12th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. NormanMakin) took the chair at 10 a.m., and offered prayers.
Mr.GULLETT.- Has the right honorable the Prime Minister any information to give to the House concerning the disquieting news which appears in this morning’s newspapers about the situation in Egypt?
– I have no information on the subject at the moment ; but I am having inquiries made.
– Has the right honorable the Prime Minister seen the report of a so-called non-party meeting which was convened by the Lord Mayor of Melbourne on Wednesday last, and at which Nationalist representatives alone were present. Is it a fact that two of the speakers were defeated Nationalists who formerly were members of this House? Has not the present Lord Mayor of Melbourne been in office for nearly three years, but did he during the three years when a Nationalist Government was in power call any meeting to protest against the gross extravagance of that Government which makes the present budget necessary?
Question not answered.
-I direct the attention of the right honorable the Prime Minister to the statement appearing in the Canberra Times and various other newspapers, including the Labor Daily-
-Does the honorable member for Warringah intend to ask a question ?
Mr. ARCHDALE PARKHILL.Yes. The statement made by Mr. Philip Snowden, Chancellor of the Exchequer, was to the effect that he could not point, in regard to the safeguarding of Australian industries, to any marked effect which the duties have had in improving the position of trade. Will the right honorable the Prime Minister, when he attends the Imperial Conference, endeavour to persuade Mr. Snowden that the taxation of the people’s food and other necessaries is done for their material good?
– When abroad I shall present the Australian opinion as truthfully and vigorously as I can, and as I think it should be presented. I shall not be side-tracked by any one. I shall put the Australian policy clearly, declaring exactly what it is.
– I ask the PostmasterGeneral what steps, if any, have been taken with respect to the representations made some time ago to establish an additional relay broadcasting station in Western Australia?
– The matter is at present receiving the serious consideration of the department, and while it has not been finalized, I can assure the honorable member that one of the relay broadcasting stations at present on order will be erected on a suitable site in Western Australia with the object of improving the service generally in that State.
– Is it a fact that primage duties are to be levied on goods in bond if imported prior to the 10th July; and is it intended to discriminate between goods previously dutiable and those previously duty free, by charging primage duty on goods in the bonded warehouses while exempting goods previously on the free list received in warehouses prior to the 10th July?
– I shall make inquiries into the matter, and supply the honorable member with the information be requires.
– I ask the Minister for Defence ifhe has read a statement in the press to the effect that the Government of New Zealand has followed the example set by the Labour Government in Australia in abolishing compulsory military training, and if so, will he congratulate the New Zealand Government on its humane action?
– I have noticed the statement, and I cannot help feeling a certain amount of satisfaction in regard to it, inasmuch as it justifies the decision reached by this Government. It entirely refutes the alarmist declarations of some honorable members and other persons in various parts of the Commonwealth to the effect that we are leaving this country open to the risk of invasion. The New Zealand Government undoubtedly recognizes that this is a time when expenditure should be curtailed in view of the general economicposition.
– You naturally pat each other on the back.
– The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White), because be is permitted to strut about on Saturday afternoons witha sword, should not interrupt.
– I rise to a point of order. Is the Minister in order in referring to an officer in the voluntary forces as one who struts about on Saturday after noons with a sword ? That expression is grossly offensive and I ask that it be withdrawn.
– I do not regard a general remark of that nature as offensive, but if it is so regarded by the honorable member to whom it was directed, I ask that it be withdrawn.
– We all know the Minister, and I treat the remark with indifference.
– I ask the Minister for Customs if the Tariff Board’s report on the timber industry has yet been printed, and, if so, when is it. likely to be made available?
– At present the Government Printing Office is so overwhelmed with work that there is little likelihood of the report being available within two or three weeks.
– Why not give the work to outside printers?
– The printing of the report could be further expedited only by the employees in that department working overtime, but this would mean unnecessary expense. The work is being expedited as much as possible, and I assure honorable members that the reports will be made available as early as possible.
– At the “ non-party “ meeting called by the Lord Mayor of Melbourne on Wednesday last, it was stated that £3,000 had been spent in planting tulips in front of Parliament House, Canberra. I ask the right honorable the Prime Minister if such expenditure has been incurred while the present Government has been in office?
– I regard that statement as a gross exaggeration. No such expenditure has been incurred by this Government.
– I desire to make a personal explanation. An article appears in yesterday’s Labor Daily on thesubject of the reduction of the parliamentary allowance of Ministers and members suggested in a motion of which notice has been given by the Leader of the Opposition. In the article, my name appears amongst a number of others who are referred to as wealthy capitalists who are sponsor- ing this proposal. Without expressing my views upon the subject, I desire to state that I was not in any way associated with the motion of which the Leader of the Opposition gave notice; I knew nothing about it until notice was given. The paragraph to which I draw attention also states that I own a very big country newspaper, and that that places me in the category of the wealthy members of this House. I do not own a country newspaper, and I am not in the category referred to.
– I ask the Assistant Minister for Customs if, in view of the important representations made to him yesterday by a deputation with respect to the taxation on glass, be is yet prepared to make a statement on the subject, and if not, will he expedite inquiries, and supply an answer to the points raised by the deputation?
– The representations made to me by a deputation yesterday will receive the same sympathetic consideration as all deputations which wait, upon me or any other Minister receive.
– Has the Prime Minister seen a report of the inquiry which is being conducted into matters arising out of the claims made by the Wireless Broadcasting Companies in which the Commissioner states that -
He did not think that any further evidence culd be given to alter his state of mind about all the members of the committee with the exception of Green and Coleman. Supposing any suggestion were entertained that they were guilty of impropriety in the way of accepting bribes or being approachedwith bribes, he would say that they had disproved this completely so far as they wore concerned. The position regarding Green and Coleman was difficult.
Will the right honorable gentleman assure the House that he will facilitate the return of Mr. Coleman - if he wishes to return immediately - to give evidence before the Royal Commissioner in order to clear up a difficult situation?
– I deprecate the asking of such questions before the Commissioner has made his report. It is unworthy of the honorable member to cast aspersions or to throw suspicions on any one while the matter is sub judice.
– The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Hawker) merely quoted the commissioner’s words.
– But he did not read them all. The newspaper report continues -
The commissioner said that nothing had been proved against Mr. Coleman. His bank accounts are consistent with his complete innocence . and inconsistent with his guilt. Neither a positive nor a negative proposition had been established.
There is no need for me to facilitate the return of the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Coleman). The conduct of his case is in his hands, or in those of his legal representatives; it is not in the hands of the Government.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The replies to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained, and a reply will be furnished to the honorable member as soon as possible.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The replies to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Minister for Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The replies to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The replies to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Whether the exemption from sales tax of milk, butter and condensed milk is intended to include milk powder, casein, concentrated milk, table cream and other milk products?
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained and will be furnished as soon as possible.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained and will be furnished as soon as possible.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– It is desired that the honorable member will please await the presentation of my report on the Conference. I anticipate that the report will be submitted within a few days.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether he can inform the House of the personnel of the Australian Delegation to the forthcoming League of Nations Assembly at Geneva ?
– The delegation will be the Honorable Frank Brennan, M.P., leader; Mr. P. E. Coleman, M.P. ; Sir Robert Garran, K.C.M.G., M.A. ; Miss M. A. Holman, M.L.A. ; and, if circumstances permit, I shall attend the Assembly for a few days on my way to the Imperial Conference.
Purchasing Power of Wages
asked the Prime Mini ster, upon notice -
– The replies to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
– On the 11th July the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) asked the following questions, upon notice -
I am now able to answer the honorable member’s questions as follow: -
– On the 8th July the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn) asked the following questions, upon notice -
What is the cost to the Commonwealth, since 1900, under the following heads: -
a ) Governor-General ?
I am now able to answer the honorable member’s questions as follow: -
Charges by British Government.
– On the 8th July,. the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Crouch) asked the following questions, upon notice -
I am now able to supply the honorable member with the following information : -
Motion (by Mr. Scullin) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until Monday next at 3 p.m.
Message reported recommending appro priation for the purposes of amendments to be moved by the Assistant Minister, the Honorable J. A. Beasley, in this bill.
In committee (Consideration of Deputy Governor-General’s message).
Motion (by Mr. Beasley) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of amendments to be moved by the Assistant Minister, the Honorable J. A. Beasley, in a bill for an act to amend the Superannuation Act 1922-24.
Resolution reported and - by leave - adopted.
In committee (Consideration resumed from 3rd July, vide page 3687).
Clause 2 agreed to.
Clause 3 -
Section four of the Principal Act is amended -
by inserting, after the definition of “ Actuary “, the following definition: - “‘Children’ includes adopted children ; “ ;
. -I move -
That the words “ adopted children “ in the proposed new definition of “ Children “ be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof “children adopted by a contributor or by a pensioner who has been a contributor and dependent on him at the time of his death.”
During the second reading debate on this bill the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) pointed out that unless the words “ adopted children “ were more clearly defined difficulties might be created. The Superannuation Board has recommended that children’s pensions should be payable in respect of “ children adopted by a contributor or by a pensioner who has been a contributor and dependent on him atthe time of his death.” That limitation would avoid the possibility of a widow adopting children for the purpose of establishing claims in respect of them. This amendment will overcome the difficulty to which the Leader of the Opposition directed attention.
Dr.EARLE PAGE (Cowper) [10.22]. - I agree that the amendment removes the danger to which attention was directed by the Leader of the Opposition.
– I desire to know whether the Government can see its way clear to make provision in this bill to permit officers of the Public Service to take advantage of an opportunity which was given them some time ago to contribute for units at a concession rate, which they failed to avail themselves of through oversight, or ignorance, within the twelve months’ period . allowed for such applications to be made. A number of officers failed within that time to realize the value of the opportunity which was offered to them; and they are now desirous of being given another chance to take advantage of the privilege. I trust that the Government will make it possible for them to do so.
– The honorable member is doubtless referring to the opportunity offered to some officers of the service to contribute for a certain number of units at the rate for age 30. Ever since the expiry of the period for applying for these units, requests have been made that the officers who failed to take advantage of the concession should be given another opportunity to do so. This Government and the previous Government have given earnest consideration to these requests, but have felt that it would be dangerous to grant them. It is true that only a comparatively small number of officers neglected to take advantage of the opportunity to contribute for any number of units, but it might be pointed out, in addition, that there are approximately 1,100 officers who refrained from taking up the full four units to which they were entitled. Some of them took up one, some two, and some three. If we made provision at this stage for the officers who did not take up any units to do so now, we should also need to give the officers who did not take up the full number of units to which they were entitled, the opportunity to do so. It will be appreciated that such an action might seriously affect the stability of the fund. The board has reported very strongly against the adoption of this course, and the Government feels, as the previous Government did, that the advice of the board should be accepted. I. am sorry, therefore, that we cannot do as the honorable member desires.
– Surely the Assistant Minister (Mr. Beasley) must recognize that an injustice has been done to certain officers who, through no fault of their own, and mainly through ignorance, did not apply within the time specified for the units which were offered to them at the concession rates. The honorable gentleman has himself said that the number of officers affected is comparatively small. I can- not, therefore, assent to his suggestion that the granting of this request might seriously upset the actuarial basis of the scheme. A number of the officers affected were, at the time this opportunity was made available to them, living in remote parts of Australia. They had little opportunity of appreciating the value of the concession until after the opportunity to accept it had slipped by. I sincerely hope that in these circumstances the Government will accede to my request.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 4 agreed to.
Clause 5 (Quinquennial investigation by an actuary).
– The Government would be wise to delete this clause, which provides that the actuary shall, after his quinquennial examination of the fund, state what additional benefit could, in his opinion, be provided out of the surplus. The introduction of proposals in such matters should be left to the Superannuation Board, which has under its control the administration of the whole fund and can secure the opinion of the actuary. The position should be allowed to remain as at present. There is nothing now in the act to prohibit the actuary, if he thinks fit, from stating in his report what, in his opinion, may be done with surplus funds. That is exactly what has happened in connexion with the last quinquennial investigation and report. The actuary stated that there were certain moneys available which could be used in a certain way.
– This clause has been inserted because it is proposed to make provision for the distribution of portion of the surplus after the quinquennial investigation. The board feels that, one distribution having been agreed to, it is competent for the actuary to make suggestions of a similar kind. He might make suggestions, not only regarding the distribution of surpluses, but also regarding the third benefit, and whether or not it should be continued any longer. I agree with the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) that the administration of this fund is a matter for the board, which must bear full responsibility for what is done. At the same time, I think it will be admitted that the board cannot be regarded as having the necessary actuarial knowledge to deal with a situation’ of this kind. After all, the control of this fund from the point of view of its stability is largely a matter for actuaries. In connexion with the matter under discussion the actuary may make a recommendation to the board, but the board is not obliged to accept it. The board takes into consideration other aspects which the actuary is not bound to consider. I believe that every safeguard is being maintained.
Clause agreed to.
Section twelve of the principal act is amended -
by omitting sub-section (2.) and the first proviso thereto and inserting in their stead the following subsection and proviso: - “ (2.) The contributions of a contributor shall cease to be paid when he ceases to-be employed in the service or, in respect of each unit or part thereof, immediately after the last fortnightly payment before the anniversary of his initial contribution in respect thereof next preceding the attainment by him of the maximum age for retirement, whichever first happens :
Provided that, in the case of a contributor whose initial payment in respect of any unit or part thereof is made within twelve months before he attains the maximum age for retirement, twenty-six contributions at the fortnightly rates applicable to the contributor in respect of that unit or part shall be made before pension in respect of superannuation shall become payable: “; and……….
