13th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon.G. H. Mackay) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– In view of the widespread protests against the Government’s proposals to reduce invalid and old-age pensions, will the Prime Minister inform the House whether the Government intends to modify its policy, and if so, in what way?
– I hope to introduce the amending bill to-morrow, when full details of the Government’s proposals will be disclosed ; in the meantime I have informed the newspapers that certain modifications of the Government’s original intentions are intended.
Loan Co uncil.
– Can the Prime Minister inform the House of the date of the next meeting of the Premiers Conference?
– The Loan Council is to assemble at an early date, and I am at present consulting with representatives of the State Governments to fix a date. It is hoped that at the meeting of the Loan Council, which could be held at a week-end, the date for the Premiers Conference will he determined.
– Having regard to the improvement in Commonwealth finances, will the Prime Minister again consider the request for the removal of sales tax and primage duties from books?
– The matter will he reconsidered, but I can hold out little hope that the request will be acceded to.
– In view of the recent suspension of sales tax and primage duties on certain agricultural implements and machinery, will the Prime Minister consider the extension of this relief to the smaller sorts of engines which are extensively used on farms?
– The merits of the proposal will be investigated.
– Will the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs state whether there is any truth in the rumour that the Government has agreed to confer with the Chambers of Manufactures in relation to the recent reduction of tariff duties ?
– I understand that the Prime Minister has informed the Chambers of Manufactures that a subcommittee of Cabinet will confer with representatives of these bodies.
– I ask the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs whether the Government has lately considered the advisability of bringing into operation the deferred duty on iron piping?
– When this proposal was previously referred to the Tariff Board it reported adversely upon it ; but within the last few days the manufacturers have represented to me that their output has increased, and I propose, therefore, to resubmit the matter to the board.
Employees - Salaries and Wages - Increments
– The honorable member for Cook (Mr. Riley) has asked a number of questions, upon notice, regarding employees and salaries paid in the Public Service. The information isbeing obtained, and will be made available as soon as possible.
On the 8th September, the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. John Lawson) asked me a question without notice regarding the number of Commonwealth public servants who are receiving salaries of £400 a year or more, and the aggregate annual amount of such salaries.
The Public Service Board has advised that at 30th June, 1932, the latest date at which complete figures are available, there were 1,530 officers of the Commonwealth Public Service in receipt of salaries of £400 a year or more, and the aggregate amount of such salaries was £764,625.
These particulars do not include the following: - Parliamentary staffs, and officers not under the Public Service Act, such as Naval and Military officers, staff of Repatriation Department, &c. Detailed information in regard thereto is not readily available, but, if the honorable member so desires, the Commonwealth offices concerned will be communicated with and asked to prepare the information. -Ou the 7 th September, the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Hutchin) asked me a. question, without notice, as to the number of officers in the Public Service in receipt of salaries of £400 or more who have had salary increases since the 1st January last. The Public Service Board has advised that approximately 355 officers of the Commonwealth Public Service in receipt of salaries of £400 or more have received increases between the 1st January, 1932, and the present date. This figure docs not include the following: Parliamentary staffs and officers not under the Public Service Act, such as naval and military officers, staff of Repatriation Department, &c. Detailed information in regard thereto is not readily available, but if the honorable member so desires, the Commonwealth offices concerned will be communicated with and asked to furnish the information.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice - la the published price we receive for our wool calculated in terms of Australian currency or sterling values, and what would be the equivalent price in gold currency?
– The published prices of wool sold in Australia are invariably expressed in terms of Australian currency. At the present rates of exchange, the equivalent price in gold currency would be approximately 58 per cent, of the price in Australian currency. As an example - if the price in Australian currency is lOd. per lb., the corresponding price in gold currency would be o.8d. per lb.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
What was the amount of interest paid by Australia to America during the last financial year in gold values, and what was’ the relative amount in Australian currency values ?
– The information is being obtained, and will be furnished as soon as possible.
asked the Assistant Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : - 1 and 2. It is assumed the company referred to is- Glass Distributors (New South Wales) Limited. From the information available to the customs, it appears that in New South Wales the position is as indicated. It is not clear, however, that the arrangement extends to glass manufacturers other than British, or that it applies to plate glass.
asked the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
With regard to the commission which adjudicates on the literary pension -
When was it founded?
What are the names of its original members ?
Have there been any elections of members; if not, how were the members elected ?
What are the names of the present members ?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: - (a)11th May, 1908.
asked the Assistant Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
– Yesterday, the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Guy) asked, without notice, a question concerning the utilization of the new road for the transit of mails between the northern part’s of Tasmania and the west coast districts, and I then promised to have inquiries made. I am now in a position to inform the honorable member that letter mails are exchanged daily between Launceston and northern and midland towns with places on the Queenstown route by the direct road service between Hobart and Queenstown. This extension of facilities came into operation on 13th September.
– On the 8th September, the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins) asked the following questions, upon notice : -
I am now able to furnish the honorable member with the following information: -
– On Friday last the honorable member for Oxley (Mr. Baker) asked the following questions, upon notice : -
What were the amounts paid during the past five years to legal firms for legal work performed on behalf of the Federal Government in Queensland and Brisbane?
The answers are - 1. (a) Queensland -
The following papers were presented : -
Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act - Report of the Repatriation Commission for the year ended 30th June, 1932.
Iron and Steel Products Bounty Act - Return for 1931-32.
Norfolk Island Act - Ordinances of 1932 -
No. 2 - Customs.
No. 3 - Post and Telegraph.
No. 4 - Lunacy.
.- I move -
That, in the opinion of this House, it is desirable that legislation should be enacted to provide for the submission to the electors of a proposal to alter the Constitution with a view to enabling the Parliament to grant to the State of Western Australia the exclusive power of enacting laws relating to Customs and of Excise within that State for a period of 25 years from the date of granting such power; provided that any such laws of such State shall not impose any duties of Customs or of Excise on goods produced or manufactured in any other State of the Commonwealth.
In giving notice of this motion I have antagonized a number of my friends in Western Australia who hold that it is useless to make further requests to this Parliament. They believe that the State Parliament should forthwith legislate for a referendum on the secession of Western
Australia from the Commonwealth, and, if the amendment be carried by a substantial majority, give immediate effect to it.
If a referendum is proceeded with - and this question will shortly be submitted in the State Parliament - there is no doubt but that it will be carried by a very large majority. I have attended meetings i:u the suburbs of Perth of working-class people and have been surprised at the unanimity of the audiences in favour of insistence upon secession. Country people are overwhelmingly in favour of drastic action by the State Parliament.
According to the rules of procedure in this Parliament, if this debate be adjourned to-day, the motion will become Government business, and it will lie with the Government alone to say whether it may be finalized in the near future. I desire to emphasise that if the Government does not permit a vote on this motion, its action, will be regarded by the people of my State as a refusal on the part of this Parliament to grant the relief that is proposed. Let it be clearly understood that no pecuniary assistance to the State will relieve the situation. The policy of this Parliament, which is of very doubtful benefit even to the eastern States, makes progress impossible in the west. The annual dole so caustically described as “ cadging “ reminds me of the bad old days when the bush publican, after robbing the shearer or swagman of his hard-earned cheque, gave him a bottle of whisky to cheer him on the road to earn another cheque.
We are asked to accept the dole so that we may continue to produce wealth which, by almost similar methods, will find its way back to the eastern manufacturer. I am asking that Western Australia should have control of its own tariff for a period of 25 years, but without the right to impose duties on Commonwealth products.
– Western Australia might as well leave the federation.
– Unless something of this kind is done the people of that State will desire to leave the federation. A special act will need to be passed by this Parliament, and the approval of the people of Australia will have to be obtained by referendum. Parliament may refuse to take action. Should it pass the necessary legislation, the people may refuse’ to amend, the Constitution, but I am now placing this motion before the House as a last appeal from suffering people. Upon the Parliament and the people rests the responsibility of maintaining the union which binds the nation. Sentiment and sentiment alone induced Western Australia to join the Federation, and no other State has stood more loyally by the pact. During the war, the efforts of my State eclipsed those of every other State in the Commonwealth. However, that sentiment has been destroyed, and the hopes of my State shattered by a species of exploitation that would have made even Ned Kelly blush.
It is needless for me to dwell on the fact prior to and in the early day3 of the Commonwealth. It was seen that federation would seriously hamper the development of Western Australia. When federation was established, the Constitution gave power to my State to impose duties, for a period of 5 years, on goods imported from other States. Then, the Surplus Revenue Act of 1910 provided for a special annual grant of £250,000 to Western Australia, reducible yearly by £10,000, in addition to the per capita payment of 25s. In 1925, a Disabilities Commission was appointed, consisting of Mr. Higgs, at one time Commonwealth Treasurer, Mr. Entwistle, and Mr. Stephen Mills. After investigation, that commission formed the unanimous opinion that federation had proved most injurious to the State of Western Australia. The chairman and Mr. Entwistle, reported as follows : -
That whatever benefit the Commonwealth protectionist policy may have conferred upon other States of the Commonwealth, it has not benefited Western Australia; that it is impossible to give the primary producers of the West relief by way of reduced customs duties without impairing the secondary industries in the East, and that the only effective means of removing the chief disability of the State is to restore to the State for a period of years the. absolute control of its own tariff.
The commission specifically recommended an amendment of the Constitution for that purpose, also that Western Australia should have power to tax the products of other States - which I am not pressing in my motion. ‘ Mr. Entwistle went further, and pointed out that grants were useless, and that he could see no hope forWestern Australia other than through secession. That recommendation was made when export priceswere at their highest, and prior to the recent drastic increases in the tariff, and the imposition of primage and sales tax. The position to-day renders the lot of the Western Australian producer practically intolerable.
The report of the British Economic Commission, generally alluded to as “ The BigFour,” emphasized time and again the difficulties attending development and progress in the West. The following is an extract from that report : -
Most vexed and most important of all Australian questions is that of the cost of production with its effect on export industries, and of the combined effects of the Tariff and the Arbitration Act. Their effects and that of the Navigation Act have placed an unduly heavy burden on the unsheltered primary industries, particularly in Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania.
That emphasizes what I have always said in this Parliament, that the cost of production to the man in the West left no hope for the future. I appreciate the action of the Government this year in increasing its grant to £500,000, but that is only a temporary expedient. While it may make the work of the State Treasurer somewhat easier, and help him with his budget, and even permit a reduction of taxation, it will not in any way reduce the cost of production in that State.
When in Australia, Sir Otto Niemeyer emphasized the disastrous nature of our policy upon those of our States which depend on export trade. Every honorable member realizes that Western Australia is wholly dependent upon its export trade. The EconomicCommission appointed by the Bruce-Page Government also agreed unanimously that the producers of my State suffer a tremendous disability because of federation.
It may be argued in reply that Western Australia has benefited in other directions; for instance, by the receipt of annual grants. So far as bounties and subsidies to industries are concerned, even including the wheat and gold bounties, I confidently assert that the Eastern States have benefited far more than the West by Commonwealth assistance. I madethat very clear when speaking on the States Grants Bill. What we need is the reduction of the cost of production. Nothing else will help to solve our difficulties. Honorable members must recognize that the West is in a primitive condition compared with the East, which was developed when labour and material were from 60 per cent. to 75 per cent. cheaper than they are to-day. There are huge areas in Western Australia with latent wealth awaiting exploitation. There are tens of thousands of acres of auriferous and other metalliferous country which, if costs of production were less, could be exploited and so give employment to tens of thousands. The Wiluna gold-mine has made every effort to produce to its maximum capacity. Because of the new process which it has adopted, necessitating the use of very high power, it has paid to the Commonwealth Government no less than £100,000 in duty on machinery. A little while ago, an American engineer turned down a big mining proposition in Australia on the ground that the plant, costing £250,000 in the United States of America, would have cost £525,000 in Australia. Because of such difficulties, it is impossible to attract capital and people to Western Australia, with the result that its resources remain undeveloped.
The people of the East should never forget how the Coolgardie discoveries hastened the recovery of the Eastern States and alleviated the poverty into which they had fallen.. During the years from 1893 to 1899, huge purchases by Western Australia of used mining plant and machinery, and the considerable sums remitted monthly by the miners to their families in the Eastern States, helped greatly to restore this part of Australia to prosperity. And to-day the development of the goldmining industry in the West is to the advantage of eastern manufacturers. Honorable members know how wonderful has been the development of the wheat industry in my State during the past ten years. Yet, if cheap production costs obtained, instead of tilling some 5,000,000 acres of land the farmers of Western Australia would be exporting the product of 20,000,000 acres. The south-west, with its splendid rainfall and fertile soil, comprising an area equal to that of England, is a district which should provide profitable production for at least 500,000 people. But the heavy cost of clearing and of requisites renders futile the wonderful efforts made by the Government of Western Australia to develop that area. High costs of production have also blighted the hopes of the pastoral and fruit industries of that State. In its efforts to develop the State, the Government of Western Australia has borrowed and expended over £100,000,000 on public works and land settlement. During the ten years ended in 1929, it borrowed £36,000,000 to induce land settlement.
– Does that represent advances to farmers?
– No ; money expended on settlement generally. I think advances to farmers exceed £30,000,000. On all of those loans the Commonwealth Government took its toll through the customs, collecting millions more than the amount of any assistance it has rendered to my State. A careful analysis of the cost of settlement shows that what in pre-war times would have cost £1,000 for farm development would, in 1930, have cost £2,400; yet the settler who has to pay this added cost has to sell his produce in the markets of the world in competition with the products of low wage countries. Moreover, it must be remembered that similar development in the Eastern States took place years ago, when costs were 50 per cent. to 70 per cent. less than to-day. It is becoming increasingly difficult for the Government of Western Australia to develop the marvellous resources it has inherited. Is it any wonder that the settlers demand justice? In order to show that the Government and the people have done their part, I point out that our exports last year averaged £37 a head of population, while the average for Australia was only £16. That makes it clear that Western Australia is essentially a primary-producing State, depending for its income upon what it can get for its products in the markets of the world at world prices. At the same time we are compelled in Western Australia, by the fiscal policy of the Commonwealth, to pay prices ranging from 100 per cent. to 200 per cent. higher for our necessaries than are paid in other parts of the world. According to a report of the Tariff Board, pig iron in Great Britain is sold to-day at £2 18s. a. ton, whereas in Australia the price is £5 5s. a ton. Galvanized iron is selling in Great Britain at £13 5s. a ton, while it costs £26 a ton in Australia.
– That affects the whole of Australia, not only Western Australia.
– Yes; the honorable member should tell us what justifies the great increase; but here is something that affects particularly the mining industry. Crude oil engines of 100 horse-power are priced in Great Britain at £8,250 f.o.b., whereas the Australian price is £19,000. The honorable member has tried to force us to pay more than 100 per cent. more for our machinery, and yet we are asked to produce with these costs against us.
In its efforts to develop the State, the Government of Western Australia has borrowed and expended £82,000,000 for public works, and £22,500,000 directly on land settlement. During the ten years up to 1929, the State borrowed £36,000,000, and expended it on developmental works. On all this loan money the Commonwealth took its toll through the customs, collecting millions more than it ever returned to the State. Western Australia’s imports during the ten years ended 1930 averaged £18,000,000 a year, practically half coming from overseas, and half representing interstate trade. It is estimated by the State officials who prepared a special report for the Government that duties - assuming the same rate to be paid on interstate goods as on those from overseas - amounted during that time to £4,943,000 a year, representing the extra cost to consumers as a result of the tariff. To this must be added importers’ and traders’ profits. It is fair to assume that the industries of Western Australia have been penalized by the fiscal policy of the Commonwealth during the ten-year period mentioned to the extent of nearly £6,000,000 annually. No doubt, of course, there would be a tariff in Western Australia if that State had not joined the Commonwealth, but it is evident from the figures I have quoted what a tremendous burden the existing tariff is upon the Western Australian producers. In fact, it will be impossible for them to carry on unless the load is reduced. Western Australia has done its best to develop its splendid heritage, and we have to ask ourselves whether the Commonwealth is determined, by continuing its present policy, to frustrate the efforts of that State.
It has been said that the union of the Australian States is indissoluble. Under the Constitution, that is so, but the preamble to thatstatute contains the words “ indissoluble under the Crown . . . and under the Constitution.” It has been said that Australia, having attained full dominion status, could, if it thought fit, throw off its allegiance to the Crown. Something has been said in this chamber about my being a rebel, and while that is not true, I am certain that there are agreat many in Australia to-day who would favour Australia throwing off her allegiance to the Empire. There are enemies enough within the gates. Let us suppose that the Commonwealth Parliament were to pass legislation terminating our allegiance to the British Crown; does any one imagine that the States would be expected to acquiesce? I, for one, believe that the States, one after another would, in those circumstances, withdraw from federation. So, also, it is an indissoluble federation under the Constitution.
Practically ever since the people, by their votes, agreed to the establishment of the Commonwealth, the federal aspect of the union has been ignored, and one encroachment upon the rights of the individual States has followed another. It is the Commonwealth Parliament and Government which has broken or brazenly ignored the Constitution. Section 99 of the Constitution states -
The Commonwealth shall not, by any law or regulation of trade, commerce, or revenue, give preference to one State or any part thereof over another State or any part thereof.
