14th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon.G. J. Bell) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– Yesterday the honororable member for Franklin (Mr. Frost) asked whether the Government of Tasmania had been invited to be represented at the conference which is to consider the unification of railway gauges. I have since verified the impression that I had on the time that an invitation was not issued in this case. The exclusion of the Government of Tasmania from the conference was not aimed at, but, not being directly concerned in the matter of a uniform gauge on the mainland, it was thought that that Government would not desire representation. Should it wish to be represented, its delegates will be welcome.
Mr. WHITE laid on the table reports and recommendations of the Tariff Board on the following subjects : -
HandworkedInflators of all kinds.
Iron and Steel Tubes or Pipes, not more than three inches internal diameter; Iron and Steel Boiler Tubes.
Iron and Steel Wire, other than of No. 15 or finer gauge.
Sheep, Cattle, and Horse Washes, in liquid or powder form; Insecticides and Disinfectants, &c. ; Preparations being Formaldehyde or containing Formaldehyde, &c.
Zinc and Spelter, viz. : - Bars, Blocks, Ingots, Scrap; Sheets, Plain; Circles or Ingots, bored or unbored, for Cyanide Gold Process; Zinc Dust; Zinc Tubing. ,
Ordered to be printed.
Motion (by Mr. Lyons) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until
Tuesday next, at 3 p.m.
– During the last two or three parliaments the Government has shown a disposition to have only one session of a number of periods, instead of periodical prorogations and new sessions. I ask the Prime Minister to state whether the Government favours reversion to the practice of annual sessions, which was followed for a very lengthy period in the history of Australia, and the rejection of the pernicious practice to which I have referred?
– I do not know that the recent practice can be accurately described as “ pernicious “, nor that it has less merit than that followed for a number of generations in Great Britain and Australia. So long as there is business to be done, and the circumstances are such as were associated recently with the consideration of tariff schedules, there is no possibility of avoiding the continuance of a session. If the business can be so arranged that the former practice may be reverted to, the Government will be only too pleased to adopt that course.
– Yesterday the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. John Lawson), asked a question in regard to the issue of federal income tax assessments. I should like to supplement the reply that I then made. Further inquiry shows that no federal income tax assessments have yet been issued, and that none will be sent out prior to Christmas. The assessments referred to by the honorable member were those of the State of New South Wales.
– Can the Minister for Commerce state when a decision will be made in regard to the allocation of the £500,000, portion of the £4,000,000 to be made available for assistance to wheatgrowers, which is to be utilized in the immediate relief of cases of acute distress ?
– The intention is that a discussion shall take place between the chairman of the Wheat Commission mid the State authorities as to the best means of dealing with the matter. Action will be taken to give effect to whatever is decided.
– In view of the statement of the Minister for Commerce yesterday, that the wheat-growers relief money will be paid through the States, can the right honorable gentleman say whether the payments will be made directly to the growers, or if paid through the State government departments, whether those who owe money to the States, will be prejudiced?
– -The intention of the Government is that the money shall be paid directly to the growers.
– The Sydney Morning Herald yesterday published a message from Darwin concerning pearl fishing in the waters of Northern Australia. It reads -
Mr. Mark Aitken, a pearler, of Thursday Island, who put into Darwin to-day, said that the Japanese were increasing their pearling boats operating off the coast of Northern Australia . . . The Japanese on the grounds were operating about sixteen ketches. These were much larger than the Australian boats, which numbered nearly twenty . . . After staying two days the motor vessel left.
That refers to a vessel which carried a party of scientists and Japanese government officials, who visited the grounds and made investigations. The message continues -
He heard afterwards that it was a patrol boat from the Pellew Group of islands, near the Philippines, over which the Japanese exercise a mandate. It was the opinion of pearlers . . . that Japanese vessels had been poaching in Australian waters. The Japanese were placing new boats on the grounds every year.
I ask the Minister for .the Interior to state what efforts are being made to prevent Japanese boats from entering the creeks of the Northern Territory and the north-west of Australia?
– This matter concerns partly the Department of Trade and Customs and partly the Department of the Interior. The last Government decided to either build or purchase three patrol* boats, one to operate in Darwin waters, one near Thursday Island, and one in the Mandated Territory of New Guinea. The arrangements for their purchase or construction have not yet been completed. The policy of the Government is definitely to investigate any poaching that may be taking place in Australian waters.
– Action was promised eighteen months ago.
– Quite a lot of the reports which come from the north are found, when probed, to be inaccurate. The Department of Trade and Customs seized a boat at Thursday Island last year, and the captain of it was fined. A second boat was seized in the Mandated Territory of New Guinea, and the crew were imprisoned. The Government is alive to the difficulties of the situation, and when the patrol boats are available further steps ‘will be taken to minimize the activities of poachers.
Motion (by Mr. Casey) - by leave - proposed -
That he have leave to bring in a bill for an act relating to the imposition, assessment and collection of a tax upon flour and certain imported goods in the manufacture of which flour has been used.
.- As the subject-matter of this bill cognate to the relief of wheat-growers, I should like to know whether it will be permissible to consider it in conjunction with the Wheat Growers Relief Bill and the Wheat Bounty Bill.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. G. J. Bell).As the three measures are cognate, they may be discussed simultaneously.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill brought up, and read a first time.
– Has the Assistant Treasurer yet come to a decision upon the question that I asked him last week in reference to the waiving of the sales tax on hospital equipment?
– Owing to pressure of Government business in the last few days, Cabinet has not yet had time to consider the point raised by the honorable member.
– Purchases are being held up awaiting a decision.
– The matter will be considered at the earliest possible moment.
– I ask the Prime Minister if the assistance that is to be made available for the stimulation of mining operations will be made conditional upon the States giving a satisfactory undertaking that steps will be taken to prevent either the holding or dummying of leases by either individuals or companies who make no effective effort to develop them?
– I quite realize that the evil to which the honorable member has referred exists. I am afraid, however, that interference with State legislation and administration in regard to employment would be a difficult matter. A conference has been held in the last day or two between representatives of the States and the representative of the Commonwealth, and a report is to be submitted to the Government. When it is received, consideration will be given to the matter raised by the honorable member.
– Can the Minister representing the Postmaster-General say whether a contract has been let in connexion with the proposed cable telephone service to Tasmania, and, if so, when the work is likely to commence?
– A tender has been .accepted for this work, but it is anticipated that some months will elapse before the cable is ready to be laid. It is estimated that about eighteen months will elapse from the signing of the contract before the work i3 completed. I shall obtain the details and supply them to the honorable member,
– Can the Prime Minister say whether, in addition to the grant by the Commonwealth to assist in the alleviation of distress caused by floods in Victoria, the Government will make money available to help farmers whose crops have been completely destroyed by the floods, and ako whether it will make available relief money to restore the damage done in the Koo-wee-rup district?
– The matters referred to by the honorable member come more within the jurisdiction of the Government of Victoria than that of the Commonwealth Government. The Commonwealth has already contributed a substantial sum to assist the Government of Victoria in this connexion.
– Is it not a national calamity affecting the Commonwealth?
– Because the Commonwealth Government realized that it is a national calamity it agreed to contribute £10,000 to the Government of Victoria. In addition to making that grant, the Commonwealth Government is prepared to meet the request of the Premier of Victoria for a substantial sum to provide immediate employment to restore damage done by the flood. Apart from what the Commonwealth is doing in this national calamity, it will soon submit definite proposals to Parliament for the assistance of primary producers generally throughout Australia; but it seems to me that the particular cases referred to by the honorable member should be dealt with by the Government of the State. The Commonwealth will do all it can to co-operate with the State government in dealing with the problems caused by the flood.
– Can the Prime Minister assure the House that, in the event of the Victorian Government proposing to use Commonwealth unemployment, relief funds to make advances to farmers in the flooded areas, in order to restore their properties, the Commonwealth Government will give its approval to such use of the money?
– I cannot give an undertaking that the Government will approve of such a course; but if the Government of Vi’ctoria takes action to re-employ people thrown out of employment for any reason, then this Government will consider the proposal. If the action involves the employment of people who would otherwise be unemployed, whether on the land or in towns, I have no doubt that this Government would support it.
Motion (by Mr. Paterson) - by leave - agreed to -
That he have leave to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Seat of Government (Administration) Act 1930.
Bill brought up, and read a first time.
– Can the Minister for Defence inform the House what representatives of the fighting services accompanied Sir George Pearce on his recent visit to New Zealand?
– The Minister for External Affairs (Senator Pearce) was accompanied on his recent visit to New Zealand by Mr. F. G. Shedden, one of the secretaries of the Defence Department, and Mr. A. E. Leighton, of the munitions section of that department.
– Will the Government take steps to present the report of the royal commission on petrol to the House before the recess?
– If possible, the Government will do as the honorable member desires.
– The chairman of the commission is prolonging the inquiry unduly, which is unfair.
– I have no information to that’ effect; but on more than one occasion the Government has asked that no time be lost in presenting the report. I give the honorable member the assurance that, if the report is received in time, it will be laid on the table before Parliament goes into recess.
– Has the Minister for Commerce any further statement to make regarding the proposed restrictions of meat exports from Australia to the United Kingdom?
– Negotiations are still proceeding with the British Government ; but I have no further state ment to make at this stage.
– Can the Minister for Trade and Customs say whether- the Tariff Board has reported on Oregon, and, if so, when he intends to table the report? I have received a telegram from South Australia this morning asking when the report will be presented.
– The Tariff Board’s report on Oregon has been received and considered by the Government ; but, as it affects certain trade treaty negotiations, it has not been tabled. When those negotiations have been finalized, the report will be laid on the table.
– In, reply to a question which I had placed on the notice-paper for Tuesday last, the Minister for the Interior said that the expenditure involved in supplying the information sought was not warranted. Can the Prime Minister say whether the refusal to give information in answer to my question was the result of a Cabinet decision, or merely the decision of the Minister? Further, does he consider that a refusal to answer questions concerning the expenditure of public funds is in the best interests of responsible government?
– The reply given by the Minister for the Interior, in answer to the previous question of the honorable member, was, in the first place, an expression of his own opinion; but I add that it is my opinion, also. The Government, like all its predecessors, is prepared at all times to give the fullest information within reason to the Parliament and the country; but there are times when the cost of obtaining the information asked for is greater than is justified. I believe that that is so in this case, and also that no good purpose would be served by supplying the information asked for.
– In view of the large number of cases to be dealt with by the existing repatriation tribunals - three or four months ago the number was given as between 600 and 800, and returned soldiers having sometimes to wait twelve months for replies - will the Minister consider the advisability of creating another set of tribunals, so that one could sit in Sydney to deal with Queensland and New South Wales cases and the other in Victoria to deal with cases in all the other States?
– My attention * has already been called by the honorable gentleman to the large number of cases awaiting consideration; but I cannot believe that the appointment of another set of tribunals would clear up the arrears. However, I shall give the matter most careful consideration, and if I see eye to eye with the honorable gentleman I shall consider the advisability of appointing a still further set of tribunals.
