14th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. G. J. Bell) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Motion (by Mr. Lyons) agreed to -
That the House; at its rising adjourn until 1 1 a.m. to-morrow.
Motion by (Mr. Lyons) - by leave - agreed to -
That leave of absence for one month be given to the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Perkins) on the ground of urgent private business.
Mr. WHITE laid on the table reports and recommendations of the Tariff Board on the following subjects: -
Bicycles with wheels not exceeding 18 inches diameter and frames not exceeding18 inches in length.
Roots; shoes, slippers, clogs, pattens and other footwear (of any material ) n.e.i. ; boot and shoe uppers and tops (except of felt) ; cork, leather, and other socks or soles, n.e.i.
Cherries, either crystallized, preserved or partly preserved.
Clothes wringers for household use.
Coin mechanisms for prepayment gas meters and indexes for gas meters, imported separately.
Ore dressing machinery and appliances n.e.i., and accessories, smelling, leaching and metal-refining appliances; rock boring machines n.e.i.; mining machinery n.e.i.
Quilts, counterpanes and bedspreads.
Hat and mouse traps.
Spirit for the manufacture of scents, toilet preparations and essences.
Towels n.e.i., cut or uncut; towelling n.e.i., in the piece whether defined or not for cutting up; terry cloth and terry robing in the piece; towels of crash, dowlas, forfar, glass cloth, honeycomb, kitchen towelling, tea towelling.
Ordered to be printed.
Range of Aircraft - Local Manufacture - Departmental Policy
– In view of the alarming statement published in the press to-day that the aircraft carrier H.M.A.S. Albatross cannot proceed to assist in the search for the American airmen missing in the Antarctic partly because of insufficiency of the range of her aircraft, will the Minister for Defence inquire as to whether the range of other aircraft used by the Royal Australian Air Force, particularly the latest types purchased, is sufficient to enable them to undertake work that they would be called upon to do in the defence of a continent the size of Australia?
Mr. ARCHDALE PARKHILL.Working through ice floes in the Antarctic is very different from what the Albatross would be called upon to undertake in defensive operations, although she could have done what was required in this case, had the circumstances rendered that course necessary. I am prepared to admit that her aeroplanes have a range of only 500 miles, but the latest machines purchased by the Defence Department are identical with those used in Great. Britain, and their purchase was made on the best technical advice procurable in Australia and Great Britain.
– Can the Minister for Defence give an assurance that, in the selection of aeroplanes for the Royal Australian Air Force, proper consideration has been given to the fact that fighting aeroplanes needed for the defence of Great Britain have a much smaller range and petrol-carrying capacity than those needed in Australia, with its longer coast line and greater distances? Is attention being given to the possibility of adapting English aircraft to make them suitable for Australian defence conditions?
– I can give the honorable member an absolute assurance that the suggestion contained in his question is already being given effect. Modifications on the lines suggested have been made in accordance with Sir John Salmond’s report, upon which the air defence policy of Australia is based.
– Has the Defence Department recently considered, theadvis- ableness of encouraging the manufacture and repair of aeroplanes in Australia by subsidizing manufacturers who are prepared to train aeronautical engineers in this country?
– Inquiries of a most exhaustive character are being made, but not exactly on the lines indicated by the honorable member. 1 shall be glad to give consideration to the suggestion contained in his question.
– As one expert to another, I should like to ask the Minister for Defence a questionbased on some observations appearing in a book recently published over the name of W. M. Hughes, in which it is stated that the Minister’ for Defence is proceeding effectively with a scheme of air defence.The question is, whether the Minister has read a short report appearing in the most recent issue of the Sydney Bulletin in these words -
All that Mr. Parkhill is doing is to apply the first part of Air Marshall Sir John Salmond’s plan which is several years old. and in a word is obsolescent.
Is that all the Minister is doing?
– This report emanates from a journal that was once great, but the only thing great about it now is its cover. This particular statement is about as unreliable as every other statement which the Bulletin has recently published.
HonorableMembers. - Surely not every statement?
– Every statement ! There is not a word of truth in the statement referred to. As a matter of fact, the programme regarding air defence of the country, which Sir
John Salmond laid down, provided for .1 certain portion of it to occupy eight years. That portion is being done within the three years’ programme now being carried out by this Government. The rest of the article contains equally gross misrepresentations and inaccuracies.
– As the Government’s defence policy is based on the mechanization of military units, and the rapid development of aerial defence, does the Minister for Defence consider that the local production of oil is vital to its economic application? If so, can he say whether the Government proposes to develop the shale oil resources of Australia as a part of its defence policy, by providing a home supply of fuel oil similar to that produced from British coal for the defence forces of Great Britain? If the honorable gentleman does not consider as essential the local production of oil, does he not think that the expenditure of nearly £20,000,000 upon defence measures in three years is uneconomic and non-reproductive?
Mr. ARCHDALE PARKHILL.First, it is the policy of the Government to develop the mechanization of the army. Secondly, while not imperative, it is important that Australia should have its own oil deposits, and produce its own oil requirements. Thirdly, the matter of the development of the shale industry, and the production of oil from shale is at present under the consideration of the Government, and every step is being taken to devise practicable and economic methods. The reply to the honorable member’s last question is an emphatic “ No “.
– On account of the extension of the seamen’s strike in Sydney, can the Minister for Industry give an indication as to what action, if any, the Government intends to take?
– The Government has not yet received an official intimation of the decision of the Seamen’s Union in the matter. When it is received, I shall make a pronouncement of the Government’s attitude.
– Have steps been taken, in conjunction with the Government of Victoria, to put in good order the road in Cordite-avenue, Maribyrnong, near the Commonwealth Munition Works, which is in a dangerous condition? If not, will the Minister for Defence see that they are taken as early as possible?
– It is not admitted that this road is in a dangerous condition. It is not dangerous either to ordinary pedestrians or in rela-tion to the nature of the work that is being carried on at Maribyrnong.
– The men think that it is.
Mr. ARCHDALE PARKHILL.With very great respect, the men do not think so. This road is the entire responsibility of the Government of Victoria, and it is not the policy of the Commonwealth to discharge obligations which rightly belong to the States.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs state whether any appointments have yet been made to his department in pursuance of the policy of expansion recently decided upon? If not, how does the Government propose to make the appointments ?
– No appointments have yet been made. The matter is at present being considered by the Public Service Board, and, in due course, applications for positions will be invited by advertisement throughout Australia.
– Will the Prime Minister consider the arrangement of an approximate time-table for the business of Parliament during the next sessional period, so that not more than adequate time may be given for debates in the early part of the session, and not less than adequate time for debates in the later part of the period?
– The matter raised by the honorable member is well worthy of the consideration of the Government before the beginning of the next parliamentary session.
– Is it the intention of the Government to proceed with the scheme for the vocational training of unemployed youths as submitted by Major Hutchin and myself?
– It is the intention of the Government to proceed, as soon as possible, with a scheme of vocational training, though perhaps not entirely on the lines suggested.
Entry into Australia.
– Yesterday, in the absence of the Minister for Defence, I asked the Minister representing him a question regarding the importation of American aircraft into Australia. Can the Minister for Defence give any information regarding the Government’s intentions ?
– hy leave - It has been decided by Cabinet to permit the direct importation of American and foreign aircraft under licences issued upon the recommendation of the civil aviation authorities. Licences would be issued only for the importation of new aircraft. Since 1928, a Customs proclamation has been enforced, which prohibited the importation into Australia or New Guinea of any aircraft that had not arrived accompanied by a certificate of airworthiness issued or validated by a State party to the International Convention for the regulation of aerial navigation. Most nations are members of this convention, notable exceptions being the United States of America and Germany. The issue of this proclamation resulted in a virtual ban of American and foreign aircraft, owing to the difficulties involved in providing the certificates of airworthiness stipulated, but many German aeroplanes have been imported in recent years, particularly into New Guinea, having been accompanied by certificates of airworthiness validated by Sweden, or some other country which was a party to the convention.
During the last few years, representations have been, received from many aircraft operators -who desired permission to import American and foreign aircraft which they considered to be more suited to Australian conditions than those obtainable elsewhere. The position regarding airworthiness has altered materially since the issue of the Customs Proclamation in 1928. Several British dominions have accepted American aircraft for some years past, and more recently the United Kingdom has entered into a reciprocal agreement with the United States of America, recognizing the airworthiness of American aircraft, subject to certain technical requirements. There is, in consequence, now no bar tothe operation of American aircraft in theUnited Kingdom.
The Government’s decision was also influenced by the difficulty that now faces Australian operators in obtaining deliveries of British aircraft, due to the preoccupation of British manufacturers with military orders, consequent on the expansion of the Royal Air Force. The Government was satisfied that its decision would assist the development of aviation in Australia, but the matter will be reviewed when it becomes possible to secure reasonably prompt deliveries of British aircraft suitable to Australia’s requirements. Consequent upon the Government’s decision, a licence is being issued to Holyman’s Airways Proprietary Limited for the importation of a Douglas D.C.2 aeroplane for use on the Melbourne-Tasmania service.
– Is the Minister administering “War Service Homes yet in a position to make a statement regarding the decision of his department in respect of the Murray Bridge war service homes settlement?
– I am not in a position to make a definite statement regarding the war service homes at Murray Bridge and Tailem Bend, in South Australia. However, I have studied the files relating to these homes, and I recognize that special difficulties exist in regard to them. I am prepared to give further consideration to the proposition put forward by the South Australian Government on the recommendation of a royal commission, and, early in the new year, I propose to visit South Australia in order to make a personal investigation.
– Last night the Minister for the Interior said that the lessee of Hotel Canberra was unable to provide suitable accommodation for members of Parliament because he was unaware that Parliament would be sitting on Monday. Now that we are back to a normal parliamentary sitting day, have arrangements been made to accommodate honorable members in the usual way?
– It is true that thora is some little congestion at the Hotel Canberra for reasons which I stated last night, but I think that any reasonable man will admit that the lessee is doing his utmost to meet the convenience of members of Parliament and other patrons.
Matter for Premiers Conference
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been directed to the statement appearing in the Sydney Telegraph that 30,000 boys and girls will be leaving school in New South “Wales alone at the end of tho year? In view of the importance of the question of their absorption into industry, can he give an indication that the Premiers Conference, to be held in. the new year, will give full consideration to the subject of youth employment?
– I replied to a question on somewhat similar lines yesterday, and indicated that this question has received, and is receiving, the consideration of the Government. The question of the Premiers Conference is a little bit in the air. It was intended to hold it early in the new year, but it is now not likely to be held at that time. In the meantime, the Government will give full consideration to the point raised.
– Can the Prime Minister inform tho House whether, at the Premiers Conference, it is the intention of the Commonwealth Government to submit proposals for the establishment of a Commonwealth council to deal with unemployment, particularly among youths? If so, will he ask the States to collaborate with him in this matter?
