11th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Sir Littleton Groom) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
Mr. Justice Pike’sreport
– Has the Prime Minister yet received Mr. J ustice Pike’s report upon soldier land settlement?
Mr.BRUCE. - In reply to a question asked last week I said that the latest information I had on the subject was that the report would probably be received in May.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been drawn to the following cablegram which appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald on Monday -
The Dail Telegraph says : “ The harassed taxpayer may well pray that the delicately expressed hint in the statement accompanying the Estimates, with reference to contributions for the Singapore base from the Empire may not be overlooked, and that dominions, which are most earnest in pressing for the Imperial urgency of the base, will emulate the splendid generosity of the Malay States.”
In view of the fact that Australia ha3 comparatively recently spent £7,500,000 on an excellent navy, and that the upkeep of that navy is costing her £3,500,000 pur annum, I suggest to the Prime Minister that that appeal should not be addressed to us, but might at least be addressed to Canada.
– The contribution of the dominion Governments towards the cost of the Singapore naval base was a subject fully discussed . at the Imperial Conference of 1923. At that time Australia had agreed to undertake a five years’ naval construction programme covering two cruisers, a seaplane carrier, and two ocean-going submarines. This programme has now been completed, but the cost of it and the upkeep of the vessels exhausted the financial possibilities of Australia in regard to naval defence for the period of the programme. Our future naval and defence policy will need to be considered now that that programme has been completed. But I cannot, of course, adopt the suggestion that, as head of this Government, I should hint to any other self-governing dominion that it should adopt any particular course in regard to the Singapore base.
– According to press reports, at the Rotary Conference yesterday the Prime Minister was an honoured guest and delivered the opening speech. I observe that the first song on the programme was the Song of Australia. In view of the popularity of this composition and its suitability for the purpose, will the Prime Minister consider making it the National Anthem of Australia?
– I had the honour of attending the Eotary Conference yesterday, when the proceedings were opened by the singing of the National Anthem. I am not prepared to suggest to the people of Australia that they should substitute for the National Anthem any other composition, although I entirely agree that the Song of Australia may suitably be sung on Australian occasions.
– Is the AttorneyGeneral’s delay in taking action against the coal-owners for locking out their employees due to the fact that he desires to consult with Mr. McDonald, the chairman of the Northern Collieries Association, with a view to ascertaining the most suitable owner to prosecute, so that the proceedings may be a vindication of the action of the Government in endeavouring to reduce the miners’ wages?
– There is not the slightest foundation for the insinuation which the honorable member conceives himself at liberty to make.
– I have received from the honorable member for Swan an intimation that he desires to move the adjournment of the House this morning for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, viz., “ the necessity for immediate inquiry as to the best means and methods that may be adopted for the purpose of ensuring ample and cheaper supplies of fertilizers in Australia.”
Five honorable members having risen in their places,
.- I regret having to introduce this discussion at this stage of the session, for I know that the Government is anxious to get through its programme as speedily as possible; but my justification is that nothing is more important to the welfare of our country districts, the general development of our agricultural and pastoral resources, and even the advancement of our secondary industries than the assurance of an ample and cheap supply of fertilizers. We have adopted the policy of high protection in Australia, by which we are endeavouring to build up certain secondary industries; but it is essential to the success of our efforts that we should develop our primary resources, so that we may have an adequate home market for our secondary products. I congratulate the Government upon having reconstituted the Council for Scientific and IndustrialResearch. I had the opportunity a fortnight ago of meeting the members of the Council, and I realized afresh the magnificent work that they were doing. Scientific research must do a great deal to advance Australia, but all the science in the world will prove ineffective unless we make available to our primary producers an abundant supply of superphosphates at the lowest possible price. The value of superphosphates to agricultural and pastoral production was demonstrated beyond all question in the earlier history of South Australia. In the days to which I am referring, the farmers throughout that State were poverty stricken, and Professor Lowrie, with the object of increasing their production, urged them to use superphosphates on their lands. The result was marvellous. In a very short while huge areas of country which had been producing practically nothing, yielded remarkably fine crops. The use of superphosphates waa then adopted in the other States of Australia, and particularly in Western Australia. This, together with the development of drought-resisting types of wheat, brought tremendous areas of land into production which a few years earlier were thought to be quite unsuitable for wheat growing.
An indication of the development that is occurring in Western Australia is contained in Report No. xxxv., issued on the 25th February, 1929, under the authority of the Premier of Western Australia. One paragraph of it reads -
During January the applications for land under conditional purchase conditions totalled 277 for an area of 139,800 acres. There were seven applications for pastoral leases, for an area of 007,000 acres. The conditional purchase applications approved totalled 201 for an area of 279,001 acres, whilst 27 pastoral lease applications wore approved for ,an area of 1,807,843 acres.
The following paragraph dealing with the extension of the wheat belt in Western Australia also appears in the report -
Last year the Commonwealth Meteorologist (Mr. E. B. Curlewis) and the Assistant Meteorologist (Mr. M. E. O’Dowd) prepared an article and rainfall map for inclusion in a Western Australian rainfall volume to be published by the Central Meteorological Bureau. In this article the authors stated that their chief object was to forecast the practical limits of extension of the wheat fields of Western Australia, and the map indicated the area between a line regarded as the present limit of settlement, and a line showing a 7.5-inch wheat period rainfall. After referring to the stages of wheat development in Western Australia and the effect of fallowing, the authors stated : - “ The introduction of improved fallowing methods, therefore, has the virtual effect of increasing the total available rainfall of new farms for established wheat areas, the amount ranging about 30 per cent, (a conservative estimate).
Another interesting fact that the report discloses is that the territory between the present 10-inch rainfall line in Western Australia and the new 7.5-inch line drawn by the meteorological officers, totals over 38,000,000 acres. Of course, a great deal of this is poor, and even dangerous country from the point of view of wheat production. The lack of adequate rains last September, for instance, made impossible of fulfilment the magnificent expectations of harvest in Western Australia. Consequently, numerous deputations have since waited upon the Western Australian Minister for Agriculture to place before him requests that farmers in certain districts should be provided with supplies of superphosphates for next season. All that is possible should be done to ensure a cheap and ample supply of these fertilizers.
The use of superphosphates has not only wonderfully altered the agricultural outlook of the Commonwealth, but has also yielded remarkable results when used in the top dressing of pastures. On this aspect of the subject I quote the following report from Grenfell which appeared in the Sydney Sun on the 11th February -
The sheep from .the top-dressed area since last weighing - five months ago - have shown a gain of 15½lb. per head more than the ones oft’ the untreated land, although the topdressed area has carried two sheep to the acre against one per acre on the untreated land. The top-dressed area shows an abundance of feed, consisting of ball clover, trefoil, and barefoot clover. ‘
I also have a most interesting report on this subject from Professor Arthur J. Perkins, Director of the South Australian Department of Agriculture. It is dated the 13th February, and reads -
In this connexion I have pleasure in forwarding you under separate cover our Bulletin No. 224, in which have been summarized the results of experimental work in this direction in the south-eastern portion of this State, which adapts itself well to phosphatic dressings of pastures. You will notice on page 0 - table 2 - that ordinary pasture land that has hot been seeded to any grasses, but has been dressed with lime and superphosphate averaged, over a period of seven years, nearly three sheep to the acre, whereas similar land untreated carried a little over i of a sheep. This is the exclusive result of top-dressing with phosphatic manures. Other examples which may possibly interest you are given in the course of the pamphlet. In addition to this, of course, the growing of subterranean clover in districts of heavy rainfall is not possible to any degree of advantage unless the land on which subterranean clover has been sown is regularly top-dressed with superphosphate, and as much of our pasture land - in common with that of Western Australia - is relatively poor in character, but has an adequate rainfall, it is certain that the use of phosphates for topdressing will increase more materially in the near future’. In this State, the latest figures (1927) show that 209,922 acres of pasture land were top-dressed with 11,393 tons of phosphates as against 162,355 acres and 0,110 tons of phosphates for the immediately preceding year. It is obvious that fairly appreciable progress is being made, and this progress will be even more marked within the next few years.
I have a great deal of other useful information on the subject, but regret that ‘the time available is insufficient to place it before honorable members. During the last election campaign I visited certain localities in the south-west of Western Australia in. which the pastures had been top-dressed, and I was amazed at the developments that had followed. Land which previously would not carry a sheep to ten acres was carrying two to three sheep to the acre.
These things have caused the demand for superphosphates in Australia to increase enormously, and there is a doubt whether full requirements will be available in a few years. Our consumption has grown from 55,000 tons in 1902 to 463,000 tons in 1923, and 642,000 tons in 1927. I have no doubt that in the near future we shall require for our agricultural and pastoral work more than 1,000,000 tons annually. This matter is of the utmost importance to Australia, because we must be assured of adequate supplies of phosphatic rock, sulphur, and pyrites. In 1926 our importations of phosphatic rock amounted to 326,000 tons. In the following year we imported 558,584 tons.
– Where did it come from?
– Chiefly from Nauru, Ocean Island, and Florida.
– Almost the whole of it came from Nauru and Ocean Island.
– Of Nauru’s total production of 400,000 tons per annum, Australia takes about 70 per cent. In view of the wonderful possibilities of wealth in country which before the use of superphosphates was regarded as almost useless for agricultural purposes, every effort must be made to ensure ample supplies of fertilizers. For the reason that in country with a low rainfall there is always the possibility of a failure of the harvest, it is essential that superphosphates be obtainable at reasonable prices. With all the modern facilities for its manufacture, and the cheapest phosphatic rock in the world, there is no reason why superphosphates should not be obtainable as cheaply in Australia as in other countries. In comparing the prices of fertilizers in different countries, we should base our comparison, not on the price per ton - because of the varying percentages of fertilizing agents in different manures - but on the price per unit. In the United States of America the average price of superphosphate is 2s. 7£d. per unit, but as in that country it is supplied in bulk, whereas in Australia it is sold in bags, the comparison is scarcely fair. We can, however, fairly compare the price of superphosphates in Australia with its price in Britain. There is no reason why the Australian farmer should pay more for fertilizers than the farmer in Britain pays, yet the price in Victoria, South Australia, and Western Australia is about 4s. 9d. per unit, compared with 3s. 4d. in Britain. Farmers in New South Wales are required to pay 5s. a unit, the price of superphosphates in that State being higher than in any of the other States, with the exception of Queensland.
– What is the explanation ?
– I do not know. Perhaps some honorable members who appear to be desirous of maintaining the present prices can offer the House an explanation. In New Zealand the price has been 4s. 9d. per unit, but in Wanganui it has been supplied for as low as 4s. Id. per unit, which is considerably less than the price charged in Australia.
– How long has that price ruled in Wanganui ?
– I am unable to say. In 1927 the price there was reduced to £4 2s. 6d. per ton. While I am not a great believer in bounties, the necessity for obtaining adequate supplies of superphosphates at a reasonable price is so great that it would be better to offer a’ bounty for the production of superphosphates than for the production of coal, or any of the many other things for which bounties are now paid.
– Who was responsible for a monopoly being given to a combine ?
– I am not suggesting that there is a. combine; but, if there is, the sooner it is suppressed and superphosphates made available at reasonable prices the better. I want all the competition possible between the suppliers of fertilizers. Men and women battling in new country in the out-back portions of our State make it possible for our cities to develop. If they are unable to carry on, distress in the cities is inevitable. We can give our people satisfactory living conditions only by increasing the country’s wealth or by borrowing money from abroad. It is essential that research work be undertaken by entomologists and others as to the best means of increasing our wheat production, the propagation of drought and rust-resisting wheats and the prevention of plant diseases, and that adequate supplies of cheap superphosphates be made available.
– What does the honorable member suggest?
– I want a full inquiry into these matters, and I believe that the Government is willing to take steps in that direction.
– Am inquiry has already commenced.
– Does the honorable member favour the appointment of a royal commission ?
– Not if it can be avoided; but the inquiry must be thorough, made by specialists, and immediate. We already have the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research.
– What object has the honorable member in mind?
– A reduction of the cost of fertilizers. I want an inquiry instituted as to the best method of dealing with phosphatic rock’ and of obtaining sulphur and pyrites, so that the cheapest possible material for the manufacture of sulphuric acid can be obtained. The Tariff Board rejected an application that pyrites should be admitted free into this country. Farmers in Western Australia are compelled to rely wholly on American suppliers for the sulphur necessary to manufacture sulphuric acid. That is not right; indeed, it is dangerous. During the war period American producers increased the price of sulphur to £19 pelton. An inquiry into that aspect of the question should be made. It might be worth while to inquire whether a bounty should be offered for the production of fertilizers in Australia. It is strange that in New Zealand, Europe and the United States of America superphosphates can be manufactured much more cheaply than in Australia. I do not know why that should be so. If the Government cannot see its way to supply cheaper phosphatic rock or remove tariff restrictions on materials required for the manufacture of sulphuric acid, something should be done to assist the men who are building up the resources of this country. They should, at least, be able to obtain their superphosphates at reasonable prices. Nitrates extracted from the air have been treated as dutiable as chemicals by the Customs Department, which has not even allowed their use for the manufacture of fertilizers without the payment of a heavy duty. I shall not, however, follow that line of thought this morning. I desire to obtain an assurance from the Government that every effort will be made to meet the huge demand that must arise in the near future for superphospates at a reasonable cost. To this end, I urge that the fullest and most competent investigation be authorized into the ramifications of this industry to ensure ample supplies and a reduction in price to the farmer.
– It will probably be convenient if, at this stage, I indicate the action taken by the Government to ensure adequate supplies of superphosphates. The Government recognizes that one of the most important problems facing Australia today is the provision of fertilizers in sufficient quantities and at reasonable prices.
Indeed, the future development of this country depends on such supplies. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) quoted statistics to show how the use of fertilizers has extended during recent years. The increased use of superphosphates by agriculturists meant the utilization of 642,000 tons of fertilizers in 1926-27 as compared with 375,000 tons in 1920-21.
– Large quantities have also been used on pastoral lands.
– Speaking generally, the increase I have mentioned was due to the utilization of superphosphates by agriculturists; we are as yet only on the fringe of the application of manures to pasture lands. “We can safely assume that the demand for superphosphates in future years will be tremendous, for although we can scarcely suppose that the rapid growth in the use of fertilizers for agricultural purposes which has been so marked in recent years will be maintained, the top-dressing of pasture lands will necessitate large quantities being available if the supply is to equal the demand. The Government has been concerned about this matter for two or three years. The maintenance of adequate supplies of superphosphates was discussed at the Imperial Conference in 1926. The Government consulted with the commissioners of the British Phosphate Company and with Mr. Gaze, the executive head, and arrived at certain figures as to Australia’s superphosphate requirements. I shall not give those figures now, for fear that honorable members might regard me as an alarmist. Suffice it to say that we could see no possibility of supplying Australia’s demand for superphosphates during the ten years commencing 1926. Our present demand for superphosphates is being met almost entirely from supplies from Nauru and Ocean Island. Australia is indeed fortunate in having access to the great deposits of phosphatic rock on those islands. They were taken over by the British, Australian and New Zealand Governments, and capital was found in the proportion of 42 per cent, from Great Britain, 42 per cent, from Australia and 16 per cent, from New Zealand. In accordance with the capital subscribed, those three countries are entitled to their respective pro portions of the output. Fortunately for both New Zealand and ourselves, Britain has never taken any part of the supply to which she is entitled, but a position most serious for us would develop if Great Britain claimed her 42 per cent. The fact is that we have been taking about 70 per cent, of the whole output of the two islands, and New Zealand has had the remaining 30 per cent. A few years ago we were in a position to sell some of the phosphatic rock outside at a large profit, which helped to reduce the price in Australia, but there is no hope of any surplus in future; the difficulty, rather, will be to find a sufficient supply for our own requirements. The first thing to consider is how far we can expand the output from Nauru and Ocean Islands. It is now just over 500,000 tons, and steps have been taken to improve the facilities for loading the phosphatic rock into the ships. Cantilevers are being erected, and everything is being done to improve the possibilities of a greater output. Without doubt, all the phosphatic rock that we shall need for many years to come is to be found on those islands, but it is only possible to get it out in limited quantities.
– How long will that supply last ?
– All sorts of estimates have been made, and 200,000,000 tons i3 one that has been, mentioned; but for all practical purposes the supply is inexhaustible. The difficulty with Nauru Island is that over a period of months a westerly gale blows, rendering it practically impossible to load ships there. In different seasons, the duration of these westerly gales varies. The cantilever system, which accelerates the speed of loading, actually increases the difficulties while the westerlies prevail, because the ships have to be brought under a lee shore, which is a dangerous proceeding when there is any fear of ‘heavy wind from the west. So there are difficulties in regard to loading continuous supplies into the ships. Again there is a limit to the labour supply that can be maintained on the islands. The danger of epidemic disease has to be guarded against ; it might immediately cut off the whole of the output, with the most disastrous results. According to the calculations that we are able to make, it seems extremely improbable that for the next ten years the output can be increased very much beyond 600,000 tons per annum. It may be possible to increase it slightly beyond that quantity, and, conceivably, it will eventually be increased to 1,000,000 tons; but I doubt very much whether we shall ever get a larger quantity than that from those two islands. The problem is to find out how we can obtain the supply required.
During recent years we have had to purchase a certain number of cargoes of phosphatic rock from Morocco and Florida, and, even now, calculations have been made as to what number of cargoes will have to be purchased from outside sources up to the year 1932, in order to meet the demand. That is a very serious position, and it must be faced. The Government has been dealing with it ever since the Imperial Conference of 1926, and I believe that it is possible to find a solution. I am quite certain that, if the Government submitted proposals to Parliament to meet the situation, it would be prepared to give the necessary support. At this moment I can say nothing further on that particular aspect of the case than to point out that the Government is, and has been for the last two years, aware of the seriousness of the difficulty in getting the necessary supplies of phosphatic rock for the manufacture of superphosphates. We have taken every step practicable, and I believe that we are now in sight of a solution of the whole problem. We have been inspired to take action on what I think is even a more pessimistic view of the future supplies than that of the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) . Our estimate of the expansion in the utilization of superphosphate goes rather further than his, and our estimate of the difficulties in getting the supply is greater than that he has indicated.
I have dealt with the obtaining of necessary supplies. Another angle from which the matter must be considered is, how are Ave tq obtain them at a reasonable price. This is a very complicated question, ‘ and it would not be of much use for me to give figures, because, without the fullest explanation, they are tremendously difficult to understand. They all turn upon the phosphatic content of the fertilizer, and that varies in different countries. The basis that the honorable member for Swan has taken is probably the most satisfactory - the cost per unit of content. It has taken the Government a long time to obtain reliable figures on that point. We have had the Development and Migration Commission working on it for about six months, and now, with the assistance of the Phosphate Commission, fairly reliable information has been obtained from all parts of the world. Arriving at a broad conclusion from the figures now in our possession, it looks very much as though the cost per unit of the phosphatic content in Australia for the manufacture of fertilizers is about ls. higher than the average in other countries.
– What is the present day landed cost of rock phosphate?
– I shall deal Avith that matter in a moment. I do not want honorable members to pre- judge the case by saying that they now understand from me that the unit cost in Australia is ls. more than in other countries, and that, therefore, there is something hopelessly wrong, because we have now referred the report of the Development and Migration Commission, and all the figures obtained, to the Tariff Board for a full inquiry into the matter. Replying to the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers), let me say that, the price at which phosphatic rock from Nauru and Ocean Island is brought into Australia is lower than the price at which other countries are getting their phosphatic rock, and this material forms the basis of the fertilizer. We are faced with the position that, notwithstanding the cheapness of the raw material, the price of superphosphates in Australia appears to be high. When the Government obtained that information, it thought that there was only one thing to do, and that was to institute a full inquiry into the whole position. There is also the further fact that the price of superphosphate varies in the different States. The position in New South Wales has been mentioned, and we know that in Queensland the price is higher than the figures indicated.
– That is due to the rail freight.
– Tes; there are many factors to consider. It is unfair to prejudge the ease, because it is being investigated by the Tariff Board.
– The steamer freight on the Australian coast has something to do with the price variations.
– Yes. It is only fair to wait and have the charges analyzed. I have merely dealt with the matter in broad outline.
Mr.Scullin. - Does the Tariff Board come into it other than for the purpose of noting the effects of duties ?
– Yes. The matter has been referred to the board under sections 15 (2) and 15 (1) d of the Tariff Board Act 1921-24, and the terms of reference are as follow: -
Section 15 (2) of the act provides for inquiries and reports by the Tariff Board into -
That is a wider section than any other in the act that has been put into operation, and this inquiry is based on it. The second reference to the board is based upon section 15 (1) d, which refers to -
The necessity for new, increased, or reduced duties, and the deferment of existing or proposed deferred duties.
The only other matter to which I desire to refer is the price of superphosphates in Australia and New Zealand, because there is an impression that Australian prices are very much higher than those in the dominion.
– The honorable member’s time hasexpired.
– I should like to move that an extension of time be granted to the Prime Minister.
– The settled rule of the House is that extensions of time may not be granted unless on the suspension of the Standing Orders by an absolute majority of the members.
Mr.BRUCE.-If the House will permit me to include in my speech the figures relating to prices of phosphate in Australia and Hew Zealand, respectively, I need say no more on the matter at this stage. [Leave granted.] The figures are -
Mr.PARKER MOLONEY (Hume) [11.43]. - I think that we are all impressed with the seriousness of the matter raised by the honorable member forSwan (Mr. Gregory). The supply of cheaper artificial manures to the farmers is of very great importance. Personally, I am not greatly impressed by the’ utility of adjournment motions of this kind in order to arrive at a definite cure of evils such as that to which attention has been directed to-day. Two years ago the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) moved the adjournment of the House to discuss this problem. If we examine the speech that the Prime Minister made on that occasion, we find that it is practically on all fours with his remarks to-day. He previously pointed to the fact that the matter was a very serious one, and said that there was the greatest possible urgency for a most exhaustive investigation. Two years have gone by, and the
Prime Minister now repeats that the position is very serious. If we live long enough, somebody will investigate the matter and get down to tin tacks.
– Somebody did investigate if, and said that a reduction could not be brought about, but a reduction occurred notwithstanding that statement.
– That is so,, but it was all done apart from Government action. Co-operative companies in New Zealand and elsewhere went into the matter, and found that chey could sell superphosphates more cheaply than the proprietary companies. There must be something wrong with the method’ by which the commodity is handled. The only difference between the Prime Minister’s speech to-day, and that which he delivered two years ago is that this morning he informed us that during strong westerly winds it is difficult to- ship phosphatic rock from Nauru.
– Notwithstanding that, the right honorable gentleman admitted that Australia is getting its raw material at a cheaper rate than any other country in the world.
– Yes ; that; is an important admission, and suggests1 that an- investigation should be made into the operation of the fertilizer combine which is victimizing the farmers.. I agree with the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) that wonderful results have followed the use of fertilizers, not only on agricultural lands, but also on pastoral’ areas where,, by using fertilizers as a- top dressing, the carrying capacity of pasture lands has been increased, in some instances, from one to two sheep per acre. The Prime Minister stated that the unit cost in Australia is ls. higher than in the other countries he mentioned. The information supplied to the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart), in answer to a question, shows that the price in the United States of America-
– That is for bulk supplies.
– Yes, but even allowing for that difference, particulars of which are set out in the answer to the question, the American users of fertilizers are obtaining supplies at cheaper rates than primary producers in Australia.
– What are the comparative prices ?
– In the United States of America the price of 16 per cent, to 18 per cent, water soluble phosphoric acid is for bulk supplies, ex works, £3 2s. 74d., plus the cost of bags and bagging, which would be about 10s. per ton, whilst the price in New Zealand is £4 17s. 6d., and in New South Wales £5 7s. 9d. per ton, or £5 4s. 9d. for cash. In consequence of the agreement entered into between the British Government, the New Zealand Government and the Commonwealth Government concerning supplies from Nauru and Ocean Islands we ought, because of our geopraphical position, to be obtaining fertilizers at a cheaper rate. The Prime Minister stated this morning that the supply of phosphatic rock on these islands is almost inexhaustible.
– The difficulty is in shipping it.
– What difficulties are- there? Surely- labour is cheap enough! If the supply is inexhaustible, the Government should not have been- sitting’ down on the job for two years. Unfortunately, the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory), who stressed the necessity for the reduction of price, did not suggest a remedy. He merely expressed the hope that the Government would cause an inquiry to be made. Did the honorable member mean that a royal commission should be appointed, or that the. subject should be inquired into by the Public Works Committee or the Public Accounts Committee ? He merely raised the question-
– He has rendered good service in bringing the matter under the notice of the Government.