– I hold in my hand two cheap ink pens, one made in Japan and sold for Id. retail in that country, and for 3d. in Melbourne, but bearing no mark to indicate the country of origin, and the other bearing a brand giving the name of its manufacturer in England. Can the Minister say whether there is in force a regulation providing that imported goods shall be branded with the country of origin, or whether there has recently been some change in the department’s requirements in this connexion ?
– Under the Commerce (Trade Descriptions) Act, the Government can prescribe that all goods imported into Australia shall be marked with the country of origin. The regulations, provide that only those articles that are branded with British words shall indicate the country of origin. One of the articles referred to by the honorable member has nothing to show that it is a pen, and the price at which it is sold suggests that it may not be a pen. If the honorable member thinks that the article to which he has drawn attention should be branded with the country of origin the Government is prepared to consider the matter.
– Will the Minister for Trade and Customs inform me whether his department has, during the last month, issued a permit for the shipment of 30 rams and 60 ewes to Japan? If so, to whom was the permit issued?
– The Commerce Department makes the recommendation and the Trade and Customs Department furnishes the authority for such exports, but no recommendation has been made during the last month.
– And no permit issued?
– Will the Minister for Trade and Customs inform me whether, if the Tariff Board report on the remission of duty on agricultural machinery is received before the Christmas adjournment, an endeavour will be made to lay it on the table of the House ?
– That report has just been received by the Government, but has not yet been given consideration. In the circumstances, it cannot be tabled.
– Has the Prime Minister yet reached a decision as to whether he will lay on the table of the House the report of certain officers of the Department of the Interior into the conditionof the plant at Cockatoo Island Dockyard, or will honorable members still be forced to go to the office of the Commonwealth Shipping Board if they wish to examine it?
– I have made arrangements for the report to be brought to Canberra. When it arrives, it will be laid on the table of the Library.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been drawn to a report that men are parading outside Australia House in London carrying placards advocating the boycott of Australian goods? If this is being done, will the Government communicate with the High Commissioner in London with the object of having the practice discontinued in view of the detrimental effect it may have on the interests of Australia?
– I shall make inquiries, but I do not know whether the High Commissioner can exercise any control of the street outside Australia House.
The following paper was presented: -
Bill brought up by Mr. Paterson, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The object of this bill is to amend the Service and Execution of Process Act 1901-1931 to meet a request made by the Government of Queensland. The principal act provides, in section 15, for the interstate service of processes on men who have deserted their wives and children and left them without means of support. Serious doubt has arisen, however, whether the provisions of this section are sufficiently wide to enable the service of processes to be made in cases covered by section 51 of the Queensland State Children Act 1911, which provides that summonses may be issued upon a complaint that a certain person is a near relative of a State child and able to contribute towards the cost of maintaining the child. Upon the return of the summons, the court may inquire whether the defendant is a near relative and able to support the child, and if it is satisfied on these points, it may make a maintenance order against him. It is obviously desirable that the provisions of the Service and Execution of Process Act shall enable the service of processes to be made in such cases. As the Commonwealth act does not appear precisely to cover them the Government of that State has invited the Commonwealth to amend the law to remove the anomaly, and the Government is quite willing to do so. The bill simply seeks to include in section 15 of the principal act, a reference to the kind of complaint that may be laid under section 51 of the Queensland law, and I invite honorable members to give it their favorable consideration.
– What is the definition of a “near relative”?
– That appears in the Queensland act. I am sorry that I cannot give the honorable member the definition off-hand.
– Are we simply to accept what the Queensland Government proposes ?
– This bill deals simply with the service and execution of process.
– That is so. We are not seeking to exercise any control over the State Government in the matter. One State may choose to impose heavy obligations upon parents and near relatives, and another State may choose to impose lighter obligations upon them. This Parliament is not concerned with the wisdom or unwisdom of the provisions of State acts, or the standard of obligations they impose. The object of this bill is merely to enable service of the process from one State into another State. Nothing is being done to influence the proceedings under the service, for that is not a Commonwealth function. The bill is confined to procedure and does not touch jurisdiction.
– But it may enable the Queensland court to make an order, by allowing the process to be issued.
– That is so. The object of the measure is to facilitate the service of process. It is intended primarily to bring about cheapness and promptness of service of process, which is a matter of greater importance to people who cannot afford expensive litigation.
– Will the passage of this measure tend to help ex-nuptial children ?
– Yes. I point out that if cases of the kind brought under our notice by the Queensland Government do not fall within the provisions of our Service and Execution of Process Act, it may be impossible to obtain an order against a man who is properly liable to an order, simply ‘because he has gone beyond the jurisdiction of the State.
– That is now the case in some respects in connexion with our marriage laws.
– It is very frequently so. The purpose of this bill, I assure honorable members, is simply to remove doubt as to whether the present provisions of the Service and Execution ofProcess Act apply to cases of the kind brought under notice by the Queensland Government, and to avoid an expensive and cumbersome process which may defeat the object of the people who seek, and are entitled to, redress.
.- If I have understood the AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Menzies) clearly, this is merely a machinery measure. The laws of the States differ somewhat in regard to the protection of deserted wives and children. Specific reference has been made by the Attorney-General to the Queensland law which imposes certain obligations on the near relatives of a child. Such obligations are not, for instance, imposed in similar cases in Victoria. As the Attorney-General has said, it is not for us to question either the right or the propriety of any State passing legislation of that kind. Some States have more comprehensive legislation of this nature than other States. The laws have in some instances a far-reaching effect, and in others a limited effect.
– But what if we think the laws are bad?
– That is just the point.
– I do not see why we should facilitate the service and execution of process if we think the laws are unjust.
– I express no opinion on that subject, except to say that probably a law extending the ambit of responsibility of a near relative would have our support.
– We should know what the law is before we do anything to facilitate the administration of it.
– That has not been the procedure followed in the past. The practice has been to provide machinery operative throughout the whole of Australia to give effect, so far as the machinery of procedure is concerned, to the statute of any State only so far as it may be relevant to matters to be adjudicated upon and to enable the persons sought to be cited as offenders to be served with the necessary process. We shall land ourselves into all sorts of difficulties if we attempt so to modify the Service and Execution of Process Act as to pass judgment upon any State in respect of any legislation it has enacted. Such a course would create an impossible position. This Commonwealth law has proved very useful indeed. It has enabled offenders to be followed into different States where, prior to federation, it was impossible to follow them. It has proved most useful in the interest of the administration of justice generally. I have no objection to the bill whatever.
– I approach the consideration of this bill with no knowledge of the Queensland legislation, but with the feeling that it may be wise for this Parliament to prevent the easy process of some State law of which it does not approve. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) laughs. I am not considering this subject from the legal view-point, which is merely concerned with the phraseology of a statute, not caring one way or the other whether the law is bad or good. As far as it is within my power to do so, I shall not consent to this Parliament facilitating the application of a bad law of a State - or, indeed, of any law of a State - until I have fully informed myself whether I agree with its provisions. For instance, a government of the character now in office in New South Wales may pass legislation seriously infringing the rights of certain citizens, and may then approach this Parliament with success for an alteration of the existing legal process to enable the application of that law to residents of New South Wales, no matter where they may be found, throughout the Commonwealth. Thus, citizens suffering under the measure who might desire to leave the State in order to escape the incidence of that law and remain absent until it was amended might be pursued by means of Commonwealth legislation. As I was remarking, I approach the consideration of this measure with no knowledge of whether the Queensland law is good or bad. The House ought reasonably to be fully informed on that aspect of the question before it permits the application of that law by any process to any other part of Australia. It should not be greatly influenced by the. claim that this bill seeks to cheapen the process of applying a particular law gassed in Queensland. The observations of the Attorney-General (Mr. Menzies) in this respect may lead us to feel that those likely to benefit from the operation of this legislation are usually of the poorer classes. Probably the majority likely to be affected are in that category.
– Does the honorable member hold that a citizen of a State should be able to avoid his obligations under a particular law passed in that State?
– That would depend, in my opinion, upon the kind of law under which such a citizen sought to avoid his obligations.
– The people of that State itself would, I suggest, be the proper judges as to whether the law was fair or unfair.
– I am at liberty to exercise my own judgment in that regard. For instance, there are many laws operating in New South Wales of which I would gladly relieve the people. I would be entitled to take that course just as much as the honorable member is entitled to defend his point of view on any subject which comes up for discussion in this House. Therefore I hold that I should not be a party in this Parliament to any action designed to facilitate the application of some law which, upon examining it, I might hold to be an unjust law, or one not based on equity or on the best principles by which I think the people should be governed. The Queensland law in this case may, upon examination, be found to be satisfactory. But I have no knowledge of what it is. The point I emphasize is that, by passing this bill without the fullest deliberation, a precedent may be established. State governments will understand that, after passing a certain law, it will be an easy matter to facilitate its application throughout the Commonwealth, merely by asking the Commonwealth Attorney-General to bring down a bill such as has been done in this case. Before providing such facilitation of process, the House must be satisfied that the law under consideration is just and equitable and is one which, in the opinion of a majority of honorable gentlemen ‘in this chamber can justly be applied to all States throughout the Commonwealth.
.- The Queensland law involved in this matter is the State Children Act of 1911. Under that act a near relative of a legitimate child is defined as the “ father, mother, step-father, step-mother, brother, sister and grandparent” ; and that of an illegitimate child as “ the mother, and the person admitting himself to be, or adjudged by a competent court to be, the father “. Section 50 of this act provides that a magisterial order of liability to pay or contribute towards the maintenance of a legitimate child can be made against the “father, mother, step-father or stepmother “ and in the case of an illegitimate against the “ father or mother “. Provision is made for the granting of maintenance orders limited, at the time this act was passed, to 10s. per week. That amount may have been altered since.
– A grandparent would be subject to such an order?
– The act mentions the relatives who may be called upon to contribute towards the support of a neglected child, according to their several abilities and limits them, under section 50, to the father, mother, step-father or step-mother of a legitimate State child - the brother, sister or grandparent is not liable - and to either the father or the mother in the case of an illegitimate child.
– But this measure seeks to facilitate the process and application of a law of a State under conditions of which we may not approve.
– I appreciate the point taken by the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley),- but seeing who are the persons liable for payment under the Queensland law in this case, I think the honorable gentleman might be prepared to support the bill.
– The question raised by the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) opens up the problem as to what persons are morally bound to assist a neglected child, and whether this law provides that such children should be supported by people whom we do not agree are morally bound to do so.
– That question has already been determined by the Queensland law.
– But the view of this question taken in the Queensland law may not be acceptable in the parliaments of other States. Many of these parliaments still hold the view that only parents are responsible for the welfare of their children. I do not think honorable gentlemen would refrain from helping to facilitate any law which supports that principle. It is generally agreed that near relatives, provided no hardship is incurred to themselves, should volunteer to provide for the upkeep of a neglected child, but the question now arises as to whether we should depart from that principle by facilitating the application of a law which provides that certain people should be made responsible for the upkeep of the child for whom they are not really responsible. Thousands of cases might arise in which people would be compelled to contribute towards the upkeep of a child, although they are not justly responsible for the economic position of that child. This Parliament might not want to do that, yet by passing this bill we are making it easier for a State to do so. I do not think any honorable gentleman would be averse to facilitating the operation of a law throughout the Commonwealth which limited the responsibility for the upkeep of children to parents. I can imagine cases arising in which, under a State law, a magistrate could, and would, compel struggling working people to accept responsibility for a neglected child and subscribe to its maintenance, although such an order might impose hardship upon the children of the relatives against whom the order was made. I do not think we should facilitate the application of a law which would have that effect.
