House of Representatives
4 April 1930

12th Parliament · 1st Session

Mr. Speaker (Hon. Norman Makin) took the chair at 11 a.m., and offered prayers.

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– Several weeks ago I asked the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Forde) for certain data in regard to the light dues collected by the Commonwealth and he promised to obtain the information for me. Is he able to say when the particulars will be available?

Assistant Minister assisting the Minister for Customs · CAPRICORNIA, QUEENSLAND · ALP

– I shall have inquiries made as to whether the information is available and let the honorable member know without delay.

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– I desire to make a personal explanation. The Votes and Proceedings of this House for Wednesday, 2nd April, do not show me as having been present during any part of the sitting. I was in my place for a few minutes in the afternoon, but had to leave to attend the meeting of a committee which kept me’ occupied for the remainder of the afternoon. I was in my place in the chamber for a long period during the night sitting - in fact, for most of it. I do not know who is responsible for the preparation of the attendance record, but more care should be exercised to see that members who are in attendance have their attendance marked. I hope that this error will be rectified.


– I assure the honorable member that the correction will be made.

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Barbed Wire - Prices


– Yesterday the Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) invited honorable members to make constructive and helpful suggestions in regard to the prohibition of certain imports and the surcharge on others. During the debate the suggestion was made that a time limit should be fixed for the operation of both the proclamation and the surcharge. In considering that point, will the Prime Minister bear in mind that if anything is to be done it must be done immediately, otherwise an embarrassing position will be created ?

Minister for External Affairs · YARRA, VICTORIA · ALP

– The Government gave very serious consideration to the imposition of a time limit ; but it involves many practical difficulties. I cannot see that it is urgent that an immediate decision should be made, but the suggestion will be fully and frankly discussed when we are considering the whole matter later in the session.


– Yesterday afternoon the Prime Minister intimated that it was proposed to prohibit the importation of certain goods and to ration certain other imports. The list of goods in the proclamation made available to honorable members this morning does not draw any distinction bet-ween the goods prohibited and those which will be rationed. Will the Prime Minister give me some information on that point?


– The proclamation includes the whole of the items which will’ be affected by the prohibition or rationing policy. The items to be rationed are the last 11 on the list from “ Ale and other Beer,” down to “Locomotives “ ; but conditions may arise from time to time which will necessitate the Minister for Trade and Custom’s exercising his power to admit other items. The importation of all the items listed in the proclamation, except , the concluding 11, should, in the opinion of the Government, be totally prohibited, unless under exceptional circumstances. The 11 items, we consider, should be rationed up to 50 per cent.


– May the number be augmented at any time?


– Yes ; it may be increased or decreased.


– Will the Prime Minister consider the advisability of making an announcement to the public of the distinction that he has drawn in a way that will make the information more available to them than the statement he has just made ?


– The request is reasonable. The Acting Minister for Trade and Customs has made a statement to the press this morning in which he has clearly indicated the distinction between ‘the prohibited and the rationed goods. I shall endeavour to obtain copies of it for honorable members.


– I notice that barbed wire is in the list of prohibited goods. Large quantities of barbed wire are used in the new settlements of Western Australia. As the Prime Minister intimated yesterday that consideration would be given to the cost of the prohibited articles, will ho instruct the Tariff Board to make an inquiry as speedily as possible into the Australian price of barbed wire to ascertain why it is almost 100 per cent, above the price in the United States of America!


– Instructions have been given to inquire immediately into the price of a number of items in the list. Obviously, I cannot discuss the list item by item until the schedule is before us. The honorable member has, of course, raised a very much bigger question than that of any additional price that may be caused by this proclamation. His question involves the whole subject of pro taction and freetrade. Still, as he has drawn attention to barbed wire, I shall ask that an investigation be made.


– Will the Prime Minister inform me what steps the Government proposes to take to protect the public from exploitation in regard to the price of goods enumerated in the schedule tabled yesterday, and in the proclamation issued to-day, which are already in Australia or on the water, or otherwise covered in the terms of his statement yesterday? A lower duty has been, or will be, paid on these goods. A higher price must necessarily, or probably will, be charged on goods subject to the new duties. What does the Government intend to do to safeguard the interests of the public while goods of the classes mentioned, not subject to the proclamation or surcharge, are still available ?


– No one knows better than the right honorable member for North Sydney the difficulty which the Government finds in dealing with that question. We hope that the power of this Parliament w.ill some day be increased so that we shall be able to deal with such a situation more effectively. The Government will very carefully watch the trend of prices. But the only weapon that we have in our possession to protect the public is the power to vary the duties, or lift the prohibitions if the new conditions are applied unfairly . to the public. The power of rationing can be used to any extent if we find that an attempt is being made to corner any article. Business people who attempt to adopt measures of this description may find themselves in difficulties because of the admission of additional supplies of the articles > concerned from overseas. The bulk of’ the goods included in. the list of prohibited articles are, in the opinion of the Government, largely luxuries.

Mr Francis:

– Barbed wire is not a luxury.


– I am aware of that. But most of the goods in the list are luxuries. Some of them are, of course, necessaries of life, which are being made in Australia in large quantities. In respect to those articles I believe that we can rely on the competition already here to regulate prices. But we shall not be satisfied with even that. We are taking up the subject of prices with a number of manufacturers with the object of protecting the public from exploitation. In regard to some items, particularly those in the important group under the heading, “ Agricultural machinery “, we have already received undertakings that prices will be actually reduced.

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– In view of the fact that the Attorney-General (Mr. Brennan) had spoken on the debate on the Constitution Alteration Power of Amendment Bill before the publication of Sir Edward Mitchell’s opinion that the proposal was unconstitutional, will he take advantage of the introduction of the Constitutional Alteration Industrial Powers Bill to discuss that opinion ?

Attorney-General · BATMAN, VICTORIA · ALP

– I shall be glad to express my view of the opinion of Sir Edward Mitchell in due course.

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– In view of the fact that this Government holds a mandate from the League of Nations to administer the Territory of New Guinea, will the Prime Minister inform me whether there is any truth in the statement that has been published that British foremen have been dismissed from the Edie Creek goldfields in order that Italians might be engaged with a view to reducing producing costs and forcing more work out of the natives, who are recruited from native villages to work on the fields under sweated labour conditions? Will the Prime Minister have inquiries made into the whole position?


-I heard late last night the rumour referred to by the honorable member, and made an effort this morning to obtain official information from the Administrator, but a reply to my inquiry has not yet been received. Communication was, however, established with the manager of the company concerned, who described the rumour as a deliberate lie. I understand that the services of five foreigners-I do not know their nationality - possessing special qualifications for the work upon which they are engaged, have been secured. To say that British foremen have been replaced by foreigners is, to use the words of the manager, “ a deliberate lie.” The Government is making further investigations through official channels.

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– It is reported in the press that an agricultural conference recently held in Victoria the Minister for Agriculture of that State, Mr. Slater, said that the associated banks, in cooperation with the Government, had agreed to make available £200,000 in order to assist in the placing of an additional area under wheat. As the Prime Minister stated that the Commonwealth Government had made arrangements with the Commonwealth Bank to make short-dated loans to primary producers, I desire to know if the Commonwealth Government is cooperating with the States in this respect, or is the arrangement mentioned by Mr. Slater quite apart from that referred to by the right honorable gentleman ?


– The statement I made some weeks ago was that the Government had discussed with the representatives of the Commonwealth Bank the making of credits available through other financial institutions toassist primary and secondary production, but that assistance to primary industries was the immediate concern of the Government, For some weeks the Commonwealth Bank has been in close touch with the agricultural banks in the various States which are now making these advances. The Rural Bank of New South Wales has had credits given to it for the purpose of assisting the primary producers of that State, and a similar course is being followed in Victoria. The Commonwealth Bank is behind all these arrangements, and. so far as I know, is willing to make further advances in. approved cases to assist primary production.

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– In order to assist in restoring the present adverse trade balance has the Government formulated any proposals for increasing the export of Australian manufactured goods?


– The Commonwealth Government is encouraging every manufacturer who can do so to produce goods for export. One of its latest actions in this respect was to increase the wine bounty, to assist the exportation of wine.

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– Will the Prime Minister disclose how the Government proposes to meet the deficit that will naturally arise in consequence of the embargo which has been placed upon certain importations, and the consequent loss of revenue that will result?


– The whole financial position of the Commonwealth, and the proposals which the Government will have to submit in connexion with the deficit, will he announced by the Treasurer when he delivers his budget speech. As the honorable member has always been an advocate of freetrade in so many commodities, I wonder how the loss of revenue would have been made up if effect had been given to the policy which he advocates?

Mr Prowse:

– I desire to make a personal explanation. The Prime Minister, in replying to my question, has done me an injustice.


– Has the honorable member been misrepresented?

Mr Prowse:

– Yes. Both inside and outside this House I have consistently advocated a revenue tariff. When the right honorable gentleman made the statement to which I am objecting he knew that I have always contended that if customs duties were reduced revenue would increase and the cost of living would in consequence be lower.


– I regret if I have misrepresented the honorable member for Forrest.


– Does the right honorable the Prime Minister wish to make apersonal explanation?


– Yes. I assure the honorable member for Forrest that if I misrepresented him I did so unwittingly. I based my reply, however, on the opinions I have formed of his opinions after listening to his speeches in this House on tariff matters during the past six years.


– Has the Government considered any preference proposals in connexion with Great Britain and other purchasing nations in relation to the latest customs imposts?


– No consideration was given to protection or preference in preparing the schedules recently submitted to Parliament; the Government’s sole consideration was the reduction of imports by the imposition of higher duties on or the prohibition of such imports as are detrimentally affecting our financial position. In formulating its policy the Government considered only what commodities can be manufactured in Australia to meet our requirements and what can be regarded as non-essential. Incidentally, the preference to Great Britain on a number of items has been increased. Where a duty is imposed against Great Britain and higher duties against other countries, the British preference remains in the same ratio. On some items on which no duty is imposed against Britain the duty against foreign countries varies from 10 per cent. to 20 per cent. Obviously where there is an increase of 50 per cent. in such duties against foreign countries and Britain is on the free list, the British margin of preference will be increased.


– I ask the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Forde) if the decision of the Government to prohibit the importation of certain goods and to impose higher duties on others was animated by a circular letter from a firm carrying on business at 65 Gawler Place, Adelaide, in which the following paragraph appears : -

Although the latest duties imposed on English cloth have brought the rate at least 30 per cent. above what it was 18 months ago, we are not increasing our prices for the coming season for the following reasons. We have some stocks of cloth not affected by the new duties, similar to later purchases, and obviously we cannot have two prices for one quality. As a result of strong representations to the manufacturers we hope there will be a sufficient drop next year to counter the new duties. In view of the depression through which we arc passing, we will be quite content to mark time in order to continue with the quality of cloth we have always submitted, which, generally speaking, is well above the average displayed. The alternative is to replace with Australian manufactured goods. While these could be sold at a much lower price it would virtually mean persuading our customers to accept a quality below their previous standard.

Was the Minister actuated by the sentiments expressed in that circular in framing the latest tariff proposals?


– While the letter read by the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates) is most interesting, I may say that the Government was not actuated in any way by the contents of that or any other such communication. As the right honorable the Prime Minister has said, the desire of the Government is to reduce imports, and in doing so to select those lines which can be manufactured in Australia, or those which can be regarded as nonessential.

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– In view of the Government’s obvious anxiety to reduce the trade balance, I ask the Treasurer if his attention has been directed to a statement of the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates) in which he shows how, in his opinion, our trade balance can be adjusted. The honorable member for Adelaide stated that owing to circumstances beyond his control he had been prevented from placing his proposals before the House. Will the Treasurer consider this scheme and facilitate the bringing of it before the House for discussion by the honorable member for Adelaide?


– When the Budget is being prepared the Government will consider any scheme that is brought under its notice.

Mr Yates:

– I desire to make a personal explanation. I did not say that I had been prevented from submitting my proposals to this House. I said that 1 had refrained from doing so owing to certain circumstances; my action was quite voluntary. I recognized that it was nay duty to the party of which I am a member to assist the Government, and in order to do so I placed on record certain figures which are irrefutable. If the honorable member ‘ for Warringah will study them he will see that they cannot be controverted.

Mr Archdale Parkhill:

– As I have been misrepresented by the honorable member for Adelaide, I desire to make a personal explanation. The honorable member for Adelaide said that he was not prevented from bringing his proposals before the House, but I understand that in a communication to the Government he stated that owing to circumstances beyond his control he was unable to bring the matter before Parliament. I submit that the words I used were substantially the same as those contained in the honorable member’s statement.

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Formal Motion fob Adjournment.

Mr SPEAKER (Hon Norman Makin:

– I have received from the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) an intimation that he desires to move the adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely. “The fact that the Commonwealth Government is the only dominion government which has expressed its willingness at the present time to receive a consul from the Russian Soviet Government, notwithstanding the recent religious persecutions, the barbarous and brutal treatment of its farmers and the continued propaganda by the Russian Soviet against all other governments.”

Five honorable members having risen in their places-

Question proposed.


– As stated by you, Mr. Speaker, I wish to bring under the notice of the House the fact that the Commonwealth Government is the only dominion governmenwhich at. present has expressed its willingness to receive a consul from the Russian Soviet Government, notwithstanding the recent religious persecution and barbarous and brutal treatment of farmers in that country and the continued propaganda by the Russian Government against all other governments. I have taken this course because of a cablegram which appeared in the Sydney

Morning Herald ofWednesday last, giving a reply by the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs to a question asked in the British House of Commons, which I consider casts an intolerable slur on Australia, and on me as an Australian citizen. The newspaper paragraph referred to reads -

The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Henderson), replying to Sir Nicholas Grattan Doyle, in the House of Commons, said that the Commonwealth Government on January 10 requested Great Britain to inform the Soviet that if it wished to appoint a Consular officer in Australia the latter would accept ifhe were acceptable, and the Soviet signed an undertaking regarding propaganda. Australia was the only dominion making the request.

