13th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. G. H. Mackay) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– Does the Prime Minister propose to make a statement to the House regarding the report in this morn ing’s newspapers that a force of special police is being enrolled in the Federal Capital Territory? Will the honorable gentleman indicate the reason for this step and its probable cost ?
– It is the duty of the Commonwealth Government to ensure the maintenance of peace and order in the Federal Capital Territory. That is the only purpose for which the special police force is being enrolled.
-What is the justification for this step?
– If the honorable memberwill use his intelligence he will recognize thatwhilst there may be no immediate need for such a force the Government cannot afford to neglect measures for the protection of the Federal Capital city until trouble has occurred. Action after the event might be too late.
– Are these alarmists’ tactics?
– The honorable member might address that question elsewhere. The action of the Commonwealth Government is not provocative; nothing will be done by the special force beyond what may be necessary to maintain peace within this territory. I am unable to state what the probable cost of these preventive measures will be, but honorable members willbe entitled to the informationwhen it is available.
– Is it the intention of the Prime Minister to leave for Melbourne to-night, and is the report true that he will be accompanied by a special bodyguard? If so, will the honorable gentleman disclose the names of those who will constitute the guard?
– I decline to reply to such a stupid question.
– The Prime Minister has said that he desires to maintain peace and order. Is he aware that documents seized by the New South Wales police in Sydney reveal a plot to overthrow by force the Government of that State, and to establish a fascist dictatorship?. Is he aware further that the documents disclose that an armed force known as the New Guard has been drilling illegally, and acting in collusion with members of the Defence Force at the Victoria Barracks? Is not such conduct entirely at variance; with federal law? What action does the Government intend to take to put down this force, whose present efforts may lead to revolution in this country?
– I am not aware that there are any such documents in existence or that any such disclosures have been made. But I wish to make it clear that it is the duty of the Commonwealth Government to maintain peace and order within its own boundaries, and the duty of State Governments to maintain peace and order within their own boundaries. If there is any necessity for assistance to be given by the Commonwealth to a State that assistance can only be given at the request of the State Government concerned.
– Will the Prime Minister be a little more candid ? Does he not recognize that the appointment of 200 special constables at Canberra - a quite unprecedented course - is likely to create a feeling of alarm among local residents, and in addition give to the outside world on unfortunate impression in regard to the conduct of business in this community?
– As I have pointed out the responsibility for the action taken rests with the Commonwealth Government alone. If the honorable member is not satisfied he may take whatever action he thinks fit in regard to the matter.
– Has the action of the Commonwealth Government in appointing special constables been taken as a result of a report received from the Investigation Branch, or from the head of the police of the Federal Capital Territory?
– The Government acted on information supplied to it by its own officers, and it accepts the responsibility for its action.
– Are there included in the 200 special constables cadets from the Royal Military College? If so, is not the Prime Minister aware that section 66 of the Public Service Act provides that any officer of the Commonwealth Service directly fomenting or taking part in any strife which interferes or prevents the carrying out of any part of the Public Service may be dismissed by the Public Service Board? Does not the Prime Minister know that the enrolment of cadets in this instance would be in direct conflict with that section?
– I understand that there are no cadets at Duntroon at the present time. We are not enlisting them, but if we were enlisting them for the maintenance of peace, no exception could be taken to that action.
– Will the Commonwealth Government consider applications from citizens outside the Federal Capital Territory for enrolment in the special police force? By way of explanation, I may say that I have received letters from good types of men in my own electorate, asking that if a special police force is to be appointed at Canberra their claim should be considered.
– I am afraid there is an impression abroad that an army of police is to be appointed. Nothing of the kind is to take place. The number of men that has been referred to by other honorable members is, I understand, an exaggeration.
-Then the Prime Minister should be a little more frank about the matter.
– I suggest that itis not the honorable member for Hindmarsh who is asking the question. He has nothing to do with it.
– I am interested in it.
– I want honorable members to understand that these will not be full-time jobs. The Government is merely taking, under the law of the Commonwealth, a precaution for the maintenance of peace. I do not fora moment believe that any tiling more than what is being done at present will be necessary for the maintenance of peace in the Federal Capital Territory.
– Last week the report of the delegates to the Twelfth Assembly of the League of Nations was laid on the table and ordered to be printed. It has been customary in such circumstances for a member of the Government to make an explanatory speech and to move a motion which would enable the House to discuss the work of the League, as it affects Australia. Will the Prime Minister submit such a motion at an early date so that the report of the Australian delegation to the last Assembly may be discussed ?
– I shall endeavour to do that, if possible, before the proposed adjournment of Parliament for a few weeks.
– Will the Prime Minister say whether New South Wales applications for grants under the unemployment relief works legislation recently passed by this Parliament are to be made only through local governing bodies? If so, should such bodies apply direct to the unemployment council or to the Government through members?
– Applications from local governing bodies in New South Wales should be sent direct, to the unemployment council. Any that are sent to the Treasury will be forwarded to that body for consideration. There is no need for the intervention of federal members. The honorable member asked also whether applications may be made through other than local governing bodies. It is possible that works Other than those controlled by such bodies will be undertaken, if approved by the unemployment council.
– What is the address of the unemployment council?
– The Government is endeavouring to arrange for accommodation for that body in Sydney.
– In Wingello House?
– I am accustomed to sneers by certain honorable members in the corner, who seem disappointed because this Government is doing something for the relief of the unemployed.
– Should applications for grants be sent to the Commonwealth offices in Sydney?
– I understand that no accommodation is available there, and the Government is endeavouring to arrange accommodation elsewhere. Meanwhile, applications may be sent direct to Canberra.
– Is it the intention of the Government to set up in the Northern Territory an unemployment council similar to the councils being established in the various States?
– It is not intended to set up in the Northern Territory a council similar to those in the various States, but to deal with unemployment ‘relief work through the department direct with the Northern Territory.
– Will the Prime Minister disclose at an early date the terms upon which the unemployment council in New South Wales will deal with applications for grants? Has theGovernment laid down any principles for the guidance of that body?
– I shall let the honorable member have this information asearly as possible.
– Does the bill to amend the Crimes Act provide for the deportation of Australian-born citizens? If so, as such citizens cannot be deported to other countries, to what portion of th& Commonwealth will they be sent? As all States would obviously object to receive deportees, will the Minister representing the Attorney-General assist me to prevent the Northern Territory from being converted into the Siberia of Australia ?
– The amending Crimes Bill is now before the Senate. It embodies the policy of the Government, and any practical difficulties that may arise out of it will be dealt with when they occur.
Mr. E. F. HARRISON brought up the first report of the Printing Committee.
Report read by the Clerk, and (on motion by Mr. E. F. Harrison) - by leave - agreed to.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether there is any foundation for the report in the press that this House is to adjourn a day earlier this week in order to enable Ministers and members, including the Prime Minister, to take part in the sectional, fac:tional, class wrangle, called an election now being conducted in Victoria?
– What is the reason for adjourning the House earlier than usual this week?
– When the arrangement was made it was understood chat Government business, apart from the tariff, would be sufficient to engage the attention of the House until, at. any rate, Thursday night. We did not desi’re that the tariff discussion should begin on the last sitting day of the week, and in order to meet the convenience of honorable members, and to enable them to make their arrangements, we notified them last Friday of our intention to adjourn on Thursday night; and to proceed straight away on the following Tuesday with the tariff discussion. That was the intention then and is the intention now.
– Is the Prime Minister in a position to reveal to the House the names of the seventeen supporters of the Government who are members of the New Guard, so that honorable members may know exactly who in this House are the associates of criminals?
– The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) has been a member of this House long enough to know that only such questions may be asked of Ministers as refer to their official duties, or to matters under their control as administrators, or to the proceedings of this Parliament. The honorable member’s question is out of order.
– In view of the present condition of world finance, and the recently expressed opinions of British financial experts, will measures be taken by the Government to include a recognized financial authority in the Commonwealth delegation which is being sent to Ottawa?
– The subject of exchanges, and the position of gold and sterling are probably of greater importance than anything else which could be discussed at the Ottawa Conference. The Government sincerely hopes that these questions will be discussed at the Conference, and we are now in communication with the British Government in regard te the matter.
– As the Government is anxious to get ahead with its business, I ask honorable members to give notice of any other questions that they may desire to ask.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The co-operation of Australian meat producers, meat exporters and meat experts was invited, and obtained, some time ago, and the fullest co-operation is being maintained, both in Great Britain and Australia, in ail matters that concern Australian meat interests. The Cabinet sub-committee, which is preparing Australia’s case for preference, to be considered at the forthcoming Imperial Conference, will welcome any additional information that the honorable member can furnish.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister representing the Attorney-General, upon notice -
In view of the many anomalies in the divorce laws of Australia, as illustrated in the many recent articles in the Sydney press, will the Government consider introducing legislation to bring about a much needed uniformity in this respect?
– The question of establishing a uniform law for divorce and matrimonial causes has been considered by various governments since the inception of the Commonwealth. A comprehensive and complete scheme for this purpose might involve the establishment of Commonwealth courts and offices at considerable expense whichcould not, in view of the financial situation, be justified at present.
Leap Year Payments
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
– On the 6th May, the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) asked the following questions, upon notice -
I now desire to advise him as follows: - 1. (a) The number of persons in the Northern Territory at present in receipt of food relief is 99. In addition, there are 181 persons in receipt of relief work. The total number of persons in receipt of relief in both categories is, therefore, 280.
The following papers were presented : -
Tariff Board - Reports and Recommendations -
Dredging and Excavating Machinery.
Pipes and Tubes.
Ordered to be printed.
Reparations - Germany’s capacity to pay - Report of Special Advisory Committee which met at Basle, December, 1931.
Motion (by Mr. Lyons) agreed to -
That government business shall take precedence over general business to-morrow.
Bill brought up by Mr. Bruce, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This is a bill to amend the Commonwealth Bank Act 1911-1931. It is introduced for the purpose of enabling the Commonwealth Bank Board, which controls the note issue in this country, to hold the note issue reserve either in gold or sterling, or partly in one and partly in the other. The Bank Board has asked for these powers, and the Government, after consultation with the board, and after full consideration, agrees that it is desirable to grant them. This matter is closely linked to the currency, the note issue reserve, and gold.
In dealing with this measure, it will be necessary to use such expressions as “ raising or lowering the exchange rate,” “note issue reserves,” and “gold standard.” It is essential that there should be a clear understanding of what exactly is meantby these terms. We have become accustomed to speaking of an alteration of the exchange rate from £125 Australian to £130 Australian for £100 sterling as raising the exchange rate; that is, to speak of it from the sterling point of view, in that it raises the value of sterling expressed in Australian currency. Strictly, from the Australian view-point, we should call it lowering the exchange. I think, however, that it will be convenient to adopt the popular usage, and describe changes from the sterling basis. Therefore, when £110 Australian equals only £100 sterling, I shall say the exchange is higher than parity, and when £90 Australian equals £100 sterling, I shall refer to the exchange as being lower than parity.
The expression “ note issue reserve “ is also liable to be misunderstood, as such a reserve is not a reserve in the common business sense. The “note issue reserve “ really means the portion of the assets representing the note issue which is kept in some specified liquid form. In Australia, by statute, a minimum percentage has in the past been required to be held in gold. Ordinarily, the word “ reserve “ means an amount of assets over and above assets representing the liability.
