12th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Norman Makin) took the chair at 11 a.m., and offered prayers.
– Has the Prime Minister read the cable message published in this morning’s newspapers regarding the
Naval Conference, stating that the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Penton) will leave England on the 15th April, and suggesting that the representatives of the Dominions are in some way an obstacle to agreement regarding the limitation of armaments? Is the Prime Minister able to inform the House of the progress of the Conference?
– As I stated yesterday, I have been advised by the Minister for Trade and Customs that the progress towards a three power pact has been satisfactory. A message from another source stated that there was still a possibility of a five power pact being entered into. I cannot understand the emphatic newspaper statement that the dominions are an obstacle to agreement. My advice from the representative of the Government is that whilst he is supporting a pact for disarmament or the reduction of armaments, he is not prepared to subscribe to an agreement that will involve Australia in an obligation to intervene in the internal troubles of Europe. His attitude is that whatever action is necessary in that regard should be decided at the Assembly of the League of Nations.
– Has that particular reference to article 16 of the Covenant of the League ?
– Yes. I believe that the newspaper messages have exaggerated the attitude of the dominion representatives.
Canberra Baths -Civil Aerodrome at Mascot.
Mr. LACEY, as Chairman, brought up reports of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works, together with minutes of evidence, and a plan relating to the proposed construction of baths at Canberra and the proposed development of the civil aerodrome at Mascot, New South Wales.
Ordered to be printed.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that the average unemployment for the last quarter was 14.6 per cent., an increase of 1.50 per cent over the December quarter and 2.50 per cent. over the September quarter?
– I have been watching with grave concern the growth of unemployment in Australia, but honorable members will realize that this alarming development is world wide. The Government hopes that the action it has taken in recent months will have beneficial results. Unfortunately these remedial measures are somewhat belated, and probably some time will be required to correct the evil effects of excessive importations in past years.
-I askthe Prime Minister, in the absence of the Minister for Defence, whether he can confirm the newspaper report that the cruiser Canberra is to proceed to European waters and that a British cruiser will be sent to Australia in exchange? If so, will the arrangement involve additional expense ?
– The exchange of cruisers between the Australian and British Navies for training purposes is customary. In war time the two navies must co-operate, and the Naval authorities strongly recommends the exchange of vessels in order that the Australian navy may gain a knowledge of fleet manoeuvres and co-ordinated action. The arrangement will involve an additional expenditure of approximately £3,000.
– According to a newspaper telegram from America a loan has been floated in New York on behalf of the Sydney Water and Sewerage Board at 5½ percent. with a currency of 20 years. The issue price was fixed at £92 10s. per cent., although the loan is unconditionally guaranteedby the New South Wales Government. Has the Treasurer received any information regarding the flotation ?
– The proposal to float the loan was referred by the Treasurer of New South Wales to me in my capacity as Chairman of the Loan Council, and after considering the matter I raised no objection to the issue.
– Has the Loan Council authority to prevent local bodies from borrowing money to the possible detriment of Australian credit?
– The Loan Council has certain control over borrowing overseas by local governing bodies, and a more restricted control over their borrowing within Australia. Control of internal flotations can only be exercised through the State Treasurers.
Mr.CUSACK.- Is the Minister for Home Affairs aware that even in this House are persons who are ignorant of the fact that the coast about Wollongong is the most charming pleasure resort in Australia, and that serious efforts are being made in certain quarters to unduly boost the claims of rival resorts?
– Order ! A question may not contain statements. The purpose of questions is to elicit information, not to give it; therefore the honorable member’s questions are not in order.
– Will the Minister prevent his department from being used to exaggerate claims against the preeminence of the South Coast as a naturally-endowed pleasure resort?
– On a point of order!Is a question which includes laudatory or other epithets in order?
– Most of Australia is beautiful, and comparisons between different parts would be invidious.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been drawn to a newspaper report of a statement by the Canadian Minister for Trade and Customs that the Dominion is ready to negotiate a full exchange of preferences with Australia? Has the Government received any communication from the Canadian Government in regard to this matter ?
– The Government hopes that a satisfactory arrangement may be made with the Canadian Government,but the negotiations have not yet advanced very far.
– Will the PostmasterGeneral consider the advisability of introducing amending legislation to correct the many anomalies in connexion with the registration of publications in the Post and Telegraph Act?
– The honorable member’s suggestion will receive consideration.
asked the Minister for Works and Railways, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : - 1, 3 and 4. These are matters over which the River Murray Commission has no control. The question raised will, however, be placed before the State authorities concerned.
asked the Minister for Markets and Transport, upon notice -
What was the cost to the Commonwealth Government for inspection of fruit and other produce in Tasmania for shipment overseas, by the permanent and temporary staffs, for the years 1927-28 and 1928-29?
– The following answer is furnished to the honorable member’s question : -
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice- -
– The answers to the honorable members questions are as follow: -
Cost of Antarctic Expedition
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
The objects of the expedition were fully explained in a paper which this House ordered to be printed on the 22nd March, 1929 (No. 36, 1929). Briefly, they were -
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Will he supply to the House a detailed statement showing tho profits of the several departments of the Commonwealth Bank since its inception, together with the distribution of such profits ?
– The information desired is set out in the accompanying table : -
Compensation to Retrenched Officers.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
In view of the proposed reduction in Naval estimates and consequent compulsory retirement of certain Naval officers, will the Government grant retiring allowances of one month’s pay for each year of service, as in the case of Naval Officers retired similarly in 1921 ?
– This matter is receiving consideration.
– On the 3rd April the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Lewis) asked me the following questions, upon notice -
Replies were furnished by me in regard to parts 8, 9 and 10. I am now in a position to furnish the following replies in regard to1 -7 inclusive : -
Australian tariff. In December, 1029, a similar objection was raised by another firm. In the two latter cases, the objection was withdrawn after representations by the Empire Marketing Board.
– On the 4th April the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Mackay) asked the following questions, upon notice -
The answers to the honorable member’s; questions are as follow : -
The following papers were presented : -
Science and Industry Research Act - Third Annual Report of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, for year ended 30th June, 1929.
Ordered to be printed.
Contract Immigrants Act - Return for 1929.
Immigration Act -Return for 1929.
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determinations by the Arbitrator, &c. -
Nos.6 and 7 of 1930 - Australian Third Division Telegraphists and Postal Clerks’ Union.
No. 8 of 1930 - Australian Postal Electricians’ Union.
No. 9 of 1930 - Amalgamated Postal Workers’ Union of Australia.
Seat of Government Acceptance Act and Seat of Government (Administration) Act-
Ordinanceof 1930 - No. 4 - Advisory Council.
Advisory Council Ordinance - Advisory Council Election Regulations.
– by leave - I desire to inform the House of the result of the loan recently issued to provide for the conversion and redemption of the Commonwealth loans maturing in Australia on 15th March, 1930, and 15th December, 1930. The main object of the loan was to deal with the securities maturing on 15th March, of which £10,637,360 were outstanding at the beginning of this financial year. Sinking fund purchases and redemptions from 1st July to 15th March reduced this sum by £360,050, so that at the maturity date the amount of the March loan was £10,277,310. To cover this amount, the Commonwealth Government, with the approval of the Loan Council, invited holders of the March securities to convert into a new loan carryinginterest at 6 per cent. and maturing on 15th March, 1937. At the same time cash subscriptions were invited on the same basis to provide money for paying off unconverted holdings. The results show that March securities to the value of £6,279,200 were converted by 12,815 holders, whilst cash subscriptions totalling £7,724,570 were lodged by 20,892 subscribers. In all, £14,003,770 was provided in March conversions and cash subscriptions. This was £3,726,460 in excess of the amount required for the March loan. The loan prospectus, in common with all other conversion prospectuses of the Commonwealth, provided that the cash subscribed would be used only for the redemption of Commonwealth securities. The excess subscriptions were, therefore, not available for public works purposes. As the Commonwealth also had to provide for a loan of £60,000,000 maturing on 15th December next, it was decided to break down this huge December total now by inviting holders to convert at once on the same terms as the holders of the March loan.
The response to this invitation has been highly gratifying, conversion applications covering a total of about £34,000,000 having been lodged by over 30,000 holders. The December operation has also been materially assisted by redemption effected out of the National Debt Sinking Fund, and by using the excess subscriptions to the March loan for the purpose of paying off December holdings. The position of the December loan may be stated as follows : -
As sinking funds of not less than £2,000,000 will be available next year for the redemption of the December securities, the total amount to be faced at the maturity date will be approximately £18,000,000. In financial quarters in Australia, in London and New York, grave doubts were expressed as to the ability of Australia to arrange for its local 1930 conversion loans without recourse tothe oversea markets. The result of the operations just completed is a definite answer to the suggestion that Australia might have to seek oversea help in this connexion. Not only have we fully covered the March operation, but we have reduced the amount to be faced in December from £60,000,000 to £18,000,000. This very satisfactory result materially eases the loan position and must help to enhance the credit of Australia.
.- by leave. - The Commonwealth and the Treasurer are to be congratulated . upon the statement which has just been made to the House. I am glad, as an Australian, that the people are showing con fidence in their own country, and we are all proud of the success of this conversion operation. There is, of course, another aspect to be considered. I am afraid that the success of this loan conversion shows that at the present time a good many Australians arenot prepared to invest in industrial and other enterprises; but from the point of view of public finance and the credit and security of Australia as a whole, we welcome the Treasurer’s statement.
Motion (by Mr. Scullin) agreed to -
That he have leave to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Australian Industries Preservation Act1906-191 0.
Bill brought up, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time
The object of this bill is to remove a doubt as to the legality of agreements that have been entered into between tho overseas shipping companies and Australian producers. It will be remembered that at the end of 1928 an announcement was made that a substantial increase was to take place in the freights of overseas ships coming from London to Australia, and the general belief was that it would be almost immediately followed by an increase of freights from Australia overseas. Naturally every one was alarmed at that prospect, because our primary industries were suffering, and an increase in freights would have been perhaps the last kick that the producers could have stood. It was suggested that the increase in oversea freights would be about 10 per cent., or perhaps more.
– Only on freights from Great Britain to Australia.
– That was the announcement made, but the belief was general that it would be followed immediately by an increase in freights from Australia to London. Acting on that belief, the then PrimeMinister (Mr. Bruce) communicated with the oversea shipping companies and asked them to suspend any increase in freights until the whole subject had been discussed with the producers and the shippers in Australia. In response the shipping companies sent representatives from overseas, mostly from London, to this country. They met in conference with the producers who are our most important shippers. That conference was held in April, 1929, and as a result an association was formed known as the Australian Oversea Transport Association. It consisted of overseas shipping companies representing 22 British and foreign lines and also the shippers’ organizations, principally producers’ organizations. The representatives of those companies and organizations formed a committee in each State known as the Oversea Transport Committee, and from each of those State committees there were elected the members of a central council consisting of one delegate representing the exporters and one delegate representing the shipowners from each State, making twelve delegates altogether, and in addition a chairman representing the exporters. The Australian Oversea Transport Association represents, of course, British lines and many other Continental shipping lines, including all the shipping services regularly serving the Australian trade with Europe. The following list sets out the principal organizations which are represented in this association: -
Graziers Association of Queensland and New South Wales.
Queensland State Wheat Board.
Queensland Meat Companies Committee.
Dairy Produce Association of Queensland.
Dairy Export Control Boards of South Australia and Western Australia.
Maryborough (Queensland) Co-operative Dairy Company.
Co-operative Dairy Companies Association of Queensland.
Australian Farmers Federal Organization of New South Wales.
Producers Distributing Society of New South Wales.
Fruit Growers Federation of New South Wales.
New South Wales Meat Exporters Association.
Rabbit Shippers of New South Wales.
Metal Freight Committee of New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania and South Australia.
Victorian Wheat Growers Corporation.
Victorian Meat Exporters Association.
Victorian Fruits Control Board.
Dried Fruits Control Board of Victoria.
Canned Fruits Control Board of Victoria.
Port Huon Co-operative Fruit Association of Tasmania.
Farmers and Pastoral ists Association of Tasmania.
Tasmanian Farmers, Stockowners and Orchardists Association.
South Australian Fanners Co-operative Association.
South Australian and Western Australian Wheat Pool.
Western Australian Pastoralists Association.
Primary Producers Association of Western Australia.
Western Australian Fruit Shippers Association.
That is clear evidence that the Australian Oversea Transport Association is comprehensive and representative of all the principal organizations of the producers and shippers of Australia. The representatives of the association waited upon me as a deputation and pointed out what had taken place. They told me that they were agreed that there should be regulation and organization on the part of the ship-owners and the exporters with a view to bringing down shipping costs. That, they considered, was the only means of preventing an increase in freights. They pointed out that there was a provision in the Australian Industries Preservation Act about which their legal advisers were concerned, because they thought that it might be regarded as an offence under that Act to enter into agreements or contracts.
I gather from the files that representations of a similar nature made to the Bruce-Page Government were being favorably considered when the elections occurred. The deputation pointed out that the proposed agreements could not be entered into with the law as it stood, without the fear that they might be declared illegal. It was stated that the main objects that would be achieved by such agreements were : -
When thu first representations were made to me it was stated that the object of the proposal was to regulate shipping, and the amount of produce to be shipped, in such a way that costs could be kept down, and an increase in the present freight rates avoided. On looking through the draft of the proposed agreements, I found that no mention was made of any fixed rates of freight. When I drew attention to this fact I was informed that the ship-owners did not desire provisions of that kind to be inserted, although it was understood that there would be no increase in the existing rates. I was not satisfied with that understanding, and intimated that if the law were to be amended to permit agreements to be made with the object of keeping freights down, it was essential that it should be set out in them. The representatives who waited upon me were rather afraid that the head offices of the shipping companies would not agree to the insertion of such a provision. I insisted upon the necessity for it, and a subcommittee pf the Cabinet was appointed to go thoroughly into the whole subject. Subsequently the representatives agreed that fixed rates of freight should be inserted in the agreements.
Separate agreements will be made with each organization and each shipping company which handles different classes of produce, and in every case a schedule of freights will be included in the agreement. The agreements will remain in force for twelve months, and during that period no variation of the freight rates may be made.
– May we take it that ample guarantees will be given to that effect?
– The freight rates will be part of the agreement. No change in the rates may be made for twelve months, and then not without the giving of three months’ notice, and consultation with the exporters.
The object of the amendment of the act is simply to allow these agreements to be made between the ship-owners and shippers. The Government does not come into the matter at all, and does not endorse or ratify the agreements, which will be mutual arrangements between the parties concerned. When this act was first passed in 1906, the object of it was to prevent combines and monopolies squeezing any section of the community. Originally it was not intended to apply to shipping, but had relation principally to the Coal Vend and similar organizations which might attempt to act in restraint of trade, or bring undue pressure upon the community. In this case it is obvious that, as the agreements are being made mutually by all the parties concerned, there can be no suggestion that pressure is being exerted with the object of injuring any one. It was never contemplated that the act should operate to prevent the making of mutual agreements. The 22 shipping companies which trade to and from Australia are already well organized, and are known as the shipping combine. They have it in their power, in the absence of agreements of the kind now proposed, to increase freights on our produce at any moment, but if these agreements are made they will- not be able to do so, except after the expiration of twelve months, and the giving of three months’ notice. If no notice is given of an intention to terminate the agreements, they will remain in force for another year. The result of the making of the agreements will be to stabilize shipping and freights. At present the shipping companies may increase their rates without consulting any one; but it is now proposed to provide that no increase shall be made without consulting the shippers. There will still be competition between the various shipping lines, but there will also be a certain amount of regulation.
– There is no competition among the shipping lines in the Inchcape combine.
– There is competition to this extent, that shippers have the choice of certain lines. British buyers of wool, for instance, ship their wool on British ships, and Italian and French buyers on Italian or French ships. That choice will still be available. But the bunning of the ships will be arranged so that overlapping and wastage of effort will he eliminated. If these arrangements come into force it will be guaranteed that sufficient ships will be run to lift the cargo offering, but we shall ‘not have ships running half empty. For instance, two boats may run to Townsville,’ and take in full cargoes of meat. That will be much better than half a dozen boats calling at that port to lift small parcels of meat, and then calling at other ports along the coast to load other small parcels. If a boat is filled at one port, it can go direct to its destination, and the meat will open up in better condition than if the hatches have to be lifted half a dozen times before the holds are filled. The same remarks apply to fruit. One boat will be able to go to Tasmanian ports, for instance, and fill up, and another boat go to mainland ports and fill up, which will be better than both boats calling at all the ports and only partially filling at any of them.
It is claimed that the agreements will provide for a regular, efficient and speedy service. The ship-owners have discussed the subject fully with representatives of different industries, and a general desire has been expressed that something of this kind should be done. Resolutions have also been passed by different producers’ organisations requesting the Government to take this action. The president of the Australian Farmers Federal Organizations, in the course of his remarks at the deputation to which I have referred, said that the agreements would marshal the freights and organise the tonnage. He added : -
At the present time the shippers do not know what tonnage is available. It is absolutely essential foi’ ‘the primary producers to have the whole transport business thoroughly organized. The ship-owners say that if the tonnage is organized, they will organize the freights. This will ensure cheaper rates, and a better service. At present there is no system and no organization.
Et was also pointed out that this is the only practical means by which the tonnage can be organized and freight charges kept at their present level.
– Who will determine the allocation of the shipping?
– A transport board will be set up, which will consist of representatives of all the parties concerned.
– Do I understand that the Government will not come into the matter in any way?
– That is so. It will have nothing to do with it. We are only proposing that the law shall be amended in order to make the agreements possible.
– Are the shippers forming a kind of pool to allocate the tonnage?
– No; but it appears to me that it would greatly facilitate their work if they did so. However, the Government is not taking any responsibility for the methods that are being adopted. A body is being set up to organize the tonnage and control the cargo available from time to time, so that the shipping companies will know the number of boats that will be required.
– Is there any guarantee that the tonnage will be available?
– Yes; it is set out in the agreements that the tonnage shall be adequate, efficient and regular. The agreements apply only to the regular berth cargo, and not to the cargo of chartered boats such as carry our wheat overseas. The wheat organizations have only been represented in the negotations because a certain proportion of wheat is exported on the regular lines. The great bulk of our wheat is carried by tramp steamers. These will not be affected by the agreements. The freight charges of chartered boats are, as a rule, somewhat lower than those of the ordinary boats.
– Frequently the berth cargo boats take parcels of wheat to fill their holds at an even lower charge than that of the chartered boats.
– That may be so in special cases; but chartered boats will still be necessary for the handling of our wheat. The bulk of the harvest will be still handled by special wheat boats, and the regular berth boats will handle only small parcels of wheat. The agreements affect only the boats trading regularly with Australia.
– How will the tramp steamship owners view this proposal?
– I. do not know.
– They will, of course, still come here for wheat?
– Yes; for wheat, full cargoes of ore, and rough cargo generally.
– If these agreements are entered into it will not cut out the tramp steamers?
– Not entirely. The agreements are being made between the organizations concerned and the shipowners with respect to produce like fruit, butter, meat and wool. The organizations concerned will undertake to ship only with the overseas companies which enter into agreements.
Paragraph 4 of the proposed agreements is important. It reads: -
The ship-owners further agree during the term of this agreement, and in respect of the goods specified, not to enter into any arrange-‘ ments with any shippers on more favorable terms than those of this agreement, and that any shipper is entitled to enter into an agreement with the ship-owners in all conditions irrespective of the quantity of cargo shipped by him.
That was put in after discussion as to whether, perhaps, some small producer who had not entered into the agreement in the first place might be debarred from getting these freight rates. Throughout the whole discussion, members of the Cabinet and myself carefully watched the interests of Australian producers. We were met on every point we raised, and I believe that every possible safeguard has been made. Honorable members must realize that this is a matter of organization by both parties; not by the Government. It is an arrangement that the two parties concerned will give each other service, and not give their service to any one else. The ship-owners guarantee that they will not give the same freight rates to persons not in the agreement, but no one will be debarred from coming into the agreement if he chooses to do so. On the other hand, shippers agree to ship only by these 22 lines.
– Is there any pecuniary obligation ?
– Penalties are provided in the case of breaches of the agreement.
– But are any pecuniary obligations exacted as a condition to joining the agreement?
– None at all. The wording of the bill makes it plain that those who offer to come into the agreement cannot be discriminated against. If the ship-owners refused to admit any one, and then charged him the higher freight rate, this provision would not relieve them from any of the penalties to which they would be subject under the existing act.. That is a further safeguard. Unless the producers in Australia can obtain the cheapest rates and the quickest service for their wheat, fruit, butter and other produce it will seriously affect the development of the country. Mr. Osborne, representing the butter cooperative and cheese factories, stated that all the producing industries were unanimous in their desire to bring about this agreement. He said that the New Zealand Dairy Produce Board had made a satisfactory agreement as a result of which their products are transported at freights considerably lower than are paid by Australian producers. The Dairy Produce Board here is in a position to control the whole of its exports, but it is unable to arrange a contract with the ship-owners owing to the existence of section 7a of the Industries Preservation Act. This agreement is not intended to cover wheat, flour, or cargo of that kind, which will be left to tramp steamers. The ships which carry the bulk of the wheat are chartered in London. If honorable members desire further information I shall be pleased to give it during the committee stage of the bill, and also to deal with any paragraph in the agreement upon which they desire enlightenment. Although the agreement is nor embodied in the bill, and the Government is in no way responsible for it, we must be guided by the terms of the agreement in determining the wisdom of this legislation. The Government believes that the interests of the producers will be’ safeguarded by their representation on the Association. If any producers feel that organizations at present in existence are not representative of them, there is nothing to prevent them from forming new organizations, and becoming parties to the agreement. There is nothing to prevent an individual farmer or exporter of goods from becoming a party to the agreement on the same terms as are enjoyed by organizations.
It may be argued that this will enable the shipping combine to make contracts with the producers to the exclusion of the tramp’ lines; that it is in effect buttressing trade combines. In this connexion it is well to remember, however, that whatever combination can be effected in the shipping trade exists already. There is hi existence a shipping conference which has organized the Australian trade fairly completely, though it has not organized the allocation of ships to various ports. Arrangements in that regard are still haphazard, and there is much overlapping and waste. On the other hand, the exporters are not organized at all. When there was an Australian-wide wheat pool in existence, organization was very complete. Those in control knew exactly what space would be required, and arrangements were made to get it. We must face the fact that this is a period of trade organization. Whatever opinions one may have on the general subject of shipping combines, it must be admitted that it is better for our producers, through their organizations, to enter into an agreement such as this, and thus have some control over freight rates, than that they should remain at the mercy of the ship-owners. I do not use that expression with any desire to be offensive to the ship-owners. From my discussions with them, I believe that they realize that it would be unwise for them to risk killing the goose which lays the golden egg. * They are aware that excessive freight rates would so seriously hamper Australian production as to injure their own trade. They desire to leave freights as they are, provided they can carry on at a profit to themselves. Hence the need for ‘regulation. I believe that it would have been better to have kept the Commonwealth Shipping Line in operation as a check on the combine, but we must face the fact that the line has gone, and the shippers now must deal with the shipping conference. I contemplate, with serious misgiving, any possibility of an increase of present freights on Australian produce. For that reason we have gone into this matter, and have agreed to amend the law in the manner set out. I commend the measure to the favorable consideration of honorable members.
.- I am glad to be able to approve fully and wholly of this bill. The measure had been prepared in part by the last Government, and steps would have been taken to bring it before Parliament had that Government remained in office. It is a step towards the rationalization of one important industry affecting Australia. We are, I think, beginning to realize that while we may .be afraid of combines, trusts, monopolies, and the like, the successful conduct of modern industry demands organization, and unless we are prepared to follow the example of other countries, we shall find ourselves doing everything on a small scale, and in a foolishly competitive manner. I believe in competition, but competition in some cases can be overdone. In past years we have had an unnecessary number of ships calling at some of our ports. There has been, in consequence, irregularity of service, and failure to serve the interests of the community as a whole. The scramble for cargoes reminds me of a bus running ahead of a tram and picking up the passengers on the same route. There is no sense in it. When the Commonwealth Shipping Line was sold by the last Government it was done because of the serious losses which were occurring, and because of certain matters of principle on which the two sides of the House were acutely divided. At that time, it was apparent that all shipping lines trading to Australia were losing heavily. It was predicted that freights would inevitably increase as a result of selling the Line. The Government was anxious that the best shipping service possible should bp rendered to Australia at the lowest cost. Consequently, when an announcement was made that freights would be increased, Mr. Bruce invited a delegation of British ship-owners to come to Australia. This bill is partly the result of the work of that delegation, and partly of the work of the Australian producers, as mentioned by the Prime Minister. The Australian Oversea Transport Association was formed, and it is a very representative body indeed. As soon as those interested began to get down to the facts, and sought to arrange co-ordination of sailings, security of loadings, freight rates, &c, they found themselves faced with the Australian Industries Preservation Act 1906-10. That act belonged to a past age in regard to many of its provisions. I agree that some regulation of these matters is required, but I think that honorable members will agree with me that if we were reconsidering the matter now a good many modifications would be made. This bill is a modification of the act, and I am glad that the Government has introduced it, because it constitutes a recognition by the Government of the very obvious principle that industry must be profitable if it is to be carried on. Section 4 of the existing act imposes very heavy penalties, up to £500 a day, upon any person who enters into any contract in relation to trade and commerce with other countries, or among the States, in restraint of, or in an attempt to restrain, trade and commerce. That is rather an amazing provision. The’ act specifies defences, and if it can be shown that what was done was not to the detriment of the public, no offence is committed. Nevertheless, persons would hesitate to take part in a transaction which might render them liable to such a heavy penalty. Section 7 also provides a penalty of £500 a day, and of £1,000 a day in the case of corporations, against those who monopolize, or attempt to monopolize, or combine or conspire with others to monopolize any part of the trade and commerce with other countries or among the States, with intent to control, to the detriment of the public, the supply or price of any service, merchandise, or commodity. Section 7a fixes a penalty of £500 upon-
Any person who, in relation to trade or commerce with other countries or among the States, cither as principal or agent, in respect of dealings in any goods or services gives offers or promises to any other person any rebate, refund, discount, concession, or reward, for the reason, or upon the condition, express or implied, that the latter person -
deals, or has dealt, or will deal, or intends to deal exclusively with any person, either in relation to any particular goods or services or generally.
Section 7b contains similar provisions with respect to refusals to supply services for the reason that the other person concerned does not deal exclusively with the person so refusing. The agreement proposed is one under which the shippers contract in relation to the shipping of specified articles to deal exclusively with the shipping companies who are the other parties to it. That agreement almost certainly would be an offence under the provisions of section 7a of the act, and action in pursuance of it would involve an offence under section 7b. Accordingly, if this degree of rationalization of the shipping industry is to be brought about there is very little doubt that a measure like this is necessary. The Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) has stated that the bill is introduced to remove a doubt that exists as to the legality of the proposed agreement. I have seen that agreement only this morning, and from a first reading of it have not the slightest doubt that under our present law it is hopelessly illegal, and that therefore it is necessary to enact this legislation. The Prime Minister has referred to certain of its provisions. The agreement fixes the rates of freight for a period of twelve months. Clause 3 provides : -
The ship-owners agree to provide vessels to maintain berth sailings for the ordinary requirements of the trade from usual ports in the Commonwealth of Australia to those ports in the United Kingdom and the Continent of Europe customarily served by the respective ship-owners.
