11th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Sir Littleton Groom) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– The following para graph was published yesterday by the Melbourne Age : -
There should be Federal and State coordination in fostering the film industry in Australia. The Chief Secretary said that obviously anything to be effective must be done by the Commonwealth, so that there would be uniformity of action.
Has the Minister for Trade and Customs in prospect any measure to grant protection to the Australian film industry? If he has, when is it likely to be introduced?
– The question of the honorable member obviously relates to a matter of Government policy, which it is not the practice to indicate in reply to questions.
– I hold in my hand a knife that I purchased in Canberra. On one side is a representation of the building in which we meet, and on the other side a representation of the Sydney harbour bridge. I have also a pamphlet describing pictorially, and byletterpress, a tour of the Tower of London, by two children, under the guidance of what is termed “ The Beefeater.” Both of these were produced in Germany, and as their advent in Australia apparently synchronised with the appointment of the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) to the office of Minister of Trade and Customs, I should like to know whether we may regard it as an indication of the views he holds in relation to the fiscal policy of Australia?
– There is no association between my administration of the Department of Trade and Customs, and the importation from Germany of goods upon which duties are paid.
– Will the Prime Minister state whether honorable members will have an opportunity, before Parliament rises, to deal with the private motions that appear on the noticepaper ?
– That will depend entirely upon the progress that is made with Government business.
– Yesterday’s Melbourne Herald states that a plan of campaign to fight influenza, should it enter Victoria from Europe, in spite of Federal quarantine precautions, is being considered by the State Health department. Has the Minister for Health given instructions to his department to assist in every way the various State departments, to prevent an epidemic of influenza in Australia, and to combat this dire disease?
– I can assure the honorable member that action has already been taken to collaborate with the different States, and every precautionary measure is being adopted.
– Has the Minister for Health had his attention directed to a statement made by Sir George Cuscaden, in which he predicts that there will be an epidemic of influenza in Australia next winter, and refers to the inadequacy of the hospital accommodation to cope with such an emergency? If so, what steps does he intend to take to allay the general public alarm?
– I have not seen the statement to which the honorable member has referred. We are in collaboration with the State authorities, and are taking every precaution against an epidemic of influenza in Australia.
Mb. Justice Pike’s Report
– Has the Prime Minister yet received the report of Mr. Justice Pike on soldier land settlement? If he has not, will he immediately requisition those States which are withholding information to supply it? Many soldiers are leaving their holdings, and that condition of affairs might be obviated if the recommendations of Mr. Justice Pike were made available to the States.
– Within the last two or three weeks inquiry has been made of Mr. Justice Pike regarding the progress he has made with his report, and the Government has been advised that delay has been caused because it has been impossible to obtain figures from some of the States. He anticipates that the report will be completed in May.
– In view of the condition in which the returned soldiers on the Atherton tableland find themselves, and the urgent need that exists for some action to be taken with respect to them, will the Prime Minister inform the House whether assistance can be given to Mr. Justice Pike so as to hasten his deliberations?
– I do not think anything can be done to assist Mr. Justice Pike, for I understand that the figures for Queensland have already been supplied. The matter now depends on the action which the State Government is prepared to take to comply with the conditions laid down by the Commonwealth when it agreed to share the losses incurred by the States.
– During the present week important debates have taken place on ihe Transport Workers Bill and the Financial Agreement Validation Bill. A number of honorable members who had prepared speeches which they proposed to deliver on the motions for the second reading of those important measures, did not have an opportunity to make them. Would it be possible for you, Mr. Speaker, under the Standing Orders, or by some other means, to place in a hat the names of all honorable members, and to give the call to those whose names were withdrawn ?
– If the House desires to adopt the course suggested by the honorable member, it is competent to make provision for it, under its Standing Orders._
– Would you, sir, permit those honorable members who have been deprived of the privilege of expressing their views, to write out their speeches and have them inserted in Mansard?
– No such arrangement can be made.
– I desire to ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether the names of those honorable members on this side of the House who desired to speak on the second reading of the Transport Workers Bill and the Financial Agreement Validation Bill, but were unable to do so because the time available was largely devoted to addresses by Government supporters, “could, if supplied by the Leader of the Opposition, be included in Hansard11.
– It is not possible, under the Standing Orders, to do what the honorable member suggests. Hansard is a record of the actual proceedings of Parliament.
– Would it be possible, Mr. Speaker, to arrange that those members of the House who desired to speak to the two bills referred to by the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Price), but were unable to do so owing to the limitation of time, may now dictate their speeches to the members of the Hansard staff and have them included in Hansard ?
– I have already answered a somewhat similar question in the negative.
– Yesterday’s Melbourne newspapers contain the report of a deputation, introduced by Mr. Mackenzie, the honorable member for Wonthaggi, that waited upon the Premier of Victoria with respect to the position in which Victorian coal mines would find themselves, should the scheme of the
Prime Minister in relation to the coal mines of New South “Wales be given effect. Mr. Mackenzie stated that Victorian coal mines would be compelled to close unless similar assistance was given to them. In his reply Sir William MacPherson said: -
Until the New South Wales miners indicated that they would accept a reduction of ls. a ton in their wages, the Federal plan could not come into operation. The Ministry, however, was watching the position. He described as absurd Mr. Bruce’s proposal to pay a “bounty” of ls. a ton on New South Wales coal “ exported “ into another State. It would be just as absurd if the State Ministry offered a bounty of Id. a pint on milk exported from the Hawthorn municipality to the Camberwell municipality. He considered Mr. Bruce’s proposal to be entirely unconstitutional.
Seeing that this scheme will affect a very large number of miners in Victoria, and that one town, containing 7,000 or 8,000 inhabitants, will practically be wiped out, does the Prime Minister propose to do something for the coal mines and the coal-miners of States other than New South Wales?
– The Government is not proposing to do anything for the benefit of the coal-miners of any individual State. Its action is designed to advance the interests of the whole of the people of Australia - not merely the coal-miners, but also all other producers. If the proposals that are now under considera- ti on by the miners, are accepted, and the Government decides to pay a bounty of ls. a ton upon coal exported overseas or interstate, that proposal will have to be submitted to this House for its confirmation, and every honorable member will have an opportunity to express his views upon it.
Liability of Newspapers - Prosecution of Mb. E. j. Holloway.
– In view of the fact that the law provides that newspapers which publish statements such as those that have led to the prosecution of Mr. E. J. Holloway are guilty of an offence against the Arbitration Act, will the Attorney-General immediately -institute proceedings against such newspapers?
– I am not aware that an offence is committed by the publication of reprints of legal proceedings.
– Is it not a fact that newspapers which publish such statements are equally as guilty, of committing an offence against the Arbitration Act as the man who makes them?
– There are many cases, not only in connexion with the Arbitration law but also in connexion with other laws of the States and the Commonwealth, in which it is possible to discover a technical offence ; but it has never been suggested that prosecutions should he instituted in all such cases.
– If it can be shown that the newspapers which published the statement attributed to Mr. Holloway come within the scope of the law, is the Attorney-General prepared to take action against them?
– I am not prepared to take action in the case of a technical offence by large numbers of persons or newspapers where no good purpose could possibly he served by doing so.
– Has the AttorneyGeneral observed that the magistrate himself said that Mr. Holloway’s offence was of a technical nature?
– I am not aware that the magistrate made any such remark.
– If the statement of the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins) that the presiding magistrate said that Mr. Holloway’s offence was a technical one is correct, will the AttorneyGeneral give an assurance that no penalty will attach to the offence, and that the Government will pay Mr. Holloway’s expenses?
– I have already said that I have no information whatever that the magistrate described Mr. Holloway’s offence as a technical one, and I should indeed be surprised to find a magistrate imposing a penalty of £50 when he might have imposed a nominal penalty if he regarded the offence as purely technical. There is abundant evidence that the offence was not merely of a technical nature.
– While I express no opinion as to what was said by the magistrate in connexion with the trial and conviction of Mr. Holloway, I ask the Attorney-General whether, in view of his statement, made a few minutes ago, that no prosecution would be instituted in the case of technical offences, he will accept responsibility for saying that the publication in extenso, throughout Australia, of words inciting others to commit an offence, is, in his opinion, a technical offence, in any circumstances?
– I have nothing to add to what I have already said in reply to an almost identical question asked by the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. E. Riley).
– Is it the intention of the Crown Law authorities to insist upon the payment by Mr. Holloway of the fine imposed on him, and, if so, what steps is it proposed to take should Mr. Holloway refuse to pay the fine?
– The honorable member will ascertain the information he desires from the course of events.
– Will the AttorneyGeneral suggest to the judges of the Arbitration Court that they should not, by making public statements from the bench, prejudice Mr. Holloway’s case?
– I shall make no suggestions of any character to the judges of the court.
– I desire to draw attention to a statement appearing in today’s Canberra Times: -
Speaking from a medical point of view, Dr. Alcorn emphasized the unsuitability of the accommodation to be had at Molonglo Settlement already offered to some residents. He stated that the death rate of the children of the Molonglo settlement far exceeded that of any community of the same size in the whole of Australia, and therefore could not be termed “ suitable accommodation.”
In view of the serious nature of Dr. Alcorn’s statement as to the unsuitability of the accommodation at the Molonglo Settlement for the residents who are being moved from Russell Hill, have the Federal Capital Commissioners consulted the Commonwealth Department of Health in the matter, and if not, will the Minister give instructions that, before any body of citizens is compulsorily removed, inquiries will be made from the Department of Health?
– The Commonwealth Department of Health is invariably consulted in matters of this kind. Regarding the latter portion of the honorable member’s question, I shall look into the matter and advise him later what action is being taken.
Accommodation foe* Visitors
– I desire to address a question to you, Mr. Speaker. In view of the great interest displayed by the public of Canberra, and visitors to this city, in the debates in this House, particularly during evening sessions, is it possible to arrange the accommodation in order to seat more visitors? The accommodation now provided is so inadequate that numbers who desire to listen to the debates are compelled to leave the building.
– I shall make inquiries, but I think that it will be difficult to provide additional accommodation for visitors in this chamber. The public galleries have been designed to. seat as many as possible, and on the floor of the building all available space has been devoted to the accommodation of visitors. The difficulty is that the demand for seats is greater than the supply. I shall, however, have inquiries made to ascertain whether additional accommodation can be provided.
