13th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon.G. H. Mackay) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
Accession of the Common wealth.
– I lay on the table of the House copies of Legal Proceedings in civil and commercial matters - copies of Conventions between the United Kingdom and Estonia and Poland.
The accession of the Commonwealth, including the territories of Papua and Norfolk Island, and the Mandated Territories of New Guinea and Nauru, to these conventions, conies into force on the following dates: - Estonia, 26th November. 1933; Poland, 8th December, 1933.
I also lay on the table of the House copies of Legal Proceedings in civil and commercial matters - copies of Conventions between the United Kingdom, and Sweden, Norway, Czechoslovakia, Italy, Spain, Austria, and Portugal.
The accession of the Commonwealth, including the territories of Papua, and Norfolk Island and the Mandated Territories of New Guinea and Nauru, to these conventions, came into force on the following dates: - Sweden, 2nd November, 1933; Norway, 3rd November, 1933; Czechoslovakia, 9th November, 1933; Italy, 9th November, 1933; Spain. 10th November, 1933; Austria, 10th November, 1933; Portugal, 11th November, 1933.
– Will the Assistant Minister for Defence state on whose authority King’s Hall was used last night for the screening of films and propaganda in connexion with Imperial Airways. Limited? As this company is tendering for a Commonwealth contract to supply an air mail link between Singapore and Australia, does the honorable gentleman consider this a proper practice?
– The authority of Mr. Speaker was obtained. The pictures screened showed what is taking place in the air overseas, and were associated with no particular organization.
– Has the Prime Minister a statement to make in regard to the entry of Australian produce, particularly barley, into Belgium?
– I am not in a position at present to make a statement on this matter.
Mr.SCULLIN.- Will the Minister for External ‘Affairs say when legislation giving effect to the Statute of Westminster is likely to be brought down?
– This matter has received the consideration of the Government and it has been decided that no practical advantage would accrue to the Commonwealth from the introduction of this legislation at the present time, and under existing circumstances.
– Will the Prime Minister or the Minister for External Affairs state the reason why the Government has decided not to bring down legislation to give effect to the Statute of Westminster, and inform the House what the other dominions have done to implement the decision of the Imperial Conferences of 1926 and 1930?
– It is difficult to deal with this matter in a few words in a reply to a question, but, on a later occasion, certainly, a statement will be made regarding it.
– Is the Minister for Trade and Customs aware that, notwithstanding the remissions of customs and primage duties, aggregating £320,000 per annum, the price of teahas not yet been reduced, and that there is a general feeling that the public has been and is being grossly exploited by importers of tea and by others? Will the honorable gentleman institute an exhaustive inquiry into the profits made by tea merchants, and consider the advisability of fixing a price that will be equitable to consumers?
– The Government has not the power to fix a selling price. It is true that the abolition of the primage duty of 10 per cent., and the reduction of the customs duty by1d. per lb., represent a loss of revenue totalling over £300,000. The Government is watching the effect of all reductions of duty, and is determined that they shall be passed on to the consumers. Recently, I communicated by telegram with the different tea merchants, to ascertain what action they were taking. From some quarters, the Government haslearned that export restrictions en tea have been imposed by producing countries, with the result that prices have had to be increased. The Government is not altogether satisfied, however, that this is a sufficiently strong reason for the failure to reduce prices to some extent. With one exception, unsatisfactory replies have been received from those who were approached. ‘ The exception isClifford Love and Company, which has advised that the price of tea on. hand has been reduced by1d. per lb., and has stated that or. subsequent imports, buyers will receive the full benefit of the reduction of the tariff and the abolition of the primage duty. The Government will follow up its inquiries, to see how much of the benefit of the remissions can. be passed on to the consumers.
Chartered Companies - Development inquiry.
– Is the Prime Minister in a position to make a statement regarding the progress that has been made with the preparation of the prospectus for the development of the Northern Territory by chartered companies?
– I am not in a position to make the statement asked for by the honorable member.
– Is the Minister for the Interior in a position to make a progress report as to the result of the activities of the commission that is making investigations in connexion with the development of the Northern Territory?
– At the present juncture, I have no statement to make on the matter.
– Yesterday, the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin), asked whether the usual commission of 10s. per cent. had been paid to private banking institutions which had received applications in connexion with the recent loan of £10,000,000, and I replied that it had. A more correct reply would have been that these institutions received the ordinary commission of 5s. per cent., and that the extent to which the trading banks should share in the special underwriting fee of 10s. per cent. which is allowed to the Commonwealth Bank, is a matter for arrangement between the Commonwealth Bank and the trading banks.
Printed Matter ofagricultural Societies - Requirements of Semigovermental Activities.
– Will the Prime Minister consider the removal of sales tax from printed schedules, programmes, catalogues, and other material used by agricultural societies, which is a very heavy impost ?
– The. financial commitments of the Government have been substantially increased since the budget was tabled. Consequently, while I should like to be able to consider favorably the suggestion of the honorable member, and other suggestions of a similar nature, I am afraid “that I can hold out no hope of further exemptions from sales tax.
– The Sydney Water and Sewerage Board has raised a loan of £2,500,000, which is to be spent on reproductive works that will greatly relieve unemployment. Is the Assistant Treasurer aware that sales tax to the amount of £80,000 will be charged on the materials to be used ? As this may mean the loss of employment by 800 men, will the honorable gentleman consider the removal of the tax in this case?
– The definition of semigovernmental institutions that may claim relief from sales tax does not embrace the Sydney Water and Sewerage Board. If the definition of such bodies that are not liable for the payment of sales tax were to be modified by an amendment of the act, a very serious loss of revenue, which at the moment the Government is not prepared to face, would be sustained.
– Owing to the difficult position that confronts the tobacco industry during the transition stage from the old extreme duties to the present duties, and with a view to increasing the consumption of Australian leaf, will the Minister for Trade and Customs consider, at least for a period, either an increase of the duty on imported leaf, or by the reduction of the excise on Australian leaf, a differential excise in favour of Australian leaf used in manufacture ?
– The Government is doing its utmost to help the tobacco industry in Australia. The sum of £20,000 has been appropriated for the improvement of cultural methods in the industry. I understand that all good leaf is being purchased by the tobacco companies. That a quantity of inferior leaf has been left on the hands of growers is unfortunate, and in most cases is due to lack of knowledge of methods of cultivation. The Government will give further consideration to the honorable member’s suggestion.
Sales Tax on Flour.
– Will the Prime Minister inform the House whether it is correct, as the press states, that the Government proposes to finance, by means of a sales tax on flour, the assistance to be given to wheat-growers? Seeing that such a tax would increase the price of bread by approximately1d. a loaf, does not the Government consider that its imposition would constitute a ruthless attack on the poorer people of Australia, particularly the basic wageearner and the unemployed, for whom no provision is made to enable them to meet this extra burden, while at the same time the Government has remitted, in the case of wealthy interests, taxation aggregating millions of pounds?
– The Government has decided to devote £3,000,000 to the assistance of the wheat-growers of Australia. The necessary finance will be provided, partly by a sales tax on flour and partly from other revenue. For the benefit of honorable members, I propose to make a full statement on the matter next Tuesday. The effect of the Government’s proposal on the price of bread will not be so serious as would the adoption of that suggested by the honorable member’s leader recently, in the presence of a deputation, that there should be a guaranteed price of 3s. a bushel at railway sidings on the whole of the wheat produced. Such a scheme would involve an increase of the price of the workers’ bread to at least twice the extent that is likely under the Government’s proposal.
– In view of the statement that the Government proposes to raise portion of the money to be set aside for assistance to the wheat-growers by means of a sales tax on flour, has the Prime Minister noticed the report in yesterday’s press stating that a special expert committee appointed by the New South Wales Government to make an inquiry into the price of bread, and into the general condition of the baking industry, reported, amongst other matters, that if certain uneconomic practices were eliminated a considerable reduction of the price of bread would be practicable? In these circumstances, will the Prime Minister suggest to the various State governments that legislation should be passed by them with a view to preventing an increase of the price of bread?
– I understand that the report of that committee has not yet been made public, and therefore the statements published in the press can scarcely be regarded as authentic; but, in any case, this matter will be dealt’ with when the proposal of the Commonwealth Government for the assistance of the growers is submitted to the House, and when the attitude of the Government on this and every other aspect of the matter will be made known.
– Will the Prime Minister inform the House whether the report that a flour tax of £4 5s. a ton is to be imposed is correct, and, if so, whether that will not mean an increase up to1d. in the price of a 2-lb. loaf of bread? If such an increase ‘will be brought about, or a smaller increase in proportion to the amount of the sales tax, will the Prime Minister take steps as far as possible to cause an increase of the basic wage simultaneously with the imposition of the flour tax, and the, consequent increase in the cost of living?
– I have already said that I shall make a full statement to the H.ouse on Tuesday regarding the Government’s proposals for assisting the wheat industry.
– With reference to the basic wage, also?
– This Government will not interfere with tribunals that have brien set up to deal with the basic wage. The honorable member knows that that would be wrong, and I am not sure that he himself would be prepared to do that.
– Will the AttorneyGeneral say if it is not a fact that, under the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act, any organization which so desires may apply to the court for a wage increase?
– That is so. Wage increases or wage reductions are not made by the Government, but are entirely determined by the court, upon applications made by the interested parties.
– Will the Minister for Commerce obtain and supply to the House information as to the fixed price of wheat in New Zealand, and the price of bread in that dominion? Is he aware that the fixed price of wheat in Brisbane is 3s. 6d. a bushel, while the price of bread in that city is 4¼d. a 2-lb. loaf delivered, and from 3d. a loaf upwards in the cash shops?
– I am not able to supply the figures offhand, but the information will be obtained.
– In view of the general reduction pf interest rates, and the very, low rate paid by the associated banks on fixed deposits, will the Government remind those banks that the public is entitled to a further reduction of interest?
– I have not the comparative figures before me at the moment regarding the downward trend of interest rates; but the honorable member will recognize that a definite reduction of interest rates has occurred, as was shown in the budget speech.
– A reduction has not been made by the associated banks.
– Those banks have reduced their rates, though, perhaps, not to the extent to which the Commonwealth Bank has reduced them ; but in various directions reductions have been made.
– Is the Prime Minister satisfied with them?
– Not if it is possible to have the rates further reduced. The policy of the Government is directed to a further reduction, and I am sure that the policy adopted by all governments in Australia, has assisted in that direction. While I am not satisfied with what has been doney and look for something more, it is satisfactory to know that substantial progress has been made, and relief thereby given to industries generally, including primary industries.
– Has the Government come to any definite decision as to the method to be employed in distributing the £125,000 voted for the assistance of fruit-growers, and has the Minister for Commerce any information to supply regarding the prospects of reductions of shipping charges in the forthcoming fruit export season?
– The Government has decided that the £125,000 voted on the Estimates for the assistance of apple and pear exporters shall he distributed in proportion to the participation by the several States in last year’s exports, but obviously the distribution cannot be made until the Estimates have been passed. Unfortunately, the negotiations conducted by the High Commissioner with the ship-owners in London in regard to freight charges have proved abortive, but the Government is considering what further steps can be taken to ensure that the budgetary advantages which will be enjoyed by the shipowners, as well as by the people of Australia generally, are passed on to the fruit-growers, in accordance with the undertaking given to the Prime Minister some months ago.
– Will the AttorneyGeneral state whether, before further proceeding with the bill introduced a few days ago for. the payment of £100,000 to the Victorian Government, he will make available to honorable members copies of the correspondence between McComas and Company and the Commonwealth Government with reference to migrant settlement ?
– I believe that a similar question was asked yesterday, or on the previous day, by an honorable member on the Opposition side, and the Prime Minister said that he would look into the matter and see if the papers could be made available. I understand that a reply will be furnished to-day to a question asked, upon notice, regarding this matter.
– I have received a communication from the secretary of the Taxation Committee, Brisbane, asking me to secure certain information. Will the Assistant Treasurer state when the report of the Royal Commission on Taxation is likely to be made available, and whether the Government intends to introduce a bill to amend the income tax acts this session, in addition to the Financial Relief Act passed recently.
– I stated in reply to a question asked in the House yesterday that the first part of the royal commission’s report will be .made available before the present sittings end. The Government does not intend to introduce legislation prior to the Christmas recess to alter in any substantial way the present system of income taxation, owing to the Government having insufficient time to give full consideration to the report of the commission.
– Has the PostmasterGeneral received communications from various shires and municipal councils asking that their correspondence shall be sent through the post free?
– I am being constantly inundated with requests of two kinds - one for a reduction of the cost of the postal service, and the other for concessions at the expense of the department. The latest is an application that municipal correspondence should be accepted post free, and that the printing of the words “ On His Majesty’s Service “ on the envelopes and wrappers should be permitted. I have replied that the proposal is entirely impracticable, and cannot be acceded to, as the law provides that postage must be paid on correspondence of that description.
– 13 the Prime Minister aware that certain interests in New South Wales, through what is known as the New States Boundaries Commission, are attempting to cut up that State into three separate divisions, which would entail increased representation in both Houses of this Parliament? Does the Government propose to move in the matter, for the purpose of frustrating the action of these persons, seeing that it would involve not only an alteration of the Federal Constitution, but also more governments in this already overgoverned country?
– Action in this matter has been taken in New South Wales by the Government of that State, and until the point is reached at which the Commonwealth Constitution is involved, and some decision has to be made by this Parliament, this Government does not propose to interfere in the matter.
– It has been represented to me, as chairman of the Library Committee, that copies of current newspapers have been removed from the newspaper files in the Library. I’ understand that this practice has been going on for some time, and I therefore ask for the co-operation of honorable members in an effort to check it. The Librarian’ informs me that if copies of particular newspapers are required, he will endeavour to make them available, and he emphasizes the inconvenience caused to other honorable members if papers are removed from the file.
– Will you, Mr Speaker, endeavour to secure the cooperation of honorable members to restrain those who are disposed to climb on the billiard tables in this building?
– This matter was discussed by the Joint House Committee, and steps have been taken to check the practice complained of.
– What action has been taken by the Library Committee to deal with those members who have not returned books which they have borrowed from the Library? I understand that some member have had books from the Library for years, and. have not returned them. Is it the practice to allow members to accumulate libraries for themselves at the expense of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Library?