Sir Alfred Knox: Will you warn the Australian Government?

Mr. Henderson did not reply.

That information has been disseminated throughout the world. It is true that the Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) has attempted to lessen the seriousness of the position by saying that the Commonwealth did not take the initiative by asking for a consular representative of the Soviet in Australia, but merely gave permission for his appointment. My motive in moving the adjournment of the House is to ask the Government to reconsider the permission it has given, a permission which I feel sure is distasteful to the great majority of the people of Australia, irrespective of party. The action of the Soviet Government in persecuting religion and committing atrocities of the worst kind against Russian Christians, its barbarous treatment of the Russian farmers and the confiscation of their goods after having induced them to improve their position, its attempt to subvert other constitutional governments throughout the world, has outraged public feeling in every country. I wish to make it clear that in condemning the Soviet Government of Russia for these things I exclude the Russian people. They, unfortunately, are under the control of a minority communistic government whose actions place it outside the pale of civilization. In saying these things, I am expressing views similar to those expressed in the House of Lords by the Archbishop of Canterbury when he urged the British Government to review its decision to allow the Soviet Republic ambassadorial repre sentation in Britain, events in Russia for which the Russian Government was responsible having violated the” public conscience of Britain, and, indeed, of every civilized country.

I submit that in a matter of such importance as the granting of consular rights to the Soviet Republic, which throughout the world is active in attempting to subvert constitutional government, the Government should not have acted without consulting Parliament. The newspaper article to which I have referred sets out that the permission of the Commonwealth Government to allow a consular representative of the Soviet Republic in Australia was granted on the 10th January last. Even though the Government did takethis action without consulting Parliament, it should have brought the matter before Parliament at the first opportunity thereafter.We in this House should not have to rely on a press paragraph for information of this nature. I wish to make it clear that I am not now attacking the internal policy of the Soviet Government. What the Government of Russia does in its own country is not the concern of the citizens of Australia.

Mr Blakeley:

– Not even the alleged atrocities?


– Those atrocities have shocked the conscience of the whole world.

Mr Coleman:

– Have the reports concerning them been verified?


– Yes. I shall give the House verification of them which no honorable member will dispute.

There are at least three reasons why, at this juncture, the Australian nation should not recognize the Soviet Republic. The Government of Russia is unworthy of such recognition, first because of its brutal and uncivilized actions in connexion with its anti-God campaign ; secondly, because of its ruthless savagery towards the Russian farmers in dispossessing them; and thirdly, because of its continued attempts to bring about a world revolution, and effect the destruction of the British Empire. I expect that the Government will reply that it has endeavoured to safeguard the position by securing an undertaking from the Russian Government that no propaganda shall be carried on. The Government has proceeded very cautiously and nervously in this matter. It is evident that it realizes the dangers which surround the action it has taken. There can be no question as to the activity of the Soviet- Government in disseminating propaganda. There was clear evidence in 1925 that communistic activities were responsible for the shipping strike in Australia, and for continuous attempts to detach the dominions from the British Empire.

Mr Lewis:

– The right honorable gentleman is now engaged in anti-Soviet propaganda.


– Surely I am entitled to do that in an Australian parliament? If the honorable member suggests that in this place honorable members are not entitled to defend our own Constitution, it is time for this Parliament to close its doors.

Mr Lewis:

– Why not let the Russian Government run its own country?


– If it were acting ina way worthy of a civilized people, there would be no need for criticism. When a massacre occurs in China or the South Seas the civilized nations of the world combine, not only to alleviate the distress occasioned thereby, but also to prevent a recurrence of such a happening. Some honorable members opposite sneered when mention was made of the religious persecutions which have taken place in Russia. The honorable member for Reid (Mr. Coleman) inquired by interjection whether the reports concerning the atrocities in Russia had been verified. Unfortunately, there is ample evidence that these atrocities have been committed. Indeed, the Soviet Government itself has officially admitted that it has ordered a number of executions. I realize that excesses are associated with every big revolution. If during the first two or three years of the Russian revolution there had been excesses, desecration of the symbols of Christianity, executions and murders of those who perform its rites, we might have overlooked them; but they are still a part of the considered policy of the government of that country.In order to show the truth of the reports regarding these atrocities, let me quote first from statements by Sir Philip Gibbs, who has visited Russia and has written a number of books dealing with conditions in that country. Writing in the London Daily Mail, Sir Philip Gibbs said : -

Their Government is founded upon blasphemy. Not content with destroying civilization, they have abolished God. At a Red “Christmas” procession in Moscow last year a prostitute posed as the Virgin Mary, and an effigy labelled “Almighty God” was burned in a bonfire.

Bolshevik writers regarded this orgy as the beginning of a new “era of reason,” One declared “Our Soviet young men have been the first to break the Celestial front. The Christloving bourgeoisie persists in its ignorance, and it felt sick on this historic day.”

All civilization felt sick on that day. Sir Philip Gibbs continues : -

The Moscow Soviet has tried hard to uproot all Christian traditions from the nation it dominates by terror. It was made illegal to put religious emblems on Christmas trees or anything recalling the sacred character of the festival.

The war on the Churchhas been waged with malignant energy. Monday, instead of Sunday, was made the workers’ legal day of rest. Churches and monasteries were stripped of their treasures on thepretence of purchasing supplies for the victims of famine. In Moscow 25 convents and monasteries were turned into barracks, students’’ hostels and dance halls, and emblazoned with the “battle cry” of the war against the Church : “Religion is an opiate of the people.”

Bishops and priests were arrested in scores for resisting the spoliation of religious buildings. Mgr. Budkiewicz, a Roman Catholic ecclesiastic, was executed in a cellar; twelve dignitaries were sent to remote prisons in Siberia: the Patriarch Tikhon was sentenced to death and confined for a year in a filthy dungeon.

The “Supreme Church Soviet,” formed to take the place of the Patriarch Tikhon, decreed that the baptism of children was illegal.

The Soviet stands by its declaration against religion. Karakhan, Assistant Commissar for Foreign Affairs, writing to the Chaplain of the Archbishop of Canterbury, referred insolently to “the class solidarity of princes of the various churches, which solidarity is known to be directed against the labouring masses.

Not content with the abolition of God, the Bolsheviks sought for further expression of their hatred of Christianity. They erected a statue of Judas Iscariot at Sviashk, near Kazan, in the summer of 1923, and the unveiling of this “memorial” has been described by M. Halling Koehler, a Danish writer, who was present.

That was the position up to1924. As I have said, we might make excuses for excesses in the early stages of a revolution. But what is the position in Russia to-day, twelve or thirteen years after the revolution began? That it is getting worse rather than better is shown by a letter from the Pope to the VicarGeneral, as reported in the West Australian of 1.0th February last. -

The Pope condemns the sacrileges and wickedness perpetrated in Russia against God and the souls of men. He invites Roman Catholics throughout the world to pray for the cessation of the moral and material destruction of religions in places under Soviet control. He deplores the fact that the Soviet is perverting youth and contaminating souls with all sorts of vices and destroying intelligence and human nature. He adds that had the nations at the Genoa Conference in 1.922 acceded to his request and agreed to insist on religious freedom in Russia, the world would have been spared many evils. The Pope denounced the burning of thousands of churches, the suppression of the observance of Sunday, and public acts of sacrilege such us mock religious processions and spitting upon the Cross.

The Pope intends to continue his campaign against Russia. He intends to call an international conference at the Vatican city to discuss the methods being employed by the Soviet to destroy Christian civilization. He announced that he would celebrate Mass for atonement, propitiation, and reparation at St. Peter’s Church on 19th March.

A few days later, on the 14th February, 1930, the same newspaper contained the following statement : -

The Archbishop of Canterbury, at a meeting of the Convocation of Canterbury, moved that a protest be made against the religious persecution hi Russia. None could question the truth, he said, of the long and’ shocking tale of imprisonment almost unparalleled in the history of religious persecution. A unique feature was that every sort of belief in God was assailed, accompanied by popular blasphemies, obscenities, and ridicule, which were encouraged and even ordered by the Government. I hope that the bishops will be willing to request prayer to be offered in all the churches on 19th March. At that time multitudes of fellowChristians at the bidding of the Pope will combine with our prayers.

The Bishop of London seconded the resolution, which was carried unanimously.

On the 10th March last the Sydney Morning Herald stated -

Mr. Henderson laid a White Paper on the ‘ table of the House of Commons relating to the Soviet Decree on Religion of 8th April, 1929. It disallowed organization of meetings of children and young people and women for prayer, biblical study, or teaching religion.

Two days later that newspaper contained the following report: -

Mr. Henderson, in reply to a question in the House of Commons, said that from a study of the Soviet Government’s decree he had no doubt it indicated a continuance of the anti-religious pressure which had consistently and for many years been a notorious feature of Soviet policy. “ Howling hyenas “ is M. Bukharin’s description of the church leaders who joined in a protest against the Soviet’s policy against religion. Writing in Pravda, he says that just when the Soviet people were laying successfully the eternal foundations of a beautiful and lofty building, all their enemies - cardinals, priests of different Gods and churches, English lords, French usurers, American money-bags, professors, spies, and the inevitable Pope - started the campaign against them.

Again, on the 3rd March, the Sydney Morning Herald published the following statement -

In his Lenten Pastoral, to be read in Roman Catholic churches on Sunday, Cardinal Bourne refers to the “ awful and menacing condition of Russia.” He calls for prayers for “ our suffering Russian brethren - Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant, and Jew - who are being crushed and overwhelmed to destruction, which only the adversary of God can inspire. There is abundant proof that agents of religious anarchy in Russia are training and sending forth emissaries to bring about the same ruin of civilized government and organized religion wherever they can get a footing or obtain a hearing.”

That is not the statement of a political partisan.. Yet Australia’s reply to that is to tell the world that she alone, of all the British Dominions, is prepared to accept a consular representative of the Soviet Government. Only yesterday, according to the cabled news from London, the Archbishop of Canterbury, speaking in the House of Lords, said -

In 1928, according to reliable statistics, 359 churches, 78 monasteries, 50 synagogues, and 38 mosques were closed, and hundreds more were closed last year. He had received reports of 20 cases of persecution which he was satisfied were authentic. In these 20 cases 71- persons were sentenced to be shot, and 112 were sentenced to imprisonment for from two to twelve years.

I invite honorable members to try to visualize, if they can, what is happening in Russia at the present day, and centuries after the rest of Europe has ceased religious persecution -

He did not question the advantage of having a British representative in Moscow and a representative of the Soviet Government in London, but these advantages carried with them special responsibilities. Sooner or later our own Government must convey to the Soviet Government an intimation that if relations were to be diplomatically satisfactory, the Soviet Government must pay some heed to the public opinion of this country which, in this matter, he believed to be singularly clear and united. It was for the Government to decide at what time, in what way, and within what limits, representations should be made. They could not expect, nor even ask, the Soviet Government to change its attitude towards religion, for that attitude was its own religion, but that they had a right to ask that in pursuing it they would pay some heed to the claims of the churches.

That is the attitude which honorable members on this side of the House take up to-day. We are not concerned as to the particular religious dogmas of the people of Russia or of any other people; but we are concerned when the policy of barbarous and ruthless extermination of all religious belief is being pursued as it is to-day in Russia. We consider it is necessary, therefore, that before the Government permits a consular representative of the Soviet Government to take up residence in the Commonwealth, it should demand something more than s written promise that Soviet propaganda will not be continued in this country. We should have preliminary definite information that the Soviet Government will, and can, control propaganda. Moreover, we should not admit an official representative of the Soviet Government to be appointed to Australia until we have definite, evidence that the ruthless savagery which has been practised against Russian farmers for some years has been abated.

It is worth while recalling what has been happening in that country. At the outbreak of the revolution, the objective of those who took control of the government of Russia was to bring about the collective ownership of land; to create what was, in effect, a great agrarian slave movement. But the farmers rebelled. They declared that they would not produce foodstuffs unless they received reasonable prices for their products, and as the result of their obstinacy there ensued a food famine in Russia. In 1921 the Soviet Government, to meet the situation that thus had been created, adopted what was known as the new economic policy, under which capitalistic enterprise was permitted to a limited extent. Small traders were allowed to earn profits and to develop business enterprises outside government agencies in the villages and small towns. Farmers also were allowed to own land, and many of them were encouraged to increase production. Those farmers who by their thrift and industry acquired some capital were called Kulaks. But recently the Soviet Government deter-* mined to carry out a five years’ intensive industrial programme with the object of wiping out all these “Nepmen,” as these traders in the villages are termed, as well as abolishing private ownership of land and confiscating assets of the farmers by substituting for it big collective organizations.

The situation in Russia was discussed recently by the New Statesman, an English publication which represents the Liberal and Labour opinion of the mother country. Other articles that have appeared in that paper strongly endorse the attitude of the British Labour Government with regard to Russia, so it cannot be regarded as hostile to the British Labour movement. This is .what the New -Statesman had to say on the subject : -

To-day the situation has undergone a radical change. With the introduction of the five-year industrial plan, the Nepmen have been swept out of existence, and now a semi-military campaign of agrarian “ collectivisation “ is being launched against the richer peasants and against the whole system of peasant proprietorship. The very nature of this experiment must awaken doubts in even the most optimistic observer. Already it has encountered a degree of opposition which, in view of the overwhelming physical force on the side of the Government, is remarkably active, and to-day the spectre of civil war stalks once more over the Hussion countryside. . . .

