13th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. G. H. Mackay) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Sill brought up by Mr. Latham, and read a first time.
Property Provisions : Friendly Society Benefits - Date of Commencement of Amendments : - Interest on Savings Bank Deposits.
– Will the Prime Minister give consideration to the request that was made in the following letter that I have received from the Association of Friendly Societies of Victoria, signed by the Honorable J. Lemmon, M.L.A. : -
In view of the decision re invalid pensions, which, in effect, is that the funeral allowances or endowment benefits paid to pensioner members of friendly societies are deemed part of a pensioner’s estate in the allotment of pensions, will the Government consider if such charges can be eliminated?
– Benefits from friendly societies form part of the estates of pensioners, and as such are included in the assets that are available to satisfy the pensions charge. The request of the honorable member, however, will be considered in connexion with the proposal to amend the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act.
– “Will the Prime Minister, when dealing with amendments of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act, take into consideration the justice of making whatever concessions may be granted, retrospective to the 12th October, 1932?
– I can give the honorable member the definite assurance that any amendments that are made will date from the time that they are made.
– Does the Prime Minister mean to say that any amendments to the property provisions of the act will be made retrospective to the date on which the original amendments were made?
– I have stated clearly that any amendments made will date from the time at which they are made and will not be retrospective. Some aspects of the legislation may, in effect, be retrospective, but the amendments themselves will apply from the time that they are passed by both Houses of the Parliament.
– I direct the attention of the Prime Minister to a letter I have just received from the Pensions
Department relating to the method adopted in assessing the income of claimants for pensions. In the case referred to the only income is a war pension, except that two amounts of 8s. 3d. and 10s., being interest on a small banking account, are counted as income. I ask the Prime Minister whether the Government will provide in the Pensions Bill soon to be submitted to the House, for the exemption of such amounts of interest, seeing that banking accounts of less than £50 are exempt?
– I understand that the matter to which the honorable member has referred is governed by a law which has been in force for some time, and is not related in any way to last year’s amendments of the Pensions Act.
– That is so.
– There is no intention to deal with such matters in’ the amending bill to be presented to the House shortly.
– Has the Prime Minister read the cable which appears in to-day’s press headed, “ British Import Restrictions - Mr. Bruce Complains - Ottawa Should Cut Both Ways “, and reading -
Mr. Bruce vigorously, questioned the wisdom of the British action in restricting agricultural imports and granting foreign countries a definite share in her primary produce markets in response for their opening their doors to British manufactures.
Will the benefits Britain has thus obtained be an adequate compensation for the disastrous consequences of restricting dominions’ exports?
Will the Government vigorously urge th* High Commissioner for Australia in London to press the claim of Australian primary producers for greater preference against foreigners on the British market ?
– There is not yet before the Government any definite proposal for restriction on the lines indicated, which, to some extent, Mr. Bruce seems to anticipate. I assure honorable members that just as Mr. Brace is doing everything possible to prevent action of that kind, so will the Government, in the interests of the primary producers of Australia.
– For the guidance of honorable members I particularly direct attention to Standing Order No. 93, which deals with questions. It reads -
In putting any such Question, no argument or opinion shall be offered, nor any facts stated, except so far as may be necessary to explain such Question.
I a3k honorable members to assist lie Chair, by observing the conditions imposed by that standing order.
– In view of cheapness and the valuable properties of calcium hypochlorite as an effective germicide in the dairying industry, will the Minister for Trade and Customs have it placed in. the tariff as a separate item, and submit to the Tariff Board the question whether it may be admitted to Australia, as it i3 to New Zealand, free of duty?
– I have received communications on this subject from differentdairying organizations. I do not think that calcium hypochlorite possesses alone the properties mentioned by the right honorable gentleman ; but, if he will, forward his request, to the department, I shall consider whether a Tariff Board inquiry in relation to it is necessary.
– At approximately 11.35 p.m. on Tuesday, the 23tb instant, during the taking of a division, the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) accused me of having read papers that were on his desk while I occupied his seat during a previous division. Subsequently, I protested against that accusation, and the honorable ‘member made a full and complete withdrawal of it; and tendered a fitting apology adding that he had made it on the impulse of the moment, and that he knew that I would not look at any papen on his desk.
– I said that it was a joke.
- Mr. Speaker has ruled that incidents -of this character’ shall not be reported in Ilansard. Yesterday, the country edition of the Sydney Sun contained a report in “which a full account of the accusation against me was given, but no mention was made of my protest against it, or of its withdrawal by the honorable member. In fairness to the Sun, I mention that its city edition contained a fairly accurate account of what occurred. As the country edition circulates in my electorate, however, I naturally must suffer as the result of the report that it contained. I therefore take this opportunity to make a personal explanation, in order that a faithful record of what took place may appear in Hansard. I trust that the Sydney Sun will give to this explanation publicity equal to that given to the false accusation of which I was the victim.
– I thought that the explanation which I made to the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. John Lawson), when he protested against the statement that I had made concerning him, was satisfactory to him.
– It was. It is the press report that is not satisfactory.
– I assure the honorable member, and the House generally, that the remark to which he took exception was made more as a jest than as anything else. I regard the matter as frivolous.
F LAG Presented by King Edward VII.
– In 1904 His Majesty King Edward VII. presented to the Australian Army Medical Corps a flag, or King’s colours, in recognition of its services in South Africa. That flag ha3 since been retained in Melbourne; but, -in view of its historical importance, is claimed by the Now South Wales Army Medical Corps. Representations on the matter have been and are being made to the Department of Defence. In view of the representation’s of the New South Wales Government, following the request of veteran members of the Nev/ South Wales Army Medical Corps, South African Contingent, and of the South African Soldiers Association of New South Wales, that this flag should be displayed in. New South Wales, will the Minister arrange that, in addition to Melbourne, the flag be placed at stated periods in . Sydney and Canberra ?
– I have already discussed’ this matter with the Minister for Defence. In view of the representations of the honorable member, I shall further discuss this matter with the Minister, and inform the honorable member of our decision.
– Can the Attorney-General inform the House if the Australasian Performing Right Association has been advised through any official channel that it should agree upon a smaller amount to be paid by the Australian Broadcasting Commission in respect of performing fees, and that any difference between the amount previously claimed and that finally agreed upon should bo made up by increasing the charges to the B class licensed stations?
– I have been informed to-day that an agreement has been made between the Australasian Performing Right Association and the Australian Broadcasting Commission with respect to the payment of performing right fees.
– As the reply of the Attorney-General does not fully answer my question, may I repeat it to the Postmaster-General?
Mr. ARCHDALE PARKHILL.There has been no official concurrence in, nor expression of opinion upon, any proposal of the kind. ‘That is a matter entirely for the Performing Right Association and the parties concerned.
– Two or three weeks ago, when the figures from the Treasury covering the first quarter of the present financial year were published, the interpretation placed upon them by the press was that they disclosed a surplus of £3,500,000 or thereabouts for that quarter. I understand that that interpretation has been challenged, and I should like the Assistant Treasurer to give the House his view of the actual financial, position for that quarter.
– It is true that revenue exceeded expenditure by about £3,500,000, in the first four months . until’ the end of October of this year, but that is not a proper reflex of the financial situation of the Commonwealth, because the expenditure in the early months of the year is always below the average of the year. That situation has been accentuated during thus year by the fact that the budget was not introduced until four months after the beginning of the financial year, and that the. considerable remissions of taxation outlined in the budget amounting to £6,000,000 or £7,000,000, and the additional expenditure involved in the budget are not reflected in the . figures. Therefore, the figures to the end . of October are not a proper reflex of the position. One can safely say that there was no indication, up to the end of October last, to warrant the Government taking a more optimistic view of the revenue than was anticipated in the budget.
– Recently I directed a question to the Minister for the Interior with reference to stone to be used in connexion with the building of the proposed new -Commonwealth Bank, Adelaide, and he promised that he would get into touch with the Directors of the Commonwealth Bank and raise an objection to tha proposal to use in this building stone quarried in New South Wales. Has the Minister received a reply from the Directors of the Bank, and if so, have they decided to use South Australian stone and workmen in respect of this building!
– I have been in communication with the Works Director in Adelaide, and he informs me that aa the result of inquiry he has ascertained that it is the intention of the bank authorities to use stone obtained from New South W ales, the reason being, so the directors state, that the quarrymen of South Australia cannot supply sufficient stone, nor have they stone of the right size, and that it. is their intention to obtain stone from New South Wales in the rough, with the exception of special stone for columns, and to have it treated by workmen in South Australia.
– In view of the unsatis factory position arising out of your recent decision, Mr. Speaker, to have certain matter expunged from the parliamentary records, as demonstrated by the necessity for honorable members to rise in their places and to make personal explanations so as to place the true position before the House, -will you reconsider your decision with a view to withdrawing it?
-The honorable member is evidently referring to a personal explanation that was made this afternoon, and I do not think that that has any reference to the question. I have on several occasions stated the position clearly, and my action was taken only with the concurrence of honorable members. My impression is that the majority of honorable members are behind me in this matter, but if they consider that offensive remarks which are used and subsequently withdrawn should continue to be published in Ilansard. I am prepared to carry out the decision of the House.
– Can the Minister for Commerce inform the House when the bill to make effective in Australian waters the decisions of the International Conference with regard to load lines and the provision of appliances and conditions to ensure the safety of sailors, ship hands and others at sea, will be proceeded with, bo that Australian seamen may have the benefit of such protection?
– As the honorable member knows, the bill is already on the business paper. It has reached the secondreading stage, and if an opportunity offers before the Parliament goes into recess it will be proceeded with to finality.
– Has the Prime Minister received a telegram from the secretary of the Mareeba Tobacco Growers’ Association informing him that large quantities of good usable leaf have Deen rejected by the tobacco-buyers, and asking that Mr. Howell, of the Australian Tobacco Investigation Committee, he made available to inspect the leaf and advise the Government in regard to its quality ?
– I do not know of any request from the Mareeba Tobacco Growers Association, but I have seen a request that Mr. Howell’s services should he made available. As Mr. Howell is a subordinate officer of his department, I have suggested that the application should be submitted through the head of his department.
– The secretary of the Mareeba Tobacco Growers Association has forwarded to me a copy of a lettergram sent to the Prime Minister, and has intimated that the Prime Minister in his reply stated that the sale or rejection of the tobacco leaf is a matter for State and not Commonwealth action, and that the Commonwealth Government does not control the marketing of the leaf.
– For the moment I had overlooked the matter. As the honorable member says, it is a fact that the matter is not’ one for action by the Commonwealth Government.
– Has the PostmasterGeneral -yet received the annual report of the Broadcasting Commission?
– It reached me this morning, and will be laid on the .table of the House within the next few days.
– ‘Can the Assistant Treasurer inform me whether Mr. Justice Ferguson’s report on taxation has yet been received by the Government, and when it will be laid upon the table of the ‘House?
– The first report of Mr. Justice Ferguson covering a portion of the federal field of taxation is in the hands of the Government, and will be laid upon the table of the House before the Christmas recess.
” GRIEVANCE DAY.”
– As I understand’ that this is “ grievance day,” I desire to bring under the notice of the Government an important matter-
– Order ! We have not yet reached that item on the business paper.
– In view of the fact that an honorable member sitting on the Government side of the House received the call from the Chair last “ grievance day,” and that immediately he had completed bis speech the question was put, I desire to ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether you will, on this occasion, give the call to an honorable member sitting on this side of the chamber?
– Order ! If the honorable member for Hunter had any sense of the fitness of things, he would not ask such an absurd question.
– But, Mr. Speaker-
– Order !
– I desire to make a personal explanation. Seeing that it is the intention of the Government immediately
– That is no personal explanation.
– Well, the honorable member for South Sydney is the “ pea “ that has been chosen for to-day.
– I call upon the honorable member for Hunter to withdraw that remark, and to express his regret for having used it; otherwise I shall be compelled to name him.
– I withdraw and express regret.
– Is it not a fact, Mr. Speaker, that on the previous “ grievance day,” a member of the Labour party, the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley), received the call?
– These remarks are entirely inappropriate to the occasion. When the business of the day is called upon, the Chair will use its unfettered discretion as to whom it calk.
Motion (by Mr. Lyons) agreed to -
That he have leave to bring in a bill for an act relating to the imposition, assessment and collection of a tax upon flour, and upon certain imported goods in the manufacture of which flour has been used.
Motion (by Mr. Latham) agreed to -
That he have leave to bring in a bill for ‘ an act to provide for the acceptance of Ashmore Islands and Cartier Island as a territory . under the authority of the Commonwealth, and for the Government thereof.
Bill brought up, and read a first time..
Motion (by Mr. Latham) agreed to -
That he have leave to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Copyright Act 1912.
Motion (by Mr. Perkins) agreed to -
That he have leave to bring in a bill for an act to approve an agreement entered into between the Cockatoo Docks and Engineering Company Limited, the Australian Commonwealth Shipping Board, and the Commonwealth of Australia, in relation to Cockatoo Island Dockyard.
Bill brought up, and read a first time.
Motion (by Mr. Stewart) agreed to -
That he have leave to bring in a bill for an act relating to trade and commerce with other countries, and among the States, in certain dairy produce.
SUPPLY (“ Grievance Day”).
Question - That Mr. Speaker do now leave the chair, and that the House resolve itself into Committee of Supply - proposed.
– I desire to bring under the notice of the Postmaster-General (Mr. Parkhill) a matter about which there has been a good deal of controversy, and I assure honorable members that I do so without collaboration with the honorable gentleman. At various periods during the last six months electors in my district have felt aggrieved because of the interference to which their wireless receivers have been, subjected. It is suggested that the interference has been caused by the powerful transmission from Station 2BL, which is situated at Coogee. Approximately 11,000 persons possess wireless licences in the Randwick municipality, many of whom Lave been troubled- by this interference. As a result, many wireless receivers are not giving full service, and complaints have been lodged with the Postmaster-General’s Department to rectify the trouble. I, therefore, urge the Postmaster-General to give the matter serious consideration with a view to having the nuisance abated.
Motion (by Mr. Lyons) -
That the debatebe now adjourned. - put. The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. G. H. Mackay.)
Majority . . . . 29
– I ask the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) to choose his words more carefully. His remark is offensive to the Chair, and I ask him to express regret.
– I express regret.
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. Lyons) put -
That the House will, at the next sitting, resolve itself into the “said committee.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. G. H. Mackay.)
Majority . . . . 32
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Mr. LATHAM (Kooyong - Attorney-
General) ‘ [‘3.16]. - In accordance with a motion passed by this House on the 16th November, the message of the Senate with reference to the Customs Tariff Bill, again comes before us to determine whether we shall consider it and, if so, what action we shall take in regard to the requests which the Senate now presses. The message from the Senate is as follows : -
The Senate returns to the House of . Representatives the bill for “An Act relating to Duties of Customs,” and acquaints the House of Representatives that the Senate lias considered Message No. 103 of that House, dated nth November, 1H33, in reference to such bill.
The Senate does not again request the House of Representatives to make the amendments indicated in requests Nos. 13, 14 (and agrees to the alteration made by the House in the date of the deferred duty), lii and 2:3.
The Senate has agreed to the modifications made by the House of Representatives in requests for amendments Nos. 2, 9, 27, 41, 42, 44 and 45.
The Senate has resolved to press its requests for amendments Nos. 4, 10 and 2S, and again requests the House of Representatives to make such amendments, as shown in the annexed schedule.
The Senate is now pressing three requests that have been already made te this House, and rejected by it. The question arises as to the attitude which this House should adopt with respect to identical requests sent twice from the Senate in relation to a taxation measure. As honorable members are aware, in all bicameral systems of government, difficulties arise with respect to the powers of the upper and lower houses in regard to what are generally known as money bills. Mils which impose taxation, or which appropriate public moneys, are regarded as falling within the special province of the lower chamber, and there are many provisions in constitutions, and many conventions where they are not recorded in constitutions, as wei l as provisions in standing orders, dealing with the respective powers of the two houses in this regard. It is generally the case that the lower house is more directly the representative of the people, and it is, therefore, provided that bills of the nature to which I have referred shall originate in the lower house. In order to preserve the principle of financial responsibility, such bills in the Commonwealth Parliament are initated only on a message from the Governor-General. In Australia special circumstances arose in regard to this matter when the Constitution was being drafted, and placed before the people. The Senate is elected by the same people and upon the same franchise as the House of Representatives, but upon a different system of representation so far as the States are concerned. Special provisions were included in the Constitution to deal with this matter. .Section 53, after providing that proposed laws appropriating revenue or moneys shall not originate in the Senate, goes on to provide that the Senate may not amend any proposed laws imposing taxation, or proposed laws appropriating revenue or moneys for the ordinary annual services of the Government. The section further provides that the Senate may not amend any proposed law so as to increase any proposed charge or burden on the people. The last paragraph of the section reads -
Except as provided in this section, the Senate shall have equal power with the House of Representatives in respect of all proposed laws.
The position, therefore, is that the Senate may not amend a taxation measure. That includes a tariff measure such as that which is now before this Parliament. But, as the Honorable the Speaker pointed out in a statement that he made to the House on the 16th November last, another paragraph of section 53 of the Constitution is in the following words: -
The Senate may at any stage return to the House of Representatives any proposed law which the Senate may not amend, requesting, by message!, the omission or amendment of items or provisions therein. And the House of Representatives may, if it thinks fit, make any of such omissions, or amendments, with or without modifications.
Therefore, although the Senate may not amend the tariff, it may make a request for the omission or amendment of any item in it.- That is what the Senate did upon a previous occasion. This House dealt with the requests that were then made, and returned them to the Senate with its decision upon them. Three of those requests, which were rejected by this House, are .now again before us. The Senate is acting in accordance with its Standing Orders, which may be taken to express its views upon this matter. Summarized, they provide that, after a request has been rejected by this House, the Senate may still press it. The question which arises is, whether the Senate is entitled to repeat or to press a request. This question has arisen on several occasions previously. It arose in 3902 in connexion with the first tariff, in 1908 in connexion with another tariff, and in 1921 upon a similar occasion. The Honor.orable the Speaker, in his statement, referred to the attitude that was then adopted by this House. It will be apparent to honorable members that if, upon the rejection by this House of a request that it had made, the .Senate might make the same request a second time, meanwhile holding the tariff, it would he very difficult to distinguish between the position thus created and that which would exist if the Senate had the ordinary power to amend bills; because it would mean that the Senate could make the same request as often as it liked, meanwhile refusing to complete the bill, and there would be no means of passing the legislation. The question, therefore, arises whether the words of the Constitution which read -
The Senate may at any stage return to the House of Representatives any proposed law which the Senate may not amend, requesting, by message, tlie omission or amendment of any items or provisions therein - do not mean that the Senate, having taken that action, has exhausted its powers and privileges, and is then subject to the other provision of this section, which provides that it may not amend a law of this nature. If that interpretation, which I suggest is the proper one, is adopted, the position “will be that the Senate may make a request once, and that, if the request is rejected, it has the option only of either accepting or rejecting the whole measure. That, however, is not a very satisfactory solution of the difficulty which arises; because, if the Senate may reject the legislation, grave consequences may ensue in connexion with appropriation or taxation measures. The Constitution has provided for such a case in section 57, under which this House is placed in a position to force a double dissolution. It appears to me, however, that the three items, rabbit traps, spray pumps, and dates, however important they may be, hardly justify a double dissolution; and I doubt whether honorable members are prepared to press the issue to that length. It appears to the Government that, in the absence of joint standing orders, there is no satisfactory method of dealing with this question. I am afraid that I am now making a speech “which, in substance> Attorneys-General have made on three previous occasions. I have to ask the House, however, to consider the position that is created. If, in its discretion, the House decides to adopt one of the possible alternatives suggested by Mr. Speaker, and refuses to consider the Senate’s message, there will be no statutory tariff, and no chance of having one until the deadlock has been resolved.
– There would be no necessity for it to do that, because there would be a tariff in operation. I think, however, that I represent the views of at least the majority of honorable members of this House when I say that it is most desirable that there should be a tariff on the statute-book as soon as possible. The position is very well summarized in Sir Harrison Moore’s work on the Constitution of the Commonwealth, second edition, page 148. The author there says -
On the Customs Tariff Bill 1902, the Senate made a large number of requests for amendment; some of these amendments were made by the House, and in other cases the requests were refused. The refusals were taken into consideration by the Senate, which resolved to repeat its requests. This at once raised questions of serious importance, for if the Senate was at liberty before parting with the bill to repeat its requests, it was obvious that the distinction between this practice and a power to make and insist on amendments was merely formal. A sharp constitutional struggle might have ensued but for the fact that the settlement of the tariff was deemed urgent, and that the constitutional issue would certainly be obscured by the fiscal views of members. The Government accordingly invited the House to accept a resolution refraining from the determination of its constitutional rights or obligations, and to take the Senate’s message into consideration.
Much as I personally would be interested in a full discussion of this problem, it appears to me that, from the point of view of the public interest, nothing is to be gained at the present stage from an attempt to force the issue to a decision. So far as I can see, under existing conditions each House is in a position to continue to insist upon its own view. If this House determines, as I suggest that it should, that in all the circumstances and without prejudice to its constitutional rights, the message of the Senate should be considered, it will be proposed at a later stage that certain compromises should be made in relation to the requests of the Senate. It is hoped that their acceptance by another place will remove the difficulty.
For the reasons that I have given, I move -
That, having, regard to the fact that the public interest demands the early enactment of the tariff, and pending the adoption of joint standing orders, this House refrains from the determination of its constitutional rights or obligations in respect of message No. 103’ received from the Senate in- reference to the Customs Tariff Bill 1933, and resolves to consider it forthwith.
– Will the AttorneyGeneral say what interpretation- he places on the words- “ at any stage “,. which he read from section 53’ of the Constitution a little while ago?
– The AttorneyGeneral sometimes has rather to watchhis step, in order not. to give away a point in an argument that may hereafter arise, in which he may. have- to defend- either the interest of the Commonwealth or the claims of this House. I admit that the phrase referred to by the honorable member raises some difficulty. I have to recognize, however, that the bill is in the committee stage in the Senate. It is difficult to deny that that is a stage of the bill. I base my argument upon the consideration, that the Senate ought to recognize that, although this section of the Constitution prohibits amendment, the course of action which the Senate is adopting, is- practically equivalent to and’ indistinguishable from amendment. The Senate should recognize that the only practical- way in- which effect may be given to the words of the section which drawa distinction between makinga request: at any stage of a bill, and amending a bill, is by taking- the view that a- request can- be made. only once, and that, having made it, the Senate has exercised- all the rights and privileges allowed by the Constitution.
– And that, therefore, it cannot make the request at any stage?.
– Yes, but once only. The bill is in the committee stage in the Senate. That is the difficulty which arises.
– Would the righthonorable gentleman make any distinction between a purely revenue item and a strictly protective item,?
– No; there is no rule for a constitutional distinction with respect to such items. The provision in the Constitution relates to any laws im posing taxation or appropriating revenue or moneys for the ordinary annual services of the Government. Honorable members who have followed the constitutional history of Victoria will be familiar with the grave conflicts that have in the- past arisen between the two State Houses, some of which have caused acute difficulties, not only constitutional but also practical, in the administration of the Government of Victoria. This section of our Constitution is designed to prevent those- difficulties arising, but honorable members will understand that if one House is, in its own words, “ resolute and determined”, and in the words of the other House, “obstinate, stupid- and pigheaded”, it would be difficult to make the provisions of the Constitution workable. This matter is best met in a spirit of accomodation-. We could argue about it for a long time, but I am afraid that after so arguing we should find ourselves just about where we began. For that reason, I ask honorable members, irrespective of their fiscal views, to adopt this motion to enable an. amicable adjustment to be made without engaging in discussion which- might prove interminable, and bring about no useful results from a constitutional point of view or from the point of view of the interests of the people, which ought to- be the main consideration in determining the action, of all honorable members.
.- The Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) has stated that similar motions to this have been moved on a number of previous occasions after the passing of the tariff by the popular chamber and its consideration by another- place. It is a great pity that the Government has not seen fit to continue the attitude that it adopted on these items when the tariff schedule waslast before this Parliament. Unfortunately, this motion providing as it does for a compromise between the two Houses, will defeat the Tariff Board’s recommendations which we have been told by Ministers on other occasions are sacrosanct.
– The honorable member must not develop that argument. The motion before the- Chair does- not deal with the tariff items.
