12th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Norman Makin) took the chair at 11 a.m., and offered prayers.
New Appointments - Overtime
– Will the Prime Minister inform honorable members of the number, of new appointments to the Public. Service during the latest convenient period, say, since the 1st January, 1930?
-If the information can be readily obtained it will be supplied.
-In view of the fact that work in the Public Service, is being rationed, I ask the Prime Minister whether overtime is still being worked?
– Within a fortnight of assuming office I sent u circular to the heads of the departments asking for a return of the overtime paid, and . instructing that overtime be reduced to a minimum, and that, where practicable, additional labour should be employed instead. The departments have been acting on that instruction. Within the last few weeks . Isent out a further circular to certain departments in . which the overtime still seemed to be excessive. I recognize that on occasions overtime is unavoidable, and that, extra men cannot be conveniently introduced to handle temporary or specialized work, but the Government is seeking to eliminate overtime ; as far- as is practicable.
– The South Australian newspapers report the Prime Minister as having said that nothing further can be done by the Commonwealth in regard to the imposing of an extra petrol tax and banding the proceeds to the . States, because they are not in’ agreement on ‘ the subject. I ask the right honorable gentleman whether . the States have refused to agree to’ the imposition of a petrol tax bythe Commonwealth, the proceeds of which shall be handed to them; if so, is the refusal- final, or will further negotiations take place between them and the Commonwealth in order to secure unanimity ?
– The States were unanimous in. asking the Commonwealth to impose an additional petrol tax and hand the proceeds of it to them. They also agreed unanimously some time ago that in consideration of such receipts, they would forgo certain taxation upon motor cars and other vehicles. When, however, the individual States were asked to enter into the necessary agreement to that effect, some agreed, some refused, and some did not reply at all.
– Are the negotiations continuing?.
– I am not prepared to say at this stage.
– The latest tariff schedule having been presented to the House, when will the Acting Minister for Trade andCustoms make available- the report of the Tariff Board on the- timber industry?
– The report will be printed and- made available to honorable members at the earliest possible date. Several other reports ‘from the Tariff Board will be laid on the table early noxt week.
– Under what authority did the Minister for. Home Affairs act when he postponed the election. for the Darwin Town. Council?
– I was carrying put the Government policy to introduce adult franchise in connexion with the municipal government of Darwin.
Equipment forrelay Stations.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Five stations have been ordered at a cost of £71,070, and will be erected -
Jervis Bay College - Retrenchment - Sale of Submarines : Naval Policy
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Will he supply the following information: -
The cost per year of Jervis Bay Naval College since its inauguration?
the number of cadets or students each year?
the number of instructors, tutors, officials, &e., employed there each year?
The number of students who have graduated through the full course?
The number of graduated students in the service in the Commonwealth?
The total cost of the college, including all charges to date?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
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 - 1: Of the officers and warrant officers in the Australian Navy selected by the Naval Board for compulsory retirement, how many of each rank were -
first trained overseas?
– The information will be obtained, and a reply will be furnished to the honorable member as soon as possible.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The Government has not made any proposals to the British Government on the lines indicated.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
What is the total number and cost of contracts let to overseas firms in connexion with postal, telegraphic and radio supplies and equipment since Mr. H. P. Brown has been secretary of the department, specifying also the names and addresses of the contractors, a classified list of the nature of supplies, the dates and amounts involved in each instance, and the total amounts for each respective year?
– Inquiries are being made, and a reply will be furnished to the honorable member as soon as possible.
asked the Attorney-
General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable gentleman’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Attorney-
General, upon notice - ,
How many persons are registered in the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration as members of unions?
– The information is being obtained, and will be furnished to the honorable member as soon as possible.
asked the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice -
How many industrial awards made by State industrial tribunals in New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania have been supplanted and rendered inoperative by awards of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration?
– The information is being obtained, and will be furnished to the honorable member as soon as possible.
asked the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice -
How many unions (excluding those concerned in the recent “ lockout “ on the northern coal-fields), registered in the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, flouted the awards of the court during the past two years?
– The information is being obtained, and will be furnished to the honorable member as soon as possible.
asked the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Who are the officers responsible for this work in each of the States?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
– On the 5th June the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins) asked a question regarding a newspaper report that a ship inward bound had called at Fremantle about a fortnight previously with a full complement of migrants, of whom only nine were stated to be Britishers. Assuming that the vessel to which the honorable member refers is the R.M.S. Orvieto, which reached Fremantle on the 27th May, it has been ascertained that this vessel arrived with 273 third-class passengers, including 147 aliens. The British passengers on board included eight assisted migrants for the eastern States, which fact may have given rise to the newspaper report. Altogether, there were 195 British passengers on board. The majority of the alien passengers were former residents returning after temporary absence abroad, and wives and minor children of persons already settled in Australia.
– On 11th June, the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates) asked me the following questions. upon notice -
The matter has since been referred to the bank authorities, who now advise that, as far as they know, Chubb’s Australian Company Limited are the only Australian manufacturers who can produce locally the quality of strongroom doors and safes required by the bank. If there are other Australian manufacturers who can supply strongroom doors and safes of the quality required, the bank will be glad to give them every opportunity of submitting quotations.
Accommodation for Australian Students
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Motion by (Mr. Tully) - by leave - agreed to -
That report No. 3 of the Printing Committee, brought up on the 19th June, be agreed to.
The following paper was presented : -
Amendment of the Covenant.
– Yesterday, in answer to the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Crouch), I said that I would make a copy of the report of . the Committee for the Amendment of the Covenant of the League of Nations available to members. I desire to inform the House that I have had the only available copy placed in the library so that members may consult it there.
In committee (Consideration of
Motion (by Mr. Forde) proposed -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to provide for the payment of a bounty on the production of crude shale oil.
.- Is it in order, Mr. Chairman, to move an amendment at this stage substituting some other word for shale oil, in the motion before the Chair?
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. McGrath).The honorable member may move an amendment, but it must be relevant to the Governor-General’s message.
– I am getting tired of these bounties, but I believe that much good would be achieved by the payment of a bounty on the production of gold. Gold-mining is an industry which, if it received proper ‘ encouragement, would absorb more of our unemployed than any other I can think of.
– The honorable member is out of order.
– I rise to a point of order. Is the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) in order in moving an amendment to substitute gold for shale oil in the motion under consideration?
– I have already intimated that the honorable member would be out of order in moving any such motion.
– I hope to give reasons justifying such an amendment.
– It cannot he done.
– I am against the appropriation.
– The honorable member would be in order in speaking to the motion, but he cannot move an amendment of which the object is that a bounty be paid on something other than shale oil.
– One can get the good oil about gold, sometimes.
– I am afraid that there has been too much good oil dispensed in connexion with the new tariff schedule introduced yesterday by the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs.
– it sickened the honorable member for Swan. He had to call Dr. Earle Page to his assistance.
– I suggest that as the Government appears to have money to spare for the encouragement of all sorts of industries, it should make some of this money available for encouraging the gold-mining industry. It is appalling to see so many persons unemployed in Australia at the present time.
– This bill will help to provide some of them with employment.
– If a gold bonus were paid, one mine I know of in “Western Australia would be able to put on immediately 300 or 400 men. All the developmental work has been done, and the assays show that the stone is worth 32s. to 34s. a ton. Only the high cost of production prevents the gold from being extracted. Other bounties are costing this country millions of pounds a year. The recently extended cotton bounty will prove a very expensive form of protection. We have also heard of an impending bounty on flax, and, although the Acting Minister has not yet brought down any proposals for a bounty on canary seed, it is quite possible he may do so at any moment.
– One good bounty deserves another.
– And one good word deserves another, so I hope that the right honorable member for North Sydney will give us his support.
– I am in favour of a bounty on gold.
– I hope that the Government will give consideration to my request for assistance to the gold-mining industry.
– I move, as an amendment to the motion before the House -
That the words “crude shale oil” be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “petrol”.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. McGrath).The honorable member cannot move an amendment of that character. The GovernorGeneral’s message is quite definite that the bounty is to be paid on crude shale oil. The honorable member may speak against the motion, but it cannot be amended in the way he has proposed.
– While I bow to your ruling, Mr. Chairman, it seems to me that it would have been much better had the Government brought down a measure for the payment of a bounty on petrol produced, not only from shale, but from brown or black coal as well.
– I ask your ruling, Mr. Chairman, whether it is not in order to move an amendment limiting the scope of the motion before the committee. A message has been received from His Excellency the Governor-General, and a motion has been moved based on that message in the following terms : -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to provide for the payment of a bounty on the production of crude shale oil.
