13th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon.G. H. Mackay) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– My attention has been called to the fact that while the honorable member for Grey (Mr.
McBride) was addressing the House yesterday afternoon, the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) made a most objectionable reference to the right honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Bruce) which I did not hear. Under the Standing Orders the honorable member cannot now be required to withdraw the remark, but I suggest to him that it would be a commendable action on his part if, by a personal explanation, he voluntarily withdrew it.
The following papers were presented : -
TariffBoard -Reports and recommendations -
Dairy coolers; pasteurizers; jacketed vats or jacketed tanks lined or unlined; enamelled vats or tanks not jacketed.
Motive power machinery and appliances (except electric), n.e.i. - Tariff item 178 (b).
Piece goods, woollen, or containing wool.
Ordered to be printed.
Superphosphate Industry - Report, dated 27 th September, 1932, by the Development Branch, Prime Minister’s Department.
Motion for Select Committee.
Debate resumed from the 15th November(vide page 2854), on motion by Mr. Scullin -
That the bill be referred to a select committee.
– I understand that the Government intends to limit the time to be occupied by the remaining stages of the bill, and as there are vital provisions to be considered I do noi propose to speakat length ; nor would I be in order in discussing the merits of the agreement on this motion. If the motion be carried, it will be necessary for the House to decide the personnel of the committee, and that will naturally be done by consultation between the Government and the various parties in the House. A select, committee could inquire into the agreement without additional cost to the country and without undue delay. I put forward this proposal seriously because I, and my colleagues, are genuinely concerned regarding the effect of this agreement, which will commit our country to a contract for five years on an important matter of national policy. This Parliament has not sufficient information to warrant it in deciding to ratify the agreement. The proposed committee would necessarily inquire into its effect upon primary and secondary industries, its limitation of the power of this Parliament, the extent to which it interferes with our self-governing powers in regard to general fiscal policy, and the extent of its encroachment upon the right of the people of Australia to declare their views on such policy.
– How long would such an inquiry take?
– A few weeks. The report could be submitted in ample time to be dealt with by ‘this Parliament early in the new year. A delay of a few weeks or even a few months is of small consideration in comparison with the acceptance of a contract which we believe will tie the hands of this Parliament in regard to important fiscal matters, and take away from the people their right to declare at a subsequent election what the customs tariff policy shall be. Yesterday afternoon the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) asked that those who had made the agreement and those who were supporting it should be given credit for sincerity. I suggest that those who are opposing it also should be given such credit. The honorable member attacked a very important newspaper, the Melbourne Age. which is making a magnificent fight for Australian industries, because it has allegedly refused to credit with sincerity those who are in favour of the agreement. It is remarkable how readily honorable members overlook the jeers and gibes of other newspapers which dispose of our opposition to the measure by saying that, of course, it is the duty of an Opposition to oppose. Neither I nor my colleagues have ever had that conception of our responsibility ; we have approached every proposal of the Government honestly and sincerely, and have dealt with it according to our judgment of its merits. I ask the honorable member for Fawkner and others, to realize how grave is the need for this Parliament to be fully informed before making a de cision on this vital matter. Thedebate upon the bill has convinced me of the necessity for further information. Obviously, there are some in this House who do not understand the agreement. That is proved by the divergent views expressed regarding its meanings. If honorable members will examine the conflicting interpretations that have been given to it byhonorable members who are supporting it, and also the divergence of the interpretations by representatives of the Governments of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth, they will recognize that before signing a contract regulating the fiscal policy for Australia for five years ahead, we should at least reconcile the various interpretations, and come to some understanding of what the agreement means, even if we cannot agree as to what will be its effect. The honorable member for Fawkner experienced great difficulty in arriving at a decision. He said that he had no first-hand knowledge of either primary or secondary production, but had to listen to the evidence, pro and con, and, acting as a juror, apply to the question his own intelligence. That is the position of most honorable members. The honorable member for Fawkner has no mean capacity for weighing evidence, but onhis own statement, what evidence was before him? Thehonorable member referred to the capable speech made by the honorable member for Wakefield, whom he described as a practical man, with a personal knowledge of primary industries. Honorable members will agree that thehonorable member for Wakefield is a practical man, possessing intelligence and a knowledge of primary industries. The honorable member for Fawkner further based his conclusion on a statement made by a leading manufacturer of Victoria, who, unfortunately, has recently passed away.
– He based his conclusions on more than that.
– Those are the two statements on which the honorable member based his conclusions, and gave his verdict. Why should this Parliament be limited to meagre and secondhand evidence? The Minister for Commerce (Mr. Stewart) argued that the manufacturers of Australia were satisfied with the agreement.
– I said that there wasdiversity of opinion among them.
– I understood the honorable gentleman to say that a number of Australian manufacturers are well pleased with the agreement. Why should we limit ourselves to the meagre evidence that has been put before the House on this subject? Why should we not appoint a committee representing every section in the House which would call evidence from manufacturers, primary producers, and others. There is at present in Canberra, a deputation from the manufacturers and one from primary producers representing the wheat-growers, waiting to interview the Prime Minister. Why should we not have information from those capable of representing the parties concerned? Why should this Parliament not have the benefit of the considered opinion of the organized industries of the country, that of the manuf acturers and primary producers, and, most important of all, the opinion of the organized workers of Australia, who are vitally concerned. We could have presented to us within a few weeks, for our guidance, the considered verdict of a select committee, based on the % evidence placed before it.
The debate has demonstrated the diversity of opinion that exists, even among those who support the agreement. Time will not permit of my going into all the differences of opinion that have been expressed, but there is by no means unanimity with regard to article 5 among those honorable members who voted in favour of the second reading. Let honorable members refer to the admirable speech of the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Thorby), the considered, statement of the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. McClelland), who quoted a .telegram which he had received from an organization concerned in the importation of wheat on the other side of the world, and set against those utterances the definite opinion of the Minister for Commerce that those honorable members had based their conclusions upon an entire misconception of the meaning of clause 5. The Minister may be right. The honorable member for Calare and the honorable member for Wimmera may be
Tight. There should be a committee to sift the evidence on this very controversial matter. The honorable member for Fawkner accepts the honorable member for Wakefield as a “ practical man. Others agree that the honorable member for Wimmera is a practical man when dealing with primary industries, while still other honorable members would claim that the honorable member for Calare has had considerable experience in the administration and probably the pursuit of agricultural activities. Yet those gentlemen disagree on the interpretation of an important article of the agreement. They should be called before a committee and examined. Take again, the diversity of opinion that exists” among honorable members who sit on the Government side, in .regard to article 12. I shall not now discuss the demerits of that article, although I hope to do so later. I refer honorable members to the excellent speech of the honorable member for Darling Downs (Sir Littleton Groom) and the logical and well considered utterances of the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Hutchin). Both claim that article 12 differs fundamentally from the corresponding article in the Canadian agreement. The honorable member for Darling Downs was probably the more emphatic of the two. He possesses legal training, and knows the meaning of words and phrases. He sees a distinct difference between the agreements entered into by Australia and Canada, in respect of article 12. The honorable member fori Corio (Mr. Casey) dismisses the opinions of those two honorable members as mere casuistry, and claims that there is no fundamental difference between the Australian and the Canadian articles. I should like to hear the honorable member for Darling Downs, as a member of a select committee, crossexamine the honorable member for Corio on the subject.
Then take even more important opinions, and contrast the interpretations given to the agreement by Mr. Baldwin, who led the delegation at Ottawa, and the Prime Minister of Australia. Mr. Baldwin said that Ottawa reduces duties. The Prime Minister of Australia declares that Ottawa does not reduce duties. Those gentlemen are the leaders of their respective governments, and both support the agreement. With its terms before them in black and white, they make contradictory statements as to its effect on a vital issue; whether it stands for high tariffs or low tariffs, whether it reduces tariffs or does not reduce tariffs. There is the widest difference of opinion on the question. Surely we should have an investigation by a select committee to determine who is right.
I put forward this proposal earnestly, not by way of party tactics or to delay the signing of the agreement, as some might allege. I advance my proposal because I believe this to be one of the most serious undertakings that Australia has entered into. I leave out of my argument the consideration of tho respective policies’ of high or low tariffs. I see in this agreement the seed of disintegration and disruption, and the further growth of unemployment. I ask honorable members who profess to stand for Australian industries and whose interpretation of- the agreement differs so widely from that of their colleagues; the Prime Minister, who gives an interpretation so different from that of Mr. Baldwin, and others; to give us an opportunity of obtaining information through a select committee which will examine the subject, and submit it« report to Parliament.
– I shall not traverse the arguments advanced by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) in support of his motion, for I wish to leave to honorable members as much time as possible for the discussion of the provisions of the bill; but I say clearly and definitely that the Government cannot accept the amendment because, if it were carried, it would destroy the agreement into which v.’e have solemnly entered. The right honorable member has expressed the hope that an inquiry by a select committee might lead to a modification of the agreement. I have, on a previous occasion, pointed out that this is an agreement be- tween two governments, which is subject to ratification by the Parliament of the United Kingdom, and the Parliament of the Commonwealth. The agreement has been ratified by the Imperial Parliament.
If this Parliament now varies it, it will not be the agreement made by the two governments, and ratified by the Im-, perial Parliament. The whole matter will have to be re-opened, and delay will occur in the putting of any part of tho agreement into effect. That is the only possible result that could come from an inquiry by a select committee. What decisions could a committee representative of all sections of the House reach which the House itself could not reach? As the right honorable member has indicated, there is a difference of opinion among some honorable members in respect of various provisions of the agreement, and on that account, he would like, he said, the honorable member for Darling Downs (Sir Littleton Groom) to have the opportunity to cross-examine the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Casey) in the committee. Is not that, in itself, sufficient to indicate that even if the agreement were referred to a select committee, differences of opinion would still exist? Such a committee would undoubtedly present two or more reports. Unanimity of opinion could not possibly be obtained. The suggestion has been made that one party is accusing the other party of lack of sincerity in this matter. I do not make any such accusation against the right honorable member. I believe that he has introduced this proposal in all sincerity. He is not favorable to the agreement, and is taking this step with the object of having it reviewed. The Government cannot agree to such a proposal. It must be realized that practically every honorable member of the House has participated in the debate on the bill. The questions which it raises have been studied from every angle. A select committee could not obtain more information than has already been made available. The Leader of the Opposition stated, in the course of his speech, that Mr. Baldwin, the leader of the British delegation at Ottawa, had said that the Ottawa agreement would reduce tariffs, while the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth has said that it would not do so. I have said that if there is a reduction of our tariff, it will be made only in consequence of a recommendation by the Tariff Board, which would have been made irrespective of this agreement. But, if the question at issue is whether there is a difference between what Mr. Baldwin and what I have said in respect of this agreement, I suggest that the agreement itself be examined. There is nothing in the agreement to the effect that tariffs must be reduced, or that they must not be reduced. The whole subject must be referred to the Tariff Board. If reductions are made, it will be in consequence of recommendations of the board. I hope that the House will not agree to the amendment. The Government, having given full consideration to this proposal, is of the opinion that the House should proceed with the discussion of the bill. For this reason, and in order to save the time of honorable members, I move-
That the question be now put.
Question put. The House divided. (Mr. Speaker-Hon. G. H. Mackay.)
Question so resolved inthe affirmative.
Question- That the bill be referred to a select committee- put. The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. G. H. Mackay.)
Majority . 23
Original question so resolved in the negative.
Declaration of Urgency.
– I declare the bill an urgent bill.
Question - That the bill be considered an urgent bill - put. The committee divided. (Chairman-Mr. Bell.)
Majority . . . . 21
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Sitting suspended from 8.17 to 8.32 p.m.
Allotment of Time.
– I move-
That the time allotted in connexion with the committee stageof the bill be as follows:-
Clause 1 (clause 2 to be considered postponed ) and articles 1 to 8 of the schedule, until 4.10. p.m.
) Articles 9 to 11 of the schedule, until 5 p.m.
Article 12 of the schedule, until 0.10 p.m.
Articles 13 and 14 of the schedule, until 8.15 p.m.
Articles 15 and 10 of the schedule, until 9.15 p.m.
Schedules a toh of the schedule, until 10 p.m.
Postponed clause 2 and the remainder of the committee stage, until 11 p.m.
.- This is not the way in which the important articles of the agreement should be treated. We are dealing with the most important bill that has been submitted to this Parliament during this session. There has been a good debate upon it, but it was a reasonable debate; there was no attempt to waste time. Yet all that mem bers could do in the time allotted to them at the second-reading stage was to deal with broad principles. The consideration of the pros and cons of the various articles, however, should occupy three or four days. We are asked to consider them in a few hours. Each of the vital articles 9 to 12 involves a big principle, and is almost a bill in itself; yet only two hours is allotted for all of them. The first eight articles do not give rise to any difference of opinion as to the principle involved, although questions could be asked regarding their meaning, but articles 9 to 12 are the subject of vital differences of opinion. We have been chided for not having made detailed references to the agreement. At the second-reading stage time was not available to do that ; it is only when the bill is in committee that one can deal with its provisions seriatim and in detail. The limitation proposed by the Government is an absolute outrage on parliamentary deliberation.
– The Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) has not had the ordinary decency to furnish me with a copy of the motion allotting the time for the consideration of this bill. However, that is in keeping with his customary policy, and I console myself with the thought that perhaps the day will come when his discourtesy can be repaid with interest. We cannot complain of the time allowed for the second-reading debate. Every honorable member had an opportunity freely to express himself on the general principles involved. But only at the committee stage can honorable members discuss in detail the provisions of a bill, including any agreement contained in a schedule, and seek full information regarding their purpose and effect. Perhaps the Prime Minister does not desire a very close and searching examination of the detailed provisions of the agreement; he may not be as conversant with the measure as he should be. Certainly he has not been able to explain to the satisfaction of even his own supporters and the press, the real meaning of many of the articles of the agreement. As a general rule, I do not favour members sitting for unduly long hours, butI see no reason why the consideration of this bill should conclude at 11 p.m. We have sat much later to deal with matters of less importance, and to afford more opportunity to discuss the merits of the agreement, I would be prepared to sit continuously for a longer time than the Government has allotted. I and my colleagues have sought to get the fullest information about the agreement. We have taken a good deal of trouble to become conversant with the agreement by reading newspaper comment in Australia and abroad, and we hoped that at the committee stage we might be able to get detailed explanations in regard to many of the matters in regard to which we are doubtful. Apparently there are features of the agreement which the Government is not prepared to disclose. Speaking on the second reading I said that what had been left unsaid by the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Gullett) was as important as what he had said. Doubtless the Government has the numbers requisite to carry this motion, but already our opposition to the use of the guillotine when applied to the financial emergency legislation to reduce the old-age pensions has been vindicated, and probably time” will prove that our desire for a more detailed examination of this agreement, before tying the hands of Parliament” for five years in regard to fiscal policy, was justified.
.- I protest against this bill being hurried through the committee stage. In my 23 years of parliamentary life I do not recollect this House having been called upon to deal with any measure fraught with greater possibilities for good or ill. I do not love all-night sittings, but if the bill must be disposed of at this sitting the Government should allow the House to devote the whole night to it. This agreement contains the seeds of discord and disruption. lt will cause unemployment and many other ills, and I shall employ every means at my disposal to defeat some of its provisions, particularly articles 9 to 12. I care not who objects to the protest I am making; I claim that my opposition to the bill is as earnest as is the support of other honorable members. Even at the risk of losing my seat in this Parliament I shall oppose the agreement, to which serious objection has been taken throughout the Commonwealth and in other dominions.
Mr. BERNARD CORSER (Wide Bay) bill, and thereby lose the concessions given to Australia by the United Kingdom, and approved by the British Parliament. The committee stage, however, is the last opportunity this Parliament will have to alter the concessions which Australia is giving to the United Kingdom, and removing any provision that is detrimental to the welfare. of our people. Having regard to the magnitude and duration of the agreement, it should be given the most careful consideration in committee. Many of the honorable members who are supporting the agreement, will want to obtain further information in regard to certain features of which they do not approve; they may even want to vote against them or to amend them. Adequate consideration in committee would enable honorable members to do their duty to those whom they represent, and- possibly to remove anomalies and injustices. I regret that so important a measure is to be dealt with so hurriedly. I feel confident that if certain provisions which are disadvantageous to Australia were amended, the Government of the United Kingdom would be prepared to agree to a variation of the agreement in view of the immense concessions Australia is making. In the interests of our surplus production, we have to keep something up our sleeve to make possible further trade negotiations with other countries. I regret that the Government refuses to give honorable members a fair chance to discuss the terms of this agreement. There is no urgency, and the limitation of time deprives us of the opportunity to properly advance the views of those whom we represent.
.- I see no necessity for undue haste in this matter. We already have an example of the result of the Government stifling discussion on important legislation. The Financial Emergency Bill was declared an urgent measure, and rushed through both Houses of Parliament. Consequently it and its associated legislation was so inadequately considered and so badly framed that it is impossible . to get a proper interpretation of certain of the amendments to the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act, and the Government now finds it necessary to introduce an amendment to that act.
The Ottawa agreement vitally concerns every section of the community, yet we are to be allowed only twenty minutes to discuss seven important articles. By this measure, the Government is positively selling Australia lock, stock, and barrel, to overseas interests, in conformity with the demands that have been made by delegations that have visited our shores from time to time.
– The honorable member is not in order in debating the merits of the bill.
– I am discussing the proposed times to be allotted to the discussion of the bill. This agreement is in conformity with the recommendations made by overseas delegations which visited Australia, such as the Big Four, and Sir Otto Niemeyer, whose interests in other parts of the world are so enormous that they have asked us not to worry about the development of the secondary industries of Australia, but to be content with a market for our raw materials.
– The honorable membermust confine his remarks to the motion for the allotment of time.
– It is unfair that honorable members should have to restrict to two hours their discussion of important articles such as 9, 10, 11, and 12, which hand over our whole fiscal policy to the Tariff Board. By abandoning our privileges in this way we are acting treacherously to the people of Australia and preventing the proper development of our industries.
– I have twice warned the honorable member that he must confine his remarks to the allotment of time.
– We have only twenty minutes left in which to debate articles 1 to 8. That is entirely inadequate-
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
Question put. The committee divided. (Chairman - Mr. Bell.)