The most ruthless measures are being employed to put the plan into effect. In Moscow itself the Eight Opposition in the Communist party has been checkmated and reduced to impotence. A centralized Commissariat for Agriculture, under the control of the energetic M. Yakovlev, has been given full powers to deal with the recalcitrant peasantry. By a recent decree the local village Soviets have been purged of their Kulak members. Poor peasant has been incited against rich peasant, and the whole force of the government machinery, including special battalions of Re( soldiers and “Hammerers’ Brigades,” has been set in motion in order to make the plan a success.

Already a considerable number of collective farms are in existence, and every factory that can manufacture tractors has been working day and night to supply the necessary equipment. Some of these model farms have won the admiration of others than Communists. American agricultural engineers, whose advice has been sought, have given them their blessing, and at least one American banker has been persuaded to advance credits for the supply of tractors.-

The plan, however, has serious drawbacks. Hitherto, the Kulaks or richer peasants have supplied the Bolsheviks with a large portion of their grain. These unfortunate beings are now being subjected to the severest persecution. Their farms, including their supplies of seed and their live-stock, have been seized and handed over to the now “ collectives.” In order that the local Soviets may be tuned up to the proper pitch of ruthlessness, special detachments of proletarian enthusiasts have been despatched from the industrial centres to supervise the confiscations. Resistance is punished by banishment imprisonment, and, if necessary, execution. The Kulaks are reacting to this treatment in a typically Russian manner. Unable to organize themselves in sufficient force to defend their homes, they are now destroying their belongings, including their live-stock and their grain, partly through u misguided instinct of revenge, and partly because they imagine that they are thus wrecking the prospects of collectivization and thereby securing their own preservation.

The evidence is indisputable that, notwithstanding the announced policy of the Soviet Government, Russian farmers who were induced by that government to grow more grain for the Russian people are now being dispossessed of their holdings, and are even being executed because they have dared to stand up for their rights. This is a definite breach of faith with its own people. We are fully justified in assum-ing that if the Soviet Government will not keep faith with its own people it will not keep faith with the people of other countries.

My third objection to the official recognition of Soviet consular representation in Australia is based on the Russian Government’s policy of propaganda against other forms of government throughout the world. In 1924, Zinovieff, in a letter addressed to the German Communist party, as a guidance to its action in the forthcoming elections, stated that peace. and order were necessary to make the Dawes plan workable, but peace and order simply meant the shameful exploitation of the proletariat. Therefore, it must be the object of the German Communistic party to see that peace and order did not prevail. The Daily Chronicle, in 1925, pointed out that Zinovieff had declared that the policy of the Russian Communistic party was to destroy the British Empire. It has not since changed its policy, and yet we are to have an official representative of the Soviet Government in Australia, the only safeguard apparently being a written assurance that Sovietism will not carry on an active propaganda in the Commonwealth.

The position in regard to Soviet propaganda was well stated recently by Mr. Snowden, the present Chancellor of the Exchequer in the British Government. Speaking of the situation in China at the end of 1927, he pointed out that it was almost impossible to ascertain the source of the communistic activities which at that time were such a disturbing influence in Chinese affairs. He went on to say that the Comintern and the Russian trade unionists were a trinity - three in one and one in three. They were always one as regards executive action, and always three when an attempt was made to fasten responsibility upon them. He went on to say that much of the trouble in China in 1926 was traced to antiBritish propaganda by the representatives of the Soviet Government, and that it was practically impossible to exercise any control over them. When this matter was referred to in a debate in the British Parliament in November last, the Pravda, the official organ of the Soviet Government, pointed out that the Soviet Government was utterly unable to accept responsibility for world-wide communistic activities, or to guarantee Britain against attempts to foster communistic colonial uprisings against the British yoke. That is how the Soviet regard the relationship between Great Britain and the Dominions! Russian newspapers also expressed the opinion that the resumption of diplomatic relations with Great Britain was merely another move in the game, and that there was need felt in British official circles to deal with their disruptive activities in the Dominions. The British press expressed their anxiety on this point. In July last the Chinese Government charged the Soviet Government with breach of faith in connexion with railways administration in Mauchuria and charged them with carrying on propaganda against the Government undertaking. We all know of the trouble that arose out of that incident.

I therefore say that before this Government recognizes the consular representative of the Soviet Government, it should demand something more than a written assurance that Russian representatives in this country will not carry on propaganda work. I take the view that these should not be admitted until we have practical evidence extending over a definite period of say three or six months that the Soviet Government can and will prevent communist propaganda in Australia. That was a safeguard the Bruce-Page Government would have insisted upon in regard to propaganda whatever other conditions were laid down. I assure the right honorable the Prime Minister that I have not submitted this motion in any party spirit, but because of the attitude of the Russian Government towards its people and because the active propaganda of its agents in other countries is exercising the minds of hundreds of thousands of people in this country. I therefore urge the Government to at least delay recognition of the Soviet consular representatives until it has secured from the Soviet substantial guarantees concerning propaganda in Australia.

Prime Minister · Yarra · ALP

– The concluding sentences of the speech of the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) were delightful. He told the House that he had not brought forward this motion “ in any party spirit.” Actually there is nothing but political propaganda behind his motion.

Dr Eable Page:

– That is not so.


– The party which I have the honour to lead is not a stranger to this conduct on the partof honorable members opposite. It has been their custom to link up the Labour party in Australia with the Soviet and its institutions. Indeed, this was the trump card of the previous administration, and the party which supported itfor many years. When the people of Australia found that all that was being so said about the Labour party was so much political propaganda, and untruthful, they returned Labour to power. Then the leaders of the political forces opposed to Labour believed that a Labour government would make so many mistakes that they would soon be able to discredit it. Apparently, that is one of the reasons why the right honorable member moved the adjournment of the

House this morning. The motion is essentially a political move to place the Government in a difficult position. If the right honorable gentleman was honest and sincere in his intention, why did he spring the motion upon me this morning at. an hour’s notice?

Mr White:

– I asked the Prime Minister certain questions about this matter last week.


– That is true, but I was not informed, until 10 o’clock this morning, that a motion for the adjournment of the House was to be submitted.

Dr Earle Page:

– No one knew until this morning.


– Of course nobody knew, because the right honorable gentleman kept his intention a close secret, until he gave notice of it to my secretary this morning. In the course of his speech, he stated that he was basing his case upon cabled news published last Wednesday, to which he made reference in the House, but he took very good care to keep his intention to himself in the hope, no doubt, that he would have the Government at a disadvantage.

Dr Earle Page:

– Nonsense !


– Fortunately, we have a complete answer for the right honorable gentleman, as I shall proceed to show. He takes, first of all, a cablegram published in the Sydney Morning Herald, which, he states, is a slur upon Australia. It reports an answer given in the House of Commons by Mr. Henderson, which I have not the slightest doubt, was altered intransmission, to the effect that we asked for a consul for Russia to be appointed to Australia. I have already answered that, and my reply was published in the press this morning. The right honorable gentleman could have known whether it was true or not by asking me; but he preferred to make political capital out of the incident. If he had been honest in his assertion that he did not wish to make political capital out of it, he would have asked me if it were true. Instead of doing that, he used this cabled message as an excuse for moving the adjournment of the House, and to stir up politicalpropaganda of the kind that has served him and his party to such good purpose in years gone by.

I propose to give honorable members a brief history of what led up to the question of a Russian consul in Australia, and I have obtained my information from the official records in the External Affairs Department. The original records are all there, and if honorable members -wish I will arrange to make copies of the relevant papers available so that those who desire to confirm what I say may study the records for themselves. On the 24th June last, months before this Government assumed office, His Majesty’s Government in Great Britain advised the Commonwealth Government that it was considering the resumption of normal diplomatic relations with the Soviet Republics. The Commonwealth Government on 29th June informed His Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom that it recognized the unsatisfactory nature of the present relations with Russia.

Mr Lacey:

– That was the Bruce-Page Government.


– Yes, the Bruce-Page Government said that. The Bruce-Page Government stated further that the Government considered that the suspension of normal diplomatic relations could not be indefinitely continued. The message proceeded -

The re-establishment of official relations should, however, be subject to certain conditions in respect to propaganda, agreed to after consultation with His Majesty’s Government in Great Britain.

And that is precisely what this Governmen has asked. I ask the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page), did all these awful things which are supposed to be happening in Russia, only begin since the Bruce-Page Government sent that message? If so, the right honorable member must withdraw all the things he said during the years 1922, 1923 and 1925 by way of propaganda against this party regarding its relations with Soviet Russia.

Mr Gullett:

– Did our Government appoint the consul?


– No, it did not; nor have we appointed him.

Mr Gullett:

– Did we accept him?

Mr White:

– The Bruce-Page Government dealt with the Baldwin Government in Great Britain.


– The message I have read was sent on the 29th June of last year to the MacDonald Government in Great Britain. The honorable member could inform his mind if he accepted my. invitation to study the records.

Several honorable members interjecting

Mr SPEAKER (Hon NormanMakin:

– Order! Most of the interruptions are coming from the ministerial side of the House. I ask honorable members to restrain themselves, both in their applause and in expressing objection to statements made. I ask them further to recognize that the Prime Minister has only a few minutes inwhich to deal with his subject.


– A message was sent by the last Government saying that the existing situation was not satisfactory, and that the suspension of normal diplomatic relations could not be indefinitely continued; but that before such relations could be resumed, conditions in respect to propaganda should be agreed to after consultation with the British Government. On the 12th July of last year His Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom advised the Commonwealth Government of its substantial agreement with the views of the Commonwealth Government, and said that it was despatching a note through the Norwegian representative in Moscow to the Soviet Government. The right honorable member for Cowper places the responsibility for what has been done upon this Government, but it is evident from my explanation that our action is merely a natural sequence to that taken by the last Government.

Dr Earle Page:

– The Prime Minister’s idea of safeguards is quite different from ours.


– The right honorable gentleman’s idea of safeguards was expressed by the Government of which he was a member, and for his benefit I shall again read what that Government said : -

The re-establishment of such relations would, however, be subject to certain conditions in respect of propaganda, agreed to after consultation with His Majesty’s Government in Great Britain.

Those conditions were agreed to, and are set out in a document containing mutual pledges. The right honorable member for Cowper said that we acted without informing Parliament, and that he had to learn of what was taking place from the press. That is absolutely incorrect. Negotiations followed the delivery of the note to which I have referred, and finally, on the 3rd of October last, a protocol was signed by British and Russian representatives, setting out the procedure for the resumption of diplomatic relations. A copy of the protocol was laid on the table of the House of Representatives on the 22nd November last. That arrangement was completed before this Government took office, and there is no record of a word of protest having been uttered by anyone associated with the last Government.

Dr Earle Page:

-We were out in the country fighting an election.


– Of course the right honorable gentleman will find an excuse.

Mr Archdale Parkhlll:

– If it is a good excuse, why not?


– That excuse is a very bad one.

Mr Latham:

– What date does the protocol bear ?


– It bears as its date the 3rd of October. The Government has been accused of taking no action to inform Parliament of what was being done. I laid upon the table of this House a copy of the protocol on the 22nd of November last, and yet the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) said that he knew nothing about it until he read of it in the newspapers. I suggest that if he attended more closely to the affairs of this House he would know more of what is taking place.

The next step was an exchange of ambassadors at the end of December, between Great Britain and the Soviet Union, and on this occasion, in conformity with the terms of the protocol, notes were exchanged on the subject of propaganda. By these notes both Governments confirmed the pledge with regard to propaganda contained in article 16 of the general treaty of 1924. I have already published in the press on more than one occasion, statements dealing with this phase of the negotiations. In a second exchange of notes the Soviet Government stated that it considered the undertaking as extending also to the dominions, and that as soon as the Government of any dominion had regulated its relations as the circumstances required, the Soviet Government would repeat the undertaking in an exchange of notes with that dominion. Prior to 1926 the signing of such a protocol would have bound every dominion, but a doubt arose after that as to whether such arrangements could be made binding on the dominions, and the British Government accordingly communicated with the dominions in respect to this matter. The Commonwealth Government took the view that since an ambassador of the Soviet Republic had been accredited to His Majesty the King and His Majesty was once more represented by an ambassador in Russia, there would be no justification for the Commonwealth Government declining to accept a Soviet consular representative in Australia, provided the person proposed for the post was persona grata, and provided the Soviet Republic repeated, on the basis of reciprocity, the undertaking as to propaganda in an exchange of notes with us.

Mr White:

– Is the Prime Minister aware that the Soviet Government originally refused to agree to the British Government’s request that it should refrain from propaganda?


– I am aware that the Soviet Government has signed a mutual pledge with the Government of Great Britain to refrain from conducting propaganda within the British Empire. A copy of that mutual pledge is among the documents which I have laid on the table of the House. If the honorable member thinks that he knows more about the conduct of diplomaticrelations than does Mr. Ramsay McDonald, he is vastly mistaken. When the Russian Government inquired through the British Government whether the Commonwealth Government had any objection to the appointment of a Russian representative I asked, on the 16th January, that they might be informed in reply that the Commonwealth Government would be prepared to accept a Russian consular representative in Australia, subject to the usual condition that the person proposed was acceptable, and subject also to a formal reciprocal undertaking in respect to propaganda. Such is the position to-day.

I wish to point out to the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) that the resumption of diplomatic relations does not, as he seems to think, justify him in attempting to link up this Government in some way with the horrors and atrocities which he said were lie ing perpetrated in Russia. The existence of diplomatic relations between nations does not make one nation in any way responsible for the internal affairs of the other. It would be just as fair to accuse the King, who only last week received the Soviet Ambassador at a Royal levee, of being associated with what is going on in Russia. Not only Great Britain, but twenty other nations as well have established diplomatic relations with the Soviet Government of Russia. If the pledge on the strength of which we have reestablished diplomatic relations with Russia, is broken by the representative of that country, we shall ask that he be withdrawn, in the same way as we would ask for the withdrawal of any other consular representative who abused his consular privileges. I point out to honorable members, however, that while the Russian Government signed a pledge not to interfere in our internal affairs, we are pledged not to interfere with theirs. It is a mutual pledge.

