11th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Sir Littleton Groom) took the chair at 3 pm., and read prayers.
Mr. George William Martens made and subscribed the oath of allegiance as member for Herbert, Queensland.
– In reply to the resolution of the House expressing sympathy with the Royal family on account of the illness of His Majesty the King, I have received the following cablegram from the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs : - 11th February.
Your telegram of 7th February containing terms of a resolution adopted by the House of Representatives baa been laid before Her Majesty the Queen, who is much touched by this expression of sympathy and desires on behalf of the King that an expression of her grateful appreciation may be conveyed to the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives.
– I have to inform the
House that the Address-in-Reply to the speech delivered by His Excellency the Governor-General when opening this Parliament on the 6th February, will be presented to His Excellency at Government House at 10.15 a.m. to-morrow.
– Cars for the conveyance of honorable members to Government House will be in front of Parliament House at 10 a.m. to-morrow, and I shall be glad if the mover and seconder of the Address-in-Reply, together with as many other honorable members as can conveniently do so, will accompany me to meet His Excellency.
– Will the Prime Minister consult with the State Governments with a view to legislation being introduced into the State Parliaments to make compulsory the installation of wireless equipment and the securing of the hatches on intra-state vessels before leaving port?
– All honorable members learned with regret of the recent shipping tragedy on our coast. Whilst the Navigation Act governs vessels trading interstate and overseas, insistence upon the provision of wireless on ships trading intrastate is entirely within the jurisdiction of the State Parliaments. I shall, however, bring the suggestion of the honorable member under the notice of the State Governments with an indication as to the source from which the suggestion emanated.
Duties as Primary Produce.
– Has the Prime Minister read in the press of the proposed substantial increases of customs duties by the United States of America upon imported wool, beef, mutton, lamb and butter? Having regard to the fact that if these proposals are approved by the United States Congress they will amount to a virtual prohibition of the importation of Australian and New Zealand primary produce, will the right honorable gentleman seek the co-operation of the New Zealand Government in representing to the Government of the United States of America, through the AustralianTrade Commissioner in America, the effect of the duties, but without discussing reprisals!
– As there appears on the notice-paper a question relating to this matter, I can only reply to that portion of the honorable member’s interrogation which contains a suggestion of joint representation by the governments of the Commonwealth and New Zealand. I remind the honorable gentleman that it is not usual for a government to make representations to the governments of Other countries in regard to tariff proposals or other matters of domestic policy. This Parliament would be the first to resent any such interference from a foreign country. Therefore, whilst I shall consider the honorable member’s suggestion, I cannot undertake that the Commonwealth Governmentwill either separately, or in co-operation with the Government of New Zealand, make such representations to the Government of the United States of America.
– As the Government has, by deliberate policy, appointed a Trade Commissioner in the United States of America to stimulate Australian trade, and as we have seen a published intimation of the proposals of that country, to substantially increase import duties on wool, beef, mutton, lamb and butter, which if carried into effect will virtually exclude the Australian primary producers from one of the richest markets of the world, will the Prime Minister, through the Acting Trade Commissioner in the United States of America, ascertain the exact nature of these proposals so that a protest may be made in Australia, as is desired by a proportion of the importing section of the American community ?
– Steps are being taken to ascertain exactly what is embodied in the proposals published in the press, and when full information has been obtained it will be open to the press, and to individual bodies to protest.
Suspension of Mr. Shepherd
– Will the Prime Minister place on the table of the House at an early date the communication from the Public Service Board to the Minister for Defence, together with the report of the special board that inquired into the allegations of improper dealings on the part of Mr. Shepherd, Secretary to the Defence Department? Will the right honorable gentleman afford the House an opportunity to discuss this matter?
– The report of the Public Service Board to the Government has been already published and there can be no objection to making it available to honorable members. I am under the impression, however, that the report of the special board to the Public Service Board is by statute confidential, and, therefore, cannot be disclosed. I shall ascertain whether that is so or not.
– Will the facts as disclosed in the report which will be made available to honorable members enable them to estimate the validity or the bona fides of the charges, and the character and nature of the vindication, or is there something in the confidential report which if disclosed might be regarded as relevant and important?
– The Government has received only the report to which I have referred which has been published. I have been informed by the Public Service Commissioners that that report contains practically everything which is in the report forwarded to them by the board of inquiry.
– In view of the fact that if the writ in connexion with the election of Mr. H. G. Nelson as the member for the Northern Territory is returned in the ordinary way it will be five or six weeks before that gentleman, who on Monday last was declared elected, can take his place in this chamber, will the Prime Minister endeavour to get the contents of the writ telegraphed from Darwin instead of awaiting the usual document, so that Mr. Nelson may take his seat at once?
– I agree with honorable members that it is most undesirable that there should be unnecessary delay in a duly elected representative taking his seat in this House, and if there is any practical way by which the honorable member for the Northern Territory can be sworn in immediately, the Government will afford every assistance to bring that about.
– Prior to the recent general election a royal commission was appointed to inquire into South Australia’s financial position. I should like to know whether the Government has yet received the report of that commission, and, if not, whether that report will be made available before the Financial Agreement Bill is discussed in this House ?
– The commission’s report has not yet been received, and I do not know when it will be made available; but as it is probable that the discussion on the Financial Agreement Bill will take place in the very near future, it is probable that the report will not be available by then.
– Is it a fact that, when addressing a meeting of manufacturers in Sydney on Monday evening last, the Minister for Trade and Customs refused to answer questions until the representatives of the press had withdrawn ?
– Will the AttorneyGeneral lay on the table particulars of the representations made to him in connexion with the timber industry, by
Messrs. Alcock and Corke on behalf of the saw-mill employers, and also copies of the communications he has had with the Timber Workers’ Union and the Australasian Council of Trade Unions?
– I think that all the communications I have had with any of the persons or organizations named have appeared in the press. I shall, however, see if there are any which have not been published.
– On Thursday last, 1 asked the Prime Minister when the Port Augusta to Red Hill railway would be commenced, as such a work would relieve acute unemployment and would also be beneficial to the country to be served. I also asked whether the work could be expedited by the passage of the necessary legislation. The Prime Minister replied to the effect that the commencement of the work was governed by the amount of loan money available. He further said that he could hold out no prospect of the railway being proceeded with during the present financial year, but that the project would receive full consideration when the Government was framing its financial policy for the next year. But in the Adelaide Advertiser of 8th February the following paragraph has appeared : -
The Premier (Honorable R. L. Butler) stated on Thursday that he had noticed that there was no reference to the Red Hill-Port Augusta railway in the Governor-General’s speech at the opening of the Federal Parliament. He explained that the reason was that the Railway Commissioners had been asked to prepare new estimates of the broadening of the gauges throughout the Commonwealth. The Red Hill line was involved in the connexion of the standard gauge.
In view of the contradictory statements which have been made, will the Prime Minister state whether the delay is due to a shortage of loan money and, as he has said, the matter will receive full consideration when next year’s scheme of work is being prepared, or whether the project is being held up for the reasons given by the Premier of South Australia ?
– The only persons who can be responsible for the policy of the Commonwealth Government are the members of that
Government. I informed the honorable member the other day that, because of the shortage of loan money, this work was not being proceeded with, but that it would be re-considered when the programme for next year was being dealt with. Consideration is now being given by the Railway Commissioners of the States to the present cost of giving effect to the recommendations of the royal commission of 1921 appointed to report on the general unification of the railway gauges of Australia, and the line referred to, which we have obtained a permissive right from South Australia to build, is being dealt with as an essential part of the Commonwealth railway system.
– Is the Minister for Markets aware that under the terms of a treaty between Great Britain and Portugal, British wine manufacturers are forbidden to label any of their wines “ Port wine.” Will the Minister get into touch with the British Government and explain that Australia is an important part of the British Empire, and ascertain why a treaty so detrimental to Australian wine-growers should be allowed to stand ?
– I am aware of the difficulties relating to nomenclature in connexion with Australian wines, but Great Britain is fully alive to the importance of Australia and of the other parts of the British Empire.
– I wish to make a personal explanation in respect to a question which I asked the Prime Minister on Friday,last referring to the unauthorized use of a motor car by an officer of his department, and other matters in connexion with the conduct of this officer. The right honorable gentleman asked me to supply what further information about the matter I could, and I now tender the following additional facts: - (1) the occasion on which the cars were used was one Sunday while
Sir Arthur Duckham and family were staying in Sydney; (2) the picnic took place in the Manly district; (3) the picnic consisted of eight persons; (4) there was some difference of opinion between Sir Arthur Duckham and the officer from the Prime Minister’s Department in regard to the use of these cars on that particular Sunday; (5) inquiries can be made at the Hotel Australia as to whether the officer from the Prime Minister’s Department did not sign a chit for the purpose of charging a considerable amount of drink and food taken to the picnic against the expenses of the “ Big Four Commission”; (6) inquiries can be made from the garage in Sydney from which the cars allotted to the Big Four Commission were hired, as to whether these cars were not used for picnic purposes on the Sunday mentioned and by the officer mentioned; (7) inquiries can also be made at the same garage as to whether it was not necessary to order the officer from the Prime Minister’s Department out of the car for the use of obscene language.
– Last Friday the honorable member asked a question which certainly reflected very gravely on the conduct of an officer of the Prime Minister’s Department, and I replied that I had no knowledge of the matter, but would have full inquiries made, and would be obliged to receive any further information which the honorable member might be able to offer. . I understand that an officer of the Attorney-General’s Department approached the honorable member in Sydney, and asked him to supply such information, and that he then stated that he was not prepared to furnish it. If he now has further information in his possession, we shall certainly follow up the matter with a view to determining the exact truth or otherwise of the charges which have been made.
– I desire to address an urgent question to the Prime Minister. The explanation of the question will be well put if I am allowed to read a short extract from the Melbourne Herald of yesterday evening relating to the appointment of a Minister for Trade and Customs. The extract is as follows: -
If the recommendation of the New South Wales Chamber of Manufactures had been followed, Mr. W. M. Hughes, M.H.R., would, if he had cared to accept the position, now be Minister for Trade and Customs in the BrucePage Ministry.
The Secretary to the Chamber (Mr. F. Edwards) said to-day that, at the Manufacturers’ dinner last year, the question of filling the position left vacant by Mr. Pratten’s death was discussed by several manufacturers with the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce).
The manufacturers said that they were much concerned about the matter. Mr. Bruce replied that he also was much concerned about this vexed question, and asked that the chamber should make a recommendation.
As a result, the Chamber wrote stating that, in its opinion, the most suitable man in the Federal Parliament on the “ unattached “ list was Mr. Hughes.
Is it a fact that the Prime Minister invited the members of the Chamber of Manufactures to make a recommendation as to a suitable man to be appointed as Minister for Trade and Customs? Was such a recommendation made? I have no comment to make upon the reckless disregard of the advice given.
– At a dinner at which the honorable member for Dalley was present, I invited the members of the Chamber of Manufactures to make any contributions they wished towards the solution of the problem of appointing a suitable Minister for Trade and Customs. As to what action they took, I think that it would be more delicate to leave it to them to say. For my part, I do not propose to divulge any confidences. I point out, however, that the whole matter has now been settled. A Minister for Trade and Customs has been appointed, and I cannot regard the matter now as of urgent public importance. If the honorable member wishes to obtain any further information I suggest that he put his question on the notice-paper.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The replies to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
Police - Leasing of Watershed
asked the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice -
– The replies to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
He is now on the Unattached List of the Citizen Military Forces, but is detailed for special duty to the staffof the Chief of the General Staff.
asked the Minister for Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The replies to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister for Markets and Transport, upon notice -
– The replies to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
It has also agreed to provide £3,500 for work on the Great Barrier Reef and £16,000 for tests of geophysical prospecting methods.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Will he. state what is the regulation governing the use of military titles by persons in civil positions in the case of (a) ex-officers of the A.I.F., (b) officers of the Commonwealth Military Forces, and (c) officers on the reserve list of the Commonwealth Military Forces?
– Paragraph 317 of the Australian Military Regulations and Orders 1927 reads as follows : - “Officers are forbidden to add the titles of their military rank to their signature to correspondence or other documents, except when signing in performance of military duty.”
Apart from this, there is no regulation restricting the use of the title of their ranks by officers of the Military Forces in civilian positions, irrespective of whether they have served in the A.I.F. or not, and whether they are on the active list or the reserve of officers. The same applies to officers who have retired from the Military Forces and been granted rank on retirement. It is, however, customary with many officers who are no longer on the active list not to use their military titles, except in connexion with their military capacity or official functions.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The replies to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Prosecution of Officer
asked the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice -
– The replies to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The replies to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Prime
Minister, upon notice -
– The Commonwealth Government has not been advised of the report referred to by the honorable member. Information in the possession of the Development and Migration Commission shows that during 1926, 1927 and 1928, 31,822 assisted migrants arrived in New South Wales, and that in those years 54 assisted migrants, or 1.696 per thousand, were admitted to mental institutions in that State. Of the total population of New South Wales, the number per thousand admitted to mental institutions was, for the years 1924, 1925 and 1926, 3.65, 3.65 and 3.64 respectively. The position, so far as it relates to assisted migration, throughout the whole of the Commonwealth, is that during 1926, 1927 and 1928, the total number of assisted migrants arriving in the Commonwealth was 83,777. Of those, 114, or 1.36 per thousand, were admitted to mental institutions. It may be added that there is an arrangement with the State Governments under which any cases where migrants become charges upon State institutions on account of suffering from insanity or other mental defects are reported, and it is the practice, where circumstances warrant such action, to take steps under the Immigration Act to deport such persons back to their home countries, in pursuance of Section 8a of the act, which provides that deportation (at the expense of the shipping companies concerned) can be effected in any cases where a migrant, within three years of his arrival in Australia, becomes a charge upon a public charitable institution in Australia. I would further refer the honorable member to the information supplied by me in answer to a question by the then honorable member for Denison in this House on the 29th May, 1928, which covered fully the question of the medical examination of immigrants.
Cancer Treatment: Government Purchase
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice - 1. (a) Whether his attention had been drawn to a statement in the Medical Journal of Australia, dated 22nd January, 1929, page 132, which reads as follows : “ The Government hopes to set up a mass treatment apparatus in which distance radiation would be applied with a source of radium (almost 4 grammes of strength). The effort is largely experimental, but it will be interesting to see what the result will be in a few years’ time.” (b) If so, is such statement correct?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : - 1. (a) Yes. (b) At the time the statement was made it was correct. Since then a decision has been reached not to proceed with the proposal.
In each case the hospital committee has’ assumed the responsibility of taking charge of the radium. Approximately 2 grammes are about to be used for the production of emanation. Almost 1 gramme of this will be located in Sydney. The remainder has been allocated for various purposes, and is now in process of distribution or reconditioning for appropriate forms of use.
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice-
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister for Markets and Transport, upon notice -
What was the number of passenger ships on the Australian register in July, 1921, and in July, 1928?
– The number of passenger ships registered in the Commonwealth in July, 1921, and July, 1928, respectively, was -
The above figures exclude Murray River vessels registered in South Australia and river vessels registered in Western Australia.
System op Payment.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Whether he will alter the system of payment to old-age pensioners by issuing a government cheque, delivered by post to the pensioner, instead of the present method, which causes elderly people to wait for hours at post offices ?