– The Commonwealth Government is endeavouring to ascertain the subjects which the various States wish to have discussed at the conference, and the Commonwealth Government will submit it3 own proposals at the same time.
The following paper was presented: -
Bankruptcy Act - Seventh Annual Report, for period 1st August, 1934, to 31st July, 1035.
Ordered to be printed.
– Has the Minister for Trade and Customs yet received the report of the Tariff Board on fencing wire, and, if so, when will it be presented to this House?
– The answer to the first question is No, and the answer to the second question is, see answer to No. 1.
Third report of the Printing Committee brought up by Mr. Jennings, read by the Clerk, and - by leave - agreed to.
– I ask the Minis tei for Trade and Customs whether the undertaking given by the Government last week in the House that consideration would be given to the importation of sulphur has been given effect? If so, what has been the result of that consideration?
– The Government has not yet had an opportunity to look into the matter again. There is an embargo against the importation of sulphur, but as far as the Department of Trade and Customs has traced the matter, no inconvenience has been caused to importers. Nevertheless, whether the embargo is, or is not to remain will shortly receive the consideration of the Government.
formal Motion for Adjournment.
I have received from the honorable member for Martin (Mr. McCall) an intimation thathe desires to move the adjournment of the House this afternoon for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, “ Broadcasting in Australia “.
Fire honorable members having risen in their places in support of the motion,
.- I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
I make no apologies for moving this motion; it is a non-party question, as the position created by the regulations recently gazetted by the Government is one vitally affecting the people of Australia generally, and is calculated to retard the development of broadcasting and most seriously to prejudice the radio industry. It is a non-party question because it equally affects the constituents of honorable members of all parties. These regulations are, in fact, laws governing an industry in which millions of pounds have been invested, and in which many thousands of persons arc employed. It caters for 750,000 licensed listeners, and, allowing four persons to every radio home, directly affects some 3,000,000 people throughout the Commonwealth.
Yet these far-reaching laws have not been approved by this national legislature, which indeed has never been given an opportunity to express an opinion upon them. It is to give the Parliament this opportunity that I have moved this motion. That it must be inadequate J know very well, but the imminence of the recess, the many measures of importance yet to be dealt with, and the Standing Orders of this House, effectively close the door to any other procedure.
Democracy, as developed throughout the British Empire, means government by representatives duly elected by the people. Every member of this Parliament is responsible to his constituents, and may be dismissed if he fails to carry out their wishes or to protect their interests. But this Parliament cannot protect the in terests of the people in this vitally important matter, because it has never been consulted.
Let me give the history of this subject very briefly. In 1905 an act of ten sections was passed giving the Postmaster-General exclusive authority over the transmission and reception of wireless messages, the issue of licences to transmitting stations, and the making of regulations relating to wireless. In 1915 another act of two sections empowered any Minister to exercise this authority. In 1919 a short act was passed to include telephonic in addition to telegraphic messages under the foregoing measures.
The present regulations which affect 750,000 radio homes and over 3,000,000 listeners, together with millions of capital, and many thousands of workers, were issued under an act passed at a time when broadcasting was merely a scientific toy - as far removed from broadcasting as it exists to-day, as the old flint lock musket is from the modern machine gun. Broadcasting may be said to have developed in its earliest forms in 1922, yet apart from the Broadcasting Commission Act of 1932, which deals with A class stations, this Parliament has never had an opportunity to discuss the vast and complex questions arising out of it.
While the nominal control of wireless is exercised by a Minister, the technical and intricate nature of the subject places the real control of it in the hands of the permanent head of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department ; and under the system of party politics which operates in Australia, the regulations or laws which the department chooses to make must be accepted by this Parliament, without debate, amendment or explanation by a Minister.
This is quite inconsistent with the principles of democratic government and unfair to both this Parliament and the people of the Commonwealth.
The Minister for Defence, who represents the Postmaster-General in this chamber, stated recently that, in the opinion of the department, it is not desirable that any private company or individual should have a monopoly of broadcasting stations. Therefore, on the Minister’s own statement, the department is seeking to alter the system of commercial broadcasting fundamentally without consideration or discussion by this Parliament. Thus it will be seen that the administrator who is not responsible to Parliament is seeking the authority of Parliament, without debate, to trammel and shackle the commercial stations, and to lander their expansion and progress.
Broadcasting is a national service and, with the press, is an agency through which tho people are informed, educated, interested and entertained. Above all it is a most effective means of enabling the public to form au intelligent opinion on questions affecting their welfare. “Who is to control, regulate and supervise this wonderful achievement of science, technical knowledge, and experience? Surely the people, through their representatives in this .National Parliament.
Broadcasting has made amazing strides in the last fifteen years, yet even in its present stage of development it is merely standing on the threshhold of the doorway to far greater things. It needs guidance and encouragement, but, above all, it needs freedom to develop. Is it to be fettered and choked by bureaucratic control?
Broadcasting has given birth to a great industry. It provides employment for 15,000 people directly and for at least another 5,000 indirectly. To find employment for our workless people is the greatest problem which confronts the Government. Therefore, the radio industry should be encouraged. Is this great industry to go on or go down? It certainly will not go on if it is to be continually harassed by bureaucratic control, as will be tho case if the new regulations are enforced.
It may be contended that it is the practice of this Parliament to delegate authority to Ministers and subordinate bodies. No doubt this is true; but in such cases the delegated authority is usually strictly limited by statute. When this delegated authority is exercised by a Minister the regulations that are made merely implement, and give effect to the provisions of the statute. Other statutes not only lay down broad general principles, but also direct how these shall be applied. They also indicate clearly what may or may not be done iu certain circumstances. Only minor matters are left to be dealt with by regulation. But in the case of broadcasting the position is very different, for the statute delegates unlimited powers, and gives no direction as to how they shall be used. Moreover no limit is placed on the scope of the regulations.
For an illustration of my point I invite attention to the Navigation Act, which contains 450 sections and took years to pass through this Parliament. Regulations are necessary to give effect to the principles of this act. A regulation may state, for example, that a ship must carry two cooks instead of one. But the power to legislate by regulation cannot in that case alter fundamentally the principles of the act.
The acts of Parliament which deal with wireless broadcasting do not, however, legislate for wireless, but hand over all the powers of this Parliament, whatever they may be, to an autocrat, who is at once the legislature, judiciary and executive. This person legislates in secret, for no one knows what he will do, and all must obey his will, for from it there is no appeal.
We boast that this is a free country, and that we enjoy the right of free speech ; but the bureaucratic control of broadcasting makes this an empty boast, for no man may speak to his fellow citizens over the air save by the permission of the department. What the department says shall be said, must be said, or the would-be speaker must remain silent.
There are operating in Australia today, sixteen subsidized A class stations, and 65 commercial stations. The B class stations are entirely self-supporting, that is to say, they receive nothing from the fees paid by tho 750,000 licensed listeners which amount to £800,000 a year or £15,000 per week. The B class stations have proved conclusively in recent years that they are providing a public service and supplying a public demand.
Comprehensive inquiries designed to ascertain the preferences of the listeners show that at least 80 per cent, of the listeners regularly tune in to B class stations, proving conclusively that, notwithstanding the disadvantage of having to transmit advertisements for revenue purposes, these stations have established a superior service. Their very existence, it should be remembered, depends on public support and is the outcome of popular need and desire.
The Postmaster-General’s Department controls the radio industry by regulations which it makes without consulting either this Parliament or tho industry concerned. Time prevents me from dealing with the old regulations in detail. It is enough to say that the control at present exercised by the Postmaster-General’s Department covers the whole field. It is in fact autocratic and complete. Already under its regulations the department gives or withholds licences; it determines the site upon which a station is to be erected, its power, wave length and range, and the uses to which it may be put; it decides whether the station shall advertise, it can censor the advertising and programmes; it can demand balance-sheets; it can cancel licences at its own pleasure and prevent stations from being sold; in fact it may write finis to the whole pro- position, and from all this there is no appeal.
But that control, absolute though it is, does not satisfy the department, for new and more drastic regulations have been framed which, if enforced, will more seriously affect the operations of commercial broadcasting. The reasons given by the department for its autocratic action are most unconvincing. It states that the new regulations are necessary in order to prevent monopoly. “We all wish to prevent monopoly, but to talk about monopoly in this case sounds rather hollow. How can the B class stations obtain a monopoly as long as the Postmaster-General already has the power to issue, withhold, or cancel licences, and the national stations are owned and controlled by the Government? The only monopoly that is possible is that which would be created if the A class stations owned and subsidized by the Government drove the B class stations out of business. To talk about monopoly in this case is absurd. The B class stations can live only as long as the people patronise them, if the B class stations attempted to use the air to the detriment of the people, apart from the PostmasterGeneral’s power of cancelling their licences the listeners themselves would tune their sets to other stations, and business firms would withdraw their advertisements. Even if there is a need to protect the industry against monopolies, are retrospective regulations a better method of achieving this than direct legislation, which would give the whole House an opportunity to discuss the principles involved and the methods to be employed? There is an appeal now before the High Court against a conviction for using an unlicensed wireless receiver, in which the validity of the “Wireless Telegraphy Act, and the regulations thereunder, is being challenged. Why is the department making further regulations under the act when it must be aware that the validity of the whole act is being challenged in the courts?
I have said that the present control is autocratic and complete; it is also exercised unwisely, and, &3 I could show, if time perm i ted, in many cases unfairly. The department can grant or withhold a licence. If it decides to grant a licence, it can, by fixing an unsuitable site, make the licence of no value, and by prescribing an unsuitable wavelength, make that station, or another established station, in which large sums of capital have been invested, ineffective and, therefore, useless. This is not a hypothetical statement. It has been done and, if time permitted, I could supply the House with particulars. Recently a new broadcasting licence was granted at Burnie in Tasmania, despite the fact that at Ulverstone, only a few miles away, a station giving adequate service to Burnie already existed. The licence was granted without consultation with the broadcasting stations as a whole, and without reference to the Ulvertsone licence-holder whose business is greatly affected by the existence of the new station. But it is impossible for him to do more than protest to the department. There is no court, commissioner, or board to which he can appeal for -justice. In this case, as in others, the department acts as accuser, jury and judge, and against its decision there is no appeal. In every court of law throughout the British Empire there is a right of appeal in taxation, repatriation and other matters. As a matter of fact, the right of appeal runs right down through the law, and is the foundation of British justice.
