12th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. McGrath) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
The following paper was presented : -
Geophysical Prospecting - Principles and Practice - Report of the Imperial Geophysical Experimental Survey, edited by A. B. Broughton Edge and T. H. Laby.
– Will the Prime Minister be good enough to indicate what business the Government desires to complete prior to the proposed adjournment of the House for some weeks?
– The Government desires the House to dispose of the following business : A small amendment of the resolution for the adoption of the Statute of Westminster, Supplementary Estimates for several years, Debt Conversion Agreement Bill (No. 2), Commonwealth Debt Conversion Bill (No. 2), a minor amendment of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions. Act, Customs Bill, and Wine Excise Bill.
– What does the Government propose to do in regard to the two bills for the reduction of the membership of the Standing Committees on Public Works and Public Accounts?
– They have not been returned from the Senate, and this House will not necessarily continue sitting to receive them.
– If the programme indicated by the Prime Minister is disposed of when will the session be resumed?
– The Government proposes that the House shall adjourn for about three weeks.
– Can you, Mr. Deputy
Speaker, as custodian of the rights and privileges of honorable members, advise me how a member may protect himself and his constituents in regard to legislation introduced into the House after 10.30 p.m., and pushed through by midnight without affording honorable members a sufficient opportunity to understand it?
– The Chairman has no control over the business of the House other than to see that it is conducted in accordance with the Standing Orders.
-Is it in accordance with parliamentary procedure that a Government with the support of the party hacks-
– I ask the honorable member to withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw it.
– Substitute “ Subservient and servile followers on occasions “.
– Is it in accordance with parliamentary procedure that a Government with the support of its well-trained followers, should suspend the Standing Orders which are framed for the protection of honorable members, to allow of opposed business being introduced late at night?
– Before 11 o’clock last night, the Prime Minister asked for leave to bring on opposed business after 11 o’clock. The honorable member for Angas objecting, the Prime Minister moved the suspension of Standing Order No. 70, to which the House
Agreed. The procedure was quite regular.
– I do not wish to exhaust your patience, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but the rights and privileges of honorable members are most important. I therefore ask you if it is in accordance with parliamentary procedure that such rights should be lost in this chamber of frusta tion?
Honorable Members. - “Withdraw !
– I remind the honorable member for Angas that he voted for the suspension of Standing Order No. 70 last night.
– I say that that is an untruth.
Honorable Members. - “Withdraw !
– The honorable member must withdraw that statement and apologize to the Chair.
– What I said was the truth, “but at your request I withdraw it.
– The honorable member for Angas must withdraw the statement unconditionally, and apologize to the Chair. ^
– To conform with parliamentary procedure, I must do so. I withdraw the statement and apologize to the Chair.
Presentation Billiard Table
– I ask the Minister for Trade and Customs whether Mr. “Walter Lindrum was required to pay duty to the amount of £87 10s. on a billiard table won by him at a competition in London to decide the world’s billiard championship? Is it not the practice to admit prizes free of duty? If so, what was the reason for the discrimination against Mr. Lindrum ?
– The department could not classify a billiard table bearing the maker’s name as a trophy within the meaning of the customs schedule. I shall obtain full particulars, and let the honorable member have a more complete reply.
– Some months ago the Prime Minister made the definite promise to me that high-grade fertilizers would be admitted into Western Australia free of duty. “I have received several complaints that that is not being done. Can the right honorable gentleman give me any further information on the subject?
– For obvious constitutional reasons I could not make the definite promise that differential treatment would be accorded to any one State, but I did reply sympathetically to the request of the honorable member for Swan and others representing “Western Australia that fertilizers which could not be made in the Commonwealth should be admitted free of duty. I promised that the Government would deal with each shipment on its merits, and that requests from Western Australia would, because of its situation, receive special consideration. That was ;i3 far as any government could go. Some shipments have been admitted free of duty, and we have since received communications which indicate that they are competing with local industries. These representations are being checked by the Customs Department and when complete information is available I shall let the honorable member have it.
Sales Tax on Explosives - Primage Duty.
– In reply to recent representations by me in conjunction with the “Miners’ Federation,, the Treasurer (Mr. Theodore) promised to investigate the possibility of rebating the sales tax on explosive* used by miners working on contract.6. Has the honorable gentleman yet arrived at a. decision in regard to the matter?
– The matter has been under consideration, and only this morning I consulted with the Commissioner of Taxation regarding it. The granting of the request of the Miners’ Federation would create difficulties, because it would involve discriminating in the application of the tax between explosives used by miners and those used for other purposes. The Commissioner has been asked to endeavour to work out a plan by which an exemption or rebate may be granted.
– On the16th October, the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Forde), in reply to a question asked by me, stated that the quantity of imported coal consumed in Australian waters is not separately recorded by his department, nor is the amount of primage duty collected on coal distinguishable from other payments of primage duty. The important coal-mining industry is languishing, and on that account is deserving of every protection against the coal used by ships trading to Australia which take in at South African ports cheaply produced coal sufficient for the round trip.
– Order ! The honorable member must not debate the matter.
– In view of his answer to me, will the Minister for Trade and Customs explain how the department can. arrive at a fair basis for the imposition of primage duty if no statistics are kept as to the quantity of imported coal consumed in Australian waters? Cannot a regulation be framed to require ships entering Australian ports to state the quantity of coal in their bunkers?
– In the department there is no record compiled from which we could furnish the honorable member with the information desired. To get it, it would be necessary to inspect the store listof every ship which was in Australian waters during any particular period under review, and this would be a costly undertaking. I assure the honorable member that, if it were possible to supply the information, it would have been given to him.
– I have received a letter from the secretary of the Stawell
Hospital stating that the Board of Management invested £4,750 in government stock maturing in December of this year. That money was to be used for rebuilding the hospital, and was to be supplemented by a grant from the State Government. The Inspector of Charities has informed me that the rebuilding scheme will have to be commenced at the end of this year. In view of those facts, and having regard to the large amount of employment that would be provided in the district by the building operations, can the Treasurer make arrangement for the repayment of the amount invested by the hospital ?
– If the honorable member will let me have full particulars of the application I shall consider it.
– In view of the lack of employment, will the Government discuss with the banks the advisableness of proceeding at once with the unification of railway gauges, a necessary national work ?
– I shall consider the honorable member’s suggestion.
– As the House may adjourn to-day or to-morrow, I ask the Prime Minister if he is yet in a position to make a statement concerning the situation in China? Questions have been asked by honorable members in this corner on previous occasions, but up to the present we have not had any information.
– I have no statement to make that would convey further information than is obtainable from the reading of the newspapers. Any comments I could offer would not assist honorable members. The position is not a very happy one, but we are hoping that some improvement will soon be noted.
– Can the Prime Minister get information through the League of Nations ?
– I get special communications frequently. If they contained additional information, I would be very glad to furnish it to the House.
– Has the Government asked for that information ?
– I have a certain amount of information,but I am not going to make a statement at the request of honorable members unless I deem it wise to do so.
– In view of the disastrous effect of the shipping strike upon the people of Western Australia, who are compelled by law to purchase the bulk of their requirements from the eastern States, will the Prime Minister make an emphatic declaration of the Government’s attitude towards the communistic element which, he admits, is responsible for the trouble? In other words, will the Government enforce the law?
– I have already made an emphatic statement upon that subject. The reply to the second part of the honorable member’s question is: Yes, the Government will unquestionably enforce the law.
– Is the Treasurer aware that the Financial Emergency Act is inflicting hardship upon a considerable number of people, including dependants of ex-soldiers? In many instances the reduction in pension payments exceeds 50 per cent. This morning I received a letter from a lady in East Maitland informing me that she is 78 years of age, and that her pension payment of £310s. per fortnight has been reduced to 25s. per fortnight. Is it the intention of the Government
Mr. Parker Moloney interjecting -
– Every time that an honorable member sitting in this corner rises to address a question to Ministers, the Minister for Markets interjects and becomes disorderly. It would be much better if he would hold his damned tongue. Ho is always acting in a disorderly manner, and is not called to order by the Chair.
– I ask the honorable member for Hunter to resume his seat. He must withdraw that statement. I also warn honorable members that, if there is any further interruption, I shall take the necessary action.
– I withdraw the statement. I should now like to know if it is the intention of the Government to continue with its ruthless policy of reduction of pension payments over and above the 221/2 per cent. provided for in the Premiers’ plan?
– The Financial Emergency Act provides, among other things, for a reduction of pension payments. The manner in which those reductions apply is in accordance with recommendations made by a committee appointed by the Returned Soldiers Association, and including the representatives of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League, the blinded and limbless soldiers and various other organizations of returned soldiers. The committee referred to made certain recommendations to the Government dealing with the proposed economies in pension payments, and its recommendations were adopted.
– I have received from the honorable member for Martin (Mr. Eldridge) an intimation that he intends to move the adjournment of the House this morning for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, “ The condition of unrest existing among the employees at Garden Island “.
Five honorable members having risen in their places,
.- There is considerable unrest among employees at Garden Island following the posting of a notice connected with rationing by the Naval Board arbitrarily depriving employees of certain annual leave privileges and holiday pay. provided for them under existing awards. The notice in question appeared on the 4th September, and intimated that alterations would be made in the conditions relating to continuity of service, annual leave privilege, public holidays and furlough. On the10th September, a deputation representative of the Metal
Trades Union, Sydney, waited on the Engineer Commander, and stated the objections of the men to the proposed alterations. I have been asked to bring this matter under the notice of honorable members with a view to securing redress of the men’s grievances. The notice relating to continuity of service states:
Continuity of service will not be affected by the period of rationing which is to he applied for as leave nf absence without pay
The deputation pointed out that it was desirable that there should be a definite assurance from the department that the conditions and privileges granted under various awards would not be prejudiced by the men applying for leave without pay covering the rationing period. That portion of the notice relating to annual leave privileges reads :
One day will bc deducted from recreation leave in respect of each 22 days of absence without pay.
Strong objection is taken to this provision, because it is at variance with the established practice of the departments of the New South Wales Government, including the railways, and also such public bodies as the Sydney and Newcastle Municipal Councils. The deputa11011 urged that this deduction would impose an Additional hardship upon men who were already suffering through the rationing system. The notice with regard to public holidays states -
In thu event of a public holiday occurring during the period of rationing, the public holidays will be considered as part of such period of rationing and will not lie paid for or granted in any other way.
This is considered to be a distinct breach of existing awards, and great exception is taken to it. The deputation pointed out that the deduction from the wages of annual employees of 5s. per week to cover payment for holidays as set out in the award should be considered. It is also objected that if this breach of award were permitted, it would be competent for any employer to ration his employees on public holidays only, so that the men might be deprived of their holidays. It is not suggested that the department would deliberately do that, but it is contended that this alteration of the conditions will operate very unjustly in the case of some workers, who may be called upon to sacrifice more than others merely because public holidays occur during their period of rationing. The notice relating to furlough reads :
The period of “ rationing “ will not constitute a break in the service for furlough purposes, but will not count as qualifying service for grant of furlough or payment in lieu.
– Whose statement is the honorable member reading?
– I am reading from the report of the deputation to the naval officer in charge. It relates to the objection which the men have to the notice which has been posted. The men have a case, and they are anxious that it should be favorably determined. The statement that I am making is on behalf of my colleague, the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), who is unavoidably absent, and in whose electorate these men are employed. At a recent meeting of the employees this resolution was carried -
That the employees of Garden Island refuse to sign any application for leave of absence without pay for a period of rationing.
They consider that the act of signing an application for leave of absence without pay will commit them to an acceptance of the conditions to which I have referred, and that that will deprive them of rights and privileges that have been conferred upon them under their respective existing awards. Because of these facts, I ask on behalf of these employees that the notice to which I have referred be cancelled, and that whatever arrangements are made in connexion with rationing, they shall be consistent with the absolute maintenance of the provisions of the existing awards applying to the men concerned.
– In reply to the honorable member for Martin (Mr. Eldridge), I might say that the trouble, if it can be called trouble, arose from the fact that, because of the reduced amount of work available at Garden Island and the reduced amount of money available for my department, it became necessary to dispense with the services of a number of men at Garden Island. Notices of dismissal were issued. Subsequently, representations were made to me by the unions concerned, particularly the metal trades union. I do not say that all the unions made representations, but the majority of them did. They requested that some form of rationing be instituted at Garden Island to obviate the dismissal of men. I quite appreciate the viewpoint of the unions. They did not want their members thrown on the streets at a time when it was difficult to obtain work. We agreed to their request, and rationing was put into effect at Garden Island. Since then complaints have been made by some of the unions that the rationing is too severe. I admit that the rationing of some sections of the men at Garden Island is indeed severe, because it runs from one in three up to one in nine. The officers of my department arc themselves opposed to rationing, on the ground that it does not tend to proper efficiency in the Service. That is the general opinion of most employers, whether private or government. In this instance I agreed to the request of the organization that, instead of dismissing the men, some form of rationing should be instituted. The honorable member for Martin has referred to continuity of service. Certain of the employees, principally those engaged prior to 1924, are entitled to furlough rights, and so that rationing should not effect a break in their service, I gave instructions that the breaks due to rationing were not to interfere with furlough rights.
– Did the Minister issue the instruction that the men should apply for leave of absence without pay?
– I am coming to that. The point raised by the honorable member was that when an employee had a week off as a result of rationing the officers asked him to sign an application for leave of absence without pay. I am quite satisfied that there was no evil intent behind the action of the officers. They felt that questions might arise, particularly in regard to furlough rights, out of the fact that the men had had time off due to rationing, and they asked the men who were being rationed, to sign an application for leave of absence without pay. They said that that was necessary to protect both themselves and the employees concerned. That question was raised by the deputation from the Sydney Trades and Labour Council which waited on me. We went into the matter and, as a result, I could not see that there was any necessity for the men to sign an application for leave of absence. I have already issued instructions that the men are not to be called upon to sign this form when they are given one week off without pay under the rationing system. I have already said that there was no evil intent behind the action of the officers. I have had a good deal of industrial experience, and I know that men, when called upon to sign forms as they were in this case, frequently suspect that there is some evil intent behind the action of the employers. I am satisfied that the trouble is purely psychological, and I have notified the secretary of the Sydney Trades and Labour Council that the men will not be called upon to sign an application for leave of absence when they have one week off without pay, but are to be given one week’s notice that they are to be rationed for a week without pay. That, I trust, will overcome the grievance of these men.
– I have not suggested chat the men contend that there is any evil intent behind the action of the officers.
– I realize that. The next point raised by the honorable member related to annual leave privileges, and the instruction that one day must be deducted from recreation leave in respect of each 22 days of absence without pay. That matter was also raised by the deputation, and it was said that this practice had not been adopted by other public bodies. I have since made inquiries, and I find that the Sydney Harbour Trust, the State Public Works Department, and the State Metropolitan Water Board of New South Wales have a similar provision in their rationing scheme, and it is being applied generally throughout the Commonwealth Public Service.
– Does the Minister consider that that is fair?
– This provision is fair, particularly in view of the fact that we are being put to additional expense in giving effect to the request of the men that theybe rationed instead of dismissed. The next point raised by the honorable member relates to public holidays, and the instruction that in the event of a public holiday occurring during a period of rationing it must be considered as part of such period of rationing, and not be paid for or granted in any other way. We are not attempting to use this instruction unfairly, and if, as has been suggested, a number of public holidays fall within the week for which the employee is being rationed, we shall consider his case sympathetically. We work on the principle that when a man has a week off and a public holiday falls during- that week, he is not paid for it, nor is it granted to him.
– What about award conditions ?
– Nothing that we have done constitutes a breach of an award. Furlough is a privilege, and, as a rule, is not provided for in awards at all. No one who has entered the Service since 1924 receives furlough. It has been suggested that the practice is not operating elsewhere. Let me say that the New South Wales Railways Commissioners, who are directly under the control of the Premier of that State as Minister in charge of railways, have applied the principle that if a man has a week off and a public holiday falls during that week, he is not paid for it. This morning I got into touch with the officers of the audit branch of the Railway Department of New South Wales, who informed me that they have a specific provision to that effect. I think that the trouble arising out of the signing of application forms for leave of absence without pay has been removed. We have adopted the principle operating generally in the State departments of New South Wales, particularly the Railways Department, and also in the Commonwealth Public Service.
– I understand that some temporary cleaners have been recently dismissed, although they were promised that they would be rationed.
– That point was raised yesterday by the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Marks). I have suspended the notice of dismissal in those two cases, so as to have an opportunity to go into the details. I think that I have covered the points raised by ‘the honorable member for Martin. I have given every opportunity to the unions concerned to place matters before me. I have afforded them every facility. Complica tions have arisen as a result of the application of rationing, a system to which my officers are opposed. But the Government is anxious to employ as many men as possible, even at part time, instead of dismissing them and throwing them on the dole, which is, unfortunately, a heavy burden upon the State Governments. I might mention that the Ironworkers Union did not favour the rationing system, because they regarded the rationing, which was one in five, as too heavy; but the other unions concerned were in favour of it.
– This subject would not have been raised at this stage by the honorable member for Martin (Mr. Eldridge) had the Government not failed to keep a quorum in the House when it was brought up on the adjournment the other night. As we are likely to go into recess at the end of this week, the honorable member has taken the earliest opportunity to bring his complaint before the Government, so that some action may be taken to give relief to tlie employees at Garden Island. The question of privileges has again been raised. No one knows better than the Minister that the Arbitration Court, in fixing rates of wages, takes into consideration the privileges which are part of the conditions operating in government institutions.
– I have pointed out that some of these employees are entitled to privileges, but others are not.
– The Minister knows, from his advocacy in the court on behalf of the locomotive drivers, that the Railways Commissioners bring forward th, fact that the employees in the railway service, for instance, have concessions which are not enjoyed outside the service.
– The Government is nottaking any privileges away from these men.
– Even if these privileges are not definitely stated in the awards, they are taken into consideration by the court in determining the rates of pay. Therefore, regarding the question of a public holiday falling due during the week for which a man is rationed, the Minister must admit that the man concerned is entitled to consideration with respect to payment for that day, particu- larly in view of the fact that the number of holidays during the year affect his general rate of wage as prescribed by award. These men are already being rationed, and it must be admitted that when they have to suffer a further loss of pay on account of holidays falling in the week for which they are rationed, their home life as a result of the reduction in income is seriously affected. The minister could meet this situation without any difficulty. He could declare that the employees must receive pay for any holiday falling due during the period for which they are rationed. The next point I wish to make, though I do not bring it forward for the purpose of putting the subject into any better form, has relation to returned soldiers. The Government claims that it is always solicitous for the welfare of these men. Honorable members on the opposite side of the chamber who are returned soldiers also endeavour at. all times to see that those who were associated with them on active service receive every consideration that they deserve in industry, and particularly in industries in which the Government is concerned. I wish those honorable gentlemen to appreciate that a very large percentage of the men engaged at Garden Island to-day are returned soldiers. Here is an opportunity for these honorable members to assist them.
– They have practically all been cleared out.
– That is not a fact.
– One or two employees who have been working at Garden Island over a long period of years on work which, in an indirect sense at any rate, was connected with the war, such as the refitting of troopships and the like, have been kept there, but as the Minister has indicated, the great majority of the workmen now on the Island are returned soldiers. But they are trade unionists, too, and on this occasion it is on that ground, and not because they are returned soldiers, that they are submitting their claims for consideration. In all the circumstances, I ask the Minister to see that all the privileges of these men in regard to holidays, annual leave, and the like, are preserved. If existing privileges are not definitely provided for in awards, the Government should see that they are not lost to the men.
.- As the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) has referred to the returned soldier aspect of this subject, and as the Minister himself referred to me in his remarks, I wish to state clearly what transpired yesterday. Early in the afternoon I asked the Minister whether he was aware that two returned men, of 61/2 years and 91/2 years service respectively, had been served with notices of practically instant dismissal from Garden Island, while three other men who were not returned soldiers and not permanent employees had been retained. If the facts are as indicated, the whole policy of preference to returned soldiers is involved, and the returned soldier organizations wish to make a test case of it. Subsequently, when I interviewed the Minister, and put the facts before him again, he showed that he is the type of man that I thought him to be by at once giving clear and decisive instructions that the notices were not to take effect for another week, so that he might have a full opportunity of looking into the whole subject. I was satisfied with that action, butI ask the Minister to ascertain who issues these orders. The position is grave, if such notices can be issued in opposition to the policy of the Government. That is an aspect of the subject which should be investigated.
.- It was refreshing to hear the Ministerdeal with this subject in such a moderate way.I wish to make it clear that I rose to support the adjournment motion of the honorable member for Martin (Mr. Eldridge), not so much because of the subject which he desired to discuss - although the rationing of work is something that none of us like, and we look forward to the time when it will not be necessary - but mainly because when the honorable member endeavoured to ventilate this matter on the motion for the adjournment of the House the other night he was prevented from doing so.
– This has nothing to do with the motion.
– If the Minister for Markets (Mr. Parker Moloney) had not beckoned certain honorable members not to enter the chamber this motion would not have been moved to-day. It is in accord with proper parliamentary procedure for any honorable member to air a grievance on the motion for the adjournment of the House. Only about a fortnight ago Mr. Speaker advised honorable members to exercise this right to discuss certain matters in preference to asking questions in regard to them. As a member of the Government the other night helped to count out the House when he should have helped to maintain a quorum, I felt it my duty to support the honorable member this morning.
Question resolved in the negative.
Tasmanian Service - Compensation to Broadcasting Companies
asked the Post master-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– Consideration of the claims of the broadcasting companies for compensation has not yet been concluded.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
In view of the fact that the Prime Minister recently promised to secure from the PostmasterGeneral replies to questions asked by the honorable member for Martin concerning the publication of The Red Leader, will the Minister -
furnish the facts connected with the destruction some weeks ago by the Postal Department of a number of copies of the publication ;
state in what direction the papers offended, in view of the statement that the copies were destroyed because the publication infringed the laws of the Commonwealth ;
state whether the alleged offence applied to one issue only; (d)state if he has directed or will direct that future issues of this workingclass Australian publication shall not be interfered with by the postal authorities?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable members questions are as follow:
Surpluses and Deficits - Appointment of Postmasterat Camooweal.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Whatare the annual surpluses or deficits respectively of the Postal Department for the financial years 1921-1922 to 1930-1931 inclusive.
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is contained in the following table : -
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister for Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained, and will be conveyed to the honorable member as soon as possible.
– On the 23rd September the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) asked the following questions, upon notice : -
I am now able to furnish the honorable member with the following information : -
(a) 342,161 gallons; (b) 5,560,447 gallons. 3. (a) Quantity of fortified wine exported for twelve months ended the 30th June, 1931, equalled 2,111,006 gallons. (b) Total amount of bounty paid for twelve months ended the 30th June, 1931, equalled £165,009. This would not necessarily he bounty on the identical wine above-mentioned, as claims necessarily lag behind shipments. (c) There are four different rates of excise duty on spirit involved in some of these shipments, and some of it is exported direct from bond and some after being fortified with duty-paid spirit. It is impracticable to calculate the amount rebated on this particular wine.
– Yesterday the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) asked the following question, without notice: -
Can the Treasurer say when a compilation of the sales tax regulations and rulings will lie printed and issued?
The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
The Commissioner of Taxation has had this matter in hand for some time, but has been unable to completeit owing to the great volume of pressing work under the Sales Tax Acts. The hand-book will, however, be issued as early as possible.
Road Construction - Allocation of Expenditure
– On the 8th October the honorable the Leader of the Opposition asked the following questions, upon notice : -
What was the allocation of expenditure among the following types of roads: -
I now furnish the following statement in reply to his question : -
Messages from the Deputy ~ of the Governor-General reported transmitting Supplementary Estimates of Expenditure and Supplementary Estimates of Expenditure for Additions, New Works, Buildings, &c., for the financial years ended the 30th June, 1928, 1929 and 1930.
Ordered to be printed, and referred to Committee of Supply.
– I move -
Whereas on the twenty-eighth day of July, One thousand nine hundred and thirty-one this House resolved that the Government of the Commonwealth be authorized to request and consent to the submission by the Government of the United Kingdom to the Parliament at Westminster of a bill for a statute containing the provisions set out in the Schedule to the Resolution, and the enactment of the said statute:
And whereas it is desirable to supplement the said resolution in the manner hereinafter appearing :
Now therefore this House resolves that the’ Government of the Commonwealth be authorized to request and consent to the inclusion in the’ said statute of a clause as follows: - “ Nothing in tins act shall be deemed to require the concurrence of the Parliament and Government of the Commonwealth of Australia in any law made by Parliament with respect to any matter within the authority of the States of Australia, not being a matter within the authority of the Parliament or Government of the Commonwealth of Australia, in any case where it would have been in accordance with the constitutional practice existing before the commencement of this act that Parliament should make such law without such concurrence.”
In the drafting of the resolution relating to the statute which was passed by the House of Representatives - on the 28th July last, particular care was taken to protect the rights of the States. The second paragraph of clause 4 was included by the Imperial Conference with this object, and to still further safeguard the States, additional paragraphs were added to the clause while it was before Parliament.
Notwithstanding the provision of these safeguards in the resolution, four of the States made representations to His Majesty’s Government in tL. United Kingdom regarding the proposed statute as it was thought to affect them. Con sultation then ensued between that Government and the Commonwealth Government, and between the Commonwealth Government and the several State Governments, with a view to finding a formula -which would afford complete protection to the States, including the protection of their right to secure the application to a State of legislation by the Parliament at Westminster on matters solely within the authority of the States, if the State’ so requested. The only suggestion that has been made thai those rights are in any way affected is that the requirement of the consent of the Commonwealth before any law made by the Parliament of the United Kingdom is extended to Australia would hamper a State in asking for British legislation on some matter of State concern. It is hardly possible to conceive that a State would make such a request, but the Commonwealth. Government is quite willing to make it clear that the statute does not alter the status quo m this respect. This motion, therefore, provides that, where the subject-matter belongs exclusively to the States, and where legislation by the British Parliament without the request of the Commonwealth would be in accordance with the present constitutional practice, the provision of the statute requiring the request of the Commonwealth shall not apply.
The clause now included in the motion before the House has been drafted as a result of the discussion that has occurred. When it is included in the Statute of Westminster the fullest protection will have been given to the exercise by the States of all the rights they possess at present.
But we are giving the States still further protection. [Quorum formed.’] Paragraph 7 of the resolution provides that paragraphs 1, 2, 3 and 6 of it shall not extend to the Commonwealth as part of its law unless and until they are adopted by the Parliament of the Commonwealth. The Government has given) the States- an assurance that it will not introduce any measure for the extension to the Commonwealth of the provisions of the statute, “when passed, until there has been an opportunity for further discussion with the States. It is hoped that as the result of such ‘further discussion. all the States will agree to the application of the statute to the Commonwealth. At present, however, whilst New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland accept the resolution, South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania have not yet expressed themselves as being entirely in agreement with it. I hope this motion will have a speedy passage through tho House.
