12th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Norman Makin) took the chair at 2:30 p.m., and offered prayers.
– Only a few momenta ago my attention was called to a personal explanation made yesterday by the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) in reference to an allegation in a Sydney newspaper that the schism between him, myself, and other members of the Australian party had arisen out of chagrin in connexion with the distribution of certain party funds. I corroborate the honorable member’s statement that the report is grotesquely untrue. In one respect Iwish it were not; for at the present time the Australian party is passing through a period of black depression. I repudiate entirely the newspaper report.
– In last night’s issue of the Melbourne Herald appeared a report of a meeting of the French Chamber of Commerce in Australia, in which. this paragraph appeared -
Members of the French Chamber of Commercein Australia considerthat as regards customs duties Australia has selected France for unfair discrimination.
The Assistant Trade Commissioner for France is reported as haying said that the Federal Government had discrimin ated against his country in respect of the importation of certain classes of French goods. I ask the Minister for Trade and Customs whether the tariff schedule does discriminate against France.
– The application of the tariff is world-wide; it does not discriminate against any country.
Report of Select Committee
– I desire to address a question to you, Mr. Speaker, in reference to the arrangement of the businesspaper. The debate on my motion for the printing of the report of the select committee on the tobacco-growing industry appears as the last item of general business. Does that mean that the House will not have an opportunity to discuss the motion before next private members’ day?
– Not necessarily. Government business takes precedence, but, by arrangement with the Prime Minister, a private motion may be brought on at any time.
– In view of the fact that my motion for the appointment of a select committee was accepted by the Government, will the Prime Minister treat the motion for the printing of the report as Government business and afford an early opportunity for its discussion?
– The relative urgency of that motion and other business will be considered by the Government. It. does not necessarily follow from the position in which the motion is placed on the notice-paper that the debate upon it will not be resumed until next private members’ day. The Government can bring the motion on at any time.
– In regard to the closing of certain mines at Broken Hill, newspaper reports suggest that one of the main reasons forthe miners’ refusal of the reduced wages offered by some companies was that the owners did not, in any case, intend tokeep open the mines towhich the offer related, and that the reduction would be made to apply to other mines that could still be operated at a profit. Will the Prime Minister inquire into the matter with a view to taking action, independently or in conjunction with the Government of New South Wales, to clear up the misunderstanding ? In the general interests of the community will the right honorable gentleman endeavour to ascertain whether the offer by the owners was bona fide!
– I have read that, unfortunately, mines at Broken Hill are closing down, but I have not seen the report to which the honorable member has referred. I shall, however, inquire into the matter.
– Some weeks ago the Prime Minister informed the House that a statement by the Government regarding the recent Naval Disarmament Conference in London would be deferred until after the return to Australia of the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Fenton). As that Minister is again in his place in this House, when does the Government propose to make the promised statement?
– I propose to afford an early opportunity to the Minister for Trade and Customs to submit a report to the House on the work done at the conference.
– Will the Prime Minister state whether the Government has given consideration to the request, of a deputation which waited upon him recently for assistance to the dried fruits industry?
– Cabinet has given very serious consideration to the points raised by the deputation referred to. The members of the deputation emphasized the difficulties confronting the industry, and I in my turn pointed out the difficulties in the way of acceding to their requests. A sub-committee of Cabinet has been appointed, consisting of the Minister for Markets and the Minister for Home Affairs, to go into the matter, and when their report is presented to Cabinet early next week I shall be able to tell honorable members whether the Government will be able to give any assistance.
– Has the Prime Minister any information to give honorable members regarding his conference with the representatives of the Australian Overseas Transport Association?
– I have really nothing to add to the statement which has been already published in the press. I was pleased to meet the representatives of the association, because I was becoming somewhat alarmed by the statement published from time to time that no agreement had been reached. The position is that no decision has been arrived at to increase freights, and no such decision will be made until the matter has been thoroughly discussed between the shipowners and the shippers. If any move in the direction of increasing freights is taken, the Government will be immediately notified. Some difficulty has been encountered in getting one section of the shippers to agree to an arrangement for the shipping of the goods. It is believed, however, that the difficulty will be overcome. The ship-owners have stated definitely that unless they can get shipping regulated an increase of freights is inevitable. The association desired to reach an agreement with the shippers, to organize shipping in- such a way as to render an increase of freights unnecessary, and the legislation passed through Parliament- recently was for- the purpose of enabling such an agreement to be made.
– Is the difficulty with the shippers here or on the other side ?
– It is at this end. As a matter of fact, the difficulty has arisen in connexion with the wool-buyers, who represent a number of nationalities. Their trouble is that they have to arrange their shipments as far as possible with ships of their own nationality. On behalf of the Government I have urged all sections of shippers to co-operate in regulating their shipments so as to prevent an increase of freights.
Absorption of Dismissed Officers
– Will the Minister for Defence state whether any progress has yet been made towards ‘absorbing into the Federal Public Service the officers recently dismissed from the Australian Navy?
– Some progress has been made, but the matter has not yet been finalized.
– There appears to be some doubt as to whether the tariff will be considered item by item during the present session, and it is common knowledge that a great many business people feel that they are suffering hardship under the recently introduced tariff schedules. Moreover, owing to the financial stringency, manufacturers who should be benefiting under the tariff, have difficulty in finding capital to expand their businesses. In view of these facts, will the Prime Minister give an assurance that the Government will, so far as possible, consider favorably all requests for admission of goods under by-law during the waiting period, especially raw materials or partially manufactured goods which form the raw material of Australian manufacturers?
– The Government will be guided largely by the discussion on the first item of the scheule. All representations for the admission of articles will be given the fullest consideration.
– Honorable members may not discuss details in the debate on the first item.
– Such details as affect general principles can be fully thrashed out on the debate on the first item. Every application for a remission of duty, or for the admission of goods now subject to rationing or embargo, is gone into thoroughly.
– There is a lot of delay.
– I do not agree with the honorable member. The Treasurer, the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs and myself have been acting as a committee of Cabinet to deal with such requests, and we have sometimes considered them as frequently as three times a week. Up to date we have dealt with every application made, and have either granted or refused it.
New South Wales Reductions
– With reference to the recently imposed salaries cut of 8½ per cent. imposed by the New South Wales Government on members of the Public Service of that State, a statement has been published to the effect that this will apply to all public servants employed in. New South Wales, such as those in post offices, the railways department, court houses, &c. Will the Prime Minister state whether it is a fact that employees of the Postmaster-General’s Department will be affected?
– The reduction of salaries imposed by the New South Wales Government applies only to employees of that Government.
asked the Minister for Markets and Transport, upon notice -
Is he in a position to furnish the following information in connexion with the State of South Australia for each of the last three years : -
– The desired information is being obtained.
CivicAdministrator’s Car Expenses.
asked the Minister for Home Affairs, upon notice -
– Inquiries are being made and the honorable member will be advised as soon as possible.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– Inquiries will be made and a reply will be furnished to the honorable member as soon as possible.
Order of Business
asked the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice -
In connexion with the reply tothe question asked by the honorable member for Martin (Mr. Eldridge) on the15th May last, respecting the application of the Australian Tramway Employees Association, will the Minister inform the House of -
The date on which each application to vary the Tramway Traffic Award, Nos.66 and 101 of 1925, was filed at the Commonwealth Arbitration Court ;
The name of each applicant, i.e., whether the association or the employer;
The dates on which the court heard each of such respective applications?
– The information is being obtained.
asked the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice -
What was the last date on which His Honour Judge Lukin sat in the Arbitration Court?
– The 26th June. 1930.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The information will be obtained.
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister for Markets and Transport, upon notice -
Will he bring forward legislation to provide an export control board for pork products industries ?
– I am in consultation with the Council for the Australian Pig Industry in regard to this matter, and shall be glad to do everything possible which is likely to improve the position of the industry.
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Will he make provision for an increase in the customs duty on black-grown maize by ls. per cental ?
– If a definite request for an increase in the duty is made by the interests concerned, it will receive careful consideration.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
What quantity of horticultural glass has been imported into Australia during the past three years?
– The information sought is not recorded separately in the import statistics.
– On the 5th June the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Guy) asked me the following questions, upon notice -
I replied as follows: -
The matter has been under consideration since 1025, and I understand that a number of investigations have been made by the civil aviation authorities. I am calling for a report as to the present position of the matter.
I have now received from the Department of Defence a report by the Controller of Civil Aviation, which indicates that the investigations made disclosed that the establishment of an air service between the mainland and Tasmania, enough considered to be generally practicable, presented several problems which precluded any immediate decision to invite public tenders. The report states that, apart from the question of deciding the type of aeroplane that would most adequately fulfil all the requirements of this service, it was realized that it would not be possible to obtain a proposal that would ensure the prospect of an efficient and reliable service except at the price of a comparatively heavy subsidy from government funds, provision for which was, however, impracticable on Civil Aviation Estimates for 1929-30. When financial considerations permit, the question will receive further attention in the light of any developments that may have occurred in the meantime in the field of aircraft design and construction, which may help to remove some of the difficulties now associated with the selection of a suitable type of machine.
– On the 3rd June the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr: Maloney) asked the following question : -
I am now in a position to furnish the following answers, and, in doing so, would like to indicate that a statement of the cost of these establishments as at the date of opening has required a detailed analysis of figures, as in most cases they were opened prior to actual completion : -
The following papers were presented : -
Tariff Board - Reports and recommendations -
Arsenic and Arsenical Compounds.
Floor Coverings capable of being used either as Roofing Felt or Flooring Felt.
Ironclad Air Break Switches; Ironclad Air Break Switch Fuses; Air Circuit Breakers.
Metal Bedsteads and Cots, manufactured Angles and Fittings for Wooden Bedsteads and Wooden Cots.
Springs for Motor Cars, &c.
Steels - High-grade Carbon and Alloy.
Wireless Receiving Sets and Parts.
Wool Felt Hoods for the manufacture of Felt Hats.
Commonwealth and State Ministers - Conference held at Canberra, February, 1930 - Report.
Post and Telegraph Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1930, Nos. 61, 66.
Motion (by Dr. Earle Page) - by leave - agreed to -
That leave of absence for one month be given to the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Killen) on the ground of ill-health.
Motion (by Mr. Scullin) - by leave - agreed to -
That leave of absence for one month be given to the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Mathews) on the ground of ill-health.
Motion (by Mr. Theodore) agreed to-
That he have leave to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Income Tax Assessment Act 1922-1929, and for other purposes.
Bill brought up, and read a first time.
Motion (by Mr. Scullin) proposed -
That Order of the Day No. 1, Conciliation and Arbitration Bill, be postponed until after consideration of Orders of the Day Nos. 2 to 11.
– I protest against this proposed postponement. The Attorney-General, in his secondreading speech, said -
Pence in industry remains an ideal devoutly to be wished for. The Government has a mission to proceed unfalteringly along the rugged path that leads to this result.
Undoubtedly .the honorable gentleman has found the path very rugged. That is evident from a paragraph that appeared in yesterday’s issue of the Sydney Morning Herald, headed “Arbitration Bill - Union Secretaries Dissatisfied - Delegation to Visit Canberra.” That paragraph reads - ‘
A meeting of union secretaries at the Trades Hall yesterday decided to send a delegation to Canberra to-night to ask for certain amendments to the Arbitration Amendment Bill at present before the Federal Parliament.
Dissatisfaction was expressed at the meeting with the draft of the pill. It was pointed out that the bill had deviated from the arbitration policy of the All-Australian Council of Trade Unions on several essential points. The delegation will ask that certain modifications should be made. Members of the delegation are : - Messrs. O. Schrieber, Secretary of the Furnishing Trades Union; S. Bird, Secretary of the Australian Labour Party; J. J. Graves, President of the Australian Labour Party; O. Bryant, Secretary of the Union Secretaries Association ; E. C. McGrath, M.L.C. ; and J. S. Garden, Secretary of the Labour Council.
I regret that the Attorney-General has not lived up to his expressed determination,, but has permitted an outside influence, to interfere with our work in this Parliament. This Parliament is responsible for its legislation to the people as a whole, not to any one section. By permitting himself to be dictated to by an outside body, the Attorney-General has lowered, not only his own dignity and that of the Government of which he is a member, but also the dignity of Parliament itself. Because he has done that I protest against the postponement of the further discussion of this bill.
– I add my protest to that of the honorable member for Oxley (Mr. Bayley), against this extraordinary interference with the progress of public business in this House. What, I ask, is the reason for this interference? I suggest, in support, of the protest of the honorable member for Oxley, that the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act is not, as experience has proved, an effective instrument for the preservation of peace in industry, and, obviously, it needs to be ended rather than mended. That was my attitude on the second reading of the bill.
– Is the honorable member in order, seeing that the consideration of the conciliation and arbitration bill was postponed last night at the request of the Opposition?
– No; we offered to go on with the bill.
– It was because of the request of the Opposition that certain amendments should be made that the consideration of the bill was postponed last night.
– The honorable member has not raised a point of order.
– During the second reading I suggested that our arbitration system should be ended rather than mended. That suggestion was not then taken seriously by honorable members supporting the Government, but we now have considerable evidence that they are coming to my way of thinking. The Attorney-General (Mr. Brennan) has indicated clearly that by easy stages he too is coming to the opinion that the arbitration system should be ended and not mended. The gyrations of the Government, in respect to the whole proposal, suggest to me that the bewilderment which affects the Attorney-General is spreading rapidly among Government supporters.
– The honorable member must confine his remarks to the motion for the postponement of the order of the day.
– I am pointing out that the motion is consequent upon the bewilderment of the Attorney-General which has definitely spread to Government supporters. That bewilderment was demonstrated forcibly in this chamber the other night when the AttorneyGeneral submitted honorable members to one of those characteristic lecturettes with which his name is more or less associated. While he may continue to burn incense before the great deity of industrial altruism that he is so fond of exalting at every opportunity, and while he may continue to beat his tom toms in the way he did the other night, the miracle that be hopes for under this bill is quite unlikely to be achieved; it is beyond the power of his Government.
– I have permitted the honorable member some latitude, but his remarks are now quite wide of the motion before the Chair.
– I am sorry if I have violated the rules of the debate, but my primary object in rising was to discover, by hook or by crook, whether this bill has been dropped, or is in the process of being dropped. If it is not being dropped, I suggest that it has had a very severe push. I should certainly like to know from the Prime Minister whether the Government has decided to relegate this bill to the limbo of things discarded.
– I am happy to be able to reassure honorable members, and to answer the question which I have found hidden in the somewhat involved and largely irrelevant observations of the two speakers who have addressed themselves more or less successfully to this motion. I have been quoted, and t feel flattered in having been so quoted, as having said that the Government would proceed unfalteringly along the rugged road of industrial reform. So far, we have proceeded so unfalteringly that with the aid of an all-night sitting, we have already carried the second reading of the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill. That may be regarded as a fairly substantial instalment of unfaltering progress. I should not, I am sure, be within the Standing Orders if I were to attempt at this stage, to correlate the various explorations and speculations of honorable members opposite regarding the motives that are quite wrongly supposed to be influencing the Government in respect of this bill. I have dealt with the relevant observations, as they have arisen, and have pushed on with the consideration of the bill. I may say that, perhaps wrongly and yet entirely conscientiously, I have listened intently to every suggestion of honorable members opposite in regard to the bill. I have, perhaps also erroneously, taken as being in good faith, the various suggestions and comments that have been made by honorable members opposite. It is with great pleasure that I assure them, through you. Mr. Speaker, that there is no intention whatever on the part of the Government to deviate from the rugged road, and that our resolution is not in the slightest degree affected by the fact that the Opposition has tried in a peculiarly futile manner to render that road a good deal more rugged than it ought to be.
– That statement is entirely unjustified.
– So that the general public and this House may know precisely what is in the Government’s mind in this matter, I have, concurrently with the statement that I am now making to the chamber, handed to the press, for publication, a short and quite sufficient statement of the position.
– Before giving it to Parliament ?
– The statement reads as follows: -
The_ Government . has regarded the bill as essentially one for detailed consideration in committee. It has been impressed with the view freely expressed and shared by the Government that ample provision should be made in the bill for working out effectively its conciliation provisions. Both sides in the House and critics outside have approved the policy of bringing the parties concerned closer together in consultation freed as far as possible from the machinery and atmosphere of the law court. We have had that object in view, and have sought to attain it, but apparently it is considered that the methods adopted have not been entirely satisfactory. The Government, therefore, has postponed the further consideration of the bill for a brief period to enable it to correlate the views expressed and to make the measure as effective and satisfactory as possible, especially along the lines indicated.
I have only to add that this will be done at an early date, with firm determination and consistently with Labour policy, and that from this brief delay, given in all good faith, and for the purposes indicated,the Opposition has nothing whatever to hope beyond what I have stated.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
In committee (Consideration of Senate’s amendment) :
Senate’s amendment -
After clause 4, insert the following new clause: - “4a. - (1.) The total amount of bounty authorized to be paid under this Act in any one financial year shall not exceed Two hundred and sixty thousand pounds. (2.) When the maximum amount of bounty which may be paid in any year in respect of seed cotton or cotton yarn, as the case may be, has not been paid in that year, the unpaid balance, or any part thereof, may be paid in any subsequent year in respect of seed cotton or cotton yarn, as the case may be, in addition to the maximum amount for that year.”
– I move -
That the amendment be agreed to.
This amendment was moved in another place by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce). The Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Daly) consulted me with regard to it, and we agreed to accept it,
– I am opposed to the amendment. This bill contains no provision for the appropriation of a specific sum of money. For that reason, the members of another place seemed to think that a limit of £260,000 should be put on the expenditure in any one financial year. There is no objection to that idea as far as it goes. So long as the amount that could be appropriated under this bill remained unlimited there was no need, in my opinion, to insert a provision to safeguard the interests of the growers, but since it is proposed to limit the appropriation I consider that the interests of the growers should be protected. When the first Cotton Bounty Bill was introduced into this chamber it provided for the appropriation of £900,000 to meet the expenditure over a five-year period. It also provided for a sum not exceeding £120,000 to be paid to the cottongrowers and £60,000 to the manufacturers in any one year. The very fact that that provision was in the measure shows that the Government of the day realized the necessity for encouraging the growing of cotton. If we accept this amendment too large a portion of the £260,000 to be made available annually may be swallowed up by the manufacturers, and the growers may be short cut.