Section proposed to be amended - (2). The contributions of a contributor shall cease to be paid when he ceases to be employed in the service, or immediately after the last fortnightly payment before the anniversary of his initial contribution next preceding the attainment by him of the maximum age for retirement, whichever first happens:
Provided that in the case of a contributor whose initial payment is made within twelve months before he attains the maximum age for retirement, twenty-six contributions at the fortnightly rates applicable to the contributor shall be made before pension in respect of superannuation shall become payable:
– I move-
That paragrapha he omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following paragraph - “(a) by omitting sub-section (2) and inserting in its stead the following subsections: - (2). In respect of units of pension the initial contributions in respect of which have been made prior to the commencement of this sub-section the following provisions shall apply: -
the contributions of a contributor shall, subject to the next succeeding paragraph, cease to be paid when he ceases to be employed in the service, or immediately after the last fortnightly payment before the anniversary of his initial contribution next preceding the attainment by him of the maximum age for retirement, whichever first happens; and
in the case of a contributor whose initial payment is made within twelve months before he attains the maximum age for retirement, 26 contributions at the fortnightly rates applicable to the contributor shall be made before pension in respect of superannuation shall become payable. (2a). In respect of units of pension the initial contributions in respect of which are made after the commencement of this sub-section the following provisions shall apply: -
the contributions of a contributor shall, subject to the next succeeding paragraph, cease to be paid when he ceases to be employed in the Service, or, in respect of each unit or part thereof, immediately after the last fortnightly payment before the anniversary of his initial contribution in respect thereof next preceding the attainment by him of the maximum age for retirement, whichever first happens ; and
in the case of a contributor whose initial payment in respect of any unit or part thereof is made within twelve months before he attains the maximum age for retirement, 26 contributions at the fortnightly rates applicable to the contributor in respect of that unit or part thereof shall be made before pension in respect of superannuation as regards that unit or part shall become payable. (2b) . For the purposes of the last two preceding sub-sections the initial contrituition of an employee in respect of any additional unit or part thereof for which he has elected to contribute shall be deemed to have been made on the date as from which the contribution became pay able.
who elects, or is called upon, to retire on or after attaining the age of 60 years, or
whose maximum age for retirement is fixed at an earlier age than 65 years, but not less than 60 years, and who retires on attaining the age so fixed. may, notwithstanding anything contained in this section, contribute, in a lump sum, or in such smaller sums and at such periods as the board approves, the actuarial equivalent of the amount necessary to complete his payments to the fund up to a later age (not exceeding the age of sixty-five years).”
Since I made my second-reading speech on this bill, the Superannuation Board and the Government have given further consideration to clause 6, and it is felt that certain further amendments are’ necessary. The amendment I have moved has been submitted, because the Govern– ment feels that it cannot take away from members of the Public Service something’ which was previously granted to them. The object of the amendment is to provide that contributions in respect of each individual unit contributed for shall cease an exact number of years from the date of the first contribution in respect of that unit. The number of units for which an employee contributes depends upon the rate of his salary. As his salary increases or falls within the higher salary groups, as set out in the scale in section 13 (subsection 1 so is the number of units of pension for which he contributes increased or diminished. The law authorities have advised the board that payments by an employee, in respect of all units for which he maycontribute during his career, cease at one common date, which is an exact number of years from the date on which his first contribution to the fund commenced. It was understood, however, by the actuaries, when fixing the rate of contribution, that each additional unit taken up during an employee’s career should be contributed for over an exact number of years. It has been discovered that the amendment, as set out in the bill, applies in certain cases to units of pensions the initial contributions in respect of which are payable from a date prior to the commencement of this bill. It is desired that the alteration should apply only in respect of those units concerning which initial contributions are payable from a date subsequent to the commencement of the bill. It has, therefore, been necessary to re-cast sub-section 2. Shortly, the amendment provides that conditions affecting those who elected to contribute prior to the passing of this act shall not be changed, but that the provisions of the act, as amended, shall apply to those who elect to contribute after the passing of the act.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 7 to 16 agreed to.
Clause 17 (Cash benefit on death of contributor or pensioner).
Dr.EARLE PAGE (Cowper) [10.40]. -Ireferred to this provision in the course of my second-reading speech on the bill. The payment of this benefit will absorb £28,000 during the present quinquennial period. The point I wish to make is that if it is not certain that this can be made a permanent benefit it would be better to defer it until after the next quinquennial examination, otherwise some injustice might be done to contributors. The other two benefits provided for are being taken back to the commencement of theact, but this particular benefit dates back only to the 1st July, 1927. At present very high rates of interest are being received on funds invested by the Superannuation Board. I am one of those who hope and believe that it will not be long before lower rates of interest prevail, not only in Australia, but all over the world. When interest rates fall, the income from invested superannuation funds will not be, as now, considerably above the actuarial valuation. The present surplus has been stated by the actuary to be due to two factors. The first is what he describes as the favorable mortality, that is to say, that more pensioners have died early than was expected. Such an event, though unfavorable from the point of view of the pensioners, is good for the fund. Naturally, we all desire that our pensioners shall live as long as possible, and I have no doubt that, after having worked for some years under the favorable climatic conditions that prevail at Canberra, future pensioners will live longer than those of the past. The other factor mentioned by the actuary as contributing to the present surplus is the prevailing high rate of interest, but that is not going to be a permanent feature of superannuation fund investments. I urge that the granting of this benefit be deferred until further investigation is made or, at any rate, let the amount of the benefit be made less, say £2 10s., until it can be made permanent at a higher figure.
– The remarks of the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) on this clause during his second-reading speech were, I believed, sufficiently worthy of consideration for me to refer them to the Superannuation Board, as the result of which the actuary was asked to submit further information. I agree that all honorable members are most anxious that the fund be safeguarded to the fullest extent, and that such concessions as are made from time to time should be guaranteed if possible to all contributors. In this connexion it is fitting, I think, to refer to the report received from the actuary, who, in addition to the information previously submitted, has now forwarded the following statement: -
The result of the valuations of 1927, 1928 and 1929 is to show a substantial and steadily expanding surplus. The statistical progress of the fund in the year 1929-30 gives every reason for the belief that there will be an increase in the surplus as at 30/6/30, when the next office valuation is completed.
Among the most important factors which make possible the continuance of the third benefit are the maintenance of a high rate of interest, and, to a less extent, the profits to the fund arising from the continuance in the service after the age of CO of contributors under schedules III. and IV. The average rate of interest realized on the fund’s investments as at 30/6/30 was £5 10s. 2d. per cent. It is not improbable that our income from loth August to the end of the current year will be invested at 6 per cent. in which case the average rate over all would be £511s. 3d. per cent. on 30/6/31. A high average rate of interest seems at any rate assured for at least another quinquennium.
From these considerations, I think that the continuity of the third benefit can be guaranteed for the further period of 1933-8. Beyond the latter date, I am not prepared to go at present, for the reason set forthin my memorandum of 9/8/29, viz., that “ the quinquennium 1938-43 includes one short period of fourteen months ( 15/ 1 2/4 1 to 15/2/43) when we shall be faced with three large conversions aggregating £1,385,000. If this should be a period of low interest rates, we might have to convert on unfavorable terms and this would have an adverse influence on our investment rate.
It is evident, therefore, that in the opinion of the actuary no appreciable change in the position is likely to occur up to the end of 1938. Dealing with the question of interest rates, the actuary reports -
So far, the interest has paid all the outgo, leaving approximately the following margins : -
Thus the margin is increasing steadily. It will he necessary for themargin to reach a peak, and then decline to zero before the interest fails to meet the outgo. This will take many more years.
It is fitting that here I should give to the committee some information which the board has supplied, and upon which the actuary has to some extent based his conclusions. The actuary reported -
The situation which arose resembled very strongly that which presented itself in the United Kingdom on the occasion of the first valuation of approved societies under the national health insurance scheme. It was discussed at length by Mr. Phelps, president of the British Institute of Actuaries, in 1922. The following passage from his presidential address may be quoted in this connexion: - “ The financial effect of war conditions on the position of approved societies was bound to be considerable, though without investigation it was impossible to determine whether the results in the aggregate would be favorable or otherwise. An analysis of the sources of surplus has made it clear that a considerable proportion of the surplus has been due to war conditions. It is well to emphasize this point, since it would appear that dissatisfaction has been expressed by a number of societies with the amount of surplus certified as disposable and available for providing increased benefits. That such should be the case is scarcely to be wondered at. Disappointment would naturally arise among the members of approved societies on being told that a large proportion of their surplus was not disposable, and especially so prior to the publication of the report, in which the reasons for caution are so clearly set out. Apart from the question of the necessity for caution in dealing with the disposal of surplus, even under normal conditions, and particularly on the occasion of the first valuations under a new and, to some extent, experimental scheme, many considerations presented themselves which called for careful attention. In deciding the proportion of surplus to be certified as disposable, a heavy responsibility rested with the valuers. Judgment had to be exercised as to how far the disclosed surplus was due to accidental causes unlikely to recur, and to what extent present conditions and some important after consequences of the war would tend to throw increased liability on societies in the future. In deciding that only £9,184,087 out of the net surplus of £17,192,968 - or in the aggregate about 53 per cent. - was disposable, the valuers were exercising a wise discretion. The distribution of this sum, however, has enabled additional benefits ranging from1s. a week up to 5s. sickness pay, with other benefits in proportion, to be granted to a large number of approved societies, comprising 88 per cent. of the total membership under the scheme, such additional benefits to operate for a period of five years commencing in most cases on the 4th July, 1921.
Commenting on the remarks of the president of the British Institute of Actuaries, the board’s actuary stated -
It will be seen, therefore, that the policy of partial distribution of surplus, coupled with restraint, has the endorsement of the highest authority. The distribution in our case is even more conservative than in the United Kingdom, since we are retaining 56 per cent. of the surplus in reserve as against 47 per cent. in the British experience.
As I have said, the remarks previously made by the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page), were of such a nature as to call for further consideration of the clause by the Government. I have now furnished to the committee the views of the president of the British National Health Insurance scheme, as well as the recent office valuation. The information supplied shows that this benefit will remain at least until 1938. At this stage it is impossible to say more than that; but it is probable that the soundness of the fund will make it possible to continue the benefit in perpetuity.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 18 (Payment to person other than the pensioner).
.- The proposed new section 48a provides that payment may be made to a person other than the pensioner or beneficiary. Apparently, the board has some good reason for asking for authority to make payments to such other persons. One can understand that, in the case of a pensioner who is mentally unfit to look after his interests, the board would desire authority to make payments to his relatives. I should be glad if the Minister would state whether the experience of the board has been such as to necessitate the insertion of the proposed new section.
.- The board already has power to make payments to other than principals. I have, however, received requests from interested parties in which they say that, in the event of the death of an unmarried man, or a man without dependants, who has contributed to the fund for many years, the whole of the contributions paid by him may be lost, in the sense that no one connected with him will receive any benefit from his savings.
– The proposed new section refers to a pensioner - some living person.
– It is felt that in such cases as I have mentioned there should be a provision for the board to recognize some person to whom payment could be made - probably a person mentioned in the pensioner’s will. The new provision will also meet the case of pensioners who are absent from Australia, who usually leave powers of attorney, so that payments may be made to other persons on their behalf. Power to make such payments is contained in the regulations, and payments have been made accordingly. The Solicitor-General is, however, of the opinion that the time has now arrived when provision to that effect should be included in an act of Parliament.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 19 -
Section fifty of the Principal Act is amended -
by omitting from sub-section (1.) the words “ his duties “ and inserting in their stead the words “suitable duties as an employee”;
Section proposed to be amended -
– ( 1 . )If, in the opinion of the Board, the health of any pensioner to whom a pension under section thirty or thirty-seven of this Act is being paid, has become so restored as to enable him to perform his duties, the Board shall so inform the Public Service Commissioner with a view to suitable employment being found for the pensioner…..
– This clause deals with pensioners who have been restored to health. Having considered this matter further since the introduction of the bill, the Government is of the opinion that it would be inadvisable at this juncture to make the amendment proposed in paragraph a. The number of employees affected is small, and as neither the fund nor the Commonwealth is likely to be financially affected for some years, there is no need for any alteration of the existing legislation. The Government feels that the safety of the fund is assured, and that, therefore, the position should be allowed to remain as it is for the present, at all events. I, therefore, move -
That paragraph (a) be omitted.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause also consequentially amended, and, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 20 -
After section fifty of the principal act the following section is inserted in Division 3 of Part IV.:- “50a. - (1.) Where a pensioner, other than a pensioner who has been retired on the ground of infirmity or retrenchment, is employed or re-employedby the Commonwealth, so much of the pension as is attributable to the contribution payable by the Commonwealth shall be cancelled during the period of employment.
.- I move -
That after the word “ Commonwealth “ first occurring the following words “and his employment or re-employment commences after the commencement of this section “ be inserted.
The effect of this amendment is to limit the application of the clause to a pensioner whose employment or reemployment commences after the coming “into operation of this new regulation. The Government found that in one case the proposed new section, as printed, would have meant the repudiation of an arrangement entered into with an officer.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 21 (Employee under 65 years at commencement of contributions may elect to come under this act for the difference).
– The remainder of the bill is of a nonparty character. Indeed, most of its provisions were prepared by the late government. Honorable members on this side have no desire to delay the business of Parliament, and, except for some slight amendment to clause 26, I see no objection to the rest of the bill being taken en bloc.
Clause 21 agreed to.
Clauses 22 to 25 agreed to.
Clause 26 (Definitions).
.- Section 60a of the principal act refers to an “ air officer “. That is a mistake in nomenclature. An “ air officer “ is one above the rank of group captain, and corresponds with a “ general officer “ in the army. It should read “ Air Force officer “.
– Since there is a doubt as to the exact terms in which the amendment should be drafted, I shall arrange with the board to have the necessary amendment prepared and considered when the bill reaches another place.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 27 agreed to.
Clause 28 (Pensions not payable in addition to compensation).
– I move -
That the following words be added to the clause: - “Nothing in this section shall prevent the payment of a pension to persons injured on duty and who are compensated on that account.”
It is very necessary to insert this amendment, because flying accidents do happen, and to airmen as well as to flying officers.
.- In 1927 the Defence Department made certain suggestions to meet cases that would be covered by this amendment. The object was to safeguard, to the fullest extent, the interests of permanent employees of the Public Service who might be engaged in work connected with the Citizen Forces, in which are a large number of men who are not permanent employees. The board, in 1927, considered an amendment of the act to meet the position, and further suggestions were made in 1928, when the board felt that the previous suggestion to which the board and the Defence Department had agreed would overcome any difficulty that might arise. The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) has proposed an amendment with a view to extending the pension to persons injured on duty, who are entitled to compensation on that account. The reply furnished to me is that, under the existing law, the invalidity pensions payable to persons retired on the ground of invalidity or incapacity are not affected if such invalidity or incapacity is the result of injuries received oil duty, in respect of which compensation is paid. It is considered that the proposed amendment is unnecessary, because in regard to invalidity that might arise through an accident for which compensation was payable, the payment of such compensation would in no way interfere with the payment of the pension. I have no desire to anticipate a discussion on the Workmen’s Compensation Bill, or any other relative legislation that may be dealt with at a later date, as it is considered that any safeguards required in this respect should be provided for in the measure which determines compensation payments. The board feels reluctant to introduce into the Superannuation Act such a provision as that contained in the amendment. It is considered that the law as it stands covers every case, and there is no possibility of claims for compensation on account of injury being jeopardized.
