13th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. G. H. Mackay) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– In consequence of the announcement made yesterday by the right honorable the Prime Minister, that the Government intended to advise His Excellency the Governor-General to dissolve the House of Representatives in sufficient time to enable a general election to take place on the 15th September next, and having obtained further information on the matter, I am taking action to withdraw the writ that I issued on the 21st June last for the election of a member to serve for the electoral division of Martin.
-Can the Minister for Trade and Customs say how many reports of the Tariff Board are in the bands of the Government upon which it hus not yet reached a decision?
– As I have previously announced, I intend to make a statement on this matter some time during this week.
– The 1932 budget announced the intention of the Government to introduce an amendment of the Electoral Act. Will the Minister for the Interior say whether it is intended to introduce this measure before Parliament is dissolved, and in particular whether provision is to be made for the repeal or the tightening up of the postal voting provisions of the act, which, as they stand, are open to a great deal of abuse?
– It is the intention of the Government to bring forward a bill to amend the Electoral Act, but the present is not considered an opportune time to disclose the nature of its contents.
– by leave- On the 28th June the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) referred to the case of a steward in the Royal Australian Navy who was charged with theft and sentenced to detention at Garden Island detention quarters. The honorable member also referred to other matters into which I promised to inquire.
I have investigated the points raised by the honorable member. In connexion mtn the case of the steward, the honorable member apparently is not in possession of the full story. The steward concerned was charged with having stolen from the residence of a naval officer on Garden Island one pair of gloves and two pairs of silk stockings. Of these latter articles, the honorable member has made no mention. Presumably, his informant did not advise him about them.
The statement that tho wife of the officer gave the gloves to the steward, is false. The articles were stolen, and the steward himself admitted the theft when the commanding officer investigated the charge. At this investigation the steward made no attempt to put forward the plausible explanation which has been propounded by the honorable member! This rating was sentenced to 90 days’ detention at Garden Island detention quarters. The treatment there is not harsh, nor does it carry tho stigma of imprisonment in a civil gaol. Theft by a man in a position of trust, such as a steward occupies in tho Navy, is regarded very seriously in the service. At the expiration of this period of punishment, this man will be discharged from the Navy. Unfortunately for him, he had not fulfilled the conditions that would have entitled him to any deferred pay. Statutory Rule No. 49 of 1928, is definite on this point, and should be well known. It provides that no payment of deferred pay shall be made to any person who is discharged from the service as “ services no longer required or whose services are dispensed with on account of misconduct.
The honorable member has been misinformed also in regard to his statement that naval ratings have no opportunity to ventilate their grievances. It has been decided to adopt the new procedure for welfare representations which is being introduced into the Royal Navy, but in the meantime the men were informed specifically that they could put forward representations at any time through their divisional officers. This is a ready means of having requests considered, and disposes of the incorrect statement which has been made.
For the information of the honorable member, I may say that some naval officers who are borne on the books of the depot ship Penguin, and are employed in the dockyard, are required by the service to occupy naval residences on Garden Island, for which they are charged a rental. Those who would be entitled to the services of a steward on board ship receive attendance in their residences by arrangement with the Commanding Officer of the depot ship.
The honorable member asked a question concerning the use of service material in the private homes of officers. I have had inquiries made into this matter, and have ascertained that it is not the practice for cleaning material to be taken from store for the purpose of cleaning the private homes of officers.
With regard to the honorable member’s inquiry as tothe cost of cutting and carting firewood used in the homes of officers, and as to whether any payment is made by theofficers for these services, I might say that at Garden Island a quantity of waste timber accumulates in the dockyard and must be disposed of. It has to be broken up and burnt, as it has no sale value owing to the cost of freight to the mainland. Some of it is used for lighting up yard boilers, and in offices, and, instead of its being burnt in the destructor, it is issued free to the naval residences on the island. There is no more cost to the department than if it were wholly destroyed in the destructor. Dockyard employees are allowed to take home, in open bundles, surplus quantities of waste material. At other naval establishments, where a contract for the supply of firewood exists, it is issued upon payment to any residence inside the establishment.
With respect to the statement of the honorable member concerning glasses, &c, having been brought from ships and used recently at a naval wedding, I am advised that no service articles were used at either of the two recent naval weddings at Sydney.
Agreement with Great Britain.
– Has the attention of the Assistant Treasurer been directed to the reports which appeared in the press yesterday, to the effect that the German Government is establishing machinery as a means of effecting reprisals against all parts of the British Empire, in connexion with the clearing house arrangements that have been instituted in London, and whether he has in contemplation any steps that may safeguard the position of Australian exporters of primary produce or of other goods to Germany?
-by leave - An agreement covering a period of six months from the 1st July, 1934, has been reached between His Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom and the German Government on the question of the Dawes and Young loans and other medium and long-term debts. The agreement provides for the full payment of all coupons of the Dawes and Young loans to British holders on the 15th June, 1934, British holders meaning (a) all residents in the United Kingdom and all British subjects wherever resident, in the case of sterling issues, and (b) all residents in the United Kingdom, in the case of nonsterling issues.
Relative to other debts, the agreement provides for the implementation of the German offer announced on the 29th May, 1934, which applies to coupons due between the 1st July, 1934, and the 30th June, 1935. This offerprovidesf or holders of coupons to receive, on surrender of coupons, a funding bond maturing on the 1st January, 1945. For those who desire cash, the Reichsbank undertakes to purchase the coupons at 40 per cent. of their face value. This offer is to apply to British holders as defined in the case of the Dawes and Young loans.
In return for the agreement, His Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom undertakes not to set up the clearing office, for which legislation has been passed, during the period of the agreement.
Both His Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom and the German Government have affirmed that financial and trade relations between the two countries should be conducted on a friendly and non-discriminatory basis, and that the existing volume of trade should be increased as far as possible.
The terms of any exchange agreements in force between Germany and other countries for the payment of commercial debts shall be applied to a commercial agreement which Germany has undertaken to negotiate.
– Will the Minister for Commerce inform the House whether it is a fact, as stated in the Melbourne Herald last night, that the Argentine has ignored the world wheat agreement, and if that is so, will he state what action the Government intends to take in the interests of the Australian wheat exporters?
– It is not correct to state that the Argentine is denying altogether her obligations in connexion with the world wheat agreement, but it is true that she is asking for some relaxation of the conditions of her original obligations. Negotiations are still proceeding between the Argentine and the other countries affected by the agreement.
– Is the Minister for the Interior aware of the fact that divisional returning officers are striking off thousands of names from the latest roll of electors, that of 1932, because the persons concerned have temporarily shifted their place of residence through unemployment? These people believe that as their names appeared on the 1932 roll - which was the last to be printed - there is no necessity for them to re-register their names.
– Obviously, I cannot be aware of all that is going on in the electoral office, but I can assure the honorable member that the officers are obeying the law. If these people have left their residences, they are not entitled to remain on the roll. Where married men leave their districts in search of employment, and their wives and families remain in occupation of the homes, they are entitled to have their names retained on the rolls in the subdivisions in which they resided, but where single men move from place to place in search of employment, the officers of the Electoral Department are only carrying out their duty in removing their names from the roll.
.- I lay on the table the following paper : -
Receipts and Expenditure of the Consolidated Revenue Fund for theyear ended 30th June, 1934, and move -
That the paper be printed.
When submitting the Supply Bill to the House for consideration on the 28th June last, the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) informed honorable members that he hoped to be in a position within a few days to submit a statement of the Consolidated Revenue Fund under various headings showing the approximate results for the financial year 1933-34 which has just closed.
The financial returns for the year are not yet complete, but I am now in a position to give honorable members a statement showing the approximate results for the year. These results are subject to minor amendments when final returns are to hand. Copies of this statement are available for honorable members.
The statement shows a balance of receipts over expenditure of £1,301,616 as compared with the deficit of £1,176,490 which was anticipated when the budget for 1933-34 was presented to Parliament. The results therefore indicate an improvement of approximately £2,478,000 as compared with the budget estimate. The budget did not include £3,045,000 provided during the year for relief to wheat-growers, of which £1,254,000 was obtained from the flour tax temporarily imposed subsequent to the budget. The relief to wheat-growers thus absorbed £1,791,000 of the ordinary revenue. Eliminating wheat relief expenditure and the flour tax, the total improvement in the budget may be set down at £4,269,000.
This improvement is principally due to increases of revenue as compared with the budget estimate, the chief increases being as under -
The increased yields under all these heads of revenue are striking evidence of the general improvement of conditions in Australia during the past year. In particular, the higher revenue under customs and excise, sales tax, and the post office, is a reflex of improved trade in many industries. The higher prices for wool also, of course, contributed to the general improvement.
The total expenditure for the year, including £3,045,000 provided for relief to wheat-growers, was £72,647,000, as compared with the estimated expenditure of £72,801,000. The actual expenditure thus closely approximates the expenditure provided for in the budget. No payments were made during the year in respect of Australia’s war indebtedness to the Government of the United Kingdom. The savings made by the conversion of Commonwealth debt in London in February last are not reflected in last year’s results, whilst the full annual cost of the concessions made last year in pensions, salaries, and taxation, was not borne by last year’s budget. When the budget is brought down, more detailed particulars of last year’s results will be submitted for the information of honorable members.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I desire to draw the attention of the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Perkins) to an article which has been published in most of the newspapers of Australia with regard to the buses provided for the conveyance of honorable members during the last two weeks from Goulburn to Canberra. . The article reads -
Because of the cold weather early this morning, two large motor buses, which were dispatched to Goulburn by the Commonwealth Government at a total cost of about £30 for the purpose of meeting federal members returning to Canberra for the session of the Federal Parliament, were poorly patronized. When members were called on the train at Goulburn, only sixteen of them responded by dressing in time to catch the buses. The remainder decided to remain in bed until the sun rose.
I want to say that I was one of those members, and that there were 22 or 24 members on the buses. I am not aware that any member stayed in bed in preference to travelling by the bus. The article also states -
On days other than Tuesdays six hours is occupied by the tr::in in covering the uo miles from Goulburn to Canberra. Members returning to Canberra on these days have frequently complained of this s’ow journey. To obviate these complaints, the federal Ministry to-day despatched two large buses to Goulburn so that members could leave the train at fi o’clock in thu morning and reach Canberra in time for late breakfast. Although the facility has been sought in the past, members preferred to stay in bed on the train this morning. One bus, therefore, reached Canberra empty.
As I want that statement corrected, I ask the Minister if the cost of the bus transport is greater than the former method of travelling by train.
– It is true that such statements have appeared in the daily press, but they are entirely misleading. In the past, ever since the establishment of Parliament at Canberra, it was the practice on th6 day the House assembled for a train to run from Goulbourn to Canberra to allow honorable members to arrive here in time, not only for sittings, but also for party meetings. In addition, when the House met on a day other than that on which the regular train ran, it was the custom to engage a special train or to give the New South Wales Railway Department a fortnight’s notice to change the day of the running of that train. This practice was upsetting to the general public, and also brought about a loss and serious inconvenience to the State of New South Wales, because this weekly train to Canberra was most popular, and was actually one of its best paying services. Within the last twelve months some new buses have been purchased to replace many of the old buses in Canberra, which were not fit to undertake the journey to Goulburn, and as the road to Goulburn has been improved, the Government, since the opening of this session, has been running buses between Canberra and Goulburn. The running of the buses costs less than £15, whereas the provision of a special train would involve the Commonwealth in a guarantee of £100. The Government is consequently making a considerable saving by this alteration. The service itself suits the convenience of honorable members and is in the interests of both honorable members and the general public. The criticism of the press is quite inaccurate, because the number of honorable members who travelled by the buses was considerably more than was stated in the newspapers. This week the number of passengers carried was 24.
– Under the provision of the pension law which it is now intended to repeal, the relatives of pensioners were required to make contributions. I am informed that the notices were sent out in alphabetical order, so that many relatives received notices, and others did not. In view of the small amount collected by that means, and in order to avoid discrimination between contributors, is the Government prepared to make a refund of the amounts which have been ,paid by relatives under this pension provision t
– I suggest that the honorable member’s question might more appropriately be dealt with when the anticipated bill is being considered in committee.
– Have any trade agreements been entered into by this Government with any foreign nations, and are now awaiting ratification by this Parliament; if so, with what nations have such agreements .been entered into, and will an opportunity be given to honorable members to discuss them before the dissolution of Parliament takes place?
– There are no trade agreements which are completed and ready for submission to the Parliament, but. there are a number under negotiation as between this country and other countries.
– What stage has been reached in the negotiations between this country and Belgium in respect of the exports of this country?
– Last week, when asked a similar question on this subject, I pointed out that there was no Belgian embargo on barley from Australia, but that there was an embargo at present on a certain class of ‘beef. As the House was informed at the time, there are definite obstacles in the way of making a trade agreement with Belgium, because the requests of Belgium consist of more than the exchange of glass for beef. This Government has been in communication with the Government of the United Kingdom to see if certain concessions can be made with a view to making a comprehensive trade agreement. Tho time allotted for making a treaty has almost expired, and Belgium is considering the renewal of the existing arrangement for another two months, during which time it is hoped that something may be consilium sited by way of treaty.
Case of Constable Stott
– Has the Minister taken the advice of the Supreme Court Judge of the Northern Territory by compensating Constable Stott for the persecution and expense to which he was subjected through the action of the missions ? If not, will he intimate whether it is the Government’s intention to do so?
– It is not the intention of the Government to act as the honorable member has suggested. The case has been tried by the Court, and a verdict given, and there the matter rests so far as my department is concerned. The police officer was found not. guilty, and was reinstated in his position. The Attorney-General’s Department is of the opinion that the coroner’s verdict was justification for instituting Ihe prosecution.
– Yesterday the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green) asked if I could indicate * when the poll in connexion with the Dairy Produce Act of 1933 would be taken. I am now able to inform him that the poll will be taken on the 11th October next.
– In to-day’s issue of the Sydney Telegraph my name appears among a list’ of names of honorable members who do not intend to recontest their seats. I wish to say that the statement is unauthorized and incorrect, and that I shall definitely contest the Hume electorate at the forthcoming elections.
– Is it a fact that certain works in connexion with the revised River Murray Waters Agreement are being held up because the alteration of the agreement has not yet been ratified by this Parliament? In view of the hold-up of this particularly necessary work, will the Minister for the Interior bring down the required legislation before the House rises?
– It is true that certain works cannot be commenced until the new agreement has been ratified by this Parliament and the Parliaments of the other three contracting States, but instead of the work being held up, the operations at Yarrawonga Weir, which is included in the new agreement, have been started by New South Wales and Victoria in anticipation of the ratification of the agreement. These States have agreed to carry on the work between them should the four contracting parties fail to pass the necessary ratifying legislation. It is impossible, however, to commence any other new work until the agreement has been ratified. In the meantime, the number of men employed has been practically the same as that employed previously.
– Will the bill be introduced before this House rises?
– I hope to have the bill introduced before this Parliament rises.
– Recently when the Flour Tax Bill was introduced in this House the Prime Minister in reply to a request from me stated that the Northern Territory would be exempt from its operation. Since that statement was made, and the tax imposed, the residents of the Northern Territory havebeen placed in the position of having to order their stocks of flour from the various capitals of Australia without being given any rebate, although the merchants have made representations on their behalf. I ask the Assistant Treasurer if it is the intention of the Government to introduce amending legislation to rectify that mistake ; and if so, when is it intended to introduce it?
– The matter to which the honorable member has referred is actually under the consideration of the Government, and it is probable that action in the nature which he has suggested will be taken.
– I have received from the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) an intimation that he desires to move the adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, “ The failure of the Government to safeguard the interests of the Australian wool industry by granting permits for the export of stud sheep to competitive woolproducing countries “.
Five honorable members having risen in their places,
– I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
I do so in order to discuss “ the failure of the Government to safeguard the interests of the Australian wool industry by granting permits for the export of stud sheep to competitive wool-producing countries “. This subject is probably as important to this country as any that could be brought under the notice of honorable members, because wool is a staple product that takes a large place in our export trade. The subject is, therefore, not sectional in any sense, and an injury to our wool industry is an injury to every citizen. Apart from the men who obtain their living by the production, sale, shipping and manufacture of wool in one way or another, this industry is important to all citizens, because the money realized from the sale of our wool provides funds overseas that enable us to carry on our international trading. Honorable members were loud in their comments a year or two ago about the effect of the failure to realize satisfactory wool prices upon the whole country. They said, in fact, that this was one of the major causes of the depression. When the price of wool increased not long ago, it was regarded as a silver lining to the clouds hovering over Australia. It must be remembered, however, that the prices which have been obtained recently for our wool are governed by world conditions. I am of the opinion that the action of the Government in granting permits for the export of stud sheep from Australia is in the nature of a stacking of the cards of world conditions against Australia, for it must have the effect of increasing wool production elsewhere and so of reducing the market for Australia’s wool.
I shall give a few figures later in my speech to indicate the effect that has already followed the sale of Australian stud sheep to oversea countries. The Lah or Baily recently exposed the Government in this regard, and there was, for a time, a halt in the issue of permits. I understand also that the Truth newspapers have devoted attention to this subject. The Labor Daily stated that the Government, immediately upon the making of complaints about the issue of these permits, referred the matter to the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. It is difficult to understand why that should have been done. It seems to me that the Government adopted the cowardly attitude of trying to place the responsibility for the taking of immediate action on to other shoulders. I shall be interested to hear what the members of the Country party have to say on this subject. Incidentally, I direct attention to the fact that not one honorable member of that party stood in support of my motion. Apparently, they are not desirous that the subject should be even discussed. We shall, however, hope to have an explanation from them of their attitude. I shall refer, in the course of my speech, to certain prominent members of that party who have been directly interested in this business. I do not profess to be an expert on wool production, but I claim to have the right, as an honorable member of this House, to discuss the subject. It is common knowledge in Sydney that two prominent members of this Parliament have been associated with the negotiations with the Government for the lifting of the embargo on the export of stud sheep. I refer to Senator Guthrie, a very prominent grazier of Victoria, and to the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Nock). Two sets of interests are affected by this business, first, those of the people engaged in breeding sheep on a large scale, and secondly, those of the people engaged in producing wool. Those who are chiefly interested in the breeding of sheep are not particularly concerned about the development of the wool industry in general, but are actuated by a keen desire to obtain a market for the stud sheep which they breed. These people have shown that they are not at all concerned about the country to which the sheep go after they are sold. I ask the Minister whether a permit was granted to the Japanese firm of Nosawa and Company for the export of 1,200 Corriedale ewes and 30 rams to Japan, as far back as May; and also whether Senator Guthrie was specifically interested in this matter and actually supplied some of the sheep. I also wish to know whether permits were granted for the export of sheep by the Ky-okkah Maru, with further consignments to go by the . 7’amon Maru, in June, and the Yayo Maru in August. Is it not a fact that the first shipment did not leave Australia until last week, and that the delay was caused because the Government took alarm at the attention that was being paid by the newspapers to the proposed exportation of these sheep and felt that it had better delay the departure of them until the storm had passed. If this was not the reason for the delay, what was it ? Apparently the Government was anxious to avoid any suggestion that it was guilty of conniving at this business, but its guilt is obvious.
In order to consider this subject in. proper perspective it is necessary to go back quite a number of years. I am informed that the origin of the business dates back to 1908, when Australian stud sheep were being exported to South Africa. At that time the subject became a vital political question. It was then said that the exportation of these sheep could not have any very serious effect upon Australia because the climatic conditions of South Africa were such that wool grown in that dominion could never become a serious competitor with the wool grown in Australia. An examination of the 7 ear-Boole, however, will show that South Africa has, in fact, become a very dangerous rival of Australia in this connexion and that this is due, to a very large extent, to the fact that, years ago, Australian stud sheep were exported to the sister dominion. I ask honorable members now to direct their attention to the period from 1926 to 1929 when the Bruce-Page Government was in office. A great deal was being said then about the “ red “ menace to Australia; but we find at that very time certain prominent Australian graziers were engaged in the lucrative trade of selling Australian stud sheep to Russia. When an outcry was raised it was again said that there was no need to worry because the climatic conditions of Russia would make it impossible for that country to become a serious rival with Australia in wool production. 1 again refer honorable members to the Yew-Book for evidence on this point. Lt will be seen from the statistics published in that volume that Russia’s wool production since the war has increased by 26.8 per cent., whereas Australia’s production in the same period has increased by only 23 per cent. Japan has also bought Australian stud sheep and is developing the production of wool in Korea and Manchukuo. When comment was made on this it wa3 said, as on other occasions and in relation to other countries, that there was no ‘ need to worry because the climatic conditions would be against the production of high grade wool in those areas, lt seems to me that “ climatic conditions “ have been used as a kind of smoke-screen to hide the activities of certain Australian breeders who have engaged in this business to the detriment of Australia. Recently, Australian stud sheep have been exported to New Zealand, but there is a strong suggestion that the sheep have been sent to New Zealand only temporarily, and that they have later been transshipped to Japan. Since the war New Zealand’s wool production has increased by 34 per cent. as against Australia’s increase of only 23 per cent. It appears, therefore, that the wool production of every country which has improved its flocks by the importations of Australian stud sheep has increased to a considerably greater extent than that of Australia. In the circumstances, it would be desirable for the Government to publish the names of the people who have been principally engaged in this business. We shall then be able to see these gentlemen in their true light. It will not be a sufficient reply for the Minister to say that the bulk of the sheep which have been exported are not merinos, and could have been obtained in other countries than Australia. It will not be enough for the Minister to state that most of these sheep are not merinos, and that similar sheep can be obtained from other countries.