– The Queensland Cotton Board, on which the growers are represented, has intimated that it is quite satisfied with the amendment.
– The board has made no representations to me to that effect, and even if it had done so, I should still consider it my duty to do what Ibelieve to be in the interests of the cotton-growers, many of whom I repre sent, and I claim I am right on this occasion. Since the passing of the 1926-27 bill £169,000 has been paid in bounty on seed cotton and £115,000 on cotton yarn. The spinners have received proportionately to the intention of the act far more of the bounty than the cotton-growers. In these circumstances, it would be dangerous to accept the amendment of the Senate without inserting a provision to safeguard the interests of the growers. Consequently, I move -
That the Senate’s amendment be amended by omitting the words “Two hundred and sixty thousand pounds” with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following: -
in respect to seed cottonthe sum of One hundred and seventy-four thousand pounds, and
in respect of cotton yarn the sum of Eighty-six thousand pounds.”
The object of the amendment is to protect the growers of seed cotton and to prevent the manufacturers from claiming more than their fair share of the bounty in any given year. It must be remembered’ that, under the provisions of the bill, the cotton-growers will be required to pay award rates to all their employees, and if we do not make certain that a definite proportion of the bounty that is paid shall go directly to them, they may be left in a most awkward position. While the bounty exists the grower must be paid, and it is essential that his interests should be protected. Nothing would be done by my amendment to limit the amount of bounty that it is reasonable to pay to the manufacturer; it is merely designed to ensure that the grower shall be paid bounty on his commodity immediately it has been produced. A similar provision was included in. the 1926 act in the interests of the growers. It was embodied in section 6, and such a safeguard should be provided in this bill.
-The representative of the growers was consulted, and he was quite satisfied with the amendment as it stands.
– I am not, and I am at present engaged looking after the interests of the growers in anindustry that I well understand. Not being directed by, or tied to, union officials or anybody else, I am here to express my own opinion, and I am prepared to stand by it. The manufacturer can look after himself, and no doubt he is doing so. He secured his pro- portion of the amount of bounty available to the industry under the old act, and he made the biggest squeal about it. Therefore, on this occasion, when everything is being done to enable him to manufacture from Australian cotton by increased tariff protection, and no doubt he will greatly increase his manufacture of that commodity, we should at least leave a sufficient margin in the coffers of the Treasury to enable the growers to be paid their share of bounty when they have grown their crop.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. McGrath).The amendment of the honorable member for “Wide Bay would increase the total appropriation to £261,000. I want an assurance from the Minister in charge of the bill that that sum will be covered by the appropriation recommended in the message of the Governor-General. Clause 4 of the bill provides that “ there shall be payable out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund, which is hereby appropriated accordingly, the bounties specified in this act.” I want an assurance from the Minister that £261,000 is covered by the appropriation.
– With all due respect, I submit that this matter can hardly be determined on an assurance from the Minister. There must be a rule according to which a conclusion can be arrived at as to the powers of the committee on such a matter as this. That rule can hardly depend on a hurried calculation by the Minister and on an assurance given by him. I am not canvassing the facts of the case at all, but it appears to me that if the question of whether a proposal increases a charge upon the subjects of His Majesty is to be determined upon an assurance by a Minister, as distinct, from the terms of the message covering the appropriation and of the bill, the committee will find itself very soon in a difficult position.
– I submit that this is not a point that can be taken in committee ; it should be referred to the House. We can only obey the order of reference to the committee, which is that we should take the message into consideration.
– In the schedule appear the rates of the bounty to be paid. The Government has accepted in another place provision for the sum of £260,000. The honorable member for Wide Bay proposes to increase that amount to £261,000. The Chairman cannot know that the extra £1,000 is included in the appropriation. I suggest that progress be reported, and that the Minister ascertain from the officials if the appropriation is sufficient.
– To overcome the difficulty, I am prepared to reduce the figures mentioned in my amendment of £1,000 in each case.
– In connexion with the previous bill, there was a message from the Governor-General recommending the appropriation of £800,000. That was a complete sum to cover bounty payments for five or six years. In this case we have provided that the annual payment shall not exceed a given amount. I take it that the GovernorGeneral’s message still covers the original appropriation, which will run out when the money is expended, irrespective of the amount allocated per annum.
– I should like to know what the actual commitment will be at the end of the period foi” which the bounty is payable. I understand that under the original act it would have been between £800,000 and £900,000. Will the Senate’s amendment involve the country in the expenditure of a greater sum than that?
– The amendment of the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate; which the Government has accepted, will limit definitely the expenditure for any one year, and will have the effect of somewhat reducing the total expenditure rather than increasing it. If the honorable member for Wide Bay desires a division on his amendment, I would be pleased to have it put to the vote. I have consulted with my officers, and I am now satisfied that the amendment will not increase the appropriation.
.- I support the amendment to differentiate between the amounts to be paid to the producers of the raw material and the manufacturers. The original proposal for the payment of a bounty on cotton was to assist the grower. Only when the then Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. H. E. Pratten) came to the conclusion that the establishment of a tex- tile industry would assist the growers did he make provision for a bounty on manufactures, allocating definite amounts to both branches of the industry. I do not wish to see repeated in connexion with the cotton industry what has occurred in connexion with the woollen industry. The Tarra Falls Woollen Mill was able to secure a rebate of duty of £28,000 on imported wool tops despite the fact that wool tops were being manufactured in Australia by other firms. This company got the advantage of tariff protection on its manufactured goods while at the same time importing raw material duty free from abroad that was being made in large quantities in Australia. I wish to obviate the possibility that if cottongrowing should prove unprofitable expedients will be devised to enable the whole of the bounty to go to the textile industry. The amendment will ensure that a substantial proportion of the bounty will be allocated to primary production.
.- The honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr.Corser) has my sympathy. The manufacturers always have obtained a big share of this form of assistance, and always will, and I am surprised that the Government should be prepared to provide £200,000 for their benefit. Whence will the money come? I shall support the amendment in the hope that the bill will be lost. There is not the slightest doubt that this legislation will result in increased duties on cotton yarn and higher prices for cotton clothing. The position will become worse and worse until the whole system collapses.
– I too, urge the Minister to accept the amendment so that the growers may be assured of a fair share of the bounties which this Parliament is providing. In connexion with all previous bounties affecting both primary and secondary production, special allocations have been made to the growers. Ever since this bill was introduced the cotton-growers in Queensland have been suspicious that their interests would be sacrificed to the secondary branches of the industry in the southern States. The Minister can allay that suspicion by accepting the amendment.
Question - That the words proposed to be omitted stand part of the Senate’s amendment - put. The committee divided. (Chairman - Mr. McGrath.)
Majority . . . . 19
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Amendment of the amendment negatived.
Motion agreed to.
Resolution reported; report adopted.
Debate resumed from the 27th June, (vide page 3409) on motion by Mr. Theodore -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The Wiluna Gold Mines Limited was formed for the purpose of developing an extensive body of low-grade ore, and the venture has the sympathy and support of all who have the interests of gold-mining at heart. Although this industry has been on the wane for many years, the Commonwealth still contains great bodies of lowgrade auriferous ore. The Wiluna company, which is closely associated with other extensive mining interests in Western Australia, is introducing the most modern treatment plant that can be obtained for the purpose. If it succeeds, it will have done pioneering work of the utmost value to the Commonwealth, and its success will probably be followed by similar development in other parts of the Commonwealth where large bodies of low-grade ore exist, but have not in recent years been worked at a profit. Honorable members opposite who hold the view that the installation of modern machinery is a cause of unemployment should be particularly interested in the Wiluna gold-mining scheme. Owing to the perfection of certain machinery, and to the application of new scientific processes to the treatment of ores, a large number of Australian workmen will be employed at Wiluna whether the venture is successful or not, and* it is estimated that salary and wage disbursements will amount to £190,000 a year.
The Wiluna Gold Mines Limited having expended £1,000,000 on the purchase of the property and the development of the mine, ran out of money. It was estimated that an additional £550,000 would be required to bring the mine up to the point of profitable production. Owing to the present world-wide financial stringency, the company was unable to find this money. It then approached, first the Government of Western Australia, and subsequently the present Commonwealth Government, and requested of the Commonwealth Government a straight-out grant to assist in developmental work. The Treasurer (Mr. Theodore), I understand, emphatically refused to make a grant, and finally a compromise was reached whereby the company undertook to raise an additional £250,000, and the Treasurer agreed to guarantee an advance of £300,000 to the company by the Midland Bank. The
Treasurer did not agree to give a straight-out guarantee, nor yet to stand behind the Midland Bank, but he agreed to stand behind the State of Western Australia which is in between the company and the Midland Bank. I am sure that Ave all wish the Wiluna venture well. It carries with it the possibility of a great revival, of the gold-mining industry in the Commonwealth. The company is to operate upon a large scale, and already the developmental work has been of an extraordinary nature. For instance, great as have been many of themining achievements of the past, the vertical shaft on this property is, I understand, the greatest thing of its kind that has been done in Australia. It is estimated that the wealth which will be won, even by the first unit of production when it becomes operative, will be £60,000 a month.
Nevertheless, honorable members on this side of the House have been astonished at the Treasurer’s decision to engage in this extraordinary undertaking in the way he has embarked upon it. I wish to make it quite clear that honorable members on this side are impressed by the magnitude and quality of this company. It has already had considerable experience in the Commonwealth, and its financial interests are identical with those behind other great goldmining ventures in Western. Australia. I cannot refrain from pointing out, however, that there exists no precedent for the action taken by the Treasurer. It is true that the Commonwealth has in the past made some small advances in connexion with gold-mining ventures in New Guinea, but they have been unimportant. Hitherto the duty of encouraging mining has devolved almost solely upon the States. The Commonwealth has done something to encourage prospecting, but it has never before made a straight-out grant, or given a straightout’ guarantee against loss, on any considerable scale. There is a constitutional provision which enables the States to pay bounties for the encouragement of mining. It is, in fact, the only sort of bounty which the States can pay. Evidently it was contemplated that the encouragement of mining should be undertaken specifically by the
States, and it was never anticipated that this work would be undertaken by the Commonwealth. Although the Treasurer has given the assurance that there lias been an investigation of the quality, soundness, and great promise of the Wiluna enterprise, the fact remains that lie has entered an undertaking which involves £300,000 of the taxpayers’ money without having had any independent investigation made on behalf of the Commonwealth. The Treasurer has accepted absolutely, at their face value, the results of the investigation carried out on bell alf of the Western Australian Government, and the Wiluna Gold Mines Ltd. I say that subject to correction, but I cannot find any evidence of an independent investigation. There is evidence in the Treasurer’s speech, and in the bill itself, that the Treasurer was conscious of the fact that ho was doing an extraordinary thing in taking this risk with the taxpayers’ money. When he was asked by the Wiluna Gold Mines Ltd. for assistance, he refused to make a straightout grant or to guarantee a loan to the company. But he said, in effect, to the company that if it could get an advance from the Midland Bank, and if the State of Western Australia would guarantee the bank against loss, the Commonwealth Government would in turn guarantee the State of Western Australia against los3. The Treasurer has worked things in rather an astute way. He now pleads that he has not given a guarantee to the company against loss, but that he has, in a sense, taken this action to assist Western Australia on the ground that it is a necessitous State. Even regarded as a grant to a necessitous State,, this is a remarkable procedure. One is entitled to ask the Treasurer what special investigation he made into the financial condition of Western Australia at the present time. What evidence did he secure that Western Australia is suffering particular hardships as a result of federation? Apparently no investigation of that sort was made. That plea is merely an excuse, because the Treasurer recognized that his action was unprecedented and hard to justify.
The responsibility for this proposal rests with the Government. The money has already been received by the Wiluna Gold Mines
Ltd., and, personally, I do not think that it would be wise for this House to repudiate the agreement, even if it were possible to do so. Such action would place the State of Western Australia, the Midland Bank, and, particularly, this British development company in an extraordinary position. It is possible at this stage only to protest, and I do strongly protest against this action which the Treasurer has seen fit to take. It may turn out very well. I admit that the cause is a good one, but in view of the present financial position of the Commonwealth, the Treasurer’s action is astonishing. He has risked £300,000 of the taxpayers’ money on a gold-mining venture which has not yet reached the stage of production. Good as are the prospects of the Wiluna mine, there have been hundreds of others just as promising which have never yet become productive.
There is another aspect of the matter to consider. Does the Treasurer intend to set up permanently in this class of business? la he there to guarantee all promising mining companies, and grant them money to complete their development work? If he does not propose to do that why should he make an exception in the case of the Wiluna Gold Mines Ltd.? This spasmodic, unprecedented action is to be deplored and condemned. Even if this House decided that one of the functions of the Government was to guarantee the development expenses of new mines, the decision to make such advances should be entirely removed from political control. That is the practice which has been followed in the States, where independent investigation authorities have been created for the purpose. In the case under discussion, however, no independent investigation by Commonwealth officers or by experts was undertaken. The company simply made a request, and the Treasurer entered into the arrangement which has been described. Under the guise of assisting a necessitous State, the Treasurer has embarked on a risky enterprise without conductingany inquiry to ascertain whether the State concerned had, in fact, suffered hardships under federation. I believethat the sole desire of the Treasurer in this matter is to assist this great British company in its most difficult period, when, having spent £1,000,000 of shareholders’ money, it finds itself not able to complete its work. Of course, he may not have been averse to giving some assistance to his friend, the ex-Premier of Western Australia, Mr. Collier, on the eve of the elections that took place in that State. But I give him the credit of having as his principal motive the enabling of this mine to be brought to the stage of production. That, however, does not excuse action without precedent in the activities of this Parliament. Even if we have the power to refuse to ratify the agreement, such a refusal would have unfortunate effects upon the good name of this Parliament, and of Australia as a whole. The Treasurer must accept full responsibility for his action.
.- This measure is described as “ a bill for an act to ratify an agreement entered into between the Commonwealth and the State of Western Australia granting financial assistance to that State and for other purposes.” I do not know whether the House is expected to consider that, primarily, the object is to grant special financial assistance to the State of Western Australia, or to the gold-mining’ industry in that State;; because, in effect, the State of Western Australia is to be indemnified against any loss that may arise as a result of its having guaranteed the Midland Banking Company the amount that it has advanced to the Wiluna Gold Mines Limited. The matter is somewhat complicated to me. If the intention be to aid the gold-mining industry in Western Australia, I suggest that it would be more proper for this Parliament to bring down a comprehensive proposal to render assistance to that industry in the Commonwealth generally, not to grant special assistance to one company in one of the States. There is no evidence before this House that, at the present time, the position of Western Australia entitles her to further financial assistance. In every case previously, before special financial assistance was given to a State, full inquiry was made into the position of that State, and the reports that were obtained from com mittees appointed specially for the purpose have in the main been acted upon. That has been the procedure when, in the past, special financial assistance has been given to Western Australia and Tasmania. An inquiry is still proceeding into the position of Tasmania, with a view to enabling the Government to decide whether it is entitled to further financial assistance.
I do not know whether this venture is likely to prove a success or a failure. Certainly we all wish it to be successful, because it will be of great benefit to, first, Western Australia, and secondly, Australia generally, if low-grade ores can be treated successfully. But we must regard this proposal as a business venture. The taxpayers’ money will have to be used to make good any loss. It appears to me that the security is not considered very good, first by the banking company that advanced the money, because it requires a guarantee from the State, and secondly by the State because it desires that the Commonwealth shall indemnify it against possible loss. I have no objection to additional financial assistance being given to Western Australia if it is needed. I have been grateful at all times for the sympathetic way in which proposals to give special financial assistance to Tasmania have been received in this House. It is the method that has been adopted in this case that I object to; and I am bound to enter my protest against it. As the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Gullett) has stated, the responsibility is upon the Government. The agreement has been entered into, and this House can scarcely reject it. I hope, however, that this will not be regarded as a precedent. If we continued to act along these lines, what would be the position of the Commonwealth? Every State would prefer requests for indemnification against possible loss with respect to guarantees that had been given to all sorts of companies. Other States as well as Western Australia have given guarantees similar to this, but doubtless they have made inquiries into the soundness of the proposition before they have agreed to do so. I have no doubt that every State would be delighted if the Commonwealth would back its bills, as the guarantee has been backed in this case. This will be regarded as a special favour to one section of the people of one State. I am sorry that the bill has been introduced; but the agreement has been entered into, and the good name of the Commonwealth, as well as the reputation of the Government, is at stake. Although I shall not vote against the bill, I could not allow it to pass without formally entering my protest against the method that has been adopted.
.- I feel quite sure that if the House examines carefully the documents that were not read during the second-reading speech of the Treasurer, but which appear in the Hansard report–
– We have only just received the copy of Hansard containing the report of the Treasurer’s speech.
– I am confident that if the whole of the facts connected with the decision of the Government to guarantee the State of Western Australia the sum in question were appreciated by honorable members opposite, their objections to this measure would immediately vanish. This company has had, from the Government of Western Australia, the maximum amount of support that that Government’s present circumstances permit it to give. As a matter of fact the investigation by that Government, to determine whether or not the method of treatment which the company proposes to employ in connexion with the low-grade ore that it has to treat, was so exhaustive that, instead of operations being suspended until capital was freely available, they can be begun during a period of world difficulty, when capital is almost impossible to secure. Prior to this, the company raised a capital sum of £1,000,000.
– Was it paid up?