No doubt, the Commonwealth acted within the legal phraseology of the Constitution when it placed an embargo upon the importation of sugar, thus compelling the people of Australia to pay £7,000,000 a year more for their sugar than is necessary, in order to give preference to one
State. Morally, it must be admitted thai such action represents the granting of preference to one State at the expense of the others. Only a little while ago, there was an embargo on nearly 100 separate items, including agricultural machinery and steel. Who can deny that such an embargo was imposed in the interests of one or two States?
– Tell us about the gold bounty, too.
– The Government now proposes to suspend the gold bounty. I should never have supported the payment of that bounty, had it not. been for the way in which the miners had been robbed in other directions. I made it clear at the time that my support was due to the fact that, for years past, the mining industry’ had been suffering directly as a result of the Commonwealth’s fiscal policy.
It is evident, that Commonwealth legislation has worked most unfairly in regard to some of the States. The Navigation Act, for instance, lays it down that not even British ships shall trade upon the coasts of Australia. Let the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) say what has been lost to his State through the coastal clause of that act. Then let us consider how much has been lost by South Australia, and multiply the amount by ten to arrive at what Western Australia has lost. All this has been done in the interests of the Eastern States. The tariff, the Navigation Act, and the embargo upon sugar, iron and steel, machinery, and other goods have been imposed to confer benefits upon those States possessing th( greatest political power.
Section 101 of the Constitution states -
There shall bc an interstate commission., with such powers of adjudication and administration as the Parliament deems necessary for the execution and maintenance, within the Commonwealth, of the provisions of this Constitution relating to trade a7id commerce, and of all laws made thereunder.
I draw special attention to the fact that the Constitution provides that there “ shall “ be an interstate commission ; but. we have no such body to-day to report to the Parliament regarding disabilities suffered by the States under federation. The Interstate Commission, when in existence, was specially asked to ascer- tain the extent to which increased prices were due to the exploitation of the public through the operation of rings and combines and the manipulation of the markets. There is not the slightest doubt that if the Interstate Commission had continued in existence, or if a similar body were carrying out investigations to-day regarding the disabilities suffered by the smaller States under federation, fewer complaints would be heard from Tasmania, South Australia, and Western Australia.
Section 94 of the Constitution, which deals with the distribution of surplus revenue, states that “ Parliament may provide, on such basis, as it deems fair, for the monthly payment to the several States of all surplus revenue of the Commonwealth.” But, by a legal trick, huge amounts of surplus revenue were paid into a trust fund - -at one time as much as £10,000,000.
– Invalid and old-age pensions were paid out of that fund.
– I am merely pointing out how this Parliament was able to prevent the States from receiving the payments to which they were entitled under the Constitution.
– The High Court gave a ruling on that matter.
– Yes. Time after time various ‘Commonwealth governments paid surplus revenue into trust funds, and the High Court decided that that action was legal; but there is no doubt that this was done by a legal trick. By the voting of surplus funds to trust funds the States were deprived of what the Constitution provided should be divided amongst them. *
The Constitution provides that there shall be a session of this Parliament at least once every year; but the discussion of tariff proposals has been allowed to extend over two or three years, with the result that tariff schedules have been put into operation before being sanctioned in a proper way by Parliament. Validating bills have been agreed to by both Houses because that course has been found necessary; otherwise the Customs Department would have been legally bound to repay sums received from the public by way of duties, and that would have been impossible. For their own protection the States were given equal representation in the Senate; but when the Scullin tariff was introduced, the last government knew perfectly well that its proposals would never be ratified by the Senate as then constituted. Therefore, the session was prolonged from year to year, and there was no possibility of the Senate coming to a final determination with regard to the tariff schedule. This practice has not only resulted in the taxation of the people without parliamentary approval, but the States’ representatives have been deprived of a voice in determining what taxation should be imposed through the customs.
Will anybody say that it was ever intended under the Constitution that the Commonwealth Parliament should legislate regarding compulsory arbitration in connexion with industry throughout Australia? No such proposal was ever contemplated by the framers of the Constitution. The Constitution also says that the Commonwealth shall have control of banking other than State banking. An early act of this Parliament was to set up a Commonwealth Savings Bank in competition with the State Savings Bank, thus creating further expense, and tending to take away from the States the control of finance. To-day that object has been achieved.
On top of that, we have the demand for unification. Many honorable members believe in unification. Time after time they have declared that this Parliament should be supreme. That proposal may suit the larger States ; but the experience of the three smaller States has not been such as to induce them to agree to unification. Only a couple of years ago a measure was brought forward by the Labour Government for an amendment of the Constitution, and the people were to be asked to authorize this Parliament, without reference to the people, to alter the Constitution as it thought fit, in other words to enable it to put into force its policy of unification.
Actuated wholly by sentiment, the people of Western Australia entered the federal union under a constitution which, they were led to believe, would protect the interests of the various partners to the agreement. That agreement has been broken and abused, and the numerically and politically weak have failed to get justice and equity meted out to them. For years there has been a slumbering resentment against the callous disregard of their protests; but now that feeling has changed to intense animosity, and there is an insistent and imperious demand for fair play, for equal justice among the citizens of the Commonwealth, and for an immediate stoppage of the greedy exploitation of the worker and the producer.
No State within the union has been so loyal to Australia and to the King as has Western Australia; no people within the Commonwealth responded so readily to the national call in the Empire’s time of need. No community made greater sacrifices in defence of our national life. Few desire to break the bond that binds the union, but there is a limit to human forbearance. The burden on our people has become intolerable. I recently made a lengthy tour through our farming districts, and witnessed the anguish and des. pair of the settler and his wife, who, after years of toil and privation, and the loss of all their capital, find themselves forced to abandon the holding they had hoped would become a prosperous home.
I have attended meetings in the city and suburbs of working-class people, and have been surprised at the enthusiasm accorded to speakers advocating secession. One has only to read the list of bankruptcies to be reminded of the enormous sums owing by those who have gone out into the bush, and taken the grave risks which face all settlers in new country. Within the last fortnight, member after member, and also the leader of the Labour party, Mr. Collier, have drawn attention in the Western Australian Parliament to the insurmountable difficulties confronting the smaller States in their efforts to restore prosperity. Such comments have also been made by persons who might have been expected to hold other opinions on the subject.
I have received a number of telegrams referring to this motion. The first, from the Primary Producers Association, reads as follows: -
Political executive Primary Producers Association strongly supports your motion for concession fiscal autonomy to Western Aus- tralia for a period of not less than twentyfive years. Secession in our view the only alternative. Premier Western Australia announced intention to reintroduce this session bill for referendum on secession.
The second, from the Perth Chamber of Commerce, reads: -
Regarding your telegram re resolution urging Federal Government grant Western Australia control of customs period years Chamber wishes you success as it would provide concrete example fallacy Australia’s fiscal policy.
I venture to predict that if Western Australia could obtain the power to do so, she would impose a revenue tariff, and that the result would be of such a revolutionary character that the people of Australia would open their eyes in amazement. It would then be realized how this country could be developed, and how certain would be our success under a reasonable fiscal policy. We believe that a revenue tariff is the only fiscal policy which can. possibly bring success to a primary producing country. Australia is a country with marvellous potentialities, and it is pitiable to think that simply because of the ridiculous tariffs that we have imposed, it is impossible to find work here for a population of 6,500,000 people. Everybody realized, of course, that repercussions would follow the great war, but there is no reason whatever why this country should be so hopelessly depressed as it is at present. The present position has been brought about wholly and solely by the super-mad policy of the Federal Parliament.
The Pastoralists Association of Western Australia has sent me this message -
Have telegraphed each State Association asking support and pointing out success would provide concrete example fallacy Australia’s fiscal policy.
The concluding telegram which I shall quote, is from the secretary of the Wheatgrowers Union, Mr. Sier, and reads a? follows : -
This organization in favour State control customs.
– Has the honorable mem- . ber received a telegram from the Trade? Hall?
– -I have already referred to speeches delivered in the State Parliament within the last fortnight during the budget debate, which are a sufficient answer to the honorable member. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green), can certify to the correctness of my interpretation of the feeling that exists in Western Australia in Labour circles. The opinion over there is that the Commonwealth Parliament has been anything but just to that State.
Siu Littleton Groom. - How would the honorable member suggest that the financial agreement could be adjusted?
– Western Australia would be quite prepared to accept her full proportion of obligation under that agreement and pay her full quota of all commitments. If Western Australia were permitted to impose a revenue tariff, her securities would very soon be worth very much more in London than those of the Commonwealth itself, for it would be realized that she was trying to develop the natural resources of the country instead of seeking to establish a large number of hot-house industries for which there was really no need. Our first concern should be to settle a large population in Australia. If that were done, necessary secondary industries could be established, for a proper market would be available for their output. But I do not desire to embark upon a discussion of tariff questions.
Yesterday, I asked the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) whether the Government intended to formulate a policy for the development of the northern parts of Australia. It must be realized that our empty north is a great’ menace to the rest of the Commonwealth, for, living in comparatively close proximity to the coast of Northern Australia are many strong and virile races whose countries are over populated. The teeming millions of the East are looking for room in which to live. How could we justify, before a League of Nations tribunal, our right to hold North Australia, seeing that we have done nothing to develop it? We took this country from the blacks, and our sole right to retain it is in the fact that we are developing it. It is deplorable that to-day fewer people live in the northern parts of Australia than lived there 40 years ago. We have made it utterly impossible for our pastoralists and cattle producers to develop the country. On several occasions, I have urged the Governmento lift all duties from imports into North Australia except those on luxuries, so that the people could buy their requirements in the cheapest market. But my appeal has been unheeded. We should let shipping call at Darwin without any restrictions, and without the payment of the numerous charges that apply to ships calling at southern ports. It is not very many years ago since the manager of the Dutch Royal Packet Navigation Company told me that his company would be prepared to allow its ships to call at Darwin if the conditions were altered ; but he added “ Under existing conditions, if our ships called at Darwin we should have to pay duties on everything on board that we eat and drink, and our men drink a ‘ good deal. We should also have to pay lighthouse dues and other port charges, and we cannot afford to do that. We should be glad to do what we could to help in the development of Northern Australia, but under existing conditions it is impossible for us to do anything”. The Dutch Royal Packet Navigation Company charged 25s. a ton for carrying sugar, whereas the subsidized company which trades between Darwin and Sydney and Sydney and Darwin, charges £3 15s. a ton for it. We know very well that Vestey’s spent over £1,000,000 in the Northern Territory, but, to-day, their works are closed and deserted. In all the circumstances, I am justified in saying that our empty north is a dreadful menace to the safety of the Commonwealth, and it is tragic thai neither the present’ nor previous Commonwealth Governments have done anything to develop this huge territory. Many pastoralists in the north and north-west are talking of abandoning their holdings because they can get practically nothing for their meat, and next to nothing for their other produce. I hear an honorable member interject that that is also true of pastoralists elsewhere. But the conditions are entirely different in the north and north-west areas of which I am speaking, for costs are three times, and, in places, four times greater there than in other part’s of Australia. What applies to Northern Australia applies also in a lesser degree to Western Australia as a whole. The markets of our primary producers are outside of Australia, and we have made it impossible for them to be exploited. It cannot be truthfully denied that under existing conditions our empty north, and, to some extent, the whole of Western Australia, has become a menace to the welfare of the Commonwealth, and that this is solely duo to the policy adopted by successive Commonwealth Governments. When federation was about to be consummated, we were told, and we believed, that the foundations of tlie union would be set deep in justice; but justice has been denied us, and we now demand reform or a divorce from a partnership in which we are being defrauded. In Western Australia, they talk of “ the great betrayal “, “ the scrap of paper “, and so on, and the people there are determined that they will no longer be forced on the road to penury and bankruptcy. The responsibility for the future of Australian unity rests on this Parliament:. We ask and demand justice, and we see no way to obtain it other than that suggested in my motion, or in secession. Should this motion be defeated, or a decision in regard to it unduly delayed, nothing can prevent the disruption of the federal union. If there is delay in dealing with this motion wc shall regard it as a. refusal of our request, and act accordingly.
– What does’ the Premier of Western Australia say about this motion? Has the honorable member had a telegram from him on the subject?
– I have not, and for good reasons. The Premier of Western Australia is bringing down a bill to provide for the submission to the people of Western Australia of a referendum on secession. I have learned from a source which I am not at liberty to divulge that there are good reasons why the Premier has adopted the attitude he has in regard to this motion. I move the motion standing; in mv name and trust that the
Government will ensue that this Parliament will have an opportunity to come to a decision.
– I rise to second the motion of the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory), and to compliment him on the ability with which he stated his case. Many royal . commissions have been appointed at various times to inquire into the position in which Western Australia finds itself as a result of being a unit of federation. Those commissions have not all been Western Australian bodies. Some, consisting of independent persons, have been appointed by the Commonwealth authority. After inquiry, these commissions have, in all instances, found that Western Australia is suffering disabilities because of being a unit of federation. Mr. Entwistle, a gentleman from Adelaide, who was a member of the royal commission appointed by the Bruce-Page Government, reported as follows:–
In my opinion, Western Australia should never have entered the federation, but having done so, there is, I feel convinced, only one complete and satisfactory remedy for her present disabilities, viz., secession. If that event occurred all other recommendations in this report would become unnecessary. As. however, it cannot be taken for granted that secession will take place I have joined in the recommendations having the object of relieving (at least to some extent) the present financial disabilities of the State of Western Australia.
The recommendation of that commission was that fiscal autonomy should be given to Western Australia for 25 years, and the motion before the House, if carried, will permit of enactments being made by this Parliament to give effect to thai advice. As an individual citizen of the Commonwealth, one does not ask for any special consideration, but one does ask for fair play. It has been computed by an advisory committee appointed in 1925 that twelve years prior to federation the position of the States per head of population was as follows : -
I draw the attention of the Prime Minister to the position of his State prior to federation. It was the only one that then had an accumulated surplus. The position 28 years after federation was as follows : -
Those figures show convincingly that something is wrong with federation, that something inherent in it has operated adversely against the three smaller States. Before federation they were, relatively, in an excellent financial position. As the honorable member for Swan has pointed out, Western Australia has a vast area virtually in a primitive condition, requiring development to the extent that the eastern States were developed half a century ago. It is in the interests of the Commonwealth and of the Empire generally that our great open spaces should be settled, but I submit that it is impossible to develop Western Australia under the almost impossible conditions prevailing and the high costs ruling, as a result of Commonwealth legislation. The honorable member for Swan referred to the way in which the development of any area within Australia had been hampered since federation. He also pointed out, as did the recent royal commission, that the value of the average export production of the Commonwealth is £15 per head of population, whereas in Western Australia it is £37 per head of population. As the export production of that State per head of population is more than double that of any other State, it surely should be free of hobbles in the performance of its great work ! It was possible for the producers there to struggle on while high world prices ruled for their commodities. World prices are now below thecost of production, yet the primary producers are called upon to bear the additional burdens of higher tariffs and embargoes. This is an impossible task. Even the Tariff Board has recognized that. That board was appointed by this Parliament to make recommendations in the interests of both primary and secondary industries. The board, in its last report, under the heading of “ Tariff Reductions and Unemployment,” stated -
Nevertheless, the imposition of high rates of duty for the benefit of one industry, resulting in seriously higher costs to other secondary or to primary industries, may cause some additional employment in the one, but resultant unemployment in the others. The maximum employment of our people is largely dependent upon the successful expansion of our export industries. This expansion, though largely affected by the world’s demand for our products, is also bound up with low costs of production. The establishment of new industries or the expansion of existing industries which need the application of excessive rates of duty, tend to add to costs and retard progress and employment. Australia’s prosperity will depend not onlyon the keeping out of unnecessary imports, but to even a greater degree on the expansion of exportsof the products of her great primary and her natural secondary industries.
The Scullin Government, the present Government, and the Tariff Board have told our people that they must produce more for export. Are governments consistent when they lay heavy burdens upon the primary producers in connexion with the wire netting needed to prevent the rabbits from eating the crops, and to conserve the pastures for the development of the fat lamb trade? Because of the excessive cost of netting, vermin eat the wealth that would mean increased happiness and prosperity for our people. Are governments consistent when they advocate primary production, and at the same time, penalize the man on the land by giving unreasonable assistance to the development of exotic secondary industries under hot-house conditions? I invite honorable members to visit the wheat belts in Western Australia, Wimmera, and Riverina, in order to see the conditions that prevail in an industry which is admitted to be all-important. That the export industries are the mainstay of the national credit is undeniable. Would honorable members in their private businesses adopt a policy that destroyed their principal sources of revenue? “ Thou shalt not muzzle the ox when he treadeth out the corn.” The great exotic secondary industries in the cities are able to exercise, selfishly, a tremendous voting power, and political considerations have blinded politicians to economic facts. The city workers are told that the high protection policy will mean increased employment.
– Why should not the workers in the city be employed?