Everybody knows that the Corriedale is a cross-bred merino, and that Corriedale wool commanded top prices at the wool sales of the season just concluded. Of the 455 stud rams exported since the 30th June, at least 250 have been pure merinos. The Corriedale is a hardier sheep, and does much better in Korea and Manchukuo. The Japanese are chiefly interested in the purchase of Corriedales. During the last twelve months no fewer that 119 Corriedale prize rams have been exported to Japan under special licence of this Government. In addition, nearly 4,000 Corriedale ewes have been sent to Japan. It is evident that the Government is encouraging this traffic, which is nothing short of criminal. I have been informed that, on the 1st February, a shipment of 205 Romney Marsh prize rams was made to New Zealand by Mr. E. Tuck, of Tocumwal, and that personal representations for obtaining a permit were made by the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Nock). I wish to be fair to the honorable member in this regard, because he is a former president of the Farmers and Settlers Association, so I shall refrain from further comments until I have heard his explanation.
Senator Guthrie, as is well known in business circles, is closely associated with Dalgety and Company Limited, which handled a considerable number of these shipments as agents. It is further alleged that some of the sheep exported were actually obtained from properties owned by Senator Guthrie. I find that the traffic to New Zealand in sheep, which in many cases were to be reexported, has been handled by the New Zealand Loan and Mercantile Agency Limited and by Dalgety and Company - the two largest British concerns - while the Commonwealth Wool and Produce Company Limited, Winchcombe, Carson Limited, and the Farmers and Graziers Association have all had a hand in the business.
It is strange how the name “ Khancoban “ becomes mixed up with nationalist politics. The Sydney Morning Herald announced last January that Messrs. K. Sohno, of the firm of F, Kanenatsu, T. Yui, a Japanese Government official, and
The New Zealand Loan and Mercantile Agency last April shipped by the Choyo Maru, sailing direct to Korea’, 2,598 Corriedale ewes and 81 stud rams, together with twenty Dorset Horn ewes and three rams. On the Choyo Maru went three Japanese youths, who had been allowed, under special permit, to learn shearing in Australia. The ship also carried portable shearing machines, so_ that all equipment has been provided for the launching of a rival wool industry in Korea and Manchukuo. The present Government, which claims to be interested in the welfare of the graziers, was elected in December, 1931, and the exports of stud sheep in its first year of office jumped to 1,200. These included 56 Corriedale rams and 1,025 merino ewes shipped under licence direct to Japan. In the same year, thirteen merino rains were exported, including one champion stud animal. During the following twelve months the export of Corriedales increased to 3,000, including S3 stud ram3, all of which went to Japan. Unfortunately, 1 have been unable to obtain details of the various shipments, or I should have no compunction in reading out the names of all graziers supplying the sheep, together with those of the agents, financiers, and other parties connected with the transactions. If the Government’s part in the business is above suspicion, I suggest that, the Minister should have no difficulty in supplying this information. I have gathered sufficient evidence to indicate that, contrary to the desire and advice of the Graziers Association, the embargo has been broken down for the benefit of certain parties, including two prominent supporters of the Government in this Parliament.
In connexion with the export of merinos to the Argentine, Mr. N. S. Mackinnon, who, for ten years, has been manager of a station owned by the Southern Argentine Land Company, arrived in Sydney by the Makura a couple of days ago, and, according to the Sydney Morning Herald, stated that there was no further need to import Australian merino studs into Argentina, A sufficient number had been imported to give the breed a good start. A shipment was taken over in 1929 and proved to bo successful. It is evident that, so far as Argentina is concerned, the damage has been already done, because this gentleman is able to inform us politely that thai country can now get along quite well without further supplies of stud stock from Australia.
It must be evident to every thinking person that the need to protect our Australian wool industry was never greater than now. Other countries have increased their production of wheat to such an extent that some of them which formerly imported have now become exporters. Australia is becoming increasingly dependent upon the pastoral industry, so that the Government should take a determined stand, even against the strongest demands of interested parties, to prevent the further export of stud sheep. Far from doing this, however, it seems clear that the Government has connived at the carrying on of this traffic. It is my desire to bring the present position under the notice of the small sheepfarmers, particularly, who are, perhaps, growing a little wool to supplement their meagre incomes from other sources. 1 have no doubt that they will heartily condemn the policy followed by the present Government in this connexion.
.- I rise, not to debate the question whether the export of merino sheep from Australia should be prohibited, but to deal with the charge that the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) has made, of improper pressure having been used by members of Parliament in connexion with an application to the Government for permission to export, from Australia sheep of breeds other than the merino breed. The honorable member particularly mentioned a case in which, according to him, the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Nock) had associated himself with a request for a permit to export a certain number of sheep of the Romney Marsh breed to New Zealand, and suggested that the export of sheep of that breed is a menace to the Australian wool industry. I can tell by the mirth which is displayed by honorable members on all sides that they realize what a childish hallucination that is. I am amazed that any person in New Zealand should wish to procure Romney Marsh sheep from Australia. This breed of sheep comes from the coast of Kent, in England, and in all parts of the world is a hardy type that is suitable for cold, wet, unhealthy country. It is a common breed in Argentina, and the exclusive breed in the Falkland Islands. The Romney Marsh ewe or cross ewe is the basis of more than half the flocks of New Zealand. There are very few flocks of this breed in Australia, and i regard it as a tremendous compliment to one Australian breeder that he should have been able to sell a few sheep of this breed to New Zealand. If there is to ‘be more intense development of the wetter districts of Australia, it will have to be achieved by increasing the flocks of crossbred sheep that have a disease-resisting capacity greater than that of the merino, which is the great dry country breed of sheep, a fact which is accountable for Australia having become the leading country of the world for merino sheep. ‘ As I have said, the development of our wetter districts will have to be carried on by means of the different British and New Zealand breeds, or crosses between those breeds and merino, and we shall have to import those strains. It would be most dangerous to set up the arrogant claim that we have the best sheep of those breeds, because that, might lead to resentment and retaliation in other countries.
As the honorable member for West Sydney has quite rightly said, the Corrie.dales are of a breed which has ‘been evolved in New Zealand by crossing merino with the British Lincoln breed. It is in New Zealand that the largest Corriedale flocks exist to-day. If Australian Corriedale breeders have been, exporting sheep of that breed to New Zealand, it is because at other times they have been supplied with New Zealand blood. The infusion of blood from flocks that are not nearly related gives the breed of both a stimulus which is valuable to the advancement of the flocks in question. It would be simply childish of Australia to think that it could prevent Japan, Argentina, or Russia, from obtaining good Corriedale sheep by prohibiting their purchase in Australia. That is entirely different from ‘ the export of merino sheep, which some years ago the previous Government decided should cease, since when there have been no exports. I do not believe that that position will be affected. I welcome the intention of the Government to confer with the Government of New Zealand in regard to Corriedale sheep. I should like to learn that it is intended to confer with the Government of South Africa in regard to merino sheep. Merinoes are well established in South Africa, and it appears that they can be maintained there. As has been pointed out at different times, there are large areas, particularly in Russia, where merinos would probably do extremely well, and where the improvement of the breed would be greatly accelerated by the introduction of sheep from South Africa, Australia, or the United States of America. While I was in the United States of America, in 1925, I learned that .certain Bolshevik gentlemen were purchasing merino sheep in that country. The number that they bought there was considerably greater than they had attempted to buy in Australia. The American Rambouillet sheep are a good, fine-woolled breed. I welcome the statement that the Minister made some time ago that be is conferring with other British countries to see if a common policy may not be adopted. Rushing in and preventing the export to New Zealand of breeds in which New Zealand is better supplied than Australia would be the worst possible way to arrive at any sort of arrangement that will safeguard the wool industry of Australia in the future. It is simply to show the absurdity of the charge that the two members of Parliament named by the honorable member for West Sydney, had been guilty of improper, biassed, interested, or unpatriotic action, that I have made the facts plain.
.- I consider that the case , which has been made out by the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) demands a full explanation by the Minister for Commerce (Mr. Stewart). The cheap sneers of the honorable member forWakefield (Mr. Hawker), and his picking out of certain breeds of sheep, will not convince the House that all is well. Honorable members want the Minister to explain why there has been any relaxation of the prohibition imposed by the previous Government of the export from Australia of sheep of a breed that will enable foreign countries to become greater competitors than they are with the important Australian sheep industry.
This matter was brought forward by the Minister for Commerce in the Scullin Government (Mr. Parker Moloney), and the prohibition upon the export of stud sheep, except with the permission of the Minister, was imposed by me on the 27th November, . 1929, in my capacity as Assistant Minister for Trade and Customs. The object of the embargo was to protect the Australian sheep man, and its imposition was the result of a widespread agitation among wool producers in Australia to have steps taken to prevent the export of stud merino sheep to Japan, Russia, South Africa and other countries that hoped to become formidable competitors of Australia. For a number of years, Australia held a monopoly in the production of merino wool. South African sheepmen came to Australia periodically and were supplied, not only with the very best stud sheep that could be produced in Australia, but. also with the best technical knowledge that was availableas the result of research. Successive Nationalist Governments had been urged to take steps to prevent the export of our stud sheep, but had declined to do so, and it was not until a month after a Labour government had assumed office that definite action was taken.
In regard to the size of its flocks and the quality and quantity of wool produced, Australia has long occupied the leading position among the sheepraising countries of the world. That is shown by the Y ear-Book of the International Institute of Agriculture, which sets out that Australia has 110,000,000 sheep, the Soviet Republic, 80,000,000; the United States of America, 54,000,000, and South Africa, 48,000,000. Australia has long been pre-eminent among the sheep and wool-producing countries of the world, and it would be a mistaken policy to relax the prohibition against the export of stud sheep. Russia set out to become the greatest woolproducing country of the world, and for a time enjoyed that distinction. At one time its importations were from the United States of America and Germany, and it then turned its attention to Australia. Definite action to prevent exports was, therefore, deemed advisable. I have no objection to offer to the export of Corriedales to New Zealand, because they do not produce the fine wools for which Australia is noted. Moreover, New Zealand is the home of Corriedales. In its issue of the 30th May last, the West Australian, the principal daily newspaper published in Perth, contained a news item to which I direct the attention of the Minister for Commerce. It reads -
Sheep Imported from Australia.
A colonial ministry official, Mr. Kunio Kawamoto, who has returned from Korea, reports that 2,600 sheep imported by the Oriental Development Company, from Sydney, are doing well near the city of Keigen, in the northerntip of Korea, on pastures close to the Tumen River. Only 47 of the sheep died en route. They were landed at the new port of Yuki on May 18, from where they were taken to Keigen. Mr. Kawamoto said that there were prospects of success in the venture, which was part of the Governor-General’s plans to raise wool in the north and cotton in the south.It was expected that the Mongolian sheep industry would soon be outstripped.
I should like the Minister to indicate the breeds that are there referred to, and to state how many merino sheep were ex ported. The honorable member for West Sydney quoted figures to show that 150 pure merino sheep were exported in one shipment, and also mentioned a number of other shipments. The request that honorable members should be definitely advised of the extent to which the export of merino sheep has been allowed, is a reasonable one. According to a Brisbane newspaper, shipment after shipment of stud sheep has been allowed to leave Australia for foreign destinations. To what extent has that been allowed to go on? The great woolproducing industry in Australia last year, fortunately, increased the value of its clip from about £30,000,000 to £58,000,000. It is one of the largest labour employing industries in this country. Every section of the community enjoys some benefit from the prosperity that results from the great increase in the price of wool. We desire to see it continue. We realize that other countries are endeavouring to establish their flocks in order to obviate the necessity for purchasing Australian wool. Everything that can be done to protect our wool industry should therefore be done. The action taken by the last Government, which now has the approval of the Graziers Association, was a step in that direction, and I shall be glad to hear a clear explanation by the Minister as to what the present Government has done to continue the policy of prohibition on exports adopted by the last Government.
– The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) and the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) have suggested that I should supply certain statistical information; but I remind these honorable gentlemen that if the honorable member for West Sydney had extended to me the usual courtesy of advising me that he proposed to move the adjournment of the House in order to discuss this matter, I should have had some information prepared in advance. The Government does not need the stimulus of the honorable member for West Sydney, or that of the Labor Daily or truth, to awaken it to the needs of this, the most important of Australian industries. The Government will leave nothing undone which would tend to preserve such a staple industry. It is only because there is so much uncertainty and contradiction of expert opinion in this matter that final action along the lines sought by the honorable member for West Sydney has not already been taken.
It has been suggested that the present Administration is adopting an attitude which is different from that of its predecessors, from whom the original prohibition emanated. As a matter of fact the proclamation to which reference has been made this afternoon, and which was not, as has been stated, signed by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde), but by the honorable member for
Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton), was not conclusive. It permitted shipments under licence from the Minister for Trade and Customs. That is exactly the position to-day. The present Government is still following, very closely the proclamation and the method adopted by its predecessors in office. One would think, listening to the’ stories told in regard to this matter, that there has been a tremendous exit of stud sheep from Australia to the East and elsewhere. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition has told us about “ shiploads of stud sheep “. There is practically no export of Corriedale sheep tb New Zealand. Only two sheep of that breed have been exported to that dominion since the proclamation was made. Obviously, therefore, we have not much to fear from the export of these sheep to New Zealand, particularly as New Zealand is the home of the Corriedales.
– They originated there.
-i-That is so. Statistics in regard to the export of stud sheep from Australia show how unjustified are the exaggerated statements made this afternoon. The proclamation, which has been in operation for four and a half years, prohibits the export of any stud sheep except under permit from the Minister for Trade and Customs. The policy of this Government is that no permits are given for the export of merino sheep except under very strict certification, which ensures that these sheep are not transhipped to any destination other than that specified in the permit. In respect to merinos, during the four and a half years since the proclamation has been in force there have been exported : - to New Zealand 326 rams, of a total value of £4,068, and 32 ewes, valued at £518; to the New Hebrides, 32 rams, valued at £325; to India, 1 ram, representing a value of £20. The total number of merinos exported from Australia during the last four and a half years is, therefore, 359 rams and 32 ewes, of a total value of £4,931, or an average of £12 each. The exports of Corriedale sheep were as follows: - to New Zealand, two rams, valued at £130; to South Africa, two rams, valued at £21, and eight ewes, valued at £84; to India, three rams, valued at £96; to Japan, 146 rams, valued at £1,459, and 3,958 ewes, valued at £11,753; to the United States of America, two rams, valued at £57, and ten ewes, valued at £50. The total export of Corriedales during the period mentioned was therefore 155 rams and 3,976 ewes, and the average value of all the sheep exported was in the vicinity of £12. It has been suggested that some of the merinos despatched to New Zealand were really intended for transhipment to the East, but I again remind honorable members that no merinos are allowed to leave Australia except under certification satisfactory to the Government as to the bona fides of the shippers. That is the policy of the Government, which has been faced with the difficulty of determining between the conflicting opinions of quite a number of competent authorities.
– Has the Minister the figures of the imports of sheep during the currency of the proclamation?
– I have not the figures ready to my hand. We have probably imported from New Zealand much more than we have exported to that country. Only this morning I received a communication from the Federal Graziers Association urging that the Government should absolutely prohibit the export of merinos, and that it should also extend that policy to the Corriedales. Only a while ago the Federal Graziers Association was not prepared to make a ^commendation of this kind because of Serious differences of opinion among many of its members as to the wisdom of such a course. At the time this recommendation was received, we were already in communication with the New Zealand Government on the matter. It is perfectly obvious that, as far as the Corriedales are concerned, it is quite futile for Australia to take any step that would pretend to preserve us against the utilization of Corriedales bred in other parts of the world so long as purchasers can get supplies from New Zealand. Presumably the only reason why purchasers of this particular breed of sheep come to Australia is because of the transport facilities. Tho Government does not need any stimulating effort on the part of the honorable member for West Sydney, or any other honorable member ; it is pre pared to take all the necessary steps to protect our wool industry. However, it is not prepared to take any action until it has thoroughly established the justification of it.
.- The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley), in moving his motion to discuss this important subject, was good enough to twit the Country party for not having risen to support it. I would remind the honorable member for West Sydney that not one member of the party which I represent knew of the proposal to discuss this subject on an adjournment motion, and it appears to me remarkable that the Minister for Commerce (Mr. Stewart) was not even acquainted with the intention of the honorable member.
– That is only reciprocity. The practice of not notifying other honorable members was established by honorable members of the Country party.
– When I moved a similar motion to discuss ‘ the wool industry I advised the honorable member for West Sydney 24 hours before the meeting of the House of my intention to do so, yet’ not one member of his party rose to support my motion.
– The honorable member did not even vote in support of his own motion.
– The honorable member will recollect that the vote was only on the motion, “ That the question be now put.” However, we should perhaps thank the honorable member for West Sydney for bringing up this matter, because it is of such importance to this Parliament, and to the people generally. The Labor Daily and Truth have given publicity to rumours about the colossal number of stud sheep exported from this country, and therefore the honorable member is to be congratulated upon having given this House an opportunity to correct these rumours. The Minister for Commerce has definitely disposed of the honorable member’s case. We can almost sympathize with the honorable member for West Sydney in bringing this motion before the House, for, although he is able to display tremendous enthusiasm in regard to industrial matters, he is hopelessly at sea in dealing with a subject of this kind. I am sure that if he has brought forward this motion in good faith his information has been quite wrong. The question of the export of stud stock is a very important one, indeed, to the whole of Australia. It will be found that there are very few people who would support any plea that our valuable merino stud stock should be permitted to be exported from this country, and from the remarks of the Minister it can be seen that the Government agrees with that idea, because there have been very few stud, sheep exported, although many applications have been made for permits. There is no danger to Australia of competition from wool grown onsheep exported from this country, and there is very little likelihood of competitive danger in respect of wool from cold countries, which have abundant snow in the winter months. I do not think anything can endanger our monopoly in respect of high-class merino wool. The honorable member for West Sydney gave figures regarding the growth of the wool industry in Russia and other countries; but he did not make clear the classes of wool in which this increased production has occurred. The Russian sheep are coarse-wool sheep, and the wool is really not competitive with the Australian product. Although the figures quoted by the honorable member were unfavorable to Australia in respect of wool production, I would point out that during the last ten years the stud sheep-breeders of this country have increased the yield of wool by at least 1^ lb. per sheep. That is a remarkable accomplishment, considering that some 70 or 80 years ago the average fleece yielded from 4 to 5 lb. of wool. At the present time the average of fleece will yield from 10 to 12 lb. of wool. There appears to be no danger of those engaged in the wool industry losing their place in the sun in the production of high-class wool, nor is there danger of competition from other countries. Australia is blessed with remarkable climatic and country conditions, and in the merino sheep we have evolved one of the most wonderful animals in the history of the world. The animal is hardy, healthy and flourishes with little food and water. No other country can claim to have a class of sheep equal to it. The product of other countries cannot compare at all with the Australian sheep so far as wool values are concerned. It is questionable whether permanent good would arise to Australia from a total embargo of the export of sheep. I am not a stud sheep-breeder, but ‘I am told by the breeders themselves, who, I admit, are interested in this matter, that the curtailment of their sphere of activity has had a serious effect on the quality of the stud stock that they are breeding. I would point out that Great Britain, which is recognized as thu home of the thoroughbred horse, has exported that class of stock for the last 70 years, and that no other country has ever been able to produce an animal approximating the British thoroughbred horse. The same thing applies in Australia with respect to merino sheep. We have a ‘ unique monopoly because of the skill of our stud sheep-breeders, our climatic conditions, and our tyne of country. No other country in the world has similar conditions. In South Africa, which to a certain extent is a rival of Australia, it is difficult to maintain the quality and type of wool which has been successfully produced in Australia. In South Africa the wool is inclined to deteriorate, and has nothing like the clean colour of the Australian wool. The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Reasley) is to be commended for having brought this matter before the House, but honorable members must be satisfied that the question has been adequately dealt with, and that the claims put forward by the honorable member have not been substantiated.