– It was. I submit to honorable members opposite that their appreciation of the intelligence of private enterprise is so keen that they must readily recognize that £1,000,000 is not forthcoming for proposals that are merely “wild-cat.” Furthermore, the Government of Western Australia, not only has to build a length of railway to connect the mine with the existing railway system, but also has to expend a considerable sum in the laying of a water supply, and the provision of a school and other facilities necessary for the carrying on of a reasonably conducted community. The honorable member for Darwin (Mr. Bell) has stated that this represents a favour to one section of the community. That is an extraordinary argument to advance in a debate of this description.Every tariff proposal confers an advantage on a particular section, and the reactions are a detriment to the rest of the community. That argument is applicable also with equal validity to every bounty that this Parliament has given to any particular industry. The probability is that, by giving assistance in this form, the Commonwealth will be relieved of any obligation to find even £1, let alone the £300,000 in question. My reading of the documents, and my knowledge of the expectations of those who are intimately acquainted with the project, lead me to believe that it will be eminently successful, and that the guarantee of the State of Western Australia to the company, and of this Commonwealth to the State, is, at most, a guarantee and will have to be made good only if the Midland Banking Company should find that the security for the loan is not adequate to meet all the charges upon it. What happens in connexion with other proposals? It may be argued that in this case only one company is involved. I point out, however, that in the majority of cases the bounties that are given by this Parliament benefit one company, or, at most, a limited group of companies. Under the system of paying bounties to industries, one State, or, at the most, two States, participate in the expenditure. That position arises because of the economic fact that certain industries are located in particular States. For example, cotton cannot be grown in Tasmania, and hops cannot be grown in Western Australia. As a result of the economic structure of this country, any bounty or assistance given to a particular industry is for the most part of advantage to a particular State. There is nothing inherently wrong with that. Western Australia has not participated in the tariff assistance given to manufacturers or in bounties to anything like the extent that the other States have. One of the chief industries of that State is the production of gold, just as the production of sugar is one of the chief industries of Queensland. While it is important that all the industries of
Australia shall be assisted and maintained, it seems to me to be particularlyimportant that at this stage of Australian history the particular process that this company is employing in order to treat economically low-grade ore should be” fully tested. The consulting engineer of the company says : -
It is acknowledged that the cost of preparing the mine and equipping it for 40,000 tons is enormous, but I justify the expenditure with the assurance that we are pioneering mining methods not previously employed in Australia.
This is a proposal to assist efficiency by applying new methods in the treatment of ore. Without these new methods, the gold must lie for ever in the ground. The engineer went on to say: -
It is recognized by all those familiar with gold-mining in Australia that there are millions of tons of ore which only require a reduced cost of production ,to restore goldmining to the high position of the principal primary production of the State that it enjoyed in the best days of the Coolgardie and Kalgoorlie gold-fields. That our efforts will be successful there can be no doubt whatever, and following our success interest will bc revived in gold-mining, and many mining centres throughout Australia, which are now mere remembrances of the early days, will again blossom into prosperous mining centres.
Honorable gentlemen opposite have, during the past month, reiterated the statement that the chief requirement of Australia to-day is cheaper methods of production in respect of all forms of industry. I agree with that. If goldmining is to be placed upon a reasonable basis, it must, more than any other industry in Australia, engage in research work in order to cheapen the cost of production, because it cannot pass that on merely by increasing the price of what it produces. There is no competency in the gold-mining industry to pass on any increase in the price of production. I need not speak of the national importance of gold-mining from the standpoint of Australian credit, nor need I remind honorable members of the significance of gold during a period of commercial crisis. This Government is fully justified in assisting this company as against other companies operating even in Western Australia. If this company were carrying on under old methods an ordinary gold-mining proposition, there would be reason for asking why it should be specially singled out and given assistance; but this is a proposal, not to establish a new industry, but to give a lease of new life to an old industry by permitting it to adapt itself to modern conditions. There seems to be a logical connexion between the policy of establishing new industries and the policy of giving continuity to old industries. The revival of a dying industry, by adapting it to new conditions, is equivalent to the establishment of a new industry, because all the new industries that are being now established in Australia will, in the course of fourteen or fifteen years, have to adapt themselves to altered conditions. Many of them may then be in the position of the gold-mining industry of to-day, incapable of carrying on unless new methods are adopted. Not only does the consulting engineer of the mining compay believe in the success of this venture, but the present State Geologist, and the State Mining Engineer, who was communicated with by the Commonwealth Government, hold similar beliefs. The honorable member for Henty has asked why did not the Commonwealth Government conduct an independent investigation.
– Hear, hear!
– Whom would the Commonwealth Government commission to carry out an investigation into the mining industry?
– Its own independent investigator.
– The only mining officials of experience in Australia are those retained by the State Governments. The Commonwealth has no mining department.
– I am not referring to State officials. I suggest the appointment of some special mining authority, such as Mr. Gepp, or the general Manager of the South Broken Hill mine.
– I have the greatest admiration for Mr. Gepp, but I see no reason why he should be regarded as the only authority capable of conducting an inquiry to ascertain whether this proposition is sound. Does the honorable member really suggest that the Western Australian Government has agreed to construct 300 miles of railway, to provide a water supply, and to engage in a policy of definite assistance to this company without having been advised by its expert officers that the project is sound ?
– But the financial responsibility is on the Commonwealth.
– It is a mere bagatelle compared with the responsibility of the State. Does the honorable member mean to say that any responsible administration would construct a railway for an immense distance, and provide water services in a remote interior, consisting practically of arid country situated 600 miles from the metropolis of Perth, without having received expert advice ? Would any Government, State or Federal, irrespective of its political complexion, do such a thing? I suggest that the honorable member himself, if he were the Premier of Western Australia, would have insisted upon obtaining the best advice available before agreeing to assist this project.
– That is so.
– The honorable member is not unique. What he would insist upon, other men charged with the responsibility of administration in Australia would also insist upon.
– -Would the honorable member say that we should, as a practice, advance money upon the reports of State officials, without any check of our own ?
– There is a provision in the Constitution which enables this Parliament to give direct assistance to the States.
– Much money was sunk in -the River Murray project in that way.
– That may be so. I admit that mistakes have been made by the States, but in this matter Western Australia is acting on reliable and competent authority.
– I make no complaint about the use of State money for this purpose. What I complain of is the use of Commonwealth money.
– Does this Parliament, as a general rule, insist upon an independent investigation in respect of tariff assistance and bounties that are given to industries ?
– The Commonwealth insists upon an investigation by the Tariff Board.
– When it is proposed to assist a State a royal com- mission is usually appointed to investigate and report, or else a statement of the disabilities of the State concerned is submitted to the Commonwealth.
– Western Australia, in this case, is given a guarantee, and I gather, from a fair reading of the bill that that State will bear the major responsibility. It will have to show cause to the Treasurer that it cannot meet the guarantee - if such guarantee should be called up by the bank - before it can rely upon the Commonwealth.
– The only security is Wiluna. The State security does not enter into the question at all.
– The State Government of Western Australia has assumed responsibility in connexion with this venture. If it is successful it will be of enormous advantage to the mining industry, not only of that State, but of Australia as a whole. If this proposition does succeed, and the evidence goes to show that it will, then most assuredly it will give goldmining a new lease of life. As the consulting engineer of the company says, there are many important mining shows in Australia that at present are unprofitable and, therefore, are not being worked. I commend this bill to the House. Western Australia has not participated to any great extent in the economic advantages that this Parliament has from time to time given to the other States. I make no complaint about that. I do not belong to that group in Western Australia which believes that there is salvation for it outside of federation. I do not agree that all the complaints that are made in Western Australia can logically be laid at the door of the Commonwealth; but I submit that the evidence is clear that where industries arc massed and population is great, the major advantage of Commonwealth legislation is derived. That is an inevitable consequence. For that reason there is. some disquietude in Western Australia when a proposition that it puts forward for Commonwealth assistance is not viewed sympathetically by this Parliament. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Gullett) has said that since the agreement has been made, there is no alternative but to abide by it, although he protests against it’. I ask him to be more generous in his attitude. This agreement has been considered on its merits; the State of Western Australia has put it forward in the best interests of the mining industry. This Parliament has not hesitated to devise ways and means of assisting important industries of a particular State and, in cases, of a group of States. I subscribe to that policy. I believe that by extending assistance to this company, the mining industry will soon become a sound commercial proposition. Under this agreement new methods will be put into operation so as to reduce the cost of production. For quite a long while the political slogan of honorable members opposite has been, “Let us reduce the cost of production.” This bill is designed to assist the development of the resources of the nation by a means which, it is confidently expected, will considerably reduce the cost of producing gold. In my opinion no new precedents are being established by, and nothing objectionable is contained in, this agreement. There may be some fine distinction between a “ grant “ and a “ guarantee “ but, broadly, the proposal is that the Government should assist the gold-mining industry of Western Australia by making possible the testing of a new method of treatment. Apart from its merits in that respect, the proposal has the additional claim to our support that it will assist a necessitous State.
– The Treasurer did not say that the object of the proposal was to assist a necessitous State.
– If the Deputy Leader of the Opposition desires me to discuss the extent to which Western Australia has suffered in consequence of Commonwealth legislation, the debate will be considerably prolonged. It has been said that there has been no proper investigation into this project. Rut that is not so, for the Western Australian Government has investigated it thoroughly.
– Before a State should be granted assistance as a necessitous State there should be a definite investigation.
– There has been such an investigation in the case of Western Australia. The Government with which the honorable member was connected, appointed a royal commission to inquire into the position of Western Australia, and the majority report of the commission made it clear that Western Australia must remain a necessitous State for at least 25 years, and thereafter for an indefinite period.
– And in consideration of that it is at present receiving a grant of so much a year.
– It is provided that before the expiration of the 25-year period another investigation shall be held to ascertain whether the position has radically altered. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition is acquainted with these facts, and I do not . propose to enlarge upon them, but I remind the honorable gentleman that the previous Government adopted the recommendations of the commission for only one year, which just carried them over an election period. The proposal of this bill is reasonable, and has been made after the most careful inquiry into the practicability of this mining company doing excellent pioneering work in the interests of the mining industry, not only of Western Australia, but of the whole of the Commonwealth. The officers of the Government of Western Australia are convinced that this project will be of incalculable benefit to the gold-mining industry generally, and I therefore hope that the bill will be passed.
– I must congratulate the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Curtin) upon his valiant effort to convince himself of the justification for accepting certain financial proposals in this bill which I am sure he would not accept in any other measure. The first of these is that Commonwealth money may be spent without a direct sense of responsibility or a direct investigation into the justification for the expenditure; the second is that there is no need to insist upon the inclusion in this- bill of the principle laid down in the Wheat Marketing Bill that States which are assisted by the Commonwealth to develop their primary industries shall be held liable for 50 per cent, of any loss that may be incurred in that connexion; and the third is that the Commonwealth Government may guarantee the private accounts of private . companies.
In view of the denunciations by honorable members opposite during the last two or three weeks of the use of machinery in industry on the plea that it displaced men from employment, it is interesting to hear the honorable member who has just resumed his seat declare’ that the introduction of labour saving devices in this industry was desirable.
– It is not true that honorable members on this side of the chamber are opposed to the introduction of machinery.
– The honorable member himself, and several of his colleagues, said during the debate on the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill that the mechanization of industry had caused the dismissal of many workers, and had increased the number of unemployed men in our midst.
The proposals contained in this bill are unprecedented in our history, and I object to the manner in which the Government is attempting to give effect to them. The second-reading speech on this bill was made last Friday, and the copies of the Hansard which contains it were made available to honorable members only a few minutes ago. I did not receive my own copy until I had taken my seat at this table to wait for the call to deliver this speech. We should have been given more time to consider the reasons advanced by the Treasurer in support of such revolutionary proposals. An examination of the honorable gentleman’s speech shows that it consisted principally of quotations from reports of persons directly interested in the Wiluna Gold Mines, or from the Government of Western Australia, which was anxious to divest itself of liability, and contained very little otherwise in support of the proposal. From the few observations that the Treasurer made on his own account, I abstract the following paragraph : -
The company was informed that the Commonwealth Government would not grant financial assistance direct to the company, but would be prepared to co-operate with the Government of Western Australia in extending financial assistance provided the Government of Western Australia was satisfied that the Wiluna enterprise was of such a nature as to warrant Government aid.
He then went on to describe how the Western Australian Government would co-operate with the Commonwealth Government in this matter. In this connexion he said -
The Commonwealth undertook that if the Government of Western Australia was willing to guarantee a bank overdraft up to £300,000 repayable by the company at the rate of £50,000 per annum, the Commonwealth would be prepared to recoup the State against any losses arising from such guarantee.
It will thus be seen that the Commonwealth is accepting the whole of the financial responsibility. The honorable gentleman went on to remark that any assistance granted to Western Australia under the provisions of the bill could be regarded as additional assistance to a necessitous State. But to suggest that the State is accepting any financial obligations under this scheme is to mislead honorable members. The plain fact is that the Commonwealth will indirectly act as guarantors of a private mining company. Although this company has already spent about £1,000,000 on its venture, it has not yet made it reproductive, and says that the money to be made available under this bill is necessary to enable it to continue its operations. State Governments have frequently assistedmining and other private ventures; and during the war period and immediately afterwards the Commonwealth Government did something of that nature; but since that time of national emergency has been left behind - that is to say in the last seven or eight years - the Commonwealth Government has definitely declined to assist private undertakings in this way. The Commonwealth Bank and other banks are available to persons who desire financial accommodation to develop their projects ; but such assistance should be granted on a purely commercial basis. It is not proper for the Commonwealth Government to stand behind private concerns like this in States where there is responsible Government. If the Government is willing to do anything in this connexion, it should do it, first of all, within the territories for which it is itself definitely responsible. We have mineral resources in our own territories which could be developed.
When the last Government was informed that the various State Governments had exhausted their votes for assisting prospecting for minerals and precious stones, it took steps to make certain sums available to the States for continuing work of this kind; but the moneys so appropriated were to be made available only after the States had completely exhausted their own funds for these purposes. Everybody desires to see the gold-mining industry restored to its former prosperity. The last Government had that desire, and it instructed the Development and Migration Commission to make an investigation into the cause of depression in the industry. The commission, which, by the way, this Government could have instructed to inquire into this particular project if it had not determined to “ scrap “ it, recommended that a conference should be called of representatives of the various State Governments to discuss various amendments to State mining laws. It is well known that for many years gold-mining enterprises have, under certain conditions, been exempt from Commonwealth taxation, and the commission recommended that the States should also be invited to grant such exemption. The commission pointed out that there were certain things which the Commonwealth Government should do, and the most important was to relieve the mining industry of customs duties on mining machinery. It was stated that, if it was necessary to retain those duties, the sum of £250,000 should be made available for their refund to the mining companies. Is action along those lines being taken by the present Government? Is there any proposal to ensure that their machinery can be installed in the cheapest and most efficient way? I saw nothing in the Treasurer’s statement in that regard. The suggestion was also made in the report of the commission that there should be co-operation between the States and the Commonwealth along definite lines. At page 21 of its report the commission stated -
It cannot be seriously contended that the Commonwealth Government should assume generally the financing of large scale goldmining development work, even though it be shown to the satisfaction of the Government that such is of national importance. Private enterprise is to receive the benefit of the work if successful. It is therefore not only desirable, hut necessary, that, before investigating the merit of any such undertaking, there be substantial proof that capital is not forthcoming from normal business sources.
Funds appropriated for such purposes would necessarily require the full approval and joint financial co-operation of the State as well as proof to the Commonwealth Government from its own officers that the project was justified on technical and economic grounds, and that the money would be efficiently used.
On examining the present proposal, one finds that it does not conform to that standard. The report goes on to say -
Assistance, therefore, from Commonwealth sources must be limited to come within the range of the above conditions as well as meet the conditions that the States control the mines.
The commission insists that the States, in every case, should bear a share of the financial responsibility.
Before this money was made available to the mining company in question, an investigation should have been made by the Commonwealth’s own officers, and the Government should have consulted Parliament to see if it approved of the proposal. “What is the use of asking us to ratify an agreement subsequent to elf ect having been given to it ? The company has already shown that it is not able to raise the money required, and it is not possible to discard the agreement now that the Commonwealth Government has become a party to it. I emphatically object to such methods of granting assistance.
– The Queensland Government gave -a guarantee in a similar case.
– A State Government has the right to deal with such matters in its own territory. I would not object on the same grounds if the company concerned were operating in Northern Australia, or in one of the mandated territories.
– Surely this Parliament is interested in Western Australia!
– Yes ; but the Government of that State has a responsibility of its own, and should be prepared to bear its share of the burden. The honorable member was among those who insisted, in connexion with the wheat pool guarantee, that Western Australia should carry its full share of the responsibility.
– The Western Australia Government has already spent £500,000 or £600,000 in connexion with this company’s operations.
– I applaud the action of that Government, but why is it not prepared also to accept half the responsibility for this guarantee? I fail to see what justification the Government has for placing the Commonwealth in this position without a full and complete investigation by its own officers.
.- The statement that honorable members on this side, including myself, are always protesting against the use of machinery in industry, on the ground that it causes unemployment, is a misrepresentation of the opinions that we have expressed. What we try to convince honorable members opposite of is that rapid changes are taking place in the industrial world, and that the mechanization of industry is throwing so many men out of employment that conditions must be adjusted to the changing needs. But it might as well be said that honorable members on this side are trying to prevent the operation of the laws of nature as to assert that they are opposed to the introduction of labour-saving machinery.
.- The right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) apparently believes that responsibility for any financial assistance given to the mining industry must be shared between the States and the Commonwealth; but, when the subject of the shale oil bounty was under discussion recently, I did not hear him submit that view. The right honorable gentleman himself represents a district in which almost every product is highly protected. I believe that he was Treasurer when the bounty on galvanized iron was granted to Lysaghts, but he did not suggest that New South Wales should accept half the liability. Now his idea seems to be that a State should accept a proportion of such a liability if it happens to be one of the outlying and less populous States which ordinarily receive no bounties at all. Assistance from the Commonwealth seldom comes their way; but, when it does, the proposal meets with the combined opposition of the representatives of the larger States and of some of the smaller States as well. Every bounty that is granted, no matter under what name it is given, connotes assistance at the ex pense of the Commonwealth, and the granting of one is a precedent for the giving of another. The main difference between the assistance now under consideration and that which has been distributed with great largesse among the more populous States, is that in the latter case it has been given directly, while in this instance it is proposed that half the responsibility should be accepted by the State.
– A similar condition is attached to the guarantee given under the wheat scheme.