That is as definite an agreement as it is practicable to make to provide a regular shipping service. Clause 4 provides: -
The ship-owners further agree during the term of this agreement and in respect of the goods specified not to enter into any arrangements with any shippers on more favorable terms than those of this agreement; and that any shipper is entitled to enter into an agreement with the ship-owners in all respects similar to this agreement and for the same cargoes rates and conditions irrespective of the quantity of cargo shipped by him.
If the terms of this agreement are not final, it might be advisable to reconsider the wording “ any shipper is entitled to enter into any agreement.” The agreement is made between certain persons of the one part, called the ship-owners, and certain persons of the other part, called the shippers. The object of Clause 4 is to provide that every person who desires to ship goods shall have the same rights. It might be worth while to consider an alteration of the phraseology so as to make it read “ any person desiring to ship goods of the class mentioned in the agreement shall be entitled”, &c.
– The Government can insist on that.
– The Government is in a position to insist upon it; and I have no doubt that if the Attorney-General’s Department considers that it is desirable to avoid even the possibility of the shadow of a doubt it will do so; and the shipowners will probably meet it. Clause 5 contains the provisions relating to exclusive shipments which would make the agreement subject to the penalties provided by the act if it were not amended. It reads : -
In consideration of the foregoing the shippers agree to confine shipment of all goods specified in clause 1 to vessels loaded by the ship-owners at ports in the Commonwealth of Australia for ports in the United Kingdom and/or Continent of Europe as specified .in clause 3, and to make no shipment by any vessels other than those controlled by the ship-owners except with their concurrence. Such concurrence is not to be withheld if the ship-owners fail to provide opportunities for shipment within a reasonable period.
Clause 15 limits the agreement to a period of twelve mouths and thereafter, subject to determination upon three months’ notice being given in writing. That is reasonable. There are one or two matters which, from a drafting point of view, I might mention, but if the Prime Minister will allow me to do so I should like to bring them privately before officers of the Attorney-General’s Department. They are small matters which do not affect the main principle.
There is only one other matter to which L particularly invite the attention of the Prime Minister. This bill gives a good deal of power to the Australian Oversea Transport Association. I know personally a considerable number of the gentlemen who are in that association, and I think that we can rely upon their good faith in all respects. At the same time, however, when one reads the bill one sees that by its first provision it removes from the penalties which would otherwise be applicable contracts of a certain description which are approved by the Australian Oversea Transport Association. The Australian Oversea Transport Association means the association formed under that name in Sydney on the 25th June, 1929, and includes the council of the association. I have frequently said that I have no desire to see governments interfering in business ventures; but I suggest that, having regard to the unique position in which this association is placed by this legislation, it would be reasonable for the Government to require it to furnish an annual report as to all agreements that are entered into in pursuance of this legislation. When I say “ all agreements “ I do not wish it to be understood that Iam suggesting that there should be a voluminous return setting out all the bills of lading that are issued in a year. Anything of that nature would be hopeless. I suggest that there should be a report indicating the operations that are taking place under and by virtue of this law. If a report of the transactions of the association were submitted annually, it would be a safeguard. I do not believe that the association would have any hesitation in agreeing to supply it.
I approve the bill, and venture to commend it to the favorable consideration of the House.
– While giving the Government every credit for endeavoring to do its utmost in the interests of primary producers, I am not altogether unperturbed regarding this bill. This is an age of combines and trusts, and the fixation of prices. The law as it now stands makes it an offence for combinations to take advantage of any section of the community in the sale of commodities. The object of this proposed amendment of the law is to give them immunity from the penalties provided. As a layman in. shipping matters I believe that one safeguard against the raising of freights is to have a continuous stream of tramp steamers entering our ports. In many countries there is a surplus of shipping accommodation. In the exporting season vessels that trade to Australia secure full cargoes, and that has a tendency to keep freights down to a reasonable level. The effect of entering into an agreement with 23 or 24 big steamship companies will be to crush out the tramp steamers. The agreement will operate for only twelve months, and when that period has elapsed this strong combination of shipping interests will be iri a position to make what terms they care to dictate to shippers, because there will be no competition to exercise a restraining’ influence upon them. It is remarkable that, at a time when such great stress is laid upon the necessity for reducing costs, the shipping companies should threaten to raise freights.
– This is the best means of keeping them down.
– In every other direction the tendency is for costs to be reduced. Here we have a combination of wealthy ship-owners threatening that, unless they are given certain conditions, they will raise freights. The bill is designed to keep freights at their present level for a period of twelve months. I should like the Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) to say whether he will undertake to withdraw this concession if the ship-owners should act contrary to the spirit of the agreement when its term has expired?
– Certainly. As a matter of fact, I have already pointed out that that is the action which the Government would take if this right were abused.
– The Prime Minister’s assurance satisfies me on that point. But there is another danger that I apprehend. We know that there is always a tendency towards industrial unrest on the wharves. If any shipping companies combined to enforce conditions that were repugnant to waterside workers no penalty would be provided for breaches of an award.
– The act does not apply to industrial conditions.
– I shall be satisfied so long as the workers, as well as the shippers and the consumers, are protected. I shall watch with interest the operations that are conducted under this legislation, and hope that they will be for the benefit of the country.
. - I have no desire to prolong a discussion upon a matter that appears to be noncontroversial ; but as the representative of a rural constituency from which considerable quantities of primary produce are exported, I wish to voice my entire agreement with the bill that has been brought forward this morning by the Prime Minister, and to say that it is indeed a pleasure to be able to congratulate the right honorable gentleman upon having taken action with which I cordially agree. Reference has already been made to the fact that when, early last year, it was reported in the press that there was a likelihood of an increase in freights on goods coming from overseas to Australia, the then Prime Minister, Mr. Bruce, invited representatives of the shipping companies to visit Australia and meet importers and exporters before taking action in that direction. The shipowners accepted that invitation, and met representatives of the importers and exporters in Sydney. At that conference the representatives of the ship-owners pointed out very forcibly that the tonnage coming to and going from Australia was far greater than was warranted by the quantity of cargo offering. It was stated that freights must inevitably be higher in the long run if ships left Australia with cargoes that taxed their capacity only to the extent of 50 per cent. or 60 per cent. It was unanimously agreed to ask the Governments of the States and the Commonwealth to reduce port dues, to alter the incidence of income tax, and also to amend this act, as it prohibited the making of agreements between shipper and ship-owner. For some years agreements have been made by the Export Control Boards, such as the Dairy Produce Export Control Board and the Dried Fruits Export Control Board, that were set up by legislation by a former government. Those boards were given power to negotiate on an industry basis with the ship-owners with a view to obtaining the best possible terms for the carriage of the produce, the export of which they controlled. As a layman I have been unable to understand why a body set up by the Commonwealth could make agreements which ordinarily are prohibited by another statute. [Quorum formed.] The honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. E. Riley) expressed the view held by some people, that the greater the number of tramp steamers coming to Australia to lift cargo, the lower the freights will be.
Certainly, at times, tramp steamers have picked up, at cut rates, cargoes which otherwise would have been carried by other lines, and the shippers have enjoyed a temporary advantage. But we have to remember that ultimately the exporters must pay for all ships that come to Australia to carry their products. If the number of ships is in excess of requirements, the shippers will have to pay more, and ultimately an excess of shipping must mean an increase of freights. Certain steamship lines can be relied upon to maintain a regular service, not only in the busy season, but also at times when thetrade is not sufficient to be profitable, and they deserve special consideration. I recollet a sentence, in a report by a committee appointed by the British Government, to the effect that the shippers expect the ship at the wharf without fail, whilst the ship-owner expects the cargo on the wharf without fail. Shipping companies, which provide a regular and dependable service, have a right to expect the shippers to provide cargo for them, rather than to give their business to tramps, which call only when profitable business is offering, and give, at best, a spasmodic service. The only practical way of ensuring the concentration of cargoes for the regular shipping lines, is by the shippers agreeing to send the’ whole of their products by those lines in return for concession rates. If these agreements should result in the reduction of the number of tramp steamers to such an extent as would make possible an increase of freights by the regular lines, some action to protect exporters might be necessary, and the Prime Minister stated that, in such an event, the Government would be prepared to repeal the clause that he is now proposing to insert in the. Industries Preservation Act. The arrangement proposed by the Government may be highly beneficial to Australian exporters, and proves that despite the dismal prophecies of Labour members, no harm was clone to the primary producers by the sale of the Commonwealth Shipping Line.
– I support the bill. It proposes an experiment that is worthy of a trial. We are not sanctioning the creation of a shipping monopoly that will be able to exploit disorganized shippers; there is to be organization on both sides, and that will provide the necessary safeguards. The suggestion that competition will bring down freights comes strangely from Government supporters. Usually the praises of competition are sung most loudly by honorable members on this side of the House. To-day the trend in industry and commerce throughout the world, is towards organization on a big scale, and the contention that the bringing to our shores of a larger number of ships than is needed to carry the cargoes offering, would mean a reduction in freights, is strange reasoning. I believe that this measure for what the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) has described as the rationalization of shipping, will prove beneficial. Shipping is divided into two classes - the regular lines to which the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) referred, and the tramp steamers which roam the seas in search of profitable cargoes. If the proposed wheat pool is established it will be an organization of shippers which will prevent undue exploitation by the tramp steamers.- There is a danger that the 22 regular shipping lines may increase freight rates; but I believe that counter organization will prevent that. As a representative of the primary producers I cordially approve of the bill.
.- As one who is opposed to government interference with business, I welcome this measure. The Government should function, as the bill proposes, by giving legal sanction to agreements and arrangements between various bodies engaged in industry. I apprehend little danger from this legislation and the agreements that will be made under it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and - by leave - passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Brunswick: awd Hurstville.
Motion (by Mr. Lyons) agreed to -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act 1913-1921, it is expedient to carry out the following work: - Establishment of an automatic telephone exchange at Brunswick, Victoria, which was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works, and on which the Committee has duly reported to this House the result of its investigation.
– I move -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act 1913-1921, it is expedient to carry out the following work: - Establishment of an automatic telephone exchange at Hurstville, New South Wales, which was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works, and on which the committee has duly reported to this House the result of its investigation.
– How much money is involved, and is there any prospect of the work being carried out immediately?
– The only reason for submitting these motions now is to enable the department to make its arrangements ahead. Necessarily some time would elapse, even in ordinary circumstances, before the work could be put in hand, and owing to the existing financial position, the . delay may be greater than usual. The people interested must not assume that, because Parliament approves of new automatic telephone exchanges, they will be provided immediately.
– These works will not have precedence over others previously authorized, but not undertaken?
– Those previously authorized will take precedence. The Brunswick and Hurstville exchanges will be constructed when the finances permit.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
.- -by leave - On behalf of the Minister for Defence, I move -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act 1 913-1 921, it is expedient to carry out the following proposed work which was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works, and on which the committee has duly reported to this House the result of its investigation : - Development of the civil aerodrome at Mascot, New South Wales.
In 1921 the Commonwealth acquired about 161 acres of land at Mascot, and since that date a comprehensive scheme of improvements has been carried out by the Defence Department and people interested in civil aviation. The development of civil aviation in New South Wales has reached a stage when it is considered necessary to improve further the aerodrome, and to that end the Government proposes to carry out an extensive scheme of drainage and levelling, and also to provide a number of essential buildings, water supply, sewerage, roads, and footpaths.
– What will be the total area of landing ground available when the drainage is completed?
– The Public Works Committee considers that besides the 160 acres already acquired it will be necessary to obtain an additional 21-& acres in order to provide sufficient space for runways. We are now contemplating the provision of a gravel runway 500 yards long by 25 yards wide. Provision is also being made for two other runways to be available when it is impossible to use the main runway because of cross winds and other adverse conditions. It may also be necessary to acquire portion of the land at Mascot which is now being used by a golf club. When the scheme is finally completed, Mascot will be one. of the finest air ports in the world. The Public Works Committee has reported fully on the details of the scheme and the cost will be somewhere in the region of £40,000.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– by leave - On behalf of the Minister for Defence, I move -
That in accordance with the provisions of the Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act 1913-21, it is expedient to carry out the following proposed work which was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee for Public Works and on which the Committee has duly reported to this .House the result of’ its investigation, viz: -
The development of a site for a civil aerodrome at Western Junction near Launceston, Tasmania.
The Public Works Committee has fully considered the details of this scheme, and is of the opinion that the time has arrived for the development of civil aviation in Tasmania to the extent of acquiring a suitable area of about 192 acres and providing certain improvements thereon. The expenditure involved will be about £13,000. It will be necessary to clear, grade, drain and fence the land, and to erect a club house and the necessary hangars thereon. It is the policy of the Government to develop civil aviation by every means within its power, and to connect up the principal cities of Australia by providing suitable landing grounds and proper facilities at various centres.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
In committee: Consideration resumed from 9th April (vide page 1076) -
Clause 1 agreed to.
The Constitution is altered by inserting, after section one hundred and twenty-eight, the following section: - “ 129. Notwithstanding anything in the last preceding section, the Parliament shall have full power to alter the Constitution in the following manner: -
– I enter my protest against the manner in which this legislation has been brought down to this House. Section 128 of the Constitution makes provision not only for certain methods of altering the Constitution, but also certain safeguards for the protection of the smaller States. The Government has not asked for the repeal of that section, and I wish to know why that provision is not being repealed seeing that this Government is asking the people to give to this Parliament absolute power to alter the Constitution at its own sweet will. I do not know whether the Government has any special object in view in not repealing section 128.
– If the referendum is carried that section will be a dead letter.
– That is very evident. Is section 128 to remain in the Constitution in order to cajole or deceive the people? Is it a trick of some sort? If the intentions of the Government are honest, that section should be repealed at the same time as the proposed amendments of the Constitution are given effect. If section 128 is not repealed, some of the electors who study the Constitution may well believe that even if the Government’s proposals were accepted, the Constitution could not be altered except by referendum.
– Why introduce the party spirit?
– I should like to introduce a spirit that would enable the people to get rid of this Parliament. We are asking the people to break the agreement that was entered into at the time of federation. The smaller States united with the larger States on the definite and distinct condition that the Commonwealth Parliament could not interfere with their representation in the Senate and two other vital matters. Is the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) prepared to enter into a bond to-day and break it to-morrow?
– That is what this Government is asking the people of Australia to do.
– The honorable member is apparently under a misapprehension.
– These proposals are a disgrace to the Commonwealth Parliament.
– The honorable member’s speech will read well in the Western Australian newspapers tomorrow.
– I do not care a rap whether it does or not. The honorable member’s suggestion is contemptible. Naturally I wish to give to Western Australia for all time the protection that it has to-day under the Constitution. I hope that the Tasmanian newspapers will publish what I am saying. Under the Constitution Tasmania has in the Senate the same representation as New South Wales or Victoria. But if these proposals are accepted by the people, this Government will have the power to reduce that representation or abolish the Senate at any time. I have the greatest confidence in the Prime Minister. I do not believe for a single moment that he would entertain any dishonorable ideas, but we must remember that he will not be head of the Government for all time. Future governments will not be bound by the pledges of this Government. A large public meeting was held recently at Beverley, a wellknown farming community in Western Australia, and the farmers there strongly protested against the effect of the tariff on the cost of production.
– If the Government’s proposals are accepted by the people this Parliament would have the power to modify the Constitution to the ultimate benefit of Western Australia
– And without the consent of the people of that State.
– I know how desirous honorable members are to meet the demand of both Melbourne and Sydney for increased powers. Goodness knows that we are suffering quite enough at the present time because of the preponderant representation of city interests as against the almost insignificant representation of country interests in this chamber.
– The honorable member should he thankful that Captain Cook landed here.
– If I had possessed as much sense in the early days of federation as I do now I would not have urged my people to vote for federation. Unfortunately I then told the people that they could trust the Commonwealth. Parliament, but I tell them now that this Parliament cannot be trusted.
– The honorable member was more reasonable in the early days.
– My desire is to be unreasonable so far as the interests of the people that the honorable gentleman represents are concerned.
– What is the feeling of the Commonwealth electors of Western Australia towards the Government’s proposals ?
– If any of the Western Australian representatives in this House stands behind the Government’s proposals, he will never be returned to this Parliament again.
– Where are the honorablemembers for Kalgoorlie and Fremantle?
– Both those honorable members are now absent.
– If the Labour members representing Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania vote for the Government’s proposals they will have much to answer for when next they face the electors. My object is to assist the smaller States. The following resolution, which, among others, was carried at a meeting of farmers at Beverley, Western Australia, illustrates the feeling that is growing in that State against the imposition of prohibitive tariffs: -
In the event of there being no amendment of the tariff charges that are hampering the wheat and wool industries of Western Australia, this meeting presses for State control of the customs for 25 years, and failing that urges a- referendum “on the question of secession, and the making of reciprocal arrangements with Great Britain.
– I have often said that the Constitution should be amended to enable the Commonwealth to give tariff concessions to certain parts of Australia. It will be absolutely impossible for us ever to develop our far-northern areas unless concessions are made in respect of our tariff and navigation laws to encourage people to settle there. The Nullabor Plains separate Western Australia from the rest of the continent as effectively as an ocean would do it. We there are essentially a primary-producing people, and we have suffered from federation to a far greater extent than either Tasmania or South Australia. I want to force a division on this issue, so that the people of South Australia, Western Australia, and Tasmania may see which honorable members of this Parliament are prepared to hand over absolute power to the Commonwealth Parliament, and so remove from us the safeguard we at present have in the Constitution, namely, equal representation in the Senate and- a minimum representation in the House of Representatives. Some honorable members have said that I can see only the disasters that might follow the adoption of this proposal. What I want to do is to make it unnecessary for any State to come to the Commonwealth for financial sops. That policy always leads to extravagance. We want an opportunity to produce from the soil under conditions which will enable us to compete in the markets of the world. We are an exporting country, and we can get for our principal products only the prices ruling on the world’s markets. It appears to me that if the people approve of the proposal in this bill, the smaller States will have taken from them the pledge of equal representation in the Senate and minimum representation in this chamber, which caused them to enter into the indissoluble union of federation, but if you break this contract then the union is no longer indissoluble. The object of the Government is, in my opinion, to nullify the provisions of section. 128 of the Constitution ; if it is not, I should like to know what it is. Perhaps the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. McTiernan) can tell mc?
– If the honora’ble member does not know the object of the Government by n.ow, he is not ^qualified to speak on the bill.
– That remark indicates the incompetence of the honorable member to give any valuable legal advice on this subject. I certainly prefer to rely upon the opinion of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham.) on a constitutional question of this nature. The honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Price) must surely realize that the adoption of this proposal will be injurious to South Australia. In pref federation days South Australia had many small but flourishing engineering industries. Some of them were among the best that we had in Australia. But to-day they have all disappeared. I cannot see any future for the Holden Motor Body Works in South Australia if we insist upon enforcing the coastal provisions of the Navigation Act and by prohibitive tariffs make it impossible for them to compete with Sydney or Melbourne. The proposals of the Government are undoubtedly wholly in the interests of those two centres. Our whole fiscal policy necessarily increases the- cost of timber and other raw materials required for motor body building. In order to ascertain definitely whether it is the desire of the Government to take away from the smaller States the right to equal representation in the Senate and minimum representation in the House of Representatives, I move the following amendment: -
That after the word “ section,” proposed new section 129, the words “ other than in tho proviso to that section “ be inserted.
.- I second the amendment. Twenty-five years’ experience of Commonwealth industrial arbitration has shown that this Parliament is not capable of exercising effective control in this sphere. It surely cannot be denied that state or local authorities are much more fitted to deal with industrial matters than a central authority, for they are able to gauge local conditions and decide accordingly. If the power to control industry were vested in local authorities, this continent would benefit from one end of it to the other, for there would be a closer personal contact between employers and employees. One of the most serious vices of our Arbitration Court system is that it tends to keep employers and em ployees apart. Invariably, the unions apply to the court for shorter hours and higher wages, and the employers for longer hours and lower wages. The issues are fought on party lines’, and it is always left to the judge to determine them. If we could bring the people more closely together we should do something that would result in more efficient and less costly methods of production, which, in turn, would help to overcome the unemployment crisis which faces us. I believe that under a system of industrial control by local authorities, our people would get substantially higher wages and better conditions than are possible under the existing arrangements. It was never intended by the framers of the Constitution that industrial matters should be dealt with in the legal atmosphere ‘ of a court, nor was it anticipated that thecourt would give the unexpected decisions that ever come from it.
.- It appears to me that one aspect of the subject before the committee has not received the attention that it deserves. . Sufficient has been said about the differences between the limited authority of the nonsovereign legislature under the American Constitution, upon which our Constitution was modelled, and the unlimited sovereign power of the legislature in England under the British Constitution to render it unnecessary for me to make any further reference to the subject; but I doubt whether we have yet demonstrated the character of the cleavage insofar as it affects the actual needs and lives of our people. In every direction in which “this legislature has attempted to move it has been obstructed by decisions of the High Court. We surely reached the culminating point recently when events occurred in an industrial dispute which were without precedent in our industrial and constitutional history. As honorable members know, we have been sorely tried by a great industrial crisis on the northern coal-fields of New South Wales. After the Government had exhausted every constitutional means to effect a settlement, the High Court was approached for an interpretation of the legal position. The incident to which I have referred occurred only after the late Chief Justice of the court had exposed his undoubted partiality for the mine-owning interests.
– I rise to a point of order. I ask whether the honorable member is in order in saying of the ex-Chief-Justice of Australia, that as his partiality to certain interests had been exposed
– I Mid not refer to an existing Chief Justice.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. McGrath).Any honorable member is in order in criticizing a judgment of the High Court, but he is not in order in criticizing a judge.
– I did not complain that the honorable member for Martin (Mr. Eldridge) had criticized a judgment of the court. His statement was, “ As the partiality of the Chief Justice to the mining interest had been exposed I ask that those words bc withdrawn, because they constitute personal criticism.
– If the honorable member said that, I ask him to withdraw it.
– It is, in my opinion, very necessary that something should be said on this subject. I was referring to the ex-Chief-Justice of the High Court, and - : -
– I ask you, Mr. Chairman, whether the honorable member for Martin is in order in using the words, “ as the partiality of the late
Chief Justice had been exposed- “ I submit that those words constitute a direct reflection upon the personal integrity of a member of the judiciary of the Commonwealth, and that should not be permitted.
– I understood you to say, Mr. Chairman, that the honorable member was entitled to criticize a judgment of the court.
– I did not object to that.
– If the honorable member would keep silent for a moment-
– I will not allow the Attorney-General to misrepresent what I say. That is his “ long suit “ in Parliament.
– I ask honorable members to refrain from interrupting.
Mi Brennan. - I can assure you, Mr. Chairman, that I was not taking the slightest notice, at the moment, of the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Archdale Parkhill). When the point of order was raised, you stated, if I understood you correctly - and your ruling was, I may say with great respect, in accordance with my own views - that while an honorable member is free to discuss and criticize a judgment of the High Court, he is not free to reflect upon a judge. I understood you to say, further, that if an honorable member did so he should not repeat such a reflection.
– Did you not say, Mr. Chairman, that the honorable member for M’artin should withdraw his statement?
– The honorable member for Warringah then intruded with a request that the words complained of should be withdrawn. I submit, with great respect, that the honorable member for Warringah has no right to make any such request. It is your right, Mr. Chairman, to deal with the matter, and you have exercised that right with credit. It is your duty, if I may say so, to direct members of the committee that they may not reflect upon members of the judiciary. It is not the right of the honorable member for Warringah to call upon the honorable member for Martin to withdraw anything he may have said in criticism of a judge. He may call upon the honorable member for a withdrawal of anything reflecting upon himself, or upon this Parliament. It is your duty to direct the honorable member who is speaking as to how he should address himself to the subject of the judiciary. As I have said, you gave a ruling in accordance with wellestablished practice to the effect that an honorable member may not reflect upon the judiciary, or upon a judge, but he may discuss a judgment of the court. I submit that the matter should have ended there, without honorable members opposite attempting to make party capital out of the incident.
– You have ruled, Mr. Chairman, that it is in order for honorable members to criticize a judgment of any court. All honorable members know that. They also know that Sir Adrian Knox gave no judgment in the coal case. and, therefore, no question can arise here regarding any judgment of his. Honorable members heard the honorable member for Martin say that he intended to direct attention to the partiality of the ex-Chief-Justice, which had been, exposed That is an attack on the integrity and honour of a judge in the exercise of his office. It is quite immaterial that Sir Adrian Knox has now resigned his post. The remarks were directed to the exercise of his judicial functions in his judicial office. I was astonished to hear the AttorneyGeneral speak as he did. Surely it is the duty of the Attorney-General to protect members of the judiciary. They are unable to appear on the floor of this House, to answer insinuations directed against them. One of the first duties of the Attorney-General is either to protect the judges or, if he considers them to be unworthy of protection, to take appropriate action.
– One of my first duties is to protect the privileges of this House.
– The Attorney-General says that one of his first duties is to protect the privileges of this House. The privileges of this House do not extend to insulting the judiciary.
– The Leader of the Opposition knows quite well that I never said they did.
– Our whole civilization, and the preservation of law and order, depends upon the maintenance of our judicial system. The first duty of the Attorney-General, even in this House, is to protect the judges against unjust insinuations.
– I submit that the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition are not in order. He does not address himself to a point of order; he delivered a lecture upon the duty of the AttorneyGeneral. There is no question before the committee relating to the position of the Attorney-General in this matter at all. The only question is whether or not the honorable member for Martin (Mr. Eldridge) was within the Standing Orders when making his speech.
– I desire to raise a question of privilege : The Attorney-General said that I intruded myself into this discussion.
– I rise to a point of order. You, Mr. Chairman, having given a ruling on this question, should not allow a point of order to be raised now unless your ruling is disagreed with.
– I said that the honorable member for Martin was in order in discussing a judgment of the court. I said, further, that if he had made a reflection on. a judge, I should ask him to withdraw his statement.
– If he withdraws his statement we shall be satisfied.
– I understand that the committee wishes me to withdraw something. I shall withdraw if I am thereby enabled to continue my remarks. All I know is that a certain person occupying a high position in this country made a dramatic exit from office when, in the opinion of the man in the street, he had shown his hand in a manner that was highly improper. Subsequent events were of a character which entitle me to question the integrity of this person.
– I rise to a point of order. Referring to a person occupying a high judicial position, the honorable member for Martin said that events justified him in questioning the integrity of that person. I ask whether that statement is in order, and if it is not, that it be withdrawn.
