13th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. G. H. Mackay) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– On the 28th June, the honorable member for Henty (Sir Henry Gullett) asked to be supplied with figures showing the number of appeals made from the Deputy Commissioners for Repatriation to the head-quarters of the Repatriation Commission for each year of the nine years ended June, 1933, and for the eleven months of the present financial year, together with the results of those appeals. The honorable member also asked to be supplied with similar particulars with respect to appeals made to the Repatriation Entitlement Tribunal. It is most difficult to obtain absolutely accurate particulars in regard to the number of appeals, but I have been supplied with figures that are as nearly as possible accurate.
There has never been any time limit for the receipt of applications for acceptance of war damage in respect of exsoldiers. As time goes on, acceptances lessen, because obvious war disablement manifested itself or became incapacitating to the degree where medical treatment and pension were necessary,, fairly soon after discharge. It is now customary for ex-soldiers to ascribe to the war all illnesses, including those associated with their advancing years, and their application for the departmental acceptance of that view is understandable, if not appropriate, especially as no financial cost to them is entailed.
The particulars desired by the honorable mem’ber are given in the following tables : -
– I ask the Prime Minister whether there is any special significance in the fact that on the notice-paper for to-day the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Bill, to which consideration was” given yesterday, appears at the bottom of the list of major items of legislation? Is it to be assumed that the Government wishes to prevent honorable members from expressing their views with respect to, and from voting upon, the amendment that I moved to this measure?
– Last night, in reply to a question by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, I promised that the Cotton Bounty Bill would be the first business proceeded with to-day. Certain urgent matters must be disposed of as early as possible. The Electoral Bill, for example, should be passed in time to be of use in connexion with the forthcoming elections.
Inregard to the position on the noticepaper of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Bill, I would point out that some time ago the Governmentmade the public announcement that it would not continue to administer the provisions of the act which it was the purpose of the amending measure to repeal, and that it would ask Parliament to pass the necessary legislation to repeal those provisions as early as possible. It was hoped that action along those lines would be taken promptly. Other matters having now been imported into the question, the repeal of those provisions will be delayed. The Government does not consider that it is necessary to proceed with this measure at the present juncture, but it will again be brought forward at a later date when more urgent matters have been disposed of.
– Seeing that the revenues of the Commonwealth are buoyant, and that further remissions of taxation are proposed, will the Prime Minister issue a regulation suspending, the claims upon properties of deceased pensioners under the property provisions of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act?
– Although it is not the practice to make statements of policy in replying to questions, I may inform the honorable member that the bill now before Parliament, was designed to repeal a particular section which empowers the department to demand contributions from the relatives of pensioners. Whether this bill is discussed any further by the House is a matter for the Government (to decide; but whether it is proceeded with or not, the provision sought to be repealed will not be implemented. Effect will be given to the provision of the billby administrative action.
– I n view of the apparent decision of the Government not to proceed any further with the discussion of the amendment of the Invalid and Oldage Pensions Act until after the elections, if a United Australia party government is returned, willit continue to make demands on relatives?
– There has been no decision not to proceed with the bill. The position is simply that more urgent matters have been given precedence. The honorable member need not fear that any return to the old conditions will be made by the present Government.
– Last night, on the motion for the adjournment of the House, I took exception to the intention of the Government to adjourn over next week. The Prime Minister then intimated that I had been advised by the Minister for Health of the intentions of the Government. In making a denial of that statement, I recalled a conversation in which the Minister for Health suggested that he might be given leave to introduce a certain measure, and to proceed with the motion for its second reading - with which I agreed. My memory has since been refreshed by a conversation that I have had with the honorable gentleman, and in fairness to him I wish now to say thathe did advise me of the intentions of the Government upon an occasion antecedent to that to which I have referred. I had honestly forgotten the incident, and express regret for my denial of the Prime Minister’s statement.
Cotton Lint and Yarns - Sheet Glass : Trade Agreement with Belgium: - Dry Batteries.
– I lay on the table the following report: -
Tariff Board - Report and recommendation - Cotton Lint and Yarns. and move -
That the paper be printed.
I take this opportunity to elaborate a reply that I have given to the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn). There are 52 reports of the Tariff Board which await the consideration of the Government. As many as can be dealt with during the life of this Parliament will be tabled and discussed..
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– Will the Minister endeavour to include in the list of Tariff Board reports which will he dealt with before this Parliament is dissolved, the report of that body on dry batteries and plate glass?
– There is no Tariff Board’s report on plate glass, although there is one on sheet glass. Negotiations have been proceeding between representatives of the British and Belgian Governments with a view to reaching finality in this matter. It is hoped that an agreement will be reached soon so that the export of barley and meat from Australia to Belgium will not be prejudiced.
The Tariff Board’s report on dry batteries is only one of a number of reports furnished by the board. As many of such reports as possible will be tabled and discussed during the life of this Parliament; but as the Customs Bill prescribes that tariff resolutions will lapse unless passed within six months of their being tabled, it is not wise to table resolutions which cannot be discussed.
– As there seems to be something ominous in the statement that the negotiations with Belgium will probably be decided at an early date, can the Minister say whether, before any administrative action is taken which may interfere with the protection afforded to the Australian glass industry, this House will have an opportunity to discuss it?
– Yes, the Tariff Board report on that industry is in the hands of the Government, but as the right honorable gentleman knows, Belgium has made certain requests in respect to the quota basis. The House will be given full opportunity to discuss the matter.
– Is the delay in the presentation of Tariff Board reports due to the fact that under the amending legislation recently passed, tariff resolutions based on such reports must be ratified within six months?
– I said that that was one of the reasons which would prevent them from being tabled. There will not be time in the life of the present Parliament to discuss every Tariff Board report, but I can assure the honorable member that within the next few months all of the reports of the Tariff Board will be tabled.
– Can the Minister for the Interior advise honorable members of the earliest date upon which the electoral rolls will be available?
– No specific date can be given with respect to any of the rolls, but as each roll is printed it will be distributed. The rolls for the far-distant divisions will be printed before those for city and suburban divisions. The whole of the rolls for New South Wales should be completed in about seven weeks’ time. The roils for the smaller States will probably be printed at an earlier date.
Telephonic Communication with Mainlan d.
– Tenders closed last March for the supply of submarine cable to provide telephonic communication between Tasmania and the mainland.. Can the Postmaster-General indicate which route has been chosen, and when tenders for this work will be accepted?
– For some little time the representatives of overseas companies which have submitted tenders have been in Australia. As the House will appreciate, these tenders are exceedingry involved and very important. Those factors have necessitated the separation of items, and a great deal of investigation, and many cables have passed between Australia and the principals in London. I am informed, however, that the details are now approaching completion, and that the recommendation for the acceptance of a tender will be made at any time. I announced earlier that the route will be via King Island.
– Some time ago applications were invited from those who desired to become apprenticed to trades on Garden Island, and a fee of 5s. was demanded from each applicant. Hundreds of applications were received, but few of the applicants succeeded in obtaining employment. In view of the fact that the whole of the applicants were unemployed, will the department refund to those who were unsuccessful the fee of 5s.?
– I shall see if the request of the honorable member may he acceded to.
– by leave- With reference to the remarks made by the Honorable R. W. D. Weaver in the New South Wales Parliament regarding the ratification of the proposed amending River Murray Waters agreement, I submit to the House a statement showing the dates on which the various communications regarding this matter were forwarded and received.
The original draft amending agreement, prepared by the Commonwealth Crown Solicitor, was forwarded to the three State Premiers on the 28th April, 1934, but it was not until the 4th July that a reply was received from the Premier of New South Wales, suggesting certain alterations of the draft. These suggestions, together with the comments of the Commonwealth Crown Solicitor thereon, were forwarded to the Governments concerned on the 7th July. The Governments of Victoria and South Australia, on the 10th July, telegraphed their concurrence in the proposals contained in the Prime Minister’s letter of the 7th July. Yesterday, the 12th July, a telephone message was received from the. State authorities of New South Wales stating that the Government of that State desired that one of the alterations originally suggested by that State should stand, and that in other aspects the proposals contained in the Prime Minister’s letter of the 7th July were acceptable. It is understood that the official confirmation of this advice will be received by telegram to-day. The alteration desired by the Government of New South Wales is acceptable to the other governments, and the Commonwealth Crown Solicitor is proceeding with the engrossment of the amending agreement. The State authorities have not been in direct communication with the Commonwealth Crown Solicitor. There has been no delay so far ;as the Commonwealth is concerned, but
On the other hand, the Commonwealth has taken every action possible to obtain finality.
The statement to which I have referred is as follows: -
April 8th, 1934 - Draft amending agreement (prepared by the Commonwealth Crown Solicitor) forwarded to the Premiers of New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia for consideration.
June 6th, 1934. - Concurrence of South Australian Government received.
June 12th, 1934. - Be-draft of clause 30 of the principal agreement forwarded to the Premiers of New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia.
June 19th, 1934.’ - Concurrence of Victorian Government in the draft agreement, as amended, received.
July 4th, 1934. - Proposals for alterations to the draft amending agreement received from the Government of New South Wales.
July 4th, 1934. - Suggested amendment to the re-draft of clause 30 of the principal agreement received from the Government of South Australia.
July 7th, 1934. - Suggested amendments to the draft amending agreement together with the comments of the Commonwealth Crown Solicitor regarding the alterations proposed by the Government of New South Wales, forwarded to the Premiers of New South Wales. Victoria and South Australia for consideration.
July 10th, 1934. - Concurrence of the Victorian and South Australian Governments in the proposals contained in the Prime Minister’s letter of 7th July, 1934, received.
July 12th, 1934. - Telephone message received from the State authorities, Sydney, that the Government of that State desired an alteration of the re-draft of clause 30 of the principal agreement, otherwise the latest proposals were agreed to. (The alteration desired by the Government of New South Wales is acceptable to the other three governments.)
– Is any increased expenditure involved in the alteration of the River Murray Waters Agreement by the inclusion of the Yarrawonga weir in the works to be undertaken f
– Instead of an increased expenditure the alteration will mean a considerably decreased expenditure on the original scheme, notwithstanding the inclusion of the Yarrawonga weir.
– Can the Minister say when work on the barrage to be constructed near the Murray mouth will be commenced, and the number of men likely to be employed?