The radio is a source of entertainment and is a purveyor of news. In th” former respect it is a rival of the theatres, in the latter, of the newspapers. If the theatrical firm of J. C. Williamson were suddenly to learn that a new regulation had been passed, providing that no person or company may own a theatre in more than one capital in Australia, or may control theatres in more than a limited number of cities in one State, it would realize that its business was practically crippled. If theatrical entrepreneurs are to bring out the best entertainers from overseas they can do so only if they haw a series of theatres in every capital; and exactly the same applies to the radio. A number of stations is necessary in metropolitan and country districts to relay to the people expensive and attractive programmes. Surely the chain of national stations proves this necessity.
If there were reasons why Parliament should declare that a firm such as J. C. Williamson should not have a monopoly of the entertainment business in theatres - it would be absurd to let any subsidiary body declare this - and if there were reasons why Parliament should limit the right of ownership of B class stations, there can be no reason whatever why that power of limitation should be vested in men associated with a rival system. It is bad enough for people in business to have to submit to control, but to have to submit to control by a man running a rival system is intolerable. It is asking too much to expect any departmental head, who is mainly concerned “with the success of the Government subsidized stations, to overcome an unconscious bias in favour of curtailing what is done on the rival system.
We, the members of this Parliament, can and will hold fairly the balance between the A class stations and the B class stations. In this country, and throughout the British Empire, we believe in free speech; we have a free press, then let us, subject to reasonable control, have a free air. When all is said and done, the public pays the piper and should be free to call the tune.
I do not at this stage intend to suggest how the present system should be altered, because I believe this is a matter that should be fully investigated and thoroughly considered by a select committee appointed by this House. Therefore, I give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall move for the appointment of a parliamentary select committee to inquire into the control and operation of broadcasting in Australia.
– For some time past, I have heard that most serious allegations were being made against the regulations recently gazetted in respect of wireless broadcasting. I was given to understand that really grave charges we’re to be made, and that cogent reasons would be urged for the disallowance of these regulations. Until a few moments ago, I was convinced that this must be so, because the honorable member for Martin (Mr. Mc Call) followed the unprecedented course of moving the adjournment of the House, and because of the perturbation recently exhibited in regard to this matter by certain newspapers in this country. The honorable member, however, has not even mentioned any regulations to which he objects. His failure to do so coincides strangely with a similar omission in the leading article which appeared in the last issue of the Sunday Sun. Although that publication displayed on its front page in the place usually reserved for special attacks on people and institutions, a garbled reference to its leading article on the subject of broadcasting regulations, the article itself was totally unintelligible to the mass of readers. Only those who have some knowledge of the subject could gather what the writer was driving at. The writer, and the honorable member for Martin. (Mr. McCall), should have come, out into the open and said what regulations are objected to. The honorable member speaks of “ autocratic control “. There is no more autocratic control in regard to broadcasting than there is in any other form of administration by the Commonwealth. It is of great advantage to the people that the control of wireless broadcasting should be vested in a Minister of the Crown like the PostmasterGeneral (Senator A. J. McLachlan), who is guided by the advice of men possessing special qualifications for that task. The head of the Postal Department carries out his job, not only with effectiveness and skill, and a great display of mental ability, but also with absolute conscientiousness. There can be no charge of unfairness levelled against him of the nature suggested by the honorable member. In any case, there is an appeal from the rulings of the departmental head to the Minister. Furthermore, there is also appeal through the members of this House to the verdict of the people; grievances of any kind can be readily ventilated in this House. There is nothing in the honorable member’s suggestion that autocratic control is exercised.
The honorable member tells us that the B class stations are being harassed by bureaucratic control. 1 suggest that that accusation would not be upheld by any of the B class stations operating in New South Wales. All B class stations in New South Wales will admit that, far from having been subjected to bureaucratic control, they have received every assistance from the department, and the most sympathetic consideration of their requests. If a wave-length were available to-morrow, there would be danger of somebody getting crushed in the rush for it, despite all the talk about bureaucratic control.
The honorable member has made a charge about a station in Tasmania having been spoilt through the department deliberately allotting it a site at which it could not be successfully operated. There are two sides to every question, and I ask honorable members to suspend their judgment upon the ex parte statement that has been made by the honorable member for Martin until the matter has been investigated. I think it will be found that there is not a word of truth in his allegation. I am informed by the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons), who was Postmaster-General at the time, that no objection was taken by the broadcasting station at Burnie until the regulations were promulgated.
– I did not say that objections were raised at Burnie. I referred to Ulverstone.
– The Prime Minister has also said that the full facts were placed before the interested party to Ulverstone, and that the applicants were known to him personally. He explained the whole of the facts to them, and the matter was thoroughly considered, so there can be no legitimate grievance in that regard.
Evidence of the development of monopolies in regard to broadcasting is apparent, and, if left unchecked, that development might have undesirable consequences. Prominent members of the federation of commercial stations have made representations, and have expressed their own concern and that of the general body of broadcasters against the monopolistic trend. They are pressing for some measure of control. Attention was directed to the many ways in which virtual control could be exercised, for instance, (a) by the direct ownership of a predominant shareholding; (b) by the exclusive control of transcription programmes; and (c) by a monopoly of sponsored advertisements and stipulations which would destroy individual contract control. The department has acted with very great circumspection. While it has serious objections to control by a few powerful commercial groups - and I suggest that every honorable member has a similar objection - the best service of which broadcasting is capable is secured by a concentration of resources and of specially meritorious programmes over a large group of stations. This fact is recognized both by the Government and by the department. When it is said, as has been stated, not by the honorable member, but by his newspaper supporters, that the linking up of the chain stations has been prohibited, I contend that that is entirely incorrect. That was never intended, although the wording of the first regulations might have given that impression. It was made perfectly clear in the second regulations that that is not desired.
– But the power is there.
– Yet on’ Sunday last the Sunday Sun, despite the specific declaration that chain broadcasting may proceed, deliberately misrepresented the position by stating that it was not possible under the regulations. That is the class of misrepresentation to which this matter has been subjected from the beginning. I have said that the department realizes that the advertisers desire chain advertising, and are prepared to spend money on highclass programmes, provided they are broadcast over a large area and are heard by a great many listeners. The department has no objection to that. On the contrary, it rather encourages it.
– But a diversity of programmes is prevented.
– If a specially high-class programme is arranged at great cost, and is of real value, I think that the advantages outweigh the disadvantages.
The first proposal put forward was that no individual or company should hold more than one metropolitan station in any State, two metropolitan stations in the Commonwealth, three stations in any one State, or five stations in the Commonwealth. A protest against that was made on the ground that the permissible number of stations under single control was inadequate, and that the wording of the regulations prevented the linking up of stations. I am prepared to say here that that proposal, in its first form, represented a reasonable and generous concession to the commercial stations.
– Why was it altered?
– In response to representations made by those stations. In order that there should be no charge of unfairness against the Government or the department, they were invited to express their views, and after they had explained their position the further regulations were drawn up, allowing them a considerably larger number of stations. To-day an aggregate of eight stations throughout the Commonwealth is allowed to each individual or company. I have with me a complete list of the stations which comprise multiple ownership. It shows that Amalgamated Wireless Australasia Limited operates in about twelve stations, and the Melbourne Herald and associated publications have interests in or are associated with eleven.
– May we have the complete list?
– Yes. It is a3 follows -
– Does the Minister say that two corporations each control twelve of the 65 B class stations in the Commonwealth ?
– I do not know whether the total number is 65 ; but, according to the figures, thirteen are directly or indirectly controlled by Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, and eleven by the Herald Proprietary. No honorable member can say that it is right or proper that such companies should have a monopoly of this kind. The dangers were so apparent that tlie department rightly took action. It has erred in the direction of generosity rather than suppression. It is competent for this House, if it so desires, to alter the regulations and revert to the original arrangements.
In the two years in which I waa ministerial head of the Postal Department, I did not at any time feel comfortable in regard to the commercial broadcasting stations. I foresaw what has arisen to-day - that the national stations, which belong to the people, would not get a fair run in the Commonwealth.
– They receive enough revenue.
Mr. ARCHDALE PARKHILL They are being attacked in every way. We have growing up in this country a monopoly of newspapers and broadcasting which, in combination, constitute a danger that this Parliament cannot view with equanimity, aird steps should be taken to deal with it. Let us consider what has happened recently. The press has decided that information cabled to Australia shall come from only one source. The people of this nation get only what the press cares to give them. That is wrong in principle, and is a powerful argument in favour of such a public utility as broadcasting being in the hands of the Government.
What is the attitude of the press in regard to the national stations? They say to the Australian Broadcasting Commission, “ You shall not broadcast for more than three minutes the news that appears in our newspapers.” On the other hand, B class stations are allowed ton to twelve minutes. They also say, “ You shall not broadcast news except at such times as we think fit “ - the object being to make sure that their receipts from the sale of newspapers will not be affected - “You shall not broadcast before 8 p.m.”, although B class stations are on the air at more favor- able times and are permitted to whet the appetite of listeners by informing them at 10 p.m. of what will be published on the following day. The time has arrived for cognizance to be taken of what is happening in connexion with this monopoly that is growing up in our midst. It is a question, not of giving them the generous concession objected to, but of restricting their operations in many respects. What sort of meat do these newspaper proprietaries eat, which gives them the courage to propound these proposals? This is a piece of the sheerest effrontery that I have ever experienced in my public life. Having these concessions, building up these monopolies, they yet attempt to blackmail this Parliament into giving them further concessions. They utilize the inexperience of the youngest member of this House in order to achieve their ends. He ought to know better than to be used by them.
– On a point of order, I object to the Minister saying that I have been used by the newspapers of this country, and ask him to withdraw and apologise.
– I submit that there is nothing unparliamentary in what I have said. If the honorable member cares to do so, he can get somebody to defend him.
– I ask that the Minister be called upon to withdraw the statement he has made.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. G. J. Bell).It appears to me that the word “ used ‘’ as applied to the honorable member by the Minister is the equivalent, of “ influenced “. The expression “ influenced by outside people “ is frequently used in this House. This is the first time that I have heard objection raised to it. I do not think that I should demand a withdrawal.
– While the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) n as in England earlier in this year, both he and the Attorney-General (Mr. Menzies) had interviews with the head of the British Broadcasting Corporation with reference to the modern problems of broadcasting. Since then, the Government has had under consideration, the matter of obtaining an expert report upon broadcasting control and policy in Australia. Any such inquiry would be unsatisfactory, however, until the question of the Commonwealth’s power over broadcasting has been authoritatively decided by the High Court of Australia. Immediately such a decision has been given, the Government will finally determine the method and scope of the inquiry, and if I have any voice in the matter - I hope that I shall - one of the most important aspects inquired into will be this monopoly which is being established by these newspapers, and the exactions they are endeavouring to impose upon the Australian Broadcasting Commission in regard to the people’s stations. Those stations cannot obtain a report from this section of the press, but are subjected to constant attacks and depreciation of their efforts.
– The Minister has exhausted his time.