– Of course they should be employed, but not by sacrificing their brethren on the land. After the war, Australia adopted a policy of settling returned soldiers on the land in order that they might have a permanent interest in the country for which they had fought so valiantly. Enormous amounts were expended on soldier settlements. In addition, by agreement between the Imperial, Commonwealth and State Governments, a £34,000,000 migration and land settlement scheme was undertaken. Western Australia, because it had plenty of land available, expended large amounts upon clearing and the provision of communication and transport facilities for the settlers. The purpose of land settlement is production, and naturally, we expected that markets for our products would be found abroad; but, -because of the excessive prices of all the requirements of the farmer, production costs make profitable export impossible, and Commonwealth fiscal policy, by offending overseas customers, has left Australia without a commercial friend. The result is that we are unable to find markets for the commodities produced by our farmers. Apparently, this motion has aroused the resentment of the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser). I personally, have no grudge against Queensland. Having lived there for many years, I regard it as one of the finest States in the Commonwealth, with greater and more varied natural resources than any other. Unfortunately, the Commonwealth decided to develop in Queensland the sugar industry, which is not natural to Australia. The citizens of Western Aus tralia cannot afford to pay tribute to any other State, and it has been truly said that they would have been better off had they never entered the federation. The people of New Zealand showed their wisdom when they rejected the invitation to them to become part of an Australasian federation;- but had they decided otherwise, they would have been in a more advantageous position than the people of Western Australia. Having regard to transport costs, and the unsympathetic treatment it receives, Western Australia is further removed from the Eastern States than if it were on the other side of the world. Our people are isolated, by Commonwealth law, which, however, compels them to buy from their brethren in the Eastern States, regardless of cost. According to the Commonwealth Statistician the mere 450,000 people in Western Australia bought in one lea] from the Eastern States goods to the value of £10,600,000, and their eastern brethren reciprocated by buying only £1,200,000 worth of commodities from the west. Generally speaking, Western Australia is a primaryproducing State dependent on the markets of the world, and if it were permitted to buy its requirements in. the open market it could save about £3,000,000 a year. These factors cannot be disregarded by honorable members, particularly those who are desirous of keeping the federation intact. If the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) appreciates the circumstances of “Western Australia he must provide a remedy quickly. It is all very well for honorable members to hold fast to the protectionist faith which they have professed for years, but the tariff policy is not working out as was predicted. Australia has been isolated commercially, and is unable to sell abroad any of its secondary products. Until we can sell both primary and secondary products in the markets of the world at a profit, our people will make no headway. I hope that the Government will regard the claims of Western Australia more seriously than they have hitherto. This Parliament is about to grant to that State £500,000 on account of its disabilities; but as I pointed out last week, treble that amount would not compensate the people of that State for the injury they have suffered from their association with the other States in federation. Grants to needy States are only palliatives. Western Australia’s special circumstances call for statesmanship. The injustice suffered by its people cannot be rectified by doles. Some honorable members seem to regard the dole as in the nature of a sop to children. The people of Western Australia are not children; they produce per head for export twice as much as do their neighbours in other States, and if this Parliament is just, it will do justice to people who are such useful partners in the federation. I appeal to the Prime Minister to regard the circumstances of Western Australia as not the least serious amongst the several great problems he has to deal with.
– The mover of the motion said that if I moved the adjournment of this debate the people of Western Australia would regard that action as evidence of the hostility of the Government.
– I meant that if the Government unduly delays a decision on this motion the people of Western Australia will regard such action as hostile.
– The continuance of the debate will not be unduly delayed. An opportunity of further consideration of this matter will, I hope, present itself at an early date. I ask leave to continue my remarks.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Abolition of State Governors, AgentsGeneral, Chief Justices, and Legislative Councils.
.- I move -
That, in view of the fact that the majority of the citizens of Australia at the time federation was inaugurated were led to believe -
1 ) That there would beonly one Governor over the whole Commonwealth ;
That there would be a cessation of the six various State Governors with all their attendant expenses ;
That there would be a cessation of the six State Agents-General ;
That there would be a cessation of the six State Chief Justices, and only one Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia;
That there would be a cessation of the Legislative Councils of the State parliaments; it is the opinionof this House, in view of the present financial crisis with all its seriousconsequences, that a referendum of the citizens of Australia should be taken to bring into law the wishes of the citizens when voting for federation, and that such referendum, to save expense, be taken on the same day that any other referendum or federal election takes place.
In regard to the subjects mentioned in this motion, the people of Australia have been cruelly deceived. Parliament after Parliament has vilely broken the pledges given upon thousands of platforms throughout Australia when the people were asked to approve of federation. Many honorable members will recollect that economy was one of the advantages which the people were told would result from the union. They were led to expect that there would be only one Parliament, and that the whole Commonwealth would be ruled by uniform laws. The six Agents-General who represent our States and whose endeavours are practically useless, should be abolished, and their work carried out by the High Commissioner for Australia. We have built a splendid edifice in London, Australia House, costing over £1,000,000 and a further £1,000,000 in wages and maintenance. That is pure waste. Yet only 5 per cent. of the employees in that building are Australians. I believe that. Australia House has done incalculable harm to the Commonwealth by telling migrants that they would be able to retire after a few years on the land in Australia.
Next, we were led to believe that there would be a cessation of the six State Chief Justices, leaving only one Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia. In this country the laws are so intricate that only the rich can engage successfully in litigation. I recall a divorce case of recent months which cost about £40,000 and lasted for 42 days. What a deplorable state of affairs! Let us have only one Chief Justice, and set an example to the world. There is no necessity for so many excrescences, or for favoritism to a certain class of the people. I should like to see our legal profession nationalized so that each citizen would have an equal chance in a court of law. At present there is far too much law and too little justice in our Courts. “Which leads me to think again of Switzerland and Denmark. In Denmark the procedure is as set out in Grundlund’s The Co-operative Commonwealth. If Brown says that Jones owes him £20, and Jones repudiates the debt, he cannot, in the first place, go to law and involve both parties in heavy expense. He must first cite Jones before the “ pacificator,” an official who is sworn to “ make peace between citizen and citizen.” Each party tells his story to that individual, who, perhaps, suggests that Jones should pay. Jones, being a fighter, does not . approve, and a day is named on which they again appear before the pacificator, who acts as a magistrate at a cost of approximately lOd. That official records the evidence in writing, and gives his decision. ~No lawyer is allowed to enter the court except as a plaintiff or witness. If Mr. Jones is still stubborn, the case is carried to a higher tribunal.. The parties can then employ a lawyer, but cannot introduce any fresh evidence. Consequently, few cases reach the higher tribunal. How that would simplify our litigation, and tend towards economy ! I recommend to honorable members that wonderful book in our library, A Sovereign People, by Henry Demarest Lloyd, which deals with Switzerland. At one time in that country, no fewer than 6,000 cases were tabulated for attention. They concerned differences between master and man. As honorable members know, the revered Chief Justice Higinbotham of Victoria had the words “master and man “ removed from our statutes and the words “ employer and employee “ substituted. Over that we should rejoice. When those 6,000 cases were referred to a pacificator, he was able to settle 5,500 by inducing the parties concerned to practice self-abnegation and conciliation. A few more were settled by arbitration and only eleven went to Le Conseil des Prud’hommes- The Court of the Wise Men - in which the laity predominate numerically over the legal fraternity. Honorable mem’bers may be startled to learn that the average cost of settling 4,500 of those cases was one franc, at that time 10d., and that the eleven which went to the court cost but 30 francs each, or approximately 25s. That is the nearest approach to perfection in law that history can produce.
We were also led to believe that there would be a cessation of the Legislative Councils in our States. Is it not absurd that we should have this duplication of legislative and arbitrative effort? A 48-hour week is prescribed for one State; a 44-hour week for another ; and therefore strife continues.- The position is made clear to any one who will peruse the splendid work produced under the superintendence of our Acting Statistician, Professor Giblin. I have on my watch-chain a gold medal that was presented to me by the Federated Tramways Union of Australia. The honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey) is the only other man similarly honoured. The medal was given to me for acting as chairman of the commission that investigated the grievances of omnibus and tramway employees many years ago. When the Australian Tramway Employees Association sought justice in the Federal Arbitration Court it cost upwards of £20,000. Compare that with the 25s. for equally effective arbitration in Switzerland. It is akin to the madness which persists in refusing employment to people who are willing to work, and squandering thousands of millions on a war to destroy human life. If we cannot abolish our State Parliaments, by all means let us abolish the second chambers. Queensland, in its wisdom, has already adopted that course. The party which opposed that procedure came into power for a short time and then went into oblivion, proving that the people of Queensland do not want a second chamber. I am confident that the people of Australia would endorse unanimously the proposals which -I have placed before the House, if given the opportunity. Honorable members will admit that when a referendum was to be taken on one issue, it would cost no more than would be involved in the setting up of the necessary type to add a second or a third issue, or, indeed, any number of issues. In the State of Iowa, United States of America, the population of which is much the same as that of Australia, referendums were taken at the same time on no fewer than 43 questions, eighteen of which dealt particularly with country matters. For instance, proposals involving the expenditure of £10,000,000 on new roads were approved on that occasion. I -m sure that had the late Government asked the people to vote upon the issue of unified government, which is a plank of our party’s platform, the people would, out of a desire to save costs and simplify government, have voted for the adoption of such a scheme.
– I desire to compliment the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) upon the strong trust which he has always reposed in the intelligence of the constituency. He desires at all times that those whom he serves shall have the right to express their opinion upon the system of government that shall operate iu their interests and on their behalf. The honorable member has always kept himself abreast of the latest developments in regard to democratic representation. I “am sure that thinking people throughout the Commonwealth appreciate his efforts in this direction, and the cordial manner in which honorable members have received my compliments to the honorable member show that his work has not gone without appreciation by the members of this Parliament. “He is held, both in this chamber and throughout Australia, in the highest admiration as a true democrat, whose constant concern is the welfare of Australia and her people.
Our experience has proved that the time is opportune for us to consider the remodelling of our political machinery. During this period of financial and economic crisis, we have learned how cumbersome is our existing system of government. I am certain that, if the people were granted an opportunity to express an opinion on the honorable member’s proposal, they would, by a substantial majority, favour a system providing more nearly for unification of government’ than that which obtains at the present time. Were such a unified system inaugurated, we should have no difficulty, in balancing our budget - one budget, and not many as’ at present. In an enlightened community such as ours we have a right to expect something better and more efficient than the present costly duplications of sovereign governments. Some honorable members may be apprehensive that, under a system of unified government, certain portions of Australia would suffer a ‘loss of prestige owing to their remote geographical position. With that I’ do not agree. I believe that all parts of Australia would enjoy enhanced prestige if associated with a more united and powerful Commonwealth. Indeed, nothing can be said to justify the present system, which is so costly, so confusing and so irritating. Take our judicial system, for instance. Not only is it overcostly, both to private citizens and to the various governments concerned, but much of the time of the courts is taken up in trying to reconcile conflicting phases of Commonwealth and State law. The existing confusion provides lucrative occupation for many members of the legal fraternity. It is absurd that Australia, with less than 6,500,000- inhabitants, should have seven separate systems of government, and 13 legislative chambers. Indeed, we must be the laughing stock of the world.
It may be objected that, under a unified system of government, the affairs of the whole nation would be directed from Canberra. That is not so. Matters essentially local and domestic, such as water, gas, and power services, hospitals, libraries, &c, would come under the direct control of municipal or district councils, which would be clothed with greater powers than they now enjoy. In South Australia, at the present time, there is a move to co-ordinate the various systems of local government, and various district councils are prepared -to consider schemes of amalgamation. The honorable member for Melbourne has merely suggested a wider application of that principle so that we may become one people in reality.
In some respects the ‘ present system bears with particular severity on the people whom I represent. The boundaries of South Australia have been so fixed that, in some instances, citizens are loaded with heavier obligations than their neighbours whose interest are, in all respects identical, but who happen to live just across the border. Can any honorable member inform me just why the various
State boundaries were fixed in their present positions? The fixing of boundaries appears to have been a most haphazard performance, carried out without respect to geographical configuration or community of interest, ls there any logical reason why the present boundaries should be retained, when they inflict injustice, produce inequalities, and divide a people who should have one outlook? The honorable member for Melbourne is to be commended for tabling this motion, which raises an important issue on which the Australian public should be afforded an opportunity of expressing their opinion. 3! am surprised that at the conference last year at which the Premiers plan was evolved, and at which economy in government was regarded as essential, a proposal for a reduction of expenditure on the lines indicated by the honorable member was not advanced.
– I call attention to the state of the House. .
– A quorum is present.
– The honorable member does not increase the prestige of the House or of himself by showing his ignorance of the Standing Orders.
– I desire that that offensive remark be withdrawn.
– I ask the honorable member for Hindmarsh to withdraw the expression which the honorable member for Barton considers offensive to him.
– I withdraw it; I do so only in deference to your ruling, Mr. Speaker, and because I recognize the dignity of your position.
It is most desirable that the people should have an opportunity of expressing their views on the all-important matters to which the honorable member for Melbourne has directed attention. The last Premiers Conference, when discussing economy measures, might well have considered the desirability of abolishing State legislatures, with their costly appurtenances. The conference extended -over a fortnight, and in reading the proceedings, I noticed that not one full page was devoted to the consideration of this means of reducing the cost of government. I feel sure that those who were seeking a way out of our national difficulties lamentably failed in their efforts when, in endeavouring to bring about the rehabilitation of the finances of the Commonwealth, they decided to lower the living conditions of the people, rather than reduce the excessive cost of government, due to the overlapping of Federal and State administration.
When social services and other benefits of the people generally are being curtailed, we are justified in paying serious attention to the unnecessary expense of maintaining State Governors. We have no right to call upon the people to bear the heavy cost of their upkeep. The South Australian Government, in my opinion, has been lamentably weak in not honouring the obligation imposed upon it by a pledge which it gave to the people when it was elected. One of its platform promises was that it would fight for the abolition of the office of State Governor. Although the term of office of the present Governor of South Australia will not expire until about March next, the State Government, with the object- of toying to court favour in certain quarters, has agreed to extend the Governor’s appointment for a further term of twelve months. A State like South Australia, which is engaged in a great financial struggle, cannot afford to maintain such an office as that of the State Governor, and other States are in a similar predicament.
There is no reason why the work of the State Agents-General should not be entrusted to the High Commissioner for Australia, or to the official chosen to represent the Commonwealth at Australia House. We must recognize that the time lias come when the Commonwealth Government’s representation in Great Britain should be regarded as a sufficient representation of the whole of Australia. The present duplication of the administrative cost of government departments adds tremendously to the burdens of the taxpayers, and detracts from the efficiency in administration” that the people have a right to expect. For instance, can anybody justify six separate standards of education in Australia? Why are six separate school curriculums set for the children of this continent? In my judgment, the highest standard and the best curriculum should he applied generally throughout Australia. Let me give a personal experience to show the absurdity of the present practice of adopting varying educational standards. The education of my own son was interfered with because of the fact that he spent a certain period at Canberra, away from his own school. After two months’ absence from. South Australia, he was regarded as being two months behind the standard set for his own school, and that treatment prevented his normal progress. Can we justify seven separate systems of railway management in Australia?
– We are with the honorable member there.
– I am glad that honorable members opposite recognize the justice of my claim for a unification of railway management.
– I wish that that were the only issue which the motion raises.
– Surely, the honorable member would not deprive the people of an opportunity of expressing their opinion upon every phase of the motion. It is essential to have co-ordination in government administration; but owing to the multiplicity of departmental activities, an overwhelming and entirely unnecessary burden of taxation is imposed on the people. I urge honorable members to give this all-important subject their earnest consideration, for it involves the prosperity of the people, and the financial soundness of the Commonwealth. We cannot afford to allow the costly systems that have operated in the past to continue. Australia must have been a remarkably prosperous country to have allowed this overlapping to operate for so long a period. Our population is a little over 6,000,000, and yet there are over 600 members of Parliament. That is surely absurd. If the Government can successfully manage the affairs of our Postal Department, which is a greater public utility, covering a wider area, than any other business undertaking in Australia, surely it could also efficiently manage less important utilities to the benefit of the community. I can see no reason why the people should not be consulted by referendum on this important subject. I am sure that if they were given an opportunity to do so, our citizenswould declare in a most emphatic way infavour of the proposals submitted to us* in this motion. I believe that they would, welcome the remoulding of our Constitution with the object of clothing the Commonwealth Government -with more power. This would undoubtedly result in improved conditions to the people, better social services, and increased efficiency in every direction, and would also eliminate the necessity for even considering the reduction of invalid and old-age pensions, and payments under other social welfare legislation. We should be improving the standards of living in Australia and not degrading them.
It gives me much pleasure to associate myself with this motion. The honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) deserves commendation for the public spirit he has shown in placing it before us. I trust that when the next appeal is made to the people of Australia they will have an opportunity of expressing their mind upon the whole subject. An affirmative vote at such a referendum would result in many advantages to the people and much benefit to the Commonwealth.
– I support the motion and congratulate the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) on having moved it. If such a referendum were submitted to the people they would vote in favour of an extension of. Commonwealth powers to the fullest possible degree, for, I believe, they desire to - see the Commonwealth Parliament clothed with power to do the things that it was thought it would be able to do when federation was consummated many years ago. The people. were told that the adoption of the principle of federation would result in the abolition of State Governors and their expensive retinues, the elimination or curtailment of the powers of the State Parliaments, and the reduction of the costs of government. Those promises have not been fulfilled. “ To-day, seven parliaments, consisting of thirteen chambers, are still legislating for the people of this island continent, with its population of only 6,000,000 people. If this is in any sense economical, I confess that I do not know the first rudiments of economy. The salaries of the members of these parliaments and the general expenses associated with them involve an enormous outlay annually. I believe that if we had only one parliament, a reduction of expenditure of £1,000,000 per annum could be effected. Instead of seeking such economies as these, this Government contemplated attacking the most defenceless section of our community, our invalid and old-age pensioners.