– The Attorney-General stated that the. Government intended to compromise- on the tariffitems which were to be re-introduced-intothis House. 1 understand that the duties on two out of three of those items have been based on the recommendations of the Tariff Board, and I am surprised that the Government has decided to reverse its previous decision. This House has always held the view that the Senate has not the right to press requests of this kind. Requests came from the Senate a few weeks ago, and were considered by this House. The Attorney-General himself, has said that, in his opinion, the Senate has no further powers, yet it has seen fit to make further requests. When the Senate made its previous requests, it, had exercised to the full any right that it has under the Constitution. I shall have something further to say on that subject, when the particular items are uuder consideration. The AttorneyGeneral definitely stated the position when he said that, the Senate could not amend financial measures or tariff items, but could only make requests. That chamber made a request which this House refused, and I am extremely sorry that the Government is now weakly yielding to a little pressure from another place. Had this House taken a firm stand I believe that the Senate would have given way, because it undoubtedly has an extremely weak case.
M r. SPE AKER. - The honorable member must address himself to the motion before the Chair.
– I protest. emphatically against, the Government’s change of attitude towards the requests of the Senate; the Opposition will vote against the motions.
.- I regret that the Government, is prepared to com promise with the Senate in respect of its requests, because in so doing it is merely following the procedure of about 30 years ago. Is this House always to continue to bow and scrape to another place? According to Practice and Procedure, published by Mr. Boydell, a former Clerk of the Senate, Standing Order No. 247 of the Senate reads -
Requests to the House of Representatives may bemade at all or any of the following stages of the bill, which the Senate may not amend -
On the motion of the first reading of any such bill; or
In committee after the second reading has been agreed to; or
On consideration of any message from the House of Representatives in reference to such bill; or
On the third reading of the bill.
Ample provision is made in the Standing Orders of the Senate for requests, but that chamber cannot make amendments. During the last 30 years no decision has been come to on this matter. The AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Latham) has said that on account of the tariff items that are to come under review not being of an important nature this House should asseut to the requests of another place. On two previous occasions this House has strongly registered its belief in certain items with respect to which we are now called upon to compromi.se. Yet, the AttorneyGeneral now quietly says, “Let us do as another place requests.”
– That is hardly the position.
– The Attorney-General made a halting and apologetic speech. It is high time that we showed a little of the backbone of the good old radicals of the past by being prepared to fight for our privileges. Senators are elected for a term of six years, but, the members of this House have to “ face the music “ every three years. A big principle is at stake and we should not hesitate to put up a fight in the interests of the people of Australia. I know that the Government will have the solid support of the members of the Country party, whose fiscal views are absolutely beyond my comprehension. I claim to be consistent on the tariff issue, and no one can accuse me of being recreant to my principles. I heartily disprove of the motion and shall take extreme pleasure in voting against it.
.- I do not think that the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) would have spoken as he did had he read the actual motion, because the issue that he raised does not arise on this motion at all, but. will arise when the items concerned are under the consideration of honorable members. The motion reads -
That, having regard to the fact the public welfare demands the early enactment of the tariff, ami pending the adoption of joint Standing Orders, this House refrains from the determination of its constitutional rights or obligations in respect of Message No. 103, required from the Senate in reference to the Customs Tariff Will (1933), and resolves to consider it forthwith.
– That is a graceful climb-down.
– Honorable members will be able to express their opinions on this matter . -when the request of the Senate is under discussion.
– But. the AttorneyGeneral has stated that he has already effected a compromise.
– The question is whether we should consider these items at all, and the determination of the fiscal policy of this House is still in the hands of honorable members. Whether this House desires at the same time a constitutional struggle with the Senate is another matter altogether. I should be loath to engage in a constitutional - struggle precipitatedon the relatively insignificant items now the subject of controversy between the two Houses. I hope that when a constitutional issue has to he faced, it will be on an important subject, and that there will be no extraneous issues. This is the fourth occasion on which this issue has been raised. On three previous occasions the procedure now proposed has been adopted, two before, and one since, the war. The first occasion was very early after the consummation of federation. 1 suggest that we should defer the constitutional issue, and discuss on their merits the items which are the subject of this message. There are special reasons why this should be done. We all know that there has been no proper validation of the tariff for five years. It seems to me to be reasonable, therefore, that finality should be reached on the tariff schedule now under consideration. The constitutional issue that has been raised will require a tremendous amount of discussion and debate, not only in this chamber, but in the press of Australia, and it should be considered as fully as possible without dragging into the arena such items as those now before us. I therefore hope that the motion will be agreed to.
.- It is idle for the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) to argue that our acceptance of this motion will amount only to the submission of the tariff items concerned for further consideration. It is also idle for him to argue that the items affected bythe Senate’s message are insignificant. A good deal more is involved in the question than the right honorable member has suggested, if, as he says, these items are insignificant, why should the Senate insist and persist in its “requests ?
– Who knows the ways of the Senate?
– It should be taught its ways.
– I wish we could do the’ teaching.
– The only way to do it is to stand up for the rights of this chamber.
– And cause a double dissolution?
– If the Senate brought about a double dissolution on these items, the responsibility for doing so would rest upon it, but I do not think it would be likely to persist to that extent. The Senate has exhausted its constitutional rights in the making of these requests.
– That is questionable.
– The honorable member’s interjection is a very strong reason why I. should vote against this motion. If any doubt, at all exists about the constitutional rights of this chamber in regard to financial measures, it, should be dissolved. If necessary, the Constitution should be reviewed. In my opinion, there are no doubts about the situation. This House has never acknowledged the right of the Senate to insist upon requests for the amendment of money bills.
– That is so. ‘
– The rights of this chamber have never been surrendered, and they should not be surrendered now. The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson). and the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory), have suggested that, there are doubts about our rights.
– I do not say that there is any doubt about the right, of the Senate in this case.
– Does the honorable member contend that the Senate has a right to insist upon its requests?
– Yes; it has full rightsto do so.
– I do not believe that it has any such right, and I am opposed to this motion because I think it amounts to a weak surrender to the Senate. I know that this course has been taken on other occasions in order to avoid a difficult position, but there is no urgency about the matter on this occasion. It is competent for the Government to allow the tariff schedule to remain as it is. During the recess, the members of another place would have further time to reconsider their position. If upon reflection they still persisted in making their request, and if the members of this House refused to accede to them, the consequences could then be faced. This House has- not been unreasonable in its attitude towards the Senate. The numerous requests made by the Senate in relation to the tariff schedule were fully considered, and compromises were agreed to on some important items. Yet the Senate is now insisting upon its requests in regard to such items as spray pumps, rabbit traps and dates. The very fact that these are minor items shows what small cause there is for the Senate to challenge the constitutional rights of this House. By making the challenge on small items, the members- of another place possibly hope to affirm, in an insidious way, that they possess rights which they really do not possess. We should not weakly agree to their requests. It we do so we should recast our Constitution.
.- I have not heard one suggestion by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) or any other honorable gentleman as to how the tariff is to become law if we insist on our opposition to the requests of the Senate. The question is whether we shall adhere to the Constitution or give expression to our own predilections. In my opinion we have, in several mat- ters, infringed the Constitution. For instance, Section 6 provides that -
There shall be a session of the Parliament once at least in every year, so that twelve months shall not intervene between the last sitting of the Parliament in one session and its first sitting in the next session.
Yet, year after year, Parliaments have carried on without prorogations. I believe that it is proposed to follow that course again this year, but, in my opinion, it is a breach of the Constitution. In consequence of actions of this kind taxation . has been imposed upon, the people yearafter year without proper approval being given by this Parliament.. The Constitution provides that there shall be twoHouses of the Parliament.. A good deal is said at times about the House of Representatives being the people’s chamber, but the faet is that the Senate, is elected upon a far more democratic- basis that this House, for the citizens of the Commonwealth vote in whole States whereas in the case of this House the States are subdivided and the people vote in much smaller constituencies.
– In the other chamber New South Wales and Western Australia have the same representation although the population of each State is vastly different.
– I am speaking, about representation in the wider sense. I do not suppose that any honorable member will deny that the tariff cannot become law unless it is approved by both Houses. The Constitution, providesthat
The Senate may at any stage return tothe House of Representatives any proposed law which the Senate may not amend, requesting, by message, the omission or amendment of any items or provisions therein.
It is clear, therefore, that the Senate is entitled to request- amendments to any law at any stage, and if those requests are not conceded the Senate may refuse to approve of the legislation proposed. We know very well that in connexion with the Imperial Parliament the House of Commons may pass a law and send it to the House of Lords. If that House refuses to agree to it the House of Commons may,, in the following session, re-enact the same law which, after the lapse of a certain time, becomes effective whether the House of Lords has agreed to it or not. Those provisions were put into operation, as we know, in connexion with the legislation for Irish Home Rule. But we have no such provision in our Constitution. Personally, I have come to realize the value of the Senate, and, in my opinion, the honorable members of that chamber are perfectly justified in insisting that the amendments that they have requested shall be made. I can see no reason for opposing the motion of the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham). If the smaller States had not been protected by the provisions for equal representation in the Senate, and its undoubted power to reject any legislation it disapproved of, they would not have agreed to federation. If the Constitution is to be altered, let it be altered by the people.
– I support the motion, but I am not at all pleased with the remarks of the AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Latham) in moving it, although I would not presume for a moment to set my opinions on the Constitution against his. I am afraid, however, that what he has said this afternoon will do a good deal to shatter the confidence of the citizens of the smaller States in the Constitution. Hitherto, they have felt that they enjoyed equal representation in the Senate and that it was the State House. As the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) has said, the Senate is elected on a purely representative vote which places all the people of Australia on the same footing. I submit that -the Senate is entitled to insist upon its requests. If these requests can be ignored or nullified by action or inaction in this chamber the people of the smaller States will feel that one of the main props upon which they have been leaning has been pulled from beneath them. I agree with the honorable member for Swan that the Senate possesses greater powers than the Attorney-General has admitted this afternoon. I shall support the motion because I think that the items affected by the Senate’s requests should be considered.
– I support the motion and in doing so accept the position taken up by the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) regarding the rights of this House. I regard my action in this connexion as being in no way an admission of any weakening of the rights and privileges of this chamber. Most honorable members will recollect the debates that took place in the federal conventions regarding the rights of the two Houses of the Parlia ment. In the adoption of the scheme of federation there was a recognition of the fact that there was a federation of the then colonies; but there was also a recognition of the fact that the people were creating a nation. The rights of the people we’re preserved by a lower House. The position of the States as States was recognized in the constitution of the second chamber. With a bi-cameral system ordinarily the two chambers cannot have equal powers in all respects. Under the Constitution, therefore, although the Senate has equal powers with the House of Representatives in other respects, its powers are not equal to those of the House of Representatives in respect of four matters set out by Sir John Quick in his work, The Legislative Powers of the Commonwealth and the States of Australia. These exceptions are as follows : -
Those exceptions clearly show in what respect the House of Representatives is responsible to the people for taxation and expenditure. In regard to these exceptions the Senate is not the equal of this chamber. Section 53 of the Constitution, which specifies the power of the Senate to amend or to make requests, provides that the Senate may not make an amendment in any bill which would increase the proposed charge or burden on the people. The Senate may not amend proposed laws imposing taxes. Its right to request such an amendment is provided for, but, obviously, the power of request was intended to have a different meaning from the power to amend. If, therefore, the Senate were allowed to convert its right to request into the power to amend, the intention of the Constitution would be thwarted. At page 624 of his work Sir John Quick indicates that section 53 deals with and provides matters of order of procedure or regulation as between the two Houses of Parliament; and continues -
It is intended to mark and maintain the dignity, prestige and status of the House of Representatives as the national chamber, the people’s chamber. The origination of supplies and taxation in that House is considered to be a vital point of practice and procedure founded on the privileges of the House of Commons. The denial of the right of the Senate to amend such bills is founded on the denial of the right of the House of Lords to do so in similar circumstances. In the case of the Senate, however, the practice has been compromised by allowing the Senate to suggest or request alterations in bills which it cannot actually make itself. These provisions relate to practice and procedure only, and even if they should be inadvertently lost sight of or intentionally waived by the House of Representatives, and even if such bills were to be passed, and become law contrary to such mandates of the Constitution, they would be law all the same notwithstanding the informalities.
That is the position in which we find ourselves to-day in relation to the procedure between the two Houses. No outside body or court can determine . the question, because each Parliament is a judge of its own procedure and no court can interfere. Griffith, C.J. observed - “Whatever obligations are imposed by these sections are directed to the Houses of Parliament whose conduct of their internal affairs is not subject to review by a court of law.” The matter, of course, must ultimately be decided should there be continued conflict between the two Houses, but one cannot have the slightest doubt about the rights of this chamber after referring to the debates at the convention, and utterances that have been made in this House by men like Mr. Alfred Deakin, and particularly to the reasoned speech delivered by the ex-Chief Justice, Sir Isaac Isaacs, when he was a private member of this House. Presumably it is dependent on the good sense of those engaged in parliamentary government to recognize the respective rights of the two Houses. The only way to carry on parliamentary government satisfactorily is for the two Houses to realize precisely the extent of their powers, which are not defined in every circumstance, or set out in detail, but have been built up by conventions embodied in actual constitutional practice.
In view of someof the statements that have been made in this chamber during this debate, I join with other honorable members in an endeavour to maintain the rights and privileges of this House in the matter, but I quite agree with the AttorneyGeneral that, at this stage, it would not be wise for this House to assert its authority.
– Commonwealth Governments have been making similar excuses for 30 years.
-But in respect of situations exactly similar to this. For a considerable time we have not had on the statute-book a tariff law and that affects the situation overseas as well as in Australia, for Australia House is not in a position to hand out a copy of a tariff schedule which is recognized as law, and as having been mace by the two chambers of this legislature, and duly assented to. It is high time that that defect was rectified.
– Our tariff is continually changing.
– Only as regards individual items. The position is that we have not a general tariff law which has been agreed to ‘by both Houses of Parliament, and assented to by the Crown. A vital issue like that should be determined, but it would be inadvisable to allow three minor tariff items to plunge the country into a double dissolution, the ultimate possibility of continued conflict between the two Houses. In such a contingency the whole of our tariff position might be thrown into a state of serious uncertainty.
– The matter could be dealt with by a conference of party managers.
– I have merely stated what could easily be the ultimate position if the Senate made up its mind that it would not surrender on the subject.
– Why should this House surrender its right?.
– It isnot a matter of surrendering but of adopting a reasonable attitude in order to have the tariff schedule placedon the statute-book. That is a reasonable request, and would accord with the wishes of the general public. Certainly it would be unwise to bring the existing- conflict between the two Houses to a head at this juncture. It is true, as Sir Samuel Griffith wrote some time ago when dealing with the Senate, “ A strong Senate will compel attention to its suggestions, while a weak one will not insist on its amendments.” But there is always the possibility of there being a still stronger House of Representatives. I believe that in the event of a conflict the decision of the people would be with the people’s House rather than with the Senate, but I do not want to see that conflict at this stage, as I think it would be inadvisable.
– Even a double dissolution would not determine the constitutional problem.
– It would settle it so far as the two Houses that were then elected were concerned. In the circumstances, I think that the motion is a proper one. It reaffirms the rights of this House, and simply indicates that because of public necessity it is desirable . that the tariff schedule should be passed by both Houses of Parliament.
– I appeal to the House to cease talking about the rights and privileges of this and another House under the Constitution. Honorable members could talk on the subject for days, but the commercial world would be waiting while we settled the matter.
– Why should this House forgo its rights?
– The desire of the Government is to ‘have a complete tariff schedule agreed to in order to bring some fiscal peace to the commercial community in Australia. It was in 1922 that the last complete schedule was agreed to, and the last major customs tariff amendment was passed in 192S. Honorable members are constantly asking questions as to when the full effect of the present reductions is to be given. At present the duties cannot be reduced below the 1928 level.
Of the 1,800 items that were sent to the Senate, only 47 were returned with requests, of which fourteen were modified in this chamber, and when returned to the Senate were accepted with the exception of three. These three are now before us, one being a small revenue duty and the other two relating to minor industries.
The debate on the tariff has lasted for something like 70 sitting days of the Parliament.
Whatever ideas honorable members may have concerning the amount of protection that should be given on any item, I hope that they will not let them influence their attitude towards this motion. Would certain honorable members fight, just as doggedly if the Senate were insisting that the duty on an item should be 1,000 per cent., instead qf, as in this case, making slight reductions. The commercial world and the consumers are anxious to have this schedule made law, and I suggest that we should facilitate its progress. What the Government proposes to do in respect of these items represents what would be a reasonable compromise as the result of a conference between party managers, and I suggest that the motion be accepted so that we. may go on with the business.
.- I regret that the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) has submitted a motion which, in my opinion, can only be described as a weakened bending of the knee to the Senate. It is a fundamental principle of British parliamentary institutions that the lower and more representative House of Parliament shall be the only one which has control of power to originate supply and taxation. That principle wa3 not established without considerable conflict between the two Houses, and it is because of that conflict - sometimes on -matters that may have been of less importance than the issue now before honorable members - that those rights have been established. We should remember that we have received this heritage from the mother of parliaments, and that it is our duty to uphold the dignity and powers that have been given to this, the more representative House of the two. In accordance with this principle, when the act bringing into effect the Commonwealth Constitution was passed by the British Parliament in 1900, it was laid down in section 53 as follows: -
Proposed laws appropriating revenue or moneys, or imposing taxation, shall not originate in the Senate. But a proposed law shall not be taken to appropriate revenue or moneys, or to impose taxation, by reason only of its containing provisions for the imposition or appropriation of fines or other pecuniary penalties, or for the demand or payment, or appropriation of fees for licences, or fees for services under the proposed law.
The Senate may not amend proposed laws imposing taxation, or proposed laws appropriating revenue or money for the ordinary annual services of the Government.
The Senate may not amend any proposed law so as to increase any proposed charge or burden on the people.
The Senate may at any stage return to the House of Representatives any proposed law which the Senate may not amend, requesting, by message, the omission or amendment of any items or provisions therein. And the House of Representatives may, if it thinks fit, make any of such omissions or amendments, with or without modifications.
The fact that’ the Senate is not allowed to amend such bills, but may return them to the House of Representatives, proves that the intention of the British Parliament, whether that intention is expressed or not, was that this House should enjoy superior powers. It has been contended that the words “ The Senate may at any stage return to the House of Representatives any proposed law which the Senate may not amend “ means that the Senate has power to return bills an indefinite number of times. That contention is absurd. Obviously it was meant that the Senate might return a bill once, so that the House of Representatives would have an opportunity to consider any arguments which the Senate had to advance.
It is extraordinarily difficult to frame even an ordinary act of parliament so that faults may not be picked in it by skilful lawyers, and it is much more difficult to frame a constitution which will provide for every possible contingency that may arise. That is sufficient answer to members of the Country party who stated that the Constitution should have been clear on this point. Why, even section 57, which deals with double dissolutions, is verbally ambiguous, though the intention of the section is clear.
The Attorney-General and the honorable member for Darling Downs (Sir Littleton Groom), both of whom are trained lawyers, have told us that the House of Representatives has full power to enforce its wishes in regard to this legislation,’ but they suggest that, for various reasons, we should give way in this instance. Members of the
Country party, on the other hand, are either in doubt as to the powers of this House, or opposed to the opinions advanced by the Attorney-General; but, in order to suit their own political purposes, they are prepared to join with the Government in supporting the proposal that the House of Representatives should yield. With members of the Country party the wish is father to the thought, and they find in the Constitution what they -would like to find contained in it.
Eventually there must be a trial of strength between this House and the Senate on this issue, and it might as well be now as later. Do not let us deceive ourselves that if we give way now we are merely compromising. We have already yielded on previous occasions, and if we continue to do so it will be useless for us to pretend that we still retain the power which is in dispute. By meekly surrendering our rights on this occasion we shall strengthen the claims of the Senate. Honorable members should not display a marked reluctance to join issue with the Senate on a matter of grave constitutional importance. A little while ago, this House also gave way on a question of parliamentary privilege, and we seem to be establishing the precedent that, whenever our powers or privileges are challenged, -we are to yield meekly and weakly.
It has been suggested that we should not force the issue on this occasion, but should “wait until the Standing Orders have been amended. The AttorneyGeneral “must know, however, that if there is any doubt as to our powers under the Constitution, we cannot confirm ourselves in those powers by altering the Standing Orders. Any standing orders which Parliament may make are necessarily subject’ to the Constitution.
The House of Representatives agreed by a large majority to the items which are now in dispute, while in the Senate a decision was reached regarding them by only a small majority. I believe that if we stand up to the Sena’te on thi? occasion it will not dare to oppose us, but’ will give way. That, however, is not the point we should consider. We believe that this House possesses certain, powers, and we should demonstrate to the Senate, once and for all, that we are not prepared to be dictated to as to how we should carry out our duties.
– I have listened with interest to the arguments of those who claim to be constitutional experts, as well as to what was said by the honorable member for Darling Downs (Sir Littleton Groom), whomade an intelligent and valuable contribution to the discussion. I regret that the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) has decided to accept the requests of the Senate.
– The honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) is mistaken. The motion is merely that the requests be considered.
– Unfortunately, if we pass the motion in its present form, we shall be allowing the position to go by default. I am most jealous of the rights of this House, and if there is some doubt as to our powers under the Constitution, that is all the more reason why we should bring matters to a head now. If, on the other hand, we do possess the powers we claim, we should exercise them, and should not yield to the opposition of the Senate. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) was wrong when he said that the Senate was elected on a more democratic- franchise than the House of Representatives. The basis of democracy, I take it, is one vote one value, yet, under the system by which the Senate is elected, the people of Western Australia, who are few in number, elect as many representatives to the Senate as do the people of New South Wales,, who outnumber them many times. I fear that the honorable member’s arguments are dictated by what suits the interests of his own State. I, on the contrary, take a broader view. This House is responsible to the people, and should preserve the powers it has inherited from the Mother Parliament, where they were won on graver issues than this. The Minister stated that only three petty items were involved. It is true that the items themselves may be trivial, but the principle is important, and we should hesitate to create a precedent which may be cited to our disadvantage. I am not prepared to entrust the Senate with the direction of our fiscal policy, and for that reason I am loath to accept the proposals of the Attorney-General. This is an occasion upon which the House of Representatives should not yield.
Question - That the motion (Mr. Latham’s) be agreed to - put. The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. G. H. Mackay.)
Majority . . . . 30
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion agreed to.
Motion (by Mr. Latham) put -
That the foregoing resolution be incorporated in the message when the bill’ is returned to the Senate.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. G. H. Mackay.)
Majority . . . . 30
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion agreed to.
Motion (by Mr. Latham) put -
That Senate’s message No. 103 be taken into consideration, in committee of the whole House, forthwith.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. G. H. Mackay.)
Majority . . . . 30
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion agreed to.
In, committee (Consideration of Senate’s message) :
Fruits, dried, viz. : -
Dates . . . per lb., British, 3d.; general, 3d.
Senate’s request - Make the duty, per lb., British,1d.: general,1d.
House of Representatives’ message. - Requested amendment not made.
Senate’s message. - Request pressed.
– This is a revenue item. The Government indicated previously when the Senate’s request was before the committee that, although a revenue of £73,000 per annum would be lost if the Senate’s requested reduction from 3d. to1d. per lb. were made, it was prepared to forgo that revenue if the committee so desired. As honorable members know, that request was defeated, but the Senate has again made a request for a duty of1d. per lb. The Government is now less able to forgorevenue, so honorable members who have been rather beating the air about the suggested compromise, -will be interested to know that the Government hopes that in this instance a duty of 2d. per lb. will be acceptable.
– That will entail a loss of revenue of £36,500.
– I remind honorable members who still think that the duty on dates should be protective, that a rate of 2d. per lb. represents an ad valorem protection of 185 per cent. The annual rate of importation into Australia is a fairly consistent one, and a ship with a large cargo is now in Australian waters. The contention of honorable members that dates compete with dried fruits cannot be substantiated. I have received telegrams from merchants asking when this matter is to be decided, and I therefore ask honorable members on both sides of the chamber to make the debate as short as possible. I move -
Dlitt tlie requested amendment be now made with the following medification as on and from 1st December, 1033: -
Instead of - per lb., British, Id.; general. Id.
Bond - per lb., British, 2d.; general. 2d.
.- T regret that the Government has seen fit to yield weakly to the pressure of the Senate. That chamber, in making this request, has exceeded its constitutional rights. There is no reason whatever for the change of attitude on the part of the Government. The Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) has stated that a reduction of duty from 3d. to Id. per lb. would mean a loss of revenue of £73,000 per annum, but if tlie compromise is accepted the loss of revenue will be £36,500. The Government’s acceptance of that loss is beyond my comprehension, particularly in view of its assurance that it cannot afford to give additional postal, telegraphic and telephonic facilities to people in country districts, and” of its action in evicting the soldier occupants of war service homes, and cutting invalid and old-age pensions. This item was debated on the 24th October, and despite the fact that the Government whip worked overtime in an endeavour to obtain a majority for the- Government, honorable members by 24 to 23 votes refused the Senate’s request. Had the votes of honorable members generally been free and untrammelled there would have been a-u overwhelming majority in favour of a duty of 3d. per lb. The Minister’s argument was quite different from that of the Minister representing the Government in another place. On the 9th November, Senator McLachlan said -
After this chamber had requested a reduction of this duty representations were made by tlie representatives of the Australian Dried Fruits Organizations against the reduction on tlie ground that dates competed with currants, lexias, sultanas and prunes.