– This matter was exhaustively discussed at a meeting of the Library Committee this week, and the Librarian was instructed to inform honorable members who had offended in this connexion that it is proposed that those who do not observe the rule of the Library in the future will be prevented from obtaining other books. Some members have as many as 50 books belonging to the Library.
The following paper was presented : -
Sales Tax Assessment Acts (Nos. 1 to 8) - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1933, No. 120.
NEW AND OPPOSED BUSINESS AFTER 11 p.m.
– I move -
That Standing Order No. 70 (11 o’clock rule) he suspended until the end of the year.
It is usual to move this motion at this stage of a session. If carried, it will enable business to be dealt with more expeditiously and satisfactorily than otherwise.
.- If we are to have all-night sittings, and for that purpose it is desired that Standing Order No. 70 shall be suspended, the
Prime Minister should inform the House how long Parliament is likely to sit.
.- I rise not to object to the motion, but to ask the Prime Minister for an assurance that, in the event of all-night sittings being necessary, the House will be advised of the Government’s intention to bring forward new legislation after 11 o’clock. Some honorable members for health or other reasons do not desire to remain here after midnight, but if they knew that legislation in which they are particularly interested would be brought forward in the early morning hours, they would remain. I have no objection to the motion so long as adequate notice of the Government’s intention is given to honorable members. I remind the House that some time ago, a bill dealing with the appointment of a commission to inquire into the needs of the weaker States was brought on after 3 o’clock in the morning, and I was denied an opportunity to move an amendment which I had prepared. <So long as honorable members know the intention of the Government, there should -be no objection to the motion.
.- I am opposed to the motion, for I do not think that any government should have the power to introduce new legislation after 11 o’clock. If rumour is correct, the Government desires to rush into a long recess.
– The Government does not desire that Parliament shall adjourn until the year’s work has been completed.
– If the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) will give an assurance that Parliament will meet early in the New Year, there would be little or no opposition to the motion. I do not like legislation by exhaustion; but that is the real purpose underlying the motion. It is noticeable that Government supporters are conspicuous by their absence from the chamber during all-night sittings.
Ministerial Members. - That is not so.
– Honorable members opposite deny the charge, but they know that it is true.
– It is not.
– Honorable members on this side have continually to call for quorums during all-night sittings because supporters of the Government are out of the chamber sleeping. If we are to have legislation by exhaustion, it is the duty of the Government to maintain a quorum in the Chamber. I shall oppose the motion to suspend the Standing Orders to permit the Government to introduce legislation at any old hour of the day or night.
– I, too, object to the suspension of the Standing Orders to enable new legislation to be introduced after 11 o’clock at night. No member or Minister who has done hia duty from 9 o’clock in the morning until 11 o’clock at night is in a fit condition to give due consideration to new measures. I am pleased that one honorable member has signified his intention to vote against the motion, and I shall join with him in opposing it. I suppose that on this occasion the usual thing has happened - the various parties have agreed to let the motion pass. If that is so, I can only say that it is not the duty of the Opposition to get Government business through the House.
– Who said that all parties had agreed to the motion?
– I do not know whether or not an agreement has been reached on this occasion; but I know that that has been done frequently in the nast. If this matter is forced to a division, the opinions of honorable members will be recorded, and there will be less likelihood of a similar motion being moved in the future. There are still several weeks before Christmas, and there appears to be no urgent necessity for the motion. The electors of Australia would not form a high opinion of this Parliament if they could see members lying around on the . benches, wrapped up in white blankets, asleep during all-night sittings.
– The honorable- member is never here during all-night sittings.
– Should the Government think that the business before the House at any time has been fully discussed, and that members generally have had ample time to express their views, it can use its weight and applY the “ gag- “
– And the honorable member would vote against it.
– During the whole of my parliamentary experience, I have never known a government to allow so long a discussion on the Estimates as has been allowed on this occasion, and I commend the Government for allowing reasonable time for their consideration. Generally”, the Estimates are passed at one sitting. With the numbers at its disposal, the Government can always apply the “ gag ‘’ after a full discussion has taken place.
– Would the honorable member support the application of the “ gag “ in such circumstances^ ?
– Yes; after a reasonable opportunity has been given to honorable members to express their views. Almost two days were devoted to the discussion of the Treasury Estimates ; had the “gag” been applied during that discussion I would willingly have supported it.
Motion (by Mr. Hutchin) negatived -
That the question be now put.
.- The honorable member for Angus (Mr. Gabb) has developed the habit of making charges against honorable members, but such charges spring from his own fertile imagination. The honorable member sets himself up as the only Simon Pure in this Parliament. I throw back his statement in his teeth ; there has not been any agreement with the Government in regard to this motion.
– There has not even been any discussion between Ministers and others relative to it.
– The Country party has not been consulted in the matter.
– My party will vote against the motion in its present form. Honorable members will recollect that when the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) asked leave to move a similar motion a few days ago, I joined in refusing him that leave. I have never contended that it is the duty of the Opposition either to help or to obstruct the Government; it should carry out what it believes to be its duty to the electors of Australia. There are times when an Opposition may well agree, on the floor of the House - not behind any doors - to the adoption of measures which would facilitate the business of the country. But I do not believe that any government ought to ask the House to give it a blank cheque. Yet, that is what this motion means. If agreed to, the motion will empower the Government to introduce any bill after 11 o’clock on any night from 110W until th« end of the year. The usual practice towards the end of a session is for the Prime Minister to inform Parliament that the Government desires to introduce certain measures, and to ask for authority to introduce them after 11 o’clock at night, if necessary. To enable that to be done the suspension of Standing Order No. 70 is sought. On this occasion the Prime Minister has moved an omnibus motion. The House does not know what legislation may be introduced in the early hours of any morning. I submit that the motion is unreasonable.
– If agreed to, it would establish a bad precedent.
– Should the Government say. that it desires to clean up a number of small measures, and ask for the suspension of Standing Order No. 70 for that specific purpose, there would probably be no objection to the proposal. But I strongly object to the motion in its present form.
– Did not the Government of which the right honorable gentleman was the leader act in a similar way?
– So far as I know, there is no precedent for the motion which has been moved to-day.
– If this were the middle of December, and it were necessary to introduce new legislation before the Christmas adjournment, a motion such as that now before the House might lie justified; but at this stage of the session it is not warranted. As several weeks still remain before it will be necessary to adjourn Parliament to enable members to .reach their homes before Christmas, I shall oppose the motion.
– I agree with what has been said by the Leader of die Opposition (Mr. Scullin) and, by way of illustration, suggest that the Government might desire to introduce its pensions legislation after 11 o’clock at night. No honorable member will deny that the members of the party which I have the honour to lead in this chamber take an active part in the discussions which take place during all-night sittings, but other honorable members who, because of ill-health or for other reasons, do not desire to remain here on such occasions, would, in the event of legislation being introduced after 11 o’clock, be denied an opportunity to speak to a measure which vitally affects their constituents. This is an important matter and the Government should not ask the House to support the motion.
– I am gladthat the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) has cleared up the point raised by the honorable member for Angas (Mi-. Gabb), who said that an arrangement had been made between the Government and the Opposition with respect to this motion. As stated by the right honorable gentleman, no such arrangement was made. I appeal to the honorable member for Angas not to make insinuations concerning other honorable members.
– Does the Prime Minister say that no arrangement was made.
– As I have already stated, no arrangement was made between the Government and the Opposition. The honorable member, instead of persisting in his suggestion that such an undertaking was entered into, should tender some proof of hi3 assertion. I did not mention this matter to the Leader of the Opposition, to any members of the Opposition, or even to the members of my own party.
– Has not the right honorable gentleman stopped debates by an arrangement with the Opposition?
– I am entitled to confer with the Leader of the Opposition or with the leader of any other party if I wish to do so. I have done that on many occasions.
– The honorable member for Angas is wrong in saying that debates have been stopped by arrangement with the Opposition.
– Was not that done on the subject of unemployment?
– I did not hoar the interjection of the honorable member for Angas, but if he says that a debate on the subject of unemployment was stopped by an arrangement with, the Opposition, I deny it.
– What has the honorable . member for Angas in his mind?
– I know nothing of any such arrangement. I appeal to the honorable member’ for Angas to be fair in matters of this kind. The Leader of the Opposition said that this is an omnibus motion, and that the Government ought to indicate to the House the measures that are to be brought forward from day to day, and particularly to stipulate the new legislation to be introduced after 11 o’clock at night. The action which the Government now proposes to take is the same as that taken by the right honorable gentleman when he was Prime Minister, and also by other Prime Ministers. At this stage of the session, it is impossible to arrange the business to suit the requirements of each honorable member. This motion has been submitted so that if the discussion on the Estimates should terminate after 11 o’clock at night, new business may be introduced. I shall endeavour to inform the House of the business to be brought forward, and, as far as possible, the order in which it will be taken; but, at times, circumstances prevent that from being done.
– The right honorable gentleman has not answered my question concerning all-night sittings.
– -The right- honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) asked, how long the House was likely to sit before rising for the Christmas vacation. Several measures are already before the House, and other important hills have yet to be introduced. We hope to complete consideration of all these measures, and Parliament will remain in session while important business has to be transacted. As far as is practicable, all-night sittings will be avoided. If honorable members on the cross benches who carry on the. debate until midnight, and then, when the House reassembles, continue the discussion, are determined to use up the time to the last minute-
– That is an admission of an arrangement.
– No. I suggest again that the honorable member should cease his insinuations which have no foundation. I arrange the order of business, and intend to adhere to the usual practice. The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James), who said that many honorable members on this side of the chamber are absent from night sittings, should recall that during such sittings, the members of his party work in relays, and that while some of them are asleep, the Minister in charge of the business before the House has to remain in the chamber the whole time. Honorable members who prefer to rest rather than listen to the oratory of the honorable member for Hunter display common sense.
Question - That the motion be agreed to - put. The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. G. H. Mackay.)
Majority . . . . 10
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
.- I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
The object of this measure, which is to amend the Judiciary Act, is to reduce the number of the justices of , the High Court from seven to six. Section 4 of the Judiciary Act provides that the High “Court shall consist of a chief justice and six other justices. At present the court consists of a chief justice and five ether justices, and it is considered that that number is sufficient to transact the work of the court. While the present act remains on the statute-book there is an unfilled vacancy on the Bench. When the High Court was established in 1902, it consisted of a chief justice and two other justices. In 1906 the number of justices was increased from three’ to five, and in 1912 from five to seven. Of that number one was engaged for nearly the whole of his time presiding over the Arbitration Court, and a second justice also spent a groat deal of his time in that court. The Full Bench of seven justices was assembled only to adjudicate upon, constitutional or other very important matters. The law with respect to the Arbitration Court was altered in 1926, to provide that instead of one or two justices of the High Court, with deputy presidents for the time being, functioning as the Arbitration Court, a separate Arbitration Court should be established, consisting, in the first instance, of three judges, and later of four judges. At present there are three judges in the Arbitration Court, whilst the fourth judge is acting as the judge in the Federal Bankruptcy Court. There is, therefore, no longer any need for a justice of the High Court to discharge any functions in the Arbitration Court. Accordingly, one factor which influenced Parliament in deciding to increase the number of justices of the High Court has disappeared. Six justices are able to do the work. Consequently, there is no reason for leaving this vacancy upon the High Court Bench, and it is proposed to alter the law by providing that, in future, the court shall consist of a chief justice with five other justices, as at present, instead of a chief justice with six justices, as provided for in section 4 of the Judiciary Act 1903-1910.
– Has the AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Latham) fully considered the position that possibly may arise in the event of the opinions of six justices of the High Court being equally divided upon certain important constitutional matters? There is a reason why the court should consist of the Chief Justice with six other justices. In respect of questions as to the limits inter se of the constitutional powers of the Commonwealth and those of the States the Attorney-General will recollect that no appeal is allowed to the King in Council except by leave of the High Court. The right honorable gentleman will recollect the position which arose in the case of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, in which, upon an important matter of the powers inter se of the Commonwealth and the States, there was an equal division of opinion amongst the justices. The Chief Judge remarked on the application for the issue of a certificate, “ One reason is that a judgment of a court which is equally divided in opinion is not generally considered as of great authority. The question is one of very great importance.” The court affirmed accordingly that, it was a case in which a certificate should be granted.
– In what year was that ?
– In 1912. The Attorney-General is familiar with the principle involved, and if he is satisfied as to the advisableness of the proposed amendment of the law, despite the point to which I have directed his attention, I will not press the point. But J suggest that if there is any possibility of danger it might be wise to consider the preservation of the numerical strength of the High Court as it is at present.
– Section 23 of the Judiciary Act 1903-1910, provides -
Section 23 of the Principal Act is repealed, and the following section inserted in its stead: -
– (1). A full court consisting of less than all the justices shall not give a decision on a question affecting the constitutional powers of the Commonwealth, unless a majority of all the justices concur in the decision.
With the High Court consisting of six justices, there is ample provision for the concurrence of three justices. I quite concede that if the justices are equally divided in their opinions, the opinion of the Chief Justice prevails.. It is hardly justifiable, however, to provide another justice merely because on very rare occasions there may he an equal division of opinion. The number of justices of the High Court must necessarily be five, six or thereabouts, because they are required to hear appeals “from the Pull Bench of the Supreme Courts of the . States, and any number less than I have indicated should not have power to reverse the considered judgment of those tribunals, which are themselves constituted of three or more justices, Whilst recognizing the difficulty mentioned by the honorable member, I suggest that, in practice, it is not likely to cause any serious trouble.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time and reported from committee without amendment; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
In Committee of Supply: Consideration resumed from the 23rd November (vide page 4990).
Proposed vote, £1,177,970.
Upon which Mr. Nelson has moved by way of amendment -
That the vote for divisions 100-101 under the control of Prime Minister’s Department, £135,411.. be reduced by£l.
Question - That the amendment be agreed to - put. The committee divided. (Chairman - Mr. Bell.)
Majority . . . . 27
Question so resolved in the negative.