Clause agreed to.
Section sixty of the principal act is amended by inserting, after sub-section (2) the following sub-section: - “ (2a.) Should the degree of incapacity of an air officer or employee in receipt of pension under the last preceding subsection be increased after retirement, he may receive such pension . . . as is specified by the Board:
Provided that, where the’ board determines that the degree of incapacity is not less than fifty per centum, he shall be entitled to the full pension for which he was contributing at the tirme of his retirement “.
Mr. BEASLEY (West Sydney- Assistant Minister [11.6]. - I move -
That, after the word “shall”, the words “as from such date as is specified by the board “ be inserted.
Section 60o provides that an air officer or employee, suffering less than 50 per cent, of total incapacity, may receive pension proportionate to the degree of his incapacity. The board. considers that provision should be made for an increased pension where the incapacity, which was less than 50 per cent, at retirement, increases subsequent to retirement. The proviso in the bill ensures the receipt by the pensioner of full pension if his incapacity, subsequent to retirement, becomes not less than 50 per cent. The full pension will be payable from a date to be fixed by the board. The effect of the proposed amendment is to make it quite clear that the full pension shall not necessarily date from the time of the officer’s retirement. The board desires power to determine the date when the incapacity has increased to a degree necessitating payment of the full pension.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
After section sixty s of the principal act the following section is inserted: - “ 60SA. Where an air officer or employee is retired on the ground of invalidity or physical or mental incapacity to perform his duties, or dies in the Service, and the invalidity or incapacity or death is duo to accident while the air officer or employee is engaged in flying operations, the pension payable under this act shall be paid from the Superannuation Fund, and the payments from that fund shall be repaid from the Consolidated Revenue Fund
.- I move -
That, after the word “ employee “, first occurring, the words “ or Citizen Force Air Force officer or airman “ be inserted.
Citizen Force Air Force personnel operate with the permanent flying corps. They parade at Point Cooke, Victoria, and at Richmond, New South Wales, for their training and flying, and do the same class of work as the permanent men. It is possible, in an air accident, for a permanent officer and a Citizen Force officer to be injured together; such cases have happened. Citizen Force officers take the same risk as permanent officers, and, since they obtain less flying practice, they are, perhaps, more subject to accidents, while mechanics even when not flying are liable to injury in many ways such as contact with the propeller of an aeroplane. On the other han.d it may be argued, of course, that a permanent man, because he does more flying, is more frequently subject to risk of accident; but, in any case I consider it essential and only fair that the Citizen Force personnel should also be covered by this section.
– Section 60h, subsection 2, provides that contributions by air officers shall be according to such rates as are prescribed. The prescribed rates include a special contribution of 5s. per unit, which the actuaries consider necessary to cover the aviation risk. In 1924 the Government of the day decided that air officers, or employees who have to engage in flying operations as part of their ordinary duties, should not be called upon to pay this extra contribution, which should be a liability of the Commonwealth. No payment, therefore, is made into the fund in respect of the aviation risk, but in the event of an air officer becoming incapacitated, or losing his life as the result of accident while engaged in flying, the whole of the pension is charged against the Consolidated Revenue Fund. The decision applies to both air officers and mechanics who engage in flying operations. It is considered desirable to embody the arrangement in the act, first, to protect the fund from liability in these cases, and, secondly, in order that the air officers and employees and their widows should have the same legal right to their pensions, which become payable as the result of accidents, as is enjoyed by other contributors and pensioners. This amendment of the act is intended to safeguard the interests of these men, and not leave them in the hands of the Government of the day. The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) desires this section to cover Citizen Force and Air Force officers or airmen ; but I feel that their interests are already safeguarded. The Superannuation Act applies only to permanent members of the Public and other Services and it would not be possible to apply it to temporary employees. There are thousands of temporary employees under the control of the Public Service Board who cannot become contributors to the fund. I think that honorable members will agree that the financial machinery of the fund is too delicate to be tampered with, and if we opened the door to the inclusion of any employees other than permanent members. of the Public Service, the financial stability of the fund would be jeopardized. If a permanent employee of the Public Service were engaged in work connected with the Citizen Forces, and met with an accident in a flying operation, his interests would be amply safeguarded; but if the officer were only a temporary employee his case would be covered by the Workmen’s Compensation Act.
– When will the amending Workmen’s Compensation Bill be brought forward ?
– The Government hopes that it will be brought down in the other chamber before the close of the session. I suggest to the honorable member that his amendment be put forward for consideration in connexion with that measure, in which I think it could be properly included.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 31 to 34 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments; report by leave - adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Message reported recommending appropriation for the purposes of amendments to be moved by the Assistant Minister, the Honorable F. M. Forde, in this bill.
In committee: (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message).
Motion (by Mr. Forde) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenuebe made for the purposes of amendment to be moved by the Assistant Minister, the Honorable F. M. Forde, in a hill for an act. providing for the payment of a bounty on the manufacture of sewing machine heads.
Resolution reported and - by leave - adopted.
In committee: Consideration resumed from 15th July(vide page 4158).
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 (Definitions).
.- I do not think that the definition, as it stands, confines the payment of the bounty to sewing machines used for domestic purposes only. A sewing machine may be suitable for household purposes and at the same time be of a type in use for commercial or industrial purposes. As I understand that it is the intention of the Government to confine the bounty to sewing machines used only for household purposes I suggest that the definition should be made a. little more specific.
.-] support the remarks of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Gullett). It must be obvious that if companies are to receive the bounty on industrial as well as household machines, they will be receiving an undue advantage over their competitors to the detriment of commercial concerns in whiteworking and kindred industries using sewing machines. Those businesses will need the very latest models, and it is apparent that the small output of Australian companies such as that which will operate at Bendigo, will not permit of their keeping up to date with their industrial machines. It is necessary to safeguard the position by confining the bounty specifically to domestic machines.
. -I may state definitely that the proposed bounty is to be restricted to the manufacture of machine heads to be used for household purposes. But if the words “ suitable for household purposes only “ were inserted in the clause it would complicate the position. A sewing machine suitable for household purposes is frequently suitable also for industrial purposes. I have been assured by a company that intends to manufacture sewing machines in Sydney that it does not desire the concession to apply to the heads of machines manufactured for industrial purposes in factories. While it hopes to manufacture such machines, it it prepared in that respect to compete in the open market. I shall go further into the matter with the officer of the department who investigated the subject, and if it should appear to me that there is any necessity to amend the clause restricting the bounty to machines for household purposes, it will be arranged that action shall be taken in another place.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 3 and 4 agreed to.
Clause 5 - (1.) The total amount of bounty authorized to he paid under this act in any one financial year shall not exceed the sum of twenty thousand pounds.
– I move -
That the word “twenty” be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “ten.”
The purpose of my amendment is to reduce the total amount of bounty authorized to be paid under the measure in any one financial year from £20,000 to £10,000. I have no wish permanently to obstruct the Minister in attaining his object. As the committee is aware, I am totally opposed to the measure, and expressed myself specifically on the subject during the second-reading debate. It is my contention that at the present time no bounties should be granted except, perhaps, in cases of overwhelming merit. I certainly have no word of commendation for the proposal to give a bounty to an insignificant industry such as this, which is of questionable value to the Commonwealth, and about the success of which there is the gravest doubt. Apart from my general hostility to bounties at this juncture, I particularly object to this one, because it is proposed to raise the money necessary to pay it by imposing a duty of 10s. on each imported sewing machine head of British origin, and £1 on each one of foreign origin. Approximately 40,000 sewing machine heads are now being imported into Australia annually, and my calculations indicate that the imposition will work out at an average tax of 13s. on each one. In the main, those machines go into the homes of people of relatively small means, the majority of whom, in fact, belong to the working-class. I can see no reason why the wives of the workers should be taxed to provide the bounty, particularly when it is being imposed in what the Minister describes as the national interests, to encourage industrial development generally. It is absolutely wrong that the imposition should fall directly upon the unfortunate women who use the machines, and it cannot be justified. If the bounty cannot be provided out of Consolidated Revenue, it should not be paid.
– The competition of the Australian manufacturer will mean cheaper sewing machines.
– It may, some day. But a sewing machine is a contrivance that lasts “for many years, and even if its price is reduced in the future, the housewife who is, compelled to buy during the next twelve months or so will never get her money back. From my reckoning, I conclude that, each year in the Bendigo electorate, approximately570 women of moderate means purchase sewing machines. Does the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Keane) consider this imposition on those people of limited means justified, merely to advance the interests of a few company directors, who will be granted a large parcel of shares out of the new company that will be established in his electorate? As the duty now stands, the Treasurer will raise an amount of about £22,000 or £23,000 from this 10s. and £1 duty that will be a direct tax upon the poor man’s home. I am confident that neither the Assistant Minister nor the honorable member for Bendigo will claim that Australia will be able to manufacture anything like 10,000 to 11,000 of these sewing machines during the current financial year.
– It is estimated that in six months-
– Oh, these wretched estimates of the Assistant Minister! Every one of them in connexion with the tariff schedules that this Government has introduced has proved absolutely false. The November schedule was to provide immediate work for 30,000 persons, and further work for 100,000 shortly afterwards. Instead, it has thrown from 50,000 to 60,000 more people into unemployment. I do hope that the Assistant Minister will not continue talking to this House about estimates. Who made these estimates?Evidently the company promoters, assisted by the honorable member for Bendigo. Not the least dependence can be placed upon them.
– If the honorable member wants any dirty stuff, he will get it.
– In saying that the honorable member for Bendigo assisted in arriving at these estimates, I am not making the faintest suggestion of improper motives on his part. I have for him the deepest personal respect. I do not believe for a moment that the sum of £20,000, which is being provided under this legislation, will be used this year at the bounty rate of £2 a machine. I do not believe that anything like 10,000 or 11,000 sewing machines will be produced. We have not yet been told whether a single pound sterling of capital has been subscribed to this company. What the amendment seeks to do is to limit the bounty for this year to £10,000, which would provide for the production of 5,000 sewing machines. That would be quite a good start for the industry. I suggest that the Minister bring down an amending schedule of one line, and reduce the new duty on sewing machines from 10s. British, and £1 foreign, to 5s. British and 10s. foreign. That would provide £10,000 instead of £20,000. My object in moving the amendment is to reduce the tax on the women of this country who will purchase sewing machines this year. So soon as the Assistant Minister finds that the output, say, next year or subsequently, exceeds 5,000 machines he can raise the money required by simply tabling another amending tariff schedule, increasing the duty to 10s. British, and £1 foreign. The amendment is reasonable, and if agreed to, will lighten the burden of the women ofthis country who purchase these machines as a means of livelihood. For that reason alone I commend the amendment to the committee.
– I do not suppose that if the amendment were accepted it would affect the position to any great extent, but it is marvellous to me to see honorable members rising in this chamber and speaking for some considerable time on subjects concerning which they know little or nothing. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Gullett) was somewhat solicitous for the welfare of the unfortunate women who use sewing machines. If 500 machines were required in the Bendigo district I would guarantee to supply Chicago sewing machines, which are better than. Singer machines, and to save £4,000 in the process. If it is the desire of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition that the women of this country who purchase sewing machines, should save money, I am prepared to show him how it can be done.
Many years ago when the Singer sewing machine was being manufactured for 30s. the selling price in Australia was actually £14 10s. That amount included the commission paid to the traveller who sold the machine. He probably had a van and two horses, a home, and a wife and family to keep, and, at that time, it was considered that if he sold one machine a week his commission would be sufficient to cover his salary and expenses. Even to-day the traveller who has a motor car to maintain can, if he sells one machine per week, earn sufficient money to enable him to live well. By manufacturing our own machines we shall enable our women folk to save money. If the local machine can be manufactured for £4 or £5, the possibility is that it will reach the purchaser at a price which is £7 or £8 lower than that of the imported machine.
– How will that affect the cost of distribution in this country?
– Orders for machines could be sent direct to Bendigo, and no travellers need be employed. In that way, our women folk would obtain cheaper and better machines. This country has too long been exploited by foreign manufacturers. For every imported machine sold £3 or £4 is sent out of this country to the manufacturer. I ask the Assistant Minister not to accept the amendment.
.- I support the amendment moved by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Gullett). The proposal under the hill has pitifully bad features. I pointed out in my second-reading speech that I was prepared to assist where possible in establishing Australian industries. I am a strong supporter of the protectionist policy, but in its application consideration must be given to the consumer, as well as to the manufacturer. I agree with the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Keane), with regard to the need for decentralization. I know Bendigo, as I lived there, and I should like to do anything to assist that city; but this proposed bounty will not bear inspection. I have the balance-sheets of the old company, and they contain such items as “ commissionaccount on flotation, £739.” That is for one year. The next year - the company lasted only two years - the balance-sheet shows a similar item of £450 15s.
– The honorable member knows that a company is to be established in Sydney immediately.
– I dealt with that in my second-reading speech. I am drawing attention at the moment to matters concerning the Bendigo company such as this : “ Commission on selling shares, £1,100.” That is over a period of two years.
– And not one machine was made!
– The company did make some machines. It, however, lost £5,000 in eighteen months in the process. It is not the duty of this Government to stand behind every wild-cat scheme that is placed before it by company promoters. It is not the business of the Customs Department to stand behind any company that says it will make sewing machines, perambulators, or anything else. We are here to govern the country, and not to assist companies in business, yet it is actually intended, under this bill, to pay £20,000 in any one year in the form of a bounty on sewing machines that are to be manufactured by a company which, before it. went out df business, expended £1,100 on commission for the sale of shares, and could raise only £15,000 capital. Even that capita] included a motor garage traded in to the company. The balancesheet also contains an item of £250 for a tractor. What has a tractor to do with the manufacture of sewing machines?
– I ask the honorable member to confine his remarks to the clause under discussion, which relates to the amount of the bounty.
– I submit that my remarks are pertinent to the clause. There has not been sufficient light thrown on this bill. The Assistant Minister has produced a report of the Tariff Board which is five years old.
– I have a report by the accountant of the Trade and Customs Department, who, a few months ago, spent two weeks in. inquiring into this industry.
– Will the Assistant Minister say whether the company exists?
– That officer inquired into the possibility of establishing the sewing machine industry in Australia, and he reported favorably on the project. It was because the Bruce-Page Government did not. give either a bounty or protection to the Bendigo establishment that it closed down.