– In his reply to my questions yesterday, the Prime Minister said that in matters affecting the coal industry he was guided by the opinion of the Premier of New South Wales. Seeing that Mr. Bavin has stated- that there are thousands of workers in the coal-mining industry receiving less than the basic wage, will the Prime Minister see that the conditions of those impoverished workers are not reduced any lower to allow the opulent persons whom he represents ‘to acquire more wealth.
– In my replies to the honorable member’s questions yesterday, I did not indicate that my actions were governed by the opinions of the Premier of New South Wales. Regarding the second portion of his question, I point out that the whole scheme which is now under consideration by the miners is designed to obviate any reduction in the wages they receive. Indeed, its object is to increase their earnings by avoiding the intermittency of their employment.
– Has the Prime Minister noticed a statement in yesterday’s Sydney Morning Herald to the effect that two miners had earned £100 in a fortnight, and will lie make inquiries to ascertain the correctness or otherwise of the report, in order that we may be in a better position to judge the position of the industry?
– I did not see the statement towhich the honorable member has referred, but the whole of the figures relating to the wages paid in the coal mines are available, and will be investigated if the representatives of the miners agree to the appointment of a firm of chartered accountants to examine them. The figures at present available disclose that, notwithstanding that a number of men, because of intermittent employment, receive less than the basic wage, the average earnings of the men employed in the industry so far as the northern fields are concerned for the years towhich the figures apply amount to £260.
– Seeing that Mr. Murnane was unable to discover any cure for the buffalo fly pest in Western Australia or the Northern Territory, have any fresh facts been elicited that would lead to the hope that the pest might be successfully combated in Queensland?
Mr.BRUCE. - The matter is still being investigated by the Council for Scientific and IndustrialResearch, but if the honorable member will place the question on the notice-paper I shall obtain the latest information available.
– Yesterday I asked the Prime Minister a question regarding the appointment of a committee to consult with the representatives of overseas shipping companies who are now visiting Australia. In his reply the right honorable gentleman gave the personnel of the committee, which, I find, comprises three representatives from New South Wales, four from Victoria, and one each from Queensland and Tasmania. In view of the fact that South Australia and Western Australia have a considerable interest in overseas trade, will the Prime
Minister take steps to ensure that those States, particularly Western Australia, shall have representation on the committee ?
Mr.BRUCE.- The Government did not appoint the gentlemen whose names I gave yesterday. It invited the several bodies representative of the various industries concerned to nominate persons to sit on the committee, and the men who have now been appointed are the nominees of those organizations. I shall, however, look into the question to see whether it would be desirable, apart from the particular industries concerned, to appoint to the committee some one from Western Australia to consider the loading of vessels and the provision of space therein, seeing that Western Australian ports are the last places of call for vessels departing from Australia.
Mr.STEWART asked the Prime Minister,upon notice -
Whether the Development and Migration Commission has furnished a report to the Government on superphosphate prices.
If so, what are the respective prices in (a) New Zealand, (b) Canada, (c) United States of America, (d) Argentine, (e) South Africa, and (f) Australia?
Mr.BRUCE.- The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Upon receipt of the report, the matter was referred to the Tariff Board with a request that an immediate investigation be made of the whole position in relation to superphosphates and other fertilizers. The particulars desired bythe honorable member are being obtained.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
When is it expected that the Government will arrive at a decision regarding assistance to thegold-mining industry, in accordance with the first recommendation of the Development and Migration Commission’s report?
– Consideration of this matter is still proceeding, and a decision will be reached at the earliest possible date.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
With reference to the question by the honorable member for Herbert on the 6th instant, regarding the post office at South Johnstone and the Postmaster-General’s reply thereto, will he state the number of years during which the present post office buildings have been leased, and the total rental paid to date?
– The information is being obtained.
Tractors - Chief Architect’s House
asked the Minister for Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained and will be conveyed to the honorable member as soon as possible.
asked the Minister for Home Affairs, upon notice -
With reference to his statement on the 6th instant, in reply to a question by the honorable member for Melbourne, that the Chief Architect of the Federal Capital Commission had used a Commission cottage free of rent for some months with the special approval of the Commission, will he state -
under what authority is the Federal
Capital Commission empowered to allow officers to use cottages free of rent;
– Inquiries are being made into the matters mentioned by the honorable member, and I shall advise him in regard thereto as soon as possible.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– Information is being sought on the subject and will be supplied at a later date.
asked the Minister for
Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
With reference to the question by the honorable member for Herbert on the6th instant, regarding a post office at Tully, North Queensland, will he state what was the cost of the original site, and the price which is being paid for the leasehold or freehold of the allotment now being acquired?
– The information is being obtained.
asked the Minister for
Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained.
arrivals and Departures.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whatnumber of assisted migrants (nominated and otherwise) has arrived in Queensland each year since the recent migration agreementwith Great Britain came into operation (a) upon the requisition or recommendation of the Queensland Government; and (b) without such requisition or recommendation?
– The information is being obtained.
asked the Minister for
Home Aff airs, upon notice -
– The answers, to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs,, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained..
asked the Minister for Markets, and Transport upon notice -
– The infomation is being obtained.
Mr.BLAKELEY asked the Minister for Works and Railways, upon notice -
In view of the serious unemployment and the completion at an early date of loch 10 at Wentworth, will he sympathetically consider thecontinuation of loch 15 at Huston?
– The re-commencement of work at weir and loch No. 15 - Euston - is dependent upon the provision by the four contracting Governments of the necessary funds. This matter will shortly be taken into consideration in connexion with the preparation of the Estimates of proposed expenditure for next financial year.
asked the Minister for Works and Railways, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are , as follow : -
asked the Minister for Markets and Transport, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained, and will be furnished to the honorable member next week.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
The following paper was presented : -
Fourteenth General Report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works.
Motion (by Dr. Earle Page) proposed -
That he have leave to bring in a bill for an act to amend section 21 of the Income Tax Assessment Act 1922-1928.
.- Last year I brought under the notice of the House the matter of taxing incomes earned outside of Australia by people residing in Australia. The matter was fully discussed, -and the Prime Minister promised to make further inquiries into it. If this bill does not make provision for taxing incomes of that character, will it be possible to amend it in that direction?
– Will the Treasurer explain the provisions of section 21, which this bill is to amend?
– The purpose of this bill is merely to correct a defect in the drafting of section 21, and will not afford opportunity to consider the matter mentioned by the honorable member for Swan. The Government is still pursuing the inquiries which the Prime Minister promised last year would be undertaken in order to ascertain what is done in other countries., I suggest to the honorable member for South Sydney that the amendment contained in thebill being of a technical nature, can best be explained on the motion for the second reading.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act 1913-21, the following work be referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works for investigation and report, viz.: - Sydney General Post Office - Extension of the installation of Mail Handling Appliances.
The proposal for installing mail handling appliances in the Sydney General Post Office was referred to the Public Works Committee in 1926, and following a second reference to that body Parliament agreed in December, 1927, to proposed extensions of the scheme. Certain alterations have become necessary consequent upon the decision to adopt the alphabetical system of sorting. These alterations will involve certain increased costs, of which the following are the principal: - Lifts and elevators, ?6,000; conveyors, ?14,031; sorting machines, posting slips, clearing machine, ?3,410; overhead runaways, ?1,310; mail chutes, ?260; tracks for trucks, ?660. The increased cost of the revised scheme is estimated at ?32,500. This work is urgent, because the quantity of mail matter handled in the Sydney Post Office is increasing rapidly, and it is desirable that the new installation should be completed at an early date.
– If this work was before the Public Works Committee on two previous occasions, what is the reason for a further reference?
. -The handling of mails at the General Post Office, Sydney, has been brought under my notice, and I have been informed that the alphabetical system of sorting has involved considerable delays in the delivery of letters. Not only is this system less efficient, but it has the effect of depriving a large number of postal workers of their employment. I am opposed to any system which is less efficient and at the same time has the effect of dismissing employees. Will the Postmaster-General state whether this criticism of the alphabetical sorting is correct, and whether, if some men are to be displaced, employment will be found for them elsewhere?
.- On two previous occasions this work was considered by the Public Works Committee, which was informed that after the trial of certain machinery in Melbourne some alterations in the scheme proposed for Sydney might be necessary. Mr. Brown has since investigated these matters in England, America and Germany, and it is now thought necessary that certain alterations should be effected, and particularly that the width of the conveyor belts should be increased. That is the main alteration that is proposed. I assure the honorable member for. West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) that the introduction of the alphabetical system of sorting will not cause the services of mail sorters to be dispensed with, but will considerably expedite their work.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. Bruce) agreed to -
That the House at its rising adjourn until Monday next at 3 p.m.
In committee - (Consideration resumed from the 7th March, vide page 902).
Clause 2 (Validation of agreement.)
.- When progress was reported last night I was contending that this agreement had been accepted bythe States under duress, and in support of that statement I quoted from a speech by Mr. L. L. Hill, Leader of the Opposition in the South Australian Parliament. Mr. Hill said also -
It is no use members opposite trying to shelter themselves behind the fact that Western Australia, Tasmania and other States accepted the agreement.
Mr. Reidy. ; You must take things as they were after the repeal of the act.
Mr. Hill’s speech contains many similar statements, and the belief is general in South Australia that the States were compelled to accept the agreement because this Parliament had already discontinued the per capita payments. On every occasion that this subject has been debated in this House the question of the moral or the legal rights of the States to the per capita payments has been raised. I have always contended that the States have a moral right to some form of payment from the Commonwealth. When they entered the federation they were led to believe that they would receive, if not a definite proportion of the customs revenue, then a per capita payment or some other form of assistance from the Commonwealth.
– The honorable member’s view is more favorable than that of the right honorable member for Balaclava, who says that this agreement is a poor business deal. The States, when the Commonwealth was formed, surrendered certain powers, and therefore they have a moral right to assistance from the Commonwealth.
– That is so. In 1910 the then Federal Attorney-General (Sir Littleton Groom), as reported in Hansard, said -
It was well understood and appreciated by persons of all shades of political opinion that, from the very structure of the Constitution, from the very nature of the powers committed to us, and of necessity, the States should participate to a large extent in the revenue raised from these sources (customs and excise).