.- The reply of the Minister for Defence (Mr. Parkhill), on behalf of the Government, to the statements of the honorable member for Martin (Mr. McCall), is so convincing, that I am somewhat astonished that the Government should have seen fit to vary the original regulations. The whole burden of the complaint of the honorable member for Martin is, that the Government has interfered with the ownership of B class stations. The Minister has justified that interference, on the ground that otherwise there would be capitalistic control over commercial broadcasting. It appears inevitable that a broadcasting monopoly cannot be avoided. The number of stations that can be licensed in any given territory is limited, not as limitation would be imposed by the mere decree of the Director of Postal Services, but by reason of the technique of the service itself. It is impossible to allow free and open competition in respect of the establishment of broadcasting stations. As a limit is placed upon the number of stations that can be established, having regard to the technique of the service, obviously some authority has to be responsible for deciding the number that shall be licensed.
– I agree with the honorable member on that point; I have not said that that is not necessary.
– The honorable member has made an attack upon the control to be exercised over broadcasting under these regulations.
– I have said that some control is necessary.
– These regulations, which were first made on the 21st
October last, prescribe the number of stations which shall be controlled by one corporation. I submit that the whole of the case which the Minister has so ably placed before the House this afternoon, is logical in defence of > the first set of regulations. It indicates, to my mind at any rate, that there was no justification for the department’s varying of the regulations in respect of the number of stations that should be licensed. As a matter of fact, it is now competent for one company to control eight broadcasting stations in the Commonwealth. The total number of stations licensed commercially is 24 in the metropolitan areas and 41 in country centres. An extraordinary feature is that, under the amended regulations, it will be competent for any company to operate four broadcasting stations in any one State. As a matter of fact, in South Australia, three stations are operating in the country and three in the metropolis. Thus, it is quite obvious that that State is exposed to the monopoly which the Minister has just assured the House is absolutely undesirable.
– It is already 111 existence
– As the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) says, it already exists. The regulations which the Minister has justified as being aimed at the prevention of that monopoly cannot, in the very nature of things, succeed in destroying a monopoly. I submit that the only rational and proper course for this Parliament to adopt, having regard to the paramount importance of wireless broading, and the tremendous influence which it can exert, is to ensure that broadcasting as a service shall be essentially and exclusively a publicly-controlled utility in Australia.
– and Honorablexx Members. - Hear, hear !
– It would be too dangerous to allow control to be exercised by this alliance of great newspapers and broadcasting stations which, by reason of the influence they can exert on the public mind, can not only, if they so desire, misrepresent public policy, but also so inflame public opinion as to make ordered government almost impossible.
Mv. Archdale Parkhill. - Hear, hear !
– In my judgment, the original regulations were reasonable. There are 24 broadcasting stations located in the capital cities of Australia. I am amazed at the statement of the Minister, that two corporations control 24 of the total of 65 commercial stations. That indicates the manner in which authority over wireless broadcasting in this country is tending to become concentrated in the hands of a comparatively powerful group. When the honorable member for Martin points to what he describes as the autocracy of the Postmaster-General’s Department, when he deals with what he designates bureaucratic control over broadcasting, I put it to him that an official control which is in the nature of a trusteeship for the people of Australia, is far safer for the people than a capitalistic control which owes no responsibility whatever to the people. It is not sufficient for the honorable gentleman te argue that because A class stations exist there is a sufficient safeguard against the domination which B class stations arc capable of exercising and which, increasingly as wireless develops in Australia, will make them the more potentially mischievous from every viewpoint.
– Will the honorable gentleman admit that the Government is implementing his party’s policy of nationalization ?
– I welcome the sentiments expressed by the Minister for Defence. Our attitude is, that we do not believe that there should be private control of this service which, in its very nature, must be more or less monopolistic and cannot be competitive. Does the honorable gentleman suggest that any person in Australia should be as free to establish a broadcasting station as he would be to build a theatre in Melbourne?
– 1 did not make that suggestion.
– The analogy which the honorable member drew between J. C. Williamson Limited and broadcasting is grotesque, and entirely fallacious. The only limit upon theatrical enterprises is, whether or not one can buy the sites, erect the theatres, and attract the public. There is no inherent difficulty in having 40 theatres built alongside one another. The only consideration is, whether they could be made to pay. But 40 broadcasting stations could not be established in Melbourne, Sydney, or any other given territory.
– I have not suggested that they could.
– Therefore, the whole of the premises upon which the honorable member built up his case falls to the ground. This service in its nature is inevitably a service which cannot be left in the hands of a select few entrepreneurs. Wireless broadcasting is a trusteeship for the people as a whole. It would be dangerous for us to permit the same aspects to come into broadcasting as have come into newspaper control.
– I support the case submitted by the Minister for Defence (Mr. Parkhill) on this question of broadcasting. I was pleased to hear the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) agreeing with the policy and the attitude of the Government on this question, so far as it goes; and I am in full agreement with the sentiment expressed by the Leader of the Opposition when he said that broadcasting should be under national control, because I contend that broadcasting is on all fours with such public utilities as the post office, the telegraph and the telephones, which this Parliament has seen fit to place under the control of the Postmaster-General, and I do not know of any authority in the Commonwealth more competent to deal with this further public utility than the PostmasterGeneral. My only objection in the present case is that the Government was unwise in amending the regulations it first projected.
I think that the whole question of broadcasting should be reviewed, and I am therefore glad that the Minister for Defence has promised to see to that. The ownership of a certain wave-length for broadcasting is certainly a monopoly. If we apply to commercial broadcasting the same common-sense principles as we apply to the allotment of land, the question simplifies itself. It stands to reason that we cannot have several people owning the one piece of land, and we leave it to some competent authority to decide who should be given the right to occupy that piece of land. Similarly, as we cannot have several people operating on the same wave-length for broadcasting an authority should be set up to decide from whom the best interests of the community will be served. At present, the first company which happens to come along and pay £25 per annum for the use of a wave-length is presented with an opportunity to make thousands of pounds a year out of the sale of advertising time over the wireless.
The power of wireless to-day is as great as, if not greater than, the power exercised by the press. If a man says anything against me in the press, there is a complete record of it. The same cannot be said about broadcasting. I have only to remind honorable members of a recent prohibited address, portions of which were quoted in this House. The time has come when the delivery of speeches over the air, in the interests of the people who may be maligned, should be recorded on a dictaphone. The honorable member for Martin (Mr. McCall) mentioned J. C. “Williamson Limited in his argument. I do not see its application. If any firm puts up 40 theatres, those theatres are dependent on the patronage of the people who buy tickets of admission. The listeners to radio programmes pay for licences and all the wonders of science bring the programmes of a whole variety of broadcasting stations into their homes. Consequently, there is some obligation on the part of the Government to ensure that the programmes that come over the air are of a type which should be at the disposal of the people who are prepared to listen. If we take another view of it, there is a very great necessity for the control of wireless broadcasting in Australia. If this Parliament does not take this little giant in hand and control him, it will not be long before wireless broadcasting will control this Parliament. It is in even a better position to mould public opinion than is the press. Regardless of consequences, I make that assertion. The Minister revealed the desire of certain interests to secure a monopoly of a number of broadcasting stations as a deliberate attempt to mould the opinion of the electorate at large for purposes opposed to the interests of the general community. My friends in the official Labour party will know what I am aiming at when I put it this way, and my friends on this side of the House who are acquainted with the history of this country will know what would have happened if the press and the wireless in the years from 1929 to 1931 had been under the control of supporters of the Opposition. As we know, the Labour party had very little support from the press and not much from the wireless.
– Does the honorable member regard that as an advantage?
– What 1 am trying to drive home is that the people who control the press in this country are in a position to direct the course of Australian politics. Every thinking honorable member will admit the truth of that statement. And the same applies to the control of broadcasting; otherwise, why is it that in most countries of Europe, where there is no such thing as B class broadcasting, the broadcasting stations are protected by armed guards of Government troops to ensure that certain people, who may be inclined to overthrow the Government, will not take charge of these stations, as was attempted in a recent coup in Austria.
– In other words, the honorable member desires that the people should be permitted to hear only what the Government desires that it should hear.
– The honorable gentleman need not go to Russia for an analogy. I would rather have the people of this country listening to programmes approved by the PostmasterGeneral than to programmes formed by vested interests and forced on the people to the exclusion of everything else. There was a time when A class stations broadcast advertisements. A royal commission sat and it was determined that that practice should cease. B class stations were then given the sole advertising rights. In the early days complaints were frequent that the people did not want to listen to the broadcasting of advertisements over the air. I am not a regular listener-in but when I do listen to radio programmes it annoys me to hear confounded advertising every two or three minutes. There is too much commercialization of the air.
– Advertising is the only source of revenue to the commercial stations.
– A source of revenue? Why it is a source of fortune !
– Why is it that 80 per cent, of listeners listen to the commercial stations?
– The honorable member is making another statement which he cannot prove. He does not know. He is speaking entirely on surmise, just as he did when he spoke about the millions of pounds having been invested in broadcasting.
– Does the honorable member suggest that millions of pounds are not invested in broadcasting in Australia?
– I do suggest that millions of pounds are 11 Ot invested in B class broadcasting.
– I am talking about the whole of the industry.
– The honorable member is speaking of the manufacture of radio material. The money would be spent on that material whether the industry was controlled by the Government or by private enterprise. From my interpretation of the case made out by the honorable member no attack was launched on the broadcasting regulations. In fact the honorable member for Martin reminds me of Mahomet, when he left Mecca on the camel Al Kaswa. As Allah was directing the course of the camel all that Mahomet had to do was to obey the instruction to make camp where the camel lay down at sundown. The honorable member does not know where his camel is taking him.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
– Some notable declarations have been made in the course of this debate which will meet the approval of honorable members on this side of the House. For many years, the Australian Labour party has been endeavouring faithfully to put its case to the Australian people, but in various ways vested interests, particularly through the organized press of Australia, have denied it the opportunity to do so. Time and time again its whole case has been the subject of wholesale misrepresentation. Its members have been maligned, its views have been distorted, and in general a grave wrong has been . done to what is claimed to be the rights of every section of the community under this democracy.
The suggestion that an inquiry into broadcasting in Australia should be held, opens up to me another phase of the question. I am alarmed at the course which the Postal Department has pursued in issuing B class broadcasting licenses. In some cases, it ha3 been prejudicial to the interests of sections of the country people in New South Wales. At Moree, a number of local business men, believing that it was desirable in the interests of that portion of the district to have a B class broadcasting station available for the broadcasting of news items and music, made application for a wavelength, but was rebuffed. The same thing happened with regard to some constituents of the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark) at Dubbo. In both cases the applications were refused by the department and, so far as I can gather, no definite reason has yet been glv er . for this decision. I should like to know how these matters are determined.