.- The proposal to insert this additional paragraph in the motion previously carried in regard to the Statute of Westminster is being made in order to ensure that full and abundant caution shall be taken to make it clear that the proposed statute, which is being passed at tho request of tho Commonwealth Government, shall affect, in the Commonwealth, only matters in respect to which the Commonwealth has rights and duties, and not matters, which fall exclusively within the sphere of tho States. Under the federal form of government there is a division of powers, and in certain matters the powers of tho Commonwealth and of the States are exclusive. There are some matters in which the Commonwealth has the sole power of legislation; others in which the States have that power; and still others in which there is a concurrent power. The object of this proposal is to make it olear that, with respect to the matters as to which the States have the sole power of legislation, the statute shall leave the States entirely unaffected. That is in accordance with the fundamental and essential principles of the federation. If it is desired to alter the relations of the Commonwealth and the States in regard to any matter, that can bo done by appropriate action within Australia - by an amendment of the Constitution, or by a transference of legislative powers otherwise made in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution itself. But a statute, such as the Statute of Westminster, passed by the Imperial Parliament, at the request of this Parliament, obviously should not be utilized as a means of, in effect, bringing about any transfer of power from the State sphere to that of the Commonwealth. The proposal which has been moved by the Attorney-General,, and clearly explained by him, does not alter the position as between the Commonwealth and the States ; but it provides a safeguard which some of tho States have requested, and which is entirely in accordance with the Federal Constitution under which we live, and which, moreover, is alterable in the manner determined by the people of Australia themselves under the Constitution they have adopted.
– What arc the safeguards ?
– The effect of this motion is to prevent the inference being drawn that the Commonwealth’s consent, concurrence or request is required in the case of legislation, passed by the Imperial Parliament affecting what is entirely a State matter. Let us take a subject which is entirely within the domain of State powers, and sUppose that the State concerned desires to obtain imperial legislation on the subject - legislation passed in London. The idea underlying this proposal is that that i3 a matter for the State, and that this motion and the proposed statute must not be interpreted as requiring any consent of the Commonwealth to action by the State in order to obtain such legislation.
– Does that mean that the States can make direct application to the imperial authorities?
– Yes. The Commonwealth is not placed in any position of general overlordship in its relations with the States, but is left in precisely the position which it occupies under the Constitution - a position which may be altered in the manner indicated in the Constitution, itself.
– I take it that that point was not clear before, and that this motion clearly, defines it.
– The general position was as I Lave stated it to be; but some of the States feared that the provisions of this statute might suggest that, in relation to anything to be done by way of imperial legislation relating to Australia, a request or the consent of the Commonwealth, was necessary. This amendment merely provides that, in exclusively State matters - “matters which come within the authority of the States not being matters within the authority of the Commonwealth “ - the Commonwealth shall have no part ; it means that the consent of the Commonwealth shall not be necessary. The amendment is in line with my views on this subject.
– What was the reason for the dissatisfaction of certain States?
– I do not know that they had anything immediately in view. I agree with the Attorney-General that it is difficult to conceive of a case in which a State would request imperial legislation in relation to a State matter. It might possibly arise in connexion with the - apprehension and arrest of criminal offenders. The law with respect to criminal offences on the high seas and in territorial waters is rather complicated; but it is not a matter which falls within tho power of the Commonwealth. It is a matter to be determined by State legislation combined with British, or imperial, legislation. If an amendment were required of, say, the Fugitive Offenders Act, in matters relating to extradition, this Parliament would have nothing to do with it. In the legal sense, this Parliament is an incompetent body in such a matter. Unless a general power to legislate on criminal matters were transferred to this Parliament, that would be a matter between tho States and the Imperial Legislature, without the necessity of any request or consent of this Parliament. The example I have given indicates the general idea associated with this resolution; but I think it unlikely that the subject will ever become of practical importance.
– Docs this amendment satisfy Tasmania?
– I am not in a position to say whether it satisfies the people of Tasmania, because I am not aware of any special desire on their part in this connexion.
– They confidently believe that it will do so.
– So far as that aspect of the matter is concerned, I think that it would satisfy any desire on the part of the people of Tasmania; but there is another subject in which the people of that State are interested - I refer to the Merchant Shipping Act. This motion has no special bearing on the subject of merchant shipping; it leaves the position unchanged. Judging from what appeared in a report of a committee of the Chambers of Commerce of Tasmania, it would appear that there is a rather wide-spread misapprehension as to the actual legal position in relation to the Merchant Shipping Act and the Navigation Act. It is continually being suggested in Tasmania that the Navigation Act, particularly in its coastal clauses, is an infringement of the Merchant Shipping Act. As a lawyer, I am unable to see any ground for that contention.
– I am advised by a high legal authority that the two statutes conflict.
– Tasmania has not submitted the ground of its objection.
– The Navigation Act passed by this Parliament has been in operation for many years; it wa3 passed in 1912, and was brought into operation in 1921. In Tasmania, it has been represented that I have recently written on the policy of the clauses. That is not so. I was not. associated in any way with the passing or bringing into operation of the Navigation Act, which took place before I entered Parliament. Questions recently raised in Tasmania upon what is called “ a standard of ethics “ in relation to the act have no relevance to anything that I have ever said, written, or done. On the question of validity, as distinct from policy, I point out that there has been ample opportunity to test the law, but that advantage has never been taken of it. The . Navigation Act of this Parliament was reserved for the assent of His Majesty the King in Great Britain. Acting on the advice of British Ministers, His Majesty assented to it. If -the act is thought to be invalid, the courts are available to test the matter. One would have thought that the validity of that act would have been tested before now if any real doubt existed concerning it-
– Does the honorable gentleman suggest that the Navigation Act does not conflict with the British Merchant Shipping Act?
– I merely say that the Navigation Act was assented to by His Majesty the King, on the advice of British Ministers, and was passed in accordance with the provisions of the Merchant Shipping Act. That leaves open all matters relating to the policy embodied in that act. As to the validity of that act, this motion leaves the position unchanged, whatever it may be. In my opinion, there is a great deal of misunderstanding in Tasmania regarding the validity as distinct from the policy of the Navigation Act. I support the proposal of the AttorneyGeneral.
– I do not propose to discuss, at this stage, the amendment of the resolution. I have already voiced my objection to it in its original form, and I now content myself with again protesting against this further curtailment of full federal powers. The Federal Labour party’s platform pledges members of that party to ask for unlimited legislative powers for the Commonwealth, and such delegated powers for the States or provinces as the Commonwealth Parliament may determine from time to time. This motion provides for a further limitation of federal powers. I want the Australian Parliament and people to have full authority in every matter; I would rather have no Statute of Westminster than that we should pass this motion, which is an acknowledgment of a state of inferiority which has ceased to exist.
– It merely acknowledges existing limitations.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. Cunningham) agreed to-
That he have leave to bring in a bill to amend section 25 of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act1908-31 .
Bill brought up, and read a first time.
– I ask for leave to move the second reading of this bill.
– I object.
– I suggest that leave be granted, that the Minister make his second-reading speech, and that the debate be then adjourned until this afternoon.
– If we do that, the whole bill will be rushed through, as was done last night.
– I am, prepared to allow the Minister to move the second reading now, and to make up my mind concerning the bill after I have seen it. If I then want to oppose it, I shall do so; if not, I shall vote for it.
– Is leave granted ?
Motion (by Mr. Cunningham) put -
That the Standing Orders be suspended to enable the second reading of the bill to be moved forthwith.
– There being more than a statutory majority present, and only one voice raised in dissent, I declare the question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The object of this measure is to enable relief to be given to persons whose eligibility for pensions under the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act is affected by the fact that they are entitled to deposits in the old business division of the New South Wales Government Savings Bank. Owing to the closing of that institution, these persons are, unfortunately, unable to operate on their accounts, which, in many instances, represent their whole life savings. As the pensions law stands at present, these deposits constitute property within the. meaning of the act, and there is no option but to take them into account in dealing with claims for pensions, despite the fact that the depositors are unable to operate on their accounts. It has been represented that in some cases this is causing hardship, and it is the earnest desire of the Government to afford relief in these instances. Cases have been brought under notice in which persons who are debarred from receiving pensions have offered to refund any pension paid to them when the State Savings Bank is in a position to repay deposits. It is now proposed to amend the law in order to enable pensions to be granted to these persons irrespective of the amount of their deposit in the Savings Bank, subject to their assigning the amount of such deposit to the Minister administering the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act. Provision already exists under the New South Wales Government Savings Bank acts for the assigning of deposits. If the proposed amendment becomes operative, any claimant or pensioner who has a deposit in the old business division of the New South Wales Government Savings Bank will be able to assign his deposit to the Minister, and thereupon the amount of such deposit will cease to be regarded as property for pension purposes, and the amount of pension will be assessed accordingly.
It must be clearly understood that this concession will apply only to those persons who have money in the old business division of the New South Wales Government Savings Bank. Deposits in the new business division of that bank, or in the savings bank of any other State, or in the Commonwealth Savings Bank, will not be entitled to the benefits of this amendment. When the whole or any portion of the assigned deposit is paid by the Savings Bank Commissioners, the amount of pension which has been paid as a result of the assignment will be deducted from such payment, and the balance remaining, if any, will be paid over by the Minister to the pensioner, or to his representative, in the event of the pensioner’s death.
The cost of this amendment cannot be estimated at present. The Commonwealth will be safeguarded by the provision for the deduction of any pension paid as a result of the amendment from any moneys eventually received from the Savings Bank authorities. That is a brief outline of the provisions of the bill. The amendments, which are only of a machinery character, are being made to give effect to the Government’s proposals. They do not interfere in any other way with the provisions of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act. This measure hasbeen submitted in order to grant relief to those “deserving and thrifty persons who placed the whole of their life savings in the old division of the Government Savings Bank of New South Wales, and who are now in the unfortunate position that they cannot operate on their deposits. As the Government is anxious that these people shall not be left in their present position, I trust that honorable members will give the bill a speedy passage.
– Will the pension department assess deposits at their full face value?
– For pension purposes the value of a deposit will be disregarded.
– Pensioners having deposits in the Government Savings Bank of New South Wales will, if thismeasure is passed, be deemed to have no property.
– Will the department continue to pay a pension after a deposit, of, say, £300 has been exhausted?
– Yes. If the old division of the Government Savings Bank is not re-opened before a deposit is exhausted, the depositor will still continue to receive a pension.
– A depositor would forfeit the deposit after its value had been exhausted. But payment of a pension would still continue?
– Could not this concession be extended to those who have their money locked up in the conversion loan ?
– Provision is made in the Debt Conversion Bill (No. 2) to grant relief innecessitous cases. That cannot be done under this measure.
Debate on motion (by Mr. Archdale Parkhill) adjourned.
Question - That Mr. Deputy Speaker do now leave the chair - proposed.
– I take this opportunity to bring under the notice of the Government the absolute necessity of granting immediate financial assistance to those engaged in the goldmining industry. When the plan adopted at the conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers was under consideration in this chamber, I believe that every honorable member who supported the Government’s proposals understood that if certain things were done an amount of £5,000,000 would be made available to assist industry. Last evening we disposed of a measure providing for the payment of £3,000,000 to assist the wheatgrowers; but a determined effort should be made to afford relief to the vast army of unemployed which has increased within the last month. In these circumstances,
I am justified in asking whether the Government should not extend some assistance through the State Governments to those engaged in seeking gold or who are employed in the gold-mining industry, as recommended in three or four reports of the Development and Migration Commission. In October last a recommendation was made that £50,000 should be made available. I also understand that the unemployment secretariat recommended that the expenditure of £500,000 in this direction was warranted. A study of Australia’s industrial position suggests that the avenues of employment will be closed for a considerable time. Within the last eighteen months the Government has reduced loan expenditure by £43,000,000, and this has displaced a large number of workers. In Victoria at present many are looking for gold, and all they receive is a State allowance of 8s. per week to provide them with some food. Despite this small allowance these men have carried on through a long and cold winter, and, as a result of their efforts, the gold yield in Victoria has been increased by 100 per cent. Eighteen months ago I urged upon the Government the necessity to encourage the gold-mining industry. The price of gold is higher than it has ever been ; it is always saleable and does not enter into competition with any other commodity. The Government should make an effort to place a sum at the disposal of the State Governments, which could be administered by State mining departments, and those engaged in gold-mining could thus be materially assisted. The Victorian Government has spent £13,000 in fifteen months in advancing loans to gold-miners, and £34,000 has been disbursed for relief works. In Victoria alone, during the first six months, the value of the gold yield was increased to £103,000, with the great advantage of preventing men who desire to work from remaining objects of charity, which is obnoxious to every Australian. (Quorum formed.]
The plea that I am making is supported by the employment secretariat, the Development and Migration Commission, and all the mining experts of Australia. The case may be briefly expressed in the statement that the results of the expenditure in fostering the gold-mining industry are worth while, because the Governments have been amply repaid in the States in which money has been expended in that direction. When the “ plan “ was under discussion, a large sum of money was promised for the assistance of the industry if certain conditions were observed, but the money has not been made available. I am still hopeful that the Government will be able to obtain funds from the banks for the purposes of providing employment, and if a proportion of the amount is ear-marked for the assistance of the gold-mining industry, a maximum of employment for the money expended will be provided. It is impossible to find employment for large numbers of persons in the wool and wheat industries, and our secondary industries are now well staffed. As the representative of a district in which gold-mining is largely carried on, and in which over 1,500 additional men have been given assistance to search for gold in the last eighteen months, I feel it is desirable in the interests of the nation that every consideration should be given to my appeal at an early date. The gold-miners have shown their worth at every stage of the history of this country.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) put -
That the debate be now adjourned.
The House divided. (Mr. Deputy Speaker - Mr. McGrath.)
Majority . . . . 33
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
.- I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This measure provides for a number of amendments to the Customs Act that from time to time have been found necessary. I propose to refer briefly to the nature of each of the amendments, but I may assure honorable members that they are mostly of minor importance. In the practical application of an act such as the Customs Act it is found from time to time that more or less minor alterations are advisable to meet changing circumstances, but these alterations, while necessary, may not be of such a pressing nature as to justify special amending acts from time to time; so quite a number of amendments are embodied in this bill. The first is covered by clauses 2 and 3, and the provisions of the act affected are sections 37 and 39. The matter concerned is the entering of goods at the customs, and the point involved is the fixing of the moment at which goods are to be recorded as having been entered. The point is of importance, as under section 132 the duty payable on goods is that in force when the goods are entered for home consumption. After an entry is first delivered to the customs, it goes through various stages until it reaches that of being endorsed as “ passed,” and so becomes a warrant for dealing with the goods. It may be that an entry does not reach the “ passed “stage on the same day as that on which it is delivered, and the present wording of the act leaves it open to doubt whether goods for which an entry has been delivered are, in fact, entered within the meaning of section 132 until the entry has reached the “ passed “ stage. , The amendment makes it clear that the goods are entered as soon as the entry is delivered to the customs.
Clauses 4 and 5 of the bill are intended to amend the sections of the act relating to the prohibition of the importation of infringements of copyright works. These clauses amend sections 52 a and 57. The amendments simply bring the wording of these sections into line with that of the Copyright Act 1912. When section 52 a was included in the Customs Act, there was no Commonwealth Copyright Act, and, as section 10 of that act is the prohibiting provision, it is necessary that the corresponding provisions in the Customs Act should be similar in their scope and terms. It was suggested by the Attorney-General’s Department that this amendment should be made. Clause 6 of the bill makes a minor amendment of section 59 by substituting the words “ three nautical miles “ for the term “ one league.” The latter term is used to indicate the maritime three mile limit, and it is considered that the expression “ three nautical miles “ is more suitable, particularly as the term “ league “ has different meanings in different countries. This change is made at the suggestion of the British Government. Clause 7 of the bill amends section 71, which relates to sight entries. A sight entry may be made when the importer is not in possession of sufficient particulars completely to enter the goods. Section 71 provides that within seven days of the making of a sight entry a complete entry must be made. It is found that in certain circumstances seven days is not a sufficient period, and it is desirable that in such cases further time should be allowed. The amendment gives power to the Collector to extend the time, when necessary. Clause 8 alters section 73 by substituting for the words “ one league “ the words “ three nautical miles “ for the reasons previously mentioned. Clause 9 proposes to amend section 140 of’ the act, under which any part of complete goods may, when imported separately, be charged duty at the rate applicable to the complete goods. When the rate on the complete goods is specific, or is both specific and ad valorem, the Minister has power to fix the proportionate rate of duty with which the part shall be chargeable. The tariff, however, now includes a third type of duty, namely, specific or ad valorem, whichever rate returns the higher duty, and the power to fix the proportionate rate for the part when the complete goods are subject to this type of duty, is equally necessary. The proposed amendment simply makes that addition. 1 come now to the most important amendment in the bill. Clause 10 is designed to amend section 151a of the act.
– It is high time that that section was amended.
– Perhaps that is so. Prior to 1925, the conditions with which goods had to comply so as to qualify for entry under the British preference tariff were laid down by the Minister, and such conditions allowed a certain amount of elasticity, thereby enabling the Minister to deal with special cases. In deference to representations that were made by certain honorable members, an amendment of the Customs Act was made in 1925 prescribing the conditions of eligibility of goods for entry under the British preference tariff; or, to be more exact, specifying what goods would be regarded as the produce or manufacture of the United Kingdom. The conditions, being laid down in the law, were rigid, and gave no discretionary power to the Minister, the result .being that complaints were received from manufacturers in the United Kingdom, and importers and others in Australia.
– Why are these sections of the 1925 act not being repealed ?
– I shall be glad to consider any suggested amendments when the bill is being considered in committee. I believe it will be found, however, that the amendments proposed by the Government meet the case quite fully. It has been found that the existing law is difficult of administration and interpretation. Manufacturers in the United Kingdom experience great difficulty in determining whether their goods are eligible for admission into Australia under the British preferential tariff, especially in cases where materials from foreign countries arc used in their manufacture. A number of instances have come tinder notice in which distinct anomalies have arisen.
– This is a case in which Australia is regarded :is :i foreign country?
– Yes, where raw materials from Australia cannot be taken into account in making up the 75 per cent, cost of materials and labour so as to qualify for the British preference; they are regarded not as raw materials of the United Kingdom, but as raw materials of a foreign country. For example, a hat made wholly in the United Kingdom from Australian wool, would be eligible for admission under the British preferential tariff as wholly made in the United Kingdom, but if it were trimmed with foreign trimmings, it would not be regarded as wholly made in the United Kingdom, and the 75 per cent, condition would then be applied. Because he had used a non-listed raw material, the manufacturer would have to exclude from his calculations the value of all imported materials, including the value of the Australian wool, with the result that the hat could not comply with the conditions of preference, and would therefore be ineligible for entry under the British preferential tariff. I think honorable members will agree that such a position was so absurd as to justify the Government in making the proposed amendment. At present, the manufacturer in the United Kingdom, in order to qualify for preference, can use only the raw materials enumerated in the determinations of the Minister and published in the Commonwealth Gazette. It is now proposed to permit the use of any unmanufactured raw material without awaiting ministerial sanction. Therefore, manufacturers will be relieved of that disability under .which they - have suffered for some time. [Quorum formed.] Under paragraph a, which relates to goods of a class or kind not. manufactured in Australia, and in respect of which only 25 per cent, of the factory or works’ cost must be of United Kingdom labour and/or material, provision is being made under which the Minister may substitute 50 per cent, for the 25 per cent. This complies with the request of certain United Kingdom manufacturers. In the United Kingdom there arc manufacturers who put into their goods as much United Kingdom labour and material as possible, and who comply not only with the spirit of the preference, but also with the full letter of the law. Other manufacturers, however, do only sufficient to observe the 25 per cent, condition. Although these goods do not compete with Australian-made goods, the latter class of manufacturer competes in the Australian market to the detriment of the manufacturer in whose interests the preferences were primarily granted.
A special provision also is being made in regard to cinematograph films. Producers of films in the United Kingdom have, in certain instances, experienced difficulty in qualifying for the admission of their films under the British preferential tariff. Numerous films produced .by United Kingdom producers have been photographed outside the United Kingdom, such action having been necessitated by the location of the story. I believe that some of the scenes in the film “ The Battle of the Falkland Islands” had to be photographed in the Falkland Islands. Technically, those films do not qualify for admission under the British preferential tariff. I think it will be conceded that where the whole of the work is done by British subjects, and the film is developed and printed in the United Kingdom, it should be regarded as the produce of the United Kingdom.
Taking the proposed section in proper order, it will be observed that the first condition is in regard to goods which are wholly produced or wholly manufactured in the United Kingdom from “materials wholly produced or wholly manufactured in the United Kingdom or in Australia”; or from “imported unmanufactured raw materials”; or from “ imported manufactured raw materials as determined by the Minister “.
– Why “determined by the Minister “ ?
– Certain powers have to be vested in the Minister. In the section as it now stands, paragraph a covers goods wholly produced or wholly manufactured in the United Kingdom from materials determined by the Minister as raw materials. The fact that/manufacturers in the United Kingdom had to await determinations by the Minister, before they could be sure that the materials used in the production of their goods would be regarded as raw materials for purposes of the preference, raised considerable difficulty and delays in both the United Kingdom and Australia. The section, as- amended, will provide that raw materials partially manufactured in Australia shall be included in the list of. raw materials determined by the Minister. It is proposed to insert irb sub-paragraph i of paragraph a of sub-section 1, the words, “ or in. Australia “, so that there will be no> need for the Minister to include in & determination “ raw materials partially manufactured in Australia “. Under sub-paragraph ii of paragraph a of subsection 1, “ imported unmanufactured raw materials “ have been inserted. This will remove the necessity for the Minister listing in a determination “ unmanufactured raw materials”.
It may be well at this juncture to mention that a definition of “ unmanufactured raw materials “ is embodied in the proposed new sub-section 7, so that manufacturers in the United Kingdom will have less difficulty in deciding whether their products are entitled to entry into Australia under the British preferential tariff. As this provision follows very closely a similar provision iu the New Zealand law dealing with unmanufactured raw materials, manufacturers in the United Kingdom should have no difficulty in following it.
Under the provisions of paragraph b of the present section, 75 per cent, of the factory or works’ cost must be of labour and/or materials of United Kingdom origin. As I have already explained, this has proved to be a great disability to manufacturers in the United Kingdom. The alteration proposed will facilitate matters in that connexion. For a considerable time representations have been made by honorable members for the am’endment of the law to remove this anomaly.
Paragraph c covers goods of a class or kind not commercially produced or manufactured in Australia; and the percentage of United Kingdom labour or material or of United Kingdom and Australian labour or material is only 25 per cent. Provision is being made, however, under the proposed new sub-section 2, that where, in relation to any particular goods or class of goods, to which paragraph c applies, the Minister is satisfied that it is desirable that 50 per cent, should be substituted for 25 per cent., he may so determine, and thereupon that paragraph shall apply.
– “What is the reason for that?
– It is necessary that the Minister should have that power. The proposed alteration has been requested. As I stated earlier, the reason for the insertion of this proposed sub-section is that certain goods which are being manufactured in the United Kingdom could easily comply with paragraph b; but other manufacturers are taking advantage of the fact that similar goods are not being made in Australia, to import foreign semi-manufactured goods, on which they carry put in the United Kingdom only sufficient work to enable them to comply with the 25 per cent, provision. Thus they arc detrimentally competing in the Australian market against the genuine British manufacturers, who are fully complying with the spirit of the preference.
The proposed sub-section 3 provides that no goods shall be deemed to be tho produce or manufacture of the United Kingdom unless the final process of their production or manufacture .has been performed in the United Kingdom. This provision wa3 previously introduced, and was designed to prevent foreign countries from obtaining the benefit of the British preferential tariff. Under the proposed sub-section 4, the provisions of this section may be applied to, goods the produce of countries with which the Commonwealth has preferential tariff agreements, such as Canada. The proposed sub-section 9 applies specially to cinematograph films, the position in connexion with which I have already explained.
I hope that the bill will have a speedy passage.
– I am pleased to give my personal support to this measure, which contains many amendments that are long overdue, and are calculated to improve the machinery of the great Department of Trade and Customs. Other amendments, particularly those bearing upon the conditions governing the giving of preference to British goods, are distinctly desirable. Unhappily, however, this Government, by its policy of general tariff prohibitions, lias so whittled away the value of our preferences to Great
Britain, that these amendments will not be nearly so useful in promoting trade between Australia and Great Britain as they would have been prior to tho introduction into this House of the recent tariff schedules.
– It is some relief.
– It is something; but, unfortunately, the opportunities for these amendments to have served British trade have beon very largely reduced by the tariff policy of the Government. However, the amendments generally are sound. I need scarcely say that I very warmly approve of the removal of the embargo hitherto existing on Australian raw materials so far as British preferences are concerned. It was not right that, because Australian materials went into the manufacture of British goods, those goods should be disqualified from receiving the benefit of Australian preference. The only amendment regarding which I have any doubt is that bearing upon the introduction of goods not commercially manufactured in Australia. Up to the present, such goods have been allowed to come in under the British preference provisions, if not less- than 25 per cent, of their manufacture is represented by labour or materials of the United Kingdom, or, as now amended, by labour of the United Kingdom and labour or materials of Australia. It is now proposed that the Minister, at his discretion, may insist that the British or Australian materials shall be not less than 50 per cent. The Minister has informed the House, and I accept his explanation, that this change is being made at the request of certain British manufacturers. I cannot refrain from pointing out, however, that the Minister’s reputation as a tariff reformer is such that one almost instinctively suspects him, when he takes power to himself to raise the barrier against imports. It is difficult to suppress the feeling that he has it in mind to benefit some part of tlie Australian manufacturing industry. It is true that this condition of preference applies only to manufactures not produced within Australia, and it is, therefore, difficult to see how the discretionary power of the Minister can be exercised to the advantage of Australian manufactures at the expense of British goods. We know, however. that, although Australia may not be manufacturing a certain article imported from Great Britain, there are various Australian goods which may be regarded as substitutes for it, and I am a little afraid that this amendment may, instead of assisting British manufactures, as it purports to do, be used upon occasion as a further barrier to the importation of British goods.
– If an Australian substitute can be found for British goods, the 50 per cent, limit will be imposed every time.
– That is so. Under the present administration, if a substitute can be found for British manufactures, the Minister will insist upon the 50 per cent, provision in respect to British imports, instead of the 25 per cent, provision. That is the only proposed amendment which raised a doubt in my mind whether we should not ask for some delay before agreeing to these proposals. However, the bill is to go before the Senate, and there will be ample time to go into such matters.
– I can assure the honorable member that the provision has been inserted in the interests of British and Canadian manufacturers.
– Unless, of course, tho interests of Australian manufacturers should unexpectedly intervene, in which case I believe the overseas manufacturers would be sacrificed. The new provision bearing upon British films which, although entirely of British manufacture, may actually be fashioned outside Britain, is altogether a good one. Generally speaking, I join with the Minister in commending the bill to honorable members.
– The Minister has introduced a series of amendments to the Customs Act, and I am sorry that he has not taken advantage of the opportunity to deal with a matter which I raised some time ago, and with which he was, I think, partly in sympathy. My representations had to do with the importation of works of art, and I feel that honorable members should be given an opportunity of expressing their opinions upon a proposal to liberalize the provisions relating to the importation of such articles. I asked the Minister whether it wa’s possible to remit the duties payable on an altar which it is proposed to import from Italy for the chapel of St. Scholastica, attached to the convent belonging to the Sisters of the Order of the Good Samaritan at Glebe Point, where the Order has its head-, quarters. I understand that the Customs Act provides that works of art may be admitted duty free, provided they are open for public inspection.
– Works of art must be framed.