– The agreement which I have already referred must b- ratified by this Parliament before work can be commenced. It is expected that it will be ratified during this session, in which case there will be nothing to prevent the work at the mouth of the river from being proceeded with almost immediately. The survey work has already bees carried out. As in the case of the locks higher up the river, between 300 and 400 men will be employed.
– Will the work to be undertaken in South Australia be done by contract or departmentally?
– The present intention is that it will be carried out under the direction of the Works Department of South Australia.
– -Will the Minister for the Interior state what is the number of deportations under the Immigration Restriction Act and other acts since this Govern ment has been in office?’
– I regret that I am unable to reply to the honorable member off-hand, but I shall have the information tabled at the next sitting of the House.
– Will the Minister, when framing his reply to the question of the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. Jennings) regarding the number of deportations which have taken place during the last two and a half years, state clearly the nature of the offences and the number of persons deported under each heading?
– I shall see if it is possible to compile the figures in a way which will comply with the honorable member’s request.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether any arrangement has been made between the Government and the tobacco manufacturers for the purchase of next season’s Australian tobacco crop. If so, what quantity of tobacco leaf have the manufacturers undertaken to purchase? If no arrangements have been made, will the Government endeavour to enter into an agreement similar to that which operated when the honorable member for Henty (Sir Henry Gullett) was Minister for Trade and Customs?
– In reply to a question yesterday, I gave figures, and last week I made a statement on this subject. The Government has been in communication with the manufacturers, who have undertaken to buy the whole of this season’s crop of bright mahogany leaf and higher grades, and also their ordinary usings of other varieties. As the tobacco crop for the whole of the Commonwealth this year will be about 2,500,000 lb., and the Australian consumption approximately 4,000,000 lb. it will be seen that a considerable quantity of last year’s carry-over will he used, and that there should be little difficulty in disposing of all usable leaf this year.
– Last week I published a statement in regard to the public debt of Australia which was based on figures which I extracted from the March Quarterly Summary of Australian Statistics. I erroneously added figures relating to the short-term debt to those dealing with the public debt, thus exaggerating the amount of the public debt. I have no desire to be charged with having done that intentionally, particularly as the public debt is already so large that it does not require to be inflated artificially. I had no intention of making a wrong statement wilfully, anc I shall take every opportunity to correct the statement wherever I know that it has been published.
– Two days ago I asked for information regarding the distribution of wheat relief money, and received an assurance from tho Minister that he would endeavour to secure the information if I placed my question on the noticepaper. I did so, and, in reply, received an answer, which included the following statement : -
The Commonwealth Government has not been advised of the amounts actually paid out to the wheat-growers by the States.
Will the Minister continue to seek the information which I desire, so that I may know how much of the money granted for the relief of wheat-growers has reached them by the 1st July ?
– Steps have already been taken to secure the information, which will be conveyed to the honorable member as soon as it is to hand.
– Has the attention of the Minister been drawn to a statement in the Melbourne Herald that £500,000 is to be spent by McIlwraith, McEacharn Limited, in the purchase of a new motor ship of 10,000 tons for the Australian coastal trade? The newspaper report states that the new ship will be built in England, and will trade with Queensland as far north as Cairns. In view of the deplorable conditions existing in the Australian shipbuilding and associated industries, as pointed out to the Minister recently by a deputation, and the inability of men engaged in that trade to obtain other work, is the Prime Minister prepared to urge on the company mentioned the advisability of having the vessel built in Australia, particularly as it will trade in Australian waters? Representations by the Government might induce the company to have the ship built here, thereby providing employment for Australians who badly need it.
– This matter is one for the company to which the honorable member refers. I am prepared to bring his question under the notice of the company, with a view to ascertaining its reasons for having the vessel built overseas. I would point out, however, that if the Government brought pressure to bear on the company to have the ship constructed in Australia, the company might ask the Government to finance the difference between the cost of construction in England and in Australia.
– Will the Minister for the Interior extend the system of scholarships now operating in the northern portion of the Northern Territory to Central Australia, so that children attending the school at Alice Springs may compete for scholarships?
– I shall see that the request of the honorable member has every consideration.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Commerce been directed to the published report that Great Britain has decided to impose restrictions on dominion meat imports into the United Kingdom, and that, in addition, a levy is proposed? Further, has he noticed a statement by Mr. Angliss that the levy will kill the Australian meat export trade with Britain? In view of the importance of this matter, will the Minister indicate what action has been taken to protect the Australian meat industry, when the proposed restrictions are to operate, and what further action is contemplated to meet the emergency ?
– As I have indicated in reply to other questions on this subject, it is not practicable for the United Kingdom, without the consent of Australia, to impose a duty on Australian meat during the currency of the Ottawa agreement, which will remain in force until 1937. The whole question, including certain proposals that have been formulated by the United Kingdom, are being considered by the Government, and will be further considered at a conference to be held in Canberra on Thursday next, at which the Meat Advisory Committee, consisting of representatives of all sides of the Australian meat industry will be present.
– Has the Minister seen in the newspapers a report that -
Discussions with representatives of the dominions and the Argentine had been opened, hut, in the absence of consent to the proposals for a levy, the only action open to the Government, so far as imports of meat were concerned, was by the regulation of supplies. Action on an extended scale would present problems of a serious nature to a certain dominion.
Can he say if the reference to “ a certain dominion “ means Australia, and will he give an assurance that every effort will be made by the Government to frustrate the British proposal to restrict Australian meat exports?
– I did see, and I took particular note of, the report to which the honorable member has referred, but I confess that I am unable to understand its significance. In reply to the latter part of the honorable member’s question, I can assure him that the Government will continue to do its utmost to preserve the interests of the Australian meat trade.
– Is the Minister aware that members of this House have been receiving letters from interested parties concerning the right of New South Wales to hold a flag presented to soldiers who fought in South Africa ? Has the Minister any idea of the whereabouts of this mysterious flag, and will he endeavour to obtain it and restore it to the New South Wales organization which claims that its political representative in this chamber is the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. Jennings)?
– The Prime Minister has indicated that; if a question on the subject is directed to him he will be pleased to answer it.
– Is the PostmasterGeneral in a position to say when the wireless broadcasting station in the Wagin district of Western Australia will be completed ?
– I can only repeat the statement which I have made on several occasions this week that this station should be completed by the end of this year.
– Will Cabinet, in preparing the budget, consider the advisability of removing from the Defence Department estimates the figures relating to oceanographical and land surveys, and placing them under some other department, in view of the fact that this much needed work is being undertaken for civil, rather than defence, purposes?
– Consideration will be given by Cabinet to the honorable member’s suggestion.
– In the redemption of an old Western Australian loan in London, it has been found that there isa balance of £180,000 still remaining in the sinking fund. Western Australia has claimed this sum and the National Debt Sinking Fund Commissioners have reported in favour of its claim. That matter, I understand, has been referred to the Crown Solicitor of the Commonwealth for report. Has the Government yet received a report from the Crown Solicitor ?
– The report has not yet been received.
– In view of the fact that there has been a considerable improvement in the revenue position, will the Prime Minister give an assurance that the grant of £10,000 formerly made to Papua, and which was suspended from the commencement of the depression, will be restored ?
– The honorable member refers to a matter which affects the budget. It will be dealt with when the budget is presented.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of Governor-General’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. White) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to provide for the payment of bounty on the production of raw cotton, and for other purposes.
Standing Orders suspended ; resolution adopted.
That Mr. White and Mr. Guy do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill brought up by Mr. White, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill is the culmination of all previous cotton bounty acts. Briefly it provides for the following important matters : -
In other respects the various clauses in the bill are similar to the provisions of the present Cotton Industries Bounty Act.
Before explaining to honorable members, the nature and purpose of the proposed legislation, I think it desirable to outline very briefly the history of the cotton industry in Australia, showing the various main steps taken by previous governments to assist it. This explanation should create a proper perspective and assist the House in considering the present hill and related measures that will have to be dealt with before Parliament dissolves. Cotton-growing was first commenced in Australia in 1860, when 14 acres were planted in Queensland. In ten years the area increased to 14,000 acres. This rapid advance was, of course, due to the civil war in America, which interfered greatly with production in that country, which is usually equivalent to about 60 per cent. of the total world output. Upon the re-appearance of American cotton on the European market after the civil war, the Queensland industry suffered a rapid decline, because practically the whole of its product had to be exported in competition with raw cotton produced by very cheap labour. The next serious attempt to develop the cotton industry in Australia was made in 1920, under a guaranteed price system, inaugurated by the Queensland Government. For three years an average price of 5½d. per lb. was guaranteed. The loss on realization from the export sales then necessary cost the Queensland Government £78,929. However, the area under cultivation in those three years rose from 166 acres to approximately 35,000 acres, and much new land settlement and employment resulted.
In 1922 the Queensland Government asked the Commonwealth to assist the industry, and the Tariff Board recommended a continuance of the system of guaranteed prices for a further four years. Finally the Commonwealth agreed with all the States except Tasmania that it would share equally with the States in any loss arising from the following guaranteed prices: - 1924 - 5d. per lb. regardless of length of staple. 1925 - Up to 5d. per lb. according to length of staple. 1926 - Up to 4½d. per lb. according to length of staple.
As there was practically no local outlet for Australian raw cotton at this time, most of the product had to be exported, and the loss borne by the Commonwealth during the years 1924 to 1926 amounted to £170,900. In addition the Commonwealth Government provided £2,044 to assist in cotton research work. During this period more growers entered the industry and the acreage and the production of cotton increased considerably ; but practical experience in several States showed that Queensland was apparently the State best suited climatically for the growing of seed cotton. In view of the increasing losses and other difficulties associated with the industry, the Queensland Government in 1925 urged the Commonwealth to take over the whole responsibility for rendering assistance. It was claimed that the development of new industries was essentially a Commonwealth matter, meriting tariff and/or bounty assistance. The Queensland cottongrowers asked for a bounty of 2d. per lb. on seed cotton. Early in 1926 the Tariff Board recommended a bounty of 2d. per lb. for six years, this rate to diminish at the end of that period by id. per lb. each year to Id. for the tenth year. Concurrently the Tariff Board recommended a bounty of 6d. per lb. on cotton yarn manufactured in Australia, provided that at least 50 per cent, of Australian raw cotton was used in its manufacture.