Mr Archdale Parkhill:

– It is a pity that some honorable members opposite do not go over there.


– It is a pity that the honorable member who has interjected docs not go there, and stay there. [Standing Order suspended, and extension of time agreed fo.]

The right honorable member for Cowper stated that the Archbishop of Canterbury had moved in this matter in the House of Lords. That is true. The right honorable member also said that the Archbishop of Canterbury had asked that the subject of diplomatic relations between Great Britain and Russia should be reviewed. Is that true?

Dr Earle Page:

– I was reading from the Sydney Sun of last night.


– I also have a copy of the Sydney Sun, but I find nothing in it to that effect.

Dr Earle Page:

– I read it there.


– I challenge the right honorable member to show me in the Sun’s report anything to the effect thai the Archbishop of Canterbury asked for a review of the diplomatic relations with Russia. What the Archbishop did was to direct . attention to religious persecution in Russia, and to ask the Government to make representations to the Soviet Government to discontinue those persecutions. I think that I speak for the overwhelming majority of the people when I say that whatever truth there may be in the reports that we have read nobody will approve of religious or other persecutions or atrocities. One thing that the people of this country stand for is liberty of conscience, and the right to worship their God at any altar they choose. The Archbishop of Canterbury, who has a broader mind than the right honorable member for Cowper, did not insist on the withdrawal of the recognition of Russia, but asked that representations be made to the Soviet Government. After having made that request - which the right honorable member read in such a way that its significance was lost - the Archbishop said -

He did not question the advantage of having a British representative in Moscow, and a representative of the Soviet Government in London, but these advantages carried with them special, responsibilities.

I entirely endorse that sentiment. Then he went on to say -

It was for the Government to decide at what time, in what way, and within what limits representations should be made. They could not expect, nor even ask, the Soviet Government to change its attitude towards religion, for that attitude was its own religion; but they had a right to ask that, in pursuing it, they would pay some heed to the claims of the Churches.

That was a broad, statesman-like utterance. The Archbishop did not go to the length to which the right honorable member went, because he was not spreading political propaganda. The reply of the representative of the British Government I endorse as my reply to the right honorable member, because it is couched in language to which no exception oan be taken, and lays down the sound principle that the diplomatic relations between nations should not be affected by their internal affairs. Lord Parmoor, speaking in reply for the Government, said -

The Governmenthad no intention whatever, unless the condition attached to diplomatic relations was infringed, of severing relationship with Russia, or weakening the opportunity that might be afforded through that relationship of influencing conditions in Russia. It was not easy to say what the Government could do to influence those conditions. He was glad to see some change had taken place; but in the meantime the terrors of this movement undoubtedly prevailed in Russia, though he believed they were less terrible now than at any time during the last ten years. The separation of schools from the State, lamentable as it was in Russia, had been a matter of some differences of opinion in other countries; but surely the attitude of any State towards education was purely the internal concern of each government, and no representation on such issue could be justified.

They all detested the systematic denial of religious tolerance in Russia, but no outside government could rightly act in such case unless two conditions were satisfied. First, it would need to have overwhelmingly accurate proof that wrongs were being committed, so grave in their nature and extent that they came to be the concern of the whole civilized world. The principle that one country should not seek to interfere with the internal affairs of another government was involved. Secondly, the Government must have good reason to hope that its action would really alleviate such wrongs, or at least not do more harm than good.

Now I come to a quotation of the speech of Viscount Brentford, who, as Sir William Joynson-Hicks, was Home Secretary in the Baldwin Government. There is no evidence that he asked for the severance of diplomatic relations, as the right honorable member, without knowledge, rushes in to suggest. Viscount Brentford remarked, “ Surely the Government could make friendly representations to the Russian Government regarding the suggestions made by the Prime Minister.” Lord Buckmaster, Liberal leader in the House of Lords, said -

He was in sympathy with the Primate’s desire that they should express their abhorrence at what was taking place in Russia; but when it was sought to enforce their opinion in some manner by political action, he thought they were on doubtful, and even dangerous ground.

Dr. Lang, the Archbishop, in summing up, expressed his gratitude that the debate had been free from political con troversy, and added that he was not without hope that representations made in a friendly way might have some effect in the matter. There is a great difference between the stand taken in Great Britain by Liberals and Conservatives, and by men like the Archbishop of Canterbury and others, and that adopted by the Opposition in this House. In Great Britain the Government was not harried for political reasons. Although Australia is the only dominion that has yet fallen into line with Great Britain, I have to learn that it is wrong for a dominion to be in agreement with the British Government. Twenty other nations are in line with it.

We have beengiven an account of the atrocities perpetrated in Russia. To whatever extent the reports may be true, they find no sympathy in the breast of any honorable member of this Parliament, or of any citizen of the Commonwealth. All persecution on account of religious belief is intolerable. The treatment of the peasants of Russia has been emphasized by the right honorable member, and it is suggested that it would justify the breaking off of diplomatic relations with that country. Shouldwe withhold whatever influence Great Britain and other nations may be able to exercise over a country such as Russia? Diplomatic relations were not broken off when as great, or greater horrors, were perpetrated under the rule of the Czar. There was no protest against, or repudiation of, the atrocities perpetrated under the leadership of the bestial Rasputin. Not a word of protest came from this Parliament or this country because diplomatic relations were then allowed to continue. I am making no apology for what is now taking place in Russia, but I point out that the psychology of her people has been created through centuries of atrocities and political persecution. In my youth I read the story, and saw the pictures, of the ancestors of the Russian peasants of to-day dragging their chains through the snows to Siberia. I also remember the account of “ Red Sunday,” when Russian people were shot down in thousands. Unfortunately the psychology then produced still obtains. The things that are now done there could not occur in countries that have enjoyed better conditions than those of Russia. Let us hope that, upon the resumption of diplomatic relations, and by means of friendly representations’, the more fortunate nations may influence the psychology of those people who are but emerging from centuries of black degradation.

Mr R Green:

– Counsel for the defence for Russia!


– I repudiate that suggestion. It is an insult, and it conveys a false accusation against me. I have never defended any government or any people who have committed crimes. We look forward to a better understanding between the nations of the world. Diplomatic relationship should be as close as possible. If Russia’s pledge with the British Government is broken, that Government will deal with its ambassador, and if the conditions upon which a consul will be admitted, so far as the Commonwealth Government is concerned, are broken, he will be sent back to Russia. So-far, I have no knowledge of the pledge that has been given to us having been departed from, nor shall we, at the request of the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) go back on the undertaking that we have signed, not to interfere with the local conditions in that country.


.- The Prime Minister has protested very vigorously, and angrily, against the ventilation of this matter, and, quite unnecessarily, he has worked himself into a passion. The whole issue is whether it was wise and desirable that the Government should have intimated what it has intimated through the British Government to the Soviet Government of Russia. The Prime Minister dealt to a slight extent with that subject, but many of his remarks were entirely irrelevant to the matter raised by the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page). He did, however, devote a good deal of attention to the attitude of the late Government. I know exactly what that attitude was. As the Prime Minister said, on the 24th June His Majesty’s Government advised the Commonwealth Government that consideration was being given to the resumption of diplomatic relations with Russia, and on the 29th June a reply was sent by the Commonwealth Government.From the terms of that reply the Prime Minister has made short extracts. Let me inform the House more fully of the attitude adopted by the late Government. In addition to what has been said by the Prime Minister, it said this, after referring to the necessity for undertakings regarding propaganda -

My Government would prefer that as a preliminary to the extending of the invitation to a Soviet representative to visit London, definite conditions upon which a discussion for the resumption of diplomatic relations would be based, should be laid down.

But definite conditions were not laid down. There was a great deal of discussion upon the procedure to be adopted in inviting the Soviet representative, but the invitation was actually sent before any agreement had been reached regarding propaganda and other matters. The Government, however, was of opinion that no steps should be taken in the direction of extending the invitation until these conditions had been laid down.Further, the late Government went on to say that it also considered that a discussion between the various governments of the Empire should take place prior to that basis being determined; in other words, that before the conditions preliminary to the issuing of the invitation were determined there should be a discussion as to those conditions between the various parts of the Empire. That condition has not been satisfied. The Labour Government of Great Britain proceeded on different lines, as it was perfectly entitled to do, but upon lines that were objected to by the late Government, and are still objected to by the present Opposition. Our conditions not being satisfied, on the 3rd October last a protocol was signed, as the Prime Minister has said, and that contains a certain undertaking with respect to propaganda. The Prime Minister suggested that the late Government should have taken some steps on behalf of the Commonwealth to indicate its attitude to that protocol. I put it to honorable members that action of such a character would have been absolutely unjustifiable in the circumstances. The Government had been defeated in the House, and an election was to be held within a fortnight, and, under these circumstances, it would have been entirely wrong for any government to profess to represent the Commonwealth in an important international matter such as this. Then we come to the action of this Government. On the 10th January it informed the Russian Government, through the British Government, that it was willing to receive a consul if certain conditions were fulfilled. The conditions were, first, that the individual should be persona grata, and, secondly, that there should be an undertaking against propaganda. Australia is the only dominion which has gone so far as that. No other part of the Empire, having regard to what has happened since the 3rd October, is prepared to take similar action. This question involves no interference in the domestic affairs of Russia, but it involves an endeavour by outsiders to bring about interference with our own affairs. We know that the Soviet Government is founded upon a policy of world revolution. Its object is to bring about a world revolution and to upset the governments of other countries. Since the 10th January certain events have taken place. They have been referred to by the leading ecclesiastical authorities mentioned by the right honorable member for Cowper, and are of such importance that they demand a reconsideration of the position.

The Prime Minister has said that the Archbishop of Canterbury and Lord Brentford do not recommend breaking off relations with Russia. I submit that there is an essential difference between the establishment of a new relation and the breaking off of an existing relation. Entirely different questions arise in the two cases. In the case of Great Britain, the question before the mind of the Archbishop of Canterbury and other gentlemen of the House of Lords and the British Government was whether existing relations should be broken off. The question which is before Australia at the present time is whether a new relation should be established, and opportunities afforded to agents of the Soviet Government, it having acted as it has done during the last two or three months, to establish themselves in Australia on the strength of whatever written or verbal undertaking they may give. The facts which have been mentioned by the right honorable member for Cowper make a strong and powerful case for the recon sideration of this matter in the light of the interests of Australia and of the Empire. That case is not answered by pathetic references to peasants walking in the snow in chains. We know of those facts, and we all sympathize with those who are suffering in Russia at the present time under a government which is suppressing liberty in the name of liberty itself; but are we to afford any opportunity in Australia for the propaganda of Soviet ideals? I say “No,” and I hope that the Government will reconsider the whole position.

Mr Bayley:

– I rise to a question of privilege. In view of the fact that the usual hour of suspending the sittings on Fridays is 12.45 p.m., and that the time allotted for the discussion of a motion of this kind is two hours, will you, Mr. Speaker, allow the House to sit until 1 p.m., so as to give honorable members the advantage of the full period allotted to a debate on a formal motion for the adjournment.

Mr SPEAKER (Hon Norman Makin:

– Under the Standing Orders the time allotted for discussing a motion such as this is two hours from the commencement of the sitting. In the circumstances, the sitting will not be suspended until 1 p.m.


.- Not long ago there was a general complaint about the operation of Soviet agents in Australia. The Labour party, not only decried and ridiculed the indefinite nature of the information, but also denied that Russian agents were working’ in Australia. On another occasion certain Australians holding Soviet ideas visited Moscow, and there reported that, while their numbers in Australia were small, their influence was great. The Labour party, as it then stood, repudiated, any association or sympathy with Soviet agents in Australia; but this action which the Government is now taking has brought about a certain amount of disquiet in the minds of the people. The House is indebted to the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) for bringing this matter forward. The Prime Minister, although he did not treat the subject with the seriousness that it deserved, was quite correct in his references to the psychology of crime, and the spirit of persecution and of revenge that have been bred in the Russian people for centuries; but is that any excuse for that country, under its re-organized conditions, endeavouring to extend its propaganda to every other nation of the. world? It was shown clearly in October last that there was a Russian agency in this country, spreading Soviet sentiment. Is there any need for such propaganda in Australia, the most democratic country in the world, where the people themselves, under proper legal and Parliamentary procedure, determine their country’s destiny? The attitude of the Bruce-Page Government was fundamentally different from that of this Government. Our trade relations with Russia are not of such considerable magnitude that, they should be taken into serious consideration. It would be a fair demand to ask Russia to pay her debts to the British Empire before we receive its representatives in our midst. I cannot understand why Soviet Russia should seek to have representation in this dominion, and, as a matter of policy and in the interests of Australia, it is a great mistake for us to permit a Soviet consul to take up residence here. I hope that the Government will reconsider the position, because it seems to me that the influence and effort of this consul will be in the direction of applying to Australia the conditions which are operating in Russia. I support the motion and the attitude of my leader, the right honorable member for Cowper.


– This House is indebted to the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page), for bringing this matter forward, because it is indeed time that we explained to the Empire and the world at large, why Australia is the first of all the dominions to accept the representative of Soviet Russia in a consular capacity.

Mr McTiernan:

– What about Great Britain itself?