Would it not be in order to move as an amendment that it is expedient that an appropriation be made for the payment of a bounty on a particular product of shale oil, or on a particular species of shale oil if there are different kinds of it? I recognize that it would be out of order to move an amendment seeking to substitute gold for shale oil in the motion before the Chair, because gold is something quite apart from the subjectmatter of the Governor-General’s message. If, however, the proposed amendment is designed not to extend the appropriation, but to limit its application within the sphere of the original message and motion, there can be, I submit, no objection to it. If such an amendment be not acceptable, then no amendment on this motion could be in order.
– I remind the Leader of the Opposition that the motion is based on a message from the GovernorGeneral recommending an appropriation for a specific purpose, and no amendment having for its object the substitution of some other purpose can be accepted.
– It is reported that Imperial Chemical Industries, a very large corporation with an enormous capital, proposes to establish an industry in Australia for the extraction of petrol and other fuels from brown coal. Already a shipment of about 200 tons of brown coal has been sent to Great Britain for experiment, and I understand that the results have been thought satisfactory. It is also proposed, I believe, to extract petrol from black coal in New South “Wales, a proposition in which the same company is interested. No doubt the company would be encouraged to proceed with the enterprise if a bounty were payable on the petrol produced.
– The company does” not want a bounty.
– I do not know whether that is so or not, but I am convinced that the payment of a bounty would encourage the establishment of this industry.
– I have been in consultation with the company mentioned, and it does not want a bounty.
– That is not so. I know that the company does want a bounty.
– I should be pleased to learn from the Minister particulars of his negotiations with the company regarding the payment of a bounty. It. seems almost incredible that there can be in Australia any group of persons, or any individual, who does not desire to benefit from a bounty.
.- I appeal to the Government not to proceed with still another measure designed to encourage the exploitation of an unprofitable industry. I believed at first that the Prime Minister was sincere when he expressed a desire to carry on the government of the country on sound, economic lines, but I am being disil lusioned. Eighteen months ago the Joint Committee of Public Accounts inquired into the shale oil industry, and reported that while there were immense depositsof oil-bearing shale in Australia, it was not advisable to proceed with its extraction at the present time when petrol could be obtained more cheaply from overseas. It recommended that this oil should he allowed to remain unworked as a reserve for the future. If the importation of petrol were prohibited, the Government would suffer an immediate and considerable loss of revenue through the Customs Department, and it would also be called upon to pay large sums in the way of bounties on the production of the shale oil which would take the place of the oil previously imported. At Newnes there are large deposits of shale which are of the utmost value to Australia, and it would be wrong to exhaust them at present, for it would deprive the country of a valuable defence asset. The time is inopportune for the introduction of this proposal, and I hope that the Government will realize this. Bounties are being provided to assist this and other industries, as though such assistance was of real value to the country, which is not the case. I hope that the Minister will withdraw this ridiculous proposal,and turn his attention to the devising of some other way of helping the nation out of its present grave position.
, - I congratulate the Government upon having introduced this motion. One of the most serious features of our economic position is that we are sending huge sums of money to America in payment for motor cars and oils which we are importing from that country. We should be doing our utmost to develop our own oil resources and make this country selfcontained. I disagree with the view of the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) that the time is inopportune for us to encourage the extraction of oil from our shale deposits. We should be doing our utmost to develop all our natural resources. It would be a tragic thing for this country if, in the event of war occurring, her supplies of oil and petrol were cut off. The Government is acting wisely therefore in providing a bounty on oil extracted from shale. In the Wolgan Valley we have some of the richest shale deposits in the world.
– What quantity of oil has been, produced from them?
– I have no doubt that the Acting Minister will give us that information when he introduces the bill. It is entirely reasonable that we should develop our great natural resources, and, for that reason I hope that this proposal will be approved by honorable members.
– I entirely endorse the remarks of the honorable- member for South Sydney (Mr. E.Riley). The discovery of oil or new deposits of gold in Australia would do more than anything else to remove our present economic troubles. I assure the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) that I shall join his crusade for a bounty on gold. But, while I am strongly in favour of the Government’s proposal to pay a bounty on oil produced from shale, I can see no reason why a bounty should not also be paid on oil extracted from brown or black coal. Although there are very rich coal deposits in Australia, we have some 5,000 coalminers for whom no employment is provided. Yet, at the same time, we are importing millions of pounds worth of oil every year. A considerable quantity of oil could be produced from our brown and black coal deposits. As the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) has told us, a process has now been perfected for the extraction of oil from brown coal, and we should do our utmost to encourage the development of that project in Australia. In my opinion there is less justification for the provision of a bounty on oil extracted from shale than on oil extracted from coal, for coal may be used for many other purposes. We have been paying a bounty on shale oil for many years, although the provision for this has only recently expired. The development of our great natural resources of coal and shale would lead to a considerable increase in employment, and I hope, therefore, that the Acting Minister will see his way clear to extend the scope of the motion to provide for the payment of a bounty on oil extracted from coal.
– There is a very good reason why that proposal is not included in this bill, as I shall show as soon as I have an opportunity to speak.
.- I also, rise to urge the Acting Minister to extend the scope of his proposal to include oil extracted from coal. Australia is torday importing oil in ever increasing quantities from other parts of the world and it would materially help us to decrease our adverse trade balance if we. could produce some- of this oil in Australia. We have very many excess coal-miners. ‘ There is always room for expansion in this industry. In my own district many coal-miners are unable to obtain anything like continuous employment. It would be of the utmost value to the coal-mining industry if assistance could be provided to encourage the production of oil from coal . to further assist the development of the byproduct side of the industry. If this proposed bounty is to be limited to shale oil it will not be of such great assistance to the country as it might be. Although work has been resumed on the northern coal-fields of New South Wales, many miners are unable to obtain employment because there is only a limited market for coal. As a result of the resumption of work in the New South Wales coal-fields, there is a considerable falling off in the work available in other fields. The Government is proposing to make £100,000 available for the repatriation of excess coal-miners in Australia generally, but if it would appropriate the money for the purpose of paying a bounty on oil extracted from black and brown coal, together with the sums being made available for the production of oil from shale, it would do something that would be of great practical value. I urge the Minister to consider this proposal very earnestly. If he would adopt it he would ensure greatly increased prosperity’ in the coal-mining industry.
.- As several honorable members have said, oil is absolutely essential to the welfare of Australia; but unfortunately there seems to be little likelihood at present of welloil being discovered here in commercial. quantities. In these circumstances it will be wise for us to endeavour to produce oil from other resources which we have at our command. In Germany large quantities of oil are . produced annually from coal and shaie. I do not think it would be wise for us to draw to too great an extent upon our shale deposits at present. If our supplies of imported oil were cut off in war time, we should become entirely dependent upon oils extracted from our own shale and coal, and upon power alcohol manufactured from molasses; but our supplies from these sources would be quite insufficient for our needs. It would not be wise for us to simply allow our shale to remain in the earth; we should endeavour to perfect a process by which the oil could be extracted from it. We have failed hitherto to extract the oil successfully, because the shale has been too rich. In Scotland refineries have been in operation for many years extracting oil from shale; but the shale there is of a very low grade. In Australia, in the Wolgan Valley, at the back of Mount Victoria, in New South Wales, are the richest shale deposits in the world. Tasmania also has some very rich shale . deposits, though they are not quite so rich as those of New South Wales. Whenever an attempt has been made to extract the oil from these shales the retorts have clogged, and it has been impossible to get the oil through them. Although large sums of money have been spent in endeavouring to develop this enterprise every effort to do so up to date has failed. Mr. John Fell, of New South Wales, must have spent hundreds of thousands of pounds in endeavouring to. extract oil from our shales, and. very large sums of foreign capital have also been invested here for the same purpose. I sincerely hope that the Minister will be able to tell us presently that a retort has at last been discovered which will be suitable for treating our rich shales. If that is so, it is the duty of the Government to recompense the inventor of the retort adequately and to ; retain it for future use. Those shale deposits should be worked on a nucleus basis, to enable the men employed in the industry to become accustomed to the work, so that Australia will at all times have sufficient oil to carry its industries, and to assist, if necessary, in its defence.
– I hope that the House will agree to the granting of a bounty on shale oil. The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) has said that before this bounty is granted we should wait until it is asked for by companies which are experimenting in the extraction of oil from black and brown coal. Efforts have, been made for a number of years to extract oil from shale deposits, and I believe that the Latrobe Company has a new retort which will enable this process to be profitably carried out. It is not proposed to pay a bounty until the oil has been produced. It has been said that we should leave shale oil in the ground as a reserve, but that argument could be applied to everything else that is produced from the soil. No benefit would be obtained by leaving shale oil in the ground. We might just as well leave our timber on the ground. Of course, if we found liquid oil in Australia the shale oil could remain as a reserve. In the meantime we should encourage the production of shale oil, because many people have put their money into this’ industry. I hope that the House will agree to the proposed bounty.