– But it has backed down.
– Thank God it has backed down !
In addition to the multiplication that these many parliaments cause in legislation, we have multiplication in other directions. It is ridiculous, for instance, that we have seven systems of railway management in Australia.
-I rise to a point of order. This motion makes no reference to the functions and powers of the various State Parliaments, but refers only to the abolition of State Governors and AgentsGeneral, the reduction of the judiciary, and the abolition of the Upper Houses of certain State Parliaments. I submit therefore that the honorable member is not entitled to discuss such subjects as railway management, education and so on, which are outside the scope of the motion.
– I assume that the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) intends to connect his remarks with the motion. If so he will be in order. [Quorum formed.]
– The motion certainly implies the abolition of various State legislatures. I believe that there is great need not only to unify our railway management systems, but also our railway gauges. It is regrettable and uneconomic that we should have so many railway gauges in Australia. If our railways were controlled by one authority I believe that steps would be taken immediately to unify the gauges of Australia.
We also have seven separate systems of control of education.
– There are only six Education Departments.
– There is a distinct educational system in operation in the
Federal Capital Territory, and that, with, those of the six States, makes seven. We are one people, with one outlook, and our children should be educated on a uniform basis. There should be only one curriculum for the Commonwealth.
Endless trouble is also caused by duplication in our industrial legislation. We have workers in each State doing exactly similar work, being paid at different rates, and working under varying conditions. It was understood when federation was consummated that the Commonwealth Government would have complete control of industrial matters, but this has not been our experience. People interested in public affairs overseas must think that we are a queer community, and know little about economy in government. There is undoubtedly great need for the use of the pruning knife in public expenditure under each of the headings to which I have referred. In each State there is a government department of mining and a State Minister for Mines. There are seven Attorneys-General in Australia, and each State has its ownLaw Courts. All this duplication points to the stupidity of the Australian governmental system. Each State has its own Police and its own Transport Departments. Australia is put to tremendous expense in the upkeep of its parliamentary institutions. We have in this country 625 members of parliament. If that number were reduced there would be a considerable saving in salaries. State parliaments should be abolished, and there should be one Australian parliament administering affairs of national importance. All domestic affairs should be under the control of local governing authorities, such as municipal and shire councils. The abolition of State parments would mean an increased membership of the National parliament. There is one representative for each federal electorate, but there are four or five State representatives for the same area. I suggest that if the State parliaments were abolished, each federal electorate should return two representatives to this Parliament. In that way there would be a considerable curtailment of expenditure. A huge staff is employed in the parliamentary institutions of Australia, but if the State parliaments were abolished the present federal parliamentary staff need not be augmented, even though the parliamentary membership were increased by one- third. I recognize the difficulty of placing this issue squarely before the people. We are not likely to obtain any reform until the members of all parties in this Parliament are prepared to advocate a proposal such as this. All parties agreed when federation took place that if the federal parliament were established the electors would ultimately be given an opportunity to vote for the abolition of State parliaments.
– They were never told that.
– I distinctly remember that promise being made.
– -It was only an expression of opinion.
– It was a definite promise to the people.
– Who could have had authority to make such an absurd promise?
– I remember clearly the fact that when I was a lad at Old Lambton, parliamentary representatives came to the district and promised the electors that if federation were established they would have an opportunity later to vote on the issue of the abolition of State parliaments. I believe that if that issue were put to the people tomorrow it would bc carried by an overwhelming, majority. Since federation the powers of the State parliaments have been considerably curtailed in consequence of various referenda which have been submitted to the people and carried by them. Prior to federation, each State made its own borrowing arrangements, but since 1928, when the Loan Council was established, all loans for State and Federal purposes have been arranged by that body. If Mr. Lang did nothing else, he proved the futility of State parliaments.
– He certainly did that.
– During the regime of the Lang Government in New South Wales, the Federal Government showed that by passing emergency legislation it could at any time hamstring the activities of a particular State. While the States are dependent on the Loan
Council for loans, they cannot function independently of the Federal Parliament. The operation of the Financial Agreements Enforcement Act which wa3 passed by the Federal Parliament showed conclusively that the Federal Government could protect the interests of that section of the community which it represents against any State proposal for additional taxation. Much of the State legislation could oe administered more efficiently and economically by this Parliament. ‘We should make every effort to prevent duplication and overlapping in Federal and State departments, because any considerable saving in that direction would make it unnecessary to place an additional burden upon the poor, unfortunate old-age and invalid pensioners and the expectant mothers of this country, who are to be denied proper medical attention during a critical period of their lives.
-I ask the honorable member to confine his remarks to the motion before the Chair.
M’r. JAMES. - If we curtailed government expenditure iu the directions that I have indicated, there would be no need to curtail our social services at the expense of the most defenceless section of the community. We must be united on this issue. Some of the members of the Country party are strong advocates of new States. They propose to establish additional governments and to add to governmental expenditure. The right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page), speaking at Maitland at the New States Conference in support of the establishment of new states, referred to what had happened in the United States of America at the time the people of that country desired independence. He did not say that a similar proceeding would take place in Australia if the new states proposal were not acceptable to the Federal Government, but the threat was there.
– He preached the doctrine of revolution.
– He did that, undoubtedly.
– How does the honorable member propose to obtain unity on this issue?
– I am pleading for unity. I have no doubt that, after listening to the speeches of the honorable members for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) and tor Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin), the honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson) will withdraw the motion that he has had placed on the notice-paper. This proposal is of primary importance to the people, and I believe that, if it were submitted to them in simple terms, they would pronounce emphatically in favour of unification.
– The supporters of this motion have been beating the air, because it does not refer definitely to the principal subject which they have been discussing. They have canvassed the merits of unification; but, although the motion may, superficially, contemplate the abolition of State parliaments, it merely proposes the lopping of certain incidental trimmings - State governors, agents-general, State chief justices, and legislative councils. The mover made no reference to the abolition of parliaments, other than the upper chambers. Nevertheless, members of the Opposition have taken advantage of the motion to discuss their pet theory of unification. It is significant that, when this subject, which is in the forefront of the Labour platform, and is prescribed as an infallible cure for all the political and economic ills of Australia, is under discussion, the Labour benches are empty.
– What about the Country party benches ? Only one colleague of the honorable member is present. [Quorum formed.]
– The Country party is not interested in unification. We have never disguised our hostility to that proposal; on the contrary, we have carried into every corner of the continent our propaganda against the Labour party’s proposal to bring about a unitary system of government, under which all the legislative affairs of Australia would be controlled from Canberra. One of the grave objections’ to that proposal is that the Federal Parliament has not been able to discharge all the functions and responsibilities already vested in it, and, if its work were increased, would be liable to make a very much worse mess than it has made in the. past. When the Country party’s policy of constitutional reform is being expounded, my colleagues will be in their places to support it ; but the members of the Labour party take so little interest in their pet subject of unification that they are not prepared to remain in the chamber to hear one of their colleagues expound the gospel.
Several honorable members interjecting,
– The constant interjecting which has occurred while the honorable member is speaking cannot be allowed to continue, and I ask honorable members not to disregard my calls to order. If an honorable member persists in interjecting after I have called for order, I shall name him.
– The honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) proposes that there shall be only one governor or Governor-General in the Commonwealth, and that the office of State governor shall be abolished.
Mr. Martens interjecting,
– I name the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Martens) for disregarding the authority of the Chair.
– I am sure the honorable member for Herbert did not intend to offend, and will obviate the need for further action by apologizing to the Chair.
– I did not deliberately disobey your call for order, Mr. Speaker ; but, if I have offended, I apologize.
– Strangers listening to the debates cannot help noticing that my calls for order are frequently disregarded. In this way the House is brought into disrepute. I ask honorable members to assist me to conduct the proceedings of the chamber with that decorum which should characterize a deliberative assembly.
– The members of the Labour party must realize that the proposal to abolish State governors strikes at the very root of the federal principle. Before that step is taken, we must reconsider the whole scheme of government. We must decide whether we intend to improve the present federal system, or launch into some experiment in unitary government. The honorable member for Melbourne proposes also the abolition of State Agents-General. There may be ground for that step, but the States, with the exception of New South Wales, are opposed to it. Having regard to the speeches delivered this afternoon by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) and the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse), I doubt whether the people of Western Australia would consider for a moment the abolition of their Agent-General. Although members of the Labour party speak of the ease with which State Parliaments may be abolished, representatives of Western Australia are speaking of the. abolition of the Commonwealth Parliament.
– The people of Tasmania believe in that, too.
– The.’ people of Western Australia want to secede from the Commonwealth ; yet the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) and the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) have told us that the magical proposal, for unification has only to be submitted to the people to induce them to rise in their wrath and sweep away the State Parliaments. How can that contention be reconciled’ with the violent opposition of South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania to any curtailment of the powers and functions of the States. Labour members are merely beating the air when they ignore the attitude of the three smaller States, which, constitutionally, are half the federation, and can nullify the will of the other half, although it has a preponderance of population and political influence. The representatives of the smaller States declare that if their people had the opportunity they would step out of the federation. By ignoring the antagonism of the smaller States to the union, Labour members stultify themselves in discussing unification at all. Clearly they are not getting down to fundamental principles. As a once great constructive political organization, the Labour party might be expected to examine the constitutional problem as the Country party has done. We are very much concerned with the recalcitrant attitude of the smaller States, and have seriously investigated it with a view to devising means for effectively dealing with it. One of the conclusions at which we have arrived is that the real solutionis not unification, but rather an extension of the federal principle - not the abolition of the existing States, but the subdivision of them, in order to bring about greater equilibrium amongst the governing units of the federation. For 32 years we have loyally observed the system of partnerships which the federation represents. But for 25 years the Labour party has declared that the people made a mistake when they adopted the federal principle, and that if they had an opportunity to reconsider their choice would declare for a system of unification. The facts are diametrically opposed to that claim. They prove that the federal spirit in Australia is stronger than ever. An analysis reveals that the three States which allegedly have a series of grievances against the Commonwealth really have grievances against three other States - in other words, against the unequal balance of political power which exists in the Commonwealth. After listening to the speeches made by Western Australian representatives to-day one must come to the conclusion that that State does not want to secede, but desires rather to break downthe dominating political power of New South Wales, Victoria, and Queensland. Those honorable members declare that their State has made tremendous sacrifices and in return has been subjected to a bushranging policy by the more powerful members of the union. The policy of the Country party provides a solution of our troubles, and should find support from other parties in this House. We advocate that the more powerful States should be subdivided into new federal units, which would remain under the domination of the federal power. Secession is no solution, for if one State withdrew, the Commonwealth would collapse. Nor would unification help, because it would not be acceptable to the weaker States. Though the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) advocates unification, he must admit that South Australia would not vote for such a policy.
– There is a growing feeling in South Australia in favour of unification.
– In what way would subdivision destroy the power of the three dominating States? They would be just as strongly represented in this House, while their representation in the Senate would be greater.
– The Senate representation is the crux of the problem. One of the great weaknesses of the Federal Parliament is that it is numerically too small. There should be 150 members in this House, and at least 75 in the Senate. Then we should have a real national Parliament, big enough to take an intelligent interest in the’ nation’s problems, instead of, as1 at present, being unable to maintain a quorum.
– I rise to a point of order. Is the honorable member entitled to discuss the subject of new States when it is specifically provided for in another motion that appears on ‘ the notice-paper?
– The honorable member would not be in .order in devoting much of his time to discussing the subject of new States, but as yet he is as much in order as honorable members who preceded him. I ask the honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson) to connect his remarks with the motion under debate.
– As I have a motion on the notice-paper which deals with the establishment of new States, I shall not labour the subject now. None of the proposals embodied in the motion of the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) can be accomplished without a thorough overhaul of our governmental system. I know that certain honorable members do not take a great deal of interest in such a project, but members of my party are trying to create interest in it, and are confident that if we persist, we shall eventually succeed, for the problem must be tackled sooner or later.
The financial and political troubles that are retarding the development of Australia, arc attributable chiefly to the unequal distribution of political power in the Commonwealth. That has resulted in three States being financially embarrassed, and constantly seeking assistance from the Common-wealth Government, and three other States enjoying a fisc.;i: n nd industrial policy which necessitates the maintenance of a highly protective tariff and the building of factories in their capital cities. The subdivision of New South Wales, Victoria, and Queensland and the creation of additional partners in our federation, possessing the same proportionate political strength, prestige, and financial resources as the three smaller States would restore the balance of political development and power in Australia. While it might not achieve miracles, it would strike at the root of our troubles.
If honorable members of the Opposition are serious in their desire to simplify the government of Australia, they will find the Country party willing to assist them. My party is opposed to unification, because it is fundamentally unsound and unsuitable to Australia, but it is strongly in favour of lightening our government machine of its top-heavy load. That, can be done by ridding ourselves of State governors and simplifying and cheapening our governing system. But we cannot do this or abolish the State upper houses, without evolving a simplified system of government suited to both Commonwealth and States.
.- I give my wholehearted support to the motion of the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney). The honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson) declared that,, though the morion was put forward by a member of the Labour party, very. few members of that party are present in the House. I remind him that the Labour party has been committed to the policy enunciated by the honorable member for Melbourne since pre-federation days. Its members do not need to be convinced on the subject, and, foi- the time being, there is no great need for their presence in this chamber. What my colleagues and T are trying to do is to bring some light into the darkness that prevails in the minds of the honorable member for New England and others.
Many organizations which support the Country party complain of the chaotic conditions that exist in Australia as a result of our system of dual control and conflicting laws. Yet’ while they are clamouring for unified control the honorable member argues in this “House in favour of perpetuating dual control.
The honorable member urged that we should reconsider the whole system of government. That was done over 30 years ago, before the people of Australia adoptedfederation. I am confident that when they supported the proposed union they did not anticipate a perpetuation of the conditions then existing. What was then promised - unified control, one people, one flag, one destiny - has failed to materialize. We have seven parliaments and seven upper houses, including the Senate, all allegedly trying to legislate the people intothe happy conditions promised 31 years ago.
The people of Australia complain because there is a division of control in almostevery activity. The proposals of the honorable member for Melbourne seek fulfilment of the promises of the past. The honorable member has not overlooked the condition in which we find ourselves. The fifth paragraph of his motion directs attention to our regrettable financial position, and indicates avenues of economy that remain to be exploited. Nor has the honorable member overlooked that economies have been demanded from every section of the community, and particularly from that section least able to bear them. His first paragraph points out what appears to me an obvious avenue of economy. At one time there was a full-time task for a Governor in each of our States, but then that individual was really the government of the State, and the only appeal against his decision was to Great Britain. Since those days we have evolved a system of responsible government, which has whittled away the duties of State governors, and nobody can justifiably argue that there is now work in Australia for seven of them. Yet we find persons with mediaeval opinions arguing that the position of Governor is as important in Australia to-day as it was a hundred years ago. At the present time the main duty of a State Governor is to become a social lion. He mixes with the social top crust, and his capability as a governor is largely determined by his ability to carry himself properly in society. Apart from that he is virtually a rubber stamp. It is. true that the Governor of New South Wales recently acted on his own initia tive. Honorable members opposite approved of what he did, but if his action had been directed against a political party of which they approved, they would by now be crying out for his recall. No one can seriously arguethat the State Governors perform any useful function. Not only are they useless, but they are expensive, and in these times of financial stress we should refuse to burden ourselves any longer with their upkeep.
– They were only dead-beats on the other side of the world.
Mr.ROSEVEAR. - The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) suggests that our State Governors have been chosen on the same principle that we employ in choosing our High Commissioners. Even if it be not true that they are mere political rejects from Great. Britain, there can be no doubt that political rejects could quite well perform their duties here.
– Why did Jack Lang appoint Willis to go to London?
Mr.ROSEVEAR. - Mr. Willis was probably the most useful man ever appointed by any Government of New South Wales to represent it in London. At least he opened up negotiations - contrary to the policy of the party opposite - which had for their object the easing of the financial burden which was oppressing the people. Whether the appointment of Mr. Willis was justified or not in the eyes of the honorable member I am convinced that the right honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Bruce) must tread in exactly the same path as Mr. Willis did if he is to obtain any relief from our overseas interest burden. 1 believe that two States are now abolishing the position of Agent-General, and the other States might very well do the same. Their usefulness may be a matter of dispute, but it was held by some honorable members on the other side no later than yesterday that the AgentGeneralship was usually the dumping ground for dead-beat politicians. If that is what they really believe, they ought to support this motion, which aims at the abolition of that office.
The honorable member’s motion further proposes the retirement of the six State Chief Justices, and their replacement by one Chief Justice of the High Court of
Australia. This proposal also should receive the support of honorable members opposite.We of the Labour party know that a unified judicial system, particularly in regard to arbitration, would be of great benefit to the people, and would make easier the way of those who have to approach the Arbitration Court.