Majority . . . . 11
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 postponed.
The schedule -
Articles 1 to 8 -
.- These articles enumerate the alleged concessions granted to Australia by the United Kingdom. While we were discussing the effect of articles relating to the concessions made to the United Kingdom by Australia, it was pointed out that, by this agreement, the Australian delegates gave away our general fiscal policy. Honorable members opposite countered that statement by declaring that we had not considered article 4. The Prime Minister, particularly, stressed that article, and suggested that we should put article 4 alongside article 12. That is one of the most preposterous suggestions I have ever heard. When I pointed out that article 4 merely gives a 10 per cent. concession on a limited number of specified items, whereas we are giving away the whole of our tariff schedule, the Prime Minister told me that that was only a quibble; The right honorable gentleman does not understand the distinction between those two articles. Honorable members opposite boast about receiving from the United
Kingdom preference on a list of specified items, particularly on those which they must import. Schedule D, which is referred to in article 4, contains a list of 19 items. Before the Ottawa Conference was convened, the British Government found itself compelled to impose customs duties for several purposes; to increase revenue, to correct its balance of trade, and to protect its industries. Article 4 provides that the duties on 19 items specified in schedule D shall not be taken off foreign goods without the consent of the dominions. Yet the Prime Minister would set article 4 against article 12, which ties the hands of this Parliament in respect of every item on the tariff schedule. The industries of this country may crumble to dust, and our trade balance may become seriously adverse, and yet this Parliament will be impotent to do anything to meet the situation without first obtaining a recommendation from the Tariff Board.
Mr.White. - Look at article 16.
– Article 16 is the fetish to which the honorable member for Balaclava pins his faith, but it merely emphasizes the fact that the hands of this Parliament are tied in every respect. Not only the honorable member for Bala clava, but also the Prime Minister, the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Casey), and other honorable members opposite have ‘told us that article 16 is our safeguard. But what does it provide? Merely that, in the event of our trade balance becoming so seriously adverse as to threaten the solvency of this country, or of such a state of emergency arising as to verge upon national calamity, we are to have the wonderful privilege of opening negotiations with the British Government for an amendment of this agreement. We are asked to find comfort in the thought that we may ask the Parliament of the United Kingdom to vary this agreement. The Government of the United Kingdom took special care to specify the items in connexion with which its hands would be tied. Article 4 provides that -
His Majesty’s Government of the United Kingdom undertake that the general ad valorem duty of 10 per cent., imposed under the Import Duties Act 1932, on the foreign goods specified in Schedule D, shall not be reduced, except with the consent of His Majesty’s Government in the Commonwealth of Australia.
The items so specified are -
Leather, tallow, canned meat, zinc, lead, barley, wheat flour, macaroni, dried peas, dressed poultry, casein, eucalyptus oil, meat extracts and essences, copra, sugar of milk, sausage casings, wattle bark, asbestos, dried fruit, other than currants, not specified in Schedule B.
Surely honorable members opposite cannot seriously ask us to believe that they place article 4 in the balance againsi articles 10, 11, and 12, which involve the whole of our tariff policy. The fundamental difference between the provisions of this agreement applicable to the United Kingdom, and those applicable to Australia, is that the British Government has specifically indicated the limit to which its hands are tied, while the Commonwealth Government has agreed to the complete abrogation of its tariff powers in favour of the Tariff Board. Yet, the Prime Minister has had the temerity to call my statement of this vital difference “ a quibble.” The British Government has said, “ We will continue the 10 per cent. duty against the foreign goods listed in Schedule D.” But this does not amount to anything, because these goods can be obtained from Australia as cheaply and in as good quality as from any other country in the world.
– The British Government is not compelled to get them from Australia.
– It must get them from somewhere. If the honorable member were a good Australian, he would know-
– That remark is offensive to me, and I ask that the right honorable member withdraw it, and apologize for having made it.
– The honorable member for Balaclava drew it upon himself.
– I must ask the Leader of the Opposition to withdraw the remark.
– I withdraw it, and substitute “ bad “ for “ good.” The honorable member is either a bad or a good Australian. On second thought, I withdraw both statements. I doubt whether the honorable member has any Australian sentiments.
– I regard adverse criticism by the right honorable member as a compliment.
– Order ! The honorable member for Balaclava must cease interjecting.
– The honorable member for Balaclava invariably interrupts me when I am speaking.
– I was asking for information.
– If the honorable member had voted for the reference of the bill to a select committee, he could have got the information. The honorable gentleman appears to have set himself to belittle everything I say.
– I expect to be treated with courtesy.
Mr.SCULLIN.- If the honorable member would himself avoid personalities, he would be better off. However, I shall ignore him.
I have no objection to article 8, which really lays down the formula upon which the margin of preference on British goods is to be determined. That article could remain in the agreement without affecting the right of this Parliament to control the tariff policy of the Commonwealth, and without limiting the power of our people to say whether this should be a high or a low tariff country. I stand for a margin of preference to Great Britain in respect of all the lines that we import from that country, and am prepared to agree to the determination of that margin according to the formula of article 8. I am also prepared to accept the principle upon which the Government has acted of raising the tariff wall against foreign goods in order to give British industries a greater preference. There was no need for us to go any further than that, nor was it ever contemplated in our preliminary negotiations that we should do so. The British Government took care that it did not give away its rights. A critical reading of this agreement shows that the British delegation was very careful to protect the rights of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. It studiously refrained from giving away the legislative powers of that Parliament. Schedule D stipulates the specific items in respect of which concessions were to be given and the degree of the concessions. In these circumstances there was absolutely no justification for the giving away by our delegation of the power of this Parliament to control the general tariff policy of the country. But we are now faced with the situation that the creature of this Parliament, the Tariff Board, becomes the supreme body, and this Parliament becomes a subordinate authority. This simply shows how necessary it was that this agreement should have been carefully studied line by line by a select committee, seeing that Parliament itself was not prepared so to study it. I am willing to sit here until Christmas Eve and to return the day after New Year’s day in order to give proper consideration to this agreement and to ensure that the rights of this Parliament are protected. If honorable members would carefully read articles 1 to 8 and thenread articles 9 to 16 they would see how carefully the freedom of the British Parliament has been protected and how recklessly the freedom of this Parliament has been sacrificed. If this agreement is accepted the self-governing powers of this Parliament will be seriously limited.
.- I ask the Minister in charge of this bill for information as to “ the law and Statutory regulations affecting the grant of Imperial preference and the margin of preference specified therein over foreign goods “ which is to protect the primary producers of Australia? Why should our primary producers be forced into a “ first sale “ as set out in article 5 ?
– It is not proposed to compel them to make a first sale.
– Then why is the provision relating to a “ first sale “ in article 5? Again, why should our primary producers be compelled to conform willynilly to world prices? We are entitled to some information as to the basis upon which world prices are determined.
– Order ! The time allotted for the consideration of articles 1 to 8 has expired.
Question-That articles 1 to 8 be agreed to - put. The committee divided. (Chairman - Mr. Bell.)
Majority . . . . 46
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Articles 1 to 8 agreed to.
Articles 9 to 11 -
His Majesty’s Government in the Commonwealth of Australia undertake that protection by tariffs shall he afforded only to those industries which are reasonably assured of sound opportunities for success.
His Majesty’s Government in the Commonwealth of Australia undertake that during the currency of this agreement the tariff shall be based on the principle that protective duties shall not exceed such a level as will give United Kingdomproducers full opportunity of reasonable competition on the basis of the relative cost of economical and efficient production, provided that in the application of such principle special consideration may be given to the case of industries not fully established.
His Majesty’s Government in the Commonwealth of Australia undertake that a review shall be made as soon as practicable by the Australian Tariff Board of existing protective duties in accordance with the principles laid down in article 10 hereof, and that after the receipt of the report and recommendation of the Tariff Board the Commonwealth Parliament shall be invited to vary, wherever necessary, the tariff on goods of United Kingdom origin in such manner as to give effect to such principles.
.- I wish to express my gratification at the presence in this schedule of articles 9, 10, 11 and 12, because I regard them as indicating a return to sanity in fiscal matters. If anything were needed to drive home to the people of this country the need for adopting a policy in con-‘ formity with the provisions of those articles, it would be the report of the Wool Investigation Committee which was published yesterday. The report points out that, because we have neglected to give effect to the principle embodied in articles 9 and 10, the cost of producing wool in Australia is 2d. per lb. higher than it ought to be. This has been one of the chief factors in bringing about the terrible conditions which prevail to-day, not only in the wool industry, but also in the wheat and other primary industries, as well as in many of the major secondary industries. I am one of those who believe that, under a reasonable tariff, Australia will have an opportunity of establishing sound secondary industries; but that cannot be done while we are handicapped by our present tariff burdens. The existing high tariffs have prevented Australia from exporting the products of her secondary industries. We have only to look at the sister dominion of Canada to see what can be achieved under a reasonable tariff. During the period from 1916 to 1928, Canada increased the value of her imports, largely secondary products, from £89,000,000 to £290,000,000, and she has suffered less from the depressionthan almost any other country in the world. There is less unemployment there than in most other countries, due to the fact that her industries have been developed under a, well-balanced tariff system. That a reasonable tariff does not make for unemployment may be seen by examining the export figures of Canada. During the year 1928-29, that dominion exported iron and steel products to the value of £16,500,000. What a difference it would make to the electorate of the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) if Australia were exporting £10,000,000 or £12,000,000 worth of iron and steel goods each year ! In that district coal supplies are ample, we have readily available rich iron ore, and there is no reason why it should not be the centre of a large iron and steel manufacturing industry that can export. In the same year, Canada exported £22,500,000 worth of secondary goods made from non-ferrous minerals. The manufacture of those goods provided an enormous amount of employment, and their export helped to preserve a healthy trade balance. Canada has not, like Australia, to depend for its overseas balances entirely upon the export of primary products. Moreover, the local market can consume a greater quantity of secondary manufactures than of primary products, and takes them at a better price. I hope that the implementing of these articles will result in Australia following the lead of Canada. In the past, Australia exported considerable quantities of manufactured goods, no less than £800,000 worth of boots being sen: every year to New Zealand. I have no doubt that in the future we shall be able to export, not only boots, but other manufactured goods, such as breakfast foods, &c. This will provide more employment for our people, and will help to balance the national budget. I know that there are some persons calling themselves good Australians who say, in effect, that Australian mechanics are so inferior that they cannot produce an article fit for export in competition with mechanics of other countries. I do not agree with that. The Australian mechanic could, if given a chance, by the removal of the burden of tariff protection of unnatural industries, compete in the markets of the world just as well as do the Australian primary producers. Let us take the shackles off him, and give our secondary industries an opportunity, not only of supplying our local market, but of competing in the markets of the world.
.- When one hears the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page), who is one of the apostles of a low tariff, give these articles hia blessing, one is convinced that they must, if put into operation, seriously injure the secondary industries of Australia. The right honorable member said that he did not believe in discrediting the Australian mechanic, that he should be given an opportunity of exporting his- products. If the right honorable member had his way, he would break down the tariff barriers, and the only chance the Australian mechanic would nave of competing with the products of cheap-labour countries would be by accepting nigger wages. Some of those who stand for breaking down the tariff wall want the Australian mechanic to produce goods, certainly, but to do so under the conditions that obtain in Japan, and other low-wage countries.
– Wages in Canada are as high as anywhere else in the world.
– The right honorable member for Cowper has been most inconsistent on the subject of the tariff. When, for nearly seven years, he was deputy leader of a government, he was prepared to swallow a great deal in the way of high tariffs, as was also the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson). They were members of the Government in which the late Mr. H. E. Pratten was Minister for Trade and Customs, and he was one of the greatest protectionists this country has ever seen. When Mr. Pratten brought in his amending schedules increasing the amount of protection on Australian goods, the right honorable member for Cowper and the honorable member for Gippsland may have burned with indignation, which they may have expressed in the party room, or in the hearing of the farmers on the Clarence River or in Gippsland, but they did not express it in this chamber. They did not do what the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) has done; they did not resign their portfolios. Country party representatives should know that the only chance of success for the Paterson butter scheme, and similar plans for assisting primary producers, lies in the development of a healthy local market. How are we to find £4,000,000 a year as a subsidy to the butter producers if we do not protect our Australian secondary industries against the products of Japan, China, and other countries where coloured labour is employed?
Article 9 of the agreement stipulates that protection by means of a tariff shall be afforded only to those industries which are reasonably assured of sound opportunities for success. Who is to be the judge of that ? The Government proposes to hand over its responsibilities to the Tariff Board. What chance would H. V. McKay have had of building up his industry if, in its early stages, its fate had depended on the decision of an arbitrary body placed above. Parliament, and acting on the understanding that duties had to be reduced? The effect of article 9 and the succeeding articles will be to prevent the establishment of any new industries in Australia.1 What happened when the Scullin Government put into operation its effective protectionist policy? No fewer than 34 branch factories of overseas firms were established in Australia;- £3,000,000 was invested in them, and 3,000 workmen were engaged as the nucleus of larger staffs. No doubt those new industries will be subjected to the test provided in article 9, and the Tariff Board will be asked to say whether they have a sound opportunity for success. If the verdict is against them, they must be closed, and we shall have to resume importing from the parent factories in America and Britain the goods now being made in Australia. We have been told that the policy of protection tends towards the building up of monopolies. Well, it is better to have a monopoly operating in Australia, under our control and employing Australian workers, than to have it overseas where we can exercise no control over it whatever. When industries are established in this country, they employ workers here, and help to build up a market for our primary products. Article .10 of the agreement is as follows : -
His Majesty’s Government in the Commonwealth of Australia undertake that during the currency of this agreement the tariff shall be based on the principle that protective duties shall not exceed such a level as will give United Kingdom producers full opportunity of reasonable competition on the .basis of the relative cost of economical and efficient production, provided that in the application of such principle special consideration may be given to the case of industries not fully established.
What does that mean ? It means only one thing, the lowering of duties against British products. No doubt that will be of benefit to British manufacturers, but -decidedly to the disadvantage of Australia and particularly the manufacturers who have put “their money into industries in the belief that there would be some stability in the fiscal policy of Australia. This is one of the worst attempts of this Government to bring ruin to Australian secondary industries. For some years, Australia has enjoyed a policy of protection. In 1929, the Labour party received a mandate from the people to institute a protectionist policy, and steps were taken to make that policy effective so far as that was possible at the time. Manufacturers invested money in new industries, and our workmen were given additional employment. Opportunities were also afforded to our growing boys and girls of being trained in our own secondary industries. This Government’s policy of sharing the Australian market with the British manufacturers must bring about increased overhead costs. It will not bring about lower prices to the consumers of Australia, because we have ample evidence to show that when local factories were started for the manufacture of goods such as malleable fittings, woollens, and farming implements, which had formerly been imported, there was an immediate drop in prices up to 334 per cent. Now this Government is asking Australian manufacturers who have established branches of oversea factories here, to share theAustralian market with the British manufacturers. One would think that Australia had a population of 60,000,000, and not a population of only 6,500,000. Australia provides only a limited local market. Many of our factories have the plant and machinery necessary for supplying the whole of Australia’srequirements. One has only to read the statements of Mr. Baldwin, Mr. Amery, and other British statesmen to realize that they are looking forward to the British manufacturer obtaining a portion of the Australian market, a market which in the last two years hasbeen supplied almost wholly by Australian manufacturers. Surely Ave, a9 Australians, should stand for a policy of preference in respect of the products of our own workmen, particularly at a time when thousands of our people are walking the streets out of employment. The Empire Marketing Board of Great Britain has a slogan which every honorable member should bear in mind. It is - Preference first to the products of Great Britain, and, secondly, to the products of the dominions. We should stand for preference first to the pro- ducts of Australia, and, secondly, to the products of Great Britain. When the Labour party espoused the policy of high protection, ‘some small-minded persons declared its attitude to be unpatriotic. Was it unpatriotic on the part of Mr. Baldwin, Mr. Thomas, and the representatives of British manufacturers to fight on behalf of British manufacturers and the unemployed of Great Britain? No. I give them credit for the wonderful fight that they put up on behalf of their own interests, and if they were able to out-manoeuvre our representatives at Ottawa that is not to their discredit. We should consider articles 9, 10 and 11 impartially, and pass judgment upon them free altogether of party considerations. I think that honorable members who support the Government will, in their calmer moments, admit that these articles must adversely affect Australian industries. As the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) has said, they will bring about a downward tendency ‘in our tariff, and an influx of British imports. Surely the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr, Fenton) will support our policy of protection ? The honorable member for Corio (Mr. Casey) represents a large woollen manufacturing district. Surely he will not be prepared to stand idly by while the protectionist policy which has enabled the big woollen mills of Australia to double their staffs in the last eighteen months is whittled away. Does he stand for the sharing of the Australian woollen market with the British manufacturers? Does he not realize that we have in Australia the plant, machinery, and raw materials necessary for supplying the whole of Australia’s requirements? Under article 11 the Government undertakes that a review shall be made as soon as practicable by the Tariff Board of all existing protective duties with a view to allowing British good3 to enter Australia, and to compete with our goods on equal terms. This Government has already reduced the duties on over 100 items, and.no doubt the schedule that it has already introduced will be the forerunner of many others. Probably every month while this Parliament is sitting a new tariff schedule will be introduced embodying the recommendations of the Tariff Board, and at the same time reducing the protection that was given to Australian manufacturers by the previous Government. Is there to be any stability whatever in our protection policy? Do we intend to encourage Australian manufacturers who wish to double or treble their present plant involving the expenditure of hundreds of thousands of pounds, and the employment of many thousands of our people such as carpenters, bricklayers and labourers? I know of several manufacturers who would double their plants but for the fact that they fear what the future has in store for them. There is a feeling of uncertainty in respect of the tariff. Many of our warehouses are practically empty, but the buyers of goods are holding off in anticipation of a further reduction of duties within the next three or four months, and the importation of cheap British goods. The Government’s action in lowering duties is not only retarding the development of Australian industries, but also denying to thousands of our people an opportunity to obtain employment.