– That is a scheme that we should support ; but Western Australia and South Australia are afraid to enter it because of the financial responsibility which it involves. This shows the unfair distribution of Commonwealth bounties, and it is very difficult to make the representatives of the eastern States realize it. Comment has been made on the method by which the guarantee to the Western Australian mining company is to be given. I do not consider the form of the guarantee to be very important; it is the substance of the guarantee and the extent of the liability that are of chief importance. There are constitutional methods of providing guarantees. I believe that the Constitution enables them to be given in the manner provided for under this bill, and I take it that the Treasurer has adopted what he regards as the most convenient form of granting assistance to the gold-mining industry. It has been suggested that Western Australia has already had its full share of financial assistance; but it has not yet received the full amount recommended by the commission that inquired into its disabilities. Since that inquiry that State has suffered, perhaps, more than any other by the imposition of new duties and the granting of further bounties in the eastern States.
– If this machinery is successful it will revolutionize the goldmining industry.
– I thank the honorable member for that interjection. The gold deposit at Wiluna has been worked for many years. The report of the State mining engineer of Western Australia, referring to this field, states -
The Wiluna Mines Limited’s proposition has now been well proved. The lodes are long and wide. They have provided 340,711 tons of ore from above the 100-ft. level, returning £565,004 worth of gold, and it is now proved that good ore extends beyond the limits of the older workings, so that there is strong probability that the output from the first 100 feet will be not less than 400,000 tons.
This is a proved lode, and it is intended to apply to it a process that offers every prospect of success. If success is obtained the advantage will be enormous, not to Wiluna alone, but to the gold-fields of Australia generally. The Wiluna enterprise will immediately pay £190,000 annually in wages. If it is- successful it will be the biggest individual employer of labour in the Commonwealth. Gold mining gave the first impetus to Australian development; the discoveries in Western Australia relieved the distress of the eastern States after the great bank smash in the early ‘nineties, and, second only to the discovery of oil in commercial -quantities, gold mining offers more prospect of retrieving the economic and financial position of Australia than any other industry. Both in South Africa and in North America, ore of lower grade than that at Wiluna is being worked profitably. This is not a hurried, haphazard venture; it has been amply investigated by the State of Western Australia, -which has already incurred a liability much greater than the Commonwealth is asked to accept. Further preliminary investigation would merely cause unnecessary delay and expense.
– In addition . an agreement has been made with the company to provide the money.
– That is so. The Western Australia Government has already shown its bona fides by incurring a considerable expenditure, and the capital subscribed by the company is proof of its good faith. The representatives of the larger States are always anxious to get their heads into the bounty trough, but an application from a distant and less influential State is subjected to the most jealous and suspicious scrutiny. I commend the Government for having introduced this measure.
– This method of giving assistance to Western Australia, particularly the mining industry, appears to be better than the payment of a bounty on the production of gold. If the scheme is sound, this grant will help the State and the gold mining industry to help themselves. If assistance to any part of Australia or individual industry is necessary, it should be given on the most economical and useful lines. I enter my protest, however, against the manner in which the bill has come before the House. We are asked to accept the scheme on trust, without having an opportunity to examine relevant documents which are stated to substantiate the claims made by the company and the State of Western Australia.
– Does this proposal differ in that respect from the wine bounty ?
– Honorable members had ample opportunity ‘to investigate the wine bounty. The Treasurer, when moving the second reading of the bill, obtained leave to incorporate in Hansard certain reports and documents, and now we are asked to pass the bill before we have had an opportunity to read that data. The large body of comparatively low grade ore at Wiluna has been known for many years to those interested in mining; and several fortunes have been lost in trying to exploit it during the last thirty years. Certainly some of the’ disadvantages which handicapped earlier efforts have been removed. Wiluna is 600 miles from Perth, 400 miles from the port of Geraldton, and, until recently, was nearly 200 miles from the railhead at Meekatharra. The extension of the line to Wiluna is evidence of the honest conviction of the Western Australian Parliament. But various State Governments have, during the last twenty years, expended large sums of money in accordance with honest convictions, and, in nearly every instance, the expenditure was proved to be unwise. Consider the wealth that has been poured out for the development of the River Murray Valley. The governments concerned, so far from receiving any direct return from their outlay, have had to provide large sums of money to keep the settlers going, and most of the settlements are still in a precarious condition. The State of Queensland appears to have had a narrow escape from a similar mistake in connexion with the irrigation of the Dawson “Valley. Even Western- Australia has not been immune from rash enterprises during the last ten or fifteen years. Although developmental expenditure generally in that State has been more wisely applied than in most other States of the Commonwealth, several of its schemes have proved unsuccessful. Now this Parliament is asked to guarantee a large sum of money on the mere endorsement by the State Government, without even having an opportunity to peruse the reports of the State officials. The extent of the ore body at Wiluna is undoubted, but in the past metallurgical problems of treatment have been an obstacle to its development. In many parts of the world ore of lower grade is being profitably worked. I am not comparing the conditions at Wiluna with those in South Africa, where abundance of cheap labour is available; but in North America also poorer bodies of ore are being treated successfully. Those ore bodies, however, do not present the same difficulties of treatment as must be overcome at Wiluna. I am hopeful that the company has discovered a suitable metallurgical process, because on that will depend the whole success of this enterprise. I shall not oppose the bill; on the contrary my general attitude is favorable, but I think the House should know why, in respect of this proposal, the Commonwealth has not thought a check investigation necessary, whereas in respect of a smaller proposition put forward by the South Australian Government, the Commonwealth Government asked Mr. Gepp to make an examination and to arrange for a further test by the State Department of Mines. The explanation may be that the Government was anxious to find an excuse for rejecting the South Australian proposal, but I protest against the differential treatment of proposals from different States, put forward within a few months of each other.
.- Two objections to the bill have been voiced by members of the Opposition, and reference has been made to the advice tendered by the Development and Migration Commission upon the gold-mining industry. The commission’s report stated -
The commission is of opinion that because of the complex nature of gold-mining, because of the variety of the factors that have a bearing on the well-being of the industry, and because of the fact that each mine or mining field presents features in respect to economics that are peculiar to itself, no fixed rule can be recommended to suit all cases requiring assistance that may arise. Each individual case, therefore, will have to be considered on its merits.
My contention is that, in giving this guarantee, the Government has not violated the practice recommended by the commission. Each case has individual characteristics, and requires special consideration. The State of Western Australia has investigated this matter very, closely, and by its action in guaranteeing the loan has indicated that it is satisfied regarding the soundness of the venture. Then, again, the company itself has expended a very large sum of money in developing the mine up to date, and when a private institution sinks its money in such an enterprise it is a fairly good indication that it is satisfied as to its prospects.
By making it possible for the company to develop this mine, the Federal Government will be encouraging the introduction of new and improved methods of treating low-grade ores, and those methods can be profitably employed in other parts of the Commonwealth. That is a strong reason why the action of the Government should be supported. It has been objected that the Federal Government did not conduct a proper investigation into this matter. However, the State of Western Australia did make a very thorough investigation, and the report of the Development and Migration Commission contains the following recommendation : -
The commission, therefore, recommends -
That where prospecting or development of gold deposits presents a case of an unusual type, involving large expenditure, and where after examination by the State it appears that financial assistance through the State is necessary, and where this finance is beyond the capacity of the State, the Commonwealth Government consider joining with the State in the matter of financial assistance to the undertaking.
The commission stated that in enterprises of this kind the Commonwealth should, if necessary, come to the assistance of the State, and that is all the Commonwealth is doing in this instance. Persons thoroughly familiar with local conditions investigated the enterprise, and were satisfied that it warranted government assistance. That is the answer to the contention of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. The Development and Migration Commission’s report states that Commonwealth assistance would be warranted “ provided every reasonable effort has been made to obtain capital through the ordinary channels, and has failed.” There is no doubt that every reasonable effort was made to obtain the necessary capital through the ordinary channels, and only as a last resort was the Commonwealth Government approached.
– Evidently the investing public has not much confidence in the enterprise, if it was found impossible to raise the necessary money by the sale of shares.
– The failure to raise capital was due entirely to the extraordinary economic conditions prevailing. In ordinary circumstances it would not have been necessary to ask the Commonwealth for assistance; but in view of the fact that it will be to the advantage of the whole Commonwealth to develop means of treating low-grade ores, the action of the Commonwealth Government in this case should bc applauded, and the bill supported.
– Before dealing specifically with the subject under discussion, I wish to express my satisfaction at the action of the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) in making clear the attitude of members of the Labour party on the introduction of improved machinery in industry. I. have heard the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Keane), the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Holloway), and the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Long), complain of the extent to which man-power has been displaced by machinery, and I was under the impression that they regarded the introduction of improved machinery as a menace to the industrial security of the workers. If that is not the case, so much the better. I am relieved to learn that these leaders of the Labour party have no objection to the introduction of improved machinery.
My great objection to the Treasurer’s action is that the giving of assistance to the gold-mining industry is essentially a State function. It has been pointed out that when the gold-mining vote in a State has been nearing depletion assistance has sometimes been given by the Commonwealth Government, and the fund increased, but the distribution of the money has always remained a matter for the State. Recently, the Minister for Mines in New South Wales stated that 800 persons have been assisted to go out prospecting for gold. The granting of assistance for this purpose is solely a State function, and I cannot, therefore, understand why the Federal Government should have assisted a private company, known as the Central Australian Gold Exploration Company, in its search foi” gold.
– The company is looking for gold in Federal Territory.
Mr. ARCHDALE PARKHILL.That clears up that point; but the same thing cannot be claimed in respect of the Wiluna mine. In fact, the manner in .which the Minister disposed of my objection in the one case, strengthens my argument in the other. The Federal Government had no right whatever to go into this enterprise, and had still less right to commit parliament to the undertaking without having first conducted a thorough investigation.
– Who first suggested that a grant be made?
– The Government of Western Australia, I understand. The Treasurer, in his speech, stated that the Western Australian Government was informed that the Commonwealth Government would not grant assistance directly to the company, but would be prepared to cooperate with Western Australia in extending financial assistance provided the Government of Western Australia was satisfied that the Wiluna enterprise was of such a nature as to warrant federal aid. Never before has federal money been granted to such an enterprise merely because a State Government recommended it. In all other cases independent inquiries have been instituted by the Commonwealth’s own institutions and officers. The Treasurer, in his speech, continued
– Order! The honorable member is not in order in quoting from the official record of debates for this session.
– The Treasurer intimated that the guarantee of £300,000 should be regarded as a further contribution to the relief of the disabilities from which Western Australia was suffering. After all, this whole venture is purely a speculation. I quote as follows from the agreement attached to the bill : -
The output of gold from the first unit of the Wiluna plant will amount to approximately £U0,000 a month.
No gold, however, has yet been produced ; it is merely assumed that this result will be achieved. Reporting on the mine, a Western Australian State mining engineer stated in 1927 -
There is no reason to fear any unusual metallurgical difficultly in getting a quite satisfactory extraction of gold from the Wiluna ore.
Three years later a State mining engineer, but not the same engineer, stated - lt can be confidently anticipated that the treatment process now being installed on such sound lines after searching investigations will not only be a profitable undertaking for the company, ‘but will also lead to a revival of the gold mining industry.
The report states that 60,000 tons of ore per month will be produced. I retort that they have not yet been produced. In the second place, the State mining engineer in 1927 reported that it could be confidently anticipated that certain things would take place; and they have not taken place. In 1930, another State mining engineer reported that it is expected that certain things will take place. They may, or they may not, take place. So far, not one speculation, prophecy, ot anticipation has been fulfilled. This country is being asked to find £300,000 for a venture that is based on speculations and anticipations, none of which has yet been realized.
I come now to the question whether this assistance should be given to Western Australia as a further grant, because of any disabilities that that State may suffer under federation. I contend that such a grant should not be made without the fullest inquiry’ and the presentation to this House of a statement setting out definitely the disabilities that are suffered, and the reason for the grant. There is not a member from the. other States who will differ from that view. That has been the procedure in the case of grants that have been made in the past to Tasmania, South Australia and Western Australia. I register the strongest protest against this slipshod method of giving assistance to a State. I do not know whether Western Australia is suffering from disabilities to the extent that it would have us believe is the case. While the rate of income taxation in New South Wales is in some respects greater than that of Great Britain, Western Australia is the lowest taxed State of the federation.
– The maximum capacity must be taken into account.
Mr. ARCHDALE PARKHILL.When dealing with Western Australia many things have to be taken into account. Hearing so much about her disabilities, one is tempted to look at the amount per head which her people are paying, and compare it with the amount that is being paid by the citizens of the larger States on account of these subventions. Those larger States receive in return only abuse from the citizens of Western Australia.
I am not opposed to the principle of giving assistance to States. . The Constitution makes provision in that direction. Such a practice was followed fairly extensively in the United States of America in the early stages of their development. But there is a right and a wrong way to give assistance; and, in this case, the Government has adopted the wrong way.
There is another matter that I wish to stress. It is admitted by all that to-day Australia is passing through one of the most serious economic and financial crises that she has faced since 1893. One would think that the Government of the Commonwealth, which is acquainted with all the details and which must have had impressed upon it the difficulty of the position and the uncertainty of the future, would realize that this is a time to husband our resources and to scrutinize with the utmost closeness the expenditure of every shilling. Next week we shall listen to a budget speech that we are informed will shock the community because of the additional impositions that it will propose. Yet the Government blithely proposes to vote £300,000 to assist Western Australia! There is no use in saying that this is only a guarantee.
The honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Curtin) said that the money could not be raised privately or publicly, or from the State Government, and that, therefore, the Commonwealth Government had to be approached. It cannot be disputed that the amount in question will have to be found. In the present serious situation in the Commonwealth there was no justification for the Government’s pledging itself to an expenditure of £300,000 upon such a speculative venture. It is a matter that should be dealt with entirely by private enterprise and the State Government. I say with a full sense of responsibility, and after mature deliberation, that it is a serious matter for the Government, at this stage of Australia’s history, to dispose so cheerfully and blithely of more than a quarter of a million pounds.
.- I recognize that the distance of Western Australia from the Commonwealth Capital is responsible for the objection that appears to exist in the minds of several honorable members opposite to assistance being given to gold-mining. Whether we blind ourselves to the ‘ fact or not, there is a strong and a growing feeling among an important minority in Western Australia in favour of the severance of that State from the Commonwealth. While I do not agree with the position that those people take up, we should ignore the facts if we did not acknowledge that there is some reason for it. No one wishes more than I do to see this country remain what it should be, an indissoluble Commonwealth. The dissatisfaction that exists in Western Australia is due to speeches similar to those that have been delivered this afternoon by honorable members opposite.
The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill) said that it is solely a function of the State to give assistance to gold-mining, and that, therefore, this proposal is out of place. Yet he supported a government that enacted the Precious Metals Prospecting Act, which was designed to assist gold-mining all over Australia. Under that act, £40,000 was made available for division among the States as well as North and Central Australia, £25,000 being the share of the whole of the States outside of the federal territories. But until a State had exhausted its own provision in giving assistance to prospectors, it could not obtain one penny from that fund. Consequently, only £4,000 was advanced by the last Government for the assistance of prospecting.
Another proposal of the last Government was that gold-mining companies should be given tariff concessions to the extent of £250,000, to enable them to import new machinery. I make bold to say that not £15,000 of that sum has been made available. It was so tied up with red tape, and so manipulated, that it was next to impossible for any company to comply with the requirements.
The inference to be drawn from the remarks of the honorable member for Warringah is that this is a grant. Nothing of the kind is proposed. It may not be necessary to advance £1 under this guarantee. No other proposal for the assistance of an industry that has been brought forward in this House has amounted merely to a guarantee. I have no quarrel with the cotton bounty, the wine bounty, and the assistance that has been given to the dried fruits and wine industries. Under those proposals money has been advanced directly by the Commonwealth Government. When it is proposed to assist an industry in Western Australia, a modified proposal is brought forward. The State Government has guaranteed the Midland Banking Company against the loss of the £300,000 that that institution has advanced to the Wiluna Gold Mines Limited, and this Government has agreed to stand behind the guarantee. It is not a vote of £300,000, as was erroneously stated.
The honorable member for Warringah doubts whether Western Australia suffers any disability. I have no wish to make this a State rights matter. So satisfied was the last Government that Western Australia suffered disabilities, that it appointed a royal commission to inquire into them. It is significant that two of the three gentlemen who were on that commission considered that Western Australia suffered such great disabilities under the tariff that they recommended that she should have her own tariff for a period of 25 years. I am not in favour of that only because I think it is imprac- ticable. In these circumstances it can be readily seen that Western Australia has its disabilities. It has no great industries outside of wheat-farming and gold-mining. Western Australia has received little assistance from the Commonwealth, although for years, through the operation of the tariff, it has been forced to pay high prices for machinery and manufactured goods, to the benefit mainly of the eastern States. A protective tariff is the policy of Australia. It was the policy of the late Government, and it is the policy of this Government. It was the policy of the Country party when it was associated with the Bruce-Page Government. Now that that party is out of office it repudiates it. The right honorable member for Cowper raised some questions in regard to the use of machinery. The subject was ably dealt with by the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini), so there is no need for me to refer to it at this moment. One of the arguments against this bill is that no investigations have been made into this project. Let me say that investigations have been going on for many years. The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Hawker) has said that Wiluna is a very old field and that many companies have failed there. I deny that. In the past, over £1,000,000 worth of gold has been taken from that field. It comprises the largest ore bodies in Australia so far as we know. The honorable member for Wakefield doubts whether this new’ treatment of ore will be successful, but let me tell him that £30,000 was expended by this company on the erection of a pilot plant in order to test the new process before incurring any further expenditure. The mining experts were satisfied that the new process of treating refractory ore was a success. As a result £1,000,000 was expended in the erection of the plant up to date. That money was raised in the comparatively bad times of the last four or five years. It was raised in Great Britain and in South Africa. In the latter country are the greatest gold-mining experts of the world to-day. That is clear evidence that men who are familiar with modern processes are prepared to invest their money in this ven ture. The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill) stated that in 1927 no gold was produced from this mine, and that no gold is produced there now. Let me inform him further that no gold will be produced there until May of next year, or perhaps later. For the last three years this company^ has been constructing a plant on the mine. It secured the services of mining experts and sent them to America and South Africa to study the latest methods. On the advice of those experts, the plant has been erected. The State Mining Engineer in Western Australia says that lodes are long and wide; that 340,711 tons are above the 100-ft. level; that work at 140-ft., 200-ft., and 290-ft. levels disclose that the size and value of the lodes above the 100-ft. are maintained, and that the diamond drill boring gives good grounds for believing that the size and value are maintained for another 500 feet. That report was submitted not to this Government, but to the Government of Western Australia. The State Government, before it agreed to expend £400,000 on extending the railway from Meekatharra to Wiluna thoroughly satisfied itself that the evidence of its mining engineers was sound. This company was in a position to employ 600 men, and had no idea of approaching the Commonwealth Government for backing. It was expending thousands of pounds a year in wages. It had proved its lodes, and just as it was about to seek increased capital in order to work them, there was a slump on the London money market following the Hatry smash and it was found impossible to float a loan of £800,000 abroad. As a last resort the company approached the Commonwealth Government for assistance. The Western Australia Government placed all the records at the disposal of the Commonwealth Government, which has now put its proposal before the House. I regret that any honorable member should be opposed to assisting the gold-mining industry. The price of gold in pre-war days was £4 4s. ll$d. per oz. fine, and it has remained at that figure ever since, although the prices of commodities, labour and everything else associated with gold-mining have increased 100 per cent. The wheat wool and base metal industries are in a somewhat serious position at the present time, but during the war the prices of wool, wheat and base metals soared, and large profits were made by the producers. Gold-mining was the only industry which did not benefit during that period. Gold, being a medium of exchange, remained unaffected. To-day our exports are limited to wheat, wool, meat and gold. The exchange position is serious, and the only commodity that we can export in increased quantity is gold. If this new process of treating lowgrade ore is successful it will give a considerable impetus to the production of gold. This process is new to Australia. Gold was discovered in Western Australia 35 years ago. It attracted mining experts to that State, and as result of their efforts, mining methods there were, at one time, 30 or 40 years ahead of those operating in the. eastern States. There has been little improvement in the methods of the eastern States because of the decline of the gold-mining industry there.