The Bruce-Page Government gave the matter very serious consideration and arrived at the conclusion that the policy hitherto adopted of assisting the cottongrowing industry on a purely export basis was fundamentally unsound, in view of the higher production costs in Australia as compared with those- foreign countries in which cotton is produced. In practically all those countries, the industry is largely conducted by native growers with the assistance of native labour, and even iu- America, picking or harvesting, by far the most expensive item in production costs, is almost invariably carried out at ve.ry low cost by negroes or Mexicans. The Bruce-Page Government, therefore, propounded the policy of developing the Australian cotton industry primarily on a home consumption basis, by deciding to create, within Australia, a market for locally produced raw cotton. It introduced, for ,the first time, protection on the manufacture of cotton yarns. Small customs duties were imposed on cotton yarns, n.c.i., which comprise soft cotton yams required for the knitting trade, used mainly in the manufacture of such articles as hosiery and underwear. At the same time a bounty of one-third of a penny per count, per lb. was granted on all cotton yarns up to count- No. 49, provided not less than 50 per cent, of the raw cotton used in the manufacture of those yarns was produced in Australia. Furthermore, a bounty of lid. per lb. was granted for five years on all seed cotton produced in Australia. This rate of bounty may seem to have been id. per lb. less than the amount recommended by the Tariff Board, but the higher price at which the growers were able to sell their raw cotton to yarn manufacturers by virtue of the customs duties imposed on yams was equivalent to slightly more than id. per lb. of seed cotton, and consequently the Tariff Board’s degree of assistance was actually granted to the industry.
The Cotton Bounty Act 1926 appropriated £180,000 per annum for five years for the purpose of these bounties on seed cotton and cotton yarn. During the years 1927 to 1929 inclusive, whilst the 1926 bounty act was iu full operation, the cotton-growers secured an average net return of 4.6d. per lb., which was only one-tenth of Id. per lb. more than the 4-)d. per pound reported by the Tariff Board to be the price necessary to enable efficient growers to earn a reasonable living. During part of this period a fair proportion of the Australian production of raw cotton had to be exported, and the area harvested was little more than half that of the later years of the previous period of guaranteed prices. In 1930 the Scullin Government decided to extend the scope of protection so as further to increase the Australian market for raw cotton. Prior to that year, as J have already said, there had been a customs duty and a bounty on cotton yarns for the knitting trade, and there were also consequential protective duties on certain knitted cotton goods. [Quorum formed.]
The Scullin Government imposed additional protective duties on finished cotton goods of various kinds, cancelled the 1926 Bounty Act nearly two years before its term had expired, and secured the approval of Parliament to the Cotton Industries Bounty Act of 1930. This latest act provided for the extension of the bounties on seed cotton and cotton yarn to September, 1936, and the appropriation was £260,000 per annum. The act extended the then existing rates of bounty for one year past the normal term of the 1926 act, and then reduced each bounty progressively by one-sixth of the full rate each year, so that both bounties would expire by the 30th September 1936. At the same time, the Government undertook to increase the customs protection on cotton yarns and manufactured cotton goods from time to time, as might be found necessary to maintain a reasonable price to the growers for their seed cotton. It should be stated that in 1926 and 1929 the Tariff Board issued extremely favorable reports concerning the prospects of the cotton industry and its value to Australia. In 1929 it recommended the continuance for another four years of the full seed cotton bounty of lid. per lb. and also an increase from one-third penny to½d. per count per lb. in the bounty on cotton yarns. Nevertheless the government of the day decided not to increase the cotton yarn bounty, and endeavoured to introduce gradually diminishing bounties in the hope of doing without them at the end of a term of years.
The next important stage in the fiscal history of this industry was when the Lyons Government, in February, 1932, withdrew the special additional6d. per lb. duty on cotton yarns which had been imposed by the Scullin Government in 1931, contrary to a recommendation of the Tariff Board. Two months later, the rapidly increasing production pointed to the probability of the yarn bounty imposing a burden on the budget of £120,000 per annum or even more. Furthermore, it was seen that the profits of certain manufacturers of cotton yarn, which had been quite moderate in the earlier days of the bounty, were likely to advance much beyond the prescribed limit of 10 per cent. Accordingly the position was fully discussed by the Minister with all the manufacturers and with the general manager of the Queensland Cotton Board. It was mutually agreed that the cotton yarn bounty be abolished as from the 1st July, 1932, and that equivalent protective duties be imposed on yarns sufficiently prior to that date to maintain adequate protection for the industry. At the same time the manufacturers made agreements with the Cotton Board for the purchase of their requirements of raw cotton from that season’s crop at satisfactory prices. That the withdrawal of the extra 6d. per pound duty on cotton yarn in February, 1932, did not injure the industry is abundantly proved by the statistics showing the production of yarn. These figures are contained in the following table of production each year since the Commonwealth accepted the responsibility of establishing the industry: -
It will be noted that the production for 1931/32 was 5,841,256 lb. which included a very large quantity of yarn produced in order to take advantage of the bounty which expired on the last day of that financial year. The important point is that the production for 1932-33 was 4,465,730 lb., or practically 50 per cent. greater than the production for 1930-31, when the Scullin Government was in office. I further draw the attention of the House to the production of over 2,500,000 lb. during the first half of 1933-34, which clearly proves that the protection afforded by the Lyons Government has not injured the industry in any way; indeed, cotton yarn production has thrived during the last three years. Further proof is afforded by the import statistics. During the six months ended the 31st December, 1933, the imports of cotton yarns, n.e.i. - the only protected cotton yarns - were under 66,630 lb., as against an Australian production of 2,590,040 lb. Since July, 1932, there has been a bounty on the production of seed cotton only, which it is now proposed to convert to a bounty on raw cotton up to the extent of the requirements of Australian users, plus 20 per cent.
This brings me to the present bill, and the reasons for its introduction. In May, 1932, the ex-Minister for Trade and Customs (Sir Henry Gullett) referred to the Tariff Board for investigation the increased duties which were imposed on cotton yams in return for the abolition of the yarn bounty. Since that date the board has made a prolonged and exhaustive investigation into the whole industry. One or two additional references were added to its task, and I think it has been the most lengthy inquiry the hoard has hitherto undertaken. As the result of these investigations the hoard furnished a report in November, 1933, on cotton lint - i.e., raw cotton - and cotton yarns. Broadly speaking, it found that the industry has reached an unbalanced state in the following respects : First, the area planted to seed cotton in Queensland is capable of producing, under normal climatic conditions, approximately twice as much raw cotton as would be required for the manufacture of yarns, which have, so far, been protected in Australia. Secondly, the productive capacity of the cotton-yarn mills, on the economic working basis of two shifts a day, is about three times as much as the extent of the present protected market for cotton yarns. These circumstances, the Tariff Board states, are undesirable inasmuch as -
The board is of the opinion that the time has arrived in the evolutionary development of the Australian cotton industry as a whole, when the scope of protection should be increased, with the double object of creating a larger market within Australia for the growers’ product, and enabling the existing cottonspinning plants to operate at somewhere near full capacity. At the same time the board is opposed to a continuance of the present high duties on cotton yarns n.e.i., which, on a typical yarn, viz. : No. 16, are 5d. per lb., plus 35 per cent. British preferential tariff, or 8d. per lb., plus 55 per cent. general tariff. At ruling prices for British cotton yarns, the present composite duty is about 9d. per lb.
The board considers that the extension of the scope of protection at the rates now applicable to cotton yarns n.e.i. would impose too heavy a cost on the community, and would necessitate excessive additional customs duties on the manufactured cotton goods - tweeds, &c. - for which the newly-protected yarns would be required.
Furthermore, the board has drawn attention to the fact that previous cotton policies have necessitated very high protection when world’s prices are low, thus making a large part of the protection unnecessary when world’s cotton prices are high, a factor which might conceivably be taken advantage of by the manufacturers. The board isstrongly of opinion that some system is necessary whereby the two industries of cottongrowing and yarn manufacture should have a clear line of demarcation as to the protection necessary, whilst concurrently making Australian raw cotton available to the manufacturers at all times at an exact relationship with world’s raw cotton prices. In order to achieve these results the board has recommended that Australian raw cotton should be supplied at all times to the spinners at the Australian equivalent of the world’s parity, grade for grade and staple for staple. In other words, the prices should be equal to the standard Liverpool prices plus exchange, freight and landing charges to Australia, but excluding any customs duty. In order to give the Australian growers of seed cotton a reasonable return for their produce the board has recommended that a sliding scale rate of bounty for raw cotton be provided, based upon a focal point of Liverpool middling spot raw cotton at 6d. per lb. Whilst the Liverpool price is 6d. per lb., the board recommends that the Australian bounty be 3¼d. per lb. and that this bounty should fall by onehundredth part of a penny for every similar increase of the Liverpool price above 6d. per lb. Conversely, for every reduction of the Liverpool price below 6d. of one-hundredth of a penny per lb., the Australian bounty should rise by a similar amount, with the exception that no further increase of bounty should take place when the Liverpool price falls below 4fd. per lb. The board also considers that steps should be taken to prevent an unwise and undue increase in the production of raw cotton in Australia beyond the approximate requirements of the local manufacturers. In order to achieve this result, the board has recommended that bounty be payable only on the requirements of the manufacturers, as estimated in advance by the Minister, plus 20 per cent, of that quantity for the purpose of providing against reductions of the crop from climatic and other causes. Under such a plan, the cottongrowers would have to accept the responsibility for limiting the production of raw cotton to the manufacturers’ requirements plus 20 per cent. Otherwise, no bounty will be payable on the excess production. At the present time, bounty is paid on all the cotton grown in Australia, even if more than half of the crop is exported, so there is a complete loss to the Commonwealth.
Then again the Tariff Board has found that the limited range of cottons grown in Queensland does not sufficiently meet all the varied requirements of the manufacturers, and that the growers cannot altogether be expected to meet all those requirements. The board, therefore, proposes that manufacturers shall first submit orders to the Queensland Cotton Board for the particular types of cotton they require at the prices ruling from time to time for equivalent, foreign cotton plus freight, charges and exchange to Australia. If the Cotton Board cannot or will not supply at the ruling prices the particular raw cotton ordered, the manufacturers will be allowed to import their raw cotton. Steps will be taken to prevent any misuse of such importations by the manufacturers, and it is proposed to appoint a board composed almost entirely of representatives of the growers and users of cotton to handle such matters, and to advise the Minister thereon. Nothing in the new policy will affect the right of the cotton-growers to bounty on a quantity of raw cotton represented by the manufacturers’ estimated requirements plus 20 per cent.