– There is no such company in existence at Bendigo now. The old company went out of business, but the plant is there. The honorable member for Bendigo has been quite frank on the subject, and he has* given me a lot of facte. I assure him that I shall support any proposition that is fair and reasonable. But this proposition is impossible, and for that reason I support the amendment, which, if carried, would reduce the bounty by practically half and would be adequate. The clause as it stands provides that the bounty may be paid from year to year to this nebulous company and be cumulative. What a splendid proposition for the directors! The bill also provides that, if the profits of the company exceed 10 per cent., no bounty is to be paid. I am not suggesting improper motives on the part of the gentlemen behind the company; but, if the profit is likely to be 15 per cent., the directors need only increase their salaries and fees in order to retain the bounty. We already have experience of the lavish expenditure on the part of the old company in respect of the sale of shares. No company exists at present; but the plant has been purchased by some one, and can, if required, be overhauled and put in proper working order and this is the machinery that has been inspected by the representative of the Customs Department.
– Why blame a company that the honorable member says is not formed, for what was done by a company that is defunct?
– The plant of the old company is still in existence, and will, no doubt, when formed, be used by the new . company. But we know how some company promoters operate. Is there anything to prevent a director of this proposed company from issuing to himself 2,000 or 3,000 preference or cumulative preference shares, and thus obtaining for himself the greater part of the bounty? According to the report that I read from the Bendigo Advertiser, the prospectus of the company is being hawked round in an endeavour to sell shares. As this is not a business proposition, and because it will press adversely upon those who have to purchase sewing machines - largely women - I cannot consider it for a moment. I was unable to compass the defeat of the bill at the second reading’ stage, therefore I support the next best alternative, namely, to reduce the bounty by one half.
.-The statements of the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) are to some extent misleading. His remarks apply to the old company, which has gone out of business, having made a loss equal to the amount that he stated. At the moment, a new company has practically been formed, although for obvious reasons the capital has not been called up. The plant of the old company has been retained practically in its entirety by the men who are behind the new concern.
– How old is it?
– Three and a half years. It is the result of experimental work extending over a period of four years. It is not the easy matter that has been suggested for a new company to begin operations. During the second-reading debate the honorable member for Balaclava read from the Bendigo Advertiser a report which stated that I was to meet Mr. J. Jeffries with a view to drawing up a prospectus for the new company. I wish to make it clear that I am interested in this project only as a member of the Commonwealth Parliament ; I have no pecuniary interest in it, and am not likely to have any. I am totally opposed to a member of Parliament being interested personally in any proposal that he has to consider in his official capacity.
Some bounty is necessary to make possible the establishment of this industry in Australia. For some time the number of machines required will not be produced in this country. I believe that the amount of bounty provided for - £20,000 per annum - will not be absorbed immediately. If the industry were to be begun in only one location, there might be some reason for the amendment; but I understand that at least one other group intends to commence operations. If the maximum quantity is produced at the outset by the concern in Bendigo and the suggested Sydney company - which, I understand, has a splendid organization and engineering genius - at least 14,000 machines will be turned out in the first year.
– That would be a very big production.
– I agree that it would. But the experts who are specializing on this machinery say that, by the installation of machinery costing about £1,900, they can treble the output by working along the lines of mass production. A safeguard against exploitation is provided by the clause that sets out that if the profit of the company is greater than a certain percentage the bounty will be reduced.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Gullett) said that in Bendigo there are over 500 housewives who use machines, and that the raising of the duty on imported machines will cause injury to be done to them. I believe that the little extra charge that will have to be paid because of the additional duty will be more than compensated for by the opportunities that will be provided for artisans to obtain skilled work.
– Is there any association between the women who buy these machines and this industry?
– So far as Bendigo is concerned there is. When a boy leaves school in that city, there is little opportunity for him to obtain employment there at a trade. I can say, from my experience of industrial matters, that nothing is more unhappy, or does more harm, than the severance of parents from their children soon after the latter leave school, because of the necessity for those children to earn a livelihood elsewhere. Nothing is more calculated to their forming undesirable associations. I believe that the mothers and fathers in Bendigo would say to me, “ If you achieve the object of keeping the home intact, you will have done something for the civil life of the people that you represent.” That is the reason for the attitude which I am adopting.
– No proposal for the payment of a bounty that this Parliament has ever considered was more unjustified than that which we are now discussing. There is no more objectionable way of providing for the payment of a bounty than by screwing it out of the earnings of the working women of Australia. That is what this proposal amounts to. If this bounty were to be paid out of consolidated revenue, as is usually the case, I should have less objection to offer to it; but to propose that the cost shall be added to the price of the machines that are to be sold to the women of Australia shows an utter disregard of the interests of the working women of this country. Labour members are not concerned about the welfare of our working women; they do not care what they have to pay for their machines, so long as they can “ grease the fat pig.” This company is not yet in existence. No government in my experience has asked working women to find the capital necessary to establish a problematic industry. In the present case, there is nothing but speculation. There has been a duty since 1921, but it has never been taken advantage of. The only way in which it is suggested that this, industry can be made even to hobble, in a crippled, ramshackle way, is by extracting from the buyers of machines 10s. on each machine to begin with, and something like £3 on the casing, the stand, and the other furnishings. [Quorum formed.’] This is the meanest method that I can conceive for finding a bounty. Everybody knows that, when 10s. is added to the original selling cost of an article, it has been considerably augmented by the time that article has passed through- the hands of the middlemen, and reaches the purchaser. It is safe to say that, in the case of sewing machines, it will then amount to at least £1 ; to which has to be added the amount represented by the duty on the stand and the woodwork. If the measure is passed in its present form, an additional £5 will be added to the price that will have to be paid by the working women of this country - the lowest-paid workers, the people who have the hardest struggle to make ends meet. Many thousands of women will be prevented for a considerable period from purchasing a machine, because of the increased price that is levied by a Labour Government that is supposed to look after their interests. Apparently the Government is determined to do this. The purpose of the amendment is to reduce the fund out of which the bounty can be paid to the extent of one-half. In any case £10,000 should be sufficient to pay a bounty on all the machines that can be manufactured in the first year. The effect of the report of the Tariff Board is that it is not expected that many machines will be made in the first year, and according to the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Keane), who is sponsoring the bill, the output in the first twelve months will not exceed 7,000 machines. The Government is taking up a most extraordinary attitude, inasmuch as it proposes to guarantee a 10 per cent, profit, which go-getters can hold out as an inducement to possible shareholders in this company.
– There is no guarantee; the bounty will be reduced if the profit of the company exceeds 10 per cent.
– The Minister has told us that there is to be no monkeying business about the matter; the company’s accounts are to be kept distinct, and that a special officer of the Customs Department will see that the whole business is properly managed.
– It will be his duty to see that these people live up to expectations.
Mr. ARCHDALE PARKHILL.There is no getting away from the fact that the women of this country, and those who want sewing machines, are to be taxed in order to guarantee 10 per cent, to people who have not yet formed a company.
– That is absolute nonsense.
– And the Government is going to get the money out of the sweat, the tears and the blood of the working-women of this country.
.- After all his sob-stuff and crocodile tears, I trust the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill) will feel much better. He has spoken of his warm regard for the women who need sewing machines, but has said nothing about the way in which women are robbed by the
Singer people, who charge for their machines, £19 cash and £24. on time payment.
– If that is so, there is surely ample scope for making machines in Australia without the payment of a bounty?
– A great part of the cost of a sewing machine is due to the cost of distribution, and therefore, the money spent by the Singer people in pushing their machines comes out of the pockets of the purchasers. The Singer agents never cease their canvassing. I worked for the firm for two years, and I know their methods. Their agents are instructed never to condemn the product of any other company, but to say always “ Ours is the best.” Australian-built sewing machines can be and will be made cheaper than the imported machines, and if I know the sentiment of the people of Australia, as I think I do, they are always inclined to buy an Australian product. Unfortunately the imported article cannot always be branded with the name of its country of origin. If they could be so branded, Australian purchasers would be able to distinguish between them and the Australian-made article. According to the honorable member for “Warringah, the Bendigo Company has not yet been formed, but I am credibly informed that a company has already been formed, although it is not yet registered.
– The honorable member cannot get away with that.
– I accept the assurance of the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Keane) that a company has been formed, but is not yet registered. Much has been made of the fact that it is first seeking a bounty so that it may come into being. If the offer of a bounty will have the effect of enabling a company to be formed for the manufacture of sewing machine heads, it will be all to the advantage of the women of Australia. In any case, honorable members of the Labour party represent the women who buy these sewing machines. It is the women who employ those who buy sewing machines who sent the honorable member for Warringah to this Parliament. I have many acquaintances in the electorate of the honorable member who is so windy, and they tell me that if his opponent, Mr. Windeyer, had had another meeting or two the honorable member would have had the wind knocked out of him. Very few working women live in his electorate. If the Bendigo company does not carry out its promises or obligations, it will be a simple matter for the Government to cancel the whole business and let it carry on as best it can. I believe the proposition is a good one, and I sincerely hope that the Minister will put. the bill through as printed
– I am not prepared to accept the amendment moved by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Gullett). The bill is a sincere and conscientious attempt to establish a new industry in Australia, and give employment to Australian artisans at a time when there is a large number of unemployed in the country. The industry itself is deserving of assistance in the shape of a bounty for a start. It could have been assisted by putting into operation the deferred duty which was years ago recommended by the Tariff Board. The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) was wrong in suggesting that the Tariff Board laid it down that 40 per cent, of the Australian requirements must be produced by the local manufacturers before that deferred duty could operate. The Tariff Board made no such recommendation. The total amount payable under the bounty will be £20,000 a year, but the unpaid balance of any year may be paid in any subsequent year in addition to the maximum amount for that year. And if the present customs duties on imported sewing machine heads are increased, the bounty of £2 per head will be reduced to an extent equivalent to the increase in such duties. No bounty will be payable unless at least 95 per cent, of the working cost of each head is attributable to the cost of material and parts made in Australia, and to the cost of labour employed in Australia. We have heard a great deal from the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Archdale Parkhill) about the 10 per cent, profits restriction. That restriction is very necessary. Provision is made in the bill for the withholding of the bounty in the event of a manufacturer not selling heads at a reasonable price, or making a profit exceeding 10 per cent. The bounty will also be withheld if reasonable conditions of employment and rates of wages are not observed by manufacturers in respect of employees engaged in the manufacture of sewing machine heads. We are not, as the honorable member for Warringah has suggested, guaranteeing u 10 per cent, profit to the manufacturers. The fact which the honorable member mentioned - that the original factory at Bendigo had gone insolvent - is sufficient to show that without customs protection or a bounty it is impossible for the industry to carry on. It could not compete on a freetrade basis with factories that have been operating in other parts of the world for 100 years. The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) is interested in an Australian factory, and I ask him whether his establishment could compete on a freetrade basis with factories in other parts of the world which are sending their products to Australia? Most decidedly it could not do so. There is nothing difficult in die manufacture of sewing machine heads, aud until the company gets to the stage at which it will be producing a substantial proportion of Australia’s requirements, the proper thing to do is to give it assistance by means of a bounty.
– If the company is making 8 per cent, on its invested capital, will the Government step in and say, “ We shall make it up to 10 per cent ?”
– Decidedly not. The Government will say, “ If you make more than 10 per cent, your bounty will be reduced “. The Government gives the company no assurance that it will make its profits up to 10 per cent.
– The Government cannot prevent directors’ fees from being increased in order to limit the profits to 10 per cent.
- Mr. A. R. Townsend, the accountant of the Central Office of the Trade and Customs Department, who has been appointed to police all bounties, will see that what Parliament intends to be done is done, and that there is no exploitation by the manufacturers. When the Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) was speaking in Bendigo on the 24th September last year, he said -
He recognized that strong opposition would come from importers if the manufacture of sewing machines on a large scale was started in Australia, and he could quite understand that those who were to put their capital into the undertaking would require some assurance from the Federal Government that they would be protected from any attempt by powerful foreign organizations to drive them out of the market. He could assure them that every member of the Labour party would strongly resist such an attack, and would see that adequate protection for the industry would be provided. The guarantee by the company that the price to be charged for the machine would not exceed that already paid strengthened their case considerably.
The Labour party honours its election pledges, and in placing this bill before Parliament is giving effect to the definite promise made by its leader. In dealing with this matter, I realized, what several honorable, members have pointed out, that the Tariff Board’s report was made about five years ago, and, accordingly, I instructed Mr. Townsend to investigate the whole position with absolute impartiality. I was anxious to know if things had changed, and whether Mr. Townsend thought it would be possible to establish this sewing-machine industry on a satisfactory basis; also whether he thought the. Government would be justified in paying the bounty, and if so, what the bounty should be. Mr. Townsend spent some weeks in investigating the matter.
– Did he state what the plant was worth?
– Yes. He presented a voluminous report, all the details of which I cannot recall. I ask honorable members to leave out of their minds altogether the failure of the past. 1 Like the firm with which the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) is associated, the company at Bendigo could not operate on a freetrade basis, and when it failed to get either a bounty or customs protection it had to go into liquidation. But the fact that it failed is no justification for saying that it will do so again. Moreover, a factory is to be established in Sydney which, within six months, will be capable of turning out 10,000 sewing machine heads a year. No doubt the Sydney company will have the New South Wales market available to it, whilst the Victorian market will be available to the
Bendigo company. I went into the matter with an open mind, and I have been influenced by the report of the Tariff Board, and by the report by Mr. Townsend, who is one of the best officers in the Customs Department. His report has been substantiated by the head of his department. I have a file of papers on the subject favorable to the proposition. The intention of the Government is to see that this additional industry is established.
– Is it not a fact that the duty would not have gone through but for the fact that the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Keane) is in this Parliament ?
– The honorable member for Bendigo made representations in regard to the matter, as he was entitled to do; but if he did not present a good case he would have failed. Other people have made representations to this Government, as they are entitled to do, and the Government itself is entitled to establish new industries in order to give employment to our people when there are so many unemployed in the country. It has been stated that one large company did not ask for protection on stands and cabinets. I have a letter forwarded to me by that company dated 6th- December, 1929, a portion of which reads -
Therefore, to help the major industry the duty should be on complete machines at the rates suggested, viz.: - £4 10s. or 65 per cent, preferential; £5 10s. or 70 per cent, intermediate; and £6 10s. or 75 per cent, foreign.