– I do not know that the provision refers only to pictures; I understand that it has general application. In the case I have mentioned, the view taken by the department is that the altar would not be open for public inspection, but in that, I think, the department is drawing too fine a distinction. Altars of this kind cannot be made in Australia. At the present time, unfortunately, we have not in Australia men capable of doing this class of work to the satisfaction of those who are interested. It is true that the chapel is associated with a convent, but the building is separate and distinct from the convent building, and although in the convent grounds, it is not entirely closed to the public. As a matter of fact, the chapel is open at all times.
– For public worship?
– There may not be a ceremony going on all the time, but, as honorable members know, Catholic churches are open all the time for purposes of worship to those who care to visit them. [Quorum formed.’] The Sisters of the convent conduct a boarding school, so that parents are permitted to enter the convent premises to visit their children. The church is not entirely closed to the public.
– I am assured that tho chapel is not open to the public generally.
– As I have said, I feel that the department is drawing a very fine line of distinction in this matter. Tho altar is a work of art, which would be appreciated ,by others than those who attend the chapel solely for the sake of the ceremonies, and in this case heavy customs duties are not justified.
– Works of art of this description are covered under item 420 a of the tariff, not by the Customs Act.
– If the Minister is sympathetic to my request, it should be possible to overcome the difficulty. I feel sure -that most honorable members must regard this application sympathetically, apart altogether from its association with a particular religious institution. If the Minister has not power under the regulations as they now stand to remit the duty in this case, I ask that he will give consideration to the matter during the recess with a view to making the necessary amendment, so that all religious institutions, and any one else who is interested, may import works of art of this kind without having to pay heavy duties on them. After all, whatever money is saved by religious boai.es through not having to pay duty will be spent on buildings and improvements, so that the country will benefit in any case.
– Under the classification, the department has no power to grant the concessions asked for.
.^1 suggest that the Government should regard works of art, and the duties imposed on them, from the point of view of the cultural interests of Australia. The exclusion of works of art by means of Customs barriers very seldom leads to anything being produced in Australia to take their place. Take the case of the Archibald statue in Sydney. It was surely inconsistent with the idea of developing the mind and taste of the people to impose a duty on such a statue.
– We allowed that statue to come in free of duty.
– I am glad to hear it, but there was a very long controversy over the matter. Then take the case of the music presented by Mrs. James Dyer to the Public Library in Melbourne; there was no justification for levying a duty on that. Music of that kind would not be produced here, in any case, and the amount of revenue involved was negligible. I suggest that sympathetic consideration should be extended to all requests for the remission of duty on works of art.
Sitting suspended from 12.b5 to IB. 15 p.m. [Quorum formed.]
.- I congratulate the Government upon one amendment it is making by this bill. In 1925, a very stupid provision was inserted in the act, the effect of which was to deprive the British manufacturer of the advantage of the British preferential tariff if a fraction of foreign material was used in combination with Australian wool in the article manufactured by him. The Pastoralists Association has been agitating for years to have .-this anomaly removed. It is a source of considerable annoyance to British manufacturers. I remember quoting in this chamber a long extract from a South African newspaper of an interview with a British manufacturer who pointed out ill nt as a result of the determination of the then Commonwealth Minister for Trade and Customs, he had lost many thousands of pounds. He was so indignant about the matter that he had altered his machinery for the purpose of buying South African wool in future, instead ‘of Australian. I am pleased that this amendment is to be made. It will nol only do good to Great Britain, but will also help Australia. At any rate, il cannot hurt us in any way.
I regret that this bill does not propose to deprive the Minister of the power he has to interpret the words “ not commercially produced or manufactured in Australia.” We have had most extraordinary ministerial determinations as to what can be commercially produced or manufactured in Australia. One instance mentioned in the chamber by the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) comes to my mind. A contractor who thought that he could do a great deal of good by boring for water in the Mallee made inquiries as to what would be a suitable type of plant to use for the purpose, and he chose a drill manufactured in the United States of America. Its landed cost was £600, but because the Minister decided that a similar drill could be commercially manufactured in Australia - tho honorable member for Fawkner told the House that the Australian drill would have cost £1,500 - a duty of £396 was imposed. This happened before the time of the present Minister. Tho net result was that the Mallee farmers had +o pay more for any boring done for them. This question affects all oil boring operations. If there is any enterprise the Government might assist it is certainly that of boring for oil in Australia, because of the marvellous development that would follow the discovery of oil; but when- people who are willing to put up their money to explore for oil seek to purchase the most uptodate oil boring plants, which are only obtainable in America, the duties charged by the Customs Department are exorbitant. I have letters from the Australian Roma No. 1 and No. 2 telling of the enormous sums they have been called upon to pay for duty on the plants they have purchased. In the matter of price and the quality of work capable of being done, there is no comparison between the San Francisco drill and that which is made in Australia. There should be some more definite interpretation of the words “ not commercially produced or manufactured in Australia.” In committee I propose to move for the insertion of the following new clause: -
By omitting from section 52 paragraph 9 the word “ proclamation “ and inserting in its stead the word “ regulation “.
Section 52 empowers the Minister to prohibit the entry of certain goods which are inimical to the health or morals of the people. I agree that, power should be given to prohibit the importation of some classes of goods, but it is extraordinary that while a Minister is not. allowed to increase duties without seeking the consent of Parliament, he may prohibit trade with Australia in certain goods. Already he has prohibited the importation of reapers, threshers and various other types of agricultural machinery. Surely if he is not permitted to increase duties without the consent of Parliament, he should not be empowered to prohibit trade with Australia without the consent of Parliament. I am, therefore, suggesting that instead of being permitted to make these prohibitions by proclamation, he shall effect them by regulation, which, of course, must be laid before Parliament, so that Parliament may have an opportunity to disallow it. The issue raised by my proposal is that of Parliament versus the Executive. For years” Parliament has been fighting for the right to control all things, and I think that it should not permit itself to be deprived of its control over the trade of this country. I want a consequential amendment to be made in section 112 relating to the interstate conveyance of prohibited exports, and I shall move to add a new clause, “section 226 of tho principal act is amended by adding tire words ‘ or until ninety days after such tariff or tariff period has been proposed, whichever period is the shorter.’ “ The effect of that amendment would be to render a. tariff schedule ineffective if not approved by Parliament within 90 days of its submission to this House. The present law provides that a schedule must be approved during the session in which it is tabled, but the present practice is for a session to extend over the whole life of Parliament. The Government may now impose duties and not get approval for its action until years after the schedule has been tabled. Every honorable member should realize his responsibility in this respect to see that Parliament alone imposes taxation on the people.
– I regret that this bill does not contain another amendment, which the business community had every reason to expect would be included in any measure to amend the Customs Act. As honorable members are aware, that act has not been amended since 1925. Each year since then the Chambers o.f Commerce throughout the Commonwealth have been urging that the Customs Act should be amended to provide that, as soon as an overseas vessel has reported to the customs at its first port of call in the Commonwealth, the rate of duty leviable on that day shall be the legal rate for the whole of that ship’s cargo if entered for home consumption. At the annual conference of the Associated Chambers of Commerce, in 1925, 1926 and 1927, resolutions affirming that the act should be so amended were carried unanimously. In 1926, the late Mr. Pratten, then Minister for Trade and Customs, advised the chamber to seek legal advice on the subject, and it was referred to Mr. T. S. O’Halloran, E.C., of Adelaide. That gentleman submitted the opinion that there was nothing in the Constitution that prevented section 132 of the Customs Act from being amended to give effect to the desire of the Associated Chambers of Commerce. I understand that Mr. Pratten conferred with the then Attorney-General (Mr.
Latham) on the subject, and that the latter supported Mr. O’Halloran’s opinion. On the 30th August, 1928, I asked the then Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) what action had been taken to provide for a uniform duty being levied throughout the States. The right honorable gentleman replied that the matter had received consideration, that an amendment of the Customs Act had been drafted to give effect to the request of the Associated Chambers of Commerce, and that the Government intended to proceed with the amendment as soon as possible. In a letter dated the 5th October, 1928, the Prime Minister reiterated the advice that he had given me on the floor of the House. Later, the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) visited Queensland in his capacity of Minister for Trade and Customs, and he also gave an assurance that a bill was being drafted to give effect to the request of the Associated Chambers of Commerce. The following letter, written to the then Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Fen ton) by the president of the Brisbane Chamber of Commerce, and dated the 25th November, 1929, states the position concisely: -
The copy of letter and telegram attached, relating to the collection of customs duties at the rate of1d. per pound in the southern States and 3d. per pound in Brisbane on dates ex SS.Carignano, brings forcibly to mind the urgent need of legislative action to rectify an injustice of 28 years’ standing.
Since 1901 importers in Australia have been liable to pay different duties, usually higher, in the separate States on the same goods out of the same ship, and it is contended that every importer in every State is equal before the customs law, and must receive equal treatment under the Constitution, but, as a matter of fact, he does not under the present Customs Act, and this, we contend, is ultra vires of the Constitution. This position has been thrashed out at several of the annual conferences of the Australasian Chambersof Commerce, at which strong recommendations have been carried, practically unanimously, asking that this manifest injustice should be remedied.
On presentation of the resolutions the Minister for Customs suggested that legal opinion should be obtained on the question, and accordingly the resolutions were submitted to Mr. T. S. O’Halloran, K.C., of Adelaide, who gave it. as his opinion that there was nothing in the Constitution to prevent an alteration of section132 of the Customs Act to give effect to the desire of the associated chambers. At our interview in Brisbane with the Minister for Customs, he stated that, on his return to Melbourne, he would refer the whole matter to the Crown Law authorities, and it was stated in the House of Representatives on the 5th December, 1927, in the tariff debate, and was not contradicted either by him or by the Minister for Customs, that the Federal Attorney-General agrees with Mr. O’Halloran’s views, and has confirmed his opinion.
According to Hansard, of the 1st September, 1928, the member for Brisbane asked what action had been taken regarding this matter, and the Prime Minister replied, “ That the matter had received consideration, and that an amendment of the Customs Act had been drafted to give effect to therequest of the associated chambers of Australia, and that the Government intended to proceed with the amendment as soon as possible.”
During an address given by the Minister for Trade and Customs to the members of the Chamber of Manufactures and Chamber of Commerce on the 8th August this year, he was asked about the amending bill, and replied that it would be introduced shortly.
As this matter is not a party measure in the slightest degree, and the amending bill is to remedy an obvious injustice, and what is an illegal preference, and, further, is contrary to the Commonwealth Constitution, I venture to ask that it will have your favorable and prompt action.
Probably you are fully conversant with the position, but, in order to bring all the salient points used at the last conference under your notice, I am posting you under separate cover a copy of the annual report of the Associated Chambers of Commerce Conference, 1927-28, and on pages 80 to 91 will be found the debate on the question. (Sgd.) J. E. Plumridge.
I have quoted the opinions of those who are obviously thoroughly conversant with the subject, and they deserve the attention of the House. With the continual amendments of the tariff to which we are now accustomed, it becomes all the more necessary that these defects in the Customs Act should be remedied.
In reply to the further representations of the Brisbane Chamber of Commerce, the present Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Forde) wrote on the 23rd September, 1930, as follows: -
Your letter of the11th August on the subject of customs duties has received consideration. You refer to uniform customs duties, but I would point out that customs duties are at present uniform, and at any given moment the same duties apply all over Australia. As the proposal would alter this state of things, it does not seem to be a proposition for uniform customs duties, but for differential customs duties.
I would ako like to say that (lie commercial community is not, as you suggest, unanimous on this subject, as one of the Australian Chambers of Manufactures has made an emphatic protest against such an alteration as proposed. lt is thought that the attempt now being made to remove certain anomalies will only create other anomalies in their place. When tariff rates are altered there will always ho, for a time on any market, some goods that paid tho old rate and some that paid tho new rate, and whatever is done, this cannot bo entirely avoided.
Under the proposed amendment, the old duty would be payable on goods on a ship that arrived via Australian ports, and side by Hide there may be a ship that arrived direct, discharging similar goods liable to tho new duty. Two ships may leave Great Britain together. If one went to Fremantle for a few hours and the other did not, the first ship would secure certain rights for the cargo on that vessel, which may be denied to the other ship, which proceeds direct to a later port.
Another serious difficulty relates to goods entered for bond. Assuming that the alteration of duty was an increase, would it be fair that these goods should be sent to bond and bc allowed to come on the market at the lower duty, at any future time the owner thought fit? The conference, I think, saw this difficulty and suggested a modification to meet it, but you will remember that Mr. T. S. O’Halloran, of counsel, “raised a doubt iis to whether it would he constitutional to give goods in bund different treatment from other goods.
It must not be overlooked that such an alteration of the law must “cut both ways.” If a duty were reduced the higher duty would have to bo paid on all goods in Australian waters at the time of reduction.
The Chambers of Commerce always recognized .and were willing to accept that.
– I have not the faintest idea what they anticipate. The letter concludes -
Similarly when goods are made free of bylaw from a given date, all goods then in Australian waters would still pay the duty provided by the tariff, and not get the benefit of the by-law.
The reply of the president of the Chamber of Commerce reads -
I duly received your letter of the 23rd ult., for which I thank you, although I regret you are unable to accede to our request. I think it matters little whether the proposed alteration is under the synonym of “ uniformity “ or “ differentiation,” so long as one State does not enjoy an advantage over another State, as Queeusland unfortunately has too. frequently witnessed under recent increases in Customs duties.
We fully concur with your view that on, occasion advantages are bound to accrue at some point, but we still maintain these advantages are far outweighed by tho disadvantages, accruing to Queensland under the presentsystem.
As to goods entered for bond, it has alwaysbeen the practice that such goods, when removed from bond, pay the duty ruling on that date, consequently they would be subject to any increase in rate then in ^operation.
Possibly, certain Chambers of Manufactures, especially in the south, are not in accord with our views, but the Associated Chambers of Commerce of Australia have again and again approved of them, and the Queensland Chamber of Manufactures is at any rate favorable.
Wo agree that it must “ cut both ways.” All we ask is that we be placed in no worse position than any other States, which we certainly are at present, and we trust at some future time, not far distant, ‘you will still grant the relief asked for.
The opportunity presents’ itself .to grant that relief, but, unfortunately, the Minister has not been able to agree to the request. I have talked on this subject repeatedly in this chamber, and I do not propose to labour it now. When the bill reaches the committee stage I shall move an amendment designed to give effect to the expressed wishes of the Associated Chambers of Commerce.
When speaking before lunch, the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) referred to the admission of an altar under by-law under tariff item 426 a j which deals with works of art’. For some considerable time I corresponded and conferred with the Minister on a similar matter. A Brisbane lady desired to present a processional cross to the. Anglican cathedral, Brisbane, but the customs officials maintained that it was not possible to admit the cross unless duty was paid amounting to a considerable sum. Representations were made to the Minister by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) among others, with the result that that gentleman had the matter investigated further. Eventually, after a lapse of some considerable time, the cross was . admitted under the by-law I have mentioned as a work of art, only primage duty being payable.
.- I support the remarks of the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. D. Cameron), as I consider that this anomaly ought to be cleared up. Its existence has been manifest on many occasions. I know of an instance in which goods which were consigned to Sydney bore a certain duty. The remainder of the consignment proceeded to Melbourne. Before they were landed, a fresh schedule was brought down, providing for an increased rate of duty, which had to be paid. Obviously, that put the Melbourne importers- at a disadvantage.
– If a reduction had occurred he would gladly have accepted it.
M r. WHITE. - Whether an increase or a reduction takes place, the same rate of duty should be charged on the consignment. .
Frequently goods are entered under bylaw, a practice that inflicts an injustice both on manufacturers and importers. When it suits the convenience of the Government, and also when the Customs Department is satisfied that the goods cannot be made in Australia, the operation of the duty is temporarily suspended. The practice would be fair and reasonable if the goods could not be manufactured here, and also if all importers concerned were treated on the same basis. I have questioned and written the Minister in connexion with a case in which certain hardware was imported, upon which duty was paid, while other similar hardware was brought in free as a result of the temporary suspension of the by-law. To rectify the anomaly I suggest that all decisions of the Government to admit goods free under by-law should be advertised seven days prior to any landing. The commercial community hears of these entries only after the goods have been landed, when the incident is advertised in the Government and trade gazettes. If it were, generally made known that certain goods would be admitted free, manufacturers or importers would have an opportunity to protest if they had objections. If my recommendation were accepted, it would mean a good deal of revenue to the department, . as an importer who believes that he could get goods through free under by-law would quote on that assumption. Another merchant who was not persona grata with the department
– I assure the honorable gentleman that each case is considered on its merits, and that no merchant is persona grata with the department.
– I was not hinting at any improper action by the department. I had in mind a man who does not do hia business through a customs agent, and who would quote on the assumption that a certain rate of duty would be payable on his commodities. Other merchants with experience in the matter could quote to greater advantage, knowing that they could bring in their goods free on a specified duty. My suggestion would be fair to the manufacturer who might be able to make the goods here, and who could lodge his protest, and to the importer. There may be difficulties in the way of incorporating it in the Custom* Act. Possibly that would come under the Tariff Act. But I urge that some action in this direction should be taken.
– The measure that has been brought forward by the Minister is exceedingly disappointing. It deals with a number of matters that are of relatively small importance. One would imagine after the wide experience that the Minister has gained through bringing down a tariff containing over 400 items, the most voluminous and punitive tariff ever introduced, that he would be able to introduce a series of comprehensive amendments that would be to the advantage of the trade and commerce of the country. I am quite sure that had the honorable gentleman given his capable officers full range, they would have suggested many more amendments, of greater importance than those now proposed.
We ure solemnly asked to consider whether we shall delete from the act the word “ league “ and substitute the words “ three nautical miles “ That momentous discovery is the outcome of the Minister’s great experience in tariff legislation. The Minister also proposes to take more power to himself, and certain matters are again to be left entirely to his judgment and authority. Against that I, and the commercial community generally, have protested. One satisfactory feature of the bill is that it does to some extent define the conditions under which British pre- f erence may be granted ; but the objectionable and indefinite words “not commercially produced or manufactured in Australia “ are retained. During the tariff debate I unavailingly asked the Minister to explain what those words meant, and I mentioned an article of machinery which could have been imported for £2,000, but which the Minister held could be commercially manufactured in Australia, although its cost would be £6,000. The provisions relating to the preference to be granted to the United Kingdom might as well be deleted, if the Minister is to be able, by his interpretation of the phrase “commercially produced or manufactured in Australia “, to render the whole scheme nugatory. I am certain that, in practice, the preference will be rendered valueless. Another amendment refers to the taking of moving pictures in different parts of the world, and recognizing them as British films if they are registered under any law of the United Kingdom, a detail of comparative unimportance which might have been arranged without new legislation.
The only amendments likely to be of real value are those forecast by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory), and the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. D. Cameron). No doubt, because they are important and valuable, they will be incontinently rejected by the Minister, with the support of his well-disciplined cohorts and battalions. I repeat that the bill continues the power of the Minister to dictate the operations of commerce throughout the Commonwealth. The conditions under which goods may be admitted should be stated in black and white,so that he who runs may read. Traders should not be at the mercy of any whim, caprice, or dictum of any individual as to the manner in which they shall conduct their business. Although the bill provides that the Minister shall decide these matters, in actual practice that will be impossible. Lord Hewitt, in The New Despotism, has pointed to the growing practice in British legislation to delegate to Ministers powers which really belong to Parliament, the exercise of which very often is in the discretion of junior officers.
– I assure the honorable member that that is not so in the Trade and Customs Department.
– As usual, the Minister is ready to assure the House that he, personally, does everything in his department.
– No; but these decisions are made or recommended by responsible officers of the department.
– Lord Hewitt has protested against Parliament abrogating its authority by delegating duties and rights to Ministers and their officials. This bill perpetuates that evil, against which a large volume of public opinion has protested. I do not expect my views to be accepted by ministerial supporters. They are accustomed to solicit from Ministers favours for the sections and coteries they represent. Some honorable members glory in what they achieve in that way, and are able thus to retain their seats; but I do not consider it part of my duty to go on my hands and knees to Ministers or departments for concessions for any section. The rights of traders should be stated in black and white, and should not be subject to the caprice or predilections of the Minister or his officers.
– Sometimes gifts are made to churches and other public institutions by persons resident or travelling abroad; some lady may offer a gift to the church in which she was baptized or married, and such a gift should, in my opinion, be admitted free of duty. I recollect one such gift in connexion with which I had to decide against my own conviction. An organ which had been installed in the private residence of a citizen of the United Kingdom was, on his death, dismantled and sent out to Australia as a gift to an Anglican Church in Sydney. In accordance with the rules and regulations, customs duty had to be imposed, but I resolved that if I remained in the department such regulations would have to be amended in order to allow greater discretion in these matters. Another gift to a church in Perth came under my notice, but I was able to regard that as a work of art, and admit it without payment of duty. The honorable member for Brisbane has stated that after much trouble a silver cross presented to a church in Brisbane was admitted duty free. It is time that we came to a commonsense decision in regard to these matters. Churches are not engaged in competitive trading, and gifts of the character I have mentioned are not imported for pro.fi t. No doubt there are some people connected with churches who, if allowed a foot, would take a yard, but, generally speaking, the regulations should be liberally interpreted in relation to presentation goods for churches and other public institutions. I urge the Minister to give consideration to this matter; if he cannot make the necessary amendment in this bill I hope that he will propose it in another. Such an alteration would not involve any loss to Australian trade or interfere with the employment of our workmen. I endorse the Minister’s denial of the statement that the admission of goods under regulations is decided by junior officers. Such matters are controlled by the senior officers, and I make bold to say that no department of the Commonwealth Service has such n highly-qualified staff as has the Customs Department. The responsible officers are quite capable of giving unbiased decisions in regard to important matters. Some wrong precedents may have been established, but I am not wedded to precedents, and 1 believe that the regulations should be relaxed or made more flexible in order to permit of the commonsense treatment of gifts from abroad.
– Will the Minister promise to give careful consideration to the suggestions that have been made regarding the admission of works of art duty free?
.- I wish to bring before the Minister a matter with which he is well acquainted ; I refer to the absolute prohibition on the importation of racing yacht sails. I understand that he has this matter before him for reconsideration, but the facts are these: The greatest sailmakers in the world for practically the last century are the firm of Ratsey and Lapthorn, of Cowes. The business has been handed down from father to son. No racing yacht that takes part in an important race has other than Ratsey sails. Let me give examples of the excellence of these sails. My own success in the yachting world for practically 30 years was due to the use of Ratsey sails. Notwithstanding the fact that Wilson and Silsby are one of the greatest sailmaking firms in the United States of America, yet that nation imported seven sets of sails from Cowes for the last America Cup race. The United States of America has been able to retain that cup against Great Britain only by the use of Ratsey sails. In Australia the equivalent of the America Cup is the Sayonara Cup, which is an interstate race. I had the honour, in 1910, to be the first New South Welshman to wrest, with the aid of my famous Culwalla, that cup from Victoria. We have held the cup since 1910, and Victoria has now challenged with a better yacht than Mr. Frank Albert’s eight-metre yacht.- He cannot defend the cup with any chance of success without Ratsey sails. He ha« ordered a set of the sails, and they are to-day in bond in Sydney. He is prepared to pay even 100 per cent, duty to obtain them, but there is an absolute prohibition against them. I do not mind if the duty is heavy, because Mr. Frank Albert cau well afford to pay it, but it is not right to place an absolute prohibition on these sails. Sport is perhaps the greatest thing in our Australian lives. The Minister has power under the act to lift the prohibtion, and if ho does so no harm will be done to the local sailmakes because if they were put in the witness box, good sportsmen as they are, they would admit that they could not make a Bermuda rig sail to fit a mast 75 ft. high, equal to a Ratsey sail. The race is to take place in January, so time is short. I appeal to the Minister to lift the prohibition so as to allow these sails to be admitted.
– The same conditions would apply to the Victorian yacht.
– The Victorian yacht has a set of Ratsey sails, and therefore has 100 per cent, advantage over our yacht.
.- I cannot agree with the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Marks), because sail* can be made just as well in Australia as abroad. I admit that the honorable member has had considerable yachting experience, but let me inform him that Ta§manian boats equipped with, local sails have for years held the Forster Cup, which is competed for every year by small sailing boats throughout Australia. On one occasion a Tasmanian boat using Tasmanian sails wiped the seas with a boat from. New South Wales, which used imported sails, costing fifteen times as much as the local sails. There is no reason why we should lift the prohibition on imported sails, because we can make sails equal to, if not better, than imported sails.
– We all look upon the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Marks) as an authority on yachting, seeing that he has for years been one of the loading yachtsmen in Australia. We are, therefore, bound to listen with attention to any representations that he may make on behalf of imported sails, Although an unfavorable decision wa3 made in regard to the admission of Ratsey sails for the famous yachting race that is soon to take place in Australia, I can assure the honorable member that I shall call for the file and reconsider the whole matter. The honorable member, and also the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill), have assured me that the imported sails are now in bond in Sydney. I was interested to hear from the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Frost) that on one occasion the Tasmanian boat - to use his own expression - wiped the seas with another boat using imported sails costing fifteen times as much as the local sails.
– The honorable member for Franklin was quite right in his reference to the race for the Forster Cup, but the boats competing for that are small boats. I am referring to large yachts.
– The honorable member for Franklin is referring to miniature yachts.
– I promise tho honorable member for Wentworth that I shall reconsider this matter.
The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley), the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham), and the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) have referred to works of art. That is really a tariff matter, coming under item 426 a - Works of art framed or unframed imported for public institutions or purposes as prescribed by departmental bylaws. The departmental officers inspect, these works. The report comes not from junior officers, but from the Comptroller or Deputy Comptroller of Customs. The Minister then decides whether they are works of art, or works to be exhibited in public institutions.
– Have the departmental officers special qualifications for that work ?
– Yes. They are experienced officers in matters of this kind. If necessary, they obtain the advice of experts, well-known artists and others. In connexion with the silver cross for the Brisbane cathedral, the opinions of a silversmith and a well-known artist were obtained in addition to that of the officers of the department. The department sometimes obtains legal opinion from the Attorney-General’s Department as to what constitutes a public institution. Thi? matter is not dealt with haphazardly. There are certain, places that can !be called public institutions, but other places do not come under that heading; and therein lies the difficulty. Probably persons who do not succeed in having their pictures, statues or altars classified as works of art consider that unfair discrimination has been shown against them. Whether a work is a work of art sometimes depends on where it is to be hung or erected. If it were to be erected in a public place, the Minister would most likely give a favorable decision. It might be a different matter if it were to be erected in some secluded place not open to the public. I assure honorable members who have spoken on this subject that their representations will be sympathetically considered.
The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) referred to section 151a. Clause 10 of this bill repeals that section, and inserts a new section which contains the amendment commended by the honorable member.
The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) referred to departmental by-law admission. That practice was not instituted by this Government. It has been in operation for many years, and any up-to-date customs agent keeps his clients well posted as to what goods may be admitted under departmental by-law.
The publication in the press of admissions under departmental by-law a week before the goods arrive in Australia is not practicable, because sometimes good3 are in bond before the application is made. The definition of “ commercially manufactured in Australia “ was included in the act by the late Mr. Pratten when Minister for Trade and Customs. I believe that it is being interpreted fairly.
The honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. D. Cameron) has said that he would like section 132 of the act amended to provide for what he describes as uniform duties. He stated that the AttorneyGeneral in the last Government gave an opinion on this matter, but let me inform him that there is no record in -the department of any such opinion. There is an opinion by Mr. O’Halloran of the Chamber of Commerce.
