13th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. G. H. Mackay) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and’ read prayers.
- Mr. Jones, the Minister for Mines in Victoria, has stated that “provided a definite structure or structures can be located in Gippsland, there is every possibility of a major oil-field being discovered “. The Commonwealth Geologist, Dr. Woolnough, has said, “ I amno longer merely sanguine of success in the search for oil in Australia, but am as certain as it is humanly possible to be “. In view of these and other authoritative statements with regard to the possibility of discovering petroleum oil in Australia, will the Government sympathetically consider the desirability of asking the Eoyal Commission on the Petrol Industry to extend the scope of its inquiry to cover the best methods of accelerating the discovery of oil-fields in Australia, thus hastening the time when the Commonwealth will no longer require to import petrol and oil from overseas?
– I am aware of the opinion of Dr.Woolnough, but I had not seen the statement by Mr. Jones. The Government has already considered the desirability of extending the inquiry by the royal commission in the manner suggested by the honorable member, but has come to the conclusion that there is a marked distinction between an investigation of the costs, prices, and trading practices in the oil trade and an inquiry concerning the possible future discovery and development of oil in the Commonwealth. For the former inquiry, thepersonnel of the royal commission has been specially selected, but an investigation of oil resources and prospects could be effectively made only by scientists with expert knowledge of the subject, which the members of the royal commission do not possess.
– I ask the AttorneyGeneral whether he will consider the advisableness of appointing another commission to inquire into the existence and availability of supplies of well oil, and of oil extracted from coal, or, especially, from shale?
– A number of questionshave been asked on this subject, and I have said in reply to each of them that it is considered by the Government that this commission is not qualified to inquire into such matters. Eecently, Dr. Woolnough, the Commonwealth Geologist, furnished an elaborate report on various aspects of the oil industry, but the Government will consider whether useful advice might be obtained for the community as a whole, and for the Government in particular, upon the general matter to which the right honorable gentleman and other honorable members have referred.
– Will it be possible for the commission to deal with Commonwealth OilRefineries Limited from the aspect of the benefits that it was said would be derived from association of the Commonwealth with that company? It is freely rumoured and stated that the Commonwealth OilRefineries Limited works closely with the other petrol companies; in fact, it is stated that in Victoria that company has a private pipe line connected with the plants of the other companies, and that the supplies are regulated, one with another. Would it be possible to let this Parliament and the country generally know exactly where Commonwealth OilRefineries Limited stands in this matter?
– I know nothing as to the truth of the statement that there is a private pipe line connecting the plant of the Commonwealth OilRefineries Limited withthe plants of the other companies, and. I should not be prepared offhand to say what the significance of that line is, if it exists. An inquiry into the petrol trade of Australia, including the buying and selling of petrol, with particular reference to the question whether the public is, or is not,being charged a fair price, will include an inquiry intothe trade as conducted byCommonwealth Oil Refineries Limited.
– Will the commission inquire into the prices charged for power kerosene, tractor fuels, and lubricating oils, as well as petrol?
– I mentioned petrol because that commodity attracts most attention. The inquiry will be into the trade in mineral oils and petrol and other products thereof. That will include the liquids referred to by the honorable member.
– Since the reason for not including in the scope of the inquiry oil extracted from coal and shale is that the personnel of the commission does not include technical men, and in view of the fact that the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research at Canberra has on its staff highly trained technical men in the persons of Dr. Rivett and Mr. J. R. Rogers, will the Government consider the appointment of one or both of those gentlemen to the commission, so that evidence may be taken in regard to the development of our own natural oil resources ?
– I know Dr. Rivett well. He is a highly skilled chemist, and a most successful administrator; but I do not think that he would claim to be qualified to determine matters connected with the production of oil from coal. Mr. Rogers is fully occupied with what I hope will prove to be useful work in relation to our shale oil deposits. I would rather have that skill directed to the actual development of proved deposits than that Mr. Rogers should attend meetings and listen to evidence from all sorts of people, some of whom would know very little about the subject. A report on such subjects would be valuable only when made by highly qualified men, and there are very few in Australia acquainted with this subject. I shall look into the matter; but it does not seem to me at present that any inquiry involving the taking of evidence from witnesses would help us in determining such a scientific problem as the extraction of oil from coal.
– Is’ ‘the Acting Leader of, the Hon s”e aware that in ‘some portions df New South Wales graziers are shearing their sheep after only six to eight months growth of wool, and then turning them out to die? Having regard to these appalling circumstances, will the Government make a speedy effort to grapple with some of the problems confronting the important wool-growing industry?
– The circumstances mentioned by the honorable member have not previously been brought to my notice. The Government will consider seriously the suggestions which he made during a recent debate in this chamber, but it is quite impossible for the Commonwealth Government to protect citizens against the difficulties occasioned by seasonal variations, and the misfortunes incidental to industry.
– Has the Minister for Commerce yet been able to obtain additional information in regard to the shortage of refrigerated space for pears and apples awaiting ‘ shipment from Adelaide to the United Kingdom and the Continent of Europe?
– In answer to an earlier question on this subject, I said that the latest information in my possession showed that the difficulties in regard to securing freight for fruit to be shipped from Adelaide to the United Kingdom had been satisfactorily overcome. However, since this matter has again been mentioned, I have to-day telephoned to my department in Melbourne the instruction that immediate action be taken to ascertain the facts.
Rations - Work fob Married Men..
– The Canberra Times of to-day states that the Department of the Interior has, without calling for tenders, made an arrangement with a store at Canberra for the supply of rations to the unemployed, and that the work to be provided will be reduced to correspond1 with the1, reduced cost of the rations. I ‘ ask the Minister for the- Interior whether this statement is correct, and if so, whether, he is aware that those living in suburbs other than that in which this particular storekeeper is carrying on business will be- compelled to walk or pay bus fares to the store, and in the latter event, will be penalized by suffering a definite reduction of the standard of living. In view of the comparatively small number of unemployed dependent for work and sustenance upon the Commonwealth Government will the Minister favorably consider increasing the amount of relief work?
– by leave - As a part of the assistance to persons unemployed because of the prevailing depression, it was necessary in the Territory, as elsewhere, to supplement the measure of unemployment relief by the issue of ration orders to necessitous cases. A definite scale of rations was adopted after consultation with the Department of Health as to its adequacy, quality and range; The practice has been to permit the recipients of ration orders to purchase rations, according to the approved scales, from any of a number of recognized traders whose quotations for supplies were uniform. In view of the tendency of the prices of commodities to fall, it was deemed advisable to review the price list, and quotations were recently obtained from all Canberra traders who were in a position to supply the goods needed. After con:sidering the quotations received, it was found that, by accepting the lowest quotation’, a considerable saving could be effected in the annual cost, based on the average ratio of ration relief. Approval was (therefore given to the acceptance of the lowest quotation, subject to the quality of the goods being satisfactory to the Department of Health. The resultant saving on a year’s expenditure isestimated at £550. The recipients of rations will not .suffer under the new arrangement in regard to the quantity, range, or quality of the goods obtained. The great bulk of the ration relief is granted in respect of work performed to the equivalent of the ration cost. .The effect of the new arrangement will be that, in the majority of cases, a slight reduction will. occur in the amount of work required to be performed to obtain the same quantity of food as in the past..
The new arrangement provides, that work-, men who are paid wages for work performed for rations, may obtain goods, from the accepted tenderer at the same, prices as the holders of ration relief orders.
It has been suggested that . inconvenience will be imposed upon the recipients of ration relief by the necessity to travel to one locality to obtain the supplies. About seven-eighths of(. the persons in receipt of unemployment relief live on the side of the city in which the accepted tenderer carries on business; but, in any case, it is surely no hardship to persons who are the recipients of ration relief - and have thus ample time on their hands - to make the journey at least weekly, but normally at longer intervals, to obtain grocery supplies. . In respect to meat, bread and milk, however, the recipients of ration relief may still choose, their own supplier, and bread and milk are delivered at their homes at such prices as are adopted for the purpose of the ration scale. Under the new arrangement, therefore, it is considered that the interests of those who receive ration relief are fully conserved; while, at the same time, the Government obtains the advantage of the fall in the price of commodities since the last occasion on which quotations were obtained. The number of persons registered as eligible to receive unemployment relief, if necessary, is 330 married, and 390 single. The extent to which these persons become eligible for supplementary ration relief depends on the amount of employment they receive, consideration being given to the amount of wages earned by- them during a previous four-weekly period. In addition, there are about 50 cases - mostly women or invalids - who receive rations for which they are not required to work. The estimated expenditure for this financial year upon ration relief, including work for rations, is from £5,500 to £6,000, depending upon the amount of other employment available.
– As a large number of married men with families are. unemployed in Canberra, and are purchasing their homes under the Commonwealth Government’s housing.scheme, and. as, restrictions prevent them from par,ticipating in work connected with the taking of the census, and as very few, if any, returned soldiers are unemployed in Canberra, will the Acting Prime Minister sympathetically consider means of providing the married men to whom I have referred with employment?
– -Representations have already’ been made to the Government in this matter, and consideration is being given to the matter. One of the difficulties which obviously arises is that, if a sort of quota is fixed for Canberra residents, it will be difficult to provide a similar quota for other cities and other parts of the Commonwealth where citizens desire to obtain employment in connexion with census work.
Use of Oil FROM Coal.
– Has the AttorneyGeneral noticed in the press a statement to the effect that the British navy has accepted a tender from a company foi the supply of oil extracted from coal by the low temperature carbonization process? If not, will he make inquiries of the British authorities to ascertain the extent and nature of the work of extracting oil from coal that is being carried on in. Great Britain?
– I have seen the statement to which the- honorable member refers. The Government- is in possession of a great deal of information, which I believe to be quite up to date, respecting low temperature carbonization and other processes of extracting oil from coal. The Government is also aware of the history of these processes in Europe of recent years. “ “We have all had such information; but so far no facts have emerged which would even appear to justify tho Government in taking action in the matter. In view of the tremendous fields of fine coal readily accessible in Australia in more than one district, particularly iii the Hunter Valley, and in view of the fact that plant, equipment, and men are idle, there should . be every opportunity for the commercial development of the industry of extracting, oil from coal. If this industry can be put upon a commercial footing, the Government as at present advised - as I said yesterday - does not feel <a.t all inclined to take-, action towards- developing or establishing it under governmental auspices.
– Is the PostmasterGeneral yet able to say whether a site has been chosen for a broadcasting station to serve the northern portion of New South “Wales? If not, in view of the fact that this” matter was before his predecessor and has been before him since his accession to office, I should like to know the reason for the inordinate delay in the matter.
– It is quite true that this matter was under tho consideration of my predecessor, and has been before mo since I have been in office, and it is equally true that the inquiries and arrangements into it have been somewhat protracted; but they arc nearing completion. I expect, as I have stated within the last few days, that an announcement will be made within the next week or so, mentioning the sites that have been chosen and the arrangements that have been made for an additional regional station in each of the six States. ,
– Is the Constitution infringed by the admittance without duty into one State of any product or goods by by-law, and if it is not infringed, has the Trade and Customs Department taken any precaution to prevent the reexport of such duty-free products to other States?
– I understand that the honorable gentleman asks, first, whether the admission, on a specified occasion, under by-law of a particular article into one State, free of duty, and the charging of a duty on a similar article admitted at another time into another .State, is an infringement of that provision in the Constitution that- declares that duties of customs and excise shall be uniform. The Constitution provides that duties of customs and excise shall be uniform ; but, when duties and by-laws apply uniformly throughout the Commonwealth, that provision of the Constitution is observed. The applicability of a by-law in a particular instance depends on the circumstances of -the case. A decision in favour of the”; free admission of an article into one State in one instance may be perfectly right and proper, as also may be a decision against the free admission of a similar article into another State on another occasion.
Tho honorable gentleman asks whether articles which have been admitted under by-law into one State can be exported to another State. They certainly can be so exported. Under. section 92 of the Constitution an article once in Australia can be sent freely in the constitutional sense from one State to another.
– Oan the Minister inform the House of the amount expended by the Commonwealth Government in the search for the lost air liner Southern Cloud, and the manner in which the money was expended ?
– The Civil Aviation Branch of the Defence Department and the Royal Australian Air Force expended considerable time and effort in the search f or the lost air liner. Several aeroplanes, in charge of Air Force personnel, were used in the search. The cost to the department was £414, representing mainly petrol and oil. No charge for the use of .the Air Force planes or personnel was made.
– Is the Minister for the Interior in a position to say whether the material used for spraying the roads in the Federal Capital is bitumen, and, if so, whether it was imported from the United States of America ? If the answer is in the affirmative, will he explain why bitumen from Trinidad, a British possession, has not been used?
– The bulk of the material used’ for road-spraying in the Federal Capital is coke-oven tar, obtained from Newcastle, New South Wales. This year about 50,000 gallons of this material have,been used. Experiments have proved that better results are obtained by the application of a final coat of imported bitumen, and, therefore, about 4,000 gallons of this material have been used.
-i-Is there -any truth in the, statement appearing in the Brisbane press, attributed to the Employers Federa tion, that the Government is considering the holding of a referendum with the object of obtaining the consent of the people to the abolition of State arbitration courts?
– There is no foundation in fact for that statement. The question of industrial powers is an old one in Australia, and is always more or less before the public mind. It is possible that before the next election the Government will take steps to submit constitutional proposals to the’ electors; but, in that event, the ordinary methods will be followed after bills have been passed through both Houses of the Parliament. The Government has no intention at the present time of spending about £100,000 of the people’s money, or of involving Australia in -the turmoil associated with the taking of a referendum on constitutional alterations, apart from a general election. Most of us have our ideas, as to how the Constitution should bo altered; but, unfortunately, on almost every occasion on which proposals have been submitted to the people, they have been rejected.
– In view of the recently-published statement that the Commonwealth Government is prepared to renew the subsidy for the eradication of prickly pear, provided that the Governments of New South Wales and Queensland are prepared to pay their quota, I desire to know whether assistance will be rendered in connexion with the eradication of prickly pear by scientific methods, and also, the proportion of cost proposed to be borne by the Commonwealth and each of the two State Governments ?
– I shall have inquiries made into the matter, and shall inform the honorable member as soon as a reply reaches me.
– Has the Leader of the House any statement to make in confirmation or denial of statements appearing in- the press; and apparently ‘emanating from ‘Melbourne?’ in c regard to’ the Government’s defence policy, particularly the latest report that the Government has agreed to the transfer from theRoyal Navy of not only vessels, but also personnel, to the Australian Navy?
– A remarkable development of the imaginative faculty is evidenced by these suppositions regarding the defence policy of the Government; there is no foundation for the statements that have been made of the character of those to which the honorable member has referred. It has been already announced that several destroyers are to be obtained from Great Britain. That is the only decision that has yet been made upon this subject. A government which is alive to its responsibilities is continually examining various aspects of the defence, problem; but it is quite impossible for this Administration to pursue, for the purpose of contradicting them,all the statements that are made in various sections of the press regarding the Government’s defence policy. I have already referred to a number of those statements as being completely without foundation. All the allegations made about 16-in. guns, cruisers, and the like have no foundation whatever.
– I have received a communication expressing the thanks of Mrs. Thomas and family to the House for its resolution of sympathy in the death of the Honorable Josiah Thomas.
-I have received from the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) an intimation that he desires to move the adjournment of the House this afternoon for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, “ The administration of the War Service Homes Department.”
Five honorable members having risen in support of the motion,
-. - I suppose that other honorable members, aswellas myself,have had representations made to them by the War
Service Homes Purchasers Association. The occupants of war service homes have set up this organization for the purpose of protecting their interests, and its membership comprises a number of returned soldiers, in all walks of life, who are purchasing homes under the scheme provided by the department, and, because of the depression, now find themselves unable to meet their commitments with regard to their homes. These men realize that without organization they can do little or nothing, and they desire to bring their case under the notice of the Government by means of the motion that I have submitted.
A paragraph from the report of the committee which investigated this matter, and submitted the result of its deliberations to the Government towards the end of last year, states -
Our visits to the several States of the Commonwealth have left with us an undying memory of the straitened circumstances of a large section of war service homes purchasers, and the effect of the present industrial conditions was painfully evident in the many distressing cases which we investigated. Poignant stories of desperate struggles to balance domestic budgets with depleted incomes were told to the committee. Almost without exception, these people are dependent on their labour to supply them with the means of living, and the loss of employment, total and partial, with the consequent cessation or diminution of wages, has left them in a position in which they are unable to meet their obligations, whether they are due to the commission or to tradesmen. Others, more fortunate, perhaps, in that they are in full employment, have had their earnings reduced to a level at which they find they can only meet their liability to the Commissioner by stinting their families of food and clothing.
That statement puts the position of the occupiers fairly. The five points to which the committee directed attention are as follow: -
I admit that the information at my disposal showsthat the department has been fairlysympathetic in: most cases in its attitude to the occupants of these homes.
The practice to which the association particularly desires to direct the attention of the Government is that when the department applies to the court for a warrant of eviction, this is usually granted, and the costs are charged against the occupant. Following this decision, the result has been that a large number of persons have not felt disposed to test the matter in court, probably because they do not understand the procedure very well, and do not wish to parade their unfortunate circumstances before the public. The association considers that as a result of this action a number of persons occupying these homes have voluntarily given up possession of them, because of fear of these eviction orders. Had they known how to present their cases they may not have had to do so. I have before me details of cases which bear out that contention. Persons threatened with eviction have written to the association from various districts a’sking for advice as to what they should do if the police entered their premises in order to take possession of their goods and chattels. It is felt that in this matter the department ought to show leniency to the full by administering the act in such a way as not to bring before the court, any person concerning whose inability to pay there is a shadow of doubt.
As to the second point - the reappraisement of capital values - I think, that the organization has a very strong case. Throughout the Commonwealth, a general writing down of capital values in all commercial and industrial activities must he faced sooner or later. We have reached an impossible situation, particularly does this also apply to those who are engaged in primary production. If the request of the association is granted, public attention will be directed to the need for the application of this principle in the directions which I have .mentioned. There is abundant evidence in support of this proposal. Only as recently as the 13th of February last, according to a report that appeared in the Sydney Sim, Mr. Justice Pike sat as a Land Valuation Court in Paddington, aud heard evidence -which proved that values in that suburb had declined by from 50 per cent, to 62$ per cent. That is a typical case, which could be applied to other suburbs as well, lt was stated to the court that building costs had fallen by from 20 per cent, to 25 per cent. Cases were quoted of leases having been entered into at a rental of £800 a year. These were reduced by the court to £400 a- year. The Sydney Morning Herald of the 14th March last, published the following report of a meeting of the Cooma Land Board, presided over-by Mr. F. J. Peake, which dealt with an application for the reappraisement of the capital value of a settlement purchase holding : -
The board unanimously adopted the basis of valuations submitted by Mr. R. B. Stokes, Staff Surveyor of Cooma, who, working on a four-year period immediately- preceding the application, estimated that sheep area -values had dropped from £6 to £4.
Under the heading “Demand for building sites “, the Sydney Morning Herald of the 15th March last, said -
Prices are very much below the peak levels of 1929. Many owners are prepared to accept half what their land would have brought in that year.
That paragraph referred to building blocks in the Illawarra suburbs from Arncliffe to Oatley. There is more than sufficient evidence to prove that, in the case of war service homes, a reappraisement of capital values is -vitally necessary; and the association asks that the Government give serious consideration to the matter, and endeavour to render practical assistance.
A third request is for the reduction of interest. In this respect, it is strongly contended that occupiers of war service homes are entitled to consideration equal to that meted out in other cases under the Premiers plan. The request is for a reduction of interest to the extent of 22-J per cent. I am given to understand that the original rate of interest was 5 per cent., and that this was reduced to 4-£ per cent. On page 6 of its. report, the committee states -
This relief, however, was insufficient to bridge the gap between income and liability.