– It ia only reasonable that I should place on record as briefly as I can, the meaning of articles 9, 10 and 11, which is quite different from that which the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) has placed upon them. His speech was largely a repetition of his second-reading speech. The meaning of articles 9 and 10 is that any industry which can produce economically and efficiently and has sound opportunity for success will be provided with adequate protection against overseas competition. That fact cannot be gainsaid. Article 11 is self-explanatory. Commonwealth Governments generally have accepted the recommendations of the Tariff Board, but it has ‘to be remembered that the Parliament is paramount in tariff matters. Honorable members opposite speak as though these matters were to be settled by some foreign body outside of this House altogether, whereas what they overlook, or never stress, is the outstanding fact that this Parliament has the final decision in respect of any duties imposed. The meaning of this article is not that efficient Australian industries are to be exposed to unfair competition from overseas, but that the tariff will be established on a competitive and not a prohibitive basis. I suggest that no protectionist worthy of the name should protest against that definition. Surely no sound protectionist in this country will ask for more than fair competition, or insist that Australian industries should not be subject to competition, particularly when everybody who in fighting his way in the world has to face competition. “Why should one section of .the community be guarded and barricaded with all kinds of provisions against competition? Is competition such a ruinous thing? No. It is the spirit and principle of competition that has built up great industries in other parts of the world. Those honorable members who suggest that the manufacturers of Australia are not efficient enough to withstand competition are doing the industries concerned more harm than good. I believe that the manufacturers of this country do not fear competition, and therefore all this talk on the part of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition is unreasonable. Under article 10, the Government undertakes that during the currency of this agreement the tariff shall be based on the principle that protective duties shall not exceed such a level as will give United Kingdom producers full opportunity of reasonable competition on the basis of relative costs df economical and efficient production. That means that the Government will provide adequate protection for those Australian industries which have a sufficiently large market to enable them to produce goods economically and efficiently, and are, therefore, reasonably .assured of sound opportunities for success. I ask honorable members is it intended that we should spend our time in this Parliament giving tariff concessions to industries which are not assured of some reasonable prospect of success? This Government stands for giving adequate protection to worthwhile industries, but it does not propose to support industries which are entirely uneconomic, and a burden upon the community. That is the position in a nutshell. These provisions will enable tho Government to support industries which are economic, but not industries which are a burden on the community, increasing costs and making living in this country harder for the people who are in the worst position. The Government’s intention is to protect that class of citizen. This agreement, instead of being opposed by honorable members opposite, should be supported by them. It should be supported by every honorable member who represents a waterfront or ‘metropolitan constituency, because it is the electors of such constituencies who are feeling the excessive cost of living brought about by the imposition of recent tariffs, which this Government is now seeking to lower in order to prevent additional burdens from being imposed upon their broad and brawny backs.
– “We represent Australian workers, not British manufacturers.
– The workers need protection from their representatives, but all they have got from the Labour party up to the present is an increase in the cost of living and record unemployment under the highest tariff in the world. The policy of protection that is most urgently required is one that will protect the working man against his socalled representatives. The Australian delegation at Ottawa requested the United Kingdom delegation to afford to Australian primary producers substantial preference on meat, and made an essential feature of Australia’s case that the United Kingdom should adopt measures that would increase the pricelevels for vital foodstuffs. They were successful in getting the United Kingdom to agree to these measures. It should be unnecessary for me to emphasize our dependence on the British, market for the sale of our exportable surplus. The United Kingdom purchases 95 per cent, of our wine exports; 90 per cent, of our butter; 76 per cent, of our meat; and 75 per cent, of Australian fruits of all kinds. These startling figures prove conclusively that Great Britain is the one great market in which we can expect to find a ready outlet for our products. Yet the Old Country has been selected by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition as the target for his abuse. The monetary benefits that would accrue to Australian primary producers from an increase in the price-levels in the United Kingdom are incalculable. In respect of meat alone an increase of Id. per lb. in the selling price in Great Britain would mean £500,000 per annum to the meat producers in Australia. To that extent the earning and purchasing power of the Australian workers would be increased. Canada has agreed to the insertion of similar articles in its agreement with the United Kingdom, and the dominion Government which signed it represents the protectionist party in that country. But in Canada protection is not prohibition; the tariff is scientific, intelligently conceived and systematically applied. Yet the Canadian duties have never been onethird as high as those imposed in Australia. The protectionist party in Canada has agreed to proposals identical with those concerning which the so-called protectionists in Australia are raising such a hue and cry. Industrialized Canada, having subscribed to these articles, what risk will be taken by Australia, which is not nearly so highly industrialized, in adopting them for the sake of the tremendous advantages it will get from the reciprocal concessions by the United Kingdom? In the policy speech of the Prime Minister during the last election the Government made clear its attitude towards the tariff; the Government stands for efficient industry, a tariff schedule that has a competitive, rather than a prohibitive, basis, and tariff-making through the Tariff Board and not by arbitrary ministerial action. Those were the three principles of fiscal policy upon which the Government went to the country, and the overwhelming majority with which it was returned was a mandate to give effect to them. From these principles the Government has never departed, and it is endeavouring to put them into operation as speedily as possible.
– So scant is the consideration given to this measure by the Government that the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) does not see fit to remain in the chamber to pilot the bill through committee, and supply to honorable members information that is vitally important to the Australian people.
– The Prime Minister is receiving a deputation.
– No ordinary business should prevent the Prime Minister from being in his place during the discussion of this measure in order to answer criticism and let the people know how they stand in relation to the agreement. We have witnessed the spectacle this afternoon of a messenger running to and fro, conveying notes from a public servant in the official gallery to the PostmasterGeneral so that the latter might be able to make some pretence of answering criticism and inquiries. That, is the way in which the people of Australia are being treated in regard to an important feature of national policy which makes drastic changes from that which has been in operation throughout the history of this Parliament. Some day we shall have an opportunity to explain more fully to the people the haphazard manner in which this far-reaching measure was piloted through this chamber. The Post.masterGeneral has just told the committee that the British manufacturer should be allowed to stand alongside Australian secondary producers on the basis of reasonable competition.. What that means is revealed by the declaration of the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Gullett) during his second-reading speech - that the British workers are the lowest-paid whites in the Empire. These are the people who are to be allowed to enter into what the Minister calls “ reasonable competition “ with Australian workers and manufacturers. This agreement is an onslaught on Australian wages and conditions, and apparently that is one of its main purposes. It is strange that the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Dein) and the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. Jennings), representing electorates in which thousands of workers are engaged in secondary industries, and are attempting to provide for themselves decent homes and surroundings, and to live in reasonable comfort, are prepared to subscribe to a policy which will require these workers to compete with those whom the Minister for Trade and Customs has said are the lowest-paid whites in the British Empire. That is the sort of reasonable competition which ministerialists desire, and it is in accordance with the policy pursued by the anti-Labour parties throughout their political history. We are opposed to that policy, and time is on our side. The Australian people will resent being placed on a level with the lowest-paid whites in theBritish Empire. Temporarily they have given their allegiance to the party that now occupies the treasury bench, and boasts of having been returned with a great majority; but I am certain that those who were engaged in industry at the time of the last election never dreamed that the talk of removing shackles from Australian industries to enable them to compete against the world meant the removal of the reasonable and decent standards of living which had been achieved as the result of political and industrial action over the last 40 years. It is a remarkable fact that in this chamber are men who came to Australia from the other side of the world, and in whose very blood and bones the toxin of low wages, long hours, and bad conditions still runs. Although they have done well in this country and are now members of this House, they take advantage of their position in this Parliament to force the Australian workers down to the level of those with whom they were associated in their youth. The limited amount of time allowed for the discussion of this bill will not permit me to deal with the references by the Postmaster-General to the protection of industries that are not worthy of support. When the honorable gentleman was asked to name one such industry be was silent. Larger markets and greater scope for mass production are factors which enable overseas manufacturers to compete successfully against our own. I believe in developing Australia to become self-contained, and all my efforts are directed to that end. I shall continue the fight to ensure that the standards of living and the working conditions we have built up as a result of long years of struggle and costly legal proceedings, through the Labour organizations, shall not be destroyed at a time when hundreds of thousands of our workers are unemployed through an economic crisis for which they were not responsible. The representatives of the capitalist class will not be allowed to take advantage of the depression to insert the wedge of wage slavery. In spite of the depression and the force of the economic pressure that is upon us we will not accept such a policy. Honorable members opposite will not get away with it, even though they pass this agreement. Time is on our side, and we will correct the wrong with a vengeance.
– The time allotted for the consideration of articles 9 to 11 has expired.
Question - That articles 9 to 11 be agreed to. - put. The committee divided. (Chairman -MrBell.)
Majority . . . . 18
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Articles 9 to 11 agreed to.
Article 12 -
His Majesty’s Government in the Commonwealth of Australia undertake that no new protective duty shall be imposed and no existing duty shall be increased on United Kingdom goods to an amount in excess of the recommendation of the Tariff Tribunal.
.- This is certainly the most important and most contentious articlein the agreement. Yet we are to be allowed just one hour and five minutes to discuss it. I shall endeavour to do so as briefly as I can within the limited time available, but regret that the Government will not afford us full opportunity to consider the article.
Under article 12 the Commonwealth Government undertakes not to increase any existing duty or impose any new duty on goods from the United Kingdom in excess of the recommendation of the Tariff Board. The Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) and the Postmaster-General (Mr. Parkhill) have insisted that “this Parliament has the last word.” It has not. It cannot lift a finger to increase an existing duty or impose a new duty on goods from the United Kingdom, unless it receives a recommendation from the Tariff Board.
– It can reduce duties.
– Yes ; but it cannot increase them.
– That is good.
– It is good just because it suits the policy of the honorable member. If the position were reversed he would be loudest in his condemnation of taking away the rights of this Parliament and preventing it from exercising its proper functions. Not only is this Parliament bound to the board; the board is bound to the agreement. It is useless for the Postmaster-General or anybody else to say that Parliament will be free to exercise its judgment. Parliament is notfree in the matter, and the board is bound by its terms of reference, which are to be found in the document that we are asked to ratify. In that document appears articles 10 and 11, to which I must refer, as they affect article 12. I pass over article 9, although that has a bearing on the subject. Article 11 provides that the Tariff Board must review the whole of our protective tariff in accordance with the principles laid down in article 10. Those principles stipulate that the protective duties “ shall not exceed such a level as will give United Kingdom producers full opportunity of reasonable competition.”
– What is wrong with that?
– The reference to protective duties clearly shows that this provision is to apply to goods that we are manufacturing in Australia; otherwise they would not be protective duties.
These goods from the United Kingdom will come into competition with our own manufactures. The honorable member for Denison (Mr. Hutchin) asks what is wrong with providing full opportunity of reasonable competition? If Britain is to receive any advantage under these articles, it must be to the disadvantage of the Australian manufacturers, for to the extent that British manufacturers enter this market in successful competition with Australian manufacturers, they must shut out Australian products. The Postmaster-General has asked, “ What more do you want than free competition, which is the life of business?” I believe that there should be free competition, within Australia, among Australian manufacturers. But established Australian manufacturers controlling the natural industries of the country should have the Australian market. I say to the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page), and his colleagues who talk about an export of manufactures, that the first thing we have to give manufacturers is an Australian market. Those honorable members talk a good deal about the export of primary products; but primary producers begin by having the whole of the Australian market for their products.
– They compete at world’s parity.
– Not always at world’s parity. They do not have world’s parity for their dried fruits, butter, tobacco, potatoes, onions and sugar, ail of which are sheltered in Australia before the producers are asked to export. If article 12 does not mean that the Tariff Board is bound to recommend reduced duties to this Parliament, then this agreement with’ Great Britain means nothing. It is impossible to camouflage the issue. Have honorable members opposite made up their minds that, if the agreement is carried, they will see that the Government honours it? If the Government does honour theagreement, it certainly means reduced duties.
– Hear, hear !
– The PostmasterGeneral says “Hear., hear!” The Prime Minister declared that Ottawa does not mean reduced duties. Mr. Baldwin says Ottawa means reduced duties. If the agreement does not mean that there must be a reduction of duties, then it is an affirmation by the Government and the Tariff Board that the Scullin duties now give the United Kingdom the opportunity of reasonable competition.
– It does not.
– Then the logical conclusion is that there must be a reduction of duties.
– I have said that all along.
– But the Prime Minister has not.
– He has.
– I only wish that the right honorable gentleman were here, so that we could hear him and the PostmasterGeneral argue the matter between themselves. It is time that Australia and the United Kingdom had an unequivocal statement from the Government as to whether the Ottawa agreement does or docs not mean reduced duties.
– It means what it says.
– The honorable member is too shrewd a person to believe that he can get away with that. Does it mean reduced duties or not?
– I hope that it does.
Mr.SCULLIN.- Is that why the honorable member is supporting it? He nods his head.
– Does it not depend upon the review of the tariff by the Tariff Board ?
– If the review of the Tariff Board does not result in a reduction of duties, it will mean that, after consideration, and with the support of this Government, the Tariff Board may declare that the Scullin duties give the Government of the United Kingdom a reasonable opportunity of competition.
– That is a proper statement of the position.
– Does the honorable gentleman believe that that is the position? The honorable member has not given a definite reply to my question. He has cross-examined me. When he asks me a question I listen to him courteously and reply to him, but now that I have asked him a specific question he will not give me a definite answer. We are entitled to a clear statement of the responsibility and power of the Tariff Board.
Let us for a moment compare this provision of the agreement between Australia and the United Kingdom with the corresponding provision of the agreement between Canada and the United Kingdom. Both the honorable member for Darling Downs (Sir Littleton Groom) and the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Hutchin) have drawn attention to the corresponding provision in the Canadian agreement, which is article 14, and reads as follows: -
His Majesty’s Government in the Dominion of Canada undertake that no existing duties shall be increased on United Kingdom goods except after inquiry and the receipt of a report from the Tariff Board, and in accordance with the facts as found by that body.
It will be apparent that the Canadian Parliament will still have absolute discretion to interpret the facts.
– The Canadian Parliament will not be obliged to act on the report.
– Nor will this Parliament be obliged to do so.
– If I understand the reasoning of honorable gentlemen opposite, we shall be obliged to act upon the report of the board.
– Or break our word.
– That is just the point. The Canadian Parliament will have power to decide what shall be done on the facts, whereas this Parliament cannot act except on the recommendation of the board. The Canadian Government will be free to do as it likes, but this Parliament will, in effect, be bound to do what the Tariff Board tells it to do. That is the fundamental difference between the position of the two dominions. It is thus apparent that honorable gentlemen opposite are indulging in casuistry, and are not facing the facts. If honorable members opposite were free to deal with this agreement on its merits they would not need to indulge in this special pleading, which is of the weakest kind, and they would not vote in favour of this abominable article.
.- Articles 9, 10, 11, and 12 undoubtedly mean a great deal to the secondary industries of Australia. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) has worked up a great deal of warmth in his characteristic way on this subject.
– And the honorable member is being characteristically impudent in discussing my remarks.
– I must ask the honorable member for Balaclava to address himself to the article and not to invite interjections.
– I take strong exception to the remark that I am being “ characteristically impudent “.
– The honorable member is always impudent; that is his trouble.
– I ask that that remark be withdrawn.
– I withdraw it.
– There is no reason for heat in discussing this subject. We should be calmly facing the facts and weighing the pros and cons. Admittedly this agreement is not perfect; but it is a long step towards the development of inter-Empire trade. In considering why these articles arc here, we need to remember that the previous Government placed upon the table of the House numerous schedules providing for prohibitory increases in duties on hundreds of items without any reference to the Tariff Board which would have ascertained whether the duties were necessary in order to afford reasonable protection to the industries concerned. These schedules were not discussed by Parliament, and had to be validated on the eve of an election. It is true that the high duties stimulated certain newly-established industries, but it is just -as true that they disorganized many established businesses. We all became familiar with the argument of the then Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Forde) that the new duties would lead to the employment of thousands of additional people; but we found that our unemployment figures grew month by month. I am referring to these facts not for party political purposes, but for the purpose of indicating the situation that had to be faced by our delegates at the Ottawa Conference. In view of the fact that so many duties had been imposed without reference to the Tariff Board which was set up for the purpose of advising the Government on this subject, it was necessary for our delegation to give an earnest of the intention of the Government to submit the duties to the Tariff Board for considera tion and report. In my opinion, we should have faith in the Tariff Board, for it is a body skilled in the taking and weighing of evidence. The board is much better equipped to deal with these subjects than are honorable members of this Parliament, whether they be business men who have specialized in particular industries, or legislators of long standing who have been interested in only an academic way in tariff matters. Honorable members opposite have challenged us to name any industries which are not worth protection, and have argued that increased protection cannot harm anybody. But they have not shown that this Parliament is better equipped than the Tariff Board to deal with tariff subjects. How can we expect to reconcile the tariff views of such honorable members as the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) with his low tariff outlook and our Fentons and Fordes with their fantastic and fanatical fiscal faiths and fetishes? There is great disparity of opinion in this Parliament on the subject of tariffs. I say advisedly that many Australian manufacturers have been saved from themselves by the Tariff Board. Australian manufacturers have often in a spirit of patriotism, and in the belief that we can make anything here, established industries on uneconomic lines. Of course we can make anything here; but whether we can manufacture certain articles on economic lines is quite another question. Surely it is necessary to give some consideration to the consumers of Australia.
On the subject of uneconomic industries, let me direct attention for a moment to the manufacture of glass in this country. I referred to this subject recently on the motion for the adjournment of the House. I do not pretend to know all the ramifications of the glass industry.
– It is sufficient to know that the establishment of the industry here resulted in a reduction in the price of glass.
– -The-material facts are that the industry was established in Australia under the shelter of the high duties imposed by the previous Government. I believe that after some unexpected delay in the preparatory stages the people engaged in this industry produced a creditable article. They should be able to do that, because our workmen are equal to those of any other country in the world. All the talk of the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) about our getting back to the days of slavery is beside the point. Under our existing civilization .employers, generally speaking, do not sweat their employees. Unfortunately there .are unscrupulous employees as there are unscrupulous politicians, but they are the exception. We have to ask ourselves what effect the uneconomic production of certain commodities has on other allied industries. The building trade of Melbourne is enjoying a slight revival at present, but unfortunately the builders are unable to obtain all the glass that they require. Apart altogether from any question of price, it is unwise for us to apply prohibitive conditions to one industry to the detriment of other allied industries. The building trade is one of the biggest in the Commonwealth in normal times, and yet, as the letter which I read in this House the other day showed, our builders are unable to obtain the glass that they require. People who handle glass should not throw stones.