– I cannot understand why the Government, instead of proposing to assist the production of oil from shale deposits has not reviewed the whole question of oil production. It is unreasonable to assist one source of production, and to give no consideration to other sources. Oil from coal is just as valuable to Australia as is oil from shale, and if one process is to be assisted, others should also be assisted. In Australia we have some of the largest coal deposits in the world. In addition to the brown coal-fields of Victoria, we have in Queensland, at Blair Athol, coal deposits which are not exceeded in quantity and quality elsewhere in the world. That coal can be quarried, but unfortunately its production is unprofitable because of the distance of the coalfield from a port. We have also, in the Burrum coal-fields, large deposits which, with adequate government assistance, would provide considerable employment, and secureto Australia the whole of its requirements of oil for power and other purposes. It is unwise for the Government to discriminate between the various processes for producing oil, and this bounty should be extended to the production of oil as a whole. 1 support this proposed bounty, because it is a step in the right direction.
– The proposed bounty on shale oil cannot be said to be premature; if anything, it is rather late in the day.
– There was a bounty years ago on the production of shale oil.
– I was not aware of that America has more oil reserved today than would fill the Burrinjuck Reservoir. That position has been brought about because of the supply actually exceeding the enormous demand for oil. We should exploit at the earliest moment every avenue of oil production, because the time is not far distant when oil will not be required. All our motor vehicles will be propelled by electric power, and they will need only to pull up to one of the posts which support the transmission line carrying electricity, to re-charge their batteries. The possibility of using electricity would be a great boon to aviation, because the great drawback to air traffic now is the weight and bulk of the fuel that has to be carried on each flight. If power can be stored in batteries, aviation will make tremendous strides. When the various proposed hydro-electric schemes are completed, there will be many posts at which electric current may be obtained. Instead of stopping at a bowser a vehicle will need only to stop at a post. I hope that the House will agree to the bounty, so as to give some encouragement to an Australian industry.
.- Honorable members have referred to the extraction of oil from shale and coal, but not from straw, and it would be easy to make a lengthy speech on the need of the utilization of straw for the manufacture of petrol and oils. If there is to be a bounty on shale oil, and perhaps a bounty on oil extracted from coal, I certainly claim that a bounty should also be extended to the production of oil from straw, and, if necessary, from potatoes. There is, at Mangalore, a factory in which petrol is being produced in large quantities from straw. I understand that a ton of straw produces about 70 gallons of petrol. As the production of wheat to-day is anything but profitable, I suggest to- the Government . that, if . a bounty were given on the production of petrol from wheat and oaten straw, it would go a long way towards keeping the farmer on the land. If it is proposed to pay a bounty, not. only on, shale. ..oil,, but also on oil extracted from coal, I. shall, in committee, move in the direction of extending the bounty to oil produced, from straw.
.- In connexion with the extraction of oil from coal, reference has been made to coal deposits at Blair Athol. Honorable members who represent coal-mining constituencies have for some tjme past been urging the Government to ascertain whether it is not possible for the coalowners to use some of their . profits, in experimenting in the extraction of byproducts from coal. Little has been done in Australia in the direction of utilizing the coal industry to the fullest extent. Immediately after the war Germany found herself in a position somewhat similar to that ofAustralia 1 to-day. Many people were unemployed, and the coal industry was languishing. The Ger man coal-owners began to exploit the. possibilities of extracting by-products, from coal, and so successful were their efforts that in 1925 they were able to reduce the working hours . of the miners and to increase their wages. In addition, Germany was practically able to hunt British coal off its market. At Blair Athol, in Queensland, there are, I suppose, the largest coal deposits in Australia. Coal can. he mined more cheaply there than elsewhere in Australia, but because of the distance of the field from a port, it is impossible for it to compete with that mined at Newcastle. During the Newcastle coal strike Blair Athol came into its own. I shall offer no opposition to the payment of a bounty on the production of oil from shale if the result will be the provision of a greater volume of employment in this country. The coalowners for years have raked off big profits, yet they made no effort to exploit the byproducts from coal when they found that their markets were disappearing. It is not the duty of the Government to seek out those people and induce them to engage in this enterprise. I would set up a department to investigate and exploit the possibilities of extracting oil from shale, instead of allowing private companies to undertake that work. This class of experiment is really the business of the Government. .
– Previously, when a shale oil bounty was given it failed to produce results.
– Many schemes that fail originally, eventually prove successful. The granting of this bounty may lead to the Australian user of oil obtaining his supplies more cheaply. The industry is at present in the initial stage, and should be encouraged by the Government. If it does not care to undertake these experiments itself, private concerns should be assisted to do so. If the experiments prove successful,- we shall have an idea of the cost, and shall then know whether it is profitable to engage in production on a commercial scale.
– Many shale deposits were worked years ago.
– Years ago we had no looms in the cotton industry, and our only means of transport was horsedrawn vehicles. I hope that the Australian people stand for progress. When I consider the attitude that is adopted by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) and the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse), I am surprised that we have made any progress. Nearly every country has built up its trade on protection. One of the greatest countries of the world, the United States of America, raised itself to its present position not only on protection, but also on prohibition. The honorable member for Forrest is one-eyed; he is opposed to bounties unless they are given to industries in Western Australia. I hope that, as a result- of the granting of this bounty, a new industry will be established that will help to relieve the unemployment that exists to-day.
.- The mention of a bounty is sufficient to arouse the avidity of every honorable member who happens to have in his district a coal deposit or any other product that may participate in the distribution of public revenues. Some honorable members are looking into the future when they refer to the production of oil from barleyand straw ; but they do not go very much further than those who support the proposal to grant a bounty on petrol produced from coal. So soon as it has been demonstrated that petrol can be profitably extracted from coal, I have no doubt that the Government will be prepared to give some assistance in that direction; but so far as I have been able to ascertain the position, the production of oil from coal is rather a matter for the future.
– The Germans claim to have succeeded in obtaining oil from coal.
– The honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill) claims that in his electorate petrol has been produced from straw. The appropriate occasion for a proposal to pay a bounty on the production of petrol from any of these commodities is when it has been demonstrated that the process is practical and economical. I have no desire to oppose this proposal to pay a bounty on oil extracted from shale, although on general principles I am not in favour of bounties. It would appear that this opens up possibilities of rescuing Australia from the position that, unfortunately, it occupies at the present time.
I hope that very shortly this House will be asked to consider a proposal to pay a bounty with respect to the one great mineral product that, so far, has been the saviour of Australia - a bounty on the gold that is won.
– I support the introduction of this measure, but cannot understand why the bounty should apply only to shale oil. If the purpose is to produce oil in Australia, there are other avenues that can be exploited. As the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson), and the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill) have pointed out, the State of Victoria contains very large deposits of brown coal, from which, experts claim that large quantities of oil can be produced.
I desire to supplement the remarks of the honorable member for Echuca regarding the production of petrol from straw. A company composed mainly of Victorian farmers, but including some New South Wales farmers, has invested capital in the establishment of a factory at Mangalore, and has installed up-to-date machinery imported almost wholly from Germany for that particular purpose. ,
– What about the tariff on machinery?
– Probably . a rebate will be granted, because of the value of this machinery to a new industry in Australia. While I am a strong protectionist, I am prepared at all times to give a rebate on machinery that cannot be made in Australia and that will benefit the people of this country. I was present at the opening of that factory, and witnessed the production of petrol from dry straw taken from the paddocks. The experts who were present also witnessed that demonstration. The assay showed a production of 70 gallons of petrol to a ton of dry straw.
– What is the cost of production ?
– It is very small. These farmers claim to be able to retail the petrol at Is. 6d. a gallon. But there are also by-products.
– Then a bounty is not needed.
– I remind the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) that these men concerned are tillers of the soil and the growers of the straw. Because of the existing financial stringency they have been compelled to mark time. If it is good policy to give a bounty to companies that produce oil from shale and brown coal, it is equally good policy to give one to these farmers who are commencing a new industry, and are confident that they can supply petrol to the people of this country at a rate of Is. 6d. a gallon or less. It is claimed by expert3 that, as a result of the petrol and the by-products obtained from the straw, the receipts from wheat-growing areas will be doubled.
Motion (by Mr. Scullin) agreed to -
That the question be now put.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution reported and - by leave - adopted.