It went on to say that, in the circumstances, the efforts df many occupiers of war service homes to meet their commitments could be rightly described ‘ as heroic. .It was represented to the committee that the rate of interest should’ be reduced to at- least 3J per cent. In New South Wales, those who occupy war service homes do not enjoy privileges that are accorded to purchasers under other housing schemes ; they receive no benefit from the moratorium law, nor are they subject to the provision which enables other persons to make additions and repairs to their property provided it is free from encumbrances. War service homes are not free; they are being acquired under what is termed the hire-purchase system.
The next matter to which immediate attention is requested is the capitalization of arrears. It is held that arrears should be capitalized in a lump sum, and be made free of interest and other charges. The present position of those who are in this predicament will be gathered from a statement at page S of the report, which reads -
Interest is calculated each month on the balance due, so that a man who falls into arrears pays compound interest. The result is that, in the case of purchasers, who through unemployment for a prolonged period of, say, twelve or eighteen months, are unable to make their payments, the capitalizing of arrears has had the effect of extinguishing the equity which had been slowly accumulated in the way described. In some cases, where the contract has been in operation for a short period, or where inability to make payments has extended over a long period, clients now owe a larger amount than the house originally cost. The position is accentuated, of course, by the drop in property values.
The report goes on to state that the number of properties which have reverted to the Crown is 790, and that the number without tenants is 369. It is felt that these arrears should be capitalized free of interest, and that payments should be made in easy stages upon the completion of the term of the contract. The majority of existing contracts range from 25 to 37 years. According to the present arrangement, the last payment is equal to the first. If an occupier is in arrears towards the completion of the contract, and his income is restricted, it is -impossible for him to pay. Furthermore; on top of the usual payments, he has also to meet a portion of the amount now being held over. He thus has to pay, not only his instalments, but also a portion of the arrears, which, if not capitalized free o’f interest and other; changes, ‘is a substantial amount.” The opinion held is that, in these circumstances, he will finally be forced to vacate the property. If the eviction took place towards the end of the contract, it would occur late in his life, when his earning power was considerably reduced, and his means of meeting his payments were totally inadequate. It is asked that immediate attention be given to this matter.
The next point raised deals with the transfer of a property to the widow or to the next of kin of the occupier of a war service home. I am given to understand that the act provides that, upon the death of an occupier, the department will not transfer the property to the widow unless she can give an undertaking to meet all the commitments. The property is first revalued, and, irrespective of the original contract and the amount already paid, if the fresh valuation is higher, the widow is committed to that amount. If, however, it happened that property values were on the downward grade, the widow would not reap the advantage of that fact; her commitments would be assessed on the outstanding amount.
– I have denied that three times.
– If the property is mortgaged, the department has a claim
On the widow or on any member of the family. If it considers that the widow is not able to meet the payments, it usually suggests that she transfer her abode to a place more in keeping with her income. It is claimed by the association that the lot of the widow is a most difficult one, because, upon the death of her husband, her income naturally is reduced, and in many cases she is dependent on some form of government assistance to enable her to carry .on. A place more in keeping with her income would probably be a room in a closelypopulated centre. She would have to dispose of her worldly goods, and live in fresh surroundings, where she had no friends and, therefore, was not likely to be given a helping hand. This is regarded as a distinct hardship, and it is urged that the matter should be viewed sympathetically by the Government. If there is a revaluation, it isi considered that the payments already made should be ‘taken into “consideration, -and that, at least the widow should ‘be allowed the advantage of present-day market values. If the property is sold, and this has happened in many cases, the Government cannot expect to receive more than the market value for it. Consequently, the association thinks that the Government should give to the widows of the tenants of war service homes the privilege of having their properties revalued, and also that the Government should take into consideration the amounts already paid. “What I have said covers briefly the five points which, the association contends, call for immediate attention. In making its requests, the association has in mind, the attitude of the Government when dealing with other matters of a similar nature. If it is suggested that financial difficulties stand in the way of acceding to the requests, it may not be out of place to remind the Government that, in other directions, it has disposed of large sums of public money in excess of the total arrears for war service homes. For example, prior to the recent sale of the Commonwealth Line of Steamers, the White Star Company owed the Commonwealth about £670,000, whereas the arrears of repayments for war service homes total only £450,000.’ Then, in disposing of that asset recently, the Government dropped approximately a further £500,000. The War Service Homes Purchasers Association contends that, as its members, during the war, were told by the Government supporters that their fight was for the safety of Australia - I need hardly remind the House of the many promises made to these men - they naturally feel that they are entitled to much more generous treatment in their present difficulties. The action of the Government in disposing of other Commonwealth assets has been the subject of discussion in this House on other occasions. Naturally enough, members of the Government always attempted to justify it. I hope, therefore, that they will not now plead financial stringency as an excuse for not dealing sympathetically with these requests, because, to the men concerned, they are very important, and the whole subject is being closely watched and discussed by them. The report to which I have directed attention emphasizes that the returned .soldier occupiers of these homes have made heroic efforts to meet their commitments. Now that they are in. difficulties, they should receive sympathetic treatment at the hands of the Government. It is useless to argue that a revaluation of war service homes would affect other real estate, because there is plenty of proof to the contrary. As the right honorable. member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) said, on another occasion, we have to face the facts as we find them. It is useless to try to delude ourselves that, if nothing is done, the position will improve. There can be no “doubt . that things, generally, are on . the downward grade. As my time has expired, I conclude by asking the Government to give earliest and sympathetic consideration to the requests made by the War Service Homes Purchasers Association.
– Recently, when honorable members have brought up subjects for discussion under cover of this motion, they have failed to move the motion in the House. Apparently they have been under the impression that it is sufficient merely to give notice to the Speaker of their intention to move it. This is not so; it is necessary actually to move the motion. The question before the Chair is -
That tlie House <lo now adjourn.
.- The subject raised by the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) is most important, and has been a burning question for many years past. .It came under my notice when I was leader of the last administration, and it has received the attention of other governments since war service homes were built under the act authorizing their construction.
The honorable member for West Sydney has raised a number of points which, I have no doubt, the Assistant Minister (Mr. Francis) will deal with when replying. The reduction of interest is a subject which was discussed when the last re-arrangements were made, and a reduction of interest from 5 per cent, to 4£ per cent, was authorized. At that time there was a request to make the reduction of interest in respect of war service homes the same as was provided under –the Premiers plan, namely, 224 per cent. But the reply to the.. request was that as the interest charged- to returned soldiers was below the actual cost of the money to the Government, they could not ask for a reduction of 22-^- per cent.
– They got a reduction of 22% per cent, in respect of so much of the money used as was raised in Australia.
– That represented a reduction of about 10 per cent, iri respect of the whole of the money raised for wai1* service homes. The thought that entered my mind at the time, and it impresses me now, is that we might regard the “whole of the indebtedness of our returned soldiers as indebtedness in respect of money raised in Australia, and apply to it a lower rate of interest than that paid on our overseas loans. If this were done, it would mean a further reduction of probably i per cent. I consider the suggestion- worthy of consideration. At the present time the average cost of loan money raised for war service homes is, I think, a fraction over 5 per cent., and our returned soldiers get it for 4-j per cent.
– They are paying .7 per cent, less than it cost.
– It has occurred to me that, as we are now paying to Australian bondholders a lower rate, we could apply this rate to war service homes loans and give some relief in that way. The point raised by the honorable member for West Sydney with regard to the position of widows, is one which I am not able to follow. I did hear something about it when I was in office, and I would be astonished to learn that the position is as he states it. If it is, there should be no hesitation in correcting it. But I would like to hear what the department has to say on the point.
– That is not the position.
– No doubt the Minister will satisfy the House when he is replying. Of course, the important issue is the general de-valuation or writing down of the capital value of war service homes. . The honorable member for West Sydney has furnished a considerable amount of evidence to show that ‘there has been a general fall in the price of- properties^ everywhere, but before committing ourselves to revaluation, we should be satisfied that this fall in values is permanent. If it is, there should be no hesitation in authorizing a general writing-down of war service homes. My Government gave some consideration to this matter. At that time we were not satisfied that the general fall was permanent. We directed our energies to the raising of price-levels of property and everything else, believ- ing that Australia was passing through a transition period. We have to consider whether it would be wise to authorize an immediate revaluation of some £24,000,000 worth of homes at a time when, perhaps, we are passing through a transition period in our economic history. I gather, from the statement made previously, that the Government has made up its mind on this point. When I was Prime Minister I said that it was the duty of the Government to safeguard the public assets represented in our war service homes. A large number of the occupants are, I know, in the gravest financial difficulties, despite the gallant efforts which they are making to meet their commitments. I do not desire to belittle what the Government has done - it has certainly granted a large measure of relief - but something more might be done. At the present time, and until 1935, a reduced scale of payments is in operation by which purchasers shall not be called upon to pay in rent more than 20 per cent, of their incomes, and there is a specially reduced scale for those whose incomes are below 65s. ~ a week. If the payments under this reduced scale do not cover interest on the capital cost of the home, the unpaid portion, under the present arrangement, is to be held over until 1935, when it will be decided what action is to be taken in regard to it. I suggest that the purchasers should be given clearly to understand now that all such arrears will be wiped off absolutely. If this proposal were accepted by the Government, it would go a long way towards lifting a load of care from the minds of war service homes purchasers. Although payments have for the present been reduced, purchasers have always before them the prospect that arrears may be piling up against them to be met. at some ,,time “j.n the future. In- 1935,-. if present conditions have not altered, the whole subject of valuations can be reviewed. Special cases, in which it can be shown that the original values were excessive, or that construction was faulty, should be dealt with at once.
– I have refrained from replying until now out of courtesy to the leaders of the various parties, because [ desired to hear what they had to say. I appreciate the temperate way in which the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) addressed himself to this motion. I was pleased to hear from him an acknowledgment that the department had treated, with all possible sympathy, those purchasers of war service homes against whom it was necessary to take action for failure to meet their commitments. The department does not call upon a purchaser to pay more than he is able. The Arbitration Court works on the formula that a. man should be able to pay 20 per cent, of his income in rent, and the War Service Homes Department does not require a greater percentage from the returned soldier who is in different circumstances.
Most of the matters raised -by the honorable member for West Sydney have been brought before this House’ on at least one other occasion, and have been replied to by myself, both in this House, and in answer to deputations. No new matter has been raised by him. When the present. Government came into office, we found the war service homes administration in a most unsatisfactory position, owing to the lack of Government policy to meet the exis’ting conditions. A careful study was undertaken by officers of the department and myself, and, subsequently, a sub-committee of Cabinet went into the whole matter. A policy of immediate relief was decided upon, and a committee of inquiry appointed to consider the matter. There is” no parallel in the British Empire to the liberal terms which this Government has granted to the occupants of war service homes, a fact which has been generously admitted by soldiers’ organizations. If present conditions prove onerous, and it can -be shown with justice how they can be improved, I am prepared, as Minister administering the’ ‘‘department, to’ ex amine the position further. The committee of inquiry which ‘ sat on this question were all returned soldiers, with special qualifications for the work, and at least two of them, I believe, were occupants of war service homes.
The most important point raised by the honorable member for West Sydney was his proposal for the de-valuation of homes. The corollary to the writing down of values in times of depression is the writing up of values when economic conditions improve, but that, I am afraid, would be impracticable. Many war service homes appreciated in value before the depression, due to the fact that the land on which they had been built was bought in large blocks and, on being subdivided, fetched increased prices on the market. The Government undertook to make the land available to the returned soldiers at cost price, and that was done. The Government has stood by its contract, and I am sure that the soldiers, from what I know of them, wish to stand by their contracts also. Any plan which resulted in the payment for a home fluctuating according to the rise or fall in property valuations would be impracticable. It would be almost impossible to find a satisfactory basis for comparing present day values. Strictly speaking, the value of a home is what an unwilling buyer would pay for it. Under existing conditions all sales of houses are practically forced sales, and persons desiring to sell their homes are holding off until times are better. A general reduction in the purchase price of. war service homes would adversely affect the values of all property, and hinder the recovery of the real estate market. It is interesting to recall that last year the commission sold a number of war service homes at prices in excess of the liability on the properties.
The fact that a war service homes purchaser is paying a lower rate of interest than are outsiders, gives him an advantage equivalent to devaluation. For example, the occupier of a war service home, valued at £800, pays only 4^ per cent., or £36 per annum, the same amount as persons . outside the scheme would pay on’ a property valued at £600, carrying 6 per cent., which, until recently, was the ruling rate.
The existing economic conditions have lasted for three years. State governments, banking institutions, housing organizations, and businesses generally, have advanced money on homes, but none of them has adopted a policy of devaluation, as it would be impracticable, for the reasons that I have given. Due to the almost complete suspension of building operations in Australia, there is a shortage of houses, and as soon as conditions generally improve, it seems certain that the value of war service homes will appreciate in common with others. Purchasers of war service homes have acquired their properties over a period of years, since 1918. Any. scheme of devaluation would have to apply to those who have been able to pay their way as well as their less fortunate comrades. Obviously, that would be impossible as a relief measure.
Up to the 30th June of last year, £24,645,818 had been advanced on war service homes. Any reduction by any percentage would throw a further heavy load on our already overburdened taxpayers. Here are examples, at various rates -
Assuming that the average period for the repayment of all loans is twenty years, the total burden which would be thrown on the Commonwealth would approximate -
For these reasons, as well as others, which I have not time to enumerate, a system of devaluation is impracticable. The idea was unanimously rejected by the Committee of Inquiry which exhaustively investigated the matter.
– What about my suggestion to wipe out accumulations between now and 1935 ?
– I shall be very pleased to look into the suggestion, and, if necessary, to discuss it with the right honorable gentleman. I am particularly anxious to help in every possible way the returned soldiers whom I am in this House to help.
The proposal of the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) to devalue the price of war service homes is apparently designed to help those who are unemployed and unable to make the necessary payments. I point out that’ such men “would be in no better position if the balances they owe were reduced, for ‘ even then they could not meet the required repayments in respect of the reduced sum.
– The committee pointed out that there has been a reduction of wages in New South Wales.
– The Government has met that problem for the next five years by accepting the recommendation of the Committee of Inquiry. Perhaps the following is the most important of the many generous recommendations made by that body : -
Whore a purchaser or borrower satisfies the War Service Homes Commissioner that he is unable to pay the prescribed monthly instalment of the amount of any purchase money or advance, the terms of such purchaser’s or. borrower’s contract of sale or mortgage to be extended, according to tho value of the security, to a maximum period of 45 years, the reduced monthly instalment payable by reason of any extension of the period of repayment to be calculated on the liability (including arrears) of the purchaser or borrower to the Commissioner as at 30th June, 1932.
The purchaser has a longer period in which to pay, and his weekly instalments have been substantially reduced. If a man has had bad luck,- and fallen into arrears in his payments, and then gets back into’ work, the whole of his arrears are spread over that extended period. Many cases have been reviewed under this recommendation, with the result that the instalments have been reduced by varying amounts, rising in some instances to 50 per ‘cent.’ of .the instalment .previously payable, and,the burden ofl tho
existing arrears has been removed. The following are actual examples : -
Many similar cases could be quoted.
I cannot, in the time at my disposal, deal fully with the subject of interest; but I direct attention <o the statement which appears on page 15 of the committee’s report. The Government’s action in this connexion has been entirely endorsed by the committee.
Reference has been made to the widows of the purchasers of - war service homes. The position is that immediately the purchaser of a war service home dies, the property is transferred to his widow if it is so /willed by him, and she is able to meet the instalments; and, in such cases, whether the deceased soldier was making repayments on the basis of 25 years or a shorter period, the widow as entitled to have the period of repayment extended up to 50 years, in accordance with the estimated life of the property. This reduces the periodical repayments to a nominal sum. There are no cases in which in such circumstances a home has been revalued and a larger purchase price put upon it. The indebtedness of the soldier is automatically transferred to the widow.
– And all the payments he has made are credited to her?
– That is so.
– I have had submitted to me eight cases in which widows have been evicted.
– None of the evictions have been made under the circumstances which I have mentioned. On the 30th November last I made reference in this House to a statement of a member of a deputation which waited on me in Sydney, that a home bequeathed tol a widow had been revalued and the price increased by £200. I asked the person who mentioned the. t! case, to provide me with the name and particulars, r.and subsequently I - also asked the v “War., Service Homes Purchasers Association, and, I think, the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Thorby), to furnish me with the particulars. I said that if the contention could be proved I would order a refund of the £200 to the widow. So far I have not been able to get the name of the person concerned nor any of the particulars of the case. I renew the promise. The £200 is still waiting for the widow to collect.
The Government is particularly anxious to do everything it can to help returned soldiers and their dependants who are purchasing war service homes ; and I pay a tribute to the manner in which the purchasers are standing up to their obligations. I know that our returned men appreciate what the Government is doing to help them. It has been my privilege on many occasions to meet returned soldiers and the representatives of returned soldiers’ organizations, and it has given me great satisfaction to learn at first hand that the soldiers appreciate what the Government is endeavouring to do to help them over the difficult period through which we are all passing. No better basis can be provided for war service homes repayments than the ability of the soldier to pay. This basis will be continued until 1935, when the whole subject will be reviewed. In these circumstances, the purchasers of war service homes, who are making payments in accordance with the scale, which is based on their ability to pay, or whose cases are not regarded as hopeless, have complete security, and need have no anxiety. Successive Commonwealth governments have shown their desire to helpthe soldiers, and this Government is doing everything in its power to ensure that our war service homes legislation is administered in the spirit intended by the framers of the original act. Circumstances have made it difficult for many returned soldiers who have been, and still are, out of work to meet their obligations, but ,1 am sure that they realize , that the Government is doing its best to help them. I made a public announcement only a few days ago that the Government would grant assistance to the purchasers, of war service homes to. enable them to” paint and otherwise renovate their homes,- and thi£ goffer -of help has been greatly appreciated.
– The Assistant Minister’s time has expired..
.- I have had perhaps unusual opportunities of coming into touch with the purchasers of war service homes, and with returned soldiers generally. I was glad to hear the Minister pay a tribute to the manner in which the purchasers of war service homes are endeavouring to meet their obligations. We have reason to be proud of the way in which they have held their ground during these difficult days. I think the department administering our war service homes legislation also deserves congratulation on its work. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) mentioned that about £24,000,000 had been spent on war service homes. Slightly under 40,000 homes have been constructed under this scheme. In the early days of the busy construction period a good deal of bad work was done, but it is to the credit of the ministry of the day that it took vigorous steps to repair the faulty homes and to deal severely with the defaulting contractors.Some of the homes are not even yet in a satisfactory condition, but every effort is being made to improve them. The fact that the number of defaulters under our war service homes scheme is only 4 per cent. speaks volumes for the way in which these men, in spite of depression and unemployment, have stuck to their jobs. It is gratifying to know that this Government has acted very sympathetically with regard to evictions and to people who have been unable to pay their rent, and that honorable members on both sides of this chamber are also sympathetic with the purchasers of war service homes.
The Assistant Minister mentioned just now that the department was assisting purchasers of these homes to effect necessary repairs to their dwellings. It is also pleasing to know that it is helping the purchasers to install sewerage where this convenience has become available since the homes were built. This help in particular is greatly appreciated.
When we realize that, out of the 40,000 homes that have been constructed, only 790 have reverted to theCrown, and only 369 are untenanted, we must conclude that this class of property is probably not in as bad a condition as other real property. The War Service Homes Commission is very carefully watching the situation, because it realizes that, as considerable damage is often done, sometimes maliciously, to vacant houses, it is better to keep men in them even at a reduced rent than allow them to remain empty.