It must be remembered that the Tariff Board is being asked to recommend duties which will give adequate protection to our industries. Honorable members opposite support every proposal for an increase of duties irrespective of the economic effects of the increase. The Tariff Board, on the the other hand, will be required to consider the economic effect of all the proposals submitted to it. It will be required to deal with details and not with generalities, and it is capable of doing so.
Many industries have been established in Australia by British interests, not only in the last two or three years, but in the last 25 years, during which Britain has been granted preferential conditions by Australia. These conditions have been of material advantage to the United Kingdom and have contributed to the building up of an Empire trade sentiment. Just as since the consummation of federation we in Australia have come to look upon our various problems from a Commonwealth instead of a State point of view, .so we are coming to look upon our trading problems from an imperial and not a merely
Australian view-point, and this will be all to the advantage to the British Commonwealth of Nations. It will undoubtedly lead to prosperity, not only in the Empire in general but in Australia in particular.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) said that if the Tariff Board recommended lower duties it might bring prosperity to Great Britain, but it would not do so to Australia; but it must be remembered that a tariff schedule is awaiting consideration by this House which provides for increases in foreign duties on more than 400 items. This should be to the advantage of both the British and the Australian manufacturers. Many Australian manufacturers who have not travelled in the United Kingdom or thiUnited States of America, and have no first-hand knowledge of the mass production methods of those countries, foolishly set themselves to manufacture the limited quantities of different commodities thai are required in Australia, not knowing that even if they were granted protection to the extent of thousands per cent, they could not hold the market against similar commodities manufactured by mass production methods in these other countries. The proper thing for us to do is to consider the framing of a selective tariff with the object of stimulating economicproduction in Australia. I have no doubt that honorable members opposite are inspired by patriotic motives to advocate high duties. I do not impute improper motives to them; but we must save some of our manufacturers from themselves. An independent Tariff Board is able to recommend which industries can and which cannot be established on economic lines in Australia. I support this article, although it constitutes a hurdle to our Australian secondary industries. It has been included in the agreement as an earnest indication of our good faith, without which it would not have been possible to obtain this satisfactory agreement, which confers benefits on our Australian primary producers, and on the secondary industries of the Empire.
.- Article 12 of the agreement is as follows : -
His Majesty’s Government in the Commonwealth of Australia undertake that no newprotective duty shall be imposed and no exist ingduty shallbe increased on United Kingdom goods to an amount in excess of the recommendation of the Tariff Tribunal.
That provision vitally affects the power of Parliament to legislate on affairs affecting the Commonwealth. I have given a great deal of thought to this matter, and I cannot do other than oppose the article. I cannot see any need for it. As for the contention of the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) that it was necessary to include this article in order to ohtain concessions of value to Australia, it would be interesting to learn from an authoritative souroe just what concessions were granted by Great Britain in return for the Australian delegates agreeing to article 12.
It appears to me that, in agreeing to this article, our representatives went further than was intended. If this article is. implemented, we shall hand over to an outside body a power which should be jealously guarded by this Parliament Under no circumstances should Parliament relinquish the power of taxing the people; a power which has reposed in British parliaments since their institution. Of course, the imposition of customs duties is a form of taxation. It may happen that the Government will desire to raise duties for revenue purposes, or to impose special revenue duties on luxury items ; but it will be restrained from doing so. by this article. The principle is wrong. The members of this Parliament have been elected by the people, and given power to impose taxation; yet the Government proposes to hand over this power to a body which is the creature of Parliament. It may be objected that the Tariff Board will have no power to impose taxation, and that is true, but it is to be given power to restrain the duly elected Parliament of the Commonwealth from imposing taxation. This provision will tie the hands of Parliament on matters affecting finance. I agreed to articles 9, 10 and 11, but that is as far as I can go. Referring to article 12, the leader of the Australian delegation (Mr. Bruce) said that Australia had not agreed to reduce any existing duties if the Tariff Board reported that the industry concerned was receiving too much protection. That is an anomaly, in my opinion, because, although we have not undertaken to reduce duties, we have in this article undertaken not to increase duties against the recommendation of the Tariff Board. What is to happen if it becomes necessary for Parliament to take action to rectify an adverse trade balance? Parliament might deem it desirable to prohibit the importation into Australia of certain classes of goods. Are the hands of Parliament to be tied by this article 12? I believe that Parliament should be paramount; it should be free to act as it thinks fit. The Tariff Board is not responsible to the Australian people, but wo, the elected members of this Parliament, are, and I believe that every honorable member is alive to that responsibility. Under this article, the Tariff Board is to be given power which it was never intended that it should possess. I must vote against the article because its acceptance would involve handing over our control of finance in an important respect to the Tariff Board; because Parliament should retain power to accept or reject the advice of the Tariff Board; and because this article, if agreed to, will prevent Parliament from acting as it. may think fit to meet a sudden emergency.
.- I should not have spoken on this article were it not for the remarkable statements uttered by the Leader of the Opposition. (Mr. Scullin). There is no need for any one to point out that article 12 of this agreement will prevent the Australian Parliament from increasing duties against the recommendations of the Tariff Board, but I cannot agree with the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) that article 14 of the Canadian agreement does not similarly restrict the Canadian Government. The language of the relevant articles in the two agreements is different, but the right honorable gentleman must know that the effect of article 14 in the Canadian agreement is exactly the same as that of article 12 in the Australian agreement. Article 14 ofthe Canadian agreement is as follows : -
His Majesty’s Government in Canada undertake that no existing duties will be increased on United Kingdom goods except after an inquiry and the receipt of a report from the Tariff Board, and in accordance with the facts as found by that body.
That article lays it down definitely that one inquiry, and one only, shall be made, and that such inquiry shall be made by the Tariff Board. That body is the only one authorized by the agreement to determine the facts, and on the facts as presented to Parliament the duties arc to be fixed. The concluding phrase of the article is “and in accordance with the facts as found by that body.” Parliament may be asked to give its authority to the finding of the Tariff Board, but it must decide in accordance with the finding of that body. If the Canadian Parliament were to reject the finding of the Canadian Tariff Board, it could do so only after inquiry, and no provision is made in the article for an inquiry by any other body than the Tariff Board. Under the Australian agreement the finding of the Tariff Board is to become operative automatically, but under the Canadian agreement Parliament is to consider the report of the Tariff Board, but is bound to accept its recommendations. I may not be the equal of the Leader of the Opposition in the field of political manoeuvre, but in regard to the understanding of the King’s English, I am prepared to pit myself against him, and, to my mind, the meaning of article 14 of the Canadian agreement is clear and unmistakeable. I believe that the Leader of the Opposition knows the meaning to be as I have stated, but that, for political reasons, he refuses to admit it. Honorable members of the Opposition have upbraided the Government for having the temerity to refuse to accept the findings of the Commonwealth Public Service Arbitrator, a person appointed by the Government. They even carried their objection to the point of moving the adjournment of the House to protest against the action of the Government in refusing to accept the findings of a body which is the creature of this Parliament no loss than is the Tariff Board. Honorable members opposite are opposing this article, not because they think their opposition is justified, but because they hope that, when their speeches are reported in the newspapers, they may reap some political benefit. I should like honorable members to obtain a copy of article 14 of the Canadian agreement, and compare it with article 12 of the Australian agreement. If they do so, they cannot fail to come to the same conclusion as I have, namely, that the meaning and effect of the two articles are identical.
.- It has been said that there is no difference between the meaning of article 14 of the Canadian and article 12 of the Australian agreement.
– No material difference.
– If we are to assume that the representatives of the dominions and of Great Britain assembled in conference at Ottawa, with all their cards on the table, and embodied the result of their deliberations in documents of which the meaning is the same, why were not articles 14 of the Canadian agreement and 12 of the Australian agreement couched in identical language? I can see a considerable difference between article 14 of the Canadian agreement and article 12 of the Australian agreement. Article 12 of the Australian agreement reads -
His Majesty’s Government in the Commonwealth of Australia undertake that no new protective duty shall be imposed, and no existing duty shall be increased on United Kingdom goods to an amount in excess of the recommendation of the tariff tribunal.’
Under that article, the tariff tribunal will call evidence relating to various industries. It will gather facts, assess the value of those facts, and base its decision upon them. Under that article, the Parliament will be bound by the decision of the Tariff Board. The fiscal policy of Australia will, therefore, be decided by the board, and its decision will become the law of the land. Article 14 of the Canadian agreement reads -
His Majesty’s Government of the dominion of Canada undertake that no existing duty shall be increased on United Kingdom good’s except after an inquiry and receipt of a report from the Tariff Board, and in accordance with the facts as found by that body.
There is no reference in that article to the decision of the board. The Canadian Tariff Board merely has to gather the facts on which the Government comes to a decision. That article is, therefore, entirely different from article 12 of the Australian agreement. I admit that, up to a certain point, there is little difference between them. Both the Canadian Tariff Board and the Australian Tariff Board will have to collect evidence and examine the facts placed before them.
But there the resemblance ends. The Canadian Tariff Board will collect facts upon which the Canadian Government will give its decision. But the Australian Tariff Board will not only gather the facts, but also come to a decision which this Government must accept without qualification. Honorable members who suggest that there is no difference between those two articles are merely toying with the question, and endeavouring, by false reasoning, to make other honorable members and the people outside believe that, in accepting article 12 of the Australian agreement, the Government is acting in concert with the Canadian Government.
I come now to the question whether the Parliament itself should determine the fiscal policy of this country. The previous Government took steps to rectify an- adverse trade balance. That is an aspect of tariff-making which the Tariff Board will not take into consideration. It will consider merely the conditions of various local industries, and recommend a duty which, in its view, will afford fair and reasonable protection against overseas industries. It will not take into account the financial position of this country, and the necessity to rectify an adverse trade balance. If we are again faced with an adverse trade balance, as is probable within the next few years, the Government will, if article 12 is agreed to, find itself powerless to impose protective duties in order to safeguard the finances of this country. It is remarkable to me that some honorable members should assume an inferiority complex immediately they are faced with a discussion on tariff matters. On no account will they admit that they are sufficiently educated respecting the needs of Australian industries to determine what is a fair and reasonable tariff protection for those industries. They are willing to pose as authorities on any subject but the tariff. Yet the members of this Parliament have just as much opportunity as the members of the Tariff Board to gain a knowledge of Australian industries.
– The Tariff Board takes evidence.
– The evidence that is given before the board is somewhat similar to the evidence given in an ordinary court. One party swears that a thing is black, and the other that it is white. The members of the Tariff Board have no more knowledge of Australian industries than have members of Parliament, and their decisions are come to, not always on the weight of evidence, but largely as the result of guess work. .
– The decisions of the board are based on evidence.
– I have had experience of boards and tribunals in the industrial sphere, and I know that the chairman of a wages board has to deal with innumerable industries about many of which he must have an exceedingly limited knowledge. No few men can determine the rights and wrongs of every industry merely on evidence. Honorable members, generally, represent practically every industry in Australia. Yet some of them, according to their own statements, have not sufficient knowledge or ability to determine what duty will afford adequate protection to the industries that they represent. There is much more involved in tariff making than the provision of reasonable and fair protection to industries. Tariffs are at times imposed for revenue purposes, and for that reason I contend that tariff making should be the duty, not of the Tariff Board, but of this Parliament. As the Canadian Government has refused to place its fiscal policy in the hands of the Canadian Tariff Board, we should follow its example .hy leaving the final decision to the Parliament.
.- I propose not to discuss the merits of article 12, because my second-reading speech should have left no doubt in .the minds of honorable members as to my views upon it, but to say a word or two about the actual functioning of the Tariff Board. From inquiries, I have ascertained that during the last financial year the Tariff Board actually presented to the Minister for Trade and Customs, reports at a rate of a little more than one a week, and during the present financial year, at a rate slightly in excess of that. It cannot effectively proceed at such a rate. The Tariff Board, no matter how efficient it is, cannot be expected to continue working at that pressure. Its work, which was onerous enough before the agreement was entered into, will be even more onerous after its ratification. We have had from the Government no indication of any intention - although it may have entered its mind - to appoint more members to the board, or to reorganize it to enable it to carry out effectively the additional work that it will have to undertake if article 10 of the agreement is to be given effect in accordance with its letter and spirit. The investigations of the Tariff Board will have to cover a much wider field. The board, as constituted, may have satisfied the conditions of the past, when the evidence given before it was confined mainly to Australia. But if article 10 is to be given proper effect, the Tariff Board must take evidence and make full inquiries, in respect of production operations and costs, not only in Australia, but also in Great Britain. I suggest seriously to the Government that the board must be properly organized so as to enable it to undertake work of that magnitude, otherwise an injustice will be done either to the British manufacturer or to the Australian manufacturer. For instance a factory in Melbourne may make a certain line of goods which are marketed all over Australia, and the cost of those goods in Western Australia, because of transport charges, would be much greater than in Melbourne, the place of manufacture. A factor” like that must be considered by the Tariff Board and must complicate to some extent its investigations. As I mentioned in my second-reading speech, the cost of production in various British industries is never at a stand-still. Therefore, the Tariff Board must have in Great Britain an organization which will enable it to satisfy itself and the Australian public generally that it is really au fait with the costs of production in Great Britain. Unless the board is completely organized it will be impossible to give proper effect to this article, the basis of which is that duties shall be fixed, having regard to the relative costs of production in the United Kingdom and Australia. When the agreement has been ratified, the Tariff Board will really become an economic tribunal, and will, therefore, need to be built up in numbers and technical strength so as to prevent injuries from being done to both British and Australian manufacturers, and to allow article 1J0 to be made operative with justice to all concerned.
– Article 12 does not mean that the Government must accept the recommendation of the Tariff Board.
– Why stifle discussion? Even private members on the ministerial side cannot get an opportunity to speak.
– Some honorable members on this side have not had an opportunity to speak, but the Minister is speaking for the third time.
Other honorable members interjecting,
– Order! The Postmaster-General is entitled to address the committee, and honorable members must realize that their protest is only occupying time that otherwise would be available for discussion. This continuous interjecting must cease. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) is the chief offender, and I warn him that if he interjects again .1 shall be obliged to take action against him.
The interjections continuing,
– I name the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) for repeated disobedience of the Chair.
– I appeal to the honorable member to apologize to the Chair and so obviate extreme measures.
– I withdraw anything to which you take exception, Mr. Chairman. <
– The honorable member for Kennedy must apologize for having repeatedly disregarded the authority of the Chair.
– I cannot apologize. I am protesting against the action of the Government.
– In that case, I must ask the Acting Leader of the House to take the necessary action.
Mr. ARCHDALE PARKHILL.The honorable member for Kennedy will realize that the authority of the Chair must be upheld in a deliberative assembly, and I appeal to him to apologize.
– As my vote may be wanted, I apologize.
– I was about to say that if the Government were satisfied that the Tariff Board had erred, it could refer any matter back for further consideration. Surely it is not too much to ask that this Parliament should subscribe to the principle that no new duties shall be imposed or existing duties be increased to a rate in excess of the recommendation of the Tariff Board, when it is realized that by article 4, the ad valorem duty of 10 per cent. imposed on the goods specified in schedule D of the agreement under section I of the United Kingdom Import Duties Act cannot be reduced without the consent of the Commonwealth Government.
Honorable members interjecting again,
– I rise to a point of order. The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) is guilty of organized interruption of the Minister, in defiance of the ruling of the Chair.
– I am not aware of any organized interruption, but I have already appealed to honorable members to allow the Minister to be heard. They must recognize that the procedure being adopted by the Government is in accordance with the Standing Orders.
– On a point of order, I ask that the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane) be required to withdraw the statement that I have been guilty of organized interruption.
– The honorable member for Hunter having taken exception to the statement, I ask the honorable member for Barton to withdraw it.
– I withdraw the statement.
Mr. ARCHDALE PARKHILL.The United Kingdom goes much further than the Commonwealth and makes the consent of the Commonwealth Government a precedent to any reduction of certain duties. That fact appears to have been entirely overlooked by those honorable members who are opposing the agreement. The Tariff Board takes into consideration all the conditions of an industry and all the facts relating to it. The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley), either deliberately or because he has not carefully read the article, misrepresented its provisions.
– On a point of order, I ask that the statement that I deliberately misrepresented the facts be withdrawn.
Mr. ARCHDALE PARKHILL.Surely I am entitled to say that the honorable member misrepresented the facts, either deliberately or because he had not complete knowledge of them. The honorable member made a dastardly attack on the British workers, although he knows that there is a provision in the agreement which protects the Australian workers. Snch tactics are characteristic of him.
– Order ! The time allotted for the consideration of article 12 has expired.
Question - That article 12 be agreed to - put. The committee divided. (Chairman - Mr. Bell.)
Majority . . . . 15
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Article 12 agreed to.
Articles 13 and 14 -
His Majesty’s Government in the Commonwealth of Australia undertake that United Kingdom producers shall be entitled to full rights of audience before the Tariff Board when it has under consideration matters arising under articles 11 and 12 hereof.
His Majesty’s Government in the Commonwealth of Australia undertake in so far as concerns goods the produce or manufacture of the United Kingdom -
to repeal as soon as practicable the Proclamation published in Commonwealth Gazette No. 46 of 19th May, 1932, prohibiting the importation of certain goods;
to remove as soon as practicable the surcharges imposed by resolution introduced into the Parliament of Australia on the 24th May, 1932; and
to reduce or remove primage duty as soon as the finances of Australia will allow.
.- I do not propose to say anything with regard to article 13, which is associated with articles 10, 11 and 12. Article 14 is an undertaking by the Commonwealth of Australia to repeal, as soon as practicable, the prohibitions and surcharges that were imposed early in 1930. It also undertakes “ to reduce or remove primage duty as soon as the finances of Australia will allow.” Does that undertaking to repeal a prohibition, given for five years to the Government of the United Kingdom by the Government of the Commonwealth, carry with it the promise that the prohibition will not be re-imposed ? If not, it is valueless, a mere scrap of paper. Yet what would be the position if Australia were visited by a return of the conditions that obtained in 1929, and early in 1930; if an adverse trade balance threatened the very solvency of the nation and we were unable to re-impose these prohibitions because of this agreement with another country? Nobody can successfully argue that we could have rectified our trade balance in time to save our country from default without recourse to the drastic prohibitions which my government imposed upon a selected list of imports.