That Mr. Forde and Mr. Scullin do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill brought up, and read a first time.
[12.1.4J. - by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The object of this bill is to re-enact the Shale Oil Bounty Act, 1917-26, in an endeavour to establish permanently, on a commercial basis, the extraction of oil from Australian shale. I shall deal later with the subject of the extraction of petrol from coal. The Hughes Government, in 1917, passed a bounty act for the purpose, of assisting this industry, and the measure was re-enacted by it in 1921 and 1922. The Bruce-Page Administration, in 1923, passed a similar act, which was re-enacted in 1926, and expired in August, 1929. More than 50 years ago, work was commenced on New South Wales shale deposits, and some thousands of tons were mined; but, with the advent of well oil, or petrol, early this century, the production of shale oil became unpayable, and the industry has not been able to establish itself profitably. As a measure of assistance, a bounty act was passed in 1910, and it operated for a period of three years. This provided a bounty of 2d. a gallon on kerosene, and 2s. 6d. per cwt. on paraffin wax produced from Australian shales. Two large companies, one with a capital of nearly £2,000,000, and another with a capital of £500,000, were then operating in New South Wales.
– Was their capital paid up?
– Not fully. Owing to methods of handling the shale, which are now obsolete, these companies were unable to continue operations, but with the advent of more efficient retorts and machinery, the industry is said to be in a more favorable position.
The granting of assistance to the industry was closely investigated in 1915 by the Interstate Commission, which recommended that assistance by way of bounty be given. It was not, however, until 1917 that a bounty was again provided. It was paid on crude shale oil produced from mined kerosene shale, and the rates payable were 2½d. a gallon up to 3,500,000 gallons; 2d. a gallon over 3,500,000 gallons, and not exceeding 5,000,000 gallons; l¾d. a gallon over 5,000,000 gallons, and not exceeding 8.000,000 gallons ; and l½d. a gallon on each additional gallon. This act operated for a term of four years from 1917, but it was extended from time to time, up to the 31st August, 1929, when it expired. Although, in 1922, the rate of 2½d. a gallon on production up to 3,500,000 gallons was increased to 3½d. a gallon, the amount of bounty claimed after 1924 was negligible, and, finally, the production of shale oil ceased. Since then a great deal of investigation has been made as to the possibility of providing more efficient retorts and other plant to deal with the shale.
Oil-bearing shale deposits are known to exist in all the States of Australia except Victoria. The deposits in New South Wales and Tasmania have already been worked to a certain extent at different times. The best deposits in New South Wales are regarded as the largest and richest in the world. Australia is fortunate, therefore, in having the best available material to work upon. I have discussed this matter with the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Chifley), who represents the district of Newnes,’ near Lithgow, where there is to be found one of the richest shale deposits known. He has been much interested in the continuance of the bounty that was provided by previous governments. Of course, honorable members from Tasmania are greatly interested in the deposits at Latrobe. Active steps are now being taken to form companies to work the shale deposits in New South Wales, and another company has already erected a preliminary plant in Tasmania, where it is producing shale in small quantities. A company at Newnes once employed up to 700 men, and, at a period when there are thousands of unemployed in Australia, the re-enactment of this bounty would provide work for a considerable number of men throughout the Commonwealth.
– Is the bounty likely to become permanent?
– It is for a period of three years only, and then the matter can be reviewed. The interests controlling mining for shale for oil production have asked that the bounty given by the last Administration be re-enacted.
– Have they given a promise that work will be recommenced on a larger scale than before?
– Yes. With the advantage of the latest retorting plants and refining processes, which are a great advance on past methods, it is considered that there is every reason to conclude that the industry can now be successfully established on a large commercial scale.
The areas proposed to be worked are estimated by the companies to contain over 30,000,000 tons of shale, which will produce approximately 80 gallons of crude oil per ton. The companies now interested -are - Widdin-Baerami Shale Oil & Coal Limited, Adelaide, holders of leases in New South Wales, having at Baerami Creek, New South Wales, an area of 5,210 acres reputed to contain approximately 30,000,000 tons of shale averaging 84 gallons of crude oil per ton ; The Australian Oil Producing and’ Refining Company Limited - capital £250,000 - which will develop concessions at Reedy Creek, New South Wales; a company about to be formed to take over the works at Newnes, New South Wales, operated some years ago by’Mr. John Fell; and Mineral Oil Extraction Limited, of Latrobe, Tasmania. [Quorum formed.]
– How many of those companies are controlled by the Standard Oil Company of America?
– -If the honorable member has any information on that matter I shall be glad to have it from him, but our investigations show that not one of them is associated with the Standard Oil Trust.
Investigations by the Tariff Board proved that the establishment of the shale oil industry in Australia would require the renewal of the original act of 1917, a?id that the importance of Australia being made less dependent on outside sources for supplies of well oil, or petrol, justified extending the Shale Oil Bounty Act with the view, ultimately, of establishing the production of shale oil in Australia. On the 21st August, 1925, the Parliamentary Joint Committee of Public Accounts reported to Parliament, inter alia, that “ evidence heard by the Accounts Committee was unanimous that, the continuance of the Commonwealth bounty was essential to the conduct of the industry.”
The honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) would have us believe that the Public Accounts Committee recommended that the bounty should not be re-enacted. As a matter of fact, the evidence heard by the committee, of which I believe the honorable gentleman was a member, was unanimously in favour of the continuance of the bounty.
The Government has recently investigated the present position and prospects of the industry, and it believes that to create more employment and further wealth production, and to establish an alternative source of supply of oil, it is desirable to re-enact previous shale oil legislation for a further experimental period of three years, after which, the whole matter can be reconsidered.
-What is the object of the experiment?
– More efficient retorts and other equipment are now available than when the industry previously failed.
– “Will an attempt now be made to carry on the industry” without assistance?
– The bounty is desired for a period of three years to assist in meeting the initial expense of installing the latest machinery. After that, the industry hopes to be able to continue without the bounty.
The Government has been impressed with the fact that the present higher prices of petrol have altered the position considerably. This opportunity for successfully establishing the shale oil industry in Australia should be much more likely to succeed than any previous attempt, for the reasons I have stated. Another important factor is that many valuable products are obtainable from shale, such as petrol, kerosene, lubricating oils, waxes, phenol, pyridine, and several others.
It is also desirable to give consideration to the enormous importations of petroleum spirit. The following remarkable figures for the last ten years justify any government making a serious attempt to develop local production of motor spirit, and so eliminate the enormous sums now going out of the country each year for motor spirit, very largely to the United States : -
Oil is produced from shale in many parts of Europe and in America. The industry in Scotland - Scottish Oils Limited - has for many years been the largest and best known. The company’s capital is about £4,000,000. In 1925 it produced nearly 3,000,000 metric tons of crude shale oil.
– Does it receive any Government assistance?
– So far as I am aware it does not; but it has access to a local market of 39,000,000 people, and a still larger market on the European continent. Another important plant is situated in Esthonia. In 1925 it produced 240,000 metric tons of oil. The Japanese have for several years been experimenting on a large tract of shale in Fushun, Manchuria, and have finally established a plant there to produce oil on a very large scale. Operations started in October last with a plant designed to treat 4,000 tons of shale a day. This shale is of relatively low quality, but the Japanese have, apparently, decided that by operating on a very large scale, and with the latest methods, the venture will be justified. As the Australian companies now in existence, or being formed, are planning to use special retorts and methods much in advance of previous practice, and the oil content of Australian shale is exceptionally high, the Government believes that the bill has a reasonable chance of creating a new industry in the Commonwealth. At this time the country particularly needs new industries that will create more employment. As an indication of the possibilities of shale I may mention that one of the companies proposing to operate anticipates that if its preliminary work proves satisfactory, it will expend from £700,000 to £1,000,000 to provide for the treatment of 300 tons of shale daily, or about 100,000 tons per annum, representing an output of approximately 8,000,000 gallons of crude oil annually. It is calculated that, on such a scale of working, this one area of 5,000 acres at Baerami Creek, New South Wales, has sufficient shale to last for 330 yeaw.