– By priority of application.
– That is not the reason in every case. There is substantial ground for an inquiry into the whole procedure in regard to the granting of B class licences. I understand that two B class licences have been granted to the Graziers Association of New South Wales. One licence is in respect of a very high-powered station at Orange. I am informed that this station has a power of 2,000 watts, and is capable of bringing within its range the whole of the metropolitan area, although it has hitherto been understood that licences granted to B class stations in country districts should carry a limited power of not more than 500 watts. The other station for which a licence has been granted to the same association is situated at Narrabri. It has been stated that the department, in con- si der ing applications for licences for B class stations, takes into account the financial standing of the applicant and also the class of programme it is intended to broadcast. It is obvious of course that if financial status is to be considered local communities such as those at Moree and Dubbo could have no prospect of success against such an organization as the Graziers Association, which has behind it large banking and insurance organizations. Hitherto it has been understood that one of the reasons for the granting of B class licences in country centres is to ensure a degree of freedom to country people to broadcast matters of particular interest in a given locality, but this seems to have been entirely overlooked in connexion with the issue of the licences of the new B class stations at Orange and Narrabri. In those two cases the studios are situated in .Sydney and connected by land lines to both centres. So much for the country complexion of the broadcast - it is actually transmitted from the heart of the city. My colleagues and I protested against the issue of the licences to the Graziers Association, and also raised objection to the establishment of such a high-powered station in that area. Why should that station alone among all the country B class stations be permitted to use a power which enables it to overwhelm many B class stations in the metropolitan area? Pending a public inquiry into the whole subject I ask that additional information in regard to the methods adopted in issuing B class licences be furnished to us at the first opportunity.
I wish to say now that my colleagues and I appreciate the necessity for a central authority to exercise control over wireless broadcasting; but such control should be subject to the direction of thi? Parliament. It is as necessary to control wireless broadcasting as it is to control traffic in city streets. Without traffic control chaos would be the order of the day in regard to transport affairs; and without radio control chaos would be the order of the day on the air; but any measure of control should be subject to the approval of this Parliament.
We have had occasion to complain from time to time about the political bias noticeable in addresses given over the air by commentators from A class stations. Many commentators impart a political flavour to every utterance they make whether in regard to the news service or otherwise. During the broadcasting of the last federal election results a listener would have formed the opinion that the only electorates in which the contests were of interest to the general community were those in which Government supporters were leading. Early in the broadcasting very little was heard from electorates in which Labour party candidates were in the lead. The distinction became so marked that I telephoned one of the Sydney A class broadcasting stations, and requested a more general broadcast of the results. Within the next ten minutes a marked change was noticeable and thereafter the election returns were broadcast with reasonable attention to all electorates.
I consider that an inquiry should also be held into the reasons for the dismissal of Major Conder from the general managership of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. So far we have not been able to obtain any information whatever on this subject.
Many complaints have been made respecting the programmes broadest from A class stations. The Minister has said that the complaints were due, to a certain extent, to a swamping process engaged in by several B class stations. I am not in a position to say whether this is or is not the case; but in view of the many complaints that have been made a public inquiry should be held into the whole subject. We should do everything possible to enable the people to obtain the best results from this remarkable invention, but we must also see that justice is done to all sections of the community. The public provide the Australian Broadcasting Commission with ample revenue to enable it to broadcast programmes of a good quality that will appeal to the varied tastes of all listeners.
My colleagues and I favour a comprehensive inquiry into the whole subject of wireless broadcasting. We are, however, totally opposed to the creation of monopolies of such a character as that which the Associated Press is evidently trying to establish. An inquiry may lead to the conclusion that not only the regulations now proposed to be issued, but also some of those at present current, need revision, in order to ensure that wireless broadcasting shall be controlled in the best interests of the public generally. The Australian Broadcasting Commission should be brought more effectively under the control of this Parliament for the benefit of the listeners throughout Australia.
Motion (by Mr. Stacey) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. G. j. Bell.)
Majority . . . . Nil
Question so resolved in the negative.
– I congratulate the honorable member for Martin (Mr. McCall) upon having brought this matter under notice, and I am glad that the motion for the gag to restrict discussion was lost. It gives an opportunity to at least one honorable member to support the honorable member’s contentions. Wireless broadcasting to-day is of great national importance, and should be operated in the interests of the people as a whole. The Government should not be influenced against the public interests, but should ensure to the public the best possible broadcasting service by the introduction of an act of Parliament to control wireless broadcasting. A careful examination of the facts shows that conflicting personal and company interests are, to no small degree, responsible for the support given by at least some honorable members to the departmental regulations further curtailing the expansion of private broadcasting throughout the Commonwealth. These personal interests cannot be examined unless broadcasting is controlled by an act of Parliament and not by regulation. To-day, we have had examples from both sides of the House of the harmful result of control by Government dictatorship. The importance of wireless broadcasting, the education which it affords to the people, the employment which the industry offers, as well as the pleasure people derive from the programmes of B class stations, are of sufficient importance to justify the introduction of a bill so that Parliament may control the whole ramifications of wireless broadcasting. If that were done, honorable members would be given an opportunity to express their views on this important matter. At present, the head of the Postal Department is virtually a dictator, and he desires to continue the expansion of the monopoly by new regulations aimed at the disintegration of private co-operative organizations. The Labour members are consistent in supporting a complete government monopoly for their platform demands it. But what of the government whose platform urges unrestricted development by private enterprise and private capital? The Minister for Defence (Mr. Archdale Parkhill) and the members of his party, have frequently said that they are desirous of doing everything possible to assist private enterprise to flourish, and members of both the United Australia party and the United Country party declare that they advocate the principle of co-operative enterprise; yet to-day, some of the larger co-operative and private companies engaged in wireless broadcasting are being maligned by the Minister for Defence. These companies are providing entertainment which the people want, but which they cannot get through the A class stations. In Maryborough there is a B class station operating which provides much interesting information for the benefit of listeners; and throughout the country generally, the B class stations are filling the requirements of country listeners. 4MB -was responsible for 1,400 additional licences in three years, but all the revenue goes to the A class control. I believe that a government that avowedly fosters private enterprise should be prepared to stand behind these B class stations which, after all, are only extending the policy for which both sections of the Government stand. There is no “ Government by regulation “ curtailing the operations of motion picture exhibitors, or of the proprietors of newspapers who render a service to the community in their respective spheres. After all, the wireless merely provides, in another way, entertainment and news service similar to that provided by those concerns. It is not really a government instrumentality, although it is an undertaking of national importance, yet this curtailment of the privileges of private enterprise is permitted to continue. Additional . powers are being conferred upon the PostmasterGeneral which will result in cutting out competition between his A class and the B class stations, with a resultant curtailment of the amusement provided by them for the people. It has been claimed that a dictatorship exists to-day. The Minster says that the time has arrived when a growing monopoly should be dealt with. Who are those that he declares wish to blackmail this Parliament? It is true that there is a monopoly, but it is a government monopoly operated by one man in the interests of socialization and not in the interests of listeners generally. What monopolistic influence can B class wireless stations exercise on the people? Their licence to broadcast is at the will of the Postmaster-General; they are provided with a wave length distinctly inferior to that of A class stations; they are permitted to operate on a power considerably less than half that provided for A class stations; and they have to enter into competition with the stations controlled by the Postmaster-General for the use of land wires owned by the Postal Department. For every wireless set in use, the Government receives an annual fee of 21s., and in this way it takes out of the pockets of the people £800,000 a year, none of which goes to the B class stations, although in most cases they are responsible for the revenue.
That there is a sinister motive behind these regulations may be shown if the Government will consent to the appointing of a committee of inquiry. It has been claimed that groups of companies within the industry have operated in the cities and in the country to the detriment of wireless broadcasting in Australia. No such contention is made in respect of other industries. For example, no action is taken to prevent a picture company operating twenty theatres, or a moto, service proprietor from owning 100 or even 1,000 cars. Why then should wireless be singled out for this unfair discrimination? That question can be answered only by a committee of inquiry. The monopoly over wireless has been set up as the result of the introduction of short bills which actually mean nothing. I support national broadcasting and the opportunity of fair competition by B class stations.
– The question raised this afternoon is of such national importance that it is desirable we should make some comments upon it, however brief. This question is one that has a personal appeal to half the population of Australia, having in mind the fact that 750,000 wireless licences are in existence in the Commonwealth and that the number is daily increasing. In the majority of homes in Australia the radio is part and parcel of the home life. Broadcasting has secured a tremendous influence in the community, who use tho radio for news of all national events. Even election campaigns are now fought over the air through the radio. With television realized, the time-honoured hustings will be relegated to the limbo of forgotten customs. Since broadcasting became active some fifteen years ago, there has been a phenomenal advance in the science with greater achievements in sight. This advance has been reflected in the popularity of the system in Australia, so much so that with the figures in front of us it will be found that Australia has a greater number of licences a head of the population than has any other country in the world. All this shows the importance of wireless broadcasting to the Australian people. Because of its communication bringing the world closer together, and of its international character there must of course be some governmental supervision. That is admitted by the commercial stations themselves. But what is necessary to emphasize is that private enterprise in the form of commercial stations should not be subjected to too much governmental interference. It should be free from bureaucratic control. Cramping of the air by regulations will result in private enterprise becoming stagnant. It will dry up that flow of capital necessary for experiments in the realm of radio science, and in the process will seriously retard employment. To obtain the fullest benefit of this remarkable advance in science, the listener must have a choice of easily picked-up and easily-heard broadcasts. The competition of commercial stations stimulates this desired result. With advertisers buying broadcasting time, as they buy advertising space in the press, we have had in Australia a constant healthy rivalry between the B class stations, which has assured programmes of a most attractive character, so much so that they have out-paced in popularity the A class stations, notwithstanding that the latter are free from advertising interruptions and from taxation, and are assisted in the rendition of pro- grammes by free land lines. A principle Parliament should uphold, is that private enterprise should not be subjected to too much government interference. The wireless regulations provide that on request, commercial stations must supply duly audited balance-sheets and separate accounts in respect of their broadcasting activities, and must keep records relating to their broadcasting service. They may be called upon to supply copies of these particulars for the inspection of the department. Any business man would like to have control of his opposition in this way, and to be able to demand details of the business of his opponents just when he desired. Regulations of this kind will retard the stimulation necessary for the full development of broadcasting. I have in mind a broadcasting station which had its origin in my own electorate. I refer to station 2UE. I remember the great amount of pioneering work, research undertaken and expense involved by the original owner of this station and his family before he achieved success. He built up his service with great difficulty and obtained excellent results. If commercial broadcasting is hedged around with all kinds of regulations, private enterprise will not expend the time, money and energy necessary to effect the improvements essential to a first-class service. Nothing should be clone to destroy such initiative as was displayed in connexion with the famous test cricket broadcasts, which gave large numbers of listeners a great deal of pleasure, and probably were responsible for more all-night sittings than have ever been held in Parliament. No other form of private enterprise is subjected to restrictions similar to those placed on commercial broadcasters, who have good ground for complaint when they point out that they have no tribunal to which they can appeal, as the department has the last word in all disputes. Although the A class stations have about £10,000 a week to spend on their service, the B class stations broadcast more popular programmes. There is an anomaly in that the commercial stations are controlled by those who operate the A class stations. It is most desirable that the position in regard to broadcasting should be reviewed. I commend the suggestion that a select committee of this House should be appointed thoroughly to investigate the matter. The people generally are entitled to the best service which can be rendered by this great advance in science.