To-day gold-mining in Western Australia is probably 30 years behind the great gold-mining industries in other parts of the world. This method will bring it up to date. There are large bodies of ore at Wiluna. It is true that they are not rich in gold, but if this process is successful - and I believe that it will be successful, because it has already been tested - large lodes of ore will be opened up elsewhere in Australia, particularly in Queensland and Victoria. By the use of the new process the cost of mining gold will be largely reduced. I trust that there will be no further opposition to the bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
In committee :
.- Has any Commonwealth officer examined the titles to the leases mentioned in the schedule of the bill?
– An officer of the AttorneyGeneral’s Department of Western Australia visited Canberra and an officer of our Crown Law Department checked with him the necessary particulars in regard to leases, and the like, and we are satisfied that everything is in order
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Motion (by Mr. Blakeley) proposed -
That the bill be now rend a third time.
.- In my second-reading speech on this bill I referred to the desirability of coordinating the forestry work of the various universities of Australia with the work of the Australian School of Forestry at Canberra. If other institutions are to bear a part of the responsibility for higher education in forestry, the justification for the maintenance of the Forestry School in Canberra may disappear.
.- I suggest to the Minister for Home Affairs (Mr. Blakeley) that the bureau of forestry might give some attention to the possibility of encouraging the State Governments to dedicate certain territories, and particularly border territories, as national parks. At present there is a park of about 47,000 acres in Queensland on the border of New South Wales, the value of which would be increased considerably if the adjoining land in New South Wales were also declared a national park. Only a limited area would need to be dedicated for this purpose to increase the value of a most valuable national asset. A most valuable national park could also be established on the borders of New South Wales and Victoria in the country where the Murray river rises. Such areas would be invaluable for the preservation of native fauna and flora, and to prevent the denudation of watersheds; they would make attractive tourist resorts, and would also enable succeeding generations of Australians to realize what their country looked like in its primitive condition. If the Forestry bureau could do anything to encourage the dedication of land for this purpose it would be a fine thing for Australia.
.- I understand that it is the intention of the Government to appoint Mr. LanePoole Inspector-General of Forestry under the provisions of this hill, but I hope that it will pause before it does so, for the views of this gentleman, in regard to timber in particular, are altogether inconsistent with the policy of the Government. In support of that statement, I make the following quotation from the evidence taken by the Tariff Board in its recent inquiry into our timber industry: -
Lane-Poole. - We want lower coats and not increased costs in Australia. We cannot look at the tariff on timber as a protective tariff, it never has succeeded in protecting anything. From a timber point of view it is not a protective tariff but a revenue tariff. There should be an ad valorem tax on timber to help the Government to meet its obligations, but from past evidence its effect as a protective tariff is absurd. America, cutting forest out in competition they have too many mills on the western slope of the Pacific and they are selling their stuff at cost and sometimes below cost and here across the Pacific a young country on the threshhold of development instead of opening our arms to cheap timber we put on a duty to prevent it coming in. Forests were not put there for us to cut into.
Leitch. Sawmillers, Tasmania. - Is it not a fact that when matters of tariff were being considered previously did you not recommend that it be made as difficult as possible to import Oregon?
Lane-Poole. - Quite true, I was then in Western Australia. I was then new to Australian conditions; I saw over 60 per cent. Jarrah being burnt at the mills and I thought that by a tariff Western Australian timbers might bc benefited by getting sale for some of the timbers that were being burnt.
– That evidence was given at a timber conference held recently in Melbourne.
- Mr. Lane-Poole came to Australia in 1923, and has admitted that at that time he knew very little about Australian conditions. In these circumstances, it is surprising to me that the Government should consider appointing him to this position. This gentleman has had an interesting career here. I hope that the person who is appointed InspectorGeneral of Forests will be an Australian, or, at least, Australian trained. He should certainly be a man with an Australian outlook, which Mr. Lane-Poole does not seem to have.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) made some reference to the attitude of certain Australian universities towards the Australian School of Forestry at Canberra. I understood that if the students in our various forestry schools passed the requisite examinations, their work would be recognized by the various universities, but certain students, who passed through the Creswick Forestry School in Victoria, were not accepted by the Melbourne University. I should like to know the reason for this.
6.10]. - 1 agree with the Leader of the Opposition that it is desirable to encourage the higher education of forestry students; but it is regrettable that a member of the Melbourne University Council was able, recently, to prevent the establishment of a Chair in Forestry at that university. Except for giving publicity to the fine work that is being done at the Forestry School in Canberra, we cannot, at present,, so far as 1 can see, do anything more than we have done to develop the movement towards the higher education of forestry students. It is satisfactory, however, that four Australian universities have agreed to confer degrees of forestry on men who pass through our school. All the universities are aware of the work that we are doing, and we can only hope that the movement to which the Leader of the Opposition has referred, will soon develop more rapidly.
In regard to the suggestion of the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) that the dedication of national parks, particularly on the borders of States, should be encouraged, I am of the opinion that it would be wise to declare the whole of the Hume catchment area in New South Wales and Victoria, a national park. I mentioned in my second-reading speech on this bill, and several other honorable members also referred to, the urgent necessity of surveying the whole of the Murray catchment area with a view to its afforestation. Unless that is done, every year will take its toll in silting and floods, and the denudation that is bound to occur through the absence of trees.
The honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Crouch) directed attention to certain observations made by the InspectorGeneral of Forests at a timber conference held in Melbourne recently; but I have not the slightest intention of penalizing that officer for statements made in such circumstances. It would he unfair to do so, particularly when he was requested to express his views. I pointout to the honorable member that the appointment of Mr. Lane-Poole as Inspector-General of Forests in Australia is not dependent upon this bill. He was appointed to that position by the previous Government. As a matter of fact, this bill should have been passed two years ago.
– Is Mr. Lane-Poole holding his appointment illegally?
– Certainly not.
– It seems to me that he has developed a completely antiAustralian view-point.
– I do not think that this is the time to discuss whether Mr. Lane-Poole’s views in regard to our forests are sound or otherwise. But we must face the fact that, unless we take steps to plant new forests, and to conserve those that we already have, we shall, within 25 years, be in an extremely unsatisfactory position. I have read the report of Mr. Lane-Poole’s remarks at the conference referred to by the honorable member for Corangamite, and I find no reason for taking any action against him for the views that he expressed.
– But what about his general attitude?
– His general attitude in regard to forestry is subject to the policy of the Government. I remind the honorable member that the Government controls the. policy of every public department, and it appears to me that it would be quite wrong - I shall not use a stronger term - to discredit or penalize public servants for giving expression to views which they honestly hold.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Sitting suspended from 6.19 to 8 p.m.
Debate resumed from 19th June (vide page 2938), on motion by Mr.Forde -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The Assistant Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Forde) is to be commended for so promptly resuscitating this small, though important, measure. It will be recollected that a similar bill was passed through the Senate during the late Government’s term of office. All honorable members will agree that it is desirable that goods imported into this country should, so far as practicable, be branded with the name of the country of origin. It is equally desirable that all goods exported should, so far as practicable, bear an Australian brand. No overseas manufacturers who are proud of their goods can take exception to their being required to mark them to show the country of origin. Next to encouraging our own industries we all desire to give preference to British goods. The Australian people show a sentimental preference to Great Britain in their purchases, and theyare entitled to know whether the articles they buy are of British or of foreign manufacture. The more widely the marking system is practised, the better it will be for British trade, so this measure should prove of service to the Empire. The practice provided for by this bill should stimulate our own manufacturers to produce for export articles of the highest standard attainable. We should ensure that, wherever possible, the goods exported are marked to indicate that they have been produced in Australia. The provision that, where practicable, not merely the containers, but the articles themselves shall be marked, is a wise one, and will prevent a good deal of such evasion of the law as has obtained in the past. I have much pleasure in supporting the bill.
– While supporting the measure, I should like to know if it is possible to provide for the suitable branding of goods sold in the local market. If we compel overseas manufacturers to mark their goods with the name of the country of origin, why should a local manufacturer of, say boots, be allowed to use paper in the soles and pass the articles off as being made wholly of leather? Reputable manufacturers would appreciate legislation making compulsory the stamping of articles with the name of the maker and the nature of the materials used.
– All the better class manufacturers do that.
– I am informed that they do not. Manufacturers in New South Wales complain of unfair tactics in this respect by unscrupulous competitors.
– :I support the remarks of the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. E. Riley). In my opinion, the bill does not go sufficiently far. It is necessary that goods should bear a mark showing the country of origin, but why should any discrimination be shown? Under this bill the department takes the power to say on what classes of goods these brands shall appear. There is no valid reason why a brand showing the country of origin should not be stamped on all goods. The point mentioned by the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. E. Riley) is important. Many manufacturers, particularly of footwear, are at a serious disadvantage in not being able to brand their goods with their own names. Many buyers desire boots made by particular firms, but they are’ often prevailed upon to accept other lines of boots, because the sellers prefer that the names of their own firms should appear on the articles they sell. If an arrangement could be made with the State authorities for the regulation of brands in the interests o of Australian manufacturers, it would be of general advantage. I believe that this matter has been discussed at conferences of State and Commonwealth Ministers. It was proposed some time ago that all the States should introduce legislation to provide for the marking of goods with the name of not only the country of origin, but also the manufacturer. If that could be done in conjunction with the measure before the House, manufacturers generally would appreciate it.
– There is nothing controversial in this bill, and I should not have addressed myself to it but for the remarks of the last two speakers, who have suggested that goods made in this country should be branded to show the name of the manufacturer, and, in some cases, the constituents of those goods. Only State Parliaments can take action in that direction. This Parliament has power to legislate only with regard to exports and imports from or to the Commonwealth.
– Could we not prevent the manufacturers from enjoying the benefit’s of the tariff unless they branded their goods as required? ‘
– I think that that would be impracticable. This measure, requiring as it does the marking of imported goods with the country of origin, might be used as an instrument for the promotion of intra-Empire trade. Australians should give first preference in their purchases to goods made in their own country. Next they should buy goods made within the British Empire, and, after that those manufactured in other countries. In Great Britain, the Merchandise Marks Act ‘ is becoming increasingly useful to the various parts of the Empire from which goods are exported to the Motherland. British people are becoming educated to the advantages of buying articles produced within the Empire. The object of that act is to induce the people of Great Britain to purchase British and Empire goods in preference to those of foreign manufacture. The amendments to the original act proposed under this bill should be. very useful.
.- The remarks made by honorable members on this bill point to the need for clothing this Parliament with full powers with regard to, not only imported goods, but also those manufactured in our own country. The shoe that I am now exhibiting to honorable members was made in my own electorate. It is being sold to the workers of this country at prices ranging from 10s. 9d. to 14s. or 15s. a pair. On the sole it is branded “All Leather,” but on examination it will be found that under the sole is a thick layer of paper board. Once the shoe becomes wet its wearing quality is destroyed, and it is practically useless. In view of the statements made by the Assistant Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Forde) and other honorable members,, we should take action in this matter. The Prime Minister has assured the people from time to time that he and the Government will not allow any Australian manufacturer to profiteer as the result of the imposition of increased customs duties. The Government should take whatever steps lie in its power to protect the consumers against this form of profiteering. Local manufacturers are being protected against overseas competition, and it is incumbent on the Government to see that only the best of materials is used by them. A boot manufacturer, for instance, should not be allowed to substitute paper for leather.
– With the creation of monopolies that cannot be prevented.
– Monopolies have nothing to do with this matter. The law as it stands will permit the old-fashioned cobbler to use the same materials in the manufacture of boots and shoes as are employed by the monopolists, to which the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) has taken so much objection since the last election. Addressing the Sydney Chamber of Manufactures about nine months ago the honorable member said that this was the day of mergers and huge combines. Apparently his views have changed since the last election, because now he never loses an opportunity to declare that the policy of the Labour party to protect Australian manufactures is creating combines and monopolies. I hope that the Minister for Trade and Customs will take steps to ensure that articles of Australian manufacture, particularly the footwear of the workers, shall be accurately branded.
– I am pleased that the bill has been so well received. Unfortunately constitutional limitations prevent . this Parliament from compelling Australian manufacturers to stamp their goods “ Made in Australia.” The power to do that resides with the State authorities, but I hope that some day the Commonwealth’s power in respect of trade and commerce will be extended to enable this Parliament to require that all products shall bear a statement of the country of origin. In the past that practice has not been popular, because in Australia, as in every new manufacturing country, the prejudice against local products has been such that many retail shops have found it profitable to represent that the Australian goods they were selling were made abroad. Even now Australian worsteds are frequently sold as the best product of Bradford. Fortunately the prejudice that necessitated this deception is passing away; the people are beginning to realize that Australian worsteds are as good as those produced in any other part of the world. We have power to compel the importer and the exporter to mark his goods with the country of origin, but that authority does not extend to Australian-made goods sold locally. In this regard the States might with advantage co-operate with the Commonwealth. Victoria requires its manufacturers to brand their products with a certificate that they are complying with the requirements of the Pure Foods Act. Some of the other States have legislated to ‘ some extent along these lines, but others have neglected to do so. If all States would require that all goods should be stamped with the country of origin, that policy would be less unpopular than it has been in the past, because most of our manufacturers are proud of the quality of their wares.
– Is it not a fact that many manufacturers do brand their goods ?
– Some do. I hold in my hand a box containing a pair of sock suspenders. The outside of the box bears the inscription “ Made in Australia,” but inside the lid are the words “Printed in United States of America.” The outside printing is misleading, because the fact is that, although the suspenders were made in Sydney, the container was made and printed in America. The Commonwealth now has ample power to prevent that kind of deception. This bill will enable people to give a voluntary preference to the products of the United Kingdom or any other country with which Australia has a favorable trade balance.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
.- Recently I saw a box containing goods of German manufacture, and inside the lid a gummed slip “ Manufactured in the United Kingdom.” The impression given by those words was that the box and the contents were of British origin, whereas only the printed adhesive slip had been made in the United Kingdom. I should like the Assistant Minister to assure the committee that the bill will enable the community to be protected against deceit of that character.
.- I concur in the regret expressed by several honorable members that the Commonwealth has not power to insist that all goods shall be stamped with their country of origin. It is unfortunate also that the Commonwealth has not power to control the quality of Australian manufactured articles. I rose particularly to answer the remarks of the honorable member for Cook (Mr. C. Riley) regarding a speech I made before the Sydney Chamber of Manufactures when I was Minister for Trade and Customs. It is true that I urged the desirability of merging, as far as practicable, similar manufacturing operations, but obviously my idea was to avoid the duplication of overhead expenses, including expensive directorates and rents, and, by a concentration of capital and energy, avoid the waste incidental to small and scattered units. I was advocating that numerous relatively small and sometimes necessarily inefficient plants should be merged into one big enterprise that could produce on a larger scale, and therefore more economically. I believed then, and I believe now, that that is the trend of manufacturing in the world to-day. Unless our manufacturers merge their interests as far as possible, we shall not achieve the greatest measure of progress, nor get production costs down to the lowest level. An entirely new situation has been created by the introduction, of the new tariff by this Government, and it is now more than ever necessary that Parliament should have greater power over manufacturers in regard to trade descriptions, marking of goods, &c. If trade mergers are effected in Australia now, they will not be subject to competition from outside as they would have been under the old tariff system. In such circumstances, the Australian public, which is the great sleeping and contributing partner to our protective policy, can hardly fail to be exploited. Under such a monopoly there can be no effective control of prices, and no control over the standard of goods produced.’ There will be nothing to induce a striving after the highest standard of efficiency, there will be no incentive to engage in research, to install up-to-date machinery, or to encourage invention. There will be no inducement to the manufacturers to give that real service to the public which we might reasonably expect from those whom we are treating so generously. I shall conclude by quoting from the New York Telegram a statement of Mr. Henry Ford, who has been referred to over and over again by honorable members opposite as an industrialist who provided generous working conditions for his employees. Mr. Ford said -
Business thrives on competition. Nobody docs his best if he knows that no one is competing with him. Comfortably tucked away behind a tariff wall, which completely shuts out all competition, and which gives industry an undue profit which it has riot earned, the business of our country would grow soft and neglectful. Instead of enlarging and putting on an increased number of workers, the tendency would be to be satisfied with things as they were, and to stand still.
We need competition the world over to keep us on our toes and to sharpen our wits. The keener the competition, the better it will be for us. We can always find better ways to do things when we have to.