The expression “ being off the gold standard “ is generally used to mean that the currency of a country is not at par with gold. Even in such cases, however, the currency of a country may be kept at a fixed percentage to gold, and so be linked with the gold standard.
It is desirable, before dealing with the bill, that I should trace the history of the last few years in regard to these matters, and the part the Commonwealth Bank Board has played in the financial developments that have taken place. That, I think, should be done for the information of Parliament and the country, and to avoid any apprehension which might arise if this particular measure were considered by itself. The starting point of the review I intend to give is 1924, when the. Commonwealth Bank Act was amended, and the management of the bank placed under the control of an independent board. These amendments did not make the Commonwealth Bank a central bank, but they enabled it through co-operation progressively to discharge the more important functions of a central bank.
One of the provisions of the amending bill was to place the control of the note issue with the Bank Board. Such a control is one of the axiomatic necessities of a central bank. When the board was appointed in 1924 exchange was operating adversely to the export trade of Australia. Unlike the position during the past two years, the value of the Australian £1 was appreciating in relation to sterling owing to large accumulations of Australian balances in London from our favorable trade balance and from loans. Exchange was allowed to fall to 95, but was severely rationed. If exchange had been allowed to find its socalled “ natural “ level, the demand for the Australian £1 in London would have put up the price, so that £100 sterling would have bought only £90 or perhaps only £80 in Australian currency. It must be remembered that neither England, nor Australia, was then on the gold standard, so that the remedy by shipment of gold was not available. The result would have been that exporters would have received only £90 or £80 in Australian currency for £100 sterling, without any immediate reduction of their costs of production. On the other hand, the country would have been flooded with cheap imports, undercutting local manufactures and nullifying the tariff. The position was a serious one, and had to be faced as one of the earliest problems of the Bank Board.
The object aimed at was the keeping of sterling exchange at or near par, regardless of supply and demand, or more strictly, to decrease by deliberate action the supply of sterling exchange, so as to balance the demand. After full consideration, the board decided to effect this by issuing currency to the trading banks in Australia against approved securities lodged with the Commonwealth Bank in London. The result was immediately to bring the exchange rate under full control by the banks and gradually to increase it to parity. Action of this kind is normally and properly taken by central banks in discharging their function of managing the currency. The present bill contemplates the necessity for the board to take action complementary to that taken in 1924, and to increase the reserve of funds in London. It accordingly gives the board additional power to do this whenever, in the opinion of the board, such action is advisable.
In 1925, both Great Britain and Australia removed the restrictions imposed as a result of the war upon the free movement of gold. Upon the restoration of the free movement of gold the Bank Board adopted the policy that the holding of unnecessarily large amounts of gold was economically unsound, and proceeded gradually to dispose of redundant gold. In its published reports the Bank Board made it quite clear that it was pursuing such a policy, which was based upon two principles -
This policy, which was of great benefit to Australia, was consistently followed, and, in 192S, the sterling securities held amounted to £26,000,000. The ability of the bank to sell exchange stabilized the position and prevented an immediate rise in the ra’te when overseas borrowing became impossible.
The cessation of borrowing and the continued surplus of imports over exports made it clear that the sterling resources of the Commonwealth Bank could not indefinitely hold the rate at parity with sterling. Foreseeing the position which would inevitably develop, the Bank Board made representations to the BrucePage Government for the introduction of legislation to give authority to the Commonwealth Bank to acquire the gold held in Australia outside the Commonwealth Bank.
While these representations were under consideration, a .general election took place and the Government was defeated. The Bank Board immediately approached the new Government and legislation was introduced, at the end of 1929, authorizing the bank, with the approval of the Federal Treasurer, to acquire the gold held in Australia in exchange for currency of a similar nominal value.
One effect of this legislation was, to all intents and purposes, to take Australia off the gold standard, as it, in effect, placed in the hands of the Bank Board the control of the export of gold. In addition, it had the effect actually, although not theoretically, of making the Australian note inconvertible. This was brought about by the fact that, although the law still required the conversion of thu Australian note into gold, the Commonwealth Bank had the power to reacquire the gold as soon as the note was converted.
From the date of the passing of this legislation a new position was created in Australia, for from that time gold ceased to perform two of its traditional f unctions. It was no longer available to individuals to meet external obligations, and it could no longer be used to provide for the conversion of currency into gold upon demand. This alteration in the position of gold has to be borne in mind in considering the actions that have since been taken.
Early in 1930, the Bank Board applied to the Treasurer for approval to put into operation the power to which I have referred to acquire gold held in Australia. This approval was granted and the board entered into negotiations with the trading banks which resulted in the acquisition by the Commonwealth Bank of an amount of approximately £12,000,000 in gold. The amount held by the trading banks was about £18,000,000, but the balance of £6,000,000 remained in their hands for export to meet their increasing requirements for London exchange. This gold was gradually exported by the Commonwealth Bank and sterling was purchased with it, resulting in an increase of the Australian moneys held in London. The result of these increased resources in London was to maintain for some time the exchange rate for the Australian £1 at a level close to parity with sterling.
The London resources were also strengthened to meet the shortage caused by an absence of borrowing and the adverse trade balance by the issue of Australian treasury-bills to an amount of £10,000,000.
Despite all these efforts to strengthen the position of Australian funds* in London, the situation became increasingly difficult. Foreseeing embarrassments to governments owing to the shortage of external exchange to meet our national commitments in London, the board of the Commonwealth Bank conferred with the trading banks and eventually what was known as the “ Exchange Mobilization Scheme “ was developed. This scheme provided that a monthly amount should be made available to governments to meet their commitments.
The scheme was considered and approved by the Loan Council, and in July, 1930, an agreement was arrived at between the Loan Council, the Commonwealth Bank, and the trading banks, for its initiation. It is still operating. While the mobilization scheme covered our external interest and similar commitments, other difficulties arose which necessitated special action being taken. The London and Westminster Bank, which acted as bankers for several of the State governments, had provided accommodation to those governments to an amount of something between £10,000,000 and £11,000,000. The Westminster Bank required a reduction of this amount.
As the result of conferences between representatives of the Loan Council, the Commonwealth Bank, and the trading banks, an arrangement was entered into whereby the trading banks provided an amount in London of approximately £3,000,000 for the purpose of reducing the indebtedness to the Westminster Bank. About the same time, the £10,000,000 of treasury-bills, to which I have referred, fell due, and owing to the position which then existed it was quite impracticable to renew them. An advance of £5,000,000 was made by the Commonwealth Bank and this money was used to redeem £5,000,000 of the treasury-bills. The Commonwealth Bank, however, was not in a position to provide the money to redeem the other £5,000,000 and, to meet this situation, the government of the day brought in legislation to -acquire the gold held by the Commonwealth Bank for the purpose of meeting external obligations.
The members of another place were not prepared to pass this legislation and after Sir Robert Gibson, the “chairman of the Commonwealth Bank Board had been called before the bar of the Senate, the legislation was amended limiting to £5,000,000 the amount of the gold reserve that was to be utilized for the purpose of meeting external obligations. This £5,000,000 was used for the purpose of redeeming the £5,000,000 of treasurybills.
In spite of all the steps that were taken to provide Australian funds in London, the difficulties of the exchange position continued to grow. The factors that contributed most materially to the development of this position were the absence of overseas borrowing and the sudden and heavy fall in the value of our exportable products.
The drastic action taken - the export of £23,000,000 worth of gold, the raising of £10,000,000 by treasury-bills and the severe rationing of exchange by the trading banks - had made it possible to hold the exchange down to 108 up till the end of 1930. Then its restriction became no longer possible or desirable, and accordingly in January, 1931, it was allowed to rise to 130, at which rate it was held almost throughout that year. The result was to maintain exports, to reduce imports, and to discourage the transference of funds abroad, whether for investment or in settlement of trading debts. The influence of the exchange was reinforced powerfully on the export side by two remarkably good seasons in succession, and on the import side by the greatly diminished purchasing power of the Australian people and the height to which the tariff had been raised. The result was a favorable trade balance large enough to meet interest obligations, and the position of London funds began to improve.
In September of last year, owing to the difficulties which the maintenance of sterling at a parity Avith gold was causing to British trade and commerce generally, that policy was abandoned, and Britain went off the gold standard. This fact was of tremendous importance to Australia, and a new situation was created in regard to the whole exchange and currency problem. Australia’s external trade is overwhelmingly with Great Britain, or other “sterling”- countries and practically the whole of our external finance is with Great Britain. While our traditional policy has been to base our currency upon gold, in essence it has been based upon sterling, which, while sterling was at a parity with gold, meant the same thing. Now that Great Britain has gone off the gold standard, the question arises whether our future policy should not be to base our currency upon sterling rather than upon gold. That problem is -very closely linked with the provisions “of this bill, and I shall deal with it more fully later.
Towards the end of 1931, owing to the alteration of our trade balance, and the abandonment by Britain of the gold standard, the position of our London funds improved so much as to cause financial concerns to become hesitant of holding sterling in London with so high an exchange rate as 130. As there was a danger of a severe fall in the exchange, which would have had a most disastrous effect upon the trading and financial fabric of Australia, the Commonwealth Bank took action and assumed the responsibility -of buying and selling exchange at a fixed rate. This rate was determined by the board, and, in last December, was reduced from 130 to 125. This had the effect of stabilizing the position. The Commonwealth Bank Board continues to control the exchange rate, and in its hands rests the responsibility of dealing with it in the manner best calculated to maintain the credit of Australia and assist our financial and economic recovery.
The provisions of this bill are closely linked to that responsibility, lt provides that any profit that may be derived” by the sale of gold and the purchase of sterling under the powers now conferred upon the board shall be transferred to a special reserve account., and shall be available to the board for the purpose of stabilizing exchange or for the purposes of the Note Issue Department. It is expressly provided that such profits shall not be treated as profits within the meaning of section 60 j of the Bank Act, which makes available to the Consolidated Revenue profits of the Note Issue Department. This provision will dispose of the unfounded fears that have already been expressed that an improper use would be made of any such profit to assist us in solving the difficult revenue problems that face Australia at the present time.
– Will the special reserve be calculated as part of the statutory reserve ?
– The statutory reserve will continue, but may be held in either sterling or gold. The assets held against the note issue are calculated in Australian pounds, and at the present time we have, in effect, a hidden reserve. If the £10,500,000 worth of- gold were converted, it would realize £13,500,000 in sterling. That difference might be regarded as profit, and taken into revenue under section 60j, but this bill specially provides against that.
The outline which I have given of the financial history of Australia during recent years, particularly in relation to currency and exchange, is calculated to inspire the people of Australia with confidence in the board of the Commonwealth Bank. Many difficult and, at times, dangerous situations have had to be met. Many accepted theories have had to be abandoned. Many unprecedented actions have had to be taken. We have had to reduce our gold reserves. We have had, in practice if not in theory, to make the Australian note inconvertible. Notwithstanding all these things, the internal stability of our currency has not been affected. For this fact our thanks are due to the bank board, which has consistently followed a policy of controlling the currency in accordance with sound banking practice, and the domestic needs of Australia. By all that it has done the bank board has won the confidence of the people of Australia, and it is most desirable that that confidence should continue. The Government is introducing this bill at the request of the board of the Commonwealth Bank. The board is strongly of opinion that it is essential that the power should be conferred upon it to hold the reserve against the note issue either in gold or sterling, or partly in one and partly in the other. With this view the Government concurs, and is introducing this bill to bring about that position.