.- I agree with the opinion expressed by the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley). The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn) quoted from the Queensland act in order to show that, in some circumstances, grandparents and certain other relatives were not included among those who might be compelled to contribute to the support of children, but the fact remains that if we pass this bill we are opening the way for the enforcement of legislation which might, in other circumstances, include such relatives. It has been said that it is the duty of this Parliament not to consider whether good or bad will come of laws passed by States, but to facilitate the execution of those laws as far as possible whether we agree with them or not. My idea of the functions of the Commonwealth Parliament is that it should, as far as is practicable, seek to obtain uniformity in legislation throughout the whole Commonwealth. If one State departs radically from accepted standards or principles of legislation, we cannot do anything to prevent it, but there is no obligation on us to facilitate the execution of its legislation. The act, as it stands at present, is very complete, and gives authority for the issuing of summonses to persons charged with child desertion, and certain other specified offences, no matter in what State they may be. The act further provides that -
– (1.) When a summons has been issued, on information upon oath, by any Court or Judge or Police, Stipendiary, or Special Magistrate or Justice of the Peace having jurisdiction in any State or part of a State or part of the Commonwealth, commanding any person: -
That provision covers the generally accepted responsibility of parentage in any State.
– Does the act give power to serve summonses in another State in the case of desertion?
– Yes. I do not think that we should facilitate the execution of laws with the principles of which we disagree.
– Is it not possible that the principle of uniformity can be carried too far? Is it not better to encourage pioneering in legislation by the States?
– We are now discussing the responsibility of relatives for the maintenance of children, and that is a matter upon which there should be uniformity throughout the Common- wealth.
– Can the honorable member not imagine cases in which relatives other than immediate relatives should be compelled by the community to contribute to the support of children?
– That is not for us to decide. What concerns me is that, in this bill, we are asked to facilitate the enforcement of the law of a State which is essentially at variance with the accepted principles of similar legislation in every other State. I. objected some time ago, when an amendment, to the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act was before the House, to the proposal that children should be responsible for the upkeep of their grandparents. To be consistent, therefore, I must also oppose any proposal to make the grandparents responsible for the upkeep of their grandchildren. I think that honorable members would be well advised to vote against the bill because, if passed, it would create an undesirable precedent.
– When I first examined this bill, and before I had heard it debated, it did not seem to me that there could be any objection to it. Now, however, after hearing what honorable members have had to say, and after having examined the Queensland act, it seems to me that circumstances might arise in which it would be most undesirable to give this extraState extension to the Queensland legislation. That legislation raises questions of policy which are novel to me, though the act is a fairly old one. I should have thought that it was highly unreasonable that stepfathers should be compelled to support children, while blood brothers should escape all responsibility. Under the Queensland act, a brother can have a child declared a ward of the State and, that having been done, the stepfather and not the brother, becomes liable for its maintenance. In the act certain relatives, including brothers, sisters and grandparents, are described as near relatives, and authority is given to them to make application for children to be declared wards of the State. Once a child had been declared a ward of the State, an order for its maintenance may be made against its father, mother, stepfather, or stepmother. I should not quarrel with that if it applied only to those relatives of the child who happened to be resident in Queensland; butmy objection is that, if the bill now before us is passed, Queensland might be able to apply its legislation to persons who are not residents of Queensland at all. In my opinion, discussion of this measure should be adjourned, so that we might see just how far it is proposed to extend the authority of the Queensland legislation. It seems to me that there is a possibility, under this legislation, that proceedings might be taken in a Queensland court against a stepfather or other relative resident in another State, and who has never been a member of the Queensland community.
– He must have been a resident when the obligation was incurred.
– That is not stipulated.
– The State law would have no application otherwise.
– That is a matter we should look into very carefully before proceeding any further. Section 15 of the present Commonwealth act is free from the danger to which I have referred, because it is made clear that the person against whom the summons is to be issued must have committed the offence or incurred the liability in Queensland. There may be nothing in the point I have raised; but we should give ourselves time to examine the matter thoroughly in order to determine whether there is or not.
– ‘Could a Queensland court hold a resident of another State liable?
– This bill is certainly intended to enable proceedings to be served on a person living in another State. If a member of the Queensland community leaves that State in order to evade his obligations under Queensland law, it is right that Queensland law should be able to follow him in the way proposed in this bill; but the question is whether we are not making it possible to apply Queensland law to residents of another State who were never citizens of Queensland. In view of all the circumstances, I trust that the AttorneyGeneral will agree to an adjournment of the debate, in order to enable the points raised to be considered.
– The discussion on this measure exhibits, I submit, a failure on the part of some honorable members to appreciate the true significance of legislation of this nature. The question raised by the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) is whether the law in Queensland operates against persons . who are not residents of that State, and how far under the Queensland act of 1911 it would be possible for the Queensland Crown to make an order against some person who was definitely and permanently resident in another State. There are two observations which I should like to make on that point. The first is that when there is State legislation, particularly of this type, it must, prima facie, in accordance with very well-established principles of interpretation, be read as being directed to the citizens of that State. Assuming that to be wrong, and that the Queensland act does in fact address itself to the liabilities of persons not resident in Queensland, my second observation is that anything we do in this Parliament can have no effect upon it. All that we are concerned in doing is to determine whether we shall complete the machinery, put into motion many years ago, of facilitating the service and execution of process between one State and another. If in considering a service and execution of process bill we paused to determine how far we should approve or disapprove of any State law that would be enforced as a result of the process, we should become involved in what might eventually prove to be a hopeless tangle.
– We would be setting ourselves up as a high court of appeal.
– Exactly. One of the powers conferred upon this Parliament is expressly related to this subjectUnder section 51 of the Constitution, paragraph XXIV., the Commonwealth Parliament is empowered to make laws for -
The service and execution throughout the Commonwealth of the civil and criminal process and the judgments of the courts of the States.
That power is not concerned with the problem of the accuracy or inaccuracy of the judgments or disputes in the matter of law. It was given to the Commonwealth Parliament in order that it might deal with an anomaly existing prior to federation, when every State was, in relation to every other State, a foreign country for the purpose of serving processes.
– Not exactly; there was a federal council.
– Yes, of an extremely tenuous character. In substance each State, in relation to another, was for this purpose a foreign country, with the result that the gravest abuses arose. Persons escaped their obligations, not only under the laws, but also under the processes of the courts, by removing from one State to another. This was particularly so in the’ case of persons against whom orders had been made in matrimonial causes. Husbands who had deserted their wives or fathers their children could, regardless of their financial position, avoid their obligations by merely transferring across the border. Provision was, therefore, made in the Federal Constitution that the Commonwealth Parliament should have power to legislate so that the writ should run with perfect ease from one end of Australia to the other - processes of all kinds, the enforcement of judgments of all kinds. If we refer to the Service and Execution of Process Act we find for example in section 14 that any writ, notice, decree, or other process required to be served on any party or person may be served on such party or person in any other State or part of the Commonwealth. That power, which has existed for years, has been extremely valuable, and yet in the writs which have been served State laws have been invoked which might have been roundly condemned by large sections of this Parliament ; but this Parliament has deliberately abstained from inquiring into the wisdom or unwisdom of the law concerned for the good reason that it is its business to attend to its own law making, and it is equally its business to respect the right of a State to make its own laws for its own purpose.
– But we represent the same people.
– We do, but our powers are quite distinct. The act to which I have referred was passed by the Queensland Government, .and this amending bill is submitted because of representations made by and information received from the present Queensland Government, which I should have thought would be scarcely likely to desire somer thing unduly oppressive. The point I wish to emphasize is that we are not concerned with the legislation passed by any State provided that it is within the competence of a State Parliament to pass such legislation.
– Then it is wrong for the Federal Government to intervene at all with respect to any State law ?
– That point cannot be answered in a word.
– I see. The AttorneyGeneral realizes the point we are making.
– The honorable member who has interjected will see better in a moment. There are many legislative powers jointly or concurrently exercised by the Commonwealth and the States, and where powers are held concurrently it is not. only right, but also the duty of this Parliament to intervene when it thinks proper.
– It depends upon the interests to be served.
– It depends entirely upon the will of this Parliament, and if the expressed will of this Parliament affects one State or another, it does not matter very much. The illustrations raised by honorable members are scarcely to the point. They deal with matters under the concurrent jurisdiction of the Commonwealth and the State parliaments, and .therefore, it is within the competence of this Parliament to deal with them.
– I bow to the honorable member’s superior knowledge. I gather from honorable members’ interjections that it is immaterial to them that the Parliament of a State has sole power to deal with the obligations of parents in respect of their children. That power is not possessed by this Parliament. If any Parliament has to legislate on this subject it must be a State Parliament, and it would be gratuitous on the part of this House to say to a State “ We shall endeavour to control your laws in relation to the maintenance of children, through the indirect means of making it difficult to have those laws carried out.”
– In this particular case we would also be prejudging a decision of the court by preventing a matter coming to a hearing.
– Precisely. That is the last point with which I wished to deal. When process is issued against a man it is in the first place issued against him because it is thought that some complaint exists against him. Whether that complaint is well founded or ill founded is to be determined by a proper tribunal, and it is most important that the process of determining it should be facilitated, made cheap and prompt. Another class for consideration isthat in which an order has been made, and the liability determined, but the person concerned has slipped across the border. In those circumstances I doubt whether anybody would suggest that it should be made difficult to recapture him and make him face up to his obligations. By passing legislation of this character we do not propose to deal with the liability at all. We do not create the liability, and we do not express any opinion upon it. All that we do is to provide that a valid State law in which the social will of that State is expressed shall, under the general power given to this Parliament by the Constitution, be made effective throughout Australia from the point of view of administration and service.
– During the committeo stage, will the Attorney-General undertake to satisfy himself and the House that there is no doubt as to the point raised that a State law may apply to residents of another State.
– I do not think that there is anything in the point raised by the honorable member for Bourke, but I suggest that the bill be carried through to the report stage, and meanwhile I shall give the subject further consideration.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 (Service of summons for complaint in any part of the Commonwealth).