.- Section 15 of the Principal Act contains rather a limited list of articles to which the act was to apply. Clause 11 of the amending bill repeals that section. Are we to understand that, as a consequence, the provisions of the amended act shall apply to all such articles as are prescribed by regulation?
– In reply to the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green), it is a fact that section 9 of the existing act prohibits the importation of goods bearing a false trade description.
– I referred to cases in which the label itself is actually made in the country named, though the container and the goods themselves are made elsewhere.
– If a label were made in the United Kingdom, and attached to a container of goods made in Germany, obviously it would be intended to mislead the public, and the case, therefore, comes within section 9 of the act. Section 9a of the act, as it is proposed to be amended, will read -
All imported goods found in Australia which bear a false trade description shall, until the contrary is proved, be deemed to have been imported in contravention of this act.
That will give the department power to follow up goods after importation, upon information brought to its notice, and it will be able to take whatever action may be deemed advisable.
The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) asked a question in regard to section 15. It is true that clause 11 of the bill will repeal section 15 of the act. Section 15 limits the compulsory marking of imported or exported goods to the seven classes therein specified. The repeal of this section, together with the omission of the word “especially” from sections 7 and 11 of the act, will remove all the limitations in respect of both imported and exported goods. The marking of imported goods will be subject to section 7 of the act, which provides that the importation may be prohibited under regulation of any specified goods which do not bear the prescribed trade description. Cases have arisen in which it was very desirable that articles should bear a trade description, but this could not be insisted upon because the articles were not included in the list of goods which, under the act, must bear a trade description. An amendment of the act would have been necessary to deal with each separate case. This would be an inconvenient procedure, although an amendment of the act was made in 1926 to include brushware. Regulations may be drafted from time to time, passed by the Executive Council, and placed on the table of the House specifying such additional articles as, in the opinion of the Government of the day, should bear a trade description.
– I am not raising any objections to that.
– The speech of the Deputy-Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Gullett) raised the old issue of free trade versus protection, and I do not propose to follow him through the mazes of his argument. No doubt an opportunity will occur during the debate on the tariff to deal with that subject. I have absolute confidence in Australian manufacturers to give a fair deal to the Australian public. I believe that the Government will take whatever steps are necessary to put in his place any manufacturer or other person who attempts to exploit the public. Although it is true that at the present time we do not possess under the Constitution all the powers we desire to deal with such matters, I believe that it will act as a deterrent if manufacturers or retailers are exposed on the floor of Parliament when they attempt to exploit the public. I look forward to the time when increased powers will be given to the Commonwealth Parliament to deal in a comprehensive way with all forms of profiteering. We have greater profiteers among the importers than among Australian manufacturers.
– The Acting Minister seems to have partially missed the point I raised. We have recently heard announcements by the Government to the effect that it expects a high standard of honesty, not only from the manufacturers, but from importers also. The point I raised was, how far would the act, even as amended, deal with cases in which the labels are actually manufactured in the country whose name they bear, but the,goods to which they are attached and the containers in which the goods are packed, are manufactured elsewhere? The act says that all imported goods found in Australia which bear a false trade description shall, until the contrary is proved, be deemed to be imported contrary to the act. There may be no mark at all on the goods themselves, and nothing to say where they were manufactured. Therefore, it cannot be said that they bear a false description.
– The container would.
– Take cigars, for example. It is not practicable to stamp each cigar with the country of origin, but a label can be attached to it. The description on the label may be true as regards the label itself, but it need not be true as regards the cigar. I trust that the Minister will be able to discover some means of closing loopholes of that kind.
– Clause 8 of the bill, which is to be section 9a of the act, reads -
AH imported goods found in Australia which bear a false trade description shall, until the contrary is proved, be deemed to have been imported in contravention of this act.
Is not that a clause put into the bill with a view to throwing on the importer the onus of proving that a trade description which appears to be false is not false? If that be so, does it not supply the answer to the question raised by the honorable member for Richmond?
– I assure the honorable member for Richmond that the department will have ample power under the amended act to prevent the importation of goods bearing misleading labels.
– The label might be misleading, but not actually false.
– The department would assume that it was false.
– There is nothing in the bill about misleading labels.
– The interpretation would be that it was a false trade description, and the goods would be prohibited. The new section 9a provides -
All imported goods found in Australia which bear a false trade description shall, until the contrary is proved, be deemed to have” been imported in contravention of this act.
Under that section, the importers will have placed upon them the responsibility of proving the contrary, if it is capable of being proved. In the case mentioned, it would not be possible to prove the contrary. It is obvious, I think, that the tag marked “ Made in the
– It is misleading, but not false.
– It is false, because it is meant to intimate that the goods and the container were made in the United Kingdom, whereas they were made in Germany. I am assured by the department that that would be considered a false trade description, and that the goods would be prohibited. The definition of “false trade description” in the Commerce, Trade Descriptions, Act of 1905 reads - “False description” means a trade description which, by reason of anything contained therein or omitted therefrom, is false or likely to mislead in a material respect as regards the goods to which it is applied, and includes every alteration of a trade description, whether by way of addition, effacement, or otherwise, which makes the description false or likely to mislead in a material respect.
The department would know what interpretation to place upon the misleading label to which the honorable member has referred.
Bill agreed to, and reported without amendment ; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This measure has been introduced to meet changed conditions in the Commonwealth Public Service. It deals principally with the provisions of the Public Service Act .that relate to the Public Service Board. Recently, as honorable members doubtless are aware, the term of one member of the board, Brigadier-General McGlynn, expired, and no steps have been taken to fill the position that he vacated. Under the act as it now stands, it is incumbent upon the Government to fill it; therefore, it is proposed that the act shall be amended to provide that it shall be necessary to have only two members on the board. Later, it is the intention of the Government to have only one Public Service Commissioner.
Honorable members are aware that the present Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin), in the course of. his election campaign, laid it down that, if his party were returned to power, its policy would be to reduce expenditure upon boards and commissions. It is felt that a favorable opportunity has now presented itself, by the retirement of a member of the Public Service Board, to give effect to that policy. [Quorum formed.’]
With only two members on the board it, however, is possible for a deadlock to occur in the decision of matters that are brought forward for determination. To remove that possibility, provision is being made for the Governor-General to appoint a third person to deal specifically with any .such questions where a unanimous decision by two members has not been reached. Although the Government feels that the occasion is not .likely to arise, it considers that provision ought to be made to meet such a contingency. No additional expenditure will be involved. The time thus occupied will be very slight, and accordingly it is not proposed to make any payment for these services to the person appointed.
I have said that the ultimate intention is to have only one commissioner; hut I do not wish it to he understood that this bill entirely meets that position. When such circumstances eventually arise, no doubt other alterations will be found necessary and the Government will need to deal with the matter more comprehensively. The saving that will be effected by having only two commissioners instead of three will amount to £2,000 per annum.
Clause 3 of the bill deals with the status of private secretaries. It provides that the status of members of the Public Service who are seconded from their ordinary duties to take up the work of a ‘private secretary shall not thereby be affected. This question has been reviewed by the board, and its opinion is in harmony with this provision. A prominent member of the last Government also suggested that this course be adopted. As honorable members are aware, Ministers and Leaders of the Opposition in both’ Houses are able to secure from the Service men who are prepared to act as their private secretaries. These men need not necessarily be taken from the Service ; in some cases appointments have been made from outside the Service; but it is felt that if a member of the Public Service undertakes these duties he should not suffer in consequence. The intention is that, subject to the matter being determined by the Public Service Board, these men shall be allowed to re-enter the Service when they have completed their work in the other sphere at the status and salary that it can be reasonably assumed they would have acquired had they remained in their former positions. This is not altogether an original idea. The last Government passed the Officers Rights Declaration Act of 1928, to safeguard the interests of permanent members of the Public Service who .might be seconded for duty in a position outside the control of the Public Service Board. The issue was raised principally by the appointment of a permanent member of the Public Service to the Development and Migration Commission, and the last Government felt that his interests in the
Public Service should not suffer because of his transference to that work. There are similar provisions in the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act and the War Service Homes Act. The Government considers that, by safeguarding the interests of public servants in this way, a wider field of choice will be provided for Ministers and Leaders of the Opposition when they desire to obtain the services of a private secretary; because, when members of the Public Service know that their positions are safeguarded, they will be more ready to serve in that particular capacity.
Clause 4a of the bill proposes to amend to an extent section 55 of the principal act. That section relates inter alia to the punishments that may be inflicted for specific offences upon members of the Public Service. This amendment deals particularly with the withholding of information by persons who are about to be appointed to the Public Service. If it can be proved that, upon medical examination, there is a wilful attempt to mislead the medical officer in regard to information that should be made known, there should be some provision for the infliction of punishment. This is a very important matter. The health of those who enter the Public Service must be sound. The Service offers many advantages to its employees, particularly in regard to superannuation and sick leave benefits. Such benefits are based upon the definite assumption that all appointees upon entrance to the Service are of sound health. It is necessary to amend the act in order to provide punishment for those who wilfully mislead the medical officers when examinations are being made, or who obtain admission to the Service by the submission of misleading or incorrect information.
Clause 4b deals with appeals against punishment. When the act was framed in 1922, it was not anticipated that the Seat of Government would be established at Canberra for a considerable time, but because of the establishment of Parliament here and of the transfer of administrative staffs from Melbourne it is thought that the time has arrived to allow the numerous officers in Canberra the right of selection of their own divisional representative for the purpose of dealing with appeals against punishment. This clause will also effect a desirable economy, in that, at .the present time, in the event of an appeal being lodged against a punishment, it is necessary, if the Appeal Board sits an Canberra, for the divisional representative to travel from Sydney. In future the divisional representative will be resident in Canberra and a saving in travelling allowances, and other items will result.
Clauses 5 and 6 of the bill are related, and it will be preferable to discuss them in conjunction. Recently the League of Nations sought from the Commonwealth the services of a medical officer for duty under its organization. After consideration of all the circumstances it was deemed desirable to accede to the request, as it was realized that the experience which would be gained by the officer concerned would be of advantage to the Commonwealth when he resumed his normal departmental duties. Clause 6 has been framed with the object of covering the absence of an officer whose services may be sought by the League of Nations in such circumstances. It goes further, however, and permits of leave being granted to an officer loaned for duty to the Government of the United Kingdom, or of any State of the Commonwealth, or of any British dominion, colony or dependency. In framing this clause, therefore, the Government realized that it was desirable to extend the provisions for leave of absence to enable an officer to serve, not only with the League of Nations, but with any government within the Empire. Clause 5 proposes to amend section 71 of the principal act by inserting in it a proviso which has for its purpose a restriction upon officers from utilizing that section for the purpose of obtaining an extension of the leave which may be granted under the proposed new section 72.v.
Clause 7 proposes to amend section 89 of the act to enable it to be applied in the manner originally intended. The proviso to section 89, 1 of the act, as it at present stands, reads -
Provided that where any such building has been acquired or erected by the Commonwealth solely for the purpose of residence of the officer without an incidental obligation of supervision or general control by the officer over personnel or property the officer occupying the premises shall pay such rent, and be subject to such conditions of occupancy, as are determined by the Minister in charge of the department controlling the premises.
The principle underlying the payment of rental by officers who occupy Commonwealthowned properties not intended to be covered by the quoted provisions is that the rental shall be fair and reasonable and not exceeding 10 per cent, of the salary of the officer. Where, however, the occupation of the building does not carry with it obligations as part of the duty of the officer, then it was intended that rental should be fixed by the Minister controlling the premises and presumably upon an ordinary commercial basis. Recently, however, it has been necessary to question the validity of certain rentals assessed under the proviso which it is now proposed to amend, and the Crown Law authorities have given an opinion to the effect that unless the Commonwealth had acquired or erected a building solely for the purpose of the officer, personally and actually occupying the premises, then the proviso, as it at present stands, could not be applied in allowing the Minister in charge to determine a reasonable rental for such premises. Where those conditions existed, notwithstanding the commercial value of the premises occupied by any officer, rental in excess of 10 per cent, of his salary could not be charged. Let me give an hypothetical case. The Commonwealth may acquire or erect a house at Canberra specially for a public servant transferred from Melbourne. He may occupy it for a certain time and then move to another residence. The house may then be occupied by another public servant. In that case it could not be said that the house had been actually built for his occupation, and the Minister could not then impose the rental’ charged the former occupier. The amendment now proposed will correct this serious anomaly, and allow the Minister to determine the rental of premises occupied by an officer, in the manner originally intended.
Clause 8 amends section 91 of the act, which deals with the question of granting permission to officers to engage in employment other than in connexion with their office iri the Public Service. During recent years trouble has been experienced as a result of certain officers engaging in occupations for which they alleged they received no remuneration. Under the act, as it stands, unless it can be proved that the officer concerned has received some outside remuneration, it has been impracticable to require him to refrain from engaging in other occupations. As a matter of principle, the Government considers that the policy of “ one man one job “ should operate in the Public Service, and the amendment is designed to correct undesirable practices such as this, which are possible because of loopholes in the principal act as it stands.
A new clause has been circulated among honorable members. It Avas not included in the bill because, at the time of its drafting, we were unaware that such a provision would be necessary. This clause will overcome a difficulty in the Defence Department due to certain cadets and graduates of the Royal Australian Naval Corps, or the Royal Military Corps being in excess of requirements. Several questions have been asked by honorable members recently on this subject. Although it has not been previously stated that an amendment of the act would be necessary, the .Government has taken this opportunity to amend the act in the desired direction. I am informed that there are about 40 excess cadets and graduates affected by the recent economies, and the proposed amendment will enable them to be absorbed into the Public Service if they are prepared to accept the conditions. The examination that they have to pass to enter either the Australian Naval College or the Royal Military College is equal to that for entrance to the Public Service. It is, therefore, considered that the qualifications of these cadets fit them to occupy positions in the Public Service. The will enter the third division, in positions of a clerical nature. It has been necessary to confine this provision to persons of not more than 30 years of age, as the Public Service regulations provide that no person other than a returned soldier over that age may enter the third division in the capacity for which the excess military staff will be considered.
– What is the salary range of that division?
– The scale is fairly extensive, but I cannot give the figures off-hand. The Government considers that this new clause will enable it to fulfill its obligations in respect of excess permanent naval and military officers.
The amendments proposed under the bill are not many. They have been well considered and are in accordance with general Public Service practice. The bill cannot be regarded as contentious, and I commend it to the House for favorable consideration.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Latham) adjourned.
Consideration resumed from 10th June (vide page 2608), on motion by Mr. Beasley -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- I wish to congratulate the Honorary Minister on the manner in which he presented the bill now before the House. It is a non-controversial measure and very technical, and the Minister clearly elucidated the whole position. What the Government is now doing is what the last Government had in mind, and to provide for which a bill was prepared for submission to Parliament. I shall refer later to certain definite alterations of the act, about which there is doubt whether they are wise in view of the present position of the Superannuation Fund, and of the country generally. The Commonwealth Superannuation Fund has been in existence eight years. It began in October, 1922, and at present the contributions of the public servants generally amount to £1,865,778. The amount invested is £1,934,000, bearing interest at an average rate of £5 9s. 9d. Last year the sum received in interest, over £84,000, amounted to more than the total payments to pensioners. Those figures relate to the contributions of the public servants only. In addition to that the contributions by the Commonwealth have grown from £24,000 in 1922-23 to £164,700 in 1929-30. But it cannot be expected that the interest on the funded sum will alone be sufficient for very much longer to meet the obliga- tions. We shall soon have to draw upon the capital sum provided by the various contributors. At present the fund is in its infancy, and the average age of the contributors is comparatively low. When the fund was established, very favorable concessions - Commonwealth Government contributions - were offered to the older officers of the service so that upon their retirement the drain on the fund should not be too heavy. It is provided in the act that a quinquennial actuarial investigation shall be made into the financial position of the fund. The last such investigation was made in 1928. It showed that the liability of the fund was £1,018,333 in respect to contributors, and £390,770 in respect to pensioners, making a total of £1,409,103. The amount available tomeet this liability was £1,506,965, which left a surplus of £97,862. Of this sum, approximately £46,300 was provided by excess interest profits on investments. In other words, the investments of the fund brought in more than was expected. The remainder of the surplus, roughly £51,600, was accounted for by the favorable experience of the fund, which, of course, was not the favorable experience of some of the pensioners, for it meant that they had died earlier than might ordinarily have been expected. Another favorable factor was that a larger number of employees than was expected continued to contribute to the fund after reaching the age of 60 years. The actuary who made the investigation reported that the surplus of £97,862 was not sufficient to warrant a reduction in the rates of contributions or an increase in the general benefits to contributors. But he recommended -
The last Government considered that it would be better not to make an increase in temporary benefits, but to try to make certain that any increased bene fits should be permanent. This would avoid any suspicion that the fund was being made the plaything of expediency, and would not jeopardise the welfare of officers who had been contributing to it for 20 or 30 years. It, therefore, asked the actuary whether the proposed increased benefits could be made permanent with the surplus available. The actuary reported that benefits a and b could be made permanent but not benefit c. Consequently, the last Government had intended to propose that benefits a and b should be made permanent, but that the other additional benefit should not be recommended. It was felt that if temporary benefits were granted it might be very difficult to withdraw them even though the state of the funds would not warrant their continuance. The present Government, however, has proposed that the first two benefits should be made permanent, but that the third should be granted for a five-year period. I ask honorable members to consider whether it is wise to do this. Everybody who has read the history of Public Service superannuation funds in Australia knows that at one time or another practically every such State fund has failed. It is highly desirable, therefore that the Commonwealth fund should be placed upon the soundest possible basis. Already complaints have been made by actuaries and some contributors because the Government contribution to the fund is paid in arrears. In other words, the Government only finds its proportion after the fund has become liable to meet particular pensions. In New South Wales the practice is for the Government and the public servants to make their contributions simultaneously, which means that both contributions are earning interest all the time. If Australia were to meet very hard times and the Commonwealth contribution to the fund were to become very heavy, it might become necessary to consider altering the benefits if too big a strain had been imposed on the fund by such temporary charges as proposed.
– That would be repudiation, and surely no government would be guilty of such an action.