– I arn speaking of the dominions of the Empire. An explanation is due to the world why we should be the first of all the dominions to accept the representative of the Soviet, when other nations such as the

United States of America have declined to do so. We have to take into account considerations other than the mere formalities between nations, and since the Soviet Government has said to the people of Russia, and to the world at large, “ Thou shalt know no God, but me”, I .submit that ‘this Parliament should seriously consider the position before it accepts a consular representative of such a Government. It has been said that Great Britain has received a Soviet ambassador, but let me remind honorable members that Russia owes Great Britain hundreds of millions of pounds. Great Britain at first took the stand that it would not accept an ambassador from Russia, but soon found that the United States of America, which had refused to receive a Russian representative, was obtaining all the trade of that country. Therefore, the position of Great Britain is, from a trade and other points of view, vitally different from that of Australia. Great Britain accepted the Russian Ambassador only under certain conditions, and those conditions are not being complied with. On 1st January last, there appeared in London a newspaper called the Daily Worker. It contained a message from the President of the Communist International, which described the paper as - “ A new and powerful weapon in the hands of the British working class in its fight against capitalism, against rationalism, and the Social-Fascist Labour Government.” The paper is tq be a rallying point against the Labour Government of rationalism, anti-Soviet intrigues, colonial brutalities and preparations for another Imperialist war. The Workers’ Life announced on the 3rd January, that the propagandist message was the paper’s first blow and that many more would follow. It also said in an article headed “First Blood “-

The message of the Communist International is attacked- as a breach of an agreement between the British and Soviet Governments. This is purest subterfuge. The Communist International is the world organization of the revolutionary working class - the great world party leading the struggle for the overthrow of capitalism and the establishment of the working-class dictatorship.

That is the kind of propaganda upon which Soviet’ Russia is engaged in Great Britain, and which, when the Russian consul is established here, will be disseminated among the Australian community. The present secretary of the Trade and Labour Council of New South Wales is a member of the Third Internationale.

Mr E Riley:

– Who is he?

Mr. ARCHDALE PARKHILL.Mr. Jock Garden, who sat in this very chamber during the early part of this week, and who was in constant communication with Ministers while in Canberra. The Labour movement outside of this House reeks with its association with the Third Internationale. In its ranks there are numerous men who have been in Russia and have absorbed and supported Russian doctrines. The establishment of a Russian consulate in Australia will inevitably have the effect of crystallizing communistic anti-British propaganda, subsidized by Russian money, that has been more or less active in our midst for years.

If this Government were considering the workers, to whose interests it contributes only lip service, it would have refused to accept a Soviet consul in Australia until it was “ clearly established that the pledge given to the British Government is being observed. If that pledge is (not honored, it is possible that Great. Britain will be obliged to do what it did before, ask the Russian ambassador to leave London. The fact that the Australian Government has agreed to accept an accredited representative of the Soviet Government will prejudice our credit and the country itself in the eyes of the world. Had this Government been animated by that concern for the people that the Prime Minister endeavours to make us believe it has, it would have proceeded slowly in the matter, and have said, “We are not yet prepared to accept this consul. We shall wait to see what action ‘the other dominions have taken, and to see whether the pledge given by the Soviet in regard to its ambassador in England is. being honored.” The bringing to Australia of a person who will disseminate Soviet propaganda is a menace to the community. The insidious effect of that propaganda is already apparent in our midst. Daily we read of men with unpronounceable names being haled before the courts on charges of a seditious nature. To extend and perpetuate that evil can only have a detrimental effect on the fair name of Australia.


.- On Thursday, the 27th March last, I asked the Prime Minister if he would inform the House whether, in view of the reported persecution of the Church in Russia, it would not be in the best interests of the Commonwealth if the appointment of a Soviet representative in Australia were postponed, especially as no Australian representative is going to Russia. The right honorable gentleman evaded the issue, and replied only to the last part of the question. To-day, in reply to my interjection asking if he believed in the Soviet promises upon which he was basing the action of the Government, he became personal and said that I claimed to know more about the subject than did the Prime Minister of England. I shall quote an extract from The Times Weekly Edition in regard to a message that appeared in the Izvestia, the official organ of the Soviet Government, concerning this matter, which is sufficient answer -

Izvestia, the official organ of the Soviet Government, on 25th January, printed a message from its London correspondent re/erring to questions put to Mr. Henderson on 22nd January, in the House of Commons. The correspondent wrote of “ Mr. Henderson’s more than equivocal attitude with regard to it” and declared that he had exposed his complete helplessness and confusion on the question’ of propaganda. It was rendered all the more conspicuous, Mie article continued, by the fact that, in spite of the reiterated questions of the Conservatives concerning the nature of the Soviet ambassador’s reply to Mr. Henderson’s representation, the latter by his silence, implied the absence of one, whereas in reality, the Soviet ambassador gave him a definite and wholly unequivocal reply to the effect that Mr. Henderson’s point of view on the activities of the Comintern never was and never could be accepted by the Soviet Government, and, therefore, was always repudiated by its , representatives abroad.

The Prime Minister based the whole of his speech to-day on the assumption that certain safe-guards have been provided by the Soviet. Is the right honorable gentleman prepared to accept safe-guards of that nature? The Izvestia intimates that the Soviet does not intend to listen to the British Government in that regard.

During recent anti-British and antireligious demonstrations, Russians burnt Mr. MacDonald in effigy. In 1918 I was unfortunate enough to have to spend some time in Russia. as a fugitive, and, for some years previously, I had also been associated with Russians. My experience of that unhappy country causes me to have misgivings as to the aspirations of honorable members opposite to become internationalists. My idea of an internationalist is a man who puts his own country last. If honorable members opposite were sent to Russia in the capacity in which I found myself there, and not as a welcome envoy from the Australian Labour party, they might change their opinions with regard to the Soviet.

There have been many strong protests from the churches against the attitude of Russia towards religion. Here is an extract from the Times Weekly which reads -

The Pope has addressed a strong letter to Cardinal Pompili, protesting against the “ horrible and sacrilegious outrages “ perpetrated in Russia, and announcing his intention of celebrating at St. Peter’s on the feast day of St. Joseph (<19th March) a mass of expiation, propitiation, and reparation for all the offences against the Divine Heart. The mass, the Holy Father adds, should also he “ a mass for the salvation of so many souls thus put to such dire trials, and for the release of our dear Russian people, and that these great tribulations may cease.”

After recalling the failure of previous efforts to stop this “terrible persecution,” which he has made from the very outset of his pontificate, the Holy Father declares that sacrilegious impiety rages not only against the priests and adult believers, but also against the young, whom it is sought to pervert by an abuse of their ingenuousness and ignorance. Instead of teaching science and civilization which, like honour, justice and welfare, cannot prosper without religion, the so-called “ League of Militant Atheists “ are seeking to “ conceal their moral, cultural, and economic decadence by a sterile and inhuman agitation.” Children are instigated to denounce their parents, and to destroy religious buildings and implements. Above all, it is sought to contaminate the souls of the young with every vice.

As instances of official excesses, the Pope mentions that at Christmas hundreds of churches were closed, numerous ikons were burned, and work was forced upon school children and work people. Sunday had been abolished, and the compulsory signing of a formul apostasy had been enforced. The penalty of non-compliance involved the forfeiture of their bread, clothing, and lodging tickets, without which all the inhabitants of that unhappy country were reduced to death by starvation, poverty, and cold.

The Bishop of Chelmsford, a representative of the Church of England, in his monthly diocesan message, quotes from a letter on the sacrifices of the Russian church, which he has received from the Metropolitan Antony, President of the Russian Episcopal Synod. The Metropolitan says -

According to our latest information, 31 bishops, 1,560 clergymen, and more than 7,000 monks and nuns have been killed without trial or hearing, solely for acknowledging Our Lord. Forty-eight bishops, 3,700 clergymen, and more than 8,000 monks and nuns are languishing in prison. The Books of Holy Scripture are being banished from libraries; their reading aloud, especially to children, in- .flicts a death sentence; public burnings of gospels and saints’ images have been organized. Innumerable churches have been transformed into taverns and cinemas.

The Bishop of Chelmsford mentioned that he has never taken any part in politics of any kind, and added -

But I feel that for our country to enter into political engagements with Russia while this state of things is going on is a course of action which cannot commend itself to the Christian conscience.

The British communist newspaper, The Daily Worker, .has challenged Mr. Henderson to make public the reply of the Soviet ambassador to his protest against the message from the Communist Internationale which appeared in the first issue of that journal. Why is the Australian Goverment signing an agreement with such a nation? Are we bringing this representative out here for trade purposes? Russia’s trade with Australia is a negligible quantity. On the other hand, Russia is a serious competitor with some of our products.

Mr Cunningham:

– Russia buys extensively of our wheat and wool.


– Russia is certainly not a buyer of our wheat, but a competitor with our growers. The Assistant Minister (Mr. Beasley) and the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) are closely associated with the Soviet, being members of the executive of the International Class War Prisoners’ Aid Society. They have been prominent in all industrial troubles. What faith can we put in any promise made by a representative of Soviet Russia ? Honorable members must recollect a recent occurrence, where the

Russian General Koutepof, a leader of a party politically opposed to the Soviet, was kidnapped in Paris and taken to Russia, where he is reputed to have been tortured in an endeavour to extract certain admissions from him. Is Australia going to be privy to that sort of thing? Is it going to allow in its midst the representative of a government which persecutes the church and its followers, and kidnaps and tortures political adversaries? I was in Russia long enough to obtain a proper appreciation of that country. No doubt this representation would be very welcome to certain honorable members opposite, but the Labour party is not entirely unbalanced. Recently the Prime Minister was complimented for speaking in unequivocal terms to certain industrial extremists in Australia. We know that the British Empire and the Church is the rock upon which communism has dashed itself in vain. On the score of patriotism and of Christianity, I appeal to the Prime Minister to consider deeply before accepting in our midst the accredited representative of this extremist nation, an action which could do us no good, but might do quite a lot of harm.

Question resolved in the negative.

Sitting suspended from 12.57 to 2.15 p.m.

page 895



Nationality of Growers


asked the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -

  1. What is the number of sugar-cane growers, other than of British nationality, in each of the following districts of Queensland: - Mackay, Proserpine, Home Hill, Ayr, Giru, Ingham, Innisfail, Babinda, Gordonvale, and Cairns?
  2. What is the total number of sugar-cane growers in each of the districts mentioned?

– Inquiries will be made to ascertain whether it is possible to obtain the information sought.

page 895




asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -

In view of the opinion expressed by the Air Inquiry Committee in its report in connexion with the flights of aeroplanes “ Southern Cross “ and “ Kookaburra “, which reads - “ The committee is of opinion that it is desirable that further regulations be adopted to provide for further precautions in relation to long distance aeroplane flights, in the interests of pilots, passengers, and crew, and the community generally “, will he inform the House what action, if any, has been taken to introduce new regulations as suggested by the committee?

through Mr. Beas ley

– Comprehensive amendments to Air Navigation Regulations have been drafted and will be introduced shortly. The new regulations as drafted contain provision in relation to departmental supervision of long distance aeroplane flights.

page 895




asked the Minister for Markets and Transport, upon notice -

  1. What was the number of licences issued during the years1928 and1929 under the provisions of the Transport Workers Act in each of the following Queensland ports: - Brisbane, Bundaberg, Bowen, Townsville. Lucinda Point, Innisfail, and Port Douglas? 2. (a) What was the number of transport workers employed in each of the ports mentioned immediately prior to the operation of the Transport Workers Act;(b) what is the number employed in each port at the present time?

– The information is being obtained.

page 895




asked the Minister for Home Affairs, upon notice -

  1. What was the number of people residing in the Commonwealth of Australia on 31st March, 1920, and also on 3lst March, 1930?
  2. Is the Minister in a position to supply the same information, for the same periods, for each of the six States of the Commonwealth ?

– Figures relating to the population of Australia at 31st March, 1930 are not yet available. As the honorable member apparently desires a comparison on a ten-year basis, I am supplying estimated figures as at 31st December, 1919, and 31st December, 1929 : -

page 896




asked the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice-

What was the total amount paid by the various oil companies in customs duty on petrol importations during the past two years?


– The figures are as follow : -

page 896




asked the Treasurer, upon notice -

  1. What was the amount of overseas loans, other than war loans, raised by the Commonwealth Government, and each of the State Governments, including those arranged through the Loan Council, from 1915 to 1929 inclusive?
  2. What was the amount of overseas war loans raised from 1915 to 1929 inclusive?

– The information is being obtained, and will be furnished as soon as possible.

page 896




asked the Treasurer, upon notice -

  1. Is it a fact that funds are being collected in certain States of the Commonwealth for the relief of the unemployed?
  2. Would such collections be liable for Commonwealth taxation; if so, have any applications been received asking for exemption from such taxation ?

– The information is being obtained and will be furnished as soon as possible.

page 896




asked the Treasurer, upon notice -

Has any guarantee of financial assistance been given by the Government to the Wiluna Gold Mines, Western Australia, directly or conjointly with the State Government; if so, to what extent and on what terms?


– The Wiluna Gold Mines Limited proposes to borrow £550,000 for the development and equipment of its mines. The Commonwealth Government agreed that, if the Government of Western Australia would guarantee a loan of £300,000 to be raised by the company, then, subject to satisfactory re ports relating to the leases of the company, and to ratification by the Commonwealth Parliament, the Government of the Commonwealth would be willing to indemnify the Government of the State against any loss which may be suffered by the State under the guarantee, but so that any moneys paid by the Commonwealth to the State in pursuance of such indemnity shall be paid to, and received by, the State as an addition to the special assistance granted to the State in recognition of disabilities suffered by the State under federation. The £300,000 proposed to be guaranteed by the State is to be secured by thecompany by bank overdraft, and is to be repayable at the rate of £50,000 per annum. The conditions of the guarantee are at present under consideration and as soon as the necessary agreements in the matter have been prepared and signed, the proposal will be submitted to Parliament for ratification.

page 896


Mr. COLEMAN, as Chairman, brought up the majority and minority reports, together with minutes of evidence of the Joint Committee of Public Accounts on the claim of Charles Dean and others, trading under the name of Henry Dean & Son, against the War Service Homes Commissioner for compensation to cover losses alleged to have been sustained as the result of extensions and alterations made to their works to provide bricks for the erection of war service homes, and moved -

That the majority and minority reports be printed.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

page 896


The following papers were presented : -

North Australia - Report by Messrs. A. L. B. Lefroy and Hubert Evans on their visit to the Western side of Northern Territory, June, 1929.