– I hope that the Minister will see the wisdom of re-enacting the first regulations that were brought down, with the exception that the words “ including programmes and technical services “ should be deleted. It is necessary that B class stations should be permitted to link up with other stations, in order to ensure the presentation of first-class programmes. I have been identified with a broadcasting station from its inception, and my experience has been that the officers of the department have assisted these stations in every possible way. The honorable member for
Martin (Mr. McCall) made one statement that is hardly in accord with facts, when he referred to the method of selection of sites for stations. When the Sydney Trades and Labour Council secured a broadcasting licence, it was given a free choice in the selection of a site, subject to the sole stipulation that its station must not be less than 12 miles from the General Post Office. I agree with the honorable member who submitted the motion that an inquiry into the control of broadcasting is highly desirable. The Trades Hall authorities in Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth and Newcastle have unsuccessfully made applications for licences, and we are entitled to know why some applications succeed and others fail.
Obviously, the department has a perfect right to determine the restrictions that shall be placed on broadcasting stations, but I disagree with some of the remarks of the honorable member for Martin and the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mir. Corser) with respect to licences. Broadcasting licences fall within a different category from that of many others, and it is necessary to limit the number issued. A broadcasting monopoly offered the Sydney Trades Hall’ station £10,000 a year for its broadcasting rights, or double the amount it was receiving from advertisements, but the offer was refused. It seems to me that the department made a reasonable demand when it stipulated that an individual or company should not operate more than one metropolitan station in a State, two metropolitan stations throughout the Commonwealth, three stations in any one State, or five stations throughout the Commonwealth. Nearly nine years ago the Brisbane Trades Hall authorities applied for a broadcasting licence, but it was refused, although other applications have since been granted.
– The United Australia party has no licence at all.
– I claim that the priority of applications should be recognized. Why should one person have four stations and another none at all? The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) remarked that New South Wales had the most powerful B class station in the Commonwealth. The Sydney Trades Hall applied for a licence to broadcast with a transmitter of 1,500 watts capacity, but was allotted only 1,000 watts, yet another station received 2,000 watts. Anomalies such as this indicate the need for a full investigation. I consider that the tendency should be to tighten up the administration of broadcasting. I favour full control by the officers of the department, because they have given every assistance in the past to B class stations throughout the Commonwealth.
.- I am glad that the honorable member for Martin (Mr. McCall) has brought this matter prominently under notice, because the fullest investigation should be made regarding the control and development of wireless broadcasting. The importance of this matter to the public generally cannot be denied. Quorum formed.] I have been informed that the regulations recently introduced operate harshly. A difference of opinion may arise as to the nature of the body which should conduct the proposed inquiry, but if the appointment of a select committee of this House is proposed, I shall cordially support it, because I think that men capable of doing the work are to be found in the House. There is real complaint by the people that one dictatorship has become established. Just how far it has been able to go, I am not in a position to say at the moment. I want this particular inquiry to be instituted in order that that matter may be fully investigated. To-day there are in Australia 65 commercial broadcasting stations, fourteen national stations, six relay stations, and six regional relay stations ; consequently the regulations should be the best that can be devised, until a bill to deal with the whole matter can be introduced. When that event occurs, honorable members will have an opportunity to air their views, unless they arc prevented from doing so by the application of the guillotine. Unfortunately, it is applied too frequently. Holding that opinion I voted a few moments ago against the application of the closure, and my vote may be cast in a similar direction during the remainder of this session.
I am pleased that this matter was raised by the honorable member for Martin, and hope that an inquiry will be held because it is the means of obtaining the fullest information.
.- I support the. attitude adopted by the Minister for Defence (Mr. Parkhill). Much good may result from an inquiry. There are anomalies in connexion with the broadcasting system which cannot be overlooked. There is no analogy, such as the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) sought to draw, between dairyfarming and broadcasting. A licence to broadcast is a privilege granted by the Government to a limited few, and it is essential that the Government should retain a supervising control of it, and that there should be no opportunity for monopolies to arise. A merger of newspaper interests is disadvantageous to the public, because the cost of advertising, job printing, and like matters, is increased. A similar position could arise in connexion with broadcasting. The modified regulations are extra-liberal, and the position might well have been left as it was.
Another matter which requires consideration is the fee of £25, which is charged for a broadcasting licence. Frequently the value of such licences shortly after they have been granted is in the region of £1,000 or £2,000. If the profits derived from the broadcasting of advertisements are so great as to cause such a high value to be placed on the privilege, the fee should be periodically re-appraised. In districts where the opportunity to obtain income from this source is limited, the basis adopted in fixing the fee should be different from that adopted in connexion with a big city station, which earns thousands of pounds annually from advertisements. The principle of economy by mass production applies to many industries, but broadcasting wave-lengths are limited and a monopoly would be dangerous. Some of the objectors to the control regulations have referred to competitive broadcasting. The aim of the Government in promulgating these regulations is to ensure competition ; otherwise, monopolies would immediately be created, and competition would be impossible. I am pleased that the Minister has promised that an inquiry will be instituted, because it will enable the whole matter to be reviewed, with the result that anomalies may be wiped out and national instead of monopolistic control may be exercised.
.- The only ground upon which I have sympathy with the motion lies in my objection to administration by regulation. In all other respects, I support fully the attitude of the Government. I hope that honorable members generally will endeavour in future to see that more control is exercised by the Parliament, and that powers desired by a department are conferred by legislation instead of by regulation. As there is no legislation dealing with this particular matter, I can understand the reason for the Government acting by regulation, but 1 trust that legislation will be introduced at the earliest opportunity, so that the Parliament may say what power shall be given to those who desire to conduct these services. The subjects of aviation and wireless have become prominent only since the Constitution was framed, and there is grave doubt in the minds of many persons as to the power of the Commonwealth to legislate in respect of them. That objection could be overcome if the States were to legislate to confer the necessary power upon the Commonwealth. The granting of a monopoly to one section to broadcast information to the people would be highly dangerous.
I endorse what has been said by the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Nock) in regard to the fee charged for a broadcasting licence. In Western Australia, the Licensing Board demands a premium from a hotel-keeper to whom it grants a licence. The fee required for the right to broadcast should be re-appraised at certain intervals, and, if necessary, an additional amount should be charged. I hope that the Government will display firmness in preventing the creation of any big monopoly.
– I am .pleased at the agreement on both sides of the House as to the need for preventing the control of broadcasting from being exercised by a commecial monopoly. I consider that there should be a national monopoly. I entirely agree with the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) that wireless broadcasting is likely to become even a more powerful agency than the press for influencing the public mind. As a Parliament, we should endeavour to regain and maintain complete control of that agency on behalf of the people. During election campaigns, those who can afford to do so use the broadcasting stations with the object of influencing public opinion, particularly in the closing stages. Wealthy interests can purchase the use of these stations to put over .propaganda to which the parties that sit on this side of the House have no effective opportunity to reply. That is altogether undesirable in the interests of the people as a whole. In Great Britain the position is appreciated as is shown by the establishment of a national monopoly over wireless broadcasting. There is room for inquiry into the charges made by B class stations for commercial purposes. They may be exploiting the public unduly. It is well known that the use of the air for a few minutes costs what seems a large amount, and an inquiry would reveal whether or not the charges are reasonable. Everybody recognizes that powerful interests are always looking for the opportunity to establish new stations. The fact that 65 B class stations are now operating, and that other persons are eagerly desirous of adding to the number, indicates that either- the venture is profitable financially, or the persons concerned wish to obtain control in their own interests. I appreciate the vigorous and capable manner in which the Minister .for Defence (Mr. Parkhill) has made out the case for the Government, and the clarity and forcefulness with which the view of my party was stated by my leader. Although the honorable member for Martin (Mr. McCall) has been; subjected to a good deal of adverse criticism from both sides of the House, I feel we owe something to him for having given us an opportunity to express our views upon the matter. In the interests of the people we represent, it is our duty to exercise a close supervision over what takes place. The debate has served a very useful purpose, in that it has drawn from the representatives of the Government the promise that it is prepared to hold an inquiry into the matter. That inquiry should have the widest possible scope; it should embrace every phase of broadcasting, so that when a report is presented we shall understand thoroughly what has already been done and what is likely to be .done in the near future. Thus shall we be enabled to exercise such control as to ensure that the interests of the people are best served.
Debate interrupted under Standing Order 257b.
Bill received from the Senate and (on motion by Mr. Archdale Parkhill) read a first time.
Motion (by Mr. Paterson) agreed to-
That he have leave to bring in a bill for an act to approve an agreement made between the Commonwealth and the State of South Australia; to provide for the extension of the trans-Australian railway by the construction of a railway from Port Augusta to Port Pirie in the State of South Australia; and for other purposes.
Bill brought up, and read a first time.
Motion (by Mr. Casey) agreed to -
That he have leave to bring in a bill for an act to amend theFlour Tax Assessment Act (No. 2) 1934.
Declaration of Urgency.
– I declare the Sugar Agreement Bill an urgent bill.
Question put. The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. G. J. Bell.)
Majority . . . . 17
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Allotment of Time.
Motion (by Mr. White) put -
That the time allotted in connexion with the bill be as follows: -
For the second reading - until 9.30 p.m. Tuesday, 3rd December.
For the committee stage - until 12.50 p.m. Wednesday, 4th December.
For the remaining stages - until 1 a.m. Wednesday, 4th December.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. G. J. Bell.)