– The honorable member is not in order in quoting’ the statement of a Minister in another place.
– The Minister in another place pointed out that, since the Senate had made its original request that the duties on dates should be reduced from 3d. to Id. per lb., the Government had received urgent representations from the Australian dried fruits organizations.
– Order ! I have already informed the honorable member i hat he is not in order in referring to a debate in the Senate.
– On this matter the Government has spoken with two voices. I have no doubt that the Minister in this chamber spoke with the authority of Cabinet, and that the Minister in another chamber also spoke with the authority of Cabinet. How many minds has the Cabinet on this question? One day the Government is in favour of a duty of 3d. per lb. The next day it is in favour of Id. per lb. Later it favours a duty of 3d. per lb., and new it is supporting a duty of 2d. per lb. This item has had a chequered career. A reduction of duty was first moved by a private member in the Senate, and was adopted by the Government. This chamber would not agree to that reduction, and thereupon the Government in another place decided to support the majority decision of the members of this chamber, but the members of tlie Senate defeated the Government’s recommendation by a majority of two.
– I have already twice called the honorable member to order and informed him that debates in the Senate cannot be referred to in this chamber. Standing Order 270 states that no member shall allude to any debate of the current session of the Senate. I ask the honorable member to conform to that Standing Order and to my ruling.
– The Government has displayed considerable inconsistency with respect to this item. It has made requests without taking into proper consideration their adverse effect upon, not only the revenue, but also the Australian Dried Fruits Industry.
– If the amendment is accepted the price of dates will he reduced to the consumers by1d. per lb.
– The position will be similar to that of tea. The consumers will receive no benefit,, while the importers and merchants will receive a bigger rakeoff. This is the fourth change of attitude on the part of the Government on this item, and no doubt the Minister will, in a week’s time, inform honorable members that the Government has reconsidered the item and is prepared to make the duty lid. per lb. Is it any wonder that even supporters of the Ministry in the Senate are saying that they do not propose to box the compass in the way the Government has on this item? TheMinister will contend that the Tariff Board has not recommended a duty above1d. per lb. Nearly five years ago the board inquired into the industry and recommended against an increase of from1d. to 3d. per lb. I ask the Minister to allow the duty of 3d. per lb. to stand, and to refer the item back to the Tariff Board for further consideration.
– Dates are not grown in Australia.
– Dates undoubtedly compete with dried fruits which are grown in Australia. When I was Minister for Trade and Customs, the Australian Dried Fruits Associations made representations” to me, and it was because I realized the importance of the industry that I eventually agreed to increase the duty to 3d. per lb.
– Most reluctantly.
– That was not so. I made careful inquiry and was satisfied that the request of the growers was reasonable, and that the industry was worth protecting. I acted in accordance with the policy of the Australian Labour party which is to protect the primary and secondary industries of Australia. Among those who advocated the imposition of a duty of 3d. per lb. on dates from black cheap labour countries were Mr. D. . C. Winter bottom, member of the Board of Management of the Australian Dried Fruits Association; Mr. J. M. Balfour, Chairman of the Victorian Dried Fruits Board; Mr. A. McKinnon, Director of Redcliffs Co-operative Packing Company, and Mr. H. G. Howie, Chairman of the Board of Management of the Australian Dried Fruits Association. So soon as I agreed to increase the duty to 3d. per lb., the Hotel Canberra became filled with importing agents who opposed the increase of duty on the ground that it would have a serious effect on the cost of production in Australia. That same old bogy is used every time the importing interests oppose increased duties. Why should we show such great solicitude for the countries in which dates are grown? In 1929we imported 9,200,000 lb. of dates chiefly from Baghdad, Mesopotamia. Those dates compete with an important Australian industry.
– The Tariff Board says not.
– I favour a duty in excess’ of 3d. per lb., so as to make the whole of the local market for dried fruits available to the Australian . industry. The manager of the Australian Dried Fruits Association, in his evidence before the Tariff Board, said that -
It is felt that dates compete with and appreciably affect the sales of Australian dried fruits. The argument that dates do not compete with raisins and sultanas is wrong in that dates are used in cakes and puddings and replace raisins.
Surely honorable members who are supporting the Government’s attitude would not suggest that a responsible officer of the Dried Fruits Association would make representations before the Tariff Board which he did not honestly believe to be true. It is well known that dates imported from countries in which black labour is employed seriously affect the sales of Australian dried fruits.
– Has the honorable member read the finding of the Tariff Board on that aspect of the subject?
– I have, but the Tariff Board is not infallible. It is an advisory body, and we are entitled to take notice of what, it says, but we should not allow it to act for us. I have respect for the members of the Tariff Board, as I have for every officer of the Trade and Customs Department who is called upon to make an investigation on behalf of the Government; but we are now dealing with a matter of government policy. The secretary of the Australian Dried Fruits Association, in a letter which he wrote after the Senate had decided to request a duty of Id. instead of 3d. per lb., stated that -
I have to advise that this matter was considered by my board at their meeting in Melbourne lust week, and I was requested to communicate with you and ask your support when this matter comes up for discussion in the House of Representatives.
The Prune Packers Association of New South Wales is also seriously concerned about the competition of dates with prunes, and it has written to me in the following terms: -
Any remission of duty on dates will certainly have a detrimental effect on the dried fruits industry, and prunes in particular, in the production of which so many Australians are engaged. I have been instructed to write and ask you to do your utmost to prevent this alteration to the tariff. lt may be argued by some honorable gentleman that our imports of dates are negligible, and come to Australia in a single shipload. The explanation of this is that it would not pay shippers to call month after month at ports from which dates are shipped to pick up light cargoes. The year’s supply for Australia is picked up in one load. A new shipment will be landed here within the next few weeks. The average total sales of dates in Australia are between 3,500 and 4,000 tons a year. If the sales of sultanas and lexias were increased by 2,000 tons a year, which is about half the weight of the dates imported in 1927-28, the cash benefit to the dried fruits growers would be the difference between the return from the sales made overseas, and those made in Australia - about £25 a ton, or a total of £50,000. Although raisins, currants, sultanas, dried apricots, peaches, nectarines and prunes are protected by a duty of 6d. per lb., dates, which are produced under the lowest working standards of the world, would be admitted in Aus tralia at a duty of Id. per lb. if the Senate’s request were acceded to. The Minister now proposes to add Id. to the requested duty, but I urge that just as on two other occasions the honorable gentleman stood firmly for a duty of 3d. per lb., he should again do so, and not attempt to placate the members of another place by retreating from that attitude. The Australian dried fruits industry will be seriously affected by any increase of importations of dates. In view of the fact that our dried fruits exporters have to sell their product at a loss on the world’s markets, and must rely upon the higher price they obtain for their goods on the Australian market in order to maintain their operations, we should not open the door to date importers. Because I have consistently stood for the protection of both primary and secondary industries, and strongly object to the weak attitude of the Government on this item, I shall oppose the motion. I appeal to the honorable gentlemen, who, on previous occasions, favoured a duty of 3d. per lb. on dates, also to oppose any reduction now.
.- On previous occasions when thi3 item has been under consideration, with several of my colleagues of the Country party I have strongly supported a duty of 3d. per lb. on dates; but in view of the explanation which the Minister has given we are prepared to accept a duty of. 2d. per lb. as a compromise. My colleagues who stood with me on other occasions for a duty of 3d. have authorized me to speak on their behalf, and we make it perfectly clear that in accepting this compromise we do not retract the opinions we expressed on other occasions against the proposed reduction of the duty to Id. per lb. Such a duty would not effectively protect the local industry from unfair competition. A section of the dried fruits industry undoubtedly feels that the importation of very cheap dates would subject Australiangrown dried fruits to very serious competition on the local market. I personally do not support some of the extreme remarks made by the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) in his speech, but in the circumstances, my colleagues and I are prepared to agree to a duty of 2d. per lb.
– A duty of 3d. per lb. is not sufficient protection.
– It must be admitted that certain quantities of dates would be imported and1 consumed in Australia irrespective of the rate of duty.
– Dates are not really a substitute for our dried fruits.
– I agree with the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) that they are not altogether a substitute; but it must, be realized that if dales are made available at a very low price, strong inducement would be offered to purchasers to buy a smaller proportion of Australian dried fruits and a larger proportion of imported dates. It is for that reason that I strenuously oppose the acceptance of the duty of1d. per lb. I believe that such a duty would result in unfair competition. I make these remarks in justification of the attitude that my colleagues and I adopt on this occasion.
.- Having taken part in the earlier fights against the acceptance of a duty of1d. per lb. on dates, I wish now to say that, as a compromise only, I am prepared to accept a duty of 2d. per lb.
– Under duress.
– I do so as a compromise and I do not retract a single word of the speeches that I have made previously on this subject. I make these remarks in order that I may not be misunderstood. I do not back my barrow. I wish to say that I appreciate the endeavours of the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) and other honorable gentlemen to maintain the rate of duty at 3d. per lb. “When I learned from a newspaper report that it was probable that the Government would recommend a duty of 2d. per lb., I communicated by telegraph with representatives of the dried fruits industry and ascertained that, in the circumstances, they would accept a duty of 2d. per lb. In spite of the report of the Tariff Board I say from my experience in the grocery, trade that cheap dates very effectively compete against Australian dried fruits. I must, confess that I am rather surprised that representatives of the Australian dried fruits industry are prepared to agree to a duty of 2d. per lb. seeing that dates can be purchased for1¼d. per lb. wholesale overseas, but in the circumstances I shall not vote against the motion.
Question - That the motion be agreed to - put. The Committee divided. (Chairman - Mr. Bell.)
Majority . . . . 24
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion agreed to.
Senate’s Request. - Make the duty, ad valorem - British”, 20 per cent.; general, 374 per cent.
House of Representatives’ Message. - Not made.
Senate’s Message. - Request pressed.
– I move -
That the requested amendments be now made with the following modification, as on and from 1st December, 1933 -
Instead of - “ ad valorem British, 20 per cent.; general, 37½ per cent.”
Read - “ad valorem British, 35 per cent.; general, 55 per cent.”
Honorable members will recall that, when this item was originally debated in this chamber, the recommendation of the Tariff Board was accepted. The item has since gone to another place, whence there has come a request that the duties proposed by this House should be reduced, the honorable senator who urged the reduction asserting that the higher rate would result in increased charges being made to orchardists and others for spray pumps. In its report on the item the Tariff Board paid a high tribute to the industry and to the quality of its products, which are made mostly from Australian raw materials; it also stated that the protection given by the tariff had not resulted in prices being raised inordinately. The Government is not prepared to accept the request of the Semite, as it feels that the lower duty asked for might prejudice the industry, but it is proposing a reasonable compromise.
– Why does it not accept the recommendation of the Tariff Board?
– It is so easy to saythat. Out of 1,800 items which were agreed to in this chamber, only three are now before us with requests, consequently the Government has considered it only reasonable to give effect to the spirit of compromise. Since the Senate submitted its request in regard to this item, inquiries have been made in the trade, and it has been ascertained thatin recent years there have been no importations of spraying apparatus. In fact, local manufacturers have explored new fields, and made special kinds of spray pumps for the dried fruits industry, indicating that, under existing exchange and duty conditions, the prices charged by local manufacturers are in the main much lower than thu landed costs of imported spraying pumps. I say, advisedly, that a duty of. 35 per cent. British and 55 per cent, foreign should afford sufficient protection to the industry, because that is the rate which prevailed for many years in Australia on metal manufactures generally, and particularly ou non-ferrous work, the category in which spray pumps come.
.- I am surprised that the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) has again yielded meekly to the request made by another place. The spray-pump industry is one of the most efficient in Australia, and the Minister should visit the factory and see for himself what, is being done. The honorable gentleman has always contended that Parliament should accept the recommendations of the Tariff Board, and, in this instance, the higher duty is supported by a recommendation of the board. ‘.The Senate is merely complying with the urging of free-trade lobbyists. The adoption of its proposal can bring only loss to the industry and further unemployment to Australia. In its report of the 7th December, 1931, the Tariff Board staged-
Despite the assurance of the Minister that it is the policy of the Government to impose tariffs in accordance with recommendations made by the Tariff Board, it would appear that that is done only when it results in a reduced duty. In an eloquent speech, the Minister previously urged that the rate on spray pumps should be British, 45 per cent.; general, 65 per cent. Yet, because another place, gulled by the generalizations of a few of its members, presses for a reduction, the honorable gentleman now somersaults and weakly supports this request in a modified form. Apparently, his main concern is to get through the business, and go into recess. If the reduced rate of duty is put into operation, many employees will be thrown out of work, those who have invested their hard-earned savings in the industry will be unable to make a profit, and overseas competitors will capture the local market. The Tariff Board also stated that it regards the industry as worthy of encouragement. The following are the prices which obtain in Australia, England and New Zealand for patent knapsack spray pumps which are used by bananagrowers, vignerons, and orc’hardists : -
New Zealand - 105s. (made in New Zealand ) .
Itwill be noted that in New Zealand, where there is no duty and no local industry, the price is almost 50 per cent, higher than in Australia. The price for model A bucket pumps, which are used extensively by farmers, is as follows: -
Again, in New Zealand, where there is no duty and no local industry, the price is very much higher than in Australia. The Englishman who established this industry in Australia came from Birmingham where, in open competition, he took many prizes for his products. Men of his type are an acquisition to Australia.
– He, personally, has not been to Canberra to see any Minister. Surely he is entitled to do so if he desires. I know that when I was Minister, representatives of importing industries used to importune me every other day.
It is quite definite that if the importers are successful in having the Australian industry eliminated and obtaining a monopoly, local consumers will be charged an exorbitant price for these articles, just as is the case in New Zealand. Those who import these goods add their own profit, and do not even employ Australian labour, with the exception of a few typists. The small tin atomizers used for the destruction of flies, mosquitoes and other insect pests are sold in Australia at1s. and1s. 3d., in the United States of America at 2s.1d., in the United Kingdom at 2s. and in New Zealand at 2s. 6d. It cannot, therefore, be said that the Australian manufacturers are exploiting the public, or are inefficient ; nor can it be claimed that this industry has not been reported upon favorably by the Tariff Board. “When the Senate’s request for reduced duties was first before this chamber, the Minister for Trade and Customs was eloquent in his denunciation of it, and said, in effect, that the Senate did not know what it was talking about. . In the interval, however, pressure has been brought to bear on him, and he is now prepared to accept the Senate’s request.
There are seven major firms manufacturing these pumps in Australia, namely, M. S. Regal Limited, Henry Lane (Australia) Limited, Newcastle, John Banks Limited, Melbourne, A. Simpson, Adelaide, A. Jarrett, Sydney, Pope Sprinkler and Irrigation Company, South Australia, and Gay Sprinkler Company, Victoria. In addition to these, there are seven smaller firms. Obviously, there is sufficient local competition to ensure that “ local prices will remain low. The Australian manufacturing companies purchase locally their non-ferrous metals, that is, metals that will not rust, such as brass sheet, brass tube, brass rods, brass castings, zinc and copper. The rest they import from England, including tin plate and steel tubing, on which they pay 25 per cent, exchange. This local industry substantially helped the dried fruits industry in the river Murray valley when it was threatened with the fungoid disease. The growers were able to get immediately large quantities of knapsack pumps, and thus save their crops. The banana- growers in Queensland and New South Wales are also large users of knapsack pumps. I am amazed at the attitude which the* Minister has taken up over this matter. I thought that he would have stood firmly behind the Australian manufacturers, as there is no doubt regarding the efiiciency of the industry. Of course, we kuow that members of the Country party always desire 500 per cent. protection against primary products of other countries, but want freetrade in respect of the goods they themselves buy, whether those goods come from China, Japan, India or elsewhere. This industry has rendered valuable service ito the primary producers, and I ask them to bear that fact in mind. It is a small industry, providing employment for some hundreds of people, but many such industries provide a . great deal of employment, and it is the workers in the secondary industries who furnish the home market for our primary products. This is one of the most efficient small industries. It has ‘complied with the most exacting demands of our tariff critics. It is conducted by men who have invested their capital in it, who are employing Australian workers, and who are selling a. good product at a reasonable price. They are justified in asking for adequate protection. The Tariff Board has recommended it, . and the Minister agreed to it; but now, under pressure from another place, he has weakened and proposes to let the industry down. Surely we should be able to consider this matter in a non-party way. Speaking as a protectionist, I appeal to the Minister not to place the industry in jeopar-dy. If he does he will do a grave dis-service to Australia, and will bring odium upon himself.
.- I thought that the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) had emblazoned upon his tariff flag the word “Efficiency,” and that he would be prepared to uphold that banner through thick and thin. This industry has stood up to the most searching test that could be imposed upon it. It has been examined by the Tariff Board, and has come through triumphantly. In spite of this, however, when the Senate demands that the protective duty be reduced, the Minister climbs down. I cannot understand his attitude. The indus try has complied with everything which even . the most severe critics of our tariff policy demanded.
– Does not the Minister’s action constitute a -vote of censure on the Tariff Board.
– It does, and it may also have the effect of giving the members of the board the impression that the present Minister for Trade and Customs is . an advocate of lower duties, which might affect its future recommendations.
– Does the honorable member say that . the Australian manufacturers will not be able to -compete?
Mr.FENTON. - I have always -said that I do notcare how nigh the duties are so long as the local manufacturers are turning out a good article, in sufficient quantities, at a -satisfactory price.What more can we want? The freetraders in this House have been silent lately about Great Britain, but in that country there is an advisory board which has power to recommend increased duties if . a British industry is threatened by outside . competition, and those duties may be imposed by the executive and become operative by . gazettal notice. The Tariff Board, in its report on this industry, states -
Australian manufacturers are at a disadvantage as compared with manufacturers in the United Kingdom by reason of the facts that labour costs in Australia are 100 per cent, greater and the costs of raw materials 50 per cent, to 100 per cent, higher than the costs of ‘similar services and goods in the United Kingdom. The difference between the prices of Continental and Australian raw materials would be even greater, and it is well known that many British manufacturers of the goods under consideration purchase their brass tubing and sheets from Germany.
Unless we are vigilant, certain British manufacturerswill import goods in an unfinished state from Germany and other Continental countries, finish them off, and then claim the British preferential tariff rates for them on the Australian market.
– Such goods do not get the benefit of the preferential duties.
– It is a difficult matter to detect.
– Sometimes it is a year before it can be proved that the manufacturers are indulging in such practices.
– The majority of British manufacturers are sympathetic towards our aspiration to establish, industries in Australia. When I visited Britain as Minister for Trade and Customs, I learned that only a small percentage of British business people, and then only those of little standing, were opposed to this idea. In London, I met 14.-0 promiment business people, and at Birmingham I met the committee of the British Industries Pair, and the consensus of opinion among them was that we in Australia had a perfect right to use our own labour and raw materials for the manufacture of the commodities we used. This attitude is reflected in the action of prominent British manufacturers who establish branch factories in Australia, as was done by the late Sir Arthur Duckham, chairman of the British Economic Mission, and by Sir Hugo Hirst, another member of the mission.
– The honorable member has not yet shown that a duty of 35 per cent, is not sufficient to protect the industry.
– The honorable member does not himself worry about the amount of protection necessary. I have heard him say that, because the Tariff Board has recommended a certain duty, he is prepared to support it. In this case, the Tariff Board has recommended the duties now in operation. We ha.ve a runaway Minister who will not stick to his guns. At the mild behest of another place, he runs away from his own tariff, and leaves an Australian industry and its workmen to the tender mercies of importers. I sometimes wonder if I am not sitting in a foreign Parliament. When the requests of the Senate were first considered, I believe that the vote on this item was almost unanimously iu favour of the proposal of the Government. Even the Country party was so satisfied with the testimony of the Tariff Board as to the efficiency of the local industry and the support accorded to it by the users of spray pumps in Australia, that it realized it had no case for the reduction of the duty, and recognized the wisdom of remaining silent. Yet the Minister is so weak that he is prepared to compromise in the matter. If ever there was an item on which we could stand our ground and have the backing of incontrovertible evidence from every view-point, it is this. Why should there not be a’ conference of managers from the two Houses? It may be argued that this is only a small industry. Nearly all Australian industries began in a small way. The firm of John Danks and Sons is known throughout the British Empire, and I am proud of the great work that it has done in Australia. If anything will relieve unemployment, it is our manufacturing industries. That is why. I feel so strongly, and am impressing my views so earnestly on the committee. I may be told that the numbers are up, and that I might as well refrain from physical and mental effort, and calmly accept the dictates of the majority. I do not favour that course, especially- when I have such a good case as this. If this industry is subjected to unfair competition, which forces it to the wall and throws the workers in it out of employment, the responsibility will rest upon those members of the committee who support the lowering of the protection that is afforded to it. I have found that the spray pumps made by the local industry best suit the purposes for which I require them. They are a splendid article, and wonderfully efficient. Although they do not receive -it, they are capable of standing up to a lot of rough treatment. The late Honorable P. G. Stewart told me, on several occasions, that even if Australian manufacturers charged considerably more than was asked for the imported article, he would still patronize the local industry, because it produced the best and most durable machinery. That, I am glad to say, is characteristic of Australian manufacturers. It is a downright shame that the carving knife should be used on this item of the tariff. I regret that the Minister has yielded to the pressure which has been applied. He may, however, not bc responsible for the proposal that he has made to- the committee; he may have been overwhelmed in the Cabinet. I can hardly conceive his taking such action in relation to an industry of this character. I shall be astonished if the committee does noi exhibit unanimity in standing by this splendidly efficient Australian industry.
.- I find it difficult to realize that the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White), has decided to quit the stage and suggest a compromise on the duty to be charged on this item. Originally, the honorable gentleman was apparently very well satisfied with the recommendation of the Tariff Board.
– I still am; but this is the best that we can get.
– I have heard the honorable gentleman say more than once that cognizance should be taken of the recommendations of the Tariff Board. When the Senate’s request was first considered, the Minister seemed to be determined to carry into effect the recommendation of the board on this item. Now, however, he is prepared to compromise where previously he was totally uncompromising. There is not the slightest doubt that this is one of the occasions upon which persons who hold certain political beliefs would pull down anything so long as their prejudices are thereby satisfied. One of the principal arguments usually employed against Australian manufacturers is that they lack efficiency. The Tariff Board, in its report, compliments this industry upon its efficiency. We are also told that Australian manufacturers are incapable of producing goods of a quality equal to that of goods produced overseas. On this point, too, the board says that it is satisfied that the quality of the Australian product of the types under consideration is good, and that they give satisfaction to users. We are further told, from time to time, that Australian manufacturers exploit the using public because they have a tariff barrier which protects them against outside competition, t has been amply demonstrated, by the board that this industry has not taken advantage of the protection that it has received. The board goes further, and
Bays definitely that it is evident that, under normal conditions as to exchange and other charges incidental to importing, the duties provided by the Customs Tariff 1921-30, namely, 20 per cent. British, and 35 per cent, general, would not adequately protect the local industry. Yet, the only difference between those rates and those now proposed is the suggested general tariff of 37^ per cent. The report of the board states that, prior to the 20th June, 1930, the bulk of Australia’s requirements were imported. To-day, practically the whole of the requirements of Australia are manufactured locally. As the board points out, a considerable amount of labour is involved, not only in the actual production, of these goods, but also in the production of the raw materials which are component parts of them. Therefore, in every respect, the industry has the support of the board. One paragraph in the report of the board reads -
Evidence shows that the manufacturers have not taken undue advantage of the position to exploit users. On the contrary, Hie indications arc that the Australian manufacturers have endeavoured to supply a high-quality product at a reasonable price, and that user,; have derived advantage from the existence of local industry.
That is clearly demonstrated by the prices of this particular product in Australia and overseas countries where it is used. Particularly significant is the difference between the prices charged in New Zealand, where there is no tariff protection, and in Australia under what is claimed to be a highly protective tariff. The price of the* patent knapsack pump used by banana-growers, vignerons, and orchardists, i’s 75s. in Australia, and 105s. in New Zealand, into which it is imported free. The price of the other model pump - a slightly different article, but of equal quality - is 27s. 6d. in Australia, and 35s. in New Zealand. It is abundantly demonstrated that the protection given to’ the small tin atomizers is amply justified. The price of these is in Australia from ls. to ls. 3d., in the United States of America, 2s. Id., in the United Kingdom, 2s., and in New Zealand, 2s. 6d. The prices of all kinds of pumps are less today than they were in 1906. ‘
– And the local industry is not making use of the duty.