Land Tax Assessment Act - Regulations (Crown Leases) - Statutory- Rules 1930. No. 33.

page 896


Motion (by Mr. Scullin) agreed to -

That he have leave to bring in a bill for an act to alter paragraph (i) of section 51 of the Constitution.

Bill brought up, and read a first time.


Prime Minister · Yarra · ALP

. - by leave - I move -

That the bill be now read a second time.

Ishall be brief in dealing with this bill because already, in introducing the Constitution Alteration (Power of Amendment) Bill, I have covered its general principles, and in accordance with Mr. Speaker’s ruling, I take it that any future general discussion on that bill will also cover the discussion on this third measure. The object of this bill is that an extra question may be submitted to the electors by referendum. As a matter of fact it was the original intention of the Government to submit three questions but Ministers were reluctant to submit more than two, fearing that any other course would confuse the minds of the electors. Many requests, however, have been made by honorable members who have spoken on the first bill - the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), and the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Coleman) particularly, were the first to make the suggestion, and they have been followed by others - that the electors should be given a wider choice than was afforded to them by the two questions originally proposed to be submitted to them.

It was at first decided by Ministers that the question to be submitted under the Power of Amendment Bill would embrace all the powers that could be sought for in other Constitution Alteration Bills, and that the only alternative to that major question should be one relating to a power most urgently required by the Commonwealth, namely the industrial power. But Ministers have now decided to submit to the people this extra question relating to trade and commerce. They realize that it is important that the trade and commerce power of the Commonwealth should be extended and that in the community there is a large section of the people who, while not prepared to go to the extent of. granting the full power of amendment to this Parliament - I hope that a majority of the people will be in favour of granting that full power - will be pleased to be afforded an opportunity to give at least a larger grant of powers to the Common wealth Parliament. Ministers believe that the fullest opportunity should be given to the electors to determine without confusion such an important question as the amending of the Constitution, and this bill will enable an extra question to be submitted to them, making three in all - first full power to this Parliament to amend the Constitution ; secondly, full power over industrial matters, and thirdly full power over trade and commerce.

The. limitations of the Constitution in respect of trade and commerce have been grave stumbling blocks to the operation of the National Parliament since federation. The words in paragraph (i) of section 51 of the Constitution are -

Trade and commerce with other countries and among the States.

It is proposed to ask the people to omit the words “with other countries and among the States “ and give the Commonwealth full power over trade and commerce subject to the following proviso -

Provided that the alteration of this paragraph by Constitution Alteration (Trade and Commerce) 1930, shall not be construed to empower the Parliament tomake laws with respect to the control or management of railways the property of a State or the rates or fares on such railways.

On previous occasions when power over trade and commerce has been sought, the argument has been advanced that if this power were given to the Commonwealth, it would enable the Commonwealth to take over and control State railways, and against the wishes of the State railway commissioners, fix fares and interfere generally in the management of what are State concerns. In order to avoid that difficulty, this proviso has been included as it has been included on former occasions.

Mr Gregory:

-Would the same proviso be included in regard to the Industrial Powers Amendment?


– No. The Government is seeking the fullest possible powers for the Commonwealth Parliament. If the people are not prepared to grant the fullest powers, they are to be given two alternatives. It may be suggested that this represents on the Government’s part a lack of confidence in its ability to carry the major question. But I say quite frankly that the difficulties in altering the Constitution are very great. No government lias yet succeeded in getting a major alteration passed. Even when both sides of this House were almost unanimously in agreement on the point, the people refused to grant a very much smaller measure of power than is now sought. In these circumstances, the person who declares that he is confident about the success of the present proposals, would appear to be deceiving himself as well as the public; but I have a great deal of confidence in the success of our proposals. The people, however, will he the judges, and the Government will accept their verdict as cheerfully as we did at the last general election.

I do not propose to enter upon a full debate upon this bill because if I did so I should rather encourage the re-opening of the whole general debate, and it is the desire of the Government to get these bills through very early next week. The trade and commerce limitations upon the Commonwealth are very grave. They are illogical, because who can define what is interstate and what is intra-state commerce ; who can determine when commerce ceases to flow across the borders of any State and begins to be interstate, ceasing to be intra-state? There has always been grave doubt upon the point, and, after all, what difference is there in the treatment of trade between Melbourne and Wodonga and trade between Wodonga and Albury ? To a large extent these restrictions of an artificial character on trade and commerce, one of the most important phases of life, make our Constitution ridiculous; as defined, our power is exceedingly narrow.

If the power to alter the Constitution were given to Parliament by the people, it would enable Parliament to make this or any other amendment in the Constitution ; but it would not necessarily give the Government a mandate to take that action. As the Treasurer pointed out in his second-reading speech, we should require a specific mandate from the people to take power over trade and commerce, but if this question and the industrial powers question’ are answered in the affirmative this Government will have a specific mandate to deal with all industrial and trade and commerce questions. In other words, by virtue of the carrying of the second and third questions, the Constitution will be altered in respect to industrial and trade and commerce powers. By submitting the proposals in this way we are giving the people several alternatives. We are. giving them the opportunity to say that this Parliament should have a general power to alter the Constitution ; but if they are not prepared to go to that length, they will be able to give Parliament full power over industrial matters and trade and commerce.

I shall quote the remarks of one of the great constitutional lawyers of Australia, the Chief Justice of Victoria, Sir William Irvine, in regard to the trade and commerce power of this Parliament. He said during a debate in this House in 1910-

There is no part of our Constitution in which we have given a more rigid adherence to a very ancient model than in the trade and commerce clause.

Later, in the same speech, he said -

It is just as impossible in commerce to draw a line of demarcation based on local geographical conditions as it would be to commit to the care of one physician a man’s body and to the care of another physician his limbs. Each is part of one organic whole; and the results of the attempts has been perfectly endless litigation and uncertainty.

It was pointed out by the late Hon. Alfred Deakin that the power of protection should carry with it industrial power. I add that it should also carry with it power to protect- the community from exploitation.

Mr White:

– From industrial exploitation ?


– -From exploitation of any description. No exploitation of the people should be permitted, and Parliament should have power to prevent it. Very interesting questions were raised yesterday, and again to-day, in the discussion on the proposals of the Government to prohibit the importation of certain goods and to put a surcharge on other goods to limit the importation of them. It was asked what power the Government would have to protect the community if an attempt was made to exploit it. It was pointed out by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Gullett) that there might be an effort to create a monopoly in Australia because of the enforcement of an embargo or any high protective policy, and that no matter how commendable might be the object of building up our industries and of sheltering them behind protective walls, if such a monopoly were set up it might lead to exploitation. “We grant that, but the reply is that that danger is always present, and that there should be power in the hands of the Commonwealth Parliament to protect the community as well as industries. It is true that protection may be lifted from an industry if the public be exploited; but the manufacturers may not be the offenders. It may be the distributors, and we have no power over them. It would be unfair to penalize the manufacturers for something the distributors had done.

While I do not suggest that we should take over the’ complete fixation of prices from beginning to end under the trade and commerce power - I believe that competition generally renders that unnecessary - it has occurred that advantage has been taken of our protective duties to exploit the community. We should have the power to stop that kind of thing by regulation or control. Where there is competition there is safety to that extent; but where a combination has been set up and prices have been fixed by a combine the Government has practically no power. In such cases Ave are under a system of government by the combines and not government by the people. We desire to substitute government of the people by Parliament. If there is to be any price fixing it should be done, not by private combines, but by the representatives of the people. If we are to build up the industries of Australia by scientific methods of protection - to use the term of the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) - we shall if we can get such a thing as scientific protection, need more adequate and better regulated methods, so that we shall be able to protect the community when that is necessary. If this specific power is given to us, either with or without the general power that we are seeking, we shall be able to use it to the advantage of the people immediately.

What an anomaly it is that although, under our Navigation Act, we can control navigation which extends beyond the limits of one State, we cannot control it if it is conducted only between port and port in the same State! Surely we are one nation! It must be recognized that there is extraordinary difficulty in deciding what is intra-state and what is interstate trade. A ship travelling from one port to another in the same State may also be engaged in interstate trade. At any rate, under existing conditions no one seems to know where Commonwealth control begins and where it ends.

The Seamen’s Compensation Act is applicable to interstate but not to intra-state shipping. A seaman may be injured in travelling from one port to another within a State and not be able to obtain compensation. I remember a case of the kind being discussed years ago in the early days of these debates. A seaman was hit on the head by a box of cargo while working on an interstate boat, and it was argued that, although the ship was an interstate vessel, the box was intra-state cargo, and that, therefore, the Seamen’s Compensation Act did not apply.

Mr McTiernan:

– Was th a,t the Kalibia case?


– I believe it was, though I cannot recall the decision at the moment. I have said enough to indicate the anomalies that are brought about by the stupid, artificial limitations that have been placed upon the power of this Parliament in relation to trade. If there is one thing that is an “ organic whole,” to use the words of Sir William Irvine, it is surely trade and commerce.

The very important subject of marketing, to which I referred in my speech on the Constitution Alteration Power of Amendment Bill, is also involved in this measure. “Whatever views honorable members may hold in regard to the organized marketing of our products they will surely agree that if the Common.wealth Parliament decides to organize the Australian market on a nation-wide plane for overseas, interstate, and intra-state purposes, it should be able to enact legislation to carry out its decisions without having to obtain the consent of Governments in six different States. We are bringing down a bill with the object of consulting the farmers in regard to the formation of a compulsory wheat pool. If the farmers agree to the proposition, this Parliament will still have to obtain the consent of a number of State Parliaments before it can do anything. That is an intolerable position, particularly in a country like this, in which we are so dependent upon our production for export as well as for local consumption. Even if the States combined to form a nationwide wheat pool, or any other marketing scheme on a big scale, they would be entirely helpless unless the Commonwealth Parliament collaborated with them. When we talk about State rights and the rights of State Governments we need to remember that the States are not very powerful when it comes to dealing with large measures unless they can secure the active co-operation of the Commonwealth Government. With the frequent changes that take place in Commonwealth and State Governments it would be a marvellous thing if we could get all the States and the Commonwealth to agree to a particular thing at the one time. There should be no need to wait for that. The object of this bill is to give the people an opportunity to say that they are prepared to grant the Commonwealth Government full power over trade and commerce, even though they may not be prepared to give it a general power to alter the Constitution.

The general arguments that might be used in support of this proposal have been already stated in the debate on the Constitution Alteration (Power of Amendment) Bill, and I do not propose to go over them again.

Debate (on the motion by Mr. Latham) adjourned.

page 900


(No. 2).

Second Reading

Treasurer · Dalley · ALP

– I move -

That the hillbe now read a second time.

The necessity for the introduction of this bill arose through the elimination of certain definitions from the Laud Tax Assessment Bill which we discussed a week or so ago. It was thought by some honorable members in this chamber that the definitions in question were not clearly expressed. A similar contention was expressed in another place, with the result that an amendment was made to the bill which was accepted by this chamber. It became necessary therefore to bring down this supplementary measure to put the definitions on a better footing.

The bill consists of two provisions. The first contains new definitions of “ unimproved value in relation to improved land “ and “ value of improvements,” to replace those eliminated from the previous measure. It also contains a definition of “ improvements “ designed to meet all the objections raised in Parliament during the discussion of the other two definitions mentioned.

The second provision relates to new regulations made upon the passing of the Land Tax Assessment Act 1930, in order to provide rules for the calculation of values of leasehold estates in the leases which that act caused to be taxable as from the commencement of the Land Tax Assessment Act 1914. The bill provides that these new regulations shall have the same retrospective operation as section 3 of the 1930 act, namely, to the date of the commencement of the Land Tax Assessment Act 1914.

Until the passing of the 1930 act there was no power to make regulations for the calculation of values of leasehold estates in the leases dealt with by that a.ct. Immediately that act was passed the necessary regulations were made. There is no power to enable the Governor-General to make those regulations operate retrospectively, and Parliament is therefore asked to do so.

The new definitions of “ unimproved value in relation to improved land”, “ value of improvements “ and “ improvements “ have been framed after further conferences with counsel who advised in the first instance. It is considered that the lines now recommended by counsel fully meet the objections which were expressed in Parliament during the discussion of the rejected definitions.

It will be seen that the new definition of “ improvements “ now contains after the words “ improvements thereon “ the words “ or appertaining thereto and make or acquired by the owner or his predecessor in title.” These words appear in the definition of “ unimproved value” in the present law, but they were omitted from the definition rejected by Parliament recently.

The observations of counsel regarding the insertion of those words in the definition are as follows : -

The reason for the omission of those words was that although, in practice, their presence in the Section has not been treated as adding anything to the words “ thereon “, it has been felt that they mightbe used as a ground for seeking to contend that improvements which had not been effected to the land itself might nevertheless be taken into account. Up to the present ithas never, so far as we know, been held that account canbe taken of improvements effected to other land and not to the property itself. The purpose of omitting the words in the bill was, therefore, to secure the continuance of the present state of things inthis respect, and not to make any change. There was never any idea of adoptingthe definition suggested by Isaacs J in the McGeoch case.

If it is thought particularly desirable, in order to prevent misunderstanding as to the scope and purpose of the bill, that the words shouldbe restored, we think that in all probability, no great harm will be done by inserting in the definition of “ unimproved value” before the words “did not exist”, the words “ or appertaining thereto and made or acquired by the owner or his predecessor in title.” We think that it would be better to omit them for the reasons mentioned above; but since they have done no particular harm so far, their elimination cannot be regarded as essential.