The difficulty of revaluing these homes is very great. We hope the depression through which we are passing is only temporary, and that values will lift by and by. The Assistant Minister has pointed out that a revaluation of all war service homes would probably involve the country in a loss of anything from £900,000 to £3,000,000, according to the method of valuation adopted, and that it could not stand such a loss under existing conditions. I was very much interested in the suggestion of the Leader of the Opposition in this connexion. He observed that the War Service Homes Commission had sympathetically reduced the interest which war service homes occupiers are paying, and that to-day people wave paying only according to their earning capacity. The right honorable gentleman has suggested that the amount by which the instalment has been reduced temporarily should be written off, so that the householder shall not, between now and 1935, be burdened by the arrears which have already accumulated. That is a sound proposal. A purchaser will be heavily handicapped if he has to struggle week after week until 1935, paying a reduced rate of interest, but knowing that a big sum of arrears has to be paid off in a lump sum or added to the capital cost of his home.
– The amount by which the rent is reduced is a debt in abeyance until the occupant obtains employment; then he resumes payment at the full rate.
– The amount in abeyance should be forgiven so that when, with the return of prosperity, the occupant is able to pay the full rent, he will not be burdened with accumulated arrears. Such an arrangement would not involve a loss to the Government of the magnitude indicated by the Minister. The position of thewar service homes’ occupier is as difficult as that of any other householder. Soldiers are entitled to specially sympathetic treatment, and the fact that the commission has not re7duced the interest payable on war service homes which have been transferred to non-soldiers proves that it does distinguish between civilian and soldier occupants, to the advantage of the former. I know “from my own experience, that the act has been administered most sympathetically, and the only further practicable relief that occurs to my mind, is that which the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) has suggested.
.- The method adopted by the commission to notify occupants of war service homes that they are in arrears is causing a good deal of mental distress to many men and women. It is true that not many occupants have been actually evicted; but I know of people who have been caused real anxiety by the notices which they have received from the commission. The utmost consideration should be extended to the soldier or soldier’s widow, and every case should be dealt with on its merits, in accordance with the surrounding circumstances. The commission considers that an occupant whose obligations are two years in arrears is unlikely to be able to fulfil his contract, and after notifying bini several times that he must leave the home, he is finally advised to visit the Crown Law Office to ascertain his legal position. This pressure by the commission drives to the money lender many an occupant who is anxious to save his home. One purchaser, whose equity in the home was not more than £300, was so disturbed by the threats of the department, that he borrowed money at a high rate of interest. Eventually, his outside commitments were greater than his obligations to the War Service Homes Commission, and he had to lose the home. I deprecate unsympathetic treatment of soldier occupants. If a man is genuinely unemployed, and his payments are in arrears only on that account, he should npt be harassed and asked to pay what he probably will never, be able, to pay while the depression continues. Many of –the occupants of,, these homes are dependent on intermittent relief work. The soldier should be treated with the same consideration now as when he returned from the war, and if his inability to pay is due to unemployment,, he should - not be disturbed in his occu pancy. I was pleased to hear the Minister disprove a Labour canard by saying that, upon the death of a soldier purchaser, his widow receives his full equity in the home. [Quorum formed.] In other respects, also, widows are entitled to more generous treatment than they now receive. I have in mind a widow whose property is worth £580. Her arrears amount to £111, and the commission is about to issue a notice of eviction. She has three sons, two of whom are out of work, and the third, a boy of eighteen, is earning 30s. a week. No soldier whose payments under his contract with the Government have been interrupted by unemployment should be evicted, and the same principle should be applied to a soldier’s widow. If the Government does not intend to evict a soldier’s widow, it should say so without delay, and so put an end to her anxiety. If, on the other hand, she is to be turned out of her home, I ask that I be given one week’s notice of the prosecution, and I shall find the time to appear before the court to testify to the character of the occupant, and explain my view of how a soldier, or his widow, should be treated. As a business man, I have had many years of experience in the collection of money, and I know that the method adopted by the commission is unnecessarily harassing. Some of the soldiers have been unemployed for two or three years, and even when they do get employment after a long spell of idleness, they have to satisfy tradesmen and other creditors. A man who hopes to make a success of a business does not require his pound of flesh from every debtor who is in arrears; he has regard to the merits of each case, and, where the debtor is deserving, probably takes a long-sighted view, and, by leniency, strives to preserve the goodwill of a family whose custom may be worth much to him in the years ahead. The devil we know is better than the devil we do not know, and when we have good tenants, temporarily in arrears because of misfortune,, we should do everything possible to help thom. Why should government tenants be evicted merely because they are unemployed, and cannot meet their obligations/’and private landlords be compelled to house- them? When the depression has- lifted, the occupants of war service homes will again be good tenants. They are not to blame for their present circumstances ; they are the victims of a depression which is affecting all sections in the community.
.- The plea of the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane)) for men in his electorate who have been out of work for two or three years, contrasts strangely with the statements made by him last week of how prosperity has been ushered into New South Wales by the Stevens Ministry. The Minister seemed to he more concerned about the possible loss to the Treasury than about the distress that may be caused to the soldier occupants of war service homes. I make a plea for the man who, in 1919, contracted to pay £800 for a home, the value of which has fallen probably 50 per cent. Is he to bear the whole loss, and sacrifice his equity? Surely this decline in value should be borne equally by the Government and the purchaser! A high rate of interest is charged, and it has never been reduced by more than about per cent. The cost of many of the homes is unduly high, and in recent years the wages of the occupants have been reduced, whilst many of them are earning no money at all. Property values have declined, and whole groups of houses erected under State government schemes have been’ abandoned. Houses in my electorate which were erected at a cost of £800 each have been sold recently for from £40 to £100 each, owing to the depression and the serious depreciation as a. result of non-occupation. Reappraisement of the capital values of war service homes is essential. The departmental valuators did not hesitate to adjust values on a rising market, but now that we are suffering depression and prices generally have fallen, they, apparently, refuse to adjust values accordingly. In accordance with the Premiers plan, interest rates should be reduced by 22£ per cent. The Government should be prepared to assist those people who, during the war, were prepared to sacrifice their all in the interests of this country; Although the taxpayers generally recognize that the community! owes something to, , our, returned soldiers,) this. ‘Governnent refuses to accede- ‘to their .-request for a readjustment of interest rates in accordance with the Premiers plan. There should be no evictions from war service homes when the returned soldier occupants or any other occupants are unemployed. Arrears of rent should be capitalized without additional interest charges, and for every £20 owing to the department, the term of repayment should be extended by one year. When a returned soldier dies, the home should be immediately transferred to his widow or his next of kin. The War Service Homes Purchasers Association is asking for that concession, and it is only fair that it should be granted. At the end of last year, the Minister stated, in reply to a question that I asked, that no returned soldier had been evicted from his home since this Government came into office. I retorted that that statement was incorrect. The Minister then said -
I remind the honorable member that the policy of the Government is to do everything possible to keep . returned soldiers in their homes. The Government has carried out both the spirit and the letter of the war service homes legislation. The basis of repayments for these homes’ is being determined entirely according to the ability of the ex-soldier occupants to pay. If an ex-soldier has no ability to pay he is treated accordingly.
Let me inform honorable members of the position of a man named Amos who was evicted from his war service home. His only income was a pension of £2 15s. 6d. a week for himself and five children, with the addition of 10s. a week for endowment. Mr. Amos offered to pay the department 8s. 6d. a week as principal and interest on his home, but the department demanded 12s. 6d. a week. Mr. Amos was forced out of his home in Maitland-street, Kurri Kurri. Another ex-soldier purchaser was Mr. F. C. Brighton, of No. 15 Smart-street, Waratah. In February, 1924, he borrowed from the War Service Homes Commission £803 10s., and he repaid £482 - 14s. 10d.’’ Of that amount, £411 6s. 4d.. represented interest, £64 repayment of loan, and £7 8s. 6d. fees and insurance. On the 4th August, 1932, this man owed £739 10s., although he had repaid £482 14s. Mr. Brighton is a railway .worker, ,and because of his work being rationed,, his’ weekly wage is only £1 ‘lgs. 7d, a. week. ‘The department demanded, from-, this .man £1 a week as principal and interest on the home, and instructed him to meet the municipal and other rates by instalments. As he could not do that, he was given fourteen days’ notice to quit the premises. He left the home on the 12th September, 1932, and he is still receiving demands from the department for arrears of payments. This man had repaid £482 14s., and had effected improvements to the house to the value of £75. Immediately after his eviction, the home was let to a tenant who was not a returned soldier, at 1’Gs. a week. Surely the department could have given to Mr. Brighton the consideration that it’ gave to the non-soldier tenant. Another man who was purchasing a war service home at Mayfield borrowed £775. He repaid £404. and is still owing £601 7s. 7d. The amount that he has repaid includes - Interest, £215 12s. 7d. ; fees and insurance, £11 lis. 6d., and principal, £176 17s. 5d. It is evident from the instances that I have given, and of others that I could give had I the time that despite the Minister’s statement to the contrary the department is doing everything in its power to force ex-soldiers out of their homes.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I am quite satisfied with the administration of the department since the taking over by the Commonwealth of the State branches of the War Service Homes Commission. When the “report of the committee which inquired into war service homes was first submitted, it was quite satisfactory, but reading between the lines of that report I felt that the committee would have made less drastic recommendations had it not believed that Australia was -on the road to recovery. I am convinced that had the members of that committee thought that the depression would become worse, as it has, their recommendations would have been much more favorable from the point of view of the purchasers of war service homes. I realize that it would be difficult for the Minister to discriminate between those ex-soldiers who are in difficult financial circumstances and those who are more fortunately placed, and that the fixing of a flat rate in respect of reductions pf repayments would be unwarranted in some instances, and quite justified in others. The suggestion of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) is worthy of consideration. The Government has agreed to fix rentals in accordance with the ability of the purchaser to pay, and that will enable the Minister to discriminate between those who are in need of assistance and those who are not. I suggest that any arrears should be wiped out during the period which must elapse while the rental is reduced. The Minister has rightly said that the widow of an ex-soldier purchaser, when she acquires the ownership rights of her deceased husband, must also become responsible for any liability in respect of the home.
– In the case of the widow, the term of repayment is extended from 25 to 50 years, so as to reduce the rate of payment by half.
– That is certainly a concession. The war service homes scheme was first inaugurated because of the desire of ‘the people of this” country to enable returned soldiers with families to acquire homes of their own. But because of the deflation of values that has taken place, and the drastic reduction of the income of the purchasers of these homes, that ambition is not likely to be realized. Rents are being reduced during this period of depression, but at the same time the arrears are piling up, and that, of course, further postpones the day when these homes will become the property of the purchasers. Therefore I suggest that during the period of the reduction of rent the arrears should be eliminated. I have” several hundred returned soldiers in my electorate, and I have been informed by their organization that what hit them more than anything else was th, discrimination which had been shown under the Premiers plan. Many of them are locomotive engine-drivers and railway employees at the Newport works. Their wages have been reduced from 30 per cent, to 35 per cent., and they consider that the interest rate in respect of their homes should, in accordance with the Premiers plan, be reduced by 22-J per cent. As a matter of fact, their interest rate has been reduced by 10 per cent., while that of other individuals, who are purchasing homes, has been” reduced by 2 2£ per. cent. The Government talks of a loss of millions of pounds,” but, after all, it would be merely a less on paper, because no ode imagines that the whole of these arrears will ever be paid. No real loss would be incurred by wiping off some of the arrears. Private landlords and municipalities are wiping off arrears of rent and rates, and the Government would do well to follow their example. I am not attacking the Government, but I ask it to take action which will make it possible for those who set out to purchase these homes to realize their desire to own the homes in which they live. Among the purchasers of these homes are many men with artificial limbs, whose earnings, apart from their pensions, are not great. I hope that these matters will be taken into consideration by the Government.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- No real relief can be given to the purchasers of war service homes unless there is a writing-down of the capital value of their properties. When these persons contracted to purchase their homes, they were in a much better position than they are in to-day. At that time they believed that their commitments were within their capacity; but all of them, irrespective of ‘ their walk in life, have suffered because of the prevailing depression. The Minister has stated that it would be impossible to reduce the valuations of their properties because of the loss which would ensue. I was surprised to find the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. McNicoll) accept that view. Those who object to the Government incurring losses on war service homes have raised no voice against the successive losses incurred iri connexion with the Australian Commonwealth Line of steamers. The latest loss of £600,000 on those vessels has not concerned them ; yet they become quite excited at the thought, of giving relief to the purchasers of war service homes because of the losses involved. Nor is there any hope for these home purchasers in the prospect of a postponement of the day of reckoning until 1935. Paragraph 58 of the report of the committee of inquiry reads -
There does not seem any doubt that at the 30th June, 1935, or at such later date as the Government may then fix, there will be a number of purchasers and borrowers who, through inability to obtain employment, or other causes arising out of the depression, will still be unable to meet their instalments, even if the latter be reduced on the lines mentioned by us in paragraphs 30 and 37 of this report. Into these cases the committee thinks it would be well to have inquiry, so that, if the men’s positions are hopeless as regards completing their contracts; action could be taken to relieve them of their homes.
It would appear that their eviction will only be delayed for a couple of years. No definite relief is to be given to them. The Government professes to be generously disposed towards the purchasers of war service homes ; yet it is prepared to let their homes to outsiders at lower rentals than it demands from them. It is clear from a perusal of page 9 of the committee’s report that the letting of these properties to outsiders has been a losing proposition for the Government. The report states that 805 properties were let, and from them the sum of £25,951 was received as rent. But as municipal and other rates due amounted to £5,730, and the amount required to pay interest to the commission at the time of reversion was £23,478, a total of £29,208, it is clear that there has been a loss of £3,257. I take it that the administrative costs incurred in the letting of these properties have not been taken into account in these figures. Why should the Government treat outsiders more generously than it treats the original purchasers of these homes ? The report also gives particulars of prorperties resold. For 582 homes resold, £439,874 was realized. Since the amount, due to the commission at the date of resale was £435,549, a profit of £4,325 is claimed. That is not the profit, if the valuations of the properties charged against the persons who were trying to buy them are taken into consideration. On that basis the resales have resulted in the loss of many thousands of pounds. The amount received from the resale of those homes has been placed against the amount, due to the commission, and on that basis a profit is shown; but the thousands of pounds paid off the capital cost of the homes by those who contracted to pay for them in the first place have not been taken into consideration. It is true that profits have been made in connexion with the resale of these properties; but they have not been made by either the Government or the returned soldiers who originally contracted to buy them. Theonly persons who have benefited are those who bought the homes when resold. They are paying on present-day valuations, which, I submit, are the valuations which should be held against the returned soldiers.
The Government, which objects to reducing the rate of interest on these homes, is beseeching bondholders on the other side of the world to lower the rates, of interest on the money borrowed for them. A member of the Cabinet is now inLondon as Resident Minister, in order that he may negotiate for the conversion, at lower rates of interest, of Australian loans as they fall due. Throughout the world nations as well as individuals are seeking a reduction of interest rates. If that is right in the case of nations, including Australia, in an attempt to solve some of the problems confronting them, it is right, also, that the same concession should be given to the purchasers of war service homes. The report states that interest is calculated each month on the balance due. That means that a purchaser of a home whose payments have fallen into arrear has to pay compound interest. These people cannot be accused of shirking their obligations ; they are in arrear only because of the force of economic circumstances. Many of them are unemployed; others are working only part time; and it is not their fault that they have not kept up their payments.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I support the motion. I know of many war service homes in the Newcastle district which, for want of attention, are going to ruin. Numbers of men who have found it impossible to keep up their payments have sought, unsuccessfully, to be relieved of any further obligation in respect of the homes which they contracted to purchase. It is. wrong to say that unemployed men have not been evicted from their homes. Even widows have been turned out of their homes because of their failure to meet the amounts due on them. Thedepartment willspend money to renovate homes to prepare them for re-sale, or for other tenants, but not for the original purchasers. Similarly, it will let to an outsider at, say, 15s. a week, a home for which the soldier purchaser had to pay 21s. or 25s. a week. Many war service homes were badly constructed. Within twelve months of their erection large cracks appeared in the walls; in some instances the foundations were faulty. On one occasion I scratched out a portion of the foundations of a house with my hand and sent it to a former Minister in a cigar-box.
– The honorable member is quoting matters of ancient history, which have been satisfactorily attended to by previous governments.
– I realize that I have been describing conditions that previously obtained. When the change of policy took place, all kinds of materials, such as baths, were sacrificed to building contractors for practically nothing. The department is providing better conditions for the incoming tenants than it did for the returned soldiers who left their homes. It is true that the period allowed for repayment of the principal has been extended ; but some of the occupants will be dead before they have fully met their commitments. In my electorate, in cases in which the department has been unable to obtain tenants for certain war service homes, the buildings have been practically pulled to pieces.
– A recent report that I have received from the honorable member’s district does not bear out that statement.
– That is because the officials merely deal with the departmental aspect of the matter. I hope that the Minister will see that some relief is given to the occupants, instead of allowing them to be driven out of their homes.
Question - That the House do now adjourn - put. The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. G. H. Mackay.)
Majority. … . . 22
Question so resolved in the negative.
The following paper was presented: -
Defence Act - Regulations amended - StatutoryRules 1933, No. 36.
SUPPLY (“Grievance Day”).
Question - That Mr.Speaker do now leave the chair, and that the House resolve itself into Committee of Supply - proposed.
– In thepress of Australia and of the Old Country grave apprehension has been expressed of late because of the undefended, unpopulated and undeveloped state of the northern parts of Australia. A most arresting article, entitled “ Australia’s Unguarded North,” written by Commander H. T. Bennett, of the naval survey ship Geranium, was recently published in the press. I commend this striking article to the House, because I am personally acquaintedwith Commander Bennett, than whom there is no one more qualified to speak on thisimportant subject.I shall not weary honorable members by reading the whole of the article, but will quote sufficient of it to indicate the gravity of the situation. Referring to North Australia, Commander Bennett states, inter alia -
But during our time up there we had many curious experiences, and saw many strange sights which convinced me that our North is an unguarded North, and that the sooner concerted and planned action is taken to bring it under control, the better for our peace of mind and for the future of Australia.
I have seen for myself evidence of strangers having made repeated and methodical visits to this coast. On one occasion, though no doubt there were others of which we were not aware, surveying operations were unquestionably being made . . .
The north coast of Melville Island contains excellent harbours and there are numerous hiding places up the rivers. An opportunity came my way in 1926 of examining Melville Island from the air. With Squadron-Leader Hepburn I was able to sketch in, on the existing chart, three large rivers hitherto unknown. A harbour, too, was discovered from information obtained in Darwin, and asketch survey mode of it. This harbour is well sheltered from all winds and could easily be used as a base for the operation, of flotillas during time of war. From seaward nobody would dream that a harbour was there, and yet its very existence was only made known to the Commonwealth authorities a short time ago . . .
Still, I have seen enough to convince me that some methodical and long-range scheme is in progress up there, the purpose of which, to put it crudely, is to. “spy out the land.” . . .
Times are changing very rapidly nowadays. The great national and racial movements that are taking place around us, the tremendous development in aviation and the great spread of wireless are indications of the time when we shall be forced to exert our authority up there and to bring this region under control.
It may truthfully be described at present as Our Unguarded North. Australia cannot continue indefinitely to leave its North neglected.
Those statements are perfectly true. The authorities in both Darwin and Canberra are fully aware of glaring incidents in which restricted aliens figure. They actually go to Darwin to spend their week-ends! The imperative need to populate the vast north is obvious. I am not one of those who subscribe to the doctrine that the worker knows no country. Rather do I share the sentiment expressed in those well-known lines of Scott -
Breathes there a man with soul so dead,
Who never to himself has said,
This is my own, my native land ?
