fruits growers represent a very important section of our primary producers, and at present they are in anything hut a satisfactory position. They are not receiving a profitable price for their output, and this measure will en’able them at least to receive the cost of production.
Clause agreed to.
– I move -
That the following new clause be inserted - “3a (1) A prescribed authority may require any person to furnish or produce, within such period as the prescribed authority specifies, any licence issued to him under this act, and may require any person to furnish or produce, within a like period, such returns or documents in relation to dried fruits as are prescribed.
Any person who, being required in pursuance of the last preceding sub-section to produce a licence or to furnish a return or produce documents, refuses or fails to comply with that requirement within the period specified by the prescribed authority shall be guilty of an offence.
Penalty: One hundred pounds.”
By agreeing to the addition of subclause 5 to clause 3 the committee has given the prescribed authority power, under certain circumstances, to cancel a licence. The object of this new clause is to impose a penalty upon any person who, upon being required to produce a licence issued to him, or any return or documents required from him refuses or fails to do so. It is extremely unlikely that it will ever be necessary to enforce the provisions of this new clause, but it is desirable that the prescribed authority should have the power which it conveys. A similar penalty is contained in all the legislation which we have passed in relation to our export control boards.
.- It appears to me that the penalty provided is much too severe. Surely if a man’s licence is cancelled for a contravention of the act or failure to comply with any of the terms or conditions of his licence he is sufficiently punished.
– The maximum penalty is £100.
– Although that may be so, I think that it is too severe.
– It is in conformity with the penalties provided in our export control legislation.
– But in this case there is an alternative, while in the other I do not think that there is one. In this case a man may have his licence cancelled. The proposal is too drastic. Sub-clause 2 of the clause should be omitted. I presume that a person would have to appear before a court before he could be fined for the offence contemplated in the clause.
– I do not think that that would be necessary.
– Then that makes the proposal the more serious. It places considerable power in the hands of the prescribed authority which is being set up.
.- The provisions of sub-clause 5 of clause 3 give the prescribed authority power tocancel a licence for a contravention of the act or failure to comply with any term of condition of a licence. The object of this new clause is to provide a penalty which may be imposed upon persons who upon cancellation of their licence refuse or fail to surrender it, or refuse or fail to furnish returns or documents which are required in respect of their dried fruit. The maximum penalty is heavy, but we may take it that the prescribed authority will use its power with discretion.
Proposed new clause agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments; report, by leave, adopted.
Bill, by leave, read a third time.
Messages recommending appropriation for the purposes of this bill and for the purposes of an amendment to be moved in the bill reported.
That the messages be taken into consideration in committee forthwith.
In committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s messages) :
Motions (by Mr. Paterson) agreed to-
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to amend section 5 of the Wine Export Bounty Act 1924-1927.
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of an amendment to be moved in a bill for an act to amend section 5 of the Wine Export Bounty Act 1924-1927.
Resolutions reported and adopted.
In committee (Consideration resumed from 28th March, vide page 4262) :
Clause 2 agreed to.
Clause 3 -
Section 5 of the principal act is repealed, and the following section inserted in its stead : - “ 5. The rate of bounty payable under this act on fortified wine exported on or after the ninth day of March, One thousand nine hundred and twenty-eight shall be one shilling per gallon.”
.- This provision will vitally affect directly and indirectly the interests of hundreds of thousands of citizens, as well as the future of the industry generally. The Minister should inform honorable members of the reason for the attitude which the Government is adopting, and explain its intentions in detail.
– The provisions of clause 3 will be modified by those of the new clause 4, which I shall have an opportunity to move at a later stage. This is really the crux of the bill, and it was discussed at very considerable length at the second-reading stage.
– On a point of order,I suggest that clauses 3 and 4 be taken together, in order that the whole of the vital principles of the measure may be now discussed by the committee. If I and some other honorable members who wish to protect this big industry, agree to clause 3 before the provisions of clause 4 have been considered, we may jeopardize our chances of effecting an alteration in the proposals of the Government.
– It may shorten the debate, and satisfy honorable members generally, if I allow the discussion to include also the proposed new clause. I propose to meet the convenience of honorable members in that way.