– I cannot understand this point of order. No names have been mentioned. If honorable members are so bad-minded as to believe that the remarks contained any reflection on a judge-
– This is not a kindergarten.
– The honorable member for Martin mentioned no names, and referred to no judge.
– I have consulted the records, and I can find no precedent for preventing an honorable member from criticizing an ex-judge. Judges of the court are immune from criticism, but I rule that when a mau has resigned from the judiciary, he is then open to criticism.
– I wish to give an assurance to the committee that I do not approach this subject with any pleasure. I am merely drawing attention to certain facts which are notorious. A person occupying a high position in the Commonwealth has acted in a manner which entitles me, and every other intelligent, honorable person in the Commonwealth, seriously to question his integrity.
– I rise to a point of order. The bill before the committee is one to amend the Constitution with respect to the method by which constitutional amendments may be affected. T submit that the conduct of a judge has not been shown to have any association with that subject.
– If’ this proposed amendment is agreed to, it will limit the functions of the High Court, and on that ground I nile that the honorable member for Martin is in order.
– If honorable members of the Opposition have any large fund of indignation to vent, I suggest that they should direct it against the person who has proved unworthy of his high office. In my opinion, the records of the British Empire may be searched in vain to find a parallel for the action I have referred to, of a person occupying a high office, basely prostituting’ that office-
– Shame! Shame!
– The shame is that such a man dramatically resigned his high post to become a beneficiary to the tune of a million pounds under the will of one of the chief coal magnates, whose law-breaking tactics plunged thousands of men, women, and children into a long period of distress, poverty, destitution. and suffering. We are anxious by these proposed amendments to overcome the difficulties that are caused by the people’s will being constantly flouted by authorities such as the High Court of Australia. I repeat that bath this country and this House are entitled to register the most vigorous protest of which they are capable against the actions of the person to whom I have referred-
– The Prime Minister has registered his protest against the honorable member by leaving the chamber.
– And his unfitness, as demonstrated by his acceptance of a gift of £1,000,000 from the source from which he obtained it, to hold the high office that he has now vacated. I challenge honorable members of the Opposition to cite one instance of a member in high authority of that character in the British Empire who has acted in a similar manner. I address this committee as ‘ one who had the privilege of association with the founders of our federation - men of a type totally different from the person to whom I have referred - such as the late Sir Henry Parkes, the late Sir Edmund Barton, the late Sir Samuel Griffith, the late Mr. Justice O’Connor, the late Mr. B. R. Wise, and others. Their names were never tarnished by deplorable actions such as those to which I have drawn attention, actions which will prove notorious in our history.
– This day will be notorious.
– If by these proposals we achieve no more than security from the ordeal of having injustice dispensed by persons of this character they will be justified.
The debate has largely proceeded along legal lines. I rose from a strict sense of duty to express the sentiments that I have uttered, and to register my protest against the incidents I have mentioned.
May I be permitted to remind the committee that laws and constitutions’ have neither meaning nor reality, except to the extent that they secure justice for, and increase the sum .of human happiness of the people they are designed to serve. Rightly considered, these proposals assume an importance of the first magnitude. They affect the future of our great country and the well-being of every man, woman and child in it. I pause here for a moment to ask, what, after all, is the greatest thing to every person in this Commonwealth? It is that they are alive! Much of the discussion suggests that some of our opponents have come from that place - the cemetery - which the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Cusack) has stated is a profitable locality for .the securing of votes under certain circumstances. When all is said and done, what is our life? We are entitled to the belief that all the necessaries of life exist round and about us in overwhelming abundance, and amid beauty too wonderful for human powers of speech adequately to express. But side by side with that fact is the tragic spectacle ‘ of thousands of the human family suffering the agonies of unemployment, impoverish^ ment and want, who at every turn are -faced with distress and defeat amid ugliness too terrible for words to depict. That these conditions exist is no fault of the Creator nor of nature. It is our fault. ‘All that is necessary for human beings exists in overwhelming abundance around and about us in this world on which we live and die. To a very considerable extent the power is given to human beings to shape their present environment and their standard of living apparently without limitation, and, what is still more profound to contemplate, to shape the unborn future. This Constitution of ours was framed 30 years ago, and ii is monstrous to suggest that it shall remain unaltered for all time. Our friends opposite, who frequently profess admiration for British methods should at least realize that the competence of the British legislature is a sovereign poyser, that the ^constitution of that country is the greatest in the world, and that the American constitution, which is modelled on presidential government, should not be taken as a guide by a country such as Australia, which functions under parliamentary government. The. proposals before the committee are thoroughly justified from every point of view. During the progress of the conventions ‘ that preceded the founding of federation the late Mr. B. R. “Wise on one occasion said, in effect, that the federation was designed to enlarge the self-governing powers of the people of Australia. I claim that we have reached a stage at which we are entitled to consider amendments that will still further enlarge the selfgoverning powers of the citizens of our country. We should not lose sight of the most important fact that we are alive. The contributions to the debate that have been made by some honorable members opposite have been as from the dead. They have consisted of nothing but expressions of fears, doubts, and pessimism in every direction.
I conclude by expressing the hope that the Opposition will realize the benefits that may be derived from these proposals, and that they will help the Government to carry them and so contribute to the security, the prosperity and the happiness of the people of our country.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– During question time to-day the honorable member for Oxley (Mr. Bayley) asked me whether I would take an opportunity before the close of the debate on this bill to advert to an opinion given recently by Sir Edward Mitchell upon the subject of the amendment of the Constitution, and I. promised that I would do so at some convenient time. As there is a general. desire that the debate shall be brought to a close in time to enable honorable members who are leaving Canberra to-day to catch their trains, I shall be brief.
While speaking of lawyers, legal opinions, and courts, may I be permitted to say that, although I am particularly anxious to defend and maintain the rights of all honorable members of this chamber, I do not associate myself in any way with personal attacks on either members or ex-‘members of the judiciary.
Sir Edward Mitchell’s opinion affirms several propositions. One of those is that section 128 of the Constitution extends only to the amendment of theConstitution itself, and not to the covering sections which constitute an act of the Imperial legislature. That is certainly admitted; indeed, it may be accepted as a truism. But if. is a truism that does not touch the validity of the proposed amendment, which, by adding a section to the Constitution, merely provides an alternative method for altering it.
– This proposal provides an alternative method by which the Constitution may be amended; but if it should be carried, will there not be only one way in which the Constitution can be altered?
– There will be more than one, but that will he a consequence of the exercise of the powers conferred by the Constitution.
The second proposition of Sir Edward Mitchell may “be said to be that the amendment of the Constitution which may be made -under- section 128 must not be repugnant to the preamble and the covering sections, which create an “indissoluble ‘Federal Constitution”, as it is described. I would not be inclined to admit that that was not an arguable proposition as it stands, but, for the sake of this argument, it may be admitted as correct, for the very simple reason that the proposed amendment is not inconsistent with those sections. In section 128 the Constitution contains a power that is unlimited <as to subject-matter to amend the Constitution. That power is part of the Constitution itself, and, being such., is necessarily subject to amendin en t. The Constitution, when so amended, frill not thereupon, at least, cease to be a Federal Constitution. Whatever may happen afterwards, the amendment of the Constitution in that way does not cause it to cease to be a Federal Constitution. Sir Edward Mitchell may be taken to say that section 128 is unalterable. That proposition, of course, as appears from what I have already said, is challenged. The amending power applies1 to the whole Constitution, of which section 128 is a part. No limitation of subject-matter is stated, and no such limitation can be implied, nor has any argument been adduced to show on what principle one part of this Constitution which may be amended should, or could, be amended more readily than another part. The machinery for its amendment is applicable to all parts of the Constitution. In my view it is not open to serious argument that the Constitution runs from section 1 to section 128, and excludes entirely the covering sections; it confers a power of amendment applicable with complete and perfect uniformity to every part of the Constitution.
– Does the Minister contend that, by an amendment of the Constitution,- we could take the federation away from the Crown?
– That is a question rather of imperial status; it is a matter of arrangement rather than a constitutional consideration.
– The honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Crouch) advocated the adoption of that course.
Mi-. BRENNAN. - No. When he was interrupted last night by the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White), he was making ‘a very serious and wellinformed ‘contribution to the debate, and he was endeavouring to ascertain, ‘and state his own -view upon, just what the constitutional relationship is between Australia ‘and Britain. The opinion he expressed, as I understood it- and I agree with it generally - is that, viewed as a legal and purely constitutional ‘question-, there is, at the present time, following upon the Balfour note arid the latest definitions, complete constitutional independence. The honorable member foi- Corangamite was more than n’ecessarily emphatic that that did not imply, even iti the slightest ‘degre’e, a desire on the part of Australia to dissociate herself from the commonwealth of nations nor involve separation or disintegration of any practical kind, the honorable member is well able to defend himself, as he is well able to state his case, and I followed his remarks with great interest. Purely captious and political interjections were heard with very little sympathy, so far, as I waa concerned, and I may add with very little respect.
Sir Edward Mitchell suggests further that the manner of altering the Constitution cannot be changed. This proposition is contained in the preceding one, and it also is challenged. The Constitution is “full of machinery for necessary adjustments and re-adjustments, which may be tightened up or loosened by use’ of the amending power, and yet it, is suggested and argued that the key amending power - section 128 - the compartment, so to speak, which must be opened before the other adjustments cai) be attempted at all, is itself exempt from the possibility of amendment. That argument, I submit with great respect, reduces itself to an absurdity. Iti other words, it is suggested that we may amend all sections and parts of the Australian Constitution, except the most material and vital part so far as its working and structure are concerned, and that, according to the views expressed, may not be amended. To the contention, as put by Sir Edward Mitchell, that constitutional amendments made under the proposed amending power which purported to bring about unification would themselves be invalid, no answer is necessary, except the question why we should jump before we come to the stile, why we should begin to anticipate difficulties that may never arise? It seems to me as illogical as the stand taken by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) who, in what I venture to describe, with great respect, as a spirit of pitiful parochialism, always seems to. suggest that the power of the majority in the Australian Parliament, and in Australia itself, would necessarily and inevitably be exercised against the best interests of the minority. Such an argument, if it had substance, would be applicable to every Parliament and to every State in the Commonwealth, and to every part of a State, and, if pursued to its logical conclusion, it would mean that parliamentary government is necessarily a failure, and ineffective to protect the rights either of the minorities or of persons resident in the more outlying parts of the electorate.
– In the past a great deal of incompetence has been shown in government.
– Of course, we have to govern, or attempt to govern, notwithstanding our obvious limitations.
– The party opposite never looks beyond the cities.
– The honorable member cannot claim all wisdom; if he does, he claims too much. It is admitted that all forms of government have their imperfections, and all statesmen have their manifest limitations, too; hut 1 am speaking in general terms of systems of government, and especially of the system of democratic government which is admittedly imperfect in the very fact that it involves the government by majorities of minorities, and the coercion of minorities by majorities. If the history of federation has taught us anything at all in the last 30 years, it has manifested an extraordinary readiness on the part of the more populous Slates to recognize the disabilities of the people resident within the boundaries of what are known as the smaller States, and governments have faithfully endeavoured to adjust revenues to meet the disabilities under which they labour. But the very fact that for so long the Constitution has remained as it is proves the good-will , of the more populous areas to the less 4 populous, reserving, as we have, equal representation in the Senate and minimum representation in the smaller States.
Returning to the point taken by Sir Edward Mitchell when he said that constitutional amendments passed under the proposed amending power which purported to “bring about unification, would themselves be invalid, I asked why we should meet that difficulty before it has arisen, when it is not involved in the proposed amendment of the Constitution now before us. It is well to remember that such amendments would be no more invalid, if they were passed in the new way than in the way already existent. The truth is that the present proposal only provides an easier way of amending the Constitution. It does not purport to extend the scope of the amendment of the Constitution, and it does not extend it. Indeed, it could hardly be extended, because the present power to amend the Constitution is absolute, but cumbrous, difficult, and expensive; so much so that amendments which might long ago have been won for the long-suffering people of the Commonwealth have been long delayed and difficult to obtain. Sir Edward Mitchell’s objections seem to be completely answered in the much more succinct opinion of Mr. Owen Dixon, when he was still a brilliant member’ of the bar, and before he became an ornament to the High Court judiciary. He summed the matter up in these words -
The existing power of amending the Constitution is contained in section 128, aud the question is whether that power authorizes the alteration in section 128 itself, which would be required in order to confer for the future the power of amendment upon Parliament alone. In my opinion it does authorize such an alteration.
When section 128 speaks of “ this Constitution “ it refers to the whole “ Constitution of the Commonwealth “ mentioned in and following section 9 of the covering clauses. It includes section 128 itself. I do not think that there can be any doubt that complete power of amending the whole instrument, including the provision prescribing the methods of alteration, was intended to be given by section 12S.
Although Sir Edward Mitchell suggested that Mr. Owen Dixon did not advert, in his opinion, to certain of the points raised by himself in his lengthy and learned disquisition, it is not to be assumed that Mr. Owen Dixon did not, in fact, consider the matter covered by
Sir Edward. The truth would appear to be that in a very small compass he has completely answered the objections. His view I entirely endorse. The Government launches its major proposal for the amendment of the Constitution with the utmost confidence in its validity, and with the fervent hope that it will be carried in all States. Some honorable members say that the smaller States will reject ir contumeliously ; but the recent election in South Australia was a vindication of the claim I am making; because the party which succeeded and has since formed a Government stood for the simplification of government in the smaller States, the abolition of useless and expensive trappings, including the unrepresentative council, and the setting up of less expensive and .more effective forms of local government. That principle has been accepted by the people of South Australia.
– Will the AttorneyGeneral state Mr. Collier’s opinion ?
– I do not know what will happen in “Western Australia on Saturday next, but I hope that the same spirit will animate public opinion there, and that the same verdict will be recorded as in South Australia. I conclude my part in this debate, as I began it, by expressing the hope that if we are to regard Australia as in fact a nation, we should take the responsibility of setting up somewhere a national legislature which would have in the last resort the last word upon public questions, and any matter which it is within the competency of this Parliament to consider. Such matters should include all those with which the members of this Parliament think fit to “deal. Less than that we should not have; more than that, we do not ask. We seek for this sovereign legislative power, local legislatures for local affairs, and power for this Parliament in the last resort to speak for Australia upon those matters that the duly appointed representatives of the people in this Parliament think it wise after consulting the constituencies, to consider.
.- The Attorney-General has dealt with Sir Edward Mitchell’s opinion that section 128 cannot be amended in the same way as other portions of the Constitution, and has cited a contrary opinion of Mr. Owen Dixon. As a matter of opinion, I agree with Mr. Owen Dixon that section 128 is amendable, although I am impressed by the fact that so eminent an authority as my learned friend Sir Edward Mitchell takes the opposite view. The preamble to the Constitution refers to “ an indissoluble Federal Commonwealth under the Crown,” and difficulty would arise if a proposal were submitted for amending the Constitution in such a way as to remove the Commonwealth from the Crown. I am glad, however, that that stage has not yet been reached. A further difficulty arises from the fact that section 128 commences, “ This Constitution shall not be altered except in the following manner.” It is arguable that the first 127 sections set out the frame of government, and that section 128, prescribing the only method by which that frame may be altered, is permanent. The question which Sir Edward Mitchell has discussed most interestingly is whether section 128 can be amended by the procedure of amendment which it sets forth. I have said that I agree with Mr. Owen Dixon, but I recognize that the contention of Sir Edward Mitchell is quite tenable. It is a dubious course to submit to the people a proposed amendment which, if carried, would throw upon the High Court the responsibility to determine whether on -legal grounds it should overrule the political opinion of the people.
– Is it not highly desirable that the position should be clarified ?
– The High Court would be placed in a most unfortunate position if, after a measure had been passed following approval of this amendment by the people, it had to declare that legislation invalid. Whilst I support the view of Mr. Owen Dixon, I do not think it is possible to disagree so emphatically as the Attorney-General has. done with the opinion of Sir Edward Mitchell.
The Attorney-General has not’ dealt with another matter I mentioned when speaking on’ the second reading. The last paragraph of section 128 imposes a limitation upon the alteration of any provision of the Constitution ‘affecting the proportionate representation of any State in either House, the minimum representation of a State in this chamber, the alteration of its boundaries or any provision of the Constitution in relation thereto and provides that no such alteration shall become law unless the majority of the voters in that State approve of it. I submitted reasons to support the view that the amendment proposed in this bill, to become effective throughout Australia, would require to be carried by all the States.
– Because it impairs the privileges and rights of the States set forth in the last paragraph of section 128. I think the honorable member is right.
– If the amendment be approved in four States, can it be operative in those States and not in the other two ? My view is that it would be operative in the four States.
– If the amendment were carried by a majority of people in a majority of States, and this Parliament thereupon legislated in respect of any of the matters mentioned in the last paragraph of section 128, the High Court would rule that such legislation could not operate in those States which had not approved of the alteration.
– That is my contention, but it goes further than that. If proposed section 129 were carried in four States any amendment of the Constitution affecting the matters mentioned in the last paragraph of section 128 or any other matter could be made applicable to those four States by parliamentary action, but it could be made applicable to the other two States only by the procedure prescribed in section 128. That would create a chaotic condition of affairs. Summarized,- section 128 provides that the Constitution may be altered by parliamentary action plus a referendum. Proposed section 129, if accepted by four of the States, will mean that in respect of those four States the Constitution may be altered by parliamentary action alone. Suppose for the sake of argument that this Parliament proposed to alter the Constitution by conferring power on itself to legislate in respect of education. “If the amending1 bill were passed after a month’s delay by an absolute majority in both Houses of Parliament, the Constitution wouk be amended accordingly, but only in relation to the four States which had endorsed section 129. If it were desired to legislate in respect of education in the two States that rejected section 129, it would be necessary to adopt the procedure prescribed by section 128, which requires that the alteration shall be approved by a majority of the people and a majority of the States.
– And presumably it would fail.
– Not necessarily. The other two States might agree that education should be a subject for Commonwealth control. It is a peculiarly chaotic and confused position to have one method of amending the Constitution in relation to some States, and another method of amending the Constitution in relation to other States. Under those conditions we shall never know where we are.
– How could an amendment with respect to education come within the final paragraph of section 128?
– I do not suggest that it would. But new section 129 does, I am suggesting, come within that final paragraph. I am suggesting at present that, H this Parliament now desires to confer powers to, legislate on education upon itself, we have to pass bills through both Houses, have a referendum of the people, and also the majorities prescribed under section 128. The proposed section 129 would bring in a new method of amending the Constitution, and if only four States accepted it, that new method of constitutional amendment would apply only to those States.
– The new method of amending the Constitution is not an alteration which per se would affect any of those things mentioned in the final paragraph of section 128.
– The proposed amendment affects the last paragraph of the most important provision in the Constitution, namely, section 128, itself relating to these matters. The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. McTiernan) will see that the last paragraph of section 128 provides that unless the States concerned agree there shall be no alteration (1) diminishing the proportionate representation of any State in either House of the Parliament, (2) the minimum number of representatives of a State in the House of Representatives, (3) increasing, diminishing, or otherwise altering the limits of the State, (4) in any manner affecting the provisions of the Constitution in relation thereto. I submit that the proposed section 129 comes under the last heading (4), “ in any manner affecting the provisions of the Constitution in relation thereto,” because it in itself is an alteration affecting a provision of the Constitution namely section 128 in relation to the three other headings. Honorable members will find this subject discussed on pages 228 and 229 of the Report of the Royal Commission on the Constitution. That is the view that I put forward though not with mathematical dogmatism. It appears to me to he sound. I think that, if this amendment is passed by a majority of the States, but not by all the States, we shall inaugurate an era of legislative and political confusion in Australia which all honorable members will later profoundly regret.
.- During this debate we have heard many constitutions mentioned, discussed, and debated, and constitutional authorities galore have been cited. We have listened to valuable contributions by learned and legal gentlemen in this chamber. It has all been very enlightening, but still the fact stands out vividly that this Parliament has not sufficient constitutional powers. The experience of the past few years has borne that out. Every honorable member will admit that this Parliament should have more powers, and all that the Government is now proposing is to ask the people to confer greater constitutional powers upon this National Parliament. I stand for giving full and unfettered powers to this Parliament. I was much struck by the point made by the honorable member for “Wimmera (Mr. Stewart) yesterday, that one of the State upper houses, elected on a narrow franchise, could flout the will, not only of the lower House, but of the big majority of the people. Such a position is intolerable and untenable.
– If this bill is passed and accepted by the people, it will be possible for the second chamber of the Federal Parliament to be elected on a: restricted franchise.
– Honorable members opposite fear, not the good but the abuse that may be brought about by conferring greater powers upon this Parliament. Every member of this House has certain privileges. We can say things in this chamber which we dare not say outside; yet, we do not abuse that privilege. If individually we do not abuse our privileges, why should we collectively, as a Commonwealth Parliament, abuse the powers that may be conferred upon us as a result of the referendum? No Parliament dares to abuse its powers, because it knows that it must face the electors every three years. The people are our masters.
– A Parliament that would break the bond that was entered into at federation would do anything.
– I had no vote on the Constitution. Why should I not have an opportunity of voting for a better one?
– Any legal contract or agreement may be modified with the mutual consent of the parties concerned. The Constitution is a contract that was entered into between the Commonwealth and the States, and why should there be any objection to an alteration of the Constitution by mutual consent. This Government is merely submitting its proposals to the people. I see nothing undemocratic about that. The Constitution made provision for the passage of legislation to prevent and settle disputes* by conciliation and arbitration. Legislation was passed, and the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Court established. It has been operating for 25 years, and yet the BrucePage Government was prepared to abolish it without in any way consulting the people. That was not a democratic proposal. This Government is quite satisfied to seek the consent of the people before making any alteration to our system of conciliation and arbitration. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr.
Latham) said that he was against price fixing and favoured competition but are not some of bis supporters in favour of big mergers, which eliminate competition and make for profiteering on a wholesale scale? Even the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Gullett) is in favour of big mergers.
– The tariff policy introduced into this chamber last week will bring about combines and trusts all over the country.
– Another member of the Opposition said that it was useless to ask the people for these increased powers, because they had refused them on three previous occasions. That is no argument. If a young man proposed three times to a young lady and was refused three times, would she expect him to take that as final; would she not. expect him to propose again ? I certainly think she would. Take the case of the Labour party. We made many attempts to gain office, but the electors said “ no.” The Labour party refused to take that as a final answer. We kept on asking the people for their support, and at the last elections we won handsomely. I believe in Australia, as a nation, with one flag and one destiny. The Commonwealth Parliament should guide the destiny of Australia, and to that end it should be clothed with plenary powers. Had the Commonwealth greater industrial powers, many of the industrial disputes of the last few years would have been settled in their infancy. Under the Constitution as it stands at present, the power of the Commonwealth Parliament, in respect of industrial affairs is restricted. I am confident that the people will see the necessity for granting greater constitutional’ powers to the Commonwealth Parliament, and I look forward to the time when these dark and gloomy clouds of depression will be broken and dispersed, and Australia will be bathed in the sunshine of peace, prosperity and happiness.
– I an; afraid that in these committee speeches we are getting back to the secondreading stage, quite overlooking the fact that we are discussing the amendment which has. been moved by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory). The amendment is rather outside the general merits of the question whether increased constitutional powers should be granted to the Commonwealth Parliament. The object of the mover of the amendment is to provide that if these powers are granted, they shall not be enforced against any State that votes against the referendum proposals. The amendment certainly needs re-drafting, and should be considered quite apart from the general merits of the Government’s proposals. Any State which is opposed to the granting of these powers to the Commonwealth should not, if the proposals are accepted by a majority of the States, be compelled to surrender to the Commonwealth any of its present powers. For that reason the amendment might very well be accepted.
– ls the honorable member advocating secession?
– The subject is before us, but I am not speaking for any particular State at the moment. It would obviously be unfair to enforce the Government’s ; proposal upon States which do not favour it, seeing that it is so totally different from the original federal plan. I do not think it was ever contemplated that an alteration of this description could bo made in the Constitution, and that should be borne in mind in voting upon the amendment.
– I find myself in an exceedingly difficult position. Though wholly in favour of clothing this Parliament with full power in regard to all national matters, I cannot approve of the method which the Government has chosen to bring that about. In my opinion, it should set out in definite terms the exact power that it desires, so that the people may know what is intended.
Something has been said about our power to amend section .128 of the Constitution. I asked the Attorney-General (Mr. Brennan) while he was speaking just now, whether he thought we have power to amend the Constitution Act, which recites in its preamble that the people of certain States “have agreed to unite in one indissoluble Federal Commonwealth under the Crown.” I shall proceed to answer my own question. In tuy opinion, section 128 of the Constitution relates, not to the preamble and first eight sections of the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act, but to the subsequent sections. Section 9 declares -
Tim Constitution of the Commonwealth shall l>e as follows: -
Section 128 gives us ho authority to alter anything but the Constitution itself, which is, in effect, the schedule to a statute of the Parliament of Great Britain. [Quorum formed.’] The AttorneyGeneral said that he could not subscribe to the argument that section 12S could not be amended. I agree with him. The section may be amended, but only in the manner therein set out.
I take it that the Government is earnestly desirous of obtaining the assent of the people in all the States to the proposal in the bill before us, in order that it may end, once and for all, the present intolerable position. This Parliament, as the Attorney-General has said, though asked to do the nation’s work, has been given little more power respecting certain things that really matter than that of a municipality. But if the argument of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) is sound, and I think that on the whole it is, there can be no amendment of the Constitution regarding the matters set out in the last paragraph of section 128, except with the consent of each particular State affected. It follows, therefore, that even if this Parliament were given the authority sought in this bill, it could not create new States, except, of course, by the subdivision of such States as might assent to the proposal. It appears to me that we should not unnecessarily risk the industrial and trade and commerce proposals by submitting the first proposal, seeing that even if it were approved it would only give the Parliament power to legislate in respect of those matters contained in the last paragraph of section 128 in the States which assented to the proposal.
I am not in favour of the amendment proposed by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory), because it would take from this Parliament the power to deal with matters which are in their scope and essence national; but it is undeniable that if the proposal of the bill is carried the power given to this Parliament will be ineffective except in the States which carry it. It is most necessary that we should have power to create new States. Our development will proceed along those lines. The conception of honorable members opposite and of myself, is that there should be a devolution of wide powers upon the central or National Parliament, and that bodies clothed with full powers of local government should be set up. The local governing powers of these bodies would, of course, be great, but they would nevertheless be merely those of provincial legislatures. This conception is, I believe, quite conformable with the principles of democracy. “We have a Constitution which was intended to be amended only in the way set out in section 128. Any departure from that method, such as the method proposed in the bill before the committee, is a violation of the spirit of the federal pact. “Whatever the legal consequences which might follow the attempt to pass this proposed law, the people were under the impression that when this Constitution was assented to it was a bargain that bound them indissolubly in a certain form. That the powers of the Parliament should be extended in this direction or that, and that there could be a better distribution of power among the Commonwealth and the States, is undeniable. But it is clear that it was intended that in their own particular spheres the Commonwealth and the States should be supreme. If this proposal of the Government is carried, that will no longer be the case. Yet the provisions of the Constitution are entirely opposed to democratic principles. If is odious that a progressive people should be told, when they seek relief in a certain direction and can find no relief in any other, that the dead hand of the past makes it impossible for them to obtain what . they desire. It is repellant to every concept of democratic Government that we should be bound by the edict of men who, 30 years ago, prescribed certain remedies for the conditions that then existed. The democratic ideal is that the people of each generation should legislate for their own needs. That is a sound principle.