– The honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers): rendered a similar service two years ago, when the Government promised to cause inquiries to be made> but, apparently nothing has been done. If the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) really wishes to assist tho primary producers, he should have made a definite proposition on which honorable members could record their votes. The only way of solving, the problem is for the Government to undertake the hewing and shipment of the phosphatic rock and the handling of the product until it is delivered to those requiring it. It is useless to say that the farmers are the backbone of the country, unless we take definite action to assist them. The supply of fertilizers at a reasonable rate is of such importance that the Government should assume complete control.
– If the Government were to assume complete control of the whole business the primary producers would possibly have to pay more than they are at present paying.
– I know the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Killen) is opposed to Government control.
– He is not where wine is concerned.
– No; the honorable member for Riverina is supporting the Government in its proposal for controlling the marketing of wine.
– I have always been opposed to Government control.
– The honorable member believes it is the duty of the Government to assist the marketing of rice, grapes, wine, and tobacco, but he does not think it should handle artificial manures in the interests of primary producers. In the brief time at my disposal, I have suggested the means of overcoming the difficulty with which we are now faced, and I trust the Government will, in the interests of the primary producers, seriously consider the necessity of assuming control of the business.
– I am sorry, that the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney) has dealt with this subject, which is of vital importance to the Australian people, from a party stand-point. Two years ago I had the privilege of raising this question in the House and of placing before honorable members certain facts which I do not intend to repeat to-day. In response to my request that an inquiry should be conducted the Australian representative on the Phosphate Commission was instructed to fully investigate the conditions under which the industry was operating. He reported that superphosphate could not be sold at a. lower price; but, in a short time, it was actually reduced by 3b. 6d. a ton.
– The honorable member knows the reason.
– The honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill) can give the reason if he desires. The subject is of such importance to the primary producers that a royal commission should be appointed, with power to examine witnesses on oath, and to call for the production of all necessary documents, to inquire into the whole subject. My chief concern is that the Australian primary producer shall obtain an ample supply of superphosphates at the lowest possible price. It will not be amiss if, at this juncture, I remind honorable members that it was through the valour and great- service rendered by Australian soldiers in the war that Australia became joined with Great Britain- and New Zealand in the control of Nauru Island which formerly belonged to Germany. As the result of negotiations carried out by the former Prime Minister (Mr. W. M. Hughes), Great Britain, Australia and New Zealand secured a mandate over Nauru Island and the Government of Great Britain, with characteristic generosity, included Ocean Island in the arrangement. The agreement provided that Great. Britain and Australia should each be entitled to 42 per cent, of the output in rock phosphate and that New Zealand would take 16 per cent.; but as Great Britain, being in a position to secure her requirements elsewhere, has, up to the present, permitted Australia to take 70 per cent, of the output from Nauru Island. Tinder this arrangement Australia obtains the raw material at cost price from the commission.
– Does Australia pay anything by way of royalty for Britain’s share of the deposits?
– We have not yet paid anything even to the sinking fund, though we get the raw material at cost price.
– What is the price ?
– It was 46s. a ton at the time of my last investigation. I asked the Prime Minister to-day what is the present price, and, so far, he has not furnished the information. At all events, it is the cheapest and best rock phosphate in the world.
– -The present price is 45s. 6d. a ton. Last year it was 47s. 6d.
– The present price is a reduction of 6d. a ton upon the price ruling when I last inquired. We cannot hope to obtain the raw material at a lower price because the labour employed at Nauru Island is the cheapest in the world and the price charged to Australia by the commission is not loaded with shippers’ profits. I claim that the Government, which supplies to the manure companies the phosphate rock at cost price, has the right as well as the power to police the supply of artificial manures up to the point of delivery to our primary producers. I do not approve of State interference with private enterprise. I do not believe that the State should engage in business or manufacturing undertakings; but in a matter like this the Government has a perfect right to exercise its authority to ensure an ample supply of superphosphates to our producers at a reasonable price, and also to take all steps necessary to ensure an adequate reserve of the raw material on the mainland so that avc ‘shall not be forced to carry on from hand to mouth. Under existing arrangements manufacturers at times draw supplies of the raw material from Florida and elsewhere, and no doubt pass on to primary producers the higher prices which they have to pay for the raw material. An attempt was made many years ago to make Australia self-contained in the production of superphosphate, by using our base metals for the manufacture of sulphuric ‘ acid. That is an old story already told. Unfortunately the British Empire contains no sulphur beds and sulphur acid, as honorable members know, is an essential ingredient in the manufacture of superphosphates, as is rock phosphate. The chief sulphur beds are in America, Spain, Japan and Sweden. Australia is deficient in whole sulphur deposits, but has enormous deposits of low grade ores highly charged with sulphur. Several years ago the government of which I was a member, gave its attention to the problem of making Australia independent of other countries in this respect, the object being to encourage the production of sulphuric acid in Australia, and, eventually, to gather together a great band of chemists whose services in time of great emergency, such as the outbreak of war, might be of supreme importance in the defence of this country. That policy, however, was reversed, and I have no desire to say anything about that phase of Commonwealth policy at this stage. I believe, however, that the Government should authorize a thorough investigation of the whole of our resources in artificial manures. I should not be content, if I were Prime Minister, to be told that there was practically a limitless supply of rock phosphates at Nauru and Ocean Islands. I should not be satisfied until I had taken steps to have a complete survey made of the whole of Australia’s resources, with the object of making Australia absolutely independent of outside supplies in time of war. Whatever Government may be in power, it has a definite obligation to our primary producers. There is nothing more fundamental to the development, progress and wealth of this country than an abundant supply of cheap superphosphates. It is the primal, it is the fundamental, essential to successful production. I am not a believer in bonuses, gratuities, and other artificial aids; but I believe that the Government should take action to ensure an ample supply of this basic material to our primary producers at the lowest prices possible, and at this point of production I would reconsider any objection I might have to anything in the nature of a bonuty
– That is a much better term.
– It is of supreme importance that our farmers should have an adequate supply of cheap superphosphates. Given this aid, they should be in a position to carry on without seeking assistance in the way of bounties, gratuities or doles of any kind on the products of their industry. We must not forget that our primary producers to-day are confronted with high-priced land, high labour cost, and, unfortunately, a falling world’s market for their products. We are indebted to the honorable member for Swan for having introduced this subject to-day, and I hope that the Prime Minister will widen the inquiry. I am not sure, but I believe that the Tariff Board has all the powers necessary for a complete investigation of this subject. I am not charging those engaged in the manufacture of artificial manures with nefarious practices, but I suggest that an oversupply of manufacturing plants is largely responsible for present high prices. If ever there was justification for a merger it is in respect of the production of artificial manures for our primary producers. The nations’ action in ensuring a supply of rock phosphates in Australia at cost price is a magnificent’ contribution to a basic industry; but’ it should go further. The price charged to our primary producers for superphosphate should not be governed by the capacity or the incapacity of some private firms, nor should it depend on trade arrangements as to price or quality. The whole matter is of continent-wide importance.
The right honorable the Prime Minister mentioned the increasing use of superphosphates for top-dressing of pastures. This matter is being investigated in several of the States and I know of uo examination that is more intensive and scientific than that which is being conducted by Dr. Richardson at the Wai te Institute in South Australia. Personally I am not convinced that the top-dressing of pastures is advisable in all parts of Australia. In many areas the rainfall is too light, and the soil is not suitable. I believe it will be found, upon scientific investigation, that the indiscriminate use of superphosphate for top-dressing of pastures, is inadvisable. Superphosphate, owing to its sulphur acid content, forces production in a short space of time, and instead of enriching, it robs certain soils, which require to be built up. To a certain extent we are in the earlier stages of our investigation of this problem. Laboratory tests have disclosed that Australian soil, speaking generally, is deficient in phosphoric acid, and because superphosphate acts as a stimulant, and does not enrich the soil, but rather excites a quick response, I am not convinced that its use for top-dressing of pastures will become the universial practice in Australia. I favour top dressing with basic phosphate, which builds the soil and becomes a permanent factor in its enrichment.
.- This matter is of the very greatest interest to all our primary producers. The honorable member for Swan, the mover of the motion, stressed the importance to our primary producers of an adequate supply of cheap superphosphates, but he did not suggest a remedy for the present state of affairs. The honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) was more logical. I intend to support him in his advocacy of the appointment of a royal commission to inquire into the whole of the ramifications of the industry. Very few will doubt the value of superphosphate as an aid to wheat growing. I intend to deal with its use for that particular industry apart from its value as a top-dressing for pastures, in respect of which I endorse the remarks of the honorable member for Wannon. I ‘ have been interested in wheat growing tests in conjunction with the Department of Agriculture for some years, and I have conducted experiments in the Mallee district of Victoria yearly since 1916. Our experiments began in 1916, when amongst a number of others one plot was sown with 60 lb. of superphosphate, and yielded 20 bushels 59 lb. per acre, while an adjoining plot, sown without manure, yielded only 7 bushels 29 lb. per acre. That, although an extreme case, is an authentic one. Our experience has shown that light, sandy soil will give a greater proportion of yield from heavy dressings of superphosphate than will heavier land.
– Does it not depend greatly upon the moisture in the soil i
– It does. Dr. Richardson, upon inspecting those two plots, stated that it was the most remarkable illustration of the value of superphosphate that he had ever seen. It was used on light, sandy, new land, in a wet season. One could not expect as favorable a return in a season of light rainfall. The average yields over the past thirteen years, including seasons both dry and wet, for the plots to which I have referred are as follow : -
The general impression existed among the Mallee farmers prior to 1916 that any application of superphosphates above 35 lb. to45 lb. an acre would burn off the crop, and it was held that if more than 40 lb. of superphosphates was applied to the acre it would be not only wasting superphosphate, but would reduce the yield. Our experience, except in the year 1928, falsifies that theory. When we found that an application of 90 lb. of superphosphate to the acre produced better results than a 40 lb. application, we decided to experiment with 120 lb. of superphosphate to the acre, and the results were favorable, with the exception of the year 1928, when one of the two plots sown with 120 lb. yielded less than the plots sown with 90 lb. superphosphate.
Mr.Curtin. - Drought conditions were extreme during the year 1928.
– That is so. Also, the plots sown were of extremely rich soil. The following figures are taken from the report of the second Mallee Agricultural Convention, which was held at Ouyen on 11th, 12th and 13th October, 1928, and deal with the experimental plots to which I have referred : -
That table contains an apparent contradiction, that the application of 60 lb. superphosphate yielded less than the 30 lb. application. That is due to the fact that the plots were of one acre each, and, therefore, soil variation came into account. ‘ It is proposed in furture to have plots of l-32nd of an acre instead of one acre, and to duplicate andtriplicate them in an endeavour to counteract soil variations. While the layman might consider that large plots would be better than small ones, it is found impossible, with large plots, to obtain an area of land of uniform character.
Reducing the value of these manurial trials to terms of £ s. d., it was found that if the wheat is valued at 4s. 6d. a bushel, and the cost of superphosphate taken at £6 a ton, allowing about11s. per ton for freight and cartage to the farm, the following figures show the increase in return due to the various dressings of fertilizer: -
That table plainly demonstrates the important effect of superphosphates upon the wheat yield, particularly in light rainfall belts.
Mr.Curtin. - Is there any variation in the yield year to year?
– Sometimes the increase due to the use of superphosphate is greater when there is a wet year. Generally speaking, those averages are experienced not only in experimental plots, but in large areas.
With the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney), I am positive that the formation of a co-operative superphosphate company has favorably influenced the price of superphosphates. Prior to the advent of that company there existed a manure combine known as the Australian Fertilizers’ Association. If time would permit I should go more fully into the circumstances; but, summarized, the position is that farmers believe that the combine which has been provided with the best phosphate rock available in the world, at the lowest possible prices, and sheltered by a tariff, has for many years exploited the primary producers. But for the coming of the cooperative company it would still be exploiting producers. That has been the experience of myself and others as buyers of superphosphates. It has been noticeable that when one company associated with the combine raised its prices every other company did so.
– Did no company stand out?
– Is the Cresco Company in that association?
– I am not sure of that. A reduction of prices occurred im- mediately that the co-operative company began operations. Previously, not only were the prices of the associated companies similar, but their analyses of superphosphates and their general terms of business, including discounts for cash and interest on unpaid promissory notes were also the same. They instituted an advertising bureau, appointed a publicity chief, and filled the columns of the weekly and rural papers which circulated among the country districts with propaganda extolling the virtue of superphosphate, so increasing the demand. They evidently acted in the belief that there was sufficient room for them all. I suggest that the facts of the case are sufficiently apparent to justify the Government taking more definite action than it has done. The Development and Migration Commission has investigated the position of other industries. With what result? It laid down standards of efficiency for the dried fruits and canned fruits industry that are not equalled in any other industry. If the production of superphosphates were conducted on the same basis of efficiency, we should have a very substantial reduction’ in the price. The commission decided that there were too many packing sheds for the dried fruits growers, and that they should be reduced. According to the press reports, it now intends to suggest that there are too many canneries. Certainly, as the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) remarked there is a very large number of superphosphate companies. The industry is really in an uneconomical condition, because of the crop of companies that has came into existence of late years. Yet another company is intruding upon this lucrative field - lucrative at the expense of the primary producers of Australia - and I urge the Prime Minister to take a serious view of the position. I believe that the right honorable gentleman does so, as his speech indicated that he realizes the necessity for action. I suggest that it would meet with the unanimous approval of all honorable members if he announced that it was his immediate intention to establish a royal commission, clothed with full powers of investigation, to go into the ramifications of the superphosphate industry.
.- As a representative of the primary producers, I fully realize the importance of this matter. Something will have to be done, and along lines different from those proposed by the Government. It is not enough merely for the Government to make promises once or twice a year. The welfare of our primary producers even more so than that of the secondary industries, is of paramount importance.’ We know that the secondary industries are considerably handicapped by the difficulty of obtaining a market, due to the excessive cost of production. I doubt whether many of them are able to produce at a profit.
– Those in Tasmania might possibly do so.
– ‘The number of secondary industries in Tasmania would certainly be increased if the cost of production became lower. We should seek Jo provide our primary producers with cheaper fertilizers. We know that excellent phosphatic rock is landed in Australia at a cheaper price than obtains elsewhere. That is an excellent starting point; but why has the Australian farmer to pay such an excessive price for superphosphates? Whether this inquiry is conducted by a Royal Commission or any other tribunal, it will not be worth anything unless the subject is closely investigated from the time when the phosphatic rock is landed in Australia until the manufactured article is placed on the market. We should be told what agency is responsible for the present trouble. Those who represent primary producing districts should come together and see that the matter is kept moving* until definite results have been obtained. With the assistance of honorable members of the Country Party, those of us who represent . primary producing districts ought to be able to secure the reduction of the tariff where it affects farming implements and other articles that are needed in primary production. The Country Party is pledged to that course; and ever since I have been in Parliament I have held the view that action should be taken along those lines.
– What pressure does the honorable member intend to apply to the Treasurer?
– I do not care what action is taken so long as we obtain the desired results. I invite the Government to take notice of what I say.
– Under the powers that the Tariff Board already possesses, it will be competent for it to make as full an investigation as could be made by a Royal Commission.
– The actions of the Tariff Board in connection with this matter will be very closely scrutinized. If it does not present a more satisfactory report than some of those which we re,ceive from it, we shall not make much progress towards a solution of the problem. Every year the demand by the farmers for superphosphates is increasing. That, however, is not the only fertilizer that wo require in Australia. It is not suitable for some of our lands. I want . the primary producers to be given a fair chance to produce as cheaply as possible. After all, they are the mainstay of Australia. Is it conceivable that a man who is running a business, one line of which has a greater influence upon his stability than any other, would hamper and harass it? No. Yet Australia’s greatest line of business - primary production - is hampered in every possible way by excessive tariffs and other means. The time has arrived for us to take a businesslike view, and to ensure that fertilizers are supplied as cheaply as possible to the men who produce the wealth and keep Australia going. It is not the secondary industries, important though they are, which are keeping Australia afloat at the present time. We do not export lOd. worth of some manufactured articles, with which we ought to be able to flood the markets of the world if the cost of producing them were not so high. It is time that we removed many of the causes of the high cost of production in the primary industries.
.- - If the debate which has been initiated by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) will cause the Government to take immediate action, it will not have been in vain. But the speech of the Right Honorable the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) does not satisfy me. The question of making available to the primary producers of Australia adequate sup plies of fertilizers at a reasonable price, is of transcendent importance. In a speech which he delivered two years ago -the Prime Minister, replying to the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers), said, “No matter is of greater importance to Australia at the present time than the price of superphosphates.” To-day, he expressed a similar view; yet in the last two years nothing of a practical nature has been done by his Government. Doubtless in another two years the right honorable gentleman will still be found acknowledging the importance of the matter, but excusing his lack of action on the ground that he had been prevented from doing anything on account of the multifarious problems that had confronted the Government. He stated this morning that he had referred the matter to the Tariff Board. Is that board competent to make the investigation that is required; and even if it is, what length of time will be occupied in making it?
– The Tariff Board has so many other questions to inquire into, that it will not be able t’o devote much attention to this for some time.
– That is so. I represent a large number of primary producers, and I know that . it has taken the Tariff Board nine and a half months to present to the Minister for Trade and Customs a report in relation to the question of effec.tive protection for the cotton industry.
– No fiscal issue is involved in this question.
– The only questions involved are, whether the maximum quantity of phosphatic rock is being obtained from Nauru Island, and whether the retailers of superphosphates are justified in charging £5 10s. a ton for the manufactured article when the rock is landed in Australia for £2 5s. 6d. a ton.
– Are the manufacturing processes up to date?
– That is a very important aspect. The members of the Tariff Board may be very estimable gentlemen, but I hazard the opinion that they do not possess the necessary expert knowledge to investigate this subject properly. Although the Prime Minister recognizes the importance of the matter, the output from Nauru Island has not been materially increased over a number of years, as will be seen from the following figures: -
In the first half of 1922, the price charged by the commission for rock phosphate lauded in Australia, was from 75s. to 80s. a ton. On the 1st July of that year, the price was reduced to 49s. 3d. a ton in the eastern States, and 52s. 3d. a ton in Western Australia. In 1923, the price charged in all the States was fixed at 46s. a ton ; and at the present time it is 45s. 6d. a ton. The principal ingredients of superphosphate are rock phosphate and sulphuric acid. The price charged to-day for superphosphate in Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia is £5 5s. on terms and £4 17s. 6d. cash; in New South Wales it is £5 7s. 9d. on terms; in Queensland it is £8 7s. 6d, on terms ex store; and in Tasmania it is £5 17s. 6d. on terms. In the United States of America the price at works is £3 2s. 7d. a ton in bulk quantities; and in South Africa it is £3 3s. a ton. I should like the Minister to explain what justification there is for the difference between the price at which the rock phosphate is landed in Australia and that at which superphosphate is retailed. The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart) has quite rightly said that a huge monopoly is making exorbitant profits. The farmer is the victim of the rapacity of the fertilizer companies, who are strangling the (man on the land with the connivance of this Government. The Prime Minister has not dealt with the matter in a practical way; he has merely uttered platitudes. I am not convinced that the Tariff Board will find a solution of the problem. I believe that it and other boards which have been appointed by the Government are frequently used as a means for shelving these questions. The Tariff Board has so many investigations in hand that it will not be able to complete this inquiry within the next twelve months. Then, when honorable members suggest that steps should be taken immediately, they will be told by the Minister for Trade and Customs and the
Prime Minister that they could not make suggestions to the board or attempt to arrange the order in which it should investigate the different questions that had been referred to it. The board will doubtless give preference to purely fiscal matters. The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney) has made the practical suggestion that, as the Commonwealth Government controls 75 per cent, of the raw output from Naura, it should assume control of the manufacturing side of superphosphate and the distribution of superphosphate throughout Australia. If that cannot be done then the raw product should bc handed over to the farmers’ co-operative enterprises. It is useless for the Government to promise that every consideration will be given to the farmer, if it will not come to his assistance when he is being charged exorbitant rates by the fertilizer companies. They know that these fertilizers are a necessity, and they have the primary producers in their grip. That is why I strongly support the suggestion of the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney), and join with him in urging that the Government do something practical. Parliament should not be allowed to go into recess until something is done to control the output of phosphate rock from Nauru, and the manufacture of superphosphate in Australia, so that it may be sold to the farmers at the lowest possible price.
.- Honorable members should feel indebted to the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory), for bringing this important matter forward. As the word “ service “ is the greatest word in our language, so is superphosphate, provided it can be supplied at a reasonable price, the most important thing for Australia. Cheap phosphate is of the utmost importance, not only to the farmer, but to the Australian people as a whole. I do not see anything to recommend the suggestion of the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney), and the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde). It has been admitted that the phosphatic rock reaches Australia cheaper than it reaches other countries; but it is the cost of processing within Australia that brings the price of the finished article above that prevailing elsewhere. The honorable members for Capricornia and Hume have consistently lent their aid to increasing the cost of living in this country by their support of high tariffs, and high wages. We cannot have it both ways, and we get down to basic principles in the matter of processing superphosphate. One of the great problems in Australia to-day, particularly in the Eastern States, is to find land for those desiring to go on it. The application of superphosphate to land would double its producing value, if not treble it. That suggests one way out of the problem of land shortage. The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart) has shown that the application of this fertilizer not only increases the weight of the fodder grown, but also its value. It would be possible for this country, by a liberal application of superphosphate, to compete in the mutton and fat lamb trade with other countries, as we cannot do now. I commend the suggestion of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin),, when speaking on another issue a little while ago, that the members of this House should come together, not in a spirit of carping criticism such as has been exhibited by two or three honorable members of the Opposition, but with a desire to find a solution of this great problem.
I compliment the Prime Minister on his sincerity, and upon the action which he proposes to take. He should direct the board to inquire whether phosphatic rock is not available in certain islands surrounding this continent at a lesser distance, and in greater quantities, than at Nauru.
– That matter is being dealt with separately from the issue which is to be referred to the Tariff Board.
– I do not agree with the right honorable gentleman that the recent increase in the use of superphosphates is an indication of greater agricultural activity. I believe that the great increase from 300,000 tons to 600,000 tons was due largely to the increased use of superphosphate by pastoralists who are just beginning to realize the advantages of the application of manure to ordinary pasture, lands. Only a beginning has been made yet. Pastoralists are using just as much manures on their pastures, as agriculturists use on their land. There is no limit to the demand for, and the profitable use of, superphosphate in this country, and no more important subject could engage the attention of honorable members than consideration of some means of obtaining cheap fertilizers.
.- The importance of this matter has been emphasized by other honorable members in discussing the motion moved by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory), and there has been shown a general appreciation of the need for an inquiry. I rise for only one purpose, to join with other honorable members who have urged the Prime Minister to submit this matter for inquiry to a royal commission rather than to the Tariff Board. This is a work that should be undertaken by men chosen especially for the job. It is very important, more so, perhaps, than many other things which have engaged the attention of the Tariff Board, but my chief reason in urging that this be submitted to a royal commission is that the Tariff Board is already overloaded. The commission should consider also the supply of all classes of fertilizers which are of use in agricultural and pastoral development. If this inquiry is left to the Tariff Board nothing will be done for many months, and perhaps no report will be submitted for a year or more. A great many matters have already been submitted to the board, and priority will not be given to this. The inquiry should be commenced next month, and the report presented to the House at the earliest possible moment. I urge the Prime Minister to reconsider his decision, and appoint a special tribunal so that the work may be expedited, and the House informed as early as possible why superphosphate should be dearer in Australia than elsewhere, although the phosphatic rock itself is landed here at a low price. The primary producers should have full confidence in the tribunal, and be assured that it will get at the facts.
– I rise for the purpose of correcting the impression that the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) apparently wished to create. He said that the high tariff was responsible for the high price of superphosphate. According to Item 403 of the Tariff Schedule, superphosphate manufactured within the British Empire from rock obtained within the Empire is admitted to this country free of duty, while on superphosphate “ not elsewhere included “ the duty is 10, 15 and 25 per cent. The 25 per cent, duty is levied chiefly on superphosphate obtained from Japan, practically the only country in competition with us. Surely we should be prepared to protect our own workers against the competition of Japan and coloured labour in South Africa. Coloured labour enters quite sufficiently into the production of this manure in quarrying the rock at Nauru. I believe that the day is not far distant when superphosphate will be superseded by a number of substitutes. As the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) has hinted, the extraction of nitrates from the air, as is being done in Germany to the extent of hundreds of thousands of tons a year, will solve our problem.
– That will never supersede phosphate manure, but will be a valuable addition to it.
– It may not supersede phosphate, but it will make us less dependent upon it. I contend that there is no excessive protection at the present time on superphosphate.