.- There are two or three items as to the meaning of which the Minister might vouchsafe some explanation. The first of these reads “ Commercial Agency, Paris, £1,500,” Who. is the agent, and what is his function? Australia’s contribution to the expenses of the Secretariat of the League of Nations is £54,000, as against £20,000 last year, and the Minister stated that the increase was due to Australia having got behind in its contributions. Are we to understand that Australia has been repudiating its obligations ?
– We paid £50,000 last year, and £54,000 this year.
– I am glad that the Government has paid up. There is an item of £200 for the relief and repatriation of distressed Australians abroad. Some explanation ought to be given as to how that money has been spent. A sum of £100 is set down for the assistance of the Boy Scout movement. Who is to get that money, and how much will he paid to assist Boy Scout organizations in. the Reid electorate? Expenses in connexion with the Premiers Conference amount to £300. Where does that money go to, and who receives it? I observe that recent conferences have been held in camera. When Mr. Lang attended such gatherings, they took place in public, and a report of the proceedings was subsequently published.
– He was the repudiationist.
– I sometimes think that the poet, Thomas Bracken, must have had in mind men like Mr. Lang when he wrote the lines -
Not understood. Poor souls with stunted vision
Oft measure giants by their narrow gauge;
The poisoned shafts of falsehood and derision
Are oft impelled ‘gainst those who mould the age,
A sum of £25 is provided for historical memorials to notable men. I have an idea that the amount should be increased, because the time will come when memorials will be erected to members who sit in this corner of the House. Only my profound modesty prevents me from saying who will be one of those to be so honoured.
For the maintenance by the States of farm training depots for migrant settlers a sum of £400 is provided. This, apparently is a new departure because no money was provided under this heading previously. I should like to know who are the migrants who will benefit from this scheme. Is it proposed to bring men from America to teach the tobacco-growers in the Kennedy electorate how* to grow tobacco? We know how the tobacco industry has been treated by the Government,because the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) has talked about it for the last fortnight. Perhaps these new migrants will be negroes. There is also the possibility that they may be wheat-farmers, of whom, apparently, we already have enough, if not too many.
.- When discussing Australia’s contribution to the Secretariat of the League of Nations, the Minister for Health and Repatriation (Mr. Marr) said that the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley), who in 1926 was appointed official Labour representative to the International Labour Conference at Geneva, had asked the Government to pay him his salary of £7 a week which he had been receiving as president of a trade union. Last night, the honorable member for West Sydney denied that he had ever occupied any paid position in a union, and the Minister followed with an explanation which did not, however, make it clear whether he had, in the first place, understood, from the honorable member for West Sydney that the trade union had been paying him a salary of £7 a week, or whether that was simply an invention by the Minister.
– Order! That, matter was adequately dealt with last night. The honorable member for West Sydney took exception to certain remarks of the Minister, who thereupon gave an assurance that he had not intended to reflect in any way upon the honorable member, and that if he had misstated the facts he would withdraw any remark to which objection was taken. 1 cannot allow further discussion on a matter which has nothing to do with the item before the Chair.
– I hope it will be a warning to the Minister to be more accurate when making statements in the future.
– I object to the honorable member saying that my statements were inaccurate.
– It is not a contravention of the Standing Orders for an honorable member to say that a Minister’s statement is inaccurate.
– The Minister said that I was inconsistent because I had opposed Australia’s expenditure on armaments, and also its expenditure as a member of the League of Nations. There is nothing inconsistent in my attitude, because I believethat, whether we spend money on the League of Nations, particularly in view of its recent stand in connexion with the Eastern trouble, or on armaments, we are spending it in preparing for war. The right honor- able member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), in a press interview the other day, said that he welcomed Mussolini’s suggestion that the Disarmament Conference should meet somewhere other than in Geneva, because, in his opinion,
Geneva, was a. hotbed of intrigue. The right honorable member ought to know because he has been there several times. Of course, the position would not be improved merely by changing the venue of the conference. Geneva is a hotbed of intrigue because the intriguers are there, and the same men would intrigue wherever they were.
The Minister accounted for the increase in Australia’s contribution from £20,000 to £54,000 by saying that Australia had been in arrears in its contributions to the League of Nations. Australia has sent many delegations to meetings of the League of Nations, and all of them, upon their return have, so far as I have been able- to ascertain, presented reports, but not one of those reports has ever shown that Australia was in arrears.
The Minister took me to task for saying that the League of Nations was a gathering of the victorious countries in the late war for the purpose of imposing their will upon the defeated nations through the Versailles Treaty of Peace. He said that this could not be so, because, at one meeting of the League, 54 nations were represented, so that it was impossible for the nations who were victorious in the war to dominate the proceedings. If the Minister had studied the proceedings at the League of Nations assemblies, he would know that there is a vast difference between the position of those members who occupy permanent positions on the League Council, and the other puppet states which are merely members of the League, and are very often under the complete domination of the larger powers. The Government proposes to increase its expenditure on armaments by £1,500,000. It is all very well to say that this constitutes expenditure on defence, but it cannot be denied that it is, in fact, a preparation for war. It is therefore inconsistent for the Govern- ment to continue to support an organization, the ostensible purpose of which is the preservation of peace, and, at the same time, to spend £1,500,000 in preparing for war.
.- The first item referred to by honorable members was No. 3 - Commercial Agency, Paris, £1,500. The Australian Commercial Agent in Paris is Mr. C. H. Voss, who receives a salary of £350, reduced under the Financial Emergency legislation to £280, an allowance of £1 5s. a day, reduced to £1 a day, and motor car allowance of £75. These amounts total £720 a year. Mr. Voss occupies accommodation at the office of the British Chamber of Commerce, and a grant is made to that body of £400 per annum to coveroffice accommodation, typing, telephone, &c. Mr. Voss visited Australia at the end of last year, and, in consideration of the amount of Commonwealth business which he transacted, approval has been given to reimburse him the cost of his transport, amounting to approximately £250. A sum of £130 has also been included for incidentals, such as relief to this officer when he is on leave from Paris, and his travelling expensesbetween Paris and London. The salary and allowances paid toMr. Voss were previously included under the contingency vote of the Prime Minister’s Department, but this expenditure, and the other expenses connected with the Paris agency, have now been amalgamated under one item.
Item No. 4, relating to the Secretariat of the League of Nations, has also been referred to. I have been asked why the arrears owing by the Commonwealth did not appear in the annual report of the League. The arrears of any nation, unless they amount to a considerable sum, do not appear in that report. The vote for this item is £54,000. It was decided to pay the contribution assessed by the League in full as well as arrears, up to the end of June, 1933. The League’s financial year is the calendar year, and the provision of £54,000 in English currency will be sufficient to meet, not only contributions due to the end of December, 1933, but also contributions for the first six months of 1934 at a similar rate of assessment.
Information is sought regarding the vote of £100 for assistance for the Boy Scout movement. For some years past it has been the practice of the Defence Department to assist the Boy Scout movement, in the various States by lending tents and other equipment for use at the annual camp. This amount of £100 is provided to reimburse the Defence Department for expenses in connexion with the repairs to and maintenance of the equipment lent. Although only £24was expended during the last financial year, the usual amount of £100 has been provided to meet any increased activities.
Owing to the frequent conferences of Commonwealth and State Ministers, and the expenditure on printing, &c, it is thought that the usual amount of £300 will be required during 1933-34. In connexion with these gatherings the principal expenses are railway fares, motor hire, printing, and entertainment of Premiers and. staffs.
– Does the Commonwealth pay for the entertainment of the Premiers ?
– That is a small item, indeed. As the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) knows, any entertainment by Commonwealth Ministers in Canberra is usually met out of their own pockets.
– If the conference sits in Canberra, the Commonwealth Govern- ment provides afternoon tea, but if the sitting takes place in one of the other capital cities, the State Government concerned provides it.
– Item 17- Historic Memorials of Representative Men, £25 - was referred to by the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Gander). Provision has been made to meet the cost of photographing representative men for record purposes. At a later date, if funds permit, it may be decided to make oil paintings therefrom. The honorable member also referred to the £400 provided as a contribution towards the cost of maintenance by States of reception and farm-training depots for migrant’ settlers. The Commonwealth agreed to contribute . on an equal basis with the Governments of Great Britain and Western Australia for the provision of instruction and supervision in farming for migrants who were allotted farms and group areas in “Western Australia under the provisions of the £34,000,000 Loan Agreement. Provision is made in the Estimates to meet commitments in connexion with the agreement, but it is anticipated that that obligation will cease in the near future.
– The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) asked for some information regarding the expenses of the delegates to the International Labour Conference.
– When referring to that matter, last night, I said that I thought that the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley), who attended the conference at Geneva, in 1926, was the first delegate representing the Labour movement to receive compensation for loss of salary. I find on perusing the official papers that that statement is not correct. Every delegate but one since about 1924 has received compensation. I have made a note of that exception and shall fully investigate it, so that if any injustice has been done, it may be rectified.
.- There is an amount of £400 for “ Maternity allowances paid under certain circumstances “. I understand that the maternity allowance is not paid when the annual income is £208 and over. In determining the eligibility of applicants for maternity allowance, no deductions are allowed by the department, and I consider that at least deductions on account of wages tax, &c, which bring the income below £208” per annum, should be taken into consideration.
From what Ican gather the men engaged in. connexion with the Census have not been fairly treated by the Government. They were engaged to perform services which, it was said, could be completed within a period of ten clays, but many of them found that they could not complete the duties allotted to them within the time prescribed. The following statement sets out the experience of one of these men : -
After appointment, I attended a lecture at Divisional Returning Office, Paddington, to all collectors, wherein duties were outlined, by enumerator, for one and a half hours.
I attended again at office twice for instructions, by sub-enumerator, and issue of books and forms for use in my area.
From the 26th to the 29th June inclusive, my duty was to distribute schedules and personal slips. This necessitated a personal interview with the head of the house, ascertaining occupants, and whether friends or lodgers, in order that no one would be overlooked, and proper forms issued, and name, address and number of each kind of form entered in record book, also name and address.In the evening I entered these records in the compilation book ‘ each day, as instructed, until distribution was completed on the 29th June.
From the 30th June to the 7th July’ inclusive, I was occupied in collecting, checking and completing forms and returns. Many difficulties were met with in collection, my district being a residential area of mixed nationalities, many having to be helped to compile the forms. Many visits had to be made at night, as those concerned were not at their place of residence in the day-time.
Lodging houses were numerous, in which different families resided, causing the issue of separate forms for each.
My sub-enumerator required completed forms and compilation book properly entered up, handed to him for checking, at intervals suitable to himself. This made it necessary to go to the Divisional Returning Office on Sunday, the 2nd July, and every evening thereafter.
Tho fact that compilation book was out of my possession at those times delayed completion of returns.
Each schedule and slip had to be headed with record number and locality before distributing, and completed forms checked to see that all questions wore answered, and totals of schedules and slips agreed in regard to numbers.
The average entries on each schedule were twenty-five.
On another paper I -have detailed hours worked day and night to complete work.
Under the instructions of my subenumerator, the excessive hours were necessary, in order to complete work within the period allowed.
My remuneration was at the rate of 14s. per day for tcn days, totalling f7 for full period.
It is obvious that many of these collectors, because of tho large areas which they had to cover, and the various nationals which they had to interview, were unable, in many instances, to perform their allotted duties within ten days. I daresay that the case to. which 1 have referred is not isolated. All these nien are unemployed, many of (hern having been out of work for long periods. In the circumstances, the Government should have no hesitation in recompensing them for time worked in. excess of the ten days. They were required, not only to work at all hours of the day, but also to make calls during the night, and some of them had to work on Sundays in order to complete their returns. In addition they had to attend the Divisional Returning Office to receive instructions; some of them, prior to taking up their duties, attended that office three or four times, and that entailed as much as ten hours extra time for which they received no pay. The payment of £7 for ten days’ work is equivalent to 14s. a day, which is not by any means excessive, considering the numbers of hours worked. I suggest that the Government should obtain a return from the departments concerned, to ascertain the extra hours worked by the individual members of the staff in the collection of the census, and in deserving cases should pay for all time worked in excess of 80 hours during the’ period of ten days. I hope that the Government will give consideration to my request, because since collecting the census many of these men have been unemployed.
.- The item “Maternity allowances paid under special circumstances “, relates to allowances in respect of which the Government considers there is a moral, though perhaps not. a legal right. The act provides that claims for allowances must be made within three months of the birth of a child; but in certain circumstances, mothers in remote outback areas of Australia, and in New Guinea and Papua, cannot submit their application within that period, and, occasionally, other circumstances also make this impossible. In such cases, payments are made by the Government if investigation shows that the circumstances justify it. The amount provided for this purpose this year is similar to that provided last year. It is, of course, impossible accurately to estimate what amount will be required.
Regarding the proposed vote of £88,926 under the heading “ Census, including collection, Compilation, Printing Maps and Miscellaneous Services “, I point out that other provision is made foi- the Department of Census and Statistics under division 25. The amount provided this year under the division now being considered, is less than that provided last year. Fortunately, the whole cost of taking the census can be spread over several years. The amount expended for this purpose last year was £137,224. Substantial amounts will also need to be provided on the Estimates for next year and the following year; in addition to the amount provided this year; but the expenditure will become smaller each year. Regarding the complaint by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) of inadequate payment of collectors, I am not aware of the circumstances he has mentioned, but I shall inquire into the matter, and if injustice has been done, the Government will endeavour to correct it.
, - The Assistant Treasurer (Mr. ‘Casey) has not replied to one point that was raised in connexion with the payment of maternity allowances. We have asked the Government to allow amounts paid in unemployment tax to be deducted from income in connexion with the determination of eligibility for this allowance. The act prescribes that mothers whose husbands are in receipt of an income of £208 or more per annum, are not eligible for the allowance: but if the amount of unemployment tax were deducted, many more mothers would be able to claim the maternity allowance. In view of the fact that this tax is definitely designed to help other people who, unfortunately, are unemployed, citizens who pay it should not be placed under a. disability in regard to other social benefits. It looks as though an unemployment tax in some form is likely to remain in force for a considerable time, and I therefore ask the Assistant Treasurer to give an assurance that the Government will consider an amendment of the act to provide that such amounts may be deducted from income for the purpose of determining eligibility for this allowance. [Quorum formed.]