– As this subject has been ably and thoroughly dealt with by my colleague, the Minister for Commerce (Mr. Stewart), the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Hawker), and the honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Abbott), the last two of whom are authorities on sheep, there is no need for me to say much except to state that the responsibility for the imposition of embargoes on stud sheep is the joint responsibility of the Department of Commerce and the Department of Trade and Customs. The Department of Commerce makes investigations, and the Department of Trade and Customs assigns the necessary authority to export. I rise to supply certain statistical information to members of the Opposition, who seem to suffer from memory lapses in respect of the imposition of the embargo. During the regime of the last Government, when the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) was a Minister, there were numerous shipments to various countries, not only of Corriedale sheep, but also of merino sheep. I have a list enumerating fifteen different shipments to Japan and other countries from New South Wales during a period from the 9th April, 1930, to the 3rd December, 1931. During the regime of the last Government those exports were permitted on various applications. The first shipment on the list was to Japan. It is only fair that I should make this information public, because the honorable member for West Sydney named certain honorable members whom he thought might influence the Government, apart altogether from the merits of the matter. The list of shipments made during the regime of the last Government mentions the wool companies, and not the individuals concerned.
– All the particulars are given on the declaration form.
– That form is not given to the Minister, and he is unaware of the name of the owner of the sheep exported, though, undoubtedly, he could obtain the information if he desired. I have no wish to specify the names of the wool firms and the dates of shipment, but the classes of sheep exported were Corriedale, Southdown, Border Leicester and Romney Marsh. There is a divided opinion as to whether stud sheep should be exported or not. The Government has given consideration to the question of making the embargo complete, but prominent breeders and wool firms have stated that there is no harm in exporting Corriedales. The matter was referred to the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, and that body admitted frankly that it was not competent to give a final opinion. Regarding Corriedales, it said, inter aiia -
Through the exportation of pure-bred animals the breed is now established in Australia, Great Britain, the United States of America, Argentina, Patagonia, Japan and elsewhere. It is hoped that these considerations may be of some value in determining the present issue, and without claiming such standing in a matter of this kind as the council might reasonably take on questions of purely scientific research, I would suggest, in conclusion, that there appears nothing very tangible to be gained by the prohibition of export of Corriedales or of Polwarths, while, so far as merinoes are concerned, prohibition is of doubtful value.
In view of the action of the last Government and the lack of specific information from the best authorities on sheep, honorable members would be well advised not to vote for the motion of the honorable member for West Sydney.
– What is the opinion of the Graziers Association?
– That association advocates an embargo upon all stud sheep. The Government is in communication with New Zealand, as Corriedales are being produced in and exported freely from that country, and if New Zealand and other countries consider it wise to impose a complete embargo, Australia might, after mature consideration, act in concert with them.
.- I presume that the action of the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) in raising this matter has been taken a9 the result of the attitude of the Nationalist Government prior to 1929, when stud sheep were exported from this country to South Africa, enabling thatcountry to build up its flock from 19,000,000 to 40,000,000. On the 12th November, 1929, an embargo was placed on the export of stud sheep from this country, but just prior to that a shipment of 4,500 sheep left Sydney for Russia and another shipment of 500 sheep left for South Africa. At the present time the flock . in Japan is not of great dimensions, but if that country is allowed to increase it at the expense of Australia, it will not be long before it becomes a keen competitor of ours. South Africa, over a number of years, increased its flock from 19,000,000 to 45,000,000. From 1925 to 1929, Australia increased its flock by 1,000,000, while South Africa increased its flock by over 7,000,000. The lambing of recent years in South Africa was very low, and I suppose would be half that of Australia. In fact, the lambing in South Africa was not sufficient to make up for the loss on account of drought. The honorable member for “Wakefield (Mr. Hawker) made certain charges against the honorable member for West Sydney, and although he mentioned Romney Marsh sheep which had been exported to New Zealand, he did not mention merino or Corriedale sheep. The wool producers of Australia are opposed to the export of Corriedale sheep, but the big stud breeders brought pressure to bear upon previous national governments to prevent any embargoes being placed on the export of sheep from this country. They cared not what happened to the wool market so long as they themselves were in a favorable position. The honorable member for Wakefield, who smiles, must know that the evidence tendered before the Wool Inquiry Committee shows that South Africa has made big strides in wool production, although as a result of the embargo upon merino sheep from Australia, it has decided to use a good deal of its sheep country for cattle raising. The honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Abbott) said that during the last few years the wool production of this country had increased by 1^ lb. per sheep. If we allow our merino stud sheep to be exported to Russia, South Africa and Japan, it is quite likely that those countries will also increase their production of wool per sheep. ‘Soviet Russia has a flock of over 132,000,000, and Australia a flock of about 104,000,000. In Russia the average clip of wool per sheep is 3 lb.; in Australia it is about 8 lb. If a country like Russia improved the weight of its fleece per sheep as Australia has done the Australian wool industry would be dealt a heavy blow. If South Africa and Japan also did so we should undoubtedly lose a great proportion of our overseas wool market. I was pleased with the explanation made by the Minister for Commerce (Mr. Stewart) on this subject. The Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) said that certain sheep had been exported during the regime of the Scullin Government; but even if that were so in the early part of tho time that that Government was in office, an embargo on such exportations was later imposed. At that time the present Attorney-General (Mr. Latham), the honorable member for Henty (Sir Henry Gullett), and other honorable gentlemen now sitting opposite, protested against the embargo. This subject, the export of sheep, has come into prominence lately in consequence of the publication of certain newspaper articles. A representative of the Truth newspaper stated in an article published in last Sunday’s issue of that journal that he had waited on the Minister for Trade and Customs and obtained an explanation from him that only a few Corriedale sheep had been exported recently to Japan. It is unfortunate that honorable members of this House are not able to obtain such information from the Minister, but must wait until it is dragged out of him by a newspaper representative. It is interesting to learn that even while the High Commissioner for Australia (Mr. Bruce) was recently advocating in Australia the restriction of exports, this Government was permitting the export of stud sheep apparently with complete indifference to the fact that Australia’s wool industry is of the utmost importance. Although we exported last year considerably less wool than in the previous year, our national income from that source increased by £22,000,000. I regret that there has been a drop of from 15 per cent, to 20 per cent, in the price of wool at the most recent wool sales. The prosperity of this country depends to a large extent upon the wool industry and we should do our utmost to protect it. Other nations do their best to retain monopolies of certain lines of production. South Africa, for instance, prohibits the exportation of ostriches in order that it may keep that business in its own hands. I cannot see, therefore, why objection should be taken to Australia prohibiting the exportation of stud sheep.
– Did the honorable member protest when the present Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde), issued permits, while he was Minister for Trade and Customs in the Scullin Government, for the exportation of certain stud sheep ?
– Permits were always refused when it was considered that the exportation would be against the interests of Australia.
– I did not protest on that occasion because I did not know anything about it. We should not have known anything about this business if certain newspaper articles had not drawn attention to it. The Western Australian Worker recently reprinted a paragraph from the Brisbane Daily Standard to the effect that Australian stud sheep had been exported from Australia to Japan as late as the 1st June, 1934. Ministers appear to think that they have a monopoly of such information. At any rate they never release it until it suits their book to do so.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- As I have been a member of the Graziers Federal Council for a number of years, I think it is proper that I should indicate the views of the council on this subject. For several years resolutions have been carried by the Graziers Council approving of the embargo on the export of stud merino sheep from Australia, and at the conference held a few weeks ago a motion was also carried in favour of an embargo on the exportation of Corriedale stud sheep from this country. I should point out, however, that although for some years there has been a majority of the council against the exportation of merino stud sheep, there has never been unanimity. Australia is in a peculiarly fortunate position in regard to the breeding of merino sheep and the production of merino wool. Figures have been quoted to show that our yield of merino wool has increased consistently during the last 70 or 80 years. This increase has occurred, in my opinion, principally because the natural conditions of Australia are suitable for the breeding of merino sheep and the growing of merino wool, although,’ of course, systematic flock improvement has had its place in producing the unproved results. I do not think that it has ever been suggested that much improvement has taken place in our yield in consequence of the importation of stud sheep from other countries. If, therefore, our merino sheep-raisers have been unable to increase their yields without importation from other countries, it seems to me that the raisers of merino sheep in other countries suitable for that purpose may also improve their yield.I do not think that the prohibition of the exportation of merino sheep is likely to prevent other suitable countries from increasing their yield and expanding their wool industry. The people of other countries suitable for merino wool production are, no doubt, just as competent to increase their yields as we have been to increase ours. Reference has been made to the exportation some years ago of a certain number of merino sheep from Australia to Russia. Not many sheep had been exported before the embargo was imposed. The Russian sheep-breeders immediately thereafter sought their requirements in the United States of America and obtained them. When I was travelling in California about eight years ago, I saw many merino sheep which could not be distinguished from Australian sheep of the same breed. We should realize, therefore, that the prohibition of the exportation of merino sheep from Australia will not prevent the people of other countries from obtaining such sheep. Several honorable gentlemen have referred to the number of sheep in Russia. I believe that in 1929 there were about 132,000,000 sheep in that country, but the latest information, conveyed to the Graziers Federal Council a few weeks ago by Mr. Devereux, who had just returned to Australia from London, was that Russia’s flocks had decreased in the last five years from 132,000,000 to less than 50,000,000 due to the slaughtering of the sheep by the peasants for food. In these circumstances, we should not have any reason to fear severe competition from Russia in the near future, even if the sheep of that country were similar to ours, and gave a similar yield, which, of course, is not the case. We should be wise to realize, however, that certain portions of South Africa, California, and North Africa, and also, possibly, parts of Russia, are favorable to the production of wool of a somewhat similar type to that produced in Australia, and that nothing we can do will prevent its production in those places. I do not think that we have any need to fear serious competition from Manchukuo or any other Japanese territory in merino wool production. It has always been recognized that dry climatic conditions are required for the producers of merino wool, and that countries in which snow falls are not suitable for the production of a high-class merino wool. Manchukuo is under snow for a considerable part of the year, and so can never become a serious competitor against Australia in merino wool. The decision of the Graziers Council in favour of an embargo on the exportation of stud merino and Corriedale sheep may, or may not, be wise. There is great difference of opinion among graziers as to whether such an embargo is desirable or can serve any useful purpose. The Corriedale sheep has its foundation in the merino sheep, and originated in New Zealand, and the conditions in the sister dominion are infinitely more suitable for the breeding of that particular class of sheep than are those in Australia. I think, personally, that we are losing a certain amount of revenue by refusing to sell our stud sheep to people overseas who wish to buy them.
.- The subject of the exportation of stud sheep from Australia has been debated by graziers’ associations for as long as I can remember, and, as the honorable member for Grey (Mr. McBride) has said, there is a great difference of opinion among graziers as to whether an embargo on such exportations is desirable or otherwise. It would be interesting to take a ballot .of the whole of the graziers of Australia on tho subject. Until the Scullin Government came into office it had never been possible to secure a majority vote in the Graziers Federal Council in favour of an embargo on the exportation of stud merino sheep from Australia. As to whether such an embargo should be extended to cover the Corriedale sheep, such as have recently been exported to Japan, is an altogether different question. The Corriedale sheep, as has been stated, is of New Zealand origin, having come from what is known as the Levels flock. Practically all the flocks of Corriedales established in this country have been derived from that original New Zealand flock. There are sheep of similar breed in Argentina and the United States of America, and if Japan or any other country wishes to purchase Corriedale sheep from those countries, she is at liberty to do so. Therefore, to prevent the export of Corriedale sheep from Australia would merely impose a hardship on Australian breeders. In any case, in respect of both Corriedales and merinos,
Australian breeders are not likely to export the tops of their flocks. They will sell only the grade sheep. The breeders know just which animals to part with, and which to retain for the improvement of their own flocks. The men in charge of the Corriedale studs go carefully through them from time to time with a view to selecting the best animals for future use. The secret of the improvement of studs lies in the selection of suitable males and females for mating purposes. Many people are of opinion that, if a prize ram costing 5,000 guineas is mated with a well-bred ewe, a high-grade lamb must result. That does not necessarily follow, as breeders are well aware.
The honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Abbott) touched on an important point when he said that climate was the governing factor in the production of high-grade wool. In Australia it is the beautiful sunshine and dry conditions which enable us to produce the best wool in the world. It is well known that the drier the conditions, the better the sheep will be, and the bigger their frames. In France, for instance, the climate in most parts is so wet that merino sheep can be grazed for only two or three hours out of the 24 for fear of contracting foot rot. We have nothing of that kind to contend with in Australia, except in a few of the wetter districts.
While the question of the export of stud sheep was being debated over a period of years by the sheepbreeders, shipments were constantly going out to other countries, such as Argentina and South Africa, so that if any. injury to the Australian wool industry were possible, it has been already done. It was interesting to hear members of the Opposition twitting members of the Country party for their failure to further the interests of the wool industry in this country. Members of the Opposition may rest assured that we shall . at all times do whatever is possible to promote the interests of those engaged in the wool industry, and of those of every other section of the community. I was surprised that the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Gander) did not enter into this debate with great enthusiasm, as I have heard him boast that’ he has more sheep in his electorate than has any other member of this House. He represents Homebush saleyards. I was pleased to observe the interest taken by the honorable member for West Sydney and also the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) in the welfare of the wool producers. If it is important now that the interests of the wool producers should be fostered, it must have been even more important when both those gentlemen were members of a government that permitted the export of stud sheep to Russia. The present Deputy Leader of the Opposition signed a permit for the export of 2,000 ewes to Russia, and it was only when an outcry was raised that the embargo was imposed, and the proclamation issued when the sheep were five miles out at sea.
.- I am surprised at the comparative silence of members of the Country party in connexion with this matter, and their failure to direct pointed attention to what has been going on. Last week, I sought information from the Minister for Customs (Mr. White) regarding the export of stud sheep from Australia, but so far, that information has not been forthcoming. To me the action of the Government in permitting the wholesale export of stud sheep is inexplicable, and is in striking contrast with the statesmanlike policy of the Scullin Government, which placed an embargo on such exports.
– And then granted permits for the export of stud sheep to J apan.
– It is difficult for me to reconcile the Government’s attitude in this regard with its decision to contribute £1,000 for wool research at Leeds. On the one hand it poses as a friend of the wool industry, while on the other, by its apathy and inactivity, it exposes that industry to the very gravest danger.
It is all very well for honorable members of the Country party to jeer at members of the Opposition representing industrial electorates participating in this debate. I do not intend to apologize for my intervention in the debate. I am not speaking as a sheepbreeder or wool-producer, but as a member of the community to whom this matter is of vital importance. I do not represent such exporting firms as Dalgety and Company, Winchcombe, Carson. and
Company, and Goldsbrough Mort, or the New Zealand Mercantile Agency Limited, but I am able to see that if the present policy of unrestricted export is continued, the wool industry of Australia will be faced with the most dangerous competition. We know how successful Japan has been in developing her cotton industry, and how she has cut into the trade of the Lancashire mills. I am opposed to anything which may enable Japan to injure in a similar manner the woollen mills either in Australia or in Yorkshire. There is no doubt that what the Japanese have done in regard to the cotton trade they can, if we permit them, do with wool also. The intention of the Japanese is clear, as is shown by the following quotation taken from the Tanaka Memorial presented to the Emperor of Japan on the 25th July, 1927, in which Japan’s policy in Manchuria was outlined : -
According to tlie careful surveys of the War Department, there are in Inner Mongolia large tracts of land suitable for rice cultivation. After proper development there will be room for at least 20,000,000 of our people. There is, besides, the possibility of turning out 2,000,000 head of cattle which may be transported by railways for food supply, and for purposes of exporting to Europe and America. Wool also is a special product. While the sheep in Japan yield only two catties of wool per head per year, the sheep in Mongolia can yield six catties. The South Manchuria railway has made many experiments, all of which confirm this fact. Besides, the wool is many times better than that of Australia. Its low cost and high quality combined with its abundance in quantity make Mongolia a potential -source of great wealth. When this industry is enhanced by the facilities of railway development, the total production will increase at least tenfold.
I regret that the Government, by its lethargy, is facilitating the efforts of the Japanese to build up a wool-producing industry in Korea, Manchuria and Mongolia. Honorable members have scouted the possibility of danger, saying that the exports amount to no more than a few sheep now and then. I remind them that the Australian wool industry was not established by Macarthur as a result of bringing in whole shiploads of sheep from the Old Country. A few were introduced, and Australia’s flocks have grown from them. We have much to learn from the mistakes of the past, especially in regard to the manner in which Australia has failed to protect and develop her own natural industries. Although wattle is a native of this country we allowed the seeds to be exported to South Africa, with the extraordinary result that our tanners now import the wattle-bark they need from that country. Much the same thing happened in regard to the whaling industry, which we have allowed to be exploited by foreigners.
I was interested to hear the remarks of the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) regarding the part played by Senator Guthrie in the export of stud sheep. I have in my hand a statement issued by Senator Guthrie, in the course of which he says -
Australia’s most valuable asset is her possession of the best merino sheep, producing the most and best wool in the world. The maintenance of these studs is not only essential to the national interest, but they are absolutely essential as the source of supply to the smaller growers, who must get their supply of rams from these high-class, old-established big studs.
Evidently Senator Guthrie fully realizes the importance of our merino flocks to Australia, and yet he is a party to the export of hundreds of stud sheep to Japan. He and others associated with him are rendering a disservice to Australia. There’ are enormous possibilities for development before the wool industry in Japan, and if that country is going to produce her own wool, she will not huy from Australia, a development that will particularly injure the small sheepfarmers. I am glad that this matter has been raised, though it is unfortunate that it had to be done by way of moving the adjournment of the House, because honorable members have thus inadequate time in which to discuss the subject. Apparently the honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Abbott) is satisfied with the explanations given by the Minister for Commerce (Mr. Stewart) and the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White), both of which were incomplete. I shall anxiously await detailed information in reply to questions that I asked last week. It is known that the mattei was referred to the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. The Minister for Trade and Customs brusquely read to the House a couple of paragraphs from the report of Dr. Rivett. That report should be made available to honorable members. Furthermore, the fullest information should be given to the House, so that not only will it have another opportunity to deal with the matter, but, in addition, the people’ of Australia will be fully aware of what is going on. I am anxious that. Australia’s resources should be protected in every way, and would be prepared to follow the example set by England centuries ago, when it prohibited not only the export of sheep and raw wool, but also the importation of one yard of cloth. We should learn to profit from that experience. I trust that the Government will not fail to realize its responsibility in the matter pending the return of another Government that will be prepared to do the proper thing when installed in office within a few months.
.- This debate has served a useful purpose, in that it has drawn attention to the very great value of the merino and all other studs to the wool-growing industry of Australia. The interest and sympathy shown by honorable members opposite is encouraging. The debate has disclosed their realisation of the fact that the very high standard of the Australian woolgrowing industry is largely due to the marvellous work that has been done by Australian stud masters. As the policy of the Labour party has hitherto been strongly in the direction of the burstingup of big studs, it is gratifying to find that the leaders of that party now recognize the necessity for those studs. Many persons are apt to assert that it is impossible to conduct wool-growing operations on small areas. I do not agree with that. It is quite possible to grow excellent wool, and to maintain valuable flocks, on small areas; but it is not possible to produce adequate studs on such areas. A year or two ago I had an experience that illustrates my point. In the company of an expert, I visited one of the biggest and best studs in Australia, with the object of purchasing 20 stud rams. I had the first pick of 200 magnificent rams, but both the expert and I experienced considerable difficulty in obtaining a straight line of 20 rams. That is evidence of the almost impossibility of getting adequate lines of rams in small studs. Therefore, the preservation of our big studs is essential to the welfare of the woolgrowing industry. That honorable members opposite appreciate this fact is most encouraging. The Government is deserving of commendation for having substantially reduced the land tax during the last couple of years. No section of the wool-growing industry has benefited from that action to a greater extent than the stud breeders, because they must have big areas, and, in order to ensure security of tenure, the land must be freehold.