That company is now evidently opposing the bounty although at that time it said that it was not opposed to a bounty, but that a bounty was preferable to a deferred duty. Apparently that company informed the Deputy Leader of the Opposition that it does not want an increased duty on stands and cabinets, but it has made representations to me personally and by letter asking for a duty of £4 10s. to £G 10s. on finished machines, thus shutting out the products of the Singer company, to enable it to import heads and make stands and cabinets in Australia. Evidently it has now changed its attitude. The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill) stated that a measure has never been introduced providing for the payment of a bounty on the production of an industry which has not been established,. In 1907 a Bounties Act was passed providing for an annual expenditure amounting to hundreds of thousands of pounds for the payment of bounties on certain goods including New Zealand flax, hemp, jute, oil materials supplied to an oil factory for the manufacture of oil, linseed, uncleaned rice, rubber, coffee, dates, and other goods as prescribed. Those commodities were nol then being produced or grown in Australia. An act was also passed in 1912 providing for the payment of a bounty on iron and steel products which were noi then being produced in Australia. It is very doubtful whether the importers will pass on the extra duty of 10s. Fully 70 per cent, of the sewing machines used in Australia are manufactured by the Singer Sewing Machine Company, for which the housewives of Australia are paying approximately £4 10s. more than is charged for other machines which some contend are superior to the Singer product. Sewing machines are not purchased every day in the week, but only once in a lifetime. The difference between the landed cost of a Singer sewing machine, which is approximately £8 10s.; and the retail price of £19 cash and £24 on terms is so great that there is ample room for the distribution costs to be reduced by 10s.
– The Assistant Minister wishes the Singer Sewing Machine Company ‘to provide a bounty to enable a competitor to become established.
– Not at all. Full investigations have been made by the Tariff Board and by an officer of the Trade and Customs Department, upon whose recommendations the Government is acting. The landed cost of the head of a British sewing machine is £3, the old duty nil, the extra duty 10s. The landed cost of the wood work is £1 15s., the old duty 12s. 3d., and the extra duty 14s The landed cost of the iron work is £1 5s.. the old duty Ss. 9d., and the extra duty 2s. 6d. The landed cost of a complete machine totals £6, the old duty represents £1 ls., and the extra duty £1 6s. 6d.. making the total new cost £8 7s. 6d.. which is. only 17 per cent, more than the old cost and not 100 per cent, as stated by the’ Deputy Leader of the Opposition. The Government believes that it is preferable to pay a bounty than to make operative the deferred duty as recommended by the Tariff Board in 1921. If conditions were normal, probably it would be unnecessary to pay a bounty. The small impost of 10s. on British machines can be saved in the cost of distribution. Australian women pay from £4 5s. to £4 10s. more for a “ Singer “ sewing machine, which they could save by purchasing other machines which, I am told, are equally satisfactory. The activities of the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Keane) in connexion with this proposal have been questioned’, because the industry which the Government hopes to be established, and which will be producing 10,000 heads per annum, is in his electorate. The honorable member has every right to make representations in this matter ; but, judging by the insinuations of honorable members opposite-
– The honorable member for Bendigo has accepted our assurances on that matter.
– The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) read a statement to the effect, that the honorable member for Bendigo had visited Melbourne in connexion with the establishment of this industry.
– There is no harm in doing that.
– Of course not ; but. he is not, as suggested or hinted, a director or a shareholder of the company. The honorable member for Bendigo has assured me that he is not financially associated with the project; but, as the member for the district, has made representations on behalf of an industry which, it is hoped, will be established in Bendigo. I oppose the amendment moved by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition.
.- The speech of the Assistant Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Forde) has been more in the nature of an attempt to justify the payment of a bounty than an endeavour to answer the’ arguments raised by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Gullett). This clause provides that the amount of the bounty to be paid in any year shall be limited, and that any amount in hand at the end of the first year shall be used in the following year. The honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Keane), who is interested in the establishment of this industry, admitted that a company has not yet been registered, and that production will not be undertaken, to any extent for some time. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition contends that, as the money may not be required this year, or probably next, it is unwise to needlessly collect an additional duty on imported sewing machines. Apparently, from 40,000 to 50,000 machines are imported annually, and, at an additional duty of 10s. on the latter quantity, £25,000 will be collected. Is there any occasion to collect that amount from the taxpayers of this country when it will not be needed this year, or probably next year? If the industry develops as the Assistant Minister and the honorable member for Bendigo anticipate, and the amount is required, the Government could submit another measure. In the circumstances the Government should accept the amendment moved by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, as by so doing it would not be penalizing the purchasers of sewing machines.
.-! trust that the Assistant Minister (Mr. Forde) will accept the amendment, particularly as the annual output is not likely , to exceed 5,000 machines. When Minister for Trade and Customs, a deputation waited upon me in support of the Bendigo enterprise. A representative of one of the most successful machinery manufacturers in Australia attended the deputation, and indicated his willingness to be associated with the enterprise. He was not impressed with the payment of a bounty, which he did not think was sufficiently permanent, and favoured a duty. He believed that at the outset the estimated annual output of a factory at Bendigo would be about 3,000 machines. As the Assistant Minister will not accept that assurance I shall nor take up the time of the committee by discussing the matter further..
Question - That the word proposed to be omitted stand part of the clause - put. The committee divided. ( Chairman - Mr. McGrath. )
Majority . . . . 14
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 6 -
The bounty payable under this act shall be £2 in respect of each sewing machine head.
.- The Assistant Minister has claimed throughout the discussion on this bill that the recommendations of the Tariff Board have been adhered to, and has accused the previous Government of having ignored the recommendations of the board; but I point out that the board recommended that bounty in accordance with the following scale could bejustified : -
In these circumstances, I suggest that a sliding scale, instead of a flat rate, should be provided in this clause. The Tariff Board reported that -
Any increase in output should result in reduced costs of production, and for that reason it is considered the amount of duty to be paid should be on a sliding scale according to the output of the applicant company.
Obviously the first thousand machines which a company puts out is the most expensive thousand; and it is not unreasonable to assume that when the output reached 3,000 or 4,000 machines the cost of production would be cut in half.
.- As the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has pointed out, the first 1,000 machines made by a company must undoubtedly be the most expensive, and the Tariff Board appreciated this by recommending the payment of a bounty on a sliding scale. At the time that report was made the Bendigo Sewing Machine Company was in active operation; but it ceased activities about two years later because the Government of the day failed to grant a bounty or to impose a sufficiently high duty to enable it to continue production. Consequently, both this company and the Sydney company now have to start de novo. More assistance is, therefore, needed than was needed when the Tariff Board reported. I have been assured that the total production of these two companies will within twelve months be considerably more than the production of the Bendigo company was at the time the board made its report. I have also been assured that the capital required by these companies can be obtained without difficulty.
– Evidently it is considered that they are on a very good thing.
– The honorable member knows very well that it is always hazardous to inaugurate a manufacturing industry in Australia.
– That is not so now.
– At one moment the honorable member says that there is unemployment in Australia because of the hazardous nature of these undertakings, and now he says that the undertakings are not hazardous. The Government certainly hopes that it has improved things to some extent. But it cannot be said that those who invest in this industry will possess a gilt-edged security. Mr. McDougall, the chairman of the Victorian Chamber of Manufactures, who is not known to me personally, but may be known to the honorable member for Henty, is interested in the Sydney enterprise, as well as a number of business-men of standing and experience; and there is every prospect that the Sydney company will manufacture more than 10,000 sewing machine heads in the first six months of its operations. “We have also been assured that the Bendigo company will manufacture a similar number. The circumstances, therefore, are entirely different from those which prevailed when the Tariff Board made its report in 1925.
– I understood the Minister to say that the Bendigo company had its plant ready for operation.
– That company had to go into liquidation, but the new company will purchase the plant that is there. Seeing that each company’ expects to manufacture 10,000 sewing machine heads in the first six months of its operations, the amount provided for the payment of this bounty will be quickly exhausted. In these circumstances I do not think it is necessary to provide in this clause for the payment of a bounty on a sliding scale.
– What undertaking have we that the ‘sewing machines which will be manufactured will be up to the necessary standard?
– That is provided for in another clause.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 7 and 8 agreed to.
Clause 9 -
No ‘bounty shall be paid on the production of any sewing machine head unless it is of good and merchantable quality.
.- Who is to say whether the machine heads will be of good and merchantable quality? Will a definite undertaking be given that the machines will be thoroughly modern and up to date? It is a simple enough matter to manufacture sewing machines if the right keys and dies are available; but if they are not available the machines cannot be up to date, and in keeping with modern usage. What steps does the Minister propose to take to insure that these machines, which are being sweated out of the working women of this country, will be as good as the machines now in use?
– That is a perfectly proper inquiry. A provision similar to this is made in every bounty bill.
– But this is a special case.
– It is necessary, of course, to provide that the machines shall be of good and merchantable quality. I assure honorable members that the supervision of our expenditure on bounties will be stricter in the future than it has been in the past. Arrangements have been made for a special officer of the department to police the administration of this and other bounty legislation. At least once a year this office* will investigate every enterprise in Australia which is being assisted by Commonwealth bounties. If necessary, engineering experts will be consulted in this particular industry.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 10 agreed to.
Clause 11 (Reasonable selling prices).
.- It would not be practicable for one accountant of the Customs Department to investigate the administration of all our bounty legislation, and I am afraid that that protection will be as unsatisfactory to the public as the Assistant-Minister’s assurance has been to us in respect of this and other tariff complaints which have been brought under his notice.
– This clause is also similar to provisions in other bounty acts, except that it has been strengthened a good deal in that it is provided that the Government may’ compel the recipient of bounty to refund any amount that he has received if it is shown that he has sold his products at an excessive price. The accountant of the Customs Department, who will have the duty of policing these bounties, will have the assistance of investigating officers connected with the Customs Department in tb, States.
– I suggest that since the Government has been so solicitous regarding the profits of the manufacturers, and how they are to be derived, it should definitely fix the price at which the sewing machines are to be sold to poor unfortunate women. As I have no hope that the Government will do anything of the kind I have nothing more to say on the clause.
Clause agreed to.
Where bounty has been paid under this act to any person …. the Minister may, after inquiry and report by the Tariff Board: -
Mr. FORDE (Capricornia - Assistant
Minister for Trade and Customs) [2.16.] - I move-
That after the word “is” (first occurring), sub-clause 2, the words “ or has been “ be inserted.
– If there is no more in this amendment than appears on the surface, I have no objection to it. I wish to obtain an assurance, however, that the amendment cannot have the effect of covering any losses incurred by the old Bendigo company which, I understand, is to be reconstituted for the purpose of manufacturing machines under the terms of this legislation. If it continues to be, in effect, the same company it could take into account its previous losses in assessing its profits, and this might affect the amount of bounty payable.
– I can assure the honorable member that there is no intention of allowing anything of that kind to be done.
– The clause as amended will read -
For the purpose of this section the Minister may determine what amount of capital is or has been employed by any person in the manufacture and sale of sewing machine heads, and what amount of net profits is or has been derived by that person from such manufacture and sale.
Inasmuch as the name of the company, firm or person is not mentioned, if the previous company is revived it could claim that past losses should be taken into consideration in determining its percentage of profit. The Government should take steps to safeguard the position.
– According to the definition the word “ person “ means any person, firm or company. This clause is similar to those in other bounty acts, except that by this clause the Government is empowered to compel any recipient of a bounty to refund from the money received by him an amount equivalent to the sum by which his profits exceed 10 per cent. Sub-clause 2 of the clause empowers the Minister to determine what amount of capital is employed, and what net profits are derived. The amending words which I have just moved were suggested by the officers of the Attorney-General’s Department, and there is no intention of allowing past losses made by companies now in liquidation to be taken into account by any company.
– Can the Minister give an assurance that the wording of the clause will not permit that to be done?
– The wording will permit it. I want the clause to be made legally watertight.
– The old Bendigo company went into liquidation. What claim could it have?
– The liquidation is not yet finalized.
– It has been finalized, and it is not intended that any defunct company should benefit.
– I recognize that the Government does not intend that it should, but if this becomes law nothing could prevent the company from benefiting.
– I think that the honorable member is splitting straws. The Government does not intend to Wet the losses of any company in liquidation. The clause is intended to apply only to persons or firms which have received the bounty. The old Bendigo company never received any bounty. I am assured that the liquidation of the old company has been finalized.
– No company has received any bounty yet.
– This bounty is to become payable from the 1st October next, [t cannot apply to a company which has not operated since 1926.
.- It does not seem to me that what the Minister has just said covers the position at all. The purpose of this clause and amendment is to enable the Government to determine whether or not 10 per cent, profit has been earned by a company in receipt of the bounty, and to provide for a cessation of bounty payments when profits are greater than 10 per cent. It is also provided that the recipient of a bounty may be compelled to refund bounty payments if it has been found that profits greater than 10 per cent, have been made. I desire that there shall be some provision in the bill to prevent a company, when assessing its profits, from including in its calculations capital that may have been lost in the past. If companies are able to do that it may have the result of enabling them to go on receiving the bounty after it should have been stopped.
.- In the final balance-sheet of the old Bendigo company, issued on the 17th May, 1926, prior to the liquidation which, I am assured, has not yet been finalized, the company had stocks of sewing machines valued at £1,967 13s. 6d. Where are those sewing machines now? Is the company .going to put them on the market, and claim a bounty on them?
– They were sold while the company was a going concern.
– I have consulted officers of the Attorney-General’s Department, and I have been assured that the words “ where bounty has been paid under this act “ preclude the possibility of any company now in liquidation including capital previously lost in any calculations for bounty purposes.
– I wish to move aD an amendment to an earlier portion of the clause than that now under discussion.
The honorable member has missed his chance. He can do so only if the amendment now before the Chair is withdrawn.
Amendment - by leave - temporarily withdrawn.
.- 1 move -
That the word “ ten “, paragraph (a) of sub-clause 1, be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “ five.”
At a time like this, when such heavy taxation burdens are being heaped upon the people, we should not pass legislation conferring exceptionally favorable conditions upon any section of the community. I object to any bounties being paid for work such as this, but if one is to be paid it should, be given only to those firms which are not making more than 5 per cent, profit. During the present time of depression firms should be glad of a profit of 5 per cent. I cannot understand what is actuating the Government in bringing in all these bounty bills. One would think that the Government had unlimited sums of money to throw away. I ask honorable members to take into serious consideration the financial position of Australia. We must consider whether we can afford to be so generous. If we do agree to pay bounties they should not be higher than is absolutely necessary, and we should make the conditions surrounding their payment as severe as possible.
– I cannot accept this amendment. Ten per cent, is the rate of profit usually fixed in bounty acts, and it is, I think, a reasonable profit in the circumstances.
– I move - ^
That after the word “is” (first occurring), sub-clause 2. the words “ or has been “ b* inserted.