Coming to the measure itself, the first point that has to be considered is what was the reason for the holding of a gold reserve against a currency issue. The reason was that, in order to ensure confidence in the currency, an undertaking was given upon the notes issued that they were convertible into gold at the option of the holder. From the history which I have given of the developments during the last few years, it will be seen that gold is no longer required to maintain the internal convertibility of our notes. The provision requiring a gold reserve to be held against the note issue was also for the purpose of restricting the issue of notes, and thus protecting the value of the currency from great depreciation in terms of the value of the currencies of other countries. This was brought, about by the statutory requirement that 25 per cent, of gold had to be held against the number of notes issued. By this means the value of the notes issue was restricted. This safeguard that gold was designed to provide will not be affected by the present proposals. The bill provides that the statutory provision for a percentage reserve against the note issue must be maintained, but enables that reserve either to be held in gold or in sterling, or partly in both.
The next point is whether there is anything experimental or revolutionary in the proposal that the note issue reserve need not be entirely . held in gold. There is not. In many countries central banks are permitted to hold part or all of their reserves in foreign exchanges. In Belgium, for example, one-quarter of the legal reserve may be covered by foreign bank notes or bills. The Central Bank of Czechoslovakia may hold one-half of its reserve in foreign exchange; in Esthonia, the cash reserve may consist entirely of foreign notes, bills, credit balances, and cash deposits at leading banking centres in Europe and America ; and the same is true in Latvia and Greece. Provisions on those lines are to be found also in Germany, Italy, Austria, Denmark, Hungary, Poland, Bulgaria, Finland, Colombia, Chile, Bolivia, and Lithuania. The principle underlying the statutes governing these central banks has been to provide that they shall hold their reserves in gold or partly or wholly in foreign assets which can be turned into gold at short notice. It will be recognized from these examples that the practice of not holding the whole of a legal reserve in gold has been very generally adopted. It is also of interest to remember that a number of the central banks to which I have referred have been established during the post-war period, and that the provisions with regard to their legal reserve have been accepted as being based upon sound principles.
Another consideration is that of ensuring that the reserve shall bc absolutely liquid. The bill will not make the note issue reserve any less liquid than at present. Under modern conditions gold for monetary purposes is required only for conversion, into foreign currencies, and, for our purposes, usually into sterling. Sterling exchange can be provided just as effectively, and more cheaply, if the Commonwealth Bank keeps liquid reserves in London. The liquidity of the reserve is fully ensured by the provision in the act that the part held in sterling shall consist of (1) balances with, the Bank of England or other banks in
London; (2) bills of exchange payable in English sterling of maturity not exceeding three months; and (3) treasury-bills or similar obligations of the British Government not exceeding three months’ maturity.
– What will be the position in the future? Will the Commonwealth Bank Board buy them in the usual way, or acquire them from other banks ?
– The bank can acquire them in innumerable ways. There may be an issue of treasury-bills, and the bank may tender for them for three months. The whole of the transactions will be under the control of the Commonwealth Bank Board, so there will not be the slightest difficulty in regard to the acquisition of securities.
I now come to the consideration of the stability of the reserve. For this purpose, owing to the developments which have taken place in the world during the last few years, sterling is “probably more satisfactory than gold aud provides a better reserve. At present the value of gold is fluctuating in terms of sterling. This means that the gold assets of the Commonwealth Bank are subject to constant and undesirable fluctuations in value. The present gold reserve was worth £10,509,000 sterling in September, 1931; on the 7th December, 1931, its value had risen to £15,698,000; on the 11th April, 1932, it was worth only £13,459,000; on the 28th April, 1932, its value had increased again to £13,981,000. This bill will give the board power, if it so desires, to convert its reserve of gold into sterling, and thus eliminate these fluctuation’s.
We have further to recognize that Australia is faced with a decision which has not . yet been formally and legally made - whether we shall link our Australian currency to gold or to sterling. That means not that we should be immediately at par with either, but that we must, follow one or the other with only such divergence ag is imposed by special Australian economic conditions. The choice is forced upon us by the virtual breakdown of gold as a basis for the world’s currency and the rise of sterling as a managed currency, independent of gold. From the most general viewpoint, there is much to be said for sterling.
– Will the right honorable gentleman tell us exactly what sterling means?
– There is a definition in the bill.
– There is a definition in the bill, but it is limited for the special purpose in view. Sterling means generally currency which is legal tender in the United Kingdom. It is really a description of the British pound, which, up to a few months ago, had been kept on a par with gold.
– It was not on a par with gold from 1914 to 1925.
– I have already referred to that fact. During that period the Australian £1 was kept at par with sterling without any regard to the wide movements of gold. But in 1925 Great Britain returned to the gold standard. Since then it has been fighting to keep sterling on a par with gold, and possibly that has caused a lot of its troubles.
– It would be difficult to say at any particular period what was the value of sterling.
– Sterling is the currency of Great Britain, and at one time it implied the gold sovereign. This currency, generally, is not gold, but a paper currency, and, at the moment, it is below the value of gold.
– But it is still measured by gold.
– It may be. But many high authorities, not only in England, consider sterling more stable than gold, and that gold currencies should be measured in sterling. Only a few countries, the United States and Prance in particular, have been- able to keep fully on the gold basis. Great Britain and most of the Empire, including India, the Scandinavian countries, and an increasing number of other countries are definitely off gold, and are, or are becoming, linked to sterling. Other countries such as Germany and Italy are only nominally on gold; their footing is so precarious that a slip may occur at any time, and there is no doubt that, unless these currencies got quite out of hand in the fall, they would be linked to sterling. Sterling, therefore, seems to be the winning side. It offers the better hope of escape from the evils of continued deflation. Sterling prices have- in fact been steady while gold prices continue to fall.
In general, there is a good case for any country linking up with sterling rather than with gold. For Australia, the case is much stronger. Two-thirds of our trade is with countries linked to sterling. Nearly the whole of our obligations forinterest and repayment of loans are expressed in sterling.
I speak of making the choice, formally and legally, but the choice, in fact, has practically been made, It has been made instinctively, and probably unconsciously, by most of us in the last few months. It was made, in particular, by the Commonwealth Bank with the concurrence of general opinion, both in Australia and England, when England went off the gold standard. Our exchange, up to September last, stood at £130 to £100 gold or sterling. In October, sterling fell over 20 per cent, below gold. If we were going tq take gold as our guide, the Australian exchange would have had to fall substantially, almost, in fact, to par with sterling. If gold was to be recognized, even in the smallest degree, some fall in Australian rates was necessary. Not the slightest change was made, and the official rate of the Commonwealth Bank and the trading banks remained steadfastly at £130 Australian for £100 sterling, and, therefore, £150 to £160 Australian for £100 gold. It was not until December - and then only for quite different reasons - that the Bank Board made a small reduction in the Australian exchange rate. (Leave to continue given.’]
Again reverting to whether the proposals of the bill are of an experimental character, I would point out that the action which is contemplated is in accordance with the now generally accepted theory of currency reserves. In this connexion, a recent statement of Professor Gregory, of the Chair of Banking in the University of London, is of interest -
Australia is perfectly justified in shipping gold-
That is, the note issue reserve gold -
It should be shipped to New York and sold, the dollar proceeds to be transferred to London, obtaining -the maximum of profit. What is the good of keeping gold in Australia, where it is undervalued in the Commonwealth balancesheets? The proceeds should be deposited in the Bank of England for use at short-term interest, and be available to the Commonwealth at quick call.
Such a statement represents views which to-day are very widely held, not only amongst members of the British Empire, but also in a number of foreign countries which have followed Great Britain off the gold standard, and are now using sterling as the basis of their currency.
– Is it proposed to put any limit to the time we remain off the gold standard?
– No ; it depends entirely on the trend of world events.
In introducing this bill, the Government does not suppose that the Commonwealth Bank Board will necessarily exercise the discretionary power given it to convert its gold reserves into sterling. The board will decide from time to time in what form it is better to hold its reserve, choosing the most propitious time for any conversion. It is the policy of the Government not to interfere in any way with the management of the currency by the board of the Commonwealth Bank. The Government, therefore, leaves this decision entirely to the discretion of the board, but desires to give it additional powers to meet the disturbed monetary conditions of to-day.
The bill does not reduce the percentage reserve which the board must hold against the notes on issue. Until June, 1931, the Commonwealth Bank Act provided that the board should hold a reserve of gold equal to 25 per cent. of the notes issued. Act No. 6 of 1931 reduced this reserve to 15 per cent. Parliament made this amendment to allow the board to ship £5,000,000 of gold to London for the repayment of treasury-bills which could not be renewed. The amendment provided, however, that the board should increase the reserve to 25 per cent. by the following stages: -
Reserve until 30th June, 1933 - 15 per cent.
Reserve from 1st July, 1933, to 30th June, 1934 - 18 per cent.
Reserve from 1st July, 1934, to 30th June, 1935 - 21½ per cent.
Reserve from 1st July, 1935 - 25 per cent.
On 25th April, 1932, the notes on issue totalled £52,303,426, and the gold reserve was £10,509,000, or about 20 per cent. After the passing of this bill, the board must still hold a reserve equal to the above percentages of the notes issued, but may hold it partly or wholly in sterling instead of entirely in gold. Just as with the gold reserve, no part of the sterling reserve may be used to meet maturing obligations in London, if such use would reduce the total reserve below the percentage permitted by Parliament. Any surplus over the statutory reserve secured by converting gold into sterling might, however, be used for this purpose. The conversion of gold into sterling would have certain incidental advantages of considerable value. Our £10,509,000 gold would to-day realize over £13,500,000 sterling. This would be sufficient to provide a 25 per cent. reserve for the notes now issued. As I have indicated the board is at present required to hold a reserve of an amount not less than 15 per cent., and must increase this by stages to 25 per cent. after the 30th day of June, 1935. In order to do this, under existing legislation, the board must accumulate gold, and it might be embarrassed by having to purchase it at a price involving subsequent loss in the event of its depreciation. This bill permits the board to hold its reserve in sterling, and thus safeguards the Note Issue Department from such a loss.
The investment of the reserves in sterling assets would eliminate the costs of storing gold. The investments moreover would earn interest and thus be a source of profit to the Note Issue Department. Naturally, the security and liquidity of the investments would be the first concern of the board, and the rate of interest would, therefore be low.
– What effect would that earning of interest have on the exchange rate?
– Practically none, because the amount of interest earned would be fractional in relation to the general amount to be met.
– The excess value would have some effect.
– As to that it is provided in the bill that when the gold is transferred into sterling, any surplus amount over the £10,500,000 may be used by the Bank Board in connexion with the stabilization of the exchange rate or in connexion with the note issue, but for no other purpose. In that respect it might have a very considerable influence in enabling us to maintain exchange on a basis of stability.