Let me give the committee the opinions of some of the eminent gentlemen who guided the destinies of South Australia at the time of federation. Sir Frederick Holder, at the second session of the Federal Convention held in Sydney in 1S97, said -
A federation in which the Federal authority is not interested in the solvency and prosperity of the States is such a thing that we ought not to consider for a moment. In fact our first duty to-day is, and I think I can go further and say that the first duty of the Federal Parliament of the future will be, to conserve the interests of the States. The success of federation itself must depend on the success of every State in it, and therefore in arguing for the strength and financial stability of the States I am arguing not for that which is parochial but for that which is essential to thu success and strength of the Commonwealth itself. I do not know a treasurer or a budding treasurer who would bc willing to go back to his colony and advocate any system of federation which did not provide for the return of practically the whole of the sum now collected from customs and excise to the State from the Federal authority.
Sir John Cockburn, also of South Australia, at the third session of the Federal Convention held in Melbourne in 1898, said -
It would certainly sap the independence of the States to place the Federal Parliament as a sort of Lord Bountiful over the States to whom ad misericordiam appeals could bc made. The whole proposal (that the Federal Parliament might render financial aid to any State in such manner as it thought fit) is foreign to the spirit of the Constitution. The thing will not bear a moment’s consideration.
Those statements may be applied in many respects to the position in which the States now find themselves because of accepting the financial agreement. In the first place it will sap the independence of the States, because they will be forced from time to time to go cap in hand to the Commonwealth for grants-in-aid to tide them over their financial difficulties. It is not right to place the States in that position. I could quote many more eminent authorities who are in agreement with the views of Sir Frederick Holder and Sir John Cockburn. The States certainly have a moral right to some form of assistance from the Commonwealth. From between the commencement of federation and 1910, the States received 75 per cent. of the customs and excise revenue. During that period South Australia received an additional amount under the Surplus Revenue Act. In 1901-2 that State received from the Commonwealth £332,239, and in 1909-10, £803,057. During the first ten years of federation, South Australia received 80.44 per cent, of the customs and excise revenue collected within its borders. That high percentage was obtained because of a grant to South Australia under the Surplus Revenue Act. Under the per capita payment of 25s., South Australia received last year 16.96 per cent, of the customs and excise revenue collected in that State. That is a tremendous decrease. Western Australia and Tasmania are suffering to the same extent. Had the first agreement operated during the period of the per capita system, South Australia would have received an additional £9,000,000. That State is in a precarious position. Its people contribute largely to the customs and excise revenue, . although they have not the advantages of the people in the eastern States, who benefit from the many industries that are there established. South Australia, therefore, has a logical case for additional assistance. Although its indirect taxation under the customs and excise duties has increased enormously, its population has not increased in proportion, mainly because it has few factories compared with the other States. The honorable member for Angas (Mr. Parsons) last night said that during the election campaign he had advised his constituents to vote for the referendum because, if carried, it meant the ratification of this agreement. It meant nothing of the kind. As I pointed out in my opening remarks last night, the figures that were submitted to honorable members last year by the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann) have not yet been answered by the Government. I advise the honorable member for Angas to study those figures. They show that South Australia, during the next 58 years, the period of the agreement, would under the per capita system receive £72,000,000 ; but under the agreement it will receive only £41,000,000, a difference of £31,000,000. That applies generally to the whole of the States. Under the per capita system the States, during the next 58 years, would have received £823,000,000, but under the agreement they will receive only £440,000,000, a difference of £383,000,000. It is also alleged that the States will be better off under the new arrangement because of the provision of sinking funds for old and new debts. I understand that the States will he better off, not for the next twenty years, as has been stated, but only for the next five years; and thereafter they will gradually lose revenue. Last evening the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) spoke in opposition to the agreement; but he failed to record a vote on the second reading; in fact, he ran away. On page 3779 of Hansard, 9th March, 1928, the honorable member for Swan, after hearing the speech of the honorable member for Perth, said -
On Wednesday night the honorable member for Perth brought forward some astounding figures showing the ultimate effect of the financial agreement on the States.
He was in agreement with the honorable member for Perth because he said that that honorable member’s case had not been answered by the Government, yet last night when he had an opportunity to oppose the agreement he did not record his vote, despite the fact that Western Australia will suffer under this agreement to the same extent as South Australia.
The Hill Labour Government appointed a royal commission to inquire into the disabilities which South Australia has suffered through federation and the then Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Butler, was a member of it. Before the commission was able to complete its work, an election occurred and the Hill Government was defeated. The Butler Government, upon assuming office, abolished the commission appointed by the Hill Government, and appointed a commission of experts to report upon the same subject. This commission accepted the evidence given before the commission appointed by the Hill Government, and did not call any additional witnesses. It ultimately reported that South Australia had suffered to the extent of £750,000 a year through federation. In the light of that report, Mr. Butler, as Premier of the State, should have done everything in his power to cause the Commonwealth Government to grant South Australia some relief. He had a great opportunity to make effective representations along this line at the first Premiers’ Conference he attended, for the agreement now before us was considered at it; but he failed to do so. As a matter of fact, one of the reasons which makes me suspect the value of this agreement to the States is that the Prime Minister and the Treasurer are so anxious to secure its ratification. When the Premiers met the Prime Minister and Treasurer, they almost unanimously opposed the proposals in this agreement, but eventually they agreed to them. Mr. Butler is reported to have made the following remarks at the conference -
I listened with great interest to the Prime Minister’s explanation of his Government’s proposal and I was struck with the soundness of his arguments. I am in entire agreement with the principle he enunciated, but in the matter of detail his proposal requires amendment.
Although on that occasion he neglected to request the Commonwealth Government to make a grant-in-aid to South Australia,
Mr. Butler afterwards wrote to every member of this Parliament representing a South Australian constituency and requested that an effort should be made to get the Commonwealth to assist the State. In my opinion, Mr. Butler fell upon the neck of the Prime Minister simply because he belonged to the same political party; but that does not excuse him for failing to make use of the great opportunity he had, to cause a provision to be inserted in the agreement to ensure that South Australia and other States similarly situated,- should he treated in a fair and reasonable manner.
On the eve of the last federal election, the Commonwealth Government appointed a royal commission to inquire into the financial affairs of South Australia. There was no necessity for this to be clone, for two royal commissions had already made a similar inquiry. It was a piece of political propaganda designed to mislead the people. But the commission having made its inquiries, the Government should defer the discussion on the bill until the report is before us.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
– So much has been said recently about the financial relations of the Commonwealth and the States in general and on this agreement in particular, that it is difficult to break any new ground. No new arguments have been advanced recently in support of the agreement, and nothing very fresh has been said against it. However, I desire to make one or two observations on the following aspects of the subject: whether the States are desirous of retaining the per capita system; whether it should be abrogated; and whether the present proposal is just. I have read many extracts from speeches made years ago by the framers of our Constitution, and the conclusion arrived at is that men like Deakin, Barton, Reid, Cook, Fisher, Dugald Thompson and others did not assume that the -per capita payments should be continued for ail time. Any impartial student of the subject must admit that the per capita system was adopted as a temporary expedient, to ensure the acceptance by the States of the
Draft Constitution. The Braddon section of the Constitution, which was the forerunner of the per capita system, was not acceptable to New South Wales until a provision was inserted that it should not continue for more than ten years. At the , end of that period, the per capita system was adopted, and the period of its operation was also limited to ten years. During the whole of that decade, repeated attacks were made upon it, and it was quite evident that it was never regarded as other than an expedient until a more permanent settlement could be reached of the financial relations of the Commonwealth and the States. All that the framers of the Constitution contended for was the ensuring of the financial security of the States.
As far back as 1908, Mr. Andrew Fisher proposed, to pay £5,000,000 to the States annually for a number of years towards the interest on their debts “ as an equivalent to the 25s. per head.” He subsequently increased the proposed amountto £7,500,000. His scheme was not accepted and I submit that the per capita scheme has, for a number of years, shown unmistakable signs of breaking down. South Australia has proposed that the distribution of the Commonwealth aid to the States should be on the basis of State debts. Tasmania, on the other hand, made a proposal that the available money should be distributed on the following basis: - 25s. per .head for New South Wales and Victoria; 30s. for Queensland and South Australia; 40s. for Western Australia, and 50s. for Tasmania.
– The system of differential payments exists in both Canada and the United States of America.
– That is no justification for its adoption here. The Tasmanian suggestion would be unacceptable to the great majority of Australian electors. Mr. McCormack, the Labour Premier of Queensland, has also opposed the per capita system. At the conference of Premiers, he said -
A State with a large and increasing population, because of the establishment of secondary industries in the favoured centres of population, would’ receive increasing payments out of all proportion to those received by a primary-producing State, and would to that extent give to the wealthier States the greater proportion of the customs revenue. That is the most vulnerable point in regard to the continuance of the per capita payments. No doubt that State would pay the revenue because the customs revenue is collected from the people individually who buy these goods in the markets of the States; but where a Commonwealth is founded for mutual protection to all the interests embraced within that Commonwealth, it would be a much wiser policy to adopt some system that would at least help the weaker States or the States that were not so favorably situated for the establishment of secondary industries. Consequently, wo get to the point where wc have to view this loss by the larger States from the broader or wider Australian point of view, and from that viewpoint the agreement has advantages over the present system.
Mr. Lyons, who attended the same conference, as the Labour Premier of Tasmania, made these remarks -
Mr. Lang suggests that the Commonwealth should continue paying to the States an amount based on the schedule in the States Grants Act, and that any increase based on the growth of population be credited to the sinking fund. I could not support such a proposal for a moment. It would not compare favorably with the present proposals now before conference, because the States with the quickly increasing population would receive more than the smaller States.
These extracts from the speeches of Premiers of the different States show clearly that the per capita system has always been regarded as an expedient. The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) told us last night that he had never been enamoured of the per capita’ system. But he did not say that in 1919. Mr. Watt, who was then Treasurer, proposed to take 15s. off the per capita, payments, by reducing them by 2s. 6d. or ls. yearly, as might be decided upon. There was undoubtedly grave resentment against what was regarded as the unfair operation of the system, and this would ultimately have resulted . in the withdrawal of the payments, even if this agreement had not been entered into.