– The importance of this subject has been .emphasized in speeches from both sides of the House. Most speakers, however, seem to have failed in a realization of the possibilities of our own country for the production of superphosphate. At Captain’s Flat, only a short distance from Canberra, there is an old copper field. A company has been formed, called the Lake George Mining Company, with a capital of £1,500,000, for the purpose of obtaining pyrites and producing superphosphate. Already £1,182,000 cif the proposed capital has been subscribed. There is an associated company, with British capital to the amount of £2.100,000, of which £957,000 has been subscribed. This company will be associated with the other for the manufacture of superphosphate in Australia.
– Will they be able to sell it cheaper than it is being sold now?
– I understand it will be cheaper. In the works which are now contemplated the company will be able t~ treat 150,000 tons of ore per year. From this it could obtain 50,000 tons of pyrites which would give 20,000 tons of sulphur. This would be enough to make 150,000 tons of superphosphate. The company estimates that the output could be doubled if demand warranted it, so that no less than 300,000 tons of superphosphate a year could be produced. This is more than is used now in the two States of New South Wales and Victoria. The company needs a protective duty, and this Parliament should help it. The movement for cheaper manures must be considered in relation to the needs of the country as a whole. It is estimated that in a few years 5,000 people will be employed directly and indirectly in this industry at Captain’s Flat. During the last year or two the company has spent £130,000 putting down bores, and testing the available supply of ore at Captain’s Flat, and it has been established that there is at least 1,500,000 tons of ore which can be exploited. A further sum is allocated to be spent this year.
– At what price will the fertilizer be sold?
– I do not know exactly, but a protective duty is necessary to enable the industry to be established. I understand that the Tariff Board has already reported on the matter, and recommended that such a duty be imposed.
Debate interrupted under Standing Order 119.
Sitting suspended from 1 p.m. to 2.15 p.m.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence. upon notice -
– Inquiries are being made and a reply will be furnished to the honorable member as soon as possible.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s question’s are as follow : -
Nationalization of Industry-Action Against Mine-Owners
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
In view of the fact that the coal-owners in New South Wales, by “locking out” their employees and closing down their mines, have failed to maintain supplies vital to industry, thus holding the country to ransom, and have also refused to make their books available for inspection, will the Government, through its own instrumentalities or through the Government of New South Wales, take steps to nationalize the mining industry, so as to ensure that supplies will be maintained and industry proceed uninterrupted?
– The Government has no intention of taking any steps, directly or indirectly, to bring about the nationalization of the coal-mining industry.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
In view of the fact that the coal-miners are governed by a Federal Coal Tribunal under the Industrial Peace Act 1920, and have been “locked out” by the proprietors, will he take action against the coal mine-owners, under section thirty of the said Act?
– I am not prepared to announce in advance what action of this character the Government may take.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s question’s are as follow : - 1 and 2. The information is being obtained.
Expenditure - Schemes Approved
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
With reference to his statement on the. 11th instant in reply to a question by the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Price) regarding the Development and Migration Commission, will he state -
the total amount of money spent in each State;
particulars of the schemes approved by the commission in each State; and
what development work, if any, has this commission initiated in each State?
– The information is being obtained.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
With regard to the question recently asked without notice by the honorable member for
Perth (Mr. Mann), has any action been taken concerning the recent death of a trainee at theLord-street Drill Hall, Perth; if so, will the Minister make a statement on the matter ?
– An exhaustive inquiry has already been instituted in connexion with this matter.
Reciprocity with Great Bbitain.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
– Yesterday the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green) asked me the following questions, upon notice -
I am now in a position to furnish the following replies: -
Medic al Examination.
– On the 14th February the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Coleman) brought under my notice the case of an assisted migrant who had been sentenced to imprisonment and who had been stated to be mentally deficient. Inquiries have been made in the matter, and it has been ascertained that this migrant, who is referred to as Maurice Gill, is identical with Alexander Norris Gill, an assisted migrant who arrived in Queensland by the Orama in September, 1926. The boy, then 18 years of age, was placed in employment by the immigration agent at Brisbane, and gave quite satisfactory service for a year. From that point onwards Gill preferred to secure his own employment without the aid of the Immigration Department, and transferred from Queensland to New South Wales without the approval of the immigration agent at Brisbane. Gill was granted a loan of £11 towards the cost of his passage to Australia. He has repaid the loan, and the immigration agent at Brisbane holds an amount of £14 4s. l1d. to his credit in the savings bank. This is an indication of thrift and diligence on the part of the boy. In support of his application for an assisted passage, Gill produced seven references from persons’ of repute, including his school-teacher, a local justice of the peace, a clergyman, a Salvation Army officer, and two employers. The references were highly satisfactory. Gill was also personally seen on two different occasions by representatives of the Migration and Settlement Office, London. On the first occasion his application was deferred, as the selection officer considered he required a little more development. When seen again some six months later by another officer his application was approved. The medical referee gave a clear certificate, and added “ Quite a healthy youth.” Inquiries made since Gill was sentenced to imprisonment show that at no time prior to leaving England was he an inmate of a mental asylum. He was, however, at one period suspected of. mental weakness, and was placed under observation for six weeks. He was declared mentally unaffected and discharged. Gill’s schoolmaster, who supplied one of the references, was aware of certain instability and unreliability, but withheld the information. He now admits that Gill when excited was uncontrollable. Whilst on the evidence before it, the Migration and Settlement Office in London was quite justified in extending the assisted passage concession to Gill, the case illustrates some of the difficulties associated with the selection of migrants. The boy misled the medical referee in reply to a direct question as to whether he had ever been treated in an institution of any kind for mental disease or epilepsy. The schoolmaster, who was aware of his defects, said of him in a reference, “ He is an intelligent lad, and was always eager to give satisfaction in his work.” His minister writes of him as “ a very capable and conscientious worker with a large degree of common sense. Besides being willing, he is at all times cheerful and ready. The lad’ is not only honest in the ordinary sense of the word, but possesses an honesty of purpose. Alexander Gill inspires a confidence which is not betrayed.” A local councillor, a justice of the peace, who knew the boy for ten years, describes him as “a hard working youth, of very respectable parents, whom he has every confidence in recommending as a suitable person to emigrate for farm work.” The medical examination in this case took place prior to the appointment of permanent medical officers, but it could not reasonably be claimed that the fact that the boy at some previous time had been suspected of mental instability would have been detected by one of our own doctors, especially as the boy withheld informa- tion on this point when questioned. The fact that so few of our assisted migrants reveal mental weaknesses is evidence of the care and attention given to their selection and medical examination.
The following paper was presented: -
Central Australia - Report of the Administration for the year ended 30th June, 1928.
Ordered to be printed.
Motion (by Mr. Bruce) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until 11 a.m. to-morrow.
Motion (by Mi-. Paterson) agreed to-
That he have leave to bring in a bill for an act to amend the War Service Homes Act 1918-1927.
In committee (Consideration resumed from 12th March, vide page 1049) Clause 3 - (1.) A charge is imposed and shall be levied and paid by the owner of any winery or distillery on all grapes which are, after a date to be fixed by proclamation, delivered to that winery or distillery for use in the manufacture of wine…..
Amendment (by Mr. Jones) proposed -
That the following proviso be added to sub-clause (1.) : - “provided that any winery or distillery handling annually less than ten tons of grapes for use in the manufacture of wine or spirit shall be exempted from the charges imposed by this act.”
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Bayley).The resolution agreed to in Committee of Ways and Means was that -
Subject to a lower charge being prescribed by regulations made under the act passed to give effect to this resolution, a charge at the rate of five shillings per ton be imposed on all grapes delivered to a winery or distillery for use in the manufacture to wine.
The honorable member’s amendment proposes a limitation on the quantity of grapes upon which the charges imposed by this bill may be made, and is therefore in conflict with the resolution of the Committee of Ways and Means and cannot be accepted.
– Provided that there is no conflict with’ out own own Standing Orders and procedure.
– I think that the Standing Orders of the House of Commons are the same as ours in regard to’ the limitations imposed on a committee of the House by a resolution of the Committee of Supply or the Committee of. Ways and Means, and I think I can show from May’s Parliamentary Practice that an amendment which does not increase taxation - of course only a Minister has a right to move such an amendment - or does not increase the charges levied on the Crown, is in order, provided that it is relevant to the subject-matter of the resolution of the Committee of Supply or the Committee of Ways and Means. On page 588 of May’s Parliamentary Practice there occurs the following passage -
The established usages of the House, in the form and method of dealing with amendments, and not the practice in use in the Committee of Supply (see page 581), is followed in the Committee of Ways and Means; and every motion for amendment must relate to the matter submitted to its consideration, and is governed by the rule of relevancy.
Although the resolution of the Committee of Ways and Means imposes a charge on “ all grapes, “ to my mind the amendment submitted by the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Jones) is strictly relative to it, and to hold that it cannot be entertained seems too narrow an interpretation of the powers of a committee of the House when considering a bill initiated in Committee of Ways and Means. I also call attention to the following passage on page 593 of May’s Parliamentary Practice -
The approval or the reduction of the expenditure under consideration, or a modification of the terms and conditions of the charge thereby created, are the matters specialty entrusted to such a committee, and to these objects amendments are directed.
It will thus be seen that considerable latitude is allowed, with strict adherence to the well-known rule that prevents a private member from moving an amendment to increase taxation or impose an additional charge upon the Crown, and giving due regard to a Minister’s power to move certain amendments relating to taxation. But the Wine Grapes Charges Bill is not an ordinary taxation measure ; it does not levy a charge in aid of the public revenue. The charge it imposes may be of a semi-public nature, but the Crown funds are not affected by it and the charges, once levied, are not subject to appropriation by the Government. I contend, therefore, that they should be regarded as being entirely separate from charges which are in the nature of taxation and in respect to which the Chairman of Committees would rightly hold an amendment by a private member to be inadmissable. In all the circum-. stances, I think our Standing Orders and usages permit of the amendment of the honorable member for Indi being accepted as relevant to the resolution of the Committee of Ways and Means.
– I agree with the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Theodore) that the question which arises here is not whether a private member may move a motion which will have an effect of increasing charges upon the subject. That is irrelevant to this point. The only question is whether the amendment is consistent with the resolution upon which the bill is founded. The bill provides that a particular class of citizen shall pay certain moneys under the authority of a statute, and it is immaterial whether- the control of the money raised is in the hands o£ the Crown or not. Of necessity, the measure had to be preceded by a resolution of the Committee of Ways and Means. The only. question we have to consider is whether the amendment is within the terms of or inconsistent with that resolution. I assume that all honorable members will agree that an amendment which is plainly inconsistent with the terms of the resolution upon which a bill is founded will be out of order, and, further, that an amendment which increases charges will also be out of order. The resolution reads -
It provides that a charge shall be imposed upon all grapes, and that the charge may cease to be imposed upon a date to be fixed-by proclamation. What we have to consider, therefore, is whether an amendment which seeks to provide that the charge may be levied upon only some grapes, is consistent with the direction of the committee that a bill should be introduced to impose a charge on all grapes ; and whether the amendment is in order, seeing that it provides for the removal of charges other than by a proclamation made under the act. Objection could be raised to the amendment on both of these grounds.
– It appears to me that the argument of the AttorneyGeneral shows that the amendment is perfectly in order. The object of the resolution of the Committee of Ways and Means was to impose a charge of 5s. per ton upon all grapes delivered to a winery or distillery for use in the manufacture of wine. Seeing that the amendment, even if it made a direct charge upon the revenue of the State, seeks to limit the area in which the charge may be applied, it must surely be in order.
– Apart from technical considerations, I point out that if the amendment is ruled out of order our future procedure may be seriously affected. Motions submitted to the Committee of Ways and Means come before honorable members at a period when they have no detailed knowledge of the bill to be introduced. It is perfectly obvious, therefore, that such motions should be framed in the widest terms, so that honorable members may subsequently have all possible latitude to deal with the matter contained in the bill. If this amendment is ruled out of order, it will have a tendency to alter our whole procedure, for honorable members will in future desire to have the fullest possible information before voting for a motion moved in a Committee of
Ways and Means. It will also have the effect of considerably limiting our freedom of debate, and of obliging the Minister to give to the Committee of Ways and Means the fullest information respecting the bill which he is seeking leave to introduce. Apparently if the resolution had been agreed to with the omission of the word “ all “ the amendment could have been accepted. This may mean that in future honorable members will desire to examine carefully every word contained in a motion submitted to the Committee of Ways and Means; otherwise they may endanger their liberty to debate the issues raised in the bill.
– I draw attention to the wording of the resolution of the Committee of Ways and Means. It is true that it provides for the imposition of a charge of 5s. per ton upon “ all grapes.” But there is an important qualification.. The charge shall apply only to grapes “which are, after a date to be fixed by proclamation under that act, delivered to a winery or distillery for use in the manufacture of wine. “ In the Wine Overseas Marketing Bill “winery” is defined as a winery which has handled not less than ten tons of grapes in the preceding year for use in the manufacture of wine. . There is a limitation after all, for the charge will not be imposed upon all grapes. I point out also, that clause 4 of this bill provides that the Governor-General may exempt any grapes from the charges imposed by the measure. If, therefore, the amendment of the honorable member for Indi is inconsistent with the resolution of the Committee of Ways and Means, clause 4 of the bill is also inconsistent with it.
– It is extraordinary if the Governor-General may grant an exemption and this committee may not do so.
– Although the rate of 5s. is stated in the resolution of the Committee of Ways and Means, subclause 2 of clause 3 of the bill provides that a lower rate may be fixed by regulation. 0
– The language in the bill is exactly the language of the resolution.
– In that case, I shall not press that point. But from the stand-point of utility, I submit that the amendment of the honorable member for
Indi should be accepted; otherwise our procedure will be considerably altered in the future, and that may not tend to facilitate parliamentary discussion.
– I shall reply first to the point raised by the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann). He observed that if the committee may not amend a resolution of the Committee of Ways and Means, fuller information will be demanded when motions are presented to that committee. I point out that this committee may reject any provision in any bill submitted to it. The only way in which a bill, founded upon a resolution of the Committee of Ways and Means, may be amended is by this committee rejecting the bill. That would amount to an instruction to the Government to introduce a new bill founded upon a different resolution. The Leader of the Opposition has referred to clause 4, and said that it does in fact, depart from the terms of the resolution of the Committee of Ways and Means; but that provision cannot be compared in all respects with the amendment which the honorable member for Indi desires to move.
– What about the definition of “winery” in the Wine Overseas Marketing Bill?
– That provision does not appear in this bill, and therefore we cannot consider it. As to the question whether the amendment of the honorable member for Indi is in order, I direct the attention of honorable members to the last occasion when this point was raised. At that time Mr. Speaker Watt was requested by the then honorable member for Angas, Mr. Gabb, to rule whether an amendment he desired to move in committee was in order or not. Mr. Speaker laid it down definitely that it was not competent to move an amendment that in any way varied the terms of a resolution of the Committee of Ways and Means.
– If it tended to increase taxation, the ruling would be quite correct.
- Mr. Speaker Watt dealt with that point, and said that if the amendment sought to increase taxation, it could be very quickly ruled out.’ The proposed amendment under notice did not seek to do that; but, nevertheless,
Mr. Speaker ruled that no private member could move an amendment which could in any way whatever be regarded as inconsistent, or at variance, with the terms of the resolution of the Committee of Ways and Means. On these grounds I cannot accept the amendment.
– I understand that the Minister is prepared to accept the amendment of the honorable member for Indi.
– Would it be competent for a Minister to accept such an amendment ?
– Once a resolution has been passed, the only way in which it may be varied is by the Government withdrawing the bill and bringing down another resolution.
– I am prepared to take that course.From a practical point of view, it would be advantageous to have the same list of wineries for the purpose of imposing a levy as for the taking of the ballot to be held shortly as well as any future ballots.
In committee - (Consideration resumed from 11th March, vide page 1005).
Postponed clause 2 -
Section eight of the principal act is amended -
by omitting from sub-section (1.) the word “ Fourteen “ and inserting in its stead the word “ Sixteen “ ;
by omitting from sub-section (1.) the words “ Five guineas per sitting “ and inserting in their stead the words “ Six guineas per sitting with a maximum in any one year of Sixteen hundred pounds”; and
by adding at the end thereof the following sub-section : - “ (3.) The Minister may grant to each member of the board, other than the chairman, fifteen days’ leave of absence in each year and for each day of absence on leave each such member shall be entitled to receive allowance as if he had attended a sitting of the board on that day.”
Section proposed to he amended -
– (1.) The Chairman shall receive, in addition to his salary as an officer of the Public Service, an allowance which, together with his salary, shall not exceed Fourteen hundred pounds a year, and each of the other members shall receive an allowance of Five guineas per sitting. (2.) There shall be paid to each member, on account of his expenses in travelling to discharge the duties of his office, such sums as are considered reasonable by the Governor-General.
– I move -
That all words from and including the word “ amended “ to the end of the clause inclusive lie omitted, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words - “ repealed and the following section inserted in its stead: -
– (1.) The chairman shall receive a salary of Sixteen hundred pounds a year, inclusive of such salary (if any) as is payable to him as an officer of the Public Service. (2.) Each of the other members shall receive an allowance of Six guineas per sitting, with a maximum in any one year of Fifteen hundred pounds:
Provided that if, in any year, the amount received by way of salary by a member, who is an officer of the Commonwealth Public Service, is less than the amount which would be payable to him at the rate of Six guineas per sitting, with a maximum of Fifteen hundred pounds a year, the amount of the difference shall be paid to him as an allowance.
- (3.) There shall be paid to each member, on account of his expenses in travelling to discharge the duties of his office, such sums as are - considered reasonable by the Governor-General. (4.) The Minister may grant to each member of the board, not being an officer of the Commonwealth Public Service, fifteen days’ leave of absence in each year, and for each day of absence on leave, each such member shall, if remunerated by way of sitting fees, be entitled to receive allowance as if he had attended a sitting of the board on that day. ( 5. ) In this section “ year “ means a period of twelve months commencing from the date of appointment of the member concerned, or from any anniversary of that date.”’.
In moving the second reading of the bill, I pointed out that it was purely a small machinery measure, and I think that that view has been adopted by the House. It is a non-party bill, and represents a sincere effort to improve the principal act. It has involved a great deal of thought and consideration, but, as the result of the speeches made from all parts of the chamber, I have now decided to accept some of the recommendations of honorable members, so far as practicable. Hence my amendments to the bill as originally submitted. I cordially commend to the committee the proposed alteration to sub-section (1.) of section 8 of the principal act. It involves an increase in the salary of the chairman of the board from £1,400 to £1,600 a year. I find it difficult to believe that honorable members will object to that increase of £200. I need not remind the committee of the significance and farreaching nature of the work of the board. I doubt if any other tribunal in the Commonwealth deals with matters of such consequence to all sections of the community as those coming under the review of the board. Therefore, I submit that the proposed salary of £1,600 is, to put it mildly, not excessive. The occupant of this office has been, and will be for some time, an officer of the Trade and Customs Department, and I make a plea for the increase on that ground. Other members of the board have hitherto received substantially higher payments than the chairman. I have already paid tribute to the quality of the work done by the lay members, but I have no doubt as to which member of the board has carried the greatest responsibility: he is the chairman. One member earned £1,516 in 1926-27, and £1,538 in 1927-28. Another member was paid £1,501 in 1926-27, and £1,490 in 1927-28. In future, it is assumed, the members will earn up to £1,500, which is the limit fixed for their work. We have 1,400 or 1,500 officers in the Customs service, and- that that service is not overpaid is shown by the fact that only two of the officers, notwithstanding all the important work that is done in connexion with the tariff, and the heavy task of administration, receive over £1,250 a year, and not more than half a dozen are paid £1,000 and upwards. I doubt if one could find in the Commonwealth a public or private service of the same importance in which the officers are not more liberally remunerated. Let us compare the salary with that paid in other positions. If we take into account the quality, the quantity and the significance of the work the chairman of the Tariff Board is called upon to do, £1,600 per annum cannot be regarded as too high a salary. The position calls for a man of capacity and integrity, who has had many years of training in complex and intricate matters.
– I move -
That the amendment be amended by omitting all the words after “members” proposed sub-section (2), to the end of the subsection with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ who shall give his exclusive and disinterested service shall receive an allowance pf £1,500 a year. “ I have no objection to the chairman receiving £1,600 per annum, nor to each of the other members being paid £1,500 per annum for his services; but I do object to members being paid a daily sitting fee. Men who receive from the Commonwealth emoluments amounting to £1,500 per annum should not be permitted to engage in* private businesses which will make demands upon their time. The work of the Tariff Board is semi-judicial, and requires that its members should be absolutely independent of outside interests. As the board is concerned with the interests of rival groups of industries and of traders, it is not right that its members should retain their business connexions with interests which might be affected by their decisions. Exclusive service is to be demanded of the chairman of the board, and also of the director of economic research, who will consult with the members of the Tariff Board. The director of economic research will be essentially an investigating officer. So are the members of the Tariff Board. Their findings should be entirely untainted. Not only should no charge of actual partisanship lie against them; but there should be no suspicion that their decisions are influenced by .their business connexions. The questions which come before the Tariff Board are so complex and comprehensive as to require that its members shall devote the whole of their service to them. One of the reasons advanced by the Minister for the amending bill was that in the past the pressure of work was so great as to retard investigation. A board may find itself without time to do its work, either because it undertakes useless inquiries, or because its members, by reason of other business affiliations, have not sufficient time to devote to their public duties. In my opinion the members of the board will necessarily have to devote the whole of their time to the board’s work, if’ the problems which come before them are to be thoroughly investigated.
– Would it meet the honorable member’s objection if the members of the board temporarily surrendered their outside business connexions?
– No member of the board ought to be interested in any business which might be affected by its decisions. The Tariff Board is not a temporary expedient to deal with a special tariff problem - so long as the act remains, the Tariff Board will remain. Honorable members generally regard the Tariff Board as a permanent institution in this country. There is nothing before the committee to suggest that the Tariff Board is merely an emergency creation, and there can therefore be no justification for regarding its members as temporary appointees. They are responsible for the administration of a Commonwealth department in the same way that members of other bodies, such as the Arbitration Court, the Development and Migration Commission, the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research and the Bureau of Economic Research are responsible. They should not be given the alternative of spending half their time in the service of private enterprise and the other half in the service of the Commonwealth.
– That is not contemplated.
– That is substantially involved. I ask the Minister whether the members of the Development and Migration Commission are permitted to engage in outside work. There is no essential difference between the members of the Tariff Board and the Director of the Bureau of Economic Research, because, substantially, the same subjects will be submitted to both bodies. The principle of allowing the members of a semijudicial body to engage in private enterprise is wrong. A salary of £1,500 a year should be sufficient to secure the services of competent full-time men.
– I rise to a point of order, in a desire to protect the rights of the committee. I thought that we were dealing with this clause paragraph by paragraph. If we do not do so, we shall relinquish our rights. Honorable members might be willing to pay £1,500 a year to permanent officers as a full-time salary, but not to raising the fees to £6 6s. a sitting for non-permanent members. Unless we take the clause paragraph by paragraph we should, in the event of the amendment of the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Curtin) not being agreed to, be prevented from moving an amendment, say, to reduce the amount of the fees, whereas if taken paragraph by paragraph we could vote against the amendment, in which case we should revert to the original position.
– I confined my remarks to paragraph 1, because I understood that that course had been agreed upon.
– I admit that the committee was under the impression that the amendment could be taken in paragraphs. I point out, however, that the Minister has moved it as one amendment, and that it is not within the province of the Chair to break it up into paragraphs.
– Not with the approval of the. committee ?
– There would be no way in which a record could be kept.
– Could we vote upon the different paragraphs separately? We have already created a blank by omitting clause 2, and the Minister’s amendment will become the new clause. On a previous occasion a clause was divided into paragraphs with the consent of the committee.
– If the committee will permit the question to be restated I -believe the difficulty will be overcome. Instead of stating it in the usual way - that certain words bc omitted with a view to other words being inserted in lieu thereof - I shall put it in the form, “ That the amendment be agreed to.” If that i3 negatived, the clause will remain as it is at the present time.