The cost of producing crude oil from shale, including mining, transport, re torting, &c, can be accurately determined under the improved method of retorting that the companies propose to adopt only by actual experience on a large scale. However, recent experience indicates a cost of 24s. per ton of shale, and a value of Sd. a gallon of crude oil. On the basis of a yield of 80 gallons of oil from a ton of shale, this would result approxi-* mately as follows: - Crude oil value, £2 13s. 4d.; working costs, £1 4s.; gross working margin against which interest on capital, management and distribution costs would be charged, £1 9s. 4d. It seems doubtful, however, whether these results would be obtained in practice, and in any case very large capital expenditure is essential for the production of shale oil, and a reasonable return must be allowed on such expenditure, after meeting all costs of management and distribution. The bounty provided by the bill will probably enable a reasonable profit to be earned in these circumstances during the difficult stages of initial production, and while the annual output is low. It will also help the companies to secure sufficient capital to develop the deposits in a large way, and so reduce their unit cost of production. As the annual production increases, so will therates of bounty under the bill decrease, for example: - 3 id- per gallon up to 3,500,000 gallons per annum. 2d. per gallon on each gallon from 3,500,000 to 5,000,000. 1½d. per gallon on each gallon from 5,000,000 to 8,000,000. 1½d. per gallon on each gallon over 8,000,000.
Those rates are the same as applied under the Shale Oil Bounty Act that expired in August of last year. All of them will decrease if necessary to ensure that the companies do not earn more than 10 per cent, net on their capital expenditure. This provision will prevent exploitation of the bounty by manufacturers deriving excessive profits. The bill limits bounty payments to £67,500 per annum, or £202,500 for the three years. It also provides for the employees to be protected in respect of working conditions and rates of wages. Such protection is contained in all Commonwealth bounty legislation, and the details in this bill are the same as in the Wine Export Bounty Bill and the Cotton Industries Bounty Bill recently dealt with by the House.
I expected that some ‘honorable members representing coal areas would ask why the Government was not proposing a bounty for the extraction of oil from coal. This matter has already received a good deal of consideration, because of the strong representations made to the Government by the honorable members for Macquarie, Hunter, Werriwa, Flinders, Newcastle, and Kennedy. I accompanied the honorable member for Hunter to Cessnock, where he introduced a deputation which urged the payment of a bounty on oil extracted from coal. The deputies made out a strong case, and I promised them that the Government would give careful consideration to all representations on the subject. Experiments have been conducted with many processes in an endeavour to make the manufacture of oil . from coal commercially payable. Research work has been carried out in various parts of the world, chiefly in the United Kingdom by Imperial Chemical Industries, and in Germany by the German Dye Trust - Interessen Gemanschaft Fareinindustrie. known as the I.G. Company. Broadly this research work can be separated into two classes - (1). low temperature carbonization, and (2) hydrogenation. The latter is the more recent development in the manufacture of oil from coal, and Imperial Chemical Industries has already done a lot of experimental work in this process. This company has a capital of £95,000,000 and has £2,500,000 invested in Australia; that of the German company is between £45,000,000 and £50,000,000. Samples of Australian coals have been sent to England and tested. Coal from the Hunter district has yielded more favorable results under tests than coal from any other part of the world. Samples of brown coal also have been sent from Victoria to England, and tests of them too have been satisfactory. Imperial Chemical Industries has also had experts in Australia on several occasions to examine sites for the erection of plants for the production of oil from coal. At present the company has an experimental plant operating, and the Chairman, Lord Melchett, stated in a recent report -
We have made great progress in the important field of the conversion of coal into petrol and fuel oil by hydrogenation. A semitechnical plant is in operation, and is to-day producing first-class petrol from British coal. We are doing intensive work on the subject, studying it particularly in this country and in other parts of the Empire, and we have every reason to hope that under favorable conditions we shall be able to produce high class petroleum products on a commercial basis.
We have recently had discussions with representatives of an important group of oil companies and the Standard-I.O. Company of America, with a view to arranging mutual co-operation and ‘ the pooling of knowledge and for exploitation of the process on mines which would encourage mutual progress.
Representatives of Imperial Chemical Industries have interviewed me, and explained what the company is doing in Australia; they said that it hoped to invest £1,000,000 in Australia as soon as further experiments proved that oil could be extracted from coal on a commercial basis. The company is confident that its process will prove successful, and revolutionize the coal industry in Australia, but does not want to take the risk of investing its money on the promise of a bounty which in three or four years might be discontinued. As the company made no request for a bounty on oil produced from coal, obviously it would be premature for the Government to provide such assistance. The company appears to be confident that the industry can be established in Australia without it, and if the process proves a commercial success, ample capital will be available for its development. The Government will, however, watch with interest and anxiety the result of the company’s experiments. If its sanguine expectations are realized, the new methods of utilizing our coal resources will revolutionize the industry, and solve the problem of overproduction.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Gullett) adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 12.46 to 8.15 p.m.
Debate resumed from 19th June (vide page 3035) on motion by Mr. Brennan -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– I have listened with great interest to the speeches which have been delivered during the course of this debate, and I am bound to confess that since hearing them I am more than ever convinced that our whole arbitration system needs to be abolished rather than amended. It was, I think, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) who said in his speech that hitherto arbitration in Australia had operated on a rising market, which accounted for what success the system has been able to achieve. Some years before federal arbitration was considered to be within the scope of practical politics, I heard a speaker in the Queensland Parliament, while opposing the principle of arbitration, say that he had no fear of the system when conditions were good and no industrial depression prevailed, but that he did fear what might happen if arbitration were in operation when the reverse conditions applied. That fear has been amply justified in the years that have intervened. Practically right up to the present time prices and wages have been increasing, but now we are faced with industrial depression, and with the need of readjusting costs of production. Every honest critic of the system must admit that arbitration has broken down when confronted with a period of economic depression.
– That is merely the honorable member’s imagination.
– It is, at any rate, a definite conclusion that I have come to as a result of my observations. I approach this subject in the belief that the system of industrial arbitration has definitely broken down; that it has crashed beyond hope of recovery, and that the system should be buried - with decent sepulture if necessary - but, anyhow, buried.
– The honorable member is the only one who said that before the last election, and got away with it.
– I made that statement during the election campaign, and I have no apology to offer for making it with increased emphasis in this House. After hearing it, my constituents returned nic with a majority of 6,000. We frequently hear the comment to-day that industry is being conducted in Australia upon an unsound basis, a contention which will, I think, be endorsed by every thinking student of political economy. Nothing else contributes to this allprevailing unsoundness so much as does the present system of compulsory industrial arbitration. So unsound is the arbitration system with which the country is tied, knee-haltered and hobbled, that even some supporters of the system on the other side of the House have indicated quite clearly that they do not expect much from this measure, but are prepared to give it a run in the hope that some good may ensue.
If arbitration w’ere the sound proposi-tion its supporters claim it to be, it would not be possible to produce against it such an overwhelming mass of facts as arc available in the figures prepared by the Commonwealth Statistician. Those controversialists who assert that compulsory arbitration has been such a tremendous factor in preserving peace in industry, forget that even at the present time the great majority of industrial .disputes are settled, not by recourse to compulsory arbitration, but by direct negotiation between employers and employees.
– Such negotiations are successful because the court is in the background.
– Whether that is so or not, the statement I have made is incontrovertible. I propose to quote statistics which will prove that for the years 1928-29, out of 435 industrial disputes, over 75 per cent, were settled without reference to State industrial acts, or the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act. Of 200,000 work-people involved, over 150,000 contrived to settle their differences, either by conference, or by the intervention of a distinctive third party, not under Commonwealth or State industrial legislation. In support of that
That table provides conclusive proof of ilii; triumph, not of compulsory arbitration, but of direct negotiation. It emphasizes beyond any question that direct negotiation gives infinitely more satisfactory results in the settlement of in.iusti’ial disputes than compulsory arbitration, and that it is the system which wo must ultimately adopt for the solution of our industrial problems.
It should be apparent to everybody that the bringing together of the representatives of employers and employees in particular industries at a round-table conference is much more likely to yield satisfactory results than the forcing of the parties into the legal atmosphere of a court. 1 am sure that the adoption of this procedure generally would prevent the occurrence of many strikes, whereas the pursuit of the policy outlined in the bill must necessarily involve us in additional trouble. “ Direct negotiation “ is. the conspicuous finger-post that points us to industrial peace. The further amendment of our Conciliation and Arbitration Act will get us nowhere. Surely no one can be blind to the fundamental fact that the persons actually engaged in industry are more competent than any others to settle their own problems. Yet we are proposing to make radical alterations in our methods of endeavouring to settle industrial disputes which must make it more difficult than ever for the parties to negotiate directly. Industrial arbitration stands condemned in the eyes of Australia, and we are wasting our time in increasing the entanglements of an already complex and difficult situation. Of the 2.064 industrial disputes which occurred in this country in the five years ending 192S, 1,00G were settled by direct negotiation between the employers and employees or their representatives, without the interference of any tribunal or legal authority, 86 were settled by the intervention of third parties or legal tribunals; 63, or about 3 per cent., by the intervention of the Commonwealth court; 100 by State tribunals, and the remainder by other means. This forces me to the conclusion that Australia needs more direct negotiation and less legal interference in her industrial problems. We should completely abolish our arbitration system. I have formed this conclusion after the careful study of a mass of information which I have been able to obtain, and I feel it to be my duty to submit this view to the House.