Surely those lines express the sentiment of every true Australian, and it is in that spirit that I approach the subject of the danger that faces us in the . north. I say definitely and frankly that I cannot find it in my heart to blame Japan for looking at North Australia with covetous eyes ; the sheer force of circumstances in its own country -compels it to do so. The Northern Territory contains an area exceeding 500,000 square miles. From the point of view of production, it is rich in every conceivable way. A comparison with the position in Japan produces startling revelations. In Japan proper there is a population of 90,000,000 people, and it is increasing at the rate of approximately 1,000,000 a year. So dense is it that the people are literally being forced into the sea. One may say that there are other places upon which Japan is focussing her attention; but they are not so attractive as North Australia. It is thought that Japan may be looking with envious eyes at Siberia and other parts of Russia. It has been definitely established, however, that, on account of climatic conditions, those areas are not suitable for the Japanese race. Japan has approximately 500 people to the square mile. There are other countries with denser populations, but none are so destitute of natural resources. The area of Japan is only 147,656 square miles, which is about onequarter of the area of North Australia. Including Formosa, Korea, and Sakhalin, the total area is only 250,707 square miles, one-half of the size of the Northern Territory. If, as is considered likely, Japan captures Manchuria, that will not ease the position, but, on the contrary, will increase her difficulties. It will certainly add 363,700 square miles to her dominions; but as Manchuria already has a population which exceeds 24,000,000 people, there is not much room for the absorption of the surplus Japanese population. The population of Manchuria is 41.01 to the square mile. In Japan proper only 15.5 per cent, of the land is cultivable. In my opinion, and in the opinion of many other persons, Australia affords a natural outlet for Japan. The distance from Darwin to Singapore is 1,850 miles, while to Sydney it is 2,725 miles; tq : Melbourne, 3,310 miles, and to Hong Kong, 3,280 miles. From Darwin to Yokohama the distance is 4,860 miles, only 1,150 miles further than from Darwin to Melbourne. Japan is essentially a manufacturing nation and must have materials for the permanent conduct of her manufactures. The Northern Territory could supply all the commodities she requires. The surest means of defending North Australia is to populate and to develop it. Why has the Northern Territory not produced all that I contend it is capable of producing ; why have attempts at the settlement of this area failed ? Those are questions which honorable members are entitled to ask. My answer to them is that successive governments have not applied to that huge tract of country the fundamentals of development. The first attempt at colonization by Great Britain was in the province of Virginia in North America, so called after the virgin Queen Elizabeth, but it had a disastrous history. Yeomen went to that province equipped with all necessary food supplies and machinery, but after about twelve months the entire settlement perished. A second and a third attempt at settlement were attended with similar drastic results. These men went into what was admittedly some of the best country in the provinces of North America. They took up huge tracts of land, and practically settled themselves in the wilderness. There was no co-operation between them. Can it be wondered at then, that failure was the inevitable result? But much to the amazement and the envy of the world, the first attempt at settlement by Spain on the Island of Hispaniola proved successful. That colony flourished, not because the Spanish were better settlers than the British, but because the fundamentals of development were not neglected. Shipping and markets were provided, with the result that all goods that were essential -to the progress of the settlement were transported to and from the island. In Virginia, however, the settlers were widely separated. They could not build roads or railways, and they had no markets. The same circumstances have attended all attempts at settlement in North Australia. Failure has been due, not to lack of possibilities, but on account of the neglect to apply the’ fundamentals of development. This Parliament owes a duty to posterity, and particularly to the white race. We must honour the trust that has been reposed in us so to protect and develop Australia that it will be held for a white Australian people. When one thinks of the efforts that were made on our behalf by men like Leichhardt, Burke, Wills, McKinlay, Gregory, Sturt, Stewart, and Eyre, one marvels at the lack of energy displayed by later generations. They have made available to us in North Australia an area of over 500,000 square miles. They exhibited qualities of courage and tenacity that seldom, if ever, have been equalled in the history of exploration. They went into an unknown country, and made straight, the pathway pf colonization. They tore away the veil that hid the heart of this extraordinary continent. They did all the essential primary work, while we have merely emulated the first attempts at settlement by Great Britain in Virginia.
It is incumbent upon us to put an end to the procrastination that has characterized our treatment of North Australia. The position is desperately serious from an Australian point of view. It appears to me that during the last decade or so the true objective of colonization has been lost sight of in the whirl of speculative excitement; and it has again been overlooked in the agonies of the depression. The present state of affairs cannot bo a llowed to continue. In considering what action is necessary to bring about the restoration of this broken world, we have to face the economic position and get down to realities. In their efforts to restore trade and commerce, the United States of America and other countries are rigorously cutting rout all forms of economic waste. Even’ the waste dumps in the factories are being examined to ascertain whether they contain possibilities of economic reform. When it is a question of settlement, we must not consider what has been expended in centres that ,are uneconomic. The issue must be faced squarely. Wherever there is uneconomic production we must cut our losses and resort to production that is economic. . The Northern Territory offers opportunities in that direction. As we have to ‘.compete with our primary products on the world’s markets, it is es’sential to eliminate all unnecessary expenses and charges. If the facts that I have stated are taken into consideration, when a start is made with the reconstruction of this broken world, I am satisfied that we can definitely advance the interests of the primary producers and help the nation to materialize what is essential to its progress. In conclusion, I quote the following words that were used by the late Mr. Kidston in the Queensland Parliament : - -We have to fix the situation. We have to remove the obstacles and gang forward.
– I protest against the action of the Government in relation to the suggested restriction of the export of butter to Great Britain. As a representative of a dairying constituency, I naturally expected to be furnished with information from time to time regarding the nature of the proposals that were put forward and the action that was contemplated. Instead of that happening, however, the Government from day to day demurred that the time for making a statement was not opportune, and that, because of the delicate nature of the situation, it was better that a ministerial announcement should not be made. No private member had any opportunity of learning what the conditions were. In fact, when a motion for the adjournment of the House was moved to discuss the position, honorable members were not in possession of certain facts which that day appeared in the Queensland press. Honorable members have not yet been fully informed of the position, which was further complicated by the statement made on Tuesday night last by the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) as Acting Prime Minister. The following is a. newspaper report of the right honorable gentleman’s speech:-
The question of restricting butter exports to the’ United Kingdom had been raised, not by Great Britain, but by the New Zealand Government. The British . Government had merely asked New Zealand and Australia to meet, its representatives to discuss the position. The Ottawa agreement provided for free entry for butter from the dominions for three years. The British Government did not ask that, that provision be amended,, and the dominions could, if they ‘wished, ‘maintain the Ottawa position, and have ho restriction. If ‘there were no restrictions it was quite certain that negotiations now pending for trade agreements between the United Kingdom and Denmark and other countries would be greatly facilitated. The question must be considered in Australia simply from the point of view of the interests of the local industry. The question under consideration related to a dominion restriction with a foreign restriction of double the percentage of any dominion restriction that might be adopted, together with the maintenance of the 15s. preference to dominion butter. The Government had sought the advice of the Dairy Produce Export Control Board, and it was reasonable to draw the conclusion that the board possessed the confidence of the industry. If the board recommended that no restrictions be imposed, the Government would have no hesitation in adopting that recommendation. There was no question of the Commonwealth Government dictating to the industry, and there was no foundation for statements designed to create the impression that one government or the other was attempting such dictation.
Yesterday, in answer to a question addressed by me to the Government, as to whether any other interests in Britain had made representations on this subject, the Attorney-General said that the High Commissioner for New Zealand had raised the question with the British Government. On the previous night the right honorable gentleman emphasized that representations had not come from Great Britain.
– The AttorneyGeneral’s statement was absolutely correct.
– There can be no doubt in my mind about what the right honorable gentleman said.
To ascertain the position in New Zealand, I have made a search of the files of dominion newspapers in the Library, and I now direct attention to the very definite information published in New Zealand on this subject. This is somewhat at variance with the statement made by the Attorney-General on Tuesday night. I do not suggest that what I am about to read will prove that representations for the restriction of butter exports from the dominions emanated in Great Britain, but I shall allow honorable members to judge for themselves whether the statements made in this House were in strict accordance with the facts madeavailable to them. The Auckland Weekly News, in its issue of the 22nd February, printed the following: -
Suggestions from Britain.
Those headlines would suggest that the proposals for a restriction of exports came first from Great Britain. The article reads -
The Dairy Produce Board, at a special meeting in Wellington on Friday, considered confidential cablegrams received from London, embodying a suggestion that restrictions should be placed upon the quantities of New Zealand butter entering the British market. In a statement made subsequently, Mr. W. Iorns, chairman of the board, said - “ While the cabled suggestions are of a confidential nature, it can be indicated that their effect, if adopted, would be to restrict Australian and New Zealand exports to a basis below that of the 1932 exports. Restrictions on a higher percentage basis were also being suggested in respect of foreign countries. These proposals arose out of negotiations now proceeding in Britain for trade agreements between Denmark and the Argentine, among other countries with Great Britain.
I have also a copy of the Ohristchurcb Press of the 11th March, containing the following : -
On behalf of the Board of Trade it was stated in the House of Commons that the total value of merchandise imported into the United Kingdom in 1932 from Denmark was £40,656,327. The United Kingdom’s exports to Denmark in the same year amounted to £9,860,499. The Government was conducting trade negotiations with Denmark to correct the balance.
That statement supports my contention.
– I am endeavouring to give to the House information which apparently has been withheld.
– Then is the honorable member trying to prove that some one else raised the question?
– I leave it to the honorable member’s conscience to decide whether the announcement made in this House was correct or otherwise.
– I assure the honorable member that it was.
Mr.BERNARD CORSER. - Then I shallquote fromthepress ofthe Dominionof New Zealand, the country which, according to the AttorneyGeneral, made the proposal. The Christchurch Press shows that the proposal to restrict butter exports from the dominions to the United Kingdom was the outcome of negotiations in London with Denmark and the Argentine for the correction of the trade balance between Great Britain and those countries. The report goes on to state that opinion in New Zealand was entirely opposed to the arrangement. The Auckland Weekly News, of the 22nd February, stated -
The desire of British political and farming interests to protect their own agricultural producers from glutted markets is recognized, but the special needs of New Zealand, as distinct from the more fully developed continental countries and other parts of the Empire with different fiscal policies aiming at self-dependence, have to be taken into consideration.
So far, so good. The next edition of this journal, dated the 1st March, reports that the New Zealand Government was considering the proposals that had been submitted to it, thus -
Limit for Short Period. allproducingcountries
As a basis for further negotiations, New Zealand is willing to adopt some arrangement of reduced shipments of butter to the United Kingdom for a short period, on condition that Australia reduces its shipments, and that quantities of foreign butter are also restricted. This announcement was made by the. Prime Minister, the Right Honorable G. W. Forbes, on Wednesday. He said the position had been discussed further by the Government with members of the Dairy Board.
The board’s representatives emphasized very strongly their definite view that any restriction of New Zealand butter would have a disastrous effect on the- dairy industry. The board was of the opinionthat every endeavour should be made to avoidany policy of fixed quota applicable to the output of New Zealand.
As opinion in New Zealand was opposed to the quota system, obviously the proposal did not emanate from the dominion. The right honorable the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) said that the proposal was made by the New Zealand Government. Here is the statement of the Prime Minister of New Zealand as published in Auckland : -
The Government, having regard especially to existing localconditions, strongly concurred with theBoard’s view, said Mr. Forbes.
The High Commissioner (Sir Thomas Wilford) has accordingly been requested to do his utmost to prevent the adoption of the proposed restrictions.
As a basis for further negotiations he has been advised to indicate that the dominion is prepared to adopt some arrangement of reduced shipments,on condition that Australia reduces its shipments and that the quantities of foreign butter are also restricted.
The report that the Government was prepared to restrict butter shipments by 10 per cent. for three months for the purpose of assisting to ease the glut of dairy produce on the London market was referred to the Prime Minister on Thursday. He said emphatically, that the Government had given no such undertaking.
This indicates that the New Zealand Government did not go so far as that. All it did was to convey the decision of the board to the High Commissioner and support it.
At that stage our Resident Minister in London (Mr. Bruce) appears on the scene.
The following paragraph appeared in the Auckland Weekly News of the 1st March : -
It is learned that negotiations between Britain and New Zealand and Australia, for a reduction of butter shipments will not be resumed till the Australian Minister in London, Mr. S. M. Bruce, returns from his visit to Germany.
The question of the restriction of Danish and Argentine shipments of dairy products forms part of the whole two-way trade agreements which Britain is negotiating with the Danish and Argentine trade missions now in London.
– That is so; but the Postmaster-General will find it difficult to contradict the statements made. I am not now raising this issue with the object of attacking the Government. My sole purpose is to protest against honorable members; including supporters of the Government, being not fully informed upon a matter which so vitally affects the interests of our dairy-farmers. We also feel that we have reason, to doubt , the accuracy ofsome of the information given to us.
Here is a message which appeared in the Christchurch press, of the 4th March -
British Farmers ask for Restrictions.
At a meeting of the British Dairy Farmers Association several speakers referred to the Ottawa decisions regarding the dominions’ cheese imports having had a disastrous effect on British cheese-makers, the prices realized being half the cost of production.
The association passed a resolution setting out that the present deplorable position of the Home cheese industry menaced the success of any national milk scheme, and asking the Minister for Agriculture to take steps to save the industry from complete collapse.
In the House of Commons, Major W. E. Elliott (Minister for Agriculture), replying to Sir Charles Cayzer, said that the question of dealing with cheese imports on the same lines as meat was still under consideration.
Sir Charles Cayzer said that New Zealand cheese was selling retail at 5½d. per lb., with the result that the Cheshire industry was on the verge of collapse. He urged an immediate consultation with the dominions with a view to a voluntary restriction on imports.
Many Schemes put Forward.
London, March 2. Mr. S. M. Bruce (Australian Minister in London) and Sir Thomas Wilford (New Zealand High Commissioner) conferred with Mr. J. H. Thomas (Secretary of State for the Dominions), Major Elliott, and government officials, on the question of butter restriction. It is understood that little progress was made.
Mr. Bruce is awaiting information from the Australian Cabinet sub-committee.
Meanwhile, the Hon. W. Runciman (President of the Board of Trade) isconferring with Danish representatives.
The New Zealand Press Association understands that twenty different proposals have already come before the British, New Zealand, and Australian representatives, with no immediate prospect of an agreement.
Sir Thomas Wilford has postponed his holidays in order to continue the discussions.
The members of the board had left Canberra for their homes after turning down the suggestion of a quota reduction; but, in view of what had occurred in London, the Government called them together again. Now we have a message dated the 8th March, as follows : -
No Agreement on Restriction.
With Australia’s point-blank refusalto restrict, and New Zealand’s offer hedged by conditions, the negotiations to secure reduc tions in the butter exports from those countries to Great Britain practically collapsed to-day. The Press Association understands that there were some heated passages during the discussions between Mr. Thomas, Mr. Bruce, and Sir Thomas Wilford.
We had heard whispers of this in Australia after the members of the Dairy Export Control Board had gone to their homes. We now learn that the representative of the Government, which was not concerned in the matter at all, was heatedly discussing the matter in London with the Australian and New Zealand representatives. The report continues-
Mr. S. M. Bruce (Australian Minister in London) communicated the Federal Cabinet’s decision not to reduce exports to Mr. J. H. Thomas (Dominions Secretary) during the morning’s meeting at the Dominions Office with Sir Thomas Wilford. . . .
New Zealand offered to reduce shipments for three months on the basis of the 1932-33 figures, provided Australia reduced by a corresponding amount, and foreign shippers were severely restricted.
We have only to look at the replies of the Prime Minister in this House, and at the statement of the Minister for Commerce lastTuesday, to understand that the issue was undoubtedly raised by the British Government. It is quite clear that. Australia has not been fully informed of the position. The report goes on -
Mr. Thomas objected to this, in the first place because the 1932-33 figures were so far above normal that such a reduction would be practically meaningless; and, second, because a three months’ reduction would be insufficient, while in any event Australia was unwilling to participate. . . .
This, Mr. Thomas argued, might eventually cause Australia and New Zealand to reduce their shipments willynilly, whereas, if they now accepted the principle of reduction, adequate arrangement mightbe made to safeguard them against unfair foreign competition through arise in sterling.
It is said that the dominion representatives urged that foreigners should be first restricted.
It appears that these cablegrams were sent directly to the Dairy Board in New Zealand, but the corresponding messages were sent to the Australian Government, not to our Australian Dairy Export Control Board.
-Seeing that the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) is not so interested in the dairying industry as some of us are, he may be excused for not understanding the matter. The ministerial statement given to this House on Tuesday last was not a full and complete statement of the facts, and is, moreover, a contradiction of everything that has appeared in the press.
– It is not a contradiction, but merely an amplification of the statement made in the House.
– The message goes on -
The Dairy Board to-day discussed proposals emanating from Great Britain that shipments of butter and cheese from New Zealand and Australia to Britain should be restricted by a quota.
We have heard nothing of cheese in Australia as yet -
It was generally agreed by members that a restriction of exports would bring about chaotic conditions in the dairying industry, the maintenance of which was of vital importance to the dominion. Any restrictions of dairy produce imports into Britain should apply first to foreign countries.
It was reported to the board that cable messages bearing on the matter were still passing between London and New Zealand. Australia was making no concession whatever in regard to restriction of her dairy produce exports to Britain.
While the New Zealand Dairy Board vac prepared to negotiate its shipments to Britain, the members were unanimous that it could no: possibly agree to any restriction of shipments, and supported the stand taken by the Australian Dairy Board.
This shows clearly that in New Zealand, at any rate, it was understood that the proposal had emanated from Great Britain. In the New Zealand press of the 11th March, the following appears in the weekly market report of J. H. Turnbull and Company:-‘.
Suggestions were made by the London importers that Australia and New Zealand should restrict shipments of butter for a period in order to give the market a chance of recovery. Apparently, buyers anticipate that this representation by the London importers and’ the British Government would have .some effect on restricting the immediate imports, and a considerable firming took place. Cabling on the 4th March, Messrs. W. Weddel and Company Limited, stated that the immediate future is very uncertain, but much will depend on the result of the conference to restrict imports. These conferences between the British authorities and the Australian and New Zealand Governments, and also the representatives of Denmark, and other exporting countries, still continues.
In a leading article in its issue of the 9th March; the Christchurch Press states -
The breakdown of the negotiations between Great Britain and Australia and New Zealand over the proposal to restrict British dairy produce imports, announced in the cable news this morning, is to be regretted. A deadlock ma3’ put a severe strain on the Ottawa agreement.
Which can mean, of course, that the British Government can enforce the restrictions even against the terms of the Ottawa agreement. The United Press Association, in a message dared the 4th March, states -
Dominion office circles deprecate the im pression in some quarters that the butter restriction negotiations have ended. They admit that no further meetings have been arranged, but the situation is so serious that it is thought that negotiations must ultimately be resumed. The British Government hopes that the dominions will realize that it might be more profitable to restrict exports than to continue to face an unparalleled glut.
That discloses that the information conveyed to this House by the AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Latham) did not explain the position candidly. It is made to appear that New Zealand was not the originator of this proposal, but that it emanated from Great Britain, and, when alterations were suggested to. the Secretary of State for the Dominions by the New Zealand High Commissioner. Mr. Thomas became very angry, and heated words were exchanged between the two gentlemen, as a result of which the proposals were turned down.
As representatives of the dairying industry and the people of Australia, we are entitled to be enlightened on these matters, and should -not have to wait for a fortnight for a pronouncement from the Government, particularly such an incomplete one as that made by the Attorney-General, which is flatly contradicted by the reports that I have referred to.
– The honorable member has not advanced one statement in contradiction of what was said by the Attorney-General.
– The impression was conveyed by the right honorable member that this proposal originated with -New Zealand, but that would appear to he ‘denied by the Prime Minister of that dominion, who states that he is in accord with the determination of the Export Dairy Control Board of that country to resist any restriction of exports of butter to Great Britain, because of the damaging effect that that would have upon the butter industry in New Zealand.