– I said that the Attorney-General in the previous Government agreed with the opinion given by Mr. O’Halloran.
– A royal commission inquired into this subject, and reported as follows: -
The claim is, in effect, that once a vessel is entered at an Australian port the rate of duty on goods imported in that vessel should be the same wherever those goods are landed. Under the present system an importer of goods at one port of call may pay a less rate than an importer at a later port, and may possibly be able to undersell the later importer by transferring his goods from one State to another. Section 132 of the Customs Act makes administration simple, and while it may bo practicable to amend it without creating any serious difficulties, care will be needed not to infringe the requirements as to uniformity, and after such an amendment it might happen that there would be similar goods in different ships in port cleared on the same day, paying different rates of duties.
That report has been taken into consideration by the Government. The honorable member for Brisbane sat behind the previous Government for 9even years ; yet it did not bring forward an amendment of the Customs Act such as that now suggested by him.
– It had agreed to do so.
– This Government has been in office for approximately two years, and it is not fair to take it to task for failing to do something which the previous
Government refused to do. Under section 132 of the Customs Act, duty is payable at the rate in force at the date the goods are entered for home consumption. The intention of the amendment which the honorable member proposes to move is to provide for the collection of duties at the same rate as that on similar goods out of a vessel which has reported at her first port of call in Australia before an amendment of the tariff has become effective. For instance, a vessel arrives at Fremantle on the first of the month. The goods for that port are landed, and duty paid at the rates in force on the first of the month. On the 3rd of the month, before the vessel has arrived at, say, Melbourne, duties are increased. In that case, the honorable member desire’s that all goods out of the vessel shall be permitted entry at the rates in force on the first of the month. I doubt whether such a course would be legal, and whether a breach of the Constitution would not be committed if varying rates of duty were charged on goods which arrived at an Australian port, on the same day. In the event ,of a vessel arriving at, say, Fremantle, on the 1st day of the month, and an alteration of the duty being tabled in Parliament on the evening of that day, a vessel arriving at that port on the second day of the month would probably reach other ports on the same day that the first vessel arrived there. In that case, the goods from one vessel would be subject -to a higher duty than similar goods from the other vessel; and thus there would be created anomalies much more undesirable than those which it is claimed now exist. The Chamber of Commerce at Brisbane has taken a keen interest in this matter. Both the’ former Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Fenton) and I have received numerous deputations from that body on this matter. [Quorum formed.]
– All the Chambers of Commerce in Australia have repeatedly made similar representations.
– The only Chamber of Commerce which has interviewed me in this connexion is the Chamber of Commerce at Brisbane. These bodies will probably desire this change so long as they fear that duties will continue to rise ; but they would probably be dissatisfied if the tide turned, and duties became lower.
– If the duties fall they will not be affected.
– It cuts both ways. I cannot accept the honorable member’s suggestion.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 3 agreed to.
Section 52 of the principal act is amended by omitting paragraph (a) and inserting in its stead the following paragraph: -
Section proposed to bo amended -
The following are prohibited imports: - [g) .All goods the importation of which may be prohibited by proclamation.
.- The principal act, which this bill seeks to amend, was passed in 1901. ‘ Power was then given to the Minister to prohibit the importation of certain goods, and articles, as, for instance, false money; counterfeit coin ; blasphemous, indecent, and obscene works and articles; goods manufactured by prison labour; and certain classes of drugs. It was recognized that there would probably be other goods which it would be undesirable to allow into this country, and consequently, in paragraph g of section . 52, & general power was given to the Minister to prohibit the importation of goods by proclamation. The present Minister has abused that power. Since the present Government assumed office, the importation of from 80 to 100 different classes of goods, which formerly were imported, has been prohibited. Under the provision mentioned, the Minister is given more power than the tariff itself confers on him; the tariff must be approved by Parliament, whereas Parliament has no control over a proclamation unless it can carry a vote of want of confidence in the government responsible for issuing it. If we substituted the word “ regulation “ for “ proclamation “ in paragraph g of section 52, the power of the Government would not be diminished, for it would still be able to prohibit the importation of any goods; but if its action was contrary to the , wishes of Parliament, the regulation could be disallowed. Parliament should control the power to tax the people. By proclamation the Govern ment can now refuse to allow goods of any description, whether harmful or not, to enter this country. No Government should be empowered to prevent the importation of goods unless its action is subject to review by Parliament.
– This power has existed since 1901.
– That may be so; but it was never abused before the present* Government came into office, nor was it intended to be used except to prevent objectionable articles entering Australia. By adjourning Parliament from time to time, thus making one session extend over a long period, a tariff schedule may continue in force for three years without being subjected to review by Parliament. I admit that action in the direction indicated by the amendment ought to have been taken earlier; but not until this Government came into office was the power conferred on the Minister abused. The Minister says that he has not abused the power conferred on him. I remind him that his tariff proposals of last year meant that we could not trade with certain countries.
– That action was taken to save Australia from bankruptcy.
– I ask the Minister not to talk rubbish. The action to which I refer was taken in order that certain manufacturers and traders in Australia might be given concessions. I should like to know why persons who wish to buy, say, a particular kind of machine, should not bc permitted to buy it, so long as they pay the duty which Parliament has imposed on it. if Parliament decides that the importation of certain goods shall be prohibited, I am prepared to accept its decision; but Parliament has not so decided. This Parliament is subservient to the Government, although we have been elected to this Parliament to protect the interests of the people as a whole.
– Where does the Government stand with the banks? I ask the honorable member to deal with that matter.
– I cannot deal with it now. I am not like some honorable members, who are prepared to rob the people of their hard-earned sayings, and devote their energies towards creating trouble in the community. We are elected to this Parliament to represent the people. When special powers are given to a Minister, Parliament should be able to say whether the action taken in pursuance of those powers shall stand. I move -
That the following new paragraph be added : -
by omitting from paragraph (g) the word “ proclamation “ and inserting in its stead the words “ regulation made under the act”.
I support the amendment of the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory), and in a few words shall give my reason for doing so. In my opinion, the present practice is both unreasonable and illogical, whereas the amendment of the honorable member for Swan is both reasonable and logical. The Minister may not impose duties, with the object of making it more difficult for goods to enter this country, without ultimately obtaining the consent of Parliament to his action; but, by proclamation, he can prevent such goods coming here at all. That is to say, he can do the greater thing, although he cannot do the smaller thing. He cannot put on a duty without the consent of Parliament; but by means of a proclamation he can impose a total prohibition, and his action is not subject to parliamentary review. The amendment would still permit the Government to place embargoes on imports, but Parliament would have to ratify or disapprove of what was done. I ask the committee to agree to the amendment.
.- All that the amendment asks is that the word “ regulation “ shall be substituted for the word “ proclamation,” so that within a reasonable time Parliament will have an opportunity to decide on the merits or demerits of the regulation. It is notorious that the power to prohibit imports by proclamation has been grossly abused by the present Government, under the cloak of a national emergency. When the Prime Minister announced that certain prohibitions of imports had been made, and, later, when he imposed certain surtaxes, I agreed as to the necessity for action being taken along those lines, because of the national emergency and the necessity to adjust the balance of trade. I still admit the necessity for action along those lines; but I point out now, as I did then, that the act gives the Minister a power which might be dangerous in the hands of one who favours a policy of protection run mad. Honorable members on this side strongly urged, the Government to put a time limit upon prohibitions and surcharges. We expressed our complete readiness to consider them on their merits, and, if necessary, extend the period of their operation ; but this Government refused to introduce a time limit, and, therefore, its action in this matter is highly suspect. We do not ask that the power to prohibit summarily should be taken from the government of the day; that power is quite necessary. Moreover, it is conferred under every customs act throughout the world. It is desirable that a government should have power summarily to prohibit, on health grounds, the importation of various things which might spread disease.
– When I was Minister for Trade and Customs, I prohibited the importation of peanuts from China for one year, but the difference between my action and that of the present Government is that I obtained from the interested parties in Queensland, including the Peanut Control Board, on which there was a government representative, a written undertaking that at the end of the year neither the renewal of the embargo nor an increase in duty would be requested. One of the first acts of the present Minister, however, was to give that industry prohibition in perpetuity. That points to the necessity for agreeing to the amendment before the committee.
– Why did not the honorable member take action to amend the law in this respect when he was a Minister?
– There was then no necessity for it, because the law was not being abused. We have lately learned what a dread power this is in unscrupulous hands.
– I ask for the withdrawal of that expression.
– I withdraw it; but the Minister is becoming too squeamish. There is a vast difference between personal and political unscrupulousness. The Minister has said that the power contained in the bill is necessary, and he has exercised it, to use his own words, to avert national bankruptcy. Two of the prohibited commodities were snuff and canary seed, and that is how the Minister averted national bankruptcy! Much harm has been done by the indiscriminate and reckless use of prohibitions, and we have given offence to certain foreign countries that have been good customers of Australia. Naturally, we have prompted acts of retaliation on their part.
– Name those countries!
– France, Italy, and Germany. As a representative of primary producers, the honorable member who interjects should support, the amendment. If these prohibitions had been brought before this committee, they might have been altered here and there without in any way destroying their effect in adjusting trade in the national interest, and yet the giving of offence to foreign countries could have been avoided. In the amendment before the committee, we are merely asking for an opportunity to consider proposed prohibitions. About fifteen months ago the importation of some 71 commodities was summarily prohibited, and the elect of the people of Australia have not been given an opportunity to express an opinion on the action taken. In the course of a few hours, probably, a proclamation covering many import prohibitions is prepared by the Minister, but it is impassible to deal with great subjects of trade in such a hurry without making mistakes. I do not suppose a step of greater concern to trade than the imposition of these prohibitions and surcharges has been taken since the inauguration of federation, and yet no” honorable member had the right to say anything to prevent it.
– Honorable members opposite do riot want that right.
– Of course not. If they had it, and the party whip were cracked, the right would not be exercised. The amendment should be accepted in the national interest.
– I cannot accept the amendment. The power to which the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) has referred, has been exercised by various governments, more or less, since federation, and, therefore, it is not new. The honorable member himself was Minister for Trade and Customs for nearly a year, but he made no effort to alter it. The late Government prohibited all importations of sugar from other countries, and when the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) was in power his government prohibited the importation of motor car bodies, confectionery, and other goods.
– That was during a time of war.
– That is true, but we are now passing through a great economic crisis, and with adverse trade balances aggregating £111,000,000 over a period of eleven years, drastic action had to be taken. The leading financial authorities of Australia advised the prohibition of the importation of such things as luxuries. Country members know that by prohibiting the importation of dried fruits, onions, malted milk, and other goods, the primary industries of this country benefited. Honorable members opposite cannot reasonably object to a Labour government exercising power which has been in the hands of all Commonwealth Governments, particularly when the object is to rectify our adverse trade balance during the greatest economic crisis in the history of Australia, and, indeed, of the world.
– What has been the effect of the Government’s action?
– An adverse trade balance of £32,000^000 in 1929-30 has been converted into a favorable balance of £28,000,000, excluding bullion and specie.
.- This matter might more properly have been raised on a question of privilege, because it is certainly an abuse of parliamentary privilege that the Government, which is the executive body, should take to itself powers which it was never intended to possess. Parliament is supreme, and yet its will has been thwarted in this regard. I shall support the amendment submitted by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory), who pointed out that there is much difference between a government doing a thing by proclamation and doing it by regulation.. A regulation may be discussed in this House, and may be either agreed to or disagreed with ; but we have no opportunity of discussing the action of a government taken by means of a proclamation, unless a special motion for the adjournment of the House is submitted, or unless a specific motion of want of confidence in the Government is moved. What has a government to fear in providing for prohibitions by regulation? Does the Government fear to have the light of day made to shine upon its actions? Is it fearful that, in a discussion on the floor of the House, it would be shown that the gain derived from a prohibition was not sufficient to justify such extreme action? In placing the various tariff items before us, the Government has been forced, willynilly, to accept the opinion of this chamber in regard to each item, and I contend that the same practice should obtain in regard to those items which have been placed on the prohibited list. I do not intend to discuss that matter to-day. The honorable member tor Swan has raised the question whether Parliament is supreme, or whether it is willing to permit the Government to us-: the powers given under the original act in a manner never intended by Parliament. I hope that honorable members who have the dignity of this House at heart, and stand for the privileges belonging to members, will support the amendment of the honorable member.
.- I intend to support the amendment of the honorable member . for Swan (Mr. Gregory). I do not propose to go into the merits or demerits of the embargoes imposed by the present Government. My attitude is determined by my desire to afford Parliament an opportunity of discussing such prohibitions, and for that reason I support the amendment. My concern is not whether it was advisable for the Minister to prohibit the importation of canary seed, or any other article, but whether this Parliament should retain its supremacy as a legislative body; whether prohibitions of this kind are to be applied by proclamation in a manner which places them beyond the criticism of Parliament, or by regulations, subject to the review of Parliament. I am strongly opposed to government by proclamation. I have felt for some time that these powers vested in the Minister, though they have not been abused by the present Government, are subject Lo abuse, and have, as a matter of fact, been improperly exercised by previous governments. In the past, the power has been used, to prohibit the importation of certain goods, allegedly in order to prevent the entry of plant diseases. That was not the real reason for which the prohibition was desired. The application was made because the imported goods competed with certain trading interests in Australia. The honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett), when he was Minister for Customs, slipped badly iti regard to peanuts some’ years ago. Interested parties in Australia were anxious to prohibit the importation of peanuts, and they, therefore, asked the Minister to place an embargo upon them, not for the reason that there was insufficient tariff protection, but because, they said, there was a plant disease affecting peanuts in some parts of China and elsewhere.
– About 80 per cent, of the members of this House were behind the Minister on that occasion.
– I was not one of them. I believe that whether embargoes are imposed for such reasons as that, or because the Government is grappling with a situation in a statesmanlike way as this Government has been doing, they should be subject to review by this Parliament. The Minister said that this power had been enjoyed by Ministers for 31 years past. It does not follow that because a position was acceptable in 1901, it must still be acceptable in 1931. I cannot see any strong objection to allowing Parliament to exercise the fullest control over these matters, and I ask the Minister to review his decision. This amendment, if carried, would not lessen the power of the Minister to take what action he thought necessary during recess in the interests of the primary producers or other sections of the community, whether for quarantine or protective purposes. The Minister could take action, and, in due course, the matter would be reviewed by Parliament.
– I support the amendment of the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory). It ia evident that this power has been exer- cised by the present Minister for Customs (Mr. Forde) in such a manner as to bring home to honorable members the danger of allowing this section to remain in the act. I do not think that any honorable member will argue that the power was originally intended to be used as a means of affording protection to industry; yet, when we find that the Government has imposed embargoes on as many as seventeen items in one day, it becomes evident how the provision is now being used. In refusing to accept the amendment, the Minister could only plead that there was justification for the imposition of embargoes as a measure of protection. That, however, is not the point. It might be a good thing to prohibit the importation of dried fruits in the interests of those engaged in the production of such fruits in Australia. It might be a good thing to place an embargo upon the importation of peanuts, so as to assist those who are growing peanuts here; but, surely, if there is justification for protecting an industry, even to the point of prohibition, the matter should be decided by this Parliament, and by no one else. As the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) pointed out, when only a limited amount of protection is to be imposed, Parliament alone has power to grant it. For some months past this House has been considering whether the protection on various items should be 30, 40, 50 or 200 per cent., but while it has been so engaged, there have been in force a whole list of embargoes which this Government has imposed by proclamation. The position is absurd. I do not believe that, when this section was put into the act, it was ever expected that it would be used in this way. Surely the Government does not claim that it should have the right to decree, by executive action, what measure of protection should be given to Australian industries. The Labour party professes to be the most democratic of all parties, so that it should have no objection to these matters being submitted for decision by Parliament. I should have thought that the Minister’s recent success in getting the tariff schedule through the House, would have convinced him that he might trust his party to support him in anything he might bring forward. For the sake of appearances, if for nothing else, he should be prepared to submit embargo proposals to Parliament for consideration. It is not a matter of whether governments have abused this power in the past or not; it is a matter of the supremacy of Parliament, and I shall be surprised if a majority of honorable members does not support the amendment.
.- I am glad the Minister has not agreed to accept the amendment of the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory). Those who have spoken in support of the amendment have tried to raise two spurious side issues. The honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) and others tried to make it appear that the Government, in exercising its right to prohibit the importation of certain goods into Australia, was seeking merely to give effect to its own protectionist policy. Every one who has followed the events leading up to the imposition of embargoes by. this Government knows that the action taken had nothing whatever to do with the Government’s fiscal policy. The action was taken specifically for the purpose of dealing with a very serious condition of affairs which, as the Minister pointed out, had produced, over a series of years, an accumulated adverse trade balance of over £100,000,000. The position was rapidly becoming worse, and, in the national interests, the Government felt called upon, to exercise tho powers which it undoubtedly possesses under the law to prevent the continued influx of imports from overseas.
– It could have been done so by regulation, instead of by proclamation.
– The other false argument advanced by some honorable members is that the supremacy of Parliament over the Executive is involved in this matter. The Executive is the creation of this Parliament, and is responsible to Parliament for every one of its actions. Whether it exercises its power by means of regulation or by proclamation, its actions are subject to review by Parliament.
– How can Parliament review a proclamation 1
– It is competent for any member of this Parliament to move a want of confidence motion in the Executive, and if a majority of members agree that the action of the Government is deserving of censure, the Government will go out of office, and the will of Parliament will prevail. Whether action is taken by regulation or by proclamation, Parliament is supreme- at all times, and it has never abrogated its power to review the actions of those whom it places, for the time being, in executive -positions.
– Suppose the only quarrel Parliament had with the Government was in connexion with a certain embargo - what then ?
– It would still have power to express its dissent. In this case, however, it is not a matter of any one embargo, but of many, and the powers of the Executive were exercised in extraordinary circumstances. Because of the extraordinary circumstances that existed, tho Government placed an embargo upon a number of products that were being imported, as it was considered that their entry would seriously jeopardise the financial stability of the Commonwealth. The Government sought to safeguard the interests of the people aud of the nation. In the past, other governments have exercised the right to impose an embargo on any specific importation, an action which was subject to review by Parliament. No danger was feared from the practice, and there is no reason why anybody should cavil at similar action by this Government. I am glad that the Minister is opposed to the amendment of the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory). If I know anything about the good sense of the Commonwealth Parliament, I am confident that it will reject the honorable member’s proposal.
.- We appear to have listened to a strong defence of parliamentary government. The arguments used by the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Lewis), in relation to the power to prohibit the entry of any article into Australia by proclamation - which is not reviewable in any parliament except on a motion of censure- are two. First, that it is necessary to act promptly; therefore, the power should be exercised by proclamation instead of regulation. But, as both a regulation and ;a proclamation require executive action, a regulation may be made as promptly as a proclamation. ‘ So there is nothing whatever, in the first argument advanced by the honorable member. His second argument is that resort to proclamation ensures effective parliamentary control, because, if Parliament disagrees with any particular proclamation, a vote of censure, if you please, may be carried, and the Government put out of office. The old story of Bo-Bo burning down the house to roast the pig is obviously applicable. There may be disagreement to two of a list of about 70 items. The proposal of the honorable member for Corio is that a Government should be put out of office because of that dissent on two items out of 70. The idea of the honorable member is susceptible of further extension. Why should not all legislation be conducted in accordance with this purely democratic principle? Why should not the executive simply publish in the Government Gazette such statutes as it thinks ought to form part of the law of the land, and leave it to Parliament to consider the detail’s of that legislation during the discussion of a series of motions of censure of the Government? That is applying precisely the same procedure to legislation. If the idea is sound, and there is complete parliamentary control in accordance with the principles of representative and responsible government in the case of a proclamation prohibiting importation, there would be equally full parliamentary control if all legislation were conducted by that method. Accordingly, it would be necessary for Parliament to meet only very occasionally for the purpose of considering want of confidence motions.
The arguments of the honorable member do not support the conclusion which he draws, and it is remarkable that support should be given by honorable members in any .section of the chamber to the procedure adopted by this Government. Tho difference between the procedure adopted by this and other governments, is that this power to prohibit by proclamation, which has in the past been regarded as an emergency power, and justified by reference to considerations of health and disease, has been used by this
Government in order to bring about most drastic changes in our whole fiscal system. If the government of the day wants to impose a duty of one-fifth of one per cent, upon any article coming into the country, it has to obtain the consent of both Houses of the legislature. But this Government has completely prohibited the entry of articles into Australia without reference to Parliament. I say that this power has been abused by the Government.
– That is what the honorable gentleman declares, but it is not correct. The honorable gentleman is too dogmatic.
– I am as much entitled to my opinion as is the right honorable gentleman to his. He holds his opinions just as dogmatically as I do mine, but has no more right to be dogmatic than I have. This is obviously a matter of opinion. I consider these prohibitions very important. It may be that the Prime Minister takes a very different view, to which he is entitled. ‘ I hold that there ought to be an opportunity for Parliament to discuss each prohibition in detail. This Parliament has the right to discuss every proposal for a duty, however small it may be; but in the case of absolute prohibitions it has had no opportunity to discuss them.
– That, again, is not correct. Parliament has had an opportunity to discuss these prohibitions.
– I shall be very precise, and say that this Parliament has had no opportunity to express an opinion upon them in such a way as to bring about an alteration in any one of them. I am referring to effective discussions, which would enable a majority of the chamber to bring about a change in relation to a particular item. The only action that can now be taken is that referred to by the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Lewis), to move a vote of want of confidence in the Government.
– The honorable member was not even conversant with the amendment of the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) until it was explained to him this afternoon.
– As a matter of fact I discussed the amendment with the honorable member for Swan last night. I assisted him to draft it, and again discussed it with him to-day. The honorable member for Corio was not aware whether I knew of the proposal or not, but, thinking that he could score in debate, he made a completely reckless and irresponsible statement, not caring whether it was true or not.
– Order ! I ask the honorable member to withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw it, and say that the statement of the honorable member for Corio is completely reckless and irresponsible, and discloses that he has no knowledge of the facts. Recent events have shown that there is no parliamentary control in relation to matters that have affected in a very important way the whole of our fiscal system. There ought to be an opportunity for Parliament to discuss, on its merits, and irrespective of the existence of a government, any prohibition of importations. I, therefore, support the amendment.
– I approach this matter from an entirely different angle from that considered by other speakers. When a government i3 returned to power it appoints a cabinet, which is responsible to Parliament for its actions. It is not right that a government supported by a majority such as this one has should have its efforts thwarted by a hostile Senate. The point is that if this Government passes certain regulations which are distasteful to the Opposition they can be nullified by the Senate. That is the governing factor behind the amendment. I shall oppose the amendment, as I believe that if the Government makes a mistake the Opposition is keen and capable enough to call attention to it, and, if necessary, to take action by moving a motion of want of confidence in the administration. The Government is responsible for any regulations that are enacted. If they do injury to any section of the community, or if the taint of graft is attached to them, this Parliament will be only too ready to take appropriate action. I shall oppose the amendment.
– I confess that I am unable to follow the arguments advanced by the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. E. Riley). The only issue before the committee is whether Parliament shall have an opportunity to discuss prohibitions; whether they shall be effected by regulation or proclamation. All that the amendment seeks is an ‘enlargement of the powers of Parliament to give it some control over importation. What objection can there be to allowing the Parliament to express its will as to what items shall be dealt with by proclamation? Although eighteen months have elapsed since some of these prohibitions were proclaimed. Parliament has had no opportunity to discuss them. Tho amendment proposes that regulations shall be substituted for proclamations; if that is agreed to, the rights of Parliament will be restored. I am amazed at the querulous opposition displayed by the Prime Minister. Obviously, he fears that the amendment may be decided against the Government. For that reason he entered the chamber in a state of flurry and excitement - not unusual on his part in certain circumstances-
– Talk sense!
– I draw the attention of the committee to the dignified manner in which the right honorable gentleman is, and has been interjecting. The Minister for Trade and Customs sought to justify the proclamation by reference to the adverse trade balance. The object of the proclamation was not so much to restore the balance of trade as to reward the protectionist followers of the Government for their services.
– I ask that that statement be withdrawn.
– I withdraw it. The Prime Minister stated that the prohibitions were not part of the protectionist policy of the Government; but the Minister for Trade and Customs pointed out. this afternoon the extraordinary advantages which had accrued to the peanut industry and similar industries through the Government’s protective exercise of its power of proclamation. The trade balance could and would have been redressed without resort to tariff prohibitions. Three things would have restored the balance: (1) the reduced purchasing power of the people which has prevented them from importing goods from overseas; (2) the adverse exchange; and (3) the stoppage of loan money, from overseas. The committee is now asked to decide whether Parliament shall have the right to discuss what goods shall be prohibited, or whether Cabinet shall continue by proclamation summarily to prohibit imports, and Parliament thus be prevented from expressing its opinion except by a motion of censure. The matters listed in the Customs Act, which, up to 1913, were dealt with by proclamation, relate almost entirely to quarantine and health.
.- The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham), in endeavouring to justify the amendment which has been sprung on the committee by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory), did not address himself to its merits, out indulged in misstatements. He said that, the Government had abused the power of proclamation. This power was inserted in the original act in 1901, and not by a Labour government; it is as old as this Parliament.
– We know that.
– Honorable members opposite want to retain the power of proclamation and have all the responsibility of government when they are in office, but when they are in opposition they want to take all power and responsibility from the Government.
– We never abused the power.
– Honorable members opposite abused every power they exercised when they were in office. The honorable member for Swan, who was as servile a follower of the last Government as any member in the House, never raised this matter before. While he was supporting a government he made no protest against the power of proclamation.
– It did not arise.
– Of course it did not. The Government will not accept the amendment. I fully understand what is stinging the members of the Opposition. They want to be able to play ducks and drakes with the proclamations under the Customs Act as they have with those under the Transport Workers Act. They want to use their brutal majority in the Senate, most of the members of which have not been endorsed by the people in recent years.
– Of course, the Government’s majority in this chamber is not brutal.
– At any rate, the Government’s majority in this House is the result of a comparatively recent appeal to the country. It is important that we shall retain the power of proclamation, because by it the Government saved Australia.
– Damned Australia.
– The Government could save Australia equally as well by regulation.
– By this power of proclamation the Government saved Australia from insolvency.
– That will be news to the people.
– They know it, and will know it better whenwe get an opportunity to put the facts before them.
– Take the opportunity.
– By means of proclamations the Government was able to deal with the serious trade position that confronted it when it assumed office. Over nine years of anti-Labour government had built up an adverse trade balance of over £100,000,000, and it was still increasing notwithstanding that our power to borrow overseas had ended before Labour was returned to power. The Bruce-Page Government was not able to borrow for months before it was put out of office.
-We always got the money when we asked for it.
– That is not so.
– The last attempt by the Bruce-Page Government to borrow abroad resulted in 85 per cent. of the loan being left in the hands of the underwriters.
– At any rate, we got the money. Can the present Government get a loan underwritten?
– The honorable member was a member of a ministry that for months before it was removed from office dared not approach the London market. The piling up of the adverse trade balance was accelerated by the wild and reckless borrowing policy of the last Government so long as it could obtain credit.
– Borrowing by State Governments.
– In addition to the reckless spending by governments, there had been a wild orgy of extravagance on the part of our people.
– The remarks of the right honorable gentleman are outside the scope of the amendment. The loan position, although slightly cognate to this debate, is not sufficiently so to enable it to be discussed.