Sterling reserves can perform practically all the functions of gold, but have the substantial advantage that they earn interest. In addition to being directly profitable the replacement of gold bysterling reserves would help to economize gold and raise gold prices. This would have important indirect advantages particularly by helping to overcome the world depression. For a country such as Australia, whose overseas trade is principally with Great Britain, sterling is a better standard than gold. But when sterling is adopted as a standard, gold becomes subject to disconcerting fluctuations, and the holding of it results in arbitrary gains and losses.
The bill is a short one, and really contains only those two principles, that of holding the. reserve either in gold or sterling, and the qualification that any amount that might accrue consequent upon the transference of gold into sterling shall be used for the specific purposes set out in the measure, and cannot be taken into the revenues of the Commonwealth as would be the case if section 60.j operated. I am afraid that my explanation of the bill has been somewhat lengthy, but I wished to give the House the complete story of these recent years, and to make the pre- sent position, plain. I commend the bill to the House. It is a necessary step forward, and I think that honorable members may have every confidence that’ the power will be handled wisely, in view of the record of the Commonwealth Bank over the last few years.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Scullin) adjourned.
– I move -
That the bill be now road a second time.
I commend the measure to the House, because of its merit, and desire to point out that the main credit for its preparation is due to my predecessor in office.
After the Premiers Conference that was held in August, 1930, a committee was appointed to examine cases of duplication between Commonwealth and State services, and to recommend steps to be taken to eliminate the overlapping. Mr. Westhoven represented the Commonwealth. About that time there was a proposal afoot to change the slaughtering conditions in the Brisbane area by having the same inspectors inspect, at the now Brisbane abattoirs, meat for local consumption, and also that intended for export. The then Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) wrote to the Premier of Queensland on the 27th January, 1931, suggesting that the Commonwealth should take over the whole of the inspection. Following that communication an investigation was carried out by Mr. Westhoven and by Mr. Story, the Queensland Public Service Commissioner. Later, Mr. Westhoven was withdrawn to perform other work, and his place was taken by Mr. J. S. Duncan. Eventually, a draft agreement was drawn up along the lines of the agreement in the schedule to this bill. It was approved by Cabinet on the 10th November, 1931, and work under it began on the 25th November. Due to delays in engrossing and examination, and those incurred in securing the signatures of the Prime Minister and the Premier of Queensland, the agreement was not actually signed until the 6th April of this year. It is incorporated in the bill because the Crown Law officers advise that such an agreement made upon executive authority alone would not be binding.
The bill provides that the Common- ‘ wealth shall take over the whole of the inspection of meat at the Brisbane abattoirs. Previously the examination of meat for export was done by Commonwealth inspectors, while that for local consumption was supervised by State inspectors. There was a suggestion that the State should take over the whole of the inspection, but after consideration it was decided by the representatives of the two Governments that it would be more workable if left to the Commonwealth. The agreement provides that the Commonwealth Government shall take over and permanently appoint the five State meat inspectors who were doing the work prior to the new arrangement being made. That is covered by clause 4 of the agreement.
– Is it correct that the agreement did not involve the dismissal of any of those inspectors?
– Certainly none has been dismissed since November, when the agreement became operative. The arrangement will result in the efficient handling aud inspection of meat. Paragraph 2 provides that the Commonwealth inspectors shall be given the necessary status under the Queensland law so that chey may act on behalf of the State and examine meat for local consumption in the Brisbane area.
– Will those inspectors be used for the general inspection of foods?
– Under the previous arrangement the Commonwealth officials inspected only meat for export, a more or less seasonal activity. Now the one lot of officers will undertake the dual task of inspecting for local and export purposes. They will have the necessary statutory qualifications enabling them to issue certificates for local consumption, or for export when an exportable surplus is available. That should confer a considerable benefit upon the meatproducing industry.
The bill also provides that the State shall reimburse the Commonwealth for the cost of inspection which, is undertaken on behalf of the State. There is a further provision that, should the amount of work increase and more than five officers be necessary, an adjustment may be made which is mutually agreeable to the Queensland Public Service Commissioner and the Commonwealth Public Service Inspector. Clause 5 contains a provision which ensures that the State Agricultural Department shall be supplied with information which may come into the possession of the federal inspectors, and which will be of assistance to the State authorities to prevent the spread of disease. Clause 7 provides that the agreement is to remain in operation for three years, after which it may be terminable by either party giving! six months’ notice.
I made a rather full explanation as to the provisions of the measure when replying to questions. This happened to be a case where there was no duplication of staff, although there was a certain amount of overlapping between the State and Commonwealth services.
– Do the standards for local consumption and export vary?
– Before this agreement came into force they varied considerably.
– What about the standard of meat for home consumption?
– The bill contains no provision for raising the standard for home consumption. It will be realized that the standard of meat for export is regulated by the country to which the meat is exported. The carcasses of sheep which suffered from caseous lymphadenitis have always been regarded in Australia as quite wholesome. This was also true of Great Britain until recently j but they have since been refused admission to that country,- 1 think, as an indirect means of protecting the British producer. We know very well, that meat from which nodules have been cut is unanimously regarded by Australian veterinary and medical opinion as quite fit for human consumption. I do not anticipate for a moment that such meat, although not suitable for export, will be refused a certificate for local consumption. The chief advantage which will flow from this agreement is that Commonwealth inspectors will bo available at any time to certify that meat is suitable for export. Producers will thus be saved both delay and expense in regard to inspections at any time there should be an unexpected surplus of meat at the abattoirs. I cannot promise that the agreement will do much towards promoting the adoption of uniform standards and labels for Australian meat, although the department is aiming to do something in this respect. The greatest obstacle to the fixing of Commonwealth wide brands and grades of meat is the’ variation of type which occurs in different parts of Australia from year to year on account of our great differences in seasonal conditions. New Zealand has been able to adopt uniform brands and grades, and this has been most advantageous to her producers, but her seasonal conditions are much more uniform than ours.
– Is it the intention of the Government to enter into similar agreements with other States?
– There is room for an agreement pf this kind in connexion with meat dealt with in Sydney, and discussions have occurred with the State authorities with the object of reaching an agreement; but nothing has been definitely decided, so far. We have almost reached an agreement with the Queensland Government in regard to the inspection of butter, and a draft agreement has been drawn up between ourselves and the Tasmanian Government with regard to the inspection of apples. As the time of our investigating officer becomes available he is examining other proposals which might lead to the making of agreements between the Commonwealth and other State authorities with the object of eliminating duplication and overlapping. The consummation of this agreement is notable for it is the first achievement of the kind. I hope that the bill will have a speedy passage through the House.
.- As this bill has been introduced following upon negotiations between the previous Government, of which I was a member, and the Queensland Government for the elimination of duplication in the inspection of beef at the Brisbane abattoirs, I shall offer no objection to its passage through the House. As the Minister for Commerce (Mr. Hawker) has stated, the previous Government appointed an officer to investigate cases of overlapping in State and Commonwealth services of this kind. That officer has made certain recommendations, some of which have been adopted in the agreement in the schedule of this bill. I hope that no one will lose his employment because of its adoption. Paragraph a of clause 1 of the agreement reads -
The Commonwealth shall appoint to the permanent service of the Commonwealth such of the officers of the State presently engaged in inspecting meat as shall he agreed upon by the Commonwealth Public Service Board of Commissioners and the Public Service Commissioner of Queensland.
Have any officers of the Queensland Service been appointed to the Commonwealth Public Service in pursuance of that provision? It was obvious to every body that it was anomalous that five State officers should be in a meatworks to inspect meat for home consumption, and that five Commonwealth officers should be there to inspect meat for export. This certainly was unnecessary overlapping of services. But I hope that in any adjustment of staffs, State officers will be appointed to the Commonwealth Service in preference to outside persons. I do not desire to see any one lose his job.
I am glad that the Commonwealth is undertaking the inspection work. I believe that we made a retrograde step a few years ago when we agreed to allow the State taxation officers to collect Commonwealth taxation. When federation was agreed to it was understood that the tendency would be towards centralization or unification rather than towards the building up of dual departments to do practically the same class of work. I am sure that many of those who agreed to the handing over of the collection of Commonwealth taxation to the State authorities would be very glad to set the clock back’ so that they could correct that action. There is no doubt that at present the tendency towards unification is greater in Australia than ever before. [Quorum formed.] I hope that the Department of Commerce will do its best to encourage the adoption of uniform standards of beef throughout Australia. The agreement which is now being validated has been in operation since the 25th November and is working satisfactorily.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time and reported from committee without amendment or debate.
Report adopted and bill - by leave - read a third time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Every country claims the right to protect itself by regulating immigration and ridding itself of undesirables, particularly aliens who, having gained admission to the country, afterwards become a burden upon its community or a menace to its social order. Australia is entitled to protect herself in both ways. This country has had immigration laws on its statutebook for many years. . The main object of this measure is to amend those laws to give the Government greater power to deal more effectively with undesirables. The Commonwealth power in regard to immigration and deportation is exercised through the department which I have the honour to control for the time being; and it has been exercised during my period of office with absolute impartiality and justice to all concerned. Where the presence of undesirables who come within the ambit of the immigration law has been proved, prompt action to deport them has been taken. During my term of office 53 deportation orders have been signed. I mention this as evidence that the interests of Australian citizens have been conserved to some extent under the existing law. But an amendment is necessary to enable more definite and satisfactory action to be taken than is at present permitted.
– What classes of persons were deported?
– Various classes, including those who were mentally unfit and foreigners convicted of crimes of violence The list is available to honorable members. Amongst them was Reimann who took a prominent part in the riot in Adelaide in January last. He was convicted of a crime of violence, and immediately after his release from gaol he was placed on a ship to be returned to the country whence he came. If an immigrant is not content to become a law-abiding member of society, he is not entitled to the privileges of citizenship in this country. I have received many protests from secretaries of organizations with peculiar names asking that Reimann should not be deported, but he has actually been on the high seas for several days.
The bill has two main objects - first, to provide more effective means of controlling alien immigration into Australia; and, secondly, to strengthen the provision by means of which undesirable persons may be deported from the Commonwealth. While the existing depression continues, and acute unemployment prevails, the strictest control of alien immigration is necessary in the interests, not only of the local labour market, but also of the intending migrants. To that principle no honorable member will object. Obviously, it would be wrong for the Commonwealth to permit the surplus populations of other countries to come here while considerable numbers of our own people are without work. At present aliens seeking entry into Australia must obtain permission to land. These applications are dealt with by me personally, and as a rule permission to land is granted only to very close dependent relatives of persons already settled here. Due consideration, however, is given to special cases where it would be in the interests of the community to authorize admission, and special arrangements have been made for the temporary admission of bona fide tourists and commercial visitors, as it is not desirable to hamper the entry of foreign travellers who come here to spend money or promote overseas trade. A difficulty, however, arises where a white alien arrives without a permit and is not, otherwise eligible to land. It is necessary to apply an effective dictation test to prohibit his landing. This is not a desirable procedure when an officer has to deal with an intelligent foreigner, who may be able to speak several European languages; in any case, a simpler and more satisfactory method would be to make it a statutory requirement that the alien who wishes to come here as an immigrant must, before embarking, obtain a permit to land. This course is followed in other countries, including the United States of America, Canada, and New Zealand. I have read in newspaper reports received from New York that the Immigration Committee of the United States of America Congress is proposing further to reduce the immigration quota by 90 per cent. The United States of America’s population has practically reached saturation point, and immigration is almost prohibited. The surplus populations of Europe which previously America absorbed, have to seek other outlets, and it becomes all the more necessary for the Commonwealth to exercise every care to prevent an influx into thi« country. For the reasons I have mentioned the proposed amendment by which any alien immigrant may be prohibited from landing if, on demand by the officer, he fails to satisfy him that he holds a landing permit, or that his admission has been duly authorized, will be of material assistance in the administration of the act.