. -I appreciate the courteous manner in which the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) has submitted his contention. I shall certainly inquire into the circumstances, and, while I assure the honorable member that sympathetic consideration will be given to his request, he will appreciate that I cannot give an undertaking that the Government will introduce an amendment of the act.
Reverting to the remarks of the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), regarding the remuneration of collectors of census information, I point out that districts were not allotted to collectors in a haphazard manner. Every effort was made to ensure that collectors would be . given districts which could be covered within the time allotted for the purpose. Where complaints have been made that the time allotted has not been sufficient to enable the required duties to be completed, each case is examined on its merits and additional remuneration is granted if the circumstances warrant it. I assure the honor able member that that practice will be continued.
– I ask the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) for some information about the items, “ Contribution to the International Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property, £150,” and “ Contribution to International Copyrights Convention, £330.” I notice that, although £150 was voted last year in respect of the International Copyrights Convention, nothing was expended. Why has the amount been increased to £330 this year?
– I should like some information about the item, “ Tribunals under the Industrial Peace Act, £150.” Are any of the tribunals appointed under that act still in operation, and, if so, are they concerned about affairs on the waterfront?
– The contributions referred to by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) are made regularly. The convention relating to industrial property concerns patents and trade marks. Arrangements have been made among practically all countries of the world for the mutual protection of patents and copyrights, and, to some extent, trade marks. Usually, grants made in respect of patents, trade marks and copyrights apply only within the territory of the government making the grant in accordance with the law; but, under the international convention, rights are also given in certain circumstances in other countries. The international bodies concerned with this business meet regularly to discuss matters affecting patents, trade marks, and copyrights, and the payments now under consideration are to meet our share of the expenses incurred in that connexion. The increase of the contribution to the International Copyrights Convention to £330 this year is due to the fact that the account for last year’s expenditure was not received from London in time to be included in the Estimates for 1932-33, so the vote now before the committee provides for the expenditure last year in addition to the anticipated expenditure this year.
The only industrial tribunal now operating under the Industrial Peace Act applies to the southern collieries of Queensland, and is a local tribunal. “We are obliged to confess that this system of dealing with industrial conditions on the coal-fields generally has failed.
– Is that not due to the failure to appoint a chairman in place of Mr.Hibble?
– It has been found impossible by the parties concerned to reach an agreement on the appointment of a successor to Mr. Hibble. I am informed that both the unions and the employers are dissatisfied with the system, and would prefer to come under the uoerations of the Arbitration Court.
– That would not be the case if local tribunals were appointed.
-Doubtless the. honorable member is aware of the difficulties which exist in connexion with the management of industrial conditions in the coal industry. The local tribunals appeal to one as a reasonable method of dealing with many of these problems.
– Requests made from time to time for the appointment of tribunals under the act, have not been favorably considered by the Government of the day.
– One of the existing difficulties is that it is practically certain that nearly all of the orders made by these tribunals are invalid. The Commonwealth has power to deal only with interstate industrial disputes, and very few of these matters are of an interstate character. A great deal of what has been done under the act is quite invalid, and could be challenged at. any time with success. That is recognized as being an unsatisfactory state of affairs, and, as a result, proposals have been made periodically for a radical amendment of the industrial laws. The Government has under consideration the regularization of the whole matter, and the provision of proper means to enable those concerned in the coal industry to obtain a determination through the medium of the Arbitration Court. At present the Court must not make an award that is inconsistent with an order made under the Industrial Peace Act. As many of these orders or awards are invalid, though it would be expensive to prove that they are, it is desirable that adequate machinery should be provided for the determination of these matters.
The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) has said that requests have been made for the reconstitution of these tribunals. The only such requests that I have received since I have been Attorney-General came from South Queensland.
– Has the right honorable gentleman received any request that the Government should step out of the road in order that an arbitration act such as that contemplated by the Lang Government could function ?
– No; not according to my recollection. There has been a most remarkable position in the coal industry. There are out of date orders and awards of these special tribunals which have not been scrutinized by any authority for some years - a most unsatisfactory position, because the Arbitration Court is not able to operate until the position in regard to the determinations ‘ of the special tribunals is cleared up. The Government has under active consideration a proposal to give those engaged in the coal industry full access to the Arbitration Court. At present that is not possible because of the provision in the Industrial Peace Act that the Arbitration Court shall not make any award inconsistent with an award made under that act.
The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) asked specifically if these tribunals had anything to do with the waterside. They have not.
– No one can regard the position of industry in Australia without experiencing grave misgivings. The Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) has spoken of the intention of the Government to propose an amendment of the law to enable those engaged in the coal industry to approach the Arbitration Court. Of course that may be done, but the root . of the trouble is traceable to our constitutional inability to deal with the most important factor in modern life. I have said that again and again, and I refrain from elaborating it now because it appears to be utterly futile to deal in words with a situation that requires action. I do not know that the responsibility for inaction rests on any particular person or government, but, during the last 30 years, we have cultivated the habit of regarding the distribution of powers under the Constitution as almost sacrosanct.
– The whole matter will bc examined at the conference which is to be held in February or March next at. Hobart. The Government has on previous occasions invited the State Governments to participate in the appointment of a convention for the purpose, but its offer was rejected; the proposed conference at Hobart is the next best thing.
– I am not attempting to place the blame on the shoulders of this Administration. I ‘ was compelled to realize the difficulties of the situation when I was Attorney-General. The natural diversity of interests due to climatic, geographical, and other factors is accentuated by the division of power between the States and the Commonwealth. The States are loath to surrender any of their authority. The Commonwealth has invited them to discuss the matter. Perhaps the time will come when the States will agree to a course of action to facilitate that happy disposition of affairs which will enable the National Parliament to exorcise powers over this vitally important national matter. My own experience is that while State Governments are fertile in suggestion for inaction, and in presenting the difficulties of their individual cases, they decline to hand over to this National Parliament the powers which they are not exercising.
Failing the happy issue which we flatter ourselves might come out of the Hobart conference, the Government must fall back upon an amendment of the Constitution. The other evening, I ventured the suggestion to the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons), and I now repeat it, that in dealing with the States individually, as represented by their Premiers and Ministers - and I. refer to States, qua States, speaking of them in the abstract if it is permissible to speak of a concrete body in the abstract - a satisfactory settlement would be more probable of attainment if it were made perfectly clear that if the States did not agree to it, the Commonwealth Government would propose an amendment of the Constitution. I know very well that they might receive that threat with a certain amount of indifference, for it has been tried before, and nothing has happened. But if an amendment were put before the people-
– Order ! The discussion appears to be developing into a debate on an alteration of the Constitution to provide better machinery for the settlement of industrial disputes. Such a debate would be out of order on this vote.
– I am dealing with the statement made by the AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Latham). It appears to me that there is no possibility of a satisfactory adjustment of the industrial situation until this Parliament has power to make laws in respect of industrial matters. Until that is done, I am prepared to go about the country and say that this Parliament occupies an absolutely farcical position, for it cannot make laws in regard to a matter that is vital to our national life.
.- Perhaps, as the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) has said, these industrial tribunals are not functioning, but that is not because the miners do not desire them to operate.
– i do not think that they have functioned for four or five years, as both sides became dissatisfied with them.
– The trouble is that neither this nor the last Government filled the vacancy that was created by the death of the late Mr. Hibble, who acted as arbitrator. The Industrial Peace Act proved serviceable to the country during the time that it functioned, and all the awards that were made under it still operate. I do not agree with the AttorneyGeneral that those awards are illegal, because the royal commission which was presided over by Mr. Justice Davidson declared that a breach of the award had been committed by the lockout that occurred on the northern coal-fields of New South Wales during 1929-30, and he and his fellow commissioners made it evident that the awards issued by the tribunal were legally binding. I admit that the Victorian State Government successfully appealed against an .award- in respect of its application to the brown coal deposits at Yallourn, but that was because Yallourn was held to be a quarry rather than a coal-mine.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
– The majority of awards now governing coal-mining throughout Australia were made by the special tribunal, which confined its attention to industrial disputes relating to the coalmining industry, whereas judges of the Arbitration Court are called upon to decide issues affecting a wide range of industries. In reply to my enquiry as to whether representations had been made for the appointment of a successor to Mr. Bubble, the right honorable the AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Latham) stated that no such request had been made.
– I am speaking to the best of my recollection. I have not had the documents searched, but I believe that what I said was correct.
– Representations were made to the Scullin Government to appoint Mr. M. Charlton, my predecessor in the representation of Hunter, who is acknowledged by all who know him to be a fair-minded, honorable and reliable man. No one has a better knowledge of the coal-mining industry than Mr. Charlton has, but the Scullin Government did not appoint him; possibly it feared that it would be accused of bias if it appointed a man who had recently been a member of the Labour party in this Parliament. There was never greater need for the functioning of this tribunal than there is to-day.
– Because of the desperate plight of the industry. The powers of the coal tribunal were sufficiently wide to permit it to inquire into all industrial disputes affecting the coal industry, and also to fix prices.
– I think the honorable member is in error.
– Section 4 of the Industrial Peace Act defines “industrial matters” as including -
– The honorable member will see that the authority of the Commonwealth is confined to disputes which extend beyond the boundaries of a State.
– It definitely includes questions as to profits and prices, and Mr. Hibble did fix prices.Further, section 7 empowers the Commonwealth Council of Industrial Representatives to inquire into - . . any industrial matter brought before it by a member or referred to it by the Governor-General, and to declare its opinion thereon.
This clearly authorizes the Government to refer to the coal tribunal which, as I have said, is a body composed of men experienced in mining matters, all proposals relating to the industry, including the extraction of fuel oil from coal, which I discussed in this House on Tuesday night. This should satisfy the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Hutchin) who a few moments ago asked why this tribunal should be functioning to-day. The act further authorizes the Council of Industrial Representatives to make reports to the Governor-General concerning any industrial matter. Thus it will be seen that the scope of the coal tribunal is practically unlimited; it may inquire into and report upon any matter relating to the rehabilitation of the coal industry. It is to be regretted that many of the disputes that have occurred during thelastfouryearshave notbeen dealt with by this tribunal, due primarily to the fact that the Government has not allowed it to function. This is why I urge that greater provision should be made for tribunals under the Industrial Peace Act, so as to permit of the appointment of a competent chairman and of local or district boards. The appointees of the employers and employees are available at any time. I have a clear recollection of the ex-Minister for Mines in New South Wales (Mr. Baddeley) making representations to the Attorney-General in the Scullin Administration (Mr. Brennan) regarding the introduction of State legislation to fix conditions and prices for the coal-mining industry in New South Wales. The present position is anomalous and most unsatisfactory, but it would be remedied if the Commonwealth Government would allow the coal’ tribunal to function, lt lias been urged that the authority enjoyed by that tribunal was given to it under the War Precautious Act, which has since been repealed ; but, as I have shown, the industry is still functioning under an award of the tribunal. I therefore hope that the Attorney-General will allow it to function again, if not to fix wages and conditions, at least to inquire into and report upon measures necessary to rehabilitate the coal industry.
– The observations of the honorable ‘ member for Hunter (Mr. James) with reference to the coal tribunal illustrate the difficulties that surround control of not only the coal industry, but also other industries. In the first place, he asked for provision to be made to enable the coal tribunal to function, but towards the close of his remarks expressed regret that the Federal Government had not taken action to enable State legislation to apply to the coal-mining industry of New South Wales.
– I did not express regret for that omission.
– At all events the honorable member referred to a request made by Mr. Baddeley, ex-Minister for Mines iu New South Wales, and I understood him to say that he did not agree with the action of the Commonwealth Government in refusing to make “way for the proposed State tribunal. The honorable member referred to the anomaly that exists at present in industrial law. I remind him that it is not so easy to remedy it as some honorable members appear to think. Consider, for example, the great mass of complex legislation designed to secure hygienic conditions, so far as may be practicable, in” the management of mining operations. If this Parliament were to take over every industrial matter, as is suggested sometimes, rather lightly, I am inclined to think, it would be concerned with all of that legislation, as well as a great deal of factory and shop legislation passed by the State Parliaments to meet local conditions and the desires of their citizens. It must be recognized that the assumption of control over industrial matters generally by the Commonwealth Parliament would involve the replace ment of State laws with Federal laws. I do not say that that, consideration should be regarded as a final bar to the Commonwealth having complete control over industrial matters; but I point out that that is an element which must be taken into account if a considered judgment upon this very difficult question is to be arrived at. I am inclined to agree with what the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) has said with respect to the unwillingness of the States to hand over to the Commonwealth the industrial powers that they now possess. That element, undoubtedly, is important, because, although the people of the States are represented as to some matters by the State Parliaments and as to others by the Federal Parliament, they do not divide their minds as constitutions divide governmental and parliamentary functions. They sometimes take a State point of view ‘and at other times a federal point of view. This matter will certainly be discussed at the Constitution Conference which it is hoped will he held in Hobart early next year. The Government is endeavouring to find time to prepare for that conference, but it would seem that very little time indeed will be available to it for that purpose. It will be the responsibility of the Commonwealth to consider, and probably to present, definite proposals to the conference.
The Commonwealth Council, for which provision is made in the Industrial Peace Act, has, in fact, never been appointed. From time to time it is suggested that there should be some such body to advise the Commonwealth Government in relation to industrial matters generally. I had to consider the question when the portfolio of Minister for Industry was created. That portfolio still exists, and I am the present holder of it. Honorable members will have observed that under no government has a real Department of Industry been set up. At different times it has appeared likely that the Constitution would be so amended as to render necessary the existence of such a department. At the present time, however, it is considered unjustified, having regard to the limited powers of the Commonwealth Parliament. As honorable members have heard ad nauseum, the only industrial powers which this Parliament possesses, apart from those which relate to employees of the Commonwealth, are to be found in the arbitration power, with the limitations of which honorable members are familiar. This matter, with a number of others, will be brought before the Hobart Conference. There will then be an opportunity for the Commonwealth to examine the whole subject, with the assistance of the responsible governments of the States.