– I am quite at a loss to understand why the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) is so excited about this matter, and has gone out of his way to make charges of suppression of facts and deceit, which I doubt whether he himself believes. The honorable member is not in a position to do other than quote newspapers as authority for his statements. I could cite passages from any issue of the Labor Daily making me to appear a liar; but no one who knows me accepts such evidence ; and on the subject to which he has referred, the honorable member could quote, from the press, the most amazing statements. I gave to the House the facts, as conveyed to the Government by the Resident Minister in London (Mr. Bruce). I did not profess to have the clairvoyance to visualize what happened in London as if I were there. The simple fact is that on the 26th January, the Resident Minister in London sent a message to this Government, and it was the first intimation we had of a proposed restriction of the importation of butter. The right honorable gentleman then informed us that a meeting had been held between the Secretary of State for the Dominions, the High Commissioner for New Zealand, and himself, to discuss a proposal made by New Zealand for a 25 per cent, restriction of foreign imports of butter into the United Kingdom.
– Foreign imports !
– Exactly. That is how the matter began. Immediately the question presented itself “Is it possible to restrict foreign without restricting dominion exports?”, and various proposals were ‘ advanced and canvassed. The question that has evolved is whether it would be wise to restrict the importation of butter into Great Britain under an arrangement by which foreigners would be restricted to twice the extent of dominion exporters. That all began with the suggestion by New Zealand.
There are, apparently, some interests in Australia which are prepared to seize any opportunity for creating bad blood between the dominions and Great Britain. I am not speaking of honorable members, but of persons outside this House. For some reason which I have never been able to fathom, there has been a consistent campaign to this end. Instead of paying attention to the merits of what is quite a difficult problem, on which there is room for bona fide difference of opinion among informed persons, there has been an amazing press propaganda, insinuating that Great Britain is dictating to the dominions. One reason for my observations, the other evening, was to put it beyond doubt that there has been no attempt on the part of the British Government to dictate in this matter; and to make it plain, that Great Britain had stated that if Australia desired the unrestricted admission of its butter into that country for the three years prescribed by the Ottawa agreement, there was no need for discussion on the subject ; this Government had but to say the word. It remains for that word to be said. It may be that there are those who would lightly and irresponsibly say it. However, the Government is taking the advice of the Dairy Produce Export Control Board. It has viewed the matter from different standpoints. As I said the other evening, I do not know that any advantage is to be gained by disclosing the decisions that have been made from time to time by the board. That would bc no advantageous contribution to the ultimate settlement of the matter; it would merely show that opinions have varied from time to time; for the board has been trying to .do its best to find a solution of a difficult problem.
Why should this matter be made the subject for political propaganda of a peculiarly mean variety, so far as our relations with Great Britain are con;cerned? The statement that I made the other evening was, I believe, absolutely accurate. It certainly is completely in accordance with all the information that the Government has in its possession. I have read the Hansard proof of my remarks, and I can see nothing in my speech that I need to qualify or withdraw.
I am still quite unable to understand the reason for all this excitement as to how or where the matter originated, and in particular, why the honorable member for Wide Bay should have gone out of his way to make insinuations on the basis of newspaper reports on a subject about which, as he well knows, newspapers, naturally indulge in propaganda. The press has not the knowledge of the subject that the Government has. Surely it is possible to deal with the problem on its merits, without any honorable member going out of his way to suggest that, for some entirely unknown and incomprehensible reason, a Minister has deliberately misstated matters in this House.
.- Had it not been for the warmth that the Acting Leader of the House (Mr. Latham) put into his remarks, I should not have said anything on this subject.
– I spoke warmly, merely because of what the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) said.
– The right honorable gentleman suggests that there is political propaganda of a particularly mean variety, to cause enmity between the Governments of the United Kingdom and the dominions. Perhaps one with greater truth could describe that statement as propaganda of a mean kind. I do not think that the charge can lie against honorable members of this House.
– I expressly stated that I was not referring to honorable members.
– A question wa3 asked in this chamber some days ago, and a reply was given, and it is about that that the discussion has arisen. There has also been considerable public discussion on the subject. Then, after a lapse of some weeks, when cablegrams that were published, and other statements, had given the definite impression that overtures had been made by Great Britain to the dominions of New Zealand and Australia to restrict their exportation of butter to the British market, and when that impression had also been conveyed by statements made by members of the Government, the Attorney-General made a speech, which I refuse to accept as a frank statement of the position. Take the first sentence of that speech : “ The question of the restriction of butter export to the United Kingdom was raised, not by Great Britain, but by New Zealand.” The only inference to be drawn from that, and, apparently, the inference intended, is that the restriction of exports of butter from the dominions was first raised by New Zealand. It is my opinion that New Zealand did not raise or even suggest such a restriction. I gather that New Zealand did raise the subject with Great Britain of the restriction of imports of butter from foreign countries, and that in response to that came a proposal from the British Government that the dominions should share in the restriction. The Attorney-General is skilled in weighing and interpreting language. I ask him whether his statement to this House conveyed the true position. The right honorable gentleman has been invited to place on the table the correspondence in connexion with this matter. He asked why there should be all this bother about the matter. The fact is that the Government has got itself into a difficulty, and it wants us to forget all about it. That might be very nice and convenient for Ministers, but it is not necessarily what honorable members are prepared to do.
– What is the difficulty into which the Government has got itself?
– The Government called the Dairy Produce Export Control Board to Canberra, and placed before it the proposal that came from Great Britain to restrict our exports of butter to the United Kingdom, despite the specific terms of the Ottawa agreement. The Government found that, having given away most of the rights of our secondary industries, the people of Australia were not prepared to give away the one little benefit that was to accrue to our primary producers under the Ottawa agreement. When the Government found that even the board was not prepared to countenance this restriction, unless the Government would do something which it was not prepared to do, the right honorable gentleman made his statement, declaring that there was practically nothing in the business; that no suggestion had come from Great Britain that we should restrict our export of butter; that, as a matter of fact, the first move came from New Zealand.
– Honorable members know that messages came from London on the. subject. That was never denied.
– I contend that the statement made by the right honorable gentleman was intended to convey only one meaning, that the first suggestion for a restriction of the exportation of butter from the -dominions came from New Zealand.
– My statement was intended to convey precisely what I said; that the British Government did not raise the subject of the restriction of butter exports at all, and, consequently, that this Government has not urged the restriction of export on the butter exporters of Australia.
– The AttorneyGeneral knows that the one subject exercising the minds of members of this House and of the people of Australia was the limitation of the exports of Australian butter. The statement he made might have been technically correct, but it conveyed a false impression. The right honorable gentleman used the phrase “ The question of the restriction of butter “. That term was understood by everybody in Australia to mean the restriction of Australian butter. The Attorney-General has not yet .told us frankly whether the subject of the restriction of butter exports from the dominions was raised first by New Zealand or by Great Britain. I was not at the conference, but from what has been published I can gather what happened. New Zealand raised the question of the fall in the price of butter in Great Britain, and the necessity of a restriction of the importation of foreign butter into Great Britain. Then a conference was called. At that conference the British Government put counter proposals, and Australia and New Zealand were asked to restrict their imports. New Zealand refused, and then the Dairy Produce Export Control Board of Australia also refused, excepting under conditions which would put the responsibility on the Government. The Government then tried to slide out of an awkward situation on the statement of the Attorney-General. -There has been no mean propaganda, and no charge should be laid at anybody’s door of trying to create bad feeling between Great Britain and the dominions. One thing that is plain is that, within a few months of the signing of the Ottawa agreement, a definite attempt has been made to break it down, and to take away from the primary producers the small benefit that they might have secured.- I suggest that the time has come for the whole agreement to be thrown open for further consideration. The statement made by the AttorneyGeneral does not do justice either to himself or to the Parliament.
– On the 10th March the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green) asked the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) -
Whether the conference being held in Canberra between the Dairy Export Control Board and the Cabinet sub-committee has been arranged as a result of pressure brought to bear by the British Government on the Australian Resident Minister in London.
The Prime Minister replied -
The conference is being held in consequence of representations that have been made by the British Government to the Australian Resident Minister in London.
– That is quite correct. We received messages from London, and, as a result of those messages, we met the Control Board here.
– The AttorneyGeneral said last night that the British Government had not raised the question of restriction, and that the first move had come from New Zealand.
– That is quite right too.
– It was only this afternoon when the Attorney-General referred to the request of the New Zealand Government in regard to foreign restrictions, that we ascertained where the first move .originated.
– It may have been the first that the honorable member knew, but everybody else knew earlier.
– The honorable members of the Country party, are sitting near me, and . when the Attorney-General made that remark they said, almost together, “ Now we see where the first development arose.” It is all very well for the Postmaster-General to say that everybody else knew it. He should remember that we are not so closely associated with the negotiations and the correspondence backwards and forwards as be is. We have to rely on the information that we obtain by the process which thE honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) has used this afternoon. We endeavour to find out the facts in the best way we can. We can only drive the Government’ to disclose information by giving publicity to the subject. It frequently happens that quite a long period elapses before we get finality as to the facts of different matters that are brought up in this House. We are indebted to the honorable member for Wide Bay for his persistence and research in seeking to ascertain the facts which are now before us. He has succeeded in forcing the Attorney-General to disclose to honorable members the origin of the problem. The Leader of the. Opposition (Mr. Scullin) has, in my opinion, clearly indicated what actually happened. It was stated on behalf of the Government that no pressure would be applied to the Dairy Produce Export. Control Board, and the point was taken that that board was representative of the industry, the members of it having been elected by the producers, and that it could speak for the industry. Can the AttorneyGeneral explain to the House why, if no pressure has been applied to the board, that body should have carried a resolution a couple of days ago asking the Government to stay its hand, and withhold its decision ? If the board was being permitted to work in its own way, why should such a resolution have been necessary?
– The honorable member had better ask the board about that.
– I think we are entitled to ask the Attorney-General.
– I shall answer the honorable member. The Government placed all the facts before the board, and its resolution was the result of its deliberations on those facts.
– What were the facts that the Government placed before the board? I suppose they consisted of the decision of the Government.
– There has been no decision by the Government.
– Then the facts may have been the request from the Resident Minister in London.
– Wo request was received from the Resident Minister in London, except a request for consideration.
– Then what were the facts? Whatever they were, they apparently forced the board to ask the Government to stay its hand pending the result of negotiations with the New Zealand board.
– The facts to which I referred were simply the condition of the butter trade in England and Europe, and in Australia and New Zealand, at the production point here and the selling point there.
– And the question of restriction.
– On those facts the question of restriction had to be considered.
– So we learn that the facts dealt with production figures and prices. The next move necessarily had relation to restriction,, and it was in regard to restriction that the board asked the Government to hold its hand until the New Zealand board had been consulted.
– If Great Britain did not ask for restrictions, why did this Government raise the question?
– There is another point that is interesting in this controversy. The following extract from the commercial columns of the Brisbane Daily Mail has, I suggest, some relation to this subject: -
Since the beginning of this year there has been a depreciation of more than 10 per cent, in the exchange value of the Danish krone against sterling. Quotations in January, on the basis of £1 sterling, were about 19.3, against a par value of 18.10. Now the krone is being quoted at about 22.4, which places it in about the same relation to, sterling as the Australian and New Zealand pounds. Among the factors which have contributed lately to the weakness of the krone against sterling (says the Sydney Morning Herald) have been the imposition of British tariffs against Danish agricultural produce and political unrest resulting in an outflow of capital from Denmark. The exchange has been loosely “ fixed “ round about 22.50, with the result that the Danish producer can now overcome the British tariff wall without very much inconvenience. Commenting on this development, the Statist, London, states that it would be difficult not to connect the depreciation with the recent depreciation of the New Zealand pound, since New Zealand is Denmark’s most persistent competitor in the British market for dairy produce. “This relationship,” the journal adds, “ affords one more proof of the extremely dangerous character which the devaluation of currencies can assume “.
It can be seen from that statement that the Danish Government can scale the tariff wall of Great Britain with very little inconvenience to itself. The whole situation may be likened to a dog chasing its own tail. The Ottawa agreement, methods of restriction, attempts to provide markets, and other attempts to maintain price levels have been so confused by the Government that it does not know where it is.
I had intended to deal with another subject, which I was prevented from ventilating last evening on the motion . for the adjournment of the House, but as other honorable gentlemen wish to discuss the butter situation, I shall take another opportunity of bringing under the notice of the Government the matter to which I had intended to refer.
.- [ am very glad that the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) has referred again to the subject of butter. I am very much interested ‘ in this subject, for I suppose I have more butter-producers in my electorate than are to be found in any other part of the Commonwealth. For some time, I have been trying to get to the bottom of this proposal for the restriction of butter exports. A few days ago, I asked the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) whether he would lay on the table of the House or of the Library - whichever he liked - the cables which had passed between the Resident Minister in London (Mr. Bruce) and the Government in respect to the proposal for the restriction of butter exports, in order that we might know exactly what Was going on. 1, and other honorable members, have been inundated with requests from dairymen and others interested in this industry for information as to the Government’s intentions on this subject. The cablegrams which .we desire to see have not been tabled, and we have exhausted every legitimate means to secure this information. Even now, we are left” in the dark on many points. During the discussion last Tuesday, the Prime Minister said that a plan would be disclosed by the Minister for Commerce. (Mr. Stewart). When I complained subsequently that that honorable gentleman had not disclosed any plan, the Prime Minister said that I had misunderstood his remarks, and that what he intended to convey was that, a plan would be discussed by the Dairy Produce Export Control Board and the Government. I submit that honorable members of this House are entitled to know the nature of that plan. The Export Control Board was constituted by this Parliament in 1923 or ]924, and it can be disbanded by Parliament. Although the word “ control “ appears in the title of the board, the board does not actually control the marketing of our butter. We are entitled to whatever information the board has in regard to the butter industry. I do not intend to repeat at any length the figures which I quoted last Tuesday, but I reiterate the statement that I then made, that strings are being pulled on the other side of the world. In September, prior to the publication of the terms of the Ottawa agreement, the price of Argentine butter in London was 18s. per cwt. below the price of Australian butter. The Argentine production season coincides with our own. , I suppose the higher price of the Australian product is due to its better quality. The terms of the Ottawa agreement were published on the 13th October. In January, within a few months of the ratification of the agreement, the price of Argentine butter was only 2s. per cwt. below the price of Australian butter. In the meantime, a duty of 15s. per cwt. had been placed on Argentine butter.
Sitting suspended from. 6.15 to S p.m.
– In regard to the. newspaper extracts read by the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser), the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) said that the House should take no notice of what was published in the newspapers. Yet the extracts were from New Zealand journals, and contained definite statements by the Prime Minister of the Dominion and the Chairman of the New Zealand Dairy Board. The AttorneyGeneral said that he was in possessionof the facts, and left honorable members to infer that the statements by the Prime Minister of New Zealand and the Chairman of the Dairy Board were, wrong. In the absence of the right- honorable gentleman, I ask his colleague, the Minister for Commerce (Mr. Stewart) whether he denies the accuracy of those reports.
– The Attorney-General has told the true story in the House.
– But the story told by the New Zealand Prime Minister is directly opposed to that told by the AttorneyGeneral this afternoon. Both cannot be correct.
– The Attorney-Gene^ la iS statement is correct. I should know, because I conducted the negotiations.
– The failure of the House to be placed in possession of all the facts is not the fault’ of honorable members. On the 9th March, I asked this question -
Will the Prime Minister state whether any negotiations have taken place between the Government of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth regarding the restriction of imports of Australia butter? If any representations on the subject have been made by the- British Government, what is the nature of them, . and the Commonwealth government’s reply thereto?
The Prime Minister replied -
The Commonwealth Resident Minister in London has conferred on this subject with representatives of the British. Government. The attitude of the Commonwealth Government is in accordance with the advice tendered by the Dairy Produce Export Control Board. The matter is now being reconsidered, and at the invitation of the Government, members of the board will arrive in Canberra tomorrow to confer further -with the Minister for Commerce.
It is well known that many weeks prior to that date the Dairy Produce Export Control Board had declared definitely against any restriction of the export’ of butter from Australia, and the newspapers reported that the Government had concurred in that recommendation.
– All the time we have, concurred in the board’s recommendations, and will continue to do so.
– Yet the Prime Minister stated that the matter was being reconsidered, and that the members of the board had been invited to come to Canberra to confer with the Minister for Commerce. One can come to no conclusion other than that the Government invited the members of the board to Canberra to reconsider their recommendation against any restriction of exports. That view is supported by the report recently issued that the board had considered the request of the Government for a 6 per cent, reduction of Australian exports of butter, provided that the imports into the United Kingdom from other dominions were reduced in the same proportion, and from foreign countries by 12 per cent. The board indicated its concurrence in that proposal on the condition that the Government would recoup, the dairy industry any loss resulting from the retention of 6,000 tons of butter in Australia. The Government refused to comply with that condition. Prom the fact that the board asked the Government to compensate the industry £?r possible loss, we are entitled to assume that the Government had proposed a certain course to which the board would not give unconditional approval.
– The honorable member’s assumptions are wrong.
– Last Tuesday, I asked the Government to take the House into its confidence, but no further disclosures have yet been made.
– Why not ask the Dairy Produce Export Control Board?
– On the 10th March, I asked this question of the Prime Minister -
Is it a fact that the British Government, officially or otherwise, . has requested the Australian Government to restrict the exports of Australian butter to the United Kingdom?
That was a straightforward question, and if the Government were not pursuing a policy of hush, the Prime Minister could have given a frank answer, but the right honorable gentleman stated -
The British Government has placed certain facts before the Commonwealth Resident Minister in London (Mr. Bruce) and these are receiving consideration by this Government. The restriction of the export of butter is involved …
That last sentence is definite enough. The assertion by the Attorney-General that New Zealand initiated the proposal for a restriction of imports into the United Kingdom has already been dealt with. Denmark supplies 31 per cent, of the butter imported to the United Kingdom, and the other supplying countries next in order are Australia. New Zealand and Argentine. The New Zealand Government merely asked for a restriction of the imports from foreign countries - a perfectly fair request in view of the fact that only a few months previously the British Government had entered into an agreement with Australia and New Zealand by which butter from those dominions was to have free and unrestricted entry into the United Kingdom for three years, whereas a duty of £15 a ton would be imposed on the foreign article. New Zealand was justified in asking that if Great Britain desired to reduce the importation of butter, it should do so at the expense of foreign countries with which it had no agreement, rather than at the expense of the dominions to which it had contractual obligations. But Great Britain, whose imports from Denmark total £40,000,000 annually, as compared with only £10,000,000 worth of exports, desired to make a trade treaty with that country, and in order that its hands might be free asked Australia and New Zealand to restrict their exports of butter. These two dominions were to be sacrificed for the benefit of the foreigner. This matter should be cleared up. Apparently the Ottawa agreement is being discarded. The Dairy Produce Export Control Board was definitely against any restriction of exports from Australia, and on that recommendation Cabinet eventually acted. I ask the Minister for Commerce to be frank with honorable members. We have been asked by interjection why we do not apply to the Dairy Produce Export Control Board for the information we are seeking. The reply is that the cablegrams made available to the members of the board were confidential, and ‘we could not ask the board to disclose them. But the House is entitled to learn from a responsible Minister the contents of the cablegrams which passed between the Resident Minister in London and the Commonwealth Government. Information that was disclosed to members of the board should be available to members of this House, whose responsibility to the dairymen throughout Australia is much greater than that of any body of private persons. I ask the Government to discontinue its hush policy, and let the House have full information so that honorable members may not again be forced to adopt the course that was taken by the honorable member for Wide Baythis afternoon.
Motion (by Mr. Marr) put -
That the debate be now adjourned.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. G. H. Mackay.)
Majority . . 7
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question - That the House will, at the next sitting, resolve itself into the said committee - put.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. G. H. Mackay.)
Majority . . . . 9
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Customs Tariff (1932) : Special Duties (No. 4) : Primage Duties (No. 2) : Customs Duties (Canadian Preference, No. 2) : Customs Tariff Amendment (No. 1) : Special Customs Duty (No. 5) : Excise Tariff Amendment (No. 3)
In Committee of Ways and Means: Consideration resumed from the 22nd March (vide page 492), on motion by Sir Henry Gullett (vide page 1167) (Volume 135)-
And on motion by Mr. White (vide page 29 -
Group 2. - Items which have been amended in accordance with the Ottawa
Division 4. - Agricultural Products and Groceries
Item 56, sub-item (e) (Ginger, dry, unground).