– It has been suggested that by passing this bill the application of the State legislation may be extended beyond the confines of the State, but’ I remind the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) that the subject must be studied from the view-point of the powers possessed by the States prior to federation. It is clear that the powers of the Commonwealth are limited. By the Constitution certain specific powers are conferred upon the Commonwealth, and speaking generally those powers which the Commonwealth does not possess are still retained by the States. The Commonwealth possesses only those powers which were specifically conferred upon it by the Constitution, but at the same time it was realized that there was a possibility of citizens of certain States avoiding legal obligations by passing from one State to another. It was also realized with closer union that means for service and the execution of process beyond a State should be provided, and with that in view, paragraph 24 of section 51 was inserted in the Constitution. As the Attorney-General (Mr. Menzies) has clearly pointed out, the object of that paragraph is not to extend the area of the legislation possessed by the different States or their jurisdiction so far as the rights, duties and liabilities of their citizens are concerned. That power of legislating within a State was left entirely to the States. But it was deemed desirable to have a simple and expeditious procedure for the service and execution throughout theCommonwealth of the civil and criminal process and judgments of the courts of the States. In the present instance the Queensland Government is asking this Parliament to give fuller effect to the paragraph in the Constitution governing it. This provision was inserted to enable the Commonwealth to work in conjunction with the States, but was never intended to confer upon the Commonwealth a power to be exercised by way of supervision in respect of legislation passed by the States. If such a power were exercised by the Commonwealth, this Parliament would have to be continually revising this federal legislation according to the changed circumstances of the time.
– And exercising its mind as to what obstacles it could put in the way of the States.
– Yes. In this Parliament we might have continually fluctuating opinions as to the wisdom or otherwise of State legislation. Yet the suggestion is that the Commonwealth Parliament should use the power it possesses under paragraph 24 as a blocking power, whereas the object of that paragraph is to facilitate the operation of the State legislation. Take the case of a person who has never been a resident of Queensland. It is not intended by this amend.ing bill to extend the application of State legislation over people who have not been subject in any way to that State. If the honorable member for Bourke will look more closely into the bill he will see that no authority is given to extend the jurisdiction of the State. Therefore the position in that respect is perfectly safe. Simply because members may differ from a State law is no reason why they should not approve of the general enabling power in clause 2 of this bill. It does not purport to define uniform legislation for the States. It extends the federal act so that action can be taken against a person of “whom complaint is made under any law of the State relating to the care and maintenance of children, and such person being a relative of any child to whom that law applies, is liable under that law to pay or contribute towards the present or past maintenance of the child. It is set out in general terms. It could not possibly extend by any implication the meaning ot extent of any particular State legislation. It simply provides that, in respect of the State laws enacted the procedure for enforcement provided by this act may apply. Honorable members will see that the Queensland act itself is within the legislative sphere of the State. It is well drafted, contains nothing that can be seriously questioned, and, in its operation, does much good. It seeks to enforce the principle that, where relatives are in a position to contribute they should be compelled to do so. The principle involved in this bill is whether it is the duty of this Parliament to provide adequate machinery designed to enforce the legislation of the States as contemplated by the Constitution. This clause is quite a reasonable one, and I commend it to honorable members.
.- With regard to much of what has been said I am in complete agreement. I agree that we have no right to prevent any State from enforcing its law against its own subjects, even if those subjects have attempted to evade their liabilities by departing to another State. We have no right to set ourselves as censors of the States. But there is a possibility, if this legislation is passed in its present form, of a Queensland court being enabled to issue a summons against, a person resident in another State, compelling him to attend that Queensland court, aud make an order against him if he should obey that summons and attend the court. The Commonwealth has power to legislate in the matter of maintenance of children in connexion with marriage, and it has power to say that the whole of the Commonwealth shall be considered as one unit for this purpose; but it has never attempted to do so. Nevertheless it should assist a State to enforce whatever legislation it has on this subject, upon persons which are its own residents, even though fortuitously, or in an attempt to evade the law, they are then in another State. The point I am endeavouring to make is this: It may be that there are persons not residents of Queensland and who have never been residents of Queensland whom the State of Queensland may attempt to affect by this legislation. Section 15 as it now stands provides that a person shall not have a summons served upon him extra-State unless he has committed something in the nature of an offence in the State by which the summons is issued. But this provision is much wider and under it a person who has not been a resident of Queensland maybe dealt with. This difficulty might be overcome by inserting the words “ being a resident of a State “. Residence is a permanent connexion. I am not suggesting that these are the best words, but I do think that there is considerably more in the point which I have raised than was conceded by the Attorney-General.
– In order that the Committee might determine this question and not permit the bill to reach a stage beyond its control, I intend to move that a new subclause be inserted providing that application of the process shall not apply to other than residents of Queensland.
This amendment is designed to ensure that the methods of process which Parliament proposes to apply shall not affect other than those persons to whom the Queensland law actually applies.
It would remove any doubt as to its application, for instance, to the residents of New South Wales, who may be near relatives of the Queensland parties concerned. The point I am making has already been established by the AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Menzies) that no amendment of the Commonwealth law should be permitted which infringes the principle that certain State laws have particular reference to the people of the State. My amendments makes that clear. The Attorney-General stated that in the usual interpretation of the law the practice is to say “ such and such is the case”, but the honorable gentleman qualified that by saying, “ If there is any doubt, so-and-so is the case.” As to the application of the law, it is a question of the hands into which its interpretation is entrusted. One legal man may give one opinion, another may give quite a different interpretation.
– That will apply whatever language we use in our law.
– That is so. Apparently it does not matter what we determine in Parliament. It is a question of into whose hands the interpretation of the law is entrusted. One authority may place one construction on the written word of the law and another may give an entirely different interpretation of the same law. In that regard it is very fitting that I should make comment at this stage on the active interference of the Commonwealth with the rights of the States. Much has been said in regard to the interference by the Commonwealth with the rights of the States: that we should not interpose or place obstacles in the application of State laws; that our powers should be confined to matters within our own province. But the determining factor in that regard is the government of the day. For instance, the Constitution of the Upper House of a State legislature has nothing whatever to do with the ‘Commonwealth, but one Commonwealth government saw fit to intervene when New South Wales proposed to remove its Legislative Council. The revenue of the Commonwealth was used for the purpose of briefing legal opinion abroad to take steps to prevent the abolition of the Council. It all boils down to the fact that is rests on the government of the day to say that the Commonwealth has certain rights under the Constitution, or to twist and wriggle the meaning of words to suit its own purpose. We therefore reach no finality ; the whole problem is a hopeless one. Each authority applies its own interpretation; it all depends on which political party is in power at the moment. The case of the New South Wales Legislative Council may- be cited as evidence of this. The opinions of individuals in this Parliament outside of the Government are held in little regard; but if words mean anything the best we can do is to insert the amendment I have suggested in the hope that they may be interpreted along the lines we desire. J move -
That the following new sub-section be added : - /’Application of this process shall not apply to any other than residents of Queensland.”
– It probably would not apply to anybody if that amendment were agreed to.
.- I think that the committee agrees that this Parliament should not act as a high court of appeal on any State legislation. The fact that we allow processes to be served does not indicate that we either approve or disapprove of the legislation of a particular State. I sympathize to a great extent with some of the protests made by the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley), who spoke of the Commonwealth interference with regard to State affairs; yet that does not warrant us in further interfering in other directions. There is always a Nemesis when we go beyond our own authority. I favour one sovereign authority, and I believe that it should be vested in the Commonwealth; but, while we have a federation, we must respect the sovereign rights of every State, and the rights of each to pass its own laws. We are bound to facilitate the processes of the laws of the States. I suggest to the honorable member for West Sydney that the word “ resident “ is capable of so many interpretations that it may destroy the whole process of the law. A father might desert his wife and children, and cross the border to another State. “Within a month he could become enrolled there, and surely he would then be a resident of that State. If an offence has been committed in a certain State, the law of that State should apply; but it should not be made applicable to an offence committed elsewhere. I do not believe that any State law could be applied to a resident of another State, if the offence had been committed in another State.
– The Privy Council upholds the right honorable gentleman in that view.
– I am glad to be in such good company. I cannot support the amendment because it would enable a husband to leave his wife and family to starve by becoming a resident of another State.
– I urge the honorable member for West Sydney to accept the suggestion of the Attorney-General.
.- The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) has twisted my meaning, and I think he knows he has done so.
– I ask that that remark be withdrawn. I have not knowingly twisted any remark.
– The right honorable gentleman has misrepresented my remarks to an unreasonable extent. The trend of the discussion has shown that the laws of a State should not be applicable to persons other than residents of that State. I emphasized the point by quoting a declaration by the Attorney-General himself on this matter. He went on to say that, according to the interpretation of the law by those empowered to interpret it, the statutes of a State apply only to the residents of that State. My amendment is in conformity with that principle. I have no desire to enable a father to evade his responsibilities to his family. The Leader of the Opposition said that, by crossing over the borders of a State a man could escape from family responsibilities by becoming a resident of another State, and he added that my amendment would enable him to evade his obligations. That was the only logical inference to be drawn from his remarks.
– The right honorable gentleman said that the language of the amendment would have that result, and that is so.
– That is a matter of opinion. The Leader of the Opposition should not have made it appearthat that was the purpose of my amendment.
– I did not attempt to do anything of the kind, nor was such a thought in my mind.
– I noticed indications from the other side of the chamber of approval of the right honorable gentleman’s argument, and the implication seemed to be that I was trying to make it possible for people to evade their family responsibilities. Surely we are not here merely to juggle with words. If the objept of any member of the committee is misrepresented when he seeks an improvement in the law, a most unfair advantage of him will be taken. A private member is at a distinct disadvantage in dealing with a bill of this nature. The measure was not placed in our hands until the Attorney-General rose to speak upon it.
– I was informed that a copy of the bill had been placed in the mail-box of every honorable member.
– That is not so. We have had no opportunity to compare the Queensland act with the present proposal. I do not profess to have an intimate knowledge of law, and so other members, legally trained, could possibly pick holes in amendments submitted by me, on the ground of imperfect drafting.
– Is that not a good reason why the suggestion of the Attorney-General to postpone the consideration of the measure should be accepted ?
– The Minister’s proposal was to confer with the Opposition, but not with the members of my party. We have no opportunity to deal effectively with this measure in the other branch of the legislature, and, therefore, we have to take every advantage of our representation in this chamber to safeguard the interests of those who send us here. It will be of no use to complain after we have agreed to certain legislation that something has happened of which we do not approve. So we have taken the only course open to us, and have expressed our views to the best of our ability. Our amendment may not be framed in the most correct legal language; but we have tried to make our meaning reasonably clear by our supplementary remarks. I claim that I clearly showed that the object of my amendment is not to enable a person to evade his legal obligations by becoming a resident of another State.
– I rise to a personal explanation. The honorable member for West Sydney stated that I had deliberately misrepresented the purpose of his amendment, and had been unfair to him. I had no intention to do anything of that kind, nor did I do it. I merely pointed out to the honorable member, and to the committee, that his amendment was so phrased that it would have the effect of enabling a person t& escape his obligations by becoming a resident of another State. I did not suggest for a moment that the honorable member desired to make that evasion possible.
– Did not the right honorable gentleman say that the carrying of the amendment would be in bad taste, or use words to that effect?
– No ; I did not even imply that. I said that, in framing an amendment, we had to he careful not to stultify the whole of the legislation. I suggested that we should accept the suggestion of the Attorney-General for the adjournment of the debate at a certain stage, so that, if an amendment were found necessary, it could he inserted after due consideration. I pointed out that, if we accepted the honorable member’s amendment, the effect would be to nullify the State law, because a person affected by it might become a resident of another State, and the effect would be to defeat the object of the legislation for the protection of wives and children. I did not think for one moment that that was the honorable member’s intention, nor did one word of mine imply such an accusation.