Majority . . . . 16
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from the 31st October (vide page 1228) on motion by Mr. Casey- -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The Opposition intends to support this bill, the purpose of which is to ratify the sugar agreement made on the 19th July last between the Commonwealth Government and the Government of Queensland for a period of five years from the 1st September, 1936. We support the bill first because it is in accordance with the protectionist policy of our party and provides for a continuance of governmental control of this industry; secondly, because 32,000 people are directly engaged in the sugar industry, and 100,000 other people are dependent on it; and, thirdly, because this agreement, like its predecessors, must vitally and favorably influence our White Australia policy. The settlement of 175,000 people has been made possible in the tropical areas of Queensland, as against a settlement of only 11,000 people in a similar tropical zone in Western Australia and the Northern Territory, chiefly because of the development of the sugar industry under the provisions of such agreements as that now under consideration. We realize that the 175,000 people engaged directly or indirectly in the sugar industry provide a valuable market for the products of the factories in the southern States of Australia. Without such an agreement as that now before us, the sugar industry would languish, and thousands of people would be thrown out of employment. This agreement is the ninth of its kind to be made since the Fisher Labour Government on behalf of the Commonwealth, and the Ryan Labour Government, on behalf of the State of Queensland, negotiated the first of the series in 1915. The agreement rightly provides for the continuance of the embargo on importations of sugar grown in foreign countries, and it will ensure a continuance of the present sellin.nr price of sugar, golden syrup and treacle for consumption in Australia. This is an agreement, not with the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, but with the Government of Queenshind. Opponents of the Queensland sugar industry are to be found in most of the southern cities of Australia; but the opposition shown to this industry is based largely on ignorance of the facts in relation to it. Those most active in their opposition to the industry are chiefly ardent freetraders or the professional lobbyists of importing interests. They consist of groups of people entirely opposed to our protectionist policy in general and to embargoes in particular. There are also among them some known as geographical protectionists who are only luke-warm in their support of this industry, yet desire protection to the extent of 100 per cent, for goods in the production of which they are personally interested. These persons wish to buy sugar on a freetrade basis, and in complete disregard of the fact that if this great labour-giving industry were destroyed many thousands of people in Australia would be thrown on the labour market, and the population of the north-eastern part of Australia would be greatly reduced.
A good deal of the criticism of the sugar industry comes from a so-called Sugar Consumers Association, which is composed, for the most part, of relentless freetraders, single-taxers, and members of the Henry George Club, the Free Trade and Land Values League, and the Tariff Reform League. Among the members of the Tariff Reform League are to be found prominent members of the Country party such as the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory). These enemies of this great industry seek to hide their identity by their association with the alleged sugar consumers’ organization. They ardently advocate freetrade irrespective of the welfare of all Australian industries whether primary or secondary, and make a specific appeal to the members of the Housewives Association to support their opposition to the sugar industry. It is astonishing that a consumers’ organization should have been formed only in respect of sugar, despite the fact that this commodity is a far less costly item in the average household budget than many other staple articles of diet.
It has been suggested in some quarters that consideration of this agreement, should be postponed pending a further inquiry into the whole subject; but I remind honorable members that the sugar industry has been subjected to more investigation than any other great primary industry of this country. Any further delay in the ratification of this agreement will have a most disturbing influence, for the sugar-growers will not know where they stand, and their credit will he seriously impaired, with the consequent result of additional unemployment in the industry. The Labour party is prepared to support a proposal for inquiry into the operations of any large monopoly in this country such as the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, but it will resist any move to delay the ratification of this sugar agreement. Unless this bill is passed by both Houses of the Parliament this week the sugar-growers and the storekeepers who, in many instances, finance them, will not know where they stand in relation to next year’s crop. I should point out that, on nearly every occasion on which a new agreement has been necessary, it has been effected from nine to twelve months before the’ expiration of the old agreement. Upon the renewal of the agreement depends the financial accommodation of most of the growers for the expensive work of preparing land and sowing crops for the next season. The present agreement does not cover the crop of sugar cane to be harvested from June to December next year. It covers the crop, harvesting of which will be completed at about the end of this year. Nothing has been decided as to what will be the price of the new crop. The sugar industry is waiting for the bill to be passed through Parliament. In New South Wales, it takes up to 241 months after planting before a crop can be harvested, and in Queensland, it takes from twelve to fifteen months, according to the district and the rainfall. The advisability of putting this measure through Parliament before the adjournment for Christmas is therefore apparent.
There is nothing new about the embargo policy, or about government control and regulation of prices in the sugar industry. The embargo policy has been in operation for the last twenty years. This industry has been under the purview of the Commonwealth Parliament since federation because, with the inauguration of federation, the White Australia policy came into .being. Up to that time, a great deal of the labour in the sugar industry was done by kanakas, ‘who eventually were repatriated to the South Sea Islands. During the process, an excise duty was imposed on production and a rebate was granted in respect of sugar wholly produced by white labour. But, by 1912, practically all the black labour had been repatriated to the South Sea Islands and the excise duty was discontinued. The workers and growers were exploited before there was any agreement. In 1915, by an agreement between the Queensland and Commonwealth Governments, the Fisher Labour Government assumed the full control of the sugar industry. Embargoes imposed both in regard to exports and imports were followed by benefits to consumers and they also had the effect of stabilizing the industry. The object of the agreement was to protect the consumers from price exploitation due to the high prices ruling overseas in consequence of the war. It was also intended to ensure supplies to the consumers, and decent conditions for the growers and employees in the industry. Successive agreements were subsequently entered into and the party of which I am a member has always been in the forefront in ensuring the best conditions possible, not only for the industry itself, but also equitable treatment for the Australian sugar consumers. The Scullin Government, of which I was a member, was confronted with the fact that the agreement would expire on the 31st August, 1931. It had to determine whether the embargo should be continued or whether another system of control should be devised for the sugar industry. It knew the value of the industry to Australia, its employing capacity and its relation to the cost of living and the basic wage. It therefore appointed a comprehensive committee of inquiry, representative of all sections of the people, because it desired to be absolutely fair and to get all possible data in regard to the industry. All those who have read the majority and the minority reports submitted by that committee must agree that the inquiry was carefully and exhaustively carried out, and that nothing whatever was overlooked. Nobody was denied an opportunity to place his or her views before the committee, which included representatives of the employees of the industry, the consumers, the Australian Sugar Producers’ Association, the fruitgrowers, and all manufacturers who use the product of the industry. The con-
Burners, I think, were represented by a lady from Western Australia. Also on the committee were the Commonwealth Director of Development, the accountant of the Trade and Customs Department (Mr. Townsend) and a representative of the Queensland sugar mills. All the members of the committee approached the inquiry with open minds, anxious to ascertain the facts.
The Scullin Government adopted the majority report which favoured continuance of the embargo, and the then existing price for sugar. The minority report recommended a reduction of id. per lb., and in order to bring about that reduction suggested that the surplus production of sugar should be discontinued. One main objection to the adoption of that recommendation was that 120,000 acres of land would have been thrown out of cultivation. The great bulk of sugar land, because it is situated in the tropics, and because of rainfall conditions, and marketing difficulties, would not have grown other payable crops. Elimination of surplus production of sugar would have caused a reduction of the population of the north-eastern coastal belt, and 14,000 individuals would have lost their employment. Australia’s exports overseas would have been reduced by £2,000,000 per annum at a time when we were hoping to augment our credits overseas. We found, as previous and subsequent governments had found, that, in view of the rapid fluctuations of sugar prices overseas, nothing short of a total embargo would suffice. It is well for honorable members to bear in mind that Australia is the only country where sugar is grown by white labour. The benefit the industry brings to the north-eastern coastal belt can be seen from the fact that whereas in the tropical section of Western Australia there is a population of only 5,000 persons, and the population of the Northern Territory is about 6,000, the population of the tropical sugar zone of Queensland is 175,000.
– Compare the rainfall conditions! The honorable member should not put up an argument like that. It will not benefit his case.
– The honorable member has never been to Queensland. If he visited the sugar belt, he would see the great benefits which it brings to Australia. I know that there are a few die-hard freetraders who suggest that the kanakas should be re-introduced into the Australian sugar industry. One of the fearless advocates of such reintroduction was Sir Henry Barwell, who at one time was the leader of Nationalism in South Australia, who declared that he was prepared to say what many in his party thought, but did not have the courage to say.
Think of the conditions under which black labour has to work. In Java, the black labourers were once paid lOd. for a day of twelve hours. The wage rate was reduced to 6d. a day of twelve hours. Even with the reduction of wage payments, many mills had to go out of existence and the population has been reduced to a state of poverty. The same thing has happened in Cuba where similar conditions prevail. Yet we are told that the only thing necessary is to get down costs to the “coolie standard, and there will be prosperity in our industries. Examine statistics prepared by the Commonwealth Statistician showing the per capita expenditure on meat, sugar and other stable items of food. They are as follows: -
I think that on a survey of these figures it will be readily agreed that if a sugar consumers’ association is required to protect housewives against the price of sugar, more justification exists for the formation of associations of consumers to prevent exploitation in regard to the price of meat, butter, bread and milk. Any one who desires to arrive at a just conclusion about the present price of sugar in Australia, should examine the official statistics of the weighted average retail prices for the six capital cities. Comparing prices for 1935 with those of 1911, the proportionate increase has been - Rib beef, 36.2 per cent. ; leg mutton, 57 per cent. ; bread, 57 per cent. ; jam, 57 per cent.; potatoes, 53.3 per cent.; soap, 54.9 per cent.; tea, 69.6 per cent.; food and groceries, 42.5 per cent.; federal basic wage, 37.5 per cent., and suger, 33 per cent. Thus the increase of the price of sugar has been approximately half that in respect of tea, mutton and potatoes. Looking at this matter quite impartially and from an entirely Australian point oi view, the following facts must present themselves : First, that the price of sugar has advanced by less than that of all other important grocery products, except butter and milk; secondly, that it has advanced by less than the advance in the basic wage and the index figure for all foods and groceries; and, thirdly, that the increase of the price of newspapers, of from 50 to 100 per cent, since the pre-war period far exceeds the increase of th* price of sugar. Furthermore, when the Arbitration Court determines the basic wage for the workers in industry, the price of sugar is taken into consideration, and any reduction of the price of that commodity obviously brings about a. reduction of the basic wage. The Australian price of sugar compares more than favorably with that charged in other countries. The Australian capital city price of 4d. per lb. is less than the average retail price now being charged in the nineteen principal countries of the world namely, 5.45d. per lb, expressed in terms of Australian currency. Even at these rates of exchange, the average price abroad would be approximately 4¼d. per lb. Expressed in terms of Australian currency the price of a pound of sugar in other countries is 4.37d. in South Africa; 6.6d. in Austria; 6.9d. in Czechoslovakia; 6.5d. in Poland; 6d. in France; 8.19d. in Roumania: 8.54d. in Germany, and J4.34d. in Italy. The per capita consumption of sugar in Australia remains the highest in the world. That would not be the case if sugar were too expensive in comparision with the cost of other commodities.