Another question to which I should like to refer is that of a complete embargo on the export of Corriedale sheep. As a member of the Graziers Association I am alarmed at the proposal of the Federal Executive, because in Victoria in particular, as well as in many other parts of Australia, such very great progross has been made in pasture improvement during the last year or two that land which a few years ago was excellent for merinoes is now running three or four sheep to the acre, and merino sheep cannot be satisfactorily run on it. The raising of Corriedale sheep seems to be the solution of our difficulty. In the western district of Victoria three men whom I know have gone in for pasture improvement on a bigger scale this year, and have decided to purchase Corriedale rams. I believe that shortly the demand for this breed of rams will bo colossal. I do not consider that the ‘Corriedale studs in Australia are capable at the moment of producing sufficient to meet requirements. These studs will have to be expanded, and in the process of expansion it is almost certain that New Zealand will have to be drawn upon. Therefore, any action by the Australian Government that might result in retaliatory action on the part of New Zealand would be most dangerous. I am certain that, during the next few years, the demand for Corriedale rams will be increased by from 200 to 300 per cent. At the moment, our Corriedale studs are not sufficiently large, and they will have to draw upon the New Zealand studs for fresh blood. Consequently, a complete embargo upon exports to New Zealand would be dangerous.
.- Although I do not profess to have an intimate knowledge of the sheep-raising industry, I contend that the sale to other countries of the results of the marvellous development that has taken place in Australian wool production, to which the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Fairbairn) has just referred, is nothing short of a national tragedy. At the moment, we are undoubtedly selling the fruits of all the effort and scientific research employed in the sheep-raising industry for over a century, in order to satisfy the desire for financial advancement of certain individuals who, for the time being, happen to be in possession of those results.
The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Collins) has argued that the best of our stud sheep are not being sold. From that statement we can only assume that those who are buying stud sheep to send abroad are absolute fools, in that they are spending thousands of pounds of good money in the purchase of inferior stock. That argument may be brushed aside.
It has also been argued that Japan will not become an active competitor with Australia in the production of wool. We have heard that argument before. We have been told that Australia produces wool of such excellence that no country in the world can compete with it. Yet we know that countries that do not enjoy the climate that we have are actively competing with us. There is another aspect of the matter. The controllers of the textile industry in Great Britain, who, with the Japanese, are at the moment one of the largest buyers of Australia’s wool, are complaining of the’’ competition that is made possible by the starvation wages that are paid in the manufacturing industries of Japan. Australia is now placing Japan in the position of being able to establish a woolgrowing industry, and I have not the slightest doubt that it will apply to wool the cheap labour methods that are being employed in its manufacturing industries. We shall then find Great Britain demanding that we sell our wool more cheaply to Lt in order that it may cope with the competition that is making such inroads on its textile industries. It has been argued that the climatic conditions in other countries are not so suited to the production of wool as they are in Australia. If that be the case, I fail to see why the Minister for Commerce (Mr. Stewart) should have been so voluble about the export of sheep from Australia to Russia during the regime of the Scullin Government. Surely it cannot be contended that the climatic conditions in Russia are on a. par with those in Australia. I am not much concerned about the graziers who, for financial gain, are prepared to sell the results of a hundred years of research. From the point of view of Australia, and of the future prospects of disposing of Australian wool to overseas buyers, the best thing the Government can do is immediately to prevent the export of stud sheep, in order that we may avoid the possibility not only of another foreign country coming into competition with one of our staple industries, but also of enabling it to supply wool to its manufacturing industries and thus make it impossible for us to command for our wool the price that we have enjoyed in the markets of the world.
Mr.PROWSE (Forrest) [4.48].- I am glad that this question has been raised, because the debate has served to inform the minds of honorable members in regard to the wool industry. There is a good deal of reason in the contention that some restriction should be imposed on the export particularly of stud merino rams. The honorable member for Cook (Mr. Riley) considers that a tremendous disservice is done by the sale of our stud stock to other countries. Possibly that is so. But I would point out to the honorable gentleman that he and other honorable members of this House have done Australia a very much greater disservice, and have hurt the wool industry much more, than has the sale of a few stud rams. Other countries would not be so anxious to build up the woollen trade if they had reciprocal trade with Australia. When it is said that other countries buy our wool and wheat, the rejoinder is, “ They cannot help themselves because they can get it nowhere else.” Other countries have been obliged to endeavour to produce their own wool so that they might be independent of Australia. Had we been more reciprocal and less insular in our attitude, they would not have sought to grow wool, but would have preferred to buy it from Australia. They know very well that Australia can produce wool without equal in the world ; but the flocks will decline in stamina in other countries as time goes. on. I do not complain of the restrictions imposed by other countries on Australia. When the price of wool reached a very high level, synthetic material took its place in the manufacture of clothing. The honorable member for Cook referred to the attitude adopted in England over a century ago, when an embargo was placed on the exportation of sheep and raw wool and on the importation of cloth. That had the effect of French retaliation to the detriment of the English mills, and the embargo lost much of its value. Something of the kind is going on now to the detriment of the greatest of our Australian industries.
Question - That the House do now adjourn - put. The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. G. H. Mackay.)
Majority . . . . 32
Question so resolvedin the negative.
The following papers were presented : -
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired at Blacktown, New South Wales - For Postal purposes.
Nauru - Ordinances of 1033 -
No. 11 - Appropriation (Supplemental) 1032.
No. 12 - Nauru Royalty Trust Fund Appropriation (Supplemental) 1932.
Motion (by Mr. Stewart) agreed to -
That he have leave to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Colonial Light Sues Collection Act 1932.
Motion (by Mr. Casey) agreed to -
That he have leave to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Income Tax Assessment Act 1922-33.
Bill brought up by Mr. Casey, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill is a measure designed to simplify the administration and collection of income tax, particularly with regard to shareholders in companies. In 1932, the Government appointed a royal commission, consisting of His Honour Mr. Justice, now Sir David, Ferguson and Mr. E. V. Nixon, to inquire into and report upon the simplification and standardization of the taxation laws of the Commonwealth and the States; and, so far as income tax is concerned, the commission has now completed its inquiry and has furnished its reports. Many of the matters in respect of which reform is advocated necessitate agreement between the Commonwealth and State Governments if the uniformity so greatly desired is to be. achieved. To this end, conferences of the Commonwealth and State Commissioners of Taxation were held in Melbourne and Canberra during the last month or so, and the commissioners are now placing the result of their deliberations before their respective governments for consideration. It is hoped that, following a further conference, a substantial agreement will be reached in order that, as soon thereafter as possible, all the governments may proceed to pass legislation necessary to bring about complete uniformity.
This bill deals with matters which affect principally the Commonwealth system of taxation, which differs from that of all the States except New South “Wales, with regard to the method of taxing distributions of profits by companies.
While the royal commission recommends the continuance of this system by the Commonwealth, it does not advocate its adoption by any of the State Governments, so that there is no need for the Commonwealth Government to await agreement by the States before proceeding with the urgently-required reforms in respect of the manner of assessment of dividends.
The main complication associated with these problems is what is known as the calculation of “ rebates “. These are of two main kinds, known respectively as “ income rebates “ and “ tax rebates “. The calculation of these rebates is under the present law so complicated that it has become impossible for shareholders in companies to check their assessments upon dividends, and the department is unable to supply them with the information necessary for that purpose, even if it would . avail them anything to have it, because it would involve divulging the affairs of the company which is forbidden by the law. In paragraph 82 (page 15) of its first report the royal commission states: -
The evidence we have quoted justifies the conclusion that under the existing system the taxpayer is irritated by receiving a complicated assessment which he cannot check or understand; that it imposes upon the department a task which is growing more burdensome year by year, and that the time is fast approaching when it must break down under its own weight.
The calculation of the “ income rebate” is the determination of the portion of a dividend to be included in the assessable income of a shareholder when the dividend is paid partly out of profits of a company which are taxable in his hands and partly out of profits which are not. This determination involves a detailed examination not only of the fund of current profits out of which a dividend is paid, but also in many instances, of reserves accumulated over many years ; and for this purpose a permanent record must be kept by the department of the character of the particular profits taken to these reserves. After making its calculations, the department arrives at a conclusion that a certain percentage of the dividend is assessable income to each shareholder, and assesses him accordingly. But the shareholder is usually quite unable to ascertain whether the amount upon which he is assessed is correct or not. It is obvious that there are only two ways by which this problem can be met, viz., (a) by including the whole of a dividend in the assessable income of a shareholder, or (b) by wholly excluding dividends from assessable income. The recommendation of the commission is that, subject to certain specified exceptions, the whole of a dividend should be included in the assessable income of a shareholder.
The view of the royal commission in this respect may be read on pages 16 and 17 of its first report, in the course of which it quotes, in support of those views, the opinion of the British royal commission of 1920. The commission, however, concedes that there are certain types of profit which a company should be permitted to distribute to its shareholders without involving them in liability for income tax provided that the distribution is made wholly and exclusively out of such profits. These are, as set out on pages 17 and18 of the first report, as follow : -
To these suggestions, the Government has decided to add -
This extension of the exemption will permit a company which derives profits from sources outside Australia, and which pays tax outside Australia upon these profits, to pay a dividend wholly and exclusively out of those profits without involving its shareholders in liability to Australian income tax upon the dividend. The limiting of exemption to dividends paid wholly and exclusively out of the specified profits or income gets away from the problem of income rebate calculations, for it means that dividends are either wholly assessable or wholly exempt. The present problem of calculating the exempt portion of a dividend disappears. At the same time, it leaves it in the hands of companies, if they think fit, to retain to their shareholders a large measure of the exemption granted by the existing law by declaring special dividends out of the specified exempt profits. The bill provides that in future the liability of a shareholder shall be the same whether he receives a distribution from a company in cash or in. shares with the minor exceptions that a distribution made out of profit avising from the revaluation of assets or from the issue of shares at a premium shall, if paid in cash - which is an unlikely contingency-be included in the assessment of a shareholder but shall, if paid in shares, be exempt.
As regards all forms of distributions made by a company before this legislation becomes law, the bill provides that they shall be included in the assessment of shareholders only to the same extent as they would have been included if the present form of thelaw had continued to operate.
The second form of rebate previously referred to - the tax rebate - is, under the present law, productive of the greatest complications of all. To make the necessary calculations necessitates the dissection of a fund out of which a dividend is paid by a company in order to ascertain what rate of tax, if any, has been paid by the company upon the various parts of that fund. The table on page 12 of the first report of the commission shows the varying rates of tax to which companies have been in the past liable upon profits which may still be available in their hands for distribution to shareholders, while appendix 2 of that report shows in a striking manner the complications which occurred in an actual case which has been taken as an example. These complications must continue so long as the law requires the “ tax rebate “ to be calculated with regard to the actual rate of tax paid by a company upon the profits which it distributes. The solution recommended by the commission, which the Government has adopted in this bill, is that the tax rebate should be calculated in all cases with regard to the rate of tax payable by a company for the financial year for which the shareholder is assessed. The actual tax rebate to be granted will then be at the lesser of the following rates, viz. : -
The large majority of shareholders in companies will not be affected in any way by this proposal, except that their assessments will be on a basis which they can understand and check. At the present time, because their rate of tax upon income from property is less than Ls. in the £1 they obtain a tax rebate at their own rate of tax. They will continue to obtain a rebate at that rate of tax. Certain large shareholders whose rate of tax exceeds ls. in the £1 will, however, be limited to a rebate of ls. in the £1, whereas under the existing law they might obtain a higher rebate if a dividend was received out of profits of a past year upon which the company had paid tax at a rate greater than ls. in the £1. It must, however, be borne in mind that this disability relates only to dividends out of “ old “ profits and, so far as distributions out of current profits of a company are concerned, these shareholders will be in no worse position, as regards the “tax rebate “ allowable than they would be under the existing law.
As a further part of the scheme of simplification, the bill provides, following the recommendation of the commission, for an altered method of allocating deductions to different classes of income. Under the present law, the classification of deductions is between two classes only - income from property and income from personal exertion. Where the assessable income of a person includes dividends and there are certain allowable deductions which relate to his income from property generally, it is now necessary to apportion those deductions to ascertain what part of the dividends is included in his taxable income. This is necessary for the calculation of the “ tax rebate “. The bill provides for three classes of income to be considered, viz., income from personal exertion, income from property (other than dividends) and income from dividends, and that any deduction which cannot be directly attributed to any one of those classes should be made - in the first place from income from personal exertion; next, if there is any balance left, from income from property other than dividends ; and, if any part of the deductions then remains, that it should be deducted from income from dividends. By this means, the necessity for apportionment of deductions of this kind - usually referred to as “ concessional “ deductions - will be avoided.
Practically the same difficulty is experienced under the present law in connexion with what is known as the “ statutory exemption “. Under the present law, a diminishing deduction of £250 is given to a taxpayer if his income is wholly from personal exertion. This vanishes when the net income reaches £750. Where the income is wholly from property the deduction is a diminishing amount of £200, which vanishes when the income reaches £600. Where the income is partly from one source and partly from the other the taxpayer obtains, by a complicated method, a portion of each deduction if his net income does not exceed the maximum amount at which the deductions vanish. When the amount allowable is ascertained and the income includes dividends an apportionment is necessary to determine, for the calculation of the “ tax rebate “, what part of the dividends is included in the taxable income. To overcome this problem, the commission has recommended that the statutory exemption should be the same for all classes of income and that the deduction allowable should, when ascertained, be set off - first, against income from property other than dividends; then, if there is any balance, against income from dividends, and finally, against income from personal exertion. The Government is impressed with the necessity for the simplification of these complications and has given effect in the bill to the recommendations of the commission. This has involved consideration of the figure at which the diminishing exemption should be fixed. The Government decided that it would not reduce the exemption of £250 now given in respect of personal exertion income and the only alternative possible was to increase that given in respect of income from property to that figure. In adopting this course, the Government has merely reverted to the position of equality which existed prior to the financial year 1930-31, except that the maximum deduction for all classes of income is now £250 instead of £300 as it then was.
– The rate of disappearing will be thesame in each case?
– Yes ; £1 to every £2.
The next provision of the bill seeks to alter the method of dealing with the insufficient distribution of profits by private companies. It is necessary to provide some means of dealing with this subject in order to prevent the avoidance of the graduated rate of tax payable by individual shareholders. Such an evasion or avoidance of taxation could be brought about in the absence of a provision of the nature now under notice, simply by a company refraining from distributing profits or making only a small distribution of them. If a company adopted cither of those two courses it would have to pay income tax only at the company rate of1s. in the £ and would thus have an unfair advantage over other companies which did not resort to such tactics, or over competitive individuals or partnerships to whom the individual rate applies. The scheme of the present law is that companies must distribute two-thirds of their profits or pay the tax that would be payable by individual shareholders if a distribution of two-thirds of such profits had been made.
– Is it at present permissible for a company to put one-third of its profits into a reserve fund without taxation ?
– -The scheme of the present law is that a company shall either distribute two-thirds of its profits or pay tax amounting to what would have been payable by the shareholders if a distribution of two-thirds of the profits had been made. This basic principle is being retained in the amended provisions. I point out that this provision will apply in the future, as it has applied in the past, only to private companies with a limited number of shareholders. In the case of such companies the Commissioner may at present, if he deems that an insufficient amount of profit has been distributed, cause an investigation to be made in order to satisfy himself either that two-thirds of the distributable profits have been distributed, or that taxation is paid on such profits by the company at the rate which the shareholders individually would have paid if the profits had been distributed. The new provisions in this bill are based upon the recommendations of the royal commission on taxation which, in turn, are based upon the British system, concerning which the commission made a favourable report. Of course, these new provisions, although based on the British law, contain such modifications as are necessary to meet our own particular situation. At present the law is applicable theoretically to all types of companies, but it has been applied in practice only to what are known as private companies. There are several very good reasons why these provisions have not been applied to public companies. The three main considerations have been: - first, that public companies are not usually in a position to resist the pressure of shareholders to bring about the distribution of a fair proportion of the profits made each year; secondly, that the taxation department has arrived at the conclusion that in the vast majority of cases no extra tax will be collectable even if an attempt were made to apply the provision to public companies - and with this conclusion the commission agrees; and, thirdly, that the expense of attempting to apply the provisions of section 21 to public companies would cause a tremendous increase of expenditure on the part of the department, without yielding any relatively large amount of revenue. In other words, it would not be good business on the part of the department to attempt to apply these provisions to big public companies. The subject has been investigated many times by the Taxation Commissioner, because it has been an obvious point of criticism that the provisions have been applied only to private companies and not to public companies. The Commissioner is always keen to exploit every possible source of revenue, but he and his predecessors in office have realised that the cost of attempting to collect revenue under these provisions from big public companies would not be recompensed by the revenue received. The bill, therefore, provides that the application of these particular provisions shall be restricted, to private companies, and the definition in the bill of “private company “ is quite clear. In the future these provisions will be applied automatically to private companies unless twothirds of their distributable income has been distributed. The “ distributable income “ is the taxable income of the company less any income taxes paid in the year for which the company has not obtained a deduction in arriving at its taxable income. At present, the Taxation Commissioner has a discretion in connexion with the application of the section, but it has been exercised only on very rare occasions. It is felt that in the circumstances, the discretion should be removed, for it creates a feeling of uncertainty in the minds of shareholders in private companies, and causes them frequently to apply for the exercise of the power in circumstances in which its exercise would not be justifiable. The existence of the discretion involves the department in a considerable amount of correspondence for a benefit to the taxpayers that is really insignificant. It has, however, been provided in the bill that if in any year a private company distributes less than two- thirds of its distributable income, it will be given credit for .any distributions that it may have made in the preceding four years in excess of two-thirds of the distributable income of those years. This provision will remove anomalies that arise in the application of the present law.
– “Will such credit be given irrespective of the rate of tax that the company may have paid in the years involved ?
– I believe that that is so ; but if the right honorable member will raise the point when the bill is in committee, I shall give him specific information in regard to it. The bill goes somewhat further in respect of these private companies by its provisions to prevent the evasion of tax by the formation of holding companies, interlocking companies, investment companies and property companies of the type that fall within the description of “ private companies.” Under certain specific conditions the provisions that -I have mentioned will apply to such companies unless the whole of their income has been distributed to shareholders. If honorable members desire further information on this point, they will find reference to it in paragraphs 118 to 121 of the third report of the royal commission.
Other provisions of the bill in this general connexion deal with distributions of income by private companies disguised as loans, advances, payments as remuneration to directors or shareholders, or their relatives and other payments on their behalf or for their ‘benefit. Another amendment of some consequence has relation to the time when the “ assumed distribution “ of distributable income is deemed to have been made. It is not possible under the present law, in consequence ‘of certain High Court judgments, to make an assessment upon a company under section 21 until approximately two years after the close of the year in which the company has derived its income. It is now being provided that the “ assumed distribution “ of distributable income shall be deemed to have been made on the last day of the accounting period in which that income was derived by the company. This provision will prevent delays which now take place that are irritating and vexations to all concerned, and which prevent a company from speedily ascertaining its position in regard to the taxes payable in respect of its income for any year.
The whole of the matters with which I have dealt so far arise, with one minor exception, from the recommendations of the royal commission. But the bill also deals with one other subject which is not referred to in the reports of the commission. Provision is made to deal with reductions of assessments and to clothe the commissioner with power to reduce an assessment after the expiration of three years from the date when the tax payable on the assessment was originally due and payable, if, within that period, the taxpayer has applied for a reduction of his assessment and has supplied the commissioner with all the information necessary to enable the application to be determined. As the law stands at present, if, because of congestion of work, or for any other reason, the commissioner is unable actually to make the reduction within the three-year period, he has no power to make it afterwards, and so the taxpayer may be adversely affected. The new provision in the bill will give the commissioner power to make a re-assessment at any time after the three-year period if all the information necessary to do so has been supplied by the taxpayer within that period.
The amendments proposed in this bill will, if agreed to, apply to the assessments for the financial year commencing on the 1st July, 1934, except that relating to reduction of assessments, which, if agreed to, will apply to an assessment for any financial year provided that the necessary conditions apply.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Scullin) adjourned.
Notice of motion, No. 3 (Mr. Casey’s) - by leave - withdrawn.
Thathe have leave to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act 1908-1933.