Permit me to now refer to the referendum on the amendment of the Constitution. It is my firm conviction that the electors in voting for the issue submitted at the referendum, gave their tacit approval to this agreement. I know that this view is not shared by every one, not even by all honorable members on this side of the House. That is immaterial to me; I have my own views on the matter. I am convinced that the electors assented by such an overwhelming majority to the amendment of the Constitution because they believed that it would lead to the ratification of the present agreement. It was known by the public that the agreement had been accepted by a conference of State Premiers; that it had been accepted by every State Parliament, Labour and Nationalist in Australia; and that it had been in operation for two years since June, 1927. Moveover, the defeat of successive referendum proposals for the amendment of the Constitution has been a somewhat melancholy aspect, of Australian political history; yet, in spite of the electors past reluctance to interfere with the provisions of the Constitution, the proposals in the last referendum were agreed to by a majority of nearly 1,500,000. It is true that the electors voted to give power to the Commonwealth to make agreements with the States, but I submit that the present financial agreement, which has been subscribed to by all the State governments, was the particular agreement which the electors had in mind when they were voting. The electors recognized that under this agreement millions of pounds which had formerly been paid to the States by way of per capita grants, would be applied to the payment of interest, and the reduction of debts. The Commonwealth Government proposed, with the concurrence of the States, that Australia should start to pay her debts, and that proposal was, I believe, understood and assented to by the great majority of the decent citizens of the country. The referendum figures in New South Wales were: In favour of the proposal, 754,446; against the proposal, 415,846. There was thus a large vote against the referendum proposals in New South Wales, and that was due to the attitude of Mr. Lang, the State Labour leader. While the campaign director, the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Theodore) was telling the electors to vote “ Yes,” Mr. Lang was advising the Labour supporters to vote “ No.” The fact that nearly 500,000 followed his advice shows that he has more influence in New South Wales than any other Labour leader, Federal or State. Why did Mr. Lang oppose the agreement? He himself states quite clearly his reasons. Here is what he said - “ My advice to you is to vote ‘ No ‘ on the referendum issue, If you vote ‘ Yes ‘ and it is carried New South Wales will cease to be a sovereign .State. If the proposed alterations to the Constitution were going to give you unification, or would lead to unification, there would be some justification. They are not going to lead to unification, and they are not going’ to accord the Federal Parliament control of the finances of New South Wales. If you vote ‘Yes,’ you are going to allow Ministers of the Crown from various States who compose the Loan Council to say how much money you can borrow.”
Then he goes on to say that the financial proposals would hamper the operations of the New South Wales Government. Mr. Lang opposed the agreement because, he said, it would interfere with the rights of New South Wales as a sovereign State. What has the Leader of the Opposition in this House (Mr. Scullin) to say on that point? Speaking on the agreement in March last, he said -
I stand for this Parliament having sovereign powers and the States having only delegated powers. Some people call that unification. I am not afraid of the term. If it is unification to set up in Australia a National Parliament with complete power and State Parliaments with delegated power, then I am a unificationist. I do not think we should have only one Parliament, but we should . have only one sovereign Parliament.
Thus, the Leader of the Labour party in this House differs radically on this subject from the Leader of the Labour party in the State of New South Wales, and with the Labour party’s platform which provides for the absorption of State Parliaments and the creation of provincial local governing bodies. In fact, the voices of the several Labour leaders and the Labour platform on this issue constitute a veritable babel.
Mr. Lang also opposed the agreement because of its loan provisions. Now, that is the very point that commends it to the Leader of the Federal Opposition, and the Labour party generally. They are opposed to the abolition of the per capita payments, but the honorable member for Yarra, in a speech in March last to which I listened with pleasure, said quite clearly that the State debts should he taken over by the Commonwealth. I submit that when Mr. Lang advised the electors to vote “ No,” he understood that if the referendum were carried, this Financial Agreement would be ratified.’ Let me now quote what Mr. Hill, the Leader of the Labour party in South Australia, said on this matter -
In my opinion the safe course for the electors of this State is to vote “No”. If the referendum is defeated .the Commonwealth Government must then completely review the financial position.
That statement provides clear evidence that Mr. Hill recognized that if the referendum were carried this agreement would be ratified, because he said that if the proposals were defeated the Federal Government would have to review its financial arrangements.
I wish now to put on record a statement which was published in the Adelaide Register on Monday, 25th February, which, to my mind, succinctly sums up the situation. The statement is as follows : -
All the State Governments and Parliaments have accepted the financial agreement, which is actually in operation. The people, by referendum, have affirmed the Commonwealth’s general right to moke such agreements, the present scheme being particularly before them. On whose behalf then, can the opponents of this Financial Agreement Bill speak? -They cannot pretend to be championing the cause of the States, since the elected representatives of the States have overwhelmingly accepted the agreement. Nor can they contend that they are expressing popular opinion as against the majority votes in the Parliaments, as the electors have tacitly approved of the scheme. They are entitled to oppose the bill if they think the agreement is bud business for the Commonwealth, but that view has not been seriously put forward.
This agreement provides for three things: the taking over of State debts to the extent of £600,000,000, and the payment annually of £7,585,000 interest by the Commonwealth; the establishment of a sinking fund of 7s. 6d., to which the Commonwealth shall contribute 2s. 6d., amounting* annually to approximately £850,000, to redeem the debts in 5S years. The establishment of a sinking fund of 10s. for all new loans, on which the Commonwealth shall pay 5s. and which will involve the payment of £100,000 on every £40,000,000 raised. It also provides for an increase of interest on transferred property from 3i per cent, to 5 per cent.
After twenty years of discussion on this vexed question, I hope that finality “will at last he reached. Tinder these proposals the evil of one government raising money for another government to spend will be largely removed; not entirely, but, at any rate, the money raised by the Commonwealth will be hypothecated for purposes of which the people have approved. The present uncertainty in the financial affairs of the States will be removed. The States will receive fair treatment, while the three great principles essential to the consummation of federation, and the development of our national life, will be achieved; first, the provision of financial security for the States; secondly, the transfer of debts; and thirdly, the common control of borrowing. I believe that no more important question has ever engaged the attention of this House. I believe that no question is of greater importance than this to the growth and development of Australia on national lines. I congratulate the Prime Minister and members of the Government on taking their political lives in their hands and courageously and persistently carrying this proposal through from stage to stage. The importance and magnitude of their work may be to-day obscured by the haze and smoke of party prejudice, and internecine jealousy. But as independent public organs and institutions to-day recognize the intrinsic value of the work being done, so I believe that posterity will not withhold from the Prime Minister and members of the Government their praise and appreciation for the statesmanlike work they are doing in initiating and completing the present Financial Agreement.
.- The spectacle of the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill) referring disparagingly to party prejudices is enough to make the angels weep. He ‘rarely rises to speak without referring to his friend, Mr. Lang. He produces this King Charles’s head, and when this fails him, he goes across the New South Wales border into Queensland, and refers to the woeful condition of the unfortunate people of Queensland. The honorable gentleman, in his own mind, has settled the matter now before the committee, and, of course, obviously, it is settled. My object in rising is that which actuates most honorable members. I wish to put on record my reason for the stand I am taking with regard to the bill. I take the opportunity of doing so, particularly, because during the recent election the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) paid frequent visits to my constituency and criticized my political record.
– He brought your majority down by two-thirds.
– The issue in’ the last election on this and other matters was entirely different from those at previous elections, in the sense that the party to which I previously belonged for pre- selection had held the Wimmera seat and I was its candidate. On the last occasion I was no longer the candidate of that party. I was informed by the Treasurer, and he told the electors, that I held the seat by virtue of the fact that I was his follower. Thus we had a fight on the question as to who owned the seat. The Treasurer said that his party owned it by 22,900 votes. The result of the election was that the Page majority of 22,900 was converted into a minority of 7,500. I recognize that that has little to do with the bill, but I was tempted to digress to that extent because of the interjection of the honorable member for Warringah.
There has been a confusion of important principles in the minds of some honorable members in connexion with this bill. I believe, as a layman, not having been a State or Federal Treasurer, that the Loan Council should be of advantage so far as borrowing is concerned. Certain figures were quoted by my friend the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann) in regard to the flotation of various State and Commonwealth loans on the London market, and he instanced three loans to which I desire to refer. There was a Commonwealth loan of £8,000,000, he said, which was floated on the 7th March, 1928, and 84.4 per cent, of it was left with the underwriters. On the 25th April of that year a Western Australian loan of £3,000,000 was oversubscribed at once. On the 17th July - three months later - another Commonwealth loan of £7,000,000 was floated, and 87 per cent, of that was left with the underwriters. The only reason that the Treasurer gave for this result was that it merely meant that the terms of the Western Australian loan were exceptionally favorable to the investor, the inference being that its terms were to an unbusinesslike extent favorable to the investor, and to the extent that they were overfavorable to him, it was an unbusinesslike transaction on the part of the Western Australian Government. But the reply to that is that, according to the figures quoted by the honorable member for Perth, all these loans were floated on exactly the same terms - at the same rate of interest and at £98 5s. That disposes of the Treasurer’s argument and I suggest that the matter requires explanation.
– Did not Western Australia borrow through the Loan Council?
– Wot in floating this particular loan. Of course there is provision for individual States to go on the money market, subject to the approval of the Loan Council, and obtain their own loans, so the incident does not provide valid grounds of objection to the establishment of the Loan Council, but it is nevertheless interesting. I wish to make it clear that my vote against this agreement is not a vote against the establishment of the Loan Council. I approve of that Council. My second point is that my opposition to this bill is not opposition to the principle of the consolidation of State debts. I approve of the consolidation of those debts. My real objection to the measure is that the platform of the Country Progressive party, to which I belong, has a plank providing for the retention of the per capita payments pending the holding of a constitutional session to consider the constitutional relations of the States and the Commonwealth. For the greater part of the time when the negotiations that led to the submission of this bill were in progress, a constitutional commission was sitting. It was appointed so long ago that I have almost forgotten the time when it began its work. It is still engaged in its task; we are still waiting for its report. I take it that the very fact of the appointment of that commission indicates that the Government considers there was some necessity for its appointment; at any rate, let us hope so. But it is recognized on all hands that the present financial relations between the States and the Commonwealth under the Constitution cannot much longer remain as they* are. The cost of government in Australia is such that I believe the people will very quickly revolt against the burden that is involved.