It is necessary to insert the words “ or has been” in the clause, because profits earned in any year will not be known until after the conclusion of that year.
– Surely it is not the intention of the Government that the capital lost by a company now in liquidation should be taken into account in determining the profits of a company which is to benefit under this bounty legislation. I am convinced that the Government intends this legislation to apply only to the operation of firms or companies after the passage of the act. I am prepared to let the matter go for the present on the assumption that the Minister will carefully scrutinize the wording before the bill passes another place, and see that it really has the effect which he intends, and cannot have any other effect.
– I will.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause also consequentially amended and, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 13 to 16 agreed to.
Clause 17 -
The Governor-General may make regulations, not inconsistent with this act, prescribing all matters which by this act are required or permitted to be prescribed, or which are necessary or convenient to be prescribed, for carrying out or giving effect to this act, and in particular for prescribing penalties not exceeding Fifty pounds for any breach of the regulations.
. I move -
That after the word “ regulations “ second occurring, the following words be added: - “ and the proportion in which bounty shall be payable to claimants, who have complied with the prescribed conditions, in cases where there is not sufficient money available to pay the full bounty in respect of all the claims.”
That provision is usually contained in bounty bills, and has been inadvertently omitted from this. The effect of it will be that if the amount of bounty claimed is greater than can be paid in full the amount paid in respect of each claim may be determined by regulations issued by the Governor-General.
.- I have no objection to this amendment or I have no doubt that the money would be found whether it is inserted or not.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Preamble agreed to.
A bill for an act to provide for the payment of a bounty on the manufacture of sewing machine heads.
– In order that the title to this bill may conform to the Constitution, which provides for the payment of bounties on the production of goods, I move -
That the words “ manufacture of sewing machine heads “ be omitted with - a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ production of sewing machine heads manufactured in Australia “.
Amendment agreed to.
Title, as amended, agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments and an amended title; report - by leave - adopted.
Bill - by leave– read a third time.
Debate resumed from 15th July (vide page 4140), on motion by Mr. Lyons -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– Although this measure is part of the Government’s budget proposals, I do not propose to discuss it in that connexion. I merely wish to say that in it the Government is adopting the principle of utilizing the Post Office as a taxing machine. That, I submit, is neither a satisfactory nor a desirable form of taxation. Public utilities should be carried on for the benefit of the people. Any profits which arise from them should be utilized in providing a cheaper, better, and more extended service to the public. For that reason I submit that this measure is illadvised. If the Government must raise additional taxation it should do so by means other than using the Post Office as a taxing machine.
– What would the honorable member suggest?
Mr. ARCHDALE PARKHILL.That is not my province; it is for the Minister or the Government to devise means of raising revenue. The PostmasterGeneral anticipates that an additional £1,000,000 will be raised by means of the proposals contained in this measure. The bulk of that amount will be obtained from the increased rates of postage on postcards and letters. I am not nearly so optimistic as is the Minister regarding the revenue which will be derived from that source, although I admit that the department is better fitted to make estimates of this nature than I am. I suggest, however, that postage rates can be raised so high as to cause a slump in the use of the post office for the delivery of letters. Even to-day, when the postage is only 1½d. an oz., many firms find it more profitable to employ their own lettercarriers than to use the post office. If the rate is increased to 2d. an oz., I feel sure that many more firms will follow their example. Private persons also will use the post office less than they do now if the postage rates are increased. Most people are willing to spend1d. to communicate with a friend; they may even not object to1½d. now that they have become accustomed to that rate; but I am inclined to think that if the rate is raised beyond that amount, the result will be similar to that which attended a recent attempt to raise the price of newspapers in Sydney. On that occasion the public revolted against the additional charge. I predict that if the postage rates are increased the people may act similarly. There is another aspect on this question. It is conceivable that more revenue would be obtained by a reduction of postage rates to1d. an ounce than by increasing the rate to 2d. an ounce. The department may have information to the opposite effect, but that is my opinion.
The measure also contains provisions, the object of which is to clarify certain sections of the principal act and to legalize action already taken by the post office authorities. To those changes no exception can be taken. Other changes are, however, contemplated in this measure. One of them affects secondclass mail matter. So far as the big daily newspapers are concerned, no increased rates are proposed.
– The bulk rates of postage on newspapers are to be increased.
Mr. ARCHDALE PARKHILL.That is so; but those rates do not apply so much to the big daily newspapers as to weekly journals and periodicals which represent the views of sections of the community on different matters affecting the life of the people. The new rates’ will fall heavily on those associated with such publications. I do not think that the increased revenue will compensate for the injury done to them.
It is also proposed to reduce the weight of second-class matter which may be posted for1d. or 2d. Catalogues and other advertising matter will be seriously affected by this alteration. I am in receipt of a communication from the Master Printers Association in which it is pointed out that these new rates will considerably reduce the quantity of printing in connexion with trade catalogues and business advertisements, with the result that men now employed in printing them will be thrown out of work. The Minister would do. well to reconsider this matter in the light of that information. Some of these catalogues are highclass productions. If the new rates will mean that fewer printers, etchers, blockmakers, designers, and other process men will be employed, then the small additional revenue which the department will obtain will not compensate for the loss to the community through men being thrown out of employment. I appeal to the Minister to re-consider this matter. In any case, the gain would be infinitesimal; it could not compensate for the harm done to the business community generally. Rather than place further difficulties in the way of industry, the Government should do all in its power to relieve it of the present heavy burdens. I hope that the Postmaster-General will see his way clear to comply with the requests I have made.
.- I protest against the consideration of this proposal before we have discussed the budget. It seems to me that, instead of increasing taxation and governmental expenditure, we should be seeking to reduce them, and the only way to make a comprehensive survey of the financial position is to wait until the budget proposals have been disposed of. I object to consideration of a measure that involves an increase in taxation to the extent of about £1,000,000 per annum before we have decided whether the estimates of expenditure, outlined in the budget, . can be reduced. I hope, therefore, that the Minister will adjourn the debate on this measure. I am satisfied that no time would be lost by the adoption of that course, because, after the budget discussion, this bill could be dealt with expeditiously. Personally, I shall resist the measure at every stage until we have had an opportunity to discuss the general financial proposals of the’ Government. The Minister has apologized for the introduction of the bill, the necessity of which he attributes to the force of circumstances. It is hard to reconcile that statement with the attitude of the Labour party as I have known it during the ten years during which I have been a member of this House. On. all occasions., when a reduction in the - postal rates has been proposed, that party has strongly resisted it. In 1923, there was a long fight on the postal estimates, and subsequently on the Postal Bates Bill. For the purpose of preventing the BrucePage Government from reducing the letter rate from 2d. to 1½d., many amendments were submitted and divisions . were demanded. I believe that the business was held up most of one night on that account. That was an instance of the Labour party resisting a reduction in postal rates at a time of buoyant revenue - a policy which has never been disclaimed by that party. It seems to me that the present proposal is on all-fours with the recent imposition of excessive duties and embargoes.
The excuse offered for the introduction of the bill is that a national emergency has arisen. In the debate in 1923, when the postal charges were reduced by about 25 per cent, by the Bruce-Page Government, misleading statements were made by honorable members opposite. Their contention then, as it is now, was that a reduction in the rates benefited only big business men. Another argument advanced for the retention of the rate in force at that time was that a reduction would mean a diminution in the sum available to provide telephonic services throughout Australia. Despite the fact that the postal rate was reduced, that the post office was no longer used as a taxing machine, as it had been for four or five years previously, and is now to be used again by the Labour Government, and that the late Ministry received £1,000,000 less postal revenue than previously, more was spent during the late Government’s term of office in the extension and development of postal and telephonic services throughout the Commonwealth than during any other period in the history of federation. That Government doubled the number of telephones in operation; more instruments were installed in country districts in that period than were previously in use throughout Australia. All the prophecies made by the party opposite were given the lie by the cold logic of facts. The present Government now proposes to take a retrogressive step. I think that the postal, revenue would tend to increase if we stimulated, rather than discouraged, the use of postal and telephonic services. In New Zealand the reduction of the letter rates from 2d. to 1½d. and then to Id. has resulted ‘ in no loss of revenue, because, of a more frequent use of the facilities provided.
If we are to increase these charges, we should have an assurance from the Government that contemporaneously there will be a diminution in postal expenditure, because this action will result in fewer letters being posted. The PostmasterGeneral himself admits that less first-class mail matter will be received in consequence of this measure. He has said during the last eleven months 37,150 telephones were- disconnected owing to the subscribers being no longer able to afford them. With fewer telephones to maintain and a smaller quantity of mail matter to handle, it seems reasonable to suppose that postal expenditure could be reduced to the amount reached last year or the year before. According to the Treasurer’s estimates, the expenditure for the coming year will show an increase of about £560,000 over last year, or an additional £900,000 as compared with the previous year. In the debate in 1923, the present Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Fenton) outlined what he said had always been his policy. He contended that the postal charges should not be reduced, and he added that when Mr. Thomas had reduced the letter rate to1d. in prosperous times he had opposed that action. I take it that the Minister now desires to increase the letter rate to 2d., and to maintain it at that figure.’ The people of Australia should have the cheapest possible means of communication, and those residing in the outlying parts of the Commonwealth depend chiefly on telephones and mails. At this time of stress, when the primary producers are expected to assist Australia to emerge from its financial difficulties, everything possible should be done to lighten their task. When the honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Cunningham) moved in 1923 for a reduction in the rate to1d., he could not obtain support from the rest of his colleagues in the Labour party. After we have examined the budget as a whole, we can determine whether it is possible, by reductions in expenditure in other directions, to eliminate the tax that this bill involves.
Consideration should also be given to the measure as it affects the bulk rates on newspapers. It is said that the Labour party is out to benefit the small man ; but the proposal to increase the bulk postage rate on newspapers acts in the opposite direction. This increase will more seriously affect the proprietors of weekly newspapers and small country newspapers than the big metropolitan dailies. The latter journals are mostly read by people in the cities. They are sold chiefly on the streets, or they are delivered to the doors of readers; a comparatively small amount of postage is involved in their distribution. But the other newspapers are circulated almost entirely through the post office. They do not return such large profits to their owners as do the big dailies. A letter received from a group of weekly newspapers states -
At a meeting of the New South Wales Weekly Newspaper Proprietors Association, at which The Farmer and Settler, The Land, Country Life, The Catholic Press, Freeman’s Journal, Truth and Sportsman, The Bulletin, and The Women’s Mirror were represented, it was resolved that I, as honorary secretary of the association, place before you the views for the weekly newspapers on the proposed increase of 25 per cent. in the bulk postage rates for newspapers.
As you are aware, in 1915 postal rates were increased, and Ad. per 20 oz. was added to bulk rates as a war-time tax, bringing the rate to 1½d. per 20 oz. It was definitely stated at the time that this additional one-third was purely a temporary measure, and relief was promised when its purpose as a war-time tax had been served. Relief was later granted to other mail matter, but the bulk rate on newspapers remained unaltered in spite of the promise made. Newspapers have, therefore, continued to carry the extra burden, of which other commercial houses have long since been relieved.
The proposed extra postage does not affect the big dailies to anything like the same extent as it affects the majority of the weeklies, who are less able to bear it than their wealthier daily contemporaries. The dailies circulate largely in the cities; the weeklies, and particularly those whose appeal is to the primary producer, circulate mainly in the country. Their distribution is very largely - in some cases wholly - direct to individual subscribers. These papers depend ‘solely on the Post Office for distribution. The stronger dailies make their country sales chiefly through newsagents, and are thus able to use the railways for their parcels. Again, these weeklies who distribute direct to individual subscribers will carry a still further burden. Their readers must be reminded when their subscriptions are due, and then receipts must follow the renewal of those subscriptions. The general increase in postal charges will be felt there, too.
They ask you to consider the additional expenditure which these weeklies are being asked to bear -
1 ) The increase of 25 per cent. in bulk postage rates and general increases in ordinary postal rates - including that on their posters.
The increased duty of £1 per ton on their newsprint.
The primage tax of 2 per cent. This and the duty on newsprint represent an increase in their paper costs of from 27s. to 34s. per ton.
The increase in federal income tax.
The weeklies fully appreciate the fact that all branches of industry must stand their share of extra taxation. But in practically every other industry the extra costs can, and no doubt will, be passed on. The weeklies are not in the position to do this. Theirs is one of the few industries which are not protected against imports from overseas. Overseas papers are being sold in Australia at a rate at which it would be impossible to produce them here. Any increase in the price of Australian papers will play into the hands of these imported publications, and very gravely affect the sales of the local production, with the consequent loss of revenue and employment.
That statement shows how discriminating is the present tax. I urge the PostmasterGeneral to postpone the bill until we have an opportunity to discuss it in the light of the budget which, I understand, will be available on Monday or Tuesday next. 1 am confident that the measure then would be reconstructed to ensure that country papers, and particularly weeklies, will not be more heavily taxed than other journals.
– I should like to say a word or two in favour of consideration being given to the case of the weekly journals. They serve a very useful purpose in the country, as the majority of our people have to rely on them, not only for their knowledge of what is going on, but also from an educational point of view. Of course, additional revenue is needed at the present moment, but I think that this matter merits further investigation by the Minister, so that he may appreciate the position of these newspapers. It has been pointed out that in 1915 postage rates on periodicals were increased by 50 per cent., purely as a war-time measure, and that the extra charge has not been remitted. Our weekly and monthly journals are being hard pushed, and any increased costs in their distribution might menace their continuance. I suggest that the Minister might grant the concessions sought without bringing about any serious diminution of the revenue that the budget seeks to raise.
.- I support the remarks of the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) and the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn), and urge the Government to follow the course that they have recommended. It is very doubtful whether the proposal of the Government to increase the rate of postage from lid. to 2d. will raise the additional revenue that it anticipates. The bulk of our revenue from postage is derived from the cities. Does the Minister believe that large firms will resort to the postal service to deliver their invoices and statements at the additional cost when they ma.y contract to have the work done by messenger services?
– Would not that be an infringement of the regulations?