Reverting to the bounty of 3¼d. per lb. recommended by the Tariff Board when the Liverpool price is 6d. per lb., the Government has very carefully considered the net return to the cotton-growers thereunder. It is found from the calculations made by the Tariff Board that, as a rule, the return to the growers would probably be not more than 3£d. per lb. with such a bounty. Seeing that the last investigation by the Tariff Board of the cost of growing seed cotton was made late in .1925, and that a price of 4£d. per lb. under conditions of very strict efficiency was then recommended as necessary, and that the savings in production costs since then clearly do not justify such a low return as 3$d. per lb., the Government has decided to grant higher rates of bounty, as will be seen from clause 9 of the bill. The rate of bounty on raw cotton when the Liverpool price is 6d. per lb. is, therefore, 5-id. per lb. for the first year, 4¾d. per lb. for the second year, and 4¼d. per lb. for the next three years. . These rates will, of course, be subject to deductions, if any, made under the Financial Emergency Act from time to time. Whilst the financial emergency deduction continues at 20 per cent., the rare for the first year will result in a net return on seed cotton of approximately 3.4d. per lb., which is expected to be the average return for the current season under the present seed cotton bounty.
The reduction of A. per lb. of raw cotton in the rate of bounty for tl«5 second year of the bill, and the further reduction of id. per lb. for the next three years is considered justifiable in view of the present tendency in Queensland to grow new varieties of seed cotton, including large boiled, which have a higher percentage of raw cotton content than the Durango variety hitherto grown almost exclusively. In view of the higher lint percentage varieties of seed cotton now about to be grown on a large scale, the lower rates of bounty should not affect the average financial return to the growers.
It is important to note that with the present Liverpool price of 6fd. per lb. for raw cotton, the relevant bounty of 4£d. per lb. for the first year, which is subject to the 20 per cent, financial emergency deduction, is equivalent to only 48 per cent, of the landed duty-free cost of foreign cotton without exchange. This measure of protection compares very favorably with that afforded to certain other primary and secondary products, and the ad valorem equivalent of 48 per cent., will be lower in the following years if world’s prices probably rise, as, no doubt, they will.
Honorable members will, naturally, expect to know the approximate cost of the new bounty on raw cotton. If Liverpool cotton remains at the focal point of 6d. per lb. assumed by the Tariff Board, the bounty will be 54d. per lb. This bounty, less the financial emergency deduction of 20 per cent., would cost’ £131,000 for the 15,000 bales of raw cotton estimated to cover the manufacturers’ requirements next year, and the additional 20 per cent, already referred to. I think honorable members will agree that this provides a much hotter basis than formerly. Seeing that the present unrestricted bounty on the production of seed cotton for next year has been estimated to result in a cost of £115,000, it is evident that the additional cost of the new bounty on the basis of a Liverpool price of 6d. per lb. is only £16,000. I would point out again that the new bounty on raw cotton depends upon the liverpool price. Actually that price is now Bid. per lb. . If this price should continue for a full twelve months, the Australian bounty would bo 3d. less than the pivotal figure - based on Liverpool at 6d. - of 5-Jd., that is, 44d. per lb., which would involve a total payment of £112.500 on ‘15,000 bales or virtually the samp, as the estimated seed cotton bounty which the Government has been asked to provide in the current, year’s estimates.
The outlook for future world raw cotton prices is, on the whole, rather bright in view of the exceptionally drastic reduction of acreage which is being effected in the principal producing country, America, under President Roosevelt’s administration. Two years ago the area under cotton iu the United States of America was 41,000,000 acres. That area has been deliberately curtailed under the agricultural adjustment legislation passed hy Congress to 29,000,000 acres. The result, so far, has been that the world’s price of raw cotton has increased from under 5d. per lb. .to 6fd. per lb.
Seeing that the Liverpool spot price averaged approximately 10d. per lb. for twenty years before the war, there, seems to bc some justification for expecting further advances beyond the present 6fd. If this should happen, the bounty rates under the bill, and therefore the total expenditure, will become progressively less. [Quorum formed.]
I want to emphasize that the new policy advocated by the Tariff Board, and adopted by the Government, will result in reduced costs to users of certain cotton goods. By paying a bounty on raw cotton, so that the manufacturers will obtain either Australian or imported cotton at Australian import parity, the production costs of cotton yarns n.e.i. will be correspondingly reduced, and the consuming public will at least avoid the cumulative added costs resulting from manufacturers’, wholesale, and retail margins.
Coincident with the new boundy policy, the present duties on cotton yarns n.e.i. will be reduced as from the 1st April, 1935, and the reductions of duty will he equivalent to 4d. per lb., which must be passed on to the users of yarn, and ultimately to the consumers of hosiery, underwear, and many other cotton products. The increased scope of protection on cotton yarns proposed by the Tariff Board in order .to enable the spinning mills to operate under economic conditions will necessitate average protective duties being imposed upon yarns now admitted free or at nominal rates of duty. These rates of duty will, of course, increase somewhat the cost of such yarns to the manufacturers of the cotton goods affected, and in some cases these goods will require a consequential increase oi existing tariff protection. Nevertheless, the lower costs of knitting trade 3’arns, that is, cotton yarns n.e.i. which will he made possible under the new policy will substantially more than outweigh the extra cost of the additional yarns which it is proposed to protect for the purpose of enlarging the cotton yarn industry, and hence the Australian market for locally-grown raw cotton. The Government is taking precautions to ensure that the lower costs of knitting trade yarns from the 1st April next will he passed on .to consumers, and it will also watch very carefully, from the point of view of the public, the effect of the moderate increase of duty which will be imposed upon other cotton yarns in pursuance of the general stabilization policy now being submitted for the approval of Parliament.
I commend the bill to this House, believing that it will meet with the approval of all parties. The Government’s policy in this regard will create more employment in the factories, and will increase the more profitable Australian market for the benefit of cottongrowers in Queensland, who have now reached a stage where half their product from the present area of 70,000 acres would have to be exported indefinitely without the measures now proposed by the Government.
Cotton is of prime importance to the nation in time of war, owing to its indispensability in regard to the manufacture of certain high explosives, as well as various forms of military clothing and equipment. Australia cannot afford to be without a healthy cotton industry as one form of security against supplies being cut off in the event, of international complications arising affecting our security. With a vigorous and sound cotton industry as a nucleus, Australia will have trained sufficient experts who will have acquired adequate technical knowledge to enable her to make very rapid expansion in this industry in time of war to meet some of the essential requirements of defence.
Moreover, during my recent visit to Queensland, I was impressed with the imperative need for more settlement in the sparsely-developed, strategic portions of this vital part of Australia. In considering the cotton industry, one must, of course, pay due regard to economic aspects. But national considerations go beyond even the question of economics, and where more settlement is required in Queensland, or in any other State, I feel that necessary industries should be encouraged, provided always that the additional cost is not beyond our capacity a* a nation.
In conclusion, I submit to honorable members that the Government’s cotton stabilization policy, having regard to all the circumstances, should result in a safe and sound expansion of the industry at a definitely moderate degree of cost to the people, and that this attempt at consolidation should clear up some of the legacies which have accumulated through experiment and mistakes in the past.
Debate (on motion by Mr. FORDE adjourned.
Debate resumed from the 5th July (vide page 27S), on motion by Mr. Francis -
That the bill bc now read a second time.
.- This bill deals with the agreement which was arrived at between the Commonwealth Government and the State bank authorities in South Australia in 1922 for the administration of certain provisions dealing with war service homes matters. ‘ Some years ago the Commonwealth Government appointed the State Bank of South Australia as its agent under the War Service Homes Act. The obligation upon the State Bank was to receive and deal with applications and to collect payments of principal and interest in respect of the capital cost of war service homes, such moneys to be repaid to the Commonwealth authorities; but, owing to an oversight, there was no provision in the agreement arrived at between the two contracting parties in respect of arrears of payments, and when certain purchasers failed to meet their commitments, the State Bank was compelled to make a full reimbursement to the Commonwealth. I understand that that oversight has placed on the State Bank a considersiderable liability which was never intended under the agreement. The remarkable thing about the agreement is that it did not actually receive the ratification of this Parliament. This amending legislation makes provision for a departure from what has been the practice since 1922, and the administration of the war service homes in South Australia will in future be undertaken, not by the State Bank, but by a separate branch of the Commonwealth department. I doubt whether that is a desirable provision, because no body in South Australia is more expert in dealing with housing conditions there than is the State Bank, which has a staff of technical housing experts. I should like some additional information from the Minister (Mr. Francis) before’ I’ would be prepared to accept his statement that a saving will be made by transferring this activity from the State Bank to a Commonwealth department. One would think that the setting up of a new authority would be expensive, and that a substantial saving would be made by allowing the present practice to continue. I should like to know the amount of arrears which are outstanding and have been paid by the State Bank in full to the Commonwealth authorities, how many homes are likely to be affected by this amending legislation, and the cost of administration by the State Bank authorities. That information is essential to enable us to ascertain towhat extent the statement of the Minister that a saving will be effected under this provision can be substantiated. I wish to pay a. compliment to those who have undertaken certain features of war service homes administration in South Australia. Mr. Rolland, the Commonwealth Director of Works in that State, is a most capable, efficient and courteous gentleman, and, in the course of his duties, Mr. Peterson, the Commissioner of War Service Homes, has also extended to me every courtesy, and every case that I have presented to the central administration has received his sympathetic consideration. All possible leniency should be extended to the occupants of war service homes who, through no fault of their own, are out of employment, and unable to meet their commitments to the department. Many of. them are considerably in arrears, and the department feels that, in a number of instances, where the liability on the occupant is too great, he should be released from his contract. If it is right that the primary producers who have suffered during the depression should be assisted by this Government under the proposed rural rehabilitation scheme, it is also right that the purchasers of war service homes who, through lack of employment, are unable to meet their commitments, should receive the same consideration from the Government. Most of the occupants who are in arrears are returned soldiers, and the act should be amended to permit of the writing off of arrears in necessitous cases. Complaints have been made in this House with respect to certain evictions from war service homes which have taken place in other States, and I state emphatically that, at this stage of the depression, when many people lack sufficient food, no person should be dispossessed of his home unless there is proof of deliberate vandalism. One of the first responsibilities of this Government is to ensure that people are adequately housed and fed, and no person who has made a reasonable effort to meet his commitments should be evicted from his home.