– Thank goodness other countries are in a worse position.
– The optimist from Tasmania does not deny that we are badly off. It is poor consolation to say that other countries are in a worse predicament. Every State, except Queensland, has a double-chambered legislature, there is overlapping, and there are interstate jealousies, and with the Commonwealth Parliament endeavouring to function, and encroaching upon the duties of the States - the present Commonwealth Government has done more than any other in that direction - we have reached the stage when the present conditions cannot long continue. When I was a member of the Country party its platform contained a plank that I will read. What is in its platform now I do not know; it changes according to circumstances. In the days to which I refer, we were very enthusiastic about this plank -
Federal Convention and Formation op New States to Secure Practical Decentralization. (a.) To advocate the early holding of a federal convention to consider the revising of the Constitution. Such convention to be elected on the federal rolls, and each State to be divided into five electorates, returning three delegates for each electorate by the system of proportional representation.” To aim at securing new and definite apportionments of the powers and duties of the federal and State authorities.
In order to bring about economical and efficient State government and administration, and to avoid costly duplication of State and federal activities, it is necessary to subdivide the present unwieldy States into manageable areas with community of interests, under their own constitution, thereby bringing about a simpler form of State government leaving all national functions to the Federal Parliament.
There was a definite policy on the constitutional relations of the State and Federal Parliaments. It is fallacious for the Treasurer to tell us that the present agreement effectively disposes of the whole subject of the financial relations of the States and the Commonwealth’ for 58 years. I have not the slightest doubt that the walls of this chamber’ will again ring, and before many years have past, with debate on the subject now under consideration. To say that this Parliament in the year 1929 shall bind future generadons until 1987 to a hard and fast agreement that will dispose of the matter for h11 time is ludicrous, to say the least of it. The Treasurer, in one of his political visits to my constituency, stated that I had opposed the financial agreement. I am glad that the Postmaster-General (Mr. Gibson) is listening to me. I would have preferred to have the Treasurer also as one of my auditors, because he said that I, who am to-day opposing the financial agreement, supported it in 1923, when he was a member of the Ministry. That statement typifies what I have always referred to as “ the Page touch.” The honorable gentleman plainly stated that this agreement is practically identical with the agreement which was submitted by him in 1923. I shall not take up the time of the committee in explaining the difference between the two. The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Theodore) last night referred to this as a complete somersault on the part of the Treasurer; yet the honorable gentleman repeatedly told the electors of Wimmera that it was not he, but I, who had somersaulted.
I wish to deal with the point that has been raised repeatedly, regarding the significance of the affirmative vote that was given by the electors. After-events nave proved that, in the event of an affirmative vote, being given, the supporters of this measure had every intention of urging that the people had approved of the agreement itself. They are not playing the game with those who, although strongly opposed to the agreement, nevertheless took a disinterested view of the matter and did what they thought was for the national good. That is what I did. The Leader of the Opposition, and many other Labour members were bitterly opposed to the agreement, but they asked the people to cast an affirmative vote.
– In his own electorate, the Prime Minister said to his constituents, .”If you do not care to take my advice, take that of the Leader of the Opposition.”
– From a thousand platforms, Government members claimed that they were not asking for a “ Yes “ vote on the agreement, but merely on the proposal that power should be given to the Commonwealth to make agreements. If the Labour party, which represents nearly 50 per cent, of the electors, had advised its supporters to vote “ No,” the referendum would not have been carried, and this measure could not have been brought forward. I hope that the bill will fulfil the expectations of its sponsors ; but I do not think that it will. I trust that I have made clear the reasons which have actuated me in my opposition to it.
– I am a supporter of this agreement. During the election campaign, I told my electors that if the Bruce-Page Government was returned to office it would be made law, and that if I were elected I would give it my support. The historian of the future will . regard this as the magnum opus of the present Government. It has done many notable things during the six years that it has held office, but this is an outstanding feat which will everlastingly redound to its credit. It is an attempt to deal with a very big question that has always puzzled federalists and financiers, namely the taking over of the State debts. The present agreement is quite different from that which was submitted to the Commonwealth Parliament when the per capita payments were abolished in 1926. Had this agreement been placed before the House and the public at that time, it would not have been opposed by the press and the parliamentarians of the day. The State Treasurers were becoming very uneasy, and there was no guarantee that they would continue much longer to “receive the per capita payment. We have heard a great deal regarding the loss which will be occasioned to Western Australia. Neither it nor any other State had any guarantee that when the population had largely increased the Commonwealth Government would continue the payment of 25s. a head. Where would it raise the amount necessary when the population had reached many millions? The Parliaments of Canada and the other Dominions make grants to their subsidiary bodies in proportion to their necessities, rather than on the basis of population. If New South Wales became very prosperous and largely increased its population, the effect of a per capita payment would be to assist those who did not really need the money, at the expense of the smaller States. There was the further danger . of some future Government embarking upon schemes requiring a large expenditure, and using the money obtained from this source, instead of handing it over to the States. From whatever angle we view the question, the States are entitled to stability. The underlying idea in the minds of the framers of the Constitution was that, as the States were relieved of the interest on their debts, their receipts from the Commonwealth under other headings would correspondingly diminish. Therefore, I can see no objection to the agreement on that score.
– Why is the State Government in Tasmania seeking a conference with the Prime Minister to place before him its case for a special grant?
– Special grants are made in accordance with the provisions of section 96 of the Constitution, and have no connexion with this matter. If I thought that assistance in that direction would be withheld because of the payments that are to be made under this agreement, my attitude towards the agreement would undergo a change; but there is nothing to prevent the Commonwealth from giving special grants where they are warranted, so long as it has the necessary funds. If the country is governed properly, the Treasurer should be able to meet those claims.
I am sorry that time will not permit me to give further reasons in support of the agreement, of which I have many. The agreement can be reviewed at any time; therefore, there is no force in the complaint regarding rigidity, that has been made by the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) and other honorable members.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Bayley).Order! The time allotted for the consideration of this bill in committee having expired, I shall now put the question.
Question - That clause 2 and the remainder of the bill be agreed to - put. The committee divided.
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Motion (by Mr. Bruce) proposed -
That the bill be now read a third time.
.- I desire to make a few valedictory remarks at this final stage of a bill which deals with matters upon which I have expressed opinions on previous occasions, but in regard to which I have not had much opportunity to express myself during this debate. The bill is designed to settle permanently - save the mark! - or at all events for 58 years, the difficult problem of the financial relations of the
Commonwealth and the States. Under this agreement, the Commonwealth will assume a responsibility for the public debt of the States, and will pay monthly to each State a fixed sum proportionate in some way to its population. Each State will, during the same period, pay to the Commonwealth the excess interest falling due each year in respect of its debt. A loan council is to be established, and what is called the consolidation of the public debt is also provided for. The establishment of a sinking fund is another feature of the agreement, and the vexed problem of payment in respect of properties transferred by the States to the Commonwealth is admittedly placed by it upon a more business-like and satisfactory footing. We can afford to give the bill our qualified approval and blessing in so far as it relates to the consolidation of the debts. In that respect the agreement envisages Australian nationality and unity in accordance with the oft-expressed ideals of the Labour party. The sinking fund is a pious aspiration which may, possibly, be honest; but, judging by our experience of the present Government in relation to finance, it is nothing better than the Monday morning resolve of the chronic inebriate. Some speakers have, with quaint humour, claimed that the Government has a mandate to introduce this measure. That it has a mandate to do anything is doubtful, and its method of doing it, chequered and painful. This claim is too audacious for serious argument. It is sufficient to point out that the Leader of the Opposition, the Deputy Leader and the humble workers like myself in the rank and file of the Labour party advocated an affirmative answer to the referendum. Indeed, we felt bound to do so, because the Government policy in that regard was adopted from the platform of Labour. To negative the grant of extended powers to the Commonwealth, or hamper the development of. the nation along those lines, is foreign to Labour’s policy. In that regard it Matters not to us what government is in power, whether firmly established in popular favour, as the Labour party hopes to be ?non, or tentative and tottering, as this Government undoubtedly is. But, if any further answer be necessary, it was supplied by the Prime Minister and the
Attorney-General, who admitted that the affirmative vote on the referendum was not in any sense an endorsement of this agreement. The claim by the Treasurer and other speakers to a mandate to save their not too-sensitive conscience is pathetic. Even more pathetic is the swaggering self-sufficiency of those who imagine that they can bind future generations or fetter the action of this Parliament, or any other representative institution that may be functioning 50 years hence. In the fine phrase of the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini), we cannot join with those who would “rattle the bones of the dead to silence the clamour of the living.” The Prime Minister is gracious to posterity. In addition to handing them a legacy of £1,200,000,000 or thereabouts of public debt, he is good enough to suggest that, after he is dead, he may agree to a qualified alteration of the present agreement.
Sitting suspended from 12.4.5 to 2.15 p.m.
– The Prime Minister is disposed to be generous to posterity and, in addition to handing down to it a legacy of debts unpaid, obligations undischarged, and national commitments running into hundreds of millions of pounds, he indicates that even during the currency of this present supposed-to-be inflexible agreement, it may be that it will be permissible for the Commonwealth and the States to vary the agreement but only upon lines indicated by himself. The right honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt), in the course of his interesting speech - not backed up by his vote - said that the Prime Minister might be justly ambitious to have his name inscribed permanently by means of this measure in association with a permanent settlement of the vexed question of the financial allocations between the Commonwealth and the States. I should not like to accept any responsibility for the right honorable gentleman’s hereafter, any more than for his present policy. I listened the other evening to the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Theodore) when he asked the right honorable gentleman to examine his conscience and to survey his past with a view to seeing if he could discover anything useful that he had done for the people of this country.. I have no desire to be -so hard on him, amd I . certainly should not like to see him return from his well-earnedplace of rest or expiation, as the case may be, to face the people of Australia in the light . of the unctuous self-complacency with which he has solemnly attempted to harness and -direct the wisdom of the new generation of pro- gressive Australians. This debate, though rendered brief by the operation of that revolutionary machine known as the guillotine, is, and has been, nevertheless, ofhigh importance, and I had looked eagerly, if not hopefully, to honorable members opposite for light and leading upon the delicate and difficult questions involved. I listened, for instance, to the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) and it must be said that he made an . able and well-considered speech against the bill. I heard him say, moreover, that he was fortified in his arguments against the bill by the fact that he had pledged himself to his constituents to oppose it. But, alas ! there his statesmanship ended. He has declared in this House, by a species of ingenious reasoning which I was entirely unable to follow, -that -the people of Australia had spoken andhe was now -obliged -to vote for the bill.