. - As there is a proposal to submit the ginger-growing industry to the Tariff Board for investigation and report, I suggest that this item be postponed so that it may later be considered with a view to giving reasonable protection to the industry. On the 2nd May, 1930, the Tariff Board received a request to investigate, for the first time in its history, the possibilities of growing ginger in Australia. There is at present only one place in this country in which the industry can be organized on a commercial basis, and that is on the Buderim Mountain. At the time of the Tariff Board inquiry the representatives of 100 growers registered with the Ginger Growers Association, gave evidence on the possibilities of commercializing the industry. They admitted that up to that time it had been impossible for the industry to develop in view of the large importations from China, Jamaica, and other places. It was pointed out by the Tariff Board that obstacles were in the way of granting the protection the growers sought to obtain, because certain plant and machinery were not available. As a matter of fact it could not be obtained until the industry had been assured of protection. It also pointed out at the time that the industry would need to be in existence for a couple of years’ before Australian requirements could be met. Therefore, until Parliament decides to give the industry efficient protection it is impossible to begin the production of commercial ginger in Australia. It is an expensive crop to produce, costing approximately £47 an acre on small areas. If the land suitable for the growing of green ginger were used for that purpose employment would be found, without any expense on the part of the Government, for at least 300 of our unemployed, or a similar number of settlers who are today producing in competition with other industries, could confine their activities to the growing of ginger. There is, therefore, plenty of opportunity for the production within Australia of 1,000 tons of ginger, which is the extent of the Australian consumption. Unemployment is the gravest problem confronting the Governments of Australia. According to the report of the Tariff Board the green ginger consumed here is almost exclusively imported from China, and it is very evident that the Australian product could not compete with the Chinese product if the imported ginger is allowed to enter this country free of’ duty. I have not visited the ginger-fields of China, but I have received communications from people who have seen them, and know the conditions under which ginger, both dry and in syrup, is prepared there for the Australian market. One correspondent told me that he could not put on paper the disgusting conditions under which ginger is produced in China. If this Australian industry were encouraged, and ginger grown under clean Australian conditions, I feel sure that ginger would become popular, and that its consumption would be trebled in a few years. If only to ensure the cleanliness and purity of the foodstuffs eaten by our people, the Tariff Board should investigate this aspect of the matter. Much of the ginger which enters Australia is contained in sugar spirit. This sugar, which is prepared by the Chinese under disgusting conditions, is, I am informed, U3ed later in the making of confectionery in Australia. The Tariff Board heard evidence from only one Australian grower of ginger. This man had not previously appeared before the Tariff Board, or any similar body, whereas opposed to him were eight representatives of firms, some of whom admitted that they had not seen any Australian ginger, while others claimed that ginger could not be produced satisfactorily in Australia for the making of ginger beer, or crystal ginger, or for preserving in spirit. Honorable members who have seen the samples of Australian-grown ginger, which I had the privilege of showing them some time ago, know that its quality is not surpassed by any other ginger that they have seen. The Tariff Board’s report is largely a series of extracts from the statements of witnesses who were not subjected to crossexamination. Some of the witnesses who appeared before the board said that it was futile to think that Australia could grow ginger to equal that grown in China. The only Australian firm which gave the Australian ginger a fair trial was MacRobertson’s of Melbourne. That firm had used it in the manufacture of some of its products, and reported to the Tariff Board that the Australian product was of good quality. I hope that the Minister will agree to the postponement of this item, with a view to having the whole industry investigated by the Tariff Board. I hope that as a result of the board’s investigation, we shall be able to establish in Australia an industry capable of supplying clean, wholesome ginger to Australian consumers, and by popularizing this commodity, make possible the employment of considerably more than 300 growers in the industry. At no time in Australia’s history has the establishment of new industries been more desirable than now, particularly if they caD supply a product of good quality at a reasonable price. Honorable members will understand that Australian growers of ginger cannot commercialize their industry on a sound basis unless they are certain of an effective protective tariff. The Tariff Board’s report refers to the greatest difficulty confronting the ‘ginger industry in Australia - the lack of suitable machinery - and, on those grounds, it does not favour a higher duty. It should have been evident to the board that, in the absence of some assurance that they would get the Australian trade, growers would not feel justified in installing costly machinery. It is true that the Australian production of ginger is, as yet, small, but that does not justify the Tariff Board in giving an impression that the industry is not worthy of attention. This industry should, at least, be promised protection when it is able to supply the Australian market. I ask only for a reasonable protection for this industry so that the local growers will be justified in going ahead. I hope that the Minister will agree t.o the whole item “being referred to the Tariff Board, and, for the time being, will provide by ‘by-law the 15 per cent, marginal difference essential under the Ottawa agreement.
.- The subject to which this item relates was debated in the previous group, and the same facts apply to this class of ginger as to the ginger included in that group. I promised earlier that I would have inquiries made, with a view to ascertaining whether or not some protection should be afforded to the ginger industry. I have communicated by telegram with Queensland asking for details of the present production of ginger, production costs, and the number of employees engaged in the industry. If I find that there are sufficiently sound reasons for referring the matter to the Tariff Board again, I shall do so. ‘ Meanwhile, I draw attention to a few figures regarding this industry, and to the remarks of the Tariff Board. The normal Australian requirements of all classes of ginger are estimated at 1,000 tons per annum, of which 850 tons are admitted free of duty for manufacturing purposes. During the four financial years ended June, 1932, Queensland, the only State concerned, produced 10 tons, 15 tons, 5 tons, and 4 tons respectively. It will be seen that Australian production- is both negligible and diminishing. The figures I have quoted have been extracted from the Statistical Register of Queensland. In 1930 the Tariff Board inquired into an application by the Ginger Growers Association for increased duties on ginger, but recommended against any increase for the following reasons: -
The Minister for Trade and Customs in the previous Government referred this question to the Tariff Board in May, 1931, in connexion with certain points raised during the tariff debate at that time. The Tariff Board, in a memorandum, effectively replied to the points raised. Apparently the then Minister was satisfied with the reply, for he withdrew the reference in July, 1931. If, however, it can now be shown that this industry is worth developing and should be protected, the Tariff Board will be asked to make a further report. Under the Ottawa agreement, the duty on foreign importations has been fixed at 15 per cent., which gives a measure of protection against Chinese competition.
Sub-item agreed to.
Item 78, sub-item (b), agreed to.
Item 87, sub-item (b) (Sago and Tapioca).
.- This duty affects Netherlands East Indies, more generally known as Java, a country to which Australia exports large quantities of primary produce, notably butter and flour. The imposition of 15 per cent, duty on foreign sago and tapioca will probably lead to retaliatory action against some of our Australian primary industries. The Minister said that the Ottawa agreement had been drawn up in aid of the man on the land. If we persist in this duty against the Dutch East Indies we shall probably lose that market for our butter and flour - a market of considerable value to Australia.
– Does the honorable gentleman suggest that the duty should be taken off?
– ‘Yes. Sago and tapioca are not produced in Australia, and we should . not offend . Java, a valuable customer, by imposing a duty on these commodities. Last night the AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Latham) delivered an academic speech, in which he said that we must remember that we have to trade with other countries.
– The AttorneyGeneral has not spoken on this item, and, therefore, the honorable gentleman’s remarks are irrelevant.
– There is no need for the imposition of high duties on products which are not grown in Australia. Sago and tapioca come within that category. We should not forget that each year Java purchases from Australia butter to the value of £419,000, and flour valued at £274,000. I am wondering what members of the Country party will say regarding this matter. With a view to its reconsideration by the Government, I move -
That the sub-item be postponed.
The total value of our imports of sago and tapioca from Java and the Dutch East Indies was £24,000 in 1929-30, £10,000 in 1930-31, and £7,000 in 1931-32. Our exports of butter to Java alone amount in value to £419,000 a year, while the value of our exports of butter to British Malaya, the country which it i3 intended to help by this duty, totals only £74,000. Our small imports of tapioca from Java are now to be wiped out, under the Ottawa agreement, with a view to helping British Malaya. I think that this interference with, our trade with the Dutch East Indies - and Java provides one of our best markets - must have its repercussions, because Holland; has been endeavouring to prevail upon the Dutch East Indies to place a. high duty against imports of butter from Australia, on the ground that they should obtain their supplies of butter from their homeland. But the Dutch East Indies have always taken the attitude that, as Australia buys from them, it would not be right to put up a high tariff against Australian butter. In this connexion I ask Ministers to bear in mind their own declaration that we must not interfere with our trade with Eastern countries that provide good markets for Australian products. Our exports of butter to British Malaya for the last five years have amounted in value to £473,000, while to the Dutch East Indies during the same period they have amounted to no less than £2,251,000, or about five times as much. The British colonies in Malaya enjoy over 80 per cent, of the tapioca trade with Australia, and yet the Government wishes to rob the Dutch East Indies of the remaining 20 per cent., which was worth in the last twelve months only £7,000. Is the talk of retaliation by Java, by refusing to buy Australian butter and flour, to be wondered at? In 1929-30 we imported £35,000 worth of sago and tapioca from Malaya; in 1930-31, £25,000 worth; and in 1931-32, £30,000 worth, compared with £23,000, £10,000, and £7,000 worth respectively from the Dutch East Indies. This slap in the eye to the latter country will probably have a most damaging effect upon Australian primary producers in regard to two of the staple products that we regularly export to that country. It is noteworthy that, during the last five years, there has been practically no falling off in respect of exports of Australian flour to the Dutch East Indies, but there has been a considerable reduction of our exports of that commodity to Malaya. In 1931-32 we exported to the Dutch East Indies flour to the value of £529,000, while the value of the exports of flour to British Malaya for the same period was £277,000. In other words, our flour trade with British Malaya is worth only half that with the Dutch East Indies. Australia’s total exports last year to British Malaya were worth £916,000, while the total exports to the Dutch East Indies for that period amounted to approximately £1,500,000.
Although the Dutch East Indies are a possession of a nation that is a large producer of dairy produce, they have refused to impose high duties against Australia’s products, and this provocative duty will, as I have already said, probably have a most damaging effect. I hope that the friendly and highly satisfactory business relations that have existed between Australia and the Dutch East Indies will not be disturbed. I believe that on reconsideration of the matter the Government will agree to wiping out the general tariff of 15 per cent. It will not protect any Australian industry, because sago and tapioca are not produced in this country. Since we import 80 per cent, of our requirements of these commodities from British Malaya to-day, why rob the Dutch East Indies of the remaining 20 per cent, of the trade? Is it to be wondered at that the world is laughing at the Ottawa agreement, which must be damaging to Australia and to every member of the British Commonwealth of Nations?
.- “We have heard from the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) the soundest speech that he has ever made in this chamber. I made a similar speech some time ago, but it did not relate to tapioca ; it had to do with sugar and bananas. I pointed out the immense trade that we were doing with the Far East, and suggested that sugar, which is being produced at great cost in Australia, might be grown in the Mandated Territory. Then the honorable member caused to be published in the press of Australia the statement that I had advocated black labour. This evening the honorable member has been logical in his remarks. The gravamen of his speech was that we should take care not to offend our customers overseas who give a free port to us while we offer a closed port to them.
– The sugar industry is different.
– The Australian sugar industry, of course, keeps the people of Queensland in a much better position than that of the people who buy Australian sugar. If it were not for the Ottawa agreement, I would approve of a free general tariff in connexion with the item under consideration. We should show a spirit of reciprocity to all nations that wish to buy our goods. That is the only way in which we can find markets for our products. Australia is a debtor nation, and her people cannot expect to live merely by taking in one another’s washing and cutting one another’s hair. I think that the arrangement made under the Ottawa agreement with regard to this item was a mistake, because we should do everything possible to conserve our Eastern trade.
– Then the honorable member should support me in this matter.
– If the honorable member for Capricornia would support me in fiscal matters it would help this country to go ahead by leaps and bounds.
– I could hardly believe my ears when I heard the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) suggest that free entry should be granted to sago and tapioca from a foreign country. I think that this is the first occasion “ on which the honorable member has advocated anything but prohibition, a,nd it is certainly a fact worth noting. But we are entitled to know the reason for the honorable member’s sudden solicitude for Java.
– It is a good market for our flour and butter.
– Then, to be consistent, the honorable member should be in favour of removing the embargo that we have placed on Javanese sugar. He has said that the world is laughing at the Ottawa agreement; but I flatly contradict that statement, because the consuls of a number of countries have come to Canberra seeking favorable trade agreements with Australia. That clearly shows that the agreement is a success.
– How can the Minister make that pronouncement?
– It is hoped that, when the Ottawa agreement has been implemented, favorable trade agreements will be made with nations whose trade balances with us are favorable. I think that the honorable member should realize that the only way to give Britain preference on an item on which the British preferential tariff is free is to raise the foreign duty. The only reason why the Deputy Leader of the Opposition opposes this duty appears to be that he does not believe in Empire preference. The object of the Ottawa agreement was to stimulate trade within the Empire.
– Is this duty in accordance with that agreement?
– Yes. The object is simply to carry out the formula laid down under the agreement that, in cases where free entry is provided for British goods, the foreign duty shall be raised to 15 per cent. Does the honorable member believe that the preference which British Malaya is giving Australia under the Ottawa agreement should be wiped out? The federated and unfederated Malay States gave us a preference under the agreement of 4 cents per lb. on butter, 15 per cent, ad valorem on canned fruit and canned vegetables, and 10 per cent, ad valorem on confectionery and on condensed and powdered milk. On brandy, the preference is 2 dollars 50 cents a gallon, on sparkling wine 1 dollar a gallon, and on other wines 60 cents a gallon. It is obvious that the honorable gentleman’s opposition to this item is merely due to the fact that he does not favour the Ottawa agreement; but I ask the committee to support the agreement, and, therefore, to support this duty.
– It was interesting to bear the Minister (Mr. White) accuse the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) of insincerity and inconsistency. The Minister spoke of the necessity for Empire preference; but on other items we hare been told by the Minister that it is necessary to trade with all countries, and that we must not isolate ourselves from the rest of the world if we hope to have for our primary products the markets upon which we are dependent in some form or another. There is such a mass of inconsistency in this attitude that anybody listening to the debate without a knowledge of the details of the subject must be amused, and be left cold on the Ottawa agreement, the tariff items, and everything connected with them.
Another charge laid against the Deputy Leader of the Opposition by the Minister was that he is an advocate of freetrade. The first thing to be considered is the premise upon which a case is determined. In this instance, that premise is that Australia does not produce these commodities, and that its interests from the production aspect are not interfered with. It is logical then for any one supporting protection to argue that, because of this circumstance, preference may be extended to any country that has a favorable trade balance with us. That is the argument which has been advanced. To adopt a different premise, and upon it to charge a man with having shed his protectionist views, is not argument, nor does it meet the point that has been raised. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition has shown that, according to figures which have not been disputed, the trade situation is in our favour in regard to such important primary products as butter and flour. If the Country party continues to claim that it is representative of primary industries, it ought to seize every opportunity to extend the markets of those who, from time to time, are encouraged to go on the land and produce these goods. Particularly in regard to butter, the members of that party should be anxious to preserve the status quo with Java. The Minister says that, although Java may offer advantages to our butter producers, the Malay States will improve their position in regard to that commodity. That is merely a blind stab - a term that can be applied to many of the features of the Ottawa agreement. As Australia does not produce these commodities,we are free to extend our patronage to those countries which have a favorable trade balance with us, and still maintain our protectionist views right up to the hilt. As the primary producers would not be adversely affected, and the matter is of fairly considerable importance to the whole of the community, my colleagues and I feel disposed to lend the amendment our support.
Question - That the sub-item be postponed (Mr. Forde’s amendment) - put. The committee divided. (Chairman - Mr. Bell.)
Majority . . . . 22
Question so resolved in the negative.
Sub-item agreed to.
Item 96(a) agreed to.
Division 5. - Textiles, Felts and Furs, and Manufactures Thereof, and Attire
Items 105 (e1) (f3, 5); 108 (b) ; 111 (c); 112 (b1); 114 (h) ; 116; 118 (c); 120 (d); 123 (b) (c) ; and 126 (a) agreed to.
Division 6. - Metals and Machinery
Items 136 (f2) ; 137 (b) ; 139 (b) (c) (d); 140 (c); 144 (b) ; 146; 151 and 152 (a1) agreed to.
Item 156, sub-item (b) (Shafting).
– It appears to me that this item is an illustration of the policy of protection misapplied. That is evident when we realize what the duty is levied upon, even though the rate, 21 per cent. British and 45 per cent, general, is moderate compared with rates to which we have become accustomed in these days. It is one thing to protect goods that go into the household, but it is an altogether different proposition to apply protection to goods that are used solely for production purposes. Duties upon these merely add to the overhead, costs ‘ of our factories, by raising the price of their equipment and that extra overhead is added to the price of the articles produced. I shall not move an amendment to the item, because I realize the absolute futility of doing so, as the Government has the necessary numbers to pass it. I merely register a protest against this method of applying the policy of protection.
Sub-item agreed to.
Item 160, sub-item (b1, 2) (Cream separators, sheep shearing machines).
– I unqualifiedly approve of the granting to Great Britain of a preference of 15 per cent, against foreign cream separators. Great Britain gives us a preference of 15s. per cwt. on butter that we send to her week by week, whereas a separator has to be purchased only once in a while. In a letter that I received from the Assistant Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Guy) some little time ago, I was assured that the Government was prepared to permit the free importation of foreign separators in the very large sizes that are used in factories - sizes that are not produced in Great Britain, and that have a capacity of 200 gallons an hour and over. The largest British size made has a capacity of about 130 gallons an hour. I was also assured that the Trade and Customs Department was prepared to permit the free importation of spare parts foi’ foreign separators that were in use prior to the Ottawa agreement, and it seems to me that it would be wiser to incorporate this arrangement in the schedule rather than to pass the item as it stands, and provide for admission free under departmental by-law. I, therefore, suggest that the sub-item be amended to provide for the free importation of large size foreign separators not made in Great Britain, and also spare parts for foreign separators in use before the Ottawa agreement was made.
.- There is no necessity whatever for the sub-item to be amended. The rates of duty provided right through this group have operated since 1921, and during the years when the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) and other members of the Country party were in the Ministry. The general tariff has been increased simply to implement the Ottawa agreement. Cream separators are free in the British tariff, and the duty is 15 per cent, on separators of foreign origin. Large-size separators may be imported free under departmental by-law.
– I am aware of that, but I am now suggesting that this provision be made in the sub-item
– British manufacturers are making cream separators in the larger sizes, and they may be exporting them at some time in the future.
– The larger sizes of cream separators have not yet been made in Great Britain.
– But they can be manufactured in the Mother Country. Spare parts for separators have always been imported free of duty under departmental by-law.
. The Minister was a little bit at sea when he declared that the position to-day with regard “ to the larger sizes of separators and spare parts is the same as it was in earlier tariffs, because hitherto they have been admitted free in the general, as well as the British preferential tariff; under this sub-item British separators and parts are still admitted free of duty, but foreign separators will pay 15 per cent. As I have already said, I approve of this arrangement. All I am now asking the Minister to do is to amend this sub-item, to permit of the free importation of the larger sizes of separators which are not made in Great Britain, and of spare parts for old Baltic separators. I received a letter from the Trade and Customs Department assuring me that there would be no objection to this proposal, so I see no reason why it should not be incorporated in the sub-item.
.-I deplore having to speak again to this item, but I wish to assure the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) that there is no misunderstanding on my part. I know perfectly well what he wishes me to do, and I repeat that the sub-item, “ cream separators,” is the same as it has always been, except for the change rendered necessary to bring it into line with the Ottwa agreement formula. Evidently, the honorable member was not in the chamber earlier when, speaking on a different subject, I explained that the only way in which we could comply with the Ottawa formula was to impose a duty of 15 per cent. on foreign importations in respect of all items in the tariff under which British goods were admitted free. He has asked that the larger separators and spare parts for old separators be made free in the general tariff. That is not necessary, because, as I have already explained, they are now admitted free under departmental by-law.