I do not think that any honorable member would like to see the price of sugar reduced, and a great industry employing directly find indirectly 100.000 people languish. I shall prove that the proposed reduction of the Australian price will bring ruin to the industry. In the sugar industry there are engaged approximately 9,000 sugar-farmers, 6,000 field-workers, 8,000 cane-cutters, 6,500 mill employees, and 1,100 miscellaneous workers. There are 30 sugar mills and five refineries in operation. The annual, payment for raw sugar is approximately £10,000,000, and 32,000 persons are directly engaged in its production. The average annual wages bill of the industry for the last few years has been approximately £6,000,000, and it represents permanent assets amounting to £50,000,000.
– It is a huge monopoly.
– How can the honorable member say that when I have just explained that there are 9,000 sugar farmers engaged in the industry and that Colonial Sugar Refineries owns only five out of the 36 mills in Queensland? Sugar canegrowing makes possible the closer settlement of the north-eastern coastal belt of Australia by a healthy, virile white population. Only ten out of every 100 persons engaged in the industry are foreigners.
I cannot understand why people living in the big manufacturing States of Australia sometimes overlook the fact that the sugar belt is a potential market for the products of southern factories. Last year Queensland sold £10,400,000 worth of products to the other States, and bought in return goods to the value of no less than £16,000,000. What effect has this industry on employment in southern factories? The latest figures showing Queensland’s trade with other States are as follows : -
I think that, shows clearly that the welfare of the sugar industry is of tremendous importance to the whole of Australia. The industry is not a purely Queensland concern. Properly, it, could be termed the Australian sugar industry. Its product is grown in Queensland and New South Wales, and the beet sugar industry is established in Victoria.
– That is only a small industry.
– Nevertheless, it gets the benefit of the Australian price for the whole of its product as the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) would be the first to admit. Because of the trade reciprocity between the other States and Queensland, the industry has an Australia-wide interest. The boats from Queensland bound for the south are laden with sugar, wool, beef and fruit, and they return filled with clothing, footwear, textiles and machinery, thus keeping many factories in the southern States working full time to supply the requirements of the people of Queensland. Last year Queensland took from the southern States nearly £500,000 worth of confectionery, biscuits and cakes alone. In its purchases of machinery, implements, and galvanized iron it spends in the other States £1,500,000 ‘per annum, in order to modernize farming and milling methods, and to increase the efficiency of industry. Last year the big tobacco factories of the south sold to Queensland tobacco and cigarettes to the value of £1,000,000 ; the fruit-growers of Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania supplied fresh and dried fruits to the value of nearly £750,000; and consumers in Queensland paid about £500,000 to the manufacturers of other States for starch, glue, soap and polish. Last year the paint and varnish manufacturers of the southern States supplied goods to the value of £200,000, and beer and other liquors from !New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia to the value of £600,000 were shipped to the northern State; Queensland consumed £565,000 worth of drugs and chemicals, and purchased £278,000 worth of motor vehicles and bodies, the products of other States. Motor bodies to the value of £140,000 came from South Australia alone. It will thus be seen that, although Queensland benefits largely from the sugar industry, it, gives full value for all it receives. It should be borne in mind that two-thirds of the commodities sent from Queensland to the southern States, such as pineapples, plywood, timbers, sugar, &c, do not compete with the products of those States, and, furthermore, that thousands of tons of raw sugar are sent to the refineries in Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Fremantle, thereby providing direct employment for 1,700 persons. Thousands of workers go annually from southern
States to work in the Queensland sugar industry. In addition, indirect employment is given to workers engaged in the transport industry, in storage warehouses, and the like. I submit that all the foregoing facts prove that reciprocity between Queensland and the other States does actually exist. They prove, also, the accuracy of the statement which appears in the majority report of the Sugar Inquiry Committee of 1931,, that “ The sugar industry is a vital consideration in the effective development of the vulnerable coastal regions of the tropical far north.” In view of these facts, would honorable members seriously support the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse), a prominent member of the Country party, who, speaking on the 18th May, 1932, in this House, said -
I am not supporting the sugar industry. It is not a natural primary industry. I have no sympathy with the development of any industry that is not natural to the country. If Australia were to do the right thing in regard to its sugar industry, it would pay attention to the possibilities of the Mandated Territory, where there is a coloured population, and they have to live. If we grew our sugar up there we should be able to purchase it at half the present price …. Queensland could concentrate on its dairying industry.
That view was expressed by the honorable member for Forrest on a day when the Country party held a meeting within the precincts of this building, and, no doubt, the statement was made with the approval of the majority of the members of his party. He was shortly afterwards promoted to the position of Chairman of Committees. I sympathize with the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) in dealing with this matter, because, among the members of the Cabinet are responsible men who, by their speeches in this Parliament, lr 3 * » shown that they are hostile to the sugar industry. If effect were given ‘> their views, 22,000 workers in the sugar fields, and nearly 10,000 cane-farmers, would be thrown on the labour market. The Minister for Defence (Mr. Parkhill), in one of his eloquent outbursts, stated on the 22nd May, 1931-
T have no hesitation in describing the sugar agreement which the House is now discussing as the greatest political ramp ever put over any Australian parliament. … I do not think that there is a more striking instance of conspiracy between the growers, on the one hand, and the workers, on the other, at the expense of the general public, than in this industry . . . This is not the only instance inwhich the public is being blackmailed into paying for the maintenance of industries conducted on an uneconomic basis. A similar policy has been adopted in connexion with the production of butter, dried fruits, rice, and various other commodities.
I have quoted the words of the Minister for Defence, because he will be in a contest to-morrow for the deputy leadership of the United Australia party.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. G. J. Bell).Order !
– He is one of the leading members of the United Australia party.
– The honorable member is not discussing the motion before the Chair.
– I am quoting the hostile statements made by the Minister for Defence against the sugar industry. The question is sometimes asked, “ Why should Australians pay 4d. per lb. for sugar when the people of New Zealand can obtain it for 3d. per lb.?” To that question I would reply that New Zealand has no local sugar industry, but imports sugar grown in black-labour countries. We could buy many commodities at lower prices than we pay at the present time if we imported them from countries where cheap coloured labour is employed, and disregarded the welfare of the Australian workers. For instance, if we purchased boots made in Czechoslovakia, we could probably obtain them for about half the price usually paid for boots made under Australian working conditions. Great industries like the sugar industry provide work for some of the 50,000 boys who leave school every year and seek employment. How is employment to be provided for an increased population if heed is paid to the advocates of free trade ?
Another question asked is, “ Why should there not be a protective duty on sugar instead of an embargo against its importation?” The answer is that we need not import one pound of sugar grown in countries where black labour is employed, for Australia produces more than its own requirements. By the employment of white labour, we supply not only all the sugar we require, but also 300,000 tons a year for export overseas. A further query put to me is: “ Why should the sugar industry be maintained in its prosperous predepression position when all others have suffered?” My reply is that the sugar industry has suffered together with others. The collapse of world prices seriously affected the price of its exports, which amount to half of its total production. In 1934, the local consumption of sugar was 306,000 tons, and 311,000 tons was exported, whereas, in 1926, the local consumption was 326,000 tons, and 74,000 tons was exported. The sugar exports provide credits in London which are most helpful to Australia. The sugar growers were receiving £18 for raw sugar in 1915, but in 1934 the price was only £15 10s. 9d. The average return to the growers to-day is less than it was twenty years ago, and if it were not for the increased efficiency of the industry the growers would not have been able to carry on to-day.
It is also said that sugar-growing is conducted by foreigners, and that canegrowers’ profits are so high that over £100 an acre is offered for farms. Both these statements are untrue. A thorough investigation has shown that foreigners engaged in the industry represent only 10 per cent, of the total number of the persons engaged in the industry, and that the average value of cane land ranges from £25 to £29 an acre, which just about covers the average cost of clearing the jungle. The sale of farms at unreasonably high prices is prevented by legislation passed by the Queensland Parliament, at the instance of a Labour government, amending the Cane Prices Act. This gave the Queensland Cane Prices Board power to investigate the terms and conditions of sales of farms, with a view to preventing exploitation by land-owners. An owner cannot now pass his farm on to an Italian or any other person at an unreasonable price. The board’s approval of the sale has first to be obtained.
I am glad to notice that an increase of the contribution by the sugar industry to the fruit industry from £200,000 to £216,000 a year will be made. For six years the sugar industry had contributed £205,000 a year for this purpose, by means of a home-consumption rebate of £6 5s. a ton on refined sugar used by fruit processors, and an export rebate paid on the sugar content of fruit products exported from Australia. The Scullin Government increased the assistance to the fruit industry to £315,000 a year for a period of three years as from the 1st September, 1931.
– Does not the householder pay that?
– No. The sugar-growers of Queensland made that concession to the fruit-growers. As from the 5th January, 1933, the Lyons Government reduced the assistance to £200,000 a year, a reduction of £115,000. AFruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee was appointed to administer the fund, and under paragraph b of clause 4 of the sugar agreement, provision was made for the committee to furnish to the Minister periodically an annual report of its work, together with a statement of receipts and expenditure. In the year before the establishment of this committee, the position of the fruit industry was so bad that only one-half of the main varieties of fruit available was purchased, and at a price only a little more than half of the cost of production. That was one of the problems which the Scullin Government had to face at that time. When it granted an additional £110,000 to the fruit-growers, it made possible the purchase of all suitable fruit for processing at reasonable prices fixed by the committee. The establishment of this tribunal was not favoured by the big fruit processing companies and jam manufacturers which, like the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, wanted no interference with the law of supply and demand, but wished to be free, as they always had been, to offer the fruitgrowers any price they liked for their commodity. The work of this committee has been invaluable to thousands of small growers in Victoria, Tasmania, and New South Wales.
It is sometimes said by the critics of the sugar industry that it lacks efficiency, and is uneconomic. Criticism such as this comes from prominent members of the Country party and of the United Australia party. I ask those honorable members to bear in mind, however, that both the majority and minority reports of the Sugar Inquiry Committee contain tributes to the high standard of efficiency which the industry has attained, and that since the presentation of those reports the efficiency has increased. Australia is now considered to be pre-eminent in efficiency amongst sugar-producing countries. Honorable members who doubt that statement should pay a visit to the sugar districts of Queensland when the crop is being harvested, note the efficiency of the mills and inspect the experimental stations where research work is undertaken. Queensland produces a ton of sugar from a smaller quantity of cane that is used by any other cane-producing country, and that is an achievement of which the industry is justly proud. The raw sugar mills have a milling recovery second only, and almost equal, to the famous Hawaiian sugar mills, and the cultural operations on the Queensland farms have been the subject of very high commendation by experts who have visited Queensland from other sugar-producing countries. These advances could not have been made without hard work, and the expenditure of substantial capital on research. In the provision of improved machinery, the foundries are placed in a position to provide employment for mechanics and artisans. If the Australian industry had not kept pace with the times, and had not sent representatives abroad at great expense to obtain the latest ideas in relation to machinery, methods of cultivation, milling, refining, and so on, its product could