But my main object in rising was to point out to the AttorneyGeneral the difficulty and risk of subscribing to this amendment. Unhappily, there is yet very much to be done before the citizens of the Commonwealth are made to understand exactly what will be the consequence of amending the Constitution as proposed. They will be told ad nauseam about the rights of the States, and they will be told that those rights - whatever they may be - are gravely threatened. I cannot help thinking that this bill will very seriously imperil the other amendments. However, I leave that for the present. The Government can hardly say now that this amendment goes as far as we could wish. Very obviously it will not clothe the Federal Parliament with power to introduce the system of proportional representation in this chamber. “When the Constitution was before the people in 1900, I opposed its acceptance to the utmost of my power. I believed then, as 1 believe now, that the only sound democratic principle is representation according to numbers. However, a compromise was made, and a tradition has been established which it is now very difficult to break down. We are attempting to amend the Constitution in a way which must inevitably fall short Of what we desire, namely, to give this Parliament power to make laws for the good of Australia on all matters national in scope. We ought to consider very seriously, whether we cannot, even at this eleventh hour, amend this proposal so that it will at least do what it purports to do. In its present form it will not do that.
While unable to vote for the bill, I am whole-heartedly in accord with the Government in the object it has in view. I ask the Attorney-General to examine most carefully the position as now disclosed to ascertain whether there is not some way in which wider powers, plenary and unchallengeable, may not be vested in the Commonwealth Parliament.
.- 1 suggest that the difficulties raised by the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) may be resolved by a consideration of the terms of the “mend ing bill before the committee. The operative portion of the bill is as follows : -
Notwithstanding anything in the last preceding section, the Parliament shall have full power to alter the Constitution in the following manner - and the manner is then stated, namely, the passing bills by the two Houses of the legislature. It is admitted by the Leader of the Opposition, and by the right honorable member for North Sydney, that section 12S is part of the Constitution. They also admit that section 128 is alterable by the methods provided in that section. Why should we omit the last paragraph of section 128, or eliminate it from the Constitution ?
– I did not say that we should.
Mi-. Mctiernan.- if section 12s is admitted to be part of the Constitution, there is no reason why we should accept four of its paragraphs as being part of the Constitution and alterable and exclude the last paragraph as unalterable.
– Read what the paragraph says.
– This paragraph, which is part of the Constitution, says -
No alteration diminishing the proportionate representation .of any State in cither House of Parliament, ‘or the minimum number of representatives of a State in the House of Representatives, or increasing, diminishing, or otherwise altering the limits of the State, or in any manner affecting the provisions of the Constitution in relation thereto, shall become law unless the majority of the electors voting in that State approve the proposed law.
Those are limitations upon the power of amendment contained in section 128, but those limitations are part of the Constitution, and it is quite competent for them to be amended in the manner provided for the amendment of the Constitution.
– But not without the consent of the States.
– I have already pointed out that if the whole of section 128 is part of the Constitution, the whole of it is subject to amendment. There is no sacredness nor inviolability about, the last paragraph which makes it something apart from the other parts of section 128, or any other part of the Constitution.
– Why is the Government leaving section 128 in the Constitution ?
– That is another matter.
– Suppose Western Australia voted “ No “, would it still be bound by any legislation affecting any of the limitations set out?
– if the view i have propounded is correct, then i submit that Western Australia would be so bound. This proposed law for amending the Constitution says, “ Notwithstanding anything in the last preceding section “, and “ anything “ includes those limitations mentioned in the last paragraph of section 128. Therefore, if this proposed law is accepted by the people, it will enact a new method of amending the Constitution which is free from the restrictions imposed by section 128.
– But in order to’ get the proposed law through, the people of Western Australia must approve of it.
– The position appears to be clearer to me than it does to some other honorable members. i have stated my view of it as lucidly as i can, and no amount of repetition would make it any clearer.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) has read the last paragraph of section 128 in a manner with which i do not agree. i submit that the words “ or in any manner affecting the provisions of the Constitution in relation thereto “ refer to the subjects that have been already mentioned in the final paragraph of section 128. “ In relation there- to “ means in relation to the proportionate representation of any State in either House of Parliament, or the minimum representation of a State in the House of Representatives, or increasing or diminishing, or otherwise altering the limits of a State. i submit that this proposed bill does not iii itself affect any of those matters which have been mentioned in the final paragraph of section 128.
Honorable members representing Western Australian constituencies believe that they are acting the part of friends of Western- Australia in opposing this bill. I think that it would be a friendly act on their part, and beneficial to their State, if they were to support thi3 measure, because the bill proposes to empower the federal legislature to amend the Constitution. There are certain sec tions of the Constitution which have the result, possibly, of inflicting those disabilities upon Western Australia to which honorable members have referred. For example, section 51, which confers the power of taxation, contains the following: , ,
It is impossible for this legislature to pass: any taxation measure which would discriminate between Western Australia and the other States of the Commonwealth. The incidence of taxation must be uniform throughout the whole of Australia. If this bill is passed, and the Federal Parliament is empowered to amend the Constitution, it will be enabled to relieve Western Australia from any unfair incidence of taxation that arises from the fact that taxation must be uniformly imposed. Section 88 of the Constitution provides that uniform duties of customs shall be imposed within two years after the establishment of the Commonwealth. That time having elapsed, the tariff must be uniform in its application throughout Australia, and the citizens of Perth must bear equally with the citizens of Sydney, Melbourne, and other cities the taxation that is imposed. If the Commonwealth Parliament is granted the power that is sought by this bill, and the representatives of Western Australia can show that any tariff schedule operates unjustly against that State, because of any special circumstances that may exist, it- will be competent for this Parliament to make provision to meet those special circumstances, and to vary the incidence of customs taxation. We know from experience that members of this legislature have not been deaf to appeals that have been made to them by representatives of what are termed the smaller States. One of the first debates to which I listened after my election to this Parliament was that which took place on a bill to make available financial assistance to some of the States. It was urged that that measure was necessary because the federation had subjected those States to particular disabilities, and a great deal was made of the fact that customs duties were levied uniformly on all the States without regard to their industrial or economic circumstances.
– Does the honorable member recommend the adoption of such a policy?
– I would vote f or such a policy .if it were shown that injustice -was being done by a tariff that was uniform in its operation throughout the Commonwealth. I have had no hesitation in voting for measures that have been introduced to grant special financial assistance to some of the States. The two cases, from my point of view, are analagous.
I submit that, having regard to the language used, one can place a perfectly reasonable construction upon section 128 of the Constitution, and ,according to that construction the proposed, alteration of the Constitution will be perfectly valid and effective in every respect. The flexibility that it is proposed to give to the Constitution will be of immense advantage to the States, and will enable this legislature to grant relief where it is shown that any State is entitled to special consideration.
– If I represented one of the smaller States I should not lose sight of the fact that the Constitution contains certain provisions that safeguard the rights of the small States, and that those rights will disappear if the referendum is carried, because the Commonwealth Parliament will then be the sole arbiter of their case. Are they the more likely to be protected by the safeguards that are embedded in the Constitution, or by the promises of politicians? There can be no comparison between the two. I have r.ot the slightest doubt that the rights of the small States an- safeguarded by the Constitution, and that those rights will be retained so long as those safeguards are not removed from the Constitution. As a layman, it appears to me that the provision that the representation which the States enjoy to-day shall not be altered unless the States concerned agree to such an amendment, is part and parcel of the machinery that is being used to alter the whole of the Constitution.
– Supposing that, by force of circumstances, some of the smaller States had their population reduced to a ridiculously small number, would the honorable member still insist that they should control the vast majority of the people in another portion of the Commonwealth ?
– I am not discussing that aspect of the matter. I have never been in favour of the principle of equal representation of the States; but at the same time, from the point of view of the small States, and in view of the fact that they entered into an indissoluble union under certain clear and definite provisions, it is necessary that their rights shall be adequately safeguarded. There is every indication to-day that in a few years’ time those which are now regarded as the smaller States .will become the larger. Therefore, the contingency referred to by the AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Brennan), is not likely to arise. ‘Although I am not prepared to vote for the amendment, I consider that the Government would be well advised, in its own interests, if it withdrew the proposal contained in the bill.
.- With the consent of the committee, I propose to withdraw the amendment. I am glad, however, that I brought it forward, because I feel satisfied that the debate that has taken place upon it will have the effect of influencing many electors to vote against the Government’s proposal, especially in view of the suggestion of the Attorney-General, that any State which became depopulated would not be justified in having equal representation in the Senate, nor a certain number of representatives in this chamber, even though that depopulation was the effect of federation. I have been induced to withdraw my amendment by the speech of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham), who pointed out that the difficulties that, were likely to arise under it would be greater than those which have so far been encountered. If the committee had been agreeable to the proviso that I wished to have inserted, many electors in the smaller States might have been induced to vote for the Government’s proposal, on the ground that the special protection of their rights, for which provision is now made, was being retained. They are not likely to listen to sophistries such as those of the honorable member for Parkes (Mr.
McTiernan), who would cajole them into giving to this Parliament full power to amend the Constitution in any way that it thought fit, by painting an attractive picture of the benefits that might accrue, if amendment could be made without consulting the people. When the people realize the nature of the powers that are being sought, they will be very chary about granting them. It is mere sophistry to talk about having a democratic Parliament with sovereign powers. The Government’s desire is to obtain power to amend the Constitution in future without consulting the electors. Under the Constitution as it now stands, the people can be approached whenever an amendment of the Constitution is desired. They have been appealed to time after time, and on each occasion have shown emphatically that they do not trust this Parliament, and are not prepared to grant it any further powers. It has not lived up to what the people believed the National Parliament would be. If Ihad my way, the State that I represent would secede from the. federation immediately.
– Why then does the honorable member to continue to sit in this Parliament?
– I am here to conserve the interests of my State, and, I hope, of the whole of Australia. I do not believe that honorable members who sit opposite have been desirous of conserving the interests of Australia. I feel quite confident that the sophistry that has been indulged in regarding the benefits that might be conferred on the smaller States will have little influence with the people. I hope that they will bear in mind many of the remarks that have been made during this debate, and the keen desire of every honorable member opposite to destroy the Constitution absolutely, and to substitute for federation a system of unification.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Clause agreed to.
Preamble and title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Standing Orders suspended.
Motion (by Mr. Scullin) proposed -
That the bill be now read a third time.
Question put. The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Norman Makin.)
Majority . . . . 19
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– I certify that the third reading has been agreed to by an absolute majority of the members of the House, as required by the Constitution.
Bill read a third time.
In committee. Consideration resumed, from 9th April (vide page 1077).
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 -
Section fifty-one of the Constitution is altered byomitting from paragraph (xxxv.) the words “ Conciliation and arbitration for the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes extending beyond the limits of any one State”,and inserting in their stead the words - “ Industrial matters, including -
employment and unemployment;
termsand conditions of labour and employment in any trade, industry, profession, occupation or calling;’
the rights and obligations of em ployers, and employees;
strikes, and lock-outs;
the maintenance of industrial peace: and (g). the settlement of industrial dis putes “.
– I move -
That the clause be omitted with a view to inserting in lieu thereof the following clause : - “ 2. Section fifty-one of the Constitution is altered by omitting paragraph (xxxv.).”
The Government proposes to submit to the people the question of conferring on this Parliament power to deal with certain industrial matters that are mentioned in the bill. My object is to give the people an opportunity, when the referendum is taken, of saying whether they desire Commonwealth control in industrial matters or State control. Surely we should not have a continuance of the conditions that have obtained in, the past, with Commonwealth and State courts making, conflicting awards. I believe that in the factory of H. V. McKayLimited about 100 different awards operate.
– Surely that matter was settled at the last election.
– Not at all; and nobody knows it better than the honorable member for Wimmera. He and honorable members opposite took good care to see. that other matters were considered during the campaign. What about the picture shows, the budget, and the special customs duties? The people should have an opportunity to say whether they want a Commonwealth system or a State system of arbitration. The great majority of the people ofWestern Australia would prefer State control of industrial matters,
– Under the present proposal it will be possible for the parties to industry to register in either Federal or State courts.
– Does the honorable member desire that both should be retained ?
MrGREGORY.-That would mean a continuance of all the difficulties that we have experienced in the past owing to overlapping awards.The Prime Minister. (Mr. Scullin), in answer to a question that I asked yesterday with respect to complaints made by Mr. James McDougall, president of the Chamber of Manufactures in Melbourne, regarding dual awards said the very fact that the people were being appealed to to confer increased industrial powers on the Commonwealth Parliament would result in the abolition of dual awards. For a long time I have been opposed to compulsory arbitration, and particularly the establishment of the Commonwealth Arbitral tion Court. When that court was first set up the parties to industry went to it in the belief that that would result in industrial peace; but it was soon found that those who swore the hardest secured favorable verdicts. The Bench was occupied by a judge who knew nothing about industry, and from that time the employers and employees, by means of their organizations, began to fight, until to-day we. have a degree of antagonism between employers and employees that cannot be found in any other country. I do not say that either the employer or the employee is responsible for this feeling; but we know that the awards of’ the court have produced; it. Last night I was, studying figures relating to the wages paid in Canada. There it was the boast of the. Minister of Finance last; year that Canada, which adjoins the United States of America, with all its mass production and one of the lowest tariffs in the world, had been able in 1929 to export more of its. secondary products than its total exports in 1914. I was looking for the reason for that position, thinking that it must have, been due to the payment of low wages. But, when I read the wages and hours of labour as published by the Department of Labour in Canada, I found that blacksmiths received from1s, 10½d. to 3s.1½d: per. hour; or 15s. to 25s. per day of eight hours; machinists and millwrights, 18s. 4d. to 23s. 4d. ; toolmakers, 16s.8d. to 25s., and labourers from 10s. to 16s. 8d. per day. Those wages apply to the. manufacture of agricultural implements. In my opinion the trouble experienced in industry in Australia is not due to high wages, but to the animosity that exists between employers and employees.When they go to the court, the employer usually suggests a reduction of wages and an increase in the hours of work, while the employee asks for shorter hours and higher wages. When the judge giveshis award he generally compromises, and the workmen immediately have an idea that they owe nothing to their employers so they determine that they will give back in return for their wages as little service as they can. What industry in Australia most needs to-day is efficiency by the manufacturer and good service by the worker. Turning again to the Canadian wagesheet as shown by the official statistics, in the building trade I find that in 1929 the wages for an eight hours’ day were- Bricklayers, 33s. 4d. to 51s.; carpenters, 23s. 4d. to 36s. 8d.; electrical workers, 23s. 4d. to 58s.; painters, 16s. 8d. to 30s. ; plasterers; 33s. 4d. to 50s.; plumbers, 16s. 8d. to 41s. 4d. ; stone cutters, 26s. 8d. to58s.,. and labourers,11s. 8d. to 21s. 8d. Compositors earn up to 47 dollars a week, which is more than is earned by the average journalist in Australia. I do not believe that wages generally in Australia are too high, but the dual control of industry by Commonwealth and State courts Greates an enormous amount of, difficulty, whilst the operation of the Commonwealth court has fomented antagonism between worker and employer. If honorable members opposite are resolved to continue the present system of dual control the existing chaos will be accentuated. Of course, if the Commonwealth Parliament is given complete industrial power the present Government will be able to do almost what it pleases, but the workers should realize that equally wide powers will be enjoyed by its successor. I want the people to have an opportunity in connexion with the forthcoming referendum to declare whether the Commonwealth or the States shall have absolute control of industrial affairs. For that purpose I have submitted this amendment, but I realize that if the Government will not accept it, I cannot pursue the matter further.
Clause agreed to.
Preamble and title agreed to.-
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Standing Orders suspended.
Motion (by Mr. Brennan) proposed -
That the bill be now read a third time.
Question put. The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Norman Makin.)
Majority . . 25
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– I certify that the third reading has been agreed to by an absolute majority of the members of the House as required by the Constitution -
Bill read a third time:
In committee. Consideration resumed, from 9th April (vide page 1077) :
Clause 1 agreed to.
Section fifty-one of the Constitution is altered -
by omitting from paragraph (i.) the words “ with other countries and among the States “ : and
by adding at the end of paragraph (i.) 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 to make laws with respect to the control or management of Railways the property of a State, or the rates or fares on such Railways:”.
.- I move -
That paragraphs a andb be omitted and the following inserted in lieu thereof: - “ by adding at the end of paragraph i the following proviso: -
Provided that Parliament shall have power to make laws with respect to the marketing of Australian products in the Commonwealth and in other places ‘.”
Throughout the world the tendency is to organize marketing on a national basis. A notable instance of this activity was the action of Greece a few years ago in organizing the whole of the national resources behind the marketing of currants, and by this means substantially increasing the return to the growers. In America at the present time a big effort is being put forth to ensure the profitable marketing of primary products on a national scale. Although honorable members on this side of the chamber are opposed to a complete grant to the National Parliament of power over trade and commerce, because the State Parliaments would thereby be deprived of four-fifths of their powers and duties, we are anxious that this Parliament shall have power to deal with the marketing of products, on a nationwide scale. I trust that the Government will accept the amendment, because it would certainly be carried, whereas there is considerable doubt concerning the fate of the proposal in the bill. Hitherto Australia has not been able to deal satisfactorily, in a federal way, with the problem of marketing. During the war time, when certain provisions of the Constitution were in abeyance, a Commonwealth wheat pool was established. At the present time, although this Parliament has taken action to ensure the orderly marketing of dried fruits, dairy produce, canned fruits, pearl shell, and other commodities through export control boards, and proposes to create, in conjunction with the States, what is in effect another export control board in connexion with a compulsory wheat pool, there is still left a bare area that is difficult to cover. In any case, the existing procedure is circuitous, slow, and expensive. We are anxious that this power shall be included in the Constitution.We do not desire that the general trade and commerce powers should be in the hands of the Commonwealth.
– Will not the bill cover the honorable member’s amendment?
– Yes, but it will cover a million other things that we do not want, and consequently to secure what we do desire and to make certain that this power shall be placed in the hands of the Commonwealth Parliament in the immediate future, I have submitted an amendment which, being of a more or less non-contentious character, will be readily carried by the people, whereas, the proposal to hand to the Commonwealth full trade and commerce powers is almost certain to be defeated. My desire is to safeguard the interests of the primary producers, who are the great exporters of Australia.For the last ten years they have produced something like 96 per cent. or 98 per cent. of the total exports of Australia. They should, therefore, have an opportunity of organizing themselves, while this constitutional fight is raging in respect of other matters about which there is much difference of opinion in the public mind and among the political parties. I appeal to the Government, on behalf of the primary producers, to give them this opportunity of organizing upon a sound basis.
I support the amendment moved by the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page). I sincerely regret that this bill has been brought down in a form which, prevents me from supporting it as a whole. As a former Minister for Markets, I realize the disability that we are. suffering, because of being unable to organize as completely as we would like in respect of the sale of our exportable! products, both in this country and overseas. If the amendment moved by the right honorable member for Cowper were carried, it would give us sufficient power over trade and commerce to enable us to bring about the more profitable disposal of Australian products. Let me give one or two concrete illustrations of the difficulties which beset us because of the lack of this power. I shall take first the position of the wine industry, which is to some extent in the minds of honorable members because of the difficulties with which it is faced, and because this Parliament has, for’ some years, been paying to that industry a bounty, which the Government now proposes to extend. The late Government paid a bounty on the wine exported and this Government is extending it, both Governments being actuated by a desire to assist, not so much the wine-maker as the grape-grower. The Government cannot compel the winemaker to pay a fair price for the grapes that he buys, but it can make that a condition of the payment of the export bounty. The Government can say to the wine-maker, “ We will pay you this export bounty on condition that you pay the grape-grower a certain price, not only for the grapes used in wine that is exported, but also for grapes used in wine that is sold locally.” The wine-maker, who buys grapes with the object of selling his wine entirely in Australia, is not interested in the bounty, and can consequently snap his fingers at anything that the Government may do to ensure a fair price to the grape-grower. Again a winemaker who sells not only overseas and obtains a bounty for that part of his product which is exported, but also in the local market, pays full price for the whole of the grapes which he uses. He, therefore, may meet with unfair competition from the maker who sells only on the local market and pays any price he likes for his grapes. That is one difficulty which we have to face. It seems insuperable unless we obtain the powers set. out in the amendment moved by the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page). A further concrete illustration may be drawn from the dried fruits industry, although it is true that it has been possible, by following a very difficult and complicated course, to give to growers a substantial measure of marketing organization. The dried fruits industry produces a large exportable surplus which is sold at world’s parity. It is sold at the rate obtaining in the big centres overseas, less the cost of transport. Without a complete selling organization it only is possible to obtain in Australia the prices ruling for export, and the producer in such circumstances is compelled to accept for what he sells in Australia*, world’s prices less all the costs incidental to transport overseas. The export parity determines the local rate. That means that the producer has to suffer deductions from world’s prices to the extent of the cost of transport, marine insurance, the exchange position in London, and deterioration in transit, on goods sold in. Australia, and even though those costs are not actually incurred.
– Why did not the honorable member do something for the dried fruit-gowers when he was a member of the Government?
– I did. The local price, without marketing organization, is based on the export price less all the discounts that I have mentioned. The man who is producing on that basis finds himself very often unable to carry on, and it is essential, if he ‘is to continue his business, that he should enjoy the benefits of complete marketing organization to enable him to obtain a fair Australian price for what he sells in our home market. Steps were taken by the former Commonwealth Government and StateGovernments to do this, but it involved many difficulties. State boards were appointed, and, they have certain powers- in regard to sales within the various States. A State board cannot compel any producer within the State to export hisgoods. It can, under the statutorypowers that it possesses, restrict the saleof those goods within the borders of that; State; but without complete organization the producer would be able to send his goods into another State, and by cutting prices do serious injury to thegrowers of that State.
– In what way is this subject relative to the bill?
– I am showing the necessity for an amendment such as that moved by the right honorable member for Cowper in order to confer upon the Commonwealth Parliament power to deal with the situation that at present exists in certain primary industries.
– The bill does that.
– As the right honorable member for Cowper has said, the bill covers the amendment, but it also covers a thousand other things which we do not desire. It is probable that the people of Australia will not be prepared to confer the whole of the trade and commerce powers upon this Parliament, but it is extremely probable that if this amendment were substituted, the people would accept it. The point I wish to stress is the great difficulty which besets an exporting industry in attempting to organize its marketing, so long as the Commonwealth is limited to its present powers. Even after State boards and a Commonwealth Export Control Board had been established, we had to resort to further legislation to make use of our interstate powers and a bill was brought down about eighteen months ago which made use, as Commonwealth instruments, of the State Dried Fruits Boards for the purpose of regulating interstate trade. They were given statutory powers requiring licences to be granted for interstate trade. By adopting this extremely round-about method, we were able to compel growers to export a certain proportion of their production.
I support the amendment becauseI believe that although these additional marketing powers are necessary to overcome the difficulties of procedure I have mentioned, the wide powers which the Government is seeking are not needed. I support it also because it will have a much better prospect of securing an affirmative vote than the proposal contained in the bill.
Mr,..SCULLIN (Yarra- Prime Minister) [ 5.16]. - I listened with a great deal of interest to the speeches of the right honorable member for Coiwper (Dr.Earle Page) and the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson). They have displayed a much belated enthusiasm for organized marketing. In all the years that they were members of the previous Government, they did not even suggest that this power was necessary; but now that this Government is seeking to do something effective to organize the marketing of out produces they are doing their best to side track it. The amendment is entirely without substance and is neither more nor less than a placard.
– Does the Prime Minister suggest that I am not sincere in supporting it?
– The honorable member has either not given the subject any real consideration or he is not genuine in supporting it. The amendment is a placard. The honorable member is not willing to go to his supporters and tell them that he opposed the only attempt that has been made in this Parliament for years to obtain power to market our products on an organized basis.
– I certainly am willing to face my constituents and I have every intention of doing so.
– This suddenly-found enthusiasm for organized marketing will not mislead anybody. The Bruce-Page Government displayed no interest in the subject during the six years it was in office.
– I brought down four or five marketing bills.
– The sponsors of this amendment must know that it cannot achieve the end that they pretend to desire. I ask the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham), with his legal knowledge, to give us an assurance that the amendment will do the thing that is suggested. We know very well that the proposal in the bill will do it. While the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) was speaking in favour of organized marketing, the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr., Stewart) interjected pertinently that the proposal in the bill would make organized marketing possible. It would do much more than that. But the amendment would not do it.
The amendment purports to seek power for marketing our products in the Commonwealth and other places. What does the phrase “ in other places “ mean ?
What does” marketing” mean? It surely means buying. and selling. If the mover of the amendment and the honorable member for Gippsland, (Mr. Paterson.) knew anything about the discussions that have occurred in the High Court on the meaning of ordinary words in the Constitution, they would guess how this word “marketing” would be treated by the judges on the bench. We all thought we knew the meaning of the words “industrial dispute” until the High Court began to discuss it, and then we decided that we knew nothing about it. The ordinary meaning of marketing is buying and selling. Apparently the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) and the. honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson.) desire to limit the power of this Parliament to the buying and selling. of products. That would merely give the Parliament the power of a private trader, which is, somethingvery much less than the power to organize marketing. The power of organized marketing must include the powertocompulsorily acquireproducts withthe consent of the majority of the producers. If a wheat pool, or anything of the kind, were desired, a vote of the producers would be taken, and if it were favorable we should require power to acquire their produce before we could market it in an organized way.
– Does the Prime Minister suggest that the amendment is. not wide enough to permit organized; marketing?
– I do not suggest it ; I say emphatically that it is not. The power to organize marketing must include the power of compulsory acquisition. The honorable member for Gippsland referred to the marketing of our dried fruits. He knows very well that we had to lean on the trade and commerce power of the States to carry out that scheme.
– The States always exercise their power under a marketing
– That is a quibble over a term. There is inherent in the Constitution of every State full power over trade and commerce within the State. The acts under which the States. work are not always called, marketing acts. The leader of the Country party is playing with terms. If the amendment is carried this Parliament, will merely have power to buy and sell. The power that the Government is seeking includes the power to acquire, to control transport, and to make financial arrangements. The object of the amendment is to get the people to give us some other power which will be insufficient for our purpose. If the amendment is carried it will sidetrack the objectof the Government.
Mr.Crouch. - The amendment has been moved to save the face of the Country party.