– I should like the Minister to explain, if he can, how the department would administer this sub-item if spare parts and the larger cream separators manufactured in foreign countries were admitted free of duty. It may be possible to specify the types of Baltic separators for which new parts would be admitted free of duty, but I suggest that it would be possible for an importer to introduce any number of spare parts of allegedly old machines, and assemble them as new machines, thus escaping the duty in the general tariff. It seems to me that difficulties would present themselves if the sub-item were amended as suggested.
Sub-item agreed to.
Items 168 (a1, 2) and 169 (a2), (c1) agreed to.
Item 170- (b). Ore dressing machinery and appliances, n.e.i., and accessories, ad valorem, British preferential, 27½ per cent.; general, 45 per cent. (c). Smelting, leaching, and metal refining appliances, ad valorem, British preferential, 27½ per cent.; general, 45 per cent.
British preferential, free; general, 15 per cent.
.- These sub-items dealing with oredressing machinery, smelting, leaching, and metal refining appliances, &c., cover a wide range of equipment required in the mining industry, and the duties imposed have an important effect upon costs of production. They cannot be justified on the ground merely that they have been in operation for so long. As honorable members will notice, the British tariff is 27½ per cent., and the general 45 per cent. The committee has just passed rather hurriedly sub-item 168 (a), under which machinery required for the clothing and other protected secondary industries is admitted free of duty in the British tariff, and at only 15 per cent. in the general tariff. If any logic is to be displayed in this matter, and if that hackneyed word “ scientific “ is to be applied to the tariff, surely, if machinery required for a secondary industry with a closed market is admitted free of duty from Great Britain, machinery required for the mining industry, which has to sell its products in the world’s market, should also be on the free list, at least as regards machinery of British manufacture. I am aware that a certain amount of oredressing machinery, as well as appliances for smelting, leaching, and metal refining, is made in Australia, and I think it is a good thing that the industry has been established here. But my contention is that the rates of duty applying to machines for use in secondary industries catering for a closed market should apply also to machinery required in a primary industry, which has to bear the full shock of any fall in world prices. I invite the Minister to explain the reason for this differentiation, because I do not believe it is sound, and I enter a firm protest against the continuance of such an illogical tariff situation.
.- The honorable member for Denison (Mr. Hutchin) has urged that we should apply scientific principles to the making of this tariff, and, in support of his contention, he has pointed to the differentiation in the duties on machines required for the clothing and similar trades, and the duties applying to mining machinery under these sub-items. A simple answer to the honorable member’s objection is that we are manufacturing in Australia a certain proportion of mining machinery, but are not manufacturing the machinery referred to that is used for the clothing trades. Furthermore, the manufacturers of mining machinery have, for many years, enjoyed a protection of 27½ per cent. against British manufacturers, and 40 per cent. against foreign competitors. The honorable member questions the soundness of a tariff policy which allows one class of machinery in duty free and requires another class to pay 27½ per cent. in the British tariff and 45 per cent. in the general. The answer is that, in the case of the mining machinery, the duty is protective. The honorable member’s objection that this differentiation is unsound cannot be sustained because, as I have shown, the machinery covered by item 168 (a) is not made in Australia, whereas machinery dealt with in these sub-items is made in this country.
.- The protectionist argument advanced by the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) is always raised whenever an application is made for the imposition of duties to enable a manufacturing industry to be established in this country. Although mining machinery is being made in Australia, the industry is, in many respects, not economical or efficient.
– Who says that?
– Obviously, that must be the case, otherwise mining companies would not be forced to import so heavily in mining machinery. For instance, the Wiluna Gold Mines Limited has paid over £100,000 in duty on the importation of plant for its mines. That, surely, is sufficient evidence that the required machinery is not obtainable in Australia at a suitable price. If it were, mining companies, which are managed by business people, would make their purchases in this country. The fact is that Australianmade machinery is often not uptodate, and that is one of the reasons why mining, particularly gold-mining, in Australia has fallen behind. Although the output of gold in Australia increased by 50 per cent. last year, it is still comparatively low. Only 700,000 oz. were produced, but the world’s output was a record for all time, amounting to no less than 23,000,000 oz., which is 1,000,000 oz. higher than the previous record. Australia’s low output has not been due to lack of gold, because it has been proved that we have, in Australia, large deposits of gold-bearing ore. We call them lowgrade propositions here, hut, actually, the gold content is higher than in many fields which are being worked successfully in Africa, the United States of America, and Canada. In the United States of America and Canada, wages are as high as here, hut because their methods are more efficient, and they can obtain their plant more cheaply, those countries are able to produce at a profit from fields which it would not pay us to work in Australia.
As an industry, the winning of minerals is more useful than the manufacture of goods, because the minerals we produce are sold on the world’s markets, and new money is brought into the country. The mining industry receives no assistance from bounties, and must compete in the markets of the world. The price of base metals has fallen in recent years by about one-third, so that those concerned in their production are entitled to consideration. The goldmining industry is of special importance, because gold always has a standard value. Its price may fluctuate according to the rate of exchange from time to time, but it never falls below a certain level. Moreover, it is practically the only commodity regarding which there is no danger of over-production. No matter how much is produced, there is always a market for it. Furthermore, almost all the proceeds from gold-mining are spent in wages in some form or another. - I should like honorable members to compare the duties imposed on this machinery ranging from 27 per cent, to 45 per cent., with the favorable consideration accorded to city manufacturers who import machinery. Group 8 of the tariff contains a list of 335 items of machinery and appliances which are admitted duty free. These articles are used almost exclusively in city factories, which already enjoy the benefit of a protective tariff.
– Gold is the only commodity of which the price has recently risen. i
– That is not due to the tariff. We should regard this as an opportunity to rehabilitate the gold-mining industry in Australia. There is plenty of gold here. Wiluna is not the only place where there are large auriferous deposits ; there are others in Western Australia - one I can mention is the Sons of Gwalia - and in Queensland which could be worked profitably if costs were reduced. The initial cost of opening a gold-mining proposition very often deters capitalists from undertaking the work. It is impossible to embark on a mining venture on a small scale as one would a factory, starting from small beginnings and going on to larger things. Much of the excessive cost of winning gold in Australia is due to the high cost of plant. The mining industry, which receives no assistance from bounties, is, at least, entitled to a3 favorable consideration regarding the machinery required as is accorded the secondary industries.
.- There is something to be said for the arguments advanced by the two previous speakers regarding the duty on mining machinery. In many instances, .the machinery manufactured in Australia does not meet the requirements of the mining industry to-day. The Mount Isa
Company, in Queensland, did its best to procure, in Australia, the plant it needed, but the local manufacturers Were not able to produce machinery capable of working low-grade propositions. Some of the necessary plant was eventually imported duty free under by-law. If the company had had to pay duties ranging from 27-ijr per cent, to 45 per cent, on its outlay of over £1,000,000 on machinery, the enterprise would have been over-capitalized. Australian manufacturers are unable to produce the plant necessary for the oil flotation process used in working lowgrade ore. The Wiluna Gold Mining Company made representations to the Scullin Government for the admission of certain machinery under by-law, and some concessions Were made to it. The Mount Isa Company is operating in an area where ten years ago there- was hardly a white person to be seen ; now there are 5,000 people on the field. A company proposing to invest money in a mining proposition in Australia would naturally first inquire regarding the duty on mining machinery, and when it learned that’ the duties range from 27$ per cent, to 45 per cent, it might be excused for drawing back. Mining is an industry which should be encouraged, because it employs a great deal of labour. If the Government will promise that machinery not procurable in Australia will be admitted under bylaw I am prepared to accept its assurance.
– I think that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) will bear me out when I say that the Scullin Government gave consideration to representations made to it by the Wiluna Gold Mining Company for the admission of machinery duty free. A representative of the company interviewed me regarding the matter, and a considerable quantity of the machinery required was admitted free. Before duty is charged on mining machinery it should be proved that suitable machinery can be made here at a reasonable price. I believe that I bear the reputation of being a protectionist, but I agree that when mining or any other machinery cannot he produced in Australia it should be admitted under by-law. Millions of pounds worth of machinery used in Australia is not now, and probably never will be, manufactured here, because the demand is not sufficiently great. There are, however, firms in Australia which manufacture mining machinery of excellent quality. I read in a newspaper recently that, when the Melbourne firm of Ruwolt was approached regarding the manufacture of machinery for a certain gold-field, it sent its engineers to inspect the field, so that they might inform themselves regarding the kind of machinery required. Eventually, machinery, -which is regarded as in every way suitable, was manufactured. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) and others will admit that Victoria leads the world in the manufacture of certain classes of mining machinery. It is essential that our wellestablished industries should receive protection, for, because of their existence, we have at call expert engineers whose advice is available to promoters and others who desire to develop our mining industry. In cases where it is not possible to have requirements made in Australia, the Government is at all time3 prepared to admit the machinery that is needed free under by-law. The honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) need have no fear that the .Customs Department will prohibit the admission of machinery that will be of advantage to the development of any of our industries.
– Fears were entertained when the honorable member was Minister for Trade and Customs.
– There must have been good reason for any refusal on the part of the department. Ever since we have had protection machinery has been admitted free under by-law when considered desirable. Generally, unless the parts are patented., our engineers are able to “duplicate .accessories that need replacement. The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn) said that, because of the existence of high duties, some mining ventures had gone out of operation. Many others would have gone out of operation had it not been for the valuable assistance rendered by Australian manufacturers and the experts that they employ. I am certain that the department will not place any barrier1 in the way of admitting free of duty any machinery needed for developmental purposes that cannot be manu factured locally, I hold strong fiscal convictions, but have always maintained that, where it can be proved that machinery cannot be made here, it. should be admitted under free by-law. Gold and base metals are as much primary products as wool and wheat, and most valuable to Australia. We should do everything we can to expand our mining activities.
.- I support the attitude of the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Hutchin), and think that his drawing attention to the fact that item 168 is on the free list was most opportune. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) claimed that articles covered by item 168 are not made in Australia. Really, any industry whose requirements are not made in Australia should be considered fortunate. But immediately they are made here, whether for mining or agriculture, certain honorable members seek to impose levies upon them so that the part may be made greater than the whole. Apparently, those honorable members have not learned their Euclid properly. v.
The honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) referred to the cleverness of Australian workmen. They may be clever. The question is : How far can they compete with overseas workmen? Years ago I heard the present Leader of the Opposition say- that he would support the introduction of any industry into Australia if it could produce on a competitive basis. But a couple of years ago he changed his mind, and indicated that he would no, longer use the qualification “ competitive “, and now his chief concern is whether it is an Australian industry. I believe that the honorable member1 for Maribyrnong holds similar views. It does not, matter to either honorable gentleman how heavily such an industry bears on the community.
The progress of our mining industry has been greatly retarded by the heavy duties imposed on mining machinery. Western Australia and Queensland, particularly, have, felt the burden when en. deavouring to develop great low-grade deposits. I am pleased at the conversion of the honorable member for Kennedy. Quorivm. formed. I listened to his sound and excellent speech, which was somewhat like one delivered hy the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) to-night. It indicated a great change of heart. The honorable member can see that the removal of the duty on this item would help the great mining industry in his constituency. But he cannot see how a duty removed from agricultural machinery would help the great agricultural industry.
– The honorable member must confine his remarks to the item.
– I welcome the admission made by hyper-protectionists in this chamber, that protection does increase costs and hamper industry. I repeat that an industry is fortunate if the machinery it needs is not made in Australia.
.- I do not know why honorable members are dissatisfied concerning these duties, because the objective of the Government has been made clear throughout. Intentionally or otherwise, it will destroy the primary industries of Australia. No primary industry must receive any concession. Many honorable members are appeased when told that machinery can be brought in under by-law. That may be done - when pressure is brought to bear.
– It makes no difference now whether pressure is brought to bear.
– I can judge only upon what has occurred in the past. The honorable gentleman is always saying that such and such a thing can be done under by-law. Parliament should decide these matters, and the Minister should abide by its decision.
– Can the honorable member quote an instance where the admission of mining machinery has been refused under by-law?
– The honorable member has not yet warmed his chair. I am guided by what has occurred in the past. We have heard statements by an ex-Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Fenton) and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin), concerning the relaxation of duties in connexion with the Wiluna gold-mine. That was done only after considerable representa tions had been made. The Wiluna company wrote a lengthy letter to the Secretary of State for the Dominions, and sent a copy of it to the then Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) and myself. That letter clearly stated that the company had made every effort to fall in with the wishes of the Government and use Australian-made articles, but that because of the new process that it had adopted, necessitating the use of enormous power to put- through a specified tonnage, it had purchased a large quantity of machinery and appliances in Great Britain,’ on which it had to pay to the Commonwealth over £100,000 in customs duties ! I remember that the management of the Lake Viewmine told the Government that it would discontinue operations, unless it obtained some relief from duty imposts. As a result, concessions were made. That is not the way in which to deal with the tariff. One can imagine how the great Wiluna mine, situated in the interior, laboured under huge costs. In the construction of a railway to the mine, because of the high rates of duty, the State Government had to pay £40 a ton extra for its rails - an added cost of £40,000. I estimate that £200,000 was. paid for the Wiluna plant in excess of what would have been the case in another country which encourages great industries of that nature. It is not very long since an American engineer refused to proceed with a big enterprise in Australia because plant which would have cost £250,000 in the United States of America, would have involved an outlay of £525,000 in Australia. We have had some very fine machinery made in Australia in times past. The Ruwolt crushing plant was one of the very best. In pre-federation days, when our machinery manufacturers had to compete under freetrade conditions with the rest of the world, Messrs. Thompson and Company of Castlemaine, Victoria, and certain machinery manufacturing firms in South Australia and Queensland, made some excellent machinery for Western Australia. The finest hoisting plant in Western Australia was made by Messrs. Thompson and Company. But that was long before the coming of the high duties in 1921, and long before every bit of iron and steel used here was subjected to enormous tariff imposts. In those days, we had possibilities of developing the machinery-manufacturing industry on sound lines, but we have since lost them. No one can deny the enormous value to Australia of big mining operations like those at Wiluna. The Wiluna Company pays between £28,000 and £30,000 a month in wages and salaries. I suppose the Mount Isa and the Lake View and Star wages bills would be of much the same proportions. The employment of these large numbers of men in the mining industry is reflected in all other industries. I believe that one man in the mining industry affords employment to five men in other industries, for work is provided on the wharfs, on therailways, in the factory, on the farms, and elsewhere, to keep the miners supplied with their needs. I was Minister for Mines in Western Australia for nine years, and I know that in the early days of the mining industry in that State, we established Government batteries for the treatment of ore. I question now whether that was a wise policy, for as soon as the prospectors worked out a rich lode, they . abandoned the property and when once a mining property is abandoned, it is very difficult to revive interest in it. If we had opened up those mining areas by the expenditure of a large amount of capital, I believe that we should have had. ten times as many big mines working in Australia to-day as we now have. The mining industry, whether it is concerned with base metals or gold, must be carried on in a big way. Companies must be assured of the amortization of their plant and a reasonable profit before they will embark upon operations. If we could develop our mining industry, we should be able to provide employment for very many people who are to-day but of work. We have marvellous mineral resources in this country, and it is regrettable that we should discourage the development of them by heavily taxing the machinery that is required for the purpose. Our high protective policy adds to the cost of machinery and everything else, and discourages development in every direction. I hope that the Government will agree to a reduction of the duties on machinery. The Minister for Trade and Customs should not, be placed in the embarrassing position of having to decide whether certain machinery shall or shall not be admitted free under departmental by-laws, for this means that some companies may obtain concessions, and other companies may not. Agricultural machinery as well as mining machinery should be made available at the lowest possible price to those who need it. Only by developing our great natural industries shall we be able to lift Australia out of the depression in which she is struggling.
.- I can quite understand the desire of honorable members to make mining and other machinery available at the lowest possible cost; but the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory), who thinks that a duty of 27½ per cent. is too great for mining machinery, wants duties of more than 400 per cent. on tobacco and other primary produce. The honorable gentleman was not fair in some of his remarks relative to the admission of machinery by departmental by-law. He suggested that in some mysterious way one company could exert influence and obtain concessions, whereas another company could not do so.
– I have had experience of it.
– I challenge the honorable member to cite specific cases. Every Minister for Trade and Customs follows the invariable practice of referring all applications for the admission of machineryunder departmental by-law to the Comptroller-General of Customs. That officer refers the applications to the Collectors of Customs in the States, and they detail skilled officers to make inquiries to ascertain whether such machinery can be manufactured in Australia..
– The officers submit reports to the State Collectors of Customs, and these, in turn, send them to the Comptroller-General, who brings them under the notice of the Minister. All such applications go through the hands of at least a dozen officers of the Trade and Customs Department.
– Who know nothing about the subject.
– That is an unwarranted statement. These officers know a great deal more about the subject than does the honorable member. The humblest individual who submits an application of this kind receives the same consideration as the biggest mining company which makes a similar application. The latest Production. Bulletin shows that £21,000 worth of machinery was admitted by departmental by-law in the last twelve months, of which at least £6,000 worth was allowed in duty free. Some of the mining companies are blameworthy for what happens to them. They are in the habit of ordering machinery from abroad without inquiring whether it can be made in Australia. When it is on the water an application is made to the department for the free entry of it into Australia. Inquiries are then made whether such machinery could have been produced in our own engineering workshops. As Parliament has declared that machinery capable of being manufactured here may not be imported except on a 27½ per cent. duty, it would not be right for the Minister to remit this duty without the approval of Parliament. It is, however, within his power to admit machinery free if, upon full inquiry, he ascertains that it cannot be made here. Every application of this description receives the most sympathetic consideration. When I was administering the Trade and Customs Department no request for the admission free of duty of machinery which would aid mining development and so provide employment was refused; if we were satisfied that such machinery could not be commercially manufactured in Australia. When the Wiluna Gold Mines in Western Australia applied for the admission of large quantities of machinery duty free, a careful investigation of the request was made by an officer of the Trade and Customs Department, and in respect of machines which could not be commercially manufactured in Australia the duty was remitted. The same policy was adopted in regard to Mount Isa. The honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) was very active on that occasion, because the mine was giving employment to thousands of men in his electorate. Largely because of his representations, I sent the tariff officer in Brisbane to Mount Isa to inspect the machinery, and duty was remitted in respect of all portions which he could truthfully declare could not be manufactured commercially in Australia. We must encourage mining in every way possible. But the engineering workshops and foundries which are providing employment and offer a future to our boys, have a right to the protection which Parliament has granted. This protection is not a new policy introduced by the Scullin Government ; it was in operation in the 1921 tariff.
– Consider the reduced prices of metals.
– I admit that we must aid the mining industry, but the secondary industries which provide employment have a right to the comparatively small protective duty of 27½ per cent.
– I support the protest against the duties on these sub-items.. I do not pretend to be an authority on mining, but I believe that these duties can be effectively debated on general principles. Australiahas almost unlimited mineral resources, the full development of which would provide employment for many of the hundreds of thousands of men who to-day are walking city streets. Unfortunately, the mining industry is more or less paralysed, and employs 100,000 men less than it did 20 or 30 years ago. This is a circumstance which should cause us to reflect seriously. We could make enormous strides towards the attainment of that elusive thing called prosperity if even an additional 50,000 men could be engaged in mining pursuits.It is far more important that we should attempt to increase employment by lightening the burden upon the mining industry in the manner suggested by the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Hutchin) and others, than that we should unduly foster the manufacture of mining machinery, the production of which would give employment to not more than 300 or 400 men throughout the Commonwealth. At a time like the present we should do everything possible to develop the mining industry and make it attractive to investors, instead of merely concentrating on the encouragement of manufacture of mining machinery, thus hampering and making more difficult the extension of mineral production. There is another aspect of this problem. The Governments of the Commonwealth and New South Wales are jointly making available £80,000 to aid the re-establishment of the sb ale-oil industry at Newnes. One of the first requisites of that venture will be the acquisition of a large quantity of machinery for machine mining. That is one of the essential conditions laid down by prospective investors for the working of the field. This machinery must either be imported or bought at much higher rates from local manufacturers. On the one hand, the Government is giving money generously to assist the industry; on the other hand, it is nullifying the beneficial effect of this assistance by charging unnecessary and unfair duties upon the machinery needed for the development of the industry. These duties affect vitally the unemployment problem throughout Australia. Honorable members will agree that if work is to be found for the unemployed, it must be largely in the mining industry. A policy that will in any way retard mineral development, particularly on the Newnes field, is highly illogical as well as utterly unnecessary.