Mr.Scullin. - He voted . against both his convictions and Ms pledges.
– That is so. Thus do . we see that by . stepping . two . steps forward and -three stepsbackwards, gliding with the guillotine from one side to . the other . and looking both ways, is the great democracy of Forrest represented. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) gave me great heart. I had “heard him not only an this debate “but on other occasions trenchantly attacking -the prin- ciples underlying this ‘.ball.If ithere is one member an this House more -than another who >mayclaimto be >a . champion of Staterights, it . surely isthehonorable member for . Swan. I hadhopesof him, but nothing could exeeed his agility in gettingoutof the chamber when the vote was . -about tobe -taken.
Mr.SPEAKER.- Order ! The debate at <thethird reading -stage is more restricted than at any other stage. ,The honorable member -must confine himself toadiscussion of the “principles <ofthe bill and the . policy involved, or he may adduce reasons for the passage . or rejection of the bill.
– I accept that ruling, but I am looking for the principle in the bill which induced the honorable member for Swan to leave -the chamber when the vote was about to be taken, with an agility equal to that which he displayed in returning to speak when the vote was . over. I do not suppose that any honorable member made a clearer analysis of the principles of the bill than did . the right honorable member for Balaclava. I had great hopes . that the principles for which he stood would survive, but when the vote was being taken I saw on . the other side -of the chamber what I took to be a statue erected to the memory of a deceased statesman who had previously represented Balaclava.
– The honorable member is not in. order.
Mr.BRENNAN. - But I found >that it was -the honorable -member for Balaclava himself, voting in favour, of . the bill which he ‘had so ; ably and vigorously opposed. I am sure thatthe Mr. Gullett who uttered outside of -this chamber a trenchant criticism of «this ‘bill, has ‘no relationshipto . the memberof theCabinet : of the same name. It must be a totally different person; for the obvious reason . that . the gentleman whospoke so whole-heartedly against . the principles -of -the bill, -wasthe author . of the phrase . the present Treasurer is the most (tragic Treasurer . that Australia has ever had.” The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell’) was opposed to the bill in principle.
– I was not.
Mr.BRENNAN.-All I can say is that when ‘the bill was being attacked in this Chamber, the -rumblings of -approval from the honorable member could ‘be likened -to the rumblings of Mount Etna. Every timethat a point -was made against the bill he said “ Hear, hear,” andwhen the votewas being taken, it was “ There, there.”
– I askthe honorable memberto indicate what principle <of ‘the bill he is nowdiscussing.
Mr.BRENNAN. - It wouldbe too difficult for me, Mr. Speaker, inview of your : obvious . and, -nodoubt,well founded impatience with me, to pursue that line of argument further, and there I leave it. I have raised some points in this brief address of mine which, in a certain way, reconcile me to the passage of the bill. It, no doubt, has some useful features and some good machinery for carrying on the work of the nation from day to day in accordance with the ideals of men of narrow vision, whose eyes are more often upon their feet than upon the stars. I submit that Australia can never, either within or without the commonwealth of nations, become herself a nation so long as we have the present cougeries of competitive sovereignties known as States, with their elaborate and expensive machinery, their governments, their parliaments, their executives and their local pomposities. We hear the phrases “State rights,” “moral rights,” and “legal rights.” There are such things as moral rights and legal -rights, but, in the connexion in which the words have been used’ in this debate, they are merely phrases with which men invested with power seek to justify the exercise and continuance of that power. Sovereignty was sought for very naturally, and as naturally obtained, early in Australian history. Civilization and society reached out to other isolated parts of this continent, and local government was demanded. It was mistakenly thought that with the development of Australia along those lines, multiple sovereignties were necessary. The idea is dying hard, but as the union was slowly and painfully born, so the fiction of State rights must, if slowly, at last inevitably perish. It is to the honour of the Labour party that it has surveyed at least the road to Australian nationhood, and future generations must tread it. They will do that’ in their own way, according to their own lights, and in so doing, their craftsmen will be little concerned with the dead timber which this agreement seeks to strew along the track.
– We have had some very interesting reminiscences on the subject of per capita payments, but; if I may be permitted to say so, first the Leader of the Opposition, then the right honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt) and later the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) all made one slight error : They commenced their history in 1909. There are not more than five of us left now who were in the House when this story really began in 1908. The States had been receiving three-fourths of the customs and excise revenue collected by the Federal Government, and all the surplus revenue which the Commonwealth Government did not expend. The Deakin Government, with a handful of supporters, was kept in office by the Labour party. The Labour party, for some time, with the assistance of a number of members on the Opposition side of the House, had been pressing very hard for the introduction of an old-age pension scheme. Mr. Fisher, who was taking a prominent part in the affair, was trying to induce the Government to impose a graduated land tax to meet the cost of the old-age pensions. Mr. Deakin absolutely refused to accept the proposal, showing for perhaps the only time during the period of his federal leadership, some evidence that he possessed a backbone. Then on the 13th March, 1908, Sir William Lyne introduced a Surplus Revenue Bill which took from the States the unexpended revenue they had been receiving from the Federal Government. One week later Mr. Fisher introduced a motion for the inauguration of an old-age pensions scheme, and with the assistance of several members on the opposite side of the House, it was carried on the voices. That happened in 1908, and was the first inroad into the revenues which the States had been receiving from the Commonwealth.
– I remind the honorable member that the discussion is on the third reading of the bill.
– I know it, and I am grateful to you for having allowed me to get in that little piece of history. If the suggestion made by the right honorable member for Balaclava were adopted, that this agreement should be limited to a period of two years, the bill would not be worth a snap of the fingers. If I had not been going to vote for the bill, his speech would have .made me do so. During his political career he has made only one proposal for the settlement of the per capita problem, namely that the 25s. per capita payment should be reduced by 2s. 6d. a year until it came down to 10s.
– And he proposed nothing to take its place.
– No ; he offered no substitute. That is the sole contribution which the right honorable member for Balaclava has made towards improving the financial relations of the Common.wealth and the States, and that proposal fell stillborn, receiving no support. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green) made what I consider a very valuable contribution to the debate, when he impressed upon the Government the enormous responsibilities which the States have to bear. They have to find the money for such things as roads, railways, charitable grants, judiciaries, and police forces, besides education and other services. In my opinion, this bill, far from being too liberal, as the right honorable members for North Sydney and Balaclava have said, could be made still more generous, and yet the States would not receive more than their due. As the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Price) pointed out, the States will have to receive further assistance in any case in the form of special grants. Because of the large populations in New South Wales and Victoria, and the concentration of manufacturing interests in those States, the rest of Australia has for years been paying tribute to them. My own State, for instance, while it buys a considerable quantity of sugar from Queensland, also purchases £6,000,000 worth of goods annually from New South Wales and Victoria. The concentration of manufactures in two States places the rest of Australia at a serious financial disadvantage, a fact which this Parliament will have to recognize. I am not a unificationist ; I am a f federationist. The only way to secure a strong Commonwealth, and an effective Federal Parliament, is to have strong State Governments, and strong State instrumentalities. Australia was in the first instance governed from Sydney, but it was then a very small entity as far as population was concerned. We found it impossible to carry on on that basis, and we shall find ourselves even less able to govern Australia from Canberra. Therefore, instead of trying to undermine the influence and powers of the States, we should, if we wish Australia to grow into a strong, national unit, let the States retain sufficient power to govern themselves, and especially to keep themselves solvent.
– Why does the honorable member support the bill ?
– I shall tell the honorable member why - it is a fair question. I opposed the abolition of the per capita payments when I began my election campaign, but in my State we recognized that if we carried the referendum issue, we endorsed the whole of the financial agreement.
– What nonsense!
– I am stating the position as it existed in my own State. I found opposed to me in Tasmania on this question, the Leader of the Nationalist party, and almost all the members of that party as well as the Leader of the Federal Labour party.
– Order ! The debate is upon the bill as it came from committee. The honorable member is entitled to discuss the scope and purport of the bill, but he is now going into a number of outside matters which do not come within the boundaries of a third-reading debate.
– I agreed to accept the decision of the electors on the financial agreement, and I am now doing so. I did not have an opportunity to speak on the second reading of the bill, and I desire to make my position clear now. I do not agree with the right, honorable member for North Sydney, and the right honorable member for Balaclava, that the sentiment in the country is in favour of unification. It is, I think entirely opposed to it. Time after time the Federal Parliament has sought greater powers from the people and has been refused them. Only 3i years ago the present Government asked the people to authorize an amendment of the Constitution which would enable the Commonwealth Parliament to control essential services. The Government said that it was absolutely necessary for the State Governments to surrender certain powers to the Commonwealth, but the people of Australia turned the proposal down.
– Then why did they carry the present proposal?
– They were faced with a most extraordinary situation.
– Order ! We are not discussing the referendum.
– I have tried to show that these proposals are not too liberal, but that, on the other hand, the States are not receiving to-day from the Federal Government sufficient to enable them to bear their enormous responsibilities. I am speaking now for my own State, and there the leaders of all parties are agreed that this agreement gives them more revenue, and better conditions than they were obtaining under the per capita payments.
– Even the AttorneyGeneral said that that was not so.
– I am not responsible for what the Attorney-General says; I merely stated that the leaders of the Nationalist party, and of the Labour party endorsed this proposal, and it passed through the State Parliament practically without opposition. I do not agree, .however, with the proposal that the agreement should he limited to a term of ten years so as to leave it within the power of the Federal Parliament to alter it at any time. The States were “ had “ once, and they do not want it to occur again. An old Jew once remarked - “ Any man can take me down once, but when the same man does so twice I go out of business.” The Federal Parliament took the States down once over the Surplus Revenue Bill, but the States will not agree to allow the Commonwealth to insert in an agreement purporting to be for a term of 58 years, a clause which enables it to alter that agreement at any time it likes.