.- It is a matter of opinion whether the remuneration of the ordinary members of the board should be by way of fee or salary. I believe that it would be possible to secure an effective board by the adoption of either arrangement. This question was raised in 1921, and a fairly lengthy debate took place on it. The decision then reached was that a fee was the preferable form of payment. I was not attached to either method, but having gone into the matter very fully, and talked it over with many people, it is my definite conclusion that we shall get a stronger and more effective board by the payment of fees. Rightly or wrongly, there is a general impression in the business community that this board should consist of members who, although not actively engaged in business, have not entirely dissociated themselves from a business connexion. It would be a waste of time to discuss the point raised by the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Curtin), that we could not trust men to do the straight thing if they were interested in any business. For the last eight years, the men who have occupied these positions have been drawn from the business community, and some of them have continued to be associated with a business. They have investigated a variety of cases, and there has never been any suggestion that their judgment was biased by any personal consideration. I remind the committee, too, that this principle has been adopted in connexion with the appointment of various other boards and institutions. Has it ever been suggested that those who become directors of the Commonwealth Bank, those who represent the Commonwealth on Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, or those who are appointed to export control boards, should not have outside interests ? I fear that the honorable member for Fremantle has a more suspicious mind than I have. This scheme has worked well, and it has the approval of most of the great interests in this country which the Tariff Board is designed to serve.
There is only one other point that I wish to make. Since the secondreading debate, I have investigated very carefully the extent to which these laymen have devoted their time to the business of the board ; and I am glad to be able to assure the committee that, in the aggregate, they have given much more than what might be termed their business time. At, night-time and over the week-ends they have spent many hours in the consideration of evidence and the preparation of their reports. By adopting the principle of paying fees, we can make short-term appointments and so reduce the risk of making suitable appointments. In the event of a mistake being made, our hands are not tied for five or seven years. I doubt very much if we could offer a term of less than seven years to a salaried man. We must have a man of outstanding capacity in the business community. Does the honorable member for Fremantle suggest that the men appointed should not hold shares or any other interests in a business ?
– What is the difference between holding shares and having a director’s interest in a company which appears before the board? These flawless, unattached gentlemen that the honorable member visualizes do not exist. I trust that the committee will stand by the bill.
.- In his endeavour to answer the very convincing case made out by the honorable member for Fremantle, the Minister gave a most unfortunate illustration, that of the directors of the Commonwealth Bank. If there is one thing to which exception has been taken, it is the appointment to the Commonwealth Bank directorate of men who have a number of business interests. From time to time in this chamber we have given a considerable number of facts to support our contention that the control of the Commonwealth Bank by nien who represent private enterprise, lias been detrimental to the progress of that institution. The Minister waxed somewhat wroth, and charged the honorable member for Fremantle with having a suspicious mind because he suggested that these men should be permanent officers, and not give merely the fag end of their time to the work of the board. I am not suggesting that they have given the fag end of their time; but I do say that the honorable member for Fremantle is entitled to use that as an argument in support of his case. The opening is provided for it.
– They would be removed if they did so.
– If it is intended that they shall give the whole of their time for £1,500 a year, let us appoint them as whole-time men. If they are not to do so. they will be overpaid at that figure.
– They would not get that sum if they did not attend the necessary number of sittings.
– Well, what is the objection to their being full-time men?
– We should not obtain the sendees of the best type of men.
– The Tariff Board, in its report for 1927, discussed the question of two members sitting in different parts of the Commonwealth for the purpose of taking evidence. Provision along those lines is made in the bill. The report went on to state -
This directly raises the question of the manner in which the board is remunerated. Except as to the chairman, who is an officer of the Public Service, such remuneration is by means of a fixed fee for every sitting attended. If provisions were- made for the board to divide itself as suggested - and that is the provision which is made in this bill - it is considered that remuneration to its members should be in the form of an annual salary, instead of a fee as at present, -and in any case it is suggested that payment by fixed salary for a whole-time board is far more desirable than payment by fee for attendance at meetings.
That is the opinion of the Tariff Board itself, stated after it had had a number of years of experience of the work to be done.
– Did they make any suggestion as to the amount of the salaries?
– No, that would be presumption on their part; but they did say that the members of the board should be fully employed on fixed annual salaries. Members of the committee ought to realize that the members of the Tariff Board occupy a judicial position similar to that occupied by judges in the law courts. Yet it is suggested that they should be allowed to have business activities - not only interests - in commercial enterprises, the fate of which they may be called upon to determine as a result of their recommendations. The Minister said that if we prevented members of tho board from engaging in outside business it would be necessary to prevent them from holding shares in companies. I remind him, however, that no objection is raised to law court judges holding shares in companies, but no one would dream of appointing a judge who was actively engaged in outside business.
– And whenever a matter comes before a judge for adjudication touching on something with which he is personally associated he does not adjudicate.
– That also applies to members of the Tariff Board.
– It could be made to apply to some extent to the Tariff Board, but it would be very difficult to do so in all instances. This House should be able to appreciate the distinction between a man who holds shares in a company and one occupying the position of director or manager of that company. If there is no distinction, it is time that we reviewed much of our legislation, and many of the appointments we have made. It has been suggested that the present members of the board work practically full time. I believe they do ; I cast no asper* sions on them whatever. I believe that they have done good work in the past, even though I have not always agreed with their reports, and have at times strongly disagreed with some of their comments. When the board, as a result of many years’ experience, recommends the very thing for which this amendment provides, I am disposed to give more weight to their recommendation than to the arguments of the Minister.
.- The amendment moved by the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Curtin), and the manner in which it was presented, must command the attention of honorable members on both sides of the chamber, because it calls upon us to decide a matter which is of very great importance. A good deal might be said for the proposal in the amendment if the members of the board were entering upon a sphere of permanent service to the Commonwealth ; but there is another aspect of the matter, and one which I think the honorable member who moved this amendment has overlooked, that is, the question of the selection of suitable men. In my opinion suitable men can be drawn only from those who have had experience in manufacture and commerce, and who have had an opportunity of acquiring sound judgment. It is already determined that the chairman of’ the board shall be an officer of the Customs Department. Without his guidance even men equipped as I have suggested would not be able successfully to carry through the work entrusted to them. To choose a wellbalanced board, it is necessary to go outside the Public Service, and into the field where men have had an opportunity of accumulating wide experience. We must either select men who have retired from business, and are, therefore, no longer au fait with modern business methods, or we must accept the services of men who are still engaged in business. The ordinary business man would laugh at us if we suggested that he should retire from his business altogether to accept an appointment on the Tariff Board at £1,500 a year. I believe, however, that there are many men who would be prepared to give three years of their time to the service of the Commonwealth, and would, for that period, be prepared to drop their active business associations. That is the type of men we wish to obtain. As the Leader of the Opposition said, this is a semi-judicial position. The members of the board, by virtue of their position, obtain an insight into the affairs of their business rivals, and into the business of manufacturers and importers. We have been fortunate, I think, in the men who have been selected in the past ; but we are now confronted with the task of appointing a well-balanced board. Were it possible to get men of the right type within the Public Service, I agree that it might be a good thing to appoint them to full-time positions on a fixed salary. In that case, it would be better than paying a daily fee, because there is sometimes a conscientious member of the board who feels that, if he takes payment for part of a day’s work, he is doing his country an injustice, although it may have been necessary for him to attend the office for an hour or so to finish some urgent business. It would be better for us to have no Tariff Board at all than to appoint a “ blunder-bus “ of a board. Unless we can get men of outstanding ability, conscientious and patriotic, conscious of the country’s policy of protection, and yet prepared to hold the balance fairly between all classes, we should be better off in handling the business ourselves in Parliament. We cannot expect, however to get this class of men if we prevent them from carrying on outside business activities.
What one member of the first Tariff Board did was to surrender active participation in business matters during the time that he held appointment on the board, making this sacrifice as part of the service which he owed to his country. At any rate, I suggest that we should not narrow down the field of selection. I would certainly not permit the Chamber of Commerce, or the Chamber of Manufactures, to nominate anybody for the position of member of the Tariff Board. They might, perhaps, be allowed to make recommendations; but to permit organizations with specialized interests to nominate anybody is absurd. Any government which seeks to do this lays itself open to the charge of serving sectional interests. No matter whom the Minister chooses the appointment will, so far as I am concerned, be subjected to severe examination.
.- I support the amendment. It was interesting to hear the Minister, in replying to the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Curtin), say that this is a simple machinery bill, and that he did not attach much importance to it. To be sure, it is only a machinery bill, and is of only minor importance. Beyond making a change in the remuneration, and providing for the board to do certain of its business by way of committees, there is, I agree, nothing very much in the bill. Nevertheless, it is somewhat surprising to hear the Minister rate the importance of the bill so low, when we remember that the Prime Minister in his policy speech staked a great deal upon what the Government proposed to do in the way of re-organizing the Tariff Board.
– I said that it was a simple machinery bill. It might, nevertheless, be of first-class importance.
– The Minister puts it that way, but I still regard the measure as a simple machinery bill, as we ca.n see by glancing at it, and I call attention to the fact that the Prime Minister promised more than a simple machinery bill. I was present at a dinner when he delivered an address to the members of the Chamber of Manufactures in Sydney, and he emphasized the great things which were to be accomplished by the re-organization of the Tariff Board.
The constitution was to be altered as a result of the experience gained over a number of years, and it was to be given greater authority. It was hoped by this means, he said, to solve the tariff problems with which the country was confronted. He also stressed these’ matters during the election campaign, and gave the electors to understand that something more was to be introduced than a simple machinery bill. A few days after the Minister introduced the bill in this House, he gave notice of a number of amendments which, taken together, contain almost as much matter as the bill itself. It is some months now since the elections, and the Government’s policy on this matter of the re-organization of the Tariff Board must have been considered before the election. Three months have elapsed, but apparently the ideas of the Government have not yet crystallized. It is true that the Minister may have been acting upon the suggestions made by honorable members during the second-reading debate, and it is a wise Minister who will adopt suggestions made at that stage. I do not condemn him on that ground, but merely point to the apparent lack of a definite government policy in regard to the Tariff Board.
The present amendment touches upon the remuneration of members of the board, and bears upon the calibre of the men who will be appointed. I am inclined to think, and my opinions have been strengthened since hearing this discussion, that a more satisfactory tariff board than the present would be one constituted of, say, three permanent members. Possibly three practical men with training in the Customs Department might be obtained.
– That would be merely a departmental board.
– I suggest that we should have- three permanent members who have training in the work, are experts in tariff matters, and understand the application of the tariff and the effect of customs duties. When those men were investigating matters of great importance to a large industry, they should have the power to obtain the assistance of men actively engaged in it. Indeed it might be wise to classify the main industries of the country in a dozen divisions. That would simplify for the -Tariff Board as well as for Parliament, the application of a policy of high protection. Iron and steel and the subsidiary dependent industries might form one division, and in the consideration of tariff matters affecting that division the appointment of a man actively concerned in the iron and steel business would be of tremendous advantage to the board.
– And actively interested?
– Yes I approve of the endeavour of the honorable member for Fremantle to modify the board proposed by the Government, but there should be a complete re-constitution of it by the appointment of three men, comparable in regard to tariff matters with the Commissioner of Taxation in his sphere, and those men, when considering matters which involved the detailed examination of technicalities, should be able to coopt the services of a man eminent in the industry concerned. It may be said that he would be unduly biased in favour of the manufacturer.
– Would you allow such a man a say in the framing of the report?
– -Certainly; if he were allowed to participate in the examination of witnesses and the consideration of evidence he should be allowed to express his views. The consumer would be protected.
– If the three permanent members of the board were fit for their jobs they would watch the interests of the whole community, examine the economic effects of the tariff, and generally advise as to what would be the result of the adoption of their recommendations. They should be men specially trained in this work and freed of departmental trammels; whilst they should not suffer any disability in regard to promotion in the Department of Trade and Customs, they should be freed entirely from administrative work so that they could devote the whole of their time to the business of the board. They would be the protectors of the general community. There would be no danger in allowing to sit with such men a person who had a specialized knowledge of a particular industry, no matter what might be his bias towards protection. Although the Tariff Board is a quasi- judicial body it has no authority from this Parliament to give judgments on the relative merits of freetrade and protection. The people and Parliament have declared in favour of high protection, and the board is enjoined to carry out that policy and not to report whether it is wise or unwise.
– But surely the board should report upon the general operation of the customs and excise duties and their effect upon the primary i.nd other industries ?
– Undoubtedly the board should report upon the economic effects of the policy of high duties in a particular industry, but it has no right to report that the policy of high protection is wrong and should not be applied as the general fiscal policy of the country.
– If the board found that the economic effects of the tariff were deleterious should it not say so?
– Yes ; but it must recognize that it is appointed to carry out a policy of high protection.
– I am astonished to hear so much dissent from that statement. Undoubtedly this Parliament has declared in. favour of protection; not pseudo-protection, but effective protection that will enable our secondary industries to be built up in the face of competition. Mr. Rodgers. - Is it effective protection that produces a customs revenue of £42,000,000?
– It is not, because it does not protect our industries.
– Order ! The clause before the Chair relates to the remuneration to be paid to members of the board.
– And that involves consideration of the qualifications of the members of the board. I am showing that whilst it may be desirable to disqualify from membership of the board as at present constituted a man actively interested in a protected industry, a board more wisely composed would have power to co-opt the services of a man actively engaged in a manufacturing business because of the value of his special and technical knowledge.
– On general principles there is a good deal to be said for the amendment proposed with commendable moderation by the honorable member for Fremantle ; but the board requires men of special qualifications. If I thought that they could be obtained under the proposal he has put forward I would vote for it ; but I do not believe that a board such as is wanted can be obtained under the conditions the honorable member has proposed. The honorable member for Dalley and I are in agreement as to the kind of board that is needed, and I believe this bill will produce it if the right men can be obtained to serve upon it. The board will have power to call as witnesses manufacturers, “professors of economics, and anybody who has special knowledge of the subject under investigation ; there will be no need to co-opt their services in an adjudicatory capacity. Men are required who can extract information from witnesses and then effectively present to the public conclusions based upon it. The honorable member for Fremantle referred to the Development and Migration Commission : but I remind him that the chairman of that body receives £5,000 a year, the second commissioner £4,500, and the third commissioner £2,500.
– There is no lack of applicants for all-time service on that board.
– No ; and the Government is justified in requiring the full and exclusive attention of men who are paid such salaries. The Tariff Board is in a different category. The Minister aims to appoint to it men with qualifications as great as those of the members of the Development and Migration Commission, who will serve for expenses at the rate of £1,500 a year. He is seeking the help of patriotic citizens who have had experience of business in all its ramifications, including the secondary industries and the incidence of the tariff. In fact, he is asking for many-sided men and saying to them, “ The Parliament is not prepared to pay a salary commensurate with the work to be done, but asks you to give to the country, as a member of the board, the benefit of your years of experience as a captain of industry. For that you will be paid expenses at the rate of £1,500 per annum.” We cannot demand that such men shall retire from directorates and sever all their private business connexions. I know of three former members of the board who did dissociate themselves from private business, and the Tariff Board was to them a whole-time job. Their disinterested service has not been sufficiently appreciated.
– They recognized their responsibility and detached themselves from private interests.
– Yes ; but I do not say that they abandoned all investments in which their savings and income were involved. They may have attended board meetings, but not in connexion with businesses that were even remotely associated with their official duties. For the salary that is offered the Government cannot expect to get the right class of men to give the whole of their time to the work of the board. The adoption of the honorable member’s proposal would entirely change the value of the board and the calibre of its members. The men who would be available would largely consist of employees of large firms or institutions earning less than £1,500. The worst thing that could happen to the Tariff Board would be to appoint at a fixed salary of £1,500 men who are now the servants of institutions or companies-
– Does not the honorable member think that men who have retired from active business are capable of acting as members of the Tariff Board ?
– That is exactly the class of men that has rendered us good service in the past. These gentlemen, having made a success of their own businesses, have placed their affairs in the hands of accountants or attorneys, and given the whole of their time to the Tariff Board. I understand that the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Curtin) acted as a member of the Child Endowment Commission under these conditions, and his bona fides were accepted.
– I gave the whole of my time to the commission, and was not paid a. sitting fee.
– The honorable member did not cut himself off from all his other interests while he was so acting.
– I did.
– Then all I can say is that it would not have been to the discredit of the honorable member if he had not done so. There is very little between us really. The honorable memberfeels that we shall obtain better service by appointing full-time members to the board, whereas I feel it would be advisable for us, for the reasons that I have given, to provide for the payment of sitting fees only. The amendment making full-time membership to the board mandatory will tend to decrease its usefulness.
– Too much stress has been laid upon the need for selecting the members of the Tariff Board from what the honorable member for Wannon has described as the circle of trade, commerce and manufacture. Not all the brains of society are possessed by those who move in this circle.
– Is it not more a matter of experience than of brains?
– I look at this subject from the human aspect. As one of the objects of the tariff is to stimulate industry, and so increase employment in Australia, it would be advisable for us to have on the Tariff Board some one thoroughly acquainted with the workers’ point of view. The honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Curtin) was appointed a member of the Child Endowment Royal Commission in order thathe might be able to look at that subject from the point of view of the class to which he belongs.
– I thought that that was an impartial investigation.
– Was it not the object of the Government to ensure that all shades of opinion should be represented on the commission? That policy is generally adopted when royal commissions of this character are being constituted. The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill) referred to the desirableness of taking evidence from all sections of the community. That is a good idea and should be adopted in the case of the Tariff Board. The views of the working man and the consumer should not be overlooked as in the case of this proposal. We must take the human aspect into consideration. I am not disposed to believe that there is any patriotism in business. Business men regard most matters that come before them from the point of view of pounds, shillings and pence value. A study of society in all countries lends colour to this view.
– I suppose that applies to both sides?
– The honorable member for Fawkner is no doubt suggesting that the workers can be placed under the same heading. I do not deny that his circumstances force him to consider the financial side of life. The present social system, for which I claim the workers are not responsible, make it incumbent upon him to give due regard to this factor. As a rule, he has a struggle for existence, and must take advantage of every opportunity to improve his position, and make life more tolerable than it is. In my opinion, the best man and the best service will be obtained if the amendment of the honorable member for Fremantle is agreed to.
.- I take it that we all desire that the very best men available shall be appointed. If I had my way I should abolish the board, but if it cannot be abolished, it should be composed of the most capable men we can get. We shall not get the best men by making membership of the board a full-time occupation. For this reason I intend to vote against the amendment.
.- I suggest that the main cause of dissatisfaction with the work of the Tariff Board, is that the Government has failed to act promptly when recommendations have been made to it. The members of the board have in the past spent many months in investigating difficult and complex problems, only to find that their recommendations had been ignored or definitely rejected. I believe that this is the reason for the resignations which have occurred. I do not think that the position will be improved by substituting for permanent board members, gentlemen who draw only sitting fees.
– There is some honour in being a member of this board.
– That may be an attraction to some men, but in these days no one expects to get much without paying for it. If we appoint the members of the board under the conditions proposed by the Government, we shall, in. my opinion, find that only a small portion of their time will be given to this work. Nobody with any self-respect would continue for any lengthy period diligently to inquire into such matters as the degree of protection required to stimulate the motor car industry or the iron and steel industry, only to have their reports pigeon-holed. The Government could overcome the difficult situation that confronts us by acting promptly when the board submits a recommendation to it. The boards and commissioners which have been appointed in the past have in many cases been unfairly treated in this respect. Even honorable members have had cause for complaint, for some reports that have been presented to the Government have appeared in the press before honorable members have seen them. I do not think that we are likely to get our patriots to serve their country on the Tariff Board for the honour and glory of it; they will want substantial payment.
.- My mind has been travelling in the opposite direction to that of the honorable member for Newcastle. Our past experience has shown that the method of appointing this board proposed by the Government is likely to lead to better results than the method proposed by the honorable member for Fremantle. I am quite sure that the remuneration provided in the bill would not attract many men of the calibre that we desire to give their whole time to the work of the board.
– Is th:t a reflection upon the past members of the board?
– Not at all. The services of the past members of the board could not have been obtained under the conditions suggested by the honorable member for Fremantle. I contend that by fixing the term of appointment for only five years and insisting that full time service shall be given, we are not likely to get gentlemen of the highest qualifications to undertake this work. If they are not entirely separated from their business activities, I believe that we can obtain the services of men who are sufficiently patriotic to put private interests on one side in order to serve their country. We know the men who have served in the past as members of the Tariff Board. I should say that two men who are of outstanding ability are Mr. Herbert Brookes, of the first board, and Sir John Vicars. The payment of £5 per sitting was not sufficient in itself to have attracted either of those gentlemen. The inducement they had was the knowledge that they were able to serve their country, and I think that they were justified in that belief. Those who know them endorse the sentiment expressed by the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill) that they are entitled to the thanks of the community. The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Theodore) suggested that we might appoint three permanent members from the Customs Department. I do not think that that would help us in the least. To-day, we have the chairman of the board representing that department, and doing it ably. All agree that he does his work excellently. In my opinion, it would not strengthen the board to have three men to do what the chairman is already doing to the satisfaction of every one. The further suggestion of the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Theodore) that a person specially interested in the subject under review should be joined* as a. member, is quite new. The practice adopted has been that where a member is or has been personally interested in a matter being investigated, he has withdrawn from the investigation, and left the other members of the board to make a decision without him. A determination arrived at in the manner suggested by the honorable member for Dalley might be perfectly sound, but it would be open to the implication that a member of the board, who was personally interested, might have an undue influence on the other members in arriving at their decision. I do not intend to traverse the ground covered by the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) and the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill). I. agree that the most likely method of obtaining the type of man we require is that proposed by the Government.
– Although the committee is not now considering proposed sub-section 1 of section 8, which raises the salary of the chairman from £1,400 to £1,600 a year, it seems to me that one point has been missed. This salary is payable to him as an officer of the Public Service, but a proposed new sub-section provides that “ the Governor-General may appoint as chairman a member who holds an administrative office in the Department of Trade and Customs “. I suppose that that provision is to be inserted for the purpose of giving the Minister power to use his discretion whether a permanent officer of the Customs Department should be appointed. No doubt, the great majority of honorable members think that the chairman of the board should be an officer of that department. The present chairman, I understand, is next in line for promotion to the position of ComptrollerGeneral of Customs; certainly, from the point of view of ability, I know of nothing to debar him from elevation to that office. He is one of the best trained men in the Public Service, and, from the point of view of experience as a customs officer, he stands amongst the most capable of all who have graced that department in years gone by. Dr. Wollaston and Mr. Lockyer not only inaugurated a system, but also trained a body of men to enable them to carry out their important duties most efficiently. One of the gentlemen I have mentioned once said that he had six young men in his department, not one of whom was yet 30 years of age, but whom he would not have the slightest hesitation in placing in charge of customs in any State. They could speak and write a number of languages, and they had unsullied records. The burden of the argument of the honorable member for Warringah, and the chief point raised by the honorable member for Wannon, supplemented by the honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Bowden), is that we must have men on the board who are, or have been, in touch with the business world; but I point out that the chairman, who will be the chief examiner, will be a gentleman who is not intimately acquainted with the business world, although a first-class man who is thoroughly qualified to extract evidence from witnesses and assess its value. The two new men to be appointed will, no doubt, be Mr. McConaghy, as chairman, and Mr. Guy, as second member. I understand that Mr. Guy is either inti mately or remotely connected with the Melbourne firm of John Danks & Sons. Inquiries by the Tariff Board should be entirely free from any suspicion that decisions have been arrived at by men who have been associated in any way with the firms concerned in those decisions. It is conceivable that one or two members of the board might have been directly or remotely associated with the class of business in connexion with which a decision was being given ; but men can be selected in this community -who are above suspicion, and who are exceptionally well qualified for their work. Does the honorable member for Parramatta know that the board recommended fulltime appointments, because a board that sits on 300 days a year is, for all practical purposes, working full time.
– Who were the signatories to that recommendation?
– Messrs. Ernest Hall, chairman, Herbert Brookes, Walter Leitch, and David Masterton. That is the full board.
– We should never have men like Mr. Herbert Brookes and Sir John Vicars on a salary basis.
– I do not say that they are the only suitable men in the community. We do not require men with technical knowledge so much as those who are best qualified to extract and analyse evidence. If the Minister wants members of that calibre he need not confine himself to the business world. It seems that already, although the bill has not yet passed, the Government are on the lookout for the men to be appointed to the board, if present reports are correct. One man has been mentioned as a representative of the rural producers of Australia.
– Was the name published in the press?
– Yes. Mr. Kelly has been spoken of. The fee to be paid to the members of the board is £6 6s. a sitting. What will that mean? I am prepared to assert that the sittings of the board will not commence before 10 a.m., and that only in exceptional cases will they be continued after 4 p.m. If a member of the board is associated with any business, he will devote both the early and the latter part of the day to it. and the suspicion will be raised in the mind of the public that his concern for his own business is greater than that for the duties he is asked to perform on the board. We should give effect to the board’s recommendation, which is expressed in very “definite terms. It reads -
If provisions - were made for the board to divide itself as suggested, it is considered that remuneration to its members should be in the form of an annual salary instead of a fee as at present, and in any case it is suggested that payment by fixed salary for a whole-time board is far more desirable than payment by fee for attendance at meetings.