– The power of proclamation vitally affected the development of our favorable trade balance, and itsaved this country from insolvency.
– It had nothing to do with it.
– There had grown up in this country an extravagant system under which not only the governments of Australia but also private people were buying oversea goods on borrowed money. They were building up a huge debt in respect of oil and motor cars, and absolutely pawning this country to foreign traders. We came into office facing the worst economic and financial position in the history of this country, with an accumulated adverse trade balance of over £100,000,000. In . 1929-30, when we took office, the adverse trade balance, apart altogether from gold and bullion, was £32,000,000, and in that year we were unable to borrow money overseas. Imports were flowing in, and we had to check them at once. This year, because of the action taken by the Government, we have a favorable trade balance of £28,000,000.
– Nonsense ! It is due mostly to the reduced purchasing power of the community.
– It is true that our ability to import was affected, not only by the reduced value of our exports, but also by the decline in the purchasing power of the community. The value of our imports in the last financial year was £45,000,000. The power of proclamation, which we have exercised, has enabled us to regulate the classes of goods imported into Australia. Honorable members seem to have lost sight of that fact. We were importing millions of pounds worth of goods that should never have been admitted into this country. I refer to luxury lines, such as tinned meats and vegetables, even dairy products. W e were rapidly approaching the position in which we would not have had sufficient credit from our exports with which to pay for imported lines that were necessary to carry on industry in Australia. There was no money for imported raw materials or essential machinery. There was no money for tho essential things that we needed, but there were millions of pounds available for luxury lines that could be manufactured successfully in Australia. We have turned an adverse trade balance into a favorable trade balance by the use of the power of proclamation. Set within one month of exercising that power, another place would have robbed us of it.
– I invite the right honorable gentleman to read our speeches at that time. Wo were in favour of prohibitions within reason.
– At that time the honorable member spoke immediately after me, and he gave support to the drastic action taken by this Government.
– We asked the Government to take it, a.]id to impose a time limit.
– Only a couple of months had passed when the honorable member travelled through the country denouncing the Government for taking the very action that he had previously approved.
– Be fair.
– It is indeed unfortunate for the honorable member that he has reminded us of his volte face.
– The Prime Minister is grossly misrepresenting me.
– This power of proclamation has been most useful to this country. Without it we could not have prevented the export of stud sheep. We have clone things in spite of the hostility of another place, and it is because we have clone those things in the interests of Australia that the Opposition now wishes to rob us of this power. 1 repeat that, by our prompt action, without waiting for the consent of another place, we saved Australia from insolvency.
.- The Prime Minister has not given one reason for not accepting the amendment. At the risk of repetition, I wish to make clear not only my attitude in regard to these prohibitions, but also the attitude of every honorable member on this side of the chamber. I subscribed absolutely to the application of prohibitions as an adjuster of the trade balance. When the Government proposed to take the power of proclamation I spoke after the Prime Minister and pointed out definitely that there was danger in the free use of prohibition by proclamation. I said that it was calculated to antagonize certain foreign countries which are great customers of ours, and unless applied wisely with great discretion, would draw from, them active retaliation. I pointed out that we had much to lose as great exporters of primary produce, by the careless, if not reckless, use of prohibitions by proclamation. I, therefore, urged the Prime Minister to put a time limit upon them. At the same time I said that we, as an Opposition, were prepared, when the time limit expired, to consider any proposal from the Government to re-impose certain prohibitions should there be no alteration in conditions.
– I believe that an amendment was moved for a time limit of six months.
– lt was definitely moved. I am sorry to charge the Prime Minister with misrepresentation, but he certainly misrepresented my attitude. It is very evident that the speech of the Government Whip this afternoon has caused Government supporters to lose complete control of their tempers. The Prime Minister himself has never given a worse exhibition of loss of temper and loss of control in this chamber. The spectacle was painful. He claimed that this Government, by taking action under the power of proclamation, saved Australia from insolvency; but the people of this country think differently. If the Government believes that, why this reluctance to face the electors? Why does it not ask for the re-endorsement of its policy ?
– I rise to a point of order. Is the question whether this Government should go before the electors relevant to the amendment under discussion ?
– The honorable member for Henty is entitled to the latitude that was given to the Prime Minister, in referring to the effect of the decline in imports.
– I trust that the people, whom this Government considers should be grateful to them, will soon have an opportunity of expressing their gratitude. The sooner the election takes place, the better it will please honorable members on this side of the chamber. I believe in the imposition of prohibitions, within reason. Prohibitions have been a contributing factor in the falling off of imports, but not to any great extent. The main factor has been the reduced purchasing capacity of the community. If that were not so, the reduction of imports would have been attended by an increase of employment. The people would have manufactured goods which could be made here, and to which the Prime Minister referred, or they would have manufactured substitutes. They have done neither. We all know that, side by side with the falling off of imports there has been a terrible decline in employment. The correction of the trade balance has been brought about mainly by our relative poverty, and it would have taken place largely even without the use of this power of proclamation.
Motion (by Mr. James) agreed to -
That the question be now put.
Question - That the amendment (Mr. Gregory’s) be agreed to - put. The committee divided. ( Chairman - Mr. McGrath.)
Majority . . 7
Question so resolved in the negative.
.- Will the Minister arrange for the inclusion in the bill of a definition of the term “ not commercially produced or manufactured in Australia “. The decision in so important a matter should not be left to the favour of the Minister - I do not say that offensively. It would be well if the recommendations of the Tariff Board were published, so that the public would know what goods are considered to be commercially produced or manufactured in this country. We are now dealing with an amendment of the Customs Act, and the time seems opportune for this matter to be cleared up. Before the bill was introduced, the Government’s proposals should have been referred to the various Chambers of Commerce in Australia, with a view to obtaining their advice as to alterations which would be advisable in the interests of trade generally. I know that it is useless to move an amendment unless the Minister is prepared to accept it. I hope that he will accede to my request.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 5 to 17 agreed to.
.- In view of the decision which the committee has just recorded, I do not propose to proceed with proposed new clause 8a., but I desire the insertion of a new clause to follow clause 13. I therefore move -
That the following new clause be inserted: - 13a. Section 226 of the principal act is amended by adding the following words: “or until 00 days after such tariff or tariff alteration has been proposed, whichever period is the shorter “.
The law provides that a tariff schedule shall be void unless ratified during the session of the Parliament in which it is laid on the table. In recent years, it lias been the practice to adjourn Parliament from time to time, so that it is possible for one session to extend over the whole life of a parliament. I want to ensure that a tariff schedule shall be dealt with by Parliament within a certain definite period after it has been tabled, and that if not so dealt with, it shall cease to have effect. We have to decide whether taxation is to be imposed without the consent of Parliament.
– What connexion has the proposed new clause with section 226 of the principal act, which deals with the protection of officers?
– Section 226 of the principal act reads -
No proceeding, whether against an officer or otherwise for anything done for the protection of the revenue in relation to any turill or tariff alteration proposed in Parliament shall except as mentioned in thu next section bo commenced before the close of the .session in which such tariff or tariff alteration is proposed.
I propose to add to that section the following words: “or until 90 days after such tariff or tariff alteration is proposed, whichever period is the shorter “.
– I am advised that the honorable member’s proposal is out of order.
– My advice is that it is in order. It is the only clause in the act which refers to the right of the payer of customs duties. In any case, if am wrong, the matter could be rectified later. Parliament should have the right to say whether a tariff schedule shall be permitted to operate for nearly three years without parliamentary approval, and be ratified only a few months before a new parliament is elected. Customs taxation is the only taxation which is levied without the approval of Parliament. Neither laud tax nor income tax can be collected without parliamentary approval. In the United States of America, a tariff schedule is not operative until it has been approved by Parliament.
I wish to test the feeling of the committee, and to ascertain whether it considers that any government should be permitted to put a tariff schedule on the table, and allow it to operate throughout the whole life of the Parliament without parliamentary approval.
– I support the amendment, and see no objection to requiring that a tariff impost shall be considered by Parliament within three months of the tabling of the schedule.
– There might be a war in progress.
– In that case we could wait until the war wa* over. It is not reasonable that the business of the country should be held up by a tariff of 400 items, operating for two years during which the business community does not know whether or not they will be ratified. The proposal of the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) is that, within three months of the schedule being put into operation, the Government should have the items discussed by Parliament, and decisions upon them made. What objection can there be to that? It is not a matter of flooding the country with imported goods, but of giving the public a fair deal. The only objection that the Minister seems to find to the amendment is that it is proposed to be inserted in the wrong place. If so, he might suggest for the benefit of the committee where it could be appropriately included. What objection can there be to the public being treated decently, and tariff imposts discussed and got out of the way? Although the present tariff has been in operation for practically two years, it still has to be dealt with in another place. The first schedule was brought down in November, .1929, and I shall not be surprised if a general election intervenes before the tariff is disposed of by both branches of the legislature.
– That is a serious reflection on another place.
– I do not think so. The other chamber has equal rights with thi3 House in discussing the tariff schedule, and it is equally entitled to stand by its objections. There seems to be an impression in the minds of some that the members in another place have not been elected by the people.
Question - That the proposed new clause be inserted - put. The committee divided. (Chairman - Mr. McGrath.)
Majority . . . . 11
Question so resolved in the negative.
Proposed new clause negatived.
– I move -
That the following now clause be inserted: - “8a. Section 132 of the principal act is amended by adding at the end thereof the following proviso: - Provided that goods imported on any vessel shall, upon entry for home consumption at any port after the first port of call in Australia,be dutiable at all ports at the rates of duty in force on the date the vessel carrying the goods first reported at. an Australian port of call.”
I foreshadowed this amendment during the second-reading debate. The Minister then expressed the opinion that the representations which had been made in support of the change proposed have come chiefly or entirely from the Brisbane Chamber of Commerce.
– Chiefly from that body.
– This amendment has been approved of unanimously by the Associated Chambers of Commerce of Australia at each of their annual conferences for several years past. The Brisbane chamber has, no doubt, been the most active in the matter, because Queensland has suffered more disability than the southern States owing to the absence of the provision contained in my amendment. The Minister also said that, if by any unfortunate circumstance - others might regard it as a happy circumstance - a change of government should take place, and a reduction were made in the tariff, importers in Queensland might suffer by this change. But all these points have been considered, and the one desire is to have the matter adjusted on an equitable basis. I hope that, even now, if the Minister is unwilling to accept my amendment, he will himself bring down an amendment to meet the repeated request of thechambers of commerce and the trading community throughout Australia.
.- I support the amendment. The point that it raises has been discussed on numerous occasions. So far as my recollection serves me, each Minister for Trade and Customs, in turn, when waited on by deputations in Brisbane, has stated either that the Government intended to amend the Customs Act to enable this alteration to be made, or that he would at least give it sympathetic consideration. I think that that was the position in which the present Minister found himself when he was waited on in Brisbane a few weeks ago; but, despite the statements by various Ministers, no alteration has been made, and I am compelled to think that the officials of the department are opposed to any alteration. I can understand that, because in the past Parliament has dealt with every individual item in the tariff, and the average rate of duty to-day is much higher than it was, say, seven or eight, or even ten years ago. Each Minister for Trade and Customs, including the present Minister, has, as I have said, promised sympathetic consideration of this matter.
– We promise that with regard to. all requests.
– But the present Minister,, by the tone of his voice, and by his facial expression, did more than that. Those attending the deputation in Brisbane went away convinced that he, at least, was on their side, and would use every endeavour to bring about the alteration provided for in the amendment now before the committee. I contend, therefore, that the. financial aspect has been tho chief consideration in the past. The Customs Department, and each succeeding government in turn, has been loath to give up that proportion of revenue which would have been lost had the proposal embodied in this amendment been put into effect at any time within the last ten or twelve years. The position has altered to-day, however. I say, unhesitatingly, that the Australian tariff to-day is at its peak, and, if any alterations are made, they will be in the direction of reducing it. Consequently, neither the Government nor the department need fear any loss of revenue as a result of this amendment being accepted. There can be no argument whatever as to the justice ‘ of the proposal. Why should the people in tho eastern States - not those in Brisbane alone, but in the other eastern cities, also - be penalized because a ship happens to call first at Fremantle? There are Borne ships - though not so many as in former years when the old B.I. vessels ito by way of Torres Straits? - which call first at Townsville and Brisbane, and then go on to Sydney, Melbourne and other ports. For a long time past, people have felt the injustice and inequality of the regulation as it is now framed, and now that financial considerations no longer enter into it so far as the revenue is concerned, there is no reason why the amendment should not be accepted. The Minister < should consult with his colleagues in the Cabinet to see whether it is not possible, when the bill reaches another place, to have this amendment incorporated.
.- I support the statement of the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. D. Cameron) that it was the intention of the last Government to make this change. The Minister said that the request has come, in the main, from Queensland. It i3 rather remarkable to hear the Minister dismiss a request on the ground that it comes only from Queensland.
– I take a broad, national view, not a parochial one.
– Yes, as on cotton. The question whether a change should be made is, I admit, highly controversial, and the senior officers of the Customs Department, for whose judgment on technical matters I have the greatest respect, have been in favour of the retention of the present practice. After having given full consideration to the matter, however, I have come to the conclusion that this practice i» distinctly unfair to trading interests in the ports at which a ship may call after having first touched at Australia. I believe that, on the whole, the arrangement outlined in the amendment would be more equitable than the present one, and I therefore support the amendment.
– In my reply, during the second-reading stage of the debate, I said that I could not accept this amendment, which had been foreshadowed, because its constitutionality was in doubt. It is true that one King’s counsel has expressed the opinion that it would be constitutional, but others have said the opposite, and a royal commission which inquired into the matter stressed tho administrative difficulties which would be raised if such a change were effected. There are some arguments in favour of the proposal; but, on the other hand, it would mean that, if duties were reduced after a ship had called at Fremantle, traders in the eastern ports would not obtain the benefit of it. Those who favour this proposal have asked that, instead of there being a uniform rate of duty all over Australia, duty shall . be payable at the rate applicable to the goods at the time they first arrive in Australia. Under such an arrangement it would be possible to have two ships discharging at the same time similar goods upon which two different rates of duty were payable. Such a situation would be fantastic, and I cannot accept the amendment.
– I support the amendment. The Minister has said that its constitutionality is doubtful, but objections of that sort are. frequently raised by Ministers when they do not want to accept an amendment moved by a member of the Opposition. I do not know whether the amendment is constitutional, nor, apparently, does the Minister. The position, in any case, can be ascertained whether the amendment is passed or not. The Minister has stated that the demand for this change comes principally from Queensland. I remind him, however, that for years past the Tasmanian Chamber of Commerce has advocated an amendment on the lines of that now before the committee. Tasmanian merchants have suffered from the present arrangement to a greater extent, probably, than those in other States. Ships coming from overseas discharge part of their cargo at Victorian ports, and then go on to Tasmania, perhaps only a day or two later, to discharge more of it. In the meantime, however, increased duties may have been imposed by this Parliament. The merchants in Tasmania are in direct competition with those in Victoria, because a great deal of trade is carried on between. Victorian merchants and the people of Tasmania, so that the Tasmanian merchants, who have to pay the higher rate of duty, are at a disadvantage as compared with their Victorian competitors. In some cases, the duty may be increased by as much as 50 per cent., or, as has happened within recent months, by as much as 200 per cent. Indeed, this matter affects Tasmania probably more than Queensland. Whether the change can be made constitutionally we cannot determine now, but the fairness and equity of the proposal must be obv ious to every one.
.- The M inister stated that Queensland was most concerned in this matter, but that is not true. The Minister must know that ships bringing goods from America usually call first at Sydney, and afterwards go on to Melbourne, while ships from Great Britain call first at Fremantle. In the case of American goods, therefore, Sydney profits at the expense of Melbourne, while, in the case of English goods, Western Australia profits at the expense of the Eastern States. I know of an instance in which a firm, which is acting in Australia as agent for an American vacuum cleaner, actually unloaded a consignment of goods in Sydney at the lower rate, while Melbourne firms were compelled to pay the higher rate of duty which had been imposed after the goods were discharged at Sydney. That is not fair; there should be uniformity. Whether the proposed change would be constitutional seems to be a moot point, but the Minister has had ample time to learn the true position.
– TheSydney Chamber of Commerce has been unanimous in its request for this reform, and recently a conference of business organizations asked that it be brought about. The change would mean merely that, when a ship arrives at the first Australian port of call, the duty on the goods it carries shall be fixed as from that time, and shall be the same at all ports. I cannot accept the arguments of the Minister, and I strongly support the proposal of the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. D. Cameron).
Proposed new clause negatived.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
– I ask for leave to move that the bill be read a third time.
– I object.
Standing Orders suspended and bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 9th October (vide page 624), on motion by Mr. Forde -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- This is a machinery bill, and has apparently been introduced with the object of changing the method of imposing taxation on wine. I understand that, so far as a large part of the wine industry is concerned, there is no great objection to this, although there may be objection from other quarters. At the present time, taxation is imposed only on the fortifying spirit contained in the wine. There is no excise tax on wine as wine. Under the proposed method it is intended to impose the excise tax on the wine itself as wine, at so much a gallon. There is something in the nature of a “pig in a poke” about this legislation. There is no indication as to the extent of the future taxation, and we shall not know what it is to be until an excise bill is brought down to impose it. The bill merely indicates that it will be applied in a way different from that which obtained in the past. It appears inevitable that, when this bill becomes law, taxation will be imposed on wine regardless of whether it is sweet or dry, although the same rate will not necessarily apply to each.
At present only sweet wine is taxed. It may be that some honorable members are curious to know why that is so, and what is the real distinction between dry and *weet wine for taxation purposes. I admit that probably no one in the House knows less than I about wine as a potable liquid, but I know a little more about the method of taxation of the different types of wine. When the grapes come in from the vineyard and are placed in vats at the winery, fermentation immediately begins. If that fermentation process is permitted to continue without interruption, the whole of the sugar content of the grapes is converted into alcohol, which results in a dry wine, containing between 20 and 2S per cent, alcohol. That dry wine is not taxed, as at present excise tax is levied only on fortifying spirit, none of which is introduced into dry wine. If the grapes are put into the vats at the winery and the process of fermentation is arrested at a certain point by the introduction of a quantity of fortifying spirit, the result is a sweetwine. The wine retains some of its original sweetness, because a portion of the grape sugar remains unconverted into alcohol. Sweet wine usually contains from 34 to 40 per cent, of alcohol.
If the change contemplated by this bill is brought about, and excise tax is imposed on wine as wine, without taking into consideration the fortifying spirit that may be used in it, it appears to me that the taxation must apply to all wine at so much per gallon. If, despite thi* legislation, it is the intention of the Government to confine taxation to sweet wines, wine-makers will take advantage of the opportunity, and mix the two classes, using a quantity of sweet “wine containing as high a percentage as possible of grape sugar and spirit. The practice would deprive the Customs Department of a considerable amount of revenue.
– Is it not done at present ?
– There is not th» same incentive to do it at present. Supposing that a wine-maker takes a wine, showing a very high sugar content, and a 40 per cent, alcoholic content, and mixes it with an equal quantity of dry win1 with an alcoholic content of 28 per cent., on which there is no taxation, the result would be a blended sweet wine with an alcohol content of say, 34 per cent. Thai would considerably reduce the duty chargeable. For that reason, it seems to me that, if this system is followed of imposing taxation on wine as such, at so much per gallon rather than on the spirit, and dry wine remains tax free the Customs Department must inevitably lose a certain amount of revenue.
– Is the honorable member serious when he states that there is no incentive at present for makers to mix the two types of wine?
– There is not smuch incentive to do so now, because taxation is imposed only on the spirit content of the wine. It may be the practice to mix the two types of wine, but the profit to be gained thereby is nothing compared with what it would be if taxation were applied to sweet wines at so much per gallon, and dry wines left free of tax. There are relatively few persons making fortifying spirit. It is produced by tb»distilleries. On the other hand, there are a great many who make wine. I understand that very excellent wine is made by persons who own only a modes’, plant and operate on a small scale. If the taxation is going to apply to all wine as such, rather than to the fortifying spirit content, the measure will need additional policing. I take it that that is the reason why the Government proposes that the producer must be registered, and the wine-maker licensed. The registration of the grape-grower is to be free, but there is to be a nominal charge to license a wine-maker who has a small output, and a greater one for the man who is operating on a bigger scale. [Quorum formed.] At present an excise tax must be paid on sweet wine that is to be exported. When the export occurs, a drawback of that tax is obtained, and a bounty is paid on the wine exported. There are really three operations. Under the proposed scheme no tax will be paid on the wine exported, so that there will bc no drawback. In that way the new system will effect a simplification. Clause 24 reads -
Licences may be cancelled by the Minister hy notice in the Gazette if the licensee is convicted of any offence against this act or any other act relating to excise.
That is a very great power to give to the Minister. I do not suggest that it will be unwisely used. Nevertheless, if some future Minister were to use that power drastically, and cancel the licence of a wine-maker who employed a great number of men, because his manager or> some other employee had committed a technical breach of the law, the result would be very serious, indeed. I imagine that there must be a certain amount of apprehension among wine-makers as to what might result from the bestowing of primitive power upon the. Minister. Some of that apprehension might be removed if the Minister would assure the House that the powers conferred in this clause to cancel licences will be used with discretion and moderation. Will there be any right of appeal against the delicensing of a wine-maker, or will the Minister’s decision be final? I assume that the delicensed person will have recourse at law against the decision of the Minister.
– The clause provides only for cancellation after conviction; there can be no doubt as to the fact of conviction.
– The Minister could take away a licence after only one conviction, which may have been for a more or less technical offence. That is a great power to give to the Minister.
Clause 62 provides -
No person shall after any wine has been delivered for home consumption mix that wine with any wine which at the time of its delivery for home consumption was liable to a different rate of excise duty.
I ‘could understand this proposal if the Government intended to tax at a flat rate per gallon only the heavier wines and exempt light wines. There would then be an incentive to blending, and it would ba exceedingly difficult to prevent such a practice. But if the Government intends to impose the same taxation on all wines, whether dry or sweet, fortified or unfortified, there is little need for the clause. If taxation were imposed on a scientific basis, rising gradually with the increase in the strength of the wine, little relief from tax would be gained by blending, or if blending took place, little or no loss of revenue would result.
.- I. am pleased that this bill was circulated in sufficient time to give honorable members an opportunity to consider it; and not, as happened last night with the Wheat Charges Bill, only a few minutes before it was to be passed through all stages. Another gratifying feature is that the machinery provisions are set forth in such plain language as to be understandable by any person of ordinary education and intelligence. This is mainly a machinery measure for the levying of excise on wine instead of, as previously, merely on the fortified spirit contained in wine. The Minister has been, in full consultation with the Viticultural Council which now represents, I believe, all the big winemakers. They have had an opportunity to consider all aspects of it. For that reason there is no particular call upon me to speak on behalf of the wine-makers, especially as several distinguished representatives of the industry are in the galleries at this moment. But has the Minister taken pains to ascertain the views of the growers? When the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) asked that question, the Minister did not answer it, beyond saying that ho had received no protests from the growers. Will he inform the House what growers or associations of growers have been consulted in regard to the bill?
– The Honorable John Gunn, Director of Development, and Mr.
Gollan, Senior Excise Inspector, conducted an inquiry into the industry extending over nine months, and consulted aril interested parties.
– Does the Minister suggest that Messrs. Gunn and Gollan intimated to the growers the nature of this legislation 1
– No officer can know what the final decision of Cabinet will be on any matter ; therefore, Messrs. Gunn and Gollan could not tei! the growers what form this legislation would take. They could only recommend, and this bill is founded on their report.
– The Minister is skilfully evading my question and is trying to throw the responsibility on Messrs. Gunn and Gollan. The bill is supposed to make easier tho policing of the excise law in relation to the manufacture of wine. I question whether it will do so, but I do not pit my limited knowledge against, that of experienced officers. There .is no doubt, however, that the field to be supervised is being extended. Formerly the excise officers had to deal with the manufacturers of fortified spirit; now their supervision will apply to all makers of wine. The sphere of their duties is being widened’, and the number of men who may be inclined to adopt doubtful practices will be proportionately greater. This legislation will ease the position of wine-makers; they will have greater freedom in their industry, and will not require to send frequently for the excise officers to release this thing and that thing from bond. Requests for drawbacks also will be obviated ; but any increase of convenience to the department and the wine-makers will be at the expense of the growers. The Minister’s statement that no protests have been received from the growers is an indirect admission that he has not actually consulted them. Those in my district are of opinion that the heavy excise duty on fortifying spirit, and the’ resultant increase in the price of wine limited consumption, and to that extent was detrimental to their interest. “Whilst the method of collecting excise does receive some consideration from them, they are more concerned with the amount of excise. We do not know yet what the rates will be. Messrs. Gunn and Gollan suggested an excise duty of 2s. a gallon.
– Theirs was only an advisory report ; the Government was not bound to accept their recommendations.
– I recognize that, and the Minister may treat their report as he treated those of the Tariff Board, which did not suit him.
– The report of Messrs. Gunn and Gollan is one of the finest I have read on any industry.
– I admit that it is very helpful in many ways.
– There are reports and reports.
– If the Minister is implying that the reports of the Tariff Board with which he agreed are reports, and those with which he did not agree are not reports, I resent that reflection upon a very able body. ‘
– All roses are sweet, but some are sweeter than others. [Quorum formed.]
Motion (by Mr. E. Riley) negatived -
That tho question be now put.
– I thank those honorable members who voted against the application of the gag. Unfortunately, the grape-growers of Australia have too few representatives in this House, and 1 want honorable members to be in attendance, so that they may fully understand the position of the industry. For that reason I called for a quorum. The bill provides that a fine of £20 shall be imposed upon any person who, without being registered, sells, grapes for making wine. I protest .against this penalty. The Minister, when moving the second reading of the bill, said that gold producers who benefit under the Gold Bounty Aci are called upon to register. The argument that he used in favour of registering grape-growers was that the winemakers are receiving an export bounty from which the grape. growers benefit. It is true that the gold producer has to register if he desires to participate in the bounty, but there is no penalty if he does not register. The linseed and flax growers also receive bounties under certain conditions, but there is no necessity for them to register: Of course, I should not expect the. Minister to agree that the cotton-growers of Queensland should be registered. They are able to obtain all the benefits of the bounty without being obliged to register.
– Does not the honorable member think that it i3 necessary for the grape-growers to be registered?
– I shall deal with that later. I am opposing, not so much the registration, as the penalty of £20.
– Both tobacco-growers and gold-producers must register.
– That is so, but there is no penalty if they fail to register. The Minister has said that it is usual for the sugar-grower3 to register their names. I might be taken to task by the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) if I said that there was a bounty paid on sugar, but there is in existence a sugar embargo which has all the benefits of a generous bounty. I have searched the Queensland acts, and I cannot find that the sugar-grower is compelled to register. I am open to correction on that point. In any case, if registration is necessary on the part of the sugar-grower, there is no penalty for failure to register. The Minister’s best argument is in regard to the tobacco-growers. Under the Excise Act, it is necessary for tobacco-growers to register, and there is a penalty for failure to do so, but I still contend that a penalty of £20 for failure to register on the part of both the tobacco-growers and the grape-growers is unjust. Any lightening of the burden of the winemaker and the excise officer will be at the expense of the grape-grower.
– No fee is charged for registration, and the grape-growers are required to furnish a return once a year only.