In regard to the views expressed in Parliament on the second proviso to the definition of “value of improvements,” it will be remembered that a fear was expressed by some members that that proviso would have enabled the department to exclude from the value of improvements such work or expenditure as that done or incurred in connexion with the removal of suckers and new growths of timber resulting from ring-barking trees in order to destroy them in the process of improving the land. This will be of interest to the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) who has submitted certain questions to me on the point. I quote now from the memorandum of counsel advising the Government on the matter. Counsel who had suggested the form of that proviso have made the following statement in connexion with it: -

We understand that the language in which this proviso is expressed has led to some misapprehension being felt that, by it, it is being sought to introduce, in substance, the effect of the minority decision in McGeoch. This was certainly not intended, and would not, in our opinion, be the effect of the proviso. The form which it does take, however. makes it easy to understand how the misunderstanding occurred; and we have therefore drafted an alternative proviso, which is designed to make it clear that all that is intended is to prevent it from being successfully contended that an allowance should be made for mere recurring maintenance and upkeep expenditure, as improvements. We have drafted the new proviso in such a way as to indicate, we think clearly, that any recurring expenditure which is affected in the case of permanent improvement such as suckering following upon ringing in the course of destroying timber) is to be allowed, but annual maintenance is not to be allowed.

We think the new proviso meets the difficulty expressed in the Senate.

The draft proviso prepared by counsel is one which it was suggested should be added to the definition of “unimproved value in relation to improved land “ in place of the former second proviso to the definition of “value of improvements.”

Mr Prowse:

– Is clearing scrub land and fern-cutting regarded as an annual improvement ?


– It may be difficult to draw a line of demarcation, but there is a difference between work of that kind which is an improvement on land, and should be taken into account in arriving at the unimproved value, and work which is only maintenance. The department proceeds on a recognized practice in determining such factors. As stated earlier in the session, it is the Government’s desire to restore the practice in force before the decision in the McGeoch case.

Mr Prowse:

-Would improvements in the direction of the destruction of ferns, scrub and other vegetable growth, extending over a period of five years, come under this definition?


– If five years’ operations were necessary to eradicate ferns or scrub, or other vegetable growth, the whole of the expenditure so incurred would be taken into account in arriving at the unimproved value. The AttorneyGeneral’s Department carefully considered counsel’s suggestion, and came to the conclusion that its substance would be better placed in the act in the form of a definition of “ improvements “ for the purpose of causing “ improvements “ to include certain work but not other kinds ofwork. Counsel concurred in this view and then considered the full form of the necessary definition. The definition now appearing in the bill is that which is recommended by counsel subject to slight verbal alteration made by the AttorneyGeneral’s Department to clarify one part of the draft prepared by counsel.

The new definition of “ improvements “ renders it unnecessary to retain in the definition of “unimproved value” in relation to improved land, the words “improvements, if any, thereon or appertaining thereto and made or acquired by the owner or his predecessor in title “, as these words now appear in the definition of “ improvements “. The new definition will require the word “ improvements “ wherever it appears in the act, to be interpreted - unless the contrary intention is clear - as meaning the improvements on or appertaining to the land and made or acquired by the owner or his predecessor in title.

The next part of the new definition when read in conjunction with the succeeding parts, means that when a taxpayer acquires land which is infested to any extent with vegetable growths or animal pests, and destroys them, that operation is to be treated as an improvement. Being so treated, the added value, if any, which that improvement in that condition gives to the land will be included in “ value of improvements “, subject to the terms of the definition of “ value of improvements “, viz., that the added value shall not exceed the cost of making the improvement. The third part of the new definition means that the term “improvement “ shall not include the destruction of any vegetable growths or animal pests which establish themselves on the land during a taxpayer’s ownership except to the extent, if any, to which it restores the utility of a previous improvement produced by destroying vegetable growths or pests, when that utility has been impaired subsequently by the inroads on the land of fresh vegetable growths or animal pests.

In considering the form of the new definition of “ improvements “ counsel took into consideration the necessity or otherwise of making specific reference therein to the work of destroying suckers and seedlings which are incidental to the destruction of timber. On this point counsel has expressed the view that the form of the definition in the bill causes the destruction of such suckers and seedlings to be an improvement on or appertaining to the land, and therefore considers it is unnecessary to make any specific reference to that operation. Counsel, however, stated that if the inclusion of such a reference would remove apprehension as to the scope of the provision, the words might be included. This course has been followed. It will be seen, therefore, that the new definition fully meets all the objections which were raised in Parliament against the second proviso to the definition of “value of improvements “ as originally submitted to Parliament.

The Government feels that it has covered, in the new form of the definitions, all the objections that were raised and are entitled to consideration in filially settling these complex definitions in a very important law. It is hoped that the bill will be dealt with next week, so that it can be sent on without delay to another place for consideration, and be finally passed.

Debate (on motion by Mr. Latham) adjourned.

page 902


Second Reading

Debate resumed from 3rd April(vide page 874), on motion by Mr. Scullin -

That thebill be now read a second time.


.- After the busy day we have had, I am very severely handicapped in rising at this hour to address myself to this important measure. During the eleven years I have been a member of this Parliament I have always looked upon Friday as being, in a sense, a special day due either to the humour of the House, the delivery of an important speech, or the occurrence of some startling incident. To-day has been no exception to the rule. We have had very important proposals before us this morning, and I find considerable difficulty in concentrating upon the measure now before us.

Whatever may be the views of honorable members on both sides of the chamber concerning these proposals, I think it will be agreed that, having regard to the short time that the present Government has been in office, and the large number of major questions that have been submitted - to such an extent that the notice-paper is already crammed - that money could be made by producing and exhibiting in Australia or abroad a film which might be termed “Hot-speed Scullin.” I remember some years ago when we were meeting in Melbourne, an occasion - I cannot recall the subject which was under consideration - when, in drawing an analogy, I referred to the good ship “ Commonwealth.” The honorable member for Oxley (Mr. Bayley) and I have had many a laugh over it. On that occasion Ipictured the good ship “ Commonwealth “ proceeding in very stormy weather under the command of Captain W. M. Hughes. One dark night a member of the crew named Page dropped a spanner from the top deck on to the captain’s head. Shortly afterwards a new captain named Bruce assumed command. Some years later, when I discovered that he was trying to drill a hole in the vessel, I had the unpleasant task of dropping a political spanner on his head.

Similar thoughts - pursuing the maritime metaphor - occur to me to-day in considering the bill now before the House. Over a quarter of a century ago the people of the Commonwealth desired to make a voyage to a promised land, known as “Federation,” but before doing so they consulted a celebrated firm of naval architects as to the type of vessel to be used. At the head of that firm was a man whose name is revered - I refer to the late Sir Henry Parkes - while the other members of the firm were Deakin, Reid, O’Connor, Braddon, and many others who have now passed on. The people of the Commonwealth consulted that firm concerning the design of the ship which was to be known as the “ Commonwealth,” and eventually plans and specifications were drawn up and the vessel built in the Queen Victoria dockyard in the Old Motherland, and sent back to Australia. In the earlier years of the vessel’s activities she was equal to the job, but as time passed on she was found to be somewhat small for the purpose for which she was constructed. She was faithfully built with a rigid keel - the Constitution - with 128 solid sections or solid ribs, and eight chapters which might be termed the stringers. From time to time during her voyage it was found that she was too small for the work, and many attempts were made to insert new ribs. Some were put in, but the others were rejected by the owners - the people of the Commonwealth - because they were considered unsound. This is another attempt to strengthen the vessel.

During the last few weeks I have, with the assistance of the ex-Commonwealth Historian, Dr. Watson, spent considerable time in looking back over the speeches of the great men who have gone. It was a long, interesting, but somewhat tedious task. But I endeavoured to find what was in the minds of these men when the Commonwealth was being established. At that time many conventions were held, and the people were not keen on an alteration of the then existing system. An endeavour was made to get the people to think federally, and to put aside State rights. It seemed to me quite clear, from all the speeches delivered at that time, that State rights were inviolate, and must not be interfered with except with the consent of the people. Sections 1 to8 of the Constitution can be altered only by the British Parliament. This Commonwealth Parliament has power to alter 21 sections, those sections being easily identifiable by the words “until the Parliament otherwise provides.” But quite twothirds of the Constitution can be altered only after the people have been consulted, and then only if the alteration is approved by a majority of the members of both Houses of Parliament, a majority of the electors of the Commonwealth, a majority of the States, and a majority of the people in each State. The Treasurer (Mr. Theodore) by interjection asked how can we assume what the framers of the Constitution meant. I think that it is clear from the Constitution itself what this Parliament can do and what it cannot do.

I listened with pleasure to the speech ofthe Treasurer (Mr. Theodore). It was one of the finest speeches to which I have listened in this Parliament during the last eleven years. What a fortune the honorable member has lost through not being at the bar! What a power he would exercise over any jury ! It was a pleasure to see him standing in his place, with a full house listening to him, and almost every member of the Opposition bombarding him with questions, and to observe how he dealt with them. As he spoke, I could not help thinking that if he could continue another half hour he would have the Opposition going to the country in support of the Government’s proposals. I wish that I had his power ; but, unfortunately, I have to struggle along with what brains I have.

Mr Cusack:

– The honorable member did good work with the spanner.


– I was forced to use it, because I shall always stand for loyalty, integrity, and honour in public life, and loyalty to the platform of one’s party. I shall do my best to put out of office any government which I find doing what Mr. Bruce tried to do.

I regret that I cannot support the first referendum proposal. Apart from the legal opinion of Sir Edward Mitchell, that even if the referendum is carried, it will be ultra vires of the Constitution, I am of the opinion that to give Parliament the power sought by the Government would be to destroy the foundation on which the Commonwealth has been built. The democratic vox populi was heard at the last election. We should not attempt to silence that voice. Instead of attempting to take to itself the power to alter the Constitution at will, Parliament should consult the people. If it finds that the Constitution is too narrow, or the ship too small, it should go to the people for fuller powers - for a larger ship. If the people grant to this Parliament the powers sought to be conferred upon it by these proposals, their control will pass from them forever. When the States accepted federation, they did not dream that such a proposal as this would ever be placed before them. I ask honorable members supporting the Government, what might have happened during the last industrial crisis if Mr. Bruce, the then Prime Minister, had the powers now sought by the present Government? The powers sought’ by these proposals are far too dangerous to be given to any government. I do not share the fear of some honorable members of the Opposition that the present Government would do the most awful things if these powers were conferred upon it. Honorable members will do well to remember that in this House they are the representatives of the people, and not only share a great honour, but also carry a great responsibility. Surely no body of men would come here and seize the first opportunity to place on the statutebook, legislation of a despicable nature. I agree with those honorable members who say that an ample safeguard against irresponsible legislation is the necessity for members to submit to the judgment of the people from time to time. The last Government learned that it could not fly in the face of the electors. The position was well summed up in the leader in the Melbourne Age on the17th March last. - Inherent in this system was the principle of consultation with the people on all questions pertaining to the alteration of the Constitution. The referendum is the very core of the structural plan. It was not contemplated in1899, and is not contemplated now, that every clause in the Constitution should be for ever sacrosanct,that the charter as framed should remain eternally inviolate. It was, however, deliberately resolved that not the legislature but the people and a definite majority of them must sanction such amendments as changed conditions proved to be desirable. In proposing that the referendum be discarded, the Government seeks to remove the constitutional kernel and leave an empty shell.

While I cannot accept all the reasoning of the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell), I agree with him. that the strength of the Constitution is its appeal to the people. That point is continually stressed in the Constitution itself. Nor can I accept the view that the Government has no right to introduce these proposals. In bringing them forward, it is giving effect to the plank of the Labour party platform. The BrucePage Government was put out of office for departing from its platform. I had a hand in displacing it, and for that reason members of the Nationalist and Country parties with the exception of the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson), for whom I have the highest respect, have left the chamber rather than listen to me. That does not concernme in the least, for in turning out. that Government, I merely exercised my undoubted right. This Government is certainly endeavouring to put its policy into operation. It has suspended compulsory military training, because that also is a. plank of the party’s platform. Another plank, concerning which the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates) was perfectly frank, is unification. Although unification is yet a long way off, in New South Wales, at least, the movement towards it is steadily growing. E do not regard myself as a unificationist, although I favour the abolition of State Agents General, and State Governors, as well as a reduction of State members. The work of the Agents General could be done by the High .Commissioner, and that of the State Governors by LieutenantGovernors. I represent in this Parliament the district of Wentworth, which in the New South Wales Parliament is represented by five members. There is no need for so many State members.

The first of the Government’s proposals is a step forward towards unification, and for that reason it would be better to withdraw it, for it will almost certainly interfere with the chances of success of the second proposal. I am glad that the Government has agreed to submit to the people a third question dealing with the control of trade and commerce. The Commonwealth Parliament should have that power.

Dealing with the Government’s proposal in respect of the control of industry, both the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) and the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell), urged that this was not the place to discuss questions of wages, and hours, and conditions of labour. To some extent that may be so, but surely this National Parliament has a right to deal with matters of national importance. Is there anything more important to Australia today than the industrial life of its people 1 In the industrial sphere Parliament can, of itself, do very little. It would, therefore, do well to heed the advice of the honorable member for Fawkner, and endeavour to discuss industrial matters in a more Christian spirit. But I want to go further. After all, the wealth of the nation is produced by its workers. Unless workers are contented and happy,

I am not likely to get much out of my investments, nor are the workers. Other people with money to invest are in the same position. Consequently it is to. our interest, as well as to the interest of the workers, that there should be industrial peace in Australia, instead of industrial strife, as has been our experience in recent years. Under existing conditions this Parliament has not sufficient power to legislate with respect to industrial matters. The Government is asking the people to give itwider powers, and if I may judge from observations in my electorate, the Ministry has every chance of being successful.