– It will be remembered that a little over twelve months ago the late Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Pratten) brought down a measure which provided that the wine bounty should be reduced from 2s. 9d. to1s. 9d. a gallon. He then reserved to the Government the right to reduce that bounty still, further at some future date, during its currency, in the event of the British Government so amending its preferential rate on Empire wines as to give to Australia a greater benefit than she had previously enjoyed. The Government contends that that position has arisen as a result of the alteration of the British tariff on wines which was made in April, 1927. Not only was the rate on both British Empire and foreign wines altered, but there was also a very significant alteration in the line of demarcation between low-strength and high-strength wines. That alteration had the effect, for the first time, of bringing that very large class of wines, of a strength of about 29 degrees, within the same category for taxation purposes as our sweet wines, which contain from 34 per cent, to 35 per cent, proof spirit, except that ours enjoyed the British preferential rate. The Government, therefore, felt justified in bringing down at the earliest possible moment a measure providing for the reduction of the bounty from1s. 9d. to1s. a gallon. While a good deal of hostility has been displayed by certain sections of the wine industry to this proposal of the Government, some of the leading wine makers have been frank enough to admit that’ the industry can carry on profitably with the reduced bounty.
– I challenge the Minister to name them.
– So do I.
– It is admitted by certain wine makers that, although the industry will no longer be able to make what has been described as easy money, it will nevertheless be able to carry on quite profitably, if it is efficiently run, and assuming that the London market recovers to some extent from the depression which, unfortunately, is affecting it at the present time. It will not be out of place if I again put before the committee particulars of the alteration which was made in the tariff. That alteration has undoubtedly placed the Australian exporter of wines in a much better position than he previously occupied. Nomatter what interests we may represent, it is generally admitted that, prior to April, 1927, the amount of preference which our wines enjoyed in Great Britain over those of continental origin was 6d. a gallon. The 29 deg. wine, which was the main competitor of our wine, had then to pay a duty of 2s. 6d. a gallon, as though it came within the foreign division, it for taxation purposes was placed in the light wine section. On the other hand, although the 34 degree Australian wine came within the category of high strength wine, it enjoyed the benefit of the British preference. The effect was that our wine paid a duty of 2s. a gallon, while foreign wine paid 2s. 6d. The result of the alteration made in April, 1927, by the British House of Commons was that the 29 degree wine from the continent which formerly was placed in the low strength class; was taxed to the same extent as our wine, on account of the fact that the line of demarcation between low strength and high strength was reduced from 29 deg. to 25 deg. in the case of foreign wine and to 27 deg. in the case of Empire wine. The foreign wine of 29 deg. then became dutiable at the rate’ of 8s. a gallon ; while the duty on Empire wine was increased to 4s. a gallon, the consequence being that our measure of preference rose from 6d. a gallon to 3s. 6d. a gallon. ,s
– On paper.
– In reality; noi merely on paper. I freely admit that, prior to April, 1927, there was a paper difference of 4s. a gallon and an actual difference of 6d. a gallon, but since that date our actual preference over continental wine has amounted to 4s. a gallon, and therefore the Austraiian exporter has benefited to the extent of 3s. 6d. a gallon. It is true that, in order to relieve to some extent the position which was created in Great Britain by the substantial increase in duty, the Chancellor of the Exchequer compromised last year’ to the extent of permitting the stocks of continental wine which were then held in bond - approximately 1,500,000 gallons - to be cleared upon payment of a duty of 5s. a gallon instead of 8s. a gallon. Our wine, which was dutiable at 4s. a gallon, thus benefited last year to the extent of ls. a gallon over continental wine of a strength of 29 deg. which was released at 5s. a gallon. Those stocks having been exhausted, any new unblended wine which enters Great Britain in competition with our wine must pay a duty of 4s. a gallon greater than that which is imposed on ours, even though it be some degrees lower in strength.