– There is already a company in Melbourne doing the work. The Government should consider the matter very carefully. Another matter is that it is most unfair to impose an additional 25 per cent, on the bulk postage rates for newspapers. It may be claimed that the amount involved is infinitesimal. The Minister granted me the privilege of discussing the subject with him before the bill was brought down, and he assured me that our bulk postage rates are the cheapest in the world. Nevertheless, they press hard upon those journals which have a limited circulation. The right honorable member for Cowper read a letter presenting the case of a group of periodicals, including The Bulletin, The Land, Country Life, The Catholic Press, Freeman’s Journal, Truth and Sportsman, The Woman’s Mirror, and The Farmer and Settler, whose representatives recently met in Sydney, where they debated the proposal of the Government, and forwarded a protest to all honorable members. From my knowledge of Victorian journals, I am aware that a similar state of affairs applies in that State. I have here an excellent local publication, The Woman’s World, a high quality production of a kind of which we have not many in Australia. Strangely enough, I learned by chance that its editress was having j. difficult time because of the competition of American publications. American journals of a similar type are not transmitted to us by post. They are put up in huge quantities, shipped to this country, and then distributed to the public at a low price as the producers can afford to “ dump “ them here. They are excellent publications, filled with most expensive advertisements, and are strong competitors against local journals, which are worthy of support as they give work to printers, block-makers, and journalists. Our periodicals are also less able to bear an increase of 25 per cent, in the bulk postage rates than are the great dailies, which rely principally upon rail and motor transport for their distribution. That, perhaps, is a point that has not been thoroughly considered. Again it may be contended that local journals will not feel the impost so much, because imported periodicals have to pay a higher rate of inland postage when they come here. As against that, I point out that the bulk of the imported products are sold on the- bookstalls in the great cities and require no postage. The measure, as it stands, will therefore assist overseas competitors to hit the local producers harder than previously. I suggest that the Minister should reconsider the matter, and, in the case of periodicals, leave the rates of postage as they are. I realize that the Government has to raise revenue, and that it is very difficult to discover new sources of income at the moment, but I am confident that the contemplated amount could be better raised by some other means that would not detrimentally affect an essential local industry.
.- Every honorable member will agree that it has become imperative that the Government should balance the ledger, and make unprofitable services pay, and that, so far as is possible, the instrumentalities of the nation should contribute directly towards the solution of the present financial problems. I believe that it will be conceded that it is a question of ways and means, and that there are instances where a particular change that is contemplated in our legislation may affect only a section of the community, and not be applicable to the whole. The increase in the bulk postage rates for newspapers will not affect all newspapers. Most certainly, it will not add to the cost of distributing those newspapers in Australia which are best able to bear an additional charge of this nature. The newspapers that are carried on most extensively in this country, and which have the largest organizations, have evolved their own methods of distribution. The great metropolitan morning and evening newspapers do not use the post office at all as a means for the conveyance of their newspapers to their subscribers. The post office is used for the most part by weekly newspapers - I use the term in the periodical sense and not in the adjectival sense - published once every week, fortnight or month. They are not, in the strict sense of the term, general newspapers. They are published for the purpose of serving a particular clientele who feel that this type of newspaper offers them a special service not afforded by the metropolitan daily newspapers or the daily products of the larger provincial towns. There are journals published by representative organizations, church associations, trade unions and other bodies of various types, all of which have a special function to discharge, which use the post office specifically as a means of distribution. In the main, their circulation is not confined to an area. They are circulated throughout the length and breadth either of a State or the continent as a whole. This variation in postage rates will press most severely upon the costs of distributing such papers to their subscribers.
I would agree that in the present emergency, as far as practicable, the burden of the readjustment should be visited on the community as a whole. But the newspapers that use the post office and employ the bulk postal facilities afforded by it will, by this increased charge, be subjected to a tax that will not be shared by newspapers generally. In 1915, postal rates were increased and id. per 20 oz. was added to bulk rates as a wartime tax, bringing the rate to l£d. per 20 oz. It was definitely stated at the time that this additional one-third was purely a temporary, measure, and relief was promised when its purpose as a wartime tax had been served. Relief was later granted to other mail matter, but the bulk rate on newspapers remained unaltered in spite of the promise made. Newspapers have, therefore, continued to parry the extra burden of which other commercial businesses have long since been relieved.
I make a special plea on behalf of the important contribution to the thought of the nation that is made by the periodical newspapers of Australia. I submit, that to leave this country dependent on the metropolitan daily newspapers, irrespective of their political ideas, would be to narrow the thought of the community and, furthermore, it would do this very dangerous thing: it would prevent small organizations - minorities if you like - promulgating some idea or policy. These small groups, without resources, will be handicapped in the work of winning the community as a whole to their ideas, whatever they may be, if this additional charge is imposed. I make the plea that the thought of the nation should not be restricted to conventional channels; that the existing organizations, whatever they are and however right or wrong they may be, should noi be given u commercial monopoly in reaching the minds of the people >f the country. 1. submit to the Minister ibm it. is possible for him to recast the proposal he has made so. that at least the bulk postage rates for newspapers will not be increased. By doing that he would not only be doing a gracious thing to a valuable part of the machinery that cb)« country has for the promulgation of ideas and the ventilation of thought, but his action would be an equitable one. This proposed increase will place certain newspapers at a disadvantage to which others ‘ are not subjected. Throughout Australia, small country newspapers are compelled to rely upon the post office for the distribution of their papers. It would be impracticable for them to organize motor fleets and other methods for the distribution of their papers in the way that the metropolitan lai lies do in the suburbs. Therefore, this ax will be imposed, not only upon organizations that publish periodical newspapers, but also upon newspapers published in. country towns that have a comparatively small circulation - a circulation that cannot be reached except by the use of post office facilities. I plead on behalf of the poor relations of the great newspapers of this continent. I do urge the Postmaster-General to recast these proposals so that, at least, the bulli postage rate for newspapers may remain as hitherto.
– As one who is interested in this subject, I desire to add a word or two to the remarks that have already been made in urging the Postmaster-General (Mr. Lyons) to reconsider, at least, the bulk postage phase of this new taxation. T realize the difficulty of the PostmasterGeneral in having to make the department pay. f have had sufficient experience of newspapers to know that, up to a point, they can pay, and should pay, particularly the large organized newspapers in the capital cities. But there is a point of exhaustion, even with the so-called wealthy newspaper companies. I am not speaking as a newspaper proprietor myself, because I do not happen to be one. I disclaim again all the odium that has been cast upon me by sections of the press with respect to my alleged capitalistic connexion with the newspaper world. As one who has been all his life associated with the country press, I urge upon the Postmaster-General this important point: That the country press is to-day fulfilling a function equally as important as that of the city press. In the last ten or fifteen years there has been a big development in country newspaper organization. In the old days the small flea-bitten newspapers published an edition once a fortnight, or once in three months. That custom has passed. There is a tendency to-day to amalgamate, and in all the principal country towns, particularly in New South Wales, there is to be found one fairly good paper in place of a couple of small and inferior papers which previously existed. There is an increasing tendency to issue daily newspapers, and that is of inestimable value to the country population. The metropolitan papers have an entirely different outlook, and they are not in such great demand in the country, particularly in respect of the primary producers as they were some years ago. The burdens that are being piled on the newspapers, particularly country newspapers, are reaching breaking point. Let me give an illustration. The paper with which I am associated, and which I do not own, is one of the largest provincial papers in New South Wales, with, perhaps, the biggest circulation, outside of Sydney and Newcastle. This is the position of that newspaper as a result of the taxes thai have been imposed under the budget, and will be imposed under this bill : The total amount of extra taxation will be approximately £2,000 a year, made up as follows : £1 a ton duty on newsprint, £500; 2^ per cent, tax on sales, £350; tax on jobbing sales, £150; additional taxation, £100; extra postal charges, £400. Those amounts do not include extra telegraphic charges under the new zone system. That taxation cuts out all possible margin of profit in that concern, at least for the next twelve months, or perhaps two years. This newspaper employs 65 persons, which is a large number for a country town, and if the tax burdens become too great it is probable that many of these employees will be thrown out of employment. The same thing applies toother country newspapers. The extras charges that I have enumerated will apply to all country papers with a circulation of 10,000 or over. The great majority of the country newspapers cannot carry that burden, and some of them must shorten hands. Many journalists and compositors will he thrown out of employment. There is nothing else to be done. I do not think it is the intention of the Government to bring about unemployment if it can be avoided.
– The additional taxation must bring about unemployment.
– That is inevitable. The Government, I am sure, has no desire that such a thing should happen. The Postmaster-General has rushed into this scheme of taxation without giving it due consideration. I know the methods that are usually adopted by the Postal Department. Its officers do not interview the newspapers to ascertain their position, and to discuss with them what would be a fair proposition. The first the newspapers know is that some preposterous scheme has been formulated within the Postal Department by officers who probably have never been within 100 miles of the newspapers affected. I do not agree with the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Curtin) that the increase in the bulk postage rates will not affect daily newspapers. I maintain that it will affect seriously both city and country newspapers, particularly the latter. The newspapers published by the company in which I am interested are not sent through the post offices, but they are weighed by post office officials before they are placed on the train. I think that the same system applies in the case of the big city daily papers, which supply their country circulation by train, not through the post, but on behalf of the post office. The city newspapers are powerful enough to look after their own interests. I am making a plea for the country newspapers. One of the immediate effects of this additional taxation will be an increase in the price of newspapers, and also in the cost of advertisements. In these hard times, large numbers of country people will be unable to afford to make use of the newspapers at the increased price, and busi ness will collapse with a thud. When that happens, the department will probably restore the old rates. The PostmasterGeneral has not been well advised to impose this extra bulk postage rate upon the newspapers, particularly at a time like the present, when everything is in the melting pot. I am not pleading poverty on behalf of the newspapers, because, until recently, they were able to carry the burdens imposed upon them. It was fairly easy to pass those burdens on to the public. But that is not possible to-day. One would almost need to be a millionaire to indulge in the expensive advertising of the metropolitan newspapers.
– Or the country newspapers.
– The position is nearly as bad in the country. It is not because the country newspapers are exploiters, but because they are simply trying to hold their own against the competition of the city newspapers. This extra burden will be the last straw that breaks the camel’s back. The price of newspapers will increase, and unemployment will follow. The general turnover of the newspapers will be seriously affected.
-Would there not be the same complaint if the telegraphic rates were increased?
– No. The newspapers accepted, without complaint, an increase in the telegraphic rates.
– When were they in- creased?
– They have been increased several times.
– Not recently.
– The telephone press rates have also been increased during the last twelve months or two years. The newspapers realize that the Postal Department cannot carry on its services for nothing, but the limit has been reached, and there seems to be no real necessity for increasing the bulk rates of postage. The daily newspapers will be seriously affected by this extra taxation. The weekly newspapers, which have to depend absolutely on the post for their circulation, will be in a very parlous position, and I sympathize with them very much indeed. I suggest that if the other forms of taxation are imposed, the telephone rates maintained, and the telegraphic rates included under the zone system, the Postal Department should, at least, act justly to the newspapers by allowing the bulk postage rates to remain as at present.
– While I subscribe generally to the idea that the post office is not a taxing machine, and should not be so used, I should like to say that neither should it be considered an instrument for undue exploitation by big business interests. I recognize that, in the existing extraordinary condition of the finances of Australia, this proposal of the Government for raising revenue is justifiable.
I rose particularly to add my quota to the criticism that has already been directed by several honorable members to the way in which this measure will affect certain classes of periodicals. To that extent, I regard it as a piece of class legislation that it would be hard for any government to justify. The position has already been fairly outlined by those who have addressed themselves to the motion, and I shall not recapitulate the criticisms that they have advanced. But it is the duty of every honorable member, who is familiar with, the operations of the newspaper business in Australia, to launch in this House a definite and a decided protest against the imposition of an additional tax, amounting to 25 per cent., upon only one section of the newspaper world. The increased charges that were imposed upon the industry in 1915 as a war-time measure still bear heavily upon it. The industry has not been relieved of the burden that was then imposed for a specific purpose, although the promise was made at the time that it would be lifted so soon as opportunity offered. Now the Government has come down with a super tax of 25 per cent, upon those charges. It has been pointed out, wisely. and justly, that it is not the big newspaper organizations of the cities that will suffer under this legislation, or provide the revenue that the Government hopes to obtain. That revenue will be provided largely by a section of the press that is least able to pay it, and that is not in a position to operate the agencies that can be operated by the big city organizations. In other words, the weekly, fortnightly, and monthly publications, that are dependent almost entirely upon the post office for adequate distribution, will be unduly hit by this taxation. That is a fact of which the Government has no knowledge, and with regard to which it has not sought to obtain knowledge ; and in its ignorance, it has confronted us to-day with this proposal, that is so manifestly unfair to those organizations. If a loss on the working of the post office has to be met, that objective should bc met by a reduction of expenditure, not by the imposition of these charges upon one section of the newspaper community of Australia. If the Government insists upon this method of raising taxation in the face of the protests that have been voiced this afternoon, its action will be inimical to the interests of Australia, and, in the long run, may do it great harm. The section of the newspaper organization that has been selected for this special taxation is one that deserves very much more generous treatment at the hands of this Government.
Mr. YATES (Adelaide) [3.361.- I am not very much concerned about -he newspaper proprietors, on whose behalf honorable members opposite have pleaded, because one of the most opulent sections of the community is ‘the newspaper section.
– They have referred only to country newspapers.
– There may be some justification for their plea, from the point of view of country newspapers ; I do not feel qualified to discuss that aspect of the matter.
The business people of the city that I represent take exception to the proposal to make the rate on second class mail matter, which includes their catalogues, Id. for 2 oz. Previously the rate was Id. for 4 oz. I realize that the times are desperate, and that the PostmasterGeneral must obtain additional revenue to help us out of a situation in which the representatives of big business have placed us, and who consequently, must pay whatever penalty is necessary. I have received from an Adelaide firm a communication suggesting that the proposed rate should be altered to Id. for 3 oz., making the increase proportionately as great as that proposed on the letter rate. This firm points out that, if the proposed rate is adhered to, the business of the post office will be very seriously curtailed. 1 know that the PostmasterGeneral and the Government do not wish to “kill the goose that lays the golden egg,” although they want it to bear a share of the burden of feeding it. This firm offers a very fair compromise. It resents the additional imposition only from the point at which it becomes inequitable and unfair. I hope that the Postmaster-General will give consideration to these representations, and ascertain whether the revenue of his department will not be a3 great under the amended rate. If these firms are prevented from distributing their catalogues through the post, it will be impossible for them to carry on their country order business. I quite approve of the effort of the PostmasterGeneral to make the post office meet its obligations by imposing charges that are requisite to place it on a sound business footing; but if more is lost than gained by the proposed rate, it cannot be defended. So long as the increase is notprohibitive, and is commensurate with other increases, those upon whom it is imposed are prepared to bear it.