– I advise the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) to accept the Attorney-General’s (Mr. Menzies) suggestion. The point raised by the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn), was that he was afraid that this measure, read in conjunction with the Queensland law, might have the effect of imposing obligations on persons not subject to the State legislation, and he asked the Attorney-General to look into that matter. I think the honorable member for West Sydney is labouring under a misunderstanding. Nobody has suggested that he desires the law to be amended to enable persons to escape their liabilities. The object is merely to secure the operation of the law upon those to whom the State law properly applies. That, in fact, is exactly what the honorable member for Bourke desires.
– Does the honorable member say that the State law. could not be applied to residents of another State?
– My own view is that the Queensland act does not apply to persons other than those under its legislative jurisdiction. A case has occurred where the question was raised as to the application of legislation to persons outside such jurisdiction. The Attorney-General, however, has promised to look into this matter to see whether a further definition is necessary, and then to make an announcement to the House, so that, if honorable members are not satisfied, it will be possible for them to take further action. I think that the honorable member *for West Sydney should ,be prepared to accept that offer.
– Are we to understand that the Attorney-General (Mr. Menzies) intends to report progress at this stage so that the clause may be further considered, and, if necessary, amended here, or that he proposes to send the bill to another place, and to have made there any amendment that may be found desirable?
– My proposal waB that, if any amendment were found to be necessary, it should be made here.
– That, I think, will satisfy us.
.- The position I took up was that I would be prepared to discuss the point raised by the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) - which is, in fact, identical with that raised by the honorable member forWest Sydney (Mr. Beasley) - with both those honorable members or with any other honorable member whom the honorable member for “West Sydney might nominate to act for him. I suggested, however, that we should take the bill up to the report stage, so that, if, ultimately, I made an announcement with which the House desired to disagree, it would have an opportunity to recommit the bill in order to make such alteration as it thought fit. I do not propose to leave this matter to be dealt with by another place. It will be dealt with effectively in this House.
-Would it not be better to report progress?
– It is the difference between Tweedledum and Tweedledee, since we are now on clause 2, and there are only two clauses in the bill. It would perhaps be better for me to report progress.
– Then I am prepared to withdraw my amendment.
Debate resumed from the 6th December (videpage 854), on motion by Mr. Casey -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– This bill attempts to consolidate the procedure provisions of the nine sales tax acts. I say “ attempts “, because, curiously enough, it does not propose that the procedure sections of those acts shall be repealed. Apparently it is intended that they shall continue, but that at the same time there shall be a general form of procedure, which may be used with reference to any of the acts. The Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Casey) told us that this measure was introduced as a result of certain doubts raised in a case pending in the High Court as to whether it was not the duty of an informant in a prosecution under any of these acts to name the act which he alleged to have been infringed. Because of that doubt, the honorable gentleman, taking time by the forelock, has introduced in this bill a clause which says that the Commissioner may, at his option, either demand a return under all acts, or a return under any separate act he pleases to name. The Assistant Treasurer says that this measure is in aid of the taxpayers. From that point of view, it seems to me that it is not, since a taxpayer has first of all to make a general return under all the acts, and! then maybe called upon to make a return under one special act. That means that the taxpayer is not to be freed, as he ought to be, from the burden of keeping separate books in respect of all the acts. The best course to follow would be to make a general provision that he shall be called upon to furnish one return, and shall not be called upon to furnish returns under separate acts. Under this bill as it stands, the taxpayer will still have to keep several sets of books; he might have to keep as many as nine. It is also clear that the procedure clauses of the nine acts are to remain in force. It will be possible for the Commissioner to elect whether he will proceed under one of the existing acts, or whether he will proceed under the new consolidated procedure laid down by this measure. That is not desirable. The bill should substitute a new form of procedure for the old one. It should also repeal the clauses that relate to returns and penalties under the nine several assessment acts. For some reason or other that is not done. There are, however, directions in which the bill does benefit the taxpayer. For instance, if we compare clause 11 of this bill with sections 48 and 49 of the corresponding No. 1 act we shall see that the burden of the penalty is by this bill lightened considerably. Formerly, I think it was possible to collect a triple penalty for any infringement. It is now proposed that such shall be done only where the maximum penalty has to be applied. In that respect the bill will benefit the taxpayer, and, subject to what I have said and to what I want to say, it seems to me to be unobjectionable. But I should like the Government to consider the advisability of making a clean sweep of the return and procedure provisions of the nine assessment acts, and to substitute this consolidated form for them. I should like it also to consider the desirability of dispensing with the power to require a return to be made under any of the old acts. If that be done, the taxpayer will have only one act to look at; he will know exactly his obligations and will have only one set of books to keep. Another point, which is really a matter for the committee, is that, under the original Sales Tax Assessment Act, it was provided that a person who was proceeded against under section 45 for making or delivering a return false in any particular, or making any false answer, whether verbally or in writing, might plead in defence that he had done so i’gnorantly or inadvertently. The burden of showing that it was done wilfully did not rest with the prosecution, but the defendant was permitted by the old legislation to defend himself by showing that, although he had made a false return, he had done so ignorantly or inadvertently. That particular provision was repealed by this Parliament during the present year. On looking through the debates I find, however, that the attention of the House was not directed to the fact that that change was being made. In this House the repeal bill was passed through all stages rather summarily. The Minister gave honorable members a memorandum on the subject in his explanatory speech, but did not draw attention to the fact that the amendment would take away from the taxpayer the right, to plead that the false statement made by him had been made ignorantly or inadvertently. In my opinion that provision should be re-inserted. I have shown the Assistant Treasurer an amendment that will be moved in committee to reinstate the old provision of the assessment act in that regard. Every one should agree that a man who has made a false statement, ignorantly or inadvertently, should be permitted to give evidence of that fact, and that if he can successfully prove it, he should not be convicted of an offence. Even if this provision be restored, there will still be a penalty upon the defendant, because, under section 46 of the principal act, to which clause 8 of .this bill corresponds, a man is liable, if he has made a false statement, to pay double the tax. He has first of all to pay the tax, then he has to pay double the amount by which he has defrauded the department, with a maximum of £1. I regard that is a perfectly adequate punishment for making an inadvertent or ignorant statement, and I do not wish to modify it in any way. I do not suggest that in such a case the defence of ignorance or inadvertence should apply; but I do not think that a man who has made a false statement, ignorantly or inadvertently, should have a conviction recorded against him.
– What happens if a man makes a mistake against himself?
– It all depends upon the meaning of the word, “ false “. Apparently, he can be convicted; but I do not think the Commissioner would prosecute a man who had injured himself by a mistake.
– We are exact but fair.
– This, however, is really a matter for committee. Subject to the points I have raised, I see no objection to the bill.
Sitting suspended from 1245 to 2.15 p.m.
– The honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) raised a number of points which I might be allowed to deal with at this stage. Perhaps I can satisfy the honorable member by amplifying somewhat the remarks which I made when moving the second reading. There are two main subdivisions of taxpayers under our sales tax legislation. The basic principle of the law is that persons shall pay sales tax on the sale price of goods. Generally speaking, sales tax transactions of this nature are dealt with in Sales Tax Acts Nos. 1, 2, 3, 6 and 7, so clearly there is no logical reason for asking taxpayers to dissect transactions made under any of these five acts. There is another class of transaction: that under which a person buys or makes goods and applies them to his own use : this class is dealt with on a different basis. In this case the tax is paid not on the sale price of the goods, because usually there is no sale price, but on various bases according to the origin of the goods. Where, however, sales tax on transactions of this kind is collected under acts Nos. 4 and 8, it is payable on the same basis, viz., the purchase price of the goods. Clearly again in respect of this class of goods there is no reason, from the point of view of the department, why the taxpayers should be required to dissect the transactions. But when a taxpayer is required to pay sales tax under any one or more of acts Nos. 1, 2, .3, 6 or 7, and also under acts Nos. 4 and 8,.Lu respect of which the tax is based on different calculations of value, it has in the past been necessary to dissect the transactions, and it will still be necessary in the future in order to make it clear to the department whether he is paying tax under any of acts Nos. 1, 2, 3, 6 or 7, or under acts Nos. 4 or 8. I offer this explanation because there appears to be some misapprehension in the minds of honorable members concerning the points raised by the honorable member for Bourke. The honorable gentleman also pointed out, and rightly so, that this bill seeks to reduce the minimum penalty for tax evasions. Under the principal act it is possible for the department to secure for gross cases of evasion, a minimum penalty of £50, and a maximum penalty of £500, plus three times the amount of tax evaded. This bill fixes the minimum penalty at £50, plus the amount of tax evaded, and the maximum penalty at £500, plus three times the amount of tax evaded. Thus there has been a lightening of the penalty for offences committed under these acts. The honorable member for Bourke also criticized the inclusion in this bill of sub-paragraph b of clause 6, under which the Commissioner may, by notice in writing, call upon any person to furnish to him -
A return which shall be a return under, subject to the provisions of, and in the form prescribed under, any Sales Tax Assessment Act.
The honorable gentleman went on to say that as we propose to take what may be regarded as overriding powers in this umbrella-like machinery bill, it should not be necessary for the Commissioner to retain his powers in this respect under the individual Sales Tax Assessment Acts. I may explain that the Commissioner would only take advantage of the provision in paragraph b of clause 6 in cases where taxpayers failed to furnish returns or where they furnished returns which were incomplete - in other words, default returns. In these cases it would be necessary for the Commissioner to require such separate returns before he could issue default assessments under the various acts affected. I give the honorable member for Bourke and the House generally an assurance that this provision in the bill will be invoked only in cases of default returns. We have been advised by a most competent authority that it is necessary to retain this power. The honorable member intimated that when the bill was in committee he would propose to re-insert in the act the provision repealed in an amending measure passed last session, enacting that it would be a good defence if the taxpayer pleaded ignorance of the law or that the offence was committed inadvertently.
– He would have to prove that the offence was due to inadvertence or ignorance of the law.
– That provision was removed from the act because of the opportunity which it gave to dishonest taxpayers to evade the law. In one case, a taxpayer claimed that his return had - been furnished by his agent, and that he had had no personal knowledge of the business. When his claim was investigated, it became evident that there had been, over a number of years, gross and persistent under-statement of sales by the taxpayer in question. I believe it was established that had he given the slightest attention to his business, it would have been clear to him that his agent was acting against the law, and that in consequence the revenue was being defrauded. It was clear from that and other cases which came under the notice of the department that the provision enabling taxpayers to plead ignorance or inadvertence was being grossly abused by some taxpayers, and it was thought to be in the interests of the revenue and of those taxpayers who furnished accurate returns and paid sales tax, that it should be expunged from the act. If the honorable member seeks further information on this point, I shall be pleased to furnish it to him when the bill is in committee.
– Will, the Minister consider the propriety of superseding the procedural provisions of the individual assessments acts?
– We have been advised by a most competent authority, who assisted in drafting the original sales tax legislation, that it would be unwise to repeal the machinery provisions enshrined in the individual acts. The machinery provisions of this bill will be paramount whenever they are invoked by the department, but it will still be possible for the department to invoke the machinery of each individual act if considered necessary.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and committed pro forma.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time. lt has fallen to my lot to handle this measure, which seeks to make a small amendment to the National Debt Sinking Fund Act 1923-30.