The members who made that recommendation have had experience of the working of the board almost since its inception. Therefore the committee would do well to accept it and agree to the amendment of the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Curtin). It would improve the bill and remove the matter altogether from an atmosphere of suspicion.
’. - I have very definite ideas regarding the composition of the Tariff Board. My experience of it has been lengthy. For a long while I was the only acknowledged protectionist in Sydney. Judging by the remarks of some honorable members in relation to the integrity of the members of the board, one would imagine that they live in a sphere far above that of ordinary mortals. I do not share that view. I can assure honorable members that the spirit of free-masonry permeates the business community, and that any person who is associated with business will see to it that the interests of his business colleagues are fully conserved if he is appointed to the board. I believe that we should make the appointments from highly placed officers in the Department of Trade and Customs. No one is better acquainted than they with the probable effect of customs duties. No word could be breathed against their integrity. It can be assumed that they have always made the business of their department their concern, and that they would not be interested in or associated with any commercial venture. There is the further consideration that they would be anxious not to prejudice their pensions and other privileges. They are well versed in all the tricks that are practised with the object of evading the payment of customs and excise duties, and no one is better able to sift evidence and appraise its value. In short, they possess all the attributes and qualifications necessary to make an almost perfect board. No one would give better or more honest service. It must be remembered that the duty of the board is, not to decide whether it is a wise policy to impose duties, but to recommend duties that will give full effect to the protective policy of Australia. I should favour the appointment of the Minister for Trade and Customs as the Chairman of the Board, because he is answerable to this Parliament and we could control his actions. It cannot be expected that outsiders will exhibit the same zeal and singleness of purpose as officers of the department, nor can we exercise the same control over them. Such an appointment would be some recognition for years of faithful service. If I cannot have the board composed in accordance with my views I must support the amendment of the honorable member for Fremantle.
.- After listening to the debate on this clause, I still hold the opinion, which I expressed during my second-reading speech, that the work of the members of the Tariff Board is a fulltime job. We have only to look at the functions of the board as setout in the principal act, to see that the work imposed on members cannot be possibly done in any time short of full time. Indeed, I think that the principal act imposes upon the board almost an impossible task, so great is the range of its operations. From the earnings of members of the late board, it may be seen that they regarded it as a full-time occupation, because they earned their full salaries. They gave all their time to the work, and I understand they have expressed the opinion that it is a full-time job. I realize the difficulty of obtaining the right kind of men for this work. We have been told that we need to get men who have been successful in business. I, for one, believe that a man may have built up an enormous business, and yet be totally unfitted to perform the work of the board. It seems to me that we need men who, while having business experience, are able to elicit information on a given subject, and having done so, to form a sound judgment and make a suitable recommendation. After all, as has been repeatedly pointed out, the board does not possess determinative power; its power is only recommendatory. It has been suggested that the salary should be £1,600 a year for the chairman, and £1,500 a year for the other members, and the question has been raised whether we should be able to get good men for that pay. I should be very sorry to think that we have not in Australia men possessing the necessary qualifications who would be prepared to take a position on the Tariff Board for that remuneration. The work of the board is very responsible, and its members have a position, moreover, of great honour. There are, I am certain, many men possessing experience whose tastes would lie in this direction. They would be ready to make a financial sacrifice in order to accept the responsibility and receive the honour attaching to the position. In public life we have men who are making these sacrifices every day. Some of those composing our own Government are there because they believe they have a duty to perform to their country, and are satisfied to accept as a reward the honour attaching to the occupancy of their positions. They regard that as more than an offset for monetary loss entailed. I know, of my own personal knowledge, that the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham), in accepting appointment to the honorable position he holds to-day, made an enormous financial sacrifice. The salary attaching to his position is merely nominal as compared with what he might have earned had he continued at the bar.
– He might be compensated in other ways.
– What does the honorable member mean by that?
– I hope that he did not mean anything sinister. I accepted his remark as bona fide. If he knew the Attorney-General as I know him, he would not make any sinister suggestions regarding him.
– I know him by his actions.
– I know that the Attorney-General regards the honour and satisfaction attaching to his present office as more than a set off against the financial loss which is entailed in holding it. I hope that there are men in our community who are disinterested enough to accept these positions”, and to feel that in so doing they are rendering a great public service. If we appoint to the board men who are still immersed in big business concerns, occasions may arise, no matter how high minded the men may be, when their interests and their duty will conflict. No member of the board should be placed in such a position. We should appoint men who are dissociated from active participation in business life ; men preferably who had business experience in the past, but who are now prepared to devote their full time to the service of the public. I propose to vote for the amendment.
.- The honorable member for Fremantle is to be commended for moving this amendment. It was refreshing to listen to the speech of the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell). I believe that he spoke his mind on this important matter, and in doing so he showed that he does not follow slavishly the suggestions made by the Minister, and backed up by certain other honorable members opposite just because they emanate from the Government. What does the honorable member for Fremantle want? He has moved an amendment which will make paragraph 2 of clause 18 read -
Each of the other members who shall give his exclusive and disinterested service, shall receive an allowance of £1,500 a year.
Is there anything wrong in asking a man who is appointed to an important position at a salary of £1,500 a year to give his exclusive and disinterested service to the. job?
– What does “disinterested service “ mean in an act of Parliament ?
– I suggest that the word disinterested be omitted and the- words “ exclusive service “ only allowed to remain. It is assumed that members will be disinterested.
– I presume that the honorable member for Fremantle wished to make sure that the appointees would not have business and manufacturing interests’ outside their work. I agree with the honorable member for Fawkner that no matter how high minded and patriotic business men may be, if they are actively interested in big manufacturing or business concerns, there is a possibility, human nature being what it is, that they will use the knowledge gained as members of the board in the conduct of their own business. It has been said that we could not get suitable men to accept these positions at the salary proposed. I claim that if the positions were advertised, ten special trains would not be enough to carry all the competent men who would be glad to come to Canberra to interview the Government about them.
– What sort of qualifications would they have?
– I feel sure that their qualifications would be just as high as were those of the members who sat on the old board, and I believe that we had some very good men among them. I believe that Mr. Herbert Brookes would have accepted a position on this board even if he had to give up his whole time to the work. As a matter of fact, he did devote practically his whole time to it. I know Mr. Brookes, and I know that he used to take work home with him practically every night. Eventually he resigned from the position because he felt that he had rendered his share of service to his country. There are many men in this country who, as a result of experience in their own businesses, or of the experience gained in important managerial positions, would be qualified for positions on the Tariff Board, and would be willing to accept them. After all, £30 a week, or £1,500 a year, together with the liberal allowances granted to members while travelling on Tariff Board business, is a fairly substantial remuneration.
– The position is only temporary.
– I feel sure that those members of the board who give satisfactory service will be re-appointed.
– Subject to the Government continuing its present policy.
– Mr. Brookes, for instance, would, I am certain, have been reappointed if he had been prepared to continue. One of the reasons given by the Minister for the appointment of a customs officer as chairman of the board, is that matters associated with the customs are very complicated and tech nical, and that a man needs years of experience thoroughly to understand the ramifications of the department. Thai being so, it is reasonable to assume that members of the board who show aptitude for their work, and became conversant with customs matters, would become so valuable that the Government would be only too ready to reappoint them if they were willing to serve.
Listening to some honorable members opposite, notedly the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill), one would think that it would bc impossible to get applicants for these positions if they were required to devote the whole of their time to the work. Three experienced business men - Mr. Herbert Brookes, who is associated with a big commercial house; Mr. Walter Leitch, who is in the engineering business, and Mr. David Masterton with interests in vineyards - after years of experience on the board, declared that the job should be a full-time one.
– But not one of them would accept re-appointment to the board as a whole-time job.
– I do not think the Minister has any justification for saying that. But, if those gentlemen did not desire to sever their private business associations, there are others, managers of big commercial undertakings, who could be found to take their places. The man who has a big financial interest in a business is not necessarily the most competent man connected with it; very often the men who are employed as managers are much more competent than those who supply the capital.
– The honorable member is the only person who has suggested anything to the contrary.
– We hear conservative die-hards like the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill), pleading for the big captains of industry, as if they alone were entitled to consideration. Undoubtedly they are worthy of some consideration; but they have not all the brains of the community. For £1,500 a year and expenses, able men, who are now employed as managers of private undertakings, could be got to serve on the board, and they would give infinitely better service than their masters, who, though they may be able to invest £50,000 in an enterprise, would cut a sorry figure in its active direction. Messrs. Brookes, Leitch, and Masterton have recommended that an annual salary would be preferable to the payment of fees for attendance at meetings, and I prefer their opinion to that of the paid secretary of the Nationalist machine, the honorable member for Warringah.
– I rise to a point of order. I do not particularly object to the statement that I am the paid secretary of the Nationalist machine, although it it is not true; but the tone of the honorable member indicated that the remark was intended to be offensive, and I ask that it be withdrawn.
– The honorable member must wihdraw the statement.
– I have no desire to offend the honorable member, and if he objects to my statement I withdraw it; for my own part I shall never be ashamed of my past political associations, or disclaim the ladder by which I climbed into Parliament. I hope that the honorable member, and those who, like him, look at the matter through conservative glasses, will realize the justification for the amendment moved by the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Curtin). He has had wide experience and understands human nature. I wish other honorable members supporting the Government had the same freedom of thought as was expressed by the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell). They cannot doubt that capable men can be got to serve as whole-time members of the board for £1,500 a year and expenses. Subsection 3 of the proposed new section submitted by the Minister reads -
There shall be paid to each member on account of his expenses in travelling to discharge the duties or his office, such sums as are considered reasonable by the GovernorGeneral.
It is obvious that although the salary is to be limited to £1,500 the Minister intends to compensate the members of the board in some other way, possibly by means of liberal travelling expenses.
– No, that is the usual provision and appears in the existing act.
– At any rate, it is clear that in addition to the £1,500 members of the board will get travelling allowances which will be more than sufficient to cover expenses. The Government would not be justified in appointing to the board, men who desire to divide their time between their official duties and their private business interests. A man would need to be more than human to subordinate his private interests to public business. The arrangement proposed by the Minister would subject the appointees to great temptation and prejudice the business of the board.
.- I see little difference in principle between the payment of salaries to full-time members and the payment of fees for each sitting. But if retired business men of experience cannot be found - and they are rarer than qualified men still engaged in business - payment by fees will have to be adopted. Men of the right type will not take undue advantage of their opportunities, and in any case the Treasury will be safeguarded by the limitation of £1,500 a year for each member. That assures us that not more than that amount will be drawn in fees by each member and there will be no inducement to hold merely formal meetings for the purpose of drawing fees. There are throughout the Commonwealth, many qualified men who could be appointed to the board and the new provision allowing some persons other than the permanent head of the department to be chairman is wise. The suggestion has been made that the departmental head would be better qualified than any other chairman to extract evidence from witnesses. I suggest to the Government that it might be wise to appoint a legal man as chairman. He would not be likely to be interested in any business and by reason of his training would have a judicial mind.
.- I do not admit that any good has been accomplished by the Tariff Board in the past and I do not anticipate very great results from the new board. But if a board is to be appointed I believe there are plenty of men available at a salary of £1,500 who would give excellent service to the country. There are men engaged in commercial pursuits - they may or may not have a direct interest in a business, and I am not concerned in that - who appreciate what Australia needs, are keenly interested in the building up of our industries, and have the requisite intelligence to extract and weigh evidence. Therefore I do not think that we need worry about securing capable men to serve on the board. Plenty of men are available to do justice to these positions who are not actively engaged in the management of businesses. I am not much impressed with the argument that men who have retired from business because they are in the evening of their lives should be asked to give the benefit of their accumulated knowledge and experience to the country. The best service would not be obtained from men of that type. The Minister interjected that Mr. Brookes would not serve on a whole-time ‘ board at a salary of £1,500. I do not know Mr. Brookes or any other member of the board, but I am certain that many other men just as capable would be available for the payment that the Government is offering. I agree with the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell.) that men serve in Parliament and in other spheres of public life, not for gain,, but often at a personal sacrifice. There are persons in the community who are prepared to render service to the country for other than monetary reasons, and they are actuated, I have no doubt, by the best of motives ; but unfortunately, consciously or unconsciously, private business considerations often influence them. The honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) said that many persons engaged in big businesses were not really capable of discharging the duties that devolved upon them. I believe that. I also believe that many managers and submanagers are doing most effective work in these big commercial concerns for considerably less remuneration than it is proposed to pay the members of this board. Many of these persons would be glad of the opportunity to serve their country under the conditions provided in the bill. I entirely disagree with the proposal to pay £6 6s. a day sitting fee to the board members irrespective of whether they sit all day or only half an hour of it. We are providing a reasonable remuneration for these positions, and also security of tenure for five years at least, so it should not be difficult to find competent persons who would be willing to give their whole time to the work. Many of our public servants are thoroughly capable of discharging the duties that will devolve upon the members of the board, and they should not be overlooked when the appointments are being made; but they, of course, would require a full-time position. Gentlemen of the calibre I have in mind would be thoroughly competent to weigh the evidence submitted to them and to make sound recommendations to the Minister. In these circumstances I shall have no hesitation in voting for the amendment.
.- I shall vote for the amendment. Past experience has shown that the tendency is for the work of the Tariff Board to increase. The diversity of interests and businesses into which the board has to inquire make it highly desirable that the members of it should give their whole time to their work. We have had experience in the past of certain importunate interests practically demanding protection for their industries; I regret that this debate has been somewhat cramped because we aTe not at liberty to discuss our general fiscal policy. The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Theodore) observed in his speech that high protection was the settled policy of the country; and inferentially he suggested that the Tariff Board was bound to give effect to it and pile on the duties.
– To give effect to the policy, but not necessarily to pile on the duties.
– I disagree with the honorable member that the policy of high protection has been settled for all time. Formerly there Avas a. low tariff party in this House, and I venture to say that it will not be long before there will be another one here. There is a growing feeling in the country against our high tariff policy. I hope that before very long we shall have a general debate on the fiscal policy of the nation. Some honorable members have suggested that a remuneration of £1,500 per annum can only be regarded as pin-money for the big business men they hope to see appointed to the Tariff Board. Our view of salaries in Australia is entirely out of focus. Honorable members of this Parliament receive a salary of £1,000 a year and no expenses, .and some people are unkind enough to suggest that it is too much. It is true that we are granted a railway pass, hut it is not of much value to honorable members who represent country constituencies, for they are obliged to keep a motor car in order to visit the different parts of their electorate. In these circumstances the salary of £30 per week and travelling expenses which we propose to provide for the members of the Tariff Board is fairly handsome. If the Government invited applications for these positions it would receive a . great many from gentlemen thoroughly competent to do the work. One honorable member referred in the course of his speech to the fact that we are paying the chairman of the Development and Migration Commission £5,000 a year. There was a time when I thought that the provision of a high salary for a public position would ensure the appointment of the best qualified man; but our recent experience in that connexion has somewhat damped my enthusiasm. I suggest that we ought really to be considering, not the remuneration that should be paid to the members of the Tariff Board, but the duties which should be discharged by it; and I repeat that it is high time that we had a fulldress debate on our fiscal policy. That we are collecting £40,000,000 per annum through our Customs Department is not satisfactory to myself as a low protectionist, nor to the protectionists of Australia generally.
Question - That the amendment (Mr. Cuktin’s) of the amendment be agreed to - put. The committee divided.
Majority . . 2
Question resolved in the negative.
Amendment of the amendment nega tived.
.- I move -
That the amendment be amended by omitting the word “six”, proposed sub-section (2), with a view to inserting in lieu thereof the word “ five “.
The object of the amendment is to alter the fee for members of the board from £6 6s. per sitting to £5 5s., as is provided under the principal act. If the members of the board devote their full time to the work, they will no doubt be entitled to the remuneration provided under the Minister’s amendment; but I understand that instead of having 300 sittings a year at £5 5s. a sitting, the Minister estimates that there will be 248 sittings at £6 6s. a sitting. He also allows three weeks’ holiday in each year, which means that the members will attend about 233 sittings. For that shorter period, I do not think that the members are entitled to greater remuneration than they have received in the past.
.- The Government cannot accept this amendment. The proposal to change from six sitting days a week at £5 5s. a day to five days a week at £6 6s. was reached after a great deal of deliberation. I can assure the committee that very little work bas been done by members of the board on Saturday morning. I was chiefly influenced in proposing this change because, hitherto, the board has been representative of Victoria only, and attempts to obtain representation of other States have failed, mainly owing to the remuneration offered. About this time last year, when a vacancy occurred on the board, my predecessor, the late Mi’. Pratten, tried to obtain a representative of Sydney. He recognized, as I do, the importance, in the industrial sense, of Sydney and of New South Wales generally, and he thought that it would not only be a compliment to that State, but would also give it more confidence in the board if a member were chosen from that State. He tried individually, and through various organizations, but could not induce a suitable representative to act on a board sitting six days a week at a remuneration of £5 5s. a day. This meant that the member had to be domiciled in Melbourne, and, in order to earn up to £1,500 Et year, he would have very few opportunities, except when the board was sitting in Sydney, of visiting his home there. Under this bill, I hope to have New South Wales and two other States represented on the board, and that is mainly why I have proposed the change. Under the amendment to my original proposal, the maximum amount that a member might earn was fixed at £1,600 a year. It is now proposed to make the maximum £1,500 a year.
– Are not the expenses of the members of the board paid to and from their homes?
– No; they are domiciled in Melbourne, which is the head-quarters of the board. The Government cannot accept a Sydney or Adelaide, or other domicile out of Melbourne, and undertake to pay the expenses of members incurred on personal trips to and from their homes.
– Have they railway passes ?
– No; they are given railway facilities, I understand, only when engaged on the business of the board. The payment of five days’ fees at £6 6s. a day will not cost the country more than the old payment of six days’ fees at £5 5s. a day, and I can assure the committee that we shall receive practically the same amount of work from the board as before, while we shall be able to bring about the much desired interstate representation, particularly Sydney representation.
– I applaud the effort of the Minister to get representation of States other than Victoria, but I do not understand his attitude towards those members of the board who may be attracted by the novel provision for getting home at the end of the week - apparently a thing that they never did before - at their own expense. Why should they go home at their own expense? If a man is a bricklayer or a carpenter, and he has a certain distance to travel to his work, his travelling time is paid for. I voted for a full-time job, because the members of this board ought to give all their time to their job. I think that daily fees might tend to make the members sit when they might not otherwise do so. The foundation of civilization is the morality of the home, yet it is calmly proposed to penalize an unfortunate mau who has, perhaps, exaggerated ideas of his domestic duties. I shall not lend my support to such a proposal, and am prepared to take any action that will bring the Government to a right sense of the position. I agree with the Minister that it will be quite sufficient for the board to sit on five days a week; but I consider that its members should be paid their travelling expenses to and from their homes.
– If they sat on six days a week they would not have a chance to get home.
– Of course they would not; that is why I support the proposal that they should sit on only five days a week. But if it costs £10 to go home, who will go home? No sensible man with a due regard for the high cost of living will do so.
Question - That the amendment (Mr. Fenton’s) of the amendment be agreed to - put. The committee divided.
Majority . . 2
Question so resolved in the negative.
Amendment of the amendment negatived.
Amendment (Mr. Gullett’s) agreed to.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Bayley).It is true that last night the honorable member gave notice of his intention to move in the direction he has indicated.
I was then under the impression that he proposed to submit a new clause, and I told him that a new clause could be considered only after the postponed clauses had been passed.
Clause 2, as amended, agreed to.
Postponed clause 6 -
After section fifteen of the principal act the following section is inserted: - “ 15a. After the appointment of a person to he Director of Economic Research, the Minister may direct the board to confer with the Director upon any particular matter referred to the board for inquiry and report, and, when so directed, the board shall so confer accordingly. “.
– I move -
That the words, “ Minister may direct the hoard to “ be omitted, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ hoard may “.
When this amendment has been disposed of I shall move to omit the words, “ and when so directed the board shall so confer accordingly “. This matter was covered yesterday by the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) when he introduced the bill under which it is proposed to establish a Bureau of Economic Research. I now propose this alteration so as to fall in with the wishes of honorable members. The clause as I propose to amend it will give effect to what the Government originally had in view.
– I take the point of order that the legislation under which it is proposed to establish the Bureau of Economic Research has not yet been passed, and that we are anticipating a decision of Parliament. I ask you, Mr. Chairman, whether the proceedings are strictly in order ?
– There is no point of order.
– The clause as I propose to amend it will give effect to the original desire of the Government. Neither I nor the Government had the slightest intention of endeavouring to impose on this board the will of the Minister, even to the extent of directing that it should consult with the Director of Economic Research. All that we had in view was that the Director of Economic Research should be available for consultation if that were the wish of the members of the Tariff Board. I trust that the preposal will be acceptable to the committee.
Seeing that there has been much criticism of the idea that some one associated with the study of economics, or some one who is an authority on that subject, should be consulted on tariff matters, 1 should like to bring under notice of honorable members the extent to which the Tariff Commission of the United States of America not only consults with trained scientific economists, but actually depends upon them in carrying out its work. I have here the tenth annual report of the commission for the year 1926. The economic analysis staff of the commission numbers no fewer than 59 persons. I have no doubt that as the work here grows, consideration will be given to setting up a special economic section of the Tariff Board. Here is what is said in the Tenth Report of the Tariff Commission of the United States of America on the subject of the economics division -
The economics division consists of a staff of trained economists, who co-operate with the commodity divisions and the advisory board in the conduct of investigations and in the analysis and organization of the data obtained.
The work of the commodity divisions calls for a high degree of specialization. Chemists, engineers, textile experts, agricultural experts, and other specialists are engaged in analyzing for the commission complicated material within their respective fields. For the proper unification of the work of the commission, it is deemed desirable to have a group who, with the advantage of broad training in economics, may apply their minds to the tariff issues of many industries rather than to the technical phases of any one, and relate the work of this group closely to the work of the advisory board, the central agency of the commission.
Dealing with the same matter is a comment to the effect that an increase in the personnel of the economics division is urgently needed. The doings of the Tariff Commission in the United States of America are frequently quoted by honorable members opposite in support of some of their arguments, and, I repeat, that on the staff of that commission itself there are 59 trained economists. I do not know why honorable members opposite should be so shy of having anything to do with economists. I commend this proposal, which I consider to be a wise one, to the sympathetic consideration of the committee.
.- I “cannot see the slightest reason why this gentleman, when appointed, should not be called and examined by the Tariff Board in just the same way as any other witness. Without wishing to be disrespectful to the Minister, I must say that the clause, in my opinion, is absolutely useless. At the present time the Tariff Board may call whom it pleases, and if it desires to obtain any information from the Director of Economic Research, there will be nothing to prevent it from doing so. The public has a right to know what information the Director places before the board.
– The public will know.
– They will not. The consultation may take the form of a private conversation between the Director and the members of the board, and even this consultation may be held only after the Director has ascertained the views of the Minister.
– That might apply to any witness called by the board.
– No, because ordinary witnesses have to give evidence in public, and on oath. We do not know who is to be appointed as Director of Economic Research. He may be a man who is steeped to the chin in cobdenist ideas. At these private consultations he might try to impress his private views upon the members of the board. Why should he not come forward and give Ms evidence in public, and on oath, like other witnesses have to do? The board has the power to subpoena witnesses, and to deal with those who are recalcitrant. The Minister made a big point of the staff of experts employed by the Tariff Commission of the United States of America. It must be ‘ remembered, however, that that Commission is a huge department, employing over 200 persons, including technical experts, so-called economists and legal men. It would be impossible for that commission to carry out its work without a large staff. I happen to have here the Eleventh Report of the commission, which i3 a later one than that which the Minister quoted. I have yet to learn that our Tariff Board has power to send representatives abroad to study trade conditions in other countries. Tet the Tariff Commission of the United States has sent experts to Germany, Czecho-Slovakia, Jugoslavia, and France to study trade conditions there, while in one year two members of the commission itself visited twenty different European countries taking a staff with them. If it is essential to have the advice of economists in this country they should be attached to the board itself. I feel inclined to vote against this clause because, even though it be lost, it will not prevent the Tariff Board from obtaining what information it requires from the Director of the Bureau of Economic Research. I can see why this clause has been introduced. It is a kind of sop thrown to the free traders amongst the Government supporters.