Recently, as a member of the Empire Parliamentary Association, I paid a visit to Canada and the United States of America, and I made it my business to inform my mind as to what is happening in those countries. I was particularly struck with the remarkable improvement in the condition of the Canadian National Railways, which, as honorable gentlemen know, is a mammoth railway undertaking, although the Canadian Pacific Railway system has always been far ahead of it. Some years ago, the position of the Canadian National Railways corresponded to that of the New South Wales railways, which this year will show a deficit of about £1,275,000 or £2,006,000. The situation was so serious that the Canadian Government secured the services of an eminent British railway engineer in the person of Sir Henry Thornton to investigate and advise. The task ahead of that distinguished engineer was infinitely greater than that which now confronts Mr. Cleary in the management of the New South Wales railways; but last year, when I was in Canada, I was astounded at the marked improvement in the system. I have travelled several times over each of the railway systems in Canada, and I was much impressed with the marked improvement in the types of carriages on the Canadian National Railways, also the courtesy of railway servants, the service in the dining cars, and the general standard of efficiency, .which was fairly close to that of the Canadian Pacific Railway system. The change was entirely due to Sir Henry Thornton. Naturally, as an Australian who has an interest in the success of government business undertakings, I made it my business to ascertain bow the improvement had been effected. Sir Henry Thornton’s policy is, in short,to-“ Trust the worker; bring him in and ask his opinion. Ask him to help you. Do not be afraid to disclose your books, and show your profits. If you havewatered your stock, tell him so.” Indeed, this is the only way in which any business enterprise can succeed. Sir Henry Thornton has expressed his views on the relations of employer and employee in the following terms : -

The worker, no less than the capitalist, is an investor. The latter invests his money, and the former invests his only resources - his labour. The capitalist endeavours to make investments which are safe and permanent. The same motive actuates the worker, his chief desire being to secure employment which is continuous and which will bring to hima sufficient reward to enable him to live in comfort and decency, and educate his children as self-respecting members of society. In this laudable ambition he wins the good wishes ofall, and this seems to be the common ground upon which labour and capital can meet.

Another man whose opinion I value very much is Mr. W. L. Baillieu. Few men have built up such great industries as those with which Mr. Baillieu is associated, including the Electrolytic Zinc Company, in Tasmania. A few weeks ago Mr. Baillieu returned from a world tour, and in a statement to the press concerning Australia’s industrial position, he made the following points in a statement: -

We must increase production of our own necessities, improve relations within our industries, and rationalize our industries.

Another man for whom I have agreat respect is Mr. Gepp, until recently the Chairman of the Development and Migration Department. I am glad that the Government has decided not to dispense entirely with his services, but that his opinion, will still be sought in respect of migration and developmental problems, although possibly to a less extent than formerly. Mr. Gepp, who has had unrivalled opportunities to form, a sound judgment upon the industrial situation in Australia, made the following statement in a speech delivered not so long ago: -

The greatest problem facing Australia at the presentmomentis unemployment, with all its causesand effects….. Instead of all sections of the nation being drawn together in an indissoluble bond to give strength to a long drawn out national effort, we have blindly engaged in internecine conflicts concerning the division of the spoils which have, in many cases,not yet been won. Australia cannot afford to stand still for one moment. She must advance or perish. If we cannot establish a proper working partnership -

I ask honorable members to weigh carefully these words - then we must expect unemployment to increase rather than to diminish. Practical cooperation is surely within our reach. When terms of work have been mutually determined and agencies for adjusting grievances have been established, abasis is laid down for that spirit of confidence and goodwill which make possible a focus of attention and energy upon work itself.

This is the opinion of a man who, for the last two or three years, has had unusual facilities to see Australia as even honorable members have not seen it.

Let me now quote the opinion of another man equally entitled to respect. I refer to Mr. E. W. Buzacott, a large manufacturer, of Sydney, and a man very well known in the business world of Australia. In March of last year, Mr. Buzacott, speaking at a world Rotary conference in Canberra, said -

If the employer would take his people into his confidence, explain his difficulties and his problems, and inform them that, with their help, he would be able to pay salaries and wages bearing some relation to the success of his enterprise, this would create a feeling of contentment that would go far to solving our industrial problems. If we are to have a new spirit in industry the first step is for the employers to take their employees into their confidence. Whatever harm may be done by letting the employees know the facts about the business more harm is done by not letting them know. If employers refuse to take their employees into their confidence, they must expect the suspicion that the facts cannot bear the light of day.

No one can doubt the value of that opinion. For half a century or more there has been an inherent suspicion in the minds of the workers all over the world that they are not getting a fair deal. Let us tell them the facts.

In my opinion, one-half of our industrial troubles is caused by the overwatering of stock. I know, because last month I received a cheque from a great industry in which I am interested, and I was reminded that the Common wealth by means of the super-tax, will claim about one-third of the amount which I received. My cheque represented an ordinary dividend of about 8 per cent., and a special dividend of 7 per cent., or, in all,. 15 per cent. But actually it represented a 30 per cent, dividend, because the stock had been watered to the extent of 100 per cent. I admit that this is far too great a return on the money actually invested; but in fairness to the company which returned me such a handsome dividend, I should say that its workmen are perfectly contented with their conditions of employment. They realize that they have contiguous work, and I think they are well paid. Many of my friends have asked me ii I should be content with a dividend of 8 per cent, on my capital investments, and my reply has invariably been, “Lead me to it.” I have been striving for 25 or 30 years to get a bare 6 per cent., and I have not always been successful.

Let us now return to America and inquire what is the position there. Mr. William Green who, as honorable members will recall, succeeded the late Mr. Samuel Gompers as President of the American Federation of Labour, expresses his views on industrial problems in the following terms: -

We are seeking here to promote co-operation and harmony between employers and employed. We are accepting a given situation, and are dealing with facts as they are. The existing industrial system is a fact. We know that those who own factories and those who work in them are both dependent on industry, and that the enjoyments of life by the working man and of reasonable profits by the employer must alike come out of the industry. We believe that the success of industry depends on high wages and great production. With our high wages wo have succeeded in bringing about the most economical production of manufactured commodities in the world.

And that notwithstanding the statement published in to-day’s press that there are 3,700,000 persons unemployed in the United States of America. The statement continues -

In the Labour movement here we attach the utmost importance to efficiency in the working man, so that he can develop the maximum of productivity without over-working or over-exertion, and thus justify his high wages.

Therefore, we are co-operating with the managements in the elimination of waste, because the working man suffers most of all as the result of waste.

We are also co-operating with the managements in the elimination of duplication of effort, and we are not opposing the introductionof improved machinery, for qui- conviction, is that if prosperity is to prevail the purchasing power of the worker must keep pace with the increasing power of productivity. The great mass of workers must buy back the things they produce.

Of course they do; the people who make the goods must buy them back again.. That is why I am pleased that the Government is adopting the suggestion of. the right honorable member . for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) and subsequently other members on the Government side to include the control of trade, commerce and corporations amoung the proposals to be submitted to the people.

If I had more time at my disposal T should like to deal with the responsibility which rests upon us individually to assist in maintaining peace in industry. I have already dealt with the duty of the employers. I regretted the action of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) - then Attorney-General - in withdrawing the prosecution against the late Mr. John Brown because, by that action, he tended to promote what we all regret, that is, industrial strife. We should all be very careful in such matters because they strike at the roots of British justice, and foster the suspicion in the minds of the workers that there is one law for the rich and one for the poor. Every one must be careful not to do anything which would be likely to lessen the respect of the workers for the law. The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill) was campaign director for the Nationalist party in New South Wales during the recent federal elections. During the campaign that organization published faked photographs of myself - photographs which originally represented a group, but from which . the figures of my wife, daughter, and three others had been taken out. Attached to his staff were two. others, Mr. Dan. Douglas, Chairman of the Wentworth National Conference, and Mr. Macarthur, a paid organizer of the National party. The honorable member for Warringah’s organization even wen so far as to publish in the press extracts from my private letters which I had written to these, gentlemen ; letters headed “ Dear Mac”, and “ Dear Dan.”, showing clearly that they were personal letters. Yet, in an attempt to defeat me, he and they stooped to that dirty trick.

Mr Nairn:

– I rise to order. How docs the honorable member propose to connect that with the subject before the Chair?

Mr SPEAKER (Hon Norman Makin:

– The honorable member has been dealing with the subject of industrial disputes in Australia, and the need for greater confidence between employers and employees. I understand that he has some connecting link between that subject and the matter which he has just brought forward. I certainly shall require him to connect his remarks with the subject before the Chair. I have allowed every one great liberty in approaching these subjects, and I ask for the honorable member for Wentworth the same consideration as has been shown to others.


– I think the matters to which I have just been referring may bc associated with the idea of industrial peace which forms part of the proposals before the Chair. The honorable member for Warringah attacked me in regard to some electric signs used during the election campaign. What a pity that before he gave utterance to his attack-

Mr Latham:

– I rise to a point of order. I wish to inquire whether the fact that outside interests paid for the honorable member’s electric signs has anything to do with the proposals now before the House.


– The honorable member for Wentworth, has hardly gone far enough yet for me to grasp the significance of what he is saying. _ The Leader of the Opposition may know more than I do. If I find that the honorable member for Wentworth is going beyond the limits of the debate, I shall ask him to confine himself to the subject before the Chair.


– Every honorable member in this Parliament should be careful of what he says and does, and thus retain the respect of the workers of the country who produce the country’s wealth. Honorable members, should seek to foster cooperation and amity between employers and employees. Returning’” for the moment to the honorable member for Warringah, it is a pity that before launching his attack on me he did not find out that my money in payment for the signs was lying in the banking account of the company concerned long before the honorable member knew anything about the matter.


– Order ! The honorable member is going beyond the limits of the debate, and I ask him to confine himself to the subject before the Chair.


– I have said what I wished to say in regard to these measures. On the first proposal I cannot support the Government, but on the proposal for increased industrial powers I shall do so, as well as ou that giving the Commonwealth power over trade and commerce. I shall do so mainly on the ground that these are national matters, and as such should be dealt with by the national Parliament.

Debate (on motion by Mr. McTiern an ) adjourn ed .

page 908


Customs Tariff Schedule - Nationalist Electioneering Tactics - Wire-netting : Restraint of Trade.

Motion (by Mr. Theodore) proposed -

That the House do now adjourn.


.- This morning honorable members were provided with a copy of a’ proclamation containing certain tariff prohibitions. The importance of the step taken by the Government is obvious to honorable members and to the community as a whole, but owing to the way in which the matter has come before the House there will not in the ordinary course of events be any opportunity for discussing the details of the proclamation. One important consideration is the desirability of imposing a time limit on the duration of the proclamation. I rise now for the purpose of saying that the Opposition desires that an opportunity should be afforded next week of discussing the question of applying such a time limit. I wish to ask the Prime Minister whether he is prepared to afford a reasonable opportunity next week for this discussion. Of course, it is possible for the Opposition to force the position, and ensure a discussion, but it la not desired to do that, nor is it desired that we should await such an opportunity until after Easter. I do not ask that an opportunity should be provided to discuss the schedule item by item. When members of the Opposition spoke on this subject yesterday they were unaware of the details of the schedule appearing in the proclamation. It is obvious that the attitude of honorable members towards the Government’s action will be affected by the specific items included in the list. However, I do not ask foran opportunity to discuss the items themselves, but merely to consider the imposition of a time limit regarding the operation of these unprecedented and drastic proposals.


– During the course of his speech this afternoon the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Marks) referred to me and my connexion with the federal election campaign in New SouthWales. I am not greatly concerned with his views on the matter, but I have some little regard for the opinion of other honorable members of this House. In explanation, I wish to point out that, although I was campaigndirector for the Nationalist party in New South Wales, I knew very little of the detailed organization in the various electorates. That is not part of the duties of a State campaign director, and the honorable member’s statement this afternoon was the first I had heard of the matters to which he referred. That, in itself, indicates the extent of my connexion with them. I did not know that any such letters as he referred to had been published, and, if they were, the fact that I knew nothing of them is sufficient proof that I had nothing to do with them. Regarding the payment of the honorable member’s election expenses by the film interests,I do not retract one word of what I have said. The truth of my statements has been established by irrefutable evidence to be found in the records of this House, and by the accounts dealing with the transaction. Such evidence cannot be contradicted.


– I support the request of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham), and, in addi tion, I point out in connexion with the restrictions being imposed on trade thai there are certain business combinations operating in Australia. I drew attention many years ago to the position in the wire and wire-netting industry, and showed how the manufacturers had combined with the wholesalers and retailers in the sale of their products. I have a most important telegram before me bearing on this practice. In view of the Prime Minister’s promise to endeavour tosee that justice is done to the people, I shall hand the telegram to him. It rends as follows : -

The Prime Minister says restrictions must be placedon those who import goods that can bemade in Australia. Would you reiterate that some steel merchants here are compelled to import because Australian manufacturers refuse to supply them at same rates and conditions as afew of their own pet distribution houses? We are the biggest importers here and cannot obtain supplies.

I believe that the smelters havean arrangement with the wholesalers, but I do not know what the position is so far. as the retailers are concerned. I placed evidence before the Customs Department some years ago in connexion with the operations of Mr. McDougall, of Ryland’s wire and wire-netting works, and. I hope that action will be taken to see that their trading is open and straightforward.

Prime Minister · Yarra · ALP

– In reply to the request of the Leader of the Opposition, I point out that next week we must first finish the consideration of the constitution alteration bills, and the Lands Tax Assessment Bill. The Leader of the Opposition realizes the urgency of those measures, which must take precedence over the matter mentioned by him-; but I shall be glad to have a discussion upon the aspect of the Government’s tariff proposals that he has raised, because the Government has gives a good deal of thought to it, and still has an open mind upon it. An opportunity will be given next week to consider it, when the other measures to which I have referred have been dealt with. The subject which the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) has mentioned will receive consideration.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

House adjourned at 3.40 p.m.

Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 4 April 1930, viewed 22 October 2017, <>.