The deportation of persons who have gained admission to the Commonwealth applies mainly to three classes, namely, those who have entered illegally, those who have since become a burden on public funds through physical or mental causes, and those who have been convicted of criminal offences or otherwise proved to be undesirable members of the community. In regard to persons who have entered the Commonwealth illegally since the commencement of the Immigration Restriction Act of 1901, the time in which action can be taken to deport them if circumstances arise to make such a course desirable is not limited. But in the case of those who were permitted to land and subsequently became a burden upon the community or otherwise prove undesirable, it i3 necessary to take action within three years after their arrival, or that evidence be forthcoming that within that period they became inmates of public institutions or had been convicted of crimes punishable by imprisonment for one year or longer. An exception was made in respect of aliens convicted of crimes of violence against the person; the time within which action to deport them could be taken wa3 not limited. The bill proposes that the three-year period bc extended to five years. This will conform to the period mentioned in similar provisions in the immigration laws of the United States of America and Canada. It is, moreover, the usual period in various countries of qualification for naturalization or domicile. Therefore, five years is a reasonable period of probation for immigrants who wish to settle in this country; if within that time they prove to be undesirable , there should be ready means to send them back to the places whence they came.
A further amendment relates to the wives and dependants of deportees. The power to deport them is discretionary. The wife of the deportee may not wish to leave with him, and if proof is forthcoming that she will not be a burden on the community the Minister may allow her to remain in Australia.
– In the event of the wife of a deportee being a native of Australia, what will be the position?
– The power is discretionary, and, if the wife wishes to accompany her husband, no objection will be raised. If, on the other hand, she wishes to stay in Australia, and she can show that she has relatives with whom she oan live, and that she will not be a burden on the Commonwealth, the Government will give her case favorable consideration.
– There should be no need for that if the wife is Australian-born.
– It is a matter more of sentiment; whether or not the wife wishes to accompany her husband. In any case, the amendment is clear, and discretion may be exercised either way. In the case of an Australianborn wife no deportation order would be issued.
– It will be necessary to make deportation an act of desertion within the meaning of the divorce law.
– A subsequent amendment to that effect may be necessary. Power is also being taken to compel shipping companies which bring to Australia persons who afterwards prove to be undesirable, to take them back to the place whence they came, accompanied by their dependants. Those are the main principles of the bill. It provides for about eight amendments, most of which I have explained. The object of the bill is to strengthen the hands of the Government in dealing with the classes of persons to whom I have referred, and to extend the time during which action can be taken against them from three to five years.
– Will the Minister explain sub-clause c of clause 5, which eliminates the dictation test?
– I have already explained that. The test has been found inconvenient, more particularly in respect o.f white aliens who have a knowledge of a number of lan- guages, and a more summary method of dealing with them is now proposed. I. have explained the main alterations to the act, and minor amendments will be dealt with in committee.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Blakeley) adjourned.
– I move -
That thu bill be now read a second time.
This bill amends the Acts Interpretation Act 1901-1930, and the Acts Interpretation Act 1904-1930. As honorable members probably know, these two measures have never been consolidated and consequently in making amendments in the law relating to the interpretation of statutes it is frequently necessary, as on this occasion, to deal with both of those acts. Clause 2 and paragraph a of section 9a contained in clause 3 of the bill relate to the same subject. Section 32 of the Acts Interpretation Act 1901-1930 provides that where an act confers power to issue regulations, expressions used in the regulations shall have the same meaning as in the act unless the contrary intention appears. This enables definitions which are embodied in an act to be invoked in the interpretation of regulations made under it. In addition, section 32 provides that expressions which are defined in the Acts Interpretation Act shall, in any regulations made under an act, have the same meanings as are given in the ActsInterpretation Act itself. This bill takes the position with regard to the interpretation of regulations a little further. Tha Acts Interpretation Act contains provisions for the construction of statutes but these do not apply to regulations. Under clause -2 and paragraph a of section 9a contained in clause 3 of this bill, however, it is now proposed that those rules of construction shall apply also in the case of regulations, rules or by-laws which are issued under any act. In the. amending bill, the words “ rules, regulations or by-laws “ appear. It is proposed, by amendments to be moved in the committee stage, to insert the word “ instrument “ so as to make the provision read “ instruments, including rules, regulations or by-laws”, since the present wording does not embrace all that it is desired to cover. For instance, proclamations, notices or possibly appointments in writing may be made or issued under an act of Parliament, and it is desired that the rules of construction laid down in the Acts Interpretation Act should apply to them. The insertion of the word “ instrument “ will achieve that object. The list of amendments appears to be formidable, but this is due to the fact’ that, although they relate to only one matter, alterations have to be made in two separate measures. In section 15a of the Acts Interpretation Act 1901-1930 is a provision applying to all statutes. The effect of the section is that where any act passed by this Parliament is held in some respects to exceed the power of the Commonwealth under the Constitution, the whole act shall not be invalid, but only that portion which is held to be in excess of our power. Paragraph b of section 9a contained in clause 3 contains a provision in relation to rules, regulations or by-laws issued under any act, so as to protect a series of rules, regulations, or by-laws against total invalidity by reason of their being, in respect of part thereof, in excess of power. Clause 4 deals with another matter. It provides that where any regulation issued under an act has been disallowed by either House of Parliament, under -the provision which enables that to ‘be. done, a similar regulation shall not be introduced within a period of six months.
– Does not that apply now?
– No. A similar regulation to that previously disallowed is prevented by this bill from being introduced within a period of six months from the date of disallowance unless the House concerned has itself annulled its own action.
– Is the object of the amendment to prevent a repetition of what occurred in connexion with the regulations respecting waterside workers?
– I am stating what the law will be in the future, and the honorable member may draw his own conclusions regarding its effect.
– What is the motive?
– The motive actuating the Government on this occasion as on all other occasions is to improve the machinery of Parliament and its legislation for the benefit of the people of Australia. It is desirable that these alterations should be made in the Acts Interpretation Act, and I commend the bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Forde) adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 5.5 to 8 p.m.
Bill returned from the Senate with amendments.
In committee (Consideration of the Senate’s amendments) :
Clause 4 -
Section 10 of the principal act is amended
Section proposed to be amended - “10. - (1.) A person shall not, from and after the dale fixed by Proclamation, and during the currency of the Proclamation, pay to any person, other than the Treasurer or an authorized person, any moneys due by the person to the State, which, but for this Act, would have been payable to the State and would have formed part of the specified revenue of that State. (2.) Notwithstanding the foregoing provisions of this section, if theGovernor-General declares by Proclamation -
that any particular class of specified revenue or portion of aclass of specified revenue is of such a nature that it is desirable that payment of moneys included in that close should bemade to an officer or employee of the State, and
that it is desirable that the officer or employee should be required to deal with those moneys in the rammer directed by the Treasurer, payment of those moneys may be made to the proper officer or employee of the State, and in accordance with such directions (if any) as are given by the Treasurer in writing or by notice published in the Gazette . . .
Senate’s amendments -
No. 1.- After “amended” insert “ (a) “.
No. 2. At the end of the clause add - “(b) by inserting after sub-section (2.) the following sub-sections: - “ (2a.) The Treasurer may direct that payment of those moneys, or any part of those moneys, shall be made or tendered by bank draft, crossed cheque or money order, made payable to the person or account specified by the Treasurer, or in such other manner as is specified by him, and any payment made in accordance with the Treasurer’s directions shall, to the extent of the amount actually paid, and, in the case of payment by cheque, upon the cheque being honoured, be a good discharge of the liability of the person making the payment, and any payment made otherwise than in accordance with such directions shall not he a good discharge of the liability of that person and shall be a contravention of this Act. “ (2b. ) Any officer or employee of a State who refuses or fails to accept a payment made or tendered in accordance with the Treasurer’s directions shall bo guilty of a contravention of this act “; and
by omitting from sub-section (3.) the words the last preceding sub-section “and inserting in their stead the words “ sub-section (2.), of this section “.
Amendment No. 1 agreed to.
– I move -
That amendment No. 2 be agreed to.
The object of this amendment is to enable the Treasurer to require that any payment to a State officer shall be made by bank draft, crossed cheque or money order. It is not stipulated that such payments shall be made in this way, but authority is to be given to the Treasurer’ to require them to be made in the manner directed.
.- The explanation of the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) may be satisfactory to the marionettes opposite who support the Government, and vote as they are told, but it is not satisfactory to us.
– For whom does the honorable member speak?
– We are the Labour party, the only one in this House. Paragraph 2a of the amendment states that the Treasurer may specify the form in which the money shall be paid by the taxpayer. I suggest that, in order to expedite the collection of this revenue, the Prime Minister might avail himself of the services of his 200 special constables. This provision will still further inconvenience taxpayers who may desire to pay their taxes to the Commonwealth, though I can assure the Government that the number of such citizens in New South Wales is small. Paragraph 2b of the amendment states that any employee of a State who refuses, or fails to accept, a payment made in accordance with the Treasurer’s direction shall be guilty of a contravention of the act. This Parliament is going rather far when it seeks to direct the State servants of New South Wales as to how they shallcarry out their duties. Surely the Prime Minister does not suggest that the Government of New South Wales should not possess the right to direct the activities of its own employees. Every government expects the Public Service under its control to give loyal service, and in New South Wales public servants are loyal to the Government which was constitutionally elected by the largest majority ever recorded in that State.
– By false pretences.
– No doubt the honorable member is an authority on false pretences. Supporters of- the present Commonwealth Government declared during the election campaign that their party would, if returned to power, force Mr. Lang to go to the country. They have so far kept their promise that they have clone everything possible to prevent the Government of New South Wales from governing.
– From misgoverning.
– I can understand that the honorable member may feel somewhat resentful, because the Government of New South Wales nearly put him on the dole by forcing his buses off the road. 1 am concerned with protecting the rights of public servants in New South Wales. There may be a few of the public servants of that State who have joined- the New Guard, and take their orders from some unconstitutional authority, but the majority of them are loyal to the Government of New South Wales, and that is what we expect of public servants - to be loyal to whatever government has been constitutionally elected. This provision will brand as law-breakers State servants whose only offence is loyalty to the Government which employs them. As a matter of fact, the only practical result of legislation of this sort will be to make the State servants more determined than ever to resist the attempts of the Commonwealth Government to coerce them. I suggest that the Prime Minister should increase the number of his thugs-
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Bell).Order !