– Unfortunately I was not in my place when the Prime Minister was introducing the measure to which the Minister for Trade and Customs has referred. A new star has appeared in the firmament, a Director of Economic Research. Our heavens now are thickly sprinkled with these bodies; some of them are merely nebulous, some emit evidences of activity, and others do not. I should like to know what this director is doing in this particular place. I understand that there might well be occasions when we would welcome the advice of a Director of Economic Research, but what is he doing in this bill? I listened to the honorable Minister with interest when he spoke of the 59 experts attached to the United States Tariff Commission. Some of them are chemists, others specialists in various phases of industrial life, being metallurgists, or other experts. But we ought to remember that our Tariff Board was appointed to deal with concrete affairs. There is nothing nebulous about the matters into which it has to inquire. It is not there to conduct a scientific inquiry, but to form an opinion upon facts submitted to it. If an application is made to the board for a duty of 25 per cent, or 50 per cent, on woollen goods, the board must inquire whether it is in fact necessary or desirable in the interests of the State that the duty should be imposed. It may be most desirable that there should be at the disposal of the board a scientific expert who could advise it whether it were possible for a country like Australia to manufacture certain classes of woollen goods successfully. Perhaps an applicant might ask for a higher duty on leather goods. One would imagine that in this country, where we are singularly favoured in the possession of raw materials, we could turn out any kind of leather. The question is, have we the technical skill, and the necessary appliances? Are we able to compete, and will it pay us to compete? The board has to inquire into these matters, but a director of economic research, . I apprehend, would know nothing about them. He would know no more about the technique of tanning leather, cutting gear wheels, or manufacturing woollen goods than would any other man.
– He will not be asked about those things.
– Will the Minister treat us gently and kindly, and tell us what the director will be asked?
– He will be asked questions relating to the economic bearing of an application, and of the results likely to follow if it were granted.
– That sounds suspiciously like Herbert Spencer’s definition of life, concerning which I shall refresh my mind, for the benefit of the committee, during the dinner adjournment.
Sitting suspended from 6. IB to 8 p.m.
– I promised to assist the Minister in arriving at a decision by a quotation from Herbert Spencer, but the method of cataloguing books in the Parliamentary library does not enable one, by drawing a bow at a venture, to reach the passage that he seeks. I must, therefore, fall back upon another passage, which I hope is as clear as the statement of the Minister, and I offer a prize to any honorable member who may disentangle the meaning of it. Herbert Spencer says -
We are scarcely at all hampered by qualifications when, from contemplating these special relations, we return to the general relation. The antagonism between Individuation and Genesis, is shown by all the facts that have been grouped under each head. We have seen that in ascending from the lowest to the highest types, there is a decrease of fertility so great as to be absolutely inconceivable -
That does not apply to the Director of Economic Research - and even inexpressible by figures ; and whether the superiority of type consists in relative largeness, in greater complexity, in higher activity, or in some or all of these combined, matters not to the ultimate inference.
– Perfectly clear!
– Perfectly, but unduly pessimistic -
The broad fact, enough for us here, is that organisms in which the integration and differentiation of matter and motion have been carried furthest, are those in which the rate of multiplication has fallen lowest. How much of the decline of reproductive power is due to the greater integration of matter, how much to its greater differentiation, how much to the larger amounts of integrated and differentiated motions generated, it may be impossible to say, and it is not needful to say.
That is a point of which we all should lay hold -
These are all elements of a higher degree of life, an augmented ability to maintain the organic equilibrium amid environing actions - an increased power of self-preservation; and we find their invariable accompaniment to be, a diminished expenditure of matter, or motion, or both, in race preservation.
The relevancy of this profound analysis of some of the basic principles of evolution to the matter before the committee, must be obvious to every honorable member.
Now I come to the point I was endeavouring to make before dinner. Precisely what is the Director of Economic Research to do? It is very evident, that if science is able to assist the manufacturers of this country by finding better, more economical and more profitable methods of operation, whereby Australia may gather to herself industries that now elude her, we shall welcome her assistance, but I gathered from the Minister’s remarks that that is not to be the function of the Director of Economic Research. He is to range in the upper air, and deal with the effects of various factors upon the body economic. He is to determine what would be the effect upon the nation of imposing a duty of, say, 33 per cent, instead of 37 per cent. I hope my readiness to fall back upon the dicta of a man whose position in the temple of science is unchallengeable, proves that I am not ranged with those, of whom the Minister spoke disparagingly, who are reluctant to take and be led by the hand of science. At the same time, I want this Parliament to have full control of its own affairs. If the people of Australia desire a certain policy, why should they not have it? If we are to discuss the merits of this or that item in the tariff, we must do so upon facts and not upon theories. The allegation of Professor So and So that the effect of this or that fiscal system would be disastrous or the reverse will be immaterial. The general principles of policy are to be determined by the people, and to ba expressed and given shape and substance by this Parliament and by nobody else. We appointed a Tariff Board to make inquiries into various^ industries, so that we might discuss them with minds thoroughly informed. That was a wise step. Many years ago we established a bureau of science and industry, the services of which have always been at the disposal of the Tariff Board. For example, the investigation by the bureau of the possibility of manufacturing paper from Australian wood pulp had a direct bearing on the economic development of this country, and if the scientists could have shown us a way, or, if there were more than one, the best way, to manufacture pulp from Australian wood, they would have rendered good service, and the Tariff Board no doubt would have been eager to avail itself of their suggestions. But the Director of Economic Research is to be a scientist of a different character. He will live and work detached from the busy hive of man. He will say, “If you do this such and such results must inevitably follow.” The list of books that have been written on economics is rather formidable, but I have never been able to learn that a nation in formulating its fiscal policy paid the slightest regard to any of them.
– It is time we did.
– I admit that the nations should have done so, but they did not. The Minister informed us that there are 59 scientists attached to the Tariff Commission of the United States of America, and that their business is to assist American industry to produce cheaply and efficiently. They may tell the leather manufacturers of improved methods of dyeing, dressing and tanning.
– They are political economists.
– I take the Minister’s word for that, because it is not permissible to do otherwise, but I cannot reconcile the abounding prosperity of America with reliance upon the advice of 59 economists. “We know that economists differ.
– In America all are protectionists.
– At last we are down to bedrock ! If we are to understand that all the experts to be placed at the disposal of the Tariff Board, as well as the Director of Economic Research, will be so many Sauls of Tarsus who have seen the light, and will give advice along the right lines, the last shadow of our opposition disappears. But we are afraid that the Minister is merely adopting a new way of putting a dagger under the fifth rib of Australia’s national policy. Facilis descensus Averni. There are more ways of killing a dog than by choking it with butter, and the Minister appears to have devised a method of destroying the national policy of Australia by arranging a hand-picked personnel, the trend of whose advice can be foreseen with a’ fair degree of confidence, and should it falter or need support, it will be backed by the learned jargon of a Director of Economic Research. I ask honorable members what they would do if a recommendation of the scientists were couched in the language of the passage I read from Herbert Spencer - and I have not been able to find that passage which epitomises in one sublime phrase the whole of his marvellous philosophy. We are plain men dealing with the every-day affairs of life, and the bread and butter of the people. What we determine here means employment or unemployment to hundreds of thousands of Australians. If it be true that the 59 economists in America have been called into a citadel inside which no man dare breathe a word hostile to the protectionist policy of America-
– Nearly all of them are experts, not economists.
– Who says so? I do not believe for a moment that in America, where after an election even the postmaster of a little wayside office must be of the same political complexion as the
President, they would select scientists in an indiscriminate and careless way. The proof of the pudding is in the eating of it. America is a progressive country. She has a policy of protection; which may be a good or a bad thing. That policy may be opposed to the fundamental principles upon which economics rest. But the country is prosperous under it, and so is every other country that has a similar policy. I should welcome the appointment of a Director of Economic Research if lie were the right man and gave the right kind of advice. But I do not intend to buy a pig in a poke. As the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. E. Riley) has pointed out, the bill creating this office has not yet been passed. I am not a bigot upon this subject. If the Government will come down and say “We have seen the error of our ways and we now believe in freetrade or a low tariff. At last the earnest prayers of the Treasurer have prevailed and we are now going to do what we should have done long ago, and reduce duties “ - it would, at least, show courage, and the people of Australia, as well as honorable members, would know where they stood, although by doing so the Government would settle its hash. I know that frontal attacks are generally foolhardy, but they are straightforward. This measure encourages the people to believe that a new era is dawning, but when I see the smiling faces of the honorable members of the corner party I can only come to the conclusion that they have at last achieved what they have long desired. To put the matter shortly, we are farming out the functions of government far too much. What we need to-day is government by the elected representatives of the people. To-day we have not got it. If it is not the Development and Migration Commission, it is some other commission that is doing the work of the Government. The Government certainly is not doing its own work. I do not think that this Bureau of Economic Research which is to be added to the already long list of boards and bureaus will be able to do anything useful for the people of Australia, though its work may. be useful to the ‘Government.
.- In order to understand what the Minister is aiming at in introducing this amendment one needs to read the clause as it was originally drafted. It provided that the Minister might direct the board to confer with the Director of Economic Research. By mentioning the office in this bill we are anticipating that Parliament will pass a measure which has only just been introduced. But assuming that the measure will be passed, the original intention of the Government was that the Minister should direct the board to confer with the Director of Economic Research. As the result of the criticism of that proposal during the second-reading debate on this bill the Minister is now proposing to amend the clause to provide that the board may confer with the Director of Economic Research. I ask the Minister whether it is true, as some honorable members have suggested, that there is no need for this provision, because the board may to-day confer with whomever it cares to call into conference. My opinion is that it cannot do so, and that it would not be able to confer privately with the Director of Economic Research unless we agreed to this amendment. The danger of this provision is that it may defeat the object of an important section which Parliament recently inserted in the Tariff Board Act by a large majority. If the Government dislikes that section, it should endeavour to remove it. At present the Tariff Board is obliged to conduct all its inquiries and take all its evidence in public. Thus any evidence given may be rebutted if it is inaccurate. Why should the board be permitted to confer secretly with one particular individual? This Parliament, by a. large vote in which freetraders and protectionists united, endeavoured to put an end to that kind of thing. I am a protectionist, and I hold that protectionists should have the opportunity of rebutting any evidence that may be put before the board by freetraders. Similarly, freetraders should have the opportunity of rebutting any evidence that protectionists may submit to the board. Each party has a perfect right to present its case for or against any proposed duty. Whether the Director of Economic Research turns out to be a freetrader or a protectionist, I contend that the public have the right to be informed of any views that he submits to the Tariff Board. This board is semi-official in character, and gives decisions which compare in some respects with the judgments of a court. If it is to be permitted to confer privately with the Director of Economic Research I can see no logical reason why it should not be allowed to confer privately with, say, the Chairman of the Chamber of Manufactures; but I do not think honorable members would support that proposal. The Minister has said that the mere mention of the word “ economics “ seems to throw honorable members on this side of the chamber into a frenzy. That is foolish talk. The Minister could, with a good deal of profit to himself, sit at the feet of many of my colleagues and learn something about political economy. There are many aspects of this subject that he would be well advised to study before attempting to lecture us upon it. No one is more desirous of studying political economy or economics generally than honorable members on this side of the committee. Economics and political economy have become a fetish with the Prime Minister. I may be pardoned for reminding him that the introduction of the phrase “ economic effects “ into a measure which was recently passed by this Parliament, has caused one of the biggest industrial upheavals that Australia has known for a long while. The speech of the Minister this afternoon reminded me of my youthful days in debating societies when young men stood up, thumped the table, and said “ What did John Stuart Mill say on this subject?” They proceeded to quote an extract from that writer’s works, as though that was the last word to be said on the subject. But we are not dealing with John Stuart Mill or Herbert Spencer; we are dealing with the facts of industry. The Tariff Board will be appointed to discharge certain duties. It will be obliged to call witnesses for and against high or low duties in certain industries, and then it will have to study the economic effect of granting a higher or lower duty. If the Director of Economic Research or the Commonwealth Statistician or the Chairman of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research have any views to offer on these subjects, they should submit them in public as ordinary witnesses upon oath, and not otherwise. Neither the Director of Economic Research nor any other gentleman should be called into secret conclave by the board. I do not suppose that such an official could give the board any more useful information than the Commonwealth Statistician could give it.
– The board may consult the Commonwealth Statistician now.
– But it must do so in public, and the evidence which it obtains from him may be replied to by other witnesses. I submit that this provision is in direct conflict with the section in the Tariff Board Act, which provides that the board shall take all evidence in public. That provision properly applies to statistical and all other evidence, and there is every reason why we should refuse to depart from that practice in the case of the Director of Economic Research. Why should this gentleman be permitted to place his opinions before the Tariff Board privately?
– He will place before the board not opinions, but information.
– The information given by the so-called economists very frequently consists of opinions. This director may say that the effect of a certain act upon a particular industry will be so and so. But that will be only an opinion. Probably 90 per cent, of the statements made by these theorists are opinions and only 10 per cent, are facts. The Tariff Board is required not only to ascertain what rate of duty is necessary to enable a particular industry successfully to compete against oversea products, but also what effect the granting of such a duty would have upon other Australian industries, for it may in some cases be dealing with the raw material of other industries. The board is not always right in its judgments, but so long as it makes its inquiries in public and gives the reasons for its recommendations we know where we are. If the board desires to confer with the Director of Economic Research it should do so openly. All its investigations should be open and above board. Honorable members on this side would be the last to say that an economist should not appear before the board, or that the information gathered by a bureau of economic research should not be available to the Tariff Board. Such a suggestion would be preposterous. So the lecture of the Minister was out of place. Let us bring all the available economic facts before the board in open session by means of public evidence, so that all may know on what facts its determinations are based.
– Honorable members opposite, supported by the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), have used this clause to make a strong and sustained attack on the fiscal sincerity of the Government, and upon me in particular. They have turned the proposal that the board should consult with the Economic Bureau into a bogy in order, apparently, to terrify the committee; but I remind honorable members that this Government, in the last few years, has made a greater contribution than any other Commonwealth Ministry to the policy of constructive protection. Honorable members opposite may not like that fact, and they always ignore it, but there it is. Any measuring up of the tariff performance of this Government with that of any other Government during an equal number of years, will prove that what I have said is correct. This shows how baseless and unfair is the constant insinuation that the Government is halfhearted over the policy of protection, and that, by this proposed amendment, it is secretly undermining the tariff wall of this country. During the 28 years of our federal history, the policy and achievement of Liberals and Nationalists in regard to protection is such that the record of the party opposite cannot be compared with it. The tariff schedules introduced by Labour Governments and carried into law are insignificant as compared with the achievements of honorable members on this side and their predecessors. The charge, to which I have referred, is on all fours with the old story that we are always hearing about our social sympathies - the old charge of our disposition to oppress the poor, which has been refuted a thousand times by our record with respect to invalid and old-age pensions. Honorable members opposite and their predecessors have been as neglectful of the tariff, when they have been in power, as of the claims of those pensioners.
I have been subjected, because of this clause, to a strong attack on my own sincerity as a protectionist. Honorable members have laid against me one of the most serious charges that could be levelled at any member, and it is that I have accepted the position of Minister for Trade and Customs without having a sincere belief in a policy of protection for Australia. I am not concerned about what honorable members opposite think on that matter. They pretend to speak for the great manufacturing interests of this country, and sit in judgment upon me, but, if I want the opinion held in the country about my sincerity, I do not refer to the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Penton), and other members opposite, who make these insinuations. Let me quote a few words from a statement by Mr. H. B. Sevier, President of the Chamber of Manufactures in New South “Wales, that appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald on the 6th March : - “ By his frankness anil his business-like attitude, Mr. Gullett (Minister for Trade and Customs) has convinced us of his earnest desire for the welfare of Australian industry, “ said Mr. H. E. Sevier, president of the Chamber of Manufac.ros, yesterday. “He recognizes that tariff revision should be dealt with promptly and on its merits, “ he added. “ While we may not always see eye to eye with him, I feel sure that so far as is in his power the fair thing will be done by the industrial community. “
With a certificate such as that from the president of the greatest organization of manufacturing industries in this country, I pay little heed to the opinion of the honorable member for Maribyrnong concerning my sincerity on tariff matters.
I need hardly remind the committee that the new clause means precisely what it says and no more. There is no sinister motive behind it, and no attack upon the tariff. It represents only a sincere endeavour to make the tariff more effective than it is at the present time. The Government is merely following in the footsteps of every enlightened country, by proceeding to deal with governmental matters wherever they touch business, on the most businesslike lines that can be adopted. Why are honorable members opposite so shy of the word “ econo- mics “ ? Are they afraid of the application of economic principles to the whole of their theories? If not, why the fear of a student of economy being consulted by the chairman or other members of the Tariff Board? Webster defines economics as a science that investigates the conditions and laws affecting the production, distribution and consumption of wealth. There is no suggestion of Herbert Spencer about that. Then we have the suggestion of the right honorable member for North Sydney and honorable members opposite, that the Government deliberately intends to appoint some fanatical avowed freetrade theorist to the position of Director of Economic Research. I hope that the committee will give the Government credit for a little sanity. There seems to be an idea among honorable members opposite that an economist is of necessity a freetrader. Far more of the well-known economists who are thinking, writing and speaking in. the world to-day are protectionists than freetraders. The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann), who always asks us to believe that the only possible practice and belief for any man with brains is that of freetrade, does not like the idea that a thoughtful, cultured man in the economic field may be a protectionist. Let me remind him that Europe and America are full of distinguished protectionist economists. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell), speaking the other night on the second reading of the bill, referred to economic law. There is economic law and economic law. I do not subscribe as an Australian to the recognition of international economic law. But I do subscribe to the observance of economic law within Australia as between one industry and another and between the people as a whole.
– Will the Minister approve of an Australian being appointed to the position of Director of Economic Research ?
– As I see the job of any economic bureau, it should study the whole industrial distribution and consumption problem in this country. The bureau will be able to give invaluable assistance to the Tariff Board with respect to the direct and indirect effects and the probable and improbable results of any new tariff or anyexisting duties. The greatest conflict in regard to the tariff does not take place between the manufacturing and the other industries, or between themanufacturing industries and the consumers of this country. During the few weeks that I have administered the department, I have noticed repeatedly that what we have to guard against most assiduously is the doing of injury to one manufacturing industry by assisting another. I do not say that that happens very frequently; but the danger is present the whole time. A specialist who does nothing but study direct and indirect results surely will become facile and well informed, and will be worth consulting. He will not express opinions, but submit evidence. This is a simple little clause. It has nothing behind it except a very earnest desire to ensure that every item in our tariff will have behind it not a weak, limp industry, but an effective and progressive one.
.- The Minister has endeavoured to disarm criticism, but I do not think that he has succeeded. If the proposal of the Government is as lacking in potential harm as he has endeavoured to make out, he should be prepared to amend the clause in such a way as to require that on matters of great public importance the economist who may be appointed under the Economic Research Bill, shall give evidence before the board and not merely be called into a conference, to which the public would not be admitted. His representations may so influence the board, as to have a serious effect upon an industry, and perhaps deprive it of the protection it seeks. The Minister has heatedly replied to suggestions relating to his attitude upon fiscal questions.
Mr.Gullett. - Is that to be wondered at?
– I do not marvel that the Minister should take an early opportunity to define his attitude; but at the same time I am not surprised that there should be a great deal of doubt as to where he really stands in relation to the fiscal policy of Australia. He has quoted a testimonial given to him by Mr. Sevier, the President of the Chamber of Manufactures in Sydney.
– He did not give it to me ; he published it broadcast.
– It was merely the expression of a pious hope that the Minister would prove to be a protectionist. It was a very wise move, on the part of the president of the Chamber of Manufactures. That chamber has a lively sense of favours to come. It would be anything but tactful for it to cast reflectionsormake a personal attack upon the Minister. I can fully understand its desire to establish goodwill between itself and the Minister, considering the opinion which he expressed in this chamber only a few months before he assumed office. Speaking upon tariff questions on the 28th March last, he said -
We are carrying the policy of fiscal protec tion for new industries much too far.
He went on to say -
A tariff holiday, so far as new industries are concerned, would be to the best advantage of the country.
Does the Minister now repudiate that sentiment? Has he no fear that the settled fiscal policy of Australia is a wrong one?
– That is not what I said.
– The honorable gentleman said that we were carrying the policy of fiscal protection for new industries much too far. If that is not a definite expression of fear as to the outcome of the protection of new industries, what is it? New industries require protection, possibly more than old industries.
– All industries, not new industries alone.
– There are new industries that have been established within the last 5 or 10 years which to-day are being practically ruined by unfair competition from overseas.
Mr.Gullett. - I was not speaking of industries that were established at the time.
– If that is the case the Minister was unfortunate in the expressions he employed. He spoke of a tariff holiday. It is now feared that a tariff holiday is to be forced on the country, whether it likes it or not. If the Tariff Board, before it gives any decision or recommendation on a tariff application, is bound to confer with a director who has yet to be appointed, of a bureau that has yet to be established, and if that director must make a thorough investigation into the means and the cost of production, distribution, and other matters pertaining to our industries, we shall have no new tariff schedule, and no tariff rectification, for years. If we have to wait until the bureau has been established, a director found, and those researches completed, many industries will be destroyed.
– There is no evidence that there will be any delay.
– There is every expectation of delay. I do not wish it to be thought that I am making unreasonable charges or assertions. The bureau has yet to be established and the economist appointed. He must have the assistance of a staff, and his researches will be of such a nature that they will extend over many months, and possibly years. If the Tariff Board is not to act until it is armed with that additional information
– That has never been suggested. I give the honorable member the assurance that the board will not wait an hour for this bureau.
– Why is it necessary to insist upon this amendment if the Tariff Board is to continue to conduct its investigations into our main industries and make its recommendations without the guidance of what the Minister regards as an indispensable consideration? The Minister’s attitude is illogical.
– It will be an additional aid to the Tariff Board.
– Can the honorable member suggest that the Director of Economic Research could not be made available to the Tariff Board for the purpose of giving evidence in open inquiry? That is all that is asked.
– I have no objection.
– Will the Minister accept an amendment along those lines?
– I will not be dictated to by imaginary fears.
– The whole of the argument has been concerned with the question whether the Director of Economic Research should be taken into conference or be called as a witness.
– What does the honorable member suggest that I should accept?
– An amendment that requires the director to give evidence before the board. The Minister was at great pains to show that successive Nationalist Governments had been responsible for the only protection that is afforded. He argued that when Labour Governments were in office they adopted a negligent attitude towards the tariff.
– That is quite right.
– That is neither a reasonable assumption nor a fair assertion.
– Take the 1914 tariff; they had the power then;
– The tariff which was passed by the Fisher Government gave more effective protection than did any succeeding tariff. The Prime Minister either early last year, or in the concluding days of the session of 1927, quoted certain figures which bear that out. They showed that in 1913 the amount of customs duties collected represented 18 per cent, of the value of goods imported. There were fluctuations in succeeding years; but in 1926 the figure was still 18 per cent. So far as that is indicative of the effectiveness of the tariff it proves that the tariff remained stationary from 1913 to 1926. The Minister for. Trade and Customs takes a view of the inspiration that is behind the proposal to appoint a Director of Economic Research which is quite different from that taken by the Prime Minister. When the right honorable gentleman moved his motion for . the second reading of the Economic Research Bill he said that he gained the inspiration to set up a Bureau of Economic Research from a declaration of policy made by the Liberal party in England. Every economist, every publicist, every leading statesman in the Liberal party of England is a free trader to the backbone. No person would be tolerated in that party if his advocacy of freetrade weakened in the slightest degree. Yet it was the political philosophy of that party which furnished the reason, the justification, and the inspiration for this Bureau of Economic Research. The honorable member for Darling asked a very per- tinent question, and one which ought to be answered by the Minister, for it admits of a simple answer. Is it the intention of the Government, when seeking a director of the Bureau of Economic Research, to appoint an Australian economist, or is it intended to import one from abroad?
– That was not the question he asked. He asked whether or not the man was to be an importer.
– No ; he asked whether the director would be imported from overseas, or whether he would be an Australian. I submit that that has a definite bearing on the matter we are now considering. If the Government has made up its mind to get the most eminent economist available, and in pursuit of such a man selects one from abroad, the bureau might easily prove a serious menace to Australian industry.
– Australia will ‘ be thoroughly exhausted before there will be any thought of going overseas.
– That reply brings to light another apparent inconsistency on the part of the Government. The Minister for Trade and Customs says that Australia will be exhausted before a director is brought from overseas.
– Before there is any thought of bringing one from overseas.
– And yet) when the Prime Minister was speaking on the subject of the Bureau of Economic Research the other day, he said that we had practically no economist in Australia qualified to carry out work of this kind. He said that there was a professor of economics in Melbourne, a chair of economics in Sydney, and a couple of lecturers in the subject elsewhere; but that we should strengthen this force of trained men in Australia. What inference is to be drawn from that other than that he intends to bring in economists from overseas? There is danger in this policy, if it is pursued. All of us here are practical men, have met economists and have come up against economic problems in some phase or another. There is no deep mystery about the subject of economics, nothing which cannot be understood by ordinary, intelligent men.