– But does the honorable member not think that the Federal Parliament should have the power to initiate proposals for the amendment of this agreement?
– I do not admit that when an agreement is made for a period of 58 years any one party to that agreement should be able at any time to have it altered to suit its own convenience. There is power by referendum to the people to amend the Constitution in any way, but when an attempt was made to provide in the Constitution for the payment of 25s. per head of the population the proposal was rejected. If that had been put into the Constitution at that time there would be no necessity now to try to restore it for ten years.
,- I have been endeavouring to get an opportunity to speak on this measure for many days past; but in the few minutes at my disposal I shall not be able to discuss it in more than a cursory manner. It is unusual to address oneself to a bill of this description at the third reading stage, but we know that extraordinary methods have been adopted by the Government in this instance, and it is only right that one should comment upon the way in which the Government and its supporters have treated the measure. Being of the greatest national importance, it has deserved the most serious attention of honorable members, but the Government has applied the “guillotine,” and many honorable members have had no opportunity of expressing their views. The great majority of those who have spoken are opposed to the bill. We have had the sorry spectacle in the last two or three days of honorable members opposite speaking against it, but voting for it; it has been dealt with along party lines. The whip has been cracked, and honorable members opposite have lined up behind the Government. Men like the honorable member for Fawkner1 (Mr. Maxwell), the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes)., and the right honorable member for Balaclava .(Mr. Wat.t)j have criticized the bill and shown clearly that it should not be accepted, but they have voted with the Government. Parliament has now become an absolute far.ce.
– The honorable member may not speak in disrespectful terms of Parliament. I call upon him to withdraw that expression.
– I have no -desire to show disrespect for this honorable House and I withdraw the expression, hut I regret to find honorable members speaking one way and voting another. Personally I have voted consistently. I oppose the bill because I think that it would be in the interest of the States if the per capita payments were continued. I believe that the present proposal will not stand the test of time, and that we may eventually have to revert to the old system. I fail to understand the attitude adopted by the Premier of South Australia (Mr. Butler), who no doubt was prevailed upon by the persuasive eloquence of the Prime Minister to accept the agreement. One of the reasons why it was accepted by South Australia was no doubt the shocking financial position of that State.
– South Australia is not the only State to which that remark applies.
– No doubt there are other States in the same predicament. The report of the Royal Commission on South Australian Disabilities has not been tabled, but we were entitled to have it before us in considering this measure. I have no doubt that when the “guillotine” is applied the bill will be read a third time, but I hope that the Government will deal generously with South Australia’s application for a grant of £75,000. I should have liked to discuss the financial provisions of the bill, and the subject of the Loan Council, because I became acquainted with some of the work of that body when I was Agent-General for South Australia in London; but owing to the way in which the bill is being rushed through the House I have been denied an opportunity to do so. I regret that the measure will be passed.
.- I did not intend to make any contribution to the debate, and I would not have risen but for the belated suggestion that came from the right honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt), and found ready acceptance by the Government. I could not believe my ears when I heard the Government accept his suggestion that the agreement should be reviewed in- ten years time. If the agreement had one good feature, it was its permanence for 58 years. It seems to me that the States and the Australian people generally have been deceived, if it has been intended by the Government that this review should take place. The whole machinery of the scheme is designed to wipe out the indebtedness of the States in 58 years, and to provide for permanent and definite payments. I am waiting to hear what the various State Premiers and Treasurers think of the suggestion made in this chamber by the right honorable member for Balaclava and the Government’s attitude to it. Time and circumstances may compel us to review the agreement, but its outstanding feature was its permanence, and the fact that in 58 years it would liquidate all the debts of the States. I am amazed, because I supported the agreement and I supported the Government. In the first place I opposed the withdrawal of the per capita payments when no agreement such as this was offered in its place, and I believe that the Government made an excellent arrangement in lieu of its original proposal, but I object to any suggestion, such as that from the right honorable member for Balaclava that at this late hour we should go back upon the agreement that has been ratified by the Parliaments of all the States and is understood throughout Australia. I hope that a further statement will be made by the Government on this most serious matter, because it reflects on the whole Parliament. If this House lends countenance to the review of the agreement before passing it, I shall lose faith in agreements so made.
.- I have only time now to make a personal explanation. The honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Price) said that I had spoken one way on this bill and had voted another. That is a complete misrepresentation of my position. I have not spoken on the bill, nor have I, at any time, said one word that commits me to opposition to it.
-Order! The time allotted for the third reading having expired, I shall now put the question.
Question - That the bill be now read a third time - put. The House divided.
Majority . . . . 5
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Bill presented by Dr. EARLE Page, and read a first time.
– (By leave). - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The object of this bill is to make effective the amendment of sub-section 1 of section 21 of the Income Tax Assessment Act 1922-27 which was made by the amending act of 1928. The legislation of last year was designed to protect the revenue from the heavy loss which threatened it as a result of the judgment of the Supreme Court of Victoria in the appeal Kellow-Falkiner Pty. Go. Ltd. v. The Commissioner of Taxation. The judgment had declared that the law as it then stood required the Commissioner to ascertain whether a company had, during a Commonwealth financial year in which the company had derived its taxable income, distributed at least two-thirds of that taxable income among its members or shareholders. If the company had not made such a distribution during that year, the Commissioner could call upon it to pay additional tax at shareholders’ rates upon the difference between the actual distributions, if any, made by it during that year out of the taxable income mentioned and two-thirds of. that taxable income. The judgment prevented the Commissioner from substituting a company’s own accounting period for a Commonwealth financial year where the two years differed, or from taking into consideration any distributions which the company may have made out of the income after the close of its own income year, or after the close of a Commonwealth financial year where the company’s year ended on the 30th June.
The practice of the Commissioner had been to take into consideration all distributions made by the company out of its taxable income, whether made during or subsequent to the close of the company’s income year up to the date when the Commissioner determined to apply section 21 of the company’s case. Very few of the companies are in a position to make a distribution during an income year out of the profits of that year. As a general rule, a company waits until the close of its income year before ascertaining its profits and before deciding how much of the profits shall be distributed. The acceptance of the judgment of the Supreme Court of Victoria already referred to had the effect of invalidating all previous determinations by the Commissioner under section 21 and all consequential assessment’s, because the Commissioner had not in any case applied his mind to ascertain whether or not during a Commonwealth financial year the company had made any distributions of the profits derived in that year. The 1928 act provided that the existing subsection 1 of section 21 should be replaced by a new provision which should be deemed to have retrospective operation to the date of commencement of the Income Tax Assessment Act 1922, namely, the 18th October, 1922. The new provision that where a company had not before such date prior to the making of the Commissioner’s determination as is fixed by the Commissioner, distributed among its members or shareholders at least two-thirds of its taxable income, the company would be liable to pay the additional tax provided by the section. The retrospective operation of this provision made it necessary for the Commissioner to have fixed such a date in connexion with all past determinations. This had not, however, been done and could not be done ex post facto. The 1928 act did not contain any provision definitely validating all past determinations and consequential assessments, so that the department was not able to take any action to claim additional tax by making assessments upon existing determinations where assessments had not already been made. The additional revenue which it was intended should be collected in such cases could not legally be collected. The authority of Parliament is now being sought to enable the Commissioner to make assessments and collect tax in such cases. This bill will validate all past assessments, notwithstanding that no date had been fixed, and all assessments which have been made, notwithstanding that the company’s trading year did not coincide with the Commonwealth financial year.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Scullin) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 27th February (vide page 608) upon motion by Mr. Gullett -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The bill contains two important provisions, the first being that which effects a sub-division of the duties of the Tariff Board. Hitherto, the board functioned only in full meeting and now it is proposed that it shall be divided into two sections, each of which will have authority to take evidence and prepare reports. “With that I cordially agree, believing that the work of the Tariff Board will be advantageous to Australian industries. There is also provision that the Board may confer with the Director of the Bureau of Economic Research concerning certain matters. I do not approve of that. On the contrary I am hostile to it. From time to time statements have been made by chairmen of directors of companies, by Nationalist and Country party members of Parliament, by busybodies such as Rotarians, constitutional club members, and other “stickybeak” organizations, which appear to take a delight in interfering with the conditions of the workers and giving advice as to what should be done. All these people have been telling us from time to time that production in’ Australia must be upon sound economic lines. In the recent amendment of the Arbitration’ Act, which was strenuously opposed by honorable members on this side of the House, there is a provision that a judge of the court must give consideration to the probable economic effect of his award upon the industry itself and other industries that may be affected. I have no doubt that the views of these employers’ organizations have been conveyed to the Government and have been crystallized in the legislative measures that have come before us in recent years. It would not be in order for me, in the debate on this bill, to trace the history of the various stupid and freakish industrial measures that have been passed by the Federal Parliament. It is clear, however, that the machinery provisions of the Arbitration Act are to be used to break down economic conditions in Australia. Statements have been made before the Tariff Board by various organizations, some of them of mysterious origin. One which I have in mind is the Town and Country Union, which, so far as one can see, has no offices and publishes no balance sheet, and altogether is a most nebulous concern which cannot be said to exist definitely anywhere. Many of these bodies, as I have said, arrange from time to time to be represented before the Tariff Board and always, I notice, they state the freetrade view. Probably many honorable members remember the extraordinary evidence given by a lecturer named Benham, of the Sydney University, last year in regard to a certain range of customs duties. His evidence was so obsolete and inapplicable to modern Australian conditions, and caused so much indignation that apparently the University Senate instructed him not to. offend again in his position as a lecturer attached to the University. At all events he has not been heard of since. Another professor of the Melbourne University, a gentleman whose name for the moment I forget, has published in pamphlet form, a number of speeches antagonistic to the policy of protection which the people of Australia have endorsed for so many years. These gentlemen, it should _ be noted, are regarded as the leading economists in Australia, so the possibility of the Tariff Board being influenced by their views must cause not a little Uneasiness in the minds of those who have the interests of the Commonwealth at heart. We have built up in Australia a system of high wages and good conditions unparalleled elsewhere in the civilized world. We have established the principle of 44 hours in many industries. It is true” that the Government is doing its best to take that away from us. We have established also the basic wage in a number of industries. Again, it is true that the Government is doing its best to break down that standard. We have evidence of this in the present dispute in the timber industry. It would seem that the Government, in introducing this bill desires to have another string to its bow. It proposes to establish a Bureau of Economic Research, which will be presided over by an economist whose ideas may be at variance with those of the peopleof Australia. The bill provides that, in certain circumstances, the Tariff Board may seek assistance from the director of the Bureau of Economic Research - presumably on the cost of production in Australia. When we remember that the leading text books on economics are all based upon European standards of production, it is difficult to see how the conditions with which they deal can be applied to production in Australia.For example, it may be an economic proposition to manufacture certain articles in England, France or Germany; but quite uneconomic in Australia, because of our higher standards and improved industrial conditions. In view of the danger which I foresee, I should like the Minister to define, if he can, the functions of the director of the proposed bureau in consultation with members of the Tariff Board. I am also wondering what was the reason for the visit to Australia recently of the British Economic Mission, popularly known as the “ Big Four.” Had it any bearing on the question now before the House? These glorified commercial travellers, Mr. Amery and the “Big Four,” came to Australia to tell us how we should run this country, and inevitably they expressed the view that many manufacturing industries in Australia were on an uneconomic basis. Honorable members will find in their report various allusions to the high protective tariff in Australia. In one section there appears the following: -
Protection, as its very name implies, is designed for the weak, and the weakness may be that of infancy, that of temporary ailment, or that of inefficiency… It behoves the State, therefore, to keep a very careful watch upon the whole range of protected industries… infant industries are apt to take a long time to grow up and be ready to dispense with their swaddling clothes,…
These are only a few extracts from the report, but they are sufficient to show that the views of the “ Big Four “ are pro-English rather than pro-Australian. They are the ideas of freetraders. These gentlemen have something to sell to the people of Australia, and naturally they will do everything possible to foster British trade, rather than to encourage Australian production. Their report contains a number of what I regard as impertinent comments upon the established policy of the Commonwealth.