– I rise to a point of order. As this bill is to ratify an agreement between the Commonwealth Government and the Government of South Australia I submit that the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) is not in order in making a complete survey of the activities of the War Service Homes Commission.
– As an ex-speaker of this House the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) will realize that under the Standing Orders certain restrictions are imposed upon honorable members. While it is practically impossible to avoid an occasional reference to matters other than those contained in the bill its principle should not be departed from.
– I agree with you, sir, and with the opinion expressed by the Minister (Mr. Francis). I have no desire to discuss subjects other than those covered by the bill. I was expressing an opinion which, I think, has the general support of all honorable members, and emphasizing the fact that it is essential that every consideration should be shown to the occupants of war service homes, particularly at present, when conditions are abnormal. I trust that the Minister will give the information I have sought with respect to the transfer of the control of war service homes in South Australia from the State Bank to the Commonwealth, and also justify the statement that a saving will be effected by such a transfer. In conclusion, I should like to say that the State bank authorities in South Australia have carried on the work on behalf of the Commonwealth in an excellent manner, and I am sure that the
Minister will agree with mc when I say that that institution has been of considerable assistance to the Commonwealth.
– I agree with the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mir. Makin) that the agreement entered into between the Commonwealth Government, when the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) was Prime Minister, and the South Australian Government, when Sir Henry Barwell was Premier, was not ratified by Parliament. At that time the financial and economic problems with which we have since been confronted could not be foreseen, and we would be acting unjustly to South Australian if the present arrangement were allowed to continue. This problem has existed since the agreement was first entered into, and for the past eight years the South Australian Government has been agitating for some variation of the conditions. Governments have come and gone and it has fallen to the lot of this administration to make a change. When negotiations first began between Mr. Butler, the Premier of South Australia, and myself, as Minister administering War Service Homes, 1 informed Mr. Butler that when the agreement was drawn up in 1923 the conditions we have experienced during recent years could not, .of course, be foreseen and that we. knew that for financial reasons it was practictally impossible for the South Australian Government to adhere to the agreement. I therefore readily agreed, on behalf of the Government, that the arrears of interest due to the Commonwealth and which amount to approximately £6S,000 should be met by the Commonwealth. The actual amount has not yet been determined, but officers of the Commonwealth Auditor-General’s Department and of the South Australian Audit Department are conducting an investigation to ascertain the exact figure. When the war service homes scheme was first launched it was not anticipated that such extensive concessions should have to be made to the occupants of war service homes. It, is pleasing to record that purchasers of these homes have stood up to their obligations in a remarkable manner, and that prior to the depression the arrears of repayments on an expenditure of £22,000,000 amounted to only 1 per cent. The honorable member for Hindmarsh asked how it was expected to effect a saving by the proposed transfer. Under the present system of paying South Australia on a 10 per cent, basis, the cost to the Commonwealth has been £11,664, whereas it is anticipated that under the proposed agreement, similar functions will be performed in that State at a cost of £7,450, showing an. estimated saving of over £4,000. The number of homes to be transferred is being investigated, but at present the figure is given as 4,100. Some have said that the South Australian Government asked that some members of the South Australian State Bank staff should be taken over by the War Service Homes Commission. 1 discussed the subject in Melbourne with the Premier of South Australia, Mr. Butler, and in a subsequent discussion between the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons), Mr. Butler and myself, Mr. Butler intimated most definitely that it was not desired that the commission should take over any of the staff as it was anticipated that there would bc no difficulty in absorbing them in other departments. The Under Treasurer for South Australia made a promise that the staff would be absorbed, and that in any case it was not desired that it should bo taken over by tlie commission. Lt. has been brought under my notice that some persons have said that objections have been raised to the proposed transfer of control from South Australia to the Commonwealth ; but I have had careful inquiries made as to how. returned soldier occupants of war service homes regard the proposed transfer, and have been told that no objection has been offered. I should like to assure the occupants of war service homes in South Australia that if the proposed agreement is ratified they will receive the same sympathetic treatment from the War Service Homes Coramission as they have had from the State Bank. Recently the occupants of war service homes in Victoria requested the commission to assume control of the homes, in that State, particularly because the Victorian State Savings Bank was unable to grant the same liberal conditions as are granted by the commission, and that has been done. I should like, however, to express my appreciation of the way in which the war service homes work, in that State, has been administered by the Savings Bank. At the last annual meeting of the Tas- manian Branch of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers’ Imperial League of Australia, a resolution was passed asking the Commonwealth to take over the war service homes in that State, because the occupants were dissatisfied with the present administration, and their request has been complied with. The annual report of that branch of the league contains a paragraph expressing its appreciation of the fact that a change has been made. Some years ago the occupants of war service homes in Western Australia suggested that their homes should be taken over, and at the last meeting of the Loan Council, held in Melbourne, I discussed the subject with the Premier, Mr. Collier, and an arrangement was made to reduce the payments being made by the Western Australian Government. The Commonwealth Government appreciates very much the way in which the State Bank of South Australia has administered war service homes matters in that State; at times minor difficulties have arisen, but they have been ultimately overcome. Generally speaking, the arrangement between the Commonwealth Government and the South Australian Government has been entirely satisfactory and a change is now being made because for financial reasons South Australia cannot be expected to continue on the present basis.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill -by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 11th July (vide page 416) on motion by Mr. Casey -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- It is seldom that I am able unreservedly to support a bill brought up by this Government, but this is one of those rare occasions. As Tasmania produces very little wheat, a provision was inserted in the Wheat Growers Relief Act last year for a rebate of the flour tax due from that State. The flour tax liability of Tasmania was calculated at £7,500 a month, and this amount was granted to the State by the Commonwealth under section 12 of the act. The present bill provides for the grant of an additional £8,000 to Tasmania to make up the deficit that has occurred. As to the iniquitous flour tax, a great deal might be said, but honorable members on this side of the chamber expressed their feelings strongly on that subject last year when they pointed out that the tax would fall most heavily upon the poor people who proportionately ate more bread than people with larger means and a greater variety of food. However, I shall not go into that subject at this stage. I support the bill.
– I listened to the speech of the Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Casey) in moving the second reading, but I could not quite understand his explanation of the procedure which necessitated this rebate to Tasmania. I understood the honorable gentleman to say that monthly payments of £7,500 a month had been made to the Tasmanian Government for six months, whereas the amount actually due was another £8,000. Apparently the Commonwealth Government used the Tasmanian Government as an agent for distributing this money. I should like the honorable gentleman to elaborate his explanation.
.- I wish to know whether the Government, in dealing with these transactions, has paid due recognition to the provision in the principal act that the money derived from this taxation was to be paid only to necessitous farmers. I take it that as Tasmania has made a claim for this money it will ultimately be paid to necessitous farmers.
– The introduction of this measure was necessary because of the special circumstances of Tasmania, which produces very little wheat, and only wheat of a special type. In 1932-33 the Tasmanian wheat crop amounted to 275,000 bushels. Tasmania appreciated the considerate treatment extended to it by the Commonwealth Government in this matter, though the treatment was, of course, based on strict equity. The attitude of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) to-day will also be appreciated. That honorable gentleman on this occasion has shown definite sympathy with Tasmania’s peculiar situation. It is pleasing to know that the officials of the Commonwealth and Tasmanian Treasuries were able to work in a most harmonious manner in dealing with this subject. That is not always the case when Commonwealth and State departments have to work together. I support the bill because it will conclude in a business-like way the transactions regarding the rebate of flour tax to Tasmania.
– I wish to explain for the benefit, particularly, of the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley), the procedure adopted in the making of rebates of flour taxes to Tasmania. The Commonwealth Taxation Department collected the flour tax in Tasmania as in other parts of the Commonwealth. Section 12 of the act, provided that £7,500 a month should be refunded to Tasmania during the currency of the act in order to off -set the amount of flour tax collected in that State. The figure, £7,500, was arrived at by calculating Tasmania’s consumption of flour on the basis of the proportion that the State’s population bears to the whole population of Australia. The calculation proved to be remarkably accurate. The Tasmanian Parliament, after the passage of the Wheat Growers Relief Act through this Parliament, passed an act in which it undertook to refund to those who paid flour tax on flour consumed in Tasmania the sum of £4 5s. a ton. The reason why it is now necessary to make a refund of an additional £8,000 to Tasmania may be briefly explained in this way: At the end of the period of the collection of flour tax there was, in other parts of Australia, flour in hand which necessitated the Commonwealth Government, under the terms of the act, making refunds to the holders of it at the rate of £4 5s. a ton. When the original act was passed no account was taken of the fact that, on the termination of the period during which the legislation would operate, there would be in Tasmania no flour upon which the Commonwealth Government would be called upon to make refunds; but there would be flour in that State on which the Tasmanian Government would have to make a refund at the rate of £4 5s. a ton. It may be said that in making this additional £8,000 available to Tasmania, we are merely doing something that we should have had to do had section 12 not been in the act.
– I take it that the position is that the flour-millers paid the tax to the Commonwealth Government; the Commonwealth Government paid the tax to the State Government, and the State Government paid the money back to the millers?
– That is so. I point out that no flour exported from Tasmania to the mainland will receive any advantage from this refund to Tasmania, although flour imported from the mainland for consumption in Tasmania will be treated in the same way as flour milled in Tasmania for consumption within the State.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
. -Will the amount of refund to Tasmania, namely, the £7,500 per month for six months that has already been paid, and the £8,000 that will be paid if this bill is passed, be approximately the aggregate amount of flour tax collected in Tasmania?