– Then why are honorable members of the Opposition frightened of this proposal?
– The honorable member is only repeating parrot-like the cry of the Minister who introduced the bill. Where have we given any evidence of fear ? It has been pointed out on both sides qf the House that this alleged dependence on economic research in the consideration of tariff matters may be used to undermine the settled fiscal policy of this country. That is the only fear we have expressed. Nobody fears as much research as is necessary to understand the problems of industry. Is it asserted that there is no economic research going on in Australia now? Honorable members with any experience know that there goes on in every industry - agriculture in its various branches, the pastoral industry in its different aspects, and in the secondary industries, also - constant research by the men engaged in them for the purpose of solving the different economic problems involved. Take a typical agricultural industry, or one, at least, which, if not typical, supplies a good illustration for my argument - the sugar industry - which simply bristles with economic problems. There are problems relating to wages, employment, the fixing and control of prices for the primary producers, and the determination of a reasonable price to the manufacturers of raw sugar.
– And their effect on the rest of the community.
– Yes, and their effect on the community as a whole. Then there are problems relating to home and overseas markets, and the financing of the industry. These matters have necessitated the close study of economic problems as related to the sugar industry for years past. I doubt whether you could throw any new light on these problems if you brought twenty trained economists from Europe. Men have grown up in studying these matters, and no one can teach them more than they already know about! the economic elements of their own business. Some advantage may be gained, perhaps, by the co-ordination of research in this particular industry with the research going on in other directions, but that is all. I repeat that the study of economic problems cannot be, and bas not been, neglected in Australia. It is going on from day to day in many of our industries. To suggest that it is necessary to set up a Federal Bureau of Economic Research before we can do anything in the way of studying economic problems is simply to ignore what has been going on here for years. The main danger isthat the proposal to link up the Tariff Board with a Bureau of Economic Research, and experts appointed under it, may lead to still greater delays in the determination of tariff problems which are outstanding at the present time. The Minister knows how many applications have been made to the board, and how many have been held up; how many inquiries have been in progress for months past, and how many industries which have been waiting for a decision, have been unable to get one. He knows also, because it bas been reported to him, that in some cases new industries have been crippled, and old ones forced into bankruptcy, because of undue delays in determining the amount of protection to be afforded them. These things are within, the experience of all honorable members who have been in contact with manufacturing industries during the last year or two. I know of cases - and I hope to have an opportunity of bringing them before the Minister later - in which there has been real hardship. I know of concrete cases of unfair dealing, cases of overseas manufacturers using unscrupulous methods to defeat the Australian tariff provisions, thus making serious inroads into Australian industries. This has been rendered possible because of delays in having matters dealt with by the Tariff Board. If this proposal is put into effect there will be more delays, and more excuses for the postponement of the application of duties, and bringing finality to these cases. I deprecate the holding up of the process by which the fiscal policy of this country is to be given effect. Members of this House are charged with the consideration of the economic consequences of tariff alterations, and in that we cannot shelter behind economic theorists when answering our constituents, nor should the Government be allowed to shelter behind an economic bureau.
.- In my student days political economy was generally regarded, and was frequently referred to as the “ dismal science,” and I had no idea until to-night that it might be treated in an entertaining way until I heard the sounds of enjoyment with which the utterances of the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) were received. Before he spoke, the House must have been rather in doubt as to the attitude it ought to assume on this matter. But after listening to the delightfully incoherent and unintelligible speech of the right honorable gentleman, I am quite sure that no one has any doubt as to what attitude he should adopt. I am sure that we all listened with great interest to that quotation from Herbert Spencer, that master of synthetic philosophy, but while the right honorable gentleman was reading it, and throwing such a wonderful lot of light on this subject, I was reminded of another quotation - since quotations seem to be in order to-night. My quotation, if not from Herbert Spencer, is from some other philosopher equally profound. “What is the use of knowing where you are, if you ain’t there ? “ I think that most aptly describes the situation in which we find ourselves to-night in regard to this section. It seems to me that the speeches which have been delivered on the matter have been “much ado about nothing.” The section as it stood before the Minister introduced this amendment was intelligible. It had some meaning, and was, I presume, designed to invest the Minister with power, if he so chose in any particular case, to require the Tariff Board to confer with the Director of Economic Research. One could understand that, and, for what it was worth, it was, as I say intelligible; but the amendment proposed by the Minister seems to me to emasculate the section completely, and render it meaningless and unnecessary, because if I understand the Tariff Board Act, there is nothing in it *o prevent the board from conferring with any one it chooses. What is the use if the board already possesses the right to confer with A, B, C, D, E, and F, to solemnly introduce a clause saying that it may confer with “ A “. That is quite absurd. The point has been made by some Honorable members of the Opposition that the board should not have the right to confer with any one except in public. I do not agree with that. Why should not the members of the board, either singly or collectively, have a talk with any one they please with a view to informing their minds on a matter which has been placed before them for consideration ?
The Minister, dealing with this matter used a definition of “ economics “ taken, I think, from Webster. It was as follows -
Economics is the science of the investigation of the conditions and laws affecting the production, distribution and consumption of wealth; that is of the material means of satisfying human desires.
That is what constitutes the science of economics. The Director of Economic Research would be a master of that science. The Tariff Board is charged with the duty of making investigations in regard to various matters.
– The honorable member must know how economists disagree among themselves.
– That does not matter. There is such a thing as a science of economics, a systemization of the laws affecting the production, distribution and consumption of wealth. Supposing the Tariff Board to be charged with the task of making certain investigations with regard to a subject, what is more natural than that its members should have a talk with a master of economic science who happens to be the Director of Economic Research? He may be able to suggest to the board useful lines of investigation, directions in which it might prosecute its inquiries. The board does not need the sanction of this bill to do that ; it has that power already. Some honorable members opposite have suggested that such conferences should be in public, and by the taking of evidence from the director, which would be the subject of public criticism and possibly cross-examination by the board. There is nothing to prevent that. The board may confer with him regarding the lines of its investigation; but in the last resort the function of the board is to report and recommend. When its report and recommendations are submitted to the Minister, they (must be accompanied by the evidence on which they are founded, so that he and Parlia ment and any one interested may have an opportunity of testing the validity and soundness of the board’s conclusions. The board might have conferred previously and privately with the Director of Economic Research, but only in regard to possible lines of investigation.
– How is Parliament to know what his suggestions were?
– It is not necessary that it should know who suggested the lines of investigation, but if the board is to be influenced by the opinions of the director, those opinions should be expressed in open court and incorporated with the other evidence on which the board bases its recommendations.
– How is Parliament to find out whether the report is based upon the evidence?_
– It is our responsibility to read the evidence and decide whether it warrants the board’s report and recommendations.
– We get only a synopsis of the evidence.
– Suggestions by the Director of Economic Research in private conference with the board in regard to lines of investigation would not influence its report. The plan of inquiry having been determined, the board proceeds to investigate, and upon the evidence it gathers, its report and recommendations are based. Again, I say that this clause is absolutely unnecessary. Assuming that later the proposed bureau will be established, its function will be to prosecute inquiries with a view to acquiring economic knowledge which will be placed at the disposal not only of the board, but of everybody who is interested. The members of the board, whose duty it will be to investigate the laws governing production, distribution, and consumption will naturally turn to the bureau for suggestions as to their work. The clause as originally drafted has some meaning, but if it be amended as the Minister has suggested, it will be meaningless and unnecessary.
.- If there be any merit in the proposal to establish a bureau of economic research, it should first have the approval of Parliament before being connected with the machinery to be set up under this bill. The honorable member for Fawkner emphasized the definition, quoted by the Minister for Trade and Customs, of political economy as the science of dealing with human endeavour in relation to the production and distribution of wealth. For what purpose is this economic research to be undertaken? Scientific research is applied to natural phenomena for definite purposes, but honorable members opposite who are supporting the Government’s proposal will not declare for what purpose the economic analysis is to be made. If it be for the gathering of data to be used in the direction of human energy into the most productive channels so that every individual may enjoy the maximum of comfort and happiness I am in favour of it; but it is meaningless to me if it does not add to the sum total of human well-being. Honorable members opposite regard economic and scientific research only as a means to increase profits ; therefore I am suspicious of a proposal of this kind emanating from the present Government. The Director of Economic Research will be a man whose political opinions and economic doctrines are acceptable to the Government. The Minister was very unfortunate in quoting America, the country in which, of all others, the so-called science of economics is used to chloroform the people and fill their minds with untruths and misconceptions. Many years ago Arthur Kidson, an Englishman, wrote a book called The Money Question, which was published in America. In it the writer dealt frankly and radically with the nefarious methods of capitalistic finance, and prescribed a cure. Many professors of economics in American universities were captivated by this clear analysis and exposure of the falsities of capitalistic finance, and started to use it as a text book. Immediately the hostility of vested interests was aroused, the book was withdrawn ,from the university libraries, and every professor who attempted to teach Kidson’s doctrines was sacked. That is America’s method of dealing with economists whose views are unacceptable to the capitalistic class. Would the present Government appoint as director of economic research a professor who subscribed to the doctrines of Karl Marx?
– Would the honorable member’s party?
– I prefer his doctrines to those laid down in Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations, which, John Stewart Mill declared, represented the last word in political economy. I am a solid protectionist, but I realize that economic and industrial problems will not be solved by any fiscal doctrine. I shall not be satisfied with any system that does not ensure that human activities employed in the creation of wealth shall be directed to obtaining for every individual a full share of the good things of life. If a professor of economics does not approach his job with that object in mind he is of no use to me. Profit should be his last consideration; every humane demand should be satisfied before one penny of profit was allowed to anybody. In other words we should give effect to the old formula, “production for use instead of profit.” With the Bureau of Economic Research dove-tailing with the Tariff Board, and judges of the Arbitration Court compelled by section 25 of the Arbitration Act to take into account possible economic effects before they deliver awards, the reactionary forces behind the Government will have completed the machinery to be used when Parliament is in recess for the economic depression of the wage-earners. Honorable members opposite may be honest in their desire to grant protection to our industries, but they are being forced by their masters to do all in their power to reduce our standards of living, and consequently their protectionist views must go by the board. I suppose that some profound judgment, couched in high-sounding language, will be given by the members of the Board of Economic Research, which will be used as an argument for reducing wages. In America they use the declarations of so-called economists as a kind of chloroform to administer to the working classes. Evidently the same policy is to be tried in Australia. The honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) said last night that we had departed from sound economic law. I should like to know what this law is. I gathered that the honorable member had in mind what is known as the law of supply and demand. That is not a law. It is a rule of the jungle, which should not be supplied to any civilized community. The merest schoolboy knows very well that if there are 10,000 hats and 11,000 heads, 1,000 heads must go uncovered. The same schoolboy, if asked the reason for the high price of commodities, would reply, if he understood anything at all about finance, that a contributory cause was because of an overplus of currency. If he were asked the reason for a depression in prices he would reply that a contributary cause was because of an insufficiency of currency. If honorable members opposite desire to do anything effective to. remedy our economic ills, they should bend their mentality to the problem of abolishing private profit. “We departed from the law of supply and demand in the days when the cornering of commodities was a common practice. Socalled economic law is not like immutable natural law, for it only came into recognition after society had reached a certain stage of development. Immediately vested interests developed, our economic problems began. Adam Smith discovered this, as he shows in his Wealth of Nations, and he ultimately got to the position of arguing that the man who produced the wealth should receive it all. What we need is not a Board of Economic Research, but a better means of distributing our commodities. Until recently I lived in a short street of about twelve houses at Dulwich Hill, and on some Saturday mornings when the milk vendors made both their deliveries in the morning, I have seen eight or nine milk carts in the street at one time. One delivered a quart of milk to my house, another delivered milk to my neighbour, and so on. The result was that the dairyman received ls. 4d. a gallon for his milk, and it cost ls. 8d. per gallon to distribute it. I do not think the honorable member for Riverina and his colleagues of the Country party will deny that that method of distribution is ridiculous.
– I admit that it is.
– When the postman caine into that street he delivered all the letters addressed to the persons living in it. If our letters were distributed like our milk, the postage on a letter would be ls. instead of ld. The first step to take in the re-organization of our social life is to secure social con trol of distribution. The next step would be the social control of production. Our present methods have degraded the people, and so long as we continue them the community will remain in the state of degradation. Our trouble is that we are trying to apply Christian ethics under a pagan formula. The pagan formula deified property and made possessions sacrosanct. It endeavoured to construct society on the basic principle of allowing the rich man to live among the poor men in safety. The Christian formula, which has never been properly developed, is the construction and maintenance of society on the principle of allowing good men to live among bad men in safety. Hitherto wages have always been the last consideration of those who have managed our social scheme, and I regard the proposal to set up a Board of Economic Research as another attempt to bolster up that system; but it is inevitably crumbling to pieces.
– Although we have discussed this clause for about two hours, the only importantdifference of opinion centres in as to whether the Director of Economic Research shall be called before the Tariff Board as an ordinary witness, or whether ho shall be permitted to confer with it. I am not much concerned about how his views are presented to the board, so long as they are presented to it. The Leader of the Opposition indicated that he did not object to the submission of economic views to the board so long as it was done openly. The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. . Hughes) does not. object to the investigations of economists being placed at the disposal of the Tariff Board, but he seems to think that customs administration is not very involved and that very little consideration is required to determine how much assistance should be given to particular industries. Let me remind the committee of a view that he expressed on the 9th March, 1927, when he said -
Customs and excise taxation is the most ingenious method ever devised for taking money from the people. The confidence trick, and the thimble and pea are fools to it. A virtuous person can avoid going to such haunts of vice as the racecourse, and, if he does go, can avoid being victimized by the thimble and pea trick. But nobody can escape paying customs and excise duties, and what is more, the people do not realize that they are paying them.
If the imposition of customs duties is such an ingenious and intricate matter, surely it is reasonable that all the information available should be at the disposal of the Tariff Board? When the right honorable gentleman was Prime Minister, he formed the Institute of Science and Industry, which has since been made more useful by being developed into the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. He also formed the Bureau of Commerce and Industry, which has been dissolved. He recognized then that it was essential that the Government, of which he was head, should have the advantage of the information that those bodies could bring to his assistance. Therefore, his statement that the present Government, in appointing a bureau of economic research, would be doing something to assist itself, and not the people, was quite an unnecessary aspersion on the Ministry, in view of his own record.
The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Theodore) made a typical speech, consisting of half truths, misrepresentation of what has been said by previous speakers, and a series of innuendoes and insinuations. He began by endeavouring to discredit the Minister for Trade and Customs because of the statement read by him from the Sydney Morning Herald, containing a compliment paid to him by Mr. Sevier, President of the Chamber of Manufactures of New South Wales, and tha honorable member did Mr. Sevier a grave injustice. Mr. Sevier remarked that, the Minister, by his frankness and businesslike attitude, had convinced manufacturers of his interest in the welfare of Australian industries.” The honorable member for Dalley said that that gentleman was merely currying favour with the Minister, in the expectation of favours to come. The honorable member has done an injustice to a man who holds as high a position in the business life of Sydney, and possibly higher, than that of the honorable member in the political arena. His desire seems to be to make political capital and to belittle the Minister for Trade and Customs rather than to improve the bill.
He also said that the Prime Minister derived his principal inspiration for the formation of a bureau of economic research from the fact that such a body had been formed in Great Britain.
– No; I said that he derived it from the philosophy of the Liberal party in England.
– I accept that statement, but it shows that the honorable member has uttered merely half truths. The honorable member did not tell the committee that the right honorable gentleman spent a considerable time in outlining additional reasons why this research body should be established. In no sense can it be said that he derived his inspiration from the source suggested. He explained that there was already a body of men who had voluntarily, gratuitously and patriotically begun inquiries on the lines of the investigations that would be required of a bureau of economic research. He mentioned Mr. Dyson and Mr. Giblin - names unknown to me - who had asked him to permit them to call to their assistance Professor Brigden, of Tasmania, and, I think, also Professor Copland. The Prime Minister’s speech clearly showed that we have in Australia men who are making a valuable contribution to our economic knowledge, and it could not be thought that he intended to go outside the Commonwealth in looking for a leader of the proposed bureau. The honorable member for Dalley has also imported into the discussion an entirely foreign aspect that is not justified by anything said by Ministers or contained in the bill. I refer to his suggestion that the giving of power to the board to confer with the bureau would involve delay in dealing with tariff matters. I submit that there is nothing in the bill, and that nothing has been said in the discussion upon it, to indicate that the whole subject of tariff administration, and the rectification of anomalies, is likely to be held up until this bureau ha3 been formed. All that the Minister said was that, when the bureau was formed, the board might confer with it, and obtain any information that it might have to give. But the board will continue its work as it has carried it out for many years, irrespective of the formation of the bureau.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Seullin) said that he had no objection to the information that the bureau might be able to furnish being made available to the board. The right honorable member for North Sydney and the honorable member for Dalley supported that view; but it would make no difference whether the director of the bureau gave evidence in public or simply conferred with by the board. The Leader of the Opposition said that the board could see the printed statements of the Commonwealth Statistician. Of course, they are available; but there is nothing to prevent the board from summoning the Statistician, and conferring orally with him. Section 19 of the principal act states -
When the witness arrives the evidence is given on oath, but that does not affect the full liberty of the board to take all evidence that it considers germane to the subject, and of value. I am not convinced of the imperative necessity for the inclusion of the proposed new section. I have no doubt that the same result could be obtained, even if it were not incorporated in the bill, but the Prime Minister said, in his policy speech, that the Tariff Board would be re-organized, and would be given power to confer with the Director of Economic Research. Provision for that is made in the bill, and I see no reason why it should not remain. I presume that our object is to draw up the best instrument we can devise for the building up of Australian industries. It is agreed by honorable members on this side that the information supplied by the bureau would be of value, and, since the Opposition sees no harm in it, we appear to be wasting time in arguing about a matter on which we are all fairly well agreed.
.- Earlier in the debate, I lamented the fact that the discussion was somewhat limited, but since the dinner adjournment no complaint on that score could have been made. I am concerned as to what is to be the composition of this Bureau of Economic Research. I have not the advantage of having heard the speech of the right honorable the Prime Minister upon the subject; but the inference is that the bureau will consist of a body of experts which will possess the faculty of seeing much further than members of Parliament on economic and industrial questions. Apparently they will be super men, who will be able to correct us when we deviate from the right track. Presumably, before taking any action upon a recommendation of the Tariff Board, the Government will obtain the advice of this body regarding its likely economic or industrial effect. My friends who sit on this side have expressed grave suspicion regarding the possible outcome. I do not consider that there is any necessity for them to fear the result. All boards that are brought into existence by governments more or less echo the opinions of the government of the day. Take the Development and Migration Commission, as an example. The members of that Commission are only human, and they know very well that they must trim their sails in accordance with the policy of the Government; and they are doing it very well, indeed. They have made inquiries into the dried fruits and canned fruits industries, and submitted what I regard as remarkable recommendations. Whether it be intentional or unintentional, they have sidestepped the real issue, and made recommendations that will certainly please the Government. They have said, in effect, that the troubles which confront the unfortunate men who are engaged in the dried fruits industry are of their own making, and that they must rely upon themselves to get out of them. They have propounded an idealistic scheme for the industrial re-organization of the industry. Those who are connected with the scheme must be 100 per cent, perfect, and so long as there is not one limb out of joint everything will be well. In effect, the Government has expressed a desire to discontinue the payment of a bounty on the products of canned fruits, and, so that it might have an excuse for discontinuing it, it set the Development and Migration Commission to work. With appropriate seriousness and solemnity that body held a post-mortem examination upon this industry, and made recommendations that, by a remarkable coincidence, are those that the Government most desired. Then, take the Federal Capital Commission. I do not criticize it, beyond saying that it is only human, and that its policy is largely that of the Government. Similarly, the North Australia Commission, and every other creation of the Government, will bring forward recommendations that are best calculated to please the Government and square with its policy. But the crucial point is: What is the policy of the Government? To-night we had an impassioned declaration of fiscal faith by the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Gullett). He stated, in short, that the insinuation that the Government had no tariff sincerity was a gross misrepresentation, and protested loudly that no government in the history of this country had gone further along the road to high protection than had this one. He asked the public to believe that, when it came to upholding the policy of high protection, honorable members who sit on this side were “not in it” with the Government. It is well that we should ascertain just where we stand on the fiscal question. Did the Minister speak for the whole Government?
– I spoke of the performances of the Government.
– The honorable gentleman did more than that. He read extracts from a statement published by some gentleman in Sydney, setting out his opinion of not only the past performances of the Government, but also the expected future performances of the Minister. We are not now discussing the merits or demerits of either freetrade or protection, and I should be out of order if I attempted to do so.
– I was about to suggest that the honorable member should confine himself to the question before the chair.
– Seeing that the Minister has been permitted to dwell at length upon the performances and intentions of the Government, I suggest that I should be allowed to ask one or two pertinent questions. The primary producers of Australia have been induced to support theCountry party section of the present Government in the belief that its fiscal policy favors a low tariff. On the 16th November, 1927, I quoted the text of an agreement that not only bound Country party members from Western
– Order! I cannot allow the honorable member to continue in that strain.
– I have no wish to charge you, sir, with treating me differently from anybody else.
– The Minister made certain statements in relation to his fiscal policy with a view to rebutting assertions that had been made in connexion with the appointment of a Director of Economic Research. He did not discuss protection per se.
– With all due deference to you, sir, he did more than discuss his own actions and beliefs; he made an emphatic declaration respecting the protectionist policy of the Government.
– With only one object in view.
– I have only one object in view; that is, to show that the Country party section of the Government is deceiving the primary producers upon the fiscal issue. I should like to know if I shall be out of order if I discuss the Minister’s declaration.
– It may be discussed only in relation to the appointment of the director, and the effect which it may have upon the selection of such a man.
– The honorable member could ask whether the fiscal faith of the director will be similar to that of the Minister.
– To put the question in another way, can the director at one and the same time hold a fiscal faith similar to that of the Minister for Trade and Customs and the Treasurer? Earlier in the day I expressed the opinion that it is about time we had a showdown on the fiscal issue, and a full dress debate in this chamber. The people know where the Labour party stands, but they do not know the policy of the Government, particularly the Country party section of it. In my early days I was taught that a man is judged by the company be keeps. Since I have not been able to roam the field as freely as I could wish, and as I expected to do after I had heard the declaration of the Minister, I shall content myself by saying that it matters very little whether or not the Government discusses any matter of fiscal policy with the Director of Economic Research. After all, the last decision would rest with the Government. The only useful purpose which this clause will serve is to enable the Government, if the Tariff Board should bring down a recommendation which does not square with its policy, to discuss the matter with the Director of Economic Research, and obtain a useful excuse for not carrying out the board’s recommendation. Another reason for the clause is to impress the public generally with the idea that the Government proposes to handle the tariff scientifically. It is directed particularly towards the primary producers of Australia. The Government wishes to convince them that tariff duties are no longer to be fixed according to the amount of pressure brought to bear by secondary industries, but will be lifted into the exalted realms of economics. In setting up this body of supermen who will be able to see further than we can, who will lift the veil of the future and divine the result of certain actions, the Government suggests that it is handling the tariff issue in some way superior to that adopted by any previous government. It does not matter much whether the consultations with the Director of Economic Research are held publicly or privately; the effect will be the same. In short, this is merely a gesture, an effort to throw dust in the eyes of the producers of Australia.
.- I could not help feeling a certain amount of sympathy with the Minister for Trade and Customs to-night over the baiting he received regarding his attitude on tariff matters. On the other hand, I do not know that he is not himself to blame for what he has had to endure. Se found it necessary to re-affirm his- fiscal faith this evening, and caused considerable amusement in doing so. If one looks up the past speeches of the Minister, OnE might very well have some doubt as to what is the real purpose behind the present proposal. There was, and I think with some reason, a feeling at the time the Minister was appointed to his present position, that the country might look for a certain amount of modification in the policy which had previously guided the department over which he presided. However, in a speech given at Melbourne shortly after hi3 appointment, the Minister was good enough to express amusement over the fact that he had received congratulations from certain persons, and. suggestions from others, that his appointment indicated any such change in policy. Whether or not the Minister’s amusement was out of place, his statement certainly caused a considerable amount of amusement amongst those who had held the opinion that his advent to office might be taken as an indication that a change in tariff policy was imminent. It was quite reasonable, I think, from what the Minister had said in the past, to believe that he did intend to bring about a change in the methods of investigating tariff matters, and it would have been better if he had stuck to his progressive ideas. We have heard to-night some extraordinary, if not entirely new, expressions of opinion from honorable members on the subject of economics. They reminded me of the advice given on one occasion to a lawyer that when he had a weak case he should abuse the other party. Some extraordinary statements have been made, and we cannot escape the impression that honorable members opposite are afraid of the intrusion of the scientific study of economics into the consideration, of tariff questions. Who has been more insistent in this House, and in the press as well, than honorable members opposite, upon the necessity of devising a scientific tariff, and how can any tariff be scientific unless the science of economics is brought to bear upon it?