– But if the duties are removed, it will not be able to continue, because the competition of the cheaply-produced article from overseas will be too severe.
– There is no suggestion that it be removed.
– The reduction proposed might result in the industry being ruined. It may be possible to obtain a cheaper spray pump from overseas as a result of a reduced tariff, but immediately the local industry is put out of business, the primary producers of Australia will have to submit to exploitation similar to that experienced by the primary producers of New Zealand, where no local industry exists. Some people, who seem to have an habitual prejudice against Australianmade goods, contend that Australia can- not produce an article as good as the imported. The Australian-made spray pump is precisely the same as that produced overseas. The Tariff Board has stated that the local pump is of good quality, and should give good service to those who use it, that the industry has not been exploiting the tariff, and that a reduced duty, such as that requested-by the Senate, would not be sufficient to protect the industry. The board, in its report, stated -
Although these goods ure in very general use, and the public inquiry was widely advertised, no witnesses appeared in opposition to the request for an increased duty.
That statement clearly indicates that neither the primary producers nor even the importing interests had a case to make out against the protection which this industry is enjoying to-day. The representative of a certain British manufacturer of spray pumps undertook, when before the Tariff Board, that if the board adopted the existing tariff protection, his firm would establish abranch in Australia. Although that undertaking was given two years ago, the branch has not yet been established. The manager of one factory in Leichhardt, Sydney, which is giving regular employment to 150 operatives, has stated that the representatives of that British firm now desire a reduction of the tariff in order that they might share an the market built up by the local manufacturer. I understand that the users of foreign pumps have great difficulty in obtaining parts for replacement purposes, while parts for the Australian pumps are readily obtainable at moderate prices. As the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) . has pointed out, the local industry has, up to the present, been able to meet ail emergency demands made upon it for pumps to combat diseases and blights affecting Australian crops. That accessibility to supplies would not be possible if the local industry were put out of business, and the producers had to depend entirely upon overseas supplies. This item has, on two previous occasions, been passed in this chamber without division. It is now before us for the third time, and in view of the fact that no evidence has been adduced to show that the industry has been exploiting the public, we should abide by the recommendations of the Tariff Board and reject the Senate’s request.
.- I strongly object to the attempt of the Senate to dictate to this chamber, and we should certainly be within our constitutional rights by rejecting its request. I should like to know the reason for the change of attitude on the part of the Government. A duty of 45 per cent. British and 65 per cent, general was recommended by the Tariff Board, and accepted by the Government. The Senate has now requested a reduction of duty to 20 per cent, and 37½ per cent., respectively, and the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) has asked honorable members to accept a compromise of 35 per cent, and 55 per cent. The Tariff Board, which is said to consist of experts, was constituted by the Commonwealth Government at enormous expense. The board thoroughly investigates an industry before it comes to any decision regarding it. Even under the Ottawa agreement, we are bound to accept the recommendations of the board, because that agreement provides that no duties shall be increased against Great Britain unless on the recommendation of the board. The local manufacturers of spray pumps who established their factories in consequence of the Government’s promise to give them adequate tariff protection will, if the Senate’s amendment is accepted, be forced out of business. They have expended large sums of money in erecting plant and machinery, and have given employment to many hundreds of our Australian citizens, and now they have to suffer because of the action of a band of old fossils in another place.
– The honorable member’s remarks are definitely out of order.
– In any case, they are a band of political “has-beens.”
– The honorable member is out of order in referring to a debate in the Senate.
– I have nothing but contempt for the Government’s action in showing tho white feather to the Senate. If the members of that chamber are not checked, they are likely to embarrass this Government in the same way as they embarrassed the previous Government, and we should absolutely refuse to accept their dictation.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
– Is the change of policy on the part of the Government due to its fear of the political influence of the Country party in another place; or is it an indication of the Government’s desire to make another election pact with the Country party? But whatever may be the reason actuating the Government, we are not prepared to remain silent at the expense of the secondary industries of this country. This proposal will benefit the overseas manufacturers at the expense of the Australian manufacturers. It is also interesting to note that the Government is now proposing duties lower than those recommended by the Tariff Board, and so, on this occasion, at least, it is acting in defiance of the board. The latest available report of the board on this subject indicates that our imports of these pumps are principally from the United States of America. If there is any country with which we should be prepared to trade on a reciprocal basis, it is the sister dominion of New Zealand. In 1927-28 we imported pumps to the value of £1,097 from that dominion, but in the last two years we have not imported any pumps at all from that source. The following figures show the country of origin and extent of our importations under this heading: -
Why should we pursue a policy that will benefit the United States of America? In normal times our imports from- that country are valued at about £40,000,000 per annum, while its purchases from Australia are valued at only £13,000,000, leaving us with an adverse trade balance of £22,000,000. The United States of America, as a matter of fact, does noth ing whatever to help this country. While our mercantile marine is languishing the Government of the United States of America is paying substantial bounties to American shipping lines - particularly co the Matson line - trading to this country. If the ships of the United States of America which come to Australia need to purchase foodstuffs or anything of the kind while here - a very rare occurrence - they must dump overboard whatever is left of such supplies before entering American territorial waters. This also applies to Australian shipping. The ships of the United States of America never dock in our ports, and, apart from wharfage and light dues, their owners do not spend a shilling in this country in respect of them. We have provided certain standards for Australian shipping, but the coasting trade provisions of our Navigation Act do not apply to American or British shipping. In all the circumstances I can see no justification whatever for reducing these duties for the benefit of either American or British interests. Honorable gentlemen of the Country party, who are notoriously freetrade in their sympathies, take every possible step to obtain protection for primary producing industries, and to destroy the protection accorded to Australian secondary industries; but they cannot expect to have it both ways. We pride ourselves upon our wages and working conditions, but honorable gentlemen opposite talk a great deal about preference for British industries, some of which are working under standards very little better than those of the coolies. In my opinion, the Government is following quite a wrong policy. We should encourage the people who invest their money in Australian industry; but this Government, after encouraging certain people to establish secondary industries here, has reversed its attitude, and is now penalizing them for having done so. Doubtless this is due to pressure brought to bear upon it by the Country party, which threatens its political existence. GreatBritain has not dealt with us so generously in regard to our war debt that we should grant special preferences to it.
The indebtedness of Belgium, Prance, and Italy to Great Britain has been cut in halves.
– And we have not paid a penny of our debt for years !
– I rise to a point of order. I ask whether the honorable gentleman is in order in taking us all over the world during what should be a discussion on spray pumps?
– The honorable member has taken a great deal of latitude, and I ask him now to discuss the item.
– We have been fleeced Jong enough by the Jews of other countries.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I rise to a point of order. I began to speak at 6.10 p.m., and spoke for only five minutes before the dinner adjournment, and I have been speaking for only ten minutes since the resumption of the sitting.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The honorable member has stated the time correctly; he is allowed fifteen minutes to speak on this item.
.- I have tried to follow the argument of the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James). I cannot appreciate what spray pumps have to do with the Matson Shipping Line, the coasting trade provisions of the Navigation Act, and war debts, but, in spite of the honorable member’s lack of logic, I am, on this occasion, on his side. This, is not a very important item of the tariff schedule; but that is no reason why we should not deal with itaccording to sound principle. It seems to me that we are following a zig-zag course, instead of the straight course that we usually steer. I accept on this, as on other occasions, the view of the Tariff Board, that adequate protection should be given to reasonably efficient Australian industries. The report of the Tariff Board on this industry shows that it is reasonably efficient. I am not interested at the moment in the constitutional question regarding the rights of this and the other chamber. I propose to draw a parallel between this and certain other items in the tariff schedule.
A good deal is heard from time to time in this chamber about the necessity for a scientific tariff. In this connexion I invite the attention of honorable members to item 191, “Metal fenders and fire irons, metal bedsteads and cots,” in respect of which the Tariff Board has recommended duties of British 45 per cent., foreign 65 per cent. Similar duties are recommended on item 203, fire extinguishers; item 208 a, manufactures of metal, n.e.i. - and these pumps are essentially manufactures of metal - and item 208 d, kitchen ware, being light metal appliances of various sorts. The board has been consistent, and has recommended practically similar duties on spray pumps, and I can see no reason why the Government should not adopt its recommendation.
– The Government did adopt its recommendation; but the Senate has opposed it.
– Then why does not the Government stand by its decision?
– If the honorable member is prepared to stay here until next year, it may be possible to do so.
– I am not considering my personal convenience in this matter; I am interested in a question of principle. Although this is a minor industry which does not affect, to any considerable degree, the general employment market, it is important to those who work in it. I am a believer in fiscal consistency, and in having a definite system underlying duty fixation. Honorable members have read the report of the Tariff Board which states that the industry is efficient, and that the manufacturers have not exploited the Australian market. General recommendations by the Tariff Board have been followed by the Government, but for some reason that has not been explained satisfactorily to me, the Government has now taken a different line. I confess that I cannot understand it. I am disappointed at the attitude that has been adopted, and shall support those who say that as the general tariff policy of the Governmen is good enough in most things, it should have been good enough in a case like this.
.- I agree with the honorable member for
Denison (Mr. Hutchin) that the Government should display consistency in these matters. It appears to be a case of “pull devil, pull baker.” The Minister, who generally is strongly in support of recommendations made by the Tariff Board, has in this instance weakened apparently because of “ Christmas expediency,” because he wants to get home. The report of the Tariff Board has shown that the industry definitely is efficient, and is producing an article equal to anything that can be imported, while the prices are in every way reasonable. As a result of extensive investigation concerning the efficiency of the plant, the capital involved, costs and the profits made, the Tariff Board submitted certain recommendations, which were at one time acceptable to the ‘ Government. The report can in no sense be termed ambiguous, for unequivocally and explicitly it sets out its opinion that the industry is an efficient one, and worthy of the degree of protection that was originally proposed in this chamber. However, because of the sabre rattling of agriculturists in another place the Government has -gone back on its previous assurances, and proved itself to be fiscally fickle. In its desire to show that it is a responsible body, possessing the same rights as this chamber, the Senate has taken the bit between its teeth, and made this ridiculous request. Unfortunately, a majority of members in that other chamber are prepared to hang doggedly to the chance afforded by a difference of opinion in regard to duties on spray pumps, dates, or any other item, and are prepared to precipitate a political crisis, merely to preserve their own dignity. They have passed item after item in accordance with the fiscal policy of the Government, but when it comes to this item and two others, they begin a campaign, succeed in obtaining a majority, and send requests to this chamber for reduced duties. Unfortunately, when the request came to this chamber the Government and the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) became weak-kneed. They remind mo of the hen-pecked husband who in desperation, and for the sake of. peace, says, “I agree.” Apparently, the Minister will do anything so long as he gets peace, even to the extent of casting aside his tariff convictions. He merely wants to have tranquility, and to get home away from the fiscal criticisms that are coming from another place. The members of this committee . should insist on consistency and, irrespective of the weak-kneed attitude of the Minister, demand that the Government shall adhere to its declared policy.
– It is indeed refreshing to hear a frank declaration from a Government supporter in regard to this matter - one. who is not prepared to follow what he aptly termed the zig-zag course which the Government is taking. That expression could be well applied to many other actions of the Government.
– It is a zig-zag Government.
– With a runaway Minister. The remarks which the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) made to the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Hutchin) indicated to me that the one thing above all others that the Government does not desire is a political crisis that will force it to go to the country. To avoid that the Government is prepared to submit to any indignity and discard, all of its principles, if it ever had any. Therefore, it promptly flies the white flag and compromises. There could have been no stronger case for the original duty than that submitted by the Minister himself when the matter was last before the House; and it has also been backed by strong supporting evidence from the Tariff Board and those concerned in the industry. While this may be a. minor item, a vital principle is involved, which is why I should like to see others who usually support the Government have the courage oi their convictions, and declare that they will not,, for the sake of expediency, sacrifice their convictions. If the rank and file opposite would adopt such an. attitude it is quite probable that out of the debacle there would emerge others who would sit on the front bench and who would be prepared to pursue a straight, rather than, a zig-zag, course. Because of that, I am particularly keen to assist an industry with which a colleague of mine is closely interested, as it is established in his electorate, and because of the sheer justice of the case, I shall resist the compromise that has been arrived at. Incidentally, it. ischeerful news to learn that honorable members opposite are in fear and trembling of what the people would do if the Government went to the country as the result of a political crisis.
.- It is remarkable that in a debate such as this not one word of sympathy should have been said for the viticulturist, the man who needs these pumps.
– Because of our knowledge of the high prices charged in New Zealand, we have shown practical sympathy with him.
– I am tired of hearing about the prices that are charged in New Zealand and elsewhere, most of them wholly invented. I should like to know why our industry cannot find a market for its products in New Zealand if the prices in the sister dominion are so much higher than here. One orchardist exported a large quantity of apples last year on which he incurred a loss of £500. It will be found in the Estimates that the Government has provided £125,000 to assist the fruit industry to export its products to the United Kingdom and Europe. Those are the industries that are compelled to purchase these articles in Australia, yet not one word of sympathy - have we heard for them. They cannot afford to pay the prices that are demanded.
– The prices in Australia are lower than those in New Zealand.
– Only to-day the Minister stated that the prices of reapers and binders in New Zealand are ever so much higher than those charged in Australia, yet, notwithstanding the fact that many have made fortunes out of the manufacture of agricultural machinery in this country, not one Australian reaper and binder is sold on the New Zealand market. A glance at the Estimates over a period of years will disclose that hundreds of thousands of pounds- have been given by various governments to assist Australian fruit-exporting industries, yet those concerned in them are compelled to buy their requirements at inflated prices. With the advantage of a tremendous exchange and a 20 per cent. duty our manufacturers should be able to carry on at a reasonable price, yet according to the Tariff Board manufacturers are exploited by those who supply the raw materials. Prior to the extra duties being imposed, there were factories in Australia which were manufacturing and competing with the world. How can the exporting industries afford to carry on if they are loaded with burdens in the shape of high import duties?
– But the local price for spray pumps is no higher because of these duties.
– Then why are the higher duties wanted? We all know of the difficulties at present being experienced by viticulturists. Yet honorable members opposite are prepared to place increased duties on the goods they require, including spray pump3 and tinned plate. When the Senate asks that the exporting industries be relieved of some of their burdens, they are told that it cannot be done because Australian secondary industries would suffer.
I am prepared to accept whatever the Minister has agreed to, although for my part, I should like to fight for still lower duties. I hope that the Senate will not accept the suggested compromise. Unless this tariff schedule is agreed to by the Senate it cannot become law, and the Senate has power under the Constitution to reject the schedule.
– I suppose it has to be taken for granted that a Minister for Trade and Customs has to suffer abuse of all kinds in Parliament, and outside, and be blamed for all tariff changes. But when we remember that the tariff schedule contains nearly 2,000 items we cannot expect to obtain unanimity in respect to all of them. Indeed, it is remarkable that out of all those items a difference of opinion between this House and the Senate has developed in respect of only three. I have been attacked, by honorable members on both sides of the House for agreeing to reduce slightly duties which were recommended by the Tariff Board in a report now two years old, but they are. I think, going beyond the bounds of common sense. We are familiar with the arguments of the prohibitionists who thunder forth their denunciation against any suggested reduction of duties. Such arguments do not impress honorable members as a body, even though they may satisfy the readers of certain journals. I observed an extraordinary similarity in the quotations used by honorable members who supported the higher duties. Most of them were from material supplied by the manufacturers. I was furnished with a copy. One manufacturer interviewed me personally, and I listened to the case he put forward. I agree with much of what was said by the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Hutchin), and 1 should like to see the higher duties agreed to, but we must face facts. The fact is that we cannot get the Senate to_ agree to the higher duties. I usually hesitate to obtrude the personal element, but I can say, as one who has had over SO years’ experience in the hardware and machinery trade, that a British preferential duty of 35 per cent, is reasonable despite the fact that over half the advantage of the exchange rate also applies. Prior to the imposition of very high duties by the Labour Government, a duty of 35 per cent, was regarded as adequate for the protection of such industries. Many thriving Australian industries were developed under protection no higher than that, and this applies particularly to the firm of John Danks and Son referred to by the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton). This item covers a number of articles besides spray pumps, and that also has to be taken into account. The honorable member for Denison said that the Government had departed from a principle that should have guided it to the end, and he quoted the duties on certain items.
– They are comparable items.
– There are other comparable items upon which the rate of duty is no higher than on. this, namely, cement mixing machines, gas heaters and cookers, and wireless receiving sets.
– The industry for the manufacture of wireless receiving sets was built up at a time when overseas importations were absolutely prohibited. I imposed the prohibition myself.
– “We have frequently heard what the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) did when he was Minister, but the fact remains that, even under the reduced duties, the industry for the manufacture of wireless receiving sets is one of the most prosperous in Australia, and, at the time the reductions were made, those engaged in it expressed their approval of the Government’s action. After all, it is only proposed to reduce the duty by 10 per cent, below what was recommended by the Tariff Board two years ago. Honorable members who study the board’s report will see that the board was in a difficulty regarding the, price of overseas pumps. Hardly any were being imported, so that it 1VaS impossible to compare like with, like. The industry is now well established in Australia by manufacturers who came from Great Britain for the purpose. I can understand that the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear), in whose electorate one of the firms concerned is operating, should be anxious regarding this matter, but I give him my assurance that if it can be shown that any unemployment is caused as the result of this duty being reduced, if he will bring the fact under the notice of the Customs Department, so that a prima facie case in support of hi3 contention can be made, then the whole matter will be referred once more to the Tariff Board for further inquiry. Then, when the next tariff schedule is introduced - and another one will be introduced later - the position can be remedied.
– What is the use of holding another inquiry, which may result in the board bringing in a recommendation for increased duties, if the Senate will not agree to thom?
– Surely it is obvious to the honorable member that, with the help of a more up-to-date Tariff Board report there is a better chance of its acceptance by the Senate. The fact that we are willing to reduce the duties by only 10 per cent, although the Senate has pressed for a 20 per cent, reduction, shows that we are not prepared to sacrifice the industry at the request of the Senate. I ask honorable members to accept the Government’s proposal so that the schedule may become law. No complete schedule has been passed into law since 1923, and it is time this business was finished.
.- If this item had not been considered by the Tariff Board I could have understood the attitude of the Senate and of the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White). The fact is, however, that this industry had to run the gauntlet of a searching Tariff Board inquiry, and it has emerged with flying colours. No such inquiry has ever been made into the affairs of the importers who were previously bringing spray pumps into Australia from overseas. -We know that in New Zealand, where there is no local manufacturing industry, spray pumps are being sold at prices higher than those at which locally-made pumps are sold in Australia. The figures I have quoted in regard to prices have not been supplied by the manufacturers, but have been obtained from the Customs Department, and I have, myself, checked them with those in trade catalogues. It was stated by the Minister in charge of the tariff in the Senate (Senator McLachlan) that for the knapsack spray pump the Australian price varied from 75s. to 80s., and the British price from 92s. 6d. to 97s. 6d., and that the price in New Zealand was 105s. The price of barrel’ spray pumps in New Zealand was £8 2s. 6d., while the Australian price was £6 7s. 6d. We know that for model A bucket pumps the Australian price is 27s. 6d., as compared with 33s. 4d. in the United States of America, 28s. in the United Kingdom, and 35s. in New Zealand. For small tin atomizers, the Australian price is ls. to ls. 3d., while in the United States of America it is 2s. Id., in the United Kingdom 2s., and in New Zealand 2s. 6d. Those figures give the lie direct to the statement of the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory). I do not say that he tried intentionally to mislead the committee, but he dealt in generalities, and did not attempt to quote actual figures. He said that the orchardists in Australia were being burdened with the cost of protecting a few firms in the capital cities.
– Does the honorable gentleman know the lowest price at which these pumps can be bought in New Zealand ?
– I have quoted the prices supplied to the Department of’ Trade and Customs in answer to a cable sent .to. New Zealand. If honorable- members will look up Hansard they will find that the members of the Senate, who advocated reduced duties, did not quote figures to show that the Australian primary producers were being exploited, but contented themselves with general statements that exorbitant prices were being charged for manufactured goods in order to bolster up Australian secondary industries. The Minister in charge of the tariff in- the Senate quoted figures to show that the local orchardists were able to buy Australianmade pumps for less than similar pumps could be bought for in New Zealand, but a majority of senators still voted for the reduced duty. The only conclusion that I can come to is, that honorable senators wanted to save their faces and make it appear that the Senate is a chamber of review. When the facts were placed .before them in regard to galvanized iron, barbed wire, and other manufactured articles, they had to admit that by the time Australian industries had passed the scrutiny of the Minister for Trade and Customs and the Government, they were shorn of all surplus protection, and could barely struggle along with the meagre protection they were given. Yet honorable senators boggle over a few small items! The manufacturers of spray pumps may be in a small way, but 50 or 60 of such small manufacturers employ, in the aggregate, 1,000 or more persons, some of whom are in real danger of being thrown out of work. I direct the attention of honorable members to the following typical speech by an opposing senator, and ask them to - bear in mind that it was made after the whole matter had been, reconsidered : -
It is true that a study of the price-lists issued by reputable firms in the United Kingdom and New Zealand shows that the Australian prices arc about ‘the same, or perhaps a little lower, and are similar to those charged in the United States of America. This fact appears to provide a. ray of hope that Australian secondary industries may be able to compete in the markets of the world. The Tariff Board, in its report issued about two years ago, stated that Australian orchardists are obtaining good spray pumps from the local manufacturers at lower prices than those at which similar goods could bc obtained from overseas.
That speech was delivered by Senator Sampson in the Senate only the other day.
– Order ! The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) is very well acquainted with the Standing Order which governs allusion to debate in the Senate. I ask the honorable gentleman not to read further from the speech from which he has quoted.
– That speech is an illustration of the paucity of argument,, the lack of logic, and the absolute puerility of certain gentlemen who have tried to prove that this industry should not be fostered. On their own admission, the prices charged in Australia are lower than in countries which depend on the importer. Yet they have had the audacity to vote . for a reduction of this duty; and the Minister for Trade and Customs, who has admitted that the industry is deserving of every consideration and encouragement, has weakly compromised. The honorable gentleman now says that it is of no use to insist upon .the duty originally proposed, because the Senate will not pass it. I did not think that I should live to see the day when a Minister in the popular chamber would make such a confession regarding the other chamber in which the Government has an. overwhelming majority.
– Not on tariff matters.
– The Senate has been able to swallow such big items as galvanized iron and barbed wire. This is an exceedingly small item. The pressing of the request is an indication that honorable senators are attempting to save their faces. Is the Minister acting in collusion -with them? Does he propose to allow them to get away with the statement that theirs is a chamber of review, and that they stand for the reduction of tariffs? They know that even before the small measure of protection afforded by the schedule was given, the industries concerned had to run the gauntlet of searching investigation, to -which importing interests were not subjected. Having made their request, they should have been satisfied. ‘ When pressed, the request ought to have been sent back by this Government. The Ministry has changed its mind without justification on four or five occasions. Is there any wonder that it is told that it has a zig-zag policy on the tariff? The Tariff Board has made some pertinent remarks in regard to this industry. I quote the following from its report : -
The board is satisfied that the quality of the Australian product of the types under consideration is good and that they give satisfaction to users generally. Although these goods are in very general use and the public inquiry was widely advertised, no witnesses appeared in opposition to the request for increased duty. .’Prior to 20th June, 1930, the bulk of Australian requirements was imported.
The bulk of them to-day are made in Australia, as the result of the protection that I was able to secure for the industry while I was Minister for Trade and Customs. I make no apology for having taken that action. The industry has reached a state of efficiency behind the the tariff, and has substantially benefited primary producers by the reduction of prices.