The honorable member for Angas referred by interjection to the possible competition of blended wines. It is said that a certain amount of blended wine is being sold in England; but there is not a great deal of evidence of that. But, assuming that it is possible, as suggested in the letter from the president of the Viticultural Association, to blend a gallon of low-strength wine, dutiable at 3s., with a gallon of high-strength dutiable at 8s., and thus reduce the average duty to 5s. 6d., we have still an advantage of ls. 6d. per gallon, whereas twelve months ago the benefit was only 6d. If that blending can be done successfully and at no cost, the difference in our favour is still such that the Government would be justified in reducing the bounty not by merely 9d., but by even ls. per gallon.
Those honorable members who so ably represent the wine industry, argue that our wines have to compete not only with the continental product, but also with British wine, which pays an excise duty of only ls. per gallon. The British budget presented last month increased that excise to ls. 6d. per gallon, the increase being equivalent to two-thirds of the proposed reduction of our export bounty. Moreover, we are informed by Australia House that the customs authorities in Great Britain contend that the ingredients of British wines are taxed to the extent of 6d. per gallon in addition to the excise of ls. 6d. Thus our wines have a protection of 2s. per gallon, which is equal to the duty payable on our wines up to and not exceeding 27 degrees strength, and practically the whole of the British wines are within that limitation. So honorable members will see that the taxation on the British wines is very much the same as is imposed upon wines of similar strength imported from Australia.
At the second-reading stage the Prime Minister said that the Government recognized that full consideration should be given to contracts which had been entered into prior to the Government’s announcement of its intention to reduce the bounty. -The Government has gone very thoroughly into that aspect of the matter, and I propose to move the insertion of the following new clause : -
Notwithstanding anything contained in this act, the rate of bounty payable -
The contracts entered into prior to the 9th March for the sale of the wine to Great Britain represented 570,771 gallons. The total export last year was approximately 4,000,000 gallons. We concede that there is something in the argument of the man who says that notwithstanding the warning that was given by the late Minister for Trade and Customs’ (Mr. Pratten) of a possible reduction of the bounty, he entered into contracts on the assumption that the then existing rate of bounty would continue, and therefore the Government could be reasonably, expected to pay that rate in respect of all wines sold up to that date. The Government intends to include in the wine contracted for, although there may have been no written contract,. such as was exported after the 9th March, but in connexion with which notice of intention to export had been given to the Customs Department in the prescribed way prior to that date. Such sales account for 48,567 gallons. In respect of wine shipped to the Dominion of Canada, the old rate of bounty is to be continued, because our wines do not enjoy in that market the same substantial preferences as in Great Britain. They are just beginning to obtain a footing in the
Canadian market, which shows a certain amount of promise, and it is possible that it would be closed to us if we reduced the bounty.- With the exception of the three classes of wine covered by the proposed new clause, the Government intends to adhere to its declaration that the bounty shall be reduced to1s. per gallon. We have been informed by those engaged in the wine industry that the London market has shown itself remarkably ready to adapt itself speedily to alterations of the bounty. When the bounty was reduced from 2s. 9d. to 1s. 9d., only a short time elapsed before the prices showed a corresponding hardening, and we are credibly informed that a similar development may reasonably be expected to follow the present reduction, and that before long the market will become stabilized on the basis of a bounty of1s. It will be noted that through the restriction of duty of 1s. 9d. to old contracts or their equivalent, no new sales will be made except on the basis of a bounty of1s. It is desirable that at the earliest possible date the industry should get down to that foundation which may be regarded as more or less permanent, The Government feels that in permitting the1s. 9d. bounty to continue in respect of contract wine, it runs no great risk of encouraging speculation, because such wine is already sold, and largely to old established houses.
As an additional encouragement to those in the wine industry, the Government is prepared to listen sympathetically to any representations that may be made by the industry for the utilization of casks more than once.. At the present time the practice is to export ‘ every consignment in new wood, thus adding’ about11d. per gallon to the cost of the wine. If these casks could be used several times, possibly by bringing them back to Australia as shooks, a saving of 3d. or 4d. per gallon might be effected, and that would be a substantial addition to the bounty. Some representatives of the wine industry have stated that the reductions in the bounty have caused a certain amount of instability in the industry. In order to give vignerons a greater degree of security, the Government intends to continue unaltered until the 31st August, 1930, the bounty of 1s. per gallon.