Bill agreed to and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from the 11th July (vide page 418) on motion by Mr. Casey -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- This bill, as the Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Casey) has pointed out, is intended to meet a specific case, and I am in sympathy with its object; but I wish to utter a word of warning about it. Federal land tax is imposed on Crown leaseholds in such a way as to make it really a tax only upon the leaseholders personal interest in the estate. This tax has been imposed for many years, and it is quite as equitable as the tax upon freehold property. The tax is calculated by capitalizing the difference between the rental value of the land and the amount of rent actually paid by the lessee. Consequent upon the financial emergency legislation, a reduction of 22½ per cent. was made in the rent of Crown leases in New SouthWales. The immediate and automatic effect of that reduction was to increase the amount of federal land tax that the lessees were called upon to pay. That was neither intended not desired. The existing law works in this way: the difference between what is deemed to be the actual rental value of the land and the rent that is charged is capitalized, and that capitalization is taken to he the leaseholders’ estate in the land. It is upon that amount that federal la nd tax is imposed. A reduction ofthe rent increases the leaseholders’ estate, and so increases the amount of his land taxation. As it was the intention of the Government of New South Wales to give the leaseholders a measure of relief by reducing their rents by 22½ per cent., it is not desired that the Commonwealth Government should now take back a part of that relief by increasing the land taxation. The purpose of this bill is to avoid that result. It would be possible, of course, to meet the case in another way. If the valuers recognized the depreciated valuation of the land, and decreased the value of it on the assumption that it was freehold property, the same effect could be achieved. The procedure would be to assume that such a property was freehold, to make a valuation of it, and then calculate the economic value of the land as freehold. The capitalization that I have already referred to would then be calculated, and the tax imposed thereon. If that procedure were followed, relief could be given to the leaseholders, but it would take a long while, and involve the revaluation of the whole of the Crown leaseholds. Although the object of this bill is to meet a specific case, its provisions will have a general application, and herein lies the danger. A general provision will open the door so wide that, if, in the future, a State government dominated by landed interests desired to do so, it could deliberately, and without proper justification, reduce Grown rents, and so automatically reduce Commonwealth land tax revenue. That would have the effect of giving to a State government power to interfere with the land tax collections of the Commonwealth. The position could be met by limiting the application of this bill to the specific instances with which it is meant to deal. Should another emergency arise in the future it could be dealt with by a special amendment similar to this.
– I should like to know from the Minister whether it would be possible under the hill as it now stands for a State government, influenced by the big land-holders, as the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) suggested, to defeat the purpose of the Commonwealth Land Tax by reducing rents to an unwarrantable degree?
– That could happen.
– The purpose of the Land Tax Act is to give the Commonwealth the right to tax the leasehold estates of lessees, and if the rent be reduced the value of the leasehold estate is increased, and the Commonwealth should be entitled to tax it.
– The Leader of the Opposition said that a possible alternative to the present bill would be a. general writing down of land values, and those of us who have watched events over the last few years have come to the conclusion that such a procedure is now inevitable.
The honorable member said that it would probably take years to make such a comprehensive survey of the position, and it is admitted that by orthodox methods the process would be slow and the necessary relief would be deferred. This principle has been accepted now even by those who, a few years ago, were strongly opposed to anything of the kind. No matter to what extent existing contractual obligations may be interfered with, inflated capital values will have to be written down, and very quickly too, if the country is to be restored to its proper level.
. -I take it that the object of the bill is to protect the lessee against having to pay increased Commonwealth land tax because the State government has reduced his rent. In the ordinary course of events the lessee pays Commonwealth, land tax on the difference between the capital amount on which he pays rent, and the official value of the property, so that if the State government reduces his rent, there is a wider margin upon which he is taxed. This bill is designed to ensure that the lessee shall receive the full benefit of any reduction of rent granted to him.
, and when the bill is in committee I shall introduce an amendment designed to meet his objection. The effect of the amendment will be to restrict the benefits of this measure to those present leaseholders in New South Wales whose rents have been reduced.
The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) opened up the somewhat wider field of economic planning which he must himself realize is not directly touched upon by this bill, the object of which is to preserve to the leaseholders of New South Wales the benefit of the reduction of 22½ per cent. in rents made by the State government eighteen months ago. Unfortunately, according to the formula upon which the Commonwealth tax is assessed, the Commonwealth Government, and not the lessees, would have received the greater part of the benefit accruing from the re duced rent. It is to remedy that position that the amending bill has been introduced.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 -
Suction twenty-eight of the Principal Act is amended by adding at the end of paragraph (aa) of sub-section (3.) the following proviso : -
Provided further that where, by any State Act, provision is made for a percentage reduction in annual rents reserved in leases of Crown lands, the annual rents reserved in those leases shall be deemed to be the annual rents payable prior to the percentage reduction.
– I move -
That the word “ is “,line 6, be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words “ has, prior to the commencement of this proviso, been “.
The proviso will then read as follows : -
Provided further that where, by any State Act provision has, prior to the commencement of this proviso, been made for a percentage reduction in annual rents reserved in leases of Crown lands, the annual rents reserved in those lenses shall be deemed to be the annual rents payable prior to the percentage reduction.
This amendment meets the point raised by the Leader of the Opposition in his second-reading speech. It will confine the benefits of the bill to those leases in respect of which reductions have already been made, and will preclude the possibility of a future government making radical reductions of rents without the Commonwealth Government being able to step in and levy increased land tax.
– Will this measure apply only to New South Wales?
– The State of New South Wales has not been mentioned, but only in that State have rent reductions of this kind been made.
.- I am satisfied that the amendment meets my point.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 3 agreed to. [Quorum formed.]
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with an amendment; report - by leave - adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Sitting suspended from1.45 to 2.15 p.m.
Debate resumed from 11th July (vide page 436), on motion by Mr. Casey -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- As this is a non-contentious measure designed to give legal effect to the intention of Parliament when it passed the Flour Tax Assessment Act, I shall not oppose it. Members of the Opposition were strongly opposed to the flour tax on the ground that it was most unjust and would press heavily upon the poorer sections of the people, because they eat more bread than others, who, being in more affluent circumstances, are able to vary their diet. It was pointed out at the time by the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) that while the Labour party stood for the relief of the wheatgrowers, it was definitely opposed to the imposition of this most unfair tax. My Leader urged, in an amendment which he moved to the budget proposals, that the wheat-growers could be assisted more effectively by grants from the Consolidated Revenue, and that the marketing of wheat and other primary products, upon which the prosperity of this country depends, should be placed on a proper basis under Commonwealth and State legislation. A federal Labour government had already introduced the necessary legislation for the establishment of a Commonwealth compulsory wheat pool which, it was intended,’ should work in conjunction with State pools. Under that scheme the growers would have had power to fix a price for wheat for home consumption which would have assured for them a fair return for the labour and capital which they had invested in the industry. The State governments could have fixed the price of flour and thus prevented the exploitation of consumers. By this means the consumers and producers would have been protected from the fluctuations of the overseas markets and from manipulation of the home market by profiteers. But as this is not the time for a lengthy discussion upon the principle of the flour tax, I do not intend to carry the debate further. I merely wish to make it clear that the Labour party in this House has always been definitely opposed to the flour tax.
– I feel sure that honorable members generally will agree with the principle of this very short but important bill, the purpose of which is to repeal the flour tax imposed last year.I have always been opposed to the tax because of its effect on the price of bread. But if one studies the prices ruling in Sydney since the operation of the flour tax, one must, I think, admit that there has not. been the general increase of the price of bread that was anticipated. Nevertheless, it has, I think, been clearly demonstrated that there is a good deal in the contention of those honorable members who believe that the price of bread is affected by the ramifications of the wheat industry from the time the grain is sold to the miller until it reaches the consumer in the form of bread. I mention this because it is a matter of great importance to the people generally. All sections of the public await with interest the report of the Wheat Commission, which, it is hoped, will be presented to the Government at an early date. I support the bill.
– I offer no objection to the bill. I merely express the hope that the Government will recognize the difficulties which have confronted honorable members during the last three or four years in discussions relating to the wheat industry, and I trust that Parliament will not. be dissolved before a measure, designed to give permanent relief to wheat-growers, is brought down, so that the difficulties of our growers will not be made the football of party politics. The Government has given the House a definite promise that such action will be taken. I hope that the promise will be fulfilled, following receipt of the report of- the Wheat Commission, and that a bill to stabilize the wheat industry will be presented to this House at an early date.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time and reported from committee without amendment or debate.
Report adopted, and bill - by leave - road a third time.
Debate resumed from the 12th July (vide page 496), on motion of Mr. PERKINS -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- At the outset I protest against the lack of time afforded to honorable members for the consideration of this very important measure. There are 219 sections in the Commonwealth Electoral Act, and this measure to amend it contains sixteen clauses. If honorable members wish to understand the full implications of the bill, and to decide whether or not they shall submit amendments, it i3 necessary for them to study closely the principal act as well as this amending bill. The second reading was moved by the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Perkins) yesterday afternoon, and as the House sat until 11.30 last night and met again at 10.30 this morning, obviously those honorable members who wish to discuss the measure at the secondreading stage have not had sufficient time to examine the bill. As we are within two months of a general election, we are entitled to have reasonable time for the. scrutiny of all measures that are brought down for our consideration, especially a bill of this nature making a number of amendments of the Electoral Act which will apply to the election. Some years ago the act contained a provision that no alteration could- be made to the nomination’ form within three months prior to’ an election. If that were considered desirable, how much .more important it is that the same conditions should apply to amendments of the act itself.. The Minister mentioned the four or fivemain provisions of the bill.
The most important amendment is contained in clause 7, and relates to inmatesOf institutions, the effect of the alteration being to require that their names be placed upon the roll for the electoral division in which they were living prior to admission to such public institutions.
– It is a most dangerous proposal.
– It is so regarded in Queensland. Under the recent redistribution proposals for that State, which have been adopted by both Houses of this Parliament, the Dunwich institution,, comprising about 1,000 electors, has been taken from the division of Oxley and transferred to the division of Moreton. That institution, which is known as the island subdivision, has always given a majority of several hundreds of votes to a Labour candidate. Its transference to the division of Moreton, it is ‘believed, makes possible the defeat at the next election of the present member for Moreton and ‘ Assistant Minister (Mr. Francis). That being so, wo are entitled to suspect that the threatened rejection of a member of the Government influenced Cabinet’s decision to pass this bill, which, as I have shown, provides for the enrolment of inmates of public institutions for the subdivision in which they lived formerly. Honorable mem!bers on this side are opposed to this provision in the bill. We believe that inmates of such institutions should not be disturbed. In some cases they have been in those institutions for ten, twenty, or more years, and they have lost all contact with their former places pf residence. Some of them tend little plots of land, and now have all their interests in their new home. They are certainly entitled to have their names retained on the roll for the division in which the institution is situated. Subclause 2 of clause 7, which deals with this matter, provides that the officer in charge of each institution shall, when required by the Commonwealth Electoral Officer for the State, furnish within a specified time a list showing the name, age, sex, and address of each inmate immediately prior to admission. Upon receipt of this information, each inmate will have his name .placed on the roll for the division in which he resided previously, irrespective of whether or not he or she had lived there one week, one month, or_ ten years. I t may have been only a week, yet under this proposed new section, the inmate will be forced to become an elector for a division in which, perhaps, he or she has uo interest whatever.