.- I was very pleased, indeed, to hear the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) say that the overlapping of Federal and State jurisdictions in industry would be raised at the Constitution Conference that is to be held in Hobart early in the new year. For many years, considerable doubt has existed as to the relative powers of the States and the Commonwealth. Prior to the last elections, an agreement in general terms was arrived at between the United Australia party and the United Country party, as to the wisdom and necessity of having a uniform basic wage and maximum standard hours throughout the Commonwealth, determined, if possible, by a federal tribunal.
-Order ! The Chair cannot allow the debate to develop along the lines that are being followed by the right honorable member.
– I wished merely to suggest steps that might be taken to enable the matter to be dealt with at the conference in Hobart early next year.
– Order! Probably every honorable member has ideas that he would wish to express if I were to permit the right honorable member to initiate such a debate.
– It is extremely difficult to deal with a matter of vital importance when the Standing Orders preclude effective reference to it. The Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) mentioned several matters that are to come before the Hobart conference. This is a most intriguing subject, through the mazes . of which one might wander more or less profitably, but, unhappily, there is no prize for those who emerge scatheless. The outstanding fact is that, unless the necessary power is conferred on the Commonwealth Par liament, and the industrial law is made uniform, advancement cannot be expected.
– Order !
.- I have made many requests to the Department of Trade and Customs for the remission of duty, but in no instance have I been successful, although substantial supporting reasons have been offered. Therefore, I should like to have explained the necessity for the item “ Remission of duty under special circumstances, £250 “. In what circumstances are remissions of duty made?
The Government has found itself unable to grant repeated applications for the removal of the primage duty on a number of items, particularly on machinery and other machinery imported for use in the establishment of new secondary industries. The remission of customs duty in minor cases would make it appear that important secondary industries, particularly those that are newly established, have not received the attention that they deserve. On the works estimates, provision was made for the construction of a vessel to engage in research work in the fishing industry. That undertaking will not provide employment for half a dozen men. Primage duty should be remitted in order to hold out substantial encouragement to those who are prepared to invest their capital in industries and so provide employment.
.- The £250 referred to is provided to assist persons in necessitous circumstances who receive parcels from overseas, and cannot afford to pay the duty on them. Refunds are made under warrant authority, and the amounts are subsequently repaid to the Consolidated Revenue. All honorable members are familiar with cases in which persons in poor circumstances receive parcels containing articles of clothing and similar goods made by relatives abroad, and a hardship would be imposed upon them if duty were charged.
Primage is not collected on British machinery brought into Australia under by-law, and this fact is appreciated by those engaged in both primary and secondary industries. On machinery imported from foreign countries the primage is mostly only 4 per cent. More generous treatment than that could not be expected.
.- The Commonwealth subsidy for assisting in cattle tick control in New South “Wales aud Queensland is £44,450. I appeal to the Government, in view of the urgency and national importance of this matter, to restore the vote of £55,000, which was “formerly provided for this purpose. The history of tick infestation in Australia dates back some 40 years. At that time tick was introduced into the northern part of Australia, and it spread with alarming rapidity throughout the Northern Territory and Queensland. Early in the present century it invaded the northern parts bf New South Wales; but, during the last 30 years, it has been held in check as the result of the tremendous efforts of, and the great expenditure’ incurred by, the New South Wales Government. Seven or eight years ago the Commonwealth Government entered the ring, and, recognizing the fact that New South Wales was really holding the stock frontier for the rest of Australia, agreed to subsidize the efforts of that State by providing £55,000 a year as a subsidy, on condition that New South Wales found, roughly, twice that amount, and Queensland about £25,000, to clean up their respective areas. It was hoped, thereby, ultimately to get rid of the tick menace south of the Queensland border, and keep the State of New South Wales free from it. This would have made the boundary between the two States a frontier which could be held, and ultimately it was hoped that the pest would be eradicated from Queensland also. Unfortunately, about eighteen months ago the tick, which had been kept in check for some 30 years, suddenly made a tremendous advance southward for 150 miles, from the Richmond river to the Macleay, or from Casino practically to Kempsey.
The New South Wales Government found that, owing to the Premiers plan, and the reduction of the Commonwealth subsidy by about 22$ per cent., it was receiving a smaller grant from the Commonwealth, although it was endeavouring to deal with the tick over an area three times as large as that which had to be covered two years previously. Fortunately, the Commonwealth Government at the beginning of this invasion, had about £5,000 in the unemployment relief fund, and made that amount available as an extra subsidy to New South Wales to encourage the building of dips, because, without the dipping of cattle, it is impossible to check the* scourge. The New South Wales Government wisely used that money to the best advantage. Whereas, previously, Governmentbuilt dips had cost £275 or £300 each, arrangements were made ‘with stockowners for the building of dips under contract, the Government to subsidize the work to the amount of £100 for every dip constructed. The result is that, in the last eighteen months, 41 new dips have been erected, although at the former rate fewer than twenty dips would have been provided out of the £5,000. The New South Wales Government, having seriously depleted the- staff that was ^ engaged on the old tick area, is unable to carry out the intense inspection and the building of dips in the lower area, which are necessary to enable the pest to he rapidly driven north again. In the more recently infested area, the tick has not become properly acclimatized; but, if it is left undisturbed for the next two or three years its eradication will he very difficult.
The New South Wales Department of Agriculture is ready and willing, and the Commonwealth officers themselves are anxious, if sufficient funds can be made available, to increase their efforts steadily to push the pest back from some 1,200 to 1,400 square miles of territory, and render it free of tick within two years. An appeal has been made to the New South Wales Government for the additional assistance which would enable this to be done. New South Wales is still spending £100,000 a year on this work; but the Commonwealth’s contribution has fallen from £55,000 to £44,000. It is possible that the failure this year properly to fight this disease will have very serious consequences. It is true that £10,000 or £15,000 may be saved in labour and material; but, ultimately, it may be necessary for the Commonwealth Government to spend hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of pounds, in order to keep the tick under control. What may easily happen is that, instead of the frontier being held, as at the present time, fairly securely, the menace may spread through the coastal districts of New South Wales into Victoria, and thence over the whole of the southern parts of Australia, resulting in. a tremendous capital loss in respect of all the grown stock that happen to be in those areas. Further, it may ultimately result in a tremendous increase of the cost of handling both dairy and beef stock, . because dipping would become essential throughout the Commonwealth. Therefore, I urge the Government to make available, at the earliest possible moment, the money necessary to supplement the efforts of the New South Wales authorities to force back the pest. Tt is particularly desirable to act promptly while the stock-owners are cordial towards the Government’s efforts, because their present feeling may not persist if the tick is prevalent for a considerable period. We should capitalize the existing goodwill of the stockowners towards the Government, and seize this opportunity, which may not occur again, to clean up the area now infested, and save the southern portion of Australia from invasion.
– I regret that the Government has not seen fit to provide more than .£400 for “ subsidies and expenses in connexion with maternal and infant hygiene.” A similar sum was voted last year, and all of it was expended. It would appear that the Government is war-minded rather than health-minded, notwithstanding that the health of its people, especially the mothers and children, is of paramount importance to any nation. Each year 3,000 infants below the age of one month die, and 700 mothers are lost in childbirth, leaving each year about 2,000 motherless children. Heavy additional expenditure is proposed under the defence vote, and I regret that the Minister for Health (Mr. Marr) has not displayed in the Cabinet’ the forcefulness of his colleague the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce).
Last year £387 was expended as “ subsidies and expenses in connexion with the control of venereal disease and tuber culosis,” but this year no provision is made under that heading. I disagree with the policy of leaving the control of these diseases to the States. The sooner the Commonwealth adopts a progressive health policy, the better it will be for the nation. No money is better spent than that devoted to ensuring the health of the people. Seven or eight years ago a royal commission on health was appointed, and it is time that effect was given to its valuable recommendations. It is now too late to provide more money this year under the headings which I have mentioned; but I hope that next year greater provision will be made to prevent the loss. of life among mothers and children.
– I should like to know to what purposes the £400 provided under the heading “ subsidies and expenses in connexion with maternal and infant hygiene” will be devoted. The wealth of any country is in its people, and for that reason £400 seems a small sum to devote to maternal and infant hygiene. No doubt the Minis.ter has an adequate explanation, and I shall be glad to hear it.
I support the request made by the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) in connexion with cattle tick. I am sure that the Minister recognizes the valuable services rendered to the Commonwealth by the New South Wales Government in this connexion. I could understand a reduction of the vote during the worst period of the depression, and I should like to hear from the Minister whether the reasons for reducing the vote then still exist.
.- I agree with the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Riley) that not sufficient provision has been made in connexion with maternal and infant hygiene. I should also like to know the reason for the item “expenses in connexion with the control of radium - £4,150.” I know that radium is expensive to purchase, but I cannot understand why its control should require £4,150 this year. I should also like an explanation of the proposed expenditure of £1,527 in connexion with the Australian Institute of Anatomy.
I am concerned that no provision whatever is made in these Estimates to assist doctors and hospital authorities who attend to the health of the unemployed throughout Australia. Many members of the medical profession not only provide the unemployed with free professional treatment, but also supply them with medicines.- A number of doctors in my electorate, especially those at Greta and Branxton, and throughout the coal-fields generally, have impoverished themselves through supplying drugs and medicines to unemployed needy persons. The Department of Health should assist those unable to obtain medical service and comforts. From time to time cases are brought under our notice of women suffering from malnutrition being admitted to maternity and other hospitals when about to usher in a new citizen of this . country. The annual reports of many public hospitals disclose that the finances of these institutions are in a deplorable state. For instance, at the Cessnock and ‘Kurri Kurri hospitals, in the Newcastle district, new wings have been erected to accommodate additional patients, but sufficient funds cannot be obtained to furnish the buildings. In other instances, patients have also to be turned away because insufficient accommodation is available. Recently I read a report in the NewcastleH erald to the effect that the industrial contributions to the Cessnock Hospital have fallen off to such an alarming extent that treatment cannot be given to those needing it. The hospitals in mining districts have been constructed largely as the result of compulsory industrial contributions, assisted by State subsidies, but as these are now rapidly decreasing the Commonwealth Government should make substantial grants so that the sick and afflicted in our midst can receive proper treatment. Instead of remitting huge sums of taxation paid by the wealthy landowners the Government should relieve many of these institutions of the financial burden they are carrying and thus make it possible for a larger number of patients to be admitted. The hospital accommodation available throughout the Commonwealth is inadequate, and, in view of the remissions of taxation recently made, the Government should make some contribu tion to the funds of these institutions. If substantial relief were afforded it would benefit many medical practitioners who are spending their own private funds and also providing medicine free of cost to assist in preserving human life. As many men and women are now unable to obtain work and cannot contribute to hospital funds as in the past the Government should provide assistance by means of subsidies.
– As subsidies to public hospitals are not provided for under this item the honorable member will not be in order in making extensive references to the subject.
– Surely I am entitled to suggest that the expenditure provided under this item in connexion with maternal and infant hygiene should be increased. I have, however, made it clear to the Minister that further provision should be made to assist those unfortunate people who are unable to obtain the necessary medical attention.
– Last year £387 was spent for subsidies and expenses in connexion with the control of venereal diseases and tuberculosis, but no appropriation is being made this year. With the activity now being displayed in the gold-mining industry there has been a revival of an old form of tuberculosis known by the generic term of miners’ phthisis. This includes such tubercular diseases as fibrosis, silicosis and pneumoconiosis, which are seriously affecting those engaged in quartz-mining propositions. In some of the States,institutions and organizations for the control of these diseases already exist.
-i rise to a point of order. Is the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. E. F. Harrison) in order in discussing at this stage expenditure on the treatment of tuberculosis, which was provided for in the Estimates for last year, for which no appropriation is being made this year?
– The point of order raised by the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) must be upheld. I have been examining the item under which the honorable member for Bendigo is discussing this subject and I find that although £387 was spent last year no appropriation is being made this year. The honorable member will not be in order in discussing the subject.
– I am drawing the Minister’s attention to the fact that no expenditure is provided for this year.
– As no amount is provided in the vote now under consideration the subject cannot be discussed.
– I wish to direct your attention, sir, to a precedent which tells in favour of the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. E. E. Harrison). Upon quite a number of occasions, under a general heading, honorable members have been allowed to suggest the provision of particular lighthouses, port lights or island lights, although no such items appeared in the Estimates.
– I admit that what the honorable member has said is correct, but the practice has only been permitted when there was an amount on the Estimates relating to such matters. Here there is no amount on the Estimates, and in such circumstances, it would be straining tine practice unduly to allow discussion along the lines sought to be followed by the honorable member for Bendigo.
– I submit that, under the proposed vote for the division we are discussing, I am in order in referring to this very essential service.
– The question before the Chair is the vote for Miscellaneous Services under the control of the Department of Health. No amount is included for the service referred to by the honorable member.
– I desire to direct the attention of the Minister to the item, “Expenses in connexion with the control of radium, £4,150.” .That is the amount proposed to be appropriated this year, as compared with an expenditure of £1,332 of last year. It would be very fitting if, at this stage, the Minister could give us some account of the degree of success that has attended the efforts of the Commonwealth in regard to the treatment of cancer by means of radium. I know that a great amount of work in this direction has been done in various other parts of Australia as well as in Canberra. But we have no information as to the measure of success that has been achieved. On the contrary, we do know that cancer is increasing, not only in Australia, but also throughout the world. I should like to be told whether we are geting value for the money that we are expending upon radium. The Minister might also inform us what quantity of radium is held in Canberra at present? It is rumoured that all the radium previously here has been returned to England. Will the Minister be good enough to say whether that rumour is correct?