.- I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
On the 17th August, 1922, the Commonwealth Government entered into an agreement with the South Australian Government under which that State, through the State Bank of South Australia, was to provide homes for returned soldiers and others eligible under the War Service Homes Act, all loans to be made under State legislation. The Commonwealth agreed to provide the necessary finance, which the State undertook to liquidate by paying to the commissioner the principal repaid by purchasers each month. The State, however, was required to pay interest at the rate charged purchasers on the total of the advances outstanding which had been made by the Commonwealth, whether or notsuch interest had been paid by purchasers. The effect of this provision was that the State, owing to purchasers being unable to meet their obligations through unemployment, &c., found itself called upon to withdraw funds from revenue to. supplement the interest short-paid by purchasers.
Subsequent to the agreement coming into force, a High Court judgment made it clear that agreements between governments similar to that with South Australia required ratification by the respective Parliaments in order to give them validity. The South Australian agreement was not ratified by the Parliaments, and for some time the State has represented that it is not reasonable to expect it to shoulder the heavy liability the agreement imposes, more particularly as neither party contemplated such a position arising at the time the agreement was entered into. The Commonwealth Government has given close consideration to this matter, and, having regard to all the facts, and the difficult financial position existing in South Australia, it has decided to release the State from the present agreement by arranging for the transfer of the homes to the War Service Homes Commissioner, who will in future control this activity in South Australia. The formal agreement between the State and the Commonwealth which gives effect to this proposal is embodied in the bill.
In submitting the measure for the approval of the House, I point out that the termination of the agreements with the Agricultural Bank, Tasmania, and the Victorian State Savings Bank, has enabled the commission to make a saving in administrative expenditure of £13,000 per annum, while the reduction in the renumeration payable to the Western Australian Government, which it was agreed should commence on 1st January, 1934, will achieve a further saving of £4,000 per annum. It is anticipated that the transfer of the homes in South Australia to the control of the commissioner will bring about an additional saving in the vicinity of £4,000 per annum, making a total saving of £21,000 per annum.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Makin), adjourned.
Consideration resumed from the 4th July (vide page 212), on motion by Mr. Perkins -
That the House of Representatives approves of the distribution of the State of South Australia into electoral divisions as proposed by Messrs. G. P. Howie, J. H. McNamara and G. E. Willson, Commissioners for the purpose of distributing the said State into divisions, in their report laid before Parliament on the 28th day of June,1934, and that the names of the divisions suggested in the report be adopted.
On which Dr. Earle Page had moved by way of amendment -
That all the words after “That” be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words: - “ consideration of the approval of the distribution as proposed be postponed pending an amendment of section ten of the Representation Act 1905 by omitting therefrom all words after ‘ division ‘ and inserting in their stead the following words : - in the case of a State having ten or more members there is a remainder greater than one-half of the quota, one more member shall be chosen in the State, and, in the case of a State having less than ten members, there is a remainder greater than 3 of the quota, one more member shall be chosen in the State ‘ “.
Question - That the words proposed to be omitted (Dr. Earle Page’s amendment) stand part of the motion - put. The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. G. H. Mack ay.)
Majority . . 18
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
– by leave - I move -
That the House of Representatives approves of the distribution of the State of Queensland into Electoral Divisions, as proposed by Messrs. J. E. Stewart, J. P. Harvey and R. Anthony, the Commissioners appointed for the purpose of distributing the said State into divisions, in their reportlaidbefore Parliament on the 28th day of June, 1934; and that the names of the divisions suggested in the report be adopted, with the exception that the name “ Griffith “ be substituted for the name “ Oxley “.
Immediately prior to the proposed redistribution, the enrolment in each division was as under -
The number of electors in each of the proposed divisions and the relation of the number, in each case, to the quota is shown as follows: -
.- For reasons that were recognized by the commission, I realize that it is necessary for the Oxley electorate to be renamed. At present, the town, as well as the State and municipal electorates of Oxley, are at one end of the Oxley federal division. Not all of the State and municipal subdivisions of that name, even under the present distribution, are included in the federal division of Oxley; consequently, that name causes much confusion. Many electors who are in the federal division of Oxley are not aware of that fact because they reside in Bulimba or Buranda; while on the other hand, persons who reside in certain portions of the State or municipal electorate of Oxley at, for example, Sunnybank or Salisbury, which are in the Moreton electorate, believe that they are in; the Oxley federal division. The redistribution has made the position much more difficult. Under it, the town of Oxley will be approximately 5 miles beyond the nearest boundary of the federal division, and the whole of the State and municipal electorates of Oxley also will be outside of it. In these circumstances, I recognize the necessity for the alteration of the name. Within the 30 days during which any person might approach the commission and make recommendations in response to its first suggestions, I pointed out to the .Chief Electoral Officer the need for the alteration of the name. From the report that has been sent to the Minister, I understand that the commission held that opinion. My first suggestion was that the federal electorate should be called South Brisbane; but the commission decided that, as there was a State electorate of that name, they would recommend the name, “ Brisbane South “. Doubtless, a kindly thought has prompted the idea that electorates should be named after men who have been prominent in the life of Australia. The new names, however, are not nearly so euphonious as those that were previously employed. In Canberra itself the people prefer to call different suburbs by their old names instead of by the new ones that have been given to them. The suburb of Manuka was renamed Griffith, yet the great majority of the population persists in calling it Manuka. I believe that men who have done great work for Australia may be best remembered by considering their achievements. I have no desire to detract from the late Sir Samuel Griffith’s work as a statesman, nor. from his remarkable ability as a jurist. It has been said that all of us have a kind of shadowy immortality, that we live afterwards in the thoughts that we have spread and in the deeds that we have done in the community. According to Shakespeare, “ The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones “. Instead of naming electorates or places after the great citizens of the nation, the better course would be to treat them more fairly while they are alive and give them the credit to which they are entitled. We are approaching an election campaign, and the press will bitterly attack all parties. We are prepared for fair criticism. It frequently happens, however, that our great leaders, while on this earth, are unfairly criticized. If men are vilified while alive, it is not of much use to praise them when they are dead. I understand that a suggestion in regard to the Oxley electorate was that it should be named “Fisher”. While the purpose may be a good one, it would have been better had the late Mr. Fisher received fair treatment from the antiLabour press while he was on this earth. Public men generally are entitled to more charity than they receive. After they are dead it is too late to make a tardy recompense by calling electorates after them. The name recommended by the commission for the Oxley electorate is better than that proposed by the Government. It is a large city electorate; after Brisbane, it is the premier electorate of Queensland. There are now two electorates in the City of Brisbane. The division of Brisbane is on the north side of the river, and the division of Oxley comprises the whole of the city on the south side of the river. With every future redistribution, Oxley must approach nearer to the centre of the city, and with a view to showing its importance as a city electorate, the recommendation of the commission should be adopted. I, therefore, move -
That the word “Griffith” be omitted, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “Brisbane South”.
– Briefly, what prompted the Government to change the name from “Oxley” to “Griffith” instead of to “ Brisbane South “ was that it desired, uniformly in all the States, to do what it could to perpetuate the names of the great men who have played a prominent part in the federation. Electorates have already been named Forrest, Reid, Parkes, and Barton. It is proposed to rename the South Sydney electorate because it does not now include the area generally known as South Sydney, and to call it “ Watson “, so as to perpetuate the name of the first Labour Prime Minister of the Commonwealth, while it is proposed to name a new electorate in Victoria “ Deakin “ in memory of the famous statesman of that name. In Queensland the names of two great men might have been chosen - that of the late Sir Samuel Griffith, who played a wonderful part in the framing of the Constitution, who was one of the greatest jurists Australia has had, and who was the first Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia; and that of the late Mr. Andrew Fisher, the only Queenslander who has occupied the high position of Prime Minister of the Commonwealth. I agree with the honorable member for Oxley that confusion might possibly arise if a change were not made; but the Oxley division is a very long distance from the area that was represented by Mr. Fisher.
– Why not re-name Wide Bay?
– At present, it is well named and well known, and does not conflict with State or municipal areas.
– And well represented.
– I agree with the honorable member. Queensland is only a small percentage short of the population which would entitle it to an additional member. When it attains to that position, doubtless the redistribution of Queensland electorates might permit of a portion of the division of Wide Bay being included in a new electorate, which might be named “ Fisher “. “The name “ Brisbane South “ has been recom- mended by the commission, but its adoption would probably cause confusion, because already there is the State electorate of South ‘Brisbane. Such confusion is obviated by the choice of “ Griffith “, by which, in addition, a tribute is paid to a great Queenslander who did valuable work for the Commonwealth. I can see no objection to the name of this great man being perpetuated in this way, more particularly as it is becoming the practice in the States to honour in this manner men who have left their mark on past generations. I have already indicated that under this redistribution scheme the Government proposes to honour in this way the memory of Deakin and Watson, and other great Australians playing a conspicuous part in the history of Australia. I hope that the House will agree to add to .this list the name Griffith.
– The Electoral Commission on the whole has done its work well, and has endeavoured to comply with the provisions of the Electoral Act. The only criticism T hare to offer in regard to the distribution as it affects the electorate which I represent is in regard to the omission from it of the Pittsworth subdivision. Everybody knows that that subdivision has been an integral part of my electorate since the establishment of federation. From the point of view of community of interest, means of com munication, physical features, and State electoral boundaries, it is ‘an integral part of the Darling Downs. Its geographical situation renders its inclusion in the electorate of Darling Downs essential. But notwithstanding the objections made under the act, the commission has come to the decision that it cannot at present be incorporated within the confines of that electorate. It will not be long before Queensland will be entitled to another member, and I desire to place these views on record so that a future commission may pay regard to these considerations. In regard to the naming of the electorates it is particularly appropriate that we should honour one whose long association with the federation earned for him some public recognition in this way. The time has not yet come to adorn the Federal Capital with statues of men who distinguished themselves in the early days of federation, but we should endeavour to keep their names fresh in the minds of the people. As time goes on, we shall see their work in historical perspective, and shall be able to form a better opinion of it. I support th.c name as proposed.
.- I think it is a pity to change the name of the Oxley division. This is a matter which affects not only Queenslanders but other Australians as well. Queensland was not established as a colony when Oxley discovered the Brisbane river. His name has been perpetuated by the Commonwealth and the State itself for his great services to Australia as an explorer. Other opportunities will present themselves to honour and perpetuate the name Griffith.
.- I am unable to agree with the proposal to substitute the name Griffith for Oxley. Oxley was one of the* great explorers of this continent. His explorations led to the development of Queensland. Griffith, on the other hand, attained fame as the Chief Justice of a continent. I propose to read, for the information of honorable members, the following quotation from the Australian Encyclopaedia in regard to the life of John Oxley: -
Oxley. John (1781-1828), born in Yorkshire in 1 781. entered the Navy as a lad and reached Australia in H.M.S. Buffalo in 1802 as actinglieutenant … In 1804 he helped Robbins to survey Western Port, and on the 1 8th March, 1805, was given his commission as lieutenant without examination , . . He again relumed to England in 18.10, but on the recommendation of Matthew Flinders was in July. 1811, appointed surveyor-general of New South Wales, and reached Sydney on the 1st January, 1812 . . . Macquarie employed him very actively beyond the Blue Mountains, where, in 1815, he planned the town of Bathurst . . . In 1S23 he was sent north along the coast to look for a new penal settlement site, and in the course of his voyage discovered the Brisbane river. In June, 1825, he commenced a survey of tho settled districts of the colony into counties and parishes, and was still engaged on this work when he died at Kirkham on the 20th May, 1828.
Griffith was, as I have said, Chief Justice of a whole continent. Never before had any man been able to claim that great honour. It is stated that he received something like a total of £100,000 for his services to Queensland and as Chief Justice. When he accepted the position of Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia, no provision wag. made for a pension upon his retirement. I have always held that there should be only one rate of pensiona sum sufficient for any man or woman to live upon in his or her declining years. Therefore honorable members can understand how I feel towards this man who drew from the public purse such a large sum of money. I opposed the granting of his pension. Had he lost his money by some unfortunate speculation I should have voted a pension for him. He was the only legislator in Australia to do anything really great in literature. His translation into vernacular English of the works of that great Italian poet, Dante Alighieri, placed him amongst the world’s literary masters. However, while I pay that tribute to him, I must express my resentment at the way in which he held out his hand for a pension. Following upon the granting of this pension, I approached the Hon. W. A. Watt, the Acting Prime Minister of the day. That gentleman suggested that I should preset) t my claim to the Commissioner of Pensions, but what I wanted was to have a special act passed granting me the same pension as was given to Sir Samuel Griffith, because I intended to give to some deserving charity all that exceeded the amount of pension which, as I have previously said, should be not more than is sufficient to enable any man or woman to live upon in his or her declining years.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
– When I requested the then Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) to give me the same opportunity to obtain a large pension as was given to Sir Samuel Griffith, I had determined, had my request been successful, to devote the sum to charity; but it was not to be. I never thought that I should receive so many letters from people in all parts of Australia, stating that if I were entitled to receive a pension similar to that given to Sir Samuel Griffith, why should not they have the same privilege, and I can assure honorable members that I had great difficulty in answering them. Had I to decide between the name of a late Chief Justice and that of the explorer who discovered the Brisbane River, in . respect of this electorate, I should certainly prefer the name of the explorer. I seriously suggest to the Government that as we are soon to have an election, we should allow the people themselves to decide the name of this constituency. That could be done at little expense, and no more than a simple printed question need be submitted to the Queensland citizen for his or her decision. The people elect their representatives to this Parliament once in every three years. They are the creators of the Parliament. God himself has never created anything His equal or superior, yet the citizens of this country who are our creators allow us to make ourselves even more powerful than they are. I therefore suggest that the people of Queensland themselves,, should decide the name of this electorate.
– I quite realize that the commissioners in their endeavour to bring about a reasonable division of a State are faced with considerable difficulty, and I agreethat those electors who are excluded from an electorate in which they have previously voted naturally regret their separation from old associations. I know that in the Wide Bay electorate I am losing under the redistribution some 9,000 constituents with whom I have been associated during the whole of my political life. I much regret that, and I appreciate the desire of those electors to* remain in the Wide Bay electorate, but I believe at the same time that other electors who are now being included in my constituency have a very good reputation. The commissioners make their recommendation after consideration of the protests lodged with them, and our only course is to support the proposed redistribution. I have listened with interest to the objection raised by the honorable member for Oxley (Mr. Baker), and personally I am sorry that any action was taken to change the name of the Oxley electorate. In Queensland, the highest respect is paid to the memory of Oxley, and his name is perpetuated on both Federal and State electoral maps. The City of Brisbane has, on more than one occasion, marked its appreciation of his’ explorations. I understand from the honorable member for Oxley that, at present some confusion exists because of the fact that there is also a State electorate of Oxley. That, of course, is sufficient reason for changing the name of the federal electorate, but I do not support the contention of the honorable member that the Oxley electorate should be called cither Brisbane South or South Brisbane. I consider that many more appropriate names than that could be applied to an electorate which extends far beyond the bounds of the City of Brisbane. I am, therefore, inclined to support the suggestion that the electorate should be named Griffith. At the same time, I regret that the name of Oxley cannot be retained.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
– by leave - I move -
That the House of Representatives approves of the distribution of the State of New South Wales into electoral divisions as proposed by Messrs. V. F. Turner, H. B. Mathews, and C. H. U. Todd, the Commissioners appointed for the purpose of distributing the said State into divisions, in their report laid before Parliament on the 28th day of June, 1934; and that the names of the divisions, including the substitution of the name “Watson” for the name “ South Sydney “, suggested in the report be adopted.
The following shows the enrolment in each division in New South Wales immediately prior to the proposed redistri bution and the relation of the enrolment to quota: -
The enrolment for West Sydney is 36,912, and for Darling, 42,496, as against Reid, 77,484; Parramatta, 73,521; Barton, 73,309; and Martin, 69,766, and in no less than eleven divisions the enrolment varies from the quota to an extent of more than 8,000.
.- I wish to protest against the manner in which the proposed electoral distribution, particularly of the northern part of New South Wales, has been effected. Although the commissioners sent notices to shire councils and displayed advertisements asking people to forward, within a certain period, objections to proposed divisions of electorates, those objections, when lodged, were entirely disregarded. The same thing happened on a previous occasion. In my electorate community of interest has been absolutely disregarded by the commission. Both farming and mining interests are being included in one division. It is proposed to leave in the Newcastle electorate the farming community on the northern side, and to take in on the south a mining subdivision near the city of Newcastle. Surely such a proposal does not carry out the true spirit of the act, which provides for consideration being given to community of interest. In this instance the commission made its recommendations without a knowledge of local conditions and without taking State electoral boundaries into consideration. My main objection to the proposal is based on the fact that the commissioners disregarded the protests of shire councils and others which were submitted to them on their own invitation. If we are anxious, to carry out the true spirit of the act, we should instruct the commission to review its recommendations with the object of making them more in accord with the electoral law.
.- So far as the redistribution is concerned, I think that the commission should be congratulated upon having given careful consideration to the lines of communication, community of interest and other essential matters. But the specific matter to which- I wish to draw the attention of the Government is the type of map used for display purposes at public places where objections were invited. The maps on view at the post offices and other public places displayed a maS3 of large black-typed names which meant nothing to the average citizen. It would almost require a magnifying glass to discover the name of any important town. The maps were nothing but a conglomeration of the names of parishes which are unknown to most people. I suggest that in future the Government, ensure the use of a map which will be of some service to the average elector when called upon to view it at a post office or some other public place. It would take any honorable member some considerable time and close study to find on the map supplied to him the names of the more important towns in his electorate. The map of my own electorate, as supplied to me, was obsolete, and displayed names which have not been in use since I was a schoolboy. Even railway lines, which have been constructed for many years were not shown. The Government should give a defi nite instruction to the electoral authorities that in future . an up-to-date map which can be clearly understood by the average elector should be used for display purposes, and that these useless and meaningless names which represent parishes should be deleted.
.- I do not intend to criticize the proposed electoral divisions of New South Wales. This is the first opportunity that I have had to study the method of making divisions, and I confess that I cannot understand how any one with a detailed knowledge of the suburbs of Sydney could have drawn up the maps which were displayed at the post offices and other public places. I challenge the returning officer himself to explain the division of the electorates from the maps which have been supplied to honorable members. I had to spend my own money to buy an ordinary map before I could get any clear idea of the position. When I inquired from the commission where the new boundaries were in my electorate, I wa3 taken to one of George Robinson’s maps and the explanation given to me was based upon it. If the Electoral Department used the maps that have been furnished to honorable members simply because it was cheap to do so, I consider that it was guilty of a false economy of the worst kind. Surely the Government could spare enough money to make legible maps available to the people. I suggest also that when a redistribution is being considered, honorable members who represent the existing electorates should be consulted. In my opinion, none of the conditions which should have been taken into account by the commission when making the redistribution was adequately considered. I refer, of course, to community of interest, means of communication, physical features, existing boundaries of divisions and subdivisions, and State electoral boundaries. Some of the existing city subdivisions have been halved and some have even been quartered. The maps were a disgrace to the Government and to the department, and it is not surprising that such serious complaints have been made about them.
– I wish to refer briefly to the proposed change of the name of the South
Sydney division to Watson. The evolution of time has brought many changes in the South Sydney division, which now under the new boundaries embraces the whole of the Randwick municipality, less a portion of Botany, and plus Centennial Park and a small portion of Waverley. Formerly this formed part of the Wentworth electorate. Speaking as one who has lived in the district for 33 years, I would say that the commissioners had no option but to indicate that geographical changes would change the name of the division. South Sydney district embraces Redfern, Waterloo, Alexandria, Mascot and Botany, and all of those suburbs now included in the Cook electorate. The name Watson, recommended by the Government, is intended to perpetuate the memory of the Right Honorable J. C. Watson, a former Prime Minister of Australia, who worthily represented South Sydney in the early days of federation, and is a highly respected resident of Sydney. I support the new name as proposed.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– by leave - I move -
That the House of Representatives approves of the distribution of the State of Victoria into electoral divisions, as proposed by Messrs. F.W. Parkinson, P. Campbell and H. McTaggart, the commissioners appointed for the purpose of distributing the said State into divisions, in their report laid before Parliament on the 28th day of June, 1934; and that the names of the divisions, including the substitution of the name “Mernda” for the name “Echuca “, suggested in the report be adopted, with the exception that the name “ Deakin “ be substituted for the name “ Gardiner “ in the new metropolitan division.