– As promised last session, I have carefully considered the question of altering the method of payment of pensions, and providing for payment by cheque, postal note, or money order forwarded through the post. I am, however, satisfied, as the result of my investigation and in the light of departmental experience, that the present method of payment is the most suitable, both for the pensioners and for the department. As few pensioners have banking accounts, payment by cheque would make it necessary for most pensioners to cash their cheques through tradespeople. This would be undesirable, as it might put the pensioner, to some extent, in the hands of the tradesmen. The pensioner might be obliged to give the tradesman his custom, although it might not suit him to do so. Payment by money order would give no advantages over the present system, as this method of payment would involve going to the post office. Payment by postal note would involve either going to the post office or cashing the note through tradespeople. As there are frequent changes of address by pensioners, payment either by cheque, postal note, or money order would result in delay in the payment of pensions, because the documents would frequently be posted before the department received notice of the change of address. The present method of payment does not necessarily involve waiting at post offices, as payment can be secured at the post office at any time within three weeks following the pension pay-day. The waiting that now occurs at post offices is, in the main, due to the fact that large numbers ofpensioners attend some time before the post office opens. Where it is not convenient for the pensioner to make personal application at a post office, a warrant may be issued authorizing payment to some person on his behalf.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– I understand that, in February, 1927, meetings took place between representatives of the Northern Collieries Association of New South “Wales and representatives of the Miners’ Federation. I have, however, no information as to the nature of the proposals put forward by the miners’ representatives, other than a proposal for the appointment of local boards. As I have on a previous occasion explained, the request for the appointment of local boards was clearly made under a misapprehension as to the function which can be constitutionally conferred upon such boards by reason of the limitation of the industrial powers of the Commonwealth to interstate disputes. As industrial conditions in the coal industry are regulated under the Industrial Peace Act I do not propose to take the course suggested by the honorable member.
asked the Minister for Markets and Transport, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Statutory powers have, however, been granted to the export control boards dealing with tlie export, distribution, and sale abroad of dairy produce, dried and canned fruits, and every encouragement is given to other industries to organize their marketing on a similar basis.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Prior to the year 1925-6 no complete records of tlie number of reports made are available.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
How many officials have already had leave pursuant to conditions set out in the above memorandum -
– In the absence of information as to the name of the officer concerned, it is not possible to locate the communication referred to by the honorable member. It is assumed, however, that the case is one in which an application was made for the grant of certain accumulated leave. The matter in question was brought under notice in this House on the 7th July, 1926, by the then honorable member for Lang, who represented that a number of postmasters had been deprived of accumulated leave claimed to be due to them on acount of of the department finding it inconvenient or impracticable to provide relief for regular annual leave between the years of 1885-1895.
The Public Service Board, to which the matter was referred, advised that, upon assuming office, it considered the question in all its aspects, and was forced to the conclusion that the practice which obtained of granting leave where it was not legally due involved an unjustifiable expenditure of public funds. In this case the board decided that the leave should not be granted, as the officers were not legally entitled to it.
Following upon further representations by the then honorable member for Lang on the 5th August, 1926, the whole question was further considered by the Government, and, in reply to a question in the House on the 11th August, 1926, I stated that the matter was one of Public Service administration, and, as such, must be left to the determination of the Public Service Board.
The particulars asked for by the honorable member could not be obtained without extensive research which would involve an examination of the leave files of all transferred officers over a period of 44 years.
Licences at Fremantle.
– On the 8th February the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Curtin) asked the following questions, upon notice -
I am now able to furnish the honorable member with the following information : -
– On the 8th February the honorable member for, Wilmot (Mr. Atkinson) asked the following questions, upon notice -
I am. now able to furnish the honorable member with the following information : -
– On the 8th February the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) asked the following question, upon notice -
What were the total quantities and values of importations of marble to Australia for the years 1923-24, 1924-25, 1925-26, 1926-27, 1927-28, and what was the country of origin in each case?
I am now able to furnish the honorable member with the following information : -
The quantity of marble imported is not recorded, but the values are as follow: -
TRANSFER of Jolimont Buildings - Expenditure.
– On the 8th February the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) asked me the following questions : -
The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
Federal Capital Commission and the Department of Works and Railways. The transfer was recommended by the Department of Works and Railways.
On the 7th February the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) asked, inter alia, the following question: -
I am now in a position to advise the honorable member as follows: -
The total Government expenditure at Canberra up to the 31st December, 1928, was ?11,407,081. including interest paid and accrued to that date. Of this expenditure an amount of ?1,728,000 was met from the receipts of the Federal Capital Territory.
.- I propose to take what may be regarded as an unusual course in moving -
That Arbitration (Public Service) Act determinations by the Arbitrator, Numbers 33, 34, 35 and 3G of 1928, laid upon the table in the House of Representatives on the 7th February, be printed.
– I ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether it is in order for the honorable member for Reid to move for the allowance of certain determinations; which is what a motion for the printing of these papers amounts to? A private member cannot lay papers upon the table of the House; that is done by the Government not by private members. I suggest that the honorable member has no justification for moving a motion relating to any subject which he may wish to discuss except under the Standing Orders of this House, which provide that he may move, if he can get the necessary support, the adjournment of the House, or proceed after giving notice of a motion. My point is that it is not in order for a private member to move that a paper be printed when he was not responsible for the laying upon the table of the particular document referred to.
– On the point of order, I suggest that the Prime Minister might read Standing Order No. 322, which makes ample provision for the motion of the honorable member for Reid. The latter part of it reads -
Provided that when a paper has been laid on the table, a motion may be made at any time, without notice, that the paper be printed.
– On that point, might I show -
– The Prime Minister has already spoken. As to the point of order which he has raised - whether the motion moved by the honorable member for Reid that a document which was laid upon the table of the House last week be printed, is in order - the right of a private member to move at any time that a paper be printed is clear. According to the practice of the House, Ministers are the only persons entitled to lay papers upon the table - private members have no such right - but Standing Order No. 318 says -
On any paper being laid before the House, it shall be in order to move (1) that it be read, and, if necessary, a day appointed for its consideration; (2) that it be printed.
The question was raised last session, and I then examined the position carefully. Standing Order No. 322 reads -
A Printing Committee, to consist of seven members, shall be appointed at the commencement of each Parliament, to which shall stand referred all petitions and papers presented to the House, or laid upon the table, the committee to report from time to time as to what petitions and papers ought to be printed, and whether wholly or in part: provided that when a paper has been laid on the table, a motion may be made at any time, without notice, that the paper be printed.
So far back as the 6th September, 1906, the question was dealt with by the then Speaker Sir Frederick Holder. Upon a motion that the report of the Printing Committee be agreed to, an amendment had been moved - that the following words be added “ and that the return presented to the House on 29th August last in regard to royal commissions be also printed.”…..
Mr. Mahon. ; I rise to a point of order. Is it competent for a private member to move now for the printing of a document laid on the table on a former occasion? I am under the impression that only a Minister can move such a motion.
– Any member can at any time move that papers be printed. Standing Order 322 says: “When a paper has been laid on the table a motion may be made at any time, without notice, . that the paper be printed. “
It is obvious that this ruling gives to honorable members a very wide right, the exercise of which may cause difficulties. Attention was drawn to this possibility by Mr. Speaker McDonald on the 28th
October, 1915. Mr. Jensen had been granted leave to make a statement, and Mr. Joseph Cook, rising to a point of order, said: -
I submit that statements of this character should be laid upon the table of the House and not made in the way the honorable member proposes. If the honorable member will lay his statement on the table, and then move that it be printed, some other honorable member may have an opportunity of discussing it.
Mr. Speaker McDonald, in the course of his ruling, said: -
If the practice develops of an honorable member moving that a paper be printed, the Standing Orders will be practically set at naught, for there may follow endless debates on matters which may be important or unimportant, whilst the actual business of the House will be lost sight of. In that case the Standing Orders would have to be suspended entirely, or a new set of Standing Orders drawn up to meet the situation. What I suggest is that leave should he granted in those cases where it is desired to make a statement of sufficient importance to warrant this course being pursued, ‘but not otherwise.
As Mr. Speaker Holden stated, honorable members clearly possess the right to move at any time that a paper be printed, but Mr. Speaker McDonald pointed out that the exercise of this right would create many difficulties. I cannot rule the motion of the honorable member for Reid out of order, but it is within his discretion to accept the suggestion of Mr. Speaker McDonald that he should apply for leave to make a statement.
– Leave would not be granted.
– The course to be adopted by the honorable member for Reid is at his own discretion.
– In submitting this motion I realize that I have an alternative -
– I move -
That the question be now put.
– -Until a question has been proposed no motion can be made that the question be put.
– I realize that, as an alternative course, I might have moved the adjournment of the House.
– I move -
That the honorable member be not further heard.
– Is it not within your discretion, Mr. Speaker, to accept or reject the motion that the honorable member be no longer heard?
– No. The Standing Orders provide that a motion without notice may be made that a member who is speaking be no further heard, and such question shall be put forthwith and decided without amendment or debate.
– If honorable members will give the Government notice of their intention to move the adjournment of the House, this matter can be discussed in. a regular way.
– On a point of order. My motion having been moved, must it not receive the consideration of the House ?
– No motion has yet been submitted to the House.
– I rise to a point of order. The honorable member for Reid made a motion and was proceeding to debate it. There was no dearth of honorable members ready to second it, but it is not usual to. second a motion until the mover has concluded his remarks. The Prime Minister has moved that the honorable member for Reid be no further heard, but his motion is before the House and you have ruled that it is in order. Therefore, debate on it must proceed.
– A question is not proposed to the House until it has been moved and seconded.
– I second it.
– The honorable member may not do so until the motion that the honorable member for Reid be no further heard has been disposed of.
– I rise to a point of order.
– No point of order may be taken at this stage. The motion that the honorable member be no further heard must be put forthwith and decided without amendment or debate.
Question - That the honorable member for Reid be no further heard - put. The House divided.
Majority . . . . 2
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
.- I rise to second the motion submitted by the honorable member for Reid. The Prime Minister is gagging the House, because he does not desire the merits of this matter to be discussed. A vital principle is involved.
– I move -
That the question be now put.
There is a motion before the House.
– I have not yet put the question to the House. . The Leader of the Opposition has risen to second the motion, and is entitled to give reasons for so doing.
– I direct public attention to the fact that whilst the Government is condemning unionists all over Australia for declining to observe awards of the Arbitration Court, it is endeavouring in another place to defeat an award given by the Public Service Arbitrator.
That is why the Prime Minister wishes to deprive us of the right to speak now. He may, if he desires, use the forms of the House in an endeavour to attain his object; but the public will be the judge of his action. The position is quite clear. An organization representing the postal workers and other employees submitted a claim to the Public Service Arbitrator appointed to arbitrate in matters of this kind, asking that they be granted the Canberra allowance, and the Arbitrator, after hearing the evidence as sub mitted by the organization as the representative of the workers and by the Public Service Board as the representative of the Government, gave an award against the Board. The Public Service Board then approached the Government with the request that a motion providing for the disallowance of the award be submitted to Parliament. The Government had not the courage to submit such a motion in this House, as it does not wish the matter to be discussed in this chamber. That is why the Prime Minister made three futile attempts to gag honorable members. Honorable members on this side of the chamber base their protests not merely upon the point that the arbitrator has given a decision against the board ; but also upon the fact that the case, as submitted by the organization, contains some merit. The Government may claim that it has a legal right to act as it proposes ; but in view of its continual protestations that the awards of the Arbitration Court must be obeyed, it cannot justify its action. It has made no attempt to justify the outrageous reduction in wages, and the increased working hours awarded by Mr. Justice Lukin in the timber workers’ case. The Prime Minister and his supporters merely say, “ There is an award of the court and it must be obeyed. “Why quarrel with the umpire?” Yet the Government is itself quarrelling with the umpire. What are the objections to this award? The award given by the Public Service Arbitrator gives less than the allowance provided in the regulations for. other public servants. This is a most anomalous position. Other public servants, when transferred with their departments from Melbourne to Canberra, were granted certain allowances, although these, I believe, in many cases are inadequate. The postal workers transferred to this territory submitted a claim to the Public Service Arbitrator in a proper manner, and now that an award has been made which is less than the regulations provide in the case of other public servants, the Government moves to upset it. On what grounds do the Government seek to disallow this award? Why do they challenge the decision of the Public Service Arbitrator? I know that the Prime Minister supported by the Attorney-General, will quote a section of the act, in which provision is made for the disallowance by Parliament of awards of the arbitrator. But is the right honorable gentleman going to base his objection on a legal technicality, without dealing with the case on its merits? A government was never in a more ignominious position. At a time when the Prime Minister is exhorting unionists receiving £3 19s. a week to obey awards of the court he is instrumental in moving to disallow an award of the Public Service Arbitrator. There is not an honorable member in this House who would do the work in which the timber workers are engaged for four times the amount they are paid. These men are governed by an award given by a judge whose weekly pension will be at least five times what they receive. In effect, the Prime Minister said, “ Never mind the merits of the case.” The Government has arranged that a motion for the disallowance of the award shall be moved in another place, where the Opposition is not so strong as it is in this chamber. Action of this kind is taken by the right honorable gentleman who leads an administration that is always speaking of law and order. This is the Prime Minister who said, “We must observe the awards of the court and the laws of the country ! “ We on this side of the chamber are represented as the representatives of certain bloodthirsty revolutionaries in Australia. Whatever we may be, we believe in justice. A good deal has been said recently about industrial peace and round-table conferences ; but the action of the Government in this connexion is anything hut conciliatory. The men concerned are not to be paid a single penny to assist them in meeting the extra cost of living in Canberra.
– Yet the GovernorGeneral receives a substantial allowance.
– Yes; he receives £2,000 a year to meet the high cost of living at Canberra, but these men are not to receive one penny. I remind honorable members that the motion for the printing of the papers provides a test vote.
– It does not.
– In this case it does. It is the only means that presents itself of obtaining a test vote. The Prime Minister said that we should move the adjournment of the House and be decent about it. He knows that a motion for the adjournment of the House provides an opportunity for ventilating a grievance, but in- most cases an opportunity of voting is not given. We have no desire to obstruct the business of the House, but we are determined notwithstanding whatever charges may be made, to fight on the floor of the House for these people, and particularly those who are amongst the lowest paid in this country. I should like any honorable member who can to justify the attempt which is being made by a member of the Government in another place to disallow the arbitrator’s award. I know the Attorney-General will pump some legal technicality into the ear of the Prime Minister and tell him that the action which the Government is taking is in accordance with the Public Service regulations. Provision was made by an award of the Public Service Arbitrator for the payment of child endowment to certain public servants, and the burden of the Attorney-General’s argument was that it was against the regulations and so on. There was not a question of merit.
– That is not so.
– If it was not the present Attorney-General it was his predecessor who did what I say.
– I argued the matter on entirely different grounds.
– I understand it was objected to on the ground that it was contrary to the regulations. Although a judge of the Arbitration Court made a certain award for the munition workers at Maribyrnong, the Government tabled a regulation reducing the wage fixed in the judge’s finding by 5s. a week.
– When was that?