– That is so. It is a mere placard without any substance or reality. It cannot do the thing that the Country party pretends that it will do. The mover of the amendment could have introduced a proposal of’ this kind at any time during the six years he was in office, but he had not sufficient interest in the subject to do so. This new-found enthusiasm will deceive nobody. The Government! is endeavouring to. do something effective and the Country party is trying, to counteract the move. The amendment is not worth the paper upon which it is printed.
– That is the Prime Minister’s opinion.
– The move is so obviously an attempt to deceive the producers that it will deceive nobody. We desire to organize our marketing on a proper basis, with the object of assisting the primary producers, and we shall be able to do it if the proposal in the bill is approved.
.- The gratuitous assumption and overrighteous indignation of the Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin), in regard to my proposal show to what poor shifts the Government is reduced to justify its attempt to secure complete power over trade and commerce.. He gave us no legal opinion whatsoever to support his view that the amendment would not provide sufficient power to market our products.. The amendment was drafted by lawyers, and will do what we have asserted. There is no justification whatever for calling it a placard. Seeing that the Government knows very well that there is not the slightest chance of carrying its first proposal, we are entitled to call that a political placard. On the other hand there is a good chance of securing an affirmative vote for my amendment. Seeing that a referendum is to be taken, this is an. appropriate opportunity to try to secure this necessary additional power. If the Prime Minister had not introduced his trade and commerce proposal, I should not have moved my amendment. If the Government really believed that its first proposal would be acceptable to the people it would not have introduced its industrial powers and trade and commerce proposals. I obtained expert advice before moving my amendment, and it is ridiculous for the Prime Minister to suggest that there is no substance in it. The talk of the Government about desiring to assist the primary producers does not mean anything. I am amazed that it should have been suggested that our interest in organized marketing is of sudden growth. If the Prime Minister will consult almost any issue of Hie Round Table published in the last six years, he will find numerous articles by independent and non-partisan persons, which declare in no uncertain terms that the Bruce-Page Government did a very great deal for organized marketing. Everybody knows that the dairying industry was converted from a condition of penury to a decently paying proposition by the efforts of the previous Government. The Dairy Export Control Board has done remarkably good work. The Paterson Scheme has placed the industry on a new level of prosperity, while a revision of the tariff, for which the former Government was responsible, put an end to the importation into Australia of large quantities of New Zealand dairy produce.
– The Paterson scheme was purely voluntary.
– The gentleman who was responsible for it, the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson), was a member of the last Government, and has travelled throughout Australia to advocate the adoption of his scheme. It is acknowledged throughout Australia, and indeed throughout the world, that he is chiefly responsible for it. The previous
Government also did a good deal to improve the conditions in the dried fruits industry. The Dried Fruits Export Control Board has rendered invaluable service to fruit-growers generally. Another thing that the previous Government did to assist in the marketing of our primary products was to establish a Rural Credits Branch of the Commonwealth Bank, through which, during the last four or five years, advances up to 80 per cent, have been made in respect of products marketed under voluntary pooling schemes. In spite of what the Prime Minister has said, I moved my amendment with the honest and deliberate object of securing necessary additional power to the Commonwealth, and I am certain that the primary producers of Australia will realize this.
When the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) brought down the first proposal for an extension of the trade and commerce power of the Commonwealth, twenty years ago, he was not concerned about organized marketing. His object was to deal with monopolies and combines. He was trying to prevent the formation of trading combinations of any kind. Now we are told that he is interested in organized marketing. The power to carry on organized marketing would be conferred upon the Government if its first proposal were accepted by the people, but it knows very well that it is not likely to be approved, and it has adopted this method of trying to get other power.
– The righteous indignation of the Prime Minister, to which the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) has referred, was as nothing to the indignation of that honorable gentleman because his little scheme has been exploded. The whole object of this amendment is to enable the Country party, in its next “weekly bulletin,” to tell the primary producers of Australia what a big effort it made to assist them, and how it was ignominiously thrust aside by a Government which is out of sympathy with them. Unfortunately for the right honorable gentleman the bubble has been pricked, and the real purpose of the amendment exposed. The right honorable gentleman said that certain newspapers, including The Bound Table, have called attention to the wonderful organizing methods put into operation during the regime of the last Government. During the four or five months I have been associated with the Markets Department I have had an opportunity of studying this organization, and I say unhesitatingly that chaos reigns even to-day in regard to the activities of every one of those industries served by boards brought into existence by the Bruce-Page Government. The right honorable member for Cowper mentioned the Dairy Export Control Board. He would have us believe that as a result of the setting up of that board everything is now quite all right with the “ dairying industry. But. I assure honorable members that there is very much wrong with it, and I challenge any honorable member on the other side to contradict me. There is in existence an advisory body known as the Australian Dairy Council, which speaks for the dairying industry throughout the. whole of Australia. Members of that council, in their very latest advice to me. said that it was impossible, to organize the dairying industry properly until a proper marketing act- was passed. At the present time we have trouble in marketing our butter overseas owing to its excess moisture content. If, as the right honorable member for Cowper suggests, everything is right with the dairying industry, we should have power to rectify such difficulties of a manufacturing nature no matter where they arose. Actually, however, the position is that federal officers can go a certain distance in regard to controlling the manufacture of butter, but no farther. They cannot go into the factories in the various States and enforce the proper grading of cream. They would be quickly told by the State authorities that they had no power to interfere there. Even the amendment proposed by the right honorable member would not confer power to control the industry right from the grading of the cream up to the export of the butter overseas. The dried fruits industry was never in a more chaotic state than it is to-day. Yet one would imagine from listening to the right honorable member for t Cowper, that as a result of the achievements of the Government with which he was associated, all the disabilities of that industry have been removed. I found only the other day, however, when I was trying to allot the export quotas, that although I had power to control the export trade in dried fruits from one State to another, producers had the right to do what they liked within the boundaries of their own States, and could disorganize the market in any way they pleased. That is typical of what obtains in other industries of a like nature. The right honorable member for Cowper stressed the fact that the Rural Credits Bank had been making advances to producers during the- last five years, but he did not mention that not one penny more had been advanced than during the previous five years. I have said enough in regard to dried fruits to show that, without the power which we seek, we cannot organize any primary industry as it should be organized. The only reason for this amendment is to enable the Country party, in its next bulletin, to delude primary producers into the belief that the parliamentary representatives of the party are trying to do something tangible, and to make out that the party is something other than what it has always been, a sham and a bluff, and an imposition ou the producers of the country.
– I have for long advocated increased powers for the Commonwealth Parliament to permit of the control of the marketing of primary products within and without Australia by producers themselves. The amendment proposed by the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) is designed to confer such power. The Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) maintained that there was no substance in the amendment, but it seemed to me that the heat which he put into his argument, if one can call it such, indicated his perturbation at the possibility of having to vote for or against a proposal which meant so much to the primary producers of Australia. He said that the amendment meant nothing, but it was framed on the advice of a greater authority on such matters than the Prime Minister can claim to be. The Minister for Markets (Mr. Parker Moloney) did not deal with the merits of the amendment at all, but” contented himself with abusing the Country party; and imputing improper motives to those who sponsored the proposal. This amendment was introduced in good faith, and with a desire to further the interests of the primary producers along lines desired by them. If it is carried it’ will do more to assist the primary industries than any of the proposals being put forward by the Government. We do. not wish to lose what is so. patently necessary far the development of Australian primary industries in the general scramble for concessions, which will follow the> acceptance of the Government’3 third proposal. We wish to cut away all extraneous matter, and to concentrate on securing the power which the Labour party itself says it is: anxious to obtain. If it is as “anxious, as it professes to secure; this, power, it should support the amendment. We are all agreed regarding the disabilities, suffered by primary producers as a result of the inability of the Commonwealth Parliament to> legislate on matters relating to intra-state trade. We wish to alter the Constitution in such a way as to give- to- the producers complete control over the internal and; external marketing of their products. We- are not asking for anything in the nature of socialistic powers,, but only power for the Commonwealth Parliament to- make laws enabling the primary producers to control their own products on, a cooperative- basis..
St has been said1 that it is difficult to understand what the amendment means in. regard to marketing abroad. It is becoming evident, particularly in the great wheat-growing countries, that those concerned in the industry must have power, not only to organize among themselves, but also- to- control the: sale of their products abroad. Canada and the United States of America are- organizing in this way, and Australia should do the same; This amendment provides for creating full: marketing facilities at home and. abroad. To say that the amendment does not mean- anything because the word’, “marketing” is used, is ridiculous. Many of our enactments have to do with marketing boards. I feel that some honorable members are opposed to this amendment because they think that it would, if carried, make foodstuffs dearer f.o the consumer. That is not the desire of those responsible for the amendment. We believe that the scientific control of the disposal of primary products will result in returning to the producer the full value of his product, without overcharging the consumer. Honorable members cannot dispose of this amendment by abusing it, nor by having statements published in the press to the effect that the bubble has been pricked; nor can the Prime Minister dispose of it by waxing warm, and getting angry. We wish to pin this committee to a vote in order to see whether it is the intention of the Government to grant the power we ask for if its referendum proposals’ are carried. So far, there has been no’ indication that, even if the proposals arecarried, the facilities we seek will be conceded. I hope that honorable members’ will accept this amendment in the spirit in which it has been put forward. I advocated this principle as far back as 1922 ; earlier, I think, than any one else. Last night I supported the second reading of the bil’]’ in the hope that the power we seek might be obtained; though I recognized the danger of its being lost in the midst of amaze of superfluous- powers which the Commonwealth might never desire to use..
.- I wish to repudiate the charge of insincerity levelled against members, of the. Country party by the Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin)-, and the Minister for Markets (Mr. Parker Moloney). Weare sincere in bringing forward thisamendment, and if it is adopted it will’ give power to the Commonwealth Parliament to control the marketing of Australian products both within Australia.. and. beyond it. I say further, in reply to an assertion of the Minister for- Markets (Mr. Parker Moloney), that the late Government absolutely blazed the trail in connexion with the organized marketing of the productsof primary producers. It did what had never previously been done in connexion with the organization of marketing. It brought down measures dealin; with thecontrol of the export of dairy produce, dried fruits, fresh fruits, canned fruits and wine, as well as a bill relating topearlshell; but the producers of pearlshell entered into contracts which made it unnecessary to take a poll- to -see- whether they were prepared, as a body, to come under the operation of that measure.
The Minister for Markets has stated that the Rural Credits Department of the Commonwealth Bank has been of little use to primary producers. In reply to that, I say that during the last three years the sum of £25,000,000 has been advanced by that department on the security of primary products at one-half per cent less than the ruling- rate of interest. That is an evidence of the tremendous advantage which the rural credits department has been to the primary producers.
The last Government exercised, for the first time, the interstate powers that the Commonwealth possesses in connexion with marketing problems. It brought down legislation which, at that time, was quite unprecedented, quite new to this Parliament, granting to an authority power to regulate interstate trade. In that connexion, also, it blazed the trail. I point out to the Minister for Markets that it is only now, after the powers which the Commonwealth possesses have been exercised to the full for some years, that it is possible to determine to what extent they are insufficient to deal with the position. Judging by the remarks of the Minister, one would think that it is possible to seek additional powers from the people every twelve months. Very few governments go to tho people, by way of a referendum, on more than one occasion during their tenure of office. The last Government used to the utmost, for the benefit of primary producers, the constitutional powers that it possessed; and we are only now able to determine fully the extent to which those powers fall short of what is necessary. Having determined the extent to which they fall short, we have brought forward this amendment. I repeat that we believe that if this amendment is put to tho people it will have a much better chance of being carried than will the proposal that the Government intends to place before them.
– The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson), referring to the Government of which he was a member, said “We blazed the trail.” How did that Government blaze the trail? It is well known to every honorable member who has been in this Parliament for a number of years that it refused to ask for the powers that this Government is now seeking in regard to trade and commerce. It realized in 1926 that if it were granted these powers it would be called upon by the primary producers to bring down a comprehensive marketing scheme; and as that would have conflicted with the interests of those who dominate the Nationalist machine, it did not propose this amendment of the Constitution, nor did it ask for any other power in relation to trade and commerce. Now, however, honorable members opposite would have us believe that their hearts bleed for the primary producers, that they fear that this proposal of the Government will be defeated at the referendum, and that, in that event, the primary producers may not be able to secure an orderly marketing scheme. But what was their attitude towards the compulsory pool which was asked for by the dairymen of Australia ? Dr. Earle Page, Leader of the Country party, speaking at Maitland on the 30th July last, said -
I have always been opposed to compulsory pooling. I do not know much about the Primary Products Act; but, if it is n full brother to the Queensland act, I advise growers to have nothing to do with it.
-president of the Queensland Council of Agriculture, commenting on the above utterance, said -
Dr. Earle Page goes out of his way to allege political bias on the part of the Queensland Council of Agriculture, and brackets thu producers’ organization of Queensland with the late Labour Government. In the setting forth of the facts as I have explained them above, T. have shown that the Council of Agriculture has endeavoured to co-operate with the BrucePage Government in the matter of legislation affecting the dairymen, and in the making of the full use by Queensland of the provisions of the Rural Credits Act. The Council of Agriculture, although admittedly established by a Queensland Labour Government, has been definitely non-political since its inception. 1 have been associated with it since its inception as a member of the rank and file, later as a member of a district council, . and subsequently as vice-president of the organization, and I know many of my colleagues who are prominent in the Queensland Country Progressive National party will bear me out when I give an emphatic assurance that no course of action has ever been formulated, and no decision has ever been arrived at from motives of political exigency. . . . About once a year Dr. Earle Page, when in Queensland. seems to go out of his way in an attempt to discredit the Queensland farmers’ organizations.
Mr. McRoberts is not a Labour man; on the contrary, be has always been associated with the Tory parties in Queensland. Yet he severely condemned in the press the utterances of the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page), who he said, was actuated by political bias and was trying to discredit the Queensland marketing and organization schemes. Those schemes are the host that are to be found in Australia to-day. At the present time sixteen products, of a value of £16,000,000, are being marketed in Queensland through the farmers’ pools that are run, not by Government servants or proprietary interests, but by the farmers themselves, with a great deal of success. “What happened in 1924, when the Bruce-Page Government had the following proposition placed before it by the Australian Dairy Council : -
That the Federal Government be asked to take urgent steps to introduce a bill to create a board for the purpose of controlling the interstate and oversea marketing of dairy produce. That such bill provide for the election of a board to control interstate and oversea trade in dairy produce.
That Government appointed a board to deal with the export trade, but took no action to deal with the marketing of two-thirds of the farmers’ butter on the Australian market.
– That difficulty has since been solved in a better way.
– The Prime Minister, Mr. Bruce, said at that time that he could not do anything in that regard; yet two years later his Government took a referendum of the people, but did 11 Ot ask for powers that would have enabled it to take the action which, in 1924, he said there was not the power to take. It was afraid of offending those who are making big profits by exploiting the primary producers of Australia.
The honorable member for “Wide Bay (Mr. Bernard Corser), speaking at a dinner in my presence at Kingaroy, said that the Bruce-Page Government was responsible for the Paterson butter stabilization scheme. As a matter of fact, that Government had nothing to do with the scheme. I believe that the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson ) is generous enough to admit that the originator of the scheme was Mr. Delroy, a Queensland farmer, and a constituent of the honorable member for Wide Bay. The late member for Wide Bay, Mr. E. B. C. Corser, was good enough to rise in his place in the Commonwealth Parliament in Melbourne and draw the attention of honorable members to the fact that Mr. Delroy originated the scheme, and circularized every member of the Federal Parliament on the matter. I give the honorable member for Gippsland, who at the time was a private member of the Country party, credit for having advocated the scheme before co-operative butter factories, and for the part which he played in getting it adopted. But to Mr. Delroy is due the honour of having originated the scheme. When the BrucePage Government was asked to introduce legislation to give the scheme its backing, the reply was that that could not be done, and in consequence the scheme was initiated on a purely voluntary basis. It would be politically dishonest of any honorable member to claim that the Bruce-Page Government was responsible for the Paterson scheme. That Government was in office for nearly seven years, yet it did absolutely nothing to bring about the organized marketing of primary products in Australia, because such action would have struck a blow at the men who stand behind the Nationalist machine, and other persons - the exploiters, the middlemen, the speculators, the men who have been battening on the primary producers, and who, in the words of the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart) dictated the policy of the Bruce-Page Government and caused him as an honest man to retire from the Cabinet because he could not tolerate the methods that they adopted.
– I rise to make a personal explanation. The Acting Minister for Trade and Customs has referred to the part which I played in promoting what is known as the Paterson scheme. He has also stated that that scheme was originated by a Mr. Delroy. It is only fair to both Mr. Delroy and myself that I should state the position. When I first thought of that plan to assist the dairymen I was not aware of Mr. Delroy’s existence. When I placed it before an interstate conference of representatives of the butter industry in Melbourne, T had not heard of .either Mr. Delroy or his scheme. I believed at that particular time that 1 had originated the idea, and after I had placed it before the industry I brought it forward in the Federal Parliament. On the night that I did so, and just after I had finished speaking on it, the then honorable member for Wide Bay, father of the present member for Wide Bay (Mr. Bernard Corser) showed me a newspaper cutting which informed me for the first time that a Mr. Delroy had put forward in Queensland a proposal based on a similar principle. Until that time I was not aware either of the existence of Mr. Delroy or of the fact that he had thought of this scheme before I had. I owed nothing to Mr. Delroy, but I immediately wrote to him and congratulated him . upon having, apparently, thought of it before I had. I was quite willing to give him any credit that he deserved.
.- I deprecate the party feeling that has been engendered in this debate. I have no desire to fan the flame; but if the Country party have been accused of political inconsistency, or worse, in this matter, I can only say that they have themselves to blame. I intend to vote against the amendment, but do not propose to allow members of that party to place me in a false position, which on more than one occasion they have attempted to do. The question has been asked, and I repeat it because it has not yet been answered, if these gentlemen are sincere why did they not ask for these additional powers when they occupied the treasury bench? There is no answer to that. The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) said that the Government could not be running to the people and asking for fresh powers every few months. My reply to that is that in 1926, when the late Government framed its referendum proposals, I appealed to it to include trade and commerce powers, to enable it to do the very thing that the Opposition is anxious to do now? But it did not do so. Members of the late Government talk of what they have done for the primary producers. The Leader of the Country party (Dr. Earle Page) has told us how they assisted the dried fruit industry. The fact is that the first thing I was asked to do, when that Government came into power, was to head a deputation to ask it to save that industry from economic disaster.
– Did the honorablemember expect the Government to be able to control prices in London?
– Of course not, but the remarks of the Leader of the Country party would lead people, other than those engaged in the industry, to believe that all was well with it.
– It would have gone down but for the assistance then given.
– Yes; but honorable members who were Ministers in the late Government now say that the marketing conditions in the industry are in a more chaotic condition now than ever before.
– Prices may be low, but the marketing conditions are not chaotic.
– The honorable member for Gippsland is somewhat out of touch with the industry.
– I discussed it with a leading member of the Dried Fruits Export Control Board this week.
– The fact is that a price war is being waged for the first time for many years, particularly in New South Wales, because the Commonwealth Government has not power effectively to control the marketing of dried fruits in Australia. Now the Government is asking for increased powers. The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) and others urged that, in view of the danger of the first bill not being accepted by the people, a measure should be brought down to provide for increased power over trade and commerce. The Government has done that, and members of the Country party, with one or two exceptions, have voted against the proposal. Obviously, an impossible position would be caused in the country if the matter were allowed to rest there, so the members of the Country party, in order to clear themselves, evolved the brilliant idea of submitting the amendment now under consideration. We have heard the honorable member for Gippsland coolly giving a lecture upon the need for organized marketing, although, only last evening, he voted against the bill for the extension of the powers of this Parliament over trade and commerce, which would have cured all the ills to which he referred.
– And would have caused a million more.
– The honorable member might just as well have made it ten millions; the interjection shows the weakness of his case. The position is that the Country party voted last evening against a proposal for the effective organization of the marketing of primary products within and beyond Australia. I take it that its present proposal, which the Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin), with the concurrence of the Attorney-General (Mr. Brennan), who, I take it, was fortified by the opinion of the Crown Law authorities
– We were fortified by the best legal advice.
– But the honorable member declines to say who gave that advice. I have the authority of the Crown Law Department of the Commonwealth for saying that this amendment will not do what is claimed for it, and, therefore, I shall vote against it. I think that the only effective way to organize the marketing of primary products in Australia is by the method proposed by the present Government. I regret that the Country party, with the exception of two honorable members who have been consistent in this matter, will not support the Government’s third proposal; but I believe that the feeling among the primary producers is so strong that this proposal will be carried, irrespective of any decision by. the Country party, and I shall do all that I can to assist its passage.
– The honorable member has been somewhat influenced by the statement of the Leader of the House, but members of the Country party would not support such an amendment as that now beforethe committee if it would not bring about the desired result. I have no wish to introduce argument as to who was responsible for the “ Paterson “ scheme. Mr. Delroy was praised years ago by the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) for the excellence of the proposal that he had propounded for the stabilization of the butter industry, at the time when the honorable member was working on a similar idea. I regret that such argument has been used. The honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) said that I had stated that the late Government was responsible for the “ Paterson “ scheme, but I maintain that the honorable member’s statement is untrue. At all times I have said that that scheme could not have been successful had it not been for the action of the Government in appointing the Export Control Board.
– What about the honorable member’s speech at the dinner at Kingaroy ?
– At that function I made a similar statement, and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Gullett) was present and can verify it.
– I rise merely to correct what I believe to be a distortion of the case submitted by the deputation from the growers in the dried fruits industry which waited on the present Government shortly after it came into office. I was present, under the able leadership of the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart), when he introduced the deputation. Certainly no suggestion was made, so far as I remember, that members of the deputation considered that the marketing conditions in regard to dried fruit were more chaotic than they had ever been.
– There has been a later development.
– If the honorable member makes that quite clear, I withdraw any criticism in that direction, but I understood him to state in his speech in this chamber, that, at that time, members of the deputation had said that the marketing conditions were chaotic. He now tells me that he was referring to conditions that have arisen since then.
Question - That the words proposed to be omittedstand part of the clause (Dr. Earle Page’s amendment) - put. The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. McGrath.)
Majority . . 30
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Preamble and title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Standing Orders suspended.
Motion (by Mr. Scullin) proposed -
That the bill be now read a third time.
Question - put. The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Norman Makin.)
Majority . . . . 27
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– I certify that the third reading has been agreed to by an absolute majority of the members of the House as required by the Constitution.
Bill read a third time.
Motion (by Mr. Scullin) agreed to -
That the House at its rising adjourn until Wednesday, the 30th April, at 3 p.m.
Bill returned from the Senate with amendments.
Amendments considered in committee and (on motion by Mr. Theodore) agreed to.
Resolution reported; report adopted.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Report (No. 2) of the Printing Committee, presented by Mr. Tully, read by the Clerk, and agreed to.
In Committee of Ways and Means: Consideration resumed from. 3rd April (vide page S50), on motion by Mr. Forde -
That . . . there ho imposed … a special duty of customs . . . (vide Schedule, page 81!»)-
.- I wish to express my appreciation of the courtesy of the Government in affording time, according to an undertaking given by the Prime Minister, to discuss the extraordinary tariff schedule which was submitted to this House a few days ago. Honorable members will recall that when the Government brought down these remarkable, and so-called emergency tariff proposals, we on this side asked the Prime Minister to consider two things, first, that these new proposals which were brought down for the ostensible purpose of adjusting the trade balance, should be kept separate from the ordinary duties imposed either for revenue purposes or for the protection of Australian industries; and secondly, that a time limit should be placed upon this emergency tariff. “When these proposals were brought down the financial position was extremely serious, and we admitted that the Government was justified in taking strong measures to cause some improvement of the situation. Although the Government’s object was warmly applauded by the Opposition, serious doubt was expressed as to the wisdom of its action. At that time, honorable members were not in possession of the proclamation setting out the 60 or 70 prohibitions which had been decided upon. To some extent, therefore, we were called upon to express our opinion of those phenomenal proposals in the dark. The proclamation is now in our hands, and there has been time, although not sufficient time, for consideration of the Government’s action. I am disappointed indeed that the Government has not anticipated this debate by acceding to our very moderate requests, that the Government has not stated officially that this new tariff is an emergency and temporary measure, and that it has not imposed a time limit, so that when the financial position improves we could revert to normal tariff conditions?
– A Government elected by a big majority must he trusted to do the right thing.
– In this case the Government will not be trusted to do the right thing. It will have to state what it intends to do. There will be no trust in this matter.
– The people trust the Government.
– That remains to be seen. The Government must state definitely that this tariff is a temporary measure, and give proof of that by fixing a definite date for the operation of the prohibition of and surcharges on imports.
– What time limit does the honorable member suggest?
– Six months at the outside. After considering, this new tariff, I am not now prepared to accept the mere statement that it is but a temporary measure. I find it difficult to understand the interjection of the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Forde) that the Government should be trusted, and that nothing further is necessary. I do not mistrust the Government. I have great respect for both the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs and the Minister for Markets .(Mr. Parker Moloney), but this tariff schedule lias already had such disastrous effects in bringing about unemployment in this country that we want something more from the Government than a declaration that it should be trusted. I am surprised at the statement of the Acting Minister because already three members of the present Ministry have told this country that this prohibition is temporary and will be rescinded when the Government’s object has been achieved. Even that statement is not sufficient, because a time limit must be imposed. The Treasurer (Mr. Theodore) is reported in the Sydney Morning TJ Herald of the 8th April, as follows : -
Let mc make it .plain that the measure is only an emergency one. lt will remain on only while there is need for a corrective. When the trade balance is satisfactory it will be lifted.
asked by bis interviewer when he thought the ‘prohibition would be lifted, and. he replied “I hope that it will be lifted in the next financial year.” The Acting Minister for Trade and Customs is reported in the Sydney Morning Herald of 7th April as follows: -
The Acting Minister for Trade and Customs, Mr. Forde, speaking at Marrickville on Saturday night, declared that the Government’s tariff action was designed to deal with a national emergency, and had no connexion with ite fiscal policy.
Then in the Sydney Morning Herald of 5th April, according to a cablegram from London, Mr. Fenton is reported as follows : -
Mr. Scullin’s announcement increasing the tariff is not connected with the Government’s general tariff policy. It is an absolutely temporary measure designed to re-adjust Australia’s adverse trade balance. I consider that within a few months the increases will be reduced.
Three members of the Government have practically agreed to the request of the Opposition for a time limit, and we’ now urge the Government to fix a definite date. If it is found later that an extension is desired, the Government can ask the House to agree to it.
– If the House is not sitting an extension could be’ given by proclamation.
– What time limit does the honorable member suggest?