In an attempt to assist honorable members, I have caused to be circulated a memorandum which shows more clearly than does the hil] itself the alterations proposed to be made in the act. The bill applies only to the Commonwealth sinking fund, and in no way to either State sinking funds or the financial agreement.
Sinking fund contributions are designed to liquidate the postal debt in 30 years, and other debts in 50 years, and are respectively at the rate of 30s. per cent, and 10s. per cent. Payments into the sinking fund are made annually, and are used to purchase securities in the market and to redeem debt. Such securities as are acquired in that way are immediately cancelled, and the Government effects a saving of the interest on the debt so wiped out. Under the existing law, in order to preserve the compound interest basis of the sinking fund, in effect, an amount of 5 per cent, per annum is paid into the sinking fund in respect of debt so wiped out. Under that arrangement the debt is wiped out in 30 years and 50 years respectively.
These provisions are contained in section 9aa of the principal act. The bill is designed to correct an anomaly in the provision which relates to the 5 per cent, contribution.
The gross contributions to the fund include the 30s. per cent, and 10s. per cent, respectively in respect of all live debt. Other contributions consist of capital repayments of other debt, such as, in particular, the war service homes debt. The 1930 act was drawn to allow of the .deduction of these capital repayments from the gross annual sinking fund receipts. It is on the difference between those two that the 5 per cent, compound interest is paid each year into the sinking fund. Section 9aa / of the act contains a fault. It reads -
The amount of Five pounds per centum on the total amount received by the fund on and after the first day of July One thousand nine hundred and thirty and rip to the thirtieth day of June next preceding that financial year in which payment is being made in accordance with this section less amounts paid into the fund in that financial year . . .
The principal alteration that this bill seeks to effect is to replace the words “ in that financial year “ with the words, “ during that period “, because, under that provision, as honorable members will see, the fund at any one point of time would be credited with 5 per cent. of the gross receipts after deducting the repayments of capital debt in any one year. In other words, the act as drawn limits deductions in any one financial year, to the repayments in that year. Under a strict interpretation of the law, we should now be paying into the sinking fund a greater amount than Parliament clearly intended should be contributed in any one financial year. The repayments of which I speak are cumulative. Strictly, we should deduct only the repayments made in any one financial year. Clearly, however, we should be able to deduct all the repayments since the law was amended in 1930.
– Has the practical effect of the proposed alteration been worked out?
– The gross receipts of the sinking fund from the 1st July, 1930, to the 30th June, 1933, were £10,131,517. Deducting the repayments during that period - £1,556,715 - the total becomes £8,574,S02. Were the law strictly interpreted, we could deduct only the repayments made in the financial year with which we were dealing. That would be considerably less than the sum which the law clearly intends that we should deduct. I may say that the law has been implemented by the National Debt Sinking Fund Commission in the way clearly intended by Parliament. The object of the bill is to legalize its actions since 1930, and to put the matter right for the future.
.- The Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Casey) says that the purpose of the sinking fund is to wipe out the postal debt in 30 years and all other debts in 50 years. I ask the honorable gentleman if he seriously believes that the sinking fund will wipe out those debts. The Minister for Commerce (Dr. Earle Page), when Treasurer in the Bruce-Page Government, claimed to have invented the sinking fund, which, he said, would do great things; but history tells us that Pitt started a sinking fund to wipe out the debts incurred in connexion with the Napoleonic wars, and that, although in a few years between £10,000,000 and £15,000,000 had been wiped off those debts, in the same period £150,000,000 had been added to the national debt. It is claimed by some persons that between £28,000,000 and £30,000,000 of Australia’s war debt, bearing interest at4½ per cent., has been wiped off; hut it is not always pointed out that during the same period our national debt has increased by £98,000,000 at varying rates of interest up to 6 per cent. I am not greatly concerned about any proposals which are introduced to deal with the national debt, because that debt can never bo wiped out. It is not intended that it should be. The Auditor-General shows the utter impossibility of wiping out the national debt, for in his report for the year ended the 30th June, 1933, he pointed out that the total volume of taxation for the States and the Commonwealth was £82,000,000r and that interest and sinking fund charges represented £63,000,000. The task of wiping out, by means of a sinking fund, a national debt so great as that, is as hopeless as that of a dog trying to eat itself up. It is simply begging th« question to say that we can wipe out the nationaldebt by means of a sinking fund. Instead of hypnotising ourselves- into the belief that the impossible can be achieved, let us face the facts honestly; in which case Ave shall realize that, without a complete remodelling of the financial system, sinking funds are useless.
– The honorablemember is going beyond the scope of this amending bill.
– The measure before us proposes to amend legislation designed to wipe out the postal debt in30 years and all other debts in 50 years.
– Only strictly Commonwealth debts.
– I was endeavouring to show that the sinking fund proposed is totally inadequate for the- purpose, but if that would be out of order,. I shall not pursue the argument further.
– The honorablemember would be in order in referringto the principal act so far as may be necessary to discuss the amending bill.
– That was my intention. The bill before us proposes to dosomething which, in my opinion, is impossible. Notwithstanding the claim of the Assistant Treasurer that the sinking fund has cancelled some of our debts, the fact remains that the national debt is increasing. I should be glad to believe that this hill will do what is claimed for it by the Assistant Treasurer, but I cannot believe that it will. On the contrary I am firmly convinced that, under the present system of finance, no sinking fund will ever wipe off the national debt.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
.- Will the Assistant Treasurer take into consideration the advisability of amending the financial agreement in relation to the sinking fund, in view of the proposals now being considered to fund treasurybills? That really means that, to the extent that the bills are funded, the sinking fund obligation will become an increased burden on the States, unless it is arranged that there shall be a reduction of the sinking fund rate on that part of the debt which has ‘to do with States. I take it that that point has not been overlooked.
– The Government is aware of the position.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time. “The object of this bill is to give effect to Articles S, 9 and 10 of the Convention on certain questions relating to the conflict of nationality laws, which was concluded at The Hague in 1930. Those articles read as follows: -
Article 8. - If the national law of the wife causes her to lose her nationality on marriage with a foreigner, this consequence shall be conditional on her acquiring the nationality of the husband.
Article 9. - If the national law of the wife causes her to lose her nationality upon a -change in the nationality of her husband occurring during marriage, this consequence shall be conditional on her acquiring her husband’s new nationality.
Article 10. - Nationalization of the husband during marriage shall not involve a change in the nationality of the wife except with her consent.
Everyone must agree that it is very desirable that steps should be taken to remove the serious difficulty which arises when a British woman -becomes stateless by reason of her marriage. The Commonwealth nationality law is based on the British Nationality and Status of Aliens Act 1914. All the self-governing British dominions have adopted Part II. of that act with a view to the carrying out of a uniform system of naturalization throughout the Empire, and the defining of who are British subjects. It is obviously desirable that such uniformity should be maintained. The general principle which underlies the British law is that the wife of a British subject shall be deemed to be a British subject, and the wife of an alien shall be deemed to be an alien. The Commonwealth law, however, in common with the general British law, already provides that where a man, during the continuance of his marriage, ceases to he a British subject, by becoming naturalized in a foreign State, his wife may retain her British nationality by making a declaration that she desires to do so. It also provides that the Governor-General may grant a certificate of naturalization to a British-horn woman married to an alien who is the subject of a State which is at war with His Majesty. There is at present, however, no provision in the Commonwealth law by which a Britishborn woman, who becomes stateless on her marriage with an alien, may retain or regain her British nationality whilst her husband is still living, except under the special circumstances just mentioned.
The foreign law which has affected British women to the greatest extent in rendering them stateless on marriage, is that of the United States of America. Since 1922, a woman who marries an American citizen does not thereby acquire her husband’s nationality unless she becomes naturalized on her own account after at least twelve months’ residence in the United States. As she lost her British nationality ‘by reason of her marriage, this meant that she had no nationality. Thousands of British woman, including many Australians, have become stateless through marrying American citizens. The position was regarded so seriously by Canada, which was naturally the British dominion most affected, that it lost no time in passing legislation to give effect to the Hague Convention. The Canadian bill became law in 1931. The British Parliament passed the necessary amending act last year, and New Zealand is now following suit. It is very desirable that the Commonwealth should lose no further time in fulfilling its obligations and doing its part to restore uniformity in the nationality laws throughout the Empire. Anomalous situations are arising on account of the lack of uniformity. For example, wives of American citizens are arriving in Australia from time to time in possession of British passports in which they are described as British subjects, under the British Nationality and Status of Aliens Act 1933. An Australianborn wife of an American citizen would be entitled abroad to claim the rights of a British subject, but in this country she must still be regarded as an alien. This anomaly should be remedied as soon as possible.
Strong representations have been made by women’s organizations in Australia and elsewhere that the Hague Convention should not be ratified until it has been revised to embody the principle of the equality of the sexes. These submissions have received the careful and sympathetic consideration of the Government from time to time, with the result that before the matter came up for reconsideration at the League of Nations Assembly in 1932, the British Government and the League of Nations were advised in the following terms: -
Australian Government is prepared to accept principle that a woman on marriage shall not lose her nationality or acquire new nationality without her consent and to amend nationality law accordingly, provided His Majesty’s Governments in United Kingdom and British selfgoverning dominions are agreeable to take similar action so that uniformity of nationality laws throughout the Empire may be preserved, such uniformity being of importance in the interests of the system of Imperial naturalization now in force.-
The Government still subscribes to the views expressed in that message, and the Prime Minister will raise the matter at the Imperial conference next year. Requests have been received during the last year that the Commonwealth Parliament should take a lead in passing legislation embodying the wider principle, and the subject has been given very earnest consideration by the Government, but it has been strongly felt that nationality, insofar as British subjects are concerned, is a matter which should be dealt with on an Empire basis, and that any attempt on the part of the Commonwealth to get out of step with the rest of the Empire would only lead to confusion. It may, however, be emphatically stated that this bill is not an alternative to the demands made by the women’s organizations, but is designed to remove a real hardship experienced by many women, and to go so far as we can go in step with Great Britain and Canada. It does not close the door to further consideration of the principle of equality and to the acceptance of the women’s demands when a more general agreement on them can be reached by the various governments of the Empire.
The bill provides for the substitution of a new section for section IS of the principal act. The proposed new subsection 1 repeats the existing provision that the wife of a British subject shall be deemed to be a British subject and the wife of an alien shall be deemed to be an alien. Proposed new sub-sections 4 and 6 re-enact the existing exceptions to the general principle, and proposed new sub-sections 2, 3 and 5 add new exceptions. Proposed new sub-section 2 deals with a British woman who marries a foreigner but does not thereby acquire his nationality. It provides that whether she was married before or after the enactment of this provision she shall retain her British nationality. Proposed new sub-section 3 makes a similar provision for a British woman, who, having married a British subject, is liable to become stateless when her husband has become naturalized in some other country. Proposed new sub-section 4 also applies to a British woman whose husband changes his nationality after marriage; but as a result of the provisions of proposed new sub-section 3, this provision will in future apply only in cases where, under the law of the foreign country, the woman acquires her husband’s new nationality. Proposed new sub-section 5 is intended to give effect to article 10 of the convention, which provides that naturalization of the husband during marriage shall not involve a change in the nationality of the wife except with her consent. Proposed new sub-sections 3 and 4 deal with this provision insofar as British women are concerned, but proposed new sub-section 5 applies to an alien woman whose husband acquires British nationality by the grant to him of a certificate of naturalization. After March next, such a woman will be afforded an opportunity to declare whether she too desires to acquire British nationality.