– In 1926. Particulars will be found in Hansard. The action of the engineers at Maribyrnong prevented the Government from proceeding as it desired. They said, “If you go on, we will draw out.” The Government and its supporters wonder why the unionists of Australia are losing faith in arbitration and prefer to resort to direct action. A lead has been given by this Government to disregard the arbitration awards. Surely the Government should be the first to set an example, particularly when their objection is only a technical one. If the Government were willing to thresh out the case on its merits, why did it not introduce a motion for the disallowance of the award in this chamber as well as in another place? Why did the Prime Minister try unsuccessfully on three occasions to “gag” honorable members? The Government’s position is untenable. The motion is a reasonable one, and I ask honorable members to support it.
– It is desirable that I should try to remove immediately any impression that may be in the minds of honorable members opposite that the action which I took a few minutes ago was with the object of preventing the main question from being considered. If the standing order relied upon by the honorable member for Reid in moving for the printing of papers were given effect to the business of the House would be taken out of the hands of the Ministry, and that would make government under the present parliamentary system utterly impossible. I would remind honorable members that a very distinguished occupant of the chair - Mr. Speaker McDonald - pointed out when the question was submitted to him that there were other courses that could and should be taken, and that while he was prepared to follow the ruling of Mr. Speaker Holder, he emphasized that the course contemplated in moving that a paper be printed erupted a discussion into the ordinary business of the House, and that this course was to be deprecated. That is the view I take, too. You, Mr. Speaker, make the Standing Orders your guide, and follow them in giving a decision; but I suggest that it is desirable for the proper conduct of our business, that when a revision of the Standing Orders takes place - and I hope it may be possible to arrange for that - this particular standing order should be altered. Honorable members must see that government would become impossible if the practice which has been adopted in this case were given general application. I think that honorable members opposite might have informed me of their intention to raise this question. As to the complaint that the matter should not be dealt with in the Senate, I remind honorable members that on several occasions action has been taken in that chamber to disallow ordinances or regulations, and that course has been adopted by honorable members opposite. It is provided in the statute that action can be taken in either House of Parliament for the disallowance of any regulation or ordinance laid upon the table.
– But it must be done in both Houses.
– No; it need be done in one only. It has been suggested that this course was adopted by the Government for the purpose of shirking discussion. Honorable members opposite must be forgetting that there is a procedure by which the adjournment of the House may be moved to discuss any particular matter, and that such a matter may also be discussed upon the ordinary motion for adjournment at the conclusion of the day’s business. The only point that has been made by members of the Opposition is that, in moving for the disallowance of the determination of the Federal Arbitrator, the Government is going back on everything it has ever said on the subject of arbitration ; that the Government, which said that the law must be obeyed, and that persons who submit their case to arbitration must abide by the award of the arbitrator, is now proposing to do something exactly contrary to what it preached. But let me remind honorable members that the law does not require the Government to accept the determination of the arbitrator. It is definitely laid down that any determination of the arbitrator must be laid on the table of Parliament, which has constituted itself the final determining authority in these issues, and has specifically withheld such power from the Public Service Arbitrator. Of matters which come before the Arbitration Court, Parliament has decided that the court itself shall be the final arbiter. It is a wise and proper provision that Parliament should reserve to itself the right to revise the decisions of the Public Service Arbitrator, because these matters concern the great Commonwealth Public Service for which Parliament is responsible, and for which it must provide the money. Parliament must have the power to intervene if it thinks fit in the regulation and conduct of the service. It is very rare that Parliament exercises this power, but there are occasions when it must intervene, and this is one of them. If Parliament does not intervene now, either a great injustice will be done te many public servants or it will be necessary to make a complete revision of many of the regulations now governing the Service. When the task of transferring the federal departments to Canberra was first begun, the public servants concerned were given no option as to whether or not they would be moved. For this reason special provision was made by regulation under the Public Service Act for the payment of housing and living allowances to public servants who were compulsorily transferred to Canberra. Later, however, public servants were transferred to Canberra from Sydney, Melbourne, and other places by way of promotion, or for other reasons, in the ordinary working of the Service. It was then recognized that if the Canberra allowance were paid to such officers, a great injustice would be done to such members of the Service as were transferred in the ordinary course of events to other parts of Australia where the cost of living was just as high as in Canberra.
– Why did not the Public Service Arbitrator find that out?
– I shall deal with that later. A good illustration of how unfairly such a rule would work is provided in the case of Queanbeyan and Canberra. Queanbeyan is just outside the Federal Territory, and officers stationed there do not receive the Canberra allowance. If the award which has been made by the Public Service Arbitrator were given effect, an officer transferred from Queanbeyan to Canberra would receive this cost of living allowance, but one transferred from Canberra to Queanbeyan would not, notwithstanding the fact that the cost of living is slightly higher in Queanbeyan than in Canberra.
– Is that a fact?
– Where is the evidence ?
– In some places, such as Cooktown, officers are paid a special tropical allowance, but generally speaking, no extra payment is made to civil servants even though stationed in districts where the cost of living is just as high as in Canberra.
– Was all this explained to the Public Service Arbitrator ?
– I shall deal with that presently. Most of the persons concerned are postal workers. They are being transferred to Canberra from all parts of New South Wales, and possibly from other States as well, but the Public Service Arbitrator appears to have dealt with the matter as if they were all coming from Sydney or Melbourne. Two separate concessions were granted to civil servants compulsorily transferred to Canberra; first, they were granted a special housing allowance because housing costs are undoubtedly higher in Canberra than in many other parts of Australia, and, secondly, they were granted a cost of living allowance. The housing allowance was made of general application to all civil servants who came to Canberra, and was not limited to those who were compulsorily transferred. The cost of living allowance was limited under the Public Service regulations to officers who were compulsorily transferred. The Government is of the opinion that the Public Service Arbitrator has made a mistake in making this award.
Honorable members interrupting,
– Order I If the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) continues to interrupt the debate, he must take the consequences of his action;
– Should not the Prime Minister be charged with an offence under the Crimes Act?
– The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) is out of order. If he wishes to take a point of order, he must rise and do so in the usual way.
– I rise to a point of order. I ask whether the Prime Minister, by his last remark, has not brought himself within the purview of the Crimes Act?
– The honorable member is out of order. I ask him not to repeat such conduct.
– I rise to a point of order. Is not the Prime Minister distinctly out of order in making disparaging references to the judiciary?
– The Prime Minister has not made any disparaging references to the judiciary.
– I rise to a point of order. Is it permissible for the Prime Minister to refer to decisions of the judiciary as mistakes?
– It is within the right of honorable members to criticise judgments; but it is not within their right to cast reflections upon members of the judiciary. The Prime Minister has acted in a perfectly proper manner.
– An examination of all the circumstances surrounding this finding of the Public Service Arbitrator must convince honorable members that this is an occasion on which they should exercise the power which they have reserved to themselves of disallowing a finding which does not do justice to the whole Service. Unless Parliament is satisfied that a particular finding is fair and just, it should not allow it to go unchallenged. No proper analogy can be drawn between the case of persons who submit themselves to a tribunal of fina! jurisdiction and undertake to obey its awards, and the case which is now under notice. The legislature has determined that the Arbitration Court shall be the final authority in matters with which it deals, and that there shall be no appeal against its decisions. Its awards may not therefore be reviewed even by Parliament; they must be accepted and obeyed. But it has been laid down that the decisions of the Public Service Arbitrator shall be subject to review by Parliament. Consequently, it is quite, proper for Parliament to determine whether a particular decision shall be allowed or disallowed, and that obligation should not be shirked. As to the merits of the case before us, there can be no possible doubt. The principle the Government has adopted is to apply to officers transferred to Canberra in the ordinary course of their employment the conditions which apply to officers transferred to other parts of the Commonwealth is perfectly just. Those conditions are laid down by the Public Service Board, which determines whether an allowance should or should not be paid. The board takes into consideration all the circumstances in deciding such matters.
– Was the Government represented before the Public Service Arbitrator when this decision was given ?
– No; but the Public Service Commissioners were represented.
– Then the Government was not a party to the award?
– The Public Service Commissioners appear before the Public Service Arbitrator to argue matters which are submitted to him. After he has given his determination it rests with Parliament to allow it or disallow it. I stress particularly that no proper analogy can be drawn between the proceedings before the Arbitration Court and those before the Public Service Arbitrator. It is unthinkable that Parliament should approve of the payment to all officers of special allowances which were fixed, primarily, for application only to officer * compulsorily transferred from Melbourneto Canberra when the Seat of Government was established here. It would be grossly unjust to do so. For that reason [ submit that the course taken by the Government is proper and justifiable.
– Unfortunately, I was not in the chamber when the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Coleman) introduced the discussion on this subject. But, having listened carefully to the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition and the Prime Minister, I must confess that I am not at all sure what is before the House. So far as I know, the question of the allowance or disallowance of a particular determination of the Public Service Arbitrator is not actually before us, but we should not vote upon this motion under any misapprehension. If the main question of the allowance or disallowance of the award is not before us, it should be put before us. As a matter of fact, this most interesting subject has been brought into the chamber through a side door. A motion appears on the business-paper of another place with the object of disallowing this award. I am bound to say that when I saw it there I was confident that the Government would not proceed with it in that chamber. If it were to be proceeded with at all I felt certain that the Government would cause the discussion to take place in this House. I do not intend to discuss the merits of the question. The plain facts are these: the principle of arbitration is at stake. Certain officers of the Public Service approached the Arbitrator and obtained an award. Thereupon the Government thought fit to ask another place to disallow the award. I do not say that Parliament should not be allowed to review an award of the Arbitrator; but if it is to be reviewed the whole Parliament should review it. The matter should certainly not be submitted to that chamber whose present members have not been elected by the recent vote of the people. It is well known that a large number of the honorable gentlemen at present sitting in another place are there because they were members of the last Parliament, and not because they have recently been elected by the people. If awards of the Public Service Arbitrator are to be disallowed it should be only with the approval of this chamber. I suggest that the motion should be withdrawn and an opportunity given to honorable members to discuss the main question to-morrow. If that course is taken I shall vote with the Government ; if it is not, I shall vote against it.
– If the Government will agree to that course we will withdraw the motion.
.- I wish to make my position perfectly clear. If the motion simply means that a parliamentary paper is to be printed, it is formal. If it means more than that, it is an effort by the Opposition to take the business of the House out of the hands of the Government. I object to that being done. I do not intend to be forced into the position of voting on the allowance or disallowance of an award by a motion of this kind. I consider that this is an attempt by the Opposition to take the business of the House out of the hands of the Government, and not an effort to obtain a decision as to whether the award should be allowed or disallowed.
Question - That the motion be agreed to - put. The House divided.
Question so resolved in the negative.
Mr. SPEAKER laid on the table his warrant nominating Mr. G. Hurry, Mr. N. J.O. Makin, Mr. J. H. Prowse, and Mr. D. Watkins to act as temporary chairmen of committees when requested so to do by the Chairman of Committees.
Debate resumed from 8th February (vide page 152), on motion by Mr. Latham -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- I shall say but few words concerning this measure, which is extremely technical and, so far as I am competent to judge, unobjectionable. When I say this of a bill introduced by the present Government, at least it may be regarded as faint praise. It is open to question whether we are not, in our legislation, tending to overload what is known as the Acts Interpretation Act; whether we are not legislating rather by a process of interpretation than by indicating, in clear terms, what is intended to be done by each particular measure. Therefore, I suggest that while this bill is, as I have said, unobjectionable in principle, it is open to criticism inasmuch as it means legislation by interpretation. The earlier provisions are designed to give the form and substance of statute law to rules which have been laid down in decisions of the High Court, and are intended to save as much of the law as can be saved in those cases where part at least of an act has been declared ultra vires of the Constitution. Up to the present this question has been a prolific source of legal argument, which has disclosed a considerable amount of ingenuity on the part of members of the legal profession, followed by considered decisions by members of the High Court Bench.
Proposed new section 19a, which appears as clause 4 in the bill, reads -
Where in any act, whether passed before or after the commencement of this section, it is provided that the act shall be administered by a specified Minister of State of the Commonwealth, or shall be administered, controlled or carried into effect by a specified Department of State of the Commonwealth -
the reference to that Minister shall be read as a reference to any Minister to whom the administration of the act is allotted by order of the Governor-General and shall be deemed to include any Minister or Member of the Executive Council for the time being acting for and on behalf of the Minister to whom the administration of the act is so allotted; and
the reference to that department shall be read as a reference to any department to which the administration of the act is allotted by any such order.
This provision is apparently a machinery one to provide for those cases in which it is desired to allot particular duties of administration to a Minister not hitherto named or indicated, including an Acting Minister. I do not propose to offer any opposition to the passage of the measure.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time and reported from Committee without amendment or debate.
– I ask for leave to move -
That the bill be now read a third time.
– It is not desirable, unless the Minister advances good reasons, to pass any measure through all its stages in one day.
– Since the honorable member objects, I withdraw my request for leave to move the third reading.
Debate resumed from 8th February (vide page 149), on motion by Mr.
That the bill be now read a second time.
– It is usual, when a new Minister is introducing his first bill, for honorable members to congratulate him on his accession to office, but I cannot do that at this stage of the debate. I do not wish to be offensive, nor have I any antipathy to the Minister. I am not questioning his ability to occupy his present position, but before I congratulate him I should like to know a little more of his tariff proclivities. Had he been allowed to proceed with his speech last Friday without interruption by the Prime Minister, I believe that considerable light would have been thrown upon his motives. When the Minister was beginning to explain his policy, the Prime Minister in an undertone advised him not to do so. At any rate the Minister did not then complete the sentence that he was uttering. I suppose that what he was not allowed to say in this House he gave expression to at a certain meeting in Sydney that he addressed last week-end. The Minister during his second-reading speech made no definite pronouncement as to his tariff leanings. He said much about mergers. He hid behind combines and enshrouded his words with ambiguities, so that his attitude towards the true principles of the tariff is yet unknown. I therefore must decline to congratulate him on his accession to office. The people will not tolerate a Minister who moves in zig-zag fashion, who is a freetrader this week and a protectionist the next. Compare the attitude of the present Minister with that of the previous Minister. The late Mr. H. E. Pratten always strove for a homogeneous policy. He had a distinct objective when dealing with the tariff, and left no doubt in the minds of the great mass of the people of this country as to his attitude. I have already noticed many defects in the present Minister. He undoubtedly has a lack of sympathy with what is no doubt the pronounced opinion of the people.
The bill proposes to amend the Tariff Board Act for the third time, and the Minister, in explaining its provisions, left us in a state of uncertainty respecting the operation of the act and of the Tariff Board. The Tariff Board’s report for 1926-27 contains these three recommendations which have been embodied in the bill : -
The board desires to invite attention to the necessity in its opinion for an amendment of the Tariff Board Act 1921-1924, in several important directions, with a view to materially increasing the efficiency of the board, . particularly by way of expediting its operations. At present a sitting of the board has to be called for each occasion on which it is to meet, and two members constitute a quorum. The full board consists of four members. It has to be recognized that the Australian continent is of enormous size, also that the citizens of States which are far from the seat of Government may be deeply interested in and have as much right to be heard on questions of tariff revision, as have those who live in the State nearer the Federal centre. For the whole board of four members to visit all the distant States on all matters in which parties in such States may be interested, and with reasonable frequency, is impossible.