– A period of six months is ample. There were strong reasons for asking for the time limit a week ago, but there are very much stronger reasons for asking for a time limit now that honorable members and the people of this country are . familiar with the contents of the proclamation. The attitude of the Opposition when these extraordinary proposals were introduced was in no sense a party one. There was no carping on the question. We were actuated by a sincere and generous desire to give the Government every assistance within our power, but since I have had an opportunity of studying the proclamation and the list, of prohibitions, I am compelled to speak with far more reserve than’ I did a week ago. I find it extremely difficult and practically impossible to accept the Governments assurance that there is no connexion between the balance of trade proposals and the Government’s fiscal policy.’ Indeed, I cannot escape the conclusion that the Government has made little or no effort to resist the temptation to exploit this national emergency and the adverse trade balance for the furtherance of its extraordinary tariff policy. I say that without any reservation. I regret to have to make such a statement, but I feel that I shall have no difficulty in substantiating it. At the same time I am quite open to be convinced that I am wrong. We must all be deeply concerned about the present position, and I hope that the Government will be able to show me that it has adopted this extreme, policy in an earnest and sincere effort to restore the balance of trade.
Let me ask the committee. to consider the embarrassing situation in which the Government found itself before it imposed these surcharges and prohibitions. Last November it took a step which was entirely new in the fiscal history of Australia. Hitherto, even from our prefederation. days, it has been the policy of Australia to take into consideration in imposing tariff duties the Australian cost of production and standard of living, and to give a measure of protection a little larger than that which would be sufficient to enable our manufacturers to maintain our standards and yet compete with the outside world. But when the Government introduced its amazing schedule of 300 items last November it entirely departed from, that basis. That schedule, and another tabled in December, created a wholesale monopoly of the Australian market for our manufacturers and the employees in secondary industries.
Ministerial Supporters. - Hear, hear !
– I like the honesty of honorable members opposite who have inter jected. But the introduction of those schedules created a most awkward position; it divided the manufacturing interests in the community into two classes. One section was given a monopoly and the other section still had to carry on upon a competitive basis. Obviously the
Manufacturer’s who were given the advantage of a monopoly and were, so to speak, stall-fed, weather-proofed and bedded down under luxurious conditions, were quite satisfied, while those who were left out in the bracing winds of the open paddock of competition came in droves to the .Acting Minister for Customs with requests for additional consideration. They had a certain amount of justification for their stand. They said in effect “ Why pick a few manufacturers out ? Why make fish of one and fowl of another ? Why not put us all on a mon’opolistic basis?” If the Government had come down to the House and said frankly that it intended to do this, the policy could have been understood, if not appreciated* My charge against the Government is that it has exploited a national emergency to provide prohibitive duties for certain commodities. It has smuggled into the list of prohibitions many items which have no business to be there, and which could not be considered to have any bearing “upon our adverse trade balance. I make no apology to-night for adopting an attitude different from that which I adopted a few days ago on this subject. At that time I was in the dark, aud I was prepared to be generous towards the Government; but since then I have studied the situation, and I say quite frankly that the Government has exploited a national emergency for its own ends.
Considerable pressure has been brought to bear upon the Government by the manufacturers of Australia who did not benefit through the increased duties imposed by the November and December schedules. The disposition among honorable members opposite to engage in prohibitive tariff making was well known - they have never concealed their desires in that respect - and the manufacturers have taken advantage of it. I do not, at the moment, quarrel with that policy, but I strongly protest against the false pretences and make-believe behind the surcharges and prohibitions. The Prime Minister had something to say this afternoon about a political placard. Here is a political placard, if ever there was One. This is an attempt to bolster up our protective policy by extraordinary methods. I should not’ have objected so much -had the Government been candid. The Government will not correct the adverse trade balance by this means. I do not say that the surcharges and prohibitions will have no effect upon the trade balance, but I assert, without hesitation, that they have been designed largely to give the Australian manufacturers and their employees a monopoly of the -Australian market. This, of course, will please the supporters of many honorable members opposite.
But every honest protectionist must protest against this policy, no matter how ardent he may be. Such “methods of increasing our customs duties have never before been adopted in this country. Although the new duties will have very far-reaching effects, Parliament could, if the Government desired, be denied an opportunity of discussing them, for they have been imposed by proclamation. They may spread ruin far and wide. This policy has granted privileges to a few people only, and. for that reason, if for no other, it deserves condemnation. The charge that the Government is exploiting the financial position for the special advantage of the manufacturers and employees in secondary industries cast’s a grave reflection upon its sincerity, but I stand by what T have said. Certain members of the Ministry have made the statement, which has been, published throughout the World) that the policy has been adopted to correct the adverse trade balance; but some of the prohibited items could not possibly have airy effect in that regard.- If the Govern^ ment had selected a few big items and prohibited their importation, there would have been a minimum of dislocation and relatively few people overseas would have been offended; but widespread irritation has been caused, because among the 60 or 70 prohibited items there are many which are quite insignificant in volume and value. I could direct the attention of the Government to a few items which could have been prohibited, with the result that millions of pounds would have been kept in the country.
– Name them.
– It is not my place to do so.
– Evidently the Government has not been drastic enough.
– It has carefully refrained from imposing a prohibition on certain items. One item alone, which is known .to every honorable member, could have been put on the prohibited list without offending more than a handful ‘of people.
– What is it?
– The Government knows very well what it is.
– We said that we would welcome helpful suggestions. If the honorable member will mention that item, we might still prohibit it.
– The Government has not prohibited it, because it derives from it a large amount in revenue duties. The Acting Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Forde) said in Sydney that this measure had no association whatever with our fiscal policy. I propose to mention some 25 items against which prohibition has been imposed and ask the committee to consider, in a non-party spirit, whether any one of them could have any considerable influence upon the balance of trade. The first is glucose. Our total importations of glucose are valued at £9,531 per annum. Imagine the great effect that the prohibition of this item will have on our adverse trade balance, and the vast number of employees that will find work in making £9,500 worth of it! The next item is laundry blue, the imports of which in 1928-29 were valued at £1,351. How can any one say that the prohibition against this item is imposed for any other reason than to satisfy the demands of the manufacturers of this country? A prohibition is a profoundly serious thing, and invites retaliation. The only agreement tentatively reached at the Geneva Tariff Conference, on the whole tariff question, was that the countries represented would not impose absolute prohibition. They retained their right to impose what duties they liked, but they would not actually prohibit importation of any article. But this Government, in its ignorance of conventional tariff making, has rushed in where all others feared to tread. The importation of candles has also been prohibited. In 1928-29 the value of candles imported was £8,639, while the value of candles manufactured in Australia was £276,169. That furnishes a good example for my argument. It cannot be seriously advanced that the importation of candles is being prohibited for the purpose of adjusting the balance of trade. £8,000 one way or the other will not affect the matter to any appreciable extent; nor can it be advanced that the making of an additional £8,000 worth of candles here will help to relieve local unemployment. This action, in my opinion, has been deliberately taken to create a monopoly in favour of the candle-manufacturers of Australia, and to honour a promise made by the Government. We now come to eggs, of which £6,419 worth were imported in the year 1928-29. The Government is prepared to make enemies of countries with whom we hope to trade for the sake of keeping out £6,000 worth of eggs.
– Why bring in any eggs at all?
– I agree that there may be no reason for bringing eggs here, but if it is desired to keep them out, let us do so by imposing a prohibitive tariff, not by prohibiting their importation altogether. There is no need to do it by proclamation under the cloak of emergency. That is my complaint against the Government.
In the year 192S-29, lemons were imported to the value of £6,709, and oranges to the value of £5,956. Again, I say, if it is desired to keep those articles out, let us do it by means of a tariff, and not by insulting and offending our customers overseas. For sheer stupidity and ignorance of tariff conventions, nothing like this has been done before either by this Parliament or by any other Parliament. Of cornflour, £10,838 worth was imported during the year 1928-29. The next item is jams and jellies, concerning which we have imposed a prohibition against the world. This smash in the face for the buyers of our wool, wheat and butter,has been imposed for the sake of prohibiting the importation of £13,133 worth of goods ! The Australian manufacturers, for the year 1928-29, supplied the Australian market with £2,180,616 worth of jams and jellies. It passes my understanding why the importation of this and other items has been prohibited. It can only have been done to satisfy the demands of the Australian manufacturers.
– The honorable member knows that it is being done so that we may meet the interest on overseas borrowing.
– Does the honorable member seriously suggest that that is why the Government has prohibited the importation of snuff, which was imported to the value of only £1,288 during the year 1928-29, or by prohibiting the importation of canary seed? In regard to canary seed, I have no doubt that this action has been taken at the behest of another friend of the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs. The next item is lard and edible fats, and one can imagine the enormous sum in interest that will be paid on overseas loans by prohibiting the importation of £11,188 worth of lard and fat. Then there is milk, dried, or in powdered form, of which £12,286 worth was imported during 1928-29. I do not wish honorable members to think that I have no sympathy with the Australian growers of oranges and lemons, and with those engaged here in the dairying industry. I do not say that I would not give them increased protection, but a responsible government should give that protection in a normal way by means of a tariff which comes for consideration before this House, and not by a proclamation of the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs.
– Would the honorable member go against the advice of the banking institutions here?
– I would certainly challenge the Assistant Minister’s statement if he said that this action was taken upon the unanimous advice of the banking institutions of Australia.
– The honorable member s.aid the same thing in regard to the wheat pool.
– Do not mix up the two subjects. Let the Assistant Minister for Trade (ind Customs confirm what the Prime Minister suggested, namely, that the associated banks, speaking with one voice, advised this action.
– The honorable member does not suggest that the Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) was telling a lie?
– We are reaching a low level of debate when a Minister of the Crown drags in the word “ lie.” Foi1 the year 1928-29, peanut butter, another of the prohibited items, was imported to the value of £6,816, and yet we are asked to believe that tho prohibition of peanut butter will correct an adverse trade balance of £50,000,000 or £60,000,000, and provide work for our workless men and women. Other items are starch, of which £7,336 worth was imported, and starch flour, of which £4,808 worth was brought into the country in 1928-29. A further item is custard powder. In passing, let me point out that all these items come under a heading of household necessaries. The policy the Government is pursuing in this connexion will not assist in adjusting our adverse trade balance, but will have the effect of bolstering up local manufacturers, who will create monopolies. We are issuing to the manufacturers a definite and unlimited charter to exploit the people of this country.
– But the total value of the imports to be prohibited is extensive.
– The total value of the 25 items is approximately £228,000 and to each of the industries manufacturing the commodities I have mentioned, the Government is giving an unlimited charter. The Government is removing from 25 important industries in this country all element of competition, which will have the effect of increasing prices and lowering qualities. There will be no incentive for manufacturers or groups of manufacturers to maintain the quality of the goods which they are producing, because there will be no competition. Itis not only a matter of price, but of quality, and by issuing this charter to Australian manufacturers we shall prevent the importation of goods valued at about £228,000. The total value of imports in- ordinary circumstances is in the vicinity of £150,000,000 per annum. This is an example of extreme protection.
– Why not deal with some of the other items’!
– If the Government had submitted a scheme under which it was restricting the importation of goods of a much higher value, and in so doing was materially assisting the financial position, it would have had the support of the Opposition. But we strongly object to this party stuff which is being turned out by the mile. This is merely an alternative to another tariff schedule which the Government had not the courage to bring down, and which has been rushed through, signed by the Governor-General, and brought into force without any opportunity of debate. Tents are another prohibited item. The tents imported are valued at only £3,000, and the value of tents manufactured in Australia £654,000. What good will that do in relieving the financial position? The whole thing is tainted. The values of some other commodities, the importation of which is prohibited, are as follow: - Barbed wire, £20,000; railway dog spikes, £10,000; wire and other nails, £4,000.
– The honorable member hasa great mind.
– I am not suggesting any ulterior motive, andI wish the Minister would be fair. I have said that the whole proposals are tainted, and have been introduced with the idea of giving effect by subterranean methods to a policy of extreme, rabid, and insane protection. The Government is giving effect to its policy under another banner.
– The honorable member is spoiling the good speech which he made a few days ago. He then made a statesmanlike utterance.
– On that occasion I spoke in the absence of the schedule. The Opposition is willing to be generous to the Government, but we suggest that it should drop this scheme and introduce new proposals on national instead of on party lines. The value of other commodities, the importation of which is to be prohibited, are: - Glue, £11,000; gelatine of all kinds, £18,000; vinegar, £32,000. The total for the particular 25 items I have selected is £228,000, or an average for each industry of £9,000 a year. These proposals will not have any beneficial effect on our adverse trade balance. Moreover, few, if any, additional employees will be required to manufacture the goods necessary to meet the normal demand, and it is possible, and even likely, that the additional quantity could be produced with the existing plants and the present number of employees. This course has been adopted, first as a sop to the manufacturers, and, secondly, to benefit the trade union supporters of the Government, who in the end will not derive any benefit, as they will have to pay much higher prices than those at present prevailing. This is class legislation, and is an invitation to the manufacturers in the industries concerned to put up prices, and to the workers to increase their demands. In the end we shall be faced with higher prices, increased costs, and even more unemployment than exists to-day. I emphasize the point that the quality of the goods placed on the Australian market is of major importance, as the importation of a certain amount of goods must have a beneficial effect in keeping up the quality of Australian manufactures. The percentage of imports to the annual consumption of some of the items in the schedule is as follows: - Candles, 3 per cent.; lemons, 2.25 per cent.; oranges, . 4 per cent. ; cornflour, 14 per cent.; jams and jellies, . 6 per cent.; dried milk, 2 per cent. ; tents and sails, 0.4 per cent. The importation of these commodities, even in small quantities, must have a restraining effect on prices, and assists in keeping up the standard of Australian goods. If we prohibit imports we have no check upon prices or qualities. I am not reflecting upon Australian manufacturers when I say that there will be exploitation in the matter of price and quality.
– That is what the honorable member is doing.
– A manufacturer would not be regarded as a good business man if he did not take advantage of the position. There is one check on prices, and that is competition.
– How can the importation of eggs improve the quality of Australian eggs?
– The honorable gentleman belongs to a profession by a member of which such a problem is liable to be propounded at any time. I particularly draw the attention of the committee - I know that I shall have its sympathy - to the effect of the proposals of the Government upon unemployment in this country. I believe that greater tariff protection, if given within reason, will inevitably result in more employ meat within Australia, so long as it is wisely applied to secondary industries in which there is room for expansion. But let us consider what has happened since the Government came ‘’ down with 300 prohibitive items in November last. When that new tariff was ‘imposed the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs, and practically every other member of the Cabinet, immediately began to announce, estimates of the scores of thousands of additional workers who as a result of it would find employment. But what has occurred since this Government came into office? According to the latest official figures, there were 13,600 more trade unionists out of work on the 31st March last than at the end of the year 1929. I do not blame the Government for that, but I do say that the tariff which it brought down iri- November last ‘ has not bad the effect of reducing the amount of unemployment in Australia.
– There would have been twice as many more out of work had it not been for that tariff schedule.
– I have no hesitation in saying that since this Government came into office the number of trade unionists who are unemployed has increased by something like 20,000. Honorable members opposite are somewhat aggrieved because they have been kept here to-night. They should be in their places to discuss this important question. They had no right to scamper home eight days before Easter.
– Many members of the Opposition have gone home.
– The Government is responsible for these * miracle-working proposals for providing .work for the workless. When honorable members opposite were on this side and we were on that ‘side we heard of nothing ‘ but unemployment. .Now that they have changed sides, however,’ they remain mute on the subject. 1 They have in their electorates, as I have’,J tens of thousands of unemployed. Yet they appear to be under some “amazing spell.- They have been sandbagged, bulldozed, or “mesmerized into silence,- although something like 200,000 people who’ support them politically are out of work and on :the verge of starvation. What has ;been- the first effect of this ‘proposal*’’’ It has’ resulted in thousands of persons being thrown out of work. At one fell blow the Government has destroyed a very big proportion of the import business of this country. Honorable members opposite say that the importer is the enemy of this country.
– Hear, hear!
– The honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb) says “ Hear, hear.” Let me tell him that, by the destruction of the import business thousands of Labour supporters in the ranks of the clerks, wharf labourers, carters, draymen, and other callings have been thrown out of work. At a time of dire economic and industrial distress such as that which we are now experiencing a wise Government would have kept in work those who were in work. One job of which an Australian is sure to-day, to-morrow, and to the end of the year, is worth five or six that might be found for him by a manufacturer who has not yet built his factory. I would . have supported the Government on a few major items; but when it introduces prohibition on a wholesale scale and in an unscrupulously extreme manner it is not deserving of the support of either this Parliament or the people of Australia. I charge the party opposite with having taken violent and unscrupulous action against industry in this country, but particularly against the interests of thousands of workers. The immediate result has been the dismissal of large numbers of employees. Ultimately the result may be the employment of thousands of other persons; but what good will that do for those who, as a result of the Government’s policy, are paid off this week?
It has been suggested that this action was taken on the advice of the associated banks. I am unable to say whether that is so or not ; but to my certain knowledge some of the most influential and highlyplaced bankers in this country are diametrically opposed to this policy. I have evidence of that in my pocket at the present moment. There is as great a volume of banking advice opposed to it as there is in favour of it. Having studied the position fairly exhaustively since the Government took action, I have come te the’ conclusion that the balance of trade was rapidly readjusting itself, and that with a little assistance in the direction of stopping big lines of imports, in conjunction with action by the banks, it would automatically have adjusted itself. The only definite result of this action has been to create immediately widespread unemployment. Any other possible result is still “ in the air.”
.- The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Gullett) has just delivered an extraordinary speech, full of inconsistencies. The honorable gentleman appears to be concerned for the unemployed section of the community. Indeed, since he took his seat on the other side of the chamber, he has become almost hysterically eloquent on the subject of unemployment. His solution of the problem is to lift the prohibition on the importation of canary seed, eggs, candles, glucose, jams, and jellies ! He is not opposed to a large number of the major items which are now prohibited. On his own statement that the prohibition of imports causes unemployment, the honorable gentleman must bo adjudged guilty of advocating a policy which would intensify the unemployment evil. He would allow the importation of a number of articles, the volume of trade in which is not large; but he would prohibit the importation of those items which form the bulk of our imports, and consequently provide a greater amount of unemployment. The honorable member could scarcely have been more inconsistent. According to him, the prohibition of the importation of a few minor items is accentuating the unemployment problem.
– He said nothing of the kind.
– The honorable gentleman instanced 25 items, and said that the volume of trade in them was so small as to have no great effect on unemployment; and in the next breath he said that the Government policy in prohibiting their importation had increased the unemployment evil. He has entirely failed to substantiate the charge he levelled against the Government. By calling history to our aid, it would not be difficult to show that the Government of which the honorable gentleman was a’ member was largely responsible for the present unemployment. Our huge adverse trade balance was accumulating all the time that the Bruce-Page Government was in office. A very strong case in favour of fixing the responsibility for the present unsatisfactory state of affairs on the late Government could bc made out if one desired to deal with this matter from a purely party political stand-point. The honorable gentleman began his speech with a demand that the Government should declare whether the restriction of imports was permanent or temporary. He then proceeded to read a number of statements made by various members of the Ministry. He quoted a statement by the Treasurer (Mr. Theodore) that the proclamation restricting imports was not connected with the fiscal policy of the- Government, and would be reconsidered when the trade balance became more favorable. He referred to the Prime Minister’s statement that the proclamation was designed to deal with a national emergency. Bie also read a’ cabled report of a statement made in England by the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Fenton), that the action taken was of a temporary nature. Yet with all that information in his possession, the honorable member demanded to know whether the restrictions were, or were not,, of a temporary nature!
– Does the honorable member believe in a time limit?.
– I support tIle statements of members of the Ministry which the honorable gentleman read.
– They amount to nothing.
– On the contrary, they say definitely and clearly that the action taken is of a temporary nature, and is not connected with the Government’s fiscal policy. When I asked the honorable gentleman what time limit he would fix, he stated an arbitrary period of six mouths. I now ask him upon what data he fixed that period, and on what date it should commence. ‘ The honorable member should recognize that at this stage it is not possible to say when the proclamation should expire. All that can be done is to set out clearly the principle underlying the proclamation. Despite his knowledge of definite ministerial declarations he pursued his customary course of professing profound suspicion of the sincerity and honesty of the Government. He clamorously demanded that the Government should declare its policy; then, having told us what responsible Ministers had said, he ventilated the darkest suspicion and distrust of those declarations. What is the use of the Government stating its intentions if the honorable member is resolved not to believe what Ministers say? The honorable gentleman proceeded to launch an extreme attack on the proclamation. He denounced it as an extreme departure from the tariff policy of colonial and post-federation days, and said that it was tainted with a sinister motive to help Australian manufacturers, and too drastic and radical to be the subject of moderate and temperate speech. After that vitriolic and vituperative comment he argued that the schedule was not drastic enough, and ridiculed it by picking out such minor items as glucose, eggs, and canary seed. The Government, he said, should not waste its time on trifles, but should direct its attention to the larger imports, the restriction of which would have a beneficial effect on the trade balance. He was asked to specify those mysterious commodities which could be beneficially kept out of Australia, but he omitted to do so. With his tongue in his cheek he professed to be taking a broader outlook than that of the mere party politician, and to have a genuine desire to help the Government in a time of national emergency; but, although he claimed to have a knowledge of voluminous imports that could be prohibited with advantage to the country, he kept it secret. His refusal to disclose the information he professed to have showed clearly that he was dealing with the problem as a nagging party political hack. His speech contributed nothing to the solution of the difficulties with which the Commonwealth is confronted. I believe that the Ministry, when issuing the proclamation, acted conscientiously and on expert advice, after pursuing every line of inquiry that was open to it. It is a genuine and patriotic attempt to restore the trade balance while causing a minimum of interference with internal industry. Although the Deputy Leader of the Opposition said that the effect of the proclamation was to increase unemployment, he has not mentioned one person who has lost his job because of it. His insinuations concerning the sincerity and political honesty of the Government are more justly applicable to himself. He has shown a poor appreciation of the courtesy of members of the ministerial party in remaining here to-night so that he might continue this debate.
– They are only doing their job.
– That may be so; but the honorable gentleman prefaced his remarks by expressing appreciation of the courtesy of the Government in affording him an opportunity to speak on the tariff. Evidently that was sheer hypocrisy. We expected something better from a gentleman who occupied the responsible office of Minister for Trade and Customs in the last Ministry. The economic and financial problems which the Government is called upon to solve have not developed suddenly; they have accumulated over many years, and the charge against the Government, that it is not doing anything to reduce the grave unemployment in Australia, comes with little grace from a gentleman who was in office while these unfortunate conditions were developing. [Quorum formed.’]
.- The speech of the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. McTiernan) was distinguished more by its vigour than by its relevance. The honorable member did not appear to have followed in the least degree the arguments of the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett). The point that the honorable member for Henty made in the first portion of his speech was that there were some 25 items in the schedule, the imports of which into Australia last year amounted to £228,000. According to the statement of the Prime Minister, the whole volume of imports affected by the prohibition and other tariff provisions introduced last week, amounts to between £10,000,000 and £12,000,000. Of the 70 odd items scheduled, 25 involve an amount of only £228,000. The statement advanced by the Government is that these restrictions upon imports were brought in to meet, the exchange position only,. and that. - I am using the words of the Prime Minister himself - they are in no way associated with its protective policy.
No reasonable person could possibly believe that those 25 items were introduced for the purpose of altering the exchange position. That is the argument of i lie honorable member for Henty. He contended that this procedure by way of proclamation was adopted in order to satisfy certain claims which were not satisfied by the tariff schedules. Accepting the Prime Minister’s maximum of £.12.000,000, the balance of the prohibited imports above and beyond those 25 items amounts to, say, £11,750,000. Surely it is obvious that the sudden stoppage of the flow into Australia within a single year of some eleven million pounds worth of imports must necessarily produce immediate unemployment. It may be that that will be caught up later and that an adjustment will take place, but it is patent that immediate and serious unemployment must result from the action of the Government. That, again was the argument of the honorable member for Henty. The honorable member for Parkes did not even begin to get near to an answer to it.
I shall refer to a limited number of points, and I think that I can put them shortly to allow other honorable members an opportunity to speak on the subject, f call attention to the procedure which has been employed by the Government on this occasion. For many years there has been a simple provision in the Customs Act wilder which any imports can be prohibited by proclamation. Up to the present that provision has been utilized only in exceptional cases. No very serious action has been taken under it. On this occasion an entirely new use is being made of the procedure. The point that I am making is apart altogether from any views that any honorable member may have as to these particular prohibitions, ft is, that by a proclamation made by a Minister, not reviewable by Parliament, that cannot be effectively discussed in Parliament, upon which no amendment can be made in Parliament, and which Parliament is unable either to approve or reject, between ten and twelve million pounds worth of imports are to be shut out of Australia. That is done by executive act, by a stroke of the pen. If it were a proposal to impose a duty of 5 per cent, on an article, be’ that article canary seed or snuff, it would be necessary to obtain the approval of both this House and the Senate. But when, instead of a duty of 5 per cent., it is a prohibition - a duty, let us say, of ten thousand per cent., the absolute exclusion of goods - then, if you please, Parliament is to have no say in the matter. It would have been possible to bring down a schedule prohibiting the importation of these goods, or to impose absolutely prohibitive duties. Had that been done, Parliament would have had an opportunity to discuss the provisions of the schedule which would nevertheless have operated forthwith. It is useless to say that the introduction of these proposals in the ordinary form of a tariff schedule would have created any difficulty for the Government, or placed any obstacle in its way. Except for the procuring of the assent of the representatives of tHe people, there would not have been any obstacle. The procedure followed means that no assent of the representatives of the people is required. I hope that at an early date I shall have an opportunity to ask this House to agree to a modification of the Customs Act to prevent such a course being followed in the future. Whether our views are in favour of or against the particular proposals, the procedure is radically wrong in this case.
There must necessarily be a disturbance of business and of industry as a result of the action taken by the Government. It must inevitably increase unemployment immediately. It may be that the measures taken can be justified even though they will bring about that result. I call attention to the fact that the unemployment figure at the end nf September last wa3 12.1 per cent. At the end of December it was 3 8.1 per cent… while on the 31st March it was 14.6 per cent. I do so for a particular purpose. We all know that the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Forde) is an enthusiastic propagandist. For some months he has been conducting a publicity campaign in support of the November and subsequent tariff proposals of the Government. Many honorable members have heard of, and some have seen, the circulars that have been sent to manufacturers, designed to elicit any evidence that might support the tariff proposals of the Government by saying that there had been some increase in employment. I suggest that there should be a clear distinction between official statements made by Ministers, based on information obtained from the Statistical Department, and propaganda by Ministers. The Acting Minister for Trade and Customs has been indulging in the most remarkable propaganda. If what he said is true, the official figures in regard to unemployment must be false, because £he honorable gentleman has repeatedly announced an increase of employment to the extent of 50,000. The last occasion on which he did so was in Sydney. In confirmation, I refer honorable members to the Sydney Morning Herald of Monday last.
– Thousands more would have been out of work had it not been for the action of this Government.