I should like to know whether the Assistant Minister (Mr. Guy) is in agreement with the Minister on this matter. The Cabinet having considered the requested amendment when it was first sent down by the Senate, the honorable gentleman, on the 31st October last, moved that it be not made, and said that it was necessary to stand by the duties of 45 per cent. British and 65 per cent, general. In another place the representative of the Government, on the 16th November, moved that the request be not pressed. He told honorable senators that this industry was rendering great service to the orchardists of Australia, that its efficiency could not be questioned, and that the Tariff Board could not fault it. He appealed to them to reverse their previous decision, but, unfortunately, they were not prepared to do so, because they wanted to be able to prove that they were consistent. The voting on the question was equal, and the request was pressed only because in such circumstances questions in the Senate are resolved in the negative. I appeal to the Minister for Trade and Customs, even at this late hour, to reconsider the matter. From my own knowledge, I can say that this is one of the most efficient industries in Australia. It has fulfilled the highest expectations of those who sa w it established and fostered. It provides employment for hundreds of Australian workmen. Why should we allow the British or the American manufacturer to share in such a small market? Surely our first duty is to Australian manufacturers, who are giving employment to our own people, and selling this product to primary producers at a lower price than that at which the primary producei’3 of New Zealand, England, or the United States of America, can purchase it! Why should we permit importing agents to manipulate importations, and add a percentage to the cost, so that when the local manufacturer is crushed, and by the time the pump reaches the primary producer its price exceeds what it is today? The fact that prices have been substantially reduced since the Australian industry has been operating, clearly indicates the benefits to be derived by primary producers from local manufacture. I know that the Minister was greatly impressed with the case that was placed before the Tariff Board, and that he agrees with the recommendation of that body. On such a matter, the Cabinet would be largely guided by the honorable gentleman’s advice and recommendation. Why has he completely somersaulted? Is he afraid of another place? Does the Government really consider that the Senate would not agree to an increased duty? It must be borne in mind that the representative of the Government in the Senate said to honorable senators only a few weeks ago, “I assure you that there is no hope of the Government accepting a lower duty.” Yet the Government proposes a compromise which will place this industry in such a vulnerable position that it will be seriously disadvantaged by importations! New plant and machinery were about to be installed. There must be some continuity in the protectionist policy if secondary industries in Australia are to be developed on a big scale. So soon as confidence is destroyed, money will cease to be invested in additional buildings and plant, and bigger markets will not be sought. I appeal to the Minister to insist upon the approval of the duties recommended by the Tariff Board, which already have been twice approved by this chamber, and have also been recommended by the representative of the Government in another place. I ask the Minister not to back down from the strong attitude that he adopted when the question was previously before the committee.
– The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) has stressed at considerable length the great efficiency of this industry, the low prices of its products, and the extent to which those products are being sold below the prices charged by overseas competitors. The same facts were emphasized in the excellent speech delivered by the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear), and in the characteristic utterance of the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton). I do not for a moment doubt the statements that have been made as to the very reasonable prices at which these goods are being sold, and am prepared to accept the statement that this is a most efficient industry. But I quite fail to see how arguments of that kind can be regarded as showing the dire necessity for retaining a duty of 45 per cent. British, and 65 per cent, general. Rather do they show that such duties are quite unnecessary, and that much more moderate duties would adequately protect such an efficient industry. Listening to the remarks of certain honorable members, one would think that the whole of the duty was being removed. Allowing for exchange and primage, and taking into account the adjustment which is made to partially offset, exchange, the protection would still be approximately 60 per cent, against. Great Britain, and a great deal more against other countries. In view of the very efficiency which has been emphasized at such great’ length, surely it cannot be seriously contended that a total protection of 60 per cent, is inadequate! Time’ and again it is asserted that those who support lower duties favour the overseas manufacturer as compared with the Australian. I regard this, not as a matter concerning merely Australian and overseas manufacturers, but as a question of holding the balance between the Australian grower of apples and the Australian producer of some of the things that that grower requires. Surely the fruit grower who uses spray pumps is as much an Australian and is deserving of as much consideration as the man who works in the spray pump factory.
– What is wrong, if he gets the pump so much more cheaply?
– I hope that he will continue to get the pump cheaply. I am in favour of his using an Australian pump. I believe in the use of Australian pumps provided that they are available at reasonable prices, but every one of the arguments of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition only went to show the complete adequacy of the reduced duty as now proposed by the Government. I shall, therefore, support the compromise which has been moved. by the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White).
.- It is strange how some honorable members change their fiscal views on various items as they come before this committee from time to time, and the speech of the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) is a clear case in point. I have heard that honorable gentleman make vehement appeals to honorable members to accept the recommendations of the Tariff .’Board. I have heard him almost pledge his political existence upon the integrity, the qualifications, and the wisdom of the members of that board. He apparently pinned his fiscal flag to that body of experts, but we have now had clear evidence that, he is quite prepared to change his fiscal views ‘in order to gain an advantage for his own party, and those he represents. The Tariff Board has stated that spray pumps are being economically manufactured in Australia, and that there is no question of the solidity of the industry; yet the honorable member for Gippsland, like Oliver Twist, still wants more.
– We want less.
– The honorable member is quite satisfied about the quality of the Australian spray pumps, and he would like them to be made available to the primary producers at lower prices, but he would be quite prepared to buy the foreign article if i were cheaper than the Australian article. After all, the honorable member has only enunciated the desire of the Country party for a policy of freetrade in this country. He can find no fault with the local spray pump industry, and has no case against it; but in his desire to make Australia a primary-producing country exclusively, he is prepared to reduce the tariff to such an extent as to make it impossible for Australian industries with Australian standards to compete with the overseas manufacturers of the various articles required for agriculture.
– The honorable member has a good imagination.
– The honorable member is anxious to place this industry at the mercy of foreign competition, despite the fact that it is an Australian industry employing Australians, and has Australian capital invested in it. I hope that even at this late hour the Government will dig its toes in, and will not weakly bow to the dictation of the Senate.
.- After hearing the speech of the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) I am perfectly satisfied that he has a distinct bias against Australian secondary industries. Previously we have heard him urge the Government to accept the recommendations of the Tariff Board, but in this instance he has no faith in the board, and is supporting the Government’s proposal to reduce duties below the level recommended by the board. He has no wish to give any protection to Australian secondary industries. He appears to have come to this country with the set idea of preventing Australia from becoming selfcontained, regardless altogether of the prospect of unemployment for the ‘ thousands of men and women who are to-day working in our factories. It is remarkable how some of these gentlemen from overseas seem to bo saturated with ideas which they gained during the early part of their lives, and which actuate them when they como to this country in doing everything within their power to force those ideas upon the rest of the community. I know of no other honorable member who has used his position in this Parliament to the extent that the honorable member for Gippsland has to-night in order to bring about the downfall of an Australian industry.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The honorable member for West Sydney is not in order in discussing at length the honorable member for Gippsland.
– It is seldom that we have an opportunity like this to expose to the full the real intentions of some of these gentlemen from overseas in respect of fiscal matters, and we feel “that it is desirable that the public generally should know that the honorable member for Gippsland is prepared to do his utmost to whittle away the protection that has been given to our secondary industries. He is unable to produce evidence to show that the local spray pump is inferior in quality and workmanship to the imported article, or that the foreign article is being sold in other countries, such as New Zealand, at a price lower than that charged for the local article here. If the industry is meeting requirements, why interfere with it? It is playing the game, and is not taking advantage of even the tariff protection given to it. The honorable member for Gippsland, by his speech tonight, has unmasked his real intention to do everything within his power to crush Australian secondary industries.
.- The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) has stated that the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) is making ‘a deliberate attempt to destroy an Australian industry.
– He does not really believe that.
– The point which I wish to make is that I have never been an advocate of drastic reductions of duties. If an industry has been enjoying the protection of a high duty over a number of years, a sudden drastic reduction may dislocate the whole of its ramifications. Our endeavour should be to bring about a gradual reduction of the whole of the tariff duties without causing any injury to Australian industries. The Tariff Board has reported on the spray pump industry, and has also submitted a report on primage and exchange. I understand that, after making due allowance for exchange, which is undoubtedly a protection, primage and other charges, the local manufacturer of spray pumps is still receiving at least a protection of 60 per cent, under the British preferential tariff.
– The exchange rate may fall considerably.
– If the exchange rate fell considerably, then the industry would be justified in asking for an increased duty. Notwithstanding the new arrangement of exchange adjustment, the exchange rate still affords a protection of from .15 per cent, to 20. per cent. We must also keep in mind the natural protection enjoyed by Australian industries because of the great distances between Australia and European and other nations. I have consistently advocated reductions of duties where they can be brought about without injuring industry, and I strongly support the Minister’s proposal for a 10 per cent, reduction as a compromise between the views of the Senate and the original views of this chamber. A reduction of 10 per cent, will not jeopardize the” local spray pump industry.
– Is it likely to improve tlie position of the industry?
– This reduction of duty will improve the position of Australia generally, and, by- making similar reductions as time goes on, we shall do a great deal to remove the burden of the high tariff under which Australia is at. present staggering, and which has been a basis of nearly all of our financial troubles.
.- I should not have risen to speak again had it not been for the statements of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde). He quoted speeches made in another chamber, and I am sorry that he did not quote a little more than he did. He endeavoured to show that, in comparison with New Zealand, the prices of local spray pumps were low. The report of the Tariff Board states -
Where shown, the English- prices are for 1924, but Mr. E. J. Summons, who submitted this evidence, stated that he understood they were much the same to-day.
– I quoted up-to-date figures.
– The fact is, that, from 1922 to 1926, world prices soared enormously, and there is not the slightest doubt that, during the last three years, they have fallen considerably. What the Deputy Leader of the Opposition said about this item has been said about other items. We were told a little while ago that Australian galvanized iron was cheaper than galvanized iron sold in New Zealand. That is another lie which I wish to pin down. The official figures show that galvanized iron can be landed in New Zealand for £19 10s. a ton.
– What do the users pay for it?
– They pay £2.1 a ton. I do not think honorable members have been fair in the discussion to-night,- for they have been quoting prices from 1924 onwards. I should not have participated in the debate except for certain comments made on some generalities I uttered. I did not profess to be speaking specifically, for I donot know what these pumps are sold for at present. I submit, however, that if the local manufacturers, with the help of exchange, primage and natural protection, cannot compete with Great Britain with a 25 per cent, customs duty there is something wrong with them. The manufacturers of these pumps complain that they are being exploited by other manufacturers who supply them with the raw materials. In a debate like this, honorable gentlemen who quote specific figures should give up-to-date’ figures. Instead of doing so, they have quoted prices at the peak . period of a few years ago.
.- I assure the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) that the prices I quoted in relation to the United States of America and New Zealand were up to date in every respect. The Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) has adopted a strange attitude. Whereas a. few weeks ago and again, a few weeks earlier, he said that a duty of 45_ per cent, was necessary to protect this industry, he now says that a duty of 35 per cent, would be reasonable. The honorable gentleman this evening made a somewhat slighting reference to the Tariff Board’s report -and said that it was two years old. As a matter of fact it is one year and eleven months old, but it was one year and tern months old when the honorable gentleman himself quoted it with approval!
Apparently it was good enough for him when it was one year and ten months old, but it is not good -enough when it is one year and eleven months old. I think that every one will agree that the Minister’s change -of attitude is due to the political exigencies of the moment. The honorable member for Swan remarked that assistance to the amount of £100,000 was being provided for the apple-growers to help them to market their crop. If the manufacturers and workers in the secondary industries -of this country are to be called upon to provide their proportion of that £100,000, the apple-growers should be willing to reciprocate and agree to a fair measure of protection being afforded to this industry. Inany case they are better off than their fellow orchardists of New Zealand, for pumps which cost 105s. in New Zealand cost only 75s. in Australia. The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) said that the degree ‘of protection being accorded this industry was equal to 60 per cent. I am not at the moment concerned whether it is 60 per cent, or any other percentage; I am concerned about consistency. The honorable member has, on many occasions, asserted that the Government should adhere to the recommendations of the Tariff Board. Frequently when the Minister has been dealing with duties on specific items, the honorable member has asked whether the Tariff Board has reported upon the items under consideration, and, if so, to what effect. He has hitherto shown implicit faith in the board. Why should he now suddenly lose faith in it? The Tariff Board has stated clearly that this industry cannot continue operations with less protection than it recommended. The honorable member for Swan, who is also generally ready slavishly to follow the Tariff Board, is now found supporting the Government’s proposition although the board has made it clear that a duty of 35 per cent, will be ruinous to the industry. The main consideration that I bring under the notice of honorable members is that, whereas this industry was practically nonexistent prior to 1929, it has been built up in the years since then, although the country has during that period being passing through an economic crisis unparalleled in its history. While many industries have failed in the last few years this industryhas developed. Employment has been provided in one factory alone for 150 persons, and that has meant employment in subsidiary industries for a great many more people in providing raw materials and the like. In all the circumstances wo may brush aside the specious argument of the Minister, for it is evident that his main object now is to discover the highest rate of duty that senators are likely to approve of. If a duty of 45 per cent, were justified a few weeks ago it is justified to-day. When this item was under consideration in this chamber on two other occasions, little objection was taken to the rates of duty then proposed. Even when the Senate’s previous message was before us no serious discussion was provoked by the Government’s proposal of a duty of 45 per cent. British. It may be said that the Minister will be blameworthy if a lower duty is finally placed in the schedule, but the blame will really rest upon the honorable members of this chamber who retreat from the position they took up a few weeks ago. I hope that the Senate’s request will be rejected and that no modification whatever of the duties will be made.
Question - That the motion be agreed to - put. The committee divided. (Temporary Chairman- - Mr. Nairn.)
Majority . . . . 19
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion agreed to.
Traps, viz: -
And on and after9th March, 1933 -
Senate’s request. - Make the duty - British, 30 per cent.; general, 60 per cent.
House of Representatives’ message. - Not made.
Senate’s message. - Request pressed.
– I move -
That the requested amendment now be made with the following modification, as on and from 1st December, 1933: -
Instead of - ad valorem British, 30 per cent.; general, 50 per cent.
Read - ad valorem British, 35 per cent.; general, 55 per cent. ; or, per dozen, general, 5s. whichever rate returns the higher duty.
The Government will not accept the Senate’s request for two reasons, first, because “ ithas deleted the 5s. specific duty on foreign traps , which is not in accord with the Ottawa agreement, and, secondly, because - to reduce the duty to 30 per cent. British, would bring the industry too much within the danger line of unfair competition. If the history of duties on rabbit traps is studied it will be seen that in 1920, when manufacture was begun in Australia, the rates were, British, free; general, 10 per cent., while in 1921 they were British 20 per cent., intermediate, 25 per cent., and foreign, 30 per cent., which rates the Tariff Board stated were inadequate. Honorable members who take a reasonable attitude on the subject, will agree that the industry will not be too lightly protected if the Government’s proposal is accepted. No doubt we shall again hear the arguments that have been applied to other items, that the Government has taken a zig-zag course, and so forth, whereas the Government is to be complimented for dealing with each item on its merits, and for not going to extremes in tariff making. If the depression has taught us anything it is that we must not dogmatize. Many who in the past believed that by prohibition Australia would attain perpetual prosperity, have changed their views. The example of the United States of America, a country -with enormous physical and natural resources which tried to live to itself, has proved that selfsufficiency is a failure, and that tariff walls do not bring prosperity. The same applies to those of the other extreme in tariff thought, who believe that, by discarding protection and throwing ourselves upon the economic mercy of the world in competition with countries of quite different standards, we can attain prosperity. Each item in the tariff has to be examined from an economic point of view, and, of course, this cannot be appreciated by single-track minds. The Tariff Board’s recommendations have been a guide to the Government, and, iu the main, have been accepted. The honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) declared that the Government has departed from the recommendations of the board. I have yet to learn that it is on record that he has ever voted for a reduction of duties. This is the last item in the tariff demanding the committee’s attention on the present schedule, and I trust that it will be speedily passed.
.- The Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr.White) took as his text “ The Tariff Board has been our guide.” All that I ask him to do is to be consistent and keep to his text. The trouble is that he is departing from the recommendations of the Tariff Board in regard to this item because somebody iu another place has asked for a reduction of the rate of duty. The Minister should have insisted upon the duty which was determined upon by this committee. On many occasions the honorable gentleman has declared that the tariff policy of the Government would be framed on the recommendations of the Tariff Board. Now he as complying with a request from another place that has been arrived at by a rule-of-thnmb method. I challenge any one who has read Ilansard to find in the arguments advanced in that chamber one cogent reason why the duty should be reduced. There were many speeches about the unfortunate primary producer being tremendously overburdened by the alleged high prices for rabbit traps, but no logical argument was advanced for a reduction of duty. I do not always agree with the recommendations of the Tariff Board, but on this occasion I think they are reasonable. The report of the board, which was made on the 21st December, 1932, recommended rates of British, 45 per cent. ; general, 65 per cent. ; and those rates were embodied in the schedule and supported by the Minister on two occasions. Now, without any apparent reason, the honorable gentleman is backing down.
– The costs of the industry have since been received.
– Is the committee to understand that the Minister came twice before this committee, and asked honorable members to support a duty of British, 45 per cent., and general, 65 per cent., without having inquired into costs? Whatever maybe the mysterious information that he has recently received, it is evident that it is not based on any argument that was advanced in another place, where the debate on the item was merely a series of generalities. The
Ministerhas indicated that the Tariff Board is his guide in these matters. This is what it has to say about rabbit traps -
The Tariff Board is, therefore, satisfied that the type of trap manufactured by Australian producers is that which represents the big and increasing bulk of the demand. Both wire spring and flat spring types of trap are now being manufactured iu Australia Of satisfactory Quality.
Prior to the operation of the Tariff Proposals 1929, the producers of rabbit traps in Australia were Henry Lane (Australia) Limited and Kenneth Royle and Company, but the latter has ceased manufacture. At that time practically all traps imported from A merica were “Victor” traps manufactured by the Animal Trap Company, United States of America. Owing to the proposed rates of duty and the existing abnormal conditions practically prohibiting the importation into Australia of American traps, the American company arranged for the local manufacture, under licence, of its’ product by R. B. Davies Proprietary Limited for supply to the Australian and New Zealand markets. Production was commenced in 1930. Another Australian manufacturer, W. H. Downey, Rozelle, New South Wales, has also commenced the manufacture of rabbit traps since the operation of the Tariff Proposals 1929.
The Tariff Board is satisfied that the capacity of the factories of the three Australian manufacturers is sufficient to cope with any demand which may arise.
Two of the Australian manufacturers state that all the raw materials used by thom are of Australian origin and the other that 85 per cent, of the ‘materials used are of local production. Iron and steel bar and hoop and steel wire for Springs are admitted under by-law to tariff item 404 for use in the manufacture of rabbit traps, but R. B. Davies stated in evidence that the steel manufactured in Australia was satisfactory.
Evidence tendered shows that Australia and New Zealand are virtually the only markets in the world for rabbit traps. This fact should enable local manufacturers of such, traps to produce on as economic a basis as any Overseas manufacturer, and points to this industry as being one peculiarly adaptable to the Commonwealth.
That Australian manufacturers are efficient ls shown by the two following points brought forward in evidence:–
Owing to improved methods of manu facture, the Cost per dozen for labour in the factory of Henry Lane (Australia) Limited is almost as low as that in the associated English company’s factory, despite the fact that the English company uses labour on a much lower scale than that in Australia.
b ) The “ Victor “ trap manufactured in
Australia sells to the trade at only 5d. above the landed cost of the same American trap, excluding all duty and exchange.
Summarizing its evidenoe the board states -
It considers, however, that the locallyproduced traps are selling at very reasonable prices and that, for the following reasons, it will be in the best interests of the Commonwealth to grant it adequate protection, viz. : -
The industry is one for which Aus tralian conditions as regards demand aro suited;
Local manufacturers make the class of traps required by the market of both wire spring and flat spring types ; -
Practically all the raw materials used arc of Australian origin ; (d.) The capacity of Australian factories is sufficient to supply all demands ;
Local manufacturers are efficient;
Consumers are not penalized by reason of local manufacture.
The rates of 45 per cent. British and 65 per cent, general, recommended by the board, are provided in the schedule. The Senate objects to them, and has requested a reduction. Though the Minister, on a previous occasion, refused to accept the Senate’s request, he now suggests a compromise which is inadequate to protect the industry. Rabbit traps are not manufactured in one State only, and there is no monopoly. There are five manufacturers altogether, one in Sydney, two in Newcastle, and two in Melbourne. The number of employees fluctuates according to the demand, but is approximately 300. Some honorable members may say that this is only a small industry, and that’ it would not greatly matter if it were closed down; but I remind them that it is a matter of great importance to those who would be thrown out of work, as well as to their dependants. Usually, for each man thrown out of work, three other persons are affected. This is one of the subsidiary industries which draw upon the Broken Hill Proprietary Limited for theirraw material. It helps to make that company an economic unit by assisting it to increase its turnover and decrease its overhead expenses.
In 1920, before the local manufacturers commenced Operations, the price of
American Victor rabbit traps on the Australian market was from 31s. to 33s. a dozen, while the price of English traps was from 25s. to 26s. a dozen. The price of Victor traps to-day is 15s. 3d. a dozen, ot one-half of the price in 1920. In 1929, prior to the imposition of the Scullin Government’s tariff, the average price for Australianmade traps was from 20s.. to 21s. a dozen. In 1930-31, the price was brought down to 18s. 6d. a dozen; in 1931-32, it was approximately 17s. a dozen, while in 1932-33 it was 15s. 7-Jd. a dozen. Now the price has beem reduced to 15s. 3d. a dozen. The primary producers of Australia are, therefore, buying rabbit traps for much less than would be possible in the absence of the local industry. As the American trap - the. Victor - is now made in Australia, and the Australian rights were purchased by R. B. Davies Limited, of Sydney, there is no longer any fear of competition from America; but if the duties are reduced, the Australian market will have to be shared with the British manufacturers. In 1929, R. B. Davies Proprietary Limited employed only three persons; to-day, it employs 153. This firm’s factory was opened as the direct result of the duties imposed by the Scullin Government, and what I have said of it applies also to the others. The firm made two additions to its premises i in 1929, and has plans prepared for another addition, but the work has been hold lip because of lack of confidence in the Government’s tariff intentions. It is noticeable that when the Tariff Board recommends a reduction of -duty the Government invariably accepts its recommendation, but when it recommends that existing duties be maintained or increased, it is only -necessary for the Senate to enter -an objection, and the Minister weakly yields, and disregards the interests of the manufacturers.
On the 31st October last, when the Senate’s request was previously before this chamber, the Minister made an enthusiastic speech in opposition to the request. I had never before heard him speak so eloquently on any subject. His gestures were most graceful, and his elocutionary effort was full of light and shade. He said that the Senate’s request was a non-Government one, and, as he spoke, he looked at honorable members on the Government side of the House. He added that the request had been moved in the Senate after two other requests for reduced duties had been defeated. The Minister then called to his aid his old friend, the Tariff Board. He said that it was the Government’s policy to base its protective duties on Tariff Board recommendations, and at this point he looked at members of the Country party, and particularly at the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson), who ejaculated, “ Hear, hear !”. It is extremely difficult for Australian manufacturers to obtain a favorable report from the Tariff Board, but, in this instance, they were fortunate. The Minister then went on to say that the Tariff Board had formed the opinion that Australia was an eminently suitable place in which to carry on this industry, and that the local manufacturers made the kind of traps required by the market in both the wire-spring and flat-spring types. He asked honorable members to bear in mind that practically all the raw materials were of Australian origin, and that the capacity of Australian factories was sufficient to supply all demands. Then, with one eye on the Country party, he emphasized the point that the local industry was efficient, and that, instead of the consumers being penalized, as was alleged, the Tariff Board had found that the advent of the local manufacturers had led to reduced prices. When one honorable member questioned that assertion, the Minister, in his best manner, said that, in 1929, owing to the growing competition of Australian manufacturers, the price of Victor traps was 19s. 6d. a dozen.’ To-day, that same trap, he said, was made in Australia instead of in America, and “ was sold to merchants at 15s. 7½d. a dozen. He then concluded his peroration to what I regarded as a fine fighting speech with a definite pronouncement of Government policy. He said that this was an Australian industry which was well worth preserving, and that the Government proposed to stand by A the recommendations of the Tariff £ Board. To this statement honorable members said, “Hear, hear!” We all thought that the Minister meant what he said. He sent the Senate’s request back with a flourish. Well, the Senate has considered the matter, and honorable senators have stated that it would not be consistent with the dignity of that chamber to back down. Now the Minister, to my amazement, has yielded to the Senate’s request, and has fallen down on his job as a protectionist Minister. I urge him to reconsider his decision, and to live up to his utterances of a few weeks ago. If he wishes us to believe that he was sincere on that occasion he must stand firm on this occasion. I believe that he would, if left to himself, do what is necessary to assist this industry, but he is trying to placate half a dozen conflicting interests, including the Country party, the reasonable protectionists, and the scientific protectionists; and while this humbug is going on important Australian industries are bleeding to death.
.- The debate on this item, as on the previous one, has proved that the Government should immediately take steps to abolish the Tariff Board, because it has, by accepting the Senate’s request, virtually passed a vote of censure on the work of the board. The Country party is prepared to accept reports of the Tariff Board which suit them and reject those which do not. According to some honorable members, we should have no manufacturing industries in this country ; we should be merely hewers of wood and drawers of water for the big manufacturing interests on the other side of the world. If we have a tariff board, we should respect its recommendations. Of course, the real issue involved in this case is whether the House of Representatives is to be the supreme body in regard to financial measures, or’ whether it is to be dictated to by the Senate.