– Will she also have to go through the whole process of naturalization?
– No. In conclusion let me repeat that the passing of this bill will not place any obstacle in the way of the future consideration of the principle of sex equality. Whether we believe in that principle or in the principle that the nationality of the wife shall follow that of the husband, we are not committed by acceptance of the provisions of this bill. The passage of this measure will remove a hardship and avoid the confusion that is resulting from the fact that Canada and the United Kingdom have already passed legislation containing similar provisions in the belief that Australia and the other self-governing dominions would follow suit. No good purpose will bo served by the further postponement of this legislation, which is already long overdue.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Brennan) adjourned.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Under the Seat of Government - (Administration) Act 1924-1929, under which the Federal Capital Commission was constituted, certain lands contiguous to the Federal Capital Territory were vested in the commission. In addition, certain lands outside the Territory, which had been acquired under the Lands Acquisition Act, were transferred by the Commonwealth to the commission. In 1930 the commission ceased to exist, and by section 7 of the Seat of Government (Administration) Act 1930 .all lands which were vested in the commission became vested in the Commonwealth. So far as lands in the Territory were concerned, they could then be disposed of by lease or otherwise in accordance with laws of the Territory. With respect to such lands which are outside the Territory, there was not, however, any provision for leasing or otherwise disposing of them. Section 63 of the Lands Acquisition Act provides that lands which are acquired or deemed to be acquired under that act may be disposed of if not required for Commonwealth purposes. There is no reason why the lands to which the bill relates should not be subject to disposal in the same manner as lands acquired under the Lands Acquisition Act. All such lands, in fact, were acquired under that act, but by reason of the Seat of Government (Administration) Acts 1924-1929 and .1930, they have ceased legally to have that characteristic. The object of this bill is, therefore, to bring these lands once more under the provisions of section 63 of the Lands- Acquisition Act.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Brennan) adjourned.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The Royal Commission on the Wheat, Flour and Bread Industries has presented its first report and a supplementary report, and these have been laid on the table of the House. As was stated by the Minister for Commerce (Dr. Earle Page), in his second-reading speech on the Wheat Growers Relief Bill (No. 2) 1934, the commission has drawn attention to the serious financial position of wheat-growers, and has recommended that the Commonwealth Government shall provide assistance to the amount of £4,000,000 for distribution to wheatgrowers who have sown wheat for grain during 1934, this assistance to be provided partly by an excise duty or sales tax on flour and partly from other Commonwealth moneys. This measure is to give effect to the royal commission’s recommendation regarding the imposition of a tax on flour, and it provides the machinery for collecting the tax on imported, and Australian-made flour, and on flour used in the manufacture of imported goods, such as biscuits, macaroni, &c. The bill is practically the same as the previous flour tax act which operated from the 4th December. 1933, to the 31st May last, with certain minor alterations, which experience of the previous act has shown, to be desirable.
The tax will be imposed by three separate taxing acts, which will be submitted later to Parliament, and will provide for a rate of £2 12s. 6d. a short ton of 2,000 lb. of flour. Provision has been made in this act for the tax to be imposed for a period of twelve months only, commencing on Monday, the 7th January, 1935. The tax may be described, firstly, as an excise duty payable by millers on all sales by them on or after the 7th January, 1935, on all deliveries by them on or after that date in fulfilment of earlier contracts, and on all flour used by them on or after that date in the manufacture of goods; secondly, as a tax on all flour in excess of onehalf ton, or 1,000 lb., held at the commencement of the tax by a person other than a miller; and thirdly, as a duty of customs on all flour imported into Australia, and on the quantity of flour used in the manufacture of goods imported, on or after the 7th January, 1935. Flour, which is in transit to any person on the 7th. January, 1935, will be treated as part of his stocks at that date. Tax will be payable on flour produced by millers from wheat supplied by farmers for gristing. In view of the policy of taxing stocks on hand in excess of 1,000 lb. at the commencement of the tax the bill provides for a refund of tax paid on stocks in excess of 1,000 lb. on hand at the termination of the tax. The tax will thus apply to all flour used during the operation of the tax. When tax on stocks at the commencement of the tax has been accounted for, the only taxpayers thereafter, so far as Australian flour is concerned, will be the millers. Flour is defined as including any substance produced by processing wheat, and includes bran, pollard, sharps, semolina and self-raising flour.
Although the bill is designed to impose tax on all flour which goes into final consumption in Australia during the operation of the tax, provision is made for exemption in certain cases to prevent competitive anomalies between goods manufactured from wheat products and goods manufactured from other cereals or substances. Thus, tax is not payable in respect of -
Exemption from tax is provided for flour held by or sold to any person in. the Northern Territory for consumption in that territory. It is considered inequitable that tax should be imposed on such flour, as little or no wheat is grown in that territory and therefore no benefit from the tax can accrue to any resident there. Moreover, the present price of flour, delivered to outback stations in that area is £35 to £40 per ton, as against £7 in Melbourne. Flour exported or held for export will be exempt, and rebate will be made of tax paid on flour exported or used in the manufacture of goods which are exported.
Tax is not payable by a publiccharitable institution - which term is defined as meaning a public hospital, a public benevolent institution or a religious organization - on stocks of flourheld by it at the commencement of the tax. Rebate will be made to any suchinstitution of the amount of tax paid on flour sold to it, or on the flour content of goods manufactured from flour, such as bread, biscuits, &c, sold to it.
Provision is made for refund of tax in cases of bad debts, or where double taxation is involved, and in cases of overpayment of tax, provided that the tax has not been passed on to a purchaser or, if passed on, has been refunded to the purchaser concerned.
The bill will enable the tax to be passed on to the consumer. A miller who is liable to pay tax on flour sold by himmust show it as a separate item on his invoice. Penalties are provided for any attempt to pass on amounts in excess of the actual tax payable. A person whouses flour in the manufacture of goods for sale by him may pass on the tax on the flour in the sale price of his goods.
All persons, other than millers, holding stocks of flour at the commencement of the tax, will be required to declare the quantities held, and will be charged tax on the weight of stocks, less 1,000 lh. in the case of each separate owner of stocks. Such tax is payable as follows : - “Where the tax does not exceed £5, at the time of submission of the declaration of stocks; where the tax exceeds £5, by equal monthly instalments of £5 or 20 per cent, of the tax, whichever is the greater.
The first payment of tax will be made on the 10th January, 1935, and subsequent instalments on the 21st day of each month subsequent to January, 1935. Millers will lodge monthly returns by the 21st day of the month following that in which the taxable sale or delivery was made, and pay tax at the time of lodgment. Severe penalties are provided for evasion of tax by failure to furnish returns, or by furnishing false returns. The Commissioner of Taxation is arranging to follow up declarations and returns to test their accuracy, and will not hesitate to prosecute defaulters or evaders. “While it is not anticipated that the services of the Income Tax Board of Review will be necessary to settle disputes between taxpayers and the Commissioner of Taxation, the bill provides for such «. means of settlement.
The bill contains secrecy clauses similar to those contained in the Sales Tax Assessment Acts. The machinery employed for the collection of sales tax has 1>een adopted, as far as possible, for purposes of the flour tax. This has been 4 one by reference to the sales tax acts, the necessary alterations being made in the wording wherever required.
The bill is commended to honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Scullin) adjourned.
“Restriction of “Wheat Exports - Maternity “Welfare in Russia - Royal Commission on Petrol - TABMANIAN Shipping Service - Assassination of Russian Soviet Official.
Motion (by Dr. Earle Page) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- A few days ago I drew the attention of the Minister for Commerce (Dr. Earle Page) to the fact that a paragraph had appeared in the newspapers stating that a report had been received from Prague to the effect that Australia was being asked further to reduce its exports of wheat. The Minister stated in reply that there was no truth whatever in the report. However, the Melbourne Age of yesterday reported that, at the Premiers Conference, it was stated that Australia was asked to reduce its exports of wheat by 30,000,000 bushels a year. I should like the Minister to give an explanation regarding the matter.
– Owing to the shortness of the time at our disposal, I did not have an opportunity the other day to address myself to the motion moved by the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley), the purpose of which was to take the manufacture of armaments out of the hands of private individuals and place it in the hands of the State.
I endorse every word spoken by the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) regarding maternity welfare work in Russia. Much information has recently been garnered regarding conditions in that country, and a most informative book has been written by a lady, Dr. Abramovich, who holds the qualification of Bachelor of Arts from the University of Western Australia, and is also a Master of Surgery and a bachelor of Medicine, which degrees she received from the Sydney University. She went to Russia, and for some years worked in the hospitals in that country. In her book she says that, in regard to the treatment of women and children, Russia leads the world. No woman is allowed to work for two months prior to the birth of a child, or for two months afterwards, and during the whole of that period she is paid, full wages.
The other day the Attorney-General (Mr. Menzies) contradicted me when I said that, .at the sittings of the Royal Commission on Petrol, the public were not represented by a legal man with authority to cross-examine witnesses. I repeat that statement now, and any one who denies it makes it evident that he does not know what he is talking about. There was no one at that inquiry to prevent Mr. Menzies from making a cowardly attack upon three separate witnesses, which he did because they were too clever for him and he was unable to shake their testimony. One was Mr. Pollock, who challenged Mr.’ Menzies to meet him in open debate, saying that he had not had fair play when appearing before the commission. Mr. Menzies, however, had not the courage to take up the challenge. The next witness, who was blackguarded by Mr. Menzies, was Mr. Frood, who has done more to save money for the taxpayers of Australia than ever Mr. Menzies has done in his whole life, because Mr. Menzies is at any time prepared to act for private persons or firms against the interests of his country.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. G. J. Bell).I remind the honorable member that he is not in order in referring to a previous debate in the House during the present session.
– I am endeavouring to prove that no one appeared before the Royal Commission on Petrol to guard the interests of the Commonwealth. When I made that statement on a previous occasion, the Attorney-General denied it.
– The honorable member will not be in order in reviving a discussion which took place during a debate in the present session of Parliament.