The board then goes on to recommend that for the purpose of facilitating its operations it should be divisible into committees of two members each. The proposal to expedite the work of the Tariff Board will have the support of at least this side of the House. The board recommended an alteration in the salaries of its members. Its report reads -
This directly raises the question of the manner in which the board is remunerated. Except as to the chairman (who is an officer of the Public Service) such remuneration is by means of a fixed fee for every sitting attended. If provisions were made for the board to divide itself as suggested, it is considered that remuneration to its members should be in the form of an annual salary, instead of a fee as at present, and in any case it is suggested that payments by fixed salary for a whole-time board is far more desirable than payment by fee for attendance at meetings.
The board also made this recommendation -
Another direction in which it is thought that the act could be amended with advantage, is in relation to section 15 ( 1 ) , which requires that the Minister shall refer to the board for inquiry and report - “ the classification of goods under all tariff items which provide for classification under by-law.”
The bill embodies those three recommendations. Clause 2 relates to the salaries of members of the board. Up to the present the chairman has been in receipt of £1,400 per annum. His salary is to be increased to £1,600. He is an officer of the Customs Department, and I presume that in addition to his fixed salary as an officer he has been receiving payment for his services as chairman of the board. Three members of the board receive £5 5s. for each sitting. Their expenses, and, I believe, those of the chairman, are met by the Government. Last year the three members received £5 5s. for each of 300 sittings, or a total payment of £1,500. They are now to receive £6 6s. for each of 248 sittings, or a total payment of £1,560, with allowance for expenses. I find from the Estimates of last year that the total expenses for the board amounted to £1,250, or over £300 each member. This means that in future the Tariff Board will cost this country practically £2,000 per annum for each of its members. India, Canada, and the United States of America each have some authority for tariff inquiries. In India and Canada the tariff authority is called a hoard, and in the United States of America, a commission. The population of the United States of America today is about 120,000,000, and the area of its territory, within a few square miles, is about the same as that of Australia. Its transactions through the customs and various other departments of State have reached mammoth proportions. Australia has a population of about 6,300,000. The annual report of the Tariff Commission of the United States of America, of 175 pages, is a fine production, containing valued and varied information respecting the operations of the commission and of acts of Parliament relating to the tariff of that country. The cost of the commission is also shown. Similarly, the Tariff Board of Australia should publish an annual report, detailing the cost of its operations, including the amount paid in salaries, fees, and travelling expenses, both to the board and to its staff. It should submit, as does the Tariff Commission of the United States of America, a balance-sheet showing the whole of its transactions. What do we find on analysis? The commission of the United States of America, consisting of six members, controls a staff of over 200 officers, 85 of whom are professional and scientific experts. The operations of the Commission extend beyond America. The annual report discloses that in 1927 two of the Commissioners visited twenty European countries and inquired fully into the trade relations between them and the United States of America. In regard to salaries, it is clear that these Commissioners, serving 120,000,000 people, are paid very little more than the Government proposes to pay to members of the Tariff Board. Yet America is a land of big salaries, both governmental and private employers believing in paying well for the services of men of ability. As. a general principle, I believe in the payment of high wages and good salaries, especially to those who do the country’s work, but the Government is going too far in the creation of well paid posts in the Public Service.
– What salaries are paid to the American Commissioners?
– About £1,800.
– Is not the salary £2,400?
– No. Yet those American Commissioners are giving service to 127,000,000 people.
– Their duties are not more important than are those of the Tariff Board.
– The investigations carried out by the Commission cover a much wider field than do those of the Tariff Board. Whilst the members of the board did not recommend that they should be paid higher salaries, they did suggest to the Minister that their financial position should be improved and that their emoluments should be on a salary basis. Yet these same gentlemen have devoted many pages of printed matter to pointing out that the high wages demanded by the workers of Australia are a menace to industry. Their attitude when their own interests are at stake is at least inconsistent with their criticism of the workers. The proposals in regard to salaries will require investigation, and unless the Minister can, in committee, furnish more justification for the change than was contained in his brief second-reading speech, the majority of honorable members will not be likely to sanction any increase. The present Government has offended in this regard more than any other. It is continually appointing men at very high salaries, sometimes to do quite unimportant duties. Thousands of pounds have been paid to individual public servants who work under model conditions ; yet Ministers are for ever criticizing the workers who are fighting hard to obtain reasonable, wages and decent conditions of employment. Quite recently, without consulting Parliament or, so far as I know, the Public Service Board, the Government raised the salary of one public servant to several thousand pounds per annum. The time has come to call a halt to political patronage of that character.
There is little else in the bill that calls for criticism. The proposal to permit the board to sub-divide itself so that two investigations may be conducted simultaneously, each report to be submitted to the full board, will probably lead to expedition, and therefore will not meet with any objection from honorable members. In the past the inquiries of the board have been too much delayed, and many industries have been allowed to languish because they were unable to have an expeditious investigation of their conditions.
– If there were three or four boards they would not be able to deal fully with all the applications that are made for tariff assistance.
– I cannot expect the honorable member to endorse my fiscal views, but I am inclined to wonder whether some of the proposals in the bill are not intended as a sop to him and those who think as he does. They are a sort of earnest that, although the Government is not doing al! that such members desire, it is taking some step towards the adoption of their freetrade views. The Minister is wise in adopting the recommendation of the board that it should be relieved of detailed work under by-laws, such as the classification and valuation of goods. The law at present requires the board to make a detailed investigation of these matters, but in practice it has been guided by the reports of the expert officers of the department. I believe that these experts may be trusted to discharge their duties faithfully and veil in the future as they did before the board was created. This tribunal, being relieved of much detail work, will be freer to deal with more important matters. At the same time the Minister reserves the right to refer to the board any important question of classification or valuation.
The amendments proposed in clause 5 emphasize once again the unnecessarily complicated manner in which proposed alterations of existing laws are brought before the House. Any new law or amendment should be couched in such plain and simple language as to be easily understandable by every honorable member and by the general public. It may e that this manner of setting forthmendments is designed to facilitate a consolidation of the tariff laws. As an instance of the draftsmanship to which I take exception, I quote paragraph (e) of clause 5 -
Section 15 of the principal act is amended -
by omitting from sub-section (3.) the words “ that any complaint referred to it under paragraph (7i) of subsection (1.) of this section is justified “ and inserting in their stead the words “, in respect of any question referred to it under paragraph (7i) of sub-section (1.) of this section, that a manufacturer is taking undue advantage of the protection afforded him by the Tariff”; and
On referring to the principal act I found that the words quoted in the clause are not there; they belong to an amending statute. But after much labour I ascertained the meaning of the paragraph to be-
If the board finds on inquiry, in respect of any question referred to it under paragraph
The effect of an alteration could be more plainly stated if the amending bill proposed to repeal entirely the original section, and to substitute a new one.
Three of the principal alterations by the bill - the subdivision of the board for investigation purposes, the alteration of the salaries, and the elimination of certain detailed investigations of classification and valuation - are the outcome of suggestions by the board.
– There are to be no Saturday meetings.
– No; I presume the members of the board believe in a 44-hour week. There are 248 days upon which the board can meet, and if its members sit on every working day they will each receive about £1,560 a year in addition to over £300 for travelling expenses. They are also entitled to fifteen days holiday on full pay. If we deduct the fifteen days during which they are on leave from the 248 sitting days it will be seen that, under this measure, they will receive a considerable increase in salary and reduction in hours, and consequently should be a much happier family. Clause 6 provides for what may be termed “ speculative legislation.” It reads -
After section fifteen of the principal act the following section is inserted: - “ 15a. After the appointment of a person to be Director of Economic Research, the Minister may direct the board to confer with the Director upon any particular matter referred to the board for inquiry and report, and, when so directed, the board shall so confer accordingly.”
We have not been told who is likely to be appointed Director of Economic Research; but we hope he will be a person well qualified and fully capable of carrying out the important duties which he will have to perform. Notwithstanding the number of commissions, boards and committees already in existence, a bureau is to be established and additional appointments at high salaries are still being made. I do not object to scientific research, because I think we should avail ourselves of the best brains that are available to assist us; but I trust that a director will be appointed who understands Australian conditions, and who can carry on the work of an important department in accordance with the desire of a vast majority of the Australian people. Before the measure leaves this chamber I trust the Minister will give some indication of who is likely to be appointed. Will he be some economic expert from Cambridge or Oxford who has no knowledge of Australian trade and conditions? Will this economic policeman, who will be acting under instructions from the Minister, be of the old Cobden school? Will he be competent to investigate the efficiency or suitability of an industry? If the right gentleman is selected he should be able to assist the board in coming to a correct determination about some of the matters upon which it requires expert assistance.
– Is not the honorable member concerned with the personnel of the board?
– It has been stated by a member of the Country party that that organization has practically demanded that those engaged in rural industries should be represented on the board, and to that I have no objection if the right man is selected. If particular sections are to be represented it is about time the workers of Australia had representation.
– What about the consumers ?
– The Government has said that the Chairman of the Board, who is a Government servant, represents the consumers’ interests; but I maintain that a worker is quite capable of representing the consumers. Honorable members opposite should dismiss from their minds the thought that if a worker were placed upon the board he would represent a mere coterie. Working people and their dependants comprise the great bulk of the consumers, and if a worker were placed on the Tariff Board the consumers’ requirements would be fully considered. I trust that at a later stage the Minister will give us a declaration of his real attitude in regard to tariff matters. Up to the present we can only regard his utterances as ambiguous.
– The honorable member does not regard the Minister’s utterances at Sydney on Monday last as ambiguous.
– I do. If the late Mr. Pratten had delivered that speech he would have expressed the sentiments of every member of the Opposition. As a member of the Government the Minister dare not say other than he did. He says that he is a protectionist. Even the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) says that he is favorable in some instances to a certain measure of protection; but under the protection which he favours many of our industries would remain in operation for only a few weeks. Tariff work is of such importance in the United States of America that on the staff of the Tariff Commission in that country there are 85 professional and scientific experts conducting investigations. The application of science to industry is essential; but if the proposed Director of the Bureau of Research is to be a man of the Cobden type, his services will be of little use to Australia. The Government must avoid the appointment of a person who even through unconscious bias may seriously interfere with the progress of our secondary industries. There are certain features in the measure which I shall support ; but unless the Minister has more convincing arguments to submit during the committee stage than he had in his second-reading speech, I shall feel inclined to vote against the proposed increase in salary to the members of the board. For the work they do I consider they are at present well paid, especially when they are associated with men who think that the workers are getting their dues. The Minister stated that higher salaries would have to be paid to obtain, the services of the best men. Apart from special occasions on which, in order to expedite the furnishing of a report they may have to work overtime, they will conclude their work at 3 p.m. and return to their own business houses. In many instances, the United States of America shows the way we should go, and although that country pays high salaries, I believe the fees proposed to be paid to the members of the board are too high, particularly as they will give only a portion of their time to tariff work. I trust that the opinions I have expressed concerning the Minister’s fiscal beliefs are not unjust, but I can judge his possible action only by his utterances. I do not think he will administer the department with the same regard for Australian industries as was displayed by the late Mr. ‘H. E. Pratten. He was a man in whom honorable members on this side of the chamber ‘had confidence, and I trust that the present Minister will reconcile his actions with the protectionist policy which has been so strongly supported by the people at every election. It should be his desire to encourage Australian production and assist in providing employment for every man and woman in Australia who desires it, and also for those who come to us from overseas. That is the policy which I desire to see the Tariff Board follow, and any experts appointed to advise it should work with the idea of Australia’s advancement in view. If that were done Australian industry would bound ahead, and the Commonwealth would speedily take its place amongst the leading nations of the world.
.- It appears to be natural for the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) to admire the protectionist legislation of the United States of America. If we were to apply with equal thoroughness the other methods employed by the United States in fostering her industries it would not be necessary to raise duties to an unreasonable level. Unfortunately, we have borrowed from the United States too much of our tariff legislation and too little of the efficiency by which that country has become so prosperous. The honorable member was almost eloquent when he urged that the Minister should do nothing to hinder Australia’s industries, but he seemed to have in mind only our manufacturing industries. Are we to give all our consideration to the manufacturing interests in the city, and none to the activities of those on the land ? The honorable member for Maribyrnong raises objection to the proposal that the Tariff Board shall hold conferences with experts on economics. If we are not to consider the economic effect of the tariff, how are we to make it operate in the interests of the people as a whole? Apparently, no heed is to be paid to the requirements of the primary, producers. Every utterance made by responsible public men in recent times points to the fact that we have already gone a long way towards jeopardizing the real interests of the nation. After six years of magnificent seasons, when prices for primary produce have been higher than at any other period of our history and the expenditure of millions of loan money there is actually more unemployment than ever before. We are coming very near the breaking point.
I congratulate the Minister on having brought in his first bill, but I regret that it contains no provision which will have the effect of making the Tariff Board of greater value to Australia. Personally, I believe in the Tariff Board. Some fifteen years ago an interstate commission was appointed to investigate and report on tariff anomalies, and make recommendations to the Government of the day. It consisted of three gentlemen who brought in very valuable reports, and its examinations and records were most interesting. In the appointment of this new body I do not wish to see chosen the representatives of any one industry; I wish to see appointed men who will be able to study the needs of Australian industry from a national stand-point; men who will be able to advise Parliament where danger lies, what industries should receive special assistance, and what industries should be refused assistance on the ground that other industries might be injured. We cannot keep on piling up the cost of production without affecting those persons who have to export their produce overseas, or the breaking point must eventually be reached.
– In some primary industries we have already reached the breaking point.
– Indeed, I think that we have gone beyond it. I wish to see appointed three competent men, who will be able to weigh fairly the evidence presented to them and make an impartial report. Further, when they do make a report, it should be submitted to Parliament. The Minister for Customs, in answer to a question, informed us that, out of 26 reports prepared by the Tariff Board, only three were laid -on the table of the House. It is unfair to honorable members that reports should be submitted by the Tariff Board to the Minister but withheld from the House as a whole. Honorable members on all sides of the House, whether they support a high tariff or a low one, should join with me in protesting against this practice. There might be in power a low-tariff Minister who would suppress a report that everybody believing in high tariffs would like to see. All reports presented to the Minister should eventually be laid on. the table of the House so that the public, through the press, might be able to judge the activities of the board.
– If the public knew the contents of the reports, interested parties might be able to flood the market with goods before the tariff became operative.
– That argument is always used, but surely, when a Minister receives a report during recess, he should have time to come to a decision, and have a small schedule brought down in time to present the report to Parliament before it adjourns.
– Why could not the report be tabled simultaneously with the schedule ?
– The board in one of its reports has pointed out the need for a scientific tariff. Let me quote one passage from its report -
It might safely be said that the first serious move in the history of the Commonwealth towards the framing of a tariff on scientific lines was the enactment of the Tariff Board Act 1921.
When that Tariff Board Act was placed on the statute-book, no evidence had been taken on oath by the board. It had, until then, been following star-chamber methods. It was only after a fight with the Government that we were able to secure the provision that evidence must be taken on oath, and in public. I maintain that the Chairman of the Tariff Board should be a person quite independent of the Customs Department. I do not say that we have not had men in the department fit for the position, but even the best man must feel that if he brings in a report contrary to the known wishes of his Minister, his position may be endangered.
– Can the honorable member give any instance in which influence has been brought to bear upon the chairman ?