One of the advantages of the power of prohibition imposed for financial reasons is that you can select the articles that you do not desire to have imported; articles which can be made in sufficient quantity and quality in this country, or articles which areluxuries. My Government im posed prohibitions on such commodities as tinned goods, which were coming mainly from the United States of America, and thus was able to keep down imports. Had a duty been imposed which allowed a percentage of such unwanted goods to come in, it would have been necessary to impose high rates on a larger range of items, including some commodities which we might have needed to import.
The Government now proposes to give away the power which it possessed in this respect, so leaving us without a weapon to defend the country from insolvency should similar circumstances arise in future.
Paragraph c reads -
To reduce or remove primage duty as soon as the finances of Australia will allow.
Its operation will create an extraordinary position. The interpretation I give to the paragraph is that when we have reached the stage at which we can balance our budget and finance our undertakings without a primage duty we are bound morally and, I think, legally, under the terms of this agreement, to abolish the primage duty. We are not given a choice between primage and any other form of revenue duty.
– We are bound to reduce that duty, not to abolish it.
– The honorable member is splitting straws. We are bound to reduce it when the finances will allow, and we are bound to remove it when the finances will allow.
– That condition probably denies us the opportunity to restore certain social services of which the public has been deprived.
– It all depends on the interpretation of the phrase. Although after having balanced our budget we might prefer to remove sales tax or any other tax, rather than primage duties, we are given no choice. That means that, in addition to handing overour fiscal freedom - narrowing the term “ fiscal “ to tariff, as has been done under other articles - we are handing over the whole of our fiscal position, which includes our financial position.
– We are tying ourselves up entirely.
– Exactly. A parliament that has not complete control over its own finances is impotent; it is without political body or soul.
– Surely the matter is left to the judgment of the government of the day !
– If the honorable member maintains that position, he must admit that any future government can use its own judgment as to the interpretation of this article.
– The parties to the agreement knew that there was a possibility of other governments coming into power.
– If a new government can use its own judgment, and interprets the article other than in the way I have done, the whole agreement is a useless scrap of paper. Under this agreement Ave are pledged to abolish primage duty as soon at the finances of the country will allow. We are given no option to abolish any other tax. I cannot understand why our delegates allowed themselves to enter into such an agreement. Nowhere can it be found that the Government of Great Britain has given such a concession. Great Britain sets down a list of the goods on which it will give preference of duties. We, also, in a formal undertaking, have given Great Britain a certain percentage margin of preference. I do not cavil at that, for I stand for a preferential trade with Britain. But, by this article, we rob ourselves of our rights, and might as well close up Parliament. It is not a matter of the judgment of Parliament, but of the interpretation of an agreement. I predict that, if this agreement is given the meaning attributed to it by the Prime Minister - that this does not mean a reduction of duty - it will not be six months before we shall receive a protest from the United Kingdom that we are not honouring our contract.
– Article 13 merely provides that the British Government shall have full rights of audience before the Tariff Board. Article 14 refers to the repeal of prohibitions, and the removal of surcharges and primage duties. Those are not part of the fiscal policy of the country. They are purely revenue duties-
– And pre-eminently emergency taxes.
Mr. ARCHDALE PARKHILL.Exactly. The statement was made by almost every responsible member of the Government which imposed them that they would be removed as speedily as possible. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) has convinced himself, if nobody else, that something very frightful will result from the operation of this article. But, as I pointed out before the dinner adjournment, the British Government has bound itself not to repeal or increase certain duties without the consent of the- Commonwealth Parliament. A further provision in the agreement stipulates that, if a state of emergency should arise in Australia, there will be no difficulty in re-imposing these taxes, as the result of a conference between the Governments of Great Britain and the Commonwealth. Surely there would be no difficulty in arranging a satisfactory basis on which that could be done!
– Would it not be necessary to obtain an amendment of the act?
Mr. ARCHDALE PARKHILL.No.
– I agree with .the contention of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin). I do not believe that primage duty, surcharges and embargoes were intended to be permanent. They were emergency taxes imposed for financial reasons. The operation of article 13 interferes with our making budgetary and other financial arrangements. The London Chamber of Commerce has reported to the effect that already no fewer than 150 foreign concerns have established their works in Great Britain, with the object of getting behind the wall raised by protection and the Ottawa agreement. It is likely that many other foreign concerns will follow their example. It has been the practice, in the past, which will, no doubt, continue in the future, for a foreign firm setting up a business in Great Britain to bring to that country a great number of foreigners to operate its works. Therefore, we are really subjecting our Australian industries to competition with cheap European labour employed by concerns which have established themselves within the boundaries of the British Isles. I am not unfriendly to Great Britain, but I believe that it is possible for the Empire to do millions of pounds worth of reciprocal trade without altering the present system.
– I should like to say on these articles what I had intended to say on article 12.
– Order ! The time allotted for the consideration of articles 13 and 14 has expired.
Question - That articles 13 and 14 be agreed to - put. The committee divided. (Chairman - Mr. Bell.)
Majority . . . . 19
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Articles 13 and 14 agreed to.
Articles 15 and 16 -
His Majesty’s Government in the Commonwealth of Australia undertake to accord to the non-self-governing Colonies and Protectorates and the Mandated Territories of Tanganyika, the Cameroons under British Mandate and Togoland under British Mandate, preferences on the commodities and at the rates shown in schedule G and also any preferences for the time being accorded to the United Kingdom if His Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom so requests.
Provided that His Majesty’s Government in the Commonwealth of Australia shall not be bound to accord any preferences to any Colony or Protectorate which, not being precluded by international obligations from according preferences, either (i) accords to Australia no preferences or (ii) accords to some other part of the Empire (in the case of Northern Rhodesia, excepting the Union of South Africa, Southern Rhodesia, and the territories of the South African High Commission) preferences not accorded to Australia.
This agreement between His Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom and His Majesty’s Government in the Commonwealth of Australia is to be regarded as coming into effect as from the date hereof* (subject to the necessary legislative or other action being taken as soon as may be practicable hereafter). It shall remain in force for a period of five years, and if not denounced six months before the end of that period shall continue in force thereafter until a date six months after notice of denunciation has been given by either party.
In the event of circumstances arising which, in the judgment of His Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom or of His Majesty’s Government in the Commonwealth of Australia as the case may be, necessitate a variation in the terms of the agreement, the proposal to vary those terms shall form the subject of consultation between the two Governments.
- 20th August, 1932.
.- I wish to move -
That in article 15, after the words “schedule G,” the words “with the exception of bananas “ be inserted.
– I suggest to the honorable member that his amendment would be more appropriately moved when schedule G, in which bananas are specifically mentioned, is under consideration.
– When we come to schedule G, I intend to move for the deletion of the whole paragraph dealing with bananas.
– If the honorable member does that he will see that it is unnecessary for him to move the amendment atthis stage.
– Do I understand the Chair to rule that this amendment is out of order?
– The amendment appears to be more relevant to schedule G, and for that reason I rule it out of order at this stage.’
– -I rise to a point of order. I am loath at any time to take exception to a ruling of the Chair, but-
– There can be no point of order on a ruling of the Chair. The matter can only be discussed on a motion of dissent.
– If I may not move my amendment at this stage, I shall take this opportunity of discussing the banana inindustry, which will certainly be affected by article 15. This industry is of major concern to Queensland and northern New South Wales and of minor concern to Western Australia. The action of the Australian delegation at Ottawa in conceding to Fiji the right to ship to Melbourne and Sydney 40,000 centals of bananas per annum, in equal monthly quantities at 2s. 6d. per cental, will very seriously affect our banana industry, and strike a blow at the principle of a White Australia. The policy of Australia is to keep this country free from black labour, and make it the home of a virile race of white people. It is our object to develop in Australia, under a system of adequate protection, industries which will be free from the competition of coloured labour countries. Bananas are grown in Fiji by black labour. For the reason that the admission of Fiji bananas to Australia will adversely affect our White Australia policy, I submit that this provision should be reconsidered by the Government with a view to its deletion. If Fiji bananas are admitted to Melbourne and Sydney, the price of the Australian product will undoubtedly be reduced. Our banana-growers are in very straitened circumstances. Conditions have been so unsatisfactory in this industry recently that many bananagrowers have had to leave their farms and join the ranks of the unemployed. The admission of Fiji bananas to Australia will depress still further the Australian market and hit still harder this section of our primary producers. In my opinion the introduction of this quantity of bananas to Australia will encourage an agitation for an extension of this trade with Fiji. We may be quite sure that the Fijian banana exporters will carefully select the bananas for Melbourne and Sydney, which cities provide the biggest market for the bananas of Queensland and northern New South Wales, and this will be in the nature of unfair competition against our local industry. The adoption of this policy will mean a restriction of employment in the banana industry of Australia, a loss of trade in this fruit for Queensland and New South Wales, the impoverishment of the local banana-growers, stagnation generally in the industry, and a curtailment of the local market for primary producers generally. If this policy is put into effect it will adversely influence the efforts that are being made by the members of the Country party and other honorable members to stimulate primary production.
– It would be unconstitutional to adopt the policy.
– That is probably true, because it would lead to favoured treatment of two States as against the other States. When the duty of 8s. 4d. per cental was placed upon imported bananas in 1921 the banana-growers thought that it was there for all time, and, in the enjoyment of” a new sense of security in their industry, many of them placed their sons on virgin land and planted it with bananas in order to meet the demands of the market which had formerly been partially supplied by Fiji. Land was utilized which would otherwise have been idle. Many farmers entered into contractual obligations over a number of years, believing that they would have the whole of the Australian market for their product. Banana-growing is an industry in which a man can earn a living on a small area, ‘and if we are ever to have a population of 50,000,000 people, as some honorable members say we ought, we shall have to encourage closer settlement, and develop primary industries in which men can earn a living off small areas of land. Thousands of bananagrowers in Queensland and northern New South Wales have cleared their farms of scrub, and put in their plantations on the hillsides. They have for years suffered all the disadvantages of pioneers, believing that they would be able to recoup themselves later because the Australian market would never be supplied with black-grown bananas.
The life of a banana tree is about three years for bearing purposes, and it is from eighteen months to two years before the trees begin to bear. Trees are planted yearly to take the place of those dying out, so that continuous occupation is created. There are approximately 8,000 banana-growers in. New South Wales and Queensland, and their dependants number another 10,000. About 3,000 persons are directly engaged in plantation work. Nearly 1,000,000 cases to carry the bananas are made each year from Australian timber, and this is of great assistance to the timber industry. As a result of the removal of the duty on Fijian bananas, growers will lose confidence, and will not replant large areas so that there will be less employment and business will stagnate. The bananagrowing industry is of great value to the railway systems of Queensland and northern New South Wales. Much employment is provided for railway men and waterside workers in handling the fruit. The Queensland growers pay £134,000 each year in freight, while the New South Wales growers pay not less than £70,000 a year to the Railway Department, making a total in the two States of £204,000. In New South Wales and Queensland the total area under banana plantations is 27,226 acres. The estimated planting for 1932-33 is 6,000 acres, making a total of 33,226 acres, less those that are going out of cultivation, 7,000 acres, or a net acreage for 1933 of 25,226.
The banana-growers have striven for many years to improve the quality of their output. They sent an expert to Hawaii and the United States of America to gather the latest information regarding methods of ripening bananas, and I think that honorable members will admit that there has been a steady improvement in the quality of the bananas appearing on the market. The industry was being established on an efficient basis, and growers were looking forward to reaping the reward of their enterprise. The Australian consumption of bananas is between 900,000 and 1,000,000 cases a year. This year the estimated produc tion in Australia will be 1,400,000 cases, so that approximately 400,000 more cases will be produced than will be required to meet the average annual consumption. This surplus production will have to be absorbed by the Australian market, and yet the Government proposes to admit 1,000 cases of Fijian bananas each week to the markets of Melbourne and Sydney.
– The Government regrets that the pineapple and banana-growing industries should be placed at a disadvantage in even the smallest degree by the Ottawa agreement. I personally regret that the negotiations at Ottawa embraced those industries. Ever since the terms of the agreement were published, representations have been made through the British Government to the Fijian Government to reconsider the provision, and those negotiations are still in progress. The honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) chose to regard the proposed admission of 40,000 centals of Fijian bananas as the thin edge of the wedge. The honorable member must know, as does everybody else who has taken note of Government pronouncements, that, even if the negotiations now in progress are not successful, not more than 40,000 centals will be admitted into Australia each year under the agreement. Representations were made some time ago to the Resident Minister in London to ascertain just what was in the minds of the delegates at Ottawa when this provision was agreed to. The Resident Minister had no hesitation in assuring the Government that it was never intended that more than 40,000 centals a year should be admitted. To remove the matter beyond doubt, the Resident Minister communicated with the British Government, and that Government said that, in no circumstances, would more than 40,000 centals be sent to Australia under the agreement. The British Government has since made representations to the Fijian Government, which has also given an assurance that the export of bananas to Australia will be limited to 40,000 centals. That gives the lie direct to the oft-repeated remarks of the honorable member for Capricornia and other honorable members who, for political purposes, have tried to create a false impression in the minds of the banana-growers. The statements of members of the Opposition in endeavouring to create a feeling of insecurity in the minds of these growers on this subject have been most unfair and most unjust. I believe that the importation of even 40,000 centals will be disturbing to the Australian market, but the position is not being helped by the inaccurate statement of honorable members of the Opposition that the agreement will result in the flooding of the Australian market with Fijian bananas. I urge honorable members, now that they have been made acquainted with the facts, not to repeat such statements. The Government has already given an assurance to the growers’ representatives who came to Canberra that it will do everything possible to assist in the marketing of their produce. The pineapple and banana-growing industries are the only two primary producing industries which have been in any way affected by the Ottawa agreement, and the Government believes that reasonable help should be given to the growers in those industries to find suitable markets.
Several honorable members interjecting,
– The Minister must be heard in silence.
– The banana-growing industry is suffering to-day because of the economic depression, which affects, not only Australia, but practically every country in the world. That depression was accentuated in Australia by the action of the Government of which the honorable member for Capricornia was a member.
– The Ottawa agreement has adversely affected most of Queensland’s important industries.
– I shall name the honorable member for Capricornia if be interjects again.
– So little favour did the policy of the last Government find in the eyes of the people, that the Labour party was practically wiped out at the last election.
– The Minister and his Government will be wiped out at the next election.
– I name the honorable member for Capricornia.
Motion (by Mr. Archdale Parkhill) put -
That the honorable member for Capricornia bo suspended from the service of the committee.
The committee divided.
The tellers appointed for the “ Noes “ declining to act,
– On this matter the Standing Order is definite. I do not doubt for a moment that the chairman has exercised patience in dealing with the honorable member for Capricornia; but he could not allow the authority of the Chair to be undermined. The question is that the honorable member for Capricornia be suspended from the service of the House for the remainder of the sitting.
– On a point of order, is it not within your right, Mr. Speaker, to allow the Prime Minister to intervene in order to give the honorable member for Capricornia an opportunity to express his regret for what occurred in committee? The action of the Assistant Minister was provocative, and the honorable member for Capricornia is quite willing to express his regret to the Chair. The incident occurred in the heat of argument. No interruption of the debate took place; there were certainly repeated interjections, and the honorable member for Capricornia was warned by the chairman. I have no complaint to make of the action of the Chair, but I think that the custom of the House is to allow an honorable member, who has in committee transgressed the rules of debate, an opportunity in the House to express his regret.
– Our practice in respect of an incident of this kind has varied. As the honorable member for
Capricornia has already been suspended from the service of the committee, and the matter has been reported to the House, I have no option but to put the motion.
– If I were in the Chair I would name a few more of them.
– At a later stage, I will require the Postmaster-General to withdraw that remark.
– The Leader of the Opposition was the ring-leader.
– The Postmastergeneral will pay for this in other ways.
– The honorable member cannot deny that he was the ring-leader.
Question - That the honorable member for Capricornia be suspended from the service of the House - put.
The House divided.
The tellers appointed for the “ Noes “ declining to act,
The honorable member forCapricornia then witlidrew.
In committee :
.- The Government has taken up the attitude that there can be no alteration of the agreement, but according to the Assistant Minister representations have already been made to the British and Fijian Governments for an alteration of that part of the agreement which relates to the entry into Australia of Fiji bananas. Article 16, in which provision is made for a variation of the terms of the agreement, reads -
In the event of circumstances arising which, in the judgment of His Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom, or of His Majesty’s Government in the Commonwealth of Australia, as the case may be, necessitate a variation in the terms of the agreement, the proposal to vary those terms shall form the subject of consultation between the two Governments.
I understand from the remarks of the Assistant Minister that negotiations are already in progress for a variation of the agreement in respect of the entry of Fiji bananas into Australia. The honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) has just stated that he intends to move an amendment the effect of which would be to eliminate that part of the agreement which permits the entry into Australia of 40,000 centals of Fiji bananas per annum. As that honorable member has been suspended from the remainder of the sitting, I intend to move a similar amendment, which I foreshadowed in my second-reading speech. If that amendment is carried it will strengthen the hands of the Government in its representations to the British and Fijian Governments.
– I remind the honorable member that any alteration of the agreement must be madeby consent, and that it cannot be forced by a resolution of this committee.