No alteration in respect of the number of members to be elected in the State of Victoria is involved, but at present in seven divisions the number of electors differs from the quota to a greater extent than one-fifth more or one-fifth less. The following statement shows the number of electors enrolled for each division immediately prior to the proposed redistribution, and, in each case, the relation of enrolment to the quota and to the maximum and minimum permissible number of electors : -
The number of electors in each of the proposed divisions, showing the extent to which the number in each case differs from the quota, is as follows: -
.- I move -
That all tho words after “That” be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words: - “this House disapproves of the distribution of the State of Victoria as proposed by the Distribution Commission, and requests the Minister to return the same to the commission with tho view of a fresh distribution being made of this State having regard to community of interests and the margin of allowance provided for in section 19 of tho Commonwealth Electoral Act.”
I have very great confidence in the three gentlemen appointed to make the redistribution in Victoria; but I think that they might have taken some notice of section 19, which provides that -
The quota of electors shall be the basis for the distribution and the Distribution Commissioners may adopt a margin of allowance to be used whenever necessary, but in no case shall the quota be departed from to a greater extent than one-fifth more or one-fifth less.
I am quite unable to understand why the Commissioners should have made the following statement in clause 5a of their report : -
It is not considered to be within the province of the commission to adopt as a cardinal principle of redistribution a lower numerical basis of electors for the extra metropolitan than for the metropolitan division as is suggested by the objections lodged.
Objection was lodged by a number of municipalities and shires to the proposed redistribution, but the brief time allowed for the making of such objections to the Commissioners is the explanation why many more protests were not submitted within the time limit. Since the expiration of the time specified for the lodging of objections, protests against the elimination of one country electorate and the addition of one metropolitan electorate in Victoria have been made to the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) by four cities, two towns, seven boroughs and 53 shires. The protests have been thoroughly representative in character. The position of Victoria is quite different from that of South Australia. South Australia will lose one member through the redistribution and that, in my opinion, is exceedingly unfortunate, for it will have the result of robbing the country districts of one seat. At present there are three metropolitan and four country seats in South Australia. Tinder the redistribution there will be three metropolitan and three country seats. In Victoria there are at present ten country and ten city seats, but under the .proposed redistribution there will be nine country and eleven city seats. That means, in effect, that the representation of the country areas of Victoria in this House will cease to exist, for the metropolitan electors will have a controlling influence. The protests that have been made to the Government against the suggested redistribution should be seriously considered. While it is not within the province of this House to issue instructions to the ‘Commissioners I feel sure that if the matter were referred back to them they would pay some regard to the views expressed here. I should be sorry to see ill feeling engendered between the city and country in Victoria, but I am sure that if the State is redistributed so that “in future there will he only nine country to eleven city members lack of harmony is sure to manifest itself. That is to be deplored at a time when the country people are doing their utmost to find markets for their products outside of Australia. At such a time there should be the utmost good feeling between all sections of the community. I am not asking for a reconsideration of the subject simply because the division of Corangamite, which I have the honour to represent, will vanish. My appeal is being made on the wider ground of the public good. I suppose we may take it that practically every member of this House is opposed to centralization, but if the suggested redistribution of Victoria is endorsed centralization must necessarily follow. I must add my protest to those of other honorable members against the kind of map which has been issued by the Electoral Department in alleged explanation’ of the new divisions. It is almost impossible to determine from those maps tho boundaries of divisions and subdivisions. To pass on to a more detailed criticism of the redistribution, I point out that the proposed new division of Batman will include 7,000 voters at present living within the Flinders electorate. Batman will now extend into Heidelberg and take in quite a number of country municipalities and shires. The new division of Kooyong will include 9,000 electors from Flinders. These people will be mainly small fruit-growers, market gardeners, and others whose interests are not those of city people. Surrey Hills and Box Hill will both be taken into the new Kooyong electorate. The division of Henty will also be enlarged by the inclusion of about 2,000 voters who are chiefly market gardeners and live in the Brighton area.
– The division will still be 98 per cent, city in its composition.
– That may be quite true, but there is still ground for my criticism. Maribyrnong takes in quite a lng area of the division of Corio, including what was previously regarded as a purely country area. Altogether, 5,000 votes from Corio have thus been included. I do not say that the whole of the 5,000 votes could have been retained in the country electorate, but many of them should have been. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway), who represents a manufacturing and shipping district, is now to have his district extended right out to Werribee, so that it will include 1,328 country votes. Even the electorate of Bourke has been extended so as to include a number of purely country residents. The effect of these alterations has been to include 22,600 country electors within metropolitan electorates, thus further increasing the already disproportionate voting power of the. metropolis.
The quota fixed by the commission in accordance with the rules laid down by the Constitution is 53,372. The maximum number of votes which may be included in any electorate is 64,046, and the minimum 42,698. I am confident that if our proposals were given effect the present allotment of ten country members and tcn city members without exceeding the 20 per cent, margin of variation could be retained. Kooyong, and other metropolitan electorates cover an area of only about 1 or 2 square miles, whereas some country electorates in Victoria are 100 miles one way by 200 miles the other way. It can be readily understood, therefore, why a smaller quota should be prescribed for the country than for the city. The electorate of Corangamite runs out into the heart of the Western District, and embraces such centres as Colac and Camperdown, which have no- association with the City of Geelong. Those districts produce milk and milk products to the value of £3,000,000 a year, which is probably greater than the value of the manufactures of Geelong. Nevertheless, about 16,000 votes from, that area are to bc included in Corio. There is certainly no community of interests between a dairying district and a manufacturing city. Corio should have retained the whole of its. old area adjacent to Melbourne. It could have taken in Sunshine, and thus have removed 20,000 votes from the City of Melbourne. Probably a variation of not more than 12 per cent, would have been necessary as between country and city electorates. I hope the House will agree to return the redistribution proposal to the commission. I know that there is an election impending, and the Government may think that there is insufficient time to make a fresh distribution. I have no doubt, however, that the commission has another distribution ready to hand to the Government should the present one be returned to it. When I approached the chairman of the commission and asked him how objections were dealt with, he said that it was the practice to draw up the maps, and then hear any objections which might be offered. He said that they looked at the matter from all angles, and were not content to draw up only one distribution. I appeal to honorable members to accept the amendment.
– The report of the Victorian redistribution commissioners did not come entirely as a shock to the people of Victoria, because the possibility that one country seat might be lost had been canvassed for some time. Nevertheless, this development has caused grave concern in the country districts throughout the State. At the inception of federation Victoria had 23 members, eight of whom represented metropolitan areas. During the ensuing years the number of country electorates has steadily dwindled, until, under the present proposals, there will be only nine country seats as compared with eleven metrooolitan seats. I cannot help but feel that this situation was entirely unforeseen by those who framed the Electoral Act in the first instance, when the principle of one vote one value was adopted. By no stretch of imagination can a vote in a sparsely populated country district be taken to have the same value as one in a city electorate. I take it that the value of a vote lies in the power which its possessor has to get into touch with and influence his representative in Parliament. That being so, it is evident that the elector in a sparsely settled district is at a grave disadvantage as compared with the elector in a city division. It is repugnant to commonsense that large districts should be made larger in order that compact electorates may be made still more compact. The electoral commissioners have carried out faithfully the work which has been entrusted to them by Parliament ; but Parliament itself is free to review the handiwork of its own creature, and should certainly do so in the light of the grotesque possibilities which have been revealed. Parliament now has the opportunity to intimate that more sympathetic treatment should be meted out to country electorates.
It is common knowledge that, during recent years, the metropolitan area of Melbourne has become unhealthily swollen, but that seems to be only one phase of the growth of the State. There is expectation and hope that the present tendency will be corrected, and that, before very long, the flow of population will be from the city back to the country. If that should take place it seems to me that a hasty re-adjustment of electoral divisional boundaries will not tend to assist the movement. The present system, which was evolved in the expectation that justice would be done to all sections of the community, has, on account of the movement of population, resulted in a serious violation of justice to the people who live in the more distant parts of the various States. If we continue with the system we shall produce still more anomalies, such as the electorate of Kalgoorlie, with its area of 900,000 square miles. It cannot be said that the electors of Hentyor of Kooyong are conscious of any injustice in the present system of redistribution ; but the electors of Corangamite, and parts of my own electorate, will resent most keenly the attempt to parcel them out among the districts whose borders march with their own. It is proposed to eliminate entirely an electorate comprising an area that possesses a marked community of interest, and to divide it up among other electorates with which it has nothing in common. This proposal seems to supply the answer to the curious statement in the Electoral Act that divisions may be apportioned in accord with their unity or diversity of interests. How that got into the act I cannot say; it seems to be an absolute contradiction of terms.
Under the Electoral Act a redistribution may be made when one-fourth of the seats in any State vary as regards population to the extent of one-fifth above or below the ascertained voting quota of that State. In the case of Victoria the quota is53,372. The maximum number of electors in any division may be 64,046, while the minimum number may be 42,698. Divisions may, therefore, contain in round numbers between 64,000 and 42,000, and survive. If we apply these figures to the metropolitan electorates, we find that only three - Henty, Kooyong and Batman - exceed the high limit, while seven are below the low limit. In the country only the division of Flinders is above the high limit, and only the division of Ballarat is below the low limit. Surely it is possible to obviate the loss of a country Beat by a system of averaging, under which each metropolitan seat would have 57,406 voters - about 7,000 voters fewer than the permissible high level - and each country seat would have 49,337 voters - somewhere about 7,000 voters above the permitted low level, and only 4,000 voters fewer than the quota. Under that arrangement the difference between the number of voters in a metropolitan division and those in a country electorate would be in the vicinity of 8,000. Such a variation would not be abnormal; the House has already adopted proposals which provide for a difference of 8,000 voters in New South Wales, 7,000 in Queensland, and 13,000 in South Australia. Surely the equal spread of votes that I have suggested would retain for Victoria a like number of country and town seats. After all, proper representation consists of many elements, of which population is only one.
– It is the principal one. ~
– There are other considerations, and I believe that they should be given weight by resolution of this House, as an indication to the commissioners that it wishes a certain sympathy to be shown with those electorates that really need it. This Parliament will not depart from single-member constituencies. The basis of those constituencies should be community of interest. In the report that we are discussing, a deliberate attempt has been made to break away from community of interest, and to graft on to what should be divisions with a common interest an entirely different principle. The act lays down clearly that the commissioners shall take into consideration community or diversity of interest, and means of communication, that physical features shall have a place in the reckoning, and that State electoral boundaries shall not be overlooked; but it definitely neglects to state that regard shall be paid to the facility with which an elector may meet his member, and vice versa. The subject of adequate communication has not been given sufficient consideration in the proposal that we have before us. I stress the fact that a country elector who wishes to interview his member has to travel long distances, and to leave his work for a day or possibly more; alternatively, he has to take up his pen, which in many cases does not run easily, and write a letter, or incur the expense of telegraphing, which frequently he cannot afford. The country member spends extra hours in miles of dead railway travelling between towns, and has few opportunities to meet his constituents in the parliamentary recess. In the metropolitan areas, on the contrary, a member has his electors close at hand, and can see numbers of them day by day. He can move from boundary to boundary in his electorate in a matter of minutes, and if he has to visit a government department concerning the business of his electors, or in order to elicit information on his own behalf, very little time is involved. It may be argued that the preparation of the electoral rolls might present a difficulty. I say quite definitely that that should not be a bar to obtaining what I believe is justice for the country elector, No very great difficulty would be experienced in re-arranging the rolls quickly in accordance with the suggestion of the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Gibson). My proposal requires a very slight re-arrangement. It would save the division of Corangamite, and avoid the elimination of the division of Echuca, for which is being substituted the new electorate of Mernda, one corner of which has no community of interest with another. Mining is carried on in one portion of it, fruit-growing in another; there is cattle-raising in the hills, and dairying on certain of the plains, and the Werribee sewage farm is thrown in as a make-weight. My plan would keep together mining areas such as Castlemaine, Chewton, Maldon, Tarrodale, and
Malmsbury, which are about to revive, and link them with the electorate of Bendigo, which is again becoming the gold-mining centre of the eastern States. Miners should be given every possible encouragement. The loss of a seat will not advance the interests of country districts, but, on the contrary, will retard to a certain extent the flow of population from the cities that is about to take place. The mining, agricultural, and pastoral industries are being revived, and in certain country towns factories are making splendid progress. This will lead to an increase of the country population in the near future. When the flow of population from the metropolis to the country takes place, the work of redistribution will have to be done again. It seems to me, therefore, that it would be wise to accept the amendment of the honorable member for Corangamite, and thus avoid such a contingency.
.- This House should adopt the amendment of the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Gibson). If it considers the position seriously, it will do so. The act makes allowance for such a contingency as has arisen by providing that country constituencies may have applied to them a lower quota. It is admitted by all that the centralization of population in the large cities is already too great, and is injurious to the progress of this country. If this House will not agree to the retention of ten divisions by the country districts of Victoria, but insists upon that number being reduced to nine, while at the same time agreeing to increase the number of city electorates, is it to be wondered at that States like Western Australia have no confidence in it, but feel that the policy of the Commonwealth is injurious to the country, in that it accentuates centralization, weakens the franchise of the country, and increases the overseas freights charged on the produce of the land? Let us examine the situation, and ask ourselves who produces the wherewithal which enables the people of Australia to live. The whole of our well-being is dependent upon mother earth. If the statistics of the Commonwealth were consulted, it would be found that exports by the electors in the eleven city constituencies of Victoria do not average 2s. a head, while the value of the exports of the electors in the nine country constituencies amounts to over £20 a head. That, of itself, affords justification for more than equal representation. The honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. E. F. Harrison) has stated very sound reasons in support of his contention. The honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Stacey) informed me last night that he can reach the boundary of his division in ten minutes. I and others need days to visit parts of our constituencies. A given quota cannot be represented as effectively when distributed over an area of 600 square miles as when within the confines of a city electorate. If honorable members will consider this proposed redistribution they will see that it is quite unfair. The House should adopt the amendment moved by the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Gibson), and return the report to the commissioners. The House is entitled, under the act, to reject the commission’s recommendations with a view to allowing Victoria to retain its present representation. The proposed boundaries can easily and properly be readjusted, without exhausting the powers conferred by the Electoral Act, and within the time available before the election. I ask honorable members to consider- the matter dispassionately. A committee is sitting in Canberra to prepare an answer to the Western Australian case for secession. If the injustice proposed in the motion is continued, soon all political power will be concentrated in the populous areas, and the just resentment of people in the more remote areas will promote the desire to be freed from Commonwealth control. I submit to city as well as country members that they should be careful of their actions in this regard, and not deprive “the garden State” of its due representation in this Parliament.
.- I was rather surprised to hear the honorable member for Corangamite ask what community of interest the city of Geelong has with Colac and other districts that are engaged in dairy-farming and other rural pursuits. The cities of Geelong, Ballarat and Bendigo may be regarded as the capitals of the districts in which they are situated. Bendigo may be termed the capital and market centre of one part of Victoria; Geelong serves the same purpose in the Western district ; and Ballarat has a similar relation to the centre of the State. If these facts be admitted, the contention of the honorable member for Corangamite must fall to the ground. I have always held that if it is possible constitutionally to confer a benefit on the country, where the claims, of city and country are almost equal, that should be done. Two-thirds of my life has been spent in country areas, and, of my seven years of city experience,’ most of the time was spent in travelling amongst the primary producers in Victoria, New South Wales and Tasmania. At the present time, by reason of both my occupation and my inclination, my sympathies are largely with the man on the land. But I have other principles to which I must have regard. The House has already dealt with the redistribution proposals in three of the States, and in each instance the recommendations of the commissioners have been accepted. The House has, in effect, confirmed the work of the commissioners who were called upon to discharge an important public duty free of political bias. The redistribution of electoral boundaries is not a politician’s job; the more members of Parliament keep their fingers out of the electoral pie, the better it will be for the people. We need to be careful in our handling of this matter. The history of Victoria is almost identical with the history of every other State, and in nearly every case the foundations upon which primary production has been built were laid by city men who pioneered the policy of making land available for closer settlement. In Victoria, one of the first men to release the land from the grip of squattocracy was Mr. James Service. His policy was furthered by Mr. Duffy, Mr. MacPherson Grant, and, in later years, by Sir Robert Best. All three were city lawyers, and it may be truly said that they gave to the primary producer of Victoria his first opportunity. The honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Gibson), and the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. E. F. Harrison), have referred to section 19 of the Electoral Act, and, in my opinion, have misin terpreted it. That section repeats the principle of section 24 of the Constitution which makes no reference to distances, broad acres, factories, houses or other factors which have been mentioned by those honorable members. But in three places it repeats similar, phrases - “ the respective numbers of the people “, “ the number of people of the Commonwealth “, and “ the number of people of the State “. Who will say that Jack Brown, who served his apprenticeship to the blacksmithing trade in a country town, and subsequently found employment in Melbourne, is not so good a man as his brother who remained on the farm? Both are equal in law, in working strength and in value to the community, and we should make no distinction between the man who carries on his occupation in the city and his fellow in the country. To-night we have heard an endeavour to pit city versus country - a rivalry of which we should never hear, especially in a national parliament. I have never raised that plea, principally because I know that in the towns and cities the bulk of our taxes is contributed, and many of the bounties and blessings conferred upon the man on the land would not have been possible but for the revenue collected in the urban areas.
– Do the proposed new boundaries suit the honorable member?
– I shall not oppose any proposal affecting Maribyrnong made by an independent body of commissioners. Close punctuation is not common in an act of parliament. But section 19 of the Electoral Act, after empowering the commissioners to give due consideration to community or diversity of interests, means of communication, physical features, existing boundaries pf divisions and sub-divisions and State electoral boundaries, proceeds - and subject thereto the quota of electors shall be the basis for the distribution, and the distribution commissioners may adopt a margin of allowance,- and these are the significant words - to he used whenever necessary, but in no case shall the quota be departed from to a greater extent than one-fifth more or one-fifth less.
The words “ to be used whenever necessary” - deliberately placed between commas - suggest that the marginal allowance is not to be a rule, ‘but is to be used only in special circumstances. The reason for that is that there are places in which the physical features absolutely preclude the inclusion of certain electors in a particular district. That is true of the mountainous districts of Victoria, where high ranges separate bodies of electors who could not reasonably be associated in the one division. That is why the physical features are included among the factors to be considered by the distribution commissioners and why a marginal allowance is to be used when necessary. There is grave danger that if this amendment be accepted the redistribution proposals for Victoria will go by the board.
– What would be wrong with that?
Mr.FENTON. - The honorable member for Corangamite stated that he was certain that the commissioners have an alternative scheme. I have grave doubts that pen has been put to paper in the preparation of any alternative, and if this proposal is rejected, and there is some delay in preparing a new scheme with an election impending, there will be no redistribution in Victoria, which alone will be left with an unequal and inequitable distribution of representation. Do the members of the Country party desire to retain such anomalies as the division of Henty, with 83,000 electors, and Yarra, with 45,000? If the election were held on such an inequitable basis, every honorable member who voted for this mongrel system would deserve to be rejected by the people. If a slight difference has to be made between electorates, I would prefer the advantage to be in favour of the country. But I shall not be a party to making Victoria the only State in which the recommendations of the independent commissioners has not been carried out. I suggest to the Country party that although it may lose a member it will be better represented in the new Parliament under the proposed redistribution than under the existing scheme. If there were time to refer this matter back to the commissioners, and the House were to declare in favour of the retention of Corangamite, they would have to add between 50,000 and 60000 metropolitan voters to country districts. How would the requirement of com munity of interest be served by a redistribution of that nature? The honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Fairbairn) might reasonably complain of the proposed re-alignment of his electorate, which, although practically a part of Gippsland, is to take in part of the northeastern suburbs of Melbourne, including Heidelberg and Ivanhoe. Those areas will be connected with Wonthaggi and a number of rural producers in the intervening country. In order to get a distribution that would be as fair as possible, this important task was referred to men who are free of political prejudices, and who are not concerned with this party or that party. They deliberated and made their recommendations. The House must be guided by them. If the amendment is carried it will have the deplorable effect that Victoria will be the one State with an inequitable distribution. That is not merely a possibility; it is a probability. I have never suggested that there should be any distinction between the voting strengths of citizens in different parts of the Commonwealth. This is not the time to raise that issue. I hope that the proposals of the commission will be passed, because with the elections close to hand, I see no alternative. If the amendment is carried and Corangamite is retained, it will be necessary to attach 50,000 electors to five or six country divisions. Possibly the division of Mernda, or Echuca, as it is now known, will absorb a considerable portion of the division of Maribyrnong. If that happened I might be inclined to seek the suffrages of the people in such area, and I assure the honorable members for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) and Swan (Mr. Gregory) that my brand of politics would not be altered in any way, because I know the feeling of the country people on the tariff. Actually, they are more broadminded than some of their representatives in this House. I hope that the majority of members will do the right thing in this matter, and approve the proposals made by an independent body. Political tinkering with matters such as this is always dangerous. I wish to see the principle of equality observed as far as possible. In certain cases I would not mind if the voting strength of city electors were less than that of voters in some country divisions; but my view is that every adult person in the Commonwealth, man or woman, is entitled to a vote regardless of his or her place of residence. It is, I suppose, about 36 years since the Constitution took shape at the final convention, and I have no doubt that those responsible for the provisions relating to voting had regard to the difficulties then experienced in travelling long distances. But conditions have entirely changed within the last few years. Now it is possible for a country member to travel extensively and rapidly by aeroplane or motor car, so distance in a country division, especially where there are decent roads, is not a serious disability. I, therefore, see no reason why we should depart from the report of the commission. I hope that supporters will rally round the Government and carry the proposal. If that is done, we shall have a re-alignment of divisional boundaries, made on the recommendation of independent commissioners, free from any interference by Parliament, and the result of the work will, I am sure, meet with the commendation of the electors to whom we shall shortly be submitting ourselves. I have very great respect and a strong brotherly feeling for the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Gibson), and I shall be sorry if, as the result of this redistribution, he is not a member of the new parliament. But we all have to take that risk, and I have no doubt that a number of familiar faces will be missing when the new parliament assembles. I have no personal feeling in this matter. I deplore the raising of the issue, country versus city. The interests of country electors are not at stake. I am certain that the next parliament, if elected on the new divisions, will be thoroughly representative of the people, and will, perhaps, be a better one than a parliament elected under any proposal that might be returned to us by the commissioners if this scheme is sent back to them.