– Then I shall take this oportunity to refer to Sir Charles Merrett, who was so cruelly attacked at that time, and who has done more for charity, particularly in the interests of women and children, than perhaps any other man in Melbourne. If the public was represented by counsel, why was Sir Charles Merrett so cruelly attacked before the commission? There was no one to defend him. I think that I have said sufficient to show that counsel was not apointed by the Federal Government to defend witnesses who gave evidence before that commission. I have received letters and verbal expressions of appreciation concerning the action I have taken in this matter, not only from “ the man in the street,” but alao from the members of the legal profession, including a judge who said that I was perfectly justified in condemning the Government for preventing the public from being represented by counsel before that inquiry. Where are the heads of that combine who paid nine legal men, aided by the then AttorneyGeneral for Victoria, Mr. Menzies^ to appear before that commission? They obtained permission to leave this country. I ask where is Mr. Burns and Mr. Darch? Echo answers - Where? It is said that. Mr. Darch built a palatial residence at St. Kilda, costing £25,000, but when the inquiry was proceeding he disposed of it at a loss and left the country. Where are Mr. Bryan .and Mr. Comfort? Echo again answers - Where? So far as I know the latter has resigned from the important position which he occupied and has left Australia. Mr. Pollock is willing to prove that he was told that he would he put in prison if he said a word against the combine, but the person who threatened him, and is now drawing a hig salary, has disappeared.
– The inquiry is still proceeding.
– It is. I feel sure the commissioners will endeavour to do their duty so far as that is possible, and I earnestly hope that as a result of their investigations some good will be achieved. Oil boring operations have been conducted at Roma in Queensland for some years, but when conditions have become favorable dynamite has been lowered into the bore, and discharged, and the work destroyed. Similar treachery has been displayed in connexion with the search for oil at Lakes Entrance, where, on reaching oil sand the boring has been continued until water was encountered which made further boring operations difficult, if not altogether impossible. Some of those associated with the oil industry would not stop at murder. Mexican presidents have disappeared because of their attitude towards oil interests. In this respect British oil interests, in association with the British Government, have nothing of which they can be proud. Moreover the Standard Oil Trust, backed as it has been by American governments, has a record of which any commercial undertaking should be ashamed. If a Mexican president favoured an- English oil combine the American .authorities immediately transported guns over the border and brought the country into a state of revolution. What do these unscrupulous commercial combines care if hundreds of people are blown to pieces as the result of a revolution fomented by them? When Madero was assassinated, he was succeeded by Huerta that was regarded as an accident. Huerta in turn, was followed by that vile scoundrel Villa. Immediately after the assassination of Madero the British oil companies supplied the money to be expended in bringing about a state of revolt. When Huerta disappeared, Carranza who became the President of Mexico, favoured the American interests, and all was well so long as he protected the interests of the combine. Later, Carranza was sufficiently patriotic to realize that his country was being robbed, and immediately showed his opposition to the big American oil combines. That happened during the war, and his position became so uncomfortable that he informed them that, if they went any further, he would declare war against the United States of America. Neither the British nor the American oil concerns wished that to occur because they thought that Mexico would be allied with Germany. After the signing of the Armistice, British and American oil interests combined, and Carranza. following a revolution supported by foreign money and arms, disappeared. The whole history of oil and the international complications associated with its production and sale have nearly brought America and Britain to war. It is useless to tell the lie that it is impossible for England and America to go to war. The danger which still exists is due entirely to the cursed power of the oil interests. The American oil king, Rockefeller, is reputed to have made £200,000,000 out of the people, and as a result of his activities in the oil business has forced other companies out of operation, and brought wholesale distress and misery upon the people. There is also another Napoleon in the person of Sir Henri Deterding, who possesses extensive powers as director-general of the Royal Dutch Petroleum Company. What is the history of the oil industry in Persia? Lord Hardinge states that by the bribing of Persian officers oilbearing lands have been secured. From what I have read, I understand that £100,000 was paid to obtain valuable oil concessions from the Persian Government, but that the Government of that country was so badly treated and charged so much for the oil produced that the Shah, being a despot, and, in his own country, above all laws, ultimately sought the advice of the wise men whom he is entitled to call, and with their assistance rescinded all the agreements entered into. Sir John Cadman, who visited Australia solely to secure control of our oil interests, and who has also visited Persia to regain the concessions, after a great deal of difficulty paid £1,000,000 in cash for Persian oil interests, and that payment is to be followed by another “£1,000,000 next year. Ultimately, -a concession was granted on the payment of £1,000,000 annually for a lease of 60 years. We do not want those directing the operations of oil combines in other countries to assume control in Australia. As we have valuable oil deposits at Roma, in Queensland, and at Lakes Entrance, in Victoria, wc should assist the Commonwealth or the Slate governments to control the production of oil in Australia, and so stand up against these great combines operating in America and in England. The States should be the only producers and sellers of fuel oil. Let us say that our Government shall be the only seller. What should be the cost to the private individual? This should be the retail cost in the country of origin, plus freight - a mere bagatelle per gallon - plus landingcharges and customs duty in Australia, and a fair profit for the distributor. Only in that way can we control the price of oil. Money is no object to the big oil combines, and they will not stop at bribery. [Leave to continue given.”] I hope that whenever another royal commission is appointed to inquire into the subject of petrol prices, the House will see that the best legal assistance is obtained to protect the interests of Australia and of witnesses who may be called upon to give evidence before the commission, so that they may not be browbeaten at the inquiry. Mr. Pollock, who gave evidence at the recent inquiry into petrol, and who, I believe, is an expert on oil, stated definitely -
Australia’s losses by overcharges and all the subterfuges called refining, as well as imports of petrol as power kerosene, may be shown to approximate £250,000,000 since 1921 . . .
From June, 1921, to December, 1932, over 2,800,000,000 gallons of oil were imported to this country from the United States of America, Persia, and Netherlands East Indies -
These figures show that Australians paid £200,000,000 more than Americans for the same quantity of oil.
By reason of the wealth that it possesses, this combine can secure the services of men occupying the highest positions in the legal world, such as the AttorneysGeneral, many of whom, become members of the judiciary, and from the bench a man may eventually receive appointment as GovernorGeneral of Australia. The position of the Attorney-General is a sacred one, and his services should be devoted exclusively to his own country. The present occupant of the office is not content with that. Last week he went ‘to Sydney, and, by reason of his position, claimed priority in the hearing of a case in which he was interested over other cases which were listed for hearing. That is neither right nor just; because, as every one knows, the Attorney-General may, at any time, have the decision as to who should be elevated to the High Court Bench. In Queensland and Tasmania the AttorneyGeneral is a non-legal man, and beneficial results have accrued. I reverence the position, of Attorney-General. and am prepared to respect and do homage to it when the duties are discharged in accordance with the traditions of a Higinbotham, a Higgins or even a Latham. The Attorney-General must always stand for his country. If he is not content with that, but wishes to establish a lucrative private practice, he should follow the advice given by Senator Borah, of- the United States of America.
– I again remind the honorable member that he is referring to a debate which took place in this chamber recently, and, in so doing, is not in .order.
- Senator Borah gives advice to men holding the office of Attorney-General-
– I insist that the honorable member refrain from proceeding further with that subject.
.- I understand that, within the course of a few months, a new steamer is to be put on the run between Launceston and Melbourne. With the introduction of this more modern steamer a new contract will be operating. I should like to know if, under the new contract, any provision is being made for reduced fares and freights. There has been a considerable agitation for a reduction of fares and freights to Tasmania for a long time, and it has become more pronounced and serious within recent months. Tasmania, owing to its isolation, depends almost entirely upon an efficient shipping service. Consideration should be given to this aspect of the matter before any contract is entered into between the shipping company which maintains communication between Tasmania and the other States and the Government. Is this new steamer, the Tairana, to be owned by the Tasmanian Steamship Company, or is it to form part of the combine service chartered by the Tasmanian Steamship Company. I understand that one of the arguments advanced for the high charges imposed, and for the operation of the service at a loss, is that the steamers are chartered by the Tasmanian Steamship Company. I suggest that, while the position remains as it is, it is not possible to maintain the service at a profit, because the steamer will be run in conjunction with the old steamers operating under charter to the Tasmanian Steamship Company, which, after all, is only part and parcel of Huddart Parker and Company. While these ships are chartered to the Tasmanian Steamship Company it is not possible to show a true and correct result of the operations of that company. The agitation in Tasmania for reduced freights and fares is becoming increasingly serious, and is quite justified. Before any new contract is entered into between the shipping company and the Commonwealth Government, serious cognizance should be taken of the representations that fares and freights should be reduced under the new contract.
.- 1 protest against the cavalier manner in which the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) replied to the question which I submitted to him recently in reference to the assassination of a high official of the Soviet Government, whose country is associated with Australia in membership of the League of Nations. I asked the Prime Minister whether his attention had been drawn to this occurrence, and whether the Government intended to adopt the usual course and move that a letter of condolence be forwarded to the Government of Bussia. The Prime Minister treated the matter as though it were a. trivial one, and attempted to be humorous about it. I resent his attitude. I submitted my question in all seriousness, and I hope that he will furnish a proper answer. I should like to know whether the practice of the Government is to confine motions of condolence to the high officials of those coun tries that have governments of whose policy it approves, and whether the Government is opposed to assassination as a means of removing the officials of any government. It seemed to me, from the manner in which the question was answered, that the Prime Minister had no objection to the assassination of an official of a government with whose policy he disagreed.
– The honorable member must not continue in that strain.
– I protest against the manner in which the Prime Minister replied to my question. I now repeat it, and ask that a satisfactory answer be furnished in the near future.
– I informed the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green) about ten days ago that I had received no official report from the representatives of the Australian Government with regard to the request submitted to the International Wheat Advisory Committee, but that I would secure the information and place it before the conference, to be held last Monday, of representatives of the Commonwealth and State Governments. A resume of the decisions of the committee will be found in the report of the speech which I made at that conference.
The matter mentioned by the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) can bestbe discussed when the report of the petrol commission is submitted to the House. I trust that it will be received by the Government at an early date. I understand that the commission is now drawing up its report, and that it will soon be in the hands of the Government. A full opportunity was presented in this House a few days ago to discuss the sight of the Attorney-General to engage in private practice.
I am not now in a position to tell the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) all he desires to know about the control of the shipping service between Tasmania and the mainland, but I shall secure the information for him, and ascertain what action is being taken with regard to freights and fares.
In reply to the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), I can assure him that the Government is totally opposed to the assassination of any person in any country. I understand that the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) gave a serious reply to the honorable member’s question. He stated clearly that he had been travelling a good deal of late, and that the event referred to had not been brought under his notice. The policy of the government of the country inwhich the assassinated official was employed did not influence the attitude of the Commonwealth Government.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 3.46 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
Public and Private Wealth of Australia.
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Officers of the public services of the Territories of Papua, and New Guinea are eligible for the grant of leave of absence, with pay, as follows : -
Exports of Wool.
e. - The information is being obtained, and will be furnished as soon as possible in answer to a question asked by the honorable member for Martin (Mr. McCall) regarding exports of wool and woollen textiles.
n asked the Minister for Commerce, upon notice -
Does the Government propose to take any action before the Christmas adjournment to give effect to the request, carried by a large majority at the conference convened hy the Minister for Commerce early in the year, at which every section of the meat trade was represented, that a poll of producers be taken upon the advisability of establishing a meat export control board?
– The conference to which the honorable member refers was held early in 1933. Since that time differences of opinion have arisen in the industry on the subject, and the Government has been unable to obtain a clear expression of the views of the industry. The Government willafford the necessary facilities for a poll when the industry clearly indicates that it desires such a course to be followed.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 7 December 1934, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1934/19341207_reps_14_145/>.