– I still maintain that if honorable members see fit to carry the amendment which I have foreshadowed, it will greatly strengthen the hands of the Government in its representations for a variation of the agreement. This provision is obnoxious to many honorable members and I hope to be able to convince the committee that a distinct disservice is being done to an important branch of primary production. The 40,000 centals of Fiji bananas, equal to about 50,000 cases, will be offered prin cipally on the markets of Melbourne and Sydney. Very few Fijian boats go to Melbourne, and therefore Sydney will bo the principal port of discharge. The consumption of the Sydney market last year was 450,000 cases. The Prime Minister has stated that the 40,000 centals will represent merely 2.7 per cent. of the total Australian consumption, but it will be equal to 12½ per cent. of the consumption in the market in which the fruit will be sold. And that 12½ per cent. will not be spread evenly over long periods; on the arrival of a boat from Fiji large quantities of a perishable product, which must be sold immediately, will be offered on the market. Ripe bananas, unlike most fruit,cannot be held in cold storage. Over 4,000 cases a month will be arriving from Fiji and the dumping of them on the Sydney market must depress prices. The annual consumption in Australia is approximately 1,000,000 cases, and local production has practically overtaken that demand. The bananas arriving from Fiji, therefore, will be in excess of requirements and will disorganize the market. The sale of 40,000 centals of bananas will be worth to Fiji only about £25,000 a year. The Australian industry yields over £200,000 annually to the railways alone. The local production is worth about £1,000,000 a year, being distributed fairly evenly between New South Wales and Queensland. It is estimated that next year the production in Queensland will be 750,000 cases, and in New South Wales, 800,000 oases. It is absurd to jeopardize so important an industry for thesake of benefiting Fiji by a mere £25,000 a year. Apparently the Australian delegates at Ottawa were not in full possession of the facts when they agreed to a concession in regard to bananas. The Fiji bananas are the product of black labour. The protagonists of the agreement have stated that the plantations are owned by whites, but Europeans owning plantations in Fiji represent only 6.6 per cent. of the total, the remainder being: Fijians, 75.9 per cent., Indians, 9.8 per cent., and Chinese, 7.7 per cent. Following mass meetings of banana-growers at the Albert Hall, Brisbane, and in northern New South Wales, a representative deputation waited on the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons), who stated that the request that black-grown bananas should be excluded from Australia was a wrong interpretation of the White Australia policy, which involves merely the exclusion of coloured labour.
– He tried to deny that later.
– That is definitely what he said.
Mr.Lane. - Jute is the product of black labour.
– Jute and tea are not grown in Australia,and we have no objection to the importation from any country of goods that are not produced in the Commonwealth. When the whole of Australia’s requirements of bananas can, be produced locally by white labour, the prevention of imports from black labour countries is a proper interpretation of the White Australia policy. I remind the committee that whilst under this agreement bananas from Fiji are to be admitted at a duty of 2s. 6d. per cental, the produce of our own territories, Papua and New Guinea, will continue to be subject to a duty of 8s. 4d. per cental. A claim by them to be placed on the same basis as Fiji will now he difficult to refuse. Owing to the operation of the guillotine, I do not desire to take up the limited time allowed, but shallgive other honorable members an opportunity to discuss the matter.
– Article 10, which makes our secondary industries subject to the competition of the cheap white labour of the United Kingdom, is drastic enough, but article 15 is worse, for under it our people will be called upon to face the competition of other colonies and dominions employing cheap coloured labour. That article reads -
His Majesty’s Government in the Commonwealth of Australia undertake to accord to the non-self-governing Colonies and Protectorates and the Mandated Territories of Tanganyika, the Cameroons under British Mandate, and Togoland under British Mandate, preferences on the commodities and at the rates shown in schedule G and also any preferences for the time being accorded to the United Kingdom if His Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom so request.
Article 12 has been rightly described as sacrificing our rights of parliamentary government by handing over to a non-elective body the determination of fiscal policy, but article 15 hands over to the British Government powers that should be operated only by this Parliament, for the Commonwealth Government undertakes that at the request of the Government of the United Kingdom it will extend to certain Crown colonies and protectorates, the preferences that have been given to the United Kingdom. The Government says that this provision involves no danger to Australian industries, but I invite Ministers to explain the words “if His Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom so request “. I interpret them to mean that the Australian Government can be compelled to admit at preferential rates, the product of any cheap labour British possession in which British capital is invested.
.- Article 16 is an answer to the objections which the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) raised on article 14, for besides defining the period of the agreement, it allows for the discussion of any contingencies and considerations which may arise. It is in the nature of a safety clause, and will enable this Parliament to take steps to cope with, say, another deep national depression. The Scullin Government prohibited certain imports in an endeavour to adjust the adverse trade balance, and that policy received a large measure of support from honorable members on this side of the chamber. If such a contingency again arose, article 16 would permit of similar action being taken. Primage is merely a revenue duty for a customs service, and when conditions are normal it can be removed. The Assistant Minister for Defence (Mr. Francis) stated that negotiations are already taking place between the Commonwealth Government and the Governments of the United Kingdom and Fiji, with regard to bananas. I hope that nothing will be done to prevent this bill from reaching the statute-book. I would like to see articles 9 to 13 deleted. But the agreement is too important to be jeopardized by the deletion of any portion, and I shall oppose any variation of it.
– I hope thateven at this late hour something may be done to help the banana industry, which is one of the few inAustralia that is called upon to make sacrifices under the agreement. When our delegates set out for Ottawa it was expected that we should obtain new markets as a reward of their toil. The resultis-
– Order ! The time alloted for the discussion of articles 15 and 16 has expired.
Question - That articles 15 and 16 be agreed to - put. The committee divided. (Chairman - Mr. Bell.)
Majority . . . . 14
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Articles 15 and 16 agreed to.
Schedules A to H.
– I move -
That the item “ Bananas. - 40,000 centals per annum from Fiji will be admitted in reasonably equal monthly quantities at 2s. 6d. per cental provided the goods are entered at the ports of Sydney and Melbourne”, be omitted from Schedule G.
Our banana industry gives employment to a considerable number of persons. Wo have sufficient Australians walking about the country, and subsisting on the dole, without endeavouring to throw more into unemployment. Those fortunate enough to be in work are taxed” to the utmost to assist to maintain their less fortunate comrades.
The Assistant Minister for Defence (Mr. Francis) said that the Go’vernment is still negotiating with the British Government, trying to rectify what must, on his own statement,’ be an injustice. If this arrangement was not a mistake on the part of our representatives at Ottawa, why is the Commonwealth Government negotiating for its removal? The Assistant Minister recently went to Queensland to ask the banana-growers in his electorate what they suggested should be done to get them out of the difficulty. Chey replied, “ You got us into the mess ; now get us out of it.” At a meeting of banana-growers at Burleigh, in the Moreton electorate, which the Minister represents, the honorable gentleman stated that he still hoped there might be a possibility of prohibiting the imports of Fiji bananas. Why, then, is the Government asking us to ratify this portion of the agreement? And why was the proposal pf the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) to ‘ appoint a select committee rejected if negotiations are still being carried on ? Further, with whom are they being conducted? I accompanied a deputation of banana-growers which waited on the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) a little while ago. At that time, the right honorable gentleman held out no hope whatever regarding the prohibition of the import of these 40,000 centals of Fiji bananas into Australia. He said that to prohibit them would be a breach of the agreement; that, in any case, their importation would not affect our bananagrowers. The following is an interesting extract taken from the Brisbane Courier, a journal which strongly supports the Nationalist party. It reads -
Thirty-five years ago, the banana industry in North Queensland, principally around Bowen and Innisfail, was a gigantic business, yielding 50,000,000 dozens a year. Then came federation, and the end of the protection; and within five years the industry had collapsed. It was not until Mr. W. M. Hughes, then Prime Minister, imposed a duty of 8s. 4d. a cental, ordinarily called an “embargo,” that banana growing again began to nourish, and became very largely the industry of returned soldiers. There is no need for Fijian bananas, because the growers of Queensland and New South Wales could supply the requirements of a population many times larger than Australia now holds. The arrival month by month of some thousands of cases of Fijian bananas will dislocate a market that already is frequently oversupplied. Again, the Fijian growers will be able to send specially picked bananas to Sydney and Melbourne, and these, together with the choicest Queensland bananas ( and those of Northern New South Wales ) , will be labelled as Fijian, just as happened twelve years ago or more, and the worst specimens that can be found will be prominently displayed as Queensland bananas. In that way an agitation will be started for an unlimited supply from Fiji. Those of us who are opposing the lowering of the duty are doing so because we recollect how a great Queensland industry was smashed some 30 years ago, an’d we are convinced that advantage will be taken of this lowered duty to try to smash it again. There is ft fabio about the kind-hearted Arab and his camel which is thoroughly applicable to this Fiji banana business.
The Scullin Government secured valuable concessions from Canada in respect of canned fruit and Queensland pineapples. What benefit are we receiving from that treaty now ? Every time this Government gets an opportunity to strike a blow at a Queensland industry, it does so. Our banana-growers naturally expected that they would receive protection for all time. The industry is conducted economically and efficiently, bananas being produced at a low cost to the consumer. A few weeks ago, the Brisbane Town Hall was packed with a meeting which protested against the removal of the embargo on bananas. Another meeting was held at the Tweed, and attended by over 500 growers. Mr. Anthony, general president of the New South Wales Banana Growers Federation, is reported to have said on that occasion -
The banana industry is worth little short of £1,000,000 to Australia, and I want you to mark this - that the greater part of that million pounds during the coming year will shift over the border into New South Wales. This huge wealth will be produced on the North Coast of New South Wales! The Federal Government should get it out of its head that it was attacking Queensland only.
That is the impression created in other States, that this Government is making a direct attack on Queensland. The same charge may be laid regarding its attitude towards the sugar industry. If we desire to populate the tropics, we. must encourage people to go there who are willing to cultivate produce that will thrive in those latitudes. The report continues -
Mr. Anthony stated that the federation had a fairly efficient service in Melbourne, and nothing much happened there that the federation did not hear about. This letter was being circulated on the very day that the Queensland and New South Wales Federal members were given a denial that anything was afoot respecting Fijian bananas.
The parliamentary representatives surely were entitled to know if anything vitally affecting primary producers were proposed; they did not, yet a private syndicate had very accurate information, declared Mr. Anthony. Was not that sufficient evidence of the backdoor intrigue that was carried out?
Long before any member of this Parliament knew that Fijian bananas were to be admitted to this country, the representatives, of certain vested interests in Melbourne and Sydney knew it. This shows that the Minister who said that he would remain in the Cabinet and fight from within could have been fighting more effectively outside in the open. The Country party, with its sham fighting, has also fallen down on its job. The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green), for instance, who voted for every article of this agreement except article 12, now comes along to move an amendment in the interests of the bananagrowers, because bananas are being cultivated in his electorate. Surely the interests of the 8,000 people directly engaged in. this industry are worthy of some consideration. Bananas are usually grown on 10 or 15 acre blocks of hilly country, which is not useful for much else than banana cultivation. Many of the people engaged in this industry have made big sacrifices in order to develop this country; but they are now being sacrificed to the interests of blacklabour countries.
It is the turn of the banana industrytoday; but to-morrow it will he the turn of the sugar industry. We know very well that big moneyed interests in the capital cities of the Commonwealth are concerning themselves in the production of sugar in New Guinea. The pineapplegrowers have already been given a hard knock, although many of them are returned soldiers. When these men returned from the war, they were encouraged to take up pineapple-growing.
While the Scullin Government was in office it made an agreement with the Canadian Government which was of some value to the pineapple-growers; but that has now apparently gone by the board.
We have been told that the £200,000 per annum which will be received by the Government from the duty on bananas will be used for the benefit of the Australian banana industry; but all the benefit that the banana-growers ask for is adequate protection from black-labour countries, and surely they are entitled to it. Our banana-growers have to pay a wage of £184 a year to their labourers, whereas the Fijian banana-growers pay a wage of only £24 a year to the natives. It is doubtful whether even this amount actually reaches the Fijian natives. According to the Pacific Islands T ear-Book, 1932, the population of Fiji is 182,576, made up of 92,189 native Fijians, 75,117 Indians, and 5,078 white people. The Indians were indentured by contract, but were not repatriated when the great majority of the Indians in Fiji were sent back to their own country. The wage of these black labourers ranges from 2s. 6d. to 3s. for a working week of 50 hours.
The members of the Country party as well as the members of the Nationalist party prated a great deal during the debate on this bill about the benefits which the Ottawa agreement would confer upon our primary producers. If this is a sample of those benefits, it is a poor outlook for Australia. How will the Government be able to police the importation of bananas from Fiji?
Let me consider for a moment the pineapplegrowing industry. The Prime Minister told the deputation which waited upon him three or four weeks ago that it would be easy to arrange for a new agreement with the Canadian Government in respect of pineapples; but, so far as we know, nothing has yet been done in that direction. The position of the pineapple-growers should be made secure before this agreement is ratified. The Postmaster-General (Mr. Parkhill) said some little while ago that Parliament must be paramount ; “ but, if this agreement is ratified, the Tariff Board will be paramount, and Parliament will be subordinate.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I support with pleasure the amendment for the deletion of the banana concession. Although the Australian delegation to Ottawa had the duty of making trade “agreements in the interests of our primary producers, it is unfortunate that in some cases they made concessions which actually robbed our primary producers of trade which they had previously enjoyed. This applies particularly to the people engaged in the production of pineapples and bananas in Queensland and New South Wales. Of late years the banana industry has spread rapidly in northern New South Wales, with the result that the production next year will amount to 1,600,000 cases, which is 400,000 cases in excess of the highest production hitherto recorded. Honorable members who have defended the action of the Government in approving of the concession to Fiji of 40,000 centals, or 50,000 cases, of bananas, have told us that the importation of this quantity of fruit into Victoria and New South Wales will not be detrimental to the Australian industry; but by making that statement they have shown their ignorance of the real situation. Our banana-growers, many of whom are returned soldiers, have realized for some time that there is a possibility of overproduction in Australia, and they have done their best to put the industry on a Sound basis. By united action through their organizations they have sent experts to various parts of the world to obtain first-hand information in relation to the marketing and the scientific ripening of fruit. These experts have returned to Australia with full information of all modern methods, and have been able to establish in Brisbane and Sydney uptodate equipment for the scientific ripening of bananas, which means that fruit of the very best quality is being made available to the people of Australia. Arrangements have also been made in Queensland for the inspection of every case of bananas before it is put on the train at South Brisbane for the Sydney and Melbourne markets. Every possible step is being taken to ensure that all the fruit sent from Queensland is up to stan dard. In view of the fact that our producers have gone to all these pains to regulate the market and improve the quality of their product, it is deplorable that they should now be subjected to competition from black-labour countries.
This competition must undoubtedly have an adverse effect on the price of bananas in Australia. If the conditions of the industry are made worse than they are at present, many people will have to abandon the small banana farms which they now occupy, and this will lead to an increase in unemployment in both Queensland and New South Wales. Seeing that the production of bananas is an industry in which men of small means can engage, it is regrettable that the Government should have done anything to impair the prospects of it. Undoubtedly the introduction of Fiji bananas to the Sydney and Melbourne markets will detrimentally affect the consignors of Queensland bananas to those centres. It must be remembered that our bananas are being grown in tropical and sub-tropical areas which must be used for the production of the commodities that can be grown under such climatic conditions.
Just as the rice industry of New South Wales, the hop industry of Tasmania, and the wheat-growing industry of Western Australia, are entitled to protection, so the banana industry of Queensland is entitled to it. Those who believe in our White Australia policy should resist to the utmost the introduction of products grown in black-labour countries which will compete with products grown under Australian conditions. We must recognize that there is necessity for the preservation of Australian industries, and the resistance of unfair competition from black-labour countries. Surely we cannot expect that the products of tropical and sub-tropical Australia, which are grown under white-labour conditions, can enter into competition on the ordinary basis with the products of other tropical and sub-tropical countries grown under blacklabour conditions.
– Did not the honorable member vote for the second reading of this bill?
– I did but I first voted for an amendment with the object ofamending alterations to the agreement,as it affects our great concessions to Britain. On that amendment being defeated I supported the second reading of this bill because I cannot oppose the concessions made by Britain to Australia. In voting for the second reading of the bill, I reserved to myself the right to move and support amendments at the committee stage of the bill, with the object of bringing under review certain concessions that have been granted to Great Britain. If honorable members will compare the Australian Trade Bulletin with the schedules to this bill, they will see, in relative proportions, the concessions that we are making to Great Britain, and the concessions which she is making to us. In my opinion honorable members are “entirely unjustified in voting, for instance, for provisions which will harass, if they do not ruin, Australian people who have spent all their own money and borrowed more money in order to establish their homes, clear heavy jungle land, and plant farms in tropical and subtropical Australia in order to produce commodities which would otherwise have to be imported from black-labour countries. We should not barter away the interests of these people for concessions, the value of which we do not even now know.
Something has been said about our trade with Fiji.
– Surely the honorable member would not sell any white-grown products to Fiji?
– I would buy from Fiji products which would not enter into competition with the products of our own country and would sell to Fiji such of our products as she is willing to buy from us. What is the value of our trade with Fiji. The latest details available are contained in the Colonial Report for 1930, dealing with Fijian trade. An examination of that report shows that Australia is merely a clearing house for certain English lines which go to Fiji through Australia. Among the goods exported from Australia to Fiji are bags and sacks, which are not produced in this country at all, but are imported to Australia, and then re-exported to Fiji. Tea is another article which figures largely on the list, and honorable members are prepared to sacrifice the rights of Australian bananagrowers that we may export to Fiji the tea which we ourselves have imported from Ceylon. The value of this Fijian trade is largely mythical. Another item is tobacco and cigarettes. We do not produce sufficient cigarettes or tobacco in Australia to supply our own market, so that what we send to Fiji must have been previously imported by us. The people whom we are asked to benefit in Fiji by this mutual trade are not even white, yet we are to allow them to exploit the Australian market to the detriment of White Australia. I am not adopting my present attitude merely because the agreement affects bananas in particular. I should take the same stand if the hopgrowing industry of Tasmania were threatened by black labour competition. According to the latest information available, the population of Fiji comprises 5,078 Europeans, 92,189 Fijians, and 75,117 Indians. There is a sprinkling of other races as well, and it is for the benefit of a country so populated that we are asked to sacrifice the interest of our own white bananagrowers. The percentage of Chinese engaged in the banana industry in Fiji is fairly high, and it is against Australian ideals that Chinese-grown products should be admitted to compete against the products of White Australia. This matter affects, not only Queensland, but New South Wales as well. It is expected that next year 800,000 cases of bananas will be produced in each of these two States. The deputation which waited upon the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) the other day impressed upon him that there was very little unemployment in the banana-growing districts. In one district, it was stated, there was only one person drawing the dole, and he was a black man. Now, it is proposed to risk throwing our own white workers out of employment for the employment of the coloured workers in Fiji. I hope that honorable members of this House will rise to the occasion, and will demand that further representations be made to Great Britain to prevent this injustice to an important Australian primary industry.