.- This is the vital clause of the bill, because it reduces the bounty. I do not propose to deliver a second-reading speech on the subject; but what honorable members on this side said on the second reading of the bill still stands. Although the modification that is proposed by the Government is an improvement, it does not keep faith with the men engaged in. the industry. Whatever may be the merits of the wine bounty, this Parliament deliberately entered into a contract, the only proviso in which was that if certain conditions obtained with regard to the preference on wine received into Britain the Minister would be free to make a reduction. I listened to the Minister’s second-reading speech and to his reply, and I heard the remarks of the Prime Minister. Further, I have read : a number of letters received from the other side of the world regarding the wine market, and I am satisfied that no change has taken place in Great Britain to justify the Government in repudiating its contract. One matter that the Minister continually ignores when he discusses preference is the new trade that has developed in Great Britain in British wines.
– I have dealt with that.
– The Minister has referred to it; but he has ignored its seriousness. He alone, apparently, does not realize that a new set of circumstances has been created by the change in the duties in Great Britain, which are claimed to have given so much extra preference to Australian wine that a fresh competitor in the form of British wine has appeared on the market. One ofthe views that has been expressed to the Customs Department, but has not been stressed in this chamber, although it has been mentioned, is that the local merchants, after all, control the great bulk of the wine produced.
– About four-fifths of it. Mr. SCULLIN. - If a surplus is allowed to accumulate in Australia or London it must affect the local price, and when it does that the manufacturers will reduce the price to the growers. They are under no obligation to pay a fixed price to the growers unless they export the wine. The action of the Government will hit the growers, because the manufacturers of the great bulk of Australian wine, which is sold locally, will next year offer a price much lower than the rate paid this season. I wish to deal with that aspect of the subject to justify the attitude that I have taken up on two occasions.
I pointed out on the second reading of the bill, and in a previous debate, that the real difficulty that the industry has got into was due to the fact that a bounty on dried fruits was not given simultaneously with the bounty on wine. Unfortunately two of the champions of the wine industry in this chamber, the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster) and the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Parsons) differ from me. Representing, as they claim, the wine interests, they say that a bounty on dried fruits would not be of any advantage, because there is no market for dried fruits, while there is a market for wine. But I have received the following communication from R. C. H. Walker Limited, wine-makers and distillers, whose interests are at Morphett Vale. South Australia : -
We have perused the Hansard report of your speech on this bill with, great interest, and the wine-makers generally look upon your remarks as a masterly summing up of the whole position. There is no doubt that had a small bounty on dried fruits gone along hand in hand with the wine bounty the position to-day would have been very different from what it is.
Take the dried-fruits position. There is not sufficient dried fruit being put up to supply the demand from Canada, and one of the largest shippers here informed me that they will have to ration their Canadian orders, although the prices offered show a good return to the grower. On the other hand, take the wine position. The glut in London is entirely due to the quantity of dried-fruit grapes which have been turned into wine.
The present proposal before the House is, in our opinion, a dishonorable betrayal of the wine-makers, because the Government are forcing the makers to pay higher prices for grapes and spirits simultaneously with reducing the selling value of the resultant wine by 9d. per gallon in face of a price slump in London.
I acknowledged their letter, and asked if I had permission to use its contents. The reply that I received to that request was as follows : -
You have my permission to quote the remarks in my letter, and I think I can safely say that the majority ‘ of the wine-makers agree with the view expressed therein. The only salvation I can see for the industry is the” reversion on the part of the river Murray grape-growers to dried fruits and spirit, and to leave the non-irrigated areas to the production of wine. Even so, it will take the full ls. 9d. bounty on 1928 wines to even partially make room for the 1929. vintage, assuming that the crop of grapes is a normal one.- A reasonable bounty on the export of currants and lexias would doubtless induce the growers to dry their fruit again instead of sending it green to the wineries.