– It is desirable that the fund shall be placed in the strongest possible position, or the calls made by it upon Consolidated Revenue may become unduly heavy, and the Government have difficulty in meeting them. Undoubtedly interest rates will fall, and whereas to-day the fund is earning £5 9s. 9d. per cent., it may in the years to come earn only £3 10s. per cent, or £4 per cent, which would materially affect it. With the increasing age of the contributors it is certain that the calls on the fund will become heavier. For these reasons I suggest that every possible care should be taken not to increase the benefits beyond what the fund can safely carry. We certainly should not increase the temporary benefits or we may find that whenever a quinquennial investigation shows that there* is a surplus in the fund claims for other benefits will be made. The only safe course for us to pursue, I suggest, is to grant only permanent benefits which the fund can quite safely carry. We should not gamble with the money that is being provided to ensure that our public servants may, upon their retirement, be able to live, in decent comfort.
Most of the provisions of the bill are designed to make the scheme work more smoothly, and these can be considered more effectively in committee. The Assistant Minister said that provision was being made that “employees with State rights to pensions or gratuities who have transferred to the Commonwealth Service since the commencement of the Superannuation Fund may become contributors to it on conditions similar to those with State rights who were in the Commonwealth Service at the date of the commencement of the act with the exception that the concession to contribute at the rate for age 30, which is strictly limited to employees in the permanent service of the Commonwealth at the commencement of the principal act, will not apply.” This means, in effect, that such public servants will be able to transfer their interests to the Commonwealth. I do not think that any exception will be taken to that provision.
In conclusion, I wish to congratulate the chairman of the Superannuation Board, Mr. Ross, who is now approach ing retirement, upon the very fineservice he has rendered, not only to the Public Service, but to the community generally, in managing this fund, whichnow approaches £2,000,000. Mr. Wickens and Mr. Page, the nominee of the Public Service organizations, have also rendered yeoman service. One provision in the bill is that representatives of the contributors shall be elected directly by themselves. At present the Public Service organizations nominate their representative and the Government appoints him; but seeing that approximately half of the income of the fund comes from public servants, and that it is in their true interests to see that the best possible man available represents them on the fund, I can see no objection to them being granted the right to elect their representative. I commend the Minister for granting extra time to members of the Service residing in remote parts of the Commonwealth to enable them to submit suggested amendments. I hope that, in committee, the Minister will take steps to include the amendments that I have suggested.
.- I rise mainly to support the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page), with reference to the proposal to utilize an amount that is now, in a sense, surplus in the fund, for the purpose of providing a temporary benefit. It is much easier to give a benefit than to take it away after it has been given, and, therefore, I view with considerable apprehension the proposal that a cash benefit of £5 per unit, on the death of a contributor, or a pensioner who has been a contributor, should be paid for a limited period, namely, until the 30th June, 1933. If that is done it will depend upon the future investments of the fund whether this payment can be continued after that date. One of the most important requirements of a superannuation fund is absolute certainty and stability. It appears to me that there are serious dangers in using up a surplus like this, which is, in itself, a guarantee of the soundness of the fund, for a temporary purpose. The essence of soundness in a superannuation fund is that .the -money that can be relied upon as coming into the fund shall be sufficient to meet the obligations that the fund has to carry. Accordingly, it is always most important to define, accurately, what those obligations are, and to do it upon a strictly actuarial basis. It appears to me that that can be done only if the benefits to be conferred are given once and for all, so that all concerned are able to make their plans in the sure knowledge that certain benefits will be received. But the proposal of the Government is that an additional benefit shall be given for a period of a few years only. This places the representatives of pensioners who happen to die within that limited period in a position superior to that of those who die immediately before, or possibly immediately after, that period. It is exactly the sort of thing that is apt to cause irritation and lead to misunderstanding. Every member of the Service will not be aware of the explanation given by the Minister, or of the debates in this House. If permanent provision were made for all to be placed on the same footing, no difficulty could arise; but the granting of a relatively small additional benefit for a short period, to mop up a further portion of the surplus that exists, appears to me to be an action that is likely to diminish the confidence of the public servants themselves in the fund. All who receive this additional benefit, and all who hear of it, will almost certainly assume that it is to be permanent, and if it becomes necessary, as I think it will, to withdraw the benefit, serious dissatisfaction may arise. For political reasons a government might be pressed into making the benefit permanent, although an actuarial basis for the adoption of that course might be wanting. I appeal to the Government not to run a risk of this nature. It is not worth running it, having regard to the benefit proposed to be conferred. The late Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) has pointed out that the late Government considered the permanent provision of other benefits which the fund could carry, and I urge the Ministry to reconsider the matter in the light of what the previous speaker and myself have said on this point.
With the main provisions of the bill I am in accord. I congratulate the Government on resisting some pressure that has been brought to bear for some years past to extend the benefits beyond the actuarial capacity of the fund. I suppose that all honorable members are aware that certain members of the Service, exercising their judgment at the time, refrained from taking advantage of the offer held out by the Superannuation Act. Some of them have been very sorry for their action since, and desire to be placed in the same position as they would have been in if they had taken advantage of the original offer made to them. Unless that can be done on an actuarial basis, it cannot be done fairly to other members of the Service. The bill makes an alteration of the definition of “ children “, including “ adopted children”. In some, and perhaps all, States, “ adopted children “ has a technical meaning. A child may be adopted in the legal sense, but there are many, cases in which the so-called adoption is quite informal. Many of us doubtless know persons who have adopted children in an informal manner. These children are regarded as members of the family in every sense, and are treated as such, although no alteration in their legal relationship has taken place. No explanation is given in the bill, so far as I can see, of the meaning of the term “ adopted.” Upon the death of a pensioner, his widow and his or her children under the age of sixteen years have certain rights, and the object of this alteration is to extend the scope of those rights. Under section 32 of the act it is provided that on the death of a male pensioner, pension shall be paid to his widow during her lifetime at a certain rate, and “ in respect of each of her or the pensioner’s children, except children of her ‘ remarriage, who are under the age of sixteen years, a pension at the rate of £13 per annum until the age of sixteen years has been attained.” In some matters of legislation I may have a suspicious mind, but for many years I have practised law, and have had a fair experience of drafting and considering acts of Parliament. One of the questions which I ask myself when I have the responsibility of drafting a statute or any legal document is, “ How can this be evaded ? Is there any means whereby this might be made an instrument of fraud if a dishonest person sought to take advantage of it?” I am not now making an imputation against anybody, but we all recognize that in the interests of honest persons there must be safeguards against dishonesty, where there is a risk that it might creep in. It occurs to me that an easy method by which a lady might increase her income would be to have adopted children.
– Some of the States have passed special legislation to provide against that.
– I am inclined to think that there are still some States in. which there are no formal legislative provisions with regard to the adoption of children. This bill appears to me to leave it quite vague as to whether “ adopted children “ means children who are adopted under State statutes or whether, on the other hand, the term includes children who have been adopted informally. I suggest that that matter ought to be cleared up by a specific provision. Whatever the position may be, I point out that it might pay a widow to adopt children without liability for the purpose of receiving £13 a year for each of them. What is there to prevent it? Under the statute as proposed to be amended by the bill, it would appear that a widow would be entitled to collect the pension for adopted children; certainly, if they had been adopted by the pensioner before his death, and, possibly, even if the children had been adopted by the widow after the death of her husband. I confess that I have not had an opportunity to look closely into this provision, but as it appears on the face of it to have been drafted without a full realization of the dangers to which I have referred, I have drawn attention to it in order that it may receive the careful consideration of the legal advisers of the Government.
– Has the bill been circulated amongst the public1 servants ?
– The bill has been under consideration by various Public Service organizations for a considerable period, and the amendments made since it was first introduced are well known to them. In fact the Government has adopted their suggestions, with the excep tion of that relating to an extension of the concession to contribute at the rate for age 30. In regard to that the Government feels as the last Government felt, that such an extension would be dangerous, and would disturb the equilibrium of the scheme. The Leader of the Opposition has referred to the risk that may be involved in the proposed distribution of £29,000 as a cash benefit on. the basis of £5 a unit on the death of a contributor or a pensioner who has been a contributor. He has expressed the view that the other two benefits proposed, which are of a permanent nature, are safe, but that the temporary nature of the third benefit constitutes a danger. That aspect has received careful and serious consideration. The actuary of the board, who, I am informed, is one . of the most capable men in his profession, has recommended this course, and the Government feels safe in following his advice.
– The money is available for the period proposed, but it is for the . House to determine whether a temporary benefit should be given.
– It is possible that . the next quinquennial investigation will . show that the benefit cannot be continued. It would be wrong now to say that the . benefit can be maintained beyond a certain date, because we cannot foresee what the future has in store. But in the light of past experience, and evidence collected from other parts of the world, the Superannuation Board is satisfied that the temporary benefit proposed by the Government is safe, and further experience may show that it can be made permanent. The £55,000 to be held in reserve is more than ample to meet all contingencies, and it is reasonable to expect that the surplus will continue to grow, and the position of the fund improve. The proposed benefit is similar to the bonuses paid by life assurance companies; such bonuses vary from time to time according to the profits and business of the companies.
– But once the bonus is allotted it remains; it is never withdrawn.
– It is not withdrawn, but the amount paid each year varies according to the state of. business.
– But the contributor to the Superannuation Fund only dies once.
– The death of a contributor imposes an extra financial strain on his dependants, and a cash benefit such as is proposed in the bill would help considerably to tide them over such a period. Of the three benefits conferred by the bill this is perhaps the most humane. Honorable members opposite have said that it is unwise to create a temporary benefit, because the withdrawal of it if necessary will be strongly resisted. However that may be, the Government believes, on the evidence submitted to it by the parties interested in the stability of the fund, that the benefit is sound, and if it should have to be withdrawn no difficulty will arise because it will be in the interest of contributors to do so. The liability of the fund in respect of this benefit from the 1st July, 1927, to the 30th June, 1933, is estimated to be £29,000. The estimated liability at the 31st May, 1930, was £14,000, but the actual payments to be made up to that date amounted to only £12,000, or £2,000 less than the amount calculated by the actuary. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) has referred to the possibility of fraud, because of the absence of a definition of “adopted” children. In connexion with all legislation, there will always be some person who will seek undue advantages. I do not think the honorable gentleman is suggesting that, because of this risk, adopted children should not be included in the benefits of the act. If at the committee stage he can suggest a definition which will afford additional protection to the fund in this direction the Government will be pleased to consider it.
– To what extent is clause 14, relating to the refund of contributions on the death of an unmarried contributor, retrospective?
– To the date of the original act in 1922.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Debate resumed from the 10th June (vide page 2608) on motion by Mr. Blakeley -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The Government proposes to postpone the next decennial census on the plea that no money is available for the purpose, but I suggest that as it proposes to make £1,000,000 available to the States unconditionally for the relief of unemployment it would be wise to reserve £300,000 of that sum to defray the cost of the census. Taking a census involves mostly clerical work, which can be performed by those who are unable to do manual labour such as road-making, the class of relief work usually provided by State Governments. Owing to the present financial stringency, and the embargo on certain imports, many clerks find themselves, temporarily, at least, out of employment, and it would be a good thing if the Federal Government made this direct contribution towards finding work for them. I suggest that the proposed referendum, which would cost £100,000 of Government money, and probably £500,000 of private money for travelling expenses, hire of halls, &c, should be postponed, and the money devoted to the cost of the decennial census. The referendum will do no good to any one, but the information elicited by the census will be of material advantage to the people of Australia, and especially to the Governments and Parliaments of Australia.
Only four instances have been known within recent years of the postponement of a periodical census . in countries which regard themselves as civilized. One occurred in South Africa, in 1901, when the Boer War was raging. The census was also postponed in Ireland in 1921, when the conflict between the “BlackandTans” and the Nationalists was in progress, and no census was taken in France or Germany in 1916, as those countries were then engaged in war. It is all the more necessary to take the census now, because, when the last census was taken in 1921, the war had just concluded, and conditions were more or less in a state of flux. The returned soldiers had hardly settled down to their peace time avocations; therefore, the figures obtained from the 1921 census probably do not accurately reflect the real condition of the country. Moreover, in 1921, a very material advance of tariff duties was made, and it would be interesting, in view of the recent huge increases, to ascertain what effect was produced on industry and the distribution of population by the 1921 increase. It would be desirable to know, for instance, whether that increase has tended to increase profitable employment, whether it has tended to curtail other industries which might be regarded as necessary to our national development, and whether it had any effect in increasing the size of manufacturing units. The 1921 census revealed that the tendency had been not to increase such units, but to break them up. The last census also showed that the percentage of unskilled workers had increased three times as fast as the rate of population; the number of those engaged in manufacturing had increased slightly faster than the population, while the number of those engaged in primary production had increased by only half the rate of the increase in population. We should know whether those tendencies still persist, and whether what we have done in the way of raising the tariff and giving assistance in land settlement and marketing has altered the position in any way. It may be necessary for us seriously to consider whether we ought not to change our methods. The 1921 census showed an increase in the number of men employed in. small shops and factories, that is, shops in which there was a proprietor and perhaps two or three employees. It showed that the number of inefficient factories was increasing - inefficient because by reason of their size proper machinery could not be installed and production costs cut.
I urge upon the Government the absolute necessity of gathering such information by the census as will enable us to learn where we are getting. I am fortified in making this request by the attitude of the economists who recently met in Brisbane. They carried a resolution which they forwarded to the Prime Minister, and which he was good enough to make available to me. In answer to a question he informed me that before the Government reached its decision to postpone the census, he had given consideration to this resolution, and the reasons accompanying it. I have found, however, upon examining the document that it reached him after this bill had been introduced, so that the time devoted toconsidering it must have been very brief. The resolution carried by the economic section of the Australasian Association for the Advancement of Science, is as follows : -
This association, believing firmly that the remedy for our present economic troubles can be found rather by increasing knowledge than by diminishing it, regards the proposed postponement of the census of 1931 with apprehension and deep regret. It commends to the attention of the Australian Government the sub-joined “Reasons against Census Postponement “ - and expresses its earnest hope to the Government that the census of 1931 be not postponed.”
Arrangements have been made to have this resolution placed before the Prime Minister by a deputation. The association advances the following reasons for opposing the postponement of the census : -
Any postponement of the census will have a very bad effect on our knowledge of a large number of Australian data which are of great practical importance in business and production and in government. Our present knowledge based on the 1921 census is very inadequate for two reasons -
In many matters the census results are the basis for calculating data in succeeding years. Up to five years such estimates are in most cases quite satisfactory, but thereafter become more and more uncertain. Ten years is the limit to which the data of the previous census can be used witheven moderate accuracy. For some purposes it is too long, and five-yearly censuses would be better, and are, intact, held in some countries, e.g., New Zealand. But on the whole for most items, reasonably good estimates can be got up to ten years. Thereafter every year would add seriously to the items of fundamental information for which no estimate could be safely made.
The applications of statistical data to problems of commerce, production and government have grown enormously in the last ten years, and it is found in many cases that adequate data for the new problems were not obtained at the 1921 census. There are besides always matters in which the data obtained at a census turn out unsatisfactory, and variations in method must be made to get good results. During the last seven years the statistical problems of Australia have been thrashed out very thoroughly between the Commonwealth and State Statisticians meeting in yearly conference, and the conditions for taking a really satisfactory census are very much better than in 1921, when there was almost a complete lack of liaison between Commonwealth and State offices.
On this account there are more than usually a number of important matters, e.g., the occupations of the people, on which better information than any hitherto obtained is urgently wanted, and the census of 1931 was being awaited eagerly by statisticians and economists in confidence that these serious gaps would be satisfactorily filled.
Some examples may be given of the serious gaps in information which is required for important practical purposes -
Numbers of Population.
The total numbers of Australian population can be estimated without the census with fair accuracy. The populations of separate States are less certain, but the error is probably not significant, except that it may deprive a State of a federal member of the House of Representatives to which it is strictly entitled. This is, however, of small importance compared with other effects of postponing the census.
– They do not know what they are talking about. It is evident that they are not acquainted with the procedure, because it is not the intention to determine representation on an estimate.
– That does not alter the fact that if the population of the State has increased sufficiently to justify an extra representative, and no redistribution is made, that State is being unjustly deprived of its proper representation.
– It is very problematical.
– It is not. It can be shown that a very small alteration in the population may entitle a State to extra representation. Section 24 of the Constitution says: -
The House of Representatives shall be composed of members directly chosen by the people of the Commonwealth, and the number of such members shallbe, as nearly as practicable, twice the number of the senators. The number of members chosen in the several States shall be in proportion to the respective numbers of their people, and shall, until the Parliament otherwise provides, be determined, whenever necessary, in the following manner: -
It is laid down that the number of representatives shall be in proportion to the number of the people, and a quota is defined. If the population is not accurately known, how can the representation to which a State is entitled be determined? The following additional reasons are given by the economic committee : -
In respect to population of cities and towns and parts of States, the figures without a new census are liable to serious error, and it is now impossible to have confidence in birth and death rates for towns and parts of State, because of the possible errors in population. For public health purposes, this defect of information is serious.
Our knowledge of the distribution of age and sex is now very unsatisfactory. Without these no life table can be made based on present mortality conditions. Still more important is it that it is impossible to measure the present tendencies of growth of population without knowing the number of women of child-bearing age. There are reasons to think that our present fairly good rate of natural increase is only temporary, and that in a few years it may sink to insignificance even if fertility keeps as at present. Without a new census we cannot be sure. The prospect of a population with no natural increase would raise problems of urgent practical importance, in respect to immigration and the, safeguarding of “White Australia “ on the one hand, and on the other in respect to birth-control and the conditions of natural increase.
For a groat many other purposes a knowledge of present age-distribution is of high importance, for disease mortality and other health purposes, for number of dependant children and children of school age, for number of widows and orphans, for all calculations per adult male in industry and production, and so on.
With a steadily declining birth-rate, besides, it becomes of increasing importance to investigate the differential fertility of different classes of the community, and for this purpose not only ages are required, but occupations and other data only to be obtained from the census.
Cost of Living Index.
Wages are in general determined on the “ Cost of Living” Index.. Bent is a large item in the Retail Price Index, and the only one for which the information is somewhat unsatisfactory. Information about rents is collected in full detail at the census, and this would provide a complete check for the “ cost of living “ figures used, and would decide whether present methods were reasonably satisfactory or some new method must be devised.