Question - That the motion be agreed to - put. The committee divided. ( Temporary Chairman - Mr. Martens.)
Majority . . . . 24
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion agreed to.
Resolutions reported; report adopted.
Ordered - That the bill, amended accordingly, be returned to the Senate.
In committee (Consideration of Senate’s amendments) :
Section three of the principal act is amended by inserting after the first proviso thereto the following proviso: -
Provided further that when the rates of bounty payable on any fencing wire, galvanized sheets, traction engines, or wire netting, have been decreased in pursuance of the last preceding proviso, and a further customs tariff has been introduced bringing into operation decreased duties of customs on any of those articles, then the rates of bounty payable on any of those articles, delivered from the Australian factory after the introduction of such further customs tariff, may be increased by an amount which, in the opinion of the Minister, after inquiry and report by the Tariff Board, corresponds to the amount by which the respective duties of customs are decreased and which is recommended by the Tariff Board as necessary for the maintenance of the industry, but nothing contained in this proviso shall authorize the Minister to increase the rates of bounty so as to exceed the rates set out in the schedule to this act.
Senate’s amendmentNo. 1 -
Leave out “ fencing wire, galvanized sheets.”
.- The amendment of the Iron and Steel Products Bounty Act 1922-29, -which was passed by the House of Representatives, provided that, where bounties had been decreased on account of increased customs duties, and those duties were subsequently reduced, they should be restored after inquiry and report by the Tariff Board. There was considerable opposition to the measure in the Senate, with the result that the Government was forced to agree to the deletion of the provision so far as it related to fencing wire, which has an import duty of 52s. a ton, galvanized sheets, on which the import duty is 90s. a ton, and wire netting, which is imported free. The amendments made by the Senate removed those commodities from the scope of the measure, which consequently now provides only for the increase of the bounty on traction engines alone. While the duties remain on fencing wire and galvanized sheets, it is not really necessary to make provision for those commodities in this measure.
– Why, then, were they included in it?
– For the reason, that* they are all grouped in the one section in the act. That section reads -
Provided that tlie rates of bounty payable on any fencing wire, galvanized sheets, traction engines, or wire netting, delivered from the Australian factory after the introduction of a customs tariff bringing into operation increased duties of customs on any of those articles, shall be decreased by an amount, in the opinion nf the Minister, after inquiry and report by the Tariff Board, corresponding to the amount by which the respective duties of customs are increased.
Wire netting is free of duty, and a bounty of 9s. 7d. a ton i3 paid upon its production at the present time. The local article can undersell the imported, so that there is no necessity at the moment for any increase of the bounty. It seems that there is no hope of having the bill passed by the Senate if fencing wire, galvanized sheets and wire netting are re-inserted in it. The committee is, therefore, asked to agree to the amendments of the Senate. Separate measures dealing with these items can be brought down if that is found to be necessary. I move -
That the amendment be agreed to.
.- Either the Cabinet or the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) committed a grave blunder when the bill was brought down in its original form, or a blunder is now being committed in accepting the amendments of the Senate. I submit that these amendments ought not to be accepted. On another occasion, the Minister said -
This amendment is being made bo that the Government may have power to restore bounties when customs duties are reduced or removed. The schedule of tlie principal act deals with fencing wire, galvanized sheets, traction engines, and wire netting.
Speaking on the 9th November last, the honorable gentleman gave the assurance that if the bill were passed the Minister would not himself determine the amount of bounty to be paid, and stated that there was no need to fear that he would of his own volition, pay a bounty without an investigation and recommendation by the Tariff Board.
– That is quite true.
– The honorable gentleman stressed the point that section 15 (1) (e) of the Tariff Board Act makes it incumbent upon the Minister to refer to the board, for inquiry and report, the necessity . for granting bounties for the encouragement of any primary or secondary industry. That should dispel from the minds of honorable members any suspicion they may have had that the bounty could be increased without an inquiry and recommendation by the Tariff Board. I object to the deletion from this measure of fencing wire, galvanized sheets, and wire netting. The Country party stands for the payment of bounties, instead of the imposition of duties; yet it was chiefly Country party senators who enthusiastically -opposed the inclusion, of these items in the measure. The bill as it left this chamber was fair and equitable. The existing law makes provision for the reduction of bounties if duties are increased, and from time to time, bounties have been reduced upon the increase of- duties. But there is no provision in. the proposed law for the restoration of bounties should duties be reduced. Consequently, it is a pity that the Minister has again weakly yielded to the request of another place. I cannot understand why the Country party should want this alteration. When this bill was previously before the committee the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn) moved an amendment to ensure that if there was a reduction of duty, the matter shall be referred to the Tariff Board for investigation and report, and that, if that body considered that further protection was necessary to the industry, it should be competent for the Minister to provide it in the form of a new bounty. The committee carried that amendment on the voices. I offered no objection to it. In effect, it meant nothing, because previously bounties were imposed only on the recommendation of the Tariff Board. I thought that even the most punctilious senator in respect of fiscal matters would have been satisfied with the amendment of the honorable member for Perth. Had the members of another place properly understood the position I do not think that they would have proceeded with their request. If a composite Ministry were in power and the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) were the Minister for Trade and Customs, there would undoubtedly be reductions of duty on galvanized iron, barbed and fencing wire and other requirements of the primary producers, which have been so frequently referred to by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) ; and those reductions would, of course, necessitate an increase of bounty in order to provide the local manufacturers with the whole of the Australian market. Consequently, I can see no reason for the deletion of such items from this legislation. We have had the spectacle of the Government in another place being unable to control its own supporters, thirteen members of the United Australia party and five members of the Country party having voted for reductions of duties; and had it not been for the support given to the Government by members of the Labour party, a number of Australian industries would to-day have been . in jeopardy. [Quorum formed.’] The report of the Tariff Board dealing with the question of protective duties and exchange, contains this statement -
Very striking evidence upon this point is available in the annual statement of the Trade of the United Kingdam (volume 3, 1930) issued by the British Customs Department.
The average f.o.b. prices of certain British produce exported are shown thus -
I quote these figures in refutation of the misleading information given to the committee by the honorable member for Swan to the effect that . prices of articles such as fencing wire and galvanized iron are higher in Australia than in New Zealand, whereas the Tariff Board report shows conclusively that the prices of the locally-manufactured articles are lower than the prices’ charged in New Zealand, where there is no local industry, and where the importing agents are consequently able to exploit the people. The Government ha3 shown weakness in accepting the request of another place. It was elected with an overwhelming majority and it has a majority in both Houses of Parliament. It either stands for Australian indus- * tries or does not. Unfortunately, the happenings of the last year or two show conclusively that this Government stands for the whittling away of our protectionist policy in the interests of the importer and the freetrader.
.- This Government is doing its utmost to place the control of financial matters in the hands of the Senate: The purpose of this bill, which is a machinery measure, is to give the Tariff Board the right after inquiry to increase bounties when duties have been reduced, and vice versa, so that the protection given to Australian industries will not be disturbed. The Senate now proposes to omit from the bill certain items enumerated in it, and to that I take strong exception. I am astounded that, what was at the beginning of federation known as the States’ rights chamber is now trying to dominate the affairs of this chamber. The Government in adopting its present attitude is showing a greater weakness than has been shown by any previous government. Sooner or later the. difficulties that have arisen between the two Houses of the
Parliament will have to be settled. A week ago you, Mr. Speaker, drew attention to this much needed reform. The sooner it is decided which chamber is to decide the finances of this country, the better it will be for the people generally.
Question - That the motion be agreed to - put. The Committee divided. (Temporary Chairman - Mr. Nairn.)
Majority . . . . 26
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion agreed to.
Senators amendment (No. 2). - Leave out “ wire netting”.
Motion (by Mr. White) put -
That the amendment be agreed to.
The Committee divided. (Temporary Chairman - Mr. Nairn.)
Majority . . . . 25
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion agreed to.
Senate’s amendment(No. 3). -(Consequen- tial.)
Motion (by Mr. White) proposed -
That the amendment be agreed to.
– Will the Minister explain, the amendment.
– I explained when the first of these amendments was moved that the whole of them were consequential. That explanation still applies.
– If that is so, honorable members of this party must logically oppose all of them as a protest against the action of the Government early this morning in allowing the House to be counted out on the motion for the adjournment.
Question - That the motion be agreed to - put. The Committee divided. (Temporary Chairman - Mr. Nairn.)
Majority … . . 25
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion agreed to.
Senate’s amendment (No. 4). - (Consequential).
Motion (by Mr. Guy) proposed -
That the amendment be agreed to. .
Question - That the motion be agreed to - put. The committee divided. (Temporary Chairman - Mr. Nairn.)
Majority . . . . 25
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion agreed to.
Senate’s amendment (No. 5). - (Consequential).
Motion (by Mr. Guy) proposed -
That the amendment be agreed to.
Question - That the motion be agreed to - put. The committee divided. (Temporary Chairman - Mr. Nairn.)
Majority . . . . 24
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion agreed to.
Question - That the resolutions be reported - put. The committee divided. (Temporary Chairman - Mr. Nairn.)
Majority . . . . 24
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. White) put -
That the report be adopted.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. G. H. Mackay.)
Majority . . . . 26
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Consideration resumed from the 9th March, 1933 (vide page 131), on motion by Mr. White (vide page 130) -
– In March last, a customs tariff (Papua and New Guinea preference) was brought down. It is proposed slightly to amend it.
When the provisions of the Ottawa agreement in relation to certain goods produced in the Colonial Empire were carried into effect, duties were imposed under the general tariff on a number of products which, up to that time, irrespective of their origin, had been free of duty. These products, when of colonial origin, continued to be free of duty. This was the only way in which it was possible to accord a tariff preference to the Colonial Empire on goods which hitherto were free of duty.
Papua and New Guinea do not come within the terms of the Ottawa agreement, and except for the goods covered by the eight items in the Papua and New Guinea preference of 1926, and a few others which are specifically provided for in the customs tariff, the products of the two territories entering the Commonwealth are dutiable at general tariff rates.
The products which enjoyed freedom from duty under the Preference Act of 1926 are as follows: - Raw or kiln dried coffee, dried lychee fruit, certain fresh tropical fruits, edible fungi, green ginger, rangoon beans, whole and prepared coconut, shelled and un shelled nut’s, kapok seeds and sesame seeds. Certain goods which are being produced in the territories have become dutiable as the result of the duties recently imposed under the general tariff. The number of goods thus affected is not great, but some of them play an important part in the development of the territories. Certain products from the British non-self-governing colonies, by receiving the colonial preferences, are enjoying more favorable treatment under the Australian tariff than are similar products from the Commonwealth territories of Papua and New Guinea. Such a position constitutes an obvious anomaly, which the Government aims to rectify.
Under the resolution to be placed before the committee, it is provided that the following additional product’s shall be free of duty when imported from Papua or New Guinea: - Arecanuts, cocoa beans and shells, massoi oil, dry ginger (if unground), sago and tapioca (if not packed for household use), certain spices (if unground), vanilla beans. Later, I. intend to move for the addition of certain dry gums to the list of free goods. In regard to all the products in which Papua and New Guinea are known to be interested, these extensions will place the territories on the same tariff basis as the British nonselfgoverning colonies and protectorates covered by the Ottawa agreement. They merely seek to remove anomalies which have been created in the adjustment’ of the customs tariff to comply with the terms of that agreement. I move-
That the following item be added to the schedule. ,
Item No. of Customs Tariffs. 1933. - 254 (c).
The purpose of this amendment is to provide that these gums, being the produce of Papua or New Guinea, shall be free of customs duty. Prior to 23rd December, 1932, these gums were admitted free of duty from all countries.
At the Ottawa Conference the Commonwealth undertook to accord a tariff preference of 15 per cent, on gums produced in British non-self-governing colonies and protectorates. The only practical method of carrying out this obligation to the colonies was to impose a duty of 15 per cent, on gums dutiable under the general tariff and leave gums admissible under the British preferential tariff free of duty. As Papua and New Guinea do not come -within the scope of the British preferential tariff or the act ratifying the Ottawa agreement. goods from those territories, except such as are specifically provided for in the Papua and New Guinea preference tariff, are dutiable under the general tariff. Following the imposition of the duty under the general tariff on certain gums, similar products from Papua and New Guinea automatically became subject to the duty, and are now at a disadvantage compared with the British nonselfgoverning colonies and protectorates. Copal gum, which is a natural gum used in the preparation of varnishes, is obtained in New Guinea. It is desired to extend to the Commonwealth territories every encouragement to develop their trade in gums. This amendment, if accepted, will remove any tariff obstacles so far as the territorial trade with Australia is concerned, and place Papua and New Guinea on the same tariff basis as British colonies and protectorates.
Motion (by Mr. White) proposed.
That the House will, at a later hour this day, again resolve itself ‘ into the said committee. ,
Division called for.
– This has always been taken as a purely formal motion, and I cannot but regard the division that is new being called for as obstructive. On. this occasion the division will proceed, but I shall have something further to say when a similar occasion arises.
– Are you, Mr. Speaker, permitted to make a reference reflecting upon honorable members without any opportunity beinggiven to them to reply ?
– I think that I am within my rights as Speaker of the House in interpreting the Standing Orders and also the practice not only of this Parliament, but also of the British Parliament.
Question - That the House will, at a later hour this day, again resolve itself into the said committee - put. The House divided. (Me. Speaker - Hon. G. H. Mackay.)
Majority . . . . 29
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion agreed to.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Casey) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to grant and apply out of Consolidated Revenue Fund a sum for the purposes of financial assistance to the State of South Australia.
Resolution reported, and - by leave - adopted.
That Mr. Casey and Mr. Lyons do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill brought up by Mr. Casey, and read a first time.
Motion (by Mr. Casey) - by leave - proposed.
That the second reading be made an order of the day for a later hour this day.
Motion agreed to.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Casey) agreed to-
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to grant and apply out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund a sum for the purposes of financial assistance to the State of Western Australia.
Resolution reported; report - by leave - adopted.
That Mr. Casey and Mr. Lyons do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill brought up by Mr. Casey, and read a first time.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Casey) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to grant and apply out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund a sum for the purposes of financial assistance to the State of Tasmania.
Resolution reported; report - by leave - adopted.
That Mr. Casey and Mr. Lyons do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill brought up by Mr. Casey, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
As this and the other two bills are cognate in character and have reference to the grants that are to be made to three States concerned, I suggest that my secondreading speech on this measure should be taken to cover the other two bills as well.
– As honorable members know, the Standing Orders do not provide that a debate shall cover more than one hill, but the practice of the House of Commons and of this House, which is supported by May, is that where bills dealing with the same principle are to be considered they may be all referred to during the debate on one. It “will probably meet the convenience of honorable members if that is done on this occasion. Of course, each bill will have to be passed separately.
– The measures which are now being submitted provide for grants from the Consolidated Revenue Fund by way of financial assistance to the three “smaller” States, namely, South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania. When the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) submitted the budget for the current financial year he stated that in accordance with an undertaking given to the last conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers provision had been made in the budgets for an increase of £300.000 in the grants to States as compared with last year. The amounts which it is proposed should be granted to these States this year, together with a comparison with an amount that was actually granted last year, are as follows : -
The Tasmanian Grant Act 1929 authorized the payment to that State of £250,000 per annum for five years. The sum of £250,000 is, therefore, available under the act, and it is now necessary to appropriate a further sum of £130,000 only for Tasmania. The total amount of appropriation covered by the three measures now under consideration is, consequently, £1,880,000.
In giving the undertaking at the meeting of Commonwealth and State Ministers to recommend for parliamentary sanction the increase of £300,000 in the total amount of the annual grant the Government was actuated by a desire to render assistance in financing the estimated deficits of all the States totalling £8,500,000 for the current financial year. The course was proposed merely as a means of meeting the existing situation and without in any way indicating the intention of the Government to make similar grants in future years.
As honorable members are aware, the Government has appointed a Commonwealth Grants Commission to inquire into, the subject of financial assistance to the States. It was not practicable to wait for the report of the commission before deciding upon the amounts to be decided ‘ this year, and, therefore, provision has been made in the budget for the grants now proposed.
– When does the honorable gentleman expect to receive the report of the Commonwealth Grants Commission ?
– I cannot say, but I imagine that, some months will pass before it is submitted. When the grants for the ensuing financial year are under consideration the Government hopes to be in a position to lay the report of the commission before honorable members, together with the recommendation of the Government thereon.
– Did the Government specify any terms of reference for the commission to work on, or did it give it an absolutely free hand.
– So far as I know it was given a free hand. Honorable members may be interested to know how the total amount of the grants now proposed compares w7ith the amount actually granted in recent years. The following table shows that comparison: -
It will be seen that there has been a continual increase in the amounts granted to the smaller States during recent years.
Special assistance to South Australia dates from 1929, when, following on a report by a royal commission, Parliament approved of a grant of £1,000,000 spread over three years. In the year 1930-31, the trough of the depression, the assistance of the other States in foregoing their rights to grants from the Commonwealth permitted further special assistance totalling £850,000. Since the war, South Australia has made three requests for special assistance, each approximating £2,000,000 a year. Guided by a report of the Public Accounts Committee, Parliament approved of a grant for 1931-32 of £1,000,000 only, and for 1932-33 it approved of a similar amount. The grants in recent years have been as follows : -
The Premier of South Australia has indicated that the increased grant will be utilized in the reduction of railway freights for the carriage of goods produced or used by primary producers.
For many years, Western Australia has received a measure of special assistance, but a special grant, as such, was not made until 1926-27, when legislation covering the payment of £300,000 a year for five years was enacted. In recent years, Western Australia has claimed a grant of £1,000,000 a year. For 1931-32, the previous grant of £300,000 was continued, while for last year Parliament approved of an increased grant of £500,000. The following statement sets out the grants to Western Australia for the last four years : -
Special grants to Tasmania cover a period of over twenty years. In 1929, the Tasmania Grant Act authorized the payment of a grant of £250,000 for five years. Last year, Parliament approved of the amount being increased to £330,000. The ‘bill now submitted provides for a grant of £130,000, which, with the grant of £250,000 already approved, will bring the total assistance up to £380,000. The grants made over recent years have been as follows : -
Debate (on motion by Dr. Earle Page) adjourned.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Casey) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to grant and apply out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund a sum for invalid and old-age pensions.
Motion (by Mr. Casey) proposed. -
That so much of the standing and sessional orders be suspended as would prevent the bill being passed through its remaining stages without delay.
– Before agreeing to the suspension of the Standing Orders, I should like to know what this bill contains. It seems to me that the Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Casey), in moving for the suspension of the Standing Orders, is taking an unfair advantage of honorable members. A few minutes ago he introduced three bills providing for the distribution of large sums of money to various States. He was respectfully requested to afford honorable members an opportunity, by adjourning the debate, to study the measures, and finding out what they contained. This was assented to, but now he proposes to proceed immediately with another bill, and honorable members will thus not have the opportunity to study the previous measure. It is a physical impossibility for honorable members to keep abreast of the business of the House if it is dealt with in this manner. I refuse to assent to the suspension of the Standing Orders unless some explanation is offered. I have been a member of this Parliament for five years, but never before have I known such methods to be adopted. I doubt whether this procedure is in accordance with the forms of the House.
– It is only a formal measure.
– The Minister for Health (Mr. Marr), being a member of the Cabinet, probably knows what the bill contains, but private members have not the same advantage. We have been accused of obstructing the business of the House, hut it seems to’ me that the Government is deliberately obstructing honorable members in the performance of their duties. This procedure is a disgrace.
– I know that parliamentary procedure is sometimes intricate and difficult to follow, but the Standing Orders provide that, before a resolution of the -committee of the whole House can be adopted on the same day, the procedure proposed by the Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Casey) must be followed. I take if that after the motion for the adoption of the resolution is agreed to, the Assistant Treasurer will proceed to introduce the bill.
– “What chance have we of studying the previous measures which have been introduced?
– That is . a matter in regard to which the honorable member may fairly protest. The rights of minorities must be protected, and Ministers, by giving a short explanation of the contents of the measures which they seek to introduce, could often avoid these difficult situations.
– I assure honorable members that there has been no attempt to do anything which is out of order. I understand that the procedure I have followed is the normal one for measures of this kind. I suggest that I be allowed to proceed, and I shall give the necessary explanation during the; second-reading stage. This is purely “a formal measure for the appropriation of a fixed sum of £10,000,000 for the payment of pensions. It has no relation to the actual amount which is to be expended on pensions. The money is merely passed from the appropriation into a trust fund, which is worked on until it is nearly exhausted, when a further appropriation is asked for. We are now nearing the end of the last appropriation.
– Am I to understand that the bill provides for no amendment of the Pensions Act?
– It does not.
– Much of the misunderstanding which has arisen might have been avoided if the Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Casey) had, at an earlier stage, made an explanation of the resolution itself. He could have made what would have been practically a second-reading speech, and then honorable members would not have felt that something was being done which they would be justified in resenting.
Motion agreed to.
That Mr. Casey and Mr. Stewart do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill brought up by Mr. Casey, and read a first time.
Friday, 1 December 1933
. - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This measure is introduced for the purpose of providing from the Consolidated Revenue Fund the sum of £10,000,000, for the payment of invalid and old-age pensions. From time to time, Parliament makes appropriations of a similar nature, and the amounts provided are transferred under the authority of the Appropriation Acts to the trust account from which payments aro made to pensioners.
The total amount previously appropriated was £151,250,000, of which £146,150,000 had been expended at the 31st October last. The balance under previous appropriations is, therefore, £5,100,000. As the expenditure for the remaining eight months of the present financial year will approximate £7,500,000, it will be seen that the balance in hand would be insufficient to meet it. The bill has no relation to the rate of pensions, or to the conditions under which they are payable.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Beasley) adjourned.
Message . recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of Governor-General’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Casey) agreed to-
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to grant and apply out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund a sum for war pensions.
Standing Orders suspended; report adopted.
That Mr. Casey and Mr. Lyons do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the. foregoing resolution.
Bill brought up by Mr. Casey, ‘and read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this measure is to appropriate £10,000,000 for the payment of war pensions, at the same rate and under similar conditions as obtain at present. Like appropriations have been made from time to time. Of the last appropriation in May, 1932, the sum of £1,188,464 was unexpended at the 31st October last, and that is insufficient to meet the payments that will have to be made during the remainder of this financial year. The usual practice of asking Parliament to vote a lump sum has been followed.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Ward) adjourned.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In Committee of Ways and Means:
– I move -
Division A. - Rate of Tax upon Income Derived from Personal Exertion. , (For the purposes of this Division: T = taxable income in pounds.)
If the taxable income does not exceed £6,900, the rate of tax for every pound of taxable income shall be -
If the taxable income exceeds £6,900, the rate of tax for every pound of taxable income up to and including £6,900 shall be -
and the rate of ‘tax for every pound of taxable income in excess of £6,900 shall be 76.5 pence.
Division B. - Rate of Tax upon Income Derived from Property. (For the purposes of this Division: T = taxable income in pounds.)
If the taxable income does not exceed £500, the rate of tax for every pound of taxable income shall be -
If the taxable income exceeds £500, but does not exceed £1,500, the rate of tax for every pound of taxable income shall be -
If the taxable income exceeds £1,500 but does not exceed £3,700, the rate of tax for every pound of taxable income shall be -
If the taxable income exceeds £3,700, the rate of tax for every pound of taxable income up to and including £3,700 shall be -
and the rate of tax for every pound of taxable income in excess of £3,700 shall be 90 pence.
Division C. - Rates of Tax in Respect of Taxable Income Derived Partly from Personal Exertion and Partly from Property.
Division D. - Tax Payable where amount would otherwise be less than Ten Shillings.
Notwithstanding anything contained in the ‘ preceding Divisions, where the amount of income tax which a person would, apart from this Division, be liable to pay is less than Ten shillings, the income tax payable by that person shall be Ten shillings.
Division E. - Rate of Tax Payable by a Trustee.
For every pound of the taxable income in respect of which a trustee is liable to be” separately assessed and to pay tax, the rate of tax shall be the rate which would be payable under Division A, B, or C, as the case requires, if one individual were liable to be separately assessed and to pay tax on that taxable income.
Division V. -Rates of Tax Payable by a Company.
Division G. - Rate of Tax Payable by an Individually-owned Private Company.
For every pound of the taxable income of an individually-owned private company, the rate of tax shall be determined as follows: -
Division H. - Rate of Tax Payable . by a Severally-owned Private Company.
For every pound of the taxable income of a severally-owned private company, the rate of tax shall be determined as follows: - (a) compute the total of the amounts of tax that would be payable by the persons specified under sub-section (1.) of section twenty-one a of the Income Tax Assessment Act 1922-1933, if the company were a partnership (other than a severallyowned partnership) between those persons with equal interests;
Division I. - Rate of Tax Payable by an I ndividually-owned Partnership .