– I again request honorable members, if they wish to carry on conversation while an honorable member is speaking, to moderate their voices. Conversation is extremely disturbing, not only to the Chair, but also to members of the Hansard staff, who are reporting a very important debate.
.- I agree with the principle that the subdivision should be on lines that will ensure, as nearly as possible, one vote one value. I am not impressed with the arguments of those honorable members who speak of city versus country interests. We should get as near as possible to a condition of equality. The commissioners who drew up this scheme were allowed a margin of 20 per cent, above or below the quota, and recognizing that there must be some distinctions between electorates, because it is not possible in every case to ensure equality, I have always held that any benefit should be given to the larger areas. Prom that I have never wavered, although I am definitely opposed to suggestions ;made by the Country party that there ought to be a lower quota for country constituencies than for city divisions. If inequalities are unavoidable, the redistribution scheme should favour the larger divisions, in which long distances have to be travelled by both the elector and the elect, rather than the congested areas. The amendment is to refer these proposals back to the commissioners. I intend to support it, because I believe that a better scheme can be presented by the commission without violating the principle of one vote one value. A better scheme, with a smaller margin of difference between the various divisions was presented three years ago. If honorable members will compare that proposal with this scheme, putting. aside the issue of country versus city, they will find that it was nearer to equality as regards the number of electors than this proposal is. I recognize that the commission must look some years ahead and provide for a smaller number of electors in the growing suburbs as against the more congested areas. Three years ago, there was evidence that the population of the inner suburbs was decreasing whilst the outer suburbs were growing larger; but even then they did not make the margin between the inner and outer suburbs as great as is provided in this proposal.
Since that scheme was drawn up, the movement of population has been reversed. In my own division for a number of years the population was steadily decreasing due to the fact that people were moving from the congested areas to the outer suburbs. Now, there is a drift of population from the outer suburbs to the more closely settled city areas. To some extent this is caused by the fact that during the depression wages have been reduced and the cost of fares has become an important consideration. Another factor is the growing tendency for people to live in flats in the inner suburbs. So there is no basis for the assumption that the outer suburbs will increase abnormally by comparison with the inner suburbs. The commissioners could, I believe, provide a more equitable distribution for Victoria than the one which has been submitted to this House. It is not true that the carrying of the amendment will mean the rejection of the proposals entirely. The commissioners have before them the maps of the divisions and all the data upon which they have made the redistribution, as well as the maps and data for the redistribution recommended three years ago. Taking the two as a basis they could present to us a more equitable scheme. If it can be avoided, I see no reason why a city division should take in rural districts in order to build up its quota, so depriving the country of a seat. We can, I believe, secure a more equitable distribution, having none of the objectionable features contained in this one, and can at the same time provide for a greater community of interest. Believing, as I do, that there is sufficient time before the election to refer the proposals back to the commissioners with this end in view, I intend to support the amendment.
– I am sorry that the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) intends to support the amendment, because he is a Victorian representative and knows that State as well as any other honorable member. I, too, am a Victorian, but I regard this subject as above personal considerations. I am afraid that the per spective of some honorable members is not sufficiently wide. This should be regarded as a Commonwealth matter. The Leader of the Opposition said he did not wish to see country electorates hinged on to city divisions. Could there be any greater anomaly than the inclusion of Ivanhoe and other inner suburbs of Melbourne in the division of Flinders, thus allying them electorally with the district of ‘ Gippsland ; or the inclusion in Corio of such outer suburbs as Sunshine, Broadmeadows and North Essendon ?
The honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Gibson) said that he did not wish to pit city interests against country interests, and straightway he proceeded to do that. His example was followed by .that doughty protagonist of country interests, the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse), who said that- the only producers were those_ who were on the land. The Constitution and the Electoral Act impose on honorable members an obligation to view this question broadly, and regardless of personal considerations ; but the fact cannot be ignored that because it affects some honorable members personally, they are opposing it. I say this notwithstanding that if the proposal of the commissioners is accepted, I shall derive no advantage from it, but on the contrary shall lose part of my present electorate, and a portion less favourable to my interests will he included. If honorable members will examine the figures relating to the density of population, as published in the Commonwealth Year-Book, they will find that the population is 20.63 per square mile in Victoria, as compared with 8.38 in the next densely populated and considerably larger State of New South Wales. It will therefore be seen that the argument of the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. E. F. Harrison), who spoke about the difficulty of country representatives keeping in touch with their constituents, falls to the ground. If the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green) and the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) or the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) had used that argument, it might have carried more weight.
The recommendations regarding Queensland were accepted after very little discussion, but criticism of the proposals has come from representatives of a State in which the population is concentrated in small areas. If these proposals are sent back to the commissioners, it is almost certain that a new scheme could not be evolved prior to the election. The commissioners considered that the inequality in the number of electors in the metropolitan and extra-metropolitan areas in Victoria had become so great that the provision of an equal number of divisions for city and country areas could not be retained, and they remarked that there seemed no alternative to the creation of an additional metropolitan division, and a reduction in the number of extrametropolitan divisions. Honorable members who say that the Commonwealth Bank Board should not be subjected to political interference are prepared to reject recommendations by a tribunal that is independent of. Parliament. The tendency in Victoria is towards a greater increase of population in the metropolitan area as compared with the remainder of the State, and no doubt the commissioners had regard to this condition with a view to avoiding the necessity for a further distribution at a comparatively early date. Why do some honorable members wish to ask the commissioners to do their work, again? The development of the Commonwealth does not date from the inception of the Country party. Did a member of that party give irrigation to Victoria? Who built the railways of Queensland and brought about development in that State?
– Was the United Australia party then in existence?
– No. Those projects were considered to be above party politics. That development was due to the work of great Australians, and I hope that little Australians will not be prepared to retard the progress of this country by voting for the amendment.
– I support the amendment submitted by the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Gibson), not for the reasons advanced by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin), but because I regard it as unwise for Victoria to have a greater degree of representation in the National Parliament concentrated upon its small metropolitan area than is to be enjoyed by the rest of the State. We have some extraordinary examples of centralization in the. big cities of Australia, but the most extreme, probably in the whole world, is to be found in! Victoria. In 1901 that State had eight metropolitan divisions, and fifteen country seats, the ratio being almost two te one. Five years later there were nine metropolitan and ^thirteen country seats, and in 1912 the numbers were ten and eleven respectively. In 1922,. the numbers were equal - ten and ten - and for the past decade Victoria has had an equal number of metropolitan and country divisions. With even numbers, one would have thought that the extreme limit of retrogression of the country and expansion of the city had been reached, but there has been a continuance of the more rapid growth of city population compared with that of the country, and it may be said that Victoria is suffering from fatty degeneration of the heart. We have reached a point where, if only a counting of heads is to to be considered, almost one and a quarter times as much representation in the National Parliament must be given to the metropolitan area as to the whole of the rest of Victoria. I agree with what has been said by the honorable member for Corangamite and the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. E. P. Harrison) as to the necessity to take other things into consideration than the counting of the population. I agree, of course, that the most important factor is the number of electors, but other matters must not be overlooked. One is the amount of travelling involved in the representation of country electorates, even if they be as compact as in Victoria. These difficulties are very great compared with those of city members. Many a city representative can practically traverse his constituency by means of a tram ride ; but to go through my electorate in Victoria I have to make a journey of 300 miles. In the Victorian Legislative Assembly, 39 of the 65 seats are allocated to the country, and the other 26 to the city, the ratio being three to two. If it is wise and reasonable to have such a widely different ratio in a State Parliament, there must be something wrong with an allocation of nine country seats to eleven metropolitan seats, as under the Government’s proposals.
– Might not the federal scheme be the right one?
– I read a. report recently of a strong protest made by the honorable gentleman in connexion with the proposal to reduce the number of country seats in Victoria from ten to nine, and he promised to fight for the retention of the tenth seat. I am glad to have such support from a city representative.
– That is a very gross misrepresentation.
– If I have done the honorable member an injustice, I regret it. I waa relying on a report which I read in one of the Melbourne daily newspapers - I think it was the Argus. If the report did him an injustice, I regret having referred to it.
– My objection is to the honorable member’s misrepresentation of the report.
– So far as my memory serves me, I have given a faithful interpretation of the report. I would not attempt to take an unfair advantage of any honorable member ; but, if the honorable member for Henty has been misrepresented by me, I withdraw what I have said on the ground that the report has misled me.
Reference was made to-night by the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) to the provisions of the Constitution regarding electoral redistributions. His observations were applicable to the allotment of seats as between one State and another, in order to ensure that each will get its fair share of seats, but did not apply to the allocation of seats within a State. It does not matter much to members from States outside Victoria how seats are allocated in that State, so long as Victoria has not more than its fair share. The allocation in South Australia prescribes quotas of 61,000 for metropolitan seats and about 60,000 for country seats. A fairly wide margin of difference was considered wise. Equal numbers of metropolitan and country seats for Victoria could be retained without using the full margin permitted under present legislation. As the honorable member for Corangamite pointed out, this allows a margin of 20 per cent, in either direction. It would be necessary only to make use of that margin to the extent of about two-thirds of the maximum amount to enable ten seats to be retained in the country, still leaving ten for the metropolitan area. In any State it would be unwise if an unnatural increase of population in one area resulted in about one and a quarter times the representation being given to that small area as compared with that accorded the rest of the State.
.- In supporting the amendment submitted by the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Gibson), I do not overlook the fact that the commissioners have carried out their work in a creditable manner under difficult circumstances, and probably, had it been done by the members of this House, they would have found themselves faced with several alternatives. Yet it seems to me that the commissioners could have provided better representation for the country. I have heard severe comments on the proposals, from not only country residents, but also persons living in the cities. Metropolitan residents know that, unless the country districts prosper, the State, aa a whole, cannot make satisfactory progress, and it is in the interests of city people to see that the country has proper representation in this Parliament. It stands to reason that if the interests of the country would not be advanced by larger representation in this House they at least would not be retarded by it. The honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) declared, in effect, that most of the legislation beneficial to country interests had been introduced by city representatives!. Without agreeing whether that is so or not, I believe that country districts can produce legislators at least equal to those produced by city areas. But I do not desire this discussion to degenerate into a debate on city versus country interests, for I have very little time for that sort of thing. If the proposals now before us were returned to the commissioners for reconsideration, a new scheme of redistribution could be submitted to us, and the necessary action taken to bring it into effect before the coming election. While it is true, as some honorable members hare said, that certain electorates have many more electors in them than others, it is also true that certain electorates have a very much larger area than others. I do not think that there is anything very much to be gained by adhering slavishly to the quotas. Because I believe that it would be beneficial to the whole community if Victoria were redistributed, so as to give ten city and ten country seats, and that this could be done without violating, to any serious extent, the State quotas, and without making such big variations as there are in either South Australia or New South Wales, I shall support the amendment.
.- If the commissioners responsible for the redistribution of Queensland and New South Wales had been present in this chamber to-night and heard the debate on their work, I am sure that they would have been pleased. Apparently their work was satisfactory to all the political parties. Unfortunately, the redistribution of Victoria has not been made with so much success. The principle underlying the redistribution in Victoria has been strongly attacked. The commission, apparently, set to work on the assumption that a country electorate had to be eliminated, and a new city electorate created. If one accepted this basis, which I do not, I should say that the commission in Victoria has done its work well. It seems to me that a more serious attempt has been made Hn Victoria to preserve community of interest within the electorates than existed under the old scheme. I must confess, however, that I speak as one who is more conversant with the eastern than with the western portion of the State. I might say that I have been amazed to hear certain individuals in my own electorate express the view that definite instructions should have been given to the commission to redistribute the State in a certain way. Had that been done the spirit and the letter of our electoral laws would certainly have been violated. But no such instructions were given. The commission was quite non-political in character, and consisted of gentlemen who were familiar with the electorates of Victoria. They propounded their scheme without either instructions or interference. I have no argument against the commission’s’ proposal on the ground that it is not in accord with the electoral law; but I feel that I must challenge it, because it seems to be founded upon the principle that the country must necessarily lose one seat, and the city gain one, and this is unnecessary under section 19 of the Electoral Act. At this time probably more than at any other in the history of the Commonwealth it is desirable that everything possible shall be done to retain the fullest degree of country representation in Parliament. During the depression our primary producers1 unquestionably stood between Australia ,and default. It is recognized even by city people that only a policy ‘based on restoring prosperity to the primary industries can recover prosperity for Australia. In these circumstances, everything possible should be done to preserve the representation of country interests in this Parliament. It is practicable, without any alteration of the existing electoral law, to redistribute Victoria so that there would still be ten country and ten city electorates. I believe that this would be in the best interests of the whole community. I, ‘ therefore, shall vote for the amendment.
– Whether the scheme of redistribution proposed by the Electoral Commission set up in Victoria is acceptable to Victoria or not does not interest me greatly; but I have been so profoundly affected by the arguments that have been put forward for and against it to-night , that I feel impelled to make a few observations upon them. Apparently all the honorable gentlemen who have spoken in this debate are in agreement that the commission has done its work well. The commissioners were bound to give effect to certain definite principles which are set out in our electoral legislation, and it has not been asserted by any honorable member that those principles have been disregarded. The main point that has been advanced is that Victoria should be redistributed on a basis that would retain ten city and ten country electorates. But there i» nothing in the electoral law to oblige the commission to pay any regard whatever to that point of view. The only way to bring such a principle within the purview of the commission is to amend the Electoral Act. As that cannot be done in the time at our disposal, it seems to me to be useless to spend any longer time in discussing the subject. The carrying of the amendment could only have the effect of returning the proposed redistribution to the commission. If this were done, and the commission were still bound by the principles that bound it when it submitted its original proposal, would it be likely to recommend any very different redistribution?We might defer consideration of the subject for a week, ten days, or a fortnight-
– Three days would be sufficient.
Mr. ARCHDALE PARKHILL That would not be anything like enough time for reconsideration. No doubt the commission submitted this proposal because it was the best that it could devise. It is generally agreed that it would be highly improper for the Government to issue instructions to the commission, and therefore we could not expect any very different proposal even if we returned this one for reconsideration.
– If the present proposal were returned to the commission for review and the commission, on reconsideration, failed to make much variation in it, would it then be acceptable to the honorable gentlemen who are now opposing it ?
– I very much doubt it. Something has been said to-night about margins. I have no doubt that the commission has already considered that aspect of the subject, and have submitted a proposal which it regards as fair and reasonable. I personally am not prepared to accept the principle that the vote of a man in one part of Victoria should carry a greater voting strength than the vote of a man in another part of that State. The citizens of this country should have equal voting strength, and theirvotes throughout the country should be of equal value. What is the principle of citizenship? If it means that a man, because he lives in the country, must have a greater voting strength than a man who lives in the city, it does not appeal to me, and I cannot see the justice of it. If honorable members simply want to create additional country party electorates, that of course is a different matter; but, apart from the question of distribution, I say emphatically that if there is any fairness in electoral arrangements then they should be based On the principle of adult franchise, which means that every vote should be of equal value and not that one man’s vote in a particular electorate should carry a voting power equal to that of the votes of three men in another electorate.
.- It is my intention to support the amendment moved by the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Gibson). I say that frankly because I shall always oppose anything which tends to whittle away the representation of rural districts. I realize that if this amendment is carried, it will probably mean that a redistribution cannot be carried out in Victoria in time for the next elections. It has been suggested that those who oppose this redistribution are doing so for personal, parochial or party reasons, but I consider that such a suggestion is most unworthy. In my own case the redistribution will probably increase the prospects of my return for the Flinders electorate, and from a parochial point of view would suit the interests of those in the remaining part of the electorate. I am convinced that the redistribution, if carried out, would enhance the prospects of the return of the non-Labour parties in Victoria. In voting for the amendment, I shall be voting against my personal interests, and the parochial interest of Flinders, because one area proposed to be eliminated from the electorate of Flinders is the only area in that electorate that has, in the past, given a substantial labour vote. The remaining people in Flinders are likely to look upon the electorate as a rural electorate, and therefore, the proposed redistribution favours the party to which I belong. I am, however, absolutely opposed to a system which whittles away the representation of country areas. For that reason I voted for the amendment, moved in connexion with the redistribution in South Australia, and will vote for this amendment. It is not my intention to make a constructive proposal as to what should be done, but the rejection of this proposal will draw attention to the necessity for an amendment, either of -the act or of the Constitution. There is no greater humbug than the cry of “ one vote one value,” because under no distribution has every vote equal value. Thevote of any individual who lives in ‘an electorate which favours predominantly a political view opposed to his own obviously has no value. It is, I repeat, all humbug. The great principle of electoral distribution should be to provide adequate representation of different interests and different communities. Some people will be inclined to smile at the complaint of Victorian country members, about the difficulty of representing the larger electorates, in view of the size of the electorates represented by some members in the other States. Recently. I travelled over most of the bigger electorates in Australia, and I fully realize the difficulties of honorable members representing those districts ; but the country members of Victoria have a very different proposition to deal with. I have travelled across most of the electorates in the outback parts of Queensland and New South Wales. In those electorates, the distances are great, but the number of country centres is small. The bigger States have a limited number of country centres, but any one travelling over the larger Victorian electorates cannot but be impressed with the tremendous number of moderately-sized centres with which members for these districts have to keep in touch. I know there is a school of thought which holds the view that honorable members should not spend their time going through their electorates, but rather that they should act the part of great, strong legislators. That view will not hold water, because it is the duty of an honorable member to endeavour to hold his seat, without sacrificing his principles ; and to do this, it has become the custom for honorable members who are earnest in their work to keep in touch with every centre in their electorates. In Victoria, the number of these centres is great, and under this redistribution the opportunities of country members to fulfil that obligation would be considerably decreased. In the case of the electorate of Flinders, the task would .be very greatly facilitated, but with the majority of electorates it would be made much more difficult. Therefore, regardless of the consequences, I intend to support this amendment.