Doubt is now frequently expressed, particularly by the wage-earner, as to the accuracy of the “cost of living” determination, and it is important on grounds of public policy that there should be complete confidence in the methods of wage-determination.
On the question of occupation, the economists say -
Our census information about occupations cannot be harmonized with the annual information collected in respect to certain kinds of occupation, and this makes it impossible to use either set of figures for many practical purposes. The present financial and economic position, due to fall in export values and stoppage of oversea loans, cannot be understood properly without good information about the national income, and how it is distributed, and how consumed, and the extent of yearly savings. On all these questions our knowledge is seriously defective, and only the information that a census would give will enable good estimates to be made. We want information about the number of workers and of dependants; of the number engaged in different classes of occupation and whether employer or employed or working on their own account. The coming census in particular was being designed to give special information about small incomes which are not liable to income tax. This item is in general one of the most dimcult to deal with in problems of national income, and cannot be estimated at all closely except in this way.
It may be fairly’ said that a thorough analysis of the present economic position is dependent upon information which could be supplied only by a census.
With regard to aliens, the following opinion is held : -
The present figures for population of different races and nationalities in Australia and for their distribution among the States have now become very defective. Only a census could remedy this/
Then there is the defence aspect, which is affected in the following way : -
An important item in defence matters is the number and age of returned soldiers living In Australia. Present information is confined to those permanently injured and in receipt of pensions. It was proposed at the census of 1931 to collect these data, which would not only give valuable information for defence purposes, but also on the effect of war experience on length of life for those who came out of it apparently uninjured.
Finally, there is unemployment. On that subject the following view is expressed : -
Unemployment is our most pressing practical problem, and our knowledge of the fact is very defective. Current information amounts only to an index of unemployment, and does not measure its’ absolute amount, so that we cannot compare Australia with other countries. Besides the accuracy of the index is disputed. The census would give us a complete measure of unemployment, not only at the time but over the past year. It would besides test the accuracy of the index and also enable us in future to estimate the total unemployment from the index with sufficient accuracy for some years to come.
Those are reasons that have been given by gentlemen whose business it is to deal with these particular facts. If this information is not collected, not only will an immediate injury be done to Australia, but in the future it will be rather difficult for us to explain why we were unable to take the census at the decennial period, and thus follow the example of every country that has emerged from barbarism. If the Government cannot withhold a portion of the £1,000,000 that the States are to receive unconditionally to relieve unemployment, and apply it in such a manner as to render unnecessary the rationing of work in the Defence Department, it, at any rate, should consider the abandonment of the referendum proposals, and with the saving thus effected take action that will enable Australia to hold up its head among the other civilized nations and concurrently obtain information that we must have if we are to ascertain -the road along which we are travelling.
.- The Minister for Home Affairs (Mr. Blakeley) was extraordinarily brief when introducing this bill. He occupied about two minutes, and did not attempt to give reasons for bringing forward such important legislation. From time to time I have asked the Prime Minister questions in relation to this matter, and it appears to me that the answers which I have received are, to some extent, contradictory. I first asked whether the Government had decided to postpone the taking of the census to July, 1933; and, if so, would the delay interfere with the re-arrangement of the electoral boundaries. The right honorable gentleman replied that, owing to the financial position, the Government had decided to postpone the taking of the census until 1933, and that a small measure to obtain parliamentary sanction to that course would be introduced. He also stated that the postponement of the census would not prevent the periodical redistribution of seats. I then asked: Would the re-arrangement of electoral boundaries take place during the life of this Parliament ? and the right honorable gentleman replied -
I anticipate that it will. The representation act provides that the seats shall be re- distributed in accordance with the population of the Commonwealth and the States on enumeration day, which is the day on which the decennial census is taken, or any other lay appointed by the Chief Electoral Officer,
At the expiration of five years from the last preceding enumeration day. According to the population statistics thus ascertained, a redistribution of seats will take place.
The Government surely has not given this very important matter the consideration that it deserves, particularly in view of the protests that weremade at the Brisbane conference of economists. The right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) has read some convincing reasons for the taking of the census at the decennial period. When I asked the Minister for Home Affairs what would be the cost of the census, he told me that the cost of the last census was £274,360, and that it was estimated that the cost of taking the next census would be £350,000. That is an increase of over £70,000, and there is no explanation for it. I also asked the Minister whether it was a fact that, at a conference of Commonwealth and State statisticians held recently, the postponement of the 1931 census was condemned. The honorable gentleman replied -
The conference did not “ condemn “ the proposed postponement; but regretted the necessity which has been found for postponing until 1933 the census which ordinarily should have been taken in 1931.”
The resolutions passed at the conference of economists are a strong condemnation of the postponement of the census. I am inclined to the view that the disorganization which will be caused by a failure to take a census next year will have serious consequences not only to Australia, but also to other nations which desire to use our statistics for comparison. What does the Government expect to gain by this delay? The financial position at present, admittedly, is very serious, and we sympathize with the Government in the difficulties that it has to face; but is there any possibility that the improvement in two years will be sufficiently great to warrant the disorganization that is likely to ensue as a result of postponement? The whole of the expenditure would be utilized in the employment of labour, and it would be spread over about three years. I urge the Government to reconsider the matter, because it has such an important bearing on the future. The Minister for Home Affairs is inclined to treat lightly the proposed electoral redistribution. He appears to think that there will be no difficulty in arriving at a decision as to whether any State is to gain or lose a seat.
– There is no intention to alter the basis of representation.
– I point out to the Minister that certain electorates in all the States have either too many or too few electors.
– That can be remedied by redistribution.
– It has been suggested that the Government will overcome that difficulty by a redistribution having as its basis the. names that appear on the electoral roll. Such a procedure would be absurd, because the electoral boundaries commission would have no idea of the populations in the different States and justice must be given to any State which is entitled to additional representation in this Parliament. Prom whatever aspect the matter is viewed, it is not wise to postpone temporarily the taking of the census.
.- I ask the Government to postpone the further consideration of this measure until the budget has been delivered. I recognize that every person must make up his mind to forgo a good deal in one way or another. The value and importance of a census is admitted by all. It appears to me, however, to be a matter of comparative consideration, of comparing the value of this activity with that of other activities that it may be proposed to continue. At this time we need, above all things, accurate knowledge of the condition of the people, of the finances, of industry generally, and of national economy in Australia. It is particularly unfortunate that it should be proposed to deprive the people as a whole of the only means of checking up the information that we have. This ought to be one of the last things that we should let go; because, if the census is not taken at the regular decennial interval, all calculations will be thrown out, unless alongside the figures for the year in which it is taken there is a hypothetical calculation, which must necessarily be more or less inaccurate, for the year 1931. I should like to give an illustration of the actual position of affairs in relation to statistics in Australia at the moment; Some months ago I wrote to the Statistician and asked him to supply me with the estimated number of adults in Tasmania. At the same time I wrote to the Commonwealth Electoral Officer asking him to supply me with the number of electors on the Tasmanian rolls. I was interested to find that, because of the enthusiasm and energy of the Electoral Officer, there are about 1,000 more persons on the roll than there are adults in Tasmania. My recollection is that one figure was about 115,000 and the other about 114,000. I suggest that that indicates that the estimate was wrong. That is only an example, and I do not say that there is a great deal in it, but, when so many of our figures are estimates, it is possible that there may be serious errors in them, particularly since 1921. It may be that in regard to many matters of policy upon which we have to make up our minds, we are working on wrong hypotheses. I urge that further consideration should be given to the relative importance of the census as compared with other activities. The right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) has spoken of the advantage of taking the census, in that it would provide employment for a class of the community that is feeling the present unemployment acutely! I refer to the clerical class. Much of the, provision that has been made for relieving unemployment has been expended on manual labour of the ordinary description. I have a great deal of sympathy indeed for the clerks who are out of work, and I should be glad if it were possible to use some portion of the money which the Government has allocated for the relief of unemployment, in giving work to that class of the community, at the same time providing the people with necessary knowledge, and performing a duty to the world in general which every civilized nation owes. I suggest that further consideration of this question be withheld until after honorable members have the budget before them. They will then be in a position to weigh and consider the various expenses which are being incurred on behalf of the Commonwealth, and to determine whether it is not possible to make provision in the coming year for the performance of this necessary function.
.- I should not have arisen, had I not found myself in disagreement with my leader (Mr. Latham) and also with the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) on this question. I am impressed with the importance of and the necessity for taking the census, particularly at the present time, but I am more impressed with the state of the finances to-day. I do not think that a census taken at this stage would be worth £300,000 to Australia, and I am pleased that the Government has decided not to take one.
– I cannot understand why the financial stringency of Australia should be made an excuse for not taking the census next year. It is alleged that the cost of the census would be about £300,000. If it were taken, it would provide work for a number of clerks who are at present unemployed. The Government is expending a considerable sum of money in providing work for manual labour, men who use the pick and shovel; it overlooks altogether the unemployed clerical workers. Does it consider that the only persons who should be given relief from unemployment are those who wield the pick and shovel? I ask the Government to state its position candidly. The Prime Minister has made a song about the work that is being made available to the unemployed manual workers. I make an appeal on behalf of those who have to use their intellects in order to earn their living, and who possess qualifications that could be of material assistance to this Government and to the country in general. After all, those who are hit the hardest during this time of financial stringency are not the unskilled workers on the basic wage, but the clerical workers who, in many cases, have been trained in one class of business only, and when out of employment find it difficult to obtain work at other avocations. The Government is distinguishing between the manual and the intellectual worker. In many cases the intellectual worker, because of defects in physique, is unfitted to do pick and shovel work. If the Government is sincere in its desire to relieve unemployment it has now an opportunity to absorb many of the unemployed clerks on the work of taking the census. That is a job that they could perform with credit to themselves. I understand that less than award rates of wages will be paid in certain circumstances for work on which the £1,000,000 grant for unemployment is to be expended.
– That is not true.
– I should like to hear a member of the Ministry say whether my statement is true or not. Seeing that it is highly important that the census should he taken; that many clerical workers are out of employment; and that the Ministry desires to assist the unemployed, the expenditure of £350,000 on this work could be justified. If the Government will not take the census now, that will indicate to me that it has more regard for unemployed manual labourers than for unemployed clerical workers.
– It is of importance to Australia, and to some extent of international importance, that our census should be taken at the proper time. Many of our public institutions urgently require the information that the census would provide in order to carry on their operations to the best advantage. Unless official figures are made available to other countries, Australia’s position may be determined on unreliable information. The argument that the taking of the census would relieve unemployment among clerical workers deserves earnest consideration. If the Government desires to spend money usefully, it should proceed with the taking of the census; even though less money might thereby be available for expenditure on useless bounties for various industries.
.- All the arguments used by honorable members opposite against the postponement of the census have been very carefully considered by the Government. It is realized that the statistical information that would be made available by the taking of the census would be particularly valuable in such a critical time as we are now passing through; but, after considering every aspect of the subject the Government has Been reluctantly compelled to conclude that the expenditure of £350,000 on this work at present is not justified. The census will be taken in 1933, and thereafter every 10 years, so that the dislocation feared by honorable members opposite is not likely to occur. The Leader of the Opposition has suggested that further consideration of this bill should be postponed until after the introduction of the budget, but the members of the Government know the contents of the budget, and realize that the position would not be improved in any respect whatever by deferring the passing of this bill. The long statement read by the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) from the economic section of the Australian Association for the Advancement of Science is interesting, but is not so practical as one would expect from a body of economists. If, as some suggest, difficulties may arise if the taking of the census is temporarily postponed, one wonders how we managed before provision was first made for a Commonwealth census. In regard to the point raised by the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Mackay) I have already explained that the postponement will not have any effect upon a redistribution of seats.
– Will a State be denied the right of an additional member?
– I do not think so. On previous occasions when estimates have been made by the Electoral Department, and a census has subsequently been taken, the variation has been slight. In South Australia the difference between the loss and the retention of a seat is so small that it would be unwise to make an alteration of the representation on estimates. In Queensland, where the population is increasing, the position is probably more pronounced in the direction of an increase than it is towards a decrease in South Australia. The differences are, however, so small that it would not be wise to alter the representation. It may be found later that probably South Australia and Tasmania will not be affected by any distribution which may take place.
– Does the Minister mean as between electorates ?
-Yes. All of the electorates in Tasmania, and in South Australia, with perhaps one exception, are within the marginal allowance.
– Definite figures will not be available until a census is taken?
– We shall have estimates which will closely approximate the actual figures, and upon which a redistribution can take place. The Commonwealth electoral system has reached a very high degree of efficiency, and, while I do not claim that its efficiency is comparable with that of our census system, it is reasonably accurate.
– In the matter of enrolment there is a difference of thousands.
– I do not agree with the honorable member. A number leading nomadic lives cannot be properly recorded; but, generally speaking, the figures of the Census and the Electoral Departments are very close. The Government has given this matter very careful consideration, and the fact that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Gullett) is in agreement with the Government in this instance seems to indicate that the measure has some merit in the eyes of the party opposite.
Question - That the bill be now read a second time - put. The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Norman Makin.)
Majority . . . . 26
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
In committee :
– Will the Minister indicate what is meant by the phrase “ or at such other time as is prescribed.”
.- I regret that certain honorable members, who profess a desire to relieve unemployment, have not seized the opportunity presented by this bill to show in a practical way their sympathy with a very deserving class, namely, the non-manual workers, who would be employed in the taking of the census. I register my entire disapproval of the whole bill. Apparently, the Government intends to give unemployment relief only to those who do pick and shovel work.
.- In the absence of proof to the contrary I look upon the census as a highly reproductive form of unemployment relief. I should like the Minister, at the appropriate stage, to give honorable members an opportunity of considering what the estimated expenditure would be on the labour involved in the taking of the census. I expected him to give that information in reply to the second-reading debate, and, as he did not do so, I voted against the bill.
.- I did not record a vote against the second reading of the measure, because I felt that we had not the necessary information to enable us to make up our minds on the matter. I said that I thought that we should not have the necessary facts before us until we had heard the budget speech. I still ask the Minister to reconsider the measure, and to give us an opportunity of further considering it after the presentation of the Estimates for the current financial year.
.- The right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) asked me the meaning of the phrase “ or at such other time as is prescribed.” Obviously it is not necessary for the date for the taking of the census to be stated in the bill, but the intention of the Government is that it shall be taken in April, 1933, and again, of course, in 1943. I cannot tell the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Hawker) the percentage of the cost of the census that is paid for labour, but I shall obtain that information for him if he still desires it.
– I understood the Minister to say in his second-reading speech that the proportion of the cost due to wages was very small.
– That is not quite correct. I said that there were quite a number of ways of providing employment other than by taking a census.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment.
Motion (by Mr. Blakeley) proposed -
That the report be adopted.
.- The Government is not saving any money by the course that it has taken. If the proposal would result in real economy there might be something to be said in its favour, but it will merely prevent Parliament from having the benefit of the latest statistical information and the money will still be spent in a subsequent year. All other countries who have failed to take a regular census have been at war at the time. So far as I know, no country in a state of peace has failed to carry out this work, and the Government should not place such a stigma upon the Commonwealth as this measure imposes on it. It deprives this Parliament of the only opportunity that has occurred since I have been a member of it to do something “ off its own bat “ to ameliorate unemployment. When I was a member of the late Government, about every six months a charge was furiously voiced against the Ministry of failing to deal with the problem of unemployment, a subject with which we could not deal, because it is a State concern. Here is an opportunity for us to benefit a class of unemployed persons who are in very straitened circumstances, owing to the fact that most of the relief being provided by the State Governments is work for which they are not at all suited; I refer to the need for consideration of the clerical workers, who could be engaged in the collection of census statistics. The Government considers it better to spend money on the Wiluna -gold-mining field in Western Australia, and in various other ways, than to seize this excellent opportunity of providing employment for Australians by an act of this Parliament itself. I have registered my protest against the bill at every stage.
– The complaint of the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) that the Government is losing an opportunity to provide employment does not come well from his lips. He reminds me of a man who was found guilty of the murder of both his parents. When asked by the judge whether he had anythink to say as to why he should not he executed, he asked for mercy on the ground that he waa an orphan. The right honorable gentleman has been in the habit of complaining of the existence of unemployment in Australia and on more than one occasion has referred to the action of the Government in postponing the taking of the decennial census, suggesting that this will accentuate the unemployment problem. I remind him again that much of this present trouble is due to the policy of the Government of which he was a member.
– What has this to do with this bill?
– It has much to do with the measure, because the right honorable member for Cowper has complained that’ the postponement of the census will affect the unemployed position, particularly in relation to clerical work. He has shed bucketsful of tears over the plight of clerical workers, and has also charged honorable members of the party to which I belong, with having particular regard to the welfare of the manual workers. That charge is, of course, absurd and without foundation. When it came to a division to give definite point to their assumed sympathy he said the Nationalist members walked out and did not vote. What about the clerical worker then, when all deserted him and fled?
– I support the remarks of the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) whose objections have been unanswered. When asked by the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Hawker) for certain details, the Minister said that they would be supplied at. the later stage.
– They will be furnished at the third-reading stage next week.
– If the Minister is prepared to accept the suggestion of the Leader of the Opposition and postpone the third reading of the bill until next week, our objections might be met. I point out, however, that while the Lady Bountiful in the person of the Assistant Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Forde) has introduced proposals involving the payment of hundreds of thousands of pounds in bounties to a number of industries, this Government is not prepared to expend the money necessary to obtain statistical knowledge about our own country and people. By its decision to postpone the taking of the decennial census, it is withholding valuable information from the people of the world. All this is done on the specious plea that the Commonwealth cannot afford the expenditure, and yet the Government can provide money for the payment of a bounty on sewing machine heads and other forms of production. The census is to be postponed for two years and then taken at every decennial period thereafter. The first was taken in 1901, the second in 1911, the third in 1921 and the fourth is due next year. Why should the Government advertise to the world that Australia is so poor that it cannot afford the comparatively small expenditure required to obtain information of such vital importance. If it can make available to . the States £1,000,000 to relieve unemployment, surely it can find the means to take the next decennial census. I intend to register my protest at every stage of the bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
House adjourned at 11.15 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 3 July 1930, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1930/19300703_reps_12_125/>.