– That is an entirely different proposition from the allegation frequently advanced by the Acting Minister (Mr. Forde) in his propaganda. It is largely speculative, problematical and hypothetical. It is a mere matter of opinion and is not capable of demonstration and proof. It is a proposition different from everything that the Minister has been saying up to date. An example of this propaganda is a speech made by the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs at Marrickville on Saturday night last. He dealt with a number of industries, which, he said, were employing an increased number of hands. I hope that they are. We are all agreed that everything should be done to solve the acute unemployment problem, but I submit that the Acting Minister is doing an ill service to the community by conveying an entirely false impression of the facts. Speaking at Marrickville he said : -
The hosiery trade is to-day employing 2,400 more than it would be if the tariff had not been imposed. Ultimately this number would be increased to 10,000.
That statement to the casual reader would appear to be a repetition of an earlier statement of the Minister that some thousands of additional hands were being employed in the hosiery trade, but when examined, it is found to be a different statement altogether. Those figures certainly suggest that there has been an increase in employment, but amounting to thousands. During the past few months the Minister has repeatedly stated that there had been a great increase of employment in the textile trade. In the Sydney Morning Herald, on the opposite side of the page from which I have just quoted, appears this statement : -
The Textile Industry; Employment in Victoria. The position in the textile industry was reported at a quarterly meeting of the Victorian district of the Textile Workers Union to be far from satisfactory. The Secretary (Mr. A. B,. Loft) said that many reports had recently appeared purporting to give estimates of increase in employment as the result of the recent tariff schedule.
Mr. A. R. Loft was obviously referring to the statements of the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs. The report continues -
While one or two mills had employed additional hands, the fact was that a larger number of operatives were now idle, and indications were that this number would be increased in tho immediate future. It was expected, however, that when the trade readjusted itself, a number ot those at present unemployed would be absorbed in the industry.
I sincerely hope that they will. That statement is by a union secretary who has no animus against the Government, but every reason for supporting it. He states that unemployment is unfortunately increasing in the textile industry, yet for mouths past we have had almost weekly statements about the increase of employment in the textile industry as a result of the tariff action of the Government. I put these facts before honorable members. The report which I just read is sufficient answer to the statement of the Acting Minister. I ask him to consider very seriously his propaganda methods in the interests of his own Government and the Commonwealth as a whole. The Acting Minister is overdoing this thing, and when the press publishes such a report as this from a union secretary, who probably is a strong supporter of the Government, it must naturally create mistrust in the mind of the general public in respect of the many statements emanating from the same ministerial source.
The subject of prices has been referred to again and again by Ministers, both inside and outside this chamber. I find in the Age, of Wednesday last, a statement by the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs, which is just as flamboyant as are so many of his statements. It reads - “ Your Government’s tariff will save and make Australia.” This message forms the text of a number received during the last few days by the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs following the introduction of the new schedule on Friday.
– What is wrong with that?
– That is a telegram that I received from a prominent business man who is not a Labour supporter.
– I am suggesting, not that that communication was not received by the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs, but that he gave it to the press. The Acting Minister now says that he received a telegram. According to the press report, this message forms the text of a number of communications received by him.
– I have received hundreds of similar communications.
– According to the ‘ press report, last Friday’s proposals will” save and make Australia. It is evident that they are protective proposals. The honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Keane) regards them as such.
– I am a “ whole hog “ protectionist. ‘
– Yet these proposals were brought down to this chamber as emergency measures to meet the exchange position and nothing else. The report proceeds -
Replying to a question as to whether the Government intended to take any action to prevent the consumers from being exploited, the Acting Minister said that he was of opinion that there would be cooperation between the Government and the local manufacturers to safeguard the interests of the public. He hoped it would not be necessary for the Government to take any steps to compel local manufacturers to realize that it was their duty to give the best service possible. Bather than increase prices he would like them to follow the lead set by the makers of farming implements, who had pledged themselves to reduce prices immediately by 5 per cent. Any instances of exploitation would bc investigated by the Government, and some action would be taken.
One journal referred to statements like that as “ Ministers waving their tin swords.” That is a- very apt metaphor. The Acting Minister for Trade and Customs says that -some action will bp taken, but what action could be taken? Surely every honorable member knows that, whatever the constitutional powers of the Commonwealth may be, it is quite impossible to deal with price control. It would be impossible to deal with the various items of the tariff. There are some 500 classes of items and many subclasses,’ and it is quite inconceivable that we could employ a method of price control in respect of any considerable number of those items. Again and again we have heard in this chamber the most formidable threat, mainly from the Prime Minister, but to a considerable extent from the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs, that if the local sellers or manufacturers of articles do not behave themselves, duties will be removed. Everybody knows that that is idle talk, that the’ Ministers are waving a rusty and a bent tin sword. If two or three manufacturers exploit the public, is the duty that protects 500 manufacturers to be removed? There is nothing in the Minister’s statements, and every honorable member knows that. Honorable members may sit and applaud such statements, because they sound very fine, if delivered in a sufficiently stern style. Speaking generally, the only way to reduce the prices ‘ of commodities is by some measure of competition. If prices are unduly high, the people will refuse to buy, or else competitors will enter the field. There is no other real way of bringing prices to a reasonable level.
I ask the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs to arrange for a census to be taken of the prices of all articles affected by last week’s proposals as from the nearest convenient date prior to their introduction, and in addition to arrange for another inquiry into wholesale and retail prices at about the 30th April, and thereafter, say, at threemonthly intervals. This is an emergency measure. The Government has stated that it does not intend that prices shall be raised. To place the matter beyond all doubt, arrangements should be made to publish the necessary information a*> that honorable members1 may know whether or not prices are being increased as a result of the Government’s action.
– Does the Leader of the Opposition wish to show up some of his -.supporters ?
– I am quite indifferent on that point. I have not heard from any of my supporters on this matter.- The Prime Minister stated definitely that some manufacturers had given an undertaking not to raise prices. They should be held to their agreement, at least to the extent that, if they break away from it, they should be exposed and required to give reasons. I should welcome a census of prices before and after the prohibition of imports so that honorable members may be in a position to know the actual facts. Having regard to the exceptional character of the Government’s proposals, special information should be prepared relating to those articles of manufacture which are affected by the Government’s embargo upon imports.
On Friday afternoon, I asked the Prime Minister whether he would allow honorable members an opportunity to discuss the imposition of a time limit upon the prohibition of imports. The right honorable gentleman replied that it was an important matter, that the Government had an open mind upon it and would be glad to hear the views of honorable members. Because of that definite pronouncement from the Prime Minister, I was surprised to-day to hear from the ministerial side of the House a chorus of jeers and gibes when the member for Henty and Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Gullett) mentioned the desirability of lm: posing a time limit upon the embargo. 1 hope that the” Minister in charge of the House will -follow the lead given by the Prime Minister on Friday afternoon la3t. Every one knows that the prohibition of imports and. the surcharge of 50 per cent, upon certain classes of imports is not part of’ the” Government’s protective policy. Its action, therefore, must result in a serious disturbance of the business of importers and distributors, which necessarily must inflict harm upon the community. If there is no time limit, and if business people are unable to prepare in advance for the lifting of the prohibition^! give the Go vernment credit for acting in good faith, believing that in due time the Ministry will lift the prohibition - there will again be a serious disturbance of business if it is removed without warning. The Government submitted its proposals as a means to relieve the exchange situation. If it is noting in good faith - and 1 arn assuming it is - unless a time limit is imposed, vested interests will develop ami place the Ministry in an almost impossible position when it seeks to remove the prohibition. If, hawever, a time limit is indicated, every one will know that the prohibition of importations will last only for a season unless the continuance of abnormal conditions renders it desirable for the Government to allow the prohibition to remain in force a little longer. With a time limit, both importers and manufacturers will be able to make their arrangements in the full knowledge that the prohibition of importations will cease upon a given date. Without a time limit it will be impossible for manufacturers to expend capital in extending their plants for the purpose of providing for further employment. On this matter I have consulted a considerable number of leading business men, manufacturers as well as importers, and all are agreed as to the wisdom of a time limit. No manufacturer who gave credit to the Government for honesty of intention would incur expenditure under the existing conditions. On the “other hand, certain manufacturers might take a chance, thinking they could” “ wangle “ a continuance of the prohibition by bringing influence to bear upon the Ministry anc! inducing it to break its pledge to the people of this country. Should a time limit be fixed - I suggest it should be six months - business men will know where they stand ; and if, two or three months before it expires, the Government considers it necessary to continue this emergency action, it will still be possible to extend the prohibition. I ask the Minister in charge of the House not to dismiss the suggestion merely because it. emanates from the Opposition. The Prime Minister on Friday last regarded it as of great importance, and promised to give it consideration.
I hope the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Forde) will not adopt the attitude to which, unfortunately, we are becoming accustomed in this House, of making a violent party speech interlarded with appeals for a non-partisan treatment of the subject. Honorable members on this side are becoming tired of this method of approach. We are all members of one or other of the political parties in this country. I am not ashamed of my association with the party which I have the honour to lead in this House, and 1 deem it my duty to endeavour to put into operation the ideals for which it stands and in which I believe. Why should there be so much pretence of non-partisanship in the discussion of government proposals? During the last three weeks we have been appealed to over and over again by Ministers and their supporters to consider in a non-partisan spirit legislative measure.8 absolutely reeking with party politics. J do not say that the proposals in question ure wrong on that account, but they should be brought forward frankly as representing the ideals of the party in office, a lId no one need be ashamed of them. Again, I remind the Minister of the undertaking given on Friday last by the Prime Minister concerning a time limit” for the prohibition of imports and the surcharges on certain classes of goods. And I ask him to believe that in this matter I arn concerned not so much with the interests of party as I am with the interests of the community as a whole.
Mr. FORDE (Capricornia - Acting Minister for Trade and Customs) 9.50. - It was amusing to listen to the homily of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham), particularly after i lie vitriolic speech of the Deputy Leader (Mr. Gullett). I feel sure that the Leader of the Opposition could not have hoard the speech of his colleague, lt is quite apparent that honorable members opposite have been disappointed because these emergency proposals of the Government have been so well received by thinking people throughout the Commonwealth. Every one who has looked at our economic situation without party political bias, has admitted that something drastic had to be done, and that the Government has made a courageous effort to tide Australia over the trying period through which she is passing. The alternative was to persist in the drift policy of the previous Govern ment. All that that Government did while it was in office for nearly seven years was to spend money lavishly, borrow largely from overseas or on the local market, and allow the ship of state to drift farthe rand farther towards the financial rocks. Bankeds and sane political economists throughout the couuntry and overseas have declared that, although the Government took some risk in adopting this policy, it acted with great courage. I am sorry that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition departed to-night from the statesmanlike attitude that he adopted last week in speaking of these proposals. He said on that occasion -
TI my represent the boldest and bravest experiment in economics and finance ever seen in this country, or, perhaps, in any country, lie fore I proceed to discuss them, I desire very cordially to compliment the Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) on the absence of party bias from his speech.
– I did not know then exactly what was proposed.
M 1. FORDE. - The honorable member knew enough to congratulate the Government upon its courage. After listening to his speech to-night, one can only conclude that a meeting of the rather attenuated party of which he is a member has since been held, at which it was concluded that the Government was receiving too much credit from thinking people for acting as it had done, and that it was necessary to criticize it irrespective of whether the criticism was well-founded or otherwise. The Prime Minister and I have both said in this House and elsewhere that this action has been taken to meet a national emergency, and has no relation to our general fiscal policy. The Government acted only after mature consideration. For two months it considered the whole position earnestly. It consulted the bankers of Australia, the experts of the Customs Department, and the members of the Tariff Board. The officers of the Customs Department combed the tariff schedules with a small comb, so to speak, and reduced the list of imports on which surcharges or prohibitions would be imposed to the smallest proportion, having regard to the necessity for avoiding unwise dislocation and hardship. Most of the items thai have been prohibited are luxuries or items that we can do without or are manufactured in Australia. The members of the Tariff Board, including those who are not public servants, were asked by the Government to express a frank opinion on the items that it was proposed to exclude, and they could not point to one that should be removed from the list. The Governmentinvited the Leader and Deputy Leader of the Opposition, and honorable members generally, to offer any suggestions that they pleased on the subject, and the only response has been the statement of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition to-night that he could enumerate, though he would not do so, a number of items that could be prohibited, with the result that millions of pounds worth of exports could be excluded without hardship. The honorable member has fallen very far from the high stand that he took last week.
It has been suggested to-night that the Government should indicate the period for which the prohibitions will remain in force. I remind the committee that the people returned this party to power with an overwhelming majority in October last, and entrusted it with the duty of getting the country out of the financial difficulties into which the previous administration had allowed it to drift. The Government has taken the responsibility of imposing these surcharges and prohibitions, and it will also take the responsibility of determining when they may safely be lifted. If we were to fix a date now for the lifting of them, the period might expire during a parliamentary recess, and many anomolies would result. The Minister in charge of the Customs Department has a large discretionary power to vary prohibitions or grant general permissions and to deal sympathetically with any cases of hardship that may be submitted to him. We have already indicated that goods in bond or in transit on the water on the date of the proclamation will be admitted under the old rates. It has also been intimated that the fullest and most sympathetic consideration will be given to any application by the importers of goods from the United Kingdom in respect of goods on order from the factory or actually in transit from the factory to the ship at the time the proclamation was issued. General permission has also been given for the importation of certain lines which it is ascertained are not made in Australia such as copper rivets, bifurcated rivets and horse-shoe nails. The Government will exercise the greatest care to ensure that no undue hardship is caused in the application of this policy. It would be farcical for the Government to agree to put a time limit upon its emergency tariff proposals, because it has the power at any time to vary or amend the proclamation. Previous governments have1 issued prohibitions and proclamations, and have inserted time limits only when it suited their particular purpose. In 1917 the Hughes Government issued a proclamation affecting approximately sixteen items, among” them being eggs, fur, apparel, perfumery, jewellery, potable spirits, ale, beer, and so on, and the prohibition then made continued for nearly three years. It is, of course, true that the prohibition was imposed because of the difficulty in securing shipping space, but nevertheless it had the effect of building up some great Australian industries, notably confectionery manufacturing and motor car body building. The point .1 wish to make is that the government of that day was trusted to determine how long that prohibition would continue, and surely the present government can be trusted to say how long the present prohibition shall continue.
Complaints have been made about the fiscal effect of the step the Government has taken, but, while that” consideration did not actuate the Government, any prohibition of imports must necessarily stimulate local production.
– The Prime Minister said that it had nothing to do with the present prohibition.
– The action was taken to meet a national emergency, but just as the prohibition imposed by the Hughes Government led to the establishment of the motor car body building industry, so is the present prohibition likely to lead to the development and expansion of other industries in Australia.
I should like to show the .difference between the party political attitude of honorable members opposite and the attitude of the Secretary of State for tha Dominions, who has telegraphed -
Exceptional circumstances surrounding recent tariff increases and import restrictions adopted by His Majesty’s Government in the Commonwealth of Australia are fully realized, here, as well as their temporary character, and both these points are being kept in view in the consideration of the general effect of these measures on traders in this country.
That is a very fine attitude indeed. Then we have an authoritative journal like the London Times, in its issue of the 4th April, saying -
Australia is facing the financial crisis with courage and determination, which will go a long way to re-establish her credit. She is showing resolution to balance her accounts and not shirk the sacrifice, necessary to maintain the stability of her finances.
The Melbourne Age, which is not a Labour newspaper, said -
The nation will rally to the support of the Scullin Government in its heroic attempt to conquer the almost overpowering difficulties inherited from its predecessors. Having resolved that there can be no restoration of financial stability until imports and exports have been reconciled, the Ministry is boldly pursuing a well-defined policy to its logical conclusion.
The Age gives the Government great praise for its courage in tackling this problem.
There are 420 items in the tariff, of which 52 were affected by the schedule brought down in August; 77 are prohibited from being imported except. with the permission of the Minister; 11 are affected by a partial prohibition and 5 of the lastmentioned are also subjected to the 50 per cent, surcharge in the schedule, making a total of 140 out of 420. Last year goods worth approximately £140,000,000 were imported. The step taken by the Government will affect goods worth approximately £16,000,000, and it is .estimated that the imports will be reduced by approximately £10,000,000 affecting the revenue by approximately £4,750,000. This action, together with the policy being followed by the banks in rationing credit, will, it is believed, rectify our adverse trade balance within twelve months. The policy of drift which characterized the last Government over a period of six and a half years has led to Australia having in the aggregate an adverse trade balance of £91,000,000. It is absolutely scandalous that the late Government did not attempt to tackle the position as this Government has done. If to the £63,500,000 by which our imports exceeded exports we add interest and cost of services abroad for the same period amounting to £213,300,000 we find that wc have a total of £276,800,000 to meet.
The late Government did not attempt to face the situation except by borrowing, and during six and a half years the Commonwealth and the States borrowed £162,700,000, and our dividend from Bawra amounted to £9,200,000, making a total of £171,900,000, which leaves a shortage of £104,900,000. No wonder the banks, at a conference with the leaders of the present Government declared that this policy of drift should not be allowed to continue. They were among the first to be consulted in the matter. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition said he felt sure that the Prime Minister was wrong in saying that he had consulted the banks of Australia.
– The honorable member went as near as any man could to saying that the Prime Minister had not told the truth in the matter. It is unfortunate that there is unemployment in Australia, but this is nothing to what it would have been had the present Government not tackled the position in a courageous way. When the Government was returned to power on the 12th October last our secondary industries were languishing; Australia was in the grip of big importing interests which were strangling our secondary industries. Those industries appealed in vain to the late Government, for protection. The generous measure of protection which this Government has given them in the first tariff proposals, hurriedly brought down and placed on the table, has resulted in thousands of men finding employment, and in thousands being kept on who would otherwise have been dismissed. I have had numerous letters from manufacturers saying that as a result of the protection given by the present Government they are able not only to keep their employees working but also to engage additional hands. Unfortunately, because of the serious drop in the price of wool and wheat, amounting approximately to £31,000,000 in the present year, and because of enforced falling off in our loan expenditure to an extent of approximately £20,000,000, there is in circulation this year £51,000,000 less than was in circulation last year, a condition of affairs which must have a serious effect on employment. If the present Government had been returned to power in 1928, and had thus been in a position to bring down tariff proposals to give protection to Australian industries before the bottom fell out of the wool and wheat markets, there would have been a great revival in industry. Trying to grapple with the situation in a period of depression does not give the tariff proposals of the Government a fair trial. After all, unemployment is not peculiar to Australia; it is world-wide. Wu have read in the newspapers that there is almost an’ unprecedented number of unemployed in the United States of America to-day. Germany has more unemployed than at any previous time since the war; England, and almost every other, country in the world, is in the throes of economic depression. Ours is not the only country that has taken drastic; steps to balance the ledger. It would have been easier to shirk tackling this problem, but the Government, after consultation with those who knew how the country was drifting, made up its mind to face the position resolutely. It came to the conclusion that this was the only way in which the existing national emergency could be met. This has nothing to do with the Government’s fiscal policy. The Government took this step on its own responsibility, and it is for the Government to determine for how long these emergency measures are to be kept in operation. “We shall not shirk our duty in this matter.
– I realize that honorable members are weary, and I do not propose to inflict a long speech upon them. I desire merely to record in a few sentences my concurrence with what has been said by the Leader and Deputy Leader of the Opposition, to the effect that it is desirable that a time limit should be imposed upon the operation of these provisions. I still support that view in spite of what the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Forde) has just said. L do not think that he realizes that embargoes generally are the most drastic and dangerous weapon that can be employed. They are more likely to provoke retaliation than anything else that could bc done. If a time limit of six months, as has been suggested to-night, were adopted by the Government, so that at the end of that period the whole provision would automatically lapse and would, if necessary, have to be renewed, it would go a long way towards impressing on the minds, not only of the people of Australia, but of those elsewhere, that the Government was sincere in its statement that this was a temporary measure only to deal with an emergency. It would prevent the possibility of vested interests growing up under the extraordinary hothouse conditions which the 50 per cent, additional tariff creates. If these high duties and embargoes remain in force for longer than six months, certain vested interests will establish themselves, and it will be much more difficult to pull away the props than if a time limit of six months were definitely declared now. The Acting Minister for Trade and Customs said that the House might not be in session in six months’ time. That is probable, but it would not matter, because the Government acted by proclamation on this occasion and it could do so again. The imposition of a time limit would do something to minimize the possibility of retaliatory measures being resorted to by other countries. It was said by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Gullett) that he found it difficult to dissociate what had been done by the Government from the Government’s general tariff policy. I assure the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs that there is a strong feeling in certain quarters that the Government did not require much persuasion to take this step, that its action was dictated rather by a desire to do this thing than by tinnecessity of doing it.
– The Government thought over it for two months.
– I assure the Minister that such an impression does exist. There is a feeling that the Government is making use of the existing temporary exchange difficulty as an excuse for doing something which it wished to do, but which it. would not have dared to do except under the cloak of trade necessity. The Acting Minister accused the former Government of following a policy of drift. There are different ways of considering that matter. An Australian manufacturer, referring to the Government’s action in bringing down this measure without placing a definite time limit on its operation, expressed his opinion in these words : “ It was a gambler’s last desperate throw to avoid facing the industrial position.” He believed that the Government was following a policy of drift. The best answer which the Government can give to those who believe that it has acted rather in accordance with its expressed tariff policy than with any desire to correct the exchange position is to accede to the appeal made by the Leader and Deputy Leader of the Opposition for the imposition of a time limit of six months on the operation of this provision, after which it would lapse, and would have to be again renewed if that were though necessary.
Mr.RIORDAN (Kennedy) [10.17].- This is the first time I have had the pleasure of listening to a debate on a tariff schedule. The speech of the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) reminded me of a story of the lad who joined the army.
– It was not yourself by any chance?
Mr.RIORDAN.- If it were, I can assure the honorable member that it would not be the army which he joined at Rothbury. The lad’s mother, after watching the march-past in which her son took part, remarked that all the soldiers were out of step except him. It would seem that everybody is out of step in regard to this measure except the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett). He referred to the embargo on the importation of such articles as eggs, lemons, peanut butter, and canary seed, the value of which did not amount to anything worth considering. He said that if the Government would tackle this matter seriously, and place some really big items on the schedule, he would support it. If, as he suggests, the embargo on these articles is going to render so much assistance to local manufacturers, to how much greater an extent would they be assisted if the embargo were extended to the really important items? Several honorable members of the Opposition suggested that a time limit should be imposed upon the operation of the embargoes and of the higher duties imposed in this schedule. The Labour party has always stood for the protection of Australian industries, and for providing employment for our own people in our own country upon the manufacture of our own goods. What is responsible for the present unsatisfactory economic situation in Australia to-day? As a result of the decline in the exports of primary products such as wool, there was built up, during the time that the Leader and Deputy Leader of the Opposition were members of the last Government, an adverse trade balance amounting to £62,000,000 by the end of 1928. During its term of office the BrucePage Government was continually warned by influential Australian newspapers which had consistently supported its policy of the crisis which was approaching. The Sydney Bulletin, which has always been a strong supporter of the Nationalist party, advised it of the difficulties which it would have to face if drastic steps were not taken to check the drift. The members of the late Government, and those who supported it, remind me of the man who keeps on borrowing money to attend race meetings, and in the end finds himself “ out.” Since this Government has been returned, and has had an opportunity of giving effect to its policy of protecting Australian industries, a by-election has been held in Tasmania, and a seat which had always been held by a Nationalist candidate was won by a member of the Labour party. Last Saturday the South Australian elections were held, and although this Government has been in power since last October, and the people of Australia are fully conversant with its policy, the Liberal or National party in that State was practically annihilated. As a result of the Nationalist party’s unsympathetic treatment of Australian industries nationalism is on the decline. During the long term when the Bruce-Page Government was in office, our financial and economic position steadily became worse. This Government is now making a determined attempt not only to adjust our adverse trade balance, but to make the conditions of the people better than they are to-day. Although the Nationalist party had the ball at its feet after 1916, it declined or was incapable of handling big national problems. The Commonwealth is in a worse position now than it has ever been, but it is unfair to compare this sparsely populated and undeveloped territory with older countries. With the assistance of the Development and Migration Commission, and in other ways, the Bruce-Page Government increased the number of migrants coming to Australia, and as a result of its migration policy thousands of men have been compelled to walk the streets vainly in search of work. With winter approaching, the position will be serious, but it will not be so bad as it would have been had the Nationalist party been in power. Honorable members opposite, by declining to support Australian industries are largely responsible for the large army of unemployed that we have in our midst. They fostered a policy of bolstering up American industries, and of collecting revenue in various ways to construct and maintain main roads for the benefit of users of American motor cars. The importation of such luxuries should have been prohibited years ago.
– Why are they not included on the list?
– That is a question which the honorable member should place on the notice-paper. During the period the Bruce-Page Government was in office the value of importations of merchandise was as follows: - 1923-24, £132,000,000; 1924-25, £140,000,000: 1925-26, £157,000,000 and 1926-27 £164,000,000. Practically all of the goods represented by those figures could have been manufactured in Australia, and employment given to our own people. Honorable members opposite are, however, more concerned with the importation of goods from countries where cheap labour is employed and where workmen live under a standard of living inferior to our own. This policy has been pursued by the Nationalist party in an endeavour to bring about what they term a reduction in the cost of production, which really means the lowering of wages. One has only to read Smith’s Weekly to realize the result of the Nationalist party’s policy. If a census of the unemployed were taken to-day, it would be found that ‘95 per cent, of the men who are out of work are Britishers. I understand that during a period of four or five years no fewer than 20,000 foreigners were allowed to enter the Commonwealth without passing the necessary test. The customs revenue during 1922-23 was £17,000,000, but in 1928-29 it had increased to £31,000,000. If, during those years, when the BrucePage Government was in office, it had submitted an effective fiscal policy, the imports would have decreased instead of increased to the extent indicated. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Gullett) and honorable members with whom he is associated, have made an appeal on behalf of the unemployed; but they should realize that the policy which they have supported is responsible for the serious unemployed problem which now confronts us. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition also criticized the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs for saying that 50,000 men had been placed in- employment as a result of the Government’s protective policy. That, he said, was merely political propaganda; but I remind the honorable member that he should approach these matters in a nonparty spirit, as he advised us to do. If the Bruce-Page Government had been returned to power on the 12th October, there would be over 200,000 unemployed, instead of 120,000. Mr. Bruce on one occasion said that unemployment was not the concern of the National Government. I disagree with him. Both the States and the Commonwealth have a certain degree of responsibility in regard to the unemployed. Mr. Bruce recognized that in 1925 and in 1928, when he appealed for the support of those who were unfortunate enough *o be unemployed. He then said: “If my Government is returned to power, it will bring down an unemployed workers’ scheme.” He made that plea in Queensland. The Queensland Labour Government, during its tenure of office, made an effort to provide for those who could not be absorbed in industry. Surely honorable members opposite will agree that human- labour is entitled to as much protection as animal labour! It is the only labour that will harvest crops, cut cane and shear sheep. This Government is making a -genuine effort to deal with the position, and that is recognized by every section of the community except members . of the Nationalist party. Prior to the 12th October last that party had had such a long tenure of office that it considered that it could not be removed. But the people of Australia at length became alive to the effects of its policy, and whenever it now appeals for support it is knocked over like ninepins. If the press of Australia supports this Government in its endeavour to relieve the unemployed position, some good will be accomplished. Nobody knows better than honorable members opposite that importers have large stocks of goods that it will take some time to quit. It would, therefore, be wrong of this Government to limit the time during which the prohibition shall last. If the result of the prohibition is to provide more work in our manufacturing industries, it should be continued indefinitely. Any person who is prepared to build factories and carry on manufacturing operations should be given the guarantee of protection so long as he charges a reasonableprice to the consumer. Honorable members opposite allege that prices will rise. The price of the harvester on the Australian market is no greater than it- is in the Argentine. There will be competition among our own manufacturers, and that will have the effect of keeping down prices to a reasonable level. Whenever tariff schedules are to be discussed in this chamber we find the lobbyer/ or stool-pigeon, hanging round, endeavouring to obtain inside information. One speaker to-night expressed views identical with those that were voiced by an importer who came to Canberra by train last Tuesday. He said : “I do not import a great deal. I give employment to wharf-labourers and carters. You will throw those men out of work.” The men who are thrown out of work as the result of .this protection will be absorbed in the manufacture of the very goods the importation of which is. prohibited, and it is more than likely that their numbers will be augmented. I hope that the Government will pursue this policy despite the criticism of the friends of the importers, or any other criticism that may be levelled against it. If it puts into operation the policy outlined by the Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) on the 12th October last, it will have nothing to fear.