I do not claim that the wine-makers were wise enough to foresee what has happened, otherwise they would doubtless have advocated granting a bounty on dried fruits at the same time as asking for the bounty on wine; but what I do say is that they now see that this would have been a much better plan, and it would have avoided the present glut of wine in London. The Government have been altogether too drastic in reducing the bounty by a ls. in September last, and then following it up with another 9d. reduction within a period of eight months. “While the new clause to be inserted will meet the position, so far as existing contracts are concerned, it does no more than that. It will probably differentiate between certain manufacturers in Australia, and it will only pro teét those who have signed contracts. Even if the contracts covered everybody for this year, the repudiation for the rest of the term for which the bounty was given would remain. Until the Government can show that there has been a change for the good in the market in London, it has no warrant for its proposal. All the information that I have received since the last debate confirms the view then expressed by me and other honorable members that the position in London was really more unfavorable than we then believed it to be. By offering inducements, and then cutting them off before half the first year has gone, the Government is failing to carry out its agreement with the- important industries not only of wine-making, but of growing vines for the production of grapes. The solution of the difficulty in which the wine industry is placed is to be found in preventing the diversion to it of splendid fruits such as lexias and currants, which should be prepared and sold as dried fruit. That result could have been brought about for less expenditure than the wine bounty has cost us, and it would have given more benefit to the growers than has the wine bounty alone.
.- Honorable members should not lose sight’ of the fact that the dried fruit and the wine industries are distinct. Those engaged in the production of dried fruits have the protection of a considerable duty. Many of those who favour the wine bounty are also in full sympathy with the attitude of the Leader of the? “Opposition (Mr. Scullin) towards thedried fruit industry. The Minister has been good enough to say, on behalf of theGovernment, that he will sympathetically confer later with persons in the winemaking trade, and see that adjustmentsare made. That is the old game of cancelling a benefit, and agreeing to consider what can be given in its place. The Prime Minister has begun to realize that when a government meddles with private business it generally makes a mesa of things. If this .matter were traced to its: source, we should find that the authority that advised the Government was not an expert, and, although he might have known something of the business, he had only been acquainted with it for a short period. I know who is the great authority in the wine business to whom the Minister has referred. The Minister accepts this authority as representing theviews of the whole trade; but I have received definite information from the respective State authorities and from their Australian council, that, with the exception of a particular individual, the tradeis united on this important issue. Therefore, honorable members can easily discover who the Minister’s authority was.. I invite the committee to consider thesubject from the point of view that the representatives of the wine trade in the different States, and their Australian council, declare that there never has been greater unanimity of opinion amongst them than there is at the present time. I impress upon the Leader of the Opposition that this measure intimately affects the growers. As honorable members know, a few years ago this House had to come to their rescue, at a cost of £200,000, none of which money is likely to come back, and none of it should comeback, as it was used to assist those poor fellows, the majority of whom are returned soldiers - to keep body and soui together, and to feed themselves and their families. Not only is the wine trade unanimously opposed to the ninepenny reduction of the bounty, but if one goes to Melbourne, Adelaide or Mildura, he will find that- the bankers, merchants, traders, and the people generally are united in the opinion that everything should be done to advance this great industry, which, although it has achieved a degree of success, is. only yet in its infancy. The Government is taking action to reduce the bounty at a time when the wine industry needs the most sympathetic treatment. Does not the Leader of the Opposition recollect the occasion when, because of a division taken in this House, the bill was withdrawn, to be reconstructed on a more generous basis? Honorable members would not then have acted as they did had they not believed that this is a national question, which affects an industry that some day will be as important to Australia as the wool and wheat industries. The Government then was honest and did the right thing, and it should again take similar action. Honorable members who have been for a few years in this House will remember the painful times which our returned soldiers in the Murray area passed through. This Government, and properly, gallantly came to their rescue, which was a good thing both for the returned soldiers themselves and also for the Government, and particularly for the State Government. Millions of pounds have been spent in repatriating returned soldiers, but Australia has to deal with no greater repatriation problem