If it could be truthfully argued that industrial arbitration had even diminished industrial disturbances there might be some justification, for retaining it; but such a contention could not be supported by facts. In the last five years there has been an enormous increase in the number of industrial disputes in Queensland and New South Wales and the other States. According to the Year Book the number of workers involved in disputes in Queensland increased from 3.064 in 1923, to 30,234 in 1927. The increase in New South Wales was from’ 60,199 in 1923, to 148,541 in 1927. Similar figures for the whole of Australia are 76,321 in 1923 and 200,757 in 1927. These figures do not show that arbitration has reduced industrial disagreement, but rather that it has increased it.
I listened with interest to the remarks of the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Chifley) and the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. .Keane) about the industrial position of America and I have since been at some pains to ascertain whether their contentions were sound, and if so, the bearing that they had upon Australian industry. It will be remembered that a few years ago an Australian industrial mission visited America. It was accompanied by a corps of journalists and independent inquirers. One of these persons, Mr. Hugh Grant Adam, recorded the result of his inquiries and observations in a book entitled An Australian looks at America, from which I make the following extract: -
The relation between employers and employees in the industries where the workers are well organized are, at present, most harmonious. The unions accept the position that the worker must be efficient and must . maintain a high speed of production if he is to receive high -wages. The go-slow doctrine has no support outside of the crazy minds of discredited extremists. The unions offer no opposition to the introduction of the most modern labour-saving machinery, and they recognize and accept the system of piece-work, with the stipulation that the representatives of the workers must be consulted in determining the schedule of rates.
That statement is almost diametrically opposed to the view put forward by the honorable members to whom I have already referred.
While he was in America Mr. Adam met many Labour leaders, including Mr. William Green, the President of the American Federation of Labour, and Mr. Victor Orlander, the secretary of the
Illinois branch of the Federation. Referring to his conversation with Mr. Green, Mr. Adam says -
With Green I discussed the wide difference between the attitudes of the labour movements in America and in Australia towards the system of compulsory arbitration in industrial disputes. Voluntary arbitration is becoming increasingly common in America and is encouraged by the Federation of Labour. “But we cannot approve of compulsory arbitration laws “ said Green, “ because we hold that a man’s labour is his personal possession, which no law should .be allowed to take from him against his will.”
– That is a sloppy utterance !
– It may be a sloppy utterance, but still it is full of sound common sense and logic.
– The honorable member would not say that in his constituency.
– I said at Darling Downs precisely what I am saying now, and I am prepared to do so again. The writer continues -
I mentioned that in Australia we sometimes had strikes, even after arbitration. That, Green honestly could not understand. He said, “ If we agreed to a law making arbitration compulsory, we would surrender absolutely our right to strike. Because we dare not give up that right we cannot accept your arbitration laws. Whatever you may expect, we would not expect to have it both ways.”
That is just where the trouble in Australia arises, because too often things are wanted both ways and by both parties.
– Did Mr. Adam say. that?
– I have emphasized that it is the statement of Mr. William Green, the president of the American Federation of Labour. This is the creed of American unionism as interpreted to Mr. Adam by Mr. Victor Orlander, the secretary of the American Federation of Labour -
Unionism stands for efficiency in production. It encourages the worker to gain skill. It approves of the introduction of new tools, including automatic machines, and does not believe that these create unemployment. It stands for the highest standard of living for the worker, and believes that America can have a high standard of living with low costs of production. It approves of piece-work in new manufacture when it is operated on the principle of collective bargaining, but opposes piece rates in repair work. It claims, and is prepared to prove, that workers who are organized in trade unions give better work and greater efficiency than ^unorganized workers give. Organized labour” in America claims that, by recognizing unionism and working with the union, an employer can increase his output and decrease his cost of production.
That creed, I submit, is fundamentally violated by our industrial conditions. Organized labour in Australia does not claim that by recognizing unionism and co-operating with it, the employer can increase his output and decrease his cost of production. Exactly the reverse process operates, and that, more than any other factor, has contributed to the existing industrial unrest.
– The honorable member is evidently an admirer of America.
– I do not claim to be an admirer of America, but in a debate of this description we are entitled to collect evidence from authentic sources so that we may come to logical conclusions.
I listened with interest to the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Holloway), and in passing I wish to compliment him on his speech. It was a most admirable presentation of his case, but on one particular point I challenged him by interjection. The honorable member for Flinders said definitely that the minimum wage should not and must not be affected in any way by economic factors. I submit that the minimum wage must respond to economic conditions just as do the profits of the employers and the wages of every man and woman in the community. In fact, no wage, salary, or reward drawn from industries, can remain unresponsive to economic factors.
– What about the bosses?
– In like manner the profits of the bosses must respond to the economic conditions. What I complain of is that the honorable member for Flinders did not suggest a minimum wage that would not be affected by, or would be proof against economic factors. If it were possible to devise a minimum wage unaffected by or unresponsive to the economic factors, surely the honorable member for Flinders, with his weight of knowledge on things economic and industrial, would have been able to devise it. But as he could not, I take it that he is prepared to let hia case go by the board.
I come now to a consideration of the bill itself. It is designed on three main lines. First, the abolition of the secret ballot; secondly, the repeal of that section of the act which invites the court when making awards to disregard the economic position; and thirdly, the establishment of absolute preference to unionists. Those are the three cardinal principles upon which the bill is framed.
– On what ground does the honorable member say that there is in this legislation any’ invitation to the court to disregard economic factors?
– The tenor of the debate clearly indicates that. I illustrated my point by reference to the remarks of the honorable member for Flinders.
– I am speaking of the act as it will stand when this amending legislation has been passed.
– Does the AttorneyGeneral suggest that the position of the court in respect of the economic factor bearing on the minimum wage, is to remain as it is at present?
– The direction which is now given to the court will be removed to enable the court to have unfettered discretion.
– That is sheer equivocation. The honorable member knows that this bill is designed to remove existing limitations of the act as amended By the previous Government. One of the amendments to that act established some connexion between the minimum wage and the economic factor. Does the Attorney-General propose to allow that to remain ?
– I do not propose to allow this Parliament to interfere with the discretion of the court.
– The AttorneyGeneral, by his equivocation, clearly indicates that he cannot refute my argument, and the only inference that I can draw is that my own conclusion is correct. The measure will have but one effect. It will victimize the loyalist workers on the waterfront, to the great satisfaction of honorable members opposite, who wish to wreak vengeance upon that particular section of the industrial community.
– That is absolute nonsense.
– It is my considered opinion, and I am entitled to give expression to it.
– It does the honorable member little credit.
– The bill is designed also to provide trade unions with the right to do as they like. That is a right that should not be enjoyed by any section of the community. In other words, it is intended to exercise a new tyranny on peace-loving, loyal and law-abiding mcmb.ers of the community. That is an inescapable conclusion if the bill is read free from party considerations. A further object of the bill is to grant a charter to organized unionism to paralyse industry at will, in the certain knowledge that it will have the approval of constituted authority. That is what, in the past, unionism has not been able to claim. The passage of this legislation will give to;unionism a fresh charter for lawlessness, of which it will not be slow to avail itself.
Another proposal made by the bill is to abolish the secret ballot. Some of the soundest remarks that have been made with respect to that particular matter fell from the lips of the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) yesterday. [Quorum formed.’] I contrast those remarks with others made by the Attorney-General (Mr. Brennan) when he introduced the bill, in which he referred to the secret ballot as “ an inexcusable interference with the selfgovernment of organizations “. No weaker, more illogical, or more unconvincing argument could be advanced in favour of this obnoxious proposal to eliminate the secret ballot provisions of the act. Its use is a revelation of the lamentable position into which the honorable gentleman has been forced. If he could not find a better argument to support the withdrawal of those provisions, he ought not to have commented upon the matter. If there are to be no penalties for defiance of awards, and if the rank and file of the trade unions are to be denied the free and unfettered expression of their views, a highly dangerous and an odious power will be placed in the hands of unscrupulous union leaders. The only assurance and insurance that the community now have against that position arising is the presence of the secret ballot provisions in the act as. it stands. There is neither justice nor common sense in the proposal to remove them for the specious and unconvincing reasons given by the AttorneyGeneral.