– It was the Government which proposed to introduce a scientific tariff policy, but no explanation has yet been given of what that means.
– The only possible definition of a scientific tariff is that it is one into which the study and application of economics is made to enter. I am reminded that the Labour party asks that an effective tariff policy be put into operation, but the term “ effective tariff “ also requires definition. The1 application of economics to tariff issues is the only way in which the problem can be taken out of the cock-pit of party politics, and of argument based not on reason or facts, but designed to win votes in the electorates. We have heard statements to the effect that in the consideration of tariff matters, we are not concerned with the science of economics, or with the opinions of experts. I think it was the. Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) who said that any information which an expert in economics could give would consist of 90 per cent, opinion and 10 per cent. fact. He was assuming, of course, that the opinion of the expert would be given in favour of a low tariff. If, by any chance, an expert should give his opinion in favour of the high tariffists, I presume the same proportion of opinion and fact would be maintained. Whatever authority honorable members opposite may question, they do not, as a rule, raise objections to Labour’s policy in other parts of the world.
– Oh, don’t they!
– No. Honorable members opposite have even gone so far as to say that in matters of imperial concern we should be guided by the- policy of the Labour party in England. That statement was made in this House. That being so, how do honorable members opposite account for the remarkable fact that they alone, of all the Labour parties in the world, are high-protectionists?
– That does not apply to America.
– There is no organized political labour party in America. Australia has the only Labour party of which I know that has a high protectionist policy, and I ask honorable members opposite which is right, the Labour party in Australia, or the Labour parties in all the other countries of the world? I can understand the fears of honorable members opposite that an economist should be appointed to assist the Tariff Board in its deliberations. I issued a challenge to the Minister when he was speaking, a challenge which he did not answer. I asked him to name an economist of standing, either as a teacher or writer, who is a high-protectionist. It is impossible to find one. Honorable members opposite say that they want a scientific tariff, but the moment we apply science to tariff matters it is found that high tariffs are fallacious. The Minister said also that he did not wish to introduce the international economic law into Australia. Apparently there are German, English, American and Australian economic laws, and also an international economic law. I suggest to the honorable gentleman that if he wishes to exclude the international economic law he had better get some practice by trying to exclude the law of gravitation, for he has as much chance of doing the one as the other. The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) discouraged the idea of economic research in connexion with tariffs, and said that economics are good only if they show a more profitable way of conducting, our industries.
– I did not say that.
– I am sorry the right honorable member has so soon forgotten what he said this evening. I suggest to him that economic science could do what he demands of it, and even define profit. We are doing many things which are not profitable, and arc contrary to economic law, and we want a true definition of profit before we can say what is profitable and what is not. Is the butter industry, which has cost the country in subsidies and bounties £4,000,000 to keep it going, profitable? If the wealth said to be added to raw material contributed by the manufacturing industries is less than the total cost to the community of the policy of protection, can they be said to be profitable? The answer is that they are unprofitable, and that we need a teacher of economics to tell us what constitutes real profit. Because we have ignored economics, many of our industries are unprofitable, unemployment is increasing, and this young country, which should be happy and prosperous, is confronted with miserable conditions such as might be expected only in the old world. Honorable members oppo- site rave against the introduction of economics in the investigations of the Tariff Board, but many people outside this chamber -who have been struggling for years against indifference and neglect will be relieved to know that at last the light of economic truth is to be allowed to appear.
– There are half a dozen economic doctrines; which is right?
– Differences of opinion amongst those who profess the science of economics do not affect the validity of it. There is no more exact science than chemistry, and yet chemists will get different results from the same set of materials.
– Economics is not an exact science.
– Science is but knowledge. It may be imperfect and incomplete, but so far as it goes it deals with facts and deductions from those facts. Those deductions are not mere opinions ; they may be tested as accurately as any set of facts.
– Science is the coordination of facts and, therefore, science must know all facts.
– We cannot say of any science that all the facts are known, but we do not hesitate on that account to utilize the facts we do know. Science is always progressing, and because we do not know all the facts of chemistry are we not to apply the facts that have been ascertained? Unfortunately in this Parliament the tendency is to avoid contact with economic knowledge. The science of economics comes most intimately into contact with politics ; in fact, the definition of economics read by the Minister was a definition of politics. In Australia the teaching of economics is rendered futile because university professors are prohibited from saying or writing anything which may have a political bearing. Therefore, they are unable to state frankly what they know. Such a prohibition in a free country is absurd; we should get away from that narrowness. Honorable members may recollect that on one occasion a university council was not allowed to appoint a professor of economics until his polical opinions were ascertained. ,
– That supports our contention that economists may be of different political shades.
– I have never said anything to the contrary. Honorable members opposite are afraid that a freetrader may be appointed director of economic research.
– We have very good grounds for our fear.
– I have good grounds for suspecting the reverse after having heard the Minister’s statement to-night. We cannot both be right.
– Both can easily be wrong.
– I do not think that is possible, but who is to judge between us? The idea is to bring to the assistance of the community a scientist who will be unbiased and unaffected by political influences, and who will be qualified to judge between our conflicting theories. The honorable member for Maribyrnong expressed the fear that the appointee would be a person steeped in Cobdenism. Apparently in the opinion of the honorable member the proper place for such a person would be a prison or a lunatic asylum.
This clause is not very satisfactory. It is a sort of gesture to the people that economics will be utilized to some extent in connexion with investigations by the Tariff Board, from which that science has been notoriously absent for soma time. Because of that promise in the clause, I support it. On the other hand, I do not believe that the evidence of the Director of Economic Research should be given privately. I am in a dilemma. A vote against the clause will suggest that I do not desire economics to be brought to bear on this matter; yet, if I vote for it, I shall be helping to limit the proper utilization of economic knowledge. My view is that the director should give his evidence in public and that it should be published for the guidance of the board, Parliament, and the people. I would prefer the Minister to amend the clause to provide that in all inquiries the Tariff Board shall take evidence from the Director of Economic Research. Every inquiry will have ‘an economic bearing, and the evidence of such a witness, being unbiased, should carry greater weight than the testimony of any other person. The worth of it, however, will depend upon the man selected for the post.
.- The Minister stated that he had tabled his amendment to meet the objections raised by honorable members at the second-reading stage. The proposed amendment does not meet all the objections that have been raised. The Minister will greatly jeopardize the passing of the bill which provides for the establishment of a Bureau of Economic Research, if he allows it to be imagined for a moment that the bureau may be called into secret consultative association with government departments and semi-public bodies such as the Tariff Board. After all, the principal duty of the bureau will be to survey knowledge and examine all data available upon the problems of economics. However capable the Director of Economic Research may be, there can be no guarantee that he will be infallible. In fact, it is certain that he will be fallible, and that is the justification for our claim that the community in general, and our traders in particular, shall have the right to question him upon any submissions he may make to the Tariff Board. I cannot understand the Minister insisting upon the Tariff Board being permitted to arrange, of its own volition, conferences with this director. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) has suggested that Parliament will not suffer any disability in consequence of such consultations, because the recommendations of the board will have attached to them the evidence upon which they have been founded. But that will not be the case unless the representations of the Director of Economic Research are recorded. I should like to know whether the Tariff Board may ignore the submissions the director may make to it. If so, not much result will follow from the consultations. If, on the other hand, the board takes the views of the director into consideration it should have them on record and make them available to the Minister. If the board may ignore the views of the director, this clause will not be so much a gesture of sympathy with the Country party as a demonstration of the extraordinary length to which the nation is prepared to go in setting up unnecessary excrescences. If the Tariff Board may confer secretly with the Director of Economic Research is there any logical reason for refusing it permission to confer with professors of history, directors of trading concerns, or union secretaries? Unless the board is obliged to give effect to the submissions of the Director of Economic Research the result of the consultations may be nil, or it may be most mischievous.
– Does the honorable member suggest that the Tariff Board has not the right to confer with any persons that it pleases to call into conference?
– I certainly do, for the principal act provides that the board must hear all evidence on oath and in public. No provision is made for private consultations or arm-chair conferences.
– But there is nothing in the act to prohibit them.
– There is an implied prohibition. The honorable member also stated that the findings of the Tariff Board have attached to them the minutes of the evidence and the data upon which they are based; but only a synopsis is available. Even if it were so, the representations of the Director of Economic Research could not be brought under the notice of the Minister, for there would be no record of them. One of the main features of the inquiries of the board hitherto has been that they have been made upon oath, and in public. The people have had cognizance of all the data brought under the notice of the board. To depart from this principle would be mischievous. The Tariff Board has the duty of deciding between the claims of certain rival interests in the community, and if we permit it to make decisions upon data which is not available to us, we may alter the whole economic routine of the country. It must be patent to everybody that an increase or decrease in the duty on any given commodity may make a big difference to industries other than those directly concerned. In the complexity of modern industry the finished product of many manufacturers is the raw material of others, and an alteration of duty which changes the purchasing price of raw material or the marketable selling price of manufactured commodities may have far-reaching effects. Consequently, all the data upon which the board bases its recommendations should be challengeable by the parties interested.
I wish to inform the honorable member for Perth that there is no fear among honorable members on this side of the results of economic investigations. On the contrary, there is a great respect for and a certain comprehension of the significance of economics, and some little knowledge of the history and development of the subject. We know that there never has arisen an economist who has attained great eminence whose conclusions have not been most vehemently disputed by the learned men of his time. It is well known that the text books of Malthus, Jevons, Herbert Spencer, Marshall and one hundred and one other economists have been successively scrapped by the various universities after a few years, because they advocated views which time has proved to be unsound. To suggest that any one person can possibly be the repository of the last word on economics would be absurd. I have a great deal of respect for the science of economics, but I find myself in considerable disagreement with many of its learned professors. That is the attitude of honorable members on this side of the committee. At the best, economics is not a positive science. An economist is for all the world like a doctor who diagnoses the ailments of his patient, but is incapable of prescribing a remedy for them.
– An autopsy is the only safe diagnosis.
Mr.CURTIN.- That is so; but it is too late to be of any benefit to the subject of it. I am somewhat fearful that the proposed Bureau of Economic Research may take the initiative in prescribing remedies for our economic ills which Parliament itself should prescribe. If the Government is really anxious to establish a Bureau of Economic Research in Australia it should take every care to remove the suspicion that the move is being made to bolster up any particular economic concept.
– I have never suggested that that is intended.
Mr.CURTIN.- The Minister should take the first opportunity to make a definite statement upon that point. Otherwise the constitution of the bureau may be regarded as a hole-and-corner method of giving effect to certain objectionable economic theories. The bureau should not be permitted to hold private consultations with the Tariff Board or any other public or semi-public body.
. -Although I am unable to accept any of the suggested alterations of the clause, I point out that the Bureau of Economic Research is not being set up solely in order that the Tariff Board may confer with it, but that it may render useful service to the nation, the Government and government organizations generally. We merely wish to provide in this bill that the Tariff Board may confer with . and make use of it. There would be no objection to the Tariff Board at any time examining the Director of Economic Research upon oath.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendment (by Mr. Gullett) agreed to-
That the words “and, when so directed, the board shall so confer accordingly” be omitted.
Question - That the clause, as amended, be agreed to - put. The committee divided.
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
– I move -
That the following new clause be inserted: - 1a. Section 5 of the principal act is amended by adding at the end thereof the words “one of whom shall be a woman.”
Section 5 of the principal act reads -
For the purposes of this act there shall be a tariff board consisting of four members.
We have heard a good deal of objection on both sides to political economists having anything to do with the Tariff Board, but, if we are to get down to practical affairs, no person in the community is more directly affected by the tariff than the housewife. The time has come when this Parliament must face circumstances as it finds them, and, in my opinion, more people are on the bread line in Australia to-day than ever before in our history. Having regard to the prevalence of unemployment, the trouble in the coal industry, and the conditions in certain primary industries, it will be generally admitted that a large proportion of the people find the daily expenses of the household a tremendous burden to them. I have said repeatedly that any Tariff Board, or any Parliament, that fails to recognize the claims of the great masses of the people, is not fulfilling its functions. It is worse than idle to talk of reducing the cost of production until we have dealt with the high cost of living, which has become a nightmare to those earning small salaries, or possessing small incomes. The appoint ment of a woman to the Tariff Board would have the effect of bringing into great prominence the reduced purchasing capacity of the human unit. That is why I contend that one of the members of the board should be a person who has to deal solely with household affairs, and on whom the high cost of living generally presses very heavily.
– I regret that I am unable to accept the amendment, particularly in view of a very definite undertaking that I gave, before the last election, that I would take any opportunity that offered to advocate the appointment of a woman to the board. If it had not been proposed under the bill to subdivide the new board into two subboards or committees, I would have been prepared to recommend the Government to appoint a woman associate member. Although I consider that, if a sound appointment were made, the addition of a woman to the board would be wise, the business interests that will be represented before it in the future would not be prepared to submit a great industrial case to the hearing of two individuals, of whom one was a woman. In the event of the male member of a board of two, of whom one was a woman, being absent through sickness or other cause, the member in charge of the inquiry in, perhaps, a highly technical, or important branch of industry, would be a woman, and although I hope to see women advancing in public activities generally in Australia, I do not think that, in these circumstances, the time has come when a woman would be acceptable as a member of the board as it is to be reconstituted.
.- If I were to remain silent on this amendment, I might be found guilty of opposing it on the ground mentioned by the Minister; but I am opposed to it on other, and, I hope, higher grounds. For many years I have had the honour of associating myself with what was known generally and generically, in other days, as the women’s rights movement. From the beginning, the claim of intelligent, well-informed women has been for the recognition of their equality with men in all branches of citizenship. There is nothing in this bill which would preclude the Government from selecting the most suitable persons to occupy positions on the Tariff Board, and I know of nothing in the law which would prevent it from choosing one or more woman members. The Minister has made a somewhat lame endeavour to prove that women are temperamentally - and, presumably, intellectually - unsuited to discharge the duties that devolve upon the members of the Tariff Board. I do not agree with that contention. There is in this Commonwealth a very large number of women who could intelligently and effectively discharge those duties. I do not propose to make any distinction between the sexes. At the instigation of a Labour member in Victoria, Mr. Blackburn, the Parliament of that State recently placed upon its statute-book a law which definitely asserted that women should have civil equality with men and an equal right to be appointed to any administrative position that might become vacant. Although I appreciate to the full the chivalrous desire of the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Mc Williams) to give some special recognition to the fairer, and in some respects the stronger, sex, I cannot see my way to support the amendment.
.- If the proposed new clause does nothing else, it will direct the attention of the Minister to the fact that the women of this country, through their organizations, have for a long while been agitating for the appointment of a woman representative on the Tariff Board. Considering that the adult women outnumber the adult men in the Commonwealth, why should they not be allowed to have on the board a representative who can express their views? Women have been described as the treasurers of the household. To whom do the married members of this committee entrust the duty of purchasing the requirements of the home? Having had more than 25 years’ experience in business, I can say that the man behind the counter is always better pleased to attend to a man than a woman, because he realizes that men are usually poor buyers while women are extremely keen. If we had had a woman on the Tariff Board, we should not have had some of the absurdities that have been perpetrated, but on the contrary we shall have got a great deal more of that hard common sense for which women are noted. I support the claim for representation on the Tariff Board that has been put forward by a large number of women’s organizations that have written to me.
Proposed new clause negatived.
Mr.GULLETT (Henty- Minister for Trade and Customs) [11.23]. - I move -
That the following new clause be inserted : - 1a. Section7 of the Principal Act is amended by omitting sub-section 1 and inserting in its stead the following sub-section: -
The Governor-General shall appoint a member of the board as chairman, and may appoint as chairman a member who holds an administrative office in the Department of Trade and Customs.
Section 7 of the principal act reads - (1) The Governor-General shall appoint as Chairman of the Board a member who holds an administrative office in the Department of Trade and Customs.
Under the act the chairman of the board must be a member of the Department of Trade and Customs. We do not say for a moment that he should not be. I give the committee the assurance that at the present time there is no intention to depart from the existing practice. The present chairman will continue in that office until October next. I believe that a departmental officer makes the best chairman ; but at some future time there might not be in the department a suitable officer, or on the other hand one of the lay members of the board might so develop that he would make a first-class chairman. It is thought advisable to leave the matter open, so that a man who is not an officer of the department might be appointed to the position if that course was considered desirable.
.- There may be some force in the argument that when a departmental officer is appointed as chairman of the board he should be removed from his position in the department; but I do not think it can be argued that there should be a departure from the custom of appointing as chairman a man who has had a special training in the work of the department. There may not be any present intention to alter the existing practice; but usually some significance can be attached to a proposal to alter the law. I believe that the committee would be prepared to agree xo the proposal that the Governor-General shall appoint as chairman of the board a person who has occupied an administrative position in the department, with the proviso that upon appointment he shall relinquish that administrative position without losing any rights he holds. This is too serious a risk to take, and I ask the Minister not to press the matter. It would be dangerous to have as chairman a man who had not had the special training of an administrative officer.
.- I also suggest that there is no necessity for the amendment. The bill as orginally introduced did not embody this principle, but the Minister has now put it forward with the object of providing for future contingencies. I assure him that if any emergency should arise there would be ample power to meet it without incorporating this provision in the bill. He has stated that there is no intention to depart from the existing custom, but he attempts to justify his action by saying that there should be the power to adopt the course proposed if the necessity should arise. Parliament would never be finished with legislation, even if it sat for 365 days in the year, if it anticipated every chance which might occur. I deprecate the placing of dangerous sections in an act simply because certain things might happen.
Mr.FENTON (Maribyrnong) [11.31]. - In the past the one thing which gave people, of every fiscal faith, confidence in the Tariff Board was that the men selected as chairmen were always of undoubted integrity, possessing splendid qualifications, and resolved to serve the public interest. Apparently it is to satisfy a peculiar kink of some honorable members opposite that provision is to be made to enable an outsider to be made chairman of the board. If the proposed new clause cannot be withdrawn altogether, at least let the word “ shall “ be substituted for the word “may”. I should consider myself recreant to the duty I owe, not only to my constituents, but to the people of Australia, if 1 did not protest against this proposal.
– This is a matter which the committee ought to decide; but the real purpose behind the proposed new clause is to make provision for the appointment of a chairman in the event of unusual circumstances arising. There have been lamentable deaths in the past of chairmen of the board, and two of the most valued officers of the Customs Department who became chairmen of the board, died. Fortunately, we have now as chairman Mr. McConaghy, who is a first-class man. It is possible, however, that after occupying the position for some time, he may go to another, or something else may occur to prevent him from continuing as chairman. There might then be a member of the board who, by virtue of his experience and training, was obviously the most suitable person to appoint as chairman. If Parliament in these circumstances proceeded to amend the act so as to enable such a man to be appointed, its actions would amount practically to a declaration that there were no officers in the Customs Department fit for the position. Therefore, it is proposed to insert this provision now so that no such question could arise.
– The explanation of the Prime Minister is even weaker than that of the Minister for Trade and Customs. If we make provision in every act we pass against the possible death of persons appointed under its provisions, we shall reduce legislation to an absurdity. It seems to me that the Prime Minister is reflecting on the ability of those in the Public Service now. Does he infer that if the chairman of the board were to die there would be no one in the Service capable of taking his place? In my opinion, this proposed new clause is designed simply to make way for the bringing in of an outsider. The Government may be looking six or twelve months ahead, and has already, perhaps, some one in view for the position. I urge the committee not to make this change, but to let us continueas we have done in the past, and appoint as chairman an impartial civil servant who shall not be subject to the influence of big business interests.
Question - That the proposed new clause he inserted - put. The committee divided.
Majority . . 7
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Proposed new clause agreed to.
– I move -
That the following new clause be inserted: - 6a. Section sixteen of the Principal Act is amended by adding at the end thereof the following sub-section : - “ (3.) All reports received by the Minister from the Board relating to matters dealt with under paragraphs (d), (e), and (f) of sub-section (1.) of section fifteen of this Act shall be laid on the table of each House of the Parliament within four months after the receipt of such report if the Parliament is then sitting, and, if the Parliament is not then sitting, then within one month of the next meeting of the Parliament.”
Paragraph d of section 15 relates to the necessity for new, increased, or reduced duties and the deferment of existing or proposed deferred duties ; paragraph e, the necessity for granting bounties for the encouragement of any primary or secondary industry; and paragraphf, the effect of existing bounties, or of bounties subsequently granted. Reports on these matters are submitted to the Minister, and after the lapse of sufficient time to enable him to deal withthem, should be presented to Parliament. Of 26 reports made by the board to the Minister last year, only three came before Parliament ; the figures for the previous year were even more striking. The Parliament is entitled to know the recommendations of the board. Some of the reports may be for or against increased duties, and they may show that the Government is acting contrary to the advice of the board. Every honorable member should assist me in insisting that Parliament shall get the full advantage of the board’s investigations. The board reports, presumably, for the information of Parliament, but the majority of the reports and recommendations, after being sent to the Minister, are pigeon-holed.
.- The Government is unable to accept the amendment. However desirable it may be that reports from the board should be tabled in Parliament as soon as practicable, it might be quite impracticable to table them within the times specified by the honorable member for Swan. It might be that, within four months, if the House were sitting, the Government would be prepared to act upon a report and propose a new duty or the alteration of an existing one; but that is not certain. The honorable member has suggested, also, that, if Parliament were in recess when the board reported, the report should be tabled within one month of the meeting of Parliament. That proposal would be impracticable in many cases. Rarely could a new Parliament deal with a schedule within one month of its assembling; but if this amendment were insisted upon, the reports would have to be tabled whether or not action had been taken on them by the Government, and alterations of the tariff submitted to Parliament. Immediately a report in favour of a duty or an increase of duty was tabled which was not covered by tariff provision, the country would be flooded with imports, local industries would be detrimentally affected, and the country would lose a great deal of revenue. I, therefore, ask the committee to reject the amendment.
. -The Minister has done his best to dodge the issue. My amendment has been on the notice-paper for some days, and if it were not quite acceptable to the Minister, he had ample time to propose an alteration which would specify more suitable periods within which the reports of the board should be presented to Parliament. Very many of the reports never reach Parliament, and we do not know what the board has recommended. Ever since 1921 I have objected to the chairman being an officer of the Trade and Customs Department. The board should consist of men who are entirely independent of the Minister. Of course, I realize that many honorable members do not want the reports of the board tabled, so long as they can have a tariff that suits their political convictions. If the hour were earlier, I would mention some of the reports of the board, and give my impression of the influences that have been operating to prevent their presentation to Parliament. Apparently it is useless to persist with this amendment; but I wish to make it clear to the public that the majority of honorable members apparently do not desire that the reports of the Tariff Board shall be submitted to the House.
– I am in entire agreement with the contention of the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) that the reports of the Tariff Board should be presented to Parliament. I say, further, that no schedule involving . proposed alterations of the tariff should be introduced to the House unless accompanied by the relevant reports of the board. But this is a very different proposition from that of the honorable member.
– I would not mind had there been any amendment or suggestion put forward.
– I believe that the honorable member has some grounds for complaint, as the Minister, having received notice of the amendment, has not met it in any way.
– It would have been difficult to do so.
– I do not think so. It could well be laid down that tariff reports shall be submitted to Parliament when any action is intended to be taken for or against the report of the Tariff Board. It is quite obvious that if a report of the board recommending an increased duty or a new duty were tabled before a tariff schedule was tabled, the country would be flooded with the importation of goods, which would be a very serious matter. I suggest that the Minister might consider the proposal of the honorable member for Swan, and make some provision to deal with it in another place, so that Parliament will be given the right to see Tariff Board reports before it is asked to discuss any schedule of a tariff.
Proposed new clause negatived.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments.
Report, by leave, adopted and bill, by leave, read a third time.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
– I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
I express my regret to honorable members that it has been necessary to sit so late in order to complete this measure tonight, but some points arose in the discussion of the bill which were not anticipated. It was expected that the measure would have been dealt with by 11 o’clock. Unfortunately that hope was not realized and it was necessary for honorable members to remain until this hour. I thank them for doing so, and for their forbearance.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 12.1 a.m. (Thursday).
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 13 March 1929, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1929/19290313_reps_11_120/>.