– At the present time the chairman of the board must be an officer of the Customs Department. This bill makes no amendment to that provision, so that in the future the chairman must still be an officer of the department. The honorable member must realize that it is possible that the prospects of an officer may depend upon whether or not he brings in reports in keeping with the wishes of his Minister. It is provided in the schedule to this bill that the Tariff Board may, at the direction of the Minister, confer with the members of the Economic Board upon tariff matters. I think that it should be made clear that the Tariff Board may so confer without first receiving any direction from the Minister. I hope that when the bill reaches the committee stage honorable members will support amendments embodying the suggestions I have made. The Minister is justified, I think, in withdrawing certain matters from the scope of the board’s activities. I wish the Minister would inform me as to how a person may obtain information regarding matters which have been referred to the board.
– When an application was made by a firm of some standing in Victoria for the duty on cement to be reconsidered, the Minister replied to the application as follows: -
The Minister is of the opinion that, if the application submitted by Messrs. Clarke, Padley & Co. were submitted to the Tariff Board, it would only serve to harass an established industry.
This is a serious matter for Australia, for the duty on cement adds more than £1,000,000 a year to the cost of the cement used here. Are we to understand that no established industry is to be asked to appear before the board on the ground that to ask it to do so may harass it? The way should be clear for an investigation into the duty upon any commodity if it is claimed to be too high. The board should have absolute power to deal with a subject of this kind, and should itself take the responsibility of making an inquiry or refusing to make it. The position in regard to restraint of trade is also unsatisfactory. We were assured when the board was appointed that it would have full authority to inquire into any matter which was alleged to involve a restraint of trade. But it does not do so. I personally made an application to the board to inquire into the position in regard to wire and wire netting, at a time when wire netting was badly wanted for developmental work. It will be remembered that, about that time, a firm which was manufacturing wire netting in Australia refused to supply the order of a Brisbane company, because it had been purchasing British wire netting. We were also assured when the board was appointed that it would inquire into any allegations that unnecessarily high prices were being charged for goods; but it does not do so. Certain business interests in Australia have combined with the object of fixing prices for their commodities. This is true of the hardware section. It is also well known that the pharmaceutical societies have an arrangement for fixing prices. No examination has been made into these matters by the board. This means that the interests of our primary producers are not conserved as they should be. We need to adopt the American method of obtaining value for our money. I trust that something will be done while this bill is before us to remedy the complaints which I have voiced. The price of manufactured goods in Australia is altogether too high. If it goes higher I cannot help feeling that our economic position will become exceedingly dangerous. A tariff board composed of men of the right type could do a great deal to remedy the trouble from which we are suffering. In making that statement I cast no reflection upon the present members of the board. I lay the blame for the present unsatisfactory position upon the Ministers for Trade and Customs - not the gentleman now holding that office, for he has not been in charge of the department sufficiently long to be held responsible. I would prefer a board of three men of proved integrity, with a wide experience of the manufacturing world and a sound knowledge of economics. I hope that the Government will not appoint the members of the board to represent particular interests. We should get the very best men available, irrespective of any desire to placate sectional interests. Hitherto the board has submitted its reports to the Minister; but I think they should be laid before Parliament as soon as practicable after they are presented. The last annual report of the board contains a list of one and a half pages of the reports submitted to the Minister last year. Very few of these have been presented to Parliament.
– Not half of them.
– Not nearly half of them. Seeing that the responsibility for giving effect to the reports rests with Parliament the fullest possible information should be made available to it. The board should have power to call upon economic experts to give evidence of the probable effect upon our economic life of an increase or decrease in duty, and Parliament should have full access to all the information of this nature which is gathered. We cannot but be alarmed at the increases which have occurred since 1920 in our customs duties. This matter is referred to in the last annual report of the board. Honorable members opposite have a good deal to say at times about what they call a scientific tariff. Touching on this point, the board in its report states: -
Again and again applications are made for tariff assistance commensurate with the Aif- ference in costs of production in Australia and abroad. Many applications have succeeded, and the tariff wall is markedly rising. In the Customs Tariff 1908, there were only eight items which provided ad valorem duties of 40 per cent, or over. Of these six were 40 per cent, and the remaining two 45 per cent. In the existing Customs Tariff there are 259 items or sub-items which provide ad valorem rates of 40 per cent, or over as set out hereunder: - 93 providing 40 per cent. 72 providing 45 per cent. 35 providing 50 per cent. 19 providing 55 per cent. 38 providing 00 per cent. 2 providing 05 per cent.
That is not the full story, for 10 per cent, is added to these duties. A duty of 65 per cent, therefore becomes something over 70 per cent. The board also states : -
The disparity, comparing 1908 with 1928 in duties framed on specific lines, i.e., per ton, per gallon, per pound, and the like, is probably equally as great as the disparity existing in the ad valorem rates.
– Does the honorable member intend to connect these remarks with the subject-matter of the bill ?
– I am dealing, sir, with the functions of the board. I have already suggested several amendments which I think desirable.
– Surely the honorable member is in order quoting from the annual report of the Tariff Board.
– The honorable member must not enter upon a general discussion of tariff policy.
– I rise to a point of order. I submit that the honorable member is not confining himself to the principles of the bill. In moving the second reading of the measure, I made a few observations on the general principles of the tariff, and you, Mr. Speaker, called me to order and asked me to confine my remarks to the principles of the bill. In ordinary circumstances I should have no desire to curtail the remarks of the honorable member, but inasmuch as you have already laid it down that only the principles of the bill may be discussed during this debate, I ask that you apply that ruling to the honorable member.
– I have already asked the honorable member not to deal with the general question of the tariff.
– I shall endeavour to comply with your request, Mr. Speaker. I trust that provision will be made in the bill to ensure that the reports of the board shall be presented to Parliament, I would not countenance any action which might lead to an unfair advantage being taken of the presentation of reports to Parliament, but any report which has been in the possession of the Minister for three or four months should be laid on the table of the House, for the Government should by that time have made up its mind to adopt or reject the recommendations contained in it. I trust that provision will be made in the bill to ensure that the Chairman of the Board shall not be an officer of the Customs Department, but a gentleman entirely independent of political patronage, as was the case with the old Interstate Commission. The Interstate Commission was not subject to influence from outside. I must admit that the Customs Department has supplied good chairmen for the Tariff Board.
– Does not the honorable member mean political influence rather than political patronage?
– No. There is always the fear on the part of the Chairman of the Tariff Board that promotion may not follow if he does not see that reports are in conformity with the Minister’s wishes. I am satisfied, however, that there has been nothing wrong in the past. It should be our desire to have a strong board and I think that the board would be in a stronger position if it had an independent chairman.
.- In view of the long experience of the working of the Tariff Board, and the lack of perfection in the system which has been in operation since its inception, the minor amendments proposed by the bill in relation to the constitution of the board are satisfactory; but the measure does not go far enough. I agree with the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) in his criticism of the Government for its delay in bringing before Parliament reports made by the board, or, at any rate, reports containing recommendations which ought to be acted upon. It is small satisfaction to manufacturers or others concerned, directly or indirectly, in having tariff matters dealt with, that no action is taken until months, and sometimes years, after the Board, having heard evidence from witnesses, has made its report. This position gives more grounds for dissatisfaction than anything else relating to tariff matters. I do not agree with the suggestion made by the honorable member for Swan that the Tariff Board should have power to determine essential questions of policy - for instance to the extent of the protection that should be afforded to an industry. Responsibility for that rests upon Parliament. I admit that we have not devised a satisfactory method of determining the extent of protection that should be afforded to a particular industry.
– Is not that very matter covered by all the reports of the board ?
– No; the reports deal with specific matters referred to the board for inquiry.
– Is not the Tariff Board more competent to deal with the matter than the average member of Parliament ?
– No ; nor should it be more competent to do so. The board ought to be vested, as it is, with power to inquire into the matters referred to it by the Minister; but surely the assembled representatives of the whole people sitting in this Parliament ought to be more competent than the board or any other similar authority to determine the extent to which a protective policy should apply.
– The honorable member contends that a board specially charged with the task of examining should not also be given the power to recommend ?
– No. The board should have the power to recommend; and it has it now; but only in the case of matters referred to it by the Minister. It would be more satisfactory if Parliament laid it down as a definite policy that a particular industry, say, for instance, the iron and steel industry, should be fully protected against outside competition. Then it would be no longer left, nor should it be, to the Tariff Board to whittle away the determination or decision of Parliament. On the contrary it would be the responsibility of the board to see that the decision of Parliament was made effective.
– The board could not do that. Parliament is the final authority.
– I know that Parliament is the final authority. But what I am saying is that we do not fully exercise our authority in this regard; we do not lay down general lines of policy relating to the tariff and in that way determine that certain industries or sets of industries shall be fully protected and then ask the Tariff Board to recommend how best that can be effectively done. We bring down a tariff in a haphazard way; schedules are considered piecemeal; we deal with one item here and another item there and never deal with an industry as a whole. We should determine as a basic principle what industries are to be protected against competition from outside, and should then allow the machinery set up by this Parliament - the Tariff Board or the Customs Department, as the case may be - to operate so that that policy is fully enforced.
– That would be putting the cart before the horse.
– No ; it would place the full responsibility on Parliament itself. For instance, it is the opinion of a majority of honorable members that the Australian iron and steel industry should be protected against competition from overseas.
– Pay a bounty and all will then contribute their share.
– I know that the honorable member disagrees with the method of protecting industries by customs duties, but he is almost singular in that respect.
– I ask the honorable member not to discuss that question.
– I do not propose to do so. The Tariff Board should have its functions definitely limited in this connexion, and Parliament should not seek to shirk its responsibilities from session to session. It should declare that certain primary or secondary industries have reached the stage at which they should be fully protected against overseas competition, or that their existence is of so much importance to Australia that even in their infancy they must he regarded as basic industries which must be protected against overseas competition. Any one who has investigated the effect of the present tariff or has come into contact with the difficulties experienced by primary producers and manufacturers knows that full effect has not been given to the express intention of Parliament in regard to the protection of industries. This is due either to the insufficiency of the duty, to the breaking down of certain customs machinery or to the adoption of new methods of dumping or something of that sort which nullifies the measure of protection we have set up in this Parliament. It would undoubtedly he of advantage to allow the Tariff Board to be divided for the purpose of conducting inquiries in different cities simultaneously upon the same subject. This would obviate delay, and delay is one of the great causes of trouble at the present time with the manufacturers of Australia. The “Minister will readily recognize that delay is harmful to the manufacturer. No doubt it is equally harmful, in certain circumstances, to the primary producer ; but it is particularly harmful to the manufacturer whose prices represent a gross return which enables him to meet his daily or weekly obligations. Such a man may find that the whole financial situation of his business is upset through the dumping into Australia, without any prior warning or notice, of goods similar to those he is manufacturing at prices enabling them to be retailed at half of his cost of production. In- these circumstances, unless he is given prompt assistance, he is faced with the necessity for closing his factory, or with financial ruin if he carries on. That has been the story of many small and large enterprises in Australia. I shall give the Minister one or two examples so that it may not be said that I am merely generalizing on this subject.
– Has this any connexion with the Tariff Board ?
– My complaint is that the Tariff Board, which has power to make recommendations, does not act expeditiously enough in cases of dumping, or, if the board does act expeditiously, that the Minister does not follow its recommendations quickly enough with administrative or parliamentary action. When I was in Sydney a few days ago firms manufacturing knitted goods were faced with great difficulties because Italian half hose was being sold by retailers at 16s. 6d. a dozen, a price with which no Australian manufacturer could successfully compete. Although we have in Australia a large manufacture of fur felt hats, the major portion of our fur felt hat trade is possessed by France and Italy. Foreign hats are dumped here to the detriment of an Australian industry which is employing and training Australian workmen.
– Arc the prices of the imported hats lower than the ruling prices for them in the countries of origin ?
– The manufacturers say so. The honorable member has raised a point which is pertinent to the discussion of this bill. At the present time the onus of proving dumping rests upon the Australian manufacturer.
– It is a very difficult charge to prove.
– In some cases it is almost impossible to prove it. It has been advocated, and I advocate it here to-night, that it is only reasonable that in such cases the onus of proof should not be left entirely to the Australian manufacturer; that if a prima facie case has been made out that dumping is taking place, part of the onus of proof, at any rate, should rest on the importer.
– But what is a prima facie case?
– A prima facie case would be made out if it could be shown that fur felt hats were being imported at a rate which would be equivalent to 6s. 6d. retail, and they were suddenly made available at 3s. 6d. retail. That fact would not be actual proof, but would be prima facie evidence of dumping. A few months ago we increased the ad valorem duty on shock absorbers for motor cars in the belief that that would fully protect the Australian manufacfacturer. But it was subsequently found that he was getting no greater protection than previously, because the overseas manufacturer of motor car chassis declined to make adequate allowance in price if shock absorbers are eliminated.
He would laud the chassis in Australia at the same price with or without shock absorbers, or, at any rate, but very small difference existed between the prices of chassis equipped with shock absorbers and without them. That, I contend, could be regarded as a case of dumping shock absorbers. I do not know the cost of shock absorbers in the United States of America, but if they have a retail price there equal to £10, as a separate item of motor car equipment, and if when the chassis is shipped to Australia minus shock absorbers, the importer gets credit for only 15s., there is clearly a prima facie case of dumping to the detriment of the Australian manufacturer. At any rate, the ad valorem duty has proved ineffective, and the only effective way of affording protection to the Australian manufacturer would be to impose a flat rate specific duty. I am aware, however, that a discussion on these lines will take me far beyond the scope of the bill. The measure itself is very restricted in character, because it merely concerns the constitution of the board and the duties and remuneration of the members of the board. I agree with the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Penton), that there is no justification in the present circumstances for the increased remuneration proposed to be given. At a time when economy is being preached in many directions it seems most inconsistent on the part of the Government to propose unnecessarily to increase the emoluments of the board. I do not agree with the suggestion made by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) that the chairman of the board should not be in any way identified with the Customs Department. It is distinctly advantageous to have as chairman a man in the Customs Department with a complete knowledge of the intricate working of the tariff. We have been fortunate in that always we have had men of proved integrity and outstanding ability as permanent heads of the Customs Department. If we can continue to command the services of such men, there will never be any reason to impugn the integrity of the board or suggest that it is biased one way or the other.
– It is compulsory under the act to have as chairman of the Tariff Board an administrative officer of the Customs Department.
– And I think that is an excellent practice. It works very satisfactorily, and I hope that we shall always have a senior officer of the Department of Trade and Customs filling that position. I do not know to what extent the Tariff Board, as a whole - I am not speaking with any particular reference to the chairman - might in future be influenced by the Minister or the Government of the day. The board functions in a manner somewhat different from ordinary judicial bodies. From the nature of its investigations it must necessarily be in close contact with the Customs Department and the administration, and in certain circumstances it might be influenced to give effect to the policy of the Government.
– Is it not a fair thing that the Tariff Board should give effect to the policy of the Government?
– In some cases, yes; but I suggest that it would be most unfortunate for the Commonwealth if the Tariff Board gave effect to the policy of the present Minister for Trade and Customs. I remind the honorable member for Warringah that on the 28th March last, the present Minister - he was then a private member - said this -
We are carrying the policy of fiscal protection for new industries much too far. A tariff holiday-
– The honorable member must not discuss the general fiscal policy of the Government.