– I desire to make a few remarks concerning the invasion of clean country by ticks. Many years ago this peat invaded Queensland from the north and swept down to the New South Wales border. Whilst I do not support any interference with stock-owners who follow the practice of regularly dipping their stock, because such interference would expose them to the danger of very serious losses, I have every sympathy with those who occupy the country bordering on the boundary to which the tick has so far advanced. A very large expenditure has been incurred by stock-owners because of the fear they entertain that the tick may find a lodgment in the area they occupy. The Commonwealth used to appropriate £50,000 annually in an effort to preserve a barrier between the clean and the infested country, aud the reduction of the amount to £44,450 has already been the subject of adverse comment, because to-day the buffer area between the clean and the unclean country is three times as great as it was formerly. I shall support any reasonable assistance that may be extended to the Government of New South Wales iri its efforts to prevent its territory from being invaded by tick. I sincerely hope that the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research will be unrelaxing in its endeavours to bring about the total extinction of this pest. Our stock-owners in Queensland would then save many thousands of pounds annually, because there would be no necessity for the regular dipping of their stock every three or four weeks. It must be apparent that there is always a danger of the tick in the southern portion of Queensland becoming more acclimatized, and thus constituting a perpetual menace to the northern portion of New South Wales. Hundreds of thousands of stock may be swept away in a few weeks immediately following the introduction of tick. It is in the earliest stages that the pest is such a potential menace; subsequently it becomes a source of protection against further infestation. I hope that the Commonwealth will assist New South Wales in holding the tick in check and in preserving clean areas.
.- Some twelve or eighteen months ago very strange rumours were afoot in regard to the tick evil; but whether they were warranted I cannot say. I recollect that the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins) made a very serious charge that some human beings were endeavouring to spread tick over an area further south than that in which it had obtained a lodgment in Queensland. It was stated that tick had been placed in boxes, brought to New South Wales, and placed upon cattle that were clean. Seeing that stock-owners periodically dip their cattle in an effort to prevent the introduction of this disease, it is a most serious position if other persons endeavour with malicious intent to spread the disease among clean cattle. I should hike to have that rumour investigated. We were pro- mised last year that, with the installation of more dips and a more intensive system of inspection, the tick menace would shortly be under control; but, according to the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page), and the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser), it is worse than ever. I have been informed that documentary evidence can be produced to support the charges that .the ticks are being deliberately transported to clean areas. If the Minister has heard nothing of these charges, I ask him to communicate with the New South Wales authorities.
– The honorable member for Cook (Mr. Riley) inquired regarding the sum of £400 provided as a subsidy for maternal and infant hygiene work. That sum has been on the Estimates for several years, and represents an annual vote to the Mothercraft Society in Canberra. At Premier’s conferences, the State representatives have protested, perhaps rightly, against the Commonwealth undertaking work of this kind within the States, though apparently they have no objection to the Commonwealth supporting laboratories outside Commonwealth territory. The Commonwealth Government recently suggested to the Government of Victoria that it should take over the laboratory at Bendigo, which has been responsible for doing a great deal of good work. That seems a reasonable request, seeing that the States object to Commonwealth interference in other phases of health work. I agree with honorable members that every care should be taken of infants, and particularly of mothers, but, while the States have their own organizations for this work, they resent any extension of Commonwealth activities.
The control and eradication of cattle tick is a tremendous problem, and for many years a huge staff of men has been employed in northern New South Wales. In my opinion, too much attention has been paid to the control of the tick, and not enough to its eradication. This, no doubt, has led to the* rumour that men employed on the work have deliberately carried the tick, either to clean areas, or to herds which were formerly clean. This complaint has been most carefully investigated, and Dr. Robertson, of the Commonwealth Health Department, who has given it his personal attention, states that the possibility of anything of the kind being done is extremely remote. It must be remembered that ticks can be carried on people’s clothing, or on logs floating down rivers. The right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) said that a large area south of Grafton had recently become infested. This extension is regarded very seriously by the authorities. A new boundary line, considerably south of the old one, has been fixed upon, and an intensive campaign undertaken to drive back the tick. Forty new dips have been erected on the southern border, the pastoralists and dairymen supplying the labour, and the authorities the material. The honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. John Lawson) has been persistent in seeking further assistance in the control of cattle tick, and within the last few days, in association with the right honorable member for Cowper, introduced a deputation from the north which asked for the expenditure of an additional £10,000 this year. It was- pointed out that it was too late to embark upon any notable extension of activities this season, because inspections, to be effective, have to commence at the beginning of September. Perhaps an extra £4,000 or £5,000 could he spent on the training of a staff, but that is all we could do this year. A few months ago, the Government of New South “Wales also asked for a larger Commonwealth advance, but it was not possible to agree. A large area in the South Clarence district has been placed in quarantine as it has become infested with tick. Specified areas are inspected, and as they are found to be free, are released from quarantine. A considerable area was released at the end of June, and the staff moved further north. This docs not apply to that area mentioned by the right honorable member for Cowper, though it is known that the tick is present there. Up to date, the Commonwealth has spent £140,000 on the control and eradication of tick, which shows it has not been idle. Fortunately, cases of redwater on the Queensland border have been eradicated, and there are no cases in New South Wales. Had there been a few cases of red water further south, its spread through the tick would have caused enormous damage. I shall bring the representations of honorable members for increased grants before Cabinet for its consideration. Several honorable members have asked for information in respect of radium which is being sent overseas to be reconditioned. The radium which was purchased by the Commonwealth during the regime of the Bruce-Page Government at a cost of £100.000 is to-day valued at £200,000.
– In Australian currency?
– Yes; but if it were sent overseas it would be worth £200,000, plus exchange. It has been necessary to place on the Estimates this year an additional amount of £2,800 to enable some radium to be sent overseas, principally to Great Britain, for reconditioning, so as to make it more available for general use. It is the desire of the Government to keep the radium at standard strength so that no danger may be involved to those who use it. Radium is distributed to eighteen hospitals throughout the Commonwealth. Those hospitals are mostly State institutions, and therefore the radium is used over a wide field. So far, 10,000 cases have been treated. As five years is the recognized period for estimating results, it is as yet difficult to estimate the consequent benefit to the community. The Director-General of Health has prepared a very careful report on the treatment of cancer. That report will be received by the Government within a few days, and if any honorable member cares to “peruse it, I shall see that a copy is made available to him.
.- I understand that you, sir, have ruled that the control of certain diseases and tuberculosis cannot be debated under this item. Might I point out that in connexion with this item we are asked to approve of an expenditure of £387 which was made by the Government without authority? Had the amount expended without authority been £50,000 or £100,000 we should still have been unable to discuss the merits or the demerits of the expenditure.
– It will be remembered that this committee has approved of a vote under the heading “ Advance to the Treasurer and I take it that the amount which the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) states has been expended without authority, will be included in such vote or in a supplementary estimate. That is a matter for the Minister for Health (Mr. Marr) to explain if he thinks fit, but I repeat it is not now before the committee.
.- Division No. 108 under the control of the Department of Commerce makes provision for an amount of £8,000 in respect of the Australian Dairy Council. The functions of this board are, broadly speaking, supposed to be the improving and standardizing of the quality of Australian butter, and the orderly marketing of it with the object of obtaining the best price for the producer. There are two ways in which our butter may be disposed of. The first is to sell it on the basis of f.o.b. or c.i.f.e. On that basis, the butter is sold for cash, and the buyer takes the responsibility of the vagaries of the market. If he falls down on his job, and through negligence allows the butter to become stale or damaged in any way, the resultant loss has to be borne by him ; the butter becomes his baby, and it is his responsibility to do his best with it. The other method is to consign the butter to an agent or agents who are expected to watch the market, and to sell at the most opportune time. By this method, the producer places himself entirely in the hands of the agent, and trusts him all the way. If the agent is thoroughly conscientious, and takes the same care of the producers’ interests as he would of his own, there may be an advantage in that method of selling; but it has to be remembered that whether he sells to an advantage or not, his own financial interests are not affected. He is nursing the producers’ baby, and, if through neglect, he allows it to fall sick, the producer must pay the doctor’s bill. If he lets the baby fall and it breaks its neck, the producer must pay the funeral expenses. This has. been the experience of the apple-growers this season. While the board has no direct power to prevent f.o.b. or c.i.f.e. selling, it has the power to fix the price at which a. factory can or must sell, and by fixing the price above the oversea parity, the board automatically prevents f.o.b. or c.i.f.e. selling. The board has taken that action recently.
– The Dairy Produce Export Control Board deals with the matters to which the honorable member is referring, and not the Australian Dairy Council.
– As there is no item in this division dealing with the Dairy Export Control Board, the honorable member will not be in order in discussing it.
– In that case I shall deal with the subject later.
– I ask the Minister for Commerce (Mr. Stewart) to give me some information about the item “ Contribution towards remuneration paid to wool representative in Great Britain, £1,900.” I understand that this has relation to the services of Mr. Devereux, who is engaged by the graziers’ associations of Australia and the Commonwealth Government conjointly. Mr. Devereux has not, so far as I know, rendered any actual service to the Common wealth Government. It appears to me that his principal duty is to furnish a weekly report on the condition of the wool market in Great Britain and the Continent, which is published in Australia for the benefit of those interested in the subject. I believe that the Commonwealth Government and the graziers’ organizations each pay £2,000 a year towards the remuneration of Mr. Devereux, who, therefore, receives a salary of £4,000 a year. It appears to me that- this is an extraordinarily high payment in these times for the services rendered. As the graziers’ orzanizations have given notice of the termination of Mr. Devereux’s appointment, it might be an appropriate time for the Government, also, to consider whether the office should be continued. I should also like to know whether this remuneration of £4,000 a year - some people put it down as £4,500 - includes travelling expenses.
.- I. direct attention to the item “Applegrowers’ organization, £6,000.” That amount is collected by a levy of threeeighths of a penny on each case of fruit, and until recently the money was handed by the Government to the Apple and Pear Council for the purpose of advertising Australian fruit abroad. I commend the Minister for Commerce (Mr. Stewart) for having altered the policy somewhat, to provide that a certain proportion of the money shall be allocated to the fruit-growers’ organizations in the different States to assist in developing markets in Australia. The Minister has shown good judgment in making this variation in the existing arrangement. The new policy could be adopted with benefit by other advisory boards to the advantage of other primary industries of Australia. We must develop our marketing organizations before we can hope for much success in the development of our overseas market.
I direct attention, also, to the item, “ Assistance to fruit industry in respect of fruit shipped to the United Kingdom and Europe, £125,000.” Those associated in any way with our fresh fruit industry know that it has passed through a disastrous period in the last two years. I therefore commend the Minister for the action he has taken to grant immediate assistance to this industry. But, when I point out that the apple and pear growers of Tasmania lost £300,000 on fruit they exported last year, and that it is estimated that it will cost £350,000 to market this year’s crop, it will he realized that the provision of £125,000 for the assistance of this industry is like a drop in the ocean compared with the need. Tas.manian growers alone lost a tremendous amount last year, and their proportion of this grant will be only £63,000. However, the Minister is to be commended for granting this measure of assistance to this industry, the development of which has been encouraged by all the State Governments. I do not think that any other primary industry has to hear such heavy costs of production. In . the main, the industry is developed in country that costs as much as £20 or £30 an acre to clear, grub, and prepare for cultivation, and then, after planting, thegrower has to wait eight years for results. W e hear a great deal about the difficulties of wheat-growers. In my opinion, they are not comparable with those of fruitgrowers, for, after all, a wheat-grower can always change his methods of production. Fruit-growers must spray at least six times a. year to keep their orchards free from the multifarious pests that exist in Australia. Incidentally, this industry employs proportionately more than any other primary industry. I urge the Minister to take prompt action to appoint advisory marketing boards, which could maintain close liaison with the industry and help it to obtain the best results. It is essential that some scheme should be devised to regulate the export of fruit during the coming season. Otherwise there -will bc a repetition of the tragedy of last year, when enormous quantities of fruit were landed overseas and it was found that no market was available for them.
– I may inform the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. John Lawson) that Mr. Devereux was formerly under contract to the Commonwealth Government as a member of the Development and Migration Commission, and that his term of engagement was not to expire until March next. In the interim, his services have been used in Great Britain in an endeavour to stimulate the markets for Australian wool, his salary being partly contributed by the Wool-growers Association of Australia since the abolition of the Development and Migration Commission. His engagement, as I have explained, will terminate in March next.
– Will the honorable gentleman explain how the sum of £5,000 is to be expended in connexion with the Australian National Travel Association?
– That association was brought into being by certain business interests for the purpose of developing Australia’s tourist traffic, and for five years its activities were subsidized by the Commonwealth Government at the rate of £1,000 per annum. The balance of its income of £14,000 or £15,000 was contributed by the railways, hotelkeepers, shipping companies, and other business interests; but as the depression has brought about a serious diminution in that revenue, with a possibility of the association having to go out of existence,the Commonwealth Government has agreed to increase its subsidy to £5,000 this year. This organization maintains permanent offices in London, New York, and New Zealand, and is voluntarily performing a service which probably could not he done so well or so cheaply by the Government.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Assent to the following bills reported : -
Spirits Bill 1933.
Customs Tariff (New Zealand Preference)
Agreement Bill 19:t3. Sales Tax Assessment (New Zealand
Imports) Bill 1933.
Customs Tariff (New Zealand Preference)
– I move -
That the Schedule to the *Custom* Tariffs* 1933 be amended as hereunder set out, and that on and after the twenty-fifth day of November, One thousand nine hundred and thirty-three, at nine o'clock in the forenoon, reckoned according to standard time in the Territory for the Seat oi Government, Duties of Customs be collected in pursuance of the Customs Tariffs as so amended.
This tariff resolution provides for the imposition of an additional duty of 6d. per pound on imported tobacco leaf to be used in the manufacture of tobacco. The present rate is 3s. per lb. This resolution increases it to 3s. 6d. per lb.
The Government decided upon this course principally in order to meet additional commitments arising from the decision to grant financial assistance to wheat-farmers. It can be said, therefore, that the principal reason for the imposition of the increased duty is to raise additional revenue. It is anticipated that something approaching £225,000 increased revenue per annum will be obtained. For the present financial year the receipts will be seven-twelfths of this figure, or £130,000.
The increased duty will afford a further measure of protection to Australian tobacco-growers. A perusal of the report submitted by the committee appointed to investigate costs of tobacco production in North Queensland will show that costs are somewhat higher than they are in important tobacco-growing areas in Victoria and New South Wales. The additional duty may enable these growers to command a higher price for their products, whilst supplies of the better grades of the tobacco are insufficient to meet’ Australian requirements; hut it must not be overlooked that production in tobacco-growing areas in other States where costs are lower, will tend to displace leaf produced in Queensland, unless costs there are considerably reduced. The Government hopes that the increase of 6d. per lb. will enable North Queensland growers to obtain higher prices for the better grade of leaf, and compensate them for their additional costs of production.