The motion also provides for the abolition of the Legislative Councils or upper chambers associated with State legislatures. It must be obvious that, if we are to have popular government in Australia, whether we preserve State Parliaments or abolish them, we must do away with the second legislative chambers. If the secondchamber is of the same political colour as the lower chamber, it is merely superimposed upon the legislative system, and its maintenance is a waste of public money. If, on the other hand, the second chamber is opposed to the political doctrines of the majority party in the lower chamber, then its existence is mischievous, and a denial of democratic government. In New South Wales, the members of the upper chamber are nominated by the government of the day. In Queensland the upper house has been abolished, and although a government opposed to its abolition was recently in office in that State for three years, it made no attempt to reinstitute the upper house system, indicating, apparently, that it had come to recognize the wisdom of having a single legislative chamber. In New South Wales at one period, while the Lang Government was in office, the Legislative Council denied for over six months the principle of popular government by rejecting or mutilating the measures which had been passed by the Legislative Assembly, notwithstanding that these measures were merely implementing the policy enunciated by the Premier on the hustings. At last the State Governor was prevailed upon to appoint 25 new members to the Legislative Council, but even then the Goverument did not have a reliable majority in that chamber. Then an election took place, and a new government was returned. Immediately, and before any new legislation was submitted to the upper house for its approval, the Governor agreed to the appointment of 21 new members, the nominees of the new government. It is evident that the Legislative Council of New South Wales really controls the legislation of that State, and that that chamber, in turn, reflects the political opinions of the Governor.
– The honorable member must notproceed on those lines.
Mr.ROSEVEAR.- I am urging the abolition of the office of State Governor, and the abolition of legislative chambers of review. In the circumstances,I believed that I was justified in discussing whether ornot the action of a State Governor was mischievous, and constituted a denial of the principle of selfgovernment.
– The honorable member may not criticize the actions of any one State Governor.
– The honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) is to be congratulated on bringing this matter forward. It is useless to advocate a further review of the whole of our legislative machinery at this stage.
– It was reviewed 30 years ago, and we have not yet carried out the undertakings given at that time to the people. If we review our legislative machinery again in 1932, and make further promises, I have no doubt that, in 1962, we shall still be as far in arrears in carrying out our promises. Before we embark upon any further fundamental alteration, we should first honour the promises already given. We cannot justify the retention of six State Governors and a GovernorGeneral in Australia. A hundred years ago, when the Governors of the colonies were the sole administrators, there may have been some justification for their appointment; but to-day a State Governor is a mere cipher, although an expensive and, in some instances, a mischievous cipher. The only ground on which the maintenance of the office can be supported is that it is considered necessary to have vice-regal representatives in Australia. Governors are usually social lions, who move in a sphere where they do not come into contact with the people who really count in the community. The abolition of State Governors would save the heavy annual expense of employing retinues of servants in their establishments. The office of State Agent-General has been said by honorable members opposite to provide a lucrative job for “ dead-head “ politicians, and, therefore, honorable members opposite should be prepared to abolish the position. Since those who voted for the party now in power clamoured for the removal of overlapping jurisdictions, they should also be in favour of having one Chief Justice for the Commonwealth instead of six State Chief Justices. This is a time when a sacrifice is called for; but before we demand sacrifice by the section least able to bear it, we should cut down unnecessary governmental costs.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Fenton) adjourned.
SECTIONAL Control OF Marketing.
– I move -
That in the opinion of this House it is desirable that constitutional alterations be provided to make possible the organization of primary producers on an Australian basis with complete sectional control of the internal and external marketing of each primary product, such control to be exercised exclusively by the organized producers of such commodity, which would enable the producers of each commodity to speak with one voice and authority in regard to any arrangement, which may be deemed by them to be necessary to conserve their interests.
To-day we have been considering a proposal involving the secession of a State, owing to supposed disabilities suffered by it under federation and another motion urging unification; but in my motion I have submitted a constructive suggestion that could bo adopted under the present federation. I weed hardly emphasize the great value of primary production to Australia, and we should put our best efforts into the task of lightening the burdens and increasing the earnings of the man on the land. My proposal, if adopted, would be of the greatest value to the primary producers, and would assist them to realize their industrial hopes and aspirations. On their success depends the industrial prosperity of this continent; but if they are not helped out of their present difficulties, all sections of industry must suffer.
If by the method suggested in. my motion we can help the primary producer to obtain a full return for his labour, we shall benefit, not only, those who are struggling on the land under adverse conditions, but also the consumers.
The primary producer depends for his livelihood on both the local and the export market. A good home market for our primary products naturally reduces our imports. We cannot expect to maintain a favorable trade balance if we do not have a large surplus of primary produce for export. The primary producer is a great sufferer under the present conditions in both the local and the overseas market. Wh’ile trouble has befallen many of our industrialists, we do not hear sufficient of the great disabilities under which all primary producers labour. Much has been said regarding the difficulties of a number of the larger primary industries, but my motion embraces all branches of primary production. Of our total exports from Australia, about 97 per cent, is the result of the toil of the primary producer. This production has been exported at a loss. Although every member of this Parliament is full of sympathy for him, we should endeavour to put forward a concrete proposal that will help him, and I consider that if the suggestion contained in the motion before the House were acted upon, his prospects for the future would be much brighter than they now are.
The power sought under the motion would not be vested in this Parliament. It is desired that the Constitution be so amended as to enable certain powers not now enjoyed to be exercised by Australianwide organizations of primary producers. At the present time, each State has full power under the Constitution to organize industry within its own boundaries, and in some States, notably Queensland, a most helpful organization has been established. I refer to the method of control of the sugar industry. Similarly, the dairy farmers of Australia derive the benefit of the Paterson butter scheme, which fortunately, it was possible to launch on an Australian-wide basis, owing to the primary producers’ control of the dairying industry in its secondary stage. In the two industries that I have named it was possible to establish control throughout Australia. In the case of sugar, that control is dependent upon the will of this Parliament, and the control of the butter industry is exercised by the co-operative organizations of primary producers.
By the present motion, I hope to remove some of the difficulties due to State barriers which prevent the primary producers from obtaining the full return for their labour. Under present conditions, a State not controlled by organized marketing can flood the market in another State where the producers have organized in their own interests, and that action can be taken at a time when it is most detrimental. Whether we believe in unification or not, we must agree that at least a fair return to the primary producers on the basis of costs of production in Australia is not too much to ask. If the people of this country are given an opportunity to agree by referendum to an amendment of the Constitution to allow this Parliament to provide organization on the lines indicated, the primary producers will be relieved of the cut-throat competition under which they now stagger. To give an example of the need for action, I point out that under present circumstances the maize-growers in a State enjoying a bountiful harvest could flood the market in another State which was experiencing a drought, and thus deprive the primary producers in that State of a fair return. But if there were an Australian organization for each primary product, merely for the purpose of regulating the price, and reducing distribution costs by means of co-operative marketing, both the consumer and the producer would benefit. Under such a system a uniform and living price would be provided. It would not be unreasonable to give the primary producers the control of their own destiny by permitting them, through an Australianwide organization, to regulate the distribution of their product, to determine the requirements in each State, and to allocate to each State its share of the protected market resulting from the fixing of a fair price, which could be adjusted by the producers on an Australian basis.
If the sectional control of primary production were provided for it would be useless for any one section to complain that it was being subjected to unfair treatment by other sections, which might be the case if we had only one marketing organization. This was the original provision under a council of agriculture in Queensland, but for it was later substituted commodity control as urged by the State Country party.
It has been asked to-day that provision be made practically for the secession of Western Australia from the federation, on the ground that her primary producers have been unfairly treated. But I suggest that if my proposal were incorporated in the Constitution the primary producers of that State would find that most of their troubles could be remedied, for in co-operation with the other States they would be able to take full advantage of- the home market which at present, on account of their remoteness from the main centres of population, is not of very much value to them. I. am of the opinion that if the wheat-growers, the wool-producers, and those engaged in the production of other primary products were able to set up one Australian-wide organization for both the internal and external marketing of their particular commodity, the producers of Western Australia would be placed in quite as good a position as the producers of the other States. No one should be so capable of marketing our primary products as the producers of each commodity. It would not be advisable to allow one organization to market all products, for we should then have men handling certain products who know nothing about them. But if the producers of any given commodity knew that it was to be marketed by their own representatives, they would have confidence in their industry. The value of the Export Control Board is limited, for it can do nothing to regulate supplies for home consumption. In the last two or three years when wheat prices have been lower than they have been for many years, the wheat-growers have found it impossible to adjust themselves to the new conditions, and this Parliament has not been able, because of constitutional limitations, to help them in regard to home consumption. An amendment of the Constitution in the direction I am suggesting would enable legislation to be passed to give the producers of any particular commodity full power to fix prices within Australia, and to control, by cooperative methods, the whole of our marketing arrangements. This would be of enormous value to the primary industries and to Australia. There need be no political interference under such an arrangement. We know very well that within the last year or two attempts have been made in Canada and the United States of America to establish a world basis for the fixation of wheat prices.
– And they have been a colossal failure.
– That is because so few of the wheat-growing countries were represented at the conference. The Australian wheat-growers were not represented, chiefly because there was no organization here which could speak authoritatively for them. It is unfortunate that the hopes that were held out of a successful issue to these negotiations were crushed. The future meeting of representatives of the primary producing organizations of different countries of the world should do a great deal to improve the position of producers. It is of little use for us to hold aloof and criticize efforts of this kind to stabilize prices and production. We ought to send our representatives to the conferences. I hope that the Government will allow a vote to be taken on my motion, and that honorable members generally will give the proposal favorable consideration. A constitutional alteration, such as I am advocating, would give the Government power in a time of depression to help substantially primary producers of every class.
Only yesterday I received a letter from the Widgee Shire Council, which is pertinent to this motion. It enclosed a copy of a letter sent by the council to the Prime Minister under date 7th September, and also a copy of a resolution carried at a meeting of citizens at Longreach, Queensland. The letter to the Prime Minister reads as follows: -
By direction I have to advise that at the last meeting of this council a letter was received from the Longreach Shire Council stating that, in their opinion, the widespread distress which exists in Australia at the present time is largely due to the fact that the wool-grower is forced to sell his product on an open market at a price well under the cost of production, and appealing for the support of this council in their efforts to have a more effective method for the marketing of wool placed in operation. The motion passed at a meeting of citizens held at Longreach, copy of which is enclosed, received the unanimous support of this council, and the following resolution was carried: -
That this council endorses the action of the Longreach Shire Council, and also that a letter be forwarded to the Prime Minister stating that it is this council’s opinion that the time has arrived when legislation should be introduced empowering primary producers to control the marketing and handling of their produce either through compulsory pools or through any other co-operative method that the growers of any kind of primary produce may choose.
I trust that the above will receive your earnest consideration.
The resolution of the Longreach citizens related to the wool industry and read as follows: -
This meeting of citizens of Longreach and district, assembled, is of the opinion that it would be in the interests of every section in Australia that the first move to bring about the recovery would be to place the wool industry on a sound economic basis. With this end in view the policy of some more effective and definite collective defence in the realization of Australia’s wool production for the purpose of securing improved values for the respective qualities of such product, is hereby approved, and that the Federal Government be requested to promptly take the necessary steps to bring this policy into effect before the opening sales of the coming wool season, which will commence on 29th August, 1932.
I was glad to receive this information in time to place it before honorable members when moving the motion now before the Chair. Both the letter and the accompanying motion indicate that the primary producers are looking for assistance; they are not squealing, but are offering constructive suggestions to better their lot. I believe that an amendment of the Constitution to make possible the more effective marketing of our products would do a great deal to improve the financial position of the country, and I sincerely trust that honorable members generally, whether they are interested in wool, wheat, dairying, fat-stock raising, hay-growing, the marketing of hides and skins, or the production of dried fruits, eggs, tobacco, or maize, will support my motion.
– What about the producers of canary seed?
– Canary seed is produced in Queensland, and, although the industry is not large, those engaged in it deserve as much individual consideration as the woolgrowers. It must be remembered that the smaller primary producing industries are valuable to this country, for our people cannot all be wool and wheat producers. I stress also that producers who are supplying the home market with primary products are just as worthy of encouragement as those who produce for export. We should assist every industry which can give employment to our Australian people, and not limit our attention to the larger industries. I trust that the Government will agree to take a referendum on an extension of the trade and commerce powers of the Commonwealth, with the object of assisting primary producers of every class to market economically whatever products they have to sell.
Sitting suspended from 6.12 to 8 p.m.
.- I address myself, with much pleasure, to the motion of the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser), because it is of considerable importance to the primary producers of Australia. Honorable members on this side of the House stand for the organization of the primary producers and workers throughout Australia, and the only way in which the primary producers can properly organize is by becoming affiliated with the party to which I belong. In the past, when they have depended upon so-called organizations fosteredby the Nationalist party, they have been left lamenting. Nothing has been done for them. It is now necessary for the honorable member for Wide Bay, after supporting for six and a half years a composite Ministry in the Federal Parliament, in which the Country party held nearly half ofthe portfolios, to move this motion seeking an amendment of the Commonwealth Constitution so as to make possible the establishment of an Australian-wide marketing scheme. As a matter of fact, the Bruce-Page Government did try to amend the Commonwealth Constitution in respect of trade and commerce, but the powers that it sought were so limited that the Federal Labour party did its best to widen the scope of the referendum. Later, when we took office, we passed through this House certain proposals for amending the Constitution, but, unfortunately, they were rejected by the Senate. It was the intention of the last Government to submit to the people at the earliest opportunity further proposals for amending” the Constitution so as to give the Federal Parliament unlimited power in respect of trade and commerce. Unfortunately, as the result of an unholy alliance between the Country and Nationalist parties, the Federal, Labour Government was defeated, and its proposals were not submitted to the people. So important is this matter t® the primary producers of Australia that it is a pity that the Country party, when it held nearly half of the portfolios in the composite Ministry, did not take some definite action on the lines now suggested by the honorable member for Wide Bay. When the Scullin Government passed through this House a proposal for an Australia-wide compulsory wheat pool,v certain members of the Country party in the Senate joined forces with the Nationalist members to defeat it. The party to which I have the honour to belong has a clearly defined country policy, embracing an orderly Australiawide marketing scheme for primary producers. Our policy, inter alia, is -
The promotion and extension of the agricultural and rural industries by the establishment of a federal bureau of agriculture to co-operate with similar State bodies, with a view to organizing all those engaged in primary production into a unified body, so that they may be able to more effectively place their views before governments, and to generally co-operate and assist in giving effect to the following policy: -
) The encouragement of a co-operation among primary producers in order to bring consumers and producers into direct communication.
The provision of more up-to-date methods of marketing products both locally and overseas.
The provision of a system of research work for the betterment of rural production.
The policy of the Federal Labour party embraces everything that is good in the motion of the honorable member for Wide Bay. I hope that the Government will take this motion seriously, and that we shall not have the spectacle of a Minister moving the adjournment of the debate to prevent a vote from being taken upon this issue. The honorable member for Wide Bay would no doubt like to have extended throughout Australia the wellordered scheme of marketing of primary products that is in operation in Queensland as a result of legislation introduced by the State Labour Government. I agree that it would be a good thing for Australia if that policy were extended and made Australia-wide. The general policy pursued by the Marketing Boards established in Queensland under Labour legislation may be summarized as an endeavour to secure, first, a reasonable cost of production for primary producers ; secondly, a reasonable measure of stability of prices; and, thirdly, the elimination of speculation in foodstuffs as well as of unnecessary intermediary charges. Let me point out to the honorable member for Wide Bay that, however enthusiastic he may be,he need not expect to obtain the approval of the Nationalist party for this motion, because the backbone of its support comes from speculative companies which gamble in farm products, raking off huge profits. For years, primary producers have been gulled by private vested interests into keeping clear of co-operative marketing and control. Fortunately, in some of the States - notably Queensland - there has been a definite departure from that conservative policy. In that State there is not one proprietary butter factory. All the factories are owned and controlled by the dairy farmers themselves.
– The managers of some of the factories were able to do well for themselves.
– It is true, according to the press, that certain managers of butter factories obtained a secret commission from agents for churns and other dairying equipment. In one or two instances the chairmen of boards of directors accepted secret commissions from agencies. But we cannot condemn co-operative control becauseof the weakness of a few managers. Indeed, we know that under proprietary control the practice of accepting commissions is indulged in to a much greater extent. However, the managers concerned have been dis missed. The following facts and figures show the quantity and value of commodities controlled by the boards in Queensland : -
It is estimated that the saving to the farmers of Queensland as a result of the co-operative control of the marketing of their products is approximately £1,000,000 per annum. A colleague of the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Bernard Corser), speaking in the Queensland Parliament about the State Labour Government’s agricultural and marketing policy, said -
Iam now going to say something, which 1 think should be said, and I am going to he quite brief about it. The legislation placed on the statute-book by the Labour Government in Queensland, through Mr. Forgan Smith, has conferred an enormous boon on the farmers of this State.
That statement was made by Mr. Harry Walker, who was Minister for Agriculture in the Moore Government. I sincerely hope that the present Federal Government will be more sympathetic towards sectional marketing of farmers’ produce than the Bruce-Page Government was. The Queensland Producer, which is the official organ of the Queensland Producers Association, condemned the BrucePage Government and the Leader of the Federal Country party in these terms -
The Federal Government has always showna considerableamount of hostility to the Queens land Producers Association, and its marketing boards, apparently because they were brought into being by a political party holding different views to their own. Dr. Earle Page has been particularly bitter in his attacks, and inaccurate and undignified in the statements which he has made from time to time.