– I am not particularly anxious to do so, but, having been challenged by the honorable member for Warringah, I deemed it fitting to remind him of the fiscal views of the present Minister for Trade and Customs before he joined the Ministry. I take it that your ruling contains the implication that the opinion expressed by the honorable member for Warringah is quite erroneous and misleading. However, I do not desire to carry the discussion any further. I realize that the bill is one for debate at the committee stage rather than on the motion for the second reading, but the measure is so limited, that one is tempted to go beyond the scope of the bill.
.- I compliment the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Gullett) for this rather belated attempt to amend the Tariff Board Act. Up to the present, too much attention has been given by the board to those who have been able to make the most effective appeal for protective duties. I hope that the newly constituted board will be composed of non-party men of a scientific and economic turn of mind, capable of analysing fully the effect of proposed new duties. Every request for protective duties should be scientifically examined. Quite recently we welcomed the British Economic Mission, the members of which made a careful inquiry into our economic position and tendered certain advice in a memorandum forwarded to the Prime Minister. If we are to eliminate unemployment in. Australia, we must conduct all our business undertakings on sound economic lines. I take it that this is what the Government has in mind in connexion with the bill. I am pleased to know that the board will be empowered to confer with the Director of Economic Research, upon any matter that may be referred to it for inquiry and advice. This encourages me in the belief that in future our system of protection will be administered on a more economic basis. Hitherto it has been possible for quite unimportant industries to secure protection, to the disadvantage of other concerns. The iron and steel industry, for example, has been unduly weighted by the protection given to a number of other industries. If those handicaps could be removed our manufacturers of iron and steel would be able to hold their own with competitors from other countries. As has been pointed out by other speakers, the bill provides for appointments to the board and proposes certain alterations in the act to make it possible for the board to give its attention to the more important requests that may come before it. In committee I hope to have an assurance from the Minister that the members of the board will bo untrammelled by political or party views, and will not be subject to, or be influenced by, the Minister in charge of the department.
– I agree with the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Theodore) that this is a measure more for the committee stage than for a second-reading debate. The Minister (Mr. Gullett) appeared inclined to debate the general question, and I regret that you, Mr. Speaker, prevented him from doing so. The duties devolving upon the board are of the very greatest importance. As to the personnel and work of the board, I am inclined to think that the practice adopted in the United States of America, is to be preferred. In that country the board is small in numbers, but it commands the services of a trained staff, which makes investigations on tariff matters, not only in the United States of America, but also in other countries, and in particular investigates the cost of the production of commodities that are imported into the United States of America in competition with home manufactures. But I doubtthat our Tariff Board could prepare any report on similar lines without making investigations outside Australia. The honorable member for Dalley mentioned just now that a number of Australian industries had been practically ruined by the dumping of certain goods in Australia. If this dumping is of a temporary character, we have in the act the machinery to deal with it.
– It is never used.
– On the contrary, it has been used very expeditiously on occasion. What is feared is the lowering of prices by overseas competitors, whose production costs have been reduced . as a result of improved methods. This enables them to land good. in Australia at a cost lower than local manufacturers’ prices. What action is it suggested we take to meet a situation like that?
– Should we seek protection against it?
– That raises the question, whither are we tending? Are those who contend that imported goods must not be sold in Australia for less than similar goods could be manufactured here, prepared to ignore all considerations of efficiency both here and overseas? I agree with the remarks of the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) regarding sectional representation on the Tariff Board. When the Tariff Board was first appointed I urged that a representative of the primary producers should be appointed to it. I did so in the hope that some consideration would be given to the effect on our primary industries of any recommendation that the board might make. My anticipations in that direction have not been realized. On the contrary, the presence on the board of a representative of the primary producers has given to the board’s decisions an atmosphere of justice which has not been warranted. I have in mind particularly the board’s recommendations in relation to the duties on agricultural machinery. Whenever I criticized those recommendations I was told that the primary producer’s own representative on the board had signed the report.
– Who appointed him?
– He was appointed by the Government of the day.
– Did the primary producers recommend him?
– I am not acquainted with all the circumstances of his appointment. I did not challenge it. My point now is that we who claim to speak on behalf of the primary producers of the country cannot logically ask that they should be represented on the Tariff Board without conceding the. same right to other sections of the community. But if each section of the community had its representative on the Tariff Board working in the interest of the industry he represented, that body would become partisan rather than judicial. Much may be said both for and against the policy of having a permanent officer of the Customs Department as chairman of the Tariff Board. My experience is that the great majority of our public officers are intensely loyal, and endeavour faithfully to carry out the policy of the Government of the day. Should there be a change of Government, they say in effect “ the King is dead ; long live the King. “
– That is not the attitude of the Tariff Board.
– My remarks apply generally to all government officials.
– Is it not the duty of public officers to carry out the policy of the Government in power?
– I am not complaining of the loyalty of members of the Public Service to whatever government may be in power ; on the contrary, I commend it. Loyalty is an admirable quality. I go further, and say that officers who failed to do their best to carry out the policy of the majority of the people of Australia would be lacking a proper sense of duty, but one never knows how suddenly a turn of the political wheel may cause a change of government.
– Is that a threat ?
– It may be a hopeone never knows. If there was a change of government it would be the duty of all public officers to carry out the policy of the new government as faithfully as they carried out the policy of the government it displaced.
– Should not the Tariff Board be guided by the evidence ?
– The board is supposed to be impartial; its decisions are supposed to be based on the evidence submitted to it; but there is always the temptation to bring in recommendations that officers know will please their ministers. In saying that, I make no reflexion on any individual; but public officers, after all, are only human.
– An officer might not know the policy of the Government.
– Any appointeeto the office of Chairman of the Tariff Board must have been long enough in the poli- . tical world to know the fiscal policy of the government in power.
– No Minister could discharge a member of the Tariff Board.
– No; but he could suspend him if he so desired. There is nothing to prevent a Minister from suspending any officer in the departments under his control. That such an officer happened to be the Chairman of the Tariff Board would not affect the right to do so. The question has been raised whether the Tariff Board’s reports should be presented to the Minister or to Parliament. In the United States of America, some years ago, it was proposed to create a tariff adjustments board. The proposal was that Parliament should outline its policy in tariff matters somewhat along the lines mentioned this afternoon by the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Theodore). The honorable member instanced the steel industry and other key industries, and emphasized their value to Australia. He used the term “ effective protection.” The only way to grant the effective protection desired by the honorable member for Dalley is to prohibit certain imports. The American proposal was that Parliament should determine the maximum duty to be imposed, that the tariff commission would then hear evidence and make its recommendations, and that such recommendations would, in turn, be considered by the tariff adjustments board, which body would fix duties within the limits imposed by Parliament.
– Would the tariff adjustments board keep within those limits even if the evidence showed that the maximum protection agreed to by Parliament would not be effective?
– Yes; otherwise the tariff adjustments board would be superior to Parliament.
– If thought necessary, the importation of certain goods into the United States of America may be prohibited.
– While the President of the United States of America has certain powers of veto, he cannot make any change in the tariff duties unless it has been reported upon by the Tariff Commission. He may change the classification of certain goods, or alter the assessment of the value of goods from their foreign value to their American value; but he may not change duties above 50 per cent. The exercise of those presidential powers has been, limited to a few instances. There is ground for complaint that the Tariff Board’s recommendations, instead of being made to the Minister, should be presented to Parliament. I have previously suggested, and I suggest again to-night, that this Parliament should appoint a tariff committee on the lines of the Public Works Committee or the Public Accounts Committee, such committee to consist of representatives of the various parties and interests in Parliament, its duties being to sift evidence in order to ascertain the facts, and to make recommendations to Parliament. If desired, the Minister could he chairman of the board.
– Before such a committee arrived at a decision many of us would probably be dead.
– Although the members of the Public Works and Public Accounts Committees, and of other committees and commissions appointed from time to time are drawn from all political parties, my experience is that they work well together and do splendid work.
– Does the honorable member suggest that such a committee should work side by side with the Tariff Board ?
– No ; I suggest that it should be appointed to consider the Tariff Board’s recommendations and to report to Parliament.
– Would it call any evidence ?
– No; it would consider the evidence given before the board. If effect were given to my recommendation, honorable members of this House and of another place would be in a position to deal intelligently with any proposal for the alteration of duties. I believe that this bill is an earnest attempt to improve the machinery of tariff making. We’ hear a good deal about the desirability of a scientific and equitable tariff; but the experience of the United States of America shows that it is almost impossible to prepare a tariff schedule of that nature. So many factors alter the price of goods arriving here from overseas, factors such as efficiency, different methods of manufacture, new inventions, varying seasons. For instance, South Africa may unexpectedly have a most favorable season for maize, and that product may be sent here in huge quantities, and at low prices. In that case there would be an immediate clamour for the imposition of an increased duty on maize. Any attempt to frame a tariff that will satisfy every section of the community is almost hopeless. Still, we have to make the best of the policy that we have to-day. With it I do not agree, but nevertheless I would vote against any proposal to eliminate the Tariff Board. The bill attempts to improve the machinery of the board, and, at the committee stage, I hope to be able to make one or two suggestions that will be acceptable to honorable members.
.- As one who supported the Tariff Board when legislation providing for its appointment was first introduced, I must admit that I am a little disappointed with the results. I am. not dissatisfied with the members of the board, because I know them to be capable and conscientious men; but we must look at the results, for, after all, that is the true test of eflicieucy. We are gaining little from the work of the board. Had there been no such body I am certain that the tariff would have been much the same as it is to-day. The board has been subjected to much criticism, but that was inevitable. A board composed of the best scientists and experts in the world would have little effect on the tariff, because it frequently happens that questions that have been investigated by the board are finally decided in this House upon a geographical basis, or by some other method which was not taken into account by the board when framing its report in accordance with the evidence given before it. I, myself, have been guilty of ignoring the recommendations of the Tariff Board. Had not certain honorable members taken a firm stand when the timber duties were before this House the industry would have been ruined. The timber industry is one of the best that Australia possesses, and I am, therefore, prepared to support the imposition of heavy duties upon imported timber. I have not yet heard any argument to convince me that the salaries of the members of the board should be increased. It is unlikely that an increase in salaries from £ 1,400 to £1,600 a year will secure the services of men who are more capable and intelligent than the present members of the board. However, I have an open mind, and will be prepared to listen to the argument of the Minister at the committee stage. It has been said that it would be of advantage if the chairman of the board were not an officer of the Customs Department. As a general principle I should say that that is right, but in the case of the Tariff Board I think that we possess a great advantage in having, as chairman, an officer who is conversant with the tariff and the tariff items. There is little danger of any influence being brought to bear upon this officer, because the board’s reports are based upon evidence given in public. The members of this House know what evidence is given.
– Where is the evidence obtainable ?
– It is given “in public, and is published by the Sydney Morning Herald and other leading newspapers. Honorable members should get the reports of the Tariff Board sooner than they do. It usually happens that when any specific tariff item is to come before the House the Minister promises to make copies of the report available; but, unfortunately, when the discussion takes place no copies are obtainable. This difficulty could be overcome by making the more important reports available to honorable members within a reasonable time. Many of the reports deal only with minor matters. I do not think that reports should go from the Tariff Board direct to Parliament. As the Minister appoints the board, its reports should be furnished to him, especially as many of them effect the Government’s policy. Were a recommendation for an increased duty divulged prematurely, merchants would immediately take their goods out of bond and deprive this country of considerable revenue.
.- I wish first of all to offer my sincere congratulations to the Minister for the very able manner in which he has presented his first bill ‘ to this House. Since the inauguration of the Tariff Board seven years ago, its operation has been generally recognized as being successful, and we have had sufficient time to discover its defects. According to the Minister, the criticism of the board has been levelled, not at findings in its reports, but at its slowness in taking action. After all it is all important that cases should be considered expeditiously, and the decisions of the board immediately acted upon by the Government. Industries that have legitimate complaints may suffer considerably because of delay in presenting the board’s report and in the action of the Government. They may possibly suffer a great deal of financial embarrassment and at times be ruined. Therefore any bill that is designed to speed up the work of the board should have the earnest consideration of all honorable members. The Government’s proposal to expedite the work of the board by relieving it of many of its minor duties, should to a great extent solve the problem. A careful examination of the general tariff will be very welcome, because in such a huge and complex undertaking as the provision of a tariff for Australia, a large number of anomalies are bound to arise. It is with a view to the correction of these anomalies that the Government intends to review the tariff. The object of the bill is not to alter the fiscal policy of this country, which is supported and subscribed to by an overwhelming majority of the people, but rather to appoint a board that will carefully consider and examine cases which require scientific treatment, give better benefits where necessary, and place a definite check upon inefficiency. I believe that it is not proposed to remove from the board cases arising out of the anti-dumping provisions. When the tariff is before the House the Government should take strong and accelerated action against the dumping of goods from overseas, because that is not legitimate trading.
– The honorable member must confine his remarks to the Tariff Board.
– The dumping of goods here from countries employing low paid labour must eventually ruin our industries and leave the people of Australia open to exploitation. In view of the all-important work of the board in examining questions of such vital economic importance we should not object to the proposed small increase in salaries. It must be remembered that there are tens of thousands of our people employed in secondary industries in which hundreds of thousands of pounds have been invested. It is therefore of the utmost importance that the best brains should be obtained when appointments are made to the Tariff Board, because it is largely by the decision of its members that this Parliament is guided. As the operation of this measure will undoubtedly increase the efficiency of the board, it should have the wholehearted support of all honorable members interested in the welfare of Australia.
.- I desire first to congratulate the Minister on his assumption of office and to wish him a very happy time in it. The bill, as a measure of Tariff Board reconstruction, offers little opportunity for discussion. It cannot be said to be a full measure of reconstruction, because there are only two phases of reconstruction in it. One is the appointment of committees and the other the handing back to the department, which is best fitted for that work, of the responsibility of dealing with regulations. The Tariff Board, since it was first appointed, has received at the hands of many members of this chamber, of certain sections of the press, of the commercial community, and, in some cases, the manufacturing community, an undue amount of criticism. Certain critics have been led to consider the board responsible for the imposition of anti-dumping and increased duties, for the issuing of regulations and the consequent hampering of trade. That belief is, of course, wrong. I had the honour of appointing the first Tariff Board, and the positions were given to gentlemen who did not seek them. It would, indeed, be a grave mistake if this Parliament attempted to interfere in the appointment of the chairman of this board or in any other departmental administration. Hitherto the chairman of theTariff Board has been a man who has grown up with the system, is immersed in the great intricacies of the tariff and, as is the case with the present chairman of the board, a very able surveyor. Such a man is the mainstay of the Tariff Board. Without his guidance, and the assistance of his wide knowledge, it would be impossible for such a board to operate to full advantage. It would be extremely unwise to put four laymen on a tariff board and expect them to master the intricacies of tariffs and the ramifications of manufacture and trade. We have been extremely fortunate in our choice of chairmen of the Tariff Board, beginning with that very able man, the late Mr. Oakley, as also of the other members of the board. At first thought, I was of the opinion that it was an unsound principle to increase salaries, reduce hours of work, and lessen duties by allowing the department to deal with regulations. In practice, however, it is the custom of the department always to deal with the regulations, the Tariff Board merely acquiescing in the recommendations of the departmental officers. Actually, too, we are not increasing the salaries of the whole of the present board, as two of its members are retiring, and it is necessary to fill their places. We must secure the services of able men with wide vision and patriotic views, who are anxious to advance the welfare of Australia and her industries. It is not a question whether the difference between £1,400 and £1,600 per annum will entice such men. When I had the privilege of appointing the first board I sought as a member Mr. Herbert Brookes, a devoted and patriotic Australian, and a man with extensive interests, both in our primary and secondary industries. He had to be pressed to accept the position, and now that he has resigned and returned to private life, I place on record my opinion that he rendered Australia distinguished service in the pioneering days of the Tariff Board. We shall have considerable difficulty in obtaining another man of his calibre to fill the vacancy. The salary attached to the position did not influence Mr. Brookes. Throughout his years of association with the board he devoted practically the whole of his time, day and night, to his duties, and suffered considerable discomfort in traversing Australia from end to end when he might have been enjoying years of leisured ease; the same may be said of the third member, Mr. Leitch. I have sympathy with the Minister, who has a difficult task to perform in suitably filling the vacancies on- the board.