– Well, let him increase the number of his armed police force so that he may arrest all the public servants of New South Wales. The honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. -Stewart) does not favour my suggestion. He, at any rate, knows what the position is in New South Wales. He knows of the enormous rallies in support of Mr. Lang which have been held in Parramatta, and we know that the honorable member keeps in readiness a powerful motor car so that he may get quickly beyond the line of fire if necessary. The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. E. J. Harrison) seems to be amused. I can also understand his interest in these matters, because his name is included among others on one of the documents found in Wingello House.
– I ask the honorable member not to make persona1 remarks.
– I can assure honorable members opposite that if they are looking for trouble in New South Wales they will find it in plenty when they come for it.
.- I do not wish to debate further a subject which has already been debated too much. I wish, however, that the Prime Minister would- give honorable members some information as to how it is proposed to collect, let us say, railway revenue. How will railway officials obtain the necessary bank drafts or crossed cheques ? Are they to make their payments to pOS offices, or will cheques be made available to them by the treasury? I should like to be enlightened on that point. It is scandalous that this measure, which is designed to seize the revenues of a constitutionally elected government, should occupy so much of the time of the federal legislature. Apparently the Commonwealth Government does not care a fig for the sufferings that will be inflicted upon innocent persons, who are not connected with the fight. Irrespective of any hardship that non-participants in the quarrel may suffer, this Government is relentless in pursuing its political vendetta against the Premier of New South Wales.
– Those people are suffering, because of the action of Mr. Lang.
– I ask your protection,. Mr. Chairman. Only last night I was threatened that I would be named, because I was goaded into replying to the stupid interjections of the honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Stewart), who escaped scot-free.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Bell).Order. The honorable member will at all times have the protection of the Chair. I ask other honorable members to cease interjecting.
– This .is the fifth occasion this session that we have discussed financial agreements enforcement legislation. “We shall discuss it 55 times, and then the Government will not have made any headway in its vendetta.
– I rise to a point of order. I submit that we are not here to be lectured by the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James), but to discuss a specific amendment. I claim that the remarks of the honorable member are not connected with that amendment.
– Order. The honorable member for Hunter must deal with the amendment. His remarks are more applicable to a second reading than to the amendment.
– The amendment simply tightens up legislation with which we have dealt, and which is designed to confiscate the revenues of the State of New South “Wales. “With all due deference to the legal gentleman, who interrupted and you, sir, I claim that I am not out of order.
– Order. The honorable member is not in order in discussing the bill generally. He must deal specifically with the amendment.
– I am doing so, sir. This amendment is designed to tighten up the enforcement legislation. Proposed new sub-section 2b reads - “ Any officer or employee of a State who refuses or fails to accept a payment made or tendered in accordance with “the Treasurer’s directions shall be guilty of a contravention of this act”; and
Then the bill provides that there shall be a penalty of £100. Surely that is tightening up this legislation, and it will assuredly inflict hardship on innocent people who desire to obey the Government which employs them. I cannot see that I am out of order, but out of deference to the Chair I shall not pursue that line of argument further. It is my intention to oppose the amendment.
– The honorable member has not yet dealt with it.
– Order. The Minister for the Interior (Mr. Archdale Parkhill) must not interject.
– The Federal Government is instructing the public servants of New South “Wales to break the law of that
State, and tells them that they will be safeguarded against persecution by the State Government. It threatens them with a fine of £100 if they refuse to break that law. When we last dealt with the bill it was clearly intimated that if New South Wales public servants broke the law and action was taken against them, they would be compensated for any monetary loss they sustained. I should not like to be a public servant in New South Wales. They are between the devil and the deep blue sea; they do not know where they stand, and this Government is in a similar predicament. When we read in to-morrow’s press that Mr. Lang has introduced legislation again checkmating the Federal Government, we shall probably be called upon to consider a further amendment of the Financial Agreements Enforcement Act.
– Yes, if necessary.
– It is merely wasting the time of the country when we should be endeavouring to relieve the sufferings of the unemployed. This Government regards the position of those people as nothing compared with the vindictive course of political spleen that it is pursuing.
.- I, too, oppose the amendment. I remember that when I first entered this chamber it was claimed that the Financial Agreements Enforcement legislation was watertight, but at practically every sitting since then we have had to deal with an amendment to the principal act. Proposed new subsection 2b makes it evident that if an employee of the State Government subjects himself to the penalties of the act he will be placed in prison. I want to know what gaol will be used for the purpose.
– The honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Stewart) and the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill), say “Berrima”. From the documents that have been seized at Wingello House we are aware that they should be more conversant with the matter than honorable members on this side of the chamber. I am not an authority on constitutional law, but it is my belief that a law-breaker in. any State must be tried by the State judiciary and, if necessary, imprisoned in a gaol in that State. Yet we learn that the Commonwealth intends to incarcerate these political prisoners in the old Berrima gaol. That is a dangerous precedent. I am sure that the Prime Minister does not know what sort of a place Berrima gaol is, or he would not desire to send these unfortunate public servants there.
– The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) said that he did not understand the proposed new sub-section, and I believe him. The honorable member is under a misunderstanding regarding the second portion of it, and appears to think that the Commonwealth Treasurer will issue instructions to stationmasters, gatekeepers and siding attendants as to how they shall pay these moneys to the Commonwealth. That is not intended. Instructions have already been issued in that respect, and the usual channels will be employed. Further, I point out that the railway revenues have not yet been proclaimed as moneys that are to be attached.
– Because the honorable gentleman cannot find sufficient support in his own party to do so.
– The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), who has been absent from his parliamentary duties electioneering in New South Wales, is sure to know exactly what has happened in the Parliament that he has failed to attend recently. I believe that the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) was honest in his declaration, and I assure him that there is no intention to do anything foolish in this matter. The Commonwealth Government will proceed along the common-sense lines that it has followed up to the present. I assure him that individual public servants are in no danger of suffering because of any action that will be taken by this Government.
Question - That the amendment be agreed to - put. The committee divided. (Chairman - Mr. Bell.)
Majority . . . . 31
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion agreed to.
Clause 5 -
Section fifteen of the Principal Act is amended by inserting after sub-section (5a.) the following sub-sections: - “ (5c.) Any refund made in pursuance of the last preceding sub-section shall be a good discharge to the Commonwealth in respect of all claims in relation to the moneys refunded or in relation to or arising from the application of this Act to those moneys.
Section proposed to be amended - 15 (Moneys held by banks on behalf of State) :
Senate’s amendment. - After proposed new sub-section (5c.) insert the following subsection : - “ (5ca.) In making any refund under sub section (5b.) of this section the Treasurer may specify the particular fund, account or purpose in respect of which the refund is made.”
– I move -
That the amendment be agreed to.
Section 15 of the principal act was amended by the provisions of clause 5 of the bill which we passed yesterday to provide that the Treasurer may “ refund to the chief executive officer of any corporation “ any moneys paid by it to the Government which he feels should be refunded because they were the property of some other body than the State Government, such as a superannuation board. The amendment which I am now asking honorable members to agree to provides that such refunds may be made to “ the particular fund, account or purpose “ for which they are intended.
– Will the £150 of widows’ pension money which has been attached be refunded ?
– Before anything can be refunded it must be received ; but I guarantee the honorable member that if it can be shown that £150 came into the hands of the Commonwealth Government which was the property of the widow pensioners of New South Wales, it will be refunded.
– In that case I shall not oppose the amendment.
Motion agreed to.
Motion (by Mr. Lyons) put -
That the report be adopted.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. G. H. Mackay.)
Majority . . 35
– An honorable member may have paired with another honorable member, or he may not desire to record a vote, in which case he would be entitled to leave the chamber.
– How are we to know whether an honorable member has paired or not? The honorable member to whom I referred is the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin);
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Financial Agreements Enforcement Acts - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1932- No. 41.
Conduct of Business - Tobacco Duties - Public Service Bill - Clothing for the Unemployed - The New Guard.
Motion (by Mr. Lyons) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- We who are not in the confidence of the Government are unable to understand why it is not getting on with its job. Several measures are on the business-paper, and we are not proceeding with them. Amongst them is the tariff schedule which is important and urgent.
– The Prime Minister explained this afternoon in answer to a question that he did not desire to start the tariff debate at the tail end of the week.
– But this is only the second sitting day of the week. The inference to be drawn from the Government’s attitude is that it does not want a debate on the tobacco duties two days before the election in Victoria. Undoubtedly such a debate would be embarrassing to Nationalist candidates in that highly protectionist State. But if the Government will not allow the House to proceed with the tariff, why not proceed with the debate on the Public Service Bill, another embarrassing bill to be under notice on the eve of an election. What, work has this House done in the last two days ?
– A great deal.
– The Minister . for Trade and Customs may .profess satis faction, but if he were in Opposition, and the Government had paltered with public business as this Government: has ::done during the last two days: rite would be breathing fire and brimstonersIf “there is one matter of paramount urgency it is the policy of the Government in regard to the tobacco industry;..’ and-the House was promised an opportunity to discuss it. Where is the Leader of the Country party? We are in the middle of the week and the business of this Parliament should be proceeded with regardless of any State election. If the Government believes that certain measures are likely to produce a debate which will embarrass Nationalist candidates in Victoria it should drop them altogether when it knows that they are out of harmony. with public sentiment. To-day the second readings of two bills have been moved, and the debates adjourned; the House then passed one small measure .that .calls for little discussion. Before 5 o’clock the sitting was suspended, and now .at. this early hour of the evening the House is asked to adjourn.
– Proceed with the debate on the Immigration Bill.
– I am ready to do that.
– Let us go on with the second-reading debate on the Commonwealth Bank Bill.
– I am prepared to do even that, or to debate the Public Service Bill, the Acts Interpretation Bill, or the tariff. Is the Minister for Trade and Customs ready to go on with the tariff discussion ?
– Then why not start the debate to-night? ‘Obviously the Government is manoeuvring in a manner that is not befitting the dignity of the National Parliament. The House has done practically no business to-day.
– At the honorable member’s request the Government adjourned the second-reading debates on two important bills.
– It is customary to grant to the Leader of the Opposition the adjournment of the debate after a Minister has moved the second-reading of an important bill. But the Government could proceed with other business. Last week we asked that the debate on the tariff should be expedited; the Government would not agree to that; but next week it will be threatening the House with ali.night sittings.
.- I, too, protest against the manner in which the business of the House is being conducted. Members are brought to Canberra in trains which cost the Commonwealth a large sum of money ; we are here only for three days in seven, and this week those three days are not being fully employed. Last week those who listened to the debate on the bill for the relief of unemployment could not escape the conviction that the House was practically fooling away its time. Three days were devoted to a measure which had the unanimous support of the House. In one division last night only 40 of the 75 members of the House were present to vote. Replying to a question of the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Watson) to-day, the Prime Minister denied that the proposal to abandon next Friday’s sitting is connected with the desire of Ministers and members to participate in the Victorian election campaign. I do not accept that assurance. I can recollect no other occasion on which the House has adjourned at 6 p.m. on Thursday, as the Government proposes it shall do tomorrow, except when an election or some other important happening was impending. In my opinion the Prime Minister’s answer was not accurate. Undoubtedly some members of this House are taking part in the Victorian election campaign, and others propose to leave by train to-morrow night in order to speak in their electorates on Friday. Next week the Government will want to rush business through the Hou3e. One marvels at the patience of the public in submitting to the conduct of public business in this fashion. On occasions the House is marking time - to use no stronger term - and yet I have seen the whole of the Estimates rushed through in one night, a process of legislation by exhaustion, which deprives honorable members of the opportunity to give adequate consideration to the proposals before them. On behalf of the people, I voice my protest against this Parliament acting in this dilatory fashion at a period of national crisis when all parties should be co-operating to do their best for Australia.