– I propose to lay before honorable members the views of the Government on this subject. It has already been pointed out that this agreement must be accepted without amendment. One of the conditions of the agreement is that 40,000 centals of bananas shall be admitted from Fiji each year. For twelve years the Australian banana-growing industry has carried on under a prohibitive .tariff. The Australian production of bananas is 2,600,000 bushels a year, and it is proposed to admit from Fiji 71,000 bushels, or 2.7 per cent, of Australia’s production. Surely no harm can be done to the industry by the importation of so infinitesimal a quantity. This concession has been sought by the British Government because it forms part of a comprehensive plan for the mutual interchange of trading advantages. I ask honorable members not to treat this as an isolated matter, but to recognize that it is ,indissolubly bound up with the agreement as a whole. The Government agreed to the request because it could not otherwise have obtained important concessions which will be of the greatest value to Australia.
– But why pick on the banana-growers ?
– I sympathize with the honorable member. I should probably feel the same as he does if I came from Queensland, and I do not resent his criticism of the agreement. I put it to him, however, that the banana-growers should regard this concession as a small contribution by them towards the attainment of prosperity by other groups of primary producers less fortunately situated than they are. I regard Queensland, with its varied resources, as one of the greatest States of the Commonwealth, and surely it can stand up to the minor disadvantages to the banana-growing industry involved in this agreement. I do not desire to delay the committee by enumerating the advantages which Queensland will derive under the agreement. They were mentioned by the Prime Minister,, and will be found in Hansard. The Government cannot accept the amendment of the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan). The agreement has been accepted in its entirety by Great Britain and Canada, and the Government asks this Parliament also to accept it without amendment. The agreement represents an experiment in Empire cooperation, and should be accepted in the interests of Australia and of the Empire.
– As New South Wales will be affected by this provision, I support the amendment of the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan). If the admission of Fiji bananas is of as little importance as the Minister has stated, why was the provision included in the agreement? Honorable members opposite have always insisted that everything should be done to place men on the land. In the banana-growing industry men are able to make a living on 10 or 15 acres of land, but the Government, instead of encouraging the settlement of men on such areas, is actually driving them off the land. We oppose the Government’s proposal, and support the amendment. J
.- It is desirable briefly to recall the history of the assistance given to the bananagrowers of the Commonwealth. Prior to federation .Australia did a considerable trade with Fiji, and took large quantities of Fiji bananas. After federation, a gradually increasing amount of protection was afforded the Australian bananas. In 1921, the Australian growers received a substantial measure of protection, though the proposal was opposed by certain senators on the ground that the banana-growing industry in this country did not employ exclusively white labour. In reply to this criticism the Queensland Government passed the Banana Industry Preservation Act, which stipulated that only white labour should be employed in the production of bananas in that State. This provision in the Ottawa agreement cuts across the Queensland act relating to the employment of white labour. The other day the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) made a statement regarding the White
Australia policy to a deputation of banana-growers which waited upon him. His statement was published in the press, and afterwards the Prime Minister denied that he had been correctly reported. The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green) was present at the hearing of the deputation, and he has stated that the newspaper report of the Prime Minister’s remarks was correct. I was also present, and can confirm the statement of the honorable memberfor Richmond. The Prime Minister said that the White Australia policy meant protection for white workers against black labour being introduced into Australia. It did not, he said, mean protection against black labour overseas. Australian workers, he said, should not expect protection against the poor unfortunate blackfellows overseas. If this Parliament ratifies the provisions now under discussion it will make itself ridiculous. Negotiations are being conducted with Great Britain and Fiji to have this portion of the agreement annulled or varied, yet the Government is trying to force its acceptance by Parliament. This is an admission of colossal blundering on the part of the Government. The same position exists in respect of canned pineapples. The Assistant Minister for Defence (Mr. Francis) stated that the revenue derived from the duty paid on Fiji bananas, amounting to £5,000, would be distributed among the banana-growers. Last Thursday, the Brisbane Courier published a report to that effect, and on the next day stated that it had interviewed the Minister, who had confirmed the report. Last Monday the Courier reported that the Assistant Minister, speaking at a meeting of banana-growers, stated that the revenue of £5,000 per annum that would be derived from the duty paid on Fiji bananas would be used in providing benefits, such as railway concessions, for the growers.
– I said that the revenue would be used to assist in the marketing of the Australian product.
– There will undoubtedly be considerable constitutional difficulties in the way of giving effect to the intention of the Assistant Minister, but there is no doubt that his statement is additional proof that the Government has blundered.
– The time allotted for the consideration of schedules A to H. has expired.
Question - That the item proposed to be omitted be so omitted (Mr. Riordan’s amendment) - put. The committee divided. (Chairman - Mr. Bell.)
Majority . . . . 15
Question so resolved in the negative.
Question - That schedules A to H be agreed to - put. The committee divided. (Chairman - Mr. Bell.)
Majority.. . . 18
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Schedules A to H agreed to.
Postponed Clause 2 (Approval of Provisions of Trade Agreement).
– I move -
That the following proviso be added: - “ Provided that the margin of preference in favour of British goods set out in schedule F shall be obtained by lowering British, and not by raising foreign duties except on items where British duties are so low that the margin could not otherwise be obtained.
I have four reasons for moving that amendment. The first is that it will make the ratification of the Ottawa agreement a real and definite step towards the rehabilitation of Australia and of the world generally, by bringing about a freer flow of trade. The second reason is that the amendment, if carried, will assist Great Britain materially, and because it improves Great Britain’s position, will not jeopardize the agreement. The third reason is that it will materially assist Australia by reducing costs, and enabling us to secure trade concessions from Great Britain which, up to the present, have been denied to us. The fourth reason is that the amendment is necessary because of the confession of the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Gullett), when a private member last year, that even if we made the margin of preference in favour of Great Britain 100 per cent., that would be no concession, because our tariff wall was already almost unscalable. In view of that statement, the schedule laid on the table in company with the various agreements entered into at Ottawa, providing for an increase of some 317 foreign duties, confers no real concession upon Great Britain.
The Prime Minister, in his budget speech, said definitely that he was budgeting for a low customs revenue because of the reductions of duty that would take place as a result of the Ottawa agreement. The Government, therefore, cannot refuse this amendment on the ground that the revenue will suffer unduly in consequence. An examination of the schedule accompanying the various agreements discloses the fact that the average increase of foreign duties to give a new margin of British preference taking them by and large, is about 6 per cent., so that if my amendment is accepted, there will be a reduction of about 6 per cent. in British duties. We have to remember that the high duties of the Scullin Government - many of them imposed without the sanction of the Tariff Board - have been augmented by a primage duty of 10 per cent., and, further, are made more protective to the extent of 25 per cent. on account of exchange. If the Scullin Government was sincere in its professed desire to protect the Australian industries against British competition - and the high duties it imposed were convincing proof that it was - and 35 per cent. has since been added to the tariff wall by the protective incidence of primage and exchange, a reduction of the protection by 6 per cent would not endanger any Australian industry. This is an internal matter, and action can be taken without invalidating the agreement. It will be a gesture to Great Britain of our serious intention to give effect to the spirit as well as to the letter of the agreement. According to a report published in the London Times of the 1st October, Sir Edward Iliffe, when delivering the presidential address to the Association of British Chambers of Commerce, said -
As industrialists they welcomed the Government’s policy of protection because they believed it would lead in the long run to freer trade. In fact, the success of the policy depended on whether freer trade resulted in regard to both our Imperial and international commerce
The main value of the Ottawa Conference, in his opinion, lay not so much in the terms of the agreements themselves as in the spirit which underlay those agreements. The Empire as a whole had pledged itself to do everything possible to lower its internal trade barriers and to widen the margins of preference with the idea of promoting reciprocal buying and selling.
It will be seen that the belief of t this leader of British industry was that at the Ottawa Conference the Empire pledged itself to do everything possible to lower internal trade barriers. If we allow the customs duties against Great Britain to remain unaltered, and provide the 15 per cent, margin of preference by merely increasing the duties against foreigners, we shall be doing nothing to lower the internal trade barriers of the Empire. Therefore, in order to prove that we mean business, and to strengthen our claim for additional concessions, I hope the amendment will be agreed to. I am convinced that such concessions can be obtained. The negotiations that have already taken place in regard to meat and bananas show that the agreement is to be regarded not as fixed and unalterable, but rather as a living and growing document which can be amended or extended to meet the changing circumstances of the times. At the beginning of this undertaking we have an opportunity to prove Australia’s bona fides. If we take the step proposed in my amendment we shall be doing nothing to break the pledge of the Prime Minister that no alterations of duties would be imposed without prior inquiry by the Tariff Board, because no duty will be submitted to Parliament below “that which has already been recommended by the board. Nor will the procedure I am advocating do anything to jeopardize Australian secondary production. The reports of the economists who advised the Government in April last and of the Wool Committee, indicate the enormous burden under which the primary industries are . staggering, and anything we can do to reduce their costs should be done in our own interests. I hope that the amendment will be accepted by the Government and, in effect, become part and parcel of the agreement.
– I shall vote against the amendment. The members of the Country party should be satisfied with the damage they have already done to the secondary industries without seeking to aggravate the injury. In the discussions that preceded the departure of our delegates for Ottawa honorable members were assured by the Government that all that was desired was a greater patriotism and the extension of preferential treatment to the British manufacturer as against the foreigner, without attacking in any way the basis of Australian secondary production. When the Government discovered that no member of this House objected to giving even 100 per cent, preference to British manufacturers as against foreigners, the low tariff party became bolder, and now there is no doubt that their desire is not merely to give preference to British manufacturers but to lower the customs protection of Australian industries. I desire to say something in defence of the 1,000,000 wage-workers and salaried employees who are engaged in Australian secondary industries. These people and their families have been attacked by this agreement. Plant and machinery worth between £200,000,000 and £300,000,000 has been established in our factories, and three-fourths of it is to-day, subject to bank overdrafts and mortgages. Scarcely a manufacturer who started his industry since the war has yet paid off the money he borrowed to re-organize or enlarge his operations in order to supply the market during the post-war period of prosperity. The protection which has been taken from these people will drive many of them out of business, otherwise the agreement will give no advantage to the manufacturers of the United Kingdom. It is obvious that the latter must gain, or the agreement will become useless from the point of view of the British manufacturers, and every penny they gain must be taken from Australian manufacturers. The Country party is going too far. I did not object to articles 1 to 9, because there was a remote hope that added advantage might accrue to the primary producers from the agreement, and no member of the Opposition desires to do anything to prejudice the possibility of increasing our export trade. I remind members of the Country party, however, that in the last two years, the local consumption of Australian primary products has averaged £104,000,000 as against an export trade of £80,000,000. The £104,000,000 was largely contributed by the 1,000,000 workers engaged directly or indirectly in secondary production. If some of their present business is sapped from the manufacturers, the purchasing power of the workers will be correspondingly reduced. If this agreement, by attacking the secondary industries, injures the local market, the primary producers will, in the final analysis, lose more than they will gain. The Government would have been sensible and just if it had asked Parliament to consider seriously the compensation of manufacturers who will be put out of business as a result of this agreement.
– Many of them should have kept out of business long ago.
– That is all the sympathy the secondary producer gets from a wealthy primary producer who holds out his hand for the bounty granted by Parliament to the wheat-growers because some of them have been in difficulties.
– All of them.
– Ninety per cent. of them may be seriously in need of this assistance, but the other 10 per cent. should be ashamed to accept the bounty. Because of the Paterson scheme, every butter consumer in Australia is robbed in order to yield a benefit to the large butter manufacturers, but not to the dairyfarmer. The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) has demanded a searching inquiry by the Tariff Board into all phases of secondary production; but he does not suggest such an inquiry into the dairying industry, which he claims specially to represent.
– I would welcome it.
– The Bruce-Page Government caused a special investigation to be made.
– I do not suggest that the working dairy farmer is sharing in. the unnatural rake-off which the butter manufacturers are receiving. If the Tariff Board made a searching inquiry into the dairying industry, it would be shocked to learn the enormous profits made by the middlemen at the expense of both the dairy-farmers and the consumers. It would discover that there is a co-operative society in Victoria which makes butter boxes. The shareholders in that society also hold shares in the butter factories, and they participate in the profits, both on the boxes, and on the butter. The man who milks the cows, however, receives no advantage, although the Australian consumer is being robbed. Timber is cheaper now than it was three years ago. Wages were lower, and labour to-day is both cheaper and more efficient because of the keen competition. Nails and other articles used in the making of boxes cost less than they did then; yet the boxes are dearer than ever. Let the Tariff Board investigate that phase of the dairying industry; such an inquiry will be to the advantage of the real dairy-farmer and the public.
– Order. The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I cannot subscribe to the statement of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) that the dairy farmer is robbing the Australian consumer.
– I did not say that. I referred to the large butter manufacturers.
– In Queensland practically the whole, and in New South Wales two-thirds, of the manufacturing phase of the dairying industry is owned and controlled cooperatively by the dairy farmers themselves.
– The boxes also are produced by co-operative organization.
– Most factories purchase their timber wholesale from co-operative organizations, and convert it into boxes. If the honorable member for Melbourne Ports were familiar with the facts, he would agree that the dairy-farmers, the hardest worked section in the community, deserve fully the little assistance they get under the Paterson scheme. The leader of the party to which I have the honour to belong has moved an amendment which, I regret, I cannot support. It is my intention to support the Government in its proposals, set out in schedule F, to provide a marginal difference of preference to Great Britain. The amendment reads - “ Provided that the margin of preferencein favour of British goods set out in Schedule F shall be obtained by lowering British and not by raising foreign duties except on items where British duties are so low that the margin could not otherwise be obtained.”
If accepted the amendment would necessitate a sweeping reduction to provide a marginal duty of from 15 per cent. to 20 per cent. against industries that are protected through the recommendations of the Tariff Board. As a primary producer, I believe that we should give useful industries in Australia a reasonable chance of developing, by affording them protection so that they may be enabled to secure the home market. How can we expect primary producers to be given such protection if we are not prepared to concede reasonable protection to secondary industries? The Tariff Board wiped out the total protection conceded to the producers of the diesel engines of over 100 h.p. in Australia. Reading the evidence placed before the board, together with its recommendations, one can only conclude that it has endeavoured to assassinate rather than assist to develop an industry established for the construction of large diesel engines in Australia. I am reasonable in my protectionist views, but I urge that the Tariff Board should be more scrupulous when submitting recommendations to the Government. In this instance, the board had the audacity to declare thatWalkers Limited, of Maryborough, was merely an assembling factory, manufacturing only 60 per cent. of a diesel engine. The facts are that Walkers Limited manufactured 75 per cent. of the component parts of the first diesel engine that it made. It persevered, and by the time it put together its fifth diesel engine it was manufacturing 95 per cent. of the component parts. The evidence given by the manager of Walkers
Limited indicates that the firm may reasonably be expected to manufacture 100 per cent. of the next engine that it turns out. Hostile to an Australian industry, which it is determined to kill in the interests of British manufacturers, the Tariff Board has furnished a report based on erroneous premises, and altogether out of keeping with the evidence placed before it. Yet we are asked, by this amendment, to accept the recommendations of that board without cavil. In the interests of reasonable protection, I must reject the amendment of my leader, and stand behind the Government in the formula it has prescribed in the bill for British preferential rates of duty.
. - I shall support the amendment of the Leader of the Country party (Dr. Earle Page). I do so with considerable reluctance, because I think it regrettable that an agreement which I regard as a great diplomatic achievement should be implemented in a manner so objectionable to the primary producers, the people for whose benefit it was allegedly framed. A careful examination of our tariff history during the past few years satisfies me that there are cogent reasons why the British tariff should come down instead of the foreign tariff going up, as is proposed by the Government. The more I study the matter the more I am convinced that on this occasion the Government has closed its eyes to facts which have accumulated over a considerable number of years. I am half inclined to think that the Government has adopted its present attitude more from political than from national considerations. I say that with a great deal of regret.
Our tariff history of the past five years shows conclusively that Australia as a whole, and the primary producers in particular, have suffered severely as a result of the operation of not only the Scullin tariff, but also the Pratten tariff. I have examined various reports which have been issued on the subject since 1928. The first is by an economic committee appointed by the Bruce-Page Government in 1929. Even then the committee considered that the Australian tariff had reached a dangerously high level and was becoming a burden too heavy for the primary producers to carry.
– Did the honorable member protest against the lifting of the prohibition on oranges ?
– That matter is now receiving the attention of the Tariff Board, whose recommendation I am prepared to accept. Nest, there was an economic mission appointed by the BrucePage Government and headed by Sir Arthur Duckham, which investigated Australian economic conditions. Its members unanimously condemned the height to which the Australian tariff had risen. That was in 1928, when such a thing as the Scullin tariff was undreamed of; nor was there any primage duty or exorbitantly high exchange rate. In 1930 Sir Otto Niemeyer was appointed by the Scullin Government to investigate our economic conditions. I take that to be an indication that the Scullin Government had a high appreciation of Sir Otto’s ability to conduct such an inquiry. I suggest it was only when that gentleman made recommendations which did not coincide with the opinion of the Government, that it took exception to him, and practically, hounded him out of the country.
I also remind honorable members on this side of their attitude to the Scullin tariff when it was introduced. I shall not elaborate that subject now; suffice it to say that their opposition was emphatic and, at times, bitter. Then we have the latest reports of the Tariff Board, which condemn the height of the existing tariff ; also the report by the committee which investigated our wool industry, which draws attention to the extremely heavy burden that the Australian tariff places on primary producers. Finally, we have the statement of the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Gullett), during his second-reading speech on this bill, in which he emphatically declared that when tariffs have been arranged in the past our primary producers have always come off second best. Any fair-minded man must admit that these facts constitute an incontrovertible and unanswerable phalanx of opinion in favour of the amendment of the Leader of the Country party.
Let me reiterate the circumstances of the primary producers of Australia. For a considerable time they have looked to the Ottawa Conference in the hope that it would result in an agreement which would afford them a considerable measure of relief. So far, they have been denied an increase of the exchange rate. They have contended that the assistance of a 25 per cent, exchange was not sufficient, but their requests for a re-adjustment of it have been disregarded. They have been denied an adjustment of the tariff that would enable them to take full advantage of the existing exchange rate. They have suffered a reduction or a complete withdrawal of bounties and subsidies of one kind and another which they had enjoyed for a number of years - the wheat bounty is a striking example - but they have taken all these cuts in a philosophic spirit, and, in all the circumstances, have grumbled surprisingly little. They have now accepted a curtailment of meat exports for the next two months. This is a revolutionary departure from the ordinary practice in relation to primary production, and is a very real sacrifice. There is a danger in it, because it may indicate that the British producers are insisting upon greater protection of their home markets.