– According to the Minister, tho grape-growers should be thankful that they are not being called upon to pay a registration fee.
I find no provision in the bill relating to dealers who purchase grapes for winemaking. For several years, dealers in South Australia have travelled through Adelaide and its suburbs purchasing grapes grown in backyards, and selling them for spirit and wine-making purposes. This year it seems there will be plenty of grapes in South Australia to meet the demand, and it will not be profitable for dealers to purchase grapes in- the suburbs, but the position may be different in the future. I admit that it is better to sell the grapes grown in backyards in that way than to leave them on the vines to ferment and become a nuisance. Honorable members may not realize how prolific grape vines are in South Australia. I trust that in the interests of the grape-growers it will again be necessary for the dealers to purchase grapes in and around the city of Adelaide, and that better times are in store for the industry, particularly under the Canadian Trade Agreement, which will permit the entry of our wines into Canada. I also hope that the British preference will be retained. If the exchange remains as it is at present, we shall have a decided advantage over South Africa. I am looking forward to an extension of our trade in sweet wines on the other side of the world. This bill should contain a provision enabling dealers to purchase grapes grown in and around the suburbs of Adelaide and elsewhere for wine-making purposes. Are these dealers, if they purchase grapes without being registered, to be liable to a penalty of £20? I think that the Minister should give consideration to that question. It would be ridiculous to impose a penalty of £20 upon. me just because I have four or five vines in my backyard and sell the grapes to a dealer who sells them for wine-making purposes. It would be equally foolish to contend that I should be registered before I could make such a sale. A dealer, of course, could be registered or licensed. The Minister has ,said that it does not cost the grape-grower anything for registration. That is quite true, but he fails to realize that unless the return which must be supplied by the growers is simple - and I fear the red tape of Government departments - many of them will be put to the expense of paying 10s. 6d. or £1 ls. for the compilation of the return. In South Australia many grapegrowers, especially those of the older generation, are conversant more with the German than with the English language. They have been brought up in Lutheran schools in which the German language was largely taught. If the return is complicated, they will be forced to incur additional expenditure. They have already been hit hard enough, and I contend that they should not be asked to suffer any further burden. I, therefore, urge the Minister aud his officers to make this return as simple as possible.
In my electorate a number of people >grow currants, aud, according to the market or the season, those currants are dried or sold to the winery or distillery. In the districts where these currants are grown - Angastown, Eden Valley, Springton, in the hills - sometimes the season is wet, and the currants are not able to be dried.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to S p.m. (Quorum formed.)
– When the Minister replies, I hope that he will make clear the position of the currant-growers. As 1 have already stated, the prices for dried fruits and the climatic conditions in certain districts cause growers to dry their fruit in some seasons and to take it to the ‘wineries in other seasons. Clause 11 provides that -
A registered producer who celiacs to produce grapes at any premises in respect of which he is registered, shall forthwith give notice to tho Collector, and the Collector shall thereupon cancel his registration in respect of these premises. 1 draw attention to the words “ who ceases to produce grapes “. As this bill deals entirely with grapes grown for the production of wine, I should like to know whether a grower who sells grapes to a winery one year, and the following year sells them as currants, will have to deregister each time that he passes from a grape-grower for wine-making purposes to a grape-grower for the purpose of producing currants. I do not want my constituents to have any doubt about this matter, and, therefore, I should like a definite reply from the Minister so that it can be recorded in Hansard.
Since it is evident that the Government intends that the growers of grapes shall be registered, any protest which I might make would be unavailing. If the growers of grapes for wine-making purposes are to be registered, I hope that, if constitutionally possible, new growers will be prevented from entering the industry until the demand overtakes the supply. In the report of the Minister’s speech, as recorded in Hansard, I am credited with having interjected, “I hope that the object is not to prevent new growers from entering the industry”. The word “ not “ should not be there. I said “ I hope that the object is to prevent growers from entering the industry “. Unless the recent frost in South Australia has been particularly severe, there is every likelihood that large quantities of grapes will be left on the vines in the coming grape season. Unfortunately, that condition of things may continue for some years. There is room for a difference of opinion on this matter; but I am inclined to think that only gradually will conditions improve. Since 1924 I have done my best to discourage the planting of further areas with grapes for wine-making.
– Does the honorable member suggest that the board should issue licences for fresh vineyards?
– This bill provides for the registration of all persons who grow grapes for the production of wine. As there is a glut in the wine market, I suggest, in the interests of the growers themselves, that further new registrations be refused for the time being.
– Did not the honorable member say that he is opposed to the registration of the growers?
– I did not say that. I am opposed chiefly to the heavy penalty provided for failure to register.
– In the sugar industry the registration of new growers is restricted.
– I suggest that the same thine be done in this .industry.
– What period does the honorable member think will elapse before further planting should be undertaken ?
– In that matter the Minister may safely rely on the advice of his senior inspector. I urge him not to act on the advice of the big winemakers, some of whom, I am afraid, are looking forward hopefully to the time when the smaller grape-growers will be in. the position of serfs. It is because I want to prevent that position from developing that I make’ the request which I now submit to the Minister.
I should also like to know whether i t instill the intention of the Government that one-half of the amount derived from the excise shall be placed in a trust account. from which the bounty will be paid. That is the position to-day in connexion with the excise on fortifying spirit. I regard this measure from the point of view of the growers of grapes. The big winemakers have been so well represented, and are in receipt of so much inside information, that I do not feel called upon to speak on their behalf.
At an earlier stage, when the Minister was asked to give the name of one grower or organization that he had consulted, he fell back on Mr. Gollan, the senior inspector, and Mr. Gunn.
– The Minister has had interviews with several growers, and has received a number of deputations. I introduced one deputation to him.
– I am glad to know that the Minister has consulted with other growers. He has, however, not consulted with the growers in South Australia, in which State is produced80 per cent. of the wine of this country.
I wish to make it clear that I did not intend to reflect on Mr. Gollan in any way. Nothing was further from my mind than that. On one occasion, when a deputation of grape-growers waited on me, I had to defend Mr. Gollan from an attack by a big wine-maker, who said that he was standing in the way of the growers. I have found the senior inspector to be wise and tactful in dealing with the difficult problems which he has had to face; he has not favoured either the growers or the makers of wine. Naturally, he considers the interests of the department of which he is an officer, and does what he can to protect the revenue of the country. I intend to move for a reduction of the heavy penalty on those who grow grapes for wine-making without being registered, but I do not wish it to be thought that in so doing I am out to encourage sly grog-selling.
– What is the penalty for non-registration ?
– Clause 7 provides that -
No person shall produce grapes for use in the manufacture of wine unless he is registered pursuant to this part. Penalty: £20.
As a layman, I take it that the penalty is £20 in all cases.
– That is the maximum penalty.
– I thank the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) for making the position clear. I have already said that the report of Messrs. Gollan and Gunn contains much valuable information, but I wish to make it clear that I do not agree with their recommendation to reduce the wine bounty to. 1s. 3d. a gallon. Already it is only about 1s. 4d., and probably the Minister will be satisfied with that. I hope that he will not further reduce the bounty. I have always found the senior inspector optimistic in regard to the prospects of the wine industry, but I hope that the Government will not go back on its original intention to grant sufficient bounty to enable the glut of wine to be sold. The Wine Overseas Marketing Board, in its annual report for the year ended the 30th June last, stated -
There can be no doubt that the position from Australia’s point of view in regard to increased shipments has been very substantially assisted by the rates of exchange ruling. Competition from South Africa has been growing in intensity and the decreased purchasing power of the English community at the same time was creating a position that would have been extremely difficult indeed for Australian wine exporters. The present rate of exchange permits the English merchant to purchase Australian currency wherewith to pay the minimum fixed price, and the board is of opinion that it would be a mistake to endeavour to raise the price to the English importer at this moment, or to insist upon his rebating some of the exchange. Such an action would be tantamount to throwing away a unique opportunity for clearing the great accumulation of stocks in Australia, and emptyingour over-stocked cellars.
It seems that Messrs. Gunn and Gollan took notice of that statement in regard to exchange, because I observe that in their report they remark -
The British merchant has also taken advantage of the rate of exchange, prices in London having been reduced to the extent of the exchange premium. After a complete examination of the position it is considered that a reduction in the rate of bounty is justifiable. If the rate were reduced to1s. 3d. per gallon, it is not anticipated that the export trade would be seriously prejudiced.
I hope that the Minister will not be influenced unduly by the optimism of his senior inspector regarding the future of the wine trade. It must be realized that once South Africa’s disadvantage owing to the exchange rate is removed, the competition of the wine trade of that country will be serious for Australia. If, as suggested, there were a common currency standard for the whole British Empire, South Africa, with its cheap coloured labour and its proximity to the British market would prove a formidable competitor with Australia in ‘the export of wine. Some of our big wine-makers who have a home market are very little concerned about the export trade.
The ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr. Keane). - The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I represent an electorate which produces a fair quantity of good wine. Messrs. Gunn and Gollan, who spent a considerable time in inquiring into the conditions in the wine industry, presented a voluminous and informative report, and I assume that this measure will provide the machinery for giving effect to some of their recommendations. The honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb) complained that the growers have not been consulted, but I take it that Messrs. Gunn and Gollan consulted the growers in every State visited by them.
– He referred particularly to the growers in South Australia.
– I take it that Messrs. Gunn and Gollan conferred with the growers in the various States, as the members of the Select Committee on the Tobacco Industry conferred with the tobacco-growers, and that they took evidence from all angles, in order to get the views of the growers, the manufacturers and the consumers. The honorable member failed to give a single reason why the growers should not be registered. Clause 7 of the bill provides that no person shall produce grapes for use in the manufacture of wine unless he is registered. That does not mean that a person who has a. few vines at his back door must register. The registration of the growers of grapes intended for use in the manufacture of wine would be helpful to the statistiscians and for record purposes. Owing to the registration of tobacco-growers, I was recently able to ascertain from the Customs Department, by return post, the names and number of tobacco-growers throughout Australia. The registration of grape-growers will cost them nothing, aud the information obtained will be useful in considering any need for limitation of the acreage under crop. It costs a gold producer nothing to register his name, but if a man is not registered he cannot participate in the gold bounty. A tobaccogrower, even though he may not manufacture tobacco, is subject to a penalty for non-registration. There is more to be said in favour of compulsory registration than against it.
I was delighted with the homily of the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) regarding the manufacture of wine. If he had been accustomed to sampling the finished product, he might have spoken of sparkling wines, and of “beading bubbles winking at the brim”. He said that at the present time there was little incentive for the blending of wines, but I claim that there is much incentive in that direction, because the excise duty is on the fortified spirit content of wine. The practice has grown of late years for some to blend dry wine with sweet wine, and sell the product as sweet wine, in order to evade the excise duty. If a flat rate of excise duty were imposed on all wine, there would be no inducement to blend in that way.
The honorable member for Angas complained of the penalties contained in. the bill, but I do not consider them to be too high. Heavy penalties act as a deterrent to those who may be disposed to transgress the law. ‘ If the penalties were nominal, excise officers would probably have to deal with many complaints. [Quorum formed.] I remind the honorable member for Angas that some of the grape-growers are also winemakers. If he had his way, the grower who is also a wine-maker would have to bo licensed as a winemaker, but he would not have to register as a grower of grapes for use in the manufacture of wine, and that would create an anomaly. There is in my electorate a vine-growers’ association, which is represented on the Victorian Viticultural Council, and I received advice only to-day that two delegates from the association were attending a meeting of the council in Melbourne. It is clear, therefore, that the growers had a say in these matters. The growers in my area are not prone to indulge in destructive criti- cism. They are appreciative of the efforts of this Government on their behalf, and recognize what it has achieved for the wine industry. Some time ago, the Minister for Trade and Customs accompanied me to Rutherglen, so that he might obtain a first-hand knowledge of the problems confronting the wine industry. It became evident to him that many of those engaged in it were in a desperate plight. The previous Government had) reduced the export bounty on wine from ls. 9d. to ls. 3d. a gallon, and it did not then pay the wine-makers to export. Their cellars were full of wine, and they could not buy any more grapes from the growers. Many hundreds of returned soldiers, who had been encouraged to go on the land to grow grapes, were faced with the prospect of seeing their crops rotting on the vines. The Minister immediately restored the bounty of ls. 9d. a gallon, with the result that the wine-makers cleared their cellars, and were able to buy the grapes which the growers had to offer. The Government is deserving of credit for that. To-day I received a communication from the Vine-growers Association at Rutherglen, extending a cordial invitation to the Minister for Markets to visit them, so that they might express their appreciation to him for his work in bringing about the trade agreement between Australia and Canada. I hope that the Minister will be able to accept the invitation, and, if he does, I am sure the vine-growers will welcome him warmly. I am convinced that this measure will simplify the working of the Excise Act, and will safeguard the revenue.
.- I support the measure before the House. This bill, I understand, contains only the machinery clauses for the collection of excise duty on wine. The important measure - that fixing the rate’s - has not yet been brought down. I am interested in this matter, because there are many vine-growers in my electorate. They have never approached me, and I have never come into contact with any of them. When it was suggested that they should get into touch with me, they said, “All he thinks about is coal; he is not in terested in wine.” I assure honorable members, however, that any industry in Australia paying a decent living wage to its employees, and certainly those in my electorate, will receive my support, whether those controlling it are supporters of mine or not. At any rate, they probably employ people who are supporters of raine, and that is the important consideration so far as L am concerned. In my electorate, between 150,000 and 200,000 gallons of light, dry wine are produced each year. So far, this wine has not been subject to excise duty, because no fortifying spirit is used in its manufacture. It shows the quality of the goods they produce in that district when no fortifying spirit is needed. Our wines contain only the pure grape juice. Some of the wine is sent to other places, and used for blending in the preparation of other wines. I ask the Minister to exempt these light wines from excise duty. Many of the wine-makers have suffered severely as a result of the depression, and some of the firms are in the hands of receivers. In the report presented by Messrs. Gunn and Gollan, particular reference is made to light wines, and a plea is made for special consideration by the Government. At page 60 of the report it is stated -
It is considered desirable that dry wines should be exempt from excise duty. It may, however, be necessary to impose a nominal duty for purposes of control over all wines. The” consumption of dry wines is not very extensive. They are the natural product of the grape, and it has been urged that the use of light dry wines should be encouraged in preference to other forms of alcoholic beveragee, There are certain grape-growing areas which produce these wines under heavy disabilities, and an excise duty on a class of wim: which has never previously been taxed would still further handicap their production.
Chablis, and other dry wines, arc manufactured in the Hunter Valley, and arc sold at ls. 6d. a bottle, as compared with similar wines sold elsewhere at 4s. 6d. a bottle. I understand that the Minister proposes to apply a flat rate of duty on all wines, but I urge him to exempt light, dry wines of less than 23 per cent, of alcoholic content. If the same rate of duty is imposed on dry wines from the Hunter Valley as on sweet wines, the industry in that district will be ruined. I recognize that it is necessary to provide legislative machinery for the control of the wine industry. In this way some check can be kept on the operations of illicit wine-makers, who are placing their product on the market in the cities. It is difficult to know whether some of the stuff so made is wine or dynamite. Judging by the effect it produces on some people, one would imagine it to be 100 per cent, over proof. I urge the Minister to give sympathetic consideration to my request.
– I admit, candidly, that I know nothing about the growing of grapes or the making of wine, but I do know a good deal about the drinking of it. I have drunk a considerable quantity of Australian wine - of course, under doctor’s orders - a fact which is no doubt responsible for my magnificent physical condition. In other words, I am fully matured, as is the Australian wine I drink. I wish particularly to refer to the marketing of Australian wine in Great Britain. I have made about eighteen or twenty trips to Great Britain, the last about two years ago. I have found that it is not possible to obtain Australian wines on any of the trains running between Southhampton and London, nor, for that matter, on the trains running north from London to Hull, Edinburgh and Inverness. Apart from such places as The Trocadero, and one or two others probably known to the Minister for Markets (Mr. Parker Moloney), it is impossible to get Australian wines in any of the hotels in London. It cannot be obtained at The Savoy, The Ritz or The Cecil. I made inquiries, beginning at Australia House,, to find out the reason for this. The head waiters - on the trains and in tha hotels all told me the same thing. They seemed to know the word “Australian”, but they knew little or nothing about tho country or its products. When I pressed one of them, he told me that it was possible to obtain Australian wine> perhaps in April and May, but not in June, July and August. It generally became available about Christmas time-. Continuity of supply is essential if Australian wines are to capture a place for themselves on the English market. I admit that, at the time of which I speak, there was some shipping trouble in Australia, which may have prevented sup plies from coming forward, but it remains true that Australian wines do not reach England with sufficient regularity to keep the market supplied. I do not know whether the Minister for Markets went into this matter when he was abroad, but it is deserving of his attention. Our wines can hold their own with those of any other country in the world. The American wines most sold in England come from California, the “ Big Tree “ brand of sparkling hock being the most popular. Of that I have drunk a good quantity, but I do not think that either it or their Burgundy is a patch on ours. I went into the subject, and made a report to Mr. Bruce, who was then Prime Minister. To make a success of this, or of any other industry, we must put our best young Australians on the job, with a salary of about £1,000 a year plus a commission on the gross turnover. The salary would allow them to dress and look well, take people to dinner, to the theatre, and to the pictures, while the commission would be an incentive for them to go their hardest and sell our goods. I admit that the Export Board at Australia House is doing very good work, but it is not all that T desire. You cannot get a body of men sitting around a table in a room at Australia House a few times a week to deal adequately with such an important subject as our export trade.
– The difficulty has been overcome by the formation of an Export Control Board, which has agents doing the very type of work to which the honorable member has referred.
– I am sure that, as a result of the Minister’s visit to Great Britain, our business will improve. I want him to accept cheers for the excellent work that he did over there. I know something about this business. His was a wonderful achievement. I trust that his visit to Great Britain will have a good effect in stimulating the whole of our export trade.
I also hope that the Minister will exploit the markets in the East. I made a report on that subject to the Government of the day after spending weeks inChina and Japan interviewing governments and Ministers. Like all reports, no matter from whom they come, within a week after it was handed in, it was covered with two inches of cobwebs. That is a vast market to exploit, one to which the Minister might well direct his efforts.
.- The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) referred to the power that is being given to the Minister to cancel licences. It is similar to that provided in the excise and the beer excise acts, a power that has never been abused, arid is not likely to be abused under this measure. The honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb) raised the subject of the registration of growers. A grape-grower has to register only when he produces grapes for use in the manufacture of wine. If he produces currants that are to bc used as dried fruits, he must register under the Dried Fruits Act, but he has not to deregister simply because he grows grapes that are used in the manufacture of wine. He pays no fee to register, but has only to fill in a simple form stating bow many tons he has sold and to whom rho sale was made. Four-ninths of the money raised under the proposed flat rate will go into the trust fund, as was the case with the excise duty on fortifying spirit. As to conferring with the growers, the senior inspector of excise is constantly in touch with them in South Australia and other States. I have received deputations from growers in the Great “Western and Rutherglen districts, and from the Hunter Valley, and the views that they expressed wore taken into consideration by the Government when framing this measure.
– The inspector would noi disclose any knowledge that he possessed as to the contents of this bill.
– As a good public servant he recognizes that he is an adviser to the Minister of the day ; also that thi9 bill concerns a matter of public policy, which he was not privileged to divulge. I regret that I cannot enlighten honorable members as to the rate of excise that will be charged. It will be brough down in a schedule in the course of a few weeks.. I assure honorable members that their representations on behalf of the producers of light dry wines will be taken into consideration.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 3 agreed to.
Clause 4 (Parts).
– I should like to know whether it is any use my asking to have i user ted a part relating to dealers.
– It was only in 1921, when grapes brought £14 a ton, that dealers became active and wont round to backyard growers and others to buy grapes. As grapes are down to about £7 a ton, it is highly improbable that we shall have any trouble of that nature in our time.
.- The information that has been given by the Minister is not correct. To my knowledge the dealers went round buying grapes for several years. Perhaps the grape-growing section of my electorate might not appreciate my bringing up this matter, but I have also to conserve the interests of the metropolitan district. However, if the Minister gives me no hope in the matter I shall hot persist.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 5 (Definitions) - “ Wine “ means the fermented juice of the grape, and includes lees of wine.
.- I move -
That the following words be added to the definition of “wine”: - “ and any beverage prepared in a winery of which beverage wine forms a part.”
That is to cover cocktail and tonic wines that are prepared in wineries. If this precaution were not taken those beverages would escape payment of tho excise duty, as it would be argued that they were not “ the fermented juice of the grape “.
.- I should like to know whether the Minister intends to bring non-alcoholic wines within this definition ?
– Wine is described as meaning the fermented juice of the grape. Non-alcoholic wine would not be included.
– Even if it is not fermented it is still wine. A good deal of non-alcoholic wine is being produced at Vinifera and in other parts- of Victoria, and I am concerned to know whether the1
Government intends to bring the production of those wines within the scope of this measure. Non-alcoholic wine comes into competition not only with alcoholic wines, but also with synthetic fruit productions, which are chemical compounds. I speak on behalf of a very wholesome fruit beverage, the production of which we should encourage. If the Minister can assure me that non-alcoholic wines will not come within the scope of the measure, I shall be perfectly satisfied.
– “Wine, as defined, means alcoholic wine; non-alcoholic wine is not covered by the bilL
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 6 -
Parts IT., VIII., IX., X., XL, XII., XIII. and XIV., and section 01 of the Excise Act 1901- 1923 shall, except so far as inconsistent with this act, be incorporated and read as one with this act and the application of those Parts and that section shall, so far as applicable, extend as if they formed part of this act.
.- What is the reason for incorporating all these parts of the Excise Act ? The bill appears to be based on those parts, and the incorporation of them is a repetition. Is the purpose to moke assurance doubly sure?
– The Beer Excise Act is drafted in the same way. The purpose i3 to avoid the repetition of the various parts of the Excise Act.
.- The imposition of an excise duty on wine is a new departure. So far as I am aware uo such duty is imposed in any other wine-producing country. I suppose all countries collect excise duty on beer and spirits, and there must be some very general reason for the exemption of wine.
– In the United Kingdom there is an excise duty on so-called “ British wine “.
– Yes, and also, I think, on must; but I am referring to wine-producing countries. We have not yet seen the Wine Excise Duty Bill, but obviously it will impose a duty on wine, as such, instead of, as in the past, spirit used for fortifying wine. If the duty applies to all wine, the unfortified dry varieties, which are not so highly alcoholic as the fortified sweet wines, will be for the first time taxed, and the tendency will be to increase the price of them in relation to the price of the heavier brands, I would welcome any measure to increase the proportionate consumption of the lighter wines. It is questionable whether we are not taking a step in the wrong direction, having regard, not only to the ultimate interests of the wine industry, which I regard as secondary, but also to the interests of the people as a whole. Whether the effect will be what I fear, will depend on the scale of the duties, but any tax that would increase the price of the lighter wines and reduce the consumption of them against the stronger wines would be inadvisable. This clause merely applies all the general provisions of the Excise Act to wine; this obviously must increase the general expense of conducting the industry, but if an excise duty is to be imposed on wine, as distinct from fortifying spirit, some such provision is obviously necessary.
– Although I am not aware of any country that imposes an excise duty on wine, Chili, Peru, Argentina, and all European countries tax it in some way.
– The tax is in the nature of a licence to sell rather than a duty on production.
– In France there i3 a municipal tax on wine, and in the United Kingdom an excise duty of ls. 6d. a gallon on “ British wine “. I agree with the Deputy Leader of. the Opposition that it is advisable to encourage the drinking of tho light dry wines, and the price at which they can be sold to the public will have to be considered when determining the rate of excise duty.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 7 -
No person shall produce grapes for use in the manufacture of wine unless he is registered, pursuant to this Part. Penalty: Twenty pounds.
.- What will l>e the proof that a man produced grapes for use in the manufacture of wine? Will it be their ultimate use for wine making? If a dealer buys grapes from a grower and sells them to a wine-maker will the grower be fined for not registering?
– Does the producing of grapes means the growing of grapes?
– Why not use the word “ grow “ instead of “ produce “ ?
– I assume that the purpose of registering a grower is to ensure that he will submit to the department a return of the grapes he sells, so that wine-makers’ returns of grapes purchased may be checked. A maximum penalty of £10 for an offence against this clause would be sufficient. I therefore move -
That the word “ twenty “ be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “ten”.
.- The honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb) must trust the department to administer the measure in a common-sense way. Although growers are to be registered, the department will not conduct a punitive campaign against individuals for merely technical offences. The proof that a man produces grapes for use in the manufacture of wine will be the sale by him of grapes to a wine maker. All we ask is that the grower shall submit a return of the quantities of grapes he sells to the wine maker. I cannot accept the amendment.
Question - That the word proposed to be omitted stand part of the clause - put. The committee divided. (Temporary Chairman - Mr. Keane.)
Majority . . . . 31
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 8 agreed to.
Clause 9 (Unregistered premises).
.- This clause states that a registered producer shall not produce grapes except at the premises in respect of which he is registered. Does that clause relate to the grower of grapes?
– What would be the position of a registered grower who has a vineyard of, say, twenty acres on one side of a road and buys an additional ten acres of vineyard on the other side of the road ? Would it be necessary for him to take out a further registration?
– Clause 10 explains that. It provides that a producer may he severally registered in respect of any number of separate and distinct premises.
– Would that place any additional expenditure upon the grower?
-No. The registration is free.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 10 (Registration of separate premises).
– I cannot see the reason for this clause. It states that a producer may be severally registered in respect of any number of separate and distinct premises. When a grower is registered he is under the control and eye of the department. If he has several vineyards why is it necessary for him to be registered severally in respect of each ? I shall not attempt to move an amendment to this clause because, judging by the last vote, the growers have little to expect from this Parliament. I fail to see why they should be put to the trouble of filling in a return for each vineyard that they own.
– The grower can put all the particulars on one form.
– There must be some reason for putting this provision into the bill. One grower has written to me to the effect that this Government is anxious to put the grape-growers in the position of Russian serfs. That statement seems to have some truth in it. I admit that a certain amount of Government supervision is necessary,but this provision goes too far.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 11 agreed to.
Clause 12 (Accounts and returns).
.- The Minister said in his reply that practically all that the grower had to show in the return to be furnished to the department was the quantity of grapes grown, to whom sold and, I presume, the price. I do not wish this return to take the form of a baby income tax return. I ask the Minister to say straight out whether the grower has to furnish a balance-sheet in regard to the conduct of his business. Does the department wish to ascertain the cost of the production of grapes so as to be able to fix the price?
– Only the quantity of grapes produced has to be shown on the return.
– I require a definite statement from the Minister. Will the grapegrower have to show on the return the quantity of grapes that he produces, and to whomhe sells them?
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 13 to 23 agreed to.
Clause 24 (Cancellation of Licences).
.- The clause states that licences may be cancelled by the Minister by notice in the Gazette if the licensee is convicted of any offence against this act or any other act relating to excise. The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) seemed to think that this power might be exercised by the Minister at his own discretion. I do not know whether that will be the position. It seems to me that the cancellation of a licence would depend upon a conviction. The penalty is not too harsh, because under this legislation the department is placing a tremendous trust in the wine-makers. I believe that most of the wine-makers will respond, especially the bigger wine-makers who have too much at stake to risk the cancellation of their licences. This legislation, in spite of the Minister’s statement to the contrary, will make it harder for the department to police the industry.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 25 to 29 agreed to.