– Does not that condition obtain in Queensland to-day?
– Many years ago an an.ti-Labour government in Queensland passed a measure containing .this provision, and it has not ye’t been repealed. I. hope that it will be repealed in the near future. These persons will be -entitled to vote only under the provisions relating to the postal vote and the absent vote, and the Minister has not given to the House any information as to the methods that are to be adopted. He has not explained whether there will be presiding officers at the institutions, whether they will have rolls for every federal division, and how the inmates are to know for what division they are enrolled now that the boundaries have been altered or the name of the division changed. Usually a person who visits a polling booth to obtain a postal vote is asked to state the name of the division for which he or she is enrolled.
– How are the inmates to find out whether they are enrolled or not?
– The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) lias stressed the point that I am making, that these people are not even to be required to make a claim for enrolment. Some of them may have forgotten their former addresses, which they supplied upon entering the institution twenty years or more ago. That would apply particularly to those who are in failing health or whose mentality has become impaired. Even those who remember the places from which they came will not in the majority of cases know for what divisions they are supposed to be enrolled. No suggestion has been made as to what steps are to be taken to meet that contingency. But even supposing that that difficulty is overcome by some arrangement that will enable the inmates of these institutions to learn the names of the divisions for which they are enrolled, there is the further drawback that, on account of their having been absent from those divisions for a considerable number of years, they will know nothing of the candidates who are standing for election. It would be possible for an inmate of an institution in Queensland to bt enrolled for a division in Western Australia or South Australia, and vice versa. Honorable members are expected to he conversant with the political position and to know who represent the different divisions, yet in the majority of cases they would fail to survive a test on the matter, and certainly would not know the names of all the candidates who stood for election. Even if the inmates of institutions were able to overcome that trouble they would not know what political parties were represented by the different candidates. This is a most unwise and unfair provision. In support of it, the Minister not only mentioned its inclusion in the Queensland act, but also pointed out that the act of Western Australia disqualifies from enrolment and from voting at an election, persons who are wholly dependent upon relief from the State, or any charitable institution subsidized by the State, except patients who are under treatment for accident or disease in a hospital. Surely it cannot be argued that we are doing something that is worth while because a State is so unfair as to deprive some of its citizens of the right to vote! We are trying to avoid such reactionary legislation. The act as it stands is as fair as it can be made in this respect.
The next important provision is that which deals with incorrect enrolments. Under clause 9, persons whose names have been placed upon rolls when they are not entitled to enrolment, or in consequence of false statements, may be disfranchised. I consider that the House is entitled to a full explanation as to the exact meaning of that provision. We do not wish to run the risk of persons who are working away from their ordinary places of residence being told that they cannot become enrolled for that division. It may be found that they are not enrolled for either division ; that their usual place of residence will not be recognized because they have left it, and that the place in which they are working will not be recognized on the ground that they are residing in it only temporarily. With an involved and intricate measure of this nature it is necessary to make exhaustive comparisons with the act. Honorable members on this side have not been given sufficient time to assure themselves that no ulterior motive underlies certain alterations; consequently, the onus is on the Minister to make a full explanation of every proposal.
Members of the Labour party are quite prepared to support the clause that is designed to tighten up the postal voting provisions. I, personally, however, do not believe that it will be of very great value at elections. I realize the necessity for making provision to punish persons who either influence or attempt to influence the votes of electors, particularly those who vote by post. But it must be obvious that such an offence can be detected only in isolated instances. There is no doubt that the practice is extensively indulged in. While I support this clause, because it is a step in the right direction, r contend that it is of very little value, and that the Government should make a more determined effort to tighten up the postal voting provisions. Unquestionably, there have been, in the past, and there will be in the future, abuses of those provisions. So obvious did they become some years ago that this national parliament abolished postal voting, and the provision was not re-enacted for several years. Proof of abuse may most readily be obtained by comparing the figures in relation to postal votes with those cast in the ordinary way in the same division. For example, in many electorates, Labour members secure an overwhelming majority of the ordinary votes polled, but are in a minority on the postal votes. If there is a swing to either one party or the other, that swing should be reflected in the postal votes and absent votes to as great an extent as in the ordinary votes. Yet, at election after election, at booth after booth, a check-up of the figures shows the Labour candidate to have a majority of thousands of ordinary votes and a minority of postal votes.
– What is the nae of speaking in general terms! Can the honorable member cite a specific ease?
– I shall cite a specific case directly. The only explanation of the anomaly is that abuse has been practised in connexion with postal voting. If anything, the swing in favour of Labour candidates should be slightly more pronounced in the case of postal votes than in the case of ordinary votes, because, with so many persons on relief work and rations, it is to be expected that the Labour voters will comprise the majority of the inmates of hospitals, and being least able to bear the cost of medical attention they are most likely to need a postal vote.
– It does not follow that because a man is a labourer he necessarily votes Labour.
– The Labour party gets the intelligent vote, whether the elector be a labourer, a mechanic, or a professional man. It is the person who, no matter what his avocation may be, is not interested in politics, is too tired to think for himself, and, consequently, adopts the arguments advanced by the anti-Labour press, who votes for honorable members opposite. We are quite satisfied to obtain the votes of those who are interested in politics, and who know for what and for whom they are voting. The Minister for Commerce (Mr. Stewart) asked me to cite a case in support of my statement that the swingover in ordinary voting is not reflected in the postal votes. At the last federal election I had a majority over the Nationalist candidate of 5,500 votes. The Lang candidate polled 1,000 votes. If his preferences had been counted, and had followed the trend shown by the votes cast for a candidate of the same party in the Brisbane division, my majority over the Nationalist candidate would have been 6,500. Yet, notwithstanding these facts, my deficiency on the postal votes was in the ratio of 2 to 1. In what way can that he explained? Surely it is not contended that members of the Government party have a monopoly over the votes polled by those who are sick ! Mrs. Service, a Nationalist party organizer, who was made a justice of the peace on the recommendation of the Moore Government, not knowing my identity, boasted to me of the way in which the Nationalist party had captured nearly all the postal votes at the Brisbane Hospital. The Nationalist organization had sufficient’ funds to employ canvassers, whereas the Labour party had not, and the result was that most of the postal votes were cast in favour of Nationalist candidates. The whole story is already incorporated in Hansard. In my opinion, the postal voting provisions of the act should bc tightened up more than is suggested in this bill. If the Government will not go so far as to-repeal those provisions altogether, it should arrange for either electoral officials or police officers to collect the votes of persons in hospitals. I do not suggest that that system be applied to huge electorates like Kalgoorlie or the Northern Territory. Electors in those divisions could vote either as postal voters or as absent voters.
Another proposal to which little exception can bc taken is that each elector must vote for the full number of candidates for the Senate in the order of his preference. If we are to have preferential voting, all the candidates should be voted for. At present that is necessary only when the number of candidates does not exceed twice the number nominated plus one.
At the 1928 election the Labour party lost two senators owing to the death of one of the candidates between nomination day and polling day. Although the ballot papers clearly showed ‘ that a majority of the electors of Victoria desired the return of three Labour senators, the High Court ruled that 11,000 votes cast in favour of Labour candidates were not to be counted, because there was a break in the numerical order of preference. One figure was missing, and because of that technicality two Nationalist candidates were elected instead of the Labour candidates whom the majority of the electors desired. The Government now proposes to alter the section upon which the High Court arrived at its decision. With that alteration I agree; but I wonder whether the Government’s action is prompted by n belief that the law of averages will operate, and that the next time similar circumstances arise it will not be the Labour party which will be the loser.
Special provision has been made in the bill for the prevention of disorderly behaviour at election meetings. I do not object to the passing of legislation to prevent disturbances at election meetings, but I wonder whether this provision has been included because the Government fears the wrath of the electors.
– The new provision simply makes for orderly meetings.
– In most, if not all, of the States, there is legislation to deal with persons who cause disturbances at election meetings, and the only reason that I can see for this provision is that the Government, fearful that its record ha3 aroused the ire of the electors, wishes to intimidate its opponents.
There are other matters with which I should like to deal, but probably I shall have an opportunity to do so on some other occasion. In the meantime, I ask the Minister to give us some further information regarding the proposed new section which provides that electors may be struck off the roll, and also with regard to the enrolment of inmates of institutions, the manner in which their votes shall be recorded, and the granting of assistance to them at election time.
– by leave - I promised to make a statement regarding proposed new section 41a of the act, which provides that persons living in institutions shall be enrolled for the electorates in which they formerly resided. I assure the House that no ulterior motive actuated the Government in introducing this clause. As a matter of fact, a member on the other side of the chamber asked that this provision be made.
– Who was he?
– He has not been in the House to-day. I shall supply the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin; with his name. In addition, some of the old folk living in-institutions have asked for this provision, claiming that they have no interest whatever in the new electorates in which they reside. Apparently, the House does not wish the inclusion of this clause, and consequently the Government is willing that it be negatived in committee.
. -The Minister’s statement that the Government does not desire to proceed with proposed new section 41a makes it unnecessary to comment on the subject; with which it deals. This measure has been introduced with the objects of simplifying the machinery for the conduct of elections and ensuring the correctness of the rolls. No doubt the machinery must be as perfect as human effort can make it, but, after all, the primary object of an election is to ascertain the will of the people. It is, therefore, vital that we should not do anything whereby a person entitled to be enrolled might be disfranchised. In the more closely congested areas, there is, normally, a turnover of from 40 per cent, to 50 per cent.; on this occasion the position will be worse because of the redistribution. Electors are notorious for failing to take any interest in the rolls until the last moment. On this occasion many of the rolls will be entirely new, because of the radical changes which have taken place in the boundaries of some electorates. In the limited time that will be available to them, electors will not be able to scrutinize the new rolls which must be printed because of the redistribution, and it is inevitable that even on polling day numbers of electors will be uncertain of their enrolment, or of the” electorate in which they are entitled to vote. I suggest, therefore, that wider discretionary powers be given to the presiding officers, so that, in cases in which they are satisfied that persons claiming votes are entitled to them, they may permit them to vote upon signing the necessary declarations. North Sydney is a quasi-city electorate, and I expect thatt.here will be 10,000 new electors on the roll, in addition to the normal turnover from other electorates, and the enrolment of those who, since the hist election, have reached the age entitling them to a vote. Efforts are being made to purify the rolls; but it may happen that in purifying them, persons entitled to vote will be excluded, in which case the appeal to the country will be robbed of much of its value. If an appeal is to he made to Caesar, we should ensure that Caesar’s voice will he heard. On many occasions I have had to deal with the complaints of persons who have been struck off the roll. I am perfectly sure that 35 per cent, of the electors do not know the name of the division for which they are enrolled at the present time, or at any rate on what roll they will be included for the next election. I hope that the Minister will give consideration to this matter and will take appropriate steps to overcome the difficulty.