Individually-owned partnerships other than Trusts which are Partnerships -
For every pound of the taxable income of an individually-owned partnership, the rate of tax shall be determined as follows: -
Trusts which are Individually-owned Partnerships -
For every pound of the taxable income of a trust which is an individually-owned partnership, the rate of tax shall be determined as follows : -
Division J. - Rate of Tax Payable by a Severally-owned Partnership.
For every pound of the taxable income of a severally-owned partnership, the rate of tax shall be determined as follows: -
divide the difference obtained by the application of the hist preceding paragraph by the number of pounds in the taxable income of the partnership.
in the course of carrying on a business, where the income is of such a class that, if derived otherwise than in the course of carrying on a business, it would be income from property, a further income tax of six per centum of the amount of that taxable income.
This -is an income tax rates resolution, and it will be followed by the income tax rates bill. As honorable members know, rates of income tax are imposed each year by Parliament. The terms of the resolution give effect to the three principal budget proposals in respect of tax alterations. The first of these deals with the reduction by 15 per cent, of the rate of tax payable by individuals, whether they be residents of Australia or absentees, on income derived from personal exertion. The second deals with the reduction of the rate of tax payable try companies, from 16.8 pence to 12 pence in the £1; and the third relates to the reduction of the rate of special tax on income from, property, from 10- per cent, to 6 per cent.
The reduction of the rate of tax on income from personal exertion is expressed in division a fractionally, because the resolution must express a new rate, instead of expressing the old rate and then merely stating that the tax calculated at that rate shall be reduced by 15 per cent. The new rate is expressed thus -
For example, where the taxable income exceeds £6,900, the amount of tax will bo ascertained by calculating it on the first £6,900 at the rate applicable to that amount, and adding to the result the tax on the excess, at the new rate of 76.5d.
With the exception of division f, which deals with the rate of tax payable by a company, and clause 2 of the resolution, all the other divisions repeat last year’s rates. Division f sets out the reduced rate of1s. in the £1 which will be payable by companies during the present financial year.
Clause 2 of the resolution , states the reduced rate of 6 per cent, on the taxable income from property imposed as a special tax on. that class of income. It may be mentioned that there will not be any alteration of the amount of the general exemption of £250 allowable to each taxpayer, which was granted by Parliament last year for the purpose of the assessment of the special tax on property income. That exemption is a fixed amount for each taxpayer, and not a diminishing amount like the exemption allowed for purposes of the normal income tax.
Clause 3 of the resolution repeats last year’s similar provision so as to avoid double taxation of dividends from companies in the hands of taxpayers.
Clause 4 also repeats last year’s law-. It eliminates the averaging arrangement in respect of the special property tax. It is not proposed that the special tax on property income shall be otherwise than 6 per cent, of the taxable amount, nor is it intended that the new rate of 6 per cent’, shall be averaged with the preceding rates of 7½ per cent, and 10 per cent., as would be necessary if clause 4 were not included in the resolution.
Clauses 5 and 6 are usual in all resolutions relating to the imposition of income tax, and are well known to honorable members.
I have given the gist of the resolution.
Progress reported. [Quorum formed.’]
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
There are in operation two Commonwealth acts and four State acts relating to the control of the marketing of dried vine fruits - currants, sultanas and lexias.
Motion (by Mr. Ward) proposed -
That the honorable member be not further heard.
– I cannot accept the honorable member’s motion at this stage. It is not intended that parliamentary practice should be abused and the motion is a distinct abuse of the rules and forms of the House. A Minister, -when introducing a bill, has a right to make a second-reading speech.
– I rise to a point of order. You, sir, have ruled that the motion is a distinct abuse of the privileges of the House, but I contend that the action of the Government to-night constitutes a distinct breach of the privileges of honorable members. We have permitted a number of bills to be introduced on the understanding that we would be given an opportunity to consider , their provisions. The Minister for Commerce (Mr. Stewart) is introducing another bill, despite the fact that we have had no opportunity to consider the previous bills, and we therefore consider that the conduct of the Government constitutes an abuse of the privileges of the House.
– The Minister may continue.
– The State acts provide for the regulation of trade within the respective States of Victoria, New South Wales, South Australia, and Western Australia. Of the two Commonwealth acts one provides for the regulation of interstate trade and the other for the sale and distribution overseas. The Commonwealth Dried Fruits’ Act relating to interstate trade was passed in 1928 at the express wish of the Governments of the four States which were vitally interested in the dried fruits industry, but had no power to exercise control over fruit passing from one State to another. The main object of the Commonwealth legislation coupled with the powers exercised under the State Dried Fruits Acts was to ensure to all growers of currants, sultanas and lexias a fair share, and not more than a fair share, of the advantages and. disadvantages respectively of selling within Australia and overseas, and at the same time to eliminate any possibility of disorganization resulting from an over supply on the Australian market. Experience has shown that under control growers have received no more than a reasonable cost of production. Any attempt to raise unduly the price of dried fruits within Australia would have the immediate effect of reducing sales, which would re-act to the detriment of the industry. There is power under each of the State dried fruit acts to bring, by proclamation, additional varieties of dried fruits within the provisions of those acts. No such power exists in respect of the Commonwealth (Interstate) Act. It was decided at a conference held some months ago by representatives of the various State dried fruit boards and other dried fruits interests, to ask the Commonwealth Government to introduce legislation with the object of extending the existing system of regulating interstate trade so as to include dried tree fruits,’ namely - prunes, apricots, peaches, pears and nectarines. This request is strongly supported by the Governments of the States of Victoria, New South Wales, and South Australia, which are the only States producing these varieties of dried tree fruits. Action has already been taken by the Government of the States of Victoria, New South Wales and South Australia, to proclaim dried tree fruits as dried fruits under the provisions of the respective State dried fruits acts and determinations have been issued by those Governments declaring the maximum quantities of dried tree fruits which may be marketed within each of the three States during the 1933 season. The proposed application of interstate control to dried tree fruits is similar to that already in operation in respect of dried vine fruits. Interstate trade is permitted only under licence issued by prescribed authorities (State Dried Fruits Boards). The principal condition of such licence is that a certain percentage of fruit, representing the approximate percentage over and above Australian consumption, shall be exported as determined by the Minister for Commerce on report by the prescribed authorities. Licensees are also required to give security for compliance with the terms and conditions of the licence. It is proposed in the bill now before honorable members to give effect to the repre- sentations made to the Government, and although there is little doubt that a substantial majority of the growers concerned are in favour of dried tree fruits being brought within the provisions of the act, the Government considers that a poll of such growers should be taken in order that they might be given the opportunity of deciding this matter for themselves. Any grower of fruit from which not less than 10 cwt. of any one or more of dried prunes, apricots, peafches, pears, or nectarines, was produced during the season preceding the poll will be eligible to exercise a vote.
There are in the Commonwealth approximately 3,000 growers of fruit fromwhich dried tree f ruits are produced, and of that number about 1,250 are growers of prunes. The present normal seasonal production of dried tree fruits is about 4,000 tons, of which the prune production exceeds 2,400 tons. The quantity consumed annually in Australia is about 3,000 tons, which leaves a surplus available for export of approximately 1,000 tons. As intra-state control will be ineffective to a great extent until federal legislation is passed empowering the State boards to exercise control over the movements of dried tree fruits from one State to another in a similar manner to those of dried vine fruits, the House is asked to give its support to the bill in the interests of the. producer.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Forde) adjourned.
– I move- -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This is a bill to amend section 26a of the High Court Procedure Act. In all the acts of the States and, I suppose, of every other country, there are provisions prescribing the rate of interest chargeable upon a judgment debt. At present it is provided in section 26a that every judgment debt shall carry interest at the rate of £7 per centum per annum from the time of the trial or inquiry or, if there has been no trial or inquiry, from the time of entering the judgment. The object of the bill is to alter that section so as to provide that, while the rate of interest in respect of past judgments shall be 7 per cent., the rate in respect of future judgments shall be 5 per cent. Accordingly, the rate of interest is, in the future, to be reduced from 7 per cent, to 5 per cent, in accordance with the general reduction which is taking place in interest rates. It will be recognized by honorable members that, as a judgment debt is an unsecured debt, the proposed reduction is reasonable. It is only in rare instances that the Commonwealth Parliament deals directly with interest rates, and in accordance with the general policy of the Government to reduce interest rates, it has been thought proper in this instance to propose to the House that the charge upon a judgment debt recovered under judgment of the High Court, instead of being 7 per . cent, as hitherto, should, in the future,be5 per cent.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Baker) adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 12.28 to 1 a.m. (Friday).
Debate resumed from page 5293. [Quorum formed.’]
– Before dealing with the subjectmatter of this bill, I desire to enter my strong protest against the - manner in which the financial business of this country is being conducted in this House. I have no objection to the bills. providing “for State grants, of which we have been notified, but it is quite wrong that other measures such as the Income Tax Bill should be brought forward after ‘ midnight, and an attempt made to rush them through the House before honorable members have been afforded an opportunity to study their provisions. The principle underlying Commonwealth aid to the States, is of such significance, that we are entitled to very much more information than we have at present as to the’ reasons for the grants. At the Premiers Conference this year, the Commonwealth Government arranged for the appointment of a commission to deal with future subsidies to the States, and I understand from the Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Casey) that it was practically agreed that amounts aggregating well over £2,000,000 should be granted to the three necessitous States.
– Rather less than that sum.
– I understood that the amounts were £1,150,000, £850,000 and over £500,000. But I am not now discussing the amounts ; it is the principle underlying the grants with which I am concerned. I believe in the most frequent consultation and cooperation with the States, but obviously the proper authority finally to determine what assistance shall be given them is the Commonwealth Parliament, which arranges the necessary finance. We are entitled to a very much fuller set of reasons for the amounts provided in this bill than has yet been advanced. The mere fact that an agreement has been arrived at with some outside body which is not the Loan Council, is not sufficient. No reason has been assigned why the actual amount provided in this bill should be granted to South Australia. In each case we are entitled to know why these extra amounts have been, set down. No reason has been assigned why there should be a grant of £1,150,000 to one State, of £850,000 to another State and of £500,000 to a third State. We should also be -supplied with more details in respect of the commission that has been appointed. While the Assistant Treasurer was speaking, I inquired whether any terms of reference had been issued to that body. His reply conveyed the impression that it had been given a roving commission instead of being bound by specified terms of reference.
– I was asked whether it had been given any lead by the Commonwealth and I said “ No.”
– It is acting under an act passed by this Parliament.
– These are matters on which we should have a good deal more information. If we are to aid the States by advances totalling millions of pounds, we ought to have before us a summary of their budgets so that we may see their revenues and expenditure, and understand exactly what details of that expenditure require to be closely watched to prevent financial disaster to the State concerned.
– The honorable member suggests that we should take over control of State finances?
– No; but if we are going to provide £2,500,000 for the States, every honorable member should know exactly what he Ls doing, and why he is doing it. I should like a detailed statement in regard to the State budgets, especially in respect of where leakages have occurred.
– Taxation is levied by the States-
– If the honorable member will permit me to develop my argument he will see the pertinence of my suggestion. In South Australia the budget deficit corresponds more or less to the railway deficit. In 1931-32, the last year for which figures are available to me in the dead of night, the general deficit was £910,000, and the railway deficit approximated that amount. In these circumstances, I should like to see the budgets of the other States, because when determining the permanent lines to be followed in rendering aid to the States, we ought to ascertain whether something cannot be done to put their transport systems upon a satisfactory basis. It is very difficult for me at this hour to follow the financial position of South Australia, because in the reports of the Various Premiers Conferences, only .the working expenses and actual revenue of its railways have been given in one mass. But the interest payments upon the railways of that State amount to £1,500,000, so that the grant which the Commonwealth is now asked to make will suffice for the payment approximately of two-thirds of that interest. Something should be done by the Commonwealth to put the State railway systems on a satisfactory basis by ensuring a proper co-ordination of road and railway transport. Whilst I filled the office of Commonwealth Treasurer, this Parliament enacted the Federal Aid Roads Bill, under which a certain proportion of the revenue derived from customs duty on petrol is handed over to the States for road transport purposes. In South Australia, and to a less degree in Tasmania, the Railways Commissioners say that of the total railway debt a great part is not represented by assets. In South Australia, out of £27,875,000, at least £10,000,000 is not represented by real assets. Some provision should be made by co-operative effort between the States and the Commonwealth to deal with that aspect of the matter quite apart from the earnings of the railway systems. If that were done, those systems might be placed upon a satisfactory basis. One of the biggest handicaps under which the primary producer labours, is high railway freights, which lessen the value of his produce and increase the cost of everything that he uses. At present, £7,500,000 is annually being raised in the Commonwealth by means of the petrol duty, of which barely £2,000,000 is paid to the road funds of the States. A greater portion of this money should be used to lift from the States, and as a permanent contribution to the rehabilitation of their finances, some of the interest on this dead weight debt, thereby tending to equalize the competition between the railway user and the road user.
An Honorable Member. - The road users get a great deal back.
– There does not seem to be any basis upon which these amounts are calculated.
– The Commonwealth Grants Commission was created to determine that.
– Has the commission been given any definite lead in the matter. Steps should be taken to ascertain whether any considerable additional portion of the amount collected under the petrol tax can be made available to those States which are in financial straits, so that their railway position may be improved. I believe that when a big State undertaking fails to pay its way to such an extent that it cannot ‘balance its whole budget it induces a feeling of despair throughout the whole service of the State concerned. If we are going to deal with these matters, information along the lines I have suggested should be supplied to us. I desire to help in every possible way these great primary-producing States in which transport is a matter of so much importance. If the amount provided in this bill for
South Australia is not the correct one, we want to find out what is the correct amount. The Commonwealth should be willing to make definite commitments to the States to enable them to put their house in order if it can be shown that there is no other way.
– How would the honorable gentleman estimate a wheat grant? How would he determine what was the right amount?
– If the grant to wheat-growers were determined on the same basis as the assistance which is granted to secondary industries, I should say about 3s. in addition to what they are at present receiving. I should like to see certain definite fields of taxation left to the States.
– Which fields?
– Direct taxation, such as income tax and estate duties.
– Would the Commonwealth receive sufficient revenue for its purposes from indirect taxation?
– Sales tax now brings in as much as did income tax four or five years ago, in addition to which the Commonwealth has various super taxes. It must be recognized that the States are carrying on big developmental and settlement works, and it is the privilege of the Commonwealth to help them by contributions, more particularly those States whose development is still in prospect. That was the spirit which governed the special sinking fund contributions to States in the Financial Agreement, when the largest amounts relatively were given to South Australia, Western Australia and Queensland, which have the greater portion of their development still to be done. Until we stabilize the budgets of individuals as well as States, we shall not be able to do much to alleviate unemployment, and relief of State taxation is most important.
There are many other ways in which considerable economies could be effected which would enable additional moneys to be made available to the States. One to which special reference has been made many times by the Railways Commissioners in conference is the co-ordination of railways and post and telegraph work. At the conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers in 1932, the following resolution was carried : -
It was agreed that - “ Conference is of opinion that considerable economies could be effected by further coordination between the Post and Telegraph and Railway Departments, and recommends that the Commonwealth Government appoint an independent officer to inquire into the possibility of extending the performance of post, telegraph, and savings bank work at railway stations, such officer to have the assistance of a postal officer and railway officer in each State.
This investigation might also be applied to the question of co-ordination in regard to the maintenance of telegraph and telephone lines along railway routes.”
Every one knows that since federation the great departments which control communications have been separated, and that frequently telegraph lines have been erected which run parallel with roads, or in wooded country within a quarter or half mile of a railway line, along which a telegraph line has, probably, also been erected. There is no reason why the one line could not do the-work. As our railways maintain a staff which works practically throughout the 24 hours of the day, and for six days a week, it could provide a continuous telephone service in many places where at present that service is limited to the hours of 9 and 6 on week-days, with no service at all on Saturday afternoons and Sundays. That would effect a great saving of capital and running expenditure. If these matters were investigated with a view to assisting the States further, it should be possible to adopt a definite policy to ensure that within a reasonable time the . States would be able to adjust their financial positions and assist materially in the stabilizing of our national economy.
– The Leader of the Country party (Dr. Earle Page) appears to be under a misapprehension, at any rate in regard to certain aspects of this matter. The right honorable gentleman has taken it for granted that some outside body determines these amounts. This, he claims, and I agree with him, is the duty of Parliament. I assure him that that has been done. It was the duty of the representatives of this Government who attended the Premiers Conference to endeavour to continue to bring about a reduction of the total deficits of the various States; but, when the position was examined, it was found that there were some States which would have difficulty in reducing their deficits for this year ; also that there was difficulty in bringing about a reduction of the aggregate deficits of the States. The Ministers representing the Commonwealth Government considered the problem, and they felt that the Commonwealth should give a lead by assisting some of the States in order that there might be a progressive movement towards balanced budgets. They, therefore, undertook to recommend to Parliament the granting of an additional £300,000, of which £150,000 should go to South Australia, £100,000 to Western Australia, and £50,000 to Tasmania.
– What was the basis of computation of that £300,000?
– It was based in ratio to the amounts that were already being granted to the three States. As South Australia had the largest grant, and needed the greatest amount to reduce its deficit satisfactorily, it received half of the sum available.
– Are those States doing all that could reasonably be expected to reduce their deficits?
– It was shown clearly at the Premiers Conference that they are. The representatives of the Government decided to assist these three States in this manner, and it is for Parliament to endorse their action. No outside body has interfered in any shape or form, and no money will be voted by anybody hut this Parliament. The several other matters to which the right honorable gentleman referred can best be dealt with by the Commonwealth Grants Commission. It is too late now to consider the powers of that commission, which were determined by this Parliament. The various States are completing their cases. In a few days the commission will set off to South Australia to hear the case ofthat State, after which it will proceed to Western Australia and Tasmania. After the commission has completed its investigation its recommendation will be submitted to this Parliament. The various matters mentioned by the right honorable member for Cowper can then be considered. It is useless to deal with them now.
As I announced to Parliament when I introduced the Commonwealth Grants Commission Bill, the function of which is to establish, a definite basis under which the Commonwealth shall assist the States, whilst the commission is making its investigation, the grant to the States will be continued on the same basis as in the previous year. That is being done this year with the exception that the additional £300,000, which I have just explained, will be (distributed. The commission will report to the Government. The Government will take action after having considered the report of the commission. When this matter was previously debated the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) appeared to be concerned that the matter should come back to Parliament to be dealt with after finalization by the commission. Neither lie nor I nor anybody else can take away the powers that are given to Parliament under section 96 of the Constitution.
– The honorable member must have imagined that Parliament would deal less kindly with Western Australia than the commission was likely to do.
– Yes; I think he feared that Melbourne and Sydney are too well represented in this chamber. My experience, and I speak not as Prime Minister, but as a representative of the smallest State, is that the sympathy extended to the smaller States by the representatives of the bigger States is gratifying, and I have no fear regarding what Parliament will do when the commission submits its report. I repeat, no outside body has interfered in the allocation of these amounts. When the commission has submitted its recommendations we shall be in a position to deal with many of the matters that have been raised by the right honorable member for Cowper.
– In answer to the Leader of the Country party (Dr. Earle Page), the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) said that it would be useless for honorable members to worry themselves about asking details in connexion with the application of this expenditure. If the matter can be dismissed as easily as that, it is remarkable that we should be asked to vote away two million odd pounds, which, after all, has to be collected from the States, one of which I represent, and whose people will, I am sure, not be prepared to accept” the placid remarks of the Prime Minister. I take it that the fullest possible information was made available to those who inquired into these matters, to enable them to arrive at a determination as to the amount to be distributed, therefore members of this Parliament are entitled to something more precise than has been given to them.
When we cast our minds back for a few years and consider all that the Premiers plan was expected to do to solve the problems of the Commonwealth and States, we realize the suffering and misery that has resulted from the reductions in our social services that have been made because of it. I believe that the wages cuts made in South Australia were more drastic than anywhere else. Food relief payments, and other forms of assistance, have been reduced to a mimimum, and these things have a most demoralizing effect upon the people. So much for the Premiers plan, which was to work such wonders. Instead of bringing prosperity to South Australia, that State has been going from bad to worse, until this year it is necessary for the Commonwealth to come to its assistance with a larger grant than ever. It is obvious that the wrong policy has been followed. If there had been any virtue in the Premiers plan, it should have become manifest by now. If those direct-1 ing a business found, after three years, that a certain policy had not been productive of good, they- would certainly take immediate steps to change that policy. Apparently, however, it is proposed to continue with the Premiers plan, ignoring altogether the experience and sufferings of the last three years.
Honorable members are not to be told how this money is to be spent, or whether any of it will be devoted to relieving the distress of the people of South Australia. Therefore, we of the party to which I belong, intend to oppose the measure in its present form, and we shall seek to have it amended. We desire that money shall be voted for a specific purpose, namely, to improve the conditions of the people.
The Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Casey) quoted a mass of figures relating to the payment of grants to various States over a number of years. Of course it was impossible for honorable members to keep the figures in mind, and the Government has departed from the usual practice of allowing honorable members an opportunity to study newly introduced legislation before being called upon to discuss it. The Minister, who has special facilities for obtaining the information, may know how the money is to be spent; but private members, including the leaders of parties of which the Government does not approve, have no such advantage. This makes it very difficult for minorities to discuss legislation as they would like to. I recognize, of course, that we can do nothing but protest against this procedure, not having the numbers to make our protest effective. We must discuss the measure as best we can, having to guide us only such information as we were able to pick up and remember from the Minister’s second-reading speech. The Leader of the Country party (Dr. Earle Page) protested against dealing thus hastily with important financial measures, but it would have been better if he had entered his protest at an earlier stage. The money which it is proposed to grant in the terms of this measure will be raised by taxation from the people, to whom we, as their elected representatives, are responsible; and when Parliament passes this bill, we have to accept responsibility for its action. I hope that the press, which has not been backward recently in criticizing Parliament, will take notice of what is being done by the Government to-night, and will let the taxpayers know how this important legislation is being rushed through the House. The Leader of the Country party said that the total amount which it was proposed to distribute in accordance with the terms of the bill would be merely sufficient to meet the interest on the debt incurred by South Australia for railway purposes. It looks, therefore, as if this money is to be devoted to paying interest on South Australia’s overseas debts, because, I presume, most of the money raised by that State to build railways was borrowed overseas. Besides the stipulated rate of interest, an additional 25 per centexchange will have to be paid on the money transmitted overseas. The party to which I belong has always consistently opposed the payment of these exorbitant rates of interest on overseas loans, and we shall miss no opportunity to voice our protest against it. This money has to be found by the taxpayers of Australia as a whole. Some of it, of course, will come from South Australia; but, because New South Wales has a larger population than any of the other States, most of it must necessarily come from the taxpayers of New South Wales. We, as New South Wales representatives, whose policy has received the direct endorsement of almost 700,000 electors, strenuously oppose the throwing away of this money on the payment of exorbitant rates of interest on overseas debts. We are in a minority here it is true, but we would not be doing our duty if we did not avail ourselves of the forms of the House to protest in every way we can against what we believe to be an injustice to the people who support our policy. Therefore, I move -
That all the words after “that” be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words, “ the bill be withdrawn and redrafted to provide that financial assistance shall be for the sole purpose of relief of unemployment “.
I do not forget that, in my own State of New South Wales, there are many unemployed in desperate heed of assistance, but they will understand that I have at this stage no opportunity to do anything in their behalf. They will appreciate my action in seizing this opportunity to try to do something for the unemployed even of another State. I have no statistics by me regarding the number of unemployed in South Australia, but it is well known that the position there is very serious. If this money is spent upon the relief of unemployment in South Australia, it will have the effect of reviving trade and industry, of helping to make the railways profitable and of providing a better market for primary products. It is becoming increasingly evident that our primary producers cannot hope to obtain on the world’s market prices which will cover the cost of production. By helping the unemployed, we are attacking the very root of the present economic crisis as it exists, not only in Australia, but in other countries as well. By providing the unemployed with work we restore to them their purchasing power, so that they may buy the things of which they are so urgently in need, and in this way all sections in the community will, in turn, benefit. The Government has not denied that this money is to be devoted to the purposes indicated by the Leader of the Country party. We . differ from the view that it is useless to discuss the details of the matter to-night. It is never useless to know in what manner Commonwealth revenue is to be distributed, particularly as, in many cases, the raising of it by means of direct .and indirect taxation causes a great deal of hardship and suffering. We make this proposal in all earnestness, believing that it affords practical means of giving assistance to South Australia. In its final application, it would lift the conditions of the people to a much higher level. The failure of the measures that have been adopted during the last three years is shown by the necessity for making further grants <to these States. Those who supported those schemes must, to-day, realize that the wrong course was followed, and that it is necessary in ‘the interests of the Australian people that the energies of the nation should be directed into other channels.