Clause 30 (Office accommodation for officer).
.- Is it proposed to require a small winemaker to provide elaborate office accommodation for the supervising officer ? The clause states that every holder of a licence shall, if required by the collector, provide reasonable office accommodation for the supervising officer. The premises of many wine-makers are small, and it would be unreasonable to expect them to provide elaborate office accommodation. I ask the Minister to give the committee some information respecting this clause.
– I assure the honorable member that nothing unreasonable will be requested of the holders of licences. The act will be sympathetically administered.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 31 to 61 agreed to.
Clause 62 (Mixing of wine).
– Does the Minister propose to leave this clause in the bill? I understand that representations have been made to him with respect to it. If it is proposed to impose an excise tax on dry wine as well as on sweat wine, this provision will be unnecessary. Will the Minister explain the position?
.- It is possible that at any time Parliament may impose different rates of duty on various classes of wine, and if that should take place, this provision will prevent any person from blending wine after the duty has been imposed upon it.
– Is the Minister referring to the blending of wine in private houses ?
– I am referring to wines blended at licensed wineries. Without this provision it is possible that the revenue may be defrauded. I, therefore, think it wise to allow it to remain in the bill.
.- It is evident that the department will not be able to police this provision, but that does not concern me. I am not interested in the fight of the small dry wine-makers who fear that the bigger wine-makers are taking advantage of them. One of tho last things that I want to see in this country is a wine monopoly like the existing whisky monopoly. Some years ago I expressed the view that one big wine-maker was doing his best to bring about a wine monopoly. At the time my statement was ridiculed by some of the growers of grapes; but they are now convinced that I was right. I hope that the Minister will take action to prevent monopolies. This clause plainly shows that there will be a differentiation between the rates for various classes of wine. I suggest that the Minister will be acting in the best interests of the country if he follows the advice of Mr. Gollan and Mr. Gunn on this matter.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 63 to 66 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with an amendment; report - by leave - adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 21st October (vide page 999), on motion by Mr. Theodore -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– I shall not delay the House by making any lengthy observations on this bill. No honorable member in this chamber is more opposed to repudiation, or to compulsion, that I am; but, after all, the interests of the country are paramount. We have to consider the proposals in this measure from the point of view of justice to all classes in the community. The conversion loan was a magnificent success; 97 per cent, of our internal indebtedness has been voluntarily converted, leaving only 3 per cent., representing about £16,000,000, to be dealt with. In this legislation tho Government proposes that the holders of that amount of stock or bonds shall be deemed to have converted their holdings. Considering the matter from every stand-point, I can see no alternative to the Government’s proposals, notwithstanding that they involve a measure of repudiation, which is, however, I think, merely a technical repudiation. [Quorum formed.] Although the conversion loan was dealt with on a voluntary basis, there was a general feeling that, in their own interest, as well as in that of the country, bondholders should convert their holdings. Throughout the campaign it was frequently stated that those who did not convert could not expect to be treated more generously than those who did convert. I listened with interest to the various proposals to deal with the amount unconverted, but I have not heard a practicable scheme propounded. The statements of persons who are in a position to know the facts make it clear that the country cannot pay the amount outstanding, though it has been suggested that money should be obtained from various sources to pay the dissentients. We cannot shut our eyes to the fact that there is a considerable amount of inflation going on at the present time. In the interests of the people as a whole, I have set my face against inflation; I shall not, therefore, be a party to inflating the currency for the purpose of paying off those who have not converted their “holdings. The further suggestion has been made that a loan should be raised to pay off those who have dissented. In my opinion, that is . not a practicable suggestion, for I do not think that the people of this country would be willing to subscribe to a loan for that purpose. We have also to consider the effect of such a proposal on the interests of those who have already converted. I blame, to some extent, those who conducted the conversion loan campaign for the fact that even £16,000,000 remains unconverted. At one stage the committee in charge of the appeal announced that advices had been received from various sources which ensured the success of the loan. The effect of that premature announcement was that some stock-brokers who were watching the position carefully advised their clients to dissent. It is probable that had the committee not made that announcement, a further £15,000,000 might have been converted. In these circumstances, I cannot see how we can allow the dissentients to be treated more generously than those who converted, especially when we reflect on the hardship which conversion means in many cases. I submit that our first consideration should be to meet, so far as possible, the needs of those who otherwise would suffer by reason of their patriotic action iu converting their holdings. My concern is chiefly for the small bondholders. I think it is clear from the statement of the Treasurer that the Government desires to do something to assist them. I make no complaint regarding the proposed treatment of foreign companies which temporarily put money into Commonwealth loans. They did so in accordance with an arrangement with the Government and the Loan Council.
From the inception of the campaign the conversion loan was regarded as a loan of sacrifice. Bondholders were asked voluntarily to accept a reduction of interest. If the proposals contained in this measure amount to a technical repudiation of our obligations to those who dissented, what shall we say of its effect on those who converted ? In justice to the 97 per cent, who agreed to accept the sacrifice demanded of them, I cannot see how we. can allow the other 3 per cent, to escape sacrifice. It was not a sacrifice on the part of 97 per cent, of the bondholders for the benefit’ of the 3 per cent, who dissented. Nor can I see how it would be possible to pay them, other than by inflating the currency or raising a loan. In my opinion, the country cannot do more than this bill proposes to do. I admit that the position is unsatisfactory; but are not things in general unsatisfactory? We have been forced into a position from which we cannot escape. I desire to quote from the British Financial Times, which is probably the greatest authority in the world on finance.
– Nonsense .’
– I forgot tho honorable member, who is probably a still greater authority. A recent statement in the Sydney Morning Herald contains a quotation from the financial journal in question, which sums Up my views on the matter. The Prime Minister gave it to ‘the House.
I desire to revert to the position of the Government Savings Bank of New South Wales, which holds £1,000,000 worth of Commonwealth stock which has not been converted. 1 venture to ask whether the bank has been fairly treated in this matter. It holds about £30,000,000 worth of government stock which it has converted, and of that amount £3,S00,000 represents Commonwealth stock. The stock amounting to £1,000,000, which was not converted, matured on the 10th August, or about the time when the Commonwealth conversion loan was launched.
– On the very day on which it was opened.
Mr. ARCHDALE PARKHILL.When the Government Savings Bank of New South Wales closed its doors, the Commonwealth Bank had advanced* to it £1,229,183, which it had paid out to meet necessitous cases while negotiations were proceeding as to -whether the bank should be taken over by the Commonwealth Bank or re-opened. I desire the House to remember that on that sum the Commonwealth Bank is charging the New South Wales savings bank 5 per cent, interest, which amounts to about £60,000 per annum, and that liability is a first call upon the savings bank’s assets. Before it can do anything to assist needy depositors, who -are suffering most harrowing privations, it must pay the interest on the amount advanced by the Commonwealth Bank. It has been said that the State Savings Bank has not had any dealings with the Commonwealth Bank, but its credits with the Commonwealth Bank in its various accounts amount to just over £1,000,000, and it is not permitted to use that credit as a set-off against the £1,000,000 that it owes to the Commonwealth Bank. In those circumstances, I venture the opinion that there is a considerable volume of public opinion in New South Wales that the Government Savings Bank is being unfairly treated, and that it has a transcendent claim on behalf of the hundreds of thousands of its needy depositors to the redemption of the £1,000,000 worth of Commonwealth stock which it does not desire to convert. That amount would go a great way towards setting the bank on its feet again, and assisting tho depositors, “who have £00,000,000 locked up in the State Savings Bank, by giving them access to a portion of their capital. The release of that money would make a tremendous difference were it in circulation in New South Wales. It is surprising to me that the people of that State have been able to carry on in these circumstances. E have no desire to go near the State Savings Bank so long as it remains closed, because there one hears the harrowing statements of women and others who are suffering acutely because they are deprived of their money. These people expected never to be hard up, “but, owing to their money being locked up, they are unable to obtain a penny to meet their ordinary expenses. I urge the Government to endeavour to make available to the bank £1,000,000 in regard to the conversion, in order to relieve the position of these depositors. If that were done it would dissipate the feeling, which is fairly general in New South Wales to-day, that the Commonwealth Bank has been strangely indifferent to the sufferings of hundreds of thousands of persons who are not only depositors in tho State Savings Bank, but also citizens of the Commonwealth. The feeling i3 fairly general that the Commonwealth Government is more concerned in obtaining control of the State Savings Bank than in assisting it to carry on its operations. I am not at the moment arguing the question whether the bank should be taken over by the Commonwealth Bank, or whether it should be rehabilitated. I simply make an appeal to the Treasurer to endeavour to make available to the depositors who are in need, the £1,000,000 which has not been converted to the Commonwealth loan. [Quorum formed.”]
. -It is gratifying to know that success has been achieved in the conversion of a stupendous loan, the like of which has not been known in the whole world. The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill) has insinuated that the Government which I support is, to some extent, responsible for the financial position in New South Wales, owing to the closing of the Government Savings Bank in that State. I congratulate the Go vernment on the success of the conversion loan, and I think that it would have been recreant to its duty if it had not brought down a measure such as that now before the House, for the purpose of securing equality of sacrifice, and dealing with those bondholders who have declined voluntarily to convert their stock. In my electorate there are a number of small bondholders who will suffer great hardship under this bill; but I feel certain that the Government will show them all possible consideration. The Government, is in no way responsible for the attitude assumed by the Government Savings Bank of New South Wales. The control of that institution has been handed over to a set of septuagenarian satellites of vested interests who are able to prevent the policy of the Labour party in regard to banking reform from being put into operation. Those men were appointed by a gentleman who is supposed to be a statesman. He has one leg in the Premiers’ plan and the other leg in the Lang plan. With the leg in the Premiers’ plan he has kicked usurers and the rack-renters, and has done good for the workers, and with the other leg he has kicked the workers, and reduced the basic wage, without submitting the matter to arbitration, and has kicked over the Government Savings Bank of New South Wales. The honorable member for Warringah will be pleased to know that on Monday next a new publication, to be known as The World, will be launched by Senator Barnes. If it had been published two years ago, we should not have been called upon to pass legislation of the nature of this bill.
– The honorable member, must confine his remarks to the measure before the House.
– The Government is prevented from carrying out its financial policy. That unscrupulous publication, the Lang Labor Daily has done considerable damage to the nation. By persistent praise of Lang it has placed that gentleman under the spell of a megalomaniacal obsession, an obsession tinged with anglophobia and chicanery. This journal has, in its political columns a kind of picture gallery, and it publishes portrait’s of the breakaways in the Beasley group. It boycotts members of our party who are loyal to the Government they were elected to support, and makes heroes of those who harass and embarrass the Labour Government. There was. a time when the honorable member for Werriwa was a useful supporter of the Government, and, had he and others assisted the Government to carry out its policy, legislation such as that now before us would not have been necessary. The honorable member forWerriwa was once regarded as a useful member of this House ; now he has become an absolute pest to us. He has developed into a sort of supercilious nabob, who delights in preventing the Government from carrying out its policy. When this new newspaper is published, it will not heap laudation on the leaders in this House, or of any other house. The success of the conversion loan marks a new epoch in the history of financial affairs. No other country can claim such a wonderful achievement. When this Parliament agreed to legislation to reduce the wages of the workers, and to cut down social services, it was understood that stops would be taken to reduce the nation’s interest burden. By means of the loan conversion, that has been done. I trust that the Government will do its best to relieve cases of hardship among small bondholders. Those with big holdings must be prepared to make sacrifices in common with other sections of the community. This measure, when carried, will relieve the financial situation, and help us to meet our obligations. I suppose I should scarcely be in order, Mr. Deputy Speaker, if I said that The World was going to be published on Monday next, just three days and five hours from now. With the advent of that newspaper, the Government will have a powerful ally in carrying out its policy.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 3 agreed to.
Schedule verbally amended, and, as amended, agreed to.
Preamble and title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments; report - by leave - adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
.- I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill is consequential to the measure we have just been considering. It gives authority to the Commonwealth Government to provide for the statutory conversion of the internal portion of the public debt. As I propose to insert in committee an amendment to enable cases of hardship arising out of compulsory conversion to be met by the use of sinking funds, I take this opportunity briefly to refer to the resources of the sinking fund. The Deputy Leader of the Country party (Mr. Paterson) touched on this matter, and made certain suggestions as to how sinking fund moneys might be applied to the retirement, redemption, or purchase of securities held by persons suffering hardship through having to convert, or through having the maturity dates deferred for a longer period than they originally contracted for. When the matter was first considered by the Loan Council, and subsequently by myself as Treasurer, it was thought that about £1,250,000 could be made available from the sinking fund for such purposes during this financial year; but after discussion with other members of the National Debt Commission, at a meeting which took place last week in Canberra, and a careful examination of the funds which were accruing, we decided that the amount could be increased. [Quorum formed.]
I shall now give particulars of the resources of the sinking fund for the current year. Balances carried forward for 1930-31 amount to £519,000, while the estimated contributions for 1931-32 are £7,036,000, making the total amount expected to be available, £7,555,000. The amount actually used for the redemption of State loans in July, 1931, was £370,000. Certain commitments have to be met with regard to loans, some raised by the States, and some by the Commonwealth - totalling £1,466,000- in London and New York. The sum of £2,219,000 has to be found to meet commitments in Australia, including securities representing investments of trade moneys, which have been dealt with under the original conversion act, and the moneys required for cashing the securities paid over in connexion with probate duties. This brings the total commitments up to £4,055,000. Two million pounds have been allotted by the National Debt Commission for the relief of cases of hardship among bondholders, leaving £1,500,000, which is regarded by the Commission as required for accruing obligations, other than those already mentioned, that must be met before the 30th June, 1932. I am not able to give full particulars in respect of this amount, but it might be informative to honorable members if I indicated the nature of some of the commitments. The National Debt Commission believes it to be necessary to have some funds available for the support of the market month by month in Australia, and £100,000 a month has been tentatively allotted for that purpose. Moreover, it is asserted that it may be necessary, in conjunction with the Commonwealth Bank, to use a portion of the sinking fund moneys for the purpose of meeting maturities held by the Savings Banks of Victoria, South Australia, and New South Wales. All these banks hold matured securities which have not yet been met, and are pressing for some arrangement regarding them. The matter is under negotiation between the Commonwealth Treasury and the Commonwealth Bank, and it is probable that a call may be made on the National Debt Commission to make funds available for this purpose. This touches on the point raised by the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill) regarding £1,000,000 worth of securities held by the Government Savings Bank of New South Wales, which matured on the10th August. In my opinion, it would be unwise and unjustifiable for either the National Debt Commission, the Commonwealth Treasury, or the Commonwealth Bank to discriminate between the various State savings banks in any allotment of moneys to meet matured securities. Honorable members will see that the commission has allotted just about the maximum available for the relief of cases of hard ship. If it is found that more than £2,000,000 can be allotted from accrued sinking funds this year, then a greater allocation will be made, but how much more will be available cannot be stated yet.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 3 agreed to.
Clause 4 (Certain existing securities deemed to have been converted into new securities) .
.- This is the provision against which many honorable members have protested, but upon which they had not the courage to register a vote. In effect, the clause informs dissentient bondholders that their “ no “ means “yes”. In common with other honorable members, I have received a number of communications on the subject, which disclose how severely the proposal will affect many bondholders. Today, in very brave words, the Prime Minister declared that the Government had saved Australia from insolvency. Why, then, should it be guilty of this dishonorable conduct to its bondholders? I know of the case of an old man of 81 who has South Australian stock to the value of £200 which matures on the11th August next. I do hope that his case will be regarded as a necessitous one. Strangely enough, the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill) stated that he is satisfied with the assurance of the Government in this matter. I am not satisfied. I am not unmindful that there is an election in prospect. I wonder to myself whether the £2,000,000 that is to be provided from the sinking fund to redeem stock held by necessitous bondholders is merely a vote-catching device. What is going to happen the following year, when there will be no election? I am particularly apprehensive on that score. I received the following letter from a person whose bonds fall due in 1933 : -
I write you in reference to £400 I have in Commonwealth bonds maturing on the15th February, 1933.I am a dissenter to the conversion of my loan for the reason that I shall require the money, when it becomes due, to live on. I wish to point out that the wife and myself are unable to work for our living.
The letter states that the writer is 74 years of age, and continues -
I am suffering with heart disease, and am unable to do any work. In our young days we worked hard and lived hard, and denied ourselves the comforts that we should have had. By our thrift we managed to save a little money for our old days. Now, it seems, we are to be done out of the use of our money. It is the hardest and most callous thing that could possibly he done to a poor old couple; to make paupers of them in their old days.
That man asks me to do what I can. I shall send him a copy of the Treasurer’s speech. In spite of the promises of the Government, I am asked to say to that old man, “ It does not matter what you want or think. Your ‘ no ‘ in this instance means ‘yes’”. That I am not prepared to do. I know the country that this man lives in ; it would try out anybody. Will the fact that the person is on a farm that cannot maintain him prevent him from obtaining money as a necessitous case?
– That eases the hardship. However, I cannot acquiesce in the proposal of the Government. I have a number of letters written in a strain similar to that of the one that I have read. I realize the need of those people, and I cannot bring myself to vote for this provision. I regret that honorable members who have protested against the clause have not the courage to join with me in calling for a division upon it.
Clause agreed to.
Motion (by Mr. Theodore) proposed -
That the following new clause be inserted: -
– (1.) The National Debt Commission, if it thinks fit, may purchase new securities at a price in excess of the market price, not being above par, with a view to preventing undue hardship, arising out of conversion under the Common wealth Debt Conversion Act 1931 or this act, to persons beneficially interested in the securities. (2.) This section shall not be construed as limiting in any way the powers of the National Debt Commission under the National Debt Sinking Fund Act 1923-1930.
.- All along I have felt that it is futile to endeavour to resist the Government’s proposals, but I do think that any money that is available from the sinking fund should be used to pay necessitous bondholders.
– That is the intention.
– In his speech to-day the Treasurer said that certain moneys would be required to buy stock that was offering on the market below par. At a time like this we cannot, for our honour’s sake, afford to go on the market and buy bonds at £82 and £84. We should first pay these people with the money that is available. I should like a definite instruction issued to the National Debt Commission in the matter.
– It would be very undesirable to interfere with the free and unfettered judgment of the National Debt Commission. It might be taken as further interference with our loan contracts.
– We are already breaking contracts. I know that that cannot be helped, and I do not wish to reflect on the Government. I urge that, if possible, the National Debt Commission should be compelled not to go on the market at this juncture.
– This provision enables the Commission to purchase securities at a price in excess of the market price, so that the securities of those who are in necessitous circumstances may be taken over at full face value.
– I should like the new clause to make it imperative that whatever money is available from the sinking fund shall be devoted to repaying bondholders who are in necessitous circumstances.
– The bonds to be purchased by the Commission are to be not above par. but may be above the market price. Am I to assume that it is the intention of the Government that the National Debt Commission shall make a profit out of those bondholders who are in necessitous circumstances?I should like the Treasurer to influence the National Debt Commission to repay bondholders who are in necessitous circumstances. In 1893, when our banks were being reconstructed, there was a provision that all depositors with accounts up to £50 or £100 should be repaid. At the time I was a young solicitor, and had £53 in the National Bank. It was repaid to me within a fortnight, which saved me from serious embarrassment. I ask the Treasurer for an assurance that the National Debt Commission will not make any profit out of distressed bondholders by buying in their stocks at less than the amount they invested, plus interest.
– The intention is to repurchase the bonds at full face value from those who require their money for their own maintenance, or to meet definite and immediate obligations, the withholding of which would impose a hardship upon them. The National Debt Commission was faced with the difficulty that under the act which governs its -proceedings a definite obligation was placed upon it to employ all its funds to the best advantage of the national debt - normally to buy at market price, except in respect of matured bonds, which can be redeemed at full face value. The bonds under consideration are not redeemable in that sense, and must be purchased. The commission represented that unless it were given statutory authority it would be committing a breach of trust if it applied its funds to the purchase of bonds at a higher price than that ruling in the open market. That is why Parliament is being asked to give to the commission power to use its funds for the purchase of bonds at their face value. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory), suggested that the relief to be afforded by the National Debt Commission to bondholders should not be limited to £2,000,000, but that, in addition, funds already allocated for the purchase of bonds on the market should be applied to the relief of cases of hardship. The honorable member, therefore, proposed that the clause should be amended to give a mandatory instruction to the commission. The commission is set up under a specific statute, which gives a statutory undertaking to bondholders that the sinking fund will be managed in a certain way by an independent body. It would be unwise to interfere with that.
– The course I suggest would not destroy the value of the bonds.
– The commission manages the sinking fund in respect of all loans, overseas as well as internal, and we -should be careful not to create any misapprehension amongst bondholders at home or abroad. I call attention to the personnel of the commission, nearly all the members of which hold office, ex officio - the Chief Justice of the High Court, the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank, a representative of the State Governments, who at present is Mr. Pitt, Under- Treasurer of Victoria; the secretary to the Commonwealth . Treasury, the SolicitorGeneral of the Commonwealth, and the Commonwealth Treasurer. The honorable member for Swan questioned the wisdom of ear-marking £100,000 a month for purchases on the market. The commission realizes the extreme need” to provide the maximum amount of funds for the relief of cases of hardship, aud, taking that fully into account, allotted this £100,000 a, month for market operations, but limited the allocation to three months, at the end of which the commission will meet again and further consider the matter. If it is thought then that further funds should be allotted, even to the exclusion of purchases on the market, I have no doubt that the commission will act accordingly.
– Nobody can fail to respect the personnel of the National Debt Commission. As the Treasurer pointed out, the commission as a trustee for the nation has a fiduciary responsibility, and must act in accordance with the law. It is in duty bound to buy at market rates. If a private trustee were to pay £95 for bonds that he could have purchased for £88 he would be held to have committed a breach of trust.
– And that would be the case with the commission.
– That is so ; therefore, it is necessary to give a mandate to the commission to buy bonds at. face value. The bill gives to the commission power to buy at a price in excess of the market rate, but not above par. Bonds can be bought in the market to-day for £S7; they may rise to £90. The obligation of the commission as trustee will be to consider how far this bill limits its obligations. The cases of hardship will absorb very much more than the £2,000,000, which the commission will make available this year. If bonds are quoted in the market at £90, many people will be ready to sell their bonds for £91, and the commission will be compelled by its trust to buy at that price. The commission is a corporation and has to act legally. It cannot be influenced by sentiment. A corporation has been described as having neither a body to be saved nor a soul to be dammed. If I were the trustee of an estate, and my duty required me to buy bonds the cestui que trust could sue me personally, if I paid £100 for a bond which I could have bought for £91.
– This clause gives the necessary authority.
– The duty of a trustee is to do the best possible for the estate he is administering. If the market price for Commonwealth bonds is £90, the National Debt Commissioners, to avoid a possible charge of dereliction of trust, will be obliged to buy at £91, which, in the words of the bill, will be “ in excess of the market price
– For whom are they the trustees?
– They are trustees for the nation. I regret that the AttorneyGeneral is not present, because I should like to have his confirmation of my interpretation of the legal position. If the commission paid £100 for bonds at a time when the excess market price was £91, then, as trustees for the nation, they would be guilty of a breach of trust. I realize that it is useless for me to move an amendment, but I appeal to the Treasurer’s sense of right in this matter, and suggest that he submit it to the law advisers of the Crown, and, if necessary, have the point reconsidered in another place. No distressed bondholder should receive less than par.
– It is impossible for me to pretend to answer the legal point that has been raised by the honorable member, but I wish to assure the committee that it was very carefully considered by the National Debt Commission.
– And by the Chief Justice himself.
– The Chief Justice, as a member of the commission, was particularly concerned to see that the commission was clothed with sufficient statutory authority to enable £2,000,000 to be allocated from the sinking fund to be administered for the relief of cases of hardship by enabling the sufferers to get. the full face value of their bonds.
– Has the Chief Justiceaccepted this clause?
– No; but the Chief Justice was particularly concerned about the point which I have mentioned, and the National Debt Commission carried a resolution authorizing the use of £2,000,000 for this express purpose. As Treasurer, I discussed this matter with the National Debt Commission, which realized that the position would be met by inserting an amendment in the bill giving the commission the necessary authority. This amendment was drafted by the Solicitor-General, who is also a member of the commission. It was carefully considered by him, and discussed fully with his law officers. He has assured me that it does everything that is necessary. I must be satisfied with that advice.
– This clause simply gives the National Debt Commission authority to buy, at their face value, bonds for the relief of hardship case3. It would be unwise to insert in it any provision of a mandatory character, because, when the commission was appointed, it was clearly understood that it should be removed as far as possible from political control. If such an amendment as has been suggested were inserted, it would be mandatory upon the commission to do certain things which might be undesirable. I am glad we have had the assurance from the Treasurer that, if the necessity arises, and if the £2,000,000 which is being set aside for the purpose proves insufficient to adequately relieve hardship cases among both converters and dissenters, the commission may make an even larger sum available for the purchase of bonds at their full face value.
Proposed new clause agreed fca.
Preamble verbally amended, and, as amended, agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments ; report - by leave - adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Motion (by Mr. Theodore) - by leave - agreed to -
That Standing Order No. 70 be suspended for the remainder of this sitting in order to allow further new business to be taken.
In committee: Consideration of the Deputy Governor-General’s message.
Motion (by Mr. Theodore) proposed -
That the following further sums be granted to His Majesty to defray the charges for the year 1027-28, for the several services hereunder specified, viz.: -
Part I. - Departments and Services - Other than Business Undertakings and Territories of the Commonwealth.
Part 1.1. - Business Undertakings. 1. 1 Commonwealth Railways .. 23,819 II. Postmaster-General’s Department 294,748
Part III. - Territories of the Commonwealth. North Australia and Central Australia . . . . . . 2,667
.- I wish to know why the Supplementary Estimates for 1927-28,, 1928-29 and 1929-30 are now brought before the House. What is it in respect of government finance that makes it impossible to bring down in 192S-29 the Supplementary Estimates for 1927-2S? It is a puzzle to me, and I should like an explanation from the Treasurer.
– I am afraid that the Commonwealth Parliament has got into a rather bad habit of allowing Supplementary Estimates to accumulate for two or three years, and then to pass them without much consideration being given to them, but it must be borne in mind that the information contained in the Supplementary Estimates is always before honorable members prior to the introduction of the Supplementary Estimates, and that parliamentary authority is given by the appropriation in the Estimates in chief under the designation of Treasurer’s advance. The details are then set out in the subsequent Estimates. The actual amount expended is set out alongside the vote for the previous year, and it can be seen at n glance whether the vote has been exceeded and what call there has been on the Treasurer’s advance. For some years past the Supplementary Estimates have not been brought down year by year. I think that they should be, even though honorable members have the information before them; and, so far as I am able to do it, I shall establish the practice of bringing down Supplementary Estimates following the Estimates in chief each session.
.- A discussion on the Estimates is aD appropriate time to refer to civil aviation, out as the hour is late, I shall be as brief as possible. I regret that 1 cannot adjourn the debate, because air navigation is of the utmost importance. I refer to it under division 75, subdivision 4, miscellaneous - Civil Aviation Branch. Air navigation is a province of the Civil Aviation Department and the act is contained in one sheet of paper. It is the only legislation dealing with air navigation in Australia. Section 4 states -
The Governor-General may make regulations for the purpose of carrying out and giving effect to the convention and the provisions of any amendment of the convention made under Article 34 thereof; and for the purpose of providing for the control of air navigation in the Commonwealth and the Territories.