Once again the Government issues a warning to growers against the continued over-production of the darker grades of tobacco leaf. No matter what duty is imposed, growers of tho dark types will not be able to gain much advantage from it. The market price of the leaf is determined by the law of supply and demand, and the supply of these types of leaf is greater than the demand established by the Australian smoker. One point which is continually overlooked is the fact that the Austraiian smoker insists upon having a higher-grade tobacco, and upon the smoker’s taste depends the buoyance of revenue collections. It is useless to argue that Australian smokers must accept the darker grades of tobacco. If an attempt is made to force the issue, the revenue will undoubtedly suffer.
The ever-present possibility of overproduction of leaf is not generally realized. On a production basis of only 550 lb. of leaf per acre it would require an area of only 22,000 acres to meet the whole of the Australian requirements of leaf for the manufacture of tobacco. This is an exceedingly small area, and if it is greatly exceeded it will be useless to look to export markets for relief, as prices for Australian tobacco leaf are more disproportionate to world parity than any other commodity produced in this country.
I warn growers that the additional duty now being imposed will not advantage them if they produce dark grades, of leaf. On the other hand growers of the lighter types of loaf will probably benefit.
The Government has long recognized that the real problem of the tobacco industry is an agricultural one. If efforts are made to grow tobacco in unsuitable areas under unfavorable climatic conditions and faulty cultural practices, we will always be confronted with a tobacco problem. The Government, in an endeavour to direct the industry along sound lines has, as most honorable members are aware, allocated the sum of £20,000 this year. Briefly, the proposals of the Government with regard to the expenditure of this £20,000 are as follows : -
I think most honorable members will agree that the Government is making a very genuine endeavour to develop the industry along commercially and economically sound lines.
Government Business - Waterside Workers - Cotton Yarn - Ships’ Dunnage itoh Unemi.-i.oyed - Complaint of Mr. R. McEwan - Canberra : Ice and Aerated Water Tenders - Northern Territory Aborigines.
– I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
On Tuesday next the first business to be considered will be the Migrant Settlement Agreement Bill, and it is hoped that honorable members will be in a position to continue the debate. The Government expects to make a statement outlining the .assistance to be given to wheatfarmers, and if the bill dealing with that matter is ready for- presentation, it will be introduced. With regard to the tariff resolution which was moved by the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) in the Committee of Ways and Means this afternoon, it is suggested that the report of the Tobacco Inquiry Committee into the conditions of the tobacco industry in North Queensland might be discussed in the debate on the new tobacco duties. I do not know whether- this arrangement will be satisfactory to the honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson) .
– When will the debate take place?
– Before the House rises.
– That will suit me.
– Foi- many years there has been a great deal of discontent on the waterfront with regard to working conditions, but owing to the almost superhuman efforts of the Waterside Workers Federation, which has had’ a number of conferences with ship-owners, the trouble has been, to some extent, bottled up. despite the fact that, for the past four or five years, thousands of waterside workers have been earning less than the basic wage. The present position is not satisfactory to the ship-owners, members of the Waterside Workers Federation, or the Federal and State Governments. The maintenance of the present position has cost the Governments of the States and the Commonwealth a lot of money. There has been a state of artificial harmony only because of periodical seasonal work. During the wheat-harvesting season in Victoria, New South Wales, South Australia and Western Australia, and during the fruit-exporting season in Tasmania, the men are more or less regularly employed. But when .that work is not offering, three or four men are available where only one man is required and those men who have been recruited during the last two years have been given preference to the unjust elimination of tho union labourer. Waterside workers have been engaged in this industry for so long that they cannot now adapt themselves to other occupations. It was hoped that the AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Latham), who knows the industry from A to Z, and is acquainted with all its troubles, would evolve a scheme of decasualization. When only general cargo is being shipped, the men cannot earn anything like the basic wage. The position was aggravated a few years ago by the recruiting which substantially added to the amount of labour offering on the waterfront. Normal conditions would gradually have been restored had that recruiting been confined to the period during which trouble was experienced; but it. has continued up to the present day. Then, too, the labour required has been reduced .by the adoption of more efficient loading devices. I raise this question to-day because I fear that trouble will again occur when the loading of this season’s wheat is completed, because of the impossibility of finding work for those who seek their livelihood in this industry. The Attorney-General has been considering the matter for years. In company with others, I have urged upon him the necessity for providing machinery that would balance the number of men seeking employment with the work that has to be done throughout the year by preventing further recruiting of labour and employing those who were engaged in the industry before a certain date. I know that he has been working along those lines. A pronouncement from him as to the stage which has been reached would be welcomed by every one in the industry. Efforts should be made to limit the amount of labour recruited, so that some men will not be kept waiting for work which there is no hope’ of their obtaining, and others will not be further demoralized by securing only one day’s wages a. week.
– I have received complaints in regard to the tariff on cotton yarns. There will be a bumper crop of cotton in Australia this year, and immediate action is necessary to protect the spinning industry. For the first eight months of 1931-32, the value of the imports of cotton yarn was £287,326,” while for the first eight months of 1932-33 it was £433,580.
– That is a. sign of returning prosperity.
– It proves conclusively that the local industry is facing serious competition. The Melbourne Age yesterday published an article which included the following statement: -
Yesterday, the largest cotton spinning mill in Australia dismissed 200 employees, men and women, from its mill in Swanston-street. Today, the Manchester spinning machines on five floors of this building will cease to operate, and the managing director stated yesterday that the loss in overhead involved would be twice the sum of the wages bill of the employees dismissed.
I know that it is the desire of the Government, the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White), and every honorable member, to maintain employment at a high level. I understand from remarks that have been made by the Minister from time to time, that wherever it is found that the Australian industry is being interfered with to such an extent that unemployment is being caused in it, prompt action is taken to remove the competition caused by importations. About two-thirds of the imports come from Great Britain, and about one-third from Japan. 1 urge the Minister to investigate the matter over the week-end. Unless, before the close of the session, action is taken to afford tariff protection, the spinning industry, in which the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) has shown considerable interest, is likely to be seriously jeopardized.
.-I associate myself with the request of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) that the AttorneyGeneral should make a. pronouncement concerning plans for the future regulation of work on the waterfront. Grave concern is felt in Port Adelaide at the existing position, which has been made most unsatisfactory by the continuance of the practice of issuing further licences to persons to engage in the industry. Had the ranks of volunteer labourers not been regularly added to, the relations between these men and the members of the Waterside Workers Federation might have reached an amicable basis. The problem would have been automatically solved had recruiting not been continued, as then the men offering would probably have been engaged for periods that would have enabled them to earn reasonable wages. The existing wider distribution of the work available makes that impossible. Members . of the Waterside Workers Federation, who have engaged in this class of work during the whole of their lifetime, naturally resent the intrusion of persons who have had little or no association with the work in the past, and to whom the ship-owners are under no obligation. Volunteer labourers, many of whom are of foreign origin, appear to receive preferential treatment on many occasions, to the detriment of Australians. In view of the way in which members of the Waterside Workers Federation have sought to observe the law, and their preparedness to work peacefully on the waterfront, I ask the Attorney-General to consider favorably the regulation of the conditions, so that these men, who are wholly dependent upon this class of work for a livelihood, may be protected against other persons who have not in the past looked to this work to provide them with sustenance. Members of the Waterside Workers Federation are anxious to do a fair thing, but they desire that their interests shall not be prejudiced. The South Australian Government, as well as the Hon. Frank Condon and other State members for the Port Adelaide district, support their request.
I hope that the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) is able to furnish a helpful reply to a question that I recently asked concerning dunnage which shipmasters at Port. Adelaide are prepared from time to time to make available to the unemployed.
– I invited the honorable member to forward particulars to me, but he has not done so.
– I am afraid that by the time particulars are supplied in each case, the vessels will have left port; but I shall try to comply with the Minister’s request.
– I have received correspondence from Mr. Robert McEwan, of 329 Miltonstreet, Toowong, Brisbane, who has asked mo to bring certain facts before the House. He invented a contrivance for the safety of aeroplanes, and particulars of it were brought under the notice of the Minister for Defence by Senator MacDonald and myself. The Minister thoroughly investigated the matter, and asked for sketches and various information, which was supplied to him through Senator MacDonald. The department rejected the patent, and notified Mr. McEwan that his property would be returned to him by post. When he received it, certain prints, photographs, and sketches were missing from the book which he had supplied to the department. He claims in his letters that they were deliberately removed by some person during transit, but whether in the Defence Department or in the Postal Department he does not know. He complained of what had occurred, but no satisfaction was received by him. He now desires me to bring the matter under -the notice of the responsible Minister, so that appropriate inquiries may be made.
– I shall be pleased to have inquiries made into the matter mentioned by the honorable member, and, if necessary, I shall invite the co-operation of the Postmaster-General’s Department. The complaint will bo brought under the notice of the Minister for Defence.
.- Until recently, a certain preference has been given by the Government to minor industries established in the Federal Capital Territory. There is a good reason for doing this,because every additional business that is established in Canberra results in greater revenue from rents and from the use of electricity and other services of a municipal character which are rendered by the department. Tradespeople in Canberra are subject to stringent laws in regard to building covenants and the conduct of their business generally. The case that I have in mind is that of b company which pays up to £100 a year in rates. The establishment of minor industries has been invited and encouraged by succeeding governments, and, until October last, the policy of all governments, including the Scullin Ministry, has been to grant a 10 per cent, preference to local business firms; but, since that date, a departure has been made from the usual practice. If the statements with which I have been supplied are correct, an extraordinarily loose method is now adopted in dealing with tenders for supplies. 1 am informed that on tho 6th July last the Cotter Cordial Company wrote to the department offering to supply ice at a certain rate. The company had been asked for a quotation, but the next heard by it on the matter was a rumour that another firm had received an order to supply this commodity at a lower rate. The Cotter Cordial Company, desirous of retaining the business, then submitted a lower quotation. Its first price was £4 a ton, and it reduced its tender to £3 a ton, but an outside company was given the contract at a higher figure. On the 5th May last, the company was informed by letter that a lower quotation had been received for the supply of aerated waters, particularly lemonade. On the 7th September a letter was received from the department stating that a lower price had been offered for the supply of soda water. The action of the department, first, in asking for a lower price in view of offers from outside, “and then giving that information to some one else, thereby enabling him to submit a successful tender, is open to the severest criticism. The methods of dealing with tenders for the supply of goods and materials to the various Commonwealth departments have been particularly free from criticism, and it is unfortunate that anything should now he done to give rise to criticism. When I was Minister for Home Affairs I gave strict instructions that nothing was to be purchased unless the usual routine was followed, and the matter was dealt with by an appropriate tender board. In this case it appears that a loose and unsatisfactory method of obtaining prices has been followed. For the department to approach various firms for quotations and not to take steps to ensure that the information obtained is kept secret, is to invite criticism. I am also informed that, even when tenders arc called no conditions of tender are ascertainable by tenderers. I refer to this matter on the adjournment only because of its importance to those who have invested their money in the Federal Capital Territory, employ the citizens of that territory, and pay rates to the Government. They should be given preferential treatment when supplies to Government departments are required. I urge the Minister to discontinue the practice of receiving quotations from likely tenderers, and to proceed in future in strict conformity with the custom of the Commonwealth by seeing that tenders are invited, proper tender forms drawn up, and the successful tenderer selected on the recommendation of the Tender Board.
– I assure the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) that tenders for the supply of materials to the Commonwealth departments in Canberra are dealt with fairly. Before a decision is reached, all lenders are placed -before rae. The local Advisory Council was asked to make recommendations in this connexion last year when the ice contract for Government residential establishments in Canberra was under consideration, and it recommended that, all things being equal, local tenderers should be given the contract. The Government has gone further than that; it has given local tenderers a definite preference over outside tenderers. In the two cases mentioned by the honorable member, the prices quoted by the local company were far above those of its competitors. The two or three suppliers of ice within a reasonable distance of Canberra were asked to state the price per ton at which they could supply ice, -and, when their quotations were received, it was found that there was a difference of about £1 a. ton in favour of an outside tenderer. The Government did not feel justified in giving the local tenderer a preference of about 25 per cent. Later, the local tenderer approached the department and, stating that he had made a mistake in his tender, expressed his willingness to supply ice at a price lower than that quoted by hia rival. He was told that the Government could not re-open the matter.
– His complaint is that the Government does act in that way.
– If so, his accusation is without foundation. When he was told that the Government could not accede to his request, he went away apparently satisfied. Indeed, he expressed the opinion that it would not be fair to deal with tenders otherwise.
On the occasion referred to quotations were invited for several brands of cordials. Previously, the Cotter Cordial Company had supplied cordials to the Government hotels, but, as it could not always maintain supplies, cordials had sometimes to be obtained elswhere. The department found that there was a demand for the cordials of other manufacturers, and, consequently, when the contract expired, it called for tenders through the press. The Cotter Cordial Company tendered for seven or eight .items, but in respect of only one of them was its price the lowest of those submitted. The difference in respect of the other items was as much as 30 per cent. The Government did not feel justified in giving that preference to the local manufacturer. I assure the honorable gentleman that in these matters the same care is now exercised as when he was administering the Federal Capital Territory.
– I associate myself with the remarks of the honorable members for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) and Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin ) regarding members of the Waterside Workers Federation. Many waterside . workers in Brisbane have not had any employment since trouble occurred on the waterfront some years ago, while others have worked very infrequently. These men had previously worked on the waterfront all their lives, and, in many cases, the sons followed the same occupation as their fathers. They are unemployed as a result of a dispute now several years old and are not accustomed to other work. Recently, they appealed unsuccessfully to the Arbitration Court for assistance. I do not know whether they purpose carrying their appeal further, or whether, in that event, they would be more successful.
Some months ago the Queensland Government introduced a bill which included a clause designed to assist the waterside workers at Brisbane; but, prior to that legislation becoming effective, the Commonwealth Government passed a regulation under the Transport Workers Act which nullified the Queensland legislation. I ask the AttorneyGeneral to do what he can for these unfortunate men and their families.
– The honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) has drawn attention to a newspaper article stating that there has been a great increase of the importations of cotton yarns. He also quoted from, the same paper to the effect that Melbourne manufacturers had reluctantly been compelled to dismiss a number of their employees in Melbourne.