When the Queensland Labour Government adopted its agricultural policy, the Leader of the Federal Country party sought to denounce it, much to the annoyance of the farmers of Queensland. Particulars of that State’s marketing policy were forwarded to the officer in charge of agricultural matters for the League of Nations, and in his reply to the Queensland Director of Marketing he said - “ We know of no country which has organized its agriculture in such a representative way “. The motion of the honorable member for Wide Bay is deserving of our sympathetic consideration. The Government should take an early opportunity to submit a referendum to the people of Australia seeking unlimited powers in respect of trade and commerce, with a view to establishing an Australian-wide marketing scheme, similar to that operating in Queensland to-day. I am afraid that, however enthusiastic the honorable member for Wide Bay may be, he will not live to see his scheme put into operation as the result of any legislation brought down by this or any other anti-Labour Government, but I promise him that if he will assist in returning the Federal Labour party to power at the next elections, it will take early opportunity to amend the Commonwealth Constitution so as to give this Parliament the power necessary to enable it to legislate in the direction indicated by him this evening.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Fenton) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Fenton) put -
That the resumption of the debate be made an order of the day for Thursday, the 6th October, next.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. G. H. Mackay.)
Majority . . 20
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Proposed Replacement by Turnover Tax.
.- I move -
That, in view of the following: facts: -
That the sales tax is a factor in keeping up the cost of living;
That the sales tax is a harassing and irritating hindrance to trade and an indirect cause of unemployment;
That there is (a) much unnecessary labour and trouble in rendering returns and making adjustments, (b) expense involved in securities paid, (c) misunderstandng regarding who and what are taxable;
That there is large government expenditure involved in labour and stationery in collecting the sales, tax, it is the opinion of this House that a turnover tax of1¼ per cent., which could be administered by the Income Tax Department, and which would bring in equivalent revenue and make a large saving in administrative expenditure, be introduced for a period of two years, and the sales tax abolished.
Sales taxation, which was introduced as an experiment in times of financial stress, has proved a harassing and irritating hindrance to trade. The acts at present in operation should be simplified. This would save a good deal in administrative expenses. Emerson has said that it is a satire on government that of all debts man is most unwilling to pay taxation. That postulates that governments should be above reproach in the taxation they impose, particularly when it is realized that taxation is collected from so many sources. Undoubtedly, our present methods should be thoroughly overhauled annd simplified. All taxation is vexatious, and governments and government departments are inclined to look upon citizens as taxpayers with obligations. The taxpayer, however, feels that he is a citizen first and has his rights. As members of this Parliament we should see that the incidence of taxation is equitable to the whole community. I do not deny that sales taxation was imposed as an emergency measure, and that it will be abolished at the earliest possible moment. But when we realize that in eighteen months over £8,000,000 has been’ taken from the spending power of 6,500,000 persons, it is obvious that this tax must be instrumental in raising the cost of living. In the Estimates, there is an amount of £450,000 representing salaries and other expenses involved in collecting taxation. It would be interesting to know if a firm of accountants could quote a price for collecting Commonwealth taxation, and if it would require practically £500,000 to do the work. The cost of collection is largely responsible for the high taxation imposed. Originally, the rate of the sales tax was fixed at 2£ per cent., but it was subsequently increased to 6 per cent. In February last, when I asked what it costto collect this tax, I was informed that for the eighteen months it had been in operation, at the two rates I have mentioned, £8,190,000 had been collected; but that the department could not ascertain the exact cost of collection. In fairness to the department, I should say that it has made an estimate since, but it follows that, if the system could be simplified, the cost of collection would be lowered and the taxation imposed reduced. Every honorable member will agree that taxation should be reduced at the earliest possible moment.
How is the tax administered? We all remember nine sales tax bills and a similar number of sale3 tax assessment bills being passed by this Parliament. When these measures were under consideration, I directed the attention of the House to the numerous difficulties that would arise, and experience has shown that many obstacles and inconsistencies exist. I suggested the application of the tax at the source of trade, namely, on raw material and at the customs, as the simplest way out of the difficulty. About 750 rulings have been given by the Taxation Department under the Sales Tax Acts to ensure efficient administration. Lord Hewart, Lord Chief Justice of England, in his New Despotism, which should be read by every honorable member, points out that Great Britain is largely governed by civil servants, and not by Parliament. He speaks of the old despotism when kings defied parliament, and goes on to say -
In those days the method was to defy Parliament, and it failed. In these days, the method is to cajole, to coerce, and to use Parliament - and it is strangely successful. The old despotism, which was defeated, offered Parliament a challenge. The new despotism, which is not yet defeated, gives Parliament an anaesthetic. The strategy is different, but the goal is the same, lt is to subordinate Parliament, to evade the Courts, and to render the will, or the caprice, of the Executive unfettered and supreme.
I intend to show that this is so, not only in Great Britain, but, also in Australia. On more than one occasion, I have asked that the 750 rulings issued by tlie Taxation Department should be submitted to this House. I understand that they are shortly to be published in book form, and circulated. Over a year ago, I asked if they could be compiled, but the taxation officials said that they were too busy to undertake the work. These rulings have the force of law, but not one- of them - I speak subject to correction - has come before this Parliament. Lord Hewart, in the work which I have mentioned, relates a story of an Indian civil servant who, in passing the British Houses of Parliament on his return to England said, “Do they still go on with that foolishness?” He held the opinion thai parliamentary institutions were quite unnecessary. What, applies to England is also applicable in Australia. A departmental official sits in the House, and as certain clauses in a bill are’ passed, he says to the Minister in charge of the measure, “ We got away with that without a great deal of opposition.” Lord Hewart continues -
When it is provided that the matter is to be decided by the Minister, the provision really means that it is to be decided by some official, of more or less standing in the department, who has no responsibility except to his official superiors. The Minister himself, in too many cases. it is to be feared, does not hear of thu matter or the decision, unless he finds it necessary to make inquiries in consequence of some question in Parliament. The official who conies to the decision is anonymous, and, so far as interested parties and the public are concerned, is unascertainable. He is not bound by any particular course of procedure, unless a course of procedure is prescribed by the department, nor is he bound by any rules of evidence, and indeed, he is not obliged to receive any evidence at all before coming to a conclusion. If he does admit evidence, he may wholly disregard it without diminishing the validity of his decision. There is not, except in comparatively few cases, any oral hearing, so that there is no opportunity to test by crossexamination such evidence as may be received, nor for the parties to controvert or comment on the case put forward by their opponents. It is, apparently, quite unusual for interested parties even to be permitted to have an interview with any one in the department. When there is any oral hearing, the public and the press are invariably excluded. Finally, it is not usual for the .official to give ally reasons for his decision.
Eu how many instances has evidence been taken before rulings have been given by the Taxation Department? I intend to deal with some of the rulings. Here is one headed “ Extract from Sales Tax Stencil No. 44 of 7th August, 1931 “. Not an ordinance, or a regulation, or a statute, but a stencil -
The question has . been asked whether a retailer who is not registered under the Sales Tax Act or a combined wholesaler and retailer who is registered, but who, like the unregistered retailer, bears sales tax at the time of acquisition of his trading stock, can obtain a refund of any tax paid on such of that stock as may be sold tax-free to a State Government or a government department. The answer is in the negative, because there is no double taxation involved. The Sales Tax Assessment Act makes provision for refund or rebate of tax only for the purpose of obviating double taxation in respect of any particular goods.
Sales tax can be paid at the Customs House, and a firm whose operations are principally retail, and is either registered and therefore paying on certificate, or not registered, cannot land goods without paying sales tax. The goods may be sold to a government department, which, of course, does not pay sales tax, and the seller cannot get a refund of the tax already paid. On the other hand, a large firm which is principally wholesale may quote its certificate and sell goods to government departments and have the benefit of the 6 per cent, sales tax. Is it equitable that certain firms should have the benefit of a charge that is nominally 6 per cent., but is actually much more?
Was that intended by Parliament? Did any honorable member intend to give approval to a system by which a mere ruling of a departmental head may unjustly take many thousands of pounds from the commercial community? Regarding the taxation paid to the Customs House, the procedure is to load the invoice value with a statutory charge of 10 per cent. To the result is added 10 per cent, for primage, and then 20 per cent, for taxation purposes. On top of all these additions the 6 per cent, sales tax is charged. The following table shows how the sales tax mounts ‘ as the duty increases : -
I quote again Lord Hewart -
Will anybody, at this time of day, deny that it is essential to the proper administration of justice that ‘ a decision should be based on evidence, and that the evidence should be heard in the presence of both parties, who are given the opportunity of cross-examination? Evidence not tested by cross-examination is nearly always misleading and practically valueless. The public official, as has been observed, may, and often does, decide without any evidence at all, and he may act on ea parte statements, made by one party without anything to support them, which are never brought to the knowledge of the other party, so that he has no opportunity to contravert them. Is it too much to say that such proceedings are a mere travesty of justice?
I propose to mention some other rulings which verge on the grotesque and ludicrous. According to one, “ pastry, but not including cakes and biscuits “ is free of sales tax. How is the poor perplexed baker or pastrycook to decide which goods are taxable and which are not? The Commissioner has given a definition of pastry; I doubt if any housewife would agree with him, and certainly it is opposed to the definition given by health authorities and dictionaries. He has said - “ Pastry “ is defined as articles made of paste. Paste is defined as flour moistened with water or milk and mixed with butter or a substitute for butter, and kneaded into dough, so as to make paste such as is used in pies, pasties, tarts, fruit pies, and similar articles. When articles consist partly of such pastry and partly of cake, and the pastry portion is the greater, such articles are to be treated as pastry and exempted from tax. If the cake portion of such article is the greater, tax is payable on sales of the articles.
In other words, if one buys a dozen mixed cakes, and seven should be pastry, and five sponges, the transaction is free of taxation; but if, perchance, the sponges should predominate, the goods are taxable as is also the bag, because it is a container of taxable goods. How can trade be conducted under such a confusing law? And, mark you, these rulings are not available in convenient form to the public. If one inquires at the taxation head-quarters, in any capital city, for the ruling on a particular commodity he is referred to the newspapers of a certain date. However, a voluminous book of rulings will shortly be available, and the unfortunate trader will be able to wrestle with its intricacies. If a suburban baker has a turnover exceeding £1,000 per annum, he is classed as a manufacturer. If he sells retail the average purchase of each customer may be 6d. How is the poor harassed tradesman to work out 6 per cent. on 6d. ? He cannot add . 36d. for sales tax, and, therefore, he himself has to bear the impost. Each month returns have to be submitted in quadruple, and they must show how much pastry has been sold and how much cake. The procedure is Gilbertian, and would be laughable if it were not so serious. Napoleon spoke contemptuously of the British as a nation of shopkeepers. Parenthetically, I doubt whether the Taxation Commissioner could decide whether a “ napoleon” is taxable or not, because it is a mixture of pastry and cake. Undoubtedly, trade is the lifeblood of the British people as it is of our own community. If this Parliament is to become a giant taxing machine, merely extracting money from the pockets of the people, the sources of public revenue will dry up. Consider the position of various traders who may, or may not, have made a profit last year. They render their income tax returns, but they may be all wrong, as the Commissioner may yet decide by a ruling that they have more or less sales tax to pay, for although traders submit their monthly returns they may not get a clearance for years because their accounts have not been audited by the department. In Canada the auditing is years in arrears, and the Prime Minister (Mr. Bennett) has declared that the sales tax is the most irritating tax ever put on the statute-book, and should be repealed at the earliest possible moment, and a turnover tax substituted.
I do not ask honorable members to be persuaded merely by my criticism, and I therefore quote opinions expressed in various commercial quarters. Following a conference of the leather trades held in Melbourne, the following letter was sent to the Prime Minister, vide the Australian Leather Journal of the 15th February, 1932:-
For some months past, members of the leather and footwear trades have been deeply concerned at the strangling influence of the sales tax and its serious restriction of the volume of trade. The burden has been so heavy, and the pressure so grievous that a conference representative of over 3,000 businesses met on Wednesday evening, the 27th inst., and thoroughly discussed the matter in all its bearings. The conference was unanimously and strongly of the opinion that government expenditure should be reduced. This would lessen the demand on commerce for taxation. We are thoroughly convinced that relief from excessive taxation will give to industry the necessary stimulus so urgently needed to absorb the unemployed in our midst. After consideration,aresolution was adopted, a copy of which I attach herewith. The conference desired me to say that the members are not unmindful of the earnest manner in which you and your colleagues are tackling the grave responsibility of governing this country.
The conference resolved that a turnover tax should be substituted for the sales tax. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) and I attended a meeting held in Melbourne on the 8th July, and said to represent 40,000 retail traders in Victoria. The chairman, Mr. W. H. Harper, President of the Confectioners Association, said -
For a long time retailers, particularly those engaged in the small quantity trades, have felt that the sales tax is an unjust impost, which addled them with a grossly uncalled for burdun. While they do not object to paying a fair share of necessary taxation, they do say, most emphatically, that a tax which allows all manufacturers and wholesalers to escape, and imposes on the shopkeepers a drastic and a purely sectional levy, is one which is entirely contrary to the ideal of equality of sacrifice and of democratic governments. . . After mature consideration and comprehensive investigation the association decided that a much more satisfactory plan would be to abolish the sales tax, and put in its place a turnover tax on similar lines to that which has operated bo successfully in many European countries, notably in Germany. Such a tax could be designed to yield revenue equivalent to that now raised by the sales tax, whilst it would be absolutely equitable in its incidence and would eliminate the unfair discrimination.
A member of the Council of the Taxpayers Association also advocated the substitution of a turnover tax for the vexatious sales tax. I am not reflecting on the officials of the Taxation Department. They have a most difficult tax to administer; if it necessitates 750 rulings and interpretations, this Parliament is to blame for passing such , legislation. The officers who are carrying out this very onerous work have my sincere sympathy, but I sympathize ako with the harassed traders to an even greater extent. It will be said, and it has been said, that a turnover tax has its difficulties. As the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) said recently, there are two schools of thought upon this subject. It is argued against a turnover tax that certain commodities exempted from the payment of sales tax would have to be included, and that there would be a snowballing and pyramiding of the tax; also that a tax “of 1 per cent, on industries with multiple turn-overs would present great difficulties. It can be said in - favour of a turnover tax that the same amount of revenue can be collected more easily. In response to a request from myself, the Commonwealth Statistician has estimated the business turnover of the Commonwealth at £400,000,000 yearly. I have been unable to find in any publication figures relating to all business turnover, but Australia’s production alone is approximately £300,000,000 per annum. Accepting the estimate of the Commonwealth Statistician, a turnover tax of 1£ per cent. would bring in a revenue of £5,000,000 without any. great inconvenience to the taxpayers and with very little cost of administration. The incidence of a turnover tax would be actually lighter than that of a sales tax. The latter is paid on the wholesale value or at the landed cost, as I have already explained. Taking- 100 as the unit, if 50 per cent, is added to the cost of the raw material by the manufacturer, and 4 per cent, by the agent, 25 per cent, by the warehouseman and 50 per cent, by the retailer, the original cost is increased to 315.09 per cent. Even when the article is thus turned -over five times a turnover tax of li per cent, would be only 10.25 per cent., whereas 11.7 per cent, is collected under the sales tax at the existing rate of 6 per cent. I have a table illustrating this, which I should like to have incorporated in Ilansard if the House approves.
– The objection to having tabulated matter inserted in Hansard without reading it is that an honorable member is enabled to exceed the time allowed to him by the Standing Orders.
– Then I shall not read it. To do so would limit the time at the disposal of the seconder of the motion. The main objectors to a turnover “tax are the large manufacturers and the large wholesale houses. They do not actually pay sales tax; they simply add to the bottom of an invoice “ 6 per cent, sales tax “, and the tax passes on to the purchaser. Small traders, such as confectioners, who buy from the large manufacturers and sell small lines at fixed prices, find it impossible to add any fractional increase to the retail prices of goods which sell for a few pence. The sales tax is really paid by the retailer and consumer, and with wages cut as they are to-day, the purchasing power of the people is considerably’ reduced. At the Premiers Conference two of the economists. in a minority report advised against any increase of the sales tax. Despite this, the increase was made by this Parliament. We have seen the result. I think I have shown that a turn-over tax is a simpler form of taxation than the sales tax; that the existing sales tax should be considerably clarified in its operation; that its cost of administration must be excessive, and that its incidence is vexatious, not only to the department administering it, but also to those who have to furnish returns. The latter never know where they stand. They are put to a considerable amount of trouble in answering departmental inquiries. It may be found possible, upon investigation, that the rate of turn-over tax I have suggested may be reduced. Possibly a tax of½ per cent. would even be found to be sufficient. I am not suggesting a tax that would bring in less revenue than is now secured from the sales tax, but I hold that that amount would be definitely reduced if a simpler system of taxation in the form of a turnover tax were brought into operation.
– I second the motion. The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) has stated a most excellent case and I commend it to the earnest consideration of honorable members. Taxation in Australia is actually strangling business and bringing about a tremendous amount of unemployment. Every one in business knows that. The Government also knows it. Quite recently the Prime Minister suggested a list of exemptions from sales tax and primage duties, particularly for the benefit of primary producers. In common with most honorable members, he has realized thatsales tax and primage duties considerably affect the cost of production, and lessen the ability of the producer to market his produce overseas. It is a form of taxation which has considerably increased the cost of living to those who can least afford to pay increased prices for the commodities they require. It bristles with anomalies. Its complexities are such as to cause the average business man to tear at his hair when preparing his returns and trying to observe innumerable rulings by a department which knows very little about the matter. In many cases it is impossible to pass the tax on to the consumer. I am referring particularly to the small traders about whom the honorable member for Balaclava was so eloquent. The pastrycook who sells an article for 6d. finds it difficult to charge an extra 6 per cent. unless he penalizes the consumer. If he chooses to bear the burden ‘of the tax himself, he must pay income tax on the sales tax he has failed to pass on. Taking a unit of 100, the tax of 6 per cent. would make the cost automatically 106. If the pastrycook shopkeeper does not pass on the extra 6 per cent., he is obviously the loser to that extent.