That provision “was unsatisfactory, even in 1920, and aviation then had riot developed to the extent that it has now. Since 1920 great strides have taken place in aviation, particularly in the mileage and carrying capacity of aeroplanes. Civil aviation in Australia is controlled by departmental regulation, and it could hardly be expected that such a position would be entirely satisfactory. One honorable member to-day referred to Tha New Despotism, by Lord Hewart, which contains a description of the government of a country being carried out by departmental regulation. We have a similar position in Australia in which a whole province of aviation - the public side - is entirely controlled by regulation. The fault is not with this Government, because it was found that the Commonwealth did not have power under the Constitution to legislate on aviation. The Royal Commission on the Constitution pertinently pointed out that the States should hand over to the Commonwealth their powers in relation to the control of aviation. That body made a definite recommendation which I shall read later. The following extract is taken from the Argus of yesterday: -
The managing director of West Australian Airways Limited (Major Brearley) said today that the control of aviation was exercising tho minds of those actively engaged in the advancement of air transport. Western Australia had not transferred to the Federal Government the powers desired by the Commonwealth to enable it to enforce laws relating to air transport, and it was evident that no proper authority existed hero to exercise that control. There had recently been cases in which machines outside the control of his company had been flown in a condition which involved very serious risk to the lives of tho occupants, while the lives of those iti other planes in the same locality had been jeopardized. So serious had the position become that his company had decided to give the Commonwealth an opportunity to test the position on : safe “ technical breaches of the regulations which he had committed.
I do not know how Major Brearley intends to test the position, but the fact remains that the regulations governing air transport arc not satisfactory. Recently, the Air Accidents Investigation Committee, which was established purely under departmental regulation, inquired into the crash at Temora of the Love Bird, a commercial air plane, and it came to a certain finding. I asked a question in this chamber regarding that finding, with a view to having the inquiry reopened, so that other accidents might be investigated.
– Will the honorable member indicate in what way he. is connecting his remarks with the Supplementary Estimates?
– I am speaking in relation to division 75, sub-division 4, miscellaneous - Civil Aviation Branch.
The TEMPORARY” CHAIRMAN.That item is contained in Supplementary Estimates for 1927-28. The honorable member must, therefore, confine bis remarks to that year.
– If I cannot discuss air accidents, I shall refer to the subject on another occasion. I wish now to call attention to the manner in which the Air Accidents Investigation Committee conducts its inquiries. The committee consists of three officials of the department, who do not sit in open court. It should sit in open court like the Marine Court, which is a court of record. It is high time that the Minister, and, in fact, the Cabinet instituted a thorough investigation into air accidents. This committee inquires into all cases of injury to aircraft passengers, forced landings, incompetence of personnel, and so on; but it is composed purely of departmental officers who, while desiring to do their work well and conscientiously, are in an invidious position, as only their finding and not the evidence is disclosed to the public. Such finding may be at variance with that of a coroner, as has happened, and is therefore not acceptable to the parties concerned or the relatives of the deceased. I therefore suggest that the Government should replace that committee by a body constituted on the lines of a marine court, on which a magistrate and other skilled persons would sit. [Quorum formed.] I point out that the Commonwealth Parliament has no express power under the Constitution to make laws in respect of aviation, although it has some power in this direction under its trade and commerce powers. It was only because the Commonwealth was a party to the International Convention for the Regulation of Aerial Navigation that it was able to pass the Air Navigation Act, the onepage statute to which I have referred. TheRoyal Commission on the Constitution made the following specific recommendation in regard to aviation : -
We recommend that a power to make laws with respect to aviation he conferred on the Commonwealth Parliament.
All the expert witnesses on this subject who appeared before the commission were agreed that the Commonwealth should have this power, and, as is shown elsewhere in this report, the State Premiers at one time passed a resolution that it was desirable that the power to make laws with respect to aviation, with certain reservations, should be transferred by the States to the Commonwealth.
Effect could, we think, be given to this recommendation by inserting insection 51 of the Constitution the following paragraph : - (vib) Air navigation and aircraft.
In all the circumstances, I ask the Government first to review the regulations under which the Air Accidents Investigation Committee was appointed, with the object of appointing a court; secondly, to take steps to give effect to the recommendation of the Royal Commission on the Constitution, so that an adequate statute may be framed; and, thirdly, to call a conference of those interested in military, commercial, and amateur aviation with the object of ensuring greater safety for passengers, and thus encouraging the advancement of aviation in Australia.
Motion agreed to.
Motion (by Mr. Theodore) proposed -
That the following further sums be granted to His Majesty to defray the charges for the year 1928-29 for the several services hereunder specified, viz. : -
.- As a protest against the payment of an honorarium of £1,000 to the Director-General of Postal Services, I move -
That the total amount be reduced by £1,000.
This item appears on page 97 of the Supplementary Estimates, and is associated with two other items, which read, “ Commonwealth representation, International “Wireless Congress,Washington, £1,099,” and “ Commonwealth representation at the International Congress, London, £1,122.” In between those two items, is the proposed vote of £1,000 to Mr. Brown. This is the first time that we have heard of this particular expenditure. The total of those three items is £3,221. I wish to know whether Mr. Brown was interested in only the £1,000, or in the other two amounts as well.
– Does the honorable member realize that the carrying of his amendment would amount to a vote of censure on this Government for something done by a previous administration? It would mean that this Administration would be put out of office, and the previous Administration, which expended the money to which his motion refers, would be put back into office.
– I am taking the only means available to me to voice a protest against this expenditure. We had no opportunity of making a protest against it in 1928-29. Although we are now virtually at the end of a session, we have been bombarded with a volume containing the Supplementary Estimates for three financial years, involving an expenditure of £1,682,953 which was never authorized. The Temporary Chairman (Mr. Keane) is evidently desirous of rushing these items through the committee, for he is keeping his eye on the clock. We should do the work that we were elected to do, and not pretend to do it. I remind the committee that the officer in respect of whom this expenditure was involved is one whose maladministration has been the subject of strong protests by me on several occasions. “ This gentleman occupied a subordinate position in London * four or five years ago, but he was brought to this country, and immediately given a position at the princely salary of £50 a week.
– He could command a bigger salary elsewhere.
– If that were so, he would have rushed away long ago. Soon after he began work here at the salary of £50 a week, he was given an increase of £30 a week, bringing his salary up to £80 a week.
– He was offered a higher salary when abroad.
– If that were so, he could not get a steamer quickly enough to take him to it.
– The honorable member is unfair.
– I am not. This man is a real “ go-getter “. In 1928 the administration of the telegraph branch of the Postal Department, by this officer resulted in a loss of £312,075. In the following year the loss was £22S,134, a total of £540,209 for the two years. His administration of the telephone branch in those two years resulted in losses of £322,438 and £247,211 respectively, a total loss of £569,649 for that branch. Taking the two branches mentioned, we find that the losses in those two years amounted to over £1,000,000. Before his appointment the telegraph branch showed a small profit each year, but under his administration enormous losses have been incurred in both that branch and the telephone branch. This gentleman was sent abroad; but no one appears to know what he did during his absence from Australia. I have endeavoured to elicit information from the Postmaster-General on the subject, only to be told that the work upon which Mr. Brown was engaged was of such a nature that his reports could not be divulged, even to members of this House. Even when I asked questions regarding contracts of a suspicious nature, no information’ was given me, because it was again alleged that secrecy must be maintained. This highly-paid official, after having been sent on a trip to Britain and the United States of. America, was paid £1,000 in addition to his salary. That was done behind the back of Parliament.
– “Why has the honorable member such a grudge against this officer?
– I have no grudge against- him as an individual; but I feel that I am doing my duty in ventilating these matters. This afternoon references were made to robbery of various kinds : we heard some plausible remarks about political rectitude, and the sanctity of contracts. Surely this committee has a duty in connexion with the expenditure of public money? In order to elicit information I desire, I now ask the PostmasterGeneral the following questions : - (1) Is it a fact that the Imperial “Wireless and Cable Conference of 192S presented a report of 26 printed pages which was laid on the table of the British Parliament in July, 1928? (2) Is it a fact that that report was printed by the British Government, and made available for public distribution? (3) Is this the report referred to by the PostmasterGeneral in his reply to a question by me on 23rd July, 1931 (Ilansard, page 2490) ? (4) If so, why does the PostmasterGeneral refer to that report as “ the secret report of the conference”? (5) Why was that report not laid on the table of the Australian Parliament? (6) Will the Minister now make that report available? (7) Did the Director of Postal Services, Mr. H. P. Brown, who attended the conference referred to, concur in the recommendation for the handing over of the cable and wireless services of the Empire, including those owned by the British Government, to one new company apart from the British Postal Department? (8) If so, why did Mr. Brown, after agreeing to the dissociation of the combined wireless and cable services from government control, so far as Britain was concerned, urge that such control, so far as Australia is concerned, should be vested in the Postal Department, of which he is secretary? (9) Will the Minister state plainly whether Mr. Brown made any report on his return to Australia from this conference? (10) If so, why has not such report been presented to Parliament?
In the early life of this Parliament I obtained information that, since the appointment of this officer, contracts amounting to over £5,000,000 had been let overseas for goods the bulk of which could have been made in Australia. Only this week the Minister admitted that since this Government has been in office Postal Department orders had been placed overseas for materials and supplies to the value of approximately £49,000, notwithstanding that they could have been manufactured in Australia, and that thousands of our people are workless and in poverty. The Minister’s reply to my question was most unsatisfactory; he gave no explanation whatever. The main reason given by this Government for placing orders overseas, is the high cost of thelocally-produced articles. But in proof of this no information is given regarding the items. In fairness to the country, full information on these matters should be supplied to Parliament. I voice my protest against the highly unsatisfactory and. questionable administration of this official. Members are entitled to object when they find that for all they know £3,221 has been squandered, and no explanation given. I should like to know why, in addition to being paid a high salary, this officer was granted an honorarium of £1,000 for work which after all was only part of his duties for which he received a. princely salary.
– When did the honorable member learn of the payment of that honorarium?
– Only to-night.
– There is a tendency on the part of some honorable members to brush aside airily the criticism levelled against this officer by the honorable member for Martin (Mr. Eldridge).
– I have not finished with him. I shall dig the rat out of his hole.
– Honorable members will admit that the honorable member for Martin has referred to this subject on many occasions since he became a member of this Parliament. He has regarded it as his duty to try to ascertain what work this highly-paid official is called upon to do. No one will deny that Mr. Brown is in receipt of a princely salary. I confess that I was astonished when I found that he receives about £80 a week. As in the case of other officers, his salary has doubtless been reduced under the Financial Emergency Act; nevertheless, we are entitled to refer to the salary set down for him in the Estimates. I feel sure that it will be interesting reading to the employees in the Postal Department that-
– What will be interesting reading to them?
– They will be interested to know that, in addition to his high salary, Mr. Brown was paid an honorarium of £1,000.
– That information has been published in the Estimates and has been available to honorable members for over two years.
– The information was probably available to the Treasurer; but that does not necessarily mean that it was available even to the other members of the Government.
– Although the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) was in the ministry when the honorable member for Martin (Mr. Eldridge) attacked the administration of Mr. Brown, he did not raise any protest.
– That is deliberately untrue. The Treasurer knows as well as any one that such is not the case. If the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Lyons) were here to-night, he could, if he desired, support the point I am making with respect to Mr. Brown. He was one of the first officers whom I had the opportunity of putting to the test and I did so in a room in this building, usually occupied by the Postmaster-General. Having been informed of different matters concerning certain negotiations in connexion with wireless shortly after the Labour Government was formed, I was keen to get to grips with this particular official.
– With what result?
– With the results that have been brought under our notice ever since by the honorable member for Martin (Mr. Eldridge). It appears that this gentleman is capable of exercising some extraordinary influence over Ministers controlling the Postal Department. They always seem to be in such a frame of mind that they adopt, without question or criticism, whatever proposals he places before them. There is no doubt that to-day certain members of the Government, including the Assistant Minister (Mr. Cunningham), who was one of the strongest critics in the party of his administration, could express their views in terms similar to those used by the honorable member for Martin on the administration of this officer, if they had the courage to do so. There are half a dozen other honorable members representing country electorates who would condemn in the strongest possible terms the ruthless way in which postal services in country districts have been restricted under his direction. It is also true that notwithstanding the high salary which he receives, the department which he has administered has showed a substantial loss during recent years. The figures quoted by the honorable member for Martin show that he has been a colossal failure. The Government cannot thrust this matter aside, and sooner or later, we shall reach a stage, particularly with respect to the letting of contracts, when the public will demand an explanation of what is going on. Such an agitation will be set up that the Government will be forced to review the position. The circumstances which at present exist can no longer be tolerated. It will be very interesting to certain members of the Public Service, particularly those engaged in the Postal Department, who have been seriously affected by the legislation recently passed by the Government, to learn that this officer is receiving such a princely salary. The remuneration which he receives is of particular interest when it is remembered that the other day I had to approach the Postmaster-General on behalf of 30 returned soldier cleaners, who were to be dismissed from the Sydney General Post Office. It will also be of interest to them to know that notwithstanding the high salary which this officer receives he has also been granted an honorarium of £1,000 in connexion with certain services which he is alleged to have rendered to the Government. It is true that the Postmaster-General said that he will do all he can to retain the services of the cleaners to whom I have just referred. The Minister doubtless realizes that he is confronted with an extraordinary handicap when it is pointed out that the department over which this highly paid officer presides is showing, such a tremendous loss. The position should not be tolerated any longer. Instead of brushing aside the questions submitted by the honorable member for Martin, the Government should fully investigate the matter. The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill) said that the honorable member for Martin has an obsession in this matter.
– So he has.
– He has devoted special attention to the subject, and has been able to obtain information which should have been placed before honorable members-
– Supplied by Voigt.
– No. The Government will be compelled to give some attention to this matter sooner or later, because, in view of tho facts placed before the committee by the honorable member for Martin, it has reached the stage when the public will demand an investigation.
I should like the Treasurer to explain how the item of £9,723 on page 90 for the British Economic Mission is made up.
– I would be out of order in speaking on that item until the amendment now before the committee has been disposed of.
– I support the amendment moved by the honorable member for Martin, because I believe it will have the effect of focussing public attention on the administration of this official. It will . also give the Postmaster-General an opportunity to explain the circumstances surrounding the letting of certain contracts.
– We have had the usual diatribe from the honorable member for Martin.
– I rise to a point of order. My remarks cannot truthfully be referred to as diatribe. As the expression used by the Postmaster-General is not only unparliamentary, but is offensive to me, I ask that it be withdrawn.
– I ask the PostmasterGeneral to withdraw the remark to which exception has been taken.
– If the honorable member objects to the expression I used, t shall later substitute another term which may be more fitting. I do not question the right of any honorable member to express an opinion concerning the administration of any public officer; but any unbiased honorable member will admit that for months past the honorable member for Martin has directed most of the criticism in which he has indulged # in this House to the Director of Postal Services, and has insinuated that there is something wrong with the contracts into which the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, of which Mr. Brown is the principal administrative officer, has entered. There is not a scintilla of truth in the honorable member’s remarks, which would be regarded as grossly unfair by any public servant. It i3 not my intention to explain the circumstances under which an honorarium of £1,000 was paid to Mr. Brown, as that was the act of a previous administration. The action of the honorable member who has repeatedly hurled questions at me, and cluttered up the notice-paper with similar questions, has not resulted in any service to the country. These questions have been submitted at the behest of some obscure person. I am not a hero worshipper, but I have had sufficient experience to RECOGNIZE a man’s ability and to form an opinion as .to his honesty. For the honorable member to insinuate that the contracts let by the department, of which Mr. Brown is the responsible officer, were in any way suspicious, is improper in the highest degree. His insinuation savours more of cowardice than of anything else, because the gentleman against whom he makes the charge is not able to defend himself-
– Honest Iago
– I return the- compliment to the honorable member. There is no one to whom I could more appropriately apply that character than to the honorable member. No unbiased person could possibly lay a charge against
Mr. Brown. The honorable member has for several months been trying to make a name for himself by pillorying public servants, and I denounce him for his cowardice. I am defending an officer who lias rendered great service to this country.
Reference has been made to the losses experienced in the telephone and telegraph branches of the Postal Department. It is true that, in. common with all other business concerns, whether public or private, those branches of the service have not paid directly, but, taking the Postal and Telegraph Department in its entirety, it has proved a good business proposition for Australia. Considering the sparse population of Australia, compared with other countries, the telephonic, telegraphic, and postal services provided are relatively cheap. Telephonic and mail services are not expected to pay, the main object being to make life in the back country more tolerable than it would be without those services, and to give rural settlers means of communication with their fellow citizens in the more thickly populated areas. In some districts, the department gives services worth, say, £2,000 for a return of a few hundred pounds. The honorable member for Martin (Mr. Eldridge) has made a great deal of the expenditure, during the present Government’s term of office, of £49,000 on material of overseas manufacture which could have been made in Australia. In a department which spends over £12,000,000 a year, a paltry £49,000 is of small importance. As a matter of fact, it can be shown that the expenditure to which the honorable member has referred was justified. He made a considerable fuss about the purchase abroad of the material for two broadcasting stations. I think that the department was quite justified in placing the orders abroad, because the local tender was £56,000 for material which could be purchased overseas for £30,000. For substation protectors, the Australian tender was 25 per cent, higher, or £2,271 over and above the duty on a job costing less than £4,000; and for porous pots, 85 per cent., or £1,276 higher than the price paid. The honorable member did not mention that since the present Government has been in power it has reduced the proportion of material purchased abroad from 40 per cent, to 32 per cent.
– I quoted better figures than those.
– Time after time, the honorable member brings in this King Charles’ head, but he has failed to substantiate his charges. He has attempted, by innuendo, to cast suspicion upon a most estimable man, and one of the leading public servants of Australia. It is an entirely unworthy act, which I keenly resent.
.- The Postmaster-General (Mr. A. Green) has indicated that his department desires to serve the public in country districts, even though the services provided may result in monetary loss. What about the Mortlake Post Office? I might mention the curtailment of the services at Beeac, Warrion, Timboon, Port Campbell, Rhymney Reef, Cobrica, Naroghid, and Noorat, and I might also ask why the Maryborough Post Office clock is not lit?
.- Judging by the Minister’s reply to the honorable member for Martin (Mr. Eldridge), one would imagine that the Director of Posts and Telegraphs had accomplished much; but the postal services have never been in a more deplorable condition than at the present time. Throughout Australia, post offices have been closed. In my electorate, at one time, they were being shut up at the rate of about four a week. When applications are made for telephone facilities for a town, the residents are required to guarantee a certain revenue, and if it is not forthcoming, they are obliged to make up the shortage. I. have repeatedly referred to the need for better facilities in Cardiff in my electorate, which has a population of over 4,000, and still has only an allowance post office. The 48 telephone subscribers are attached to three different exchanges. It seems to me that the Government is willing to grant postal facilities to members who hold doubtful seats, such as Calare. Apparently the electors of Hume must be given a sop for fear of Hardy, who threatens to lead the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney) to his political doom. I can foreshadow a scene in his electorate which will be a reproduction of the happening on board the Victory, at Trafalgar, when we shall again hear repeated, as the Minister expires politically, the historical words, “ Kiss me Hardy, I am done.” Better facilities could have been made available than have been provided by the administration since the present Government has been in power. It does not appear as though the department is desirous of catering for the needs of the people or of encouraging the flow of revenue to the Treasury. Although all postal matter is stamped with the injunction, “Do it by ‘phone “, in numerous cases persons who have made application for telephonic installations have been advised that this facility cannot be made available to them, unless they defray a certain portion of the cost. I have urged the extension of many postal facilities, but have never been able to obtain satisfaction. I hope that before the Postmaster-General (Mr. A. Green) again boasts of what the department has done he will be in a position to produce proofs of the provision of additional facilities instead of the curtailment of those that are already provided.
Question - That the amount proposed to be reduced be so reduced (Mr. Eldridge’s amendment) - put. The committee divided. (Temporary Chairman - Mr. Keane.)
Majority . . 32
Question so resolved in the negative.
Motion agreed to.
Motion (by Mr. Theodore) proposed -
That the following furthersums be granted to His Majesty to defray the charges for the year 1929-30, for the several services hereunder specified, viz.: -
.- Under Division 79 - Civil Aviation Branch, Department of Defence - there appears the item “ Subsidy of aerial ambulance service, Queensland, £1 “. That, in my opinion, is somewhat ironic. In the previous two years, a subsidy was granted to the Australian Inland Mission, which has performed a service of incalculable value in Queensland. Its base is at Cloncurry, and it subsidizes the Queensland andNorthen Territory Aerial Service to transport a medical man to places where his services may be needed in cases of sickness. The Queensland
Government has paid the mission a small subsidy and the balance of the money which it has needed has been subscribed privately, largely by the H. V. McKay bequest. The contribution of the Commonwealth Government was very small, compared with the value of the service that was rendered by the mission; yet, for some reason that has not been disclosed, and that has not been satisfactorily explained, so far as I have heard, no amount appeared on the Estimates this year for this purpose. The board of the mission asked me if I would invite a delegation to meet the Ministers concerned, and a deputation waited on the Ministers for Defence and Home Affairs and the PostmasterGeneral to ascertain whether, perhaps, £200 could be made available from the contingency vote of each of those three departments. The deputation received a courteous reception, and was given a good hearing, but was informed that no amount could be made available this year. The opinion was expressed, however, that next year something in the direction desired might be possible. I think that some reply should be made as to why the money has not been provided. A definite service is being supplied from the Home Affairs stand-point. I quote the following paragraph from a letter received from one of the police stations in the FarNorth. It is as follows:-
Situated as I am here on the junction of two great stock routes, along which every year come many thousands of travelling cattle with their attendant droving plants, I am in a position to receive many sick and injured people in the year, and do so receive them. Most are received and treated by me successfully, but nobody hears of them. At times, however, comes a case with which 1 cannot cope, and it is then that the Flying Medical Service takes from my shoulders the responsibility such as it is in my opinion distinctly wrong for any layman to be called upon to bear.
The Minister knows that the flying doctor recently visited Mornington Island, and dealt with an epidemic amongst the natives there which might have cost the Government many thousands of pounds. The service is a definite asset also to the Postal Department. The mission has issued wireless sets to stations within a radius of 400 miles of Cloncurry. I have a list of twenty stations which take telegrams from the cattle stations round about, and transmit them to the department. It is not necessary to dilate on the advantages of the service from a defence point of view. It ensures that a trained pilot is in commission, it serves to make the people airminded, and induces them to look upon the humanitarian side of aviation. It is no exaggeration to say that this service has saved each year as many lives as are lost in aviation, and yet the Government cannot find a paltry £600 for its support. Yet in the same Estimates the Government enters into a contract with a private company-s- West Australian Airways Limited - in connexion with some advertising work, and arranged to pay it £3,000. The Government did not go on with the contract, but it has paid the company £657 Ils. 9d. I asked a question recently whether a payment had been made to the West Australian Airways Limited by way of compensation, and was given tlie following reply : - -
No payment lias been made to West Australian Airways by .way of compensation. I may say, however, for the honorable member’s information, that the sum of £G57 Us. 9d. was paid to West Australian Airways Limited, in full and final settlement of a claim for reimbursement of expenditure incurred by the company in connexion with a special air mail publicity campaign for the East-Wed service. This campaign was originally approved by Cabinet as a joint effort by thu Commonwealth and the company to attract a greater volume of air mail traffic to this service, and consequent benefit to Commonwealth in surcharge air mail postage, expenditure to lie incurred by Commonwealth and company on a £1 for fi basis. Subsequently, however, and before the Commonwealth had incurred any expenditure, the matter was reviewed in the light of the adverse financial situation, and the arrangements cancelled by the Commonwealth. The suspension of the campaign in its early stages deprived the company of any financial benefit from it, and after considering various factors, Cabinet approved of the refund to the company of all expenditure incurred which was deemed to be a reasonable charge against the publicity scheme.
This excellent medical service has been assisted by government funds in the past. It is undenominational in its work, and deserves assistance now, yet on page. 124 of the Supplementary Estimates it appears that the sum of £1 is being granted as a subsidy.
– Tlie honorable member knows that the sum of £1 is the amount spent in excess of the vote.
– Yes; but the service received no subsidy this year. A subsidy of ls. a mile was paid to “ Qantas,” and
I believe that the total amount paid has never exceeded £600 in any one year. Had this matter been brought before the attention of the Minister at the proper time, I believe that he would have granted the request. I mention the matter now in order to bring it under the notice of the three departments which benefit from this service, and to ensure that the amount will be placed on the Estimates next year.
Motion agreed to.
Motions (by Mr. Theodore) agreed to-
That there be granted to His Majesty to the service of the year 1927-28, for the purposes of additions, new works, buildings, &c, a further sum not exceeding £0,115.
That there be granted to His Majesty to the service of the year 1928-29 for the purposes of additions, new works, buildings, &c, a further sum not exceeding £32,149.
That there bc granted to His Majesty to thu service of the year 1929-30 for the purposes of additions, new works, buildings, &c, a further sum not exceeding £25,470.
Resolutions reported; Standing Orders suspended and resolutions adopted.
Resolutions of Ways and Means founded upon resolutions of supply reported and adopted.
That Mr. Theodore and Mr. Scullin do prepare and bring in bills to carry out the foregoing resolutions.
Bill brought up by Mr. Theodore, and passed through all its stages without amendment or debate.
Bill brought up by Mr. Theodore, and passed through all its stages without amendment or debate.
Motion (by Mr. Scullin) agreed to -
That the House at its rising adjourn ‘ until
I I a.m. to-morrow.
Maritime Industrial Dispute- Coal Contract for Parliament House -
Motion (by Mr. Scullin) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
. -It is reported, I know not on what authority, that there is every prospect of a serious general strike on the waterfront, and I should like to know if the Prime Minister has any information about it, and, if so, whether the Government has taken, or proposes to take, any action. Upon the reply of the Prime Minister may depend whether the adjournment will be moved this morning. I mention it at this stage in order to give ample notice to honorable members of such intention.
.Some time ago I referred to the contract for the supply of coal for Parliament House, and, from information which had come into my possession, I referred to a gentleman named Sweetnam as an undischarged bankrupt. I am now informed that Mr. Sweetnam is not an undischarged bankrupt, and I desire to express my regret for having done him an injustice.
– Can the Prime Minister say whether there is likely to be any change in the order of business which he communicated to the House last night? Are we likely to suspend the present sittings this afternoon?
– The order of business will depend on whether we receive the Wheat Bounty Bill from another place. If we can complete that legislation, the House will rise to-day.
– If not, will the House meet on Tuesday or Wednesday?
– Could we meet on Saturday?
– It all depends. The Government will try to meet the convenience of honorable members as much as possible. We shall see how the position develops during the day.
The Government has received an official report from Sydney that so far as the shipping trouble is concerned, the position is unchanged. There is a report of a resolution which was carried at a meeting during the day to call on the seamen as they come into the porta to give 24 hours’ notice to the ship-owners, but the Government does not know if it is to be acted on. So far as the actual position is concerned, the report is that it is unchanged.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 12.5 a.m. (Friday).
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 22 October 1931, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1931/19311022_reps_12_132/>.