Another feature of the bill to which exception has been taken is the proposal to appoint conciliation commissioners. Broadly, I rather favour the idea of having conciliation commissioners. Our whole system of compulsory arbitration will have to be amended along the lines of conciliation rather than in any other direction; and this proposal of the Government is, in principle, an endorsement of that idea. But if the appointments are to be based on political prejudices and party predilections, this portion of the act will have in it a potential power to drive a further nail into the coffin of compulsory arbitration as we now know it.
– The same may be said with regard to the judges.
– However weak the judges may be with respect to their knowledge of . the conditions that govern industry, they are strong in their sense of justice and their knowledge of conditions generally.
What, to me, is another objectionable feature in the bill is the proposal to give absolute preference to unionists. The fundamental idea underlying preference to unionists when it was first conceded in New Zealand was that it . should form part of a bargain entered into between trade unionists and the public, the unionists on their part undertaking to refrain from striking if the public, on its side, would give them preference. That is the principle which has been followed in season and out of season. But nobody who is familiar with the industrial life of Australia will contend that that undertaking has been honoured by trade unionists in this country.
I object to this legislation, also, on the ground that it is being foisted on the industrial affairs of Australia without the concurrence of all the parties concerned; it was not conceived in industry after conferences and debates between those primarily interested, but has been brought forward at the instigation of only one party. Moreover, there is no assurance that it i3 likely to secure the co-operation which is absolutely vital to the economic and financial rehabilitation of the Commonwealth. A’ case to the contrary, however, can be made out. I share unreservedly the misgivings both implied and stated by the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Chifley), and the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Holloway). The dominant note of their contributions to the debate was one of misgiving. I fear that the bill will not achieve the object that is sought, and that they have given it their blessing merely in the hope that it. may do so.
The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), applauded the Australian system of arbitration. Listening to the right honorable member’s declamations, one might think that it was he who had made arbitration what it is. But we know very well that if there is one mau in Australia who, more than another, has deliberately torpedoed the system, it is that right honorable member, because he subverted the court and its judges by the appointment of independent tribunals, with the result that ultimately the late Mr. Justice Higgins was driven off the Arbitration Court bench.
It has been contended that the principle of arbitration can be best served by its administration by the central Government. I do not share that view; I believe that it is a wrong one. If the principle of arbitration must be maintained - and in my opinion it will not serve the best interests of Australia to maintain it - it can be best secured by a complete withdrawal of the central Government from the field, so that the State Governments, which have complete power, and are able to operate it without the limitations that are imposed upon the central Government, will be unhampered in their administration. In support of that argument I read the following extract from the majority report of the Royal Commission on the Constitution, on the question of industrial powers -
We do not recommend that the Commonwealth Parliament be empowered to legislate with respect to industrial matters generally. In our opinion, the reasons which may be urged against the abolition of the federal and the establishment of a unitary system of government in Australia may be urged against the transfer of this power to the Commonwealth. In our opinion, industrial legislation should be regarded as a function of the States. In many matters industrial legislation is experimental, and each State should decide for itself whether it is prepared to test the value of proposed legislation of this character and to accept the responsibility for its consequences. We also think that industrial legislation peculiarly requires local supervision, and should be in the hands of the authority which is responsible for the maintenance of law and for the good order of the community. We think, further, that the general power to legislate with respect to industrial matters should be in the hands of the legislature which has the general power to deal with health, trade and commerce, mines, lands, public works, and the development of a State. We do not think that it would be for the good of Australia that the Commonwealth Parliament should be occupied with industrial questions or that federal elections should turn on industrial issues.
In our opinion paragraph (xxxv) of section 51 of the Constitution, which relates to conciliation and arbitration, should be deleted. We think that the Parliament which -deals with industrial arbitration and conciliation should be the Parliament which has control of industrial matters generally. For the reasons given above we think that this control should be in the hands of the Parliament of each State.
We think that the history of the decisions on this paragraph shows ( 1 ) that the arbitration power, however exercised, should not be dissociated from the power to legislate on industrial matters; and (2) that there would be great difficulty in framing a definition of dispute which would ensure that only real disputes, in the sense in which that term was used in the earlier judgments of the High Court, were brought before the Commonwealth Court.
We are of the opinion that the arbitration power should not be exercisable by two authorities, and that it should be in the hands of the States and not of the Commonwealth.
I believe that that is a reasonable view of the situation, and, until it is acted upon, we shall have the confusion and overlapping that obtains in industrial affairs to-day. The opinion is growing, in my mind, that Australia will have no surcease from industrial embroilments until the whole system is discarded. Until Australia is prepared to abandon the present system to which she has committed herself, and adopt one formed on the basis of direct negotiation between employer and employee, there will be no final settlement of industrial strife as Ave know it in Australia to-day. If there were anything favorable to or in vindication of the present system, would it not have been copied or applied in some form by those countries where problems similar to those of Australia have to be considered? No greater condemnation of it is to be found than lies in the fact that in no other country in the wide world has the Australian system been adopted in any considerable degree. Are we prepared to go on tinkering with our arbitration system, when other great industrial nations have devised different methods, which give them comparative relief from industrial strife?
– One would have thought that the honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Morgan) would have mentioned the fact that the matter he was discussing at the conclusion of his speech was decided at the last federal election, when the great majority of the people decided that this Parliament should legislate with regard to industrial arbitration. Notwithstanding the majority recommendation of the Royal Commission on the Constitution - there was a majority of only one vote - the people decided in favour of federal arbitration in order to secure uniformity in industrial regulation. If each State fixed its own hours of employment and rates of wages, there would inevitably be chaos in industry. In one State there might be no regulation, and that would have an injurious effect on another State that was endeavouring . to provide fair conditions in the interests of the workers. The mere fact that the States of Australia have federated as a commonwealth is an indication that uniform laws are desired by the people. I challenge the remark of the honorable member for Darling Downs that federal arbitration has completely broken down. Would he contend that our- criminal and civil courts are a failure, merely because some members of the community disregard the laws of the land? We have passed statutes to regulate marriage and divorce, but there is a continual stream of litigants through the divorce courts. There are laws to prevent robbery and fraud, yet crime is committed. We do not contend that because laws are disobeyed by a certain percentage of the people, they should be repealed. Federal arbitration laws have been passed for the protection of the workers, and, merely because they have not been observed in their entirety, it cannot be logically argued that they should be abolished. Any section that feels that it is suffering under an injustice has the inherent right of Britishers to strive to obtain its rights.
The remarkable progress that we have made as a nation is due to the fight that the workers have put up to secure fair conditions of employment. Trivial industrial disputes should not be regarded as strikes. There have been fewer strikes in Australia than in any other country. The whole object of compulsory arbitration is to prevent their recurrence. The honorable member for Darling Downs realizes that, if the Arbitration Act is amended as proposed under this bill, the rural workers in Queensland may make an application for the restoration of the award that has been taken from them. Those workers have as much right to protection as those employed in the cities, and the absence of an award enables employers to take advantage of their conditions when employment is scarce. My experience of arbitration, as a member of the early New South Wales court, led me to appreciate the benefits of the system. It has raised the level of the workers by eliminating sweating and other bad conditions of employment. Under free competition the unscrupulous employers drag the respectable ones down to their own level. Australia has made great progress since the introduction of compulsory arbitration. Probably no country has enjoyed greater prosperity than Australia has in the last twenty years.
– It is a fact. But for the late war, Australia would have been prosperous still. There are 800,000 employees enjoying the benefits of federal awards, and are ‘ they to be left to the mercy of employers who would dictate their own terms to them? An industry that cannot afford to give a living wage to its employees should not be allowed to continue.
– Then you are opposed to giving any industry a bounty?
– That is a different matter. An industry that cannot pay a decent wage is not worth encouraging, unless it is regarded as an essential industry! and, in that case, it is entitled to a bounty to keep it going.
– Bounties are granted as a matter of public policy to enable industries to pay a decent wage.
– Yes. When I was associated with the Arbitration Court in New South Wales, in nearly every case the employers advanced the argument that they could not afford to pay increased wages or give improved conditions to their employees. But the court had the right to -inspect their books, and ascertain what their profits were. That enabled the court to give awards in accordance with the evidence at its disposal.
– Then the employers increased their prices, and passed on their increased costs to the workers.
– The court could not regulate that. No award was given that would do injury to the employers; the economic effects of awards were taken into consideration. Arbitration has operated satisfactorily in New South Wales. For the first six years there were very few strikes under the old act passed in that State. It was only when legal points were taken as to the constitutionality of awards that trouble began. Australia, is to be represented at the Geneva Conference, because we desire to bring about international peace; but should we cease to be interested in the League of . Nations because, so far, we have been unable to prevent war? It should be our object to bring about, not only international peace, but peace in industry. The bill proposes to amend or remove many sections in the existing act. My experience as a union official is that the members often demand secret ballots in connexion with union business - for instance, in regard to. the election of officers and proposals for a strike. They ‘ adopt that course voluntarily; but when the last Government attempted to make it compulsory in certain circumstances they made a laughing stock of the act. A large body of men cannot be forced to do something against their will.