– Does the honorable member really mean that they were impertinent in their comments?
– In my opinion they were.
– They were invited to Australia.
– I am aware of that, but I believe they exceeded the terms of their invitation. We are completely in the dark as to the reasons for their visit. The Prime Minister, as is well known, is more English than Australian in his outlook, commercially, socially, and otherwise.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman’s remarks are not relevant to the bill.
– The Prime Minister is constantly referring to what has been done in the British Parliament, and because of his pro-English outlook he invited these people to come to Australia to tell us how we should manage the affairs of this country. Obviously, the intention was to encourage British trade with Australia, to the detriment of Australian industries. Not only the Prime Minister, but his supporters, probably from a feeling of loyalty, spoke in that vein.
– When the Minister was dealing with the bill 1 informed Mm that he could not open up the whole question of the tariff policy - freetrade and protection. The bill relates to the Tariff Board. The honorable member would be quite in order in discussing the principles underlying the bill and the Tariff Act, and . also the proposed amendments opening up new questions. The honorable member was quite in order in discussing the ‘economic question, and he is perfectly justified in making incidental references , to ministerial statements.
Mr.BLAKELEY.- Quite a number of reputable Englishfirms have in the past few years established branches inAus- tralia, but they did not send delegations here to . ascertain whether there was . a marketfor . their products. For instance, Sir Arthur Dorman when Visiting Australia saw the possibilities of Australian industry, and in no time he formed a huge company to control the PortKembla works. One could point to a number of such instances.
– Is not Sir Arthur Duckham establishing a branch of his firm here?
– I believe he is. We always welcome English capital into this country. The more industries that we establish the better it is f or Australia ; hut wecannot foster British trade, and : at the same time protect Australian industries. To attempt to do that would be ridiculous. With reference to the members of the ‘Tariff Board, I . am one of those who believe that good men should be we’ll paid, but I doubt -very much whether the Government should now seek to increase the salaries of those gentlemen. I believe that in Australia can be found suitable and efficient men for ap pointment to the Tariff Board at the present rate of payment. Taking into consideration the desire of the Prime Minister and his followers to cut down wages and to decrease costs of production, it ill becomes the Government to introduce a bill for the. purpose of increasing the salaries of highly-paid officials who may for the time being be appointed to the Tariff Board. The bill provides for consultation between the Tariff Board and the Director of Economic Research. I do not know whether that provision has been inserted at the instigation of the Minister. Judging by his declarations in this House we on this side cannot but be a little uneasy as to how the industries of Australia will fare under his administration of tariff matters. I have been waiting for the Minister to . declare his policy. On the 21-st March last year he said-
– I rise to a point of order. I have no wish to present the honorable member from quoting anything that I have said, but when I was speaking on the second reading you, sir, pointed out the necessity for me to keep to the subject-matter of the bill, and I . ask that the honorable member be requested to do likewise.
– The contention of the honorable member for Darling is . that the salaries of the members of the Tariff Board are being increased, while wages in industries are being decreased. While he confines his remarks to that argument he is in order..
– I frankly say that I am uneasy as to the motive behindthe bill, and particularly . so in viewof the Minister’s statement on the 21st March, 1928, that he was favorable to a substantial reduction of customs andexcise duties.
– From what publication is . the honorable member quoting-?
– From Mansard of 21st March, 1928. The Minister made that declaration when a private member, and itseems to indicate that he is not such a friend of Australian industries as wasthe late Minister.
– The honorable member is not in order in discussing the Minister’s fiscal views, unless he can show definitely that they have some relation to the principles of the hill. The honorable member is perfectly in order in discussing the Tariff Board.
– It may he advisable to ascertain what we may discuss under the bill. I submit that it would be quite in order for an honorable member to discuss the method of appointing the Tariff Board, from what quarter its members should be drawn, and whether they should be permanent officials or representatives of commercial interests. In discussing those questions surely one is entitled to canvass the fiscal views of the Minister who will make the appointments.
– The honorable member may discuss the views of the Minister so far as they relate to the principles underlying the bill. The bill before honorable members is proposed to amend the Tariff Board Act.
– Every one knows that when speaking on the 21st March, 1928, I was referring to revenue duties.
– The Minister may correct any misrepresentation of his views when he replies.
– I have no desire to misrepresent what the Minister said. He undoubtedly stated that he was favorable to a substantial reduction in customs and excise duties. He went on to say that the financial position would be infinitely worse because of the loss of revenue. That has nothing to do with the bill, so I did not quote it at first. That declaration was made when the Minister was a private member, and probably he then had no thought of being Minister for Trade and Customs, because after all, the main qualification for that position would ordinarily be a keen desire to protect Australian industries? Apparently his qualifications, or the speech that he made, so impressed the Prime Minister in his desire to bring about greater trade for any country but Australia, that he was given the job. I again ask the Minister whether he is responsible for the clause under which the Director of Economic Research may supply information to the Tariff Board. I think that I am quite justified in endeavouring to ascertain what was the state of mind of the Minister prior to his appointment as Minister for Trade and
Customs. Because of some of his declarations, and of his first effort here as Minister, I am quite frankly sceptical and uneasy regarding his appointment. I hope that my disquiet is without foundation, that he will follow in the footsteps of his illustrious predecessor, and adopt a policy which will more firmly establish Australian industry.
– The honorable member apparently is now speaking of protecting Australian industry. He must confine himself to the bill.
– I submit that the * bill provides for the establishment of a Tariff Board, and the purpose of the Tariff Board is to foster Australian industry.
– The honorable member said that the Minister should follow the example of his predecessor and then he appeared to proceed to state what his predecessor’s policy was, namely, the establishment of new industries by tariff legislation. He must not speak on those lines.
– I am most unfortunate in that no matter what line of discussion I open up, I am prevented from following it by the Standing Orders. I do not agree with the Standing Orders in that respect, but I bow to your ruling. I think that I am in order in paying a tribute to the late Minister for Trade and Customs for the magnificent way in which he carried out his duties, and I hope that the present Minister will follow in his footsteps. I ask leave to continue my remarks.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Curtailment or Debates - Duty on Bananas.
Motion (by Mr. Gullett) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I desire to enter a protest against the procedure which has been adopted in this House in passing certain legislation. I agree that it is a good thing sometimes to use the guillotine, but it should be used with discretion. I have wished to speak on more ‘than one measure recently, but I have been denied the right to do so. I think that I have been unfairly treated.
When I sought leave to speak, I was told that the measures before the House had been discussed before ; but I was not,, a member of this House then, and I was sent here to oppose some of those measures. If honorable members are definitely obstructing the business of the House, it is quite right to apply the guillotine. In such circumstances, I myself should be unmerciful. But in the cases to which I have referred I think that the Government treated new members unfairly. I feel this matter very keenly, especially as some honorable members on the other side who helped to apply the gag against the Opposition, themselves came into the chamber immediately after the division and took up most of the time allotted.
Mr.GREGORY (Swan) [3.52] . - A few days ago, I asked the Minister for Trade and Customs whether He would refer to the Tariff Board the duty on bananas. I do not think that the present Minister was in Parliament when the present very heavy duty of 8s. 4d. a cental, or1d. a lb. was imposed. For months past, right throughout Australia, the worst bananas ever produced in any part of the world have been sold to the public. The duty on bananas is unduly high. Bananas are one of the finest foods which can be given to children, and should be sold at a reasonable price. I ask the Minister to give the matter further consideration, with a view to having it fully investigated by the Tariff Board.
– I am surprised that this request should come from the honorable member for Swan, who, I understand, professes to be a primary producer. If he is, why is he not prepared to grant protection to the banana-growers of Queensland. The Queensland growers are trying to produce bananas under white men’s conditions, and arc as much entitled to protection as are any other class of primary producers. The honorable member in defaming Queensland bananas seems to be following the old course of depreciating everything Australian. We can produce good bananas here. In Melbourne, only recently, I ate some of thefinest and most richly flavoured bananas I have ever had in my life. If the banana-growers are not to receive protection, the alternative is that Australians must eat the product of black labour. Apparently, the honorable member wants to go back to trading with Fiji. Let us consider the conditions under which those bananas are produced in that island. Does he wish Australians to work under the conditions, and for the wages that are paid to the black workers there? If he does, he is most unAustralian in his views.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 3.55 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 8 March 1929, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1929/19290308_reps_11_120/>.