– Mr. Angliss said that the producers were getting something out of the meat concessions.
– I am giving my own, and not Mr. Angliss’s opinion. The imposition of this restriction on meat exports creates a precedent which may become definitely dangerous. I have enumerated only some of the sacrifices which the primary producers have been called upon to make; but, in addition to all these troubles, they are facing the possibility of another drought in the near future. Wool is being produced to-day at a loss of 2d. or 3d. a lb. In all these circumstances there is every justification for the amendment of the right honorable member for Cowper. It is evident that our primary producers cannot hope to get higher prices for their products. They are denied bounties that might bridge the gap between production costs and selling prices. The only alternative -is that everything possible should be done to reduce production costs for these unfortunate people, who have carried a greater burden during the depression of the last two or three years than any other section of the community. Our primary producers have built up the buttresses in Great Britain that have
Hitherto helped us to make our interest payments regularly, and to maintain the solvency of this Commonwealth; but today they are staggering under a burden of debt and a set of economic conditions which make it urgently necessary that there shall be, not an increase, but a reduction in production costs. The policy which the Government is pursuing must inevitably lead to an increase in costs. The increases that are now being made in our duties are a negation of the policy of this party and Government. In a time when the tendency everywhere is towards a reduction of tariff, and when a world-wide demand is being made for tariff reduction, because it is recognized that high tariffs are the chief menace to the peace of the world, this Government is pushing on with the policy of increasing duties. If the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) and his colleagues had been sincere in their protestations that they desired a downward revision of the tariff, they should have referred to the Tariff Board for inquiry and report the question whether the foreign duties should have been increased and the British duties retained at their present rate, or whether” foreign duties should have been retained at their present rate and British duties reduced. Had that been done, and the Tariff Board submitted a recommendation on the subject, there would have been very little room for complaint; but, unfortu.nately, the Government has acted without reference to the Tariff Board.
– Does the honorable member say that the Government has brought down the tariff schedule now on the table without reference to the Tariff Board?
– I am suggesting that the Government should approach the board for advice along the lines that I have proposed; and that it should not have sought to implement the Ottawa agreement in the arbitrary manner that it has adopted.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I wish to indicate the attitude of the Government to the amendment.
– Surely the PostmasterGeneral does not propose to take a second period out of the limited time available for the discussion of this subject?
– I merely wish to intimate the Government’s attitude on this amendment.
– It will be quite unfair for the Postmaster-General to accept the call immediately after one of the supporters of the Government, for this means that no other honorable member will be able to speak.
– The Leader of the Opposition must not interject.
Mr. ARCHDALE PARKHILL.This amendment could have been moved more appropriately when the report of the Tariff Board in regard to these proposals was being submitted to the House.
– May I ask the PostmasterGeneral a question?
– The honorable member had better not do so; it might embarrass him.
– Order ! The Postmaster-General must be heard without further interruption.
– The course which the Government is pursuing is in accordance with the policy which gained the approval of the electors last December.
– I rise to a point of order. The amendment of the Leader of the Country party refers specifically to schedule F. Even though some honorable members may have been granted latitude, I submit that the PostmasterGeneral should confine his remarks strictly to the question before the Chair.
– So far the remarks of the Postmaster-General have been relevant. e
– I desire to draw attention to an extract from the speech of the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Gullett) in introducing this bill.
– I rise to a point of order. I submit that the PostmasterGeneral cannot refer in this committee to what has taken place in the House on the same matter. The PostmasterGeneral is trying to make another secondreading speech.
– The PostmasterGeneral would not be in order in referring to the debate in the House when the
Minister for Trade and Customs introduced this bill except in so far as his remarks relate to the clause under discussion.
– The reference I wish to make deals specifically with this subject.
– I take the point that the Postmaster-General is not entitled to quote from the Hansard report of the proceedings in this chamber in the current session.
– I shall quote from a printed report of the speech of the Minister for Trade and Customs. The paragraph to which I direct attention reads as follows: -
Honorable members are familiar with the fact that the Government’s policy is definitely against changes in protective tariff items without reference to and consideration by the Tariff Board. In other words, the Government denies to itself the right arbitrarily to raise or lower protective tariff levels, and this policy declared at the general elections in December has been closely respected. But what of the policy for Ottawa? Was the Government to have one policy for the domestic Australian consideration and another for Ottawa? Would the Government, through its delegation, in response to the British requests for reduced duties in her favour, proceed to a special ministerial revision independently of the Tariff Board?
The Minister then proceeded to indicate the course which the Government intended to take to implement the Ottawa agreement, and that course is in accordance with the election policy of the Government, which was approved by the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page).
– The PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Parkhill) mustnot draw me into it like this.
– The Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) did not say that he was favorable to an increase in tariffs.
– Order !
– The policy of the United Australia Party, which was endorsed in its broad principles by the Country party, will be adhered to in the carrying out of this agreement. The tariff schedule which has been tabled is intended to be of a temporary character. It must be known to every honorable member by now that the Government intends to submit this whole matter to the Tariff Board and request it to deal with the items of the schedule as speedily as possible. We have been told that the Tariff Board has been dealing with tariff items at the rate of one a week, so it should not be very long before the items involved in this agreement have all been reviewed by the board.
– At the rate mentioned by the Postmaster-General, it will take eight years.
– I shall name the next honorable member who interjects.
– That is a good idea!
– I name the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley).
– I am sure that the honorable member for Darling will, on reflexion, withdraw the remark that he has made.
– Nothing short of an apology will satisfy the Chair.
– I apologize.
– I conclude by saying-
– On a point of order, the time for discussion of the question before the Chair has expired.
– The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) is out of order.
– The amendment of the Leader of the Country party was entirely unnecessary. The Government can safely be left to deal effectively and efficiently with the whole matter.
– The time allotted for the consideration of clause 2 and the remainder of the committee stage has expired.
Question - That the proviso proposed to be added be so added (Dr. Earle Page’s amendment) - put. The committee divided. (Chairman - Mr. Bell.)
Majority . . . . 21
Question so resolved in the negative.
Question - That clause 2 and the remainder of the bill be agreed to and that the bill be reported without amendment - put. The committee divided. ( Chairman - Mr. Bell.)
Majority . . . . 24
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Remainder of the bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment.
Motion (by Mr. Archdale Parkhill) put -
That the report be adopted.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. G. H. Mackay.)
Majority . . . . 25
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– I ask leave to move that the bill be now read a third time.
Motion (by Mr. Archdale Parkhill) proposed -
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the remaining stage of the bill from being passed without delay.
– I oppose the motion because of the unfair action of the Government, and particularly of the Postmaster-General (Mr.
Archdale Parkhill), who has been in charge during most of the debate in this chamber to-day. Quite unfair tactics have been adopted by the Ministry in connexion with this most important subject. First of all, the Government introduced the guillotine, in order to confine to one day the discussion of the whole of the articles of the Ottawa agreement. A discussion for fifteen minutes only was permitted on two articles and for 45 minutes on four or five other important articles. The Minister in charge took an unfair advantage of honorable members on this side of the chamber, because on two occasions he spoke immediately after a Government supporter, and took up what remained of the time allotted. I have never before experienced anything so unjust since I have been a member. The Postmaster-General took advantage of his right as a Minister to get the call of the Chair, in order to prevent honorable members on this side from speaking. The honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Martens) has been present in the chamber all day waiting for an opportunity to speak. The Postmaster-General could have spoken when the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. John Lawson) secured the call on one occasion. Another opportunity presented itself earlier when the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Hutchin) spoke, but the PostmasterGeneral waited for those honorable members to finish their remarks before rising to reply. The Postmaster-General deliberately sabotaged the rights and privileges of private members. Since I have been Leader of the Opposition, I have played the game with the Government. The members of our party have not taken advantage of the forms of the House to obstruct Government business. I venture to say that if we use the forms of the House to obstruct the passage of the tariff schedule, the Government will take at. least eighteen months to pass it through this Parliament. As we have endeavoured to assist in and to facilitate the business of the Parliament, we expect fair treatment in return. But if the Government intends to continue the tactics that it has pursued to-day, I promise it that we shall use all the forms of the House to obstruct it.
.- I join with the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) in protesting against the treatment which the Government has meted out to members on this side of the House. I have had a fairly long experience of parliamentary procedure, and I know full well that to-day’s proceedings do not stand to the credit of the Government. It has resorted to disgraceful conduct.
– The word “ disgraceful “ is unparliamentary, and I ask the honorable member to withdraw it.
– I withdraw it, and say that the Government has resorted to unprecedented conduct in forcing obnoxious legislation through this House without giving honorable members on this side an opportunity to place their views upon it, not necessarily before the House, but before the people of Australia. The Government, in resorting to the tactics which it has used to-day, is using a double-edged weapon, which at some future date may be used against it. In the opinion of the Government, the members of the Opposition have no rights. We think we have, and we shall endeavour, by using all the forms of procedure in this House, to establish those rights. This evening the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Parkhill) has contemptuously subjected us to treatment the like of whichwe have never before experienced in this Parliament. The chamber has been turned into a beargarden.
– I warn the honorable member that he is reflecting upon the House.
Mr.BLAKELEY.- That is not a reflection upon the House, because the committee, and not the House, was sitting when the Government resortedto its questionable tactics - tactics which we hope will not be repeated in this National Parliament. I suggest to the Prime Minister that if he desires to carry on the business of this House expeditiously, he will not allow the Postmaster-General to remain in charge of the House for any lengthy period. I am opposed to the motion for the suspension of the Standing Orders. This bill is too important to be rushed through without proper discussion. The supporters of the Government saw. fit to suspend the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr.Forde) from the sitting, although his only desire was to do the right thing.
– The honorable member must not refer to that incident.
– You, Mr. Speaker, were not present in the chamber when that incident took place, and, therefore, have no knowledge of it. I am informing you of the conduct of the PostmasterGeneral and the unfair treatment that he meted out to the honorable member for Capricornia.
– The honorable member must obey the ruling of the Chair by making no further reference to that incident.
– I enter my strong protest against the action of the Government, and particularly of its supporters, who sat like so many dumb animals without raising any objection at all to the atrocious treatment that was meted out to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition.
– The honorable member is not in order in reflecting upon other honorable members by referring to them as “ dumb animals.”
– I withdraw those words.
.- As the discussion on this bill in committee was restricted, I think one is justified in analysing the reasons for that. The measure was fully discussed oh the second reading-
– The motion before the House is to suspend the Standing Orders for a specific purpose. If honorable members wish to debate the bill further, they must wait until the motion “ That the bill be now read a third time “ has been moved.
– The honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) has reflected upon the conductof honorable members on this side of the chamber during to-day’s proceedings. As a new member, I am not inured to the practices and procedure in this chamber; to-day I was heartily ashamed of the action of the Opposition-
– Order ! I hope that in discussing this motion, honorable members will use temperate language.
– In the circumstances, I think I had better wait until a later stage to say what I intended.
– I support the protest made by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) against the attempt of the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Parkhill) to further pursue a policy to prevent any discussion of the bill. The Minister has now moved the suspension of the Standing Orders so that the Government may continue to prevent the proper consideration of the clauses contained in the measure.
– I remind the honorable member that the motion before the House is to suspend the Standing Orders to enable the bill to be read a third time. The clauses of the bill are not now under consideration.
– When the third reading is moved the bill will be before the House, and consequently the clauses and the agreement and schedule which it contains can also be discussed.
– We have not yet reached the third-reading stage.
– The PostmasterGeneral has moved the suspension of the Standing Orders to enable the third reading to be moved.
– The honorable member must confinehis remarks to the motion before the Chair.
– We are now considering the bill in its final stages.
– The motion is to suspend the Standing Orders.
– The suspension of the Standing Orders has been moved to enable the third reading to be moved. In these circumstances, I submit that we are entitled to protest against the action of the Postmaster-General.
– The motion before the House is the suspension of the Standing Orders to enable the PostmasterGeneral to move the third reading of the bill. If this motion is carried the motion “ That the bill be now read a third time “ will be moved.
Motion (by Mr. Lyons) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. G. H. Mackay.)
Majority . . . . 21
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question - That the Standing Orders be suspended - put. The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. G. H. Mackay.)
Majority . . . . 21
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Standing Orders suspended.
Motion (by Mr. Archdale Parkhill) proposed -
That the bill be now read a third time.
Motion (by Mr. Marr) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. G. H. Mackay.)
Majority . . . . 19
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question - That the bill be now read a third time - put. The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. G. H. Mackay.)
Majority . . . . 21
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
– In moving
That the House do now adjourn.
Motion (by Mr. Makin) agreed to -
That the Prime Minister he not further heard.
Mr.RIORDAN (Kennedy) [11.54].- Mr. Speaker-
Motion (by Mr. Lyons) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. G. H. Mackay.)
Majority . . 11
The members for Corangamite(Mr. Gibson) and Forrest (Mr. Prowse) having crossed the floor after the tellers had been appointed,
– I request the honorable members for Corangamite and Forrest to resume the seats that they have just vacated. I might explain that, as the sand glass was not set in motion when the division began. I ordered the bells to cease ringing when two minutes had expired, according to the clock.
– The honorable member for Corangamite and myself were watching the progress of the division in the sand glass, and took the usual course of retaining our seats until an opportune moment presented itself for us to cross the floor. That explains why we were in our original seats when you intimated that the bells had ceased to ring.
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question - That the House do now adjourn - put. The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. G. H. Mackay.)
Majority . . . . 14
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 12.4 a.m. (Thursday).
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
y asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
y asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
In view of the unique opportunities available to the representative in London of the External Affairs Department for the collection of economic and political information relative to our external trading relations, will the Prime Minister consider the proper organization of such information through the instrumentality of the External Affairs Department, or otherwise?
– The question of the most suitable method of collecting information for commercial purposes is at present receiving attention, and consideration will be given to all possible sources and channels for the collection of such information.
r asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
In view of the fact that the financial position of the Commonwealth, as announced by him in the House on Friday last, discloses that taxation remissions have been possible, will he take steps to restore to officers who have retired from the Public Service their full amount of superannuation, which was reduced by the Government in spite of the fact that the fund had been accumulated by a ‘scheme under which the public servants themselves contribute?
– The only portion of superannuation payments reduced last year under the financial emergency legislation was the Government contribution, which was reduced by 20 per cent. The question of any variation of the law is a matter of policy, which cannot be dealt with in reply to a question.
Invalid and Old-age Pensions.
r asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
What is the number of pensioners in the Commonwealth and in each State who have relinquished their invalid and old-age pensions since the Financial Emergency Act of 1932 came into effect?
– The information is being obtained.
y asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The invalid and old-age pensions laws now provide that any pension paid after the 12th October, 1932, will be a charge on the property of the pensioner at his death unless the amount has previously been repaid. This applies to all pensioners, including those who voluntarily surrender their pensions, although still entitled to draw them. There does not appear to be any justification for exempting from this provision pensioners who, within a period of three months, may decide voluntarily to forgo their pensions.
On the 10th November, the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) asked the following question, without notice : -
Whether in the calculation of the income of sons, before requiring them to maintain their parents, who otherwise would receive invalid or old-age pensions, war pensions are to be taken into account?
There is no provision in the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act requiring sons to maintain their parents who otherwise would receive invalid or old-age pensions. It is assumed, therefore, that the question is intended to refer to the contributions by sons to the cost of pensions paid to their parents. It is proposed that income from all sources shall be taken into account when deciding whether a son is in a position to contribute towards the cost of pensions granted to a parent. Before determining that a son is in such a position, due consideration will be given to his obligations and responsibilities in other directions.
On the 10th November, the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) asked the following question, without notice : -
Whether the Government is prepared to direct that, if a review of recent pension reductions should disclose that some of those who are in receipt of a partial pension are entitled to the full pension, they will be paid the full rate from the date of the recent reduction ?
The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
It is unlikely that any pensioner at present receiving a pension of less than 17s.6d. per week will be found, on review, to be entitled to a pension of 17s.6d. per week. Should, however, such a case arise, the pension will be restored at the full rate from the 12th October, 1932, the date on which the recent reduction was made.
Commonwealth Land in South Brisbane.
r asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
s. - On the 27th October, the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. George Lawson) asked the following question, upon notice: -
In regard to employment in connexion with the taking of the census in 1933, will the Prime Minister state whether he has had the matter investigated, and whether it is proposed to hold examinations for candidates in Brisbane, as well as in other capital cities?
I am now able to furnish the desired information, as follows: -
Examinations for temporary appointment as clerks in connexion with the tabulation of the census are to be held in all the capital cities of the Commonwealth, but no travelling expenses are to be paid to the appointees.
s. - On the 26th October, the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green) asked a question, upon notice, on the subject of the Nauru-Ocean Islands phosphate undertaking. Through inadvertence, a slight inaccuracy occurred in the reply given on my behalf. The reply furnished to part 5 of the honorable member’s question stated -
In 1932, the price is 23s.6d. per ton f.o.b. Nauru.
This figure should be amended to read “ 24s. 6d.”
s. - Last week the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) asked me whether the Workmen’s Compensation Ordinance for the Territory for the Seat of Government had yet been issued, and if not, why not, and when its issue might be expected.
I promised to make inquiries on the subject, and have now to inform the. honorable member that the Workmen’s Compensation Ordinance for the Territory was prepared, as he indicated, by the last Government shortly before vacating office. The ordinance was to come into force on a date to be fixed. This action could not. be taken, however, pending the preparation of regulations and rules of court. The. drafting of the regulations has recently been completed,but the rules of court have not yet been promulgated. Since the ordinance was circulated, however, representatives of business interests in the Territory have approached the Government and urged that the provisions of the ordinance he reviewed, as the insurance rates involved would place a heavy burden on industry, and they have suggested that a basis approximating to that in the Victorian act would bo more equitable. Investigations have been proceeding in regard to the representations that have been made, and I shall take steps to have further consideration of the matter expedited, so that Statutory protection for workmen employed in the Territory may be afforded as early as possible.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 16 November 1932, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1932/19321116_reps_13_137/>.