.- The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) mentioned a letter which he said had been sent by the Wiluna Gold Mines to Mr. Thomas, the Secretary for the Dominions. He added that a copy had been sent to me when Prime Minister. Why the letter should have been sent to Mr. Thomas I do not know; I have yet to learn that he has any say in the government of Australia or the tariff policy of the Commonwealth. I challenge the honorable member to obtain from the Wiluna company, a letter setting forth a list of the items on which concessions were asked and those on which concessions -were given. If honorable members are placed in possession of that information they will be able to judge whether the decision of the government of the day was right or wrong. Will the Wiluna company admit that but for the support of the
Federal Government it might not be operating to-day? .
– That is beside the issue.
– It is my answer to the suggestion that my Government and the parliament of the day showed no sympathy with the company.
– The Government merely guaranteed certain money.
– At a time when no other guarantors were forthcoming, and without our guarantee the company would probably have failed. The assistance which my Government gave to the company was proof of our sympathy with the mining industry and our preparedness to support it in every legitimate way. When the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) was Minister for Trade and Customs, we told the Wiluna Company, and every other company, that if they could satisfy the departmental officers and our experts, any item of mining machinery required by them that could not be manufactured in Australia would be admitted free of duty. But we received some requests, which were positively absurd, for the free admission of some goods - for instance, steel frames for buildings - which were included in the list of mining plant that it. was said could not be manufactured in Australia.
– That is not mining machinery.
– Yet some companies tried to include them in the list of mining plant so as to avoid paying duty. One trouble experienced .by the department is that some of these companies first land the machinery, -and then proceed to ask for a concession upon it. When they are shown that perhaps the whole of it can be made in Australia they say that they were not aware of the fact, and plead for the concession after they have done the deed. Of course, they do not get it, otherwise that kind of thing could be repeated again and again. My Government had the utmost sympathy with gold-mining propositions. No favoritism was shown.
:- I .do not think that any one who knows the facts would charge the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) with lack of sympathy with the mining industry,because on more than one occasion he has shown his sympathy with it; but the fact that his Government gave a guarantee with public funds in support of the Wiluna Company has really nothing to do with the tariff schedule. It is unfortunate that the views of the right honorable gentleman and those who support him seem to be clouded with the fetish that a high tariff should be imposed upon any article that may be made in Australia in order to prevent the possibility of competition from outside. That argument has been raised in respect of everyapplication for a decreased duty, and it has been carried to absurd lengths. The honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fen ton) is perhaps the most uncompromising protectionist in this chamber. With him it is quite impossible to reason.
– I am simply a protectionist.
– Members of the Opposition have one view only on the tariff. They believe that everything that can be made in Australia should be given high protection. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) referred to the skill of the customs officials in making their examinations, but the method adopted by them was simply to discourage the importation of effective and useful machinery. When that honorable member was Minister for Trade and Customs, and an application was made to bring in a machine under by-law, the practice of the department was to send out scouts to try to find some manufacturer who was prepared to undertake to make the machine even although he had not manufactured it before. I could give instances in which machines were excluded from the duty-free list because certain manufacturers had stated that they were able to manufacture them. They had never manufactured such machines, and they were anxious to obtain the specifications.I know that one intending importer who was approached for specifications was honest enough to his principals to refuse to hand them over. The manufacturers who were prepared to undertake the work had no idea of the machine in question. Had the Deputy Leader of the Opposition seen the Lake View plant, he would realize how far our engineers fail in respect of mining machinery. It has been suggested by the honorable member for Maribyrnong that the advice of Melbourne engineers would be of great value to us, but let me inform him that those engineers know nothing about mining machinery.
– The men to whom I refer have been connected with mines all their lives.
– They may have been connected with mines many years ago, but the machinery of those mines is now out of date. In Queensland and Western Australia, mining was very active until 25 years ago, but it gradually declined because it could not contend with the increasing costs. The result was that the companies imported no new machinery, and obtained no new ideas. The United States of America and Canada, by applying science to mining and by improving machinery, were able to treat successfully ores of not nearly the value of the ores of Australia. For many years, this countrylagged behind in mining methods. A visit to the Lake View mine would show that. That mine was languishing, and men were being dismissed. Then the company made the bold experiment- of importing an expert American engineer, Mr. Thome, who soon rehabilitated the Lake View mine. Had it not been for the incoming of men like Mr. Thorne and others associated with Wiluna, many of our gold-mines that are now operating would be closed. The engineers of Melbourne have no expert knowledge of mining. They have no conception of the. machinery that has lately been introduced into Australia. The winning of minerals from the earth at low cost is a progressive science, in respect of which we have been lagging behind other countries, and we have much to gain if we will follow their experience. It is an unwise policy to load an industry like the mining industry with excess costs in respect of its plant and machinery merely to give employment to a few persons in a manufacturing industry. The manufacture of machinery of this type in Australia is comparatively a small job. The opening of a large gold-mine gives employment to many more men than would be employed in the making of machinery. In fact the mining industry provides, not merely temporary, but permanent employment. The development of one mine leads to the extension of mining, and to improved methods of dealing with the large bodies of comparatively low-grade ore which are known to exist in Australia. I should like to move that the duties be altered to British free, and foreign 15 per cent., but I know that it would be hopeless to expect the committee to agree to that alteration. The members of the Ministry have no knowledge of mining, and very little knowledge of anything outside the cities. They are city men, and are not giving the country districts proper consideration in connexion with this tariff.
– Order !
– I am giving reasons for my statement that it is hopeless to expect the committee to agree to the duties being altered to British free, and foreign 15 per cent. I have, however, an alternative proposal. It is that sub-items b, c, and d of item 170 be postponed. At an earlier stage in this tariff debate, the Minister said that these three sub-items, together with sub-item 176 e, had been referred to the Tariff Board on the 2nd March last. I assume that the board’s report is not yet available, and, as it is not desirable that we should fix the duties until the board’s report has been received - because, once we do so, it is almost impossible to have them reduced - I now move -
That sub-items (b) (c) (d) be postponed.
.- The Government cannot accept the amendment. These are the same duties that have operated for many years, with the exception that, in order to comply with the Ottawa formula, some of the foreign duties have been raised by 5 per cent. The whole of the items in group 2 could be put through in one night, yet we have had dissertations on the mining industry, notwithstanding that we are all agreed on the general principles.
– The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn) says that the members of the Ministry know nothing about mining.
– And the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) said that the Government is out to destroy primary industries. An honorable member who makes such ridiculous and fantastic statements will say anything. Unfortunately, some honorable members misunderstand the incidence of the tariff on the mining industry. Coal-cutting machines and percussive rock drills, which form the bulk of the machinery used, are free of duty, and other mining machinery is dealt with under departmental by-law. The honorable member for Swan continues to put up straw men, and then to knock them down. He had a tilt at the system of by-law admissions. On the 15th March the honorable gentleman asked some questions regarding by-law admissions, and, in reply, he was informed of the admissions of machinery and electrical goods under items 174 and 415a.
– I also asked for information relating to item 404.
– The honorable gentleman was given that information as well. We are now dealing with the mining industry. In 1929-30, mining machinery to the value of £2,433,644 was admitted free. The companies operating at Wiluna, in Western Australia, and Mount Isa, in Queensland, were given considerable concessions under by-laws, prior to my entering the Ministry. In 1930-31 and 1931-32, machinery and electrical goods to the value of £1,464,309 and £911,471 respectively were admitted free.
– I have not yet received the reply to my question.
– An honorable member also asked about importations. The importations under sub-items c and d are small, amounting to only £301 in 1931-32, of which £106 was admitted under by-law. The importations under sub-item b in that year were valued at £21,036, including goods to the value of £5,887 admitted under by-law. By-law admissions are not dealt with in that slipshod manner which the honorable member for Perth suggested. I invite him to call at the Customs Department tomorrow morning and see for himself how these things are done. The department knows what firms it can rely on. If a machinery firm says that it can make a certain article, the department does not simply take its word ; it makes investigations from three or four other reliable firms. A report is then furnished to the Minister, who uses his judgment when the matter comes before him. Some firms desire to import, free of duty, the whole of the equipment they require. Only this week I received a telegram from “Western Australia from a concern which was landing machinery to the value of about £20,000, asking that it be allowed to enter free. Some of tha complaints voiced by honorable members come from quarters like that. Instead of getting up in their places in this chamber, and attacking the integrity of Ministers and officials, honorable members should make some inquiries on their own account. In 1925 the Tariff Board stated that local manufacturers were in a position to supply the Australian requirements of goods upon which evidence had been given, and consequently it recommended that the duties of 27i per cent. British and 40 per cent, general should not be disturbed. Anybody familiar with the mining towns of Victoria knows that excellent engineering works are established at Bendigo, Castlemaine and Ballarat. They languished during the depression in the mining industry; but the Castlemaine firm of Thompson’s has manufactured such satisfactory dredgers that it has competed successfully in the Malay States, and much of its machinery is in use there. The Melbourne firm of Ruwolt’s supplies machinery throughout Australia, and also exports to the Malay States and other countries. A Sydney firm supplied the dredging machinery used on the New Guinea gold-fields. The Government is sympathetic with the mining industry, and will give consideration to every application for the entry of goods under by-law. Last year it had mining machinery exempted from primage duty and it also removed the primage duty from cream separators and separator parts.
– The primage duty was taken off 50 items, and in each instance benefit was derived by the primary producers.
– That is so; yet the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) has the audacity to say that this Government is out to destroy the primary industries. He should at least be fair, because the Government has always shown, in a practical way, its sympathy with those industries.
.- The honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. John Lawson) said that 20 or 30 years ago, the mining industry employed 100,000 more men than to-day. He admitted that he knew little about mining; but the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn) posed as an authority on the subject. I suggest that the slump in the industry is due, not to the cost of mining machinery, but to the low prices of metals in the world’s markets. At Gympie, and particularly at Mount Morgan, disaster wa3 brought to the industry, because of the tactics of those who directed the working policies of those undertakings. Mining cannot be made successful by removing the duties on mining machinery; the industry must have a market for its output. If it were not for the granting of government assistance, certain mining companies would not be in operation to-day. The Mount Isa mine is one of those to which I refer. The honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) remarked that Mount Isa. which not long ago was populated by only a few stockmen, now has 5,000 residents. It was recently feared that the mine would have to be closed down; but owing to concessions granted by the Queensland Government in the matter of freight charges, the mine is still in operation, and the tragedy of the workmen having to go on to the unemployed market has been averted. I have heard no complaint from the Mount Morgan mine about the cost of machinery, owing to the new mining processes that are being adopted to-day. . This mine has introduced new processes, which if they had been in use when Mount Morgan was in its heyday, would have prevented that mine from being closed. When mining operations in the Commonwealth were brought to a standstill, owing to the fall of the price of metals, very little duty was being collected upon mining machinery, because practically all of it was admitted duty free. The trouble was not due to the cost of machinery so much as to the wrong method of mining that was adopted. I refer to the system of gouging, which was adopted at Mount Morgan, and at many other mines. At
Mount Perry, where I was born, the mine had a good copper content, but the proper system of mining was not adopted by certain persons from the other side of the world. Mr. Allan Gibbs, the manager of the Queensland Copper Company as Mount Perry, distinctly stated that if the proper procedure had been followed for ten or fifteen years after he left the mine, it would not have had to close down.
– The honorable member is digressing from the question before the Chair.
– I hope that the Government will not entertain the suggestion of the honorable member for Perth.
.- The Minister has shown grave discourtesy in quoting figures contained in an answer to a question which was asked by me in the House about a week ago, and to which I have received no reply from the Minister. I protest against such action. The Minister may have done this inadvertently, but it is quite an unusual practice.
Mr.White. - I quoted from a copy of an answer that I thought had been distributed. Apparently, by some oversight which I regret, the answer has not been laid on the table.
.- The Opposition will do everything possible to assist the mining industry of Australia, and will strongly resent any attempt to admit free into this country mining machinery which can be manufactured here. By our policy of protection we have compelled the manufacture of mining machinery and treatment plant, which certainly would not have been formulated and developed had we been dependent on other countries. The May and Handcock jig used in the treatment of lead and silver ores, was an Australian invention which was manufactured principally in South Australia. The days of the jigs are passed. The evolution has been from the gravity process to the flotation system. That system was developed in Australia, and subsequently was adopted all over the metalliferous world. Had we depended wholly and exclusively upon other countries for our requirements of mining machinery, there would not have been witnessed the almost miraculous develop ment that has taken place. Heavy metals are now floated instead of being separated by gravity. The natural law has been replaced by an unnatural law. By agitation, by the use of oil and air globules, pieces of zinc or minute particles of lead are picked up and floated off. This system was first invented for the separation of zinc, but it is now being applied to probably a dozen metals, with great benefit to the mining industry. The honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Martens) very rightly pointed out that the cost of mining machinery is not the factor which determines whether a mine is payable or not. If the margin is so small that a proposition can be made a payable or a losing one by the imposition or the non-imposition of a duty on the machinery used in the treatment of the metal - precious or otherwise - it is not. the fault of the machinery, but of the mine itself; or it may be due to mismanagement. In my time I have seen engineers erect plant costing £5,000 - in one case £10,000 - which ten weeks later was dismantled, practically the whole of the machinery being scrapped. The engineers and metallurgists concerned in such experiences have come in for a good deal of harsh criticism, but out of that alleged waste of money has been evolved probably the best system in the world for the treatment of metals. Most of those experiments were carried out at Broken Hill.
There are some complex, intricate; - delicate, if you will - machines that are not yet being manufactured in Australia. In such cases the question to be considered is, whether a duty should be imposed purely for revenue purposes or whether the machines shouldbe allowed in free. I have in mind a modern rotary air drilling machine that was imported into New Zealand from the United States of America by a. company, and is now under offer to an Australian company. This firm, however, is faced with the dilemma that if it purchases the machine and brings it to Australia, it may be involved in the payment of duty amounting to anything up to £6,000. I understand that representations have been made either to the present Minister or his predecessor, or to the officers of the Customs Department, that that machinery - not one part of which is manufactured in Australia - should be allowed in free. The reply received is to the effect that the machine should first be introduced and its value declared, whereupon the matter would be dealt with on its merits.
– It would be necessary to furnish an illustration of the machine, and complete specifications, if the machine could not be examined.
– I believe that the specifications are readily available. In the very near future, a casewill be presented to the Minister, and I trust that he will give it sympathetic consideration.
There is to-day a very great dearth of machinery of a like character. All over Australia, enterprises are being held up for the want of rods, casing, and a lot of other material or machinery that is not manufactured in Australia, and that will not be manufactured here until petroleum is discovered, and there is a better demand for it. I therefore suggest to the Minister that the most sympathetic consideration should be given to the question of importing machinery from overseas for the pioneering of a new industry such as that of petroleum prospecting. I am quite convinced that, with such assistance from the Government, much more, can be done in Australia in that direction than is being done to-day.
Sub-items (b) to (f) agreed to.
House adjourned at 1 1 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
y asked ths AttorneyGeneral, upon notice -
– The liquidation of companies is a matter that falls within the province of the States, and the Commonwealth has no power under the Constitution to pass legislation on the lines suggested by the honorable member.
n asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
y asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Mr. Lyons (through Mr. Latham). - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
y asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
By whom was the independent valuation of the Commonwealth ships made in June, 1932?
Mr. Lyons (through. Mr. Latham). - The name of the company which made the independent valuation is C. W. Kellock and Company Limited, 27-31 St: Mary Axe, London, E.C.3.
y asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
s asked the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Commonwealth Savings Bank.
am). - On the 21st March, the honorable member forForrest (Mr. Prowse) asked the following question,without notice: -
I have received from Mr. Gladstone, Mayor of Wagin, Western Australia, the following telegram : -
Understand it is intention of Commonwealth Savings Bank to convert various sub-branches to agencies. These comprise Wagin, York, Beverley, and other offices which were formerly full branches of the old State Savings Bank and are still conducted by State officials. This council strongly protests.
Another telegram from Western Australia makes a similar protest. Will the Prime Minister exert his powerful influence to prevent the removal of an important convenience from these growing towns?
The following information has been supplied by the Commonwealth Bank: -
There will be no removal of important conveniences as suggested in the question by the honorable member for Forrest. The cancellation from sub-branch to agency is more a matter of name than alteration in methods. All conveniences which depositors have had in the past they will still enjoy, with the only exception that withdrawals of amounts in excess of £20 will be referred to the central office. The new arrangements provide both for added economy and more effective control.
Monetary Policy of the United States of America.
Mr. Lyons (through Mr. Latham). - On the 14th March, the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) asked the following question, upon notice : -
In view of the serious nature of the banking crisis in the United States of America, and its possible affect upon Australia and other countries, will he inform the House what percentage of the banking and/or monetary system of the United States of America is in the hands of private enterprise, and what percentage is owned and controlled by the Government of the United States of America?
The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
It is not possible with the information avail able to ascertain the extent of government ownership of banks in the United States of America. The extent of control both as to the number of bunks and magnitude of their operation is also unknown. For the beat infornmtion available on this subject the honorable member is referred to the following publications : - The Reserve Ranks and the Money Market, by W. Randolph Burgess, and The Statistical A bstract of the United States, issued by the United States of America Department of Commerce, which should he read in conjunction with recent American banking legislation.
l. - On the 1.7th March, the honorable member for Cook (Mr.Riley) asked the following questions, upon notice : -
I am now in a position to inform the honorable member as follows: -
Aircraft at Rockhampton.
– On the 17th March, the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) asked whether it was a fact that the Moth aircraft now in the possession of the Rockhampton Aero Club is to be sent to Brisbane ? I am now in a position to inform the honorable member that the Defence Department is not aware of any proposal to send the Moth aircraft now on loan to the Rockhampton Aero Club to Brisbane. This Moth was damaged in an accident last October, and the Rockhampton Club have not as yet been able to finance its repair or replacement as their agreement requires them to do in such circumstances. The sugges tion has been made, however, that the RockhamptonClub should join forces with the main Queensland AeroClub which is located at Brisbane, following the procedure recently adopted in similar circumstances by the Ballarat Aero Club and the Victorian AeroClub, Melbourne. This suggestion was made with a view to arriving at a practicable basis of operations whereby the Queensland Aero Club, in taking over the responsibility for the repair of the damaged Rockhampton machine and its subsequent operation and maintenance as portion of its fleet of loaned aircraft, would contract with the department to provide facilities at Rockhampton for the members of the local aero club tq obtain instruction and practice in flying at’ the rate normally chargeable to club members in .Brisbane and elsewhere. It would appear that such a basis of operations would not only free the Rockhampton Club of its present difficulty as regards the cost of repair of the damaged aircraft, but also “would restore to Rockhampton residents the facilities for instructional and practice flying which are unavailable to them as a result of the local club being unable to place their Moth in flying order. It is thought that a merger on the lines of the above suggestion could probably be negotiated between the Rockhampton and Brisbane Clubs to the mutual advantage of each organization. The .Rockhampton Club has been informed, however, that their representations in favour of financial assistance by the Government 1.0 enable them to repair their Moth and continue their operations as a separate body will receive the department’s consideration.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 23 March 1933, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1933/19330323_reps_13_138/>.