As for the other amendments proposed in the bill, I believe that they are wise. [ shall refrain from commenting upon section 41 because the Minister has announced that it is proposed to withdraw the provision amending it. Whether the withdrawal is wise or not, I do not know. All that I ask is that the people of this country, whether inmates of institutions or not, shall not, in consequence of this crusade for the purification of the rolls, find themselves unable to vote. That is the matter which mostly concerns me. The law provides that everybody must vote, and we make it easy for people to record their votes even by providing facilities for postal and absent voting. Any fraud, or attempt to evade or defeat the provisions of the statute must be dealt with, but in the main, people only desire to exercise their right to record a vote, t ask the Minister to see that discretionary powers are given on this occasion, when the rolls are being hurriedly printed and submitted to the people too late to make wholesale alterations, and when hundreds of thousands of people are being placed in new electorates, so that everybody will be able to record a vote.
.- A suggestion for amendment of the electoral law which is not proposed at the present stage, but which I ask the Government to consider seriously, relates to the method of voting for the Senate. The system in vogue at the present time results in full representation being given to a party or parties polling possibly only 51 per cent, or 52 per cent, of the total votes cast in the States concerned, while another party or other parties, having a total of, perhaps, 48 per cent, or 49 per cent., are given no representation whatever. In view of the fact that three senators are elected on each occasion, it would he possible, if the proportional representation system were adopted- for the Senate, to ensure that any large party would have at least one representative. When a political tidal wave came along one section might have two representatives out of three, but never three. A politically strong party which suffered from an adverse political swing would obtain a sufficient number of votes to entitle it to one seat in each State instead of having no representation whatever. Without going into elaborate details the difference between the method of calculating the voting for the Senate under the proportional representation scheme and under the present system may be illustrated by the following analogy: If an honorable member went into a shop for the purpose of buying an article, such as a hat, costing, say, 25s., and tendered £2 he would expect to receive the hat and 15s. change. He would be astonished if the shopkeeper provided him with the hat, gave him back his £2, and informed him that he could make a further purchase with the money. If he then decided to buy a pair of boots costing 25s., he would not expect to receive mort, than the boots and the change. Imagine his absolute astonishment if again the full amount tendered were returned to him ! That is precisely what happens under our present system of voting for the Senate. A certain number of votes is handed over what, to preserve the metaphor, we might term the political counter, let us say, for the purpose of securing representation, but upon obtaining that representation to the extent of the first seat, none of these votes is expended; all may be employed again with full strength for the purpose of securing a second unit of representation, and again the process may be repeated for the third time, with the result that the purchasing power of what we might term the electoral token may be employed three times in succession. Under proportional voting, however, all voters are treated in precisely the same way as a normal shopkeeper treats his customers. A certain sum is definitely accepted for the sale of some article, and only the change is handed back. That is precisely the position which obtains in connexion with the proportional representation system, and if it were applied the number of votes required to provide the quota for the elec tion of, let us say, senator No. 1, would be definitely expended and only the surplus votes over and above that quota would be available for making a further purchase. I suggest that this system would be a more suitable one to apply to Senate elections than that at present in operation. I know that the HareClark system in operation in Tasmania is open to criticism for various reasons, but I do not think that any of the arguments that can be used against it with respect to ,seats in a legislative body, such as the House of Representatives or the State House of Assembly, could be used when one adopts it for the purposes of a Senate election. I think the system is admirably applicable to Senate elections, and would give a certain degree of stability which, to-day, does not obtain. To-day, no matter how strong an in* dividual senator’s personality may be, or how great his capacity and popularity, he is entirely at the mercy of a political swing. Under proportional representation, a really strong man on the opposition side would almost certainly be returned. Even if he were returned alone for a. particular State, I believe that the system would give a stability to the representation in the Senate which is entirely lacking at the present time. Moreover, it would more accurately reflect the opinions of the voters as a whole than does the present method. Nobody can reasonably contend that if, say, 52 per cent, of the electors vote against Labour, and 48 per cent, vote on the Labour side, or vice versa, justice is done if the whole of the eighteen seats go to the side which obtains 52 per cent, of the votes. T ask the Minister to give consideration to my suggestion, and I hope that the time will come when the electoral law will be amended by substituting proportional representation for the Senate in place of the existing system.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Rosevear) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 5th July (vide page 277), on motion by Mr. Casey -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– I do not propose to discuss the bill at any length at this stage, because it is essentially a measure for the committee stage. There would be nothing irregular in a general debate on this bill on the various principles governing income taxation, but we have discussed them frequently in the past, and it would be better to confine ourselves to the specific proposals in the measure. In framing taxation legislation two ideals should be kept in mind - equity and simplicity. It is difficult to realize both. The more we try to secure equity, the less we obtain simplicity, particularly in regard to company taxation. Our old friend section 21 has been discussed in every session since we have had an income tax. The report of the royal commission covers a large field of investigation, and goes thoroughly into the matter of simplifying the methods of imposing income taxation. It is a very valuable report, and honorable m eni bers will be well repaid by reading it. The main object of the inquiry was to simplify the system, and make it less vexatious both to the department and the taxpayers, and, to some extent, the commission has succeeded in attaining that object. While it seems to taxpayers that the department acts severely in administering the law, even this Parliament may be criticized for its severity in this regard. It must be remembered, of course, that when the Parliament imposes a tax of this kind, it must strive to see that everybody pays his just dues; otherwise the rates have to be increased, and some taxpayers have to pay more than their share to make up for those who evade taxation. Some times it is difficult to avoid evasion, particularly by holding companies. I believe that some companies- have been formed deliberately for the purpose of evading taxation. This bill does not propose either to increase or decrease the amount of tax collected. It is not a taxing measure, although its incidence may be such as to decrease taxation in some cases and increase it in others. For instance, the bringing about of a uniform exemption will result in some reduction of the revenue, hut, on the other hand, the rebates proposed to be made on the current rate of company tax, as it will work out at present, will cause some increase of the revenue. I do not know how far one alteration will balance the other, but there will not be a great deal of difference. Some of the clauses need careful examination, hut my experience of taxation measures is that the details are best considered during the committee stage.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and committed pro forma.
– I move -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until Tuesday, the 24th instil nt, at 3 p.m.
The budget will be submitted on that day, and following upon its presentation we shall resume the discussion of the electoral redistribution proposals.
.- The Government, no doubt, has its own reasons for adjourning over next week, but one would like to have an indication of the nature of the business to be dealt, with when we resume on the 24th instant. When is it proposed . to dissolve Parliament? The House is entitled to know where it stands in that regard. We have been informed by the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) that when we resume on the 24th the budget will be presented. I do not know what interval will elapse between the budget speech and the discussion of the proposals arising out of it. We should like some information as to the number of measures that are likely to be brought down. The Prime Minister is probably unable to indicate their exact nature, hut honorable members would be glad to know ahead how many measures are to be submitted during the limited period available prior to the elections. By the time we have discussed the budget the end of the month will have been reached, and then we shall be within a month or five weeks of the date suggested for the elections.
.- I also hope that the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) will give the House some idea as to whether members will find it worth while to return to Canberra on the 24th instant. If the Government merely intends to present the budget, throw it on the table of the House, and scamper away to the elections, it will be hardly worth while for some members to travel from distant States to Canberra; but, if definite business will be transacted for a week or two our presence here will be necessary.
.- The Government’s intention is to submit the budget on Tuesday, the 24th July. The House will then be asked to proceed with the business now on the notice-paper. That, as well as the measures arising out of the budget, we hope to dispose of before the session terminates. The legislation consequent upon the budget will probably be included in one omnibus bill, as has been done on previous occasions, but it may not be possible to cover all these matters by the one measure. Honorable members may rest assured that there will be plenty of business to occupy the three weeks which will be available before the House finally adjourns on the 10th August.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This measure is designed to bring the collection of light dues in Australia on vessels which pass certain lighthouses in the Leeward and Bahama Islands into conformity with the present charges made by the British Board of Trade. Honorable members will recall that in 1932 we passed a Colonial Light Dues Collection Act to enable us to collect, on behalf of the British Government, light dues from vessels which secured benefits from twelve lighthouses and one light buoy which the British Government had provided in the West Indies. Our legislation at that time made a specific charge in conformity with the charges then being collected from all vesselsby the British
Government in other dominions and Great Britain itself. Since then certain reductions have been made, and it is now desired that the dues we collect from vessels which call at Australia after passing those lighthouses shall be in conformity with the reduced charges now operating elsewhere. All this bill proposes to do is to enable the Collector of Customs to collect the reduced charges, and to conform to any alterations of the rates that may be made from time to time by the British Board of Trade.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
House adjourned at 3.25 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
y asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
In view of the indecipherable signatures of certain public officials, will he issue a direction that in all official correspondence and documents the name of the signee shall be typed under the written signature?
– An instruction to this effect is already on record in Commonwealth departments and branches, and I am now repeating it.
Pensions: Amount Contributed by Relatives.
r asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
What amount has been (a) claimed, and
– The Pensions Act does not empower the department to make a claim on the relatives of pensioners. Relatives are asked to make a proposal for a voluntary contribution. If. in the opinion of the Deputy Commissioner, the relative is able to contribute to the cost of pension, and he does not submit a proposal to make a voluntary contribution, or the amount proposed to be contributed is not acceptable, the Deputy Commissioner may approach the court for an order requiring the relative to contribute such amount as the court determines. The annual rate of contributions by relatives is £6,698, and the amount contributed to date is £2,486.
Sitting Days of Judges.
m. - The information is being obtained, and a reply will be furnished as soon as possible, in reply to a question asked by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) in regard to sitting days of judges.
Oil Fuel from Coal.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
What steps has he taken to fulfil the promises made by him and Senator McLachlan) at Cessnock in March last, viz. : -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 13 July 1934, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1934/19340713_reps_13_144/>.