My association with the board made me realize that its members are of a most independent turn of mind. In theory the Minister and head of his department are in close daily contact with the board, but in practice they are widely separated, and the board is not likely to alter its recommendations in order to conform to the wish of the Minister on any matter.
– Nor should it.
– I agree with the honorable member. The members of the Tariff Board work in an independent atmosphere, rendered possible by the pro visions of the principal act, and no one should tolerate the thought that any minister can sway its policy. Honorable members must remember occasions on which the Tariff Board and the Minister and his department have disagreed on vital points of tariff policy. That indicates a very healthy condition of affairs. I have in mind the instance referred to by the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Theodore), affecting the iron and steel industry, when there was a definite conflict of opinion between the recommendation of the Tariff Board and the views of the Minister and his department. That proved conclusively that no collusion is possible in matters affecting the. key industries of Australia. While on the subject, I confess that I think that the suggestions of the honorable member for Dalley are quite impracticable. It would be an unwise procedure for this Parliament to give any direction to the Tariff Board limiting it to a minimum rate. We must trust the board and make it an independent body, with a wide charter, to examine, in the best interests of the community generally, the effect of tariffs upon both our primary and secondary industries. Such a charter is granted under the existing law, and it should not be modified. I believe that the appointment of committees will save time, but those committees must first be appointed by the board.. They will then submit their report to it, the board later considering the report and arriving at its recommendation.
– The board can only inquire and make recommendations.
– Neither the committee nor the board itself has the power to do other than make recommendations. The committee will examine a proposal and report to the Tariff Board, which will make its recommendation to the Minister who, in turn, will forward it to the Government, to be submitted to Parliament. I support the bill in the main, and again express the hope that the Minister will not be induced to give the vacant positions to men who are not competent to discharge to Australia a great and patriotic duty in an extremely important post.
– I desire to extend my congratulations to the “Minister on the clear and concise way in which he explained the provisions of the bill to the House. I regret that the honorable gentleman was not permitted to enter upon a general discussion on the whole tariff policy, as such a discussion would have cleared the air, with advantage to honorable members. The provisions of the bill confer a great advantage upon Australian industry, and will improve an act which is already very comprehensive. The transfer of minor duties to the administration of the department will be of considerable advantage to members of the Tariff Board, as it will enable them to apply their minds to the more important problems affecting the industry of the country. I am a trifle disappointed that the Government has not gone even a little further, and established an Australian Board of Trade, which could have co-ordinated under its aegis the operations of the Council for Industrial and Scientific Research. the Development and Migration Commission and similar bodies. In that way the whole of our trade and commerce would have been dealt with definitely and under a fixed policy. However, these amendments of the principal act confer additional powers upon the Tariff Board and will make its operations of a very important nature indeed. I notice that in the event of there being a doubt as to whether a manufacturer is fully utilizing the advantages of the protection conferred upon him, power is granted to the board to recommend the reduction or abolition of a duty. I presume that, in order to ascertain whether a manufacturer is effectively taking advantage of the duty granted, the board has the right to inquire into the most intimate details of that industry, and that should it be found that the duty is insufficient and that the industry would be benefited by an increased duty, it will not hesitate to recommend an increase. The honorable member for Wimmera has suggested that the reports of the board should be referred by the Minister to a tariff committee of this House. I dissent from that proposal because I think such procedure would be too circuitous and would cause even greater delays than are experienced at present. So far as I have been able to ascertain, the manufacturers complain not so much of the amount of tariff protection afforded them, as of the delay in remedying defects, the expeditious removal of which would mean so much to their industries. The subdivision of the board, as the bill proposes, will remove the cause of complaint, and I have not the least doubt that these amendments will be accepted by the manufacturers as a further instalment of the assistance to Australian industries which this Government has shown itself so anxious in the past to give. Although not specifically mentioned in the bill I assume that there is nothing to prevent the board from calling to its assistance whatever expert opinion it requires. The Minister, in a recent speech which appears to have been intended in part as an explanation of this measure, said that the Government will be prepared to accept the recommendations of the board unless they are clearly shown to be opposed to the best interests of the country, and I think that the board should be empowered to call to its assistance any technical and economic opinion that would be helpful to it in arriving at its conclusions. In regard to the policy of the board, I interjected that this body would naturally carry out the policy of the Government. The policy of the present Government being the protection of Australian industries, the minds of members of the board will naturally be directed to the achievement of that end without increasing unduly the cost of living or inflicting hardship on the consumers who are . the overwhelming majority of the people. I do not object to the board carrying out the policy of the Government. Obviously it would be inconsistent and impracticable for a board to make rabid freetrade recommendations to a Government whose policy was, say, protection to the point of prohibition. Therefore, the operations of. the board must be regulated to some extent by the policy of the Government of the day.
– Surely the board should carry out the policy of the country rather than that of the Government.
– Are not the two synonymous? Is not the policy of the Government of the day a reflex of the policy of the country for the time being? I am strongly of opinion that the board will be functioning legitimately when it endeavours to give effect to the policy of the Government of the day. I am gratified to know of the detailed duties that are required of the board, and I applaud the extent to which the consuming public may, if it so desires, initiate investigations by that body, for, whilst our policy should be the adequate protection of staple industries we should be careful not to bolster up other industries when the only effect is to increase unduly and harshly the cost of living. The fact that the board has power to investigate in the most minute and detailed way all claims for new or increased duties commends it to my approval. I have already said by interjection that the board is more competent than the average member of Parliament to declare what duties should be imposed. Having regard to the list of inquiries quoted by the honorable member for Swan, the thousands of expert witnesses examined, and the investigation of all aspects of industries and their relation to the everyday life of the community, honorable members must recognize that the board is carrying out an exceedingly important function and is well qualified to make recommendations for the guidance of honorable members. I, at any rate, am prepared to accept its views almost entirely. We have listened to some discussion as to whether the chairman of the board .should continue to be a permanent officer of the Customs Department. That is not an important consideration. The chairmen of the past have given valuable service to the country, and I have no objection to the permanent head of the Customs Department continuing to preside over the Tariff Board. I am not much concerned as to whether the salaries to be paid to the members shall be £1400 or £1600. If a man is doing good work he is entitled to adequate remuneration, and I would not hesitate to vote for the higher salary. The mere increasing of the salaries, however, will not alone improve the personnel of the board. The appointments must rest with the Government, which must accept the responsibility of finding the best men available for these difficult and onerous positions.
– The speeches of some honorable members have revealed anxiety on their part regarding the personnel of the new board. In my opinion they are worrying themselves unnecessarily for the Government, in accordance with its policy in making all appointments, will choose men who will give effect to the views of the parties in power. Probably it has already decided upon the new appointees. The honorable member for Warringah made an important admission when he said that the board would function to give effect to the policy of the Government. Whilst he did refer with gratification to the detailed investigations by the board and the mass of evidence it collects, he Avas clearly of opinion that its opinions would be, and should be, based, not upon the evidence, but upon the policy of the Government. That supports my view that the members to be appointed will be such as will discharge their duties in a manner acceptable to the Government. No doubt the honorable member knows the intention of the Government in this regard. Believing in high wages and good working conditions, I am not opposed to the payment of high salaries to members of the board. But the Government should be consistent, and apply the same principle all round. If a man using a pick and shovel on the highways of this country does his work he is as much entitled to adequate wages, good conditions, and annual leave as are the members of the Tariff Board. It may be that with the opening of this Parliament, the Government is turning over a new leaf. I sincerely hope that the proposal in this bill for the payment of higher salaries to one section of the Public Service, indicates that the Government has seen the error of its ways and now believes in decent standards of payment for all workers. If the new Minister for Trade and Customs is, by this bill, initiating a reform of Government policy, honorable members on the Opposition side will welcome the change.
– But will it stop with this bill?
– It may; I shall await developments with interest. The honorable member for Wimmera pointed out that the Minister had revealed his mind to some extent by his speech before the manufacturers of Sydney during the last week end. I believe that a free and open discussion would disclose more clearly the intentions of the Government, and enable us more readily to judge whether men are to be appointed to the board merely to give effect to the policy of the Government. The Minister in that speech advocated a policy of merging the businesses of the smaller manufacturers into the larger concerns.
– I rise to a point of order. The honorable member’s remarks are exceeding the scope of the bill. When I was moving the second reading Mr. Speaker made me confine my remarks closely to the provisions of the bill and refused to allow me to discuss tariff principles generally.
– The point of order raised by the Minister must be sustained. The remarks of the honorable member for West Sydney certainly exceeded the scope of this amending bill, but being a new member,he was allowed greater latitude than would be permitted in other circumstances. I remind him, however, that his remarks must be relevant to the specific provisions of the bill.
– I thank you, Mr. Bayley, for the latitude you have allowed me. Probably, as time goes on, I shall find myself able to confine my remarks more strictly to the question before the Chair. I was leading up to the clause in the bill which provides for the appointment of a Director of Economic Research, and I considered that I might aptly draw attention to certain remarks that were made by the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Gullett) at a public meeting. I felt that, if the policy of the Minister was to be along certain lines, the investigations that are to be carried out would suggest that it would be uneconomic to protect by means of the tariff certain small manufacturers. Doubtless the Minister will offer some further explanation at a later stage of the bill. I trust that the more experienced of honorable members who sit on this side will take note of the point I have made, and propose some means to overcome the difficulty.
– I have followed, as closely as I could through the columns of the press, the reports of meetings that have been held before the Tariff Board, and have been astonished to find that during the last twelve months or two years the proceedings have drifted into a struggle between the importer and the manufacturer. Judging by the trend of this debate, and certain authoritative statements that have been made, the Tariff Board is to become a kind of loplolly boy for the ministry of the day, and its duty is to carry out the wishes of the Government instead of to give effect to the high ideals which it was created to fulfil. I well remember the debates that took place at the creation of the board. The object was, not to carry out the wishes of any particular party or government, but to hold an impartial inquiry into every matter that was brought before it, and to report honestly and impartially to the government of the day. I have not been able to peruse the reports of the board, and in that respect I am not any different from all other members; but, according to the reports that have appeared in the press, the issue on every occasion has been between the manufacturer and the importer, who, while exceedingly valuable adjuncts, are not the whole community. One of the objects for which the Tariff Board was created was to see the effect of the tariff not only upon the importer and manufacturer, but also upon the great mass of the people of Australia, who feel the effect of every impost to a far greater extent than any industry or body of importers. It is exceedingly regrettable to find that the Tariff Board is ceasing to be the impartial tribunal which it was intended to be, and is to have no higher duty than to carry out the policy of the government of the day. I hope that the House will not allow the board to degenerate into a “ Jemmy Ducks “ for any government which may be in office. If that is to be the case we shall have to adopt the dangerous practice that exists in the United States of America, of having a different board with every change of government. I should rather see it swept away. There are one or two directions in which the bill might be altered with advantage. It is altogether wrong that the members of a body such as this - one of the most important bodies that could be created by this Parliament - should be paid a fee for each sitting. That is a most improper practice, and one which does not obtain in relation to any other permanent body.
I hope that the bill will be amended in committee to make it provide for the payment to each member of a fixed salary, to be determined by this Parliament. Another suggestion, which I know will have the full approval of the Minister, is that there should be a woman member of the board. There is no class in this community which is affected so greatly as are the housewives by an increase in the cost of commodities. It is not so much the amount of money that <t man receives in his envelope on Fridays which determines his financial position, as the amount which the housewife has in her purse after she has paid the week’s bills. Owing to the ramifications of manufacturers and importers, the cost of living has risen so greatly that, sooner or later, it will force itself upon the attention of this House. It is futile to discuss the cost of production while the cost of living remains at its present abnormally high level. If a woman were appointed to the board she would represent a section of the community that is not represented to-day and which receives very little attention at any of its meetings. The manufacturer is fighting for increased duties, and the importer wishes to have them reduced. No attention is paid to the interests of the great mass of the people, especially those who are living on the bread line, whether they reside in the city or the back-blocks. It is because I believe that the presence of a woman on the board-would lead to all sections of the community receiving fair consideration that I propose such an appointment. I hope that the bill will be amended in that direction.
.- I should not have risen to discuss this measure had there not been so much rubbish uttered in regard to the Tariff Board. I have begun to wonder whether’ I am participating in the proceedings of a mutual admiration society. The eulogy that has been showered upon the new Minister for Trade and Customs has been sufficient to give him swelled head. Honorable members appear to have lost sight of the fact that it is not the duty of the Tariff Board to determine what our policy should be; that question was decided when the States agreed to federate. Those who know the Minister for Trade and Customs have some doubts as to his political honesty in the matter of our protective policy. It is said that environment influences character, and that opportunity makes the thief. The environment in which the Minister moves is not such as to inspire confidence in him as a protectionist. I wish to have some tangible proof that he is really a protectionist at heart. The honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) and the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) have drawn attention to the salaries of the members of the board. One would imagine from, the trend of the debate that the gentlemen who occupy positions on the board were created for that special purpose. I interjected that there were others quite as capable of filling the positions as those who had been selected. I was surprised at the Minister’s statement that as the present members of the board, who are in receipt of £1.400 a year, have been compelled to work very long hours it is proposed to increase the fees and reduce the number of hours worked per week to 33, and that there shall be no Saturday work. This is a glaring act of inconsistency on the part of a government which has strongly condemned the timber workers, who are entitled to shorter hours, because they are objecting to Saturday work. I trust that the Minister and those associated with him will now admit that the timber . workers and other unionists, who are asking for a 44-hour week, are as much entitled to shorter hours as are the members of the Tariff Board. The press of Australia is repeatedly directing attention to the high cost of government, and the impossibility of the present administration balancing the ledger. Although charges of extravagance are made in every direction, the Government now proposes to increase the cost of the Tariff Board, and also to establish a Bureau of Economic Research, the director of which is to be paid a substantial salary. The honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) endeavoured to justify the establishment of the bureau by saying that the director would be able to assist the Tariff Board in arriving at recommendations that would be beneficial to industry and consequently to the whole community. The
Government’s proposal in this instance does not embody an honest attempt to grapple with one of the principal problems confronting us to-day. From personal acquaintance with economists, I believe that when the director of the bureau is summoned before the board he will assert that there is no necessity to impose a high duty on a certain commodity, because it can be obtained from Japan or some other country where colored labor is employed at a price much lower than it can be manufactured in Australia. Every so-called economist is a freetrader, and the director to be appointed will oppose the fiscal views held by the majority of the Australian people. He will have no desire to assist in making Australia a self-contained nation, and providing employment for our own people. The questions which will be submitted to this official by the Tariff Board will not be studied by him from the viewpoint of Australia, but merely from the price at which certain commodities can be obtained in foreign countries. The recommendations on tariff matters should be made by the members of the board, who are experienced in commerce and industries, without the assistance of a theorist. When appointments of this kind are to be made they should be from men within the Commonwealth service. I have the greatest respect for the service, which in eludes many men who are fully acquainted with Australian conditions. The adoption of the course I have suggested would give some reward for faithful service and would open the road to promotions in general. The Minister made some stupid reference to attempted log rolling ; but that is sheer nonsense and humbug. When the late Mr. Frank Tudor was Minister for Trade and Customs, there was never a suggestion of anything in the nature of log rolling. He carried out his important dirties without the assistance of such a person as the Government proposes to appoint. If log rolling has been attempted during the period the Bruce-Page Government has been in office, we should have been told of it. The present Minister is, I am afraid, under the influence of freetrade journals such as the Sydney Morning, Herald and the Melbourne Argus. I am expressing the opinions of manufacturers who often approach me in George or Pitt streets, Sydney, or in Bourke-street, Melbourne. It is my duty to ventilate their grievances concerning a policy which is retarding the development of Australia and causing widespread unemployment. In considering this bill, I cannot help paying regard to the composition of the party behind the present Ministry. It would be impossible to find a greater mixture. I doubt if three or four of the honorable members opposite could be found in agreement upon tariff matters.