.- The Postmaster-General (Mr. Parkhill), in his introductory remarks, said that he personally was not particularly interested in the State of Victoria and its electoral boundaries. That, I think, applies generally to all honorable members. I am not interested to any great extent in the electoral boundaries of New South Wales, and I take no “exception to a proposed redistribution pf a State other than Victoria if it is not opposed by honorable members representing the State concerned. But I desire to place before members certain figures dealing: with the distribution in Victoria, in order that the case may he considered on its merits. Honorable members should be conversant with these figures before they cast a vote on this matter. The following table, showing the enrolment in several Victorian electorates for 1922 and 1934, will, I hope, influence members to vote against the amendment : -
The figures iu regard to Yarra do not bear out the statement of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) that the population is drifting hack to the cities. In the proposed new districts the enrolment is as follows: -
It will be seen that, in nearly every case, the enrolment is in excess of the numbers for country electorates in Victoria. The redistribution of electoral boundaries is a matter for determination, not by members of Parliament, but by an independent commission, capable of making an equitable distribution. In submitting his amendment, the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Gibson) said that, under the new proposal, the district of Corio would extend in a westerly direction as far as Colac. At present that district extends in a northerly direction as far as Whittlesea and Hurstbridge. The honorable member also said that approximately 9,000 of the electors of Flinders would be transferred to the Batman electorate. Heidelberg is situated 5 or 6 miles from the Melbourne General Post Office, and portion of the Heidelberg shire is now within the electorate of Batman. If possible, the whole of the municipality should be included in one electorate. It is much easier to defer a decision than to vote against a proposal; but, in my opinion, the motion should be decided immediately in one way or another. There will be little opportunity between now and the date of the election fer a revision of the redistribution proposals, and, in any case, there is *no guarantee that an alteration of the proposed boundaries would be acceptable to the House. Victoria is the most unbalanced of all the States in the matter of electoral boundaries. I have no doubt that the recommendations of the commission in regard to that State would have been adopted if they had not involved the elimination of a country seat. I sympathize with the Country party in this connexion; but, after all, a few additional miles of travelling does not mean much if the motor in which one is travelling is in good order. I hope that the House will reject the amendment.
. - I am of the opinion that there should be a redistribution of electorates in Victoria ; but, like other honorable members, I doubt whether the proposals of the commission provide for the best possible arrangement of districts. However, I do not think that the suggestion to refer the recommendation back to the commissioners is practicable. I deplore the loss of a country electorate on the general ground that it affects tha representation of country and metropolitan interests, but still more because of the qualities of the present member for Corangamite (Mr. Gibson).
It has been suggested that, in the event of tha commission’s recommendations being accepted, the name of the electorate of Corio should be changed to Geelong. For that proposal there is precedent, in that the names of two other provincial cities - Bendigo and Ballarat - are also the names of the electorates in which they are situated. Geelong has far stronger claims to be enshrined in the name of an electorate than has either of those cities, because it is the premier city of Victoria ou’tside the metropolitan area. Views in opposition to that have been expressed within my own electorate, and I have come to the conclusion that I must adhere to the present description of the electorate of Corio. There might arise some confusion, perhaps, if the present federal division of Corio were renamed “ Geelong, “ because there is already a state electorate of Geelong. In any case, the name has been Corio since the beginning, and it has considerable traditions behind it. I have made an unofficial canvass by correspondence in the electorate, and I honestly believe that the balance of opinion among the electors - and they only are concerned - is in favour of retaining the name of Corio. Without traversing the many arguments that appeal to one’s mind on one side or the other in this connection, I am obliged to give my vote in favour of the commission’s report. I believe that there is a necessity for more equitable electoral distribution in Victoria, and it is not practicable at the present time to refer the proposals back to the commission.
, - There are some points upon -which I should like to receive some further information before a vote is taken on this proposal. I do not feel disposed to support the amendment of the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Gibson) if its purpose is to reduce the quota for country electorates so that the voting strength of the country shall be proportionately greater than that of the city. That is contrary to what I believe should prevail, namely, the principle of one vote one value. The Country party representatives have been angling for increased country representation by this method ever since the question of redistribution was first considered. If I remember rightly the Leader of the Country Party (Dr. Earle Page), referred to the matter in the House some time ago. I should like the Minister to state what would be the actual effect, so far as the commission is concerned, if the amendment were agreed to. Would the commission be bound to give effect to the expressed wishes of the Country party which has sponsored the amendment ? Further, if the commission refused to take any notice of the amendment, would it have power to send its recommendations back to Parliament in their present form ? Again, what would he the attitude of the Government towards the redistribution scheme in the event of the House not agreeing to the adoption of the proposals in regard to Victoria? Would the Government, in that case, recast all the proposals, or would it, if part of the proposals failed to secure endorsement by the House, discard the whole of them ?
– ~No; the proposals for the various states are entirely separate.
– It would still be possible, however, for the redistribution scheme to be delayed in another place. If the Minister will answer the queries I have raised it will help me and those associated with me, to make up our minds how to vote. I wish it to be understood that we will not support any proposals designed to give country districts increased voting power at the expense of metropolitan electorates. In any case, Victoria has nothing to be afraid of. Compared with other states it is a compact area thickly populated and served by what is probably the best railway system in the Commonwealth. I am quite frank in stating that if the redistribution proposals are favorable to the prospects of the Labour party I: am heartily id agreement with them and if they are not I will assist to reject them. I will not cast my vote in support of any proposal of redistribution which may react to the detriment of the Labour party. I am concerned all the time with furthering the interests of the Labour party, and I believe it to be my duty to cast my vote always with that end in view.
– I hope that all honorable members will not adopt the same attitude as that revealed by the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) in the concluding sentences of his speech. I trust that honorable members will look at these redistribution proposals as something designed to bring about a fairer system of distribution of the electoral power in the various States under consideration. If we were to view the matter entirely and exclusively from the point of view of party advantage, we should soon find ourselves engaged in competitive gerrymandering.
The honorable member has asked a number of questions, a reply to which may reasonably be demanded. I understood him to ask whether, if the proposed, redistribution in the case of a particular State were rejected or referred back to the commissioners, the Government would proceed with the redistributions that had been approved in the case of the other States. The answer is that the Government .will proceed with the redistributions in the States that are severally approved.
Another point raised by the honorable member was, whether the amendment m not objectionable on the ground that it gives directions to the redistribution commissioners. That, perhaps, is a matter of opinion. It appears to me that it definitely directs the commissioners on the particular point of community of interest. A single House cannot, by resolution, alter the duty which is imposed on the commissioners by law. The commissioners take their directions from the statute, and not from a resolution of this House.. If the honorable member forWest Sydney were to apply consistently the principles to which he referred in his concluding remarks, he would act in accord with himself if he moved that a particular redistribution be referred back because it did not confer privileges or advantages upon the Labour party. The honorable member has frankly stated that that is the view which he takes. It would be most objectionable if this House were to give such a direction to the commissioners, who are directed by the statute, and must perform their duties under it. No resolution by a single House, or even by both Houses, unless it amounts to an amendment of the statute, can alter the statutory duty of the commissioners. The statute provides for the approval, the rejection, or the disapproval of a redistribution, and the House may take action along those lines. It appears to me that it would be objectionable to direct the commissioners as to a particular principle to which more weight should be given. I think that there is something in what the honorable member for West Sydney has said as to this particular amendment giving a direction to the commissioners. The commissioners would act wrongly if they did other than consider all the matters referred to in the statute, which constitutes the terms of reference under which, if they do their duty, they must act.
– And they must not be influenced by the discussion in this House ?
– I do not know about that. I should think that, as a matter of common sense, the commissioners would naturally see what objections had been raised in the course of the discussion; otherwise, they would be acting in vacuo, and would not know why the proposal had been rejected. The responsibility rests upon them to reconsider a redistribution in the light of the objections that have in fact been raised. It must be remembered that an opportunity has already been afforded to interested persons to raise objections and to place them before the commissioners, whether from a party point of view or not. If an honorable member thought that the commissioners would be moved by the appeal that their action would cause him to lose his seat, he would be at liberty to raise that objection. But the sailing directions are in the statute, and it is the duty of the commissioners to obey them and not to pay attention to the particular terms of a resolution calling upon them to do this, that, or the other. In applying the rules laid down in the statute, I should think that it would not be unreasonable for the commissioners to consider objections that had been raised in the course of the debate. It would be for them to determine what weight should be attached to those objections, always in the light of the directions given by the statute.
– Whatever else may be said of it, the redistribution of the State of Victoria is at least a monument to the impartiality of the distinguished public servants who drafted it. No greater tribute could be paid to the disinterestedness of those gentlemen than to say that this redistribution is less acceptable to the party to which. I belong than was that which was suggested by the commissioners appointed by the last Labour Government.
I am a good deal in sympathy with the amendment of the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Gibson), and had it been practicable would have preferred to retain the seat held by that honorable gentleman. I say that out of my sympathy with rural Victoria, and also because of my regard for the present member. We shall miss the seat if it goes, but particularly shall we miss our old friend. I am not prepared, however, to see the present proposed redistribution swept away, and to accept “ on the blind “ something that is entirely new, without the option of rejecting it. If the amendment were carried, and the present proposal was sent back to the commissioners, there would be insufficient time for the consideration of the matter when it again came before us, and less time for any further work to be done upon it by the commissioners. We are asked to take a plunge in the dark. The honorable member for Corangamite led us to believe that the commissioners had an alternative plan already prepared. He almost suggested that it might be in Che basement of this building at the moment, and could be readily produced. The people of Victoria have become accustomed to this proposal, and no doubt a certain amount of work has been done to give effect to it. To me the question is one between the proposed new basis and the existing basis, and I am not prepared to give up both of those schemes for another when I have not the vaguest idea as to what shape it may take. We have heard a good deal in regard to the under-representation of the country districts, and I agree generally with what has been said. As between town and country, I do not believe in “ one vote one value”. I think that 200 or 300 city or suburban electors being included within a smaller area can express their views and exercise their influence very much more promptly and powerfully than can an equal number of farmers scattered widely over the countryside. But a fact that has been rather overlooked in this debate is that in Victoria redistribution is necessary, not between city seats and country seats, but between some city seats and others. The three Victorian divisions with the lowest numbers are city seats. The lowest representation is to be found in the very heart of Melbourne. The city electorate contains less than 40,000 voters. Next comes Ballarat, which is partly rural, but is still regarded as a city seat; and after that comes Yarra, represented by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin). I have all sympathy for the rural representatives, but my position is a difficult one. I must be fair to my constituents, and I happen to represent the largest constituency in point of numbers in the Commonwealth. Henty contains about 83,000 electors - as many as there are in Yarra and Melbourne combined. While I would be prepared to support a proposal for a re-adjustment which would continue the ten-and-ten basis in Victoria, provided that I have an opportunity to study the new scheme, I am not prepared, in view of the position in which I stand, merely to scrap all the existing arrangements, and take something in the dark. I expressed the view which I am now expressing in a speech which I delivered at Brighton on the 17th May last. That speech has been referred to in very strong terms by the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson). The honorable member, speaking with great emphasis, said that I had been reported to have expressed a “ strong protest “ against this scheme of redistribution, and that I had also expressed my intention to “fight” the scheme. I did not use the phrase “strong protest” or the word “ fight ,5. I am not a little surprised that the honorable member for Gippsland, after all his experience in this House, should endeavour to place me in a false position by insisting again and again on something which he is supposed to have read from a newspaper, and continuing to insist even at the withdrawal stage that the newspaper report must have been wrong. I was speaking at the time to a meeting composed entirely of members or supporters of the United Australia party, and speaking with much diffidence. The Melbourne Argus, of the 18th May, reported my utterances as follows : -
On the question of redistribution of seats, Sir Henry Gullett said he did not consider that it was opportune to deprive primary producers of any of their parliamentary representatives. He, therefore, disapproved of the proposed abolition of the country seat of Corangamite.
That is all that it reported, and it is the only report of this speech I have seen, but I can give the House and the honorable member for Gippsland a most emphatic assurance that I did not use either the words “strong protest” or the word “fight”. I did not speak strongly on the matter at all. I used terms which were designed to convey that it would be an act of grace on the part of the metropolis if the Corangamite seat could be retained. I apologize to the House for this lengthy personal explanation, but I think honorable members will agree that it was due to me to clear the matter up. I apologize also for the warmth with which I protested against the statement made by the honorable member for Gippsland. With some reluctance, I shall oppose the amendment.
– In this case history is repeating itself in a most remarkable way. The honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Gibson) will remember that he moved an amendment in almost identical terms when the House was dealing with the redistribution proposals in 1922.
– The words are not the same.
– I shall refresh the honorable member’s memory by reading his amendment to the then proposed redistribution in Victoria, which was as follows: -
That all the words after “ That “ be omitted with a view to insert the following in lien thereof: - “this House disapproves of the distribution of the State of Victoria into electoral divisions as proposed by the Distribution Commissioners and requests the Minister to direct the Distribution Commissioners to propose a fresh distribution of the said 8tate into divisions having better regard for community or diversity of interests up to tha margin of allowance provided for in section 19 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act.”
To-night, the honorable member has proposed the following amendment: -
That all the words after the word “That” be omitted, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “this House disapproves of the distribution of the State of Victoria as proposed by the Distribution Commission, and requests the Minister to return tlie same to the Commission with the view of a fresh distribution being made of this State, having regard to community of interests and the margin of allowance provided for in section 19 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act.” tinder the Electoral Act the redistribution of electoral divisions is referred to commissioners in each State who are bound to carry out their duty in accordance with the act without any politcial interference from any person or party. When they have submitted their recommendation, and it is brought before the House, the House has the right to affirm or negative any motion for approval, and the Minister may direct the commissioners to propose a fresh distribution. “ I was Attorney-General when the honorable member for Corangamite submitted his amendment in 1922, and I pointed out to him, just as the present AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Latham) has pointed it out to-night, the position as regards the giving of any direction. The honorable member on that occasion realized the position and agreed to the omission of the latter part of his proposal, so that his amendment was simply that the commissioners’ scheme should be referred back without direction of any kind from this House. Obviously, the amendment, if carried, will be regarded as a direction to the commission. Its language cannot be construed in any other way, because it requests the Minister to refer the scheme back to the members of the commission with a view to “ a fresh distribution being made of this State, having regard to community of interests and the margin of allowance provided for in section 19 of the Electoral Act”. That dearly is a criticism of the work of the commission and a direction. If this were a purely party motion, it would obviously be interpreted as a direct interference with the exercise of the discretion of the commission and a contravention of a fundamental principle of the Electoral Act. It would be a direction, not a criticism, by an individual member raising the objection, but by’ the House, which, in the terms of the amendment, would convey its instructions to the Minister. There is a clear implication that, in determining the electoral boundaries, the commissioners should regard the terms of the amendment, and pay due regard to community of interests. My sole concern is the adoption of the correct procedure in such an important issue as this.- The House should not attempt in any way to instruct or control the electoral commissioners. The latter portion of the amendment is really not necessary. The honorable member can achieve his purpose for a fresh distribution in another way. On the last occasion he secured a reconsideration of the commission’s proposals without the inclusion of those words. The then Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) advised the honorable member that if he withdrew that portion of his amendment which conveyed a direction, the Government would take certain action. The honorable member did so, and the scheme was referred back to the commissioners, who brought forward fresh proposals. It is improper to interfere in any way with the commissioners in the discharge of their duty. I am not criticizing the merits of the proposal before the House. My one concern is, I repeat, to see that the correct procedure is adopted.
.- The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) asked if, in the event of the amendment being carried, it would make any difference in the number of electors enrolled respectively for the country and city divisions. I presume it would. That, I take it, is the objective which the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Gibson) has in mind, because the commissioners have certain discretionary power as regards margins above or below the quota. I entirely agree with the honorable member for Darling Downs (Sir Littleton Groom), that the omission of the latter portion of the amendment would serve the purpose which the honorable member for Corangamite has in view. In its altered form, the amendment would not be construed as. a censure upon the commissioners who, I am sure, have carried out their duties in a most impartial manner. If the scheme were sent back to the commissioners, they would naturally read the debates in this House to inform their minds of the views of honorable members. A further question raised during the debate had reference to the position that would arise in the event of the amendment being carried. I am unable to say definitely what would then be the position; but I assume that the election would be fought on the old divisions. As the day of polling has been fixed for the 15th September, it would, I think, be impossible for the commissioners to present a fresh redistribution for the consideration of the House prior to the election. Some honorable members have suggested that the commissioners have had an alternative scheme prepared, and that it could be presented in the course of two or three days. I made some inquiries, and I understand that the position is not as has been stated. The actual work of realining the divisional boundaries might not take so long, but considerable time, possibly some weeks, would be occupied in settling the technical description of boundaries. I should like it to be clearly understood that I am not endeavouring to influence the House in this matter. This proposal is entirely in the hands of honorable members.
– I have no desire to instruct the commissioners. The purpose of my amendment is to instruct the Minister.
– The defeat of the motion would achieve the honorable member’s purpose. The scheme would then be referred back to the commissioners, and the election would take place on the old divisions.
Question - That the words proposed to be omitted (Mr. Gibson’s amendment) stand part of the motion - put. The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. G. H. Mackay.)
Majority . . . . 7
Question so resolved in the negative.
Amendment agreed to.
Original question, as amended, agreed to.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
House adjourned at 11.10 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
y asked the Minister in Charge of Repatriation, upon notice -
Is hu yet in a position to furnish replies to tiie questions asked by the honorable member for Cook on the 10th November, 1933?
– Yes. I oan now inform the honorable member that in reply to his questions of 10th November -
Official Visits Overseas: Cost. Mr. James asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Will he supply, for the information ot honorable members, the cost to the Commonwealth of trips abroad of -
Trade and Customs) ; (o) The Honorable C. W. C. Marr?
s. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
The following are the costs of recent official visits from Australia abroad of -
Right Honorable J. A. Lyons, £886; Major the Honorable C. W. C. Marr, £167; Honorable A. J. McLachlan, £082; Honorable Archdale Parkhill, £200; Right Honorable Sir G. F. Pearce, £249; Honorable J. A. Perkins, £163: Right Honorable S. M. Bruce (fith January, 1932, to 0th October, 1933), £31; Honorable R. G. Casey (25th September, 1933, to 30th June, 1934), £154: Honorable J. K. Fenton (fith January, 1932, to 13th October, 1932), £130; Honorable Sir H. S. Gultett (6th January, 1932, to 14th January, 1933), £89: Honorable J. A. Guy (13th October, 1932, to 30th June, 1934), £272: Honorable C. A. Hawker (6th January, 1932, to 23rd September, 1932), £101; Honorable Sir H. S. Lawson (17th October, ‘ 1 933, to 30th June, 1934), £16; the Honorable Sir W. MassyGreen (6th January. 1932, to 17th October, 1933) , £199: Honorable F. H. Stewart (13th. October. 1932. to 30th June, 1934), £135; Tiiwtcnnnt-Colonel the Honorable T. W. White (14th January, 1933, to 30th June,
1934) , £116.
n asked the Minister for Commerce, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Tuberculosis : Spahlinger Formula. Mr. Riley asked the Minister for Health; upon notice -
Whether Dr. Spahlinger^ formula has been received by the Commonwealth Health Department; if so, has the method of preparation been found practicable, and what tests, if any, have been carried out?
r. - The only formula received was for a vaccine for use in the prevention of tuberculosis. This formula gave insufficient detail to enable the vaccine to. be prepared. Consequently, no tests could be carried out. No formula was received in respect of the serum for. use in the treatment of tuberculosis.
r asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1 to 5. So far no payments have been made to Western Australia on account of the year 1934-35. It is anticipated that the report of the royal commission will he available shortly, and the honorable member will have an opportunity to make any representations when the House is asked to approve of ‘the grant to Western Australia for 1934-35.
r asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1 and 2. The lessees of the Cockatoo Dockyard did not dismiss the eight limbless soldiers referred to. Their services were terminated, in common with others, prior to the lessees taking over the dockyard. The. lessees, however, some mouths ago re-engaged three of these men. and they hope to be in u position, when the work in connexion with the construction of the sloop advances to a certain stage, to employ another. The lessees do not anticipate having suitable positions for the employment of more than those mentioned.
y asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s question’s are as follows : -
r asked the Minister for tho Interior, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
In the Government’s expressed intention to assist the primary producers of tlie Commonwealth, will he state what provisions are being made before the dissolution to assist the primary producers of the Northern Territory in pastoral, agricultural and mining industries 7
– Yes, if the investigations at present being made are sufficiently advanced to admit of same. ‘
Mining in the Northern Territory.
s. - Replies will be furnished as soon as possible to quesitions asked by the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) in regard to mining in the Northern Territory. £12,000,000 Loan.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
s. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
s asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Will he consider an amendment of the Public Service Act to provide long-service furlough for men who were temporarily out of the Service for a period of from three to four years directly after their return from the war?
– Continuity of service is an essential condition in granting of furlough, and the Government does not propose to take any action for the amendment of the Public Service Act to vary that condition.
y asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
r. - On the 29th June the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) asked the following questions, upon notice: -
I am now in a position to furnish the following reply: -
Portion of the cost of maintenance is deducted from war pension in the case only of unmarried ex-soldiers. A refund is made (a) immediately funds are requirod by the exsoldier for any useful purpose; or (6) on his recovery; or (c) on his death, to any person having a legitimate claim. In view of this, there is no reason to discontinue the practice, which involves no hardship whatever.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 5 July 1934, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1934/19340705_reps_13_144/>.