Prom the year 1918, and until it was defeated at the polls, I sat behind a Labour Government in Queensland. That Government gave effect to 90 per. cent, of the policy that it placed before the electors at each election. I am confident that if the Government continues along the lines that it is now following it will remain in power in the National Parliament for very many years.
– I support the criticism of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Gullett), but go further than he did.
When the proposal was first brought forward to impose a super tax on certain imports, and a prohibition with respect to others, I asked the Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) whether any consideration had been given to the question of preference, and he replied, in effect, that this was not a fiscal matter, but merely an emergency measure to adjust the adverse trade balance. That reply was entirely unsatisfactory to me.
I do not intend to-night to be captiously critical, but I shall put forward a scheme for the adjustment of the trade balance without the adoption of harsh measures. It must be admitted ‘ that this proposal of the Government is an experiment. Itmay be called courageous, or audacious, but it is difficult to say how it will react. To say that it is not a fiscal proposal is rather beside the point, because in its incidence it places a tax on certain goods that enter Australia, and a veritable prohibition of the importation of other goods. If these imports and prohibitions had been so arranged as to be equitable, as between debtor and creditor nations, and also respected empire reciprocity, they would have been more useful.
Let me first of all deal with the criticism of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition ,(Mr. Gullett.) in regard to the fixing of a time limit. If the Government does not fix a time- limit the proposal may react very adversely against it. The Acting Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Forde) has displayed a great deal of’- zeal in his defence of-‘ the action of the Government, and others who have spoken from the Government benches have shown a vehemence that I am sorry I cannot imitate. I point out, however, that a time limit is necessary, first from the manufacturers’ point of view. The Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) wisely called a conference of agricultural implement makers, and obtained from them the promise of a reduction in price of 5 per cent., so that the primary producers would not suffer’ by the imposition of the additional duty. But what is the position of those manufacturers? If they have no guarantee as to how long this impost will last, they will not be prepared to buy up-to-date machinery nor to make an effort to increase production and thus reduce costs. I have put it to certain manufacturers in that Ane whether they could not have made the reduction greater than 5 per cent. They have assured me, and I believe them, that competition is keen enough not to warrant any greater reduction, and that, as in the case with other businesses at the present time, they are hard pressed by the high cost of labour and overhead, and are thus unable to reduce prices to a greater extent. If there is no fixed period they will not install labour-saving machinery, or extend their works; consequently they will carry on as they are now doing and endeavour to obtain a larger production. The result will be that prices will not fall.
– Their wages costs are less than is the case in Canada, yet their prices are nearly double.
– There is another fact which this Government should consider. This is not a party matter. Every honorable member claims to speak in a non-party spirit, but usually any statement to that effect is not believed. But there are occasions when we must rise above party considerations. Such an occasion arises when we are discussing industrial questions, any reference to which usually arouses honorable members opposite. That is particularly the case when the coal industry is mentioned. If the Government wishes to put its house in order, it must be courageous enough to settle the dispute in that industry. I had a passage with the last speaker (Mr. Riordan) in regard to the Rothbury mine, where miners, whose only offence is their desire to work, are practically in a state of siege under police protection. I went to that field to investigate conditions there, and I commend such a course of action to honorable members who sit opposite so that they may ascertain for themselves what is going on. That I did some work there during my visit was merely incidental. It was for experience and not for gain. Honorable members opposite who think that I have never worked may be interested to learn that all my life I have worked as hard manually as any of them. I have been in industry for 25 years, both manufacturing and importing. I hope that hereafter honorable members will cease their gibes about Rothbury. In my speech in the House on the coal question I purposely made no reference to the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) or other representatives of coal-mining districts, chiefly because of the honorable member’s then absence from the chamber, and because I realized the embarrassing position in which he found himself. Yet he saw fit to attack me on his return. I have quoted definite figures to show the wages paid to miners and the difficulties under which the coal-mining industry is operating. These, I submit, are an effective reply to their utterances. The effect of the high price of coal on the agricultural implement trade will be realized when we reflect that it takes two tons of coal to make one ton of steel. It is a disgrace to Australia that coal can be brought here from other countries more cheaply than it can be hewn here. Steel which could be imported for £6 a ton costs £13 a ton to manufacture in Australia. Honorable members will realize from these figures how the primary producer is being hit by the industrial turmoil on the coal-fields. These difficulties and charges react, on both manufacturers and primary producers. A time limit is essential; without it there will be greater unemployment, because manufacturers will not know where they stand, and will be afraid to launch out in bigger undertakings. On the other hand, the fixing of a time limit will assist to establish new industries on a sound footing. It will enable them to do what the motor body building and confectionery industries have done. When the embargo is removed they will be able to hold their own. It is true that there will be a 5 per cent, reduction in the cost of agricultural implements under the new imposts; but that reduction may be offset by higher shipping rates. If our imports are less, the ships trading with Australia will carry smaller cargoes. The result will probably be that in order to maintain their businesses, shippers will be compelled to charge higher rates on exports from Australia, in which case the primary producers will be hit again. Australia is in desperate straits, and something must. be done if we are to avoid a financial crash. At the moment the essential consideration is how shall we get more money on the other side of the world. We shall not get it by prohibiting imports. I do not say that a restriction of imports is inherently wrong. We shall probably have to wait until our harvest of wheat and wool is exported at, we hope, favorable prices, before our financial position will improve to any extent. Australia supplies only about one-third of the world’s wool, and is only fifth in the list of wheatproducing nations. Had the Government in imposing restrictions discriminated between creditors and debtors, and encouraged inter-Empire trade, it would have done something to bring about financial stability and at the same time stimulate Empire trade.
Let us look at the trade figures of the countries with which we trade. We should not antagonize the nations which buy from us. Australia is only a very small part of the civilized world and is unable to stand on her own feet. In 1928-29, Australia exported to France goods to the value of £15,141,155, and purchased from that country goods valued at £3,700,303. The respective figures relating to our trade with Italy were £5,169,404 and £1,449,629. We sold in that year to the United Kingdom goods valued at £55,172,552, and purchased in return, goods valued at £57,028,238. The figures for the previous year were respectively £54,279,714 and £63,098,037. It will be seen, therefore, that the big adverse trade balance which has been built up is not connected with those countries. Let us now turn to our trade with the United States of America. In 1927-28 we imported from that country goods valued at £35,005,736, and exported to it goods valued at £8,954,823. In the following year the imports and exports were respectively £35,308,345 and £5,831,794. Honorable members will see that our large adverse trade balance is largely due to the great disparity between our imports from and exports to the United States of America. That is the country against which .we should be justified in discriminating.
Not every person in Australia realizes the extent to which Great Britain purchases our products. The Empire Marketing Board has estimated that Great Britain annually consumes agricultural products to the value of £426,000,000. Her imports of grain and flour each year are valued at £98,000,000, while the figures in respect of meat, wool, and hides and skins are respectively, £109,000,000, £64,000,000, and £26,000,000. In 1928 Britain bought 52,787,000 cwt. of wheat from other parts of the Empire, and 51,000,000 cwt. from foreign countries. Australia supplied only 10,233,000 cwt. of that wheat. Britain buys annually about 672,000,000 lb. of butter, of which in normal years Australia supplies about one-eighth. Importations of cheese into Britain total 336,000,000 lb. per annum, Australia’s proportion being about 7,000,000 lb. Those figures show how wide a field still exists in Britain. If we believe in Empire trade - as we must if we are wise - we should work, not to offend Great Britain, but to make her a better customer than she is now. The honor.able member for Corangamite (Mr. Crouch), who I regret is not now in the chamber, appears to suffer from some inferiority complex whenever he thinks of Englishmen. He said that ah Arab in Bagdad told him that no nation was ever given its independence - that independence had always to be taken. I also had an introduction to Arabs at Bagdad, but I was a prisoner of war, and was spat upon and beaten by the mob. The British Empire lost about 90,000 lives in wresting Mesopotamia from the Turks, and in accordance with its traditional generosity and fairness when dealing with subject-nations, has installed an Arab as King of Irak - formerly Mesopotamia - is allowing the Arabs to work out their own destiny under the mandate, and no doubt ultimately will give to them complete autonomy. I was pained to hear an honorable member, who was once an officer in the Australian Defence Force, and wore the King’s uniform, deplore the fact that Australia is still within the Empire. One of the aims sought to be advanced at every imperial conference is Empire unity. To that end Empire trade is necessary, and the sentiments of the Government will be suspect if it does not continue the preference to British goods in its tariff policy.
– The United Kingdom is Australia’s principal market.
– It is almost our only market though, incidentally I may say, we are Britain’s second best customer. We cannot afford to affront our best customer. Moreover, Australia’s little navy is inadequate for the defence of our coast and trade, and our very existence as a nation is dependent on the protection afforded by the British Navy. In time of trouble we can look to the Mother Country for help. But, if we antagonize our kindred overseas by prohibitive tariffs, whilst giving favorable treatment to foreign nations, whose only interest in Australia is to sell us goods, we cannot expect a continuance of the good will and protection of the British people. In this regard I am struck with the fact that American films are not on the list of new imposts. That also makes the policy of the Government suspect, because the fact is well known that the Labour party was substantially supported by the American picture interests during the last election campaign.
The criticisms by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Gullett ) are absolutely warranted. If the Government had been fair and brought forward these prohibitions as a tariff measure, it would have received some assistance and support from the Opposition. I am proud to be a protectionist, and look forward to the day when Australia will be self-contained. I see no great hardship in being deprived of certain foodstuffs from overseas. It is an anomaly that sauces and other edibles, which could be readily made in Australia, should be imported in large quantities. But when the Government pretends that the prohibition is proclaimed only as an emergency measure to rectify the trade balance, it is suspect and deserves all the criticism that is offered. This Government is destroying Empire trade, as it destroyed the compulsory defence system, on the grounds of financial stringency, whereas it is spending more money and getting, as I predicted, only an inadequate defence force, in spite of the efforts of those of us who are in it to make it a success. Preferential duties are vital to our industrial existence, and to the continuance of the Empire, which, however, is not popular in some quarters, because it is an obstacle to the designs of revolutionaries. The Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr Fenton) has been endeavouring to extend the marketing of Australian goods in the United Kingdom, and Australians travelling abroad will be able to further his efforts. It is not too late for the Government to reconsider its policy. Off-hand, I would suggest a graduated surtax of 10 per cent, on British goods; perhaps 20 per cent, on imports from big customer countries like France; and higher rates on goods from the United States of America. I propose this discrimination in no aggressive spirit. I have lived in the United States of America and admire its people, but when we are buying from a nation £30,000,000 worth of goods more than it buys from us, steps to adjust the balance are a business necessity. I am sorry that the Government has not been more frank in regard to its tariff policy.
– Why did not the last Government take steps to balance -our trade with other countries?
– That is beside the question. I have already pointed out that last year Great Britain bought heavily from us. It is futile for the Prime Minister to ask the farmers to grow more wheat if we- cannot get customers for it, which may be the case if there are reprisals. If the latest schedule were not masquerading as an emergency measure necessitated by the adverse trade balance, but had been brought before us as a tariff policy that we could have discussed on its merits, with a view to the wise rationing of imports, it would have received from the Opposition some measure of support. Honorable members opposite, as well as those on this side, profess admiration- for the late Honorable Alfred Deakin and frequently quote from his speeches. I do so with diffidence but in the press of to-day is a quotation that is particularly apposite. Referring to an item of duty that was preposterously high, Mr. Deakin said that “ its effect was to pull down the flag of protection and hoist the black flag of prohibition.” The Federal Government has hoisted the black flag of prohibition and perhaps the red flag is flying beside it. I deplore its attitude and join with my colleagues and members of the Country party in condemning the Government for introducing this policy under false pretences. I do not offer this criticism in any party spirit, and I hope that the Government will consider the suggestions I have made for the sake of Empire unity, the defence of Australia, and the safety of our people in time of crisis.
.- The Government’s honoring of the promise given by the Prime Minister to allow members of the Opposition an opportunity to debate the emergency tariff proposals has not been very gratefully received. The speech of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Gullett) was nothing but words, words, words. If he had any desire to assist the country in its time of trouble he did not give evidence of it to-night; for his speech did not contain one constructive suggestion. When he was asked what he would do to solve the problem confronting the Government he replied that that was a matter for the party in power. The honorable member was Minister for Trade and Customs in the last government, and is no doubt the chief exponent of the tariff policy of the Opposition. One would have thought that he would have endeavoured to assist the Government and the country with his knowledge and experience. AH he did was to seek to obstruct the Government’s policy. I am satisfied with what the Government is doing.
– The increase of unemployment pleases the honorable member?
– That is an unjustifiable interjection. The honorable member knows that I am much concerned about the unemployment that prevails. The Government is earnestly endeavouring to solve the unemployment problem and its tariff policy is evidence of that. I welcome these proposals and am glad that the increased protection of our industries has already enabled them to give more employment. I believe that as time goes on and this tariff is given an opportunity we shall be able to employ many more thousands of people in Australia. That is the idea that prompted the action of the Government. The honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) is very displeased that the Government has made good in handling the affairs of this country. I regret his attitude. The people of Australia looked to the honorable member, who previously occupied the high and dignified position of Minister for Trade and Customs, at least to give a helping hand in these troublous times. The manufacturers and exporters of Australia have assured this Government of their support. They believe that it is out to save Australia. I am sure that it will do so. I am confident that it is working along the right lines, and that its efforts will meet with success after success. I am concerned about the primary producer, of whom we hear so much, but I believe that side by side with the development of our wool, wheat, wine, fruit, dried fruit and other industries, we should encourage our secondary industries. I think that that will be done by this Government.
The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) raved about Empire reciprocity. I remind him that this Government is doing a tremendous lot to encourage Empire trade. My view is that we should first look after our own affairs and then do all that we possibly can to foster trade within the Empire. That will be effected through the medium of our tariff schedules and the protective policy of this Government. The honorable member for Henty claimed that the new tariff will build up monopolies. I shall certainly do my best to prevent that occurring. It is my opinion that the employers will be loyal to the Government and to the people of Australia. However, if they fail the people by increasing prices I shall be prepared to give my support to the introduction of legislation to deal with them.
– What will the honorable member do?
– Whatever I do it will be effective. I am hopeful that we shall soon have the referendum passed and so be completely able to deal with any injustices that are imposed on the people of Australia. The Government has received an undertaking of fair play from many of the protected industries, and I shall do my utmost to see that that undertaking is honored and that the people are not subjected to disadvantage because of the new protection.
The honorable member for Henty lost himself in a mass of verbal intricacies. He completely boxed the compass. He spoke of glucose, candles, jams, canary seed and many other trifles, out completely failed to deal with the big things. He wants to know how long this Government is going to continue such a policy. I assure him that it will continue it so long as the people of Australia require that action to be taken. By this means our great and wonderful country will be properly developed, with happy results to its people.
.- I have been kept amused by the remarkable economic theories that Have been advanced this evening by honorable members opposite. I was certainly amazed at the speech by the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Price).
As I understand that the Government is prepared to report progress, I ask leave to continue my remarks at a later date.
Defence Department Economies - Statement by the Minister for Defence - Australian Navy: Use of Combustion’ Engines - Pensions - Bounty on Gold Production: Western Australian State Elections.
Motion (by Mr. Soullin) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– This morning a number of questions were asked by honorable members to which I shall now reply on behalf of the Ministers concerned. The honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Morgan) asked -
Whether, in view of continuing economies that are being operated in the Defence Department, it is the intention of the Government to curtail moneys to be made available for the annual camps of continuous training, or to suspend the holding pf such camps?
The answer to the honorable member’s question is -
The question of the holding of camps of continuous training is not one that can be definitely answered at the existing juncture. The whole matter of defence expenditure is at present under consideration.
The honorable member for Martin (Mr. Eldridge) asked -
How many combustion engines are in use in the pinnaces and launches of the Australian Navy of the following makes: - (a) Australian; (6) English; and (c) Foreign?
The answer to the honorable member’s question is -
The total numbers in boats, in the ships and establishments are -
– Yesterday the honorable member for Cook (Mr. C. Riley) gave notice of his intention to ask the following questions: -
The answers are as follow: -
.- I notice in the Sydney Morning Herald today under the heading of “ Gold Bonus and Mr. Collier’s Intention” that Mr. Collier is reported to have said, “ My Government has definitely decided that there is no better means of providing work and absorbing unemployment than by granting a gold bonus.” The Minister for Defence (Mr. A. Green), speaking at Merriden, is said to have stated he had received a promise from the Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) that if the Premier of Western Australia, Mr. Collier, made representations to him that that State was suffering many disabilities through the decline of goldmining the Federal Government would favorably consider making a grant to that State. As the State elections are to be held on Saturday, and as that statement savours very much of election propaganda, I should like to ask the Prime Minister whether, in view of the request made continuously for the last eighteen months or two years for assistance to the gold-mining industry, which in the past has felt the effect of the high tariff policy pf the Government, and will in tho future feel the effect much more keenly, he has now made up his mind to give some special assistance to this industry.
.- The remarks of the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) remind me that there is another matter of interest to honorable members and to the community generally arising out of a number of statements made from time to time by the Minister for Defence (Mr. A. Green). I am sorry to have to mention this in his absence, but I shall give three examples. As honorable members are aware, towards the end of last year, shortly after the elections, the Minister for Defence said that no change would be made in the system of compulsory military training for at least a period of about six months. That was accepted as a statement by a responsible Minister on behalf of the Government, because it has been the practice to regard statements made by any Minister in relation to his department as made on behalf of the Government. Events showed that the statement was inaccurate. Early this year the Minister for Defence was in Adelaide. He gave an interview to the press, and later stated in this House that he had been correctly reported. He said in that interview that the Jervis Bay Naval College would definitely be closed at a very early date. When an inquiry was made in this House we were informed that the matter was under consideration and that the Government was considering the possibility of amalgamating the Duntroon and Jervis Bay Colleges. The definite statement of the Minister for Defence was apparently not in accordance with the policy of the Government. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) has given a third example of a similar statement. I ask the Prime Minister when replying to the honorable member for Swan to indicate whether he regards the general principles of responsible government, which have hitherto been applied by Ministers of all party complexions, as applying in the case of this Ministry. It will be remembered that the Minister for Defence said the other day in Perth, and this is a fourth example, that he had put up a fight against the rest of the Cabinet but had been defeated in connexion with, some important matters relating to Western Australia.
– It was the Customs tariff and the gold bounty.
– There are four examples of the inconsistencies of the Minister’s statements. I ask the Prime Minister whether members of the House and of the public are entitled to regard statements made by members of the Ministry, more particularly when they relate to their own departments, as being responsible statements, made by responsible Ministers, indicating the policy of the Government.
– There is not much difficulty in seeing through these electioneering tactics of the Opposition. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) gave the show away when he referred to the Western Australian State election which is to take place next Saturday. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) followed him in the fray to try to discredit a member of this Ministry who is at present in that State. These tactics are very familiar to us.
– I had not thought of the Western Australian election.
– Surely the honorable member was not quite innocent of the fact that that election is to take place.
– I did not think of that matter.
– The Leader of the Opposition followed the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) on that subject. He emphasized the great necessity for responsible government and that, I submit, comes with ill grace from one who was a leading member of a government that threw most of its responsibilities on the shoulders of boards and commissions.
– That is rather cheap.
– That is an answer to the Leader of the Opposition’s cheap electioneering tactics on the eve of an election in Western Australia. Let us examine some of these alleged inconsistencies.
– They are admitted inconsistencies. They have been admitted by the Minister for Defence.
– Alleged inconsistencies. The honorable gentleman, who is becoming irritable, because of his failure to make a case out of nothing, has enumerated a number of alleged inconsistencies. He spoke, for example, of the Minister for Defence, who said in Adelaide some time ago that the question of closing Jervis Bay College was under consideration.
– He said that it would be closed at an early date.
– That it probably would be. The honorable gentleman cannot put absolute words into the Minister’s mouth without any qualification. I have read the report of what he said. Surely the Leader of the Opposition is not prepared to say that a condensed newspaper report contains every word that was uttered by the Minister for Defence.
– The Minister for Defence admitted its correctness in the House.
– He admitted that he said it probably would happen. That was the position at that time when we were exploring avenues of economy and the statement of the Minister was consistent with the Government’s policy then and now. The Government was not prepared to continue both the Jervis Bay and the Duntroon institutions. I shall be glad to hear if the Leader of the Opposition is prepared to justify the extravagant expenditure at those two colleges.
– I shall be glad of an opportunity to speak on that subject.
– I ask the Leader of the Opposition now whether he favours a continuation of the extravagant methods of training at those colleges.
– It is not extravagant.
– I take it that the honorable gentleman is speaking for the Opposition. In what way would he justify the cost of training a few youths at those colleges?
– I contend that the cost could be reduced under the changed circumstances.
– The honorable gentleman made no attempt to reduce the cost of those colleges when he had the power to do so, and because this Government is facing its responsibilities and endeavouring to keep down costs, the Opposition is becoming exceedingly perturbed. Our first method of approach was to consider whether the Jervis Bay College could be closed, and the trainees removed to Duntroon. The officers of the department considered’ the problem from that angle. When the statement to which the Leader of the Opposition has directed attention was made by the Minister for Defence the investigation was proceeding along those lines. Then we had to consider what we should do with the Jervis Bay College. Before coining to a decision we visited Jervis Bay, and realized that there was a difficulty in the way, since the Government property there was more valuable than at Duntroon. As a result departmental officers were asked to consider the amalgamation of the two colleges, not at Duntroon as was at first suggested, but at Jervis Bay. It will be seen that our policy was the same, but there was a change in regard to the proposed location of the amalgamated college which was to serve the dual purpose.
– What is the latest proposition ?
– I am not in a position to say until I have had an opportunity to consider the reports from departmental officers. This Government does not act first and investigate afterwards.
– Sometimes there is a good deal of talk before there is any investigation.
– When the Leader of the Opposition was a member of the previous Administration he suffered from the same affliction.
– The newspapers have gone to press, so let us get home.
– I am prepared to resume my seat at once if the Deputy Leader of the Opposition does not wish me to reply to statements which his leader has made.
– I should like the Prime Minister to reply to the points which I made.
– I am not now saying . that the colleges will be amalgamated. The matter is now being investigated by departmental officers. If this course isnot possible we shall have to consider the problem from another point of view. We shall insist upon a drastic curtailment of expenditure upon both colleges if they are to remain as separate institutions. Thus three propositions are under consideration. The Government is determined that costs must come down.
– What about industrial costs?
– Let me take one question at a time. The honorable member’ is obsessed with one idea only ; that wages must come down.
I do not wish to detain the House, but I should like to reply briefly to the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory), who urged the payment of a bonus on the production of gold. The Government has not favorably considered that proposal. We have not disguised that fact. Neither did our predecessors in office. But we have been impressed with the case that has been made out for the stimulation of the goldmining industry. If this can be done, it will be of great advantage to Australia at the present time. The payment of a bonus ‘ merely to ensure extra profits to established mining companies, however, would ii ot stimulate gold production. We should prefer to grant financial assistance for the carrying out of experiments in regard to cheaper methods for treating those large deposits of low-grade ore which are known to exist in all the States. Some months ago it was proposed that the Government should assist in the development of tho proposition of the Wiluna ‘ Gold Mines Limited in Western Australia. On that subject we have received advice from experts of the Government of Western Australia. It was represented to us that the Wiluna proposition was the, most promising experiment that had yet been made in the treatment of low-grade ores, and I understand that if what has been claimed for it can bc substantiated, it will revolutionize gold-mining in Western Australia as well as stimulate the industry in other States, where considerable bodies of low-grade ore are awaiting treatment. I mention this to indicate that the Government is not merely talking about these things. I understand that the Wiluna Company has already expended about £30,000 on its plant, but that in the absence of guarantees it was experiencing difficulty in increasing its capital. Wc have been in touch with the Government of Western Australia on this subject for some time. If that Government is satisfied after investigation that it can guarantee a loan of £300,000 proposed to be raised by the company in question, then, as the Treasurer has already said, we are prepared to shoulder our share of the responsibility by standing behind that Government in respect of the guarantee. We believe that this policy will be of substantial help to the industry. In this matter we are working through the State Government rather than by direct negotiation, because we have not at our disposal the necessary facilities to conduct investigations into mining propositions. I believe Western Australia has a special claim for consideration. Gold production in that State is greater than elsewhere in the Commonwealth, and Western Australia has not benefited by the national policy of protection to the same extent as the eastern States, particularly New South Wales and Victoria. To some extent protection has been detrimental to Western Australia. This fact would not justify the scrapping of protection, but it would justify the Commonwealth in giving special consideration to industries indigenous to a State which has not benefited from protection to the same extent as others. And so the Minister was told that wc were hot prepared as a Government to provide a gold bonus, but we were prepared to consider the giving of every assistance to the Government of Western Australia in developing the raining industry if it could be shown that the State Government .required that assistance. We have already shown our earnestness by our agreement concerning the Wiluna proposition. When that decision was made we had no thought of State elections, and the suggestion now made with the object of discrediting the Minister for Defence is unworthy of the Leader of the Opposition.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.29 p.m. until the 30th April, at 3 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 10 April 1930, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1930/19300410_reps_12_123/>.