– The honorable member must not discuss the tariff policy of honorable members opposite; he must confine his remarks to the bill.
– The varying views of those honorable members are responsible for my digression. The Labour party, unfortunately, is not in power at the present time, but in view of the vote that took place this afternoon, I should not be downhearted. On the other hand, I should be quite cheerful. The people wish to know what the Government means by its proposed alteration in the composition of the Tariff Board. The Minister in charge of the measure told us practically nothing. He did not say that the previous board had committed itself in any way, but he gave the impression that it had power to work in sections. As an old member of a Trades Hall Council and of parliamentary committees, I can say that sectional committees are unsatisfactory. It is desirable that important matters should be dealt with by the whole of the members of a responsible body. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) said that Parliament should know what the Tariff Board was doing. The men in the commercial world, with whom the board has to deal, and particularly the importers, are among the smartest persons to be found. They are aware of every possible move. If they get an idea that a tariff alteration is contemplated, they take full advantage of wireless communication and sea transport, and, if it suits them, they bring into Australia sufficient goods to supply the market for three or four years before the benefit of an increased tariff can be felt. I regard the bill as mere make-believe, but there is more in it than appears on the surface. It may be possible to improve the measure in the committee stage, and I advise honorable members to delete the provision giving the board power to confer with the Director of Economics, because it would result in delay in the deliberations of the board, ill feeling would be engendered, and manipulation would be encouraged. Since protection is the fiscal -policy of this country, it is desirable that our secondary industries should be encouraged, so that the industrial section will be in a position to purchase the commodities of the primary producers. In the matter of economics-
– What are these economics ?
– I can best answer the honorable member’s question by reminding him of the reply given by Professor Huxley, who, when he was asked for a definition of science, said, “It is common sense.”
.- I have listened with interest to the dissertation on economics by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. West). I am glad that he likened economics to common sense, but, apparently, he does not wish to have common sense introduced into the legislation of this country. I was astounded to hear the statement that the object of the Tariff Board is to make inquiries on the lines that the Government desires; in other words, that the Tariff Board is to be nothing more than the mouthpiece of the Government. I was under the impression that the board was established to conserve the true interests of the community, and to make inquiry into every proposed increase or decrease of duty with the object of deciding what was : best in the interests, not of those making the requests, but of Australia as a whole. If the board is merely to reflect the opinion of the government of the day, we may as well wipe it out of existence, and impose duties, not in the interests of the community at large, but in the interests of that section which is fortunate enough to command a majority in the Parliament. At the present time we have quite enough of what I call scratching around and looking for favours. I had occasion to protest against this in the last Parliament. I am entirely in accord with the proposal for the division of the board to enable it to make simultaneous inquiries in different places. One of the grievances of the State that I represent is that the board does not visit the capital cities of the smaller States often enough. Inquiries are almost entirely confined, so far as location is concerned, to Melbourne and Sydney, and the witnesses called are the persons directly interested in the matters that come before the board, whether it be the manufacturers, “who profess to seek what they call the interests of Australia, or those who oppose their demands. Witnesses from other States suffer much inconvenience by having to come long distances to give evidence. Not only do they have to travel a long way from their homes, but they have, in many cases, to wait a considerable time for their case to come on. I am pleased to see that the board will be able to break up and hear evidence in different parts of the country. I hope that, in its future inquiries, the board will not only take evidence from those who offer themselves, but that when applications are being considered which, if granted, will result in an increase in the cost of production, evidence will be beard from those who will have to bear the brunt of these increased costs. The consumers, particularly in the country, have not been consulted as much in these inquiries as they should have been. I support the suggestion of the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Mcwilliams) that there should be a woman on the Tariff Board. Women are vitally concerned in the cost of living and, as has been pointed out, the important thing is not what the pay envelope contains but what can be bought with it. In the constituency which I represent, there are many persons who have received no pay envelope during the last two years. They are vitally concerned with the activities of the Tariff Board, because they are affected perhaps more than most by increases in the cost of living, and cost of production. I have heard much talk about poverty in* the cities, but it would be instructive to honorable members opposite to visit some country districts and witness for themselves the poverty which exists there. I ask leave to continue my remarks at a later date.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Bruce) agreed to -
That unless otherwise ordered government business shall, on each day of sitting, have precedence of all other business except on that Thursday on which, under the provisions of Standing Order No. 241, the question is put “ That Mr. Speaker donow leave the Chair.” On such Thursday general business shall have precedence of government business until 9 o’clock p.m.
Motion (by Mr. Bruce) proposed -
That he have leave to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Transport Workers Act 1928.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Scullin) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Bruce) agreed to -
That he have leave to bring in a bill for an act relating to the establishment of a Bureau of Economic Research.
Bill presented and read a first time.
Motion (by Mr. Latham) agreed to -
That he have leave to bring in a bill for an act relating to the administration of the estates of deceased persons in the Territory for the Sent of Government.
Bill presented and read a first time.
Motion (by Mr. Paterson) agreed to-
That he have leave to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Dried Fruits Export Charges Act 1924-1927.
Motion (by Mr. Paterson) agreed to -
That he have leave to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Dairy Produce Export Charges Act 1924.
Motion (by Mr. Paterson) agreed to -
Thathe have leave to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Canned Fruits Export Charges Act 1926.
Motion (by Mr. Abbott) agreed to -
That he have leave to bring in a bill for , an act to provide a fund for the establishment and endowment of a solar observatory in the Territory for the Seat of Government of the Commonwealth.
Motion (by Mr. Abbott) agreed to -
Thathe have leave to bring in a bill for an act to ratify and approve an ‘ agreement made between the Commonwealth of Australia and William Colin MacKenzie, Esq., Doctor of Medicine, and for other purposes.
The following papers were presented : -
Housing Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1929, No. 11.
Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1929, No. 9.
New Guinea Act - Ordinance of 1929 - No. 1 - Explosives.
Public Service Act - Appointment of R. G. Osborne, Attorney-General’s Department.
Treaty of Peace (Germany) Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1929, No. 7.
Development and Migration Commission - Tasmania - Investigation into present position - Fifth Interim Report, with appendices.
Distress at Port Adelaide.
Motion (by Mr. Bruce) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
On Friday, on the motion for adjournment, I brought under the notice of the House the serious distress that prevails among the working people of Port Adelaide. I endeavoured to state the case for them in the most temperate language possible, and did not in any way exaggerate in order unduly to draw upon the sympathy of honorable members. I spoke from a personal knowlege of the situation, for I have been in close touch with this community. I sought no publicity for myself. I did not wish to become prominent nor did I seek to gain any party political advantage. I merely desired to induce the Commonwealth authorities to grant some measure of relief to these suffering people. A report of my remarks appeared in the
Adelaide press. Subsequently the Premier of South Australia, Mr. Butler, practically denied the truth of my statement and I feel that his remarks require a reply from me. Doubtless the Prime Minister will approach the State Government for a report upon the situation. If the Premier presents a report in the terms of his statement to the press, the likelihood of the people of Port Adelaide receiving any relief from the Commonwealth will be remote. The following statement by Mr. Butler appeared in the Melbourne Age on Tuesday, 8th February : -
The Premier (Mr. Butler) stated to-day that he had received a report from the chairman of the Children’s Welfare and Public Belief Board (Mr. T. H. Atkinson) regarding the allegations made in the House of Representatives on Friday by Mr. N. J. Makin concerning the distress through unemployment in South Australia, and particularly at Port Adelaide. It showed that the number of families receiving relief at Port Adelaide from all causes was 1.000. The department was represented there by the mayor, town clerk, a lady official, and a permanent police officer. In addition, two officers regularly visited the homes of permanent . cases. The applications for relief were dealt with by the police officer.
No needy cose had been refused assistance, but in a few cases assistance had been deferred in order that further information might be obtained. The total cost of relief at Port Adelaide for the past twelve months was £22,838. The Port Adelaide officer had no knowledge of any children being absolutely starving. In only two cases where furniture was being purchased on the time-payment system had it been seized for arrears by the owners. There was no evidence that Mr. Makin had closely associated himself with the distress at Port Adelaide. Although he had sometimes taken part in processions of unemployed, he had not been in close touch with the department.
A similar statement appeared in the Adelaide press, and in the Sunday newspapers of Sydney, together with the text of the Premier’s denial. In support of my appeal of Friday last, I surely have no need to do more than bring under the notice of the Prime Minister a report that appeared on Saturday last in the Adelaide Register, the principal conservative organ of South Australia. The Register is to Adelaide in the newspaper sphere what the Argus is to Melbourne and the Sydney Morning Herald to Sydney. The article to which I refer is headed “Distressed Women and Children of Port Adelaide need help ; Register gives £100 for relief fund.” A newspaper does not do that kind of thing unless the need is imperative. I heartily congratulate this newspaper upon its humanitarian appeal. The article also had the following headings : - “ Money and clothing urgently needed for families in distress; leave parcels in city.” The Register charged a special representative with the duty of investigating the situation, and while she was not prepared to admit that people were actually starving, she showed clearly that a serious state of affairs exists. Her report reads -
The Government gives rations, which provide for bare sustenance, and the charitable of Port Adelaide do what they can, though many of them have suffered too.
The whole spectacle is something less sensational, more deadening and gradual - the slow drift of decent working families down to slum conditions. Whole neighbourhoods of people owning nothing, crowding into small houses, two or three families to a house, dependent on private charity for all their needs beyond bare sustenance, have lost that sense of security which in Australia has hitherto kept those able to work from the terror of utter destitution. Beyond them is the prospect of a workless winter.
Into this life of certain privation and uncertain hopes, the weak and helpless are daily born. The mayoress and her relief workers are in touch at present with a hundred cases of expectant mothers, all quite without means, and in workless families.
The . concluding paragraph of the report is as follows: -
Winter is not very far away. The children who go happily barefoot now will, some of them, shiver with cold and suffer from undernourishment. Sick people will need something other than mere ration of meat and groceries. The old and the babies will suffer. It is too big a problem for all the goodwill of Port Adelaide to deal with. Who will help to relieve the suffering of innocent women and children ?
The Mayoress of Port Adelaide, who in association with her husband and other public spirited citizens, is doing wonderful service for the poor and distressed, also makes in the same issue of the Register an appeal for assistance for these people under the- heading, “ Mayoress appeals for help ; clothing and extra food badly needed.” The appeal contains the following paragraph : -
With many hundreds of men out of work, a great proportion of whom owe their plight to general’ trade depression, those who are helpless have been reduced to utter destitution. Clothing and additional food, to supplement government rations where necessary, are urgently needed.
Above all, we wish to raise funds to help feed and clothe women and children during the winter, which will soon be upon us, and will find many hundreds of children barefoot and insufficiently clad.
The following morning’s paper contained a further appeal and cited instances of the serious plight in which individuals were placed. The Mail, of Adelaide, has also directed public attention to the grave position of many good and honest citizens. Yet the Premier of South Australia would try to make it appear that I was exaggerating the position and was seeking to secure some personal publicity by drawing attention to this matter. The Premier may seek to challenge what I personally have done to relieve distress. All the time I was in my constituency my home was constantly besieged by people in need, and in several instances by those who had not even enough to provide their children with breakfast next morning. I can take this measure of satisfaction to myself, that so far as it was within my power to prevent it, no one actually went hungry. This does not constitute my full effort to lighten the load and ease the burden of distress ; but I am not prepared to parade what I have done in that regard. Others, if they so desire, may bear testimony to it. The virtue of the assistance one gives in these cases is, to a very large extent, lost if one parades it. If the Premier of the State seeks to make the people of Australia believe that things are not serious in South Australia, recognizing, of course, that it is a bad advertisement for the State, my reply is that the position is very serious indeed, and I hope that the investigation made by the Commonwealth Government will extend beyond what is gathered from the State Government. I hope that the Commonwealth investigating officers will get right down into the district where the people are suffering in the way I have indicated. I had every reason to know that my remarks on Friday last were fully justified, but I telegraphed to Adelaide for further particulars of certain cases. I could have mentioned families whose circumstances it had been reported were such that they could not procure the kind of food that ordinary human beings eat, and were obliged to depend on something else for nutriment.
I did not seek to exaggerate the position by giving the details, but I telegraphed to Adelaide for confirmation or otherwise of the circumstances I have mentioned and I received from one of the business people of Port Adelaide the following telegram : -
Statement proved. Can be verified; tha persona refuse to sanction names being used.
I can quite understand that these people do not desire their names to be used. Two other telegrams received by me .give the names of people in the most dire distress. I do not propose to allow the Premier of the State to make this a party issue or a personal quarrel, as he appears anxious to do, but there is a time coming when I shall have the opportunity to deal with him both privately and publicly as I feel ho ought to be dealt with. For the time being I request from the Commonwealth Government its strongest practical sympathy and its interest and assistance in the matter. In the Hindmarsh district, which is another part of the electorate I represent, there has been so much poverty in the last twelve months that the Rev. Magor, in association with kindly disposed friends and supported by public subscription, has been running a soup ‘kitchen at lunch hour for the children in the public school there. The children are recommended by the teachers as those who are insufficiently nourished. Possibly it is the only nutritious meal they have for the day. When these conditions prevail in a district like Hindmarsh it is clear that the representations I have made in regard to the distress in Port Adelaide have not been exaggerated, and demand the immediate and urgent attention of those who are prepared to show reasonable sympathy with people who are most deserving of help.
– When the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) referred to this matter on Friday last I indicated that the Government would make certain inquiries. These inquiries have been commenced, but as yet I have received no report. I cannot, therefore, offer any comment upon the situation to which the honorable member has referred.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.47 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 13 February 1929, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1929/19290213_reps_11_120/>.