– Does not a member of a union who demands a secret ballot become a marked man ?
– That is bunkum. There are freer discussions at trade union meetings than in this Parliament. Men ventilate their grievances without’ fear or reservation. In connexion with the election of their officers’ they appoint scrutineers and returning officers, and take all precautions to secure that the procedure is regular. But when they are compelled to take a secret ballot under the supervision of the court they resent the reflection cast upon their own officers. That section of the act has been a complete failure, and there is no warrant for retaining it.
– A secret ballot would not be ordered by the Government; it must be requested by ten members of the union.
– If ten men ask for a compulsory ballot in opposition to the wish of the other 5,000 members, does the honorable member think that the majority will quietly submit to be overruled? This section which attempts to dictate to trade unionists in the conduct of their own business is one of the reasons why the Bruce-Page Government was defeated at the last election.
– If ten members of a union applied for a secret ballot on a frivolous matter the court would not order it to be taken.
– It has been done, and the secret ballot during the timber strike was a complete fiasco. I believe in arbitration, but -more so in conciliation. The parties should confer and endeavour to settle their dispute. Conciliation has settled many troubles ; but the Arbitration Court is necessary as a final court of appeal; for without it the employers or the men will attempt to dictate their own terms. Now they know that if they cannot reach agreement by conciliatory methods the law will compel them to refer their differences into court and abide by 1 a legal award. I have known many of the judges who have presided in arbitration courts, and I believe that all of them were honestly trying to do their best in the interests of the people and industrial peace. If, however, the procedure of the court gives too much scope for legal technicalities, the men who have to approach the court become soured and the arbitration becomes more involved and expensive. The procedure should be simplified. Lawyers are an excellent class, and do useful work for the community, but I would prefer that a court should consist of a judge as president and two assessors nominated by the employers and employees respectively.
– That is the principle of the Wages Board.
– It is the principle of the old arbitration law. By that system the judge has the assistance of practical men who have a first-hand knowledge of the industry with which the court is dealing. Thus greater confidence is given to both sides.
– The bill makes provision for assessors.
– -Yes; but the final court should be constituted of representatives of the employer and employees, with the judge as president. If Judge Lukin had been assisted in the timber’ case by representatives of the industry, the award of the court would have been very different and much trouble would have been averted.
– At the committee stage the honorable member’s suggestion may be very well developed.
– I am very pleased to get that promise from the AttorneyGeneral. No country can afford industrial turmoil. The progress and wellbeing of Australia depend on continuity of work and production. Frequent interruptions of industry are’ bad for all sections. In view of the Attorney-General’s promise I shall defer my further remarks to the committee stage.
– I was pleased to hear the remarks of the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. E. Riley). If more members of his party were as moderate as he is there would be less trouble in industry and fewer obstacles to progress. When we study the effect of arbitration in Australia, the win-tie-or-wrangle policy of the majority of those associated with the Labour party, and the frequent defiance of the law, we cannot help realizing that we are living in a fool’s paradise. We occupy a country rich in mineral, forest, agricultural and pastoral resources, and with one of the finest climates in the world ; yet of our population of 6,000,000, tens of thousands are unemployed. Surely this fact must make us recognize that if we act in defiance of economic laws the country must end in destitution and bankruptcy. The object of the bill is “ to promote goodwill and peace in industry “. We have had an Arbitration Act since 1904, and when have we had goodwill and peace in industry ?
– Where in the world are peace and goodwill?
– I propose to show that Canada, whose climate is not as good as -that of Australia, and which is without our vast mineral resources, yet shows a greater record of development, pays higher wages than are paid in Australia, and is able to compete successfully against all other countries. Canada has to import its requirement of bituminous coal and other raw materials, but is able to boast that last year many of its industries paid wages twice as high as those in Australia, and that its exports of secondary products in 1929 exceeded its total exports in 1914. Although its tariff is the lowest in the world, it can export manufactured goods to other countries. Although we have a wonderful country, we have made an awful mess of it by the wretched policy of interfering in industry by means of arbitration legislation. I offer no excuse for opposing the bill. I have consistently opposed the Commonwealth’s invasion of the field of arbitration. The Constitution never intended that the Commonwealth should interfere with the industries of the States. Yet a court sitting in Melbourne attempts to fix wages and working conditions for industries in Western Australia, Northern Australia and Tasmania ! What wretched folly it is to imagine that industries can be developed in this fashion !
– How many federal awards apply to Western Australia?-
– Not many; but I know the resentment that was felt by the timber-workers of that State when the unions in the Eastern States tried, through the Federal Court, to involve Western Australia in the big timber strike. The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) has told the House of the absence of industrial trouble in Western Australia where industry is regulated by people who understand it. The Arbitration Court, there is constituted of a judge as a president and two commissioners. - representing the employers and employees respectively. What provision in this measure is designed . to bring employers and employees together? Its effect . will be to give euormou3 power to trade union, officials. When it becomes law I pity the hard-up worker who wants a job and is not on good terms with his union secretary. Little, if anything, has been done by trade union organizations to overcome the problem, of unemployment. . What reason can b<; assigned’ for our present great volume of unemployment, which is a standing disgrace to Australia? After years of prosperity, when prices for wool, wheat, and other products have been at record levels, we have now, at the first hint of a fall in those priced, hundreds of thousands of workers thrown out of employment. This condition of affairs is a reproach- to the politicians who have guided the destiny of Australia in the past. The arbitration system in Canada is worthy of a trial. At any rate, it possesses the advantage of not being compulsory. It has been proved to be wrong to compel a person to sell his services at a pre-arranged price fixed by some one else. Any one who believes that the passing of this legislation will confer any benefit on the nation, or tend to . preserve industrial, peace, is surely one of the world’s greatest optimists. I ask leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Brennan) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I desire to place before, the Prime Minister some additional information in regard to a complaint raised by myself, at the instance of a trader in Perth, that there was a close corporation in . the metal trade, and some others, and that supplies were refused to traders who did not belong to the association. In the course of a lengthy reply the Prime Minister said -
The matter was fully investigated by an officer of the Customs Department in Western Australia, and it wns found that the complainant had not approached the Broken Hill Proprietary Company for supplies. . . . It is no doubt equitable that a trader should be able to obtain a reasonable profit on tho sale of goods, but what the Government has to guard against is that manufacturers are not taking undue advantage of the’ protection afforded by the tariff by charging unnecessarily high prices, acting in restraint of trade to the detriment of the public or acting in a manner which results in unnecessarily high prices ‘ being charged to the consumer for his goods.
I have now received a further telegram from Sweetman and Company, Perth, as follows : -
Approached their representatives at interview in George Wills, Perth office when first he arrived this State, also telegraphed Hoakins for supplies, but received no response except through Broken Hill’s agents, Elder Smith, who advised unable quote: also approached Haydon, representative Australian Steel Company, who advised could not accept orders from us. Then issued public challenge Westralian issue twenty-sixth April, heading “ Protected industries “ fortnight later. Competitors Sandovers invited us join Hardware Association, which wc did, and can now obtain quotes for 50 tons minimum, but no suitable supplies except from Haydon’s Company; customs official present in office when definitely refused supplies linseed oil until admitted oil association. Find can now make 30 per cent, more profit, steel, oil than when selling similar imported goods. This result price- fixing by associations. Structural steel was being traded and fabricated here by Elders as agent broken Hill, now possible buy from latter. Hoping secure competitive business. Iron similar to Netherton still not manufactured in Australia, yet subject duty of £4 ton. Been ill ; writing. - Sweetman.
This telegram contains a definite rebuttal of the statement of the customs officer that no application for supplies was made to the . Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited. As a Triatter of fact, the firm was refused supplies of iron and steel until it joined the association. Now, having joined, it is able to make 30 per cent, more profit than when it was importing supplies and trading openly. I want the Tariff Board Act to be revised in such a way that persons or corporations acting in restraint of trade may be punished. I should also like’ the Tariff Board to make a report as to whether there is restraint of trade in connexion with the sale of iron, steel, wire, and wirenetting, with a view to having steps taken to protect the public.
– Inquiries will be made into the matter raised by the honorable member for Swan, and an answer will be furnished to him in due course.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 3.48 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 20 June 1930, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1930/19300620_reps_12_125/>.