– I endorse the protests that have been uttered by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin), and the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb). Last week the Government would not allow adequate time for the discussion of the bill for the financing of unemployment relief works, and three times I was gagged. Now the business1 of the House is to be held up, because the Government is afraid that some of its legislative proposals may have an adverse effect upon the Nationalist party’s prospects in the Victorian election. The Government fears the consequences’ in that State if the House is afforded an opportunity to discuss some of its legislation. With the Commonwealth Government, party advantage is the first consideration, and the welfare of the people, the last. Knowing .the deplorable conditions of many people throughout Australia, this Parliament should be sitting night and day, endeavouring to relieve their sufferings. Many suggestions for the help of the unfortunates have been made, but the Government excuses its inaction on the plea that the relief of distress is the concern of the State Governments. In the present crisis all governmental authorities should be co-operating in an endeavour to give succour to those who are workless and hungry. During the Scullin regime surplus military clothing was distributed to the unemployed directly through members of this Parliament. Although the quantity available was never sufficient to satisfy all requirements that system of distribution was more satisfactory than the present method of distribution through the Salvation Army and other charitable and religious organizations. I have referred frequently in this House to the inadequate supply of material that is made available for the unemployed. I have been told by the Assistant Minister for Defence (Mr. Francis) to make application for material to various charitable organizations, including the Salvation Army. Various relief organizations in my electorate have communicated with me to the effect that upon making application to Colonel Orr of the Salvation Army for surplus materials they have been informed that there is none available. I ask the Prime Minister to cease laughing and to listen to the plea that I am putting forward on behalf of people who are without clothing and boots. He might show a little sympathy towards them.
– I am tired of listening to the honorable member’s rubbish.
– The honorable gentleman refers to my plea on behalf of the unfortunate unemployed as rubbish. That is not a very nice statement to be recorded in Hansard. Many of these people have no boots, and many women, because of the state of their clothing, are ashamed to go into the streets. Yet the Commonwealth has stored in the army and naval stores huge quantities of materials and articles of apparel which, if made available for the unemployed, would at least give them some little comfort during the cold winter months. The Scullin Government did endeavour to make clothing available for the workless. I am not putting up this plea for the purpose of propaganda. This is a question of humanity. It is a disgrace that such a position should exist in a country that boasts of its civilization, its Christian fellowship and its love of humanity. This Government could show some little Christian feeling by making available the stocks of clothing that are to-day stored in the military and naval stores. The Commonwealth Government is, for political advantage, attacking the Premier of New South Wales, who is endeavouring to relieve the sufferings of the unemployed in’ that State.
– Why did Mr. Lang hold up the payment of widows’ pensions?
– Because this Government, under the Financial Agreements Enforcement Act, seized from the hanks State moneys which would ordinarily have been used in the payment of widow’s pensions, child endowment, and superan- nuation. When the Commonwealth Government realized the political effect of its action, it introduced legislation to enable it to retreat from the position which it originally took up.
Several honorable members interjecting,
– I ask honorable members to observe the rules of debate and refrain from interjecting. The honorable member for Hunter is entitled to be heard in silence.
– The honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Stewart) has a grudge against the Premier of New South Wales because the operation of the Transport Act in that State prevented him from exploiting child labour on his fleet of omnibuses at the expense of the railway and tramway services of New South Wales. The honorable member would like to shoot Mr. Lang on sight. Let us be serious on this subject.
– The honorable member cannot take anything seriously.
– Even in respect of unemployment, this Government has made an attack upon the State Government of New South Wales, because it is not to be given the same facilities as are being afforded the other State Governments in respect of the appointment of unemployment relief councils. The PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Fenton), when sitting on this side of the House, made a special plea on behalf of the unemployed, and he has now an opportunity to put to his colleagues in the Cabinet the case on behalf of. the unfortunate unemployed who are to-day practically naked. The storing of clothing serves no useful purpose, and I urge the Postmaster-General to do something for the unemployed.
– I am prepared* to show that I have done perhaps more than the honorable member has to assist the unemployed.
– The Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons), as a family man, knows how difficult it is to rear a family even on a comfortable income. My family ii not so large as that of the Prime Minister, but I have had the experience of rearing children. There are many unemployed men in my electorate who are to-day suffering severe -hardships by having to rear seven or eight little children on the pittance that they receive from the State Government. A certain section of the community is preaching to the unemployed the ungodly gospel of communism. Neither the Government nor the people generally realize the extent to’ which that doctrine is growing, and the extent to which the credulity of the unfortunate unemployed is being played upon, and unless they are supplied with clothing so as to make their lot a little more comfortable, it will not be long before many of them become active Communists.
.- Honorable members, who have spoken are justified in protesting against the procrastination of this Government. The business-paper contains quite a number of items for discussion. We have the tariff to debate, and the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) has stated that a discussion will take place in respect of the Ottawa Conference. Notwithstanding that, the House has adjourned at several periods during the last week when business could have been proceeded with. To-night the Prime Minister attempted to adjourn the House at half-past eight. To-morrow it is intended to adjourn the House at 6 p.m., and no sitting will take place on Friday. That is unfair to honorable members, particularly those who represent distant States and cannot visit their homes at the week-end. They are being compelled to board at Canberra waiting for the Government to bring on business next week. Only 40 out of 75 members have been present in the chamber this week. Probably the Government thinks that by postponing the business of the House until next week there will be fewer members present to discuss the tobacco and other duties. Why bring on the tariff debate during the last week of Parliament when it could have been proceeded with this week? Why not begin the debate on Friday next ?
– The honorable member, when Minister for Trade and Customs, held up the debate on the tariff for two years.
– When I was Minister honorable members had ample opportunity to discuss the tariff. Why not discuss it on Friday? Is the House adjourning to-morrow at, the instigation of Sir Stanley Argyle, the United Australia party leader in Victoria, so as to enable certain members of this House to assist at the final election rally in that State? Is this Government postponing the consideration of the Public Service Bill merely because its passage through this House might prejudice the election of certain State representatives? Has the tariff debate been postponed merely because the lowering of duties in respect of about70 items might jeopardize the election of State members who represent secondary industries? I strongly object to the postponement of the business of this House.We have had no opportunity to consider the tariff items or to discuss the Ottawa Conference. Are we to understand that the Australian delegates are going to the conference without any direction from this Parliament, perhaps to jeopardize the very existence of Australia’s secondary industries without gaining any corresponding advantage for our primary industries? Are these delegates simply going on a joyride, or will they attempt to achieve anything of value to Australia? These are matters which Parliament might well consider, instead of adjourning so that honorable members may participate in the Victorian election campaign.
– I also desire to protest against the untimely adjournment of the House. We met this afternoon at 2.30, and adjourned at 5 o’clock. We were called together again at 6.14 p.m., and immediately adjourned until8 p.m. But for the action taken by the little group to which I belong, the House would probably have adjourned at about five minutes past eight, because there would have been no opposition to the amendments placed before us for our acceptance. I agree with the statement of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) that the Government is holding up business to suit the convenience of its political friends in Victoria. It is true, I believe, that the Nationalist Consultative Council in Victoria asked the Commonwealth Government not to proceed with the tariff discussion and the Public Service Bill, because it might prejudice the interests of Nationalist candidates in the forthcoming Victorian elections. In this, as in other matters, the Government has shown itselfwilling to obey the inner group of the Nationalist organization, which really directs the policy of the Government.
Mr.E. J. HARRISON (Wentworth) [9.18]. - As a new member, I may be pardoned for becoming a little confused whenI have tolisten to the humbug and politicalcant that have emanated from honorablemembers opposite.
-The honorable member is not in order in describingwhat is said in this House aspolitical cant or humbug.
Mr.E.J.HARRISON.- I am sorry ifI haveoffended, but I feel somewhat hotoverthis matter when I realize just howmuch sincerity is being shown by many speakerswho have addressed themselvesto thissubject. The honorable member forAngas (Mr. Gabb) protested, and I cansupport him to this extent: that Iwonder, as he does, how much longeralongsuffering public will put up withwhatistaking place in this House. I amsomewhatconcerned that we are not gettingonwith the business of the country, but I have sufficient confidence in theGovernment to recognize that, in its owngood time, it will introduce such businessasisnecessary, and will carry it throughin away that will reflect to the country’scredit. Honorable members Opposite whohave protested against this proposedadjournment have done so merely for political purposes. The small corner group,which makes up in noise forwhat it lacks in numbers, has little justification for its protest, because severalofitsmembers, while continuing to drawtheirparliamentary allowances, have beenabsent from the deliberations of the Houseonbusiness quite unconnected withtheirparliamentary duties. When I witness suchconduct, I find that I cannot describe it in any other terms than those whichI used a little while ago. Such cant and hypocrisy is sickening.
MrSPEAKER.- Order !
– I protest against this proposed adjournment. Irepresent an electorate to which I am unableto return until the session is finished, anddelays of this kind keep me herelonger than is necessary.
– Well, why not go back if the honorable member is so anxious to be in his electorate?
– It takes me four months to travel over the whole of my electorate, whereas the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill) can cover his in half a day. The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. E. J. Harrison) charged honorable members on this side of the House with ‘drawing their parliamentary allowances while engaged on business for which they were not paid. To-morrow the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) will go to Melbourne for the definite purpose of supporting one of his political friends in the St. Kilda electorate. Will he not be equally guilty of drawing his salary for participating in activities which form no part of his official duties?
– The Prime Minister will be in Canberra.
– The Melbourne newspapers have stated that he proposes to speak at a political meeting in St. Kilda. At any rate, whether he goes or not, he is taking steps to adjourn Parliament to enable his supporters to go to Melbourne to take part iri the State election campaign. This is the gentleman who is always advising people to drop their political differences, and to come together for the good of the country, There is plenty of business which the Government could go on with, but it displays no anxiety to proceed. The Prime Minister is humbugging the people of Australia, as he has done ever since he assumed office.
– The honorable member must know that he is not permitted to refer to any honorable member in such an objectionable manner. I ask him to withdraw the expression.
– I withdraw the word “ humbug “, but am compelled to add that, in order to express my meaning, I cannot use anything except a worse expression in its place. For the last three weeks Parliament has expended all its energies on an attempt to leg-rope a person named Lang.
– What side is the honorable member on?
– There is no doubt about which side the honorable member for Warringah is on, and.it is. not Aus tralia’s side. The Government is not justified in adjourning the House at this hour. This afternoon we sat only from 2.30 until 5 o’clock. If everything had gone to the Government’s liking, we should have adjourned shortly after 8 o’clock until some time to-morrow afternoon. When we met then, we should probably have been told a little story to the effect that the Government was not ready to go on with its programme, and we should have adjourned until next Tuesday. Then uo doubt, we would be confronted with another enforcement bill. I believe it is true that the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page), by arrangement with the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Gullett), has succeeded in having the tariff debate adjourned so that he might visit Queensland to help his friend, Mr. Moore, in his election campaign. Because it is inconvenient for him, and for his Deputy Leader, to attend at Canberra, and because other government supporters desire to visit Victoria, Parliament is to be adjourned. The Government is not justified in running Parliament to suit its own convenience in this way.