.Thi3 question is becoming what may be regarded as a hardy annual. It, unfortunately, is necessary from time to time for necessitous ‘States to approach the Commonwealth for a grant.
The amendment moved by the honor.able member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) may have the most worthy object; but as I do not think that he has acted wisely in choosing to amend this bill in an endeavour to provide that the money should be used exclusively for the relief of unemployment. There is a time and place for everything, and the amendment should not be carried. No honorable member has more sympathy for the unemployed than I have, and I hope that real relief may be granted in the near future.
The speech of the Leader of the Country party (Dr. Earle Page) would lead one to believe that South Australia is not doing all that it might do to limit its expenditure to its income. I tell the right honorable gentleman that everything possible is being done by South Australia to balance its budget. In 1931, a conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers adopted the Premiers plan, with the object of effecting a gradual recovery in Australian Government finance. South Australia has honoured that contract to the letter. I believe that, in the long run, the plan will put, not only South Australia, but also other States, on a more firmer basis than that on which they stood prior to its adoption. South Australia’s disabilities are numerous.
– They number six.
– South Australia is a primary-producing State, and has suffered many disadvantages arising out of federation as compared with the larger States. There are the disabilities under federation, and those that are due to the war, over-borrowing, continued deficits in State accounts, unfavorable seasons, and the shrinkage of national income brought about by the fall in the prices of exports. Those are real disabilities, and, because of them, the State has found it necessary to approach the Commonwealth for assistance. I hope that, as time goes on, a scheme may be evolved which will make it unnecessary for the State to come cap in hand to the Commonwealth-. South Australia wishes to conduct its affairs in its own way, and I believe that, if given the opportunity, could achieve commendable results. Loan expenditure in the State has been reduced to a minimum, and only necessary public works have been undertaken, with the result that the financial position has improved. The taxation of the State has been increased to such an extent that, with federal taxation superimposed upon it, the burden on the citizens is almost insupportable. I suppose it can be said that to-day South Australia is the highest taxed State in the Commonwealth.
– And it has the lowest basic wage.
– The honorable member is quite wrong. I have mentioned the fall in the prices of exportable products.
South Australia is essentially a primaryproducing State, and, consequently, has been severely hit in this direction. The national income has shrunk considerably, and there has been an alarming contraction of the taxable field. The shrinkage of the national income has had the effect of restricting materially the volume of ordinary business transacted, and that, unfortunately, has resulted in a large increase of unemployment. I cannot see that the proposal of the honorable member for West Sydney would help the unemployed. He has moved his amendment merely in an endeavour to show that he and his followers are the only honorable members in this House who have the interests of the unemployed at heart. In South Australia^ a good programme of developmental works has been embarked upon, and this should have a substantial effect on the unemployed situation.
– What reproductive works are being carried out?
– Water conservation schemes have been commenced, sewerage work is being undertaken in a number of districts, and there has been quite a revival of building activities. With the increasing price of wool and the brighter prospects for wheat, a happier state of affairs should be assured. The Premier of South Australia asked the Commonwealth for a grant of £2,00Cf,000, but the Commonwealth has seen fit to grant only £1,150,000. This Parliament recently passed an act setting up a commission to deal with future grants, and we are looking to that commission to safeguard the interests of the smaller States. Honorable members can safely support this bill because South Australia is doing everything within its power to balance its budget, and to live within its income. The right honorable member for Cowper referred to the expenditure on railways in that State, but it must not be forgotten that exRailways Commissioner Webb had extravagant ideas and that his administration of the Railway Department cost South Australia many thousands of pounds. Of course it has been necessary to construct railways of development to serve the outback country. Honorable members can rest assured that the finances of the
State are in safe hands, and that the prospects for the future are much brighter. ‘I support the bill.
– I protest against the manner in which this bill has been presented, the lack of opportunity afforded honorable members to consider it, and the lack of information contained in the second-reading speech of the Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Casey). From what I can gather the previous slip-shod method of allotting State grants has been adopted in this instance. The position in respect of the whole of these grants is most unsatisfactory. Honorable members who represent the so-called weaker States believe that they need only talk about the disabilities of those States in order to secure grants from the Commonwealth; but it is extremely doubtful whether the larger States will continue to contribute these grants. The Assistant Treasurer has stated that the Government could not wait for the report of the Commonwealth Grants Commission. That commission has been appointed because of the urgent need to assist the weaker States to balance their budgets. I understand that the total deficit’s of all the States amount to £8,500,000. Previously the excuse for these grants has been the disabilities of the States concerned, but on this occasion we have been frankly told that this grant is being made to assist the States of South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania to meet their budgetary deficits.
The Leader of the Country party (Dr. Earle Page) has complained that no fixed basis has been laid down for the computation of State grants by the Commonwealth Grants Commission. The Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) rightly pointed out that it was now too late to refer to that matter. The Leader of the Country Party had every opportunity when the bill relating to the Grants Commission was before the Parliament to point to the faults to which he has referred to-night, but he failed to take advantage of that opportunity. My colleagues and I contended from the start that no fixed basis for the computation of State grants was fixed, and we pointed out this fact at the time the bill was before the House.
The Assistant Treasurer has stated that the grants to the three smaller States over the last five years have increased from £910,000 to £2.130,000, or an increase of 150 per cent. Those are alarming figures. The Prime Minister has pointed out that this grant is based on a proportionate increase of the grant of last year. That is a most unsatisfactory basis, because if the computation of the grants of last year and previous years were improper, the computation of this increased grant must also be wrong. The Assistant Treasurer has indicated that the Government of South Australia has, in view of this grant, undertaken to reduce railway freights; but as the Commonwealth Parliament has gone to the trouble to appoint the Commonwealth Grants Commission, which has already commenced its work, we should, before making additions to last year’s grant, at least wait for some indication from it as to the position of South Australia.
– That body may recommend a grant in excess of that provided for by this legislation.
– And it might recommend a smaller grant. The honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Price) said that one of the outstanding merits of the South Australian Government was its action in faithfully carrying out the Premiers plan. During the last three years that State has made demands upon the .Federal Treasury. The year before last it asked for £1,000,000 ; last year it asked for £2,000,000; and this year its request was for another £2,000,000. Tho Commonwealth Government is granting it £1,150,000, which represents an increase of £150,000 on the grant of last year. The operation of the Premiers plan in South Australia appears to be summed up in the words of an ex-Premier of that State who visited Canberra just before the last grant was made, to the effect, that South Australia levied the highest taxes and paid the lowest wages in the Commonwealth. If, through the operation of the Premiers plan, South Australia has arrived at its present financial position it is time that that State adopted some other plan of rehabilitation. The Assistant Treasurer has stated that the purpose of this grant is to enable
South Australia to balance its budget but have not all the other States unbalanced budgets? If unbalanced budgets are justification for grants, there is no reason why grants should not be made to States like New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland. The honorable member for Boothby said that South Australia was suffering from disabilities, such as the fall in the export price of primary products, bad seasons, and the reduction of national income; but those disabilities are common to every State. It is entirely wrong to ask the taxpayers of the larger States to contribute to the revenues of the smaller States to enable them to meet their deficits. I shall SUDport the amendment of the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley). I have no doubt that it will be defeated; but as the honorable member for West Sydney has said, we have a policy which we are endeavouring to the best of our ability to put into effect. Up to the present, due to our lack of numbers in this House, our efforts in that direction have failed, but, nevertheless, we shall put our policy forward at every conceivable opportunity. We shall not improve the position by increasing the taxation in Commonwealth circles in order that we may make contributions to the States* By reason of the calamitous fall in the prices of our export commodities, every other State has suffered equally with South Australia, and as the result has had to carry an increased burden both of interest and exchange. This matter could have been brought to a head long ago had the Governments of the States and of the Commonwealth been prepared to fight for the people against the interestmongers. Similar conditions to those which other nations have wrung from the money lenders of England and elsewere could have been secured by Australia without any discredit whatever. But so. long as the Commonwealth is prepared to pay exorbitant interest rates, and to “screw” our people to the last degree in its effort to do so, so long shall we continue to suffer.
I support the proposal to earmark the money appropriated under this bill for the relief of unemployment in the States mentioned, because it can be more advantageously spent in that directiou than in meeting the exorbitant demands of interest-mongers abroad. If this grant is spent in providing work for the unemployed, the budgetary position not only of private individuals, but also of the Commonwealth and State Governments, will be improved. It is the best method in which the money can be expended. In denying them an ample opportunity to discuss and consider every aspect of the grants to the States from the Consolidated Revenue amounting to £2,130,000, which a’re provided for in this bill, the Government has not acted fairly even to members of its own party. It has also penalized the Opposition whose duty it is to examine these measures critically. The honorable member for Cowper, who had a lengthy experience as Commonwealth Treasurer, was obliged to complain that honorable members had not been afforded an opportunity to peruse the budgetary position of the various States, a step which was necessary to enable them to determine whether these grants should be approved. An increase in the subsidies payable to the three necessitous States is not justified while a commission is sitting for the express purpose of ascertaining what those subsidies should be. To-day, the greatest problem with which we are confronted is how we are going to get the hundreds of thousands of our unemployed back into employment. I do not believe that we shall solve that problem while we continue to drain our finances in order to send overseas the money required to pay the interest burden which is crushing our people. The best way to spend this grant is in providing work for the unemployed - work which in turn will create wealth, and which will benefit not only individuals, but also the Governments of Australia.
.It is the desire of the members of our party, not to oppose the proposed grants to the States, but merely to direct attention to the best way in which this money can be expended. Successive governments have promised to do everything possible to assist our unemployed, and to ensure that any money granted to the States is spent in that direction. But under the bill, there is no guarantee that these grants will not be devoted to balancing State budgets, and to the payment of interest on public debts. While so many of our own people are on the bread line, we are opposed to that policy. Those States which are continually appealing to the Commonwealth for assistance owing to disabilities alleged to be due to federation, should give ample consideration to threats of secession. Under this bill, it is proposed to aid Western Australia to the extent of £600,000, although in that State, a vote was recently taken on the question of secession. It is hard on the people of New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland that they should be taxed to assist a State which threatens to secede from the federation. Instead of breaking up the Commonwealth, we should do our best to bring the States- closer together. We should also endeavour to economize so that grants to the States will no longer be necessary. We should aim at unification. Before the electors pronounced in favour of federation, they were assured that the establishment of the Commonwealth would mean the abolition of our State Parliaments, and that substantial economies would thus be effected. Instead of economizing, however, the people have been saddled with a greater expenditure. It can scarcely be denied that these grants have hitherto been devoted to the maintenance of the separate financial and parliamentary systems of the States. If the simple question were put to the electors, “ Are you in favour of the abolition of State Parliaments V an overwhelming majority would be recorded in the affirmative.
– The Lang party opposed that in Tasmania.
– I am informed by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) that the statement of the Assis-, tant Minister for Customs is not correct. Evidently he intends to convey the impression that the Labour party in Tasmania is not in favour of unification. As a matter of fact the Labour party in Tasmania has merely expressed its opinion that the time has arrived for unity in the Labour movement, and if this was not achieved it would withdraw its affiliation with the Australian Labour Party. The Assistant Minister has. in- terpreted that desire as opposition to unification.
– Some members of the honorable member’s party are advocating secession.
– That is not so. In this Parliament, there has never been a government courageous enough to take a referendum on the question of whether the electors are in favour of unification. My own idea is that unification would undoubtedly result in greater co-ordination in our existing laws. At present we have separate arbitration laws and court procedure, conflicting industrial awards, different systems of education, different railway and other transport systems, and different forces of police. Obviously there is something wrong when a young country with a population of only 6,500,000 is obliged to support seven parliaments, seven different public administrations, and six upper houses, or thirteen legislatures in all. There is duplication and a total lack of co-ordination among State and Commonwealth departments. I should like to know how much longer these grants are to be continued to South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania. Only lust year South Australia was granted an amount of £1,000,000, and the present bill makes provision for £1,150,000. It has effected more rigorous economies than any other, and its socalled Labour Premier was congratulated by big commercial interests and the present Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) for having reduced the basic wage lower than it is anywhere else in Australia. Yet, irrespective of all these heartless reductions, we still find South Australia in a hopeless state of mendicancy. I am wondering what South Australia and Western Australia would do if they were successful in bringing about secession. Where would they then obtain assistance?
I hope that the Government will seriously consider the amendment moved by the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley), for it is an honest and sincere endeavour on the part of himself and of this party to assist the unemployed. I have no doubt that if this party were returned at the next election prosperity would be right among us instead of being around the corner.
– The honorable member’s party did not bring about that result in New South Wales.
– That is because the Lang Government did not have any power over the banks.
– It closed the banks.
– It was the insidious propaganda of the Federal Government assisted by the statement of the AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Latham) that caused the run on the New South Wales Government Savings Bank when £3,000,000 was withdrawn in one day, which brought about the closing of that institution. Although that bank had millions of pounds in Commonwealth bonds this Government refused to convert the bonds or advance money on them. Had the then Premier of New South Wales (Mr. Lang) been in power in this Parliament he would have shown what could be done with the banks to obtain credit for the different State Governments and local authorities.
Despite the combined attacks of capitalists, the President of the United States of America is tackling the problems of that country in the only practicable way, by making credit available and shortening the hours of labour. Tho mechanization of industry has thrown many into unemployment, and half the people of the world are being taxed to keep the remaining half in idleness and in a miserable state.
The amendment of the honorable member for West Sydney seeks to give relief to the unemployed of South Australia and it deserves support. I know that’ if this party were on the treasury bench there would be no unemployment in Australia, for it merely needs a courageous and virile party in power to develop our vast empty spaces and carry out great national works. There is a generous rainfall on the coast of Australia and the scanty rainfall that is encountered in the interior could be counteracted by the adoption of a wise system of irrigation. That and other public works, together with the development of our secondary industries, would help to absorb a much greater population. Then, instead of our primary producers continually complaining about having to find markets overseas, they would be provided with adequate markets in Australia, and there “would be prosperity, and contentment among the people generally.
Debate (on motion by Mb. Stewart) adjourned.
– I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
On Tuesday during the debate on the Estimates relating to the War Service Homes Department, the Minister administering War Service Homes (Mr. Francis) stated that Mr. Ryan, of Concord, purchased his home on civilian terms and conditions. Very little information was available in Canberra at the time, as only skeleton files are being kept in the Federal Capital. The Minister has made further inquiry to-day and finds that Mr. Ryan, who is a returned soldier, purchased his home in the usual way as an eligible person under the War Service . Homes Act.
– During the debate on the Estimates of Expenditure for the Pensions Department on the 15th November, I undertook to inform the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) the amount paid to Dr. Ludowici, a medical referee, for medical examinations during the past year. The information has how been obtained, the amount paid to Dr. ‘Ludowici for the twelve months ended 31st October, 1933, being £290 17s. 6d. .
– ‘I wish to refer to a decision which you, Mr. Speaker, gave during this sitting of the House. When I submitted a certain motion you, sir, declared that I, and other members of this party, were guilty of obstructive . tactics, and you took it upon yourself to curtail the privileges of honorable members of this party. You decided that I did not have the right to submit my motion. I desire to know what powers you possess to determine when a motion moved by an honorable member is -obstructive. I have read the Standing . Orders very care fully, and I have been unable to find in them anything authorizing you to prevent honorable members from exercising the rights which they possess under those Standing Orders. I protest against the ruling you gave on this occasion.
– I also protest against the action complained of by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward). When I objected to the action of the AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Latham) in moving for the suspension of the Standing Orders to allow the passage of a certain measure, and proceeded to state my reasons, he moved “ That the question be now put “. If Ministers arc to be allowed to exercise that privilege, I claim that private members should also be allowed to do so. When the Attorney-General moved his motion, it was allowed, and I was prevented from saying what I believed should have been said. If you, Mr. Speaker, are to be permitted to determine whether or not a motion moved by an honorable member is obstructive, you are taking greater powers than I have been able to discover any provision for in the Standing Orders. I claim that we are entitled to use every means allowed by the Standing Orders to prevent certain measures from becoming law if we believe that they are against the best interests of the country. To delay a measure by 24 hours, or even by one hour, may bo of the greatest importance to those whom we are sent here to represent. It is not right to brand us as obstructive when we are only trying to do our duty by our constituents. I have been a member of this Parliament for five years, and was associated with, various other public bodies for a considerable period prior to entering this House, and I have always observed the rules laid down. Therefore. I take the strongest exception to the action of the presiding officer of this House in impugning the honesty of my intentions.
– I have always tried to conform to what I understand to be the rules of this House. [Quorum formed.]
– I felt aggrieved when a member of the party to which I belong was told by you, Mr. Speaker, thathis motion constituted deliberate obstruction. Every member of this House represents an electorate in the Commonwealth, and his rights and privileges are the same whether he be a private member or a Minister of the- Crown. Members of the Opposition may feel sometimes that the Government is trying to deny them the right of free discussion. I have myself been the victim of what is commonly known as the “ gag “, but I have never complained. I take knocks when I get them, but I feel that I should have the right to bestow knocks when I feel that they are deserved. I do not think that you were justified, Mr. Speaker, in ruling that the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) was obstructive when he moved a certain motion.
– Then, why were five divisions called for on the Iron and Steel Products Bounty Bill ?
– Possibly in order to give honorable members an opportunity to consider certain measures which have been hurriedly introduced. Although we are expected to deal with measures as they come forward, we frequently have no knowledge of their contents until they are distributed when the Minister is making his secondreading speech upon them. Consequently, we have to use the forms of the House to obtain some information concerning what is before it. If the Government uses the force of its majority to prevent a private member from exercising his rights and privileges as a responsible representative of the people, in order to make himself acquainted with the legislation that he has to consider, he should not be accused of obstructing the business of the House when he uses the forms of the House to force the Government to disclose the information, especially as the Chair tolerates action from the Government side which has the definite object of “gagging” a member who is expressing what he conceives to be the viows of his constituents. I consider that charges of that nature are a reflection upon honorable members, who are endeavouring to conform to the rules of the House. I do not believe that, since I have been a member of this House, you,
Mr. Speaker, have had reason to say that I have gone beyond the point to which a private member is entitled to go. Mature consideration can be given to measures in the circumstances in which we have been placed to-night, only by slackening the rate of progress - not by illegal means, but by the use. of what we conceive to be our rights and privileges. The rights and privileges of the Prime Minister are no different from those of a private member. If the Government has the right to force business on the House at such a speed that the House is physically incapable of grasping its significance, the Opposition has the right to do what it may to prevent it. It is only fair to the party to which I have the honour to belong to say that it exercised a legitimate function. You, sir, may be fortified by precedents; but the description which you applied to-night to the action of a member of my party implied that he was abusing his privileges as a member of this House, and that, in supporting him, the other members of his party also would be abusing their privileges, when in reality we were merely defending the privileges that we think we ought to enjoy.
– I am pleased that this matter has been raised, and that it has been discussed in the courteous terms that have been employed by the three honorable members who have spoken, because I have thus been given the opportunity to justify the position I have taken up.
This question first arose when certain honorable members called for a division on what has always been regarded as the purely formal motion that the Committee of Ways and Means have leave to sit again at a later hour of the sitting, or at the next day of sitting. The first business of the Parliament after its ‘election is to constitute committees of Supply and Ways and Means, both of which must be kept constantly alive. When the Chair to-night put the usual formal motion, an objection was lodged to it, and a division called for. I regarded that as obstruction at the time, and I still so regard it. Honorable members certainly have rights and privileges,- but they cannot ignore the rights and privileges of other honorable members. It is true that the
Chair is the special custodian of the rights of the minority, and I claim that, while I hav« occupied my present high position, I have endeavoured faithfully to discharge that duty. I am fortified in the stand that I have taken. It is true that our Standing Orders are not complete, and that in certain cases recourse has to he had to another authority. As honorable members are aware, Standing Order No. 1 provides that, where our Standing Orders -do not apply, the practice of the House of Commons is followed, and the practice of the House of Commons is to leave some discretion to the Chair, when honorable members call for divisions, are guilty of repetition, or in other ways place themselves outside the Standing Orders. It is outside the usual practice of this House for honorable members to call for divisions on what are termed “formal motions,” such as that to which reference has been made. My authority for that statement is contained in the 10th edition of May, page 323, which states -
The rules of Parliament are designed to afford every legitimate opportunity of discussion, to ensure reasonable delays in the passing of important measures, and to guard the rights of minorities; and freedom of debate has been maintained and observed by the rules and usages of both Houses, with rare patience ami self-denial. But, of late, these salutary rules have been strained and perverted, in the House of Commons, for purposes of obstruction. Such a course, if persisted in, would frustrate the power and authority of Parliament, and secure the domination of a small minority, condemned by the deliberate judgment of the House and “of the country. That it was unparliamentary and opposed to the principles of orderly government was manifest; and on the 25th July, 1877, it was declared by the Speaker “ that any member wilfully and persistently obstructing public business, without just and reasonable cause, is guilty of a contempt of the House, and would be liable to such punishment, whether by censure, by suspension from the service of the House, or by commitment, as the House may adjudge.”
It will be generally admitted, even by the honorable members who have complained, that many unnecessary divisions have been called for. Honorable members who have objected may say that they are the best judges of that, but the very fact that there were small minorities in most of the divisions warrants my statement. It will be remembered that late last night the Minister for Commerce (Mr. Stewart) rose in his place, introduced a bill, and commenced his secondreading speech, but before he had proceeded far the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) moved to apply the closure, in conformity with Standing Order 262o, which reads -
A motion without notice may be made - That a member who is speaking “be not further heard,” and such questions shall be put forthwith and decided without amendment or debate.
Most honorable members will agree that it is unreasonable for any honorable member to attempt to apply the closure to a Minister when introducing a bill, whether it is important or otherwise. If that practice were allowed, the proceedings of this Parliament would become farcical, and I consider that I was within my rights in using my judgment. I am still firmly of the opinion that the honorable member for East Sydney, in moving that the Minister be not further heard, was obstructing the business of the House. The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) has referred to an occasion when a Minister moved that the question be now put. The Chair cannot be held responsible for actions of Ministers, because they have a personal responsibility in certain matters.
– The honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson) drew your attention, Mr. Speaker, to the State of the House, and before fifteen minutes had elapsed your attention was again called to the state of the House. I wish to know whether when attention has been called to the state of the House, fifteen minutes have to elapse before attention can again he called to the state of the House ?
– There is no occasion for me to give a ruling on this point. The Standing Orders do not provide for any stated lapse of time between the calling of the notice of the Chair to the State of the House. The honorable member for New England rose in his place’ and I concluded that he desired to call my attention to the state of the House, but he did not deliberately do so in the first instance.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 3.11 a.m. (Friday).
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
What is the total amount of loan money raised in Australia by the Commonwealth Government since the 30th June, 1929 1
– The gross amount of new loans raised for Commonwealth purposes was £24,026,590.
y asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– Tho answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Price ofwheat, Flour and Bread.
e asked the Minister for Commerce, upon notice -
– This information is being obtained.
r asked the Minister administer War Service Homes, upon notice -
– A considerable amount of labour will be involved in extracting from the records details extending over the last fourteen years, and it may not be possible to furnish all the information desired. However, wheu particulars have been collected, they will be made available to the honorable member.
l asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Mr.White. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
In view nf the large quantity of admittedly unsaleable tobacco leaf for which there are no purchasers, will the Government give serious consideration to rationing the importation of foreign leaf?
s. - There is an over-produc tion of certain types of tobacco leaf in Australia. Last year manufacturers purchased over 11,000,000 lb., most of which constituted grades which, if not blended with better grade tobacco, is unsuited to the taste of the average Australian smoker. This year manufacturers have undertaken to purchase the whole of the bright leaf produced in Australia, and, In addition, to purchase such quantities of darker grades as will replace actual using!. The Government does not consider that rationing of imported leaf would remedy a problem which is essentially a cultural one. To this end, the Government has allocated £20,000 to assist growers to produce leaf of good quality. A prohibition on the importation of leaf would result in a loss of a large amount of revenue without in any way providing a solution of present production difficulties.
s. - Inquiries are being made, anda reply will be furnished as soon as possible, to a series of questions, upon notice, asked by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) in regard to the sale of the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers.
Invalid and Old-age Pensions.
– On the 28th November, the honorable member for Oxley (Mr. Baker) asked the following questions, upon notice: - 1.How many (a) old-age, and (b) invalid pensioners have surrendered their pensions dince the 1st September, 1932?
I am now in a position to furnish the following reply : - 1. (a) 10,594, (b) 1,755.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 30 November 1933, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1933/19331130_reps_13_143/>.