– I also read a letter to the same effect.
– A telegram was also sent to me. There has been an increase of the imports of cotton yarn, but that is due largely to the undoubted return to prosperity, and to the greater purchasing power of the people. The increase of imports is approximately 50 per cent., but the increase of local manufacture is over 300 per cent., and therein lies the trouble. The representatives of the mill mentioned by the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) are unfairly blaming the tariff ; but the facts are that the internal competition is so intense that business is being lost by some mills. This matter was referred to the Tariff Board some time ago, and a very comprehensive inquiry was conducted, at which evidence was heard also from the representatives of British mills. The report of the board will shortly be received, but meanwhile the industry is adequately protected in respect of certain lines; the principal products of the particular mill which claims that owing to the tariff it has been compelled to dispense with the services of 200 men are well protected. The action of its representatives can be regarded only as despicable propaganda. It is using its employees as industrial cannon-fodder, and stresses the dismissals in an endeavour to place the responsibility upon the tariff policy of this Government.
– That is a serious statement.
– Yes. It is so serious that, after reading the press report, I prepared a statement on the subject. I am glad that the honorable member has brought the matter forward, so that it can be dealt with at this juncture. In the statement made by the managing director of the mill, it is said that the cotton-spinners bounty was repealed and that, in lieu thereof, duties of 35 per cent. British and 55 per cent, general were imposed. Duties of 35 per cent. British and 55 per cent, general havebeen in. force for some years, and, together with a bounty on a sliding scale, provided assistance generally greater than the last bounty given in 1932. These rates range from 4d. to 9d. per lb. British and from 7d. to1s. per lb. general, in addition to ad valorem rates of 55 per cent. British and 75 per cent, foreign. The mill from which complaint has emanated is manufacturing lineswhich are heavily protected, and it is a great pity that such a statement should have been made. Only to-day, I received a. deputation from cotton-spinners in Sydney, who brought certain, facts before me. They are keenly concerned in certain lines of cotton yarn admitted free under by-law. The Tariff Board is now inquiring whether the bylaw admission should be discontinued and specific rates of duty imposed on certain types of yarn not previously made in Australia. I hope that I have made it clear that the statement which the honorable member quoted was made merely to stampede the Government, but it will not have any effect. The Government will not be influenced by such utterances, and will continue to give to all interests fair and equitable consideration based on economic facts.
– By force of circumstances, I have been compelled to persist in an attack upon the Government in connexion with its administration of native affairs in the Northern Territory. Mouths ago I appealed to the Minister to protect the settlers in the gulf country, hut, apparently, these appeals have fallen on deaf ears. Owing to the apparent apathy displayed by the Minister in connexion with these requests, it would appear to be the desire of the Government to drive the lessees out of the territory, and to hand over a great slice of country to a chartered company. Those who are at present settled in the Northern Territory took up land under the laws of the country, and are entitled to full protection, which, up to the present, they have not received. The Minister, in replying to a statement which I made in the House some time. ago, said, amongst other things, that I had exaggerated the position, and had made what appeared to be a strong case out of nothing. He said that the position was well in hand, and that statement was repeated in the last day or two. Owing to what has appeared in the press, he knows perfectly well that the position is not as he states. In effect, he said that the Government pinned its faith on the missions, the representatives of which were going out to subdue recalcitrant natives with the aid of “ squeakers.” I told the Minister that the truth could not be suppressed indefinitely. Despite the coverup tactics of the Government, the actual position in the north is being broadcast throughout the Commonwealth by all the leading Australian newspapers. Every one marvels at the apathy of the Government, in view of the conditions which are known to exist. Let me give an example of the damning indictment in the press of the administration of native affairs. It substantiates the statements I have previously made in the House, and which have been persistently ignored. In nearly every other newspaper published in Australia, articles appear over headings in largo type. An article published in the Sydney Sun of the 23rd November reads -
On Groote Island. new Threat Made by Natives.
While the threatening attitude of the Ballamoona tribe continues, the special police guard on Groote Island will maintain a state approaching that of siege, even using barbed wire entanglements, so that missioners, settlers and natives can bo protected.
The latest news received by the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Perkins) indicates that the tribe is as dangerous as ever.
A plucky native from the Groote Island mission, who lived with the tribe, managed to escape after his life had been threatened, and revealed that the blacks had sworn to kill the next police party sent against them.
They would then first attack the Groote Island mission and later the Roper River mission.
It goes on to set out how barbed wire entanglements have been erected, how great areas have been cleaned up to prevent surprise attacks, and how bells, rockets, &c, are to be utilized to signal the approach of hostile natives. All these steps have been taken to protect a small mission station at which four policemen have been established ever since the murder of Constable McColl. Recently these men had their ranks reinforced by quite a number of natives from the surrounding friendly tribes. Yet, notwithstanding this additional strength, they are even now forced to adopt tactics which suggest a State of siege. The Minister has been receiving daily telegrams from Darwin advising him of developments that have taken place, just as would be done in ti rae of war. But in face of the undoubted evidence I have submitted, will he persist in procrastinating until a massacre actually takes place? Here are four policemen -protecting a small mission station, yet my appeal for protection on behalf of the settlers in that region has so far been in vain.
– On the mainland.
– Within the reserve?
-It is obvious that they are not within the reserve ; they are adjacent to the reserve. “Upon a previous occasion I pointed out that just as the mission authorities had received information of intending raids upon them, so some of ‘the settlers had learned that it was intended to clean them up before dealing with the missionaries. I know these settlers. They have been in contact with the natives of Northern Australia for the past 40 years. If any persons are familiar with the ways of the natives there. they arc, and they would be the last to solicit protection if it were not urgently needed. This matter is now engaging the attention of all serious-minded persons in the Northern Territory. Every word that I have uttered in this House concerning native affairs has been substantiated. As everybody will admit, the missionaries upon Groote Island have had considerable experience with the natives there; but, notwithstanding. that, they are located upon a small island, the Government has found it necessary to send, and retain there, a real army under active service conditions. If it is necessary to afford such protection to the missionaries, is it not equally necessary to protect adequately the people on the mainland? I warn the Government, in all seriousness, that if it refuses protection to the settlers upon whose behalf I am appealing, they will take the matter into their own hands, and, if they are driven to excess, no jury in the Northern Territory will convict them no matter what the consequences of their action may be. I wish to avoid such a contingency, hence I am urging the Government to send up there, not a little ineffective police patrol, but a patrol of ten or twelve mounted men, who are well-known, experienced bushmen, in addition to the necessary native police, so that the force may be sufficiently formidable to deter the natives from attacking. It would then be possible for interpreters to reason with the natives, and thus avoid bloodshed. But the presence of a small police patrol is merely an incentive to the natives to engage in slaughter. If -the Government will adopt my suggestion it will obviate bloodshed, which otherwise will be inevitable, because the settlers will be driven to protect themselves and their property.
.- In connexion with the danger of aboriginal raids upon the settlers of the Northern Territory, a very real responsibility rests upon the Government. The matter has been brought forward by the honorable member for tho Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) on many occasions, and unless the Government is stirred to action, we shall, wake up one morning to read in the press that the whole of the mission station on Groote Island and the Roper river settlements have been wiped out. The presence of four police constables there will not deter the natives from attacking the station, and when they do Attack, they will wipe it out. It is up to the Government to take cognizance of the statements of the honorable member for the Northern Territory and those that are appearing in the press. Notwithstanding assurances from Darwin to the contrary, everything cannot be right in the northern part of Australia, seeing that the representative of the Northern Territory in this House is the recipient of urgent wires from settlers asking for protection. In New Guinea, police patrols, with a big army of native police, penetrate the hinterland to get in contact with the natives, convince them that white people are not hostile to them, and thus civilize them by a peaceful method. That method has proved to be very effective. The native policeman in his uniform has some sort of authority when he gets amongst his own race. The mission stations in Northern Australia have a number of native boys whose services could be utilized with the police patrols in efforts to civilize the natives there. If this matter is to be brought forward week after week without action being taken by the Government, it must certainly have its effect upon the nerves both of those located at the mission station, and the settlers in that vicinity. They feel that the Government repudiates any responsibility for their safety. The honorable member for the Northern Territory has informed us that, in the Roper River district, the lives of no fewer than 23 Europeans have been lost. Surely the Government should take some action to remedy this state of affairs. The honorable member for the Northern Territory has been complaining for weeks about the insufficient strength of the police force in the territory, and also regarding various other phases of the administration, including the treatment of the unemployed. The Minister invariably deprecates his statement by saying that he himself has received information which discounts what the honorable member said. However, the statements of the honorable member for the Northern Territory have been recently substantiated by newspaper reports from correspondents on the spot. The Minister informed us a little while ago that there was no truth in the statement of the honorable member for the Northern Territory, that it was proposed to make school teachers work during their holidays, but we now find that instructions had been issued, and have since been withdrawn. The trouble seems to arise from the fact that the honorable member for the Northern Territory has no vote in this Parliament, but even though he speaks on behalf of only a few selectors, his voice should be heeded, and honorable members should see that action is taken. The number of police in the Northern Territory is very small, even in proportion to the number of white residents, while in proportion to the number of natives it is ludicrously inadequate.
– The subject of waterside labour has been raised by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway), the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) and the honorable member for Oxley (Mr. Baker). I assure them, and other honorable members, that the Government has a sense of responsibility regarding this matter, and I myself have a personal responsibility which I am prepared to acknowledge. I have been in conference with representatives of the ship-owners, and the two groups of waterside workers. I have tried to bring about an agreement, and have made various suggestions. There have also been conferences ‘between the two groups independently of any Minister, and efforts have been made to reach a settlement. I have arrived at the conclusion that no agreement will be made. It would be desirable to reach an agreement, but I am convinced, after several years’ experience, that it is almost hopeless to expect one. Therefore, I am developing proposals which, if agreed to by the Government, will be imposed upon the parties, and will, I hope, though experimental in nature, deal satisfactorily with some aspects of the problem. I do not think that it is possible to solve the whole of the problem at once, but I am satisfied that we can, by regulation, do something which will provide conditions that will make the final solution more likely than it otherwise would be. I believe that suitable regulations may go a long way to bring together the parties who are, at present, estranged. Because of the pressure of work, which has been unusually heavy, I have not been able to put in final form thu proposals which I propose to submit to the Government, and, therefore, we cannot discuss them iu detail at this stage. I can say, however, that they include the first steps towards the decasualization of waterfront labour.
The Government has not suffered from any lack of advice regarding the administration of the Northern. Territory. One of the difficulties has been that there are an many persons with apparently some right to speak with authority, who have diametrically opposite opinions. The honorable member for the Northern Territory has recommended the sending of a police expedition, accompanied by natives. No doubt he will remember that, a month or two ago, the newspapers blazed with the report of a black war in the north. As Minister for External Affairs, I had to take action to deny press reports to this effect sent abroad. People who make these alarmist statements are not doing any good to Australia or its reputation. There already has spread round the world this legend - of course, there is no foundation for it - that Australia was about to start a war in the north. This was served up with trimmings such as that the action was being taken at the suggestion of a foreign power, or because, as was stated in some quarters, Australia had been forced into it by a foreign power. Unfortunately many sections of the press, when they get hold of what they regard as a (it-bit, do not hesitate to exploit it, even at the expense of the reputation of their own country. It is impossible to accept every statement of some unknown newspaper correspondent. The Government of Australia has had to take action in more than one country to remove the misapprehension created by news sent overseas, which every honorable member in this House would regard as false, not by mistake, but, in some instances, by deliberate invention. The honorable member for the Northern Territory is in possession of certain information, and has expressed certain opinions. One of the latest opinions I have heard on this problem was that of Professor Crowther, who, speaking only last night in this city, commended the Government on the policy it was pur suing. The peace mission, to which the honorable member has referred in terms of derision - speaking of it cs a mission armed with squeakers-consists of men who have hod extensive experience in the Northern Territory. Their opinions cannot be lightly disregarded, because they arc prepared to back them by action at great personal risk. It is not easy to lay down confidently a precise course of action as being thu only one which is obviously right. I do not want to compare the utterances of the honorable member for the Northern Territory at various times, but in certain quarters at least the Government was being condemned for doing nothing, and in the same quarters to-day it is being condemned for taking steps to deal with the trouble. The honorable member says that he has information. Has he given it to. the Minister for the Interior?
– Two months ago I supplied to the Minister information which T had received direct from the settlers.
– I understood that the honorable member was referring, with some alarm, to what had been published in the press yesterday or the day before.
– No. My complaint is that the Government has not given the necessary protection to the settlers.
– I can only say that the Government is in daily communication with Darwin, that it has access to all sources of information, and that it is taking what appears, to bo the best and wisest course. At the same time, the Government is aware that, in a matter such as this, it is impossible to foretell what may happen. “We may find that events will defeat the most prudent precautions. This matter has engager] the most earnest consideration of the Government. It is not a political matter.
– I wish to know whether the Government intends to protect the settlers.
– The Minister for the Interior will examine the material which the honorable member has provided, will ascertain whether there is need for protection, and whether it is practicable to give it. I have not been to the territory, and, therefore, have not even the beginning of the honorable member’s knowledge as to the actualities of the case, or the possibility of giving protection, but I should think that it would be quite impossible to make of every settler’s bouse a small armed fort. This matter has to be considered in the light of all the circumstances.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Houseadjournedat 5.13 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
s asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Whether itis the intention of the Government to takeadvantage of the depreciation of the dollar by converting the Commonwealth loans raised in America!
– The Government is carefully watching the position of the Australian loan issues in America, and in the event of favorable conditions arising for dealing with these loans, will take appropriate action.
Compensation to British Settlers.
s. - On the 22nd November, the right honorable the Leader of ‘ the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) asked me if I would lay on the table of the House the file concerning the claim for compensation made by British settlers in Victoria. I ‘ have had an opportunity to consider this matter, and I find that for various reasons it would be contrary to the public interest to accede to the request at present. But, if the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition will specify the pointsabout which he desires information, I shall endeavour to supply him with as full particulars as possible.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 24 November 1933, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1933/19331124_reps_13_142/>.