– I also protest against the early adjournment of the House.
– This is the honorable member’s first appearance in the House for three weeks.
– I have done more good since my return to-day than the honorable member has done during all the time he has been here. I know that some honorable members are concerned as to where I was, and I can inform them that I was elected to attend to the welfare of the people of the Commonwealth in general, and those of the East Sydney electorate in particular. I have been trying to do what I believe is in the interests of the people by telling them of the activities of the Commonwealth Parliament, and also of some honorable members who, while drawing their parliamentary allowances, belong to a revolutionary organization which aims at the overthrow of constitutional government in New South Wales.
– The honorable member must withdraw that statement.
– It is quite true.
– The honorable member merely aggravates his offence. He is not permitted to state that an honorable member of this House is connected with a revolutionary organization.
– I withdraw the words “ revolutionary organization,” and substitute “The New Guard.” The Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) should know what the police found when they raided ‘ the head-quarters of the New Guard in Sydney.
– Suppose it was all a frame-up.
– The honorable member knows that it was nothing of the kind. It is not likely that eight members of an organization would allow themselves to be sentenced to imprisonment for three months if the whole thing were a frameup. The honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane) knows the facts of this matter, just as does the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. E. J. Harrison), whose name appears on a document which the police found during the course of their raid at Wingello House. They belong to the black-hooded brigade, but are quite content to allow somebody else to do the work, as was Eric Campbell, who stayed at his home at Turramurra while De Groot was cutting the ribbon on the Sydney Harbour Bridge. This organization’ is not only aiming to overthrow constitutional government, but, according to information obtained by the police, plans have actually been prepared for the construction of fortifications. We were informed some time ago that the bolts had been removed from rifles held in Sydney, and had been stored in the vaults of the Commonwealth Bank. It has recently been learned, however, that many of the rifles are still intact. Members of this Parliament, who should be concerned with the preservation of constitutional government, are acting in collusion with those whose object is the overthrow of constitutional government in New South Wales. The Government should know that, according to the statements of the New South Wales police, high officials of the Defence Department are acting in conjunction with the New Guard, and some of them are actually members of that organization.
– How does the honorable member know? °
– Ask the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. E. J. Harrison) and the honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Stewart) how I know. If honorable members desire, I can give the names of the seventeen members of this Parliament who belong to the New Guard. There would have been eighteen, but that organization .would . not accept Albert Lane. They said they had to draw the line somewhere. Honorable members know exactly what the New South Wales Government intends to do with regard to that organization. Honorable members opposite who continually cry, “ Let us go to the people “, must be careful as to their activities, or there will be a number of by-elections through their having been placed in the gaols of New South Wales to keep their eight colleagues company. The Prime Minister may laugh, but he knows what I say is true. Let the honorable gentleman put his investigation branch to work and disclose what is going on. Let him also reveal the true purpose for which the 200 special constables in the Federal Capital are being sworn in. The honorable gentleman stated that it is for the maintenance of order in case of emergency. What is he afraid of? Is it that members of my group will be assaulted by New Guardsman who are in the ranks of the Government? I assure him that my colleagues and I do not need their protection. The Prime Minister can take his special constables to St. Kilda to guard him when he addresses the electors there.
It is all very well for honorable members from States other than. New South Wales to pursue their policy of vindictiveness against the Lang Government and the people of that State, and then run away to other States. Members of this Parliament who represent New South Wales constituencies have to return to that State, and they must agree with me that the rallies that have taken place there demonstrating that “ Lang is right “ have struck fear into the hearts of honorable members opposite who represent New South Wales constituencies.
– What rot.
– We shall have a demonstration next week in front of your home.
– I am sorry that my honorable friend interjected in that strain, because the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane) is not considered of sufficient importance to warrant a demonstration being made against him.
– The honorable member will probably requisition the services of the “ forty thieves “.
– I recollect that, in an endeavour to pushthrough the ne temere decree, the honorable member, when a member of the New South Wales Parliament, tried to enlist the services of the “forty thieves” to pass it through the Upper House.
I urge the Prime Minister to set his investigation department to work so that honorable members may know the ramifications of the New Guard movement, even if such action may involve a number of honorable members opposite, including the honorable member for Wentworth and the honorable member for Parramatta.
– I desire to make a personal explanation. I have been misrepresented. Honorable members of the corner group have made statements which are entirely unfounded, for I have not the honour and privilege to belong to the organization which has been mentioned, an organization which stands for honour and loyalty to King and country, and for which I have the utmost respect. The statements of honorable members in this regard are in accord with those they made in connexion with the general business of the House; they cannot be relied upon.
– I am somewhat surprised at the protest that has been made by some honorable members - I refer mainly to the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) - to the arrangement of the business of the House. I am not so surprised at the opposition of certain other honorable members.
The Leader of the Opposition knows perfectly well that occasionally governments have difficulty in arranging the business of the House, and have to con sider honorable members. It is not for the Opposition to determine how the business of the House shall be carried on. The Government accepts that responsibility. It is but fair that bills should not be rushed through, if that can be avoided. The debate on the Bank Bill, the Immigration Bill, and other measures was adjourned out of courtesy and consideration for honorable members, to enable them to become familiar with the proposals.
– Could we not have gone on with the Public Service Bill?
– The Government is at present considering whether certain amendments shall be made to that measure.
– It is considering the effect of these bills on the Victorian election.
– Order !
– That is a foolish interjection.
– Everything is foolish if it does not come from the Government.
– Order ! If the honorable member persists in interjecting after being warned twice he must expect some action to be taken by the Chair. The honorable member occupied his full time in addressing the House and the least he can do now is to extend consideration to those who listened to him by remaining silent.
– My remarks also apply to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde), who asked, “ Are you afraid of the effect that the Public Service Bill and the tobacco duties would have upon the Victorian election “. The Government has nothing to worry about in that respect. The Public Service Bill has already passed the Senate. It has the approval of the Government, which accepts responsibility for it. If the Government desires to introduce an amendment it is entitled to do so. That is to be preferred to dealing with a measure hastily and introducing an amending bill later. The subject of tobacco has been extensively debated in this chamber.
– But no decision was arrived at.
– No decision of this Government upon that issue can influence the Victorian election. I give honorable members opposite the assurance, if it is in any way helpful to them, that the Government is prepared to stick to its guns in connexion with its attitude towards tobacco duties. Nothing that may be done by either the Government or honorable members opposite can avert the complete routing of the Labour Government of Victoria on Saturday. The defeat of that administration is as sure as the fact that night follows day, and it cannot be influenced by the action of the Government in regard to the Public Service Bill, tobacco duties, or anything else. It has been suggested that I should go to Melbourne and speak there on Friday night.
-. - One would never think that this was once a Labour man.
– My reply is that the so-called Labour Government of Victoria has let the right honorable member down in his policy ; yet, being so entirely inconsistent, he has taken the platform with the man who let him down.
The honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb) thought that the proposed adjournment to-morrow evening was being arranged so that I and others could take part in the campaign in Victoria. When it was suggested that I might participate in that campaign I agreed to do so and suggested that I should make my address on Friday night. However, those responsible for the organization of the United Australia party say - and this is the experience of honorable members generally - that addresses on the night prior to the poll cannot influence the result. I should gladly have taken part in the contest on Friday night, but the actions of the leader of another so-called Labour Government, that of New South Wales, compel me to stay here in the interests of the people of Australia to prevent his doing the damage that he contemplates to the workers of Australia.
– Why not sit on Friday?
– Honorable members who are not- at present in Canberra have been assured that the tariff debate will be taken next Tuesday-
– Why should they be given that assurance?
– Because that procedure can injure nobody. First the honorable member complains’ that Parliament is not doing enough, and then he is afraid that we are going to ask him to sit here longer than he desires, which may prevent his going to Queensland to engage in the election campaign in that State. The honorable member cannot have it both ways. If there is any honorable member in this chamber who has no right to ask that the debate on a tariff schedule be hastened it is the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde). He knows perfectly well that nobody has kept back tariff schedules longer than he did. He, therefore, has no right to criticize the action of the present Government.
The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) made his usual impassioned appeal on behalf of the unemployed, a’nd requested that clothing from the Defence Department might be made available to them. Time and again the honorable member has asked questions on the subject and the Minister representing the Minister for Defence has given him all the information available. Honorable members on this side are just as much, or more, concerned about the sufferings of the unemployed as he is. This Government has proved its bona fides in the last few days by putting through a measure that will give real relief to the unemployed of Australia, and enable them to make purchases of clothing and other necessaries out of the wage3 that they will receive for work done. Because the Premier of New South Wales has broken his pledge to the other governments of Australia, and has destroyed every vestige of credit that his State possesses, ho is preventing £600,000 being spent in his State for the relief of unemployment. Let us not forget, when the honorable member for Hunter talks about” the distribution of this clothing, that Mr. Lang refused even the requests of the Leader of the Opposition, when he was Prime Minister, to distribute that clothing to needy persons in New South Wales. How dare any honorable member come here and, with his tongue in his cheek, pretend that such a man is a friend of the worker in either New South Wales or any other part of Australia?
– He never refused; that isnot true.
– On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, I direct your attention to the interjection made by the honorable- member for Hunter (Mr. James), that what the Prime Minister has just said is not true.
– If the honorable member for Hunter made the interjection to which the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Thorby) has. called my attention, it is unparliamentary. I now warn the honorable member for Hunter that, if he offends again, I shall name him.
– I do not ask for any withdrawal, Mr. Speaker, because I know that what the honorable member for Hunter says does not matter very much. I think I havesaid sufficient to expose the hollowness of the argument adduced by honorable members opposite with regard to the attitude of the Government. We shall conduct the business of the House in the way we think right. We have made very considerable progress with our legislation. Indeed, it is because we have done so that we are in our present position. If honorable members opposite desire the second-reading debate on measures to be proceeded with immediately following the speeches of the Ministers introducing them, we shall be prepared to follow that course.
– I told the Prime Minister at. the dinner adjournment that we were ready to go on with the Acts Interpretation Bill,but he said that there were further amendments to be made to it.
– I said we were considering a further amendment that might have to be made.
– Could notthe Commonwealth Bank Bill have been introduced yesterday, and the debate on the second reading proceeded with to-day?
– No, because the Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Bruce) was not ready to go on with it.
Mr.Forde. - Because he was electioneering in Victoria.
– That is not the reason why he was not ready. The Commonwealth Bank Bill is an important measure, and the fullest consideration had to be given to its various provisions before it was submitted to this chamber. We have given consideration toall the matters mentioned by honorable members.
If they are disappointed, I cannot help it. The Government will conduct the business of the House in the way it thinks fit.
Question - That the House do now adjourn- put. The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. G. H. Mackay.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 9.57 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 11 May 1932, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1932/19320511_reps_13_134/>.