Motion (by Mr. Ward) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. G. H. Mackay.)
Majority . . 27
Question so resolved in the negative.
– Under the Standing Orders the time allowed for general business expired at 9 o’clock; but it is the practice, in circumstances like the present, to permit the completion of the business before the House. The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. E. J. Harrison) may, therefore if he desires to do so, ask for leave to continue his remarks.
– I ask for leave to continue my remarks on some future occasion.
– On a point of order, is it competent for my colleagues and myself to object to the adjournment of the debate, and for a vote to be taken on the motion of the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) ?
– A vote cannot be taken on the motion now; but leave to continue can be given only if no objection is taken. Is it the pleasure of the House that the honorable member for Wentworth have leave?
– I object.
– As there is an objection, leave is not granted.
Question - That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair, and! that the House resolve itself into Committee of Supply - proposed.
– I should like to bring under the notice, of honorable members a matter affecting the welfare of the fishermen of Australia, a most deserving body of men who are providers of food, just as much as are producers on the land. Their occupation is uncertain, hazardous, and unremunerative. Those engaged in the fishing industry appear to have been overlooked by the Government when remissions of primage and sales tax were under consideration. I have had it brought under my notice by the secretary of the Victorian Fishermen’s League, that the imposition of sales tax and primage on fishing nets and cottons for the repair thereof substantially increases the cost of those necessary items to fishermen. I had the opportunity recently of studying a price list, and discovered that the price of fishing nets iu Australia is approximately twice as great as it is in Great Britain, whence they come. These nets are not made in Australia, and in the ordinary way would be duty free. But they are subject to primage and sales tax, two impositions introduced purely for the purpose of obtaining revenue. I recognize the need of the Government to collect as much revenue as possible, but the amount from this source is so trifling, and its collection such a burden on those engaged in the industry, that the Government would do well to remit the tax. I made inquiries at the Customs Department as to the quantity of nets imported during the last twelve months, and was informed that no separate record is kept of fishing nets and cotton for their repairs, the comprehensive item being “nets, and netting for fishing and rabbiting “. I learned that, for the period ended 30th June, 1932, the importations under the classification amounted to £15,512. Assuming that fishing nets represent two-thirds of that total, the importations would amount to £10,000, from ‘which it is a simple calculation to ascertain that primage and sales tax thereon amount to less than £2,000.
– How many are engaged in the industry?
– I am unable to say off-hand, but all of the fishermen of Australia are affected by the added cost resulting from the imposition of primage and sales tax. These men have been hard hit by the depression, because the consumption of fish has decreased considerably during the last couple of years. That is no doubt owing to the inability of many people to buy an article the retail price of which is so much greater than that obtained by the fishermen. I hope that the Prime Minister will seriously consider adding to the list of primage and sales tax exemptions fishing nets and cotton for the repair of those nets, and so give to these providers of food the same gesture of .encouragement’ that has been given to men on the land.
An extraordinary position exists regarding the imposition of sales tax on chaff bags. It may .be safely said that it was never intended that sales tax should be collected on chaff bags when the Sales Tax Acts were introduced by the Scullin Government. Chaff itself was exempted because it is a stock food, and one would imagine that its container would also be exempted. Our legislation did not make the matter definite, and I put the following question to the Treasurer of the day: -
Whether “ sundry other crops “, mentioned in the budget statement, as proposed to be. exempt from sales tax, will include chaff and oats, and whether wool packs and bran bags will be similarly exempt?
The reply that I received was -
The sales tax will not be payable in respect of sales of chaff and oats, and similar foods for animals, or on wool packs and bags and sacks used for the purpose of marketing primary products and flour and bran.
Upon receiving that information from the Prime Minister, who is now Leader of the Opposition, I concluded that chaff bags would not be taxable, for they are the containers of a product specifically excluded from taxation. In the second place, we were told that bags and sacks would be exempt from sales tax if they were used for the purpose ‘of marketing primary products, and flour and bran. In view of the reply which I had received from the Prime Minister, the ruling of the Commissioner of Taxation disturbed me, for he based it upon the working of the act which says that primary products were products which had not been processed in such a way as to alter their form or condition. Apparently, it is held that, because hay is cut into short lengths when made into chaff, its form has been altered, and for that reason chaff must be regarded, not as a primary product, but as a manufactured article. And, since the chaff bags were regarded as being the containers of a processed or manufactured article, they were taxable ! Realizing that the decision of the Commissioner put chaff bags in an extraordinary position, in view of the fact that the commodity they contained was itself exempt, the then Government, in July, 1931, introduced an amending hill which specifically excluded chaff bags.
– The honorable member will find that sufficient provision has been made to meet the difficulty he has mentioned.
– I am glad to hear that. For the information of such honorable members as may continue to be interested, I shall complete the statement I was about to make by saying that no returns were called for from sellers of chaff prior to the amending of the act exempting chaff bags from taxation, and no tax was demanded of them. That amendment was made about fourteen months ago. Last month - about thirteen months after the amendment had been made exempting these bags from sales tax - the people who sold chaff more than a year ago were called upon, to send in returns, and to pay taxation on. the bags containing the chaff which they sold before the 10th of July, 1931. That seems an extraordinary position ; it is like retro spective taxation. I am glad to have the assurance of the Minister that something will be done to put this matter right. If the collection of taxation is persisted in, the position will be difficult enough in the case of new bags; but it will be practically impossible to trace all the secondhand bags, and to furnish proper returns in relation to them. Some bags are filled half a dozen or more times. I hope that the Government will find a satisfactory solution of this difficulty.
– I take this early opportunity of commenting upon the appointments made by the Government to the Broadcasting Commission. In doing so, I deem it fitting to preface my remarks by drawing the attention of the House to the tone of the debate, and the general attitude adopted by supporters of the Government when the Broadcasting Bill was under discussion. The measure was first introduced by the ex-Postmaster-General (Mr. A. Green), but the defeat of the Scullin Government transferred to the present Postmaster-General (Mr. Fenton) the responsibility of piloting practically, the same bill through this chamber. The measure was subjected to a good deal of criticism by Government supporters, particularly the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), who pointed out that it provided for the political control of broadcasting. Following his criticism, and that of other honorable members, the measure was temporarily withdrawn, and again brought before the House in an amended form. Apparently, the supporters of the Government were convinced that the objection to the earlier measure had been overcome, for the bill became law, and in due course the Government made appointments to this great national undertaking. In view of the profession of the Government and its supporters that the measure provided for a broadcasting commission entirely free from political control, the nature of the appointments which the Government has made leads me to say that no worse act of political hypocrisy has been witnessed in this country. A government which appoints political partisans to such a body as the Broadcasting Commission, and hands to them the entire control of broadcasting, is guilty of placing this national undertaking under political control. It may be well for the House to recall the persons who have been appointed to this commission. First, there is Mr. E. B. Orchard-
– A good man.
– Yes, but only in the dense that he belongs to the political party represented on the Government benches. Mr. Orchard at one time was a Minister in a government whose political views were similar to those of the present Government. Throughout his career, he has been active in advancing the interests of the political party on the other side of the House, lt was because of his definite political opinions that he was appointed to the Broadcasting Commission.
The Government considered that there should be a woman on the commission, and so it appointed Mrs. Claude Couchman, the chief organizer in the southern States for the Women’s National League, one of the principal organizations which support the present Government. In selecting her the Government was in no doubt as to her political views. This lady, while travelling about the country in the interests of the Broadcasting Commission, can also serve the interests of the political party which which she is still associated.
The chairman of the Broadcasting Commission is Mr. Charles Lloyd Jones, who is associated with a large retail establishment in Sydney. He also has definite political views, not unfavorable to the present Government. Prior to the last State election he went to some pains to ensure that his employees were advised how to vote; lie had them assembled and informed that if they did not support the political party with which he was associated they need not come back to their employment on the following Monday morning.
– That is not fair.
– Of course it is not; nothing is fair when it is exposed. The honorable member does not like the country to know that this national undertaking, which we were told must be kept free from political control, is in the hands of political partisans.
Mr. Herbert Brookes, who was . Australia’s Trade Commissioner in New York - an appointment made by a go vernment similar in character to that now in office - is another member of the Broadcasting Commission whose political views are well known. The other member of the commission - Professor Wallace - is also associated politically with the party opposite. These persons with definite political leanings have been appointed ; and it may be, to use the words of Hitler, the Nazi leader, that the iron broom will yet have to be used to remove them. The policy which the Government has pursued in appointing the members of the Broadcasting Commission has also been followed by the commission itself in regard to the less important positions.
On the occasion of the transfer of broadcasting to the Broadcasting Commission, the Prime Minister, in a speech which was broadcast, said -
The Government’s aim in establishing the Broadcasting Commission has been to provide able and impartial trustees to direct this important national service in the interests of listeners and the public. Their task will be to provide programmes for entertainment as well as for information in an acceptable form.
I leave it to honorable members to say to whom it is to be acceptable. The right honorable gentleman continued -
I have no doubt that the new Commission desires enthusiastically to serve all sections.
From the reports which have appeared in Sydney newspapers, which, by no stretch of the imagination can be said to support the party to which I belong, I shall show how the commission is serving all sections. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin), speaking on the same occasion, said of the Broadcasting Commission -
Its powers must be used wisely and impartially.
The gentleman who said that refused to allow the members of my party to broadcast their views for the benefit of electors during the last election campaign.
– There was nothing wrong with that.
– Except that the party which would have the people believe that it is impartial in all its dealings has shown its partiality. The Leader of the Opposition exercised a dictatorship of the worst form when he refused to treat all parties alike in the broadcasting of election speeches. The chairman of the new commission, Mr. Lloyd Jones, also (poke. He told the people that -
The service now belongs to you; we are your trustees. It is a service that is not run for profit, but purely in tho interests of every section of the community.
The next important phase of their work was the appointment of a general manager to control all the activities of this organization, and Mr. Williams received the appointment at a salary of £2,000 a year. Mr, Jones, a member of the commission, receives £500 a year, and as he is a poor man no doubt he can do with it; while Mr, Orchard receives £300 a year, which is mere pin money in these days for these gentlemen with large incomes. Practically ever since the appointment of Mr. Williams as general manager, he has been the subject of criticism, because of the political bias he has displayed when making public announcements over the wireless from 2FC under the old control. In his early morning talks, when he gives the news of the day, he has persistently coloured the news of political happenings, not only in Australia, but also abroad, to suit the interests of the party which supports the present Commonwealth Government. It was, of course, only logical that the board, being composed of members holding the political opinions they do, should appoint « general manager a man whose opinions were similar to their own.
– Mr. Williams i3 the best qualified man who could have been obtained for the position.
– He is well qualified, no doubt, to express the political views of honorable members opposite, but I do not believe that the country as a whole desires that there should be appointed to this position a man who is unable to broadcast the news of the day without colouring it to suit his own political opinions. His action in this respect has been strongly resented by many sections of the public, and I have received complaints in respect fo it from various sources. It is evident that our national broadcasting service is to be run to suit the political party in power at the present time. Even the Sydney Sun, in its issue of last Sunday, was forced to attack the Broadcasting Commission for failing to deliver the goods.
In a1 special article on the subject, it stated -
For three months radio broadcasting in Australia has been under the control of the specially appointed commission. In those three months there has been improvement in programmes, as was only to be expected) but there has not been any such improvement as is urgently needed. We are still waiting for the publication of the commission’s considered policy - which must bo progressive and constructive. We are still- waiting tor the logical step of the appointment of a programme producer of high and special attainments. We are still waiting for the proper utilization of tho talent that exists here; above all musical talent, but also dramatic and literary talent. And finally we are still waiting for the exploitation of the vast and rich field of vocal and instrumental compositions by the best of the’ Europeans.
– But the honorable member does not believe what appears in the Sun.
– Quite often I do not, and I suppose the honorable member himself does not believe what is published in that paper when it does not suit him. Nevertheless, that journal was largely responsible for putting the honorable member into this House. Now, when its articles are not agreeable to the honorable member, he is ready to sneer at it. I refer to this matter now because I desire to expose one of the most glaring examples of political hypocrisy we have had in this country for a long time. If I were the head of a government, I should make no apology for appointing persons who would carry out the policy of my government, but honorable members opposite have always boasted that they take a different view. They have claimed that they take the broad, national view,’ and that their Government appoints to important positions those persons who are best qualified to serve the interests of the people as a whole, irrespective of their political opinions, or of their past political services. It is obvious that this alleged, fine principle has been somewhat departed from in appointing the Broadcasting Commission. Even the lady member of the commission is one of the principal political organizers in one of the southern States for the party which supports the Government. For the time being, we must be prepared to content ourselves with pointing out the facts, and will leave it to the people to say whether or not they are satisfied that this great national undertaking should be thus politically controlled.
– I should not have spoken on this subject were it not for the remarks of the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley). I am not here to defend the political faith of the members of the Broadcasting Commission, but I propose to defend those members who have been attacked, and who are unable to speak for themselves. This commission, in the long run, will be judged by results. The Government and the public will judge it by the work it does in the interests of the people of Australia. The members of this commission have, between them,’ a great variety of talent, including sound business acumen, and they will render splendid service to the public in the control of broadcasting. When the Broadcasting Bill was before the House, one of the main objections to it was that too much control was being left in the hands of the Minister, I remind honorable members that the Broadcasting Act mentions the name of the Minister about 35 times, as against the 60 or 70 times which the British Act mentions the Postmaster-General. The amendments made to our bill in very few instances deleted the name of the Minister, and the bill was passed substantially in its original form. With such earnestness has the chairman of the commission undertaken his duties that he has turned over his duty as managing director of a large firm in Sydney to a deputy so that he may devote all his time and talents to the formulation of an effective broadcasting service for Australia. Mr. Herbert Brookes, who is a very talented man, fortunately, has much leisure at his disposal, and he is devoting that leisure to the service of the public. I believe that, before very long, even the honorable member for West Sydney, if he could rid himself of his bitterness and bias, would be compelled to pay, from his place in the House, a tribute to those who are formulating Australia’s broadcasting policy. It is mye dearest wish that the national broadcasting service shall be truly national in the sense that it will serve the best interests of all the people of Australia, not only those who live in the thickly-populated centres, but those who live in the outback a& well. Already the honorable member for West Sydney, and some of our newspaper critics, have been forced to admit that the broadcasting programmes have improved. It is too early yet to judge the effects of the commission’s work. After all, the commission has been operating for only three months. There is an enormous territory to Cover, and the members of the commission are setting themselves earnestly to serve the interests of all parts of the Commonwealth. Visits have been paid by members of the commission to Queensland and Tasmania. Sydney and Melbourne are already being catered for, and later more particular attention will be paid to the needs of Adelaide and Perth. After the members of the commission have personally investigated broadcasting needs in all the centres, they will formulate programmes which Wil best serve the interests of listeners-in throughout Australia. We cannot expect that, in three months, the commission should have appointed a first-class orchestra. The commission is obtaining the best advice possible, and I am confident that, in the near future, we shall have, - under the control of this authority, one of the finest orchestras that has ever been organized in the Commonwealth.
– Did the commissior* re-employ those who had been in the service of the broadcasting company?
– I cannot say. The commission is appointing its own staff In accordance with the terms of the act, the Government is authorized to fix the salaries of the general manager, and to review the salaries of the next six executive officers. In regard to all other appointments, the commission has a free hand, and I am confident that it will exercise this authority with discretion. So long as I am the Minister in charge of this department, I shall defend the members of the commission, whether I agree with their political opinions or not, against attacks made upon them in this House when they are not able to defend themselves.