than that of settling the returned soldiers along the Murray river. The granting of a bounty imposed responsibilities. Strenuous efforts were taken to make the wine industry a success, but it could not have been a success had it not been for the co-operation of British wine- merchants with our own people, who risked everything in order to obtain additional capital. These met with unprecedentedly generous treatment from the financiers, the banks going a long way beyond their usual limits in order to assist those engaged in the wine industry, as they recognized that those men were capable, and that the development of the wine industry had tremendous possibilities. On the river Murray there are men, as, for example, the Seppelt, and other pioneer families, who are as advanced in the science of wine-making as any one in any other portion of the world. Those men have risked the fortunes they had already made in the interests of the development of the industry, . and I ask why in the name of conscience is the Government penalizing the wine industry at a time when the withdrawal of assistance is likely to jeopardize its existence. Later, when I have the opportunity, I shall quote opinions on this subject that will confound the Government, including something that emanated from one of its own Ministers. Although our export wine business is considerable, we export only one-fourth of what we produce. The action of the Government will cripple the growers, as the price of wine is low. By considerable effort markets have been opened in the Old World, but we shall be unable to exploit them in future if the bounty is reduced. Although the wine cellars and stores in the Old Country are full, not a great quantity of Australian wine has been consumed there, but consumption is increasing satisfactorily. Under the agreements that have been made the sellers and not the buyers of our wine will be affected by any reduction of bounty, and as soon as the introduction of this measure was mooted cablegrams began to arrive from England cancelling the orders already placed. No member of the Government, or, indeed, none of its supporters, has attempted to justify its action in this matter. The Government undertook to pay the winemakers a certain bounty on export on condition, that they, in turn, paid a specified price - fixed by the Government- for the grapes used in making the wine. There is no evading that contract so far as the 1927 and 1928 crops are concerned whether the wine is shipped abroad or remains in Australia. Even commercial ethics insist on honoring the undertaking to pay a bounty in respect of that crop. When this year the Government announced its intention to reduce the bounty, and fixed the price to be paid for grapes, half the grape crop had already been sold and was in the wineries. To say now that the bounty shall apply only to wine shipped prior to the 5th March, 192S, is wrong. The Government not only failed to give proper notice to the wine-makers regarding the reduction of the bounty, but it also increased the price they had to pay for the grapes. That there is stored in England 3,000,000 gallons of Australian wine is not a matter of great seriousness. I read recently a letter from an Englishman connected with the wine and spirit trade, who is now on his way to Australia on one of his periodical visits. In his letter he said that he wanted 1,000,000 gallons of Australian wine, which he will select personally and take to England, where it will be placed in bond for a period of five years. But he says definitely that he will not take one gallon of wine in respect of which the bounty is not paid. He said, moreover, that Australian wine was becoming very popular in London. But he gave warning that a foolish step now might result in the loss of all that has been gained, and that the market once lost, it would take us many years to regain the position we now hold. Some Australian winemakers have not exported their wine, but bold it in their cellars for their regular customers, so that it may mature further.
The growers of grapes along the Murray Valley are dumbfounded at the action of the Government. They cannot understand who is responsible for it. The Government’s action is inexplicable to me. I know the struggle these men have had since 1923. Except for a short period during the war, when prices were high, their life has been onecontinual struggle. They have worked under practically sweated conditions for very small returns. Yetthe Government now proposes to make their lot even harder. I have here a number of extracts from speeches made by members of the present Ministry, which I hope to get inserted in Hansard when I speak again on the clause. I cannot understand why the Government is so antagonistic to the wine industry. Why has the Government such a desire to depress the distilling industry, seeing that it is obtaining £39 in excise duty for each ton of grapes that goes to the distilleries, and is used for producing Australian brandy? That figure is arrived at in this way: 150 gallons of spirit are obtained from a ton of grapes, 20 per cent, of which, namely, 30 gallons, is proof spirit, on which a duty of 26s. per gallon is paid. I sincerely trust that, even at this late hour, the Government willabandon the bill.
The following papers were presented : -
Audit ‘ Act - Regulations Amended - Statu tory Rules 1928, No. 38.
Public Service Act - Regulations Amended; -StatutoryRules 1928, No. 37.
House . adjourned at 3.57 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 11 May 1928, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1928/19280511_reps_10_118/>.