.- I hope that the Postmaster-General (Mr. Lyons) will accept the suggestion that has been made that the consideration of this bill should be held over until the budget has been dealt with, because it is a retrograde step to increase the postage to 2d. Many who are strong advocates of Id. postage claim that the increased business that is- likely to be brought about by a reduction in the postage rate always more than counterbalances any possible reduction in postal revenue. At any rate, we know that an increase in the postage rate always leads to a reduction in the quantity of correspondence that passes through the post office. I hope that the Minister will also have some regard for the readers of weekly, fortnightly, and monthly papers. The proposed increase in the bulk postage rates on these papers cannot result in any considerable increase in revenue. I am satisfied that economies could be effected in the Postal Department itself which would more than equal the increased revenue sought to be obtained in this way.
.- I know that the Government has to go into every possible avenue to collect taxation, and I have no desire to embarrass it in any way. My only desire is to see that the burden of taxation is spread as much as possible. I feel sure that the additional impost on country newspapers published weekly, and on periodicals, will be passed on to the subscribers, who are in most instances people who, living in remote districts, are not favorably situated in the matter of obtaining literature to keep them in touch with the events of the world. They are particularly the class of people the Government has announced that it is most desirous to assist. They are the primary producers of Australia, to whom I am sure the Minister will give his most sympathetic consideration. Taxes have to be gathered, and the Government should see that they are spread generally, and not, as is proposed in this bill, imposed to the detriment of any one section of the community
– I do not intend to cover ground already traversed by so many honorable members in their appeal to the Postmaster-General (Mr. Lyons), to give further consideration to this schedule of increased postal charges. I find myself in general agreement with all that has been said; particularly am I sympathetic with the appeal that has been made in regard to third-class mail matter, the postage rate on which is by this bill to be increased by 60 per cent. I know, of course, that the Postmaster-General is really not responsible for this change. Like his predecessors, he would rather bring down the postal rates than increase them. But in this case he is acting as the agent of the Treasurer. In fact, he is, in reality, a victim of the Government’s tariff policy. .When the proclamation in regard to prohibitions was tabled, and the then Acting Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Forde) laid on the table a schedule of special customs surcharges, i pointed out that one of the inevitable and evil consequences of a change so violent as was then made would be the shifting of the incidence of taxation in Australia. This little bill we are now considering brings home to the House one of the many stiff prices we must pay for that revolutionary change in our tariff making. In his budget speech, the Treasurer (Mr. Scullin) estimated that the falling off in customs revenue for the current year would be £8,000,000.
– It would have been the ruination of Australia if the change had not been made.
– It may have been; nevertheless, it has not been done without very heavy consequences. The country had a choice of two evils. As part of its policy, the Government had to check imports. It is another part of its policy to stimulate exports. When we have a bill like this before us, and when we also reflect upon the proposed sales tax and proposed increased income tax, we have to recognize that this very change of policy, which checks imports, not only does not stimulate exports, but, indeed, rnakes production far more expensive and exports far more difficult. I do not wish to proceed further down that line, but the country should realize the indirect consequences of the violent change the Government has brought about. I appeal to the Postmaster-General (Mr. Lyons), even in this hour of necessity, to show as much mercy as is possible, and to see if some amendments cannot be made. Many classes of periodicals have been mentioned; but I should like to direct special attention to technical journals published not only in Australia, but in other countries. The advancement of technical education is of national significance, and a tax upon the dissemination of technical knowledge is to be regretted. The newspaper proprietors will not bear this additional impost, but will pass it on. They will reduce the weight of their publications, the literary matter will not be so voluminous, there will be reduction in type-setting and the general work associated with the production of a newspaper, resulting in further unemployment. Moreover, this proposal will lead to additional unemployment in the Postal Department where all classes of mail matter are handled. I trust the PostmasterGeneral will, as far as he is able, give effect to some of the suggestions made by honorable members.
– I support the request made to the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Lyons), to postpone further discussion on this measure until the budget is under consideration, when other means of raising revenue will be debated. This is one of the many proposals put forward with the object of raising additional- revenue which, I submit, should not be taken out of its proper setting, but should be debated in conjunction with the general taxation proposals of the Government. I urge the Postmaster-General to consider the reasonableness of the request put forward to postpone further discussion on this matter until the budget is before the House.
.- It is not my desire to support the request submitted to the Postmaster-General to delay the measure until the budget is under consideration, but I trust that consideration will be given to the suggestion of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Gullett), with whom I am not usually in agreement, to consider the rates to be imposed on technical journals. It is difficult to estimate the extent to which the additional impost will inflict hardships upon the community; but we must not overlook the fact that very large numbers of newspapers, which are delivered by means of motor transport, will not be affected by the additional rate. The country press of Australia, which serves a most useful purpose, and which, I am afraid, will be severely handicapped, deserves special consideration. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition suggests that the effect of increasing postage rates will be a reduction in the weight of newspapers and periodicals, thus increasing unemployment; but it is more likely that prices will be increased. There are, as I have said, certain technical journals in circulation from which the income derived is small, and which if heavier postal rates are charged will be compelled to lose more than at present.
– T realize the effect that additional imposts will have upon weekly newspapers; but in the circumstances it is impossible for the Government to discriminate. A further difficulty is that the department would find it almost impossible to make the distinctions which some suggest and at the same time effectively administer the work of that department. If it were practicable I should be pleased to agree to some of the suggestions made in the matter of amending the rates because the Government does not wish to unnecessarily impose burdens upon any one. I cannot, however, accept proposals which the departmental officers say are impracticable.
Mr.White. - Could not it be done if all periodicals were registered?
– Registered periodicals have the benefit of bulk postage, which has not always been provided. The Government does not desire to use the Postal Department as a taxing machine; but in the circumstances is forced to adopt the course proposed with respect not only to postal rates but also in regard to telegraphic and telephonic charges. The right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Page) and the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) suggest that this measure should be held over until the budget is under consideration.
– I suggested that it should be held over until Monday.
– The committee stage will not be reached until Monday. Honorable members opposite have some responsibility in the matter of finance, and if this measure is unnecessarily delayed the collection of revenue will be seriously affected. Each month’s delay involves a loss of nearly £100,000 under this measure alone.
– It would mean only a week’s delay.
– Even a week’s delay would mean a considerable loss which in the circumstances could not be justified. The right honorable member for Cowper said that the Postal Department should be popularized by reducing rates to the lowest possible extent, but the previous Government, of which he was a member, proposed to increase the telephonic charges. Instructions had been given to the department to that effect before this Government came into power.
This Government has, however, adopted a lower scale than was contemplated by the late Government. We should look at this matter fairly and squarely from the viewpoint of the country’s finances. The suggestion has been made that the additional rates on weekly newspapers should be reviewed.
– Will the Minister give it consideration.
– I am willing to do so; but I believe that on investigation it will be found that there are serious difficulties in the way. The honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates) asked if the rates on catalogues could not be reduced from 1d. for 2 oz. to1d. for 3 oz. That is impracticable, as the decision reached at the International Postal Congress was that a unit of 2 oz. should be observed. If we were to have a unit of 3 oz. for Australia, and 2 oz. for overseas endless trouble would be caused.
– Is there not such a variation of units at present?
– There is a 4 oz. and 2 oz. unit at present. I trust that the motion for the second reading of the bill will be carried.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Egyptian Situation - Funds Available Under Precious Metals Prospecting Act - Members of Parliament and Theatre Passes - Statement by Mr. Percy Deane - Interjections at Question Time.
– I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
I wish to make a short statement in connexion with the Egyptian situation. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition asked me a question on this subject this morning. There is very little that I can say supplementary to what has appeared in the press. Soon after Nahas Pasha returned to Egypt from London, after the failure of the treaty negotiations, he submitted, for the approval of King Fuad, certain legislative proposals for the protection of the Constitution, the effect of which would have been to make any Minister suspending or acting contrary to the Constitution guilty of high treason. The King considered thai, the moment was inopportune for the introduction of such legislation, and Nahas Pasha, and the Wafd Ministry, resigned on 17th June, Ismail Sidky Pasha then formed a Liberal Government, and, to give the new ministry time to formulate its policy, the parliamentary session was closed, by decree, on 12th July. On the 8th July, during a visit of Nahas to Mansourah serious rioting, involving loss of life, took place in that town, and on 15th July a Wafd demonstration in Alexandria, in honour of the victims, led to rioting there, which had to be dispersed by Egyptian troops. In view of the menace to foreign lives and property the British Government has ordered two ships to Alexandria. As soon as the political crisis showed signs of developing, the British Government instructed the British High Commissioner that his attitude must be one of strict neutrality. Sir Percy Loraine made a statement in this sense both to King Fuad, and to Nahas Pasha, who expressed his gratification. Since the formation of the present government, Sir Percy Loraine has made it clear that the British Government intended to adhere to its attitude of neutrality and nonintervention in what appeared to it to be a purely internal issue for the Egyptians themselves to decide. No other attitude was possible, consistent with the declaration of 1922, and the British Government intends to maintain its present stand to the extent compatible with its international responsibilities. Before news of the deplorable events in Alexandria had reached London, the High Commissioner had been instructed to make it quite plain that the British Government did not intend to be used as an instrument for an attack on the Egyptian Constitution. In consequence, it could be no party to an alteration of the electoral law even if not precluded by its declaration in 1922 from actual intervention in an internal issue of this nature. In view of the events in Alexandria, Sir Percy Loraine has been instructed to inform Sidky Pasha that the British Government must hold him responsible for the protection of foreign lives and property in Egypt. Sir Percy
Loraine has also been told to inform Nahas Pasha that the internal Egyptian difficulties must be solved without endangering foreign lives and interests, and that he will be held equally responsible with the Government if foreign lives and. interests are endangered.
.- On 29th May the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Keane) made an inquiry, in the course of a speech he delivered, as to the amount of money available to the various States in the Precious Metals Prospecting Trust Fund, and I made the following interjection : -
The Commonwealth has made £25,000 available to the States for the purpose of gold prospecting. A portion of that sum has been allotted to Victoria, yet much of it remains unclaimed.
That remark has caused some misapprehension. The words “yet much of it remains unclaimed “ have been taken to have an application to Victoria, whereas the amount allocated to Victoria has been exhausted. The particulars of the fund; are shown in the following table : -
– A paragraph appears in this morning’s issue of the Canberra Times, in the report of the evidence given before the royal commission that is inquiring into the allegations of bribery in connexion with wireless broadcasting, which, in my opinion, reflects seriously upon members of Parliament. It is as follows: -
Mr. Percy Deane, Secretary of the Home Affairs Department, said that he knew Mr. Green very well, and .had given him an introduction to Mr. Finkelstein, stating that Mr. Green would like to see theatres in Melbourne and would like to meet Mr. Tait. He bad given thousands of such letters, especially to Ministers. The late Prime Minister (Mr. S. M. Bruce) had availed himself of them, but he generally wanted boxes.
Assuming the report to be correct - which I doubt - I wish to make it quite clear - and I think I speak for the great majority of honorable members of this Parliament - that I have never sought special concessions from the managements of our various theatres. If the statement of Mr. Deane is correct, that Ministers have indulged in this practice, I think instructions should be given at once that it should cease. I am not reflecting upon any member of the present Ministry, but statements of this kind by an officer of a public department should not be tolerated, for they make it appear as though members of governments, as well as private members of Parliament, go round seeking concessions of this kind, which, so far as I know, they do not desire. While honorable members may, at times, be pleased to accept an invitation to attend the opening of a new theatre, or something of that kind, I do not believe that they wish to place themselves under obligations to theatrical firms in the way suggested, and they resent statements of this kind.
. -Seeing that members of past Ministries are involved in the statement referred to by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory), I wish to make it quite clear that I have not, at any time, either as a Minister or a member of Parliament, accepted theatre tickets which I have not paid for.
– The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) has just made a similar remark to me.
– That practice was not followed by members of the previous Ministry. I do not say that tickets have never been accepted, but the acceptance of them has never been a common practice. I wish specially to refute the reference to Mr. Bruce. I think all honorable members will agree with me that Mr. Bruce’s bearing in public life forces one to the conclusion that the statement could have no application to him.
– During question time this morning I was asked a question without notice, and, during a certain amount of interruption, a number of heated, but generally jocular, interjections were made. One of my remarks, so I have been informed, occasioned some pain to the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White). I wish to make it clear that I had no intention whatever of hurting the honorable gentleman’s feelings. We have crossed swords on a number of occasions, and shall probably do so again, but I think I am right in saying that on no occasion has there been any venom in our remarks respecting each other. . I sincerely trust that the honorable member will accept my assurances on this point.
– I wish to associate myself with the remarks of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Gullett). I read the report of the evidence to which the honorable member has referred, and noticed that it involved members of the last Ministry as well as the members of my Ministry. I do not know how much of the report is correct, nor can I speak for members of another Ministry. A man can speak only for himself. However, I did make inquiries of my own Ministers, and they assured me that there was no truth in the statement whatever. I am glad now to hear the statements of an honorable member opposite. Whatever little courtesy Ministers may have received from time to time from their friends is a different thing entirely from the suggestion that Ministers regard themselves as having a right or prerogative to such privileges. Such a suggestion is degrading, and the implication that an officer of a department has been requested to obtain such privileges for Ministers is even worse. Members of Parliament, like other people, no doubt receive courtesies and invitations in the ordinary way, but something more than that is involved here. Personally, I do not believe that Mr. Bruce would lend himself to anything of the kind. I have communicated” with Mr. Percy Deane, through his Minister, and have been handed a copy of a statement which, J understand, he is making to-day. I have put no pressure on him. I communicated indirectly with him because certain references had been made to the “ Prime Minister “, and I, as Prime Minister, am involved.
– References were alsomade to the late Prime Minister.
– I cannot speak for the late Prime Minister, hut I cannot believe that Mr. Bruce would, do anything of the kind suggested. Mr. Dearie’s statement is as follows: -
Mr. Deane stated to day that several press reports in connexion with the Broadcasting Commission made it appear that, according to his evidence, the members of the present Cabinet and the Prime Minister had solicited seats for entertainments. This was entirely untrue.
When referring to the use of such privileges by the “ Prime Minister of Australia “, as the evidence would show, he was not referring to the present Prime Minister, Mr. Scullin. The purport of his whole evidence was to indicate that the acceptance of such concessions was long-standing and widespread, but he did not apply it in any. way to the individuals comprising the present Government.
That part of the statement in which he denies the allegations, I am able to endorse, but I do not endorse nor can. I believe the statement that these practices are long-standing or widespread.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 4.13 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 18 July 1930, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1930/19300718_reps_12_126/>.