.- I desire to bring under the notice of the House, and particularly of the Minister
Administering the Mandated Territory of New Guinea, the case of a planter named James Joseph Larkin, who was sentenced in the Central Court at Rabaul by Chief Judge “Wanliss, to ten years hard labour after being convicted of the murder of a native named Sambung Larkin was in charge of the Noru Plantation, which he purchased from the custodian of expropriated properties in 1928. Prior to that for about seven years he had occupied the position of plantation, manager in the territory for the board, having gone to New Guinea upon his return from the war, where he held a commission in the Air Force. For the information of the House, I propose to place on record a precis of the evidence given before the court. About 50 native boys were employed on Noru. and the nearest white man, other than Larkin himself, was 40 miles away. Larkin at the time was in partnership with Mr. Edgell. The evidence shows that on Saturday afternoon, the 24th October, Mr. Edgell sent three of his native boys to Noru plantation from another plantation about 80 miles distant, with instructions to remain on Noru for about three weeks. “When they arrived, Larkin was in bed suffering from a bad attack of malaria. No work was done on Sunday, and on the Monday afternoon the three boys approached Mr. Larkin and Sambung stated that they wanted to return immediately to Mr. Edgell. Larkin had given them some work to do, but as he was in bed he was unable to supervise them. Sambung, the youngest of the three, became insolent to Larkin. The attitude of the three boys was really a direct challenge to Larkin’s authority. He asked them why they wanted to leave, and Sambung told him that Edgell, and not Larkin, was their master. Because of Sambung’s insolence, Larkin, who was in his pyjamas, made a step towards the boy, but did not lay hands on him. Sambung then attacked Larkin. He got him down on the ground, bit him on the arm, and broke one of the bones in Larkin’s right hand. An X-ray photograph taken afterwards showed the nature of the injury. As he was being badly knocked about by Sambung, Larkin called to his cook-boy, who came and pulled Sambung off. Larkin then washed away the blood caused by his injuries and immediately ordered his cook-boy to call some of his other native boys. Sambung was then seized, and spread-eagled on the verandah and beaten with a cane by the cook-boy. The evidence does not disclose how many strokes were administered. Larkin said there were about 30 or 40, and as the native witnesses are unable to count, they could not say. All this happened within the space of about five minutes. At about 7 o’clock in the evening, Larkin went down to the native quarters and found Sambung lying on a native blanket on the floor. The skin of one of his buttocks had been abrased by the cane and the wound was in contact with the blanket. Mr. Larkin had the injury bathed with Condy’s fluid, and, having applied olive oil to the damaged skin, gave the boy a clean bed sheet. He visited Sambung again on the following morning and gave him further treatment. The boy was then able to walk about. On the following morning, Wednesday, the district officer arrived at Larkin’s plantation on his usual departmental inspection, and at about 2 o’clock made mention of Sambung’s condition. They then went down and found the boy sitting up in bed in a better house, to which he had been removed from the native quarter. Sambung showed the district officer the injuries caused by the cane, and the district officer ordered his removal to Manus hospital for treatment. Sambung made the journey in a small schooner, and during the voyage, which occupied 6 or 7 hours, received no attention whatever. When he arrived at the hospital, he was in a state of collapse, and died shortly afterwards. Mr. Lambert, the medical assistant who saw the boy, is not a duly qualified medical man, the nearest doctor at the time being about 300 miles distant. In his evidence, Mr. Lambert said that the boy had died from gangrene and shock. He admitted that the boat trip would have had a detrimental effect on the boy’s condition. Following Sambung’s death, Larkin was brought to trial before Judge Wanliss, and being found guilty of wilful murder, was sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment.
– He ought to have got 20 years.
– According to Mr. Lambert’s evidence, death was due to traumatic gangrene and shock. I happened to meet Mr. Lambert a couple of months ago after he had left Manus, and discussed Larkin’s case with him. I asked him how, in view of the fact that he was not a medical man, he arrived at the conclusion that death was due to shock, seeing that the beating had taken place three days prior to the boy’s death. He admitted to me that when he saw Sambung, he waspractically in extremis. Medical evidence called on behalf of Larkin was to the effect that a caning on the buttocks was unlikely to cause death, but that direct contact with a native blanket would, in all probability, cause gangrene, and that the boat trip from Noru to Manus would have aggravated his condition. All the evidence before JudgeWanliss came from native witnesses, with the exception of Mr. Lambert, and as the judge does not understand the native language, he had to rely entirely upon an interpreter. I may add that there is no trial by jury in New Guinea. Lambert, a man in the middle forties, was the principal witness as to the cause of death, and as I have explained, he is not a fully qualified medical man; his status would be equivalent to that of a person competent to render first aid. The pointI wish toemphasize is that Larkin was convicted of wilful murder and I understand - the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) will correct me if I am wrong - that the charge of murder is not laid if the person accused does not commit the crime with murderous intent. In Larkin’s case, there certainly was no murderous intent. All he did was to have the boy spreadeagled and chastised, as a schoolmaster would punish an unruly pupil for insolence. Even if the punishment was severe, Larkin had no intention of doing the boy serious injury.
– He admitted that 40 strokes of the cane were administered.
– He said he did not count them, but he supposed that the boy received 30 or 40 strokes.
– Has the honorable member given all the evidence submitted to the judge?
– I have stated the facts as I know them.
– The judge is one of the fairest-minded men who has ever sat on the bench.
– I am not condemning him, but I am pointing out that Larkin had no murderous intent, and did not intend to inflict even grievous bodily harm. Yet, as I have pointed out, he was found guilty, not of manslaughter, but of murder. The nearest white man was 30 miles away, and the neighbourhood was not particularly quiet. Being an isolated white man, he had to maintain some semblance of discipline on his plantation.
A month or so after this episode, Chun Wun, an old Chinaman, who managed an adjoining plantation, was murdered by a plantation boy. In 1921, at a place in the same group of islands, Reiss, a German landholder, was murdered by natives, and the trouble started in a manner similar to the attack on Mr. Larkin. It is a frightful indignity for the master ofa plantation to be “ worsted “ by a native. There are about 75 boys working on the plantation, and if Larkin could not maintain discipline he would have had to leave the plantation. Those familiar with native life know that the “ boys “ will always try a man out at least once, and it is essential for him to show that he is the absolute master, no matter under what circumstances his authority is challenged.
– Do not the natives work under slave conditions?
– Certainly not. I do not intend to be side-tracked by the honorable member. Let us compare Larkin’s case, in which a sentence of ten years was imposed because of his conviction ona charge of murder, with a number of other cases in which lighter penalties were inflicted, for I consider that Larkin’s sentence was excessive in every respect. Scott, a white man with one arm, was murdered in 1925. He was attacked by a native employee, and the first blow he received resulted in his only arm being cut off. This left him incapable of defending himself. He was then practically hacked to pieces. The verdict returned in that case was one of manslaughter ; but I have yet to know a native who is capable of drawing a distinction between manslaughter and murder. All that the natives would know would be that one of their number had killed a white man, and had been sentenced te five years imprisonment for it. It was really a case of wilful murder, but the convicted man was not kept in gaol for the whole of the period of the sentence. On the 27th August, 1929, a white man was convicted of having murdered a native labourer. He had kicked him about the body with heavy boots, thereby causing his death. I understand that in the first place the white man was wearing sand shoes, but he afterwards changed into his heavy plantation boots for the purpose of punishing the native. He was convicted of wilful murder, and was sentenced to two years hard labour. In another case a native named Poina wilfully murdered the manager of a plantation on which he was employed, by striking him on the head with a hammer while he slept. The native was sentenced to death, but the sentence was afterwards commuted to seven years hard labour. When one compares those sentences with that in Larkin’s case, one appreciates the extreme severity of the sentence imposed on him.
I bring this matter under the notice of the Minister because I have had a great deal of correspondence regarding it. Twice recently I visited the territory concerned, and wherever I went the inhabitants were talking of Larkin’s case, and of the severity of his sentence. He had been grossly insulted, then assaulted, and afterwards he had the native beaten with a cane as a school master might punish an unruly pupil. As I have said, he had no intention whatever of murdering him, or even inflicting grievous bodily harm. After the punishment, he had the boy’s injuries attended to, and it is impossible to say whether the native’s death resulted from the punishment. The person who -gave the medical evidence, and who performed the post-mortem examination, was not a qualified medical man. But it was on his testimony that Larkin was convicted.
I appeal to the Minister to review this case. When he ascertains what has been done in previous cases of a similar nature, and considers them in conjunction with such evidence as is procurable in Larkin’s case, I feel sure that it will be found that the sentence is out of all proportion to the offence.
.- The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green) has drawn attention to a most serious matter, and a reply should be given to the charge brought by him against the judge who heard the case.
– Has the honorable member charged the judge with improper conduct?
– The gravamen of the charge, I take it, is that the penalty inflicted was out of all proportion to the offence. I do not intend to express an opinion regarding the decision of the judge. The administration of the Mandated Territory must be left to the officials appointed for that purpose. The judge in question was placed in his present position to administer justice in the islands in accordance with the law. The case to which the honorable member particularly referred was that of a man named Larkin. According to the report of it that I have here, it is of so serious a nature that no government could interfere with the sentence that was imposed.
Shortly after I assumed control of the territorial services, this case was brought prominently before my notice by honorable members as well as by officers in New Guinea. I called for a full report upon it, and the judge himself, through the administration, submitted a file of papers covering ten sheets of foolscap setting out the whole of the facts from beginning to end. That file is open to the examination of any member of this House. I do not propose to weary honorable members by giving the details of the whole story, nor do I think that the case should bc made public.
The opening facts of the case are practically as outlined by the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green). There was a stand-up fight between the black man and the white. The evidence given to the court by the white man was, that the black man rushed in with his head pushing into his, tho white man’s chest. He grabbed the black man by the head, and closed with him in the manner spoken of by the honorable member for Richmond. We know that at times trouble has been experienced in the islands. The New Guinea native especially is of primitive stock.
– We belong to an advanced age.
– White men at least know, or they should, the difference between right and wrong. The island native has not yet advanced to that extent. In administering its mandate in New Guinea, the Commonwealth has to perform the particular duty of safeguarding the interests of the natives.
– But we are exploiting them.
– If the honorable member knows of any case in which natives have been exploited, and will place the available information before the administration, it will be fully investigated. If, during the heat of this fight, either the black or the white man had been killed, I would have said that the allegations of the honorable member for Richmond were well-founded. But this man, with his face spattered with blood, and his thumb broken from having been pressed over the verandah rail, retired and had a bath.
– Still with his pyjamas on.
– No, he clothed himself in his white raiment. It is alleged that he was in his right mind. He called his cookboy, who brought with him four other boys. The latter carried the native to the verandah of the bungalow and, sitting on his arms and legs, held him down while the cookboy thrashed him with a walking stick. The accused in his evidence to the court stated that he told the boy to proceed to the bungalow and fetch a stick. Here are his own words -
I told tl,em to bring Sambung up on to the verandah. I told them to put him down and bold him fast which they did. His arms were stretched out, legs extended out with a boy holding each limb. I then walked into the dining room, got a walking cane off the hat rack, calling the boy Ubabau at the same time. The top of the stick had a rooted end. used as the handle part of the walking stick, gradually tapering to the smaller end, which was the size of exhibit B. Ubabau arrived and I gave him the stick and said “You give him Sambung stick “. I did not tell him how many strokes to give Sambung
Had the boy been told the number of strokes to give, and had the punishment ceased when they had been given, there might have been less reason to take exception to it. But, when the cookboy was so fatigued that he could not continue, Larkin took the cane himself and went on with the thrashing. When he had had a “go,” he called upon another native to proceed with the castigation. As one became tired, another took it over, until the boy who was being thrashed was in such a state that he could not even roll off the verandah, and was carried away by the natives and thrown on to hi* wooden bunk in the hut.
I consider that the honorable member for Richmond was ill-advised in bringing this case into the Commonwealth Parliament. I say that in the .interests of the relatives of the man who was accused and found guilty. I have had many heartrending episodes in connexion with his relatives. The news of hi3 treatment of this native and the sentence imposed on him has been kept from his old father, who, up to the present moment, is not aware that such a thing happened. The judge, in his summing up, made most caustic references to the fight, and to the manner in which the native was treated.
Under the mandate that they hold, the people of Australia, who have been given the custody of these natives, owe a duty to the League of Nations. The black man, who cannot distinguish between right and wrong, is our peculiar charge It is the duty of this Parliament, as well as of the people of this country, and particularly my duty as Minister administering the territories, to see that the natives of the island are given a fair deal. In Papua, the administration under Sir Hubert Murray - a man whose name stands high in the annals of colonization, and whose word is accepted unquestioningly - has never had an experience such as this. We have to be very careful, in the handling of our mandate and the treatment of our natives, to show to the world that we are worthy of the trust that has been reposed in us. Probably, there are many faults in the black man. But we of the white race profess to be much further advanced than he in our civilization. From the practical experience that I gained while living with the natives for some time, I can say that the native of New Guinea is most amenable to reason. He is a man who loves his children, and who jealously guards his “Mary.” The troubles in the islands are almost invariably caused by the interference of white men with the native women.
– The honorable member for Richmond would not have touched the case had he known the facts.
– In reply to the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) I may say that I was supplied with the information by the people themselves.
– I agree with the contention of the honorable member for Richmond, that there may be some cause for complaint in that we have not the jury system in New Guinea. Since I became Minister in charge of the territories on the present occasion, I have investigated the conditions in other dominions, colonies and protectorates. There is no British colony or protectorate that has the jury system. They have assessors. We have the assessor system in Papua, but it has never been availed of. During my last term as Minister in 1927-28, the assessor system was offered to New Guinea, but was not accepted.
– They have the jury system in Papua.
– It obtains only in one particular spot, and no jury has yet been impanelled. There may be faults on both sides; but again I repeat that it is our duty to show the natives that we are anxious to see that they get justice.
– Is it true that the rate of wages paid to the boys is only 4s. or 5s. a month?
– It is not a fact.
-What is the rate?
– The rate is what the natives call one mark, which is equal to about 10d. a day. They are generally paid1s. a day. It has been my experience that the natives will not take money.
– They would sooner have a bottle of rum.
– There are no intoxicating liquors in New Guinea. If the natives get liquor it is because the white man gives it to them. I have never yet found natives who willingly take liquor. Planters, traders and miners have told me that they can give a native a case of whisky and he will carry it for eight days to the gold-fields and not touch a drop of it.
– When were the labour conditions altered? When I was in the islands some years ago the pay was 5s. a month.
– The pay is 5s. a month and keep, but there are three years’ deferred pay and other conditions of employment. So many “ lap-laps “ areprovided, and so on. Honorable members who have visited the territory and who have seen natives at the time they were recruited, must admit that the recruiting is of inestimable value to the natives themselves. Natives are frequently brought in from the bush mere bundles of skin and bone. Of course, no native is forced to offer himself for service. He is taken before a magistrate and asked whether he is willing to “make paper”. If he says “ no “, he simply goes back to his village again. But these natives, after having three square meals a day for a while, grow into practically new men. However, I shall not enter into a general discussion of the subject, but will reserve any further observations of that nature until the New Guinea Bill is submitted for the consideration of honorable members.
I felt it necessary, however, to defend the administration of justice in New Guinea, particularly in relation to the case referred to by the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green). The concluding paragraphsof the judge’s summing-up in that case read as follows : -
To my mind it was abundantly proved, and there was no suggestion of any other cause of death. It was suggested that if he had not been taken in the pinnace to Lorungau he might have survived. The only possible chance he had of living was to be taken to Lorungau, where he would receive attention. If, as it was the ease, it was necessary to take him in the pinnace, he had to be taken. He had to be taken in the pinnace or left to die where he was. The suggestion also that death was due to other causes also fails. The cause of death was the flogging. The shock, gangrene, &c., are all attributable to the flogging, and nothing else, and if ever a native wasflogged to death this one was.
Now, I have stated that, in my opinion, the first assault, or the first fight, was the fault of the accused. The boy may have been, as he says, cheeky. That is quite possible, although he had only the accused’s word for it. There is the possibility that the boy was the attacker in that case, aud, as it is a possibility, I am going to give the accused the benefit of that, but that is no excuse for what happened afterwards.
The flogging, unfortunately, was a considered act, done after the heat of the struggle; after the other party to the struggle had gone and after Sambung had been brought back for reasons of revenge and punishment. The revenge or punishment was brutal, cowardly and deliberate. The act. was one which is a disgrace to the white race, and one of a type that discredits the territory. These tilings when they happen do more harm than many cases of violence by natives, and I cannot treat it as other than a very serious offence.
It has been pointed out to me that you served your country during the war. It may be that the hardships of active service have affected you to some extent. That I do not know, but, at any rate, we know that you have served your country, and because of that your sentence will be lighter than would otherwise be the case.
When I took charge of the administration of these territories, ami had this case brought under my notice, I was at first inclined to think that there was some justification for the view that justice had not been meted out to this man, but after I read the evidence and the judge’s summingup, I could form no other conclusion than that the judge had summed-up in a masterly way and that the verdict was just. In these circumstances I can see no reason why the Government or the Parliament should intervene.
– I wish to make a few observations in connexion with the appointment of the Broadcasting Commission. The honor able member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) said that the appointments were of a political character and the PostmasterGeneral took umbrage at his remarks and set out to defend the commission. I have no complaint to make about the manner in which the commission is doing its work, for I know nothing about that aspect of the subject. But the statement of the honorable member for West Sydney that the appointments were of a political character, is, in my opinion, absolutely true. When the Prime Minister went to Sydney just before the commission was appointed, a deputation consisting of representatives of various dramatic, musical and scientific organizations, representing what might be called the more intelligent section of the community, submitted to the right houorable gentleman a number of names of persons it considered suitable for appointment, and the Prime Minister promised to consider them. Only one of the persons so named received an appointment. When I wasPostmasterGeneral and had to consider the making of appointments to the Broadcasting Commission, I took every step to see that no suspicion could arise that the appointments would be made for political reasons. The Director of Posts and Telegraphs was asked to consult certain officers and submit names for consideration. He was told that it was desired that men with a broad, national spirit should be appointed - I use the word “ national “ apartaltogether from its political significance; in that sense the word is misused. Not one of the persons whose names were submitted in that way received an appointment. I exonerate the Minister from blame in regard to these appointments. I know that he had no more to do with the matter than I had. The appointments were made because of pressure from heaven knows where, and because of the political creed of the appointees.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Lyons) adjourned.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
House adjourned at 10.30 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 15 September 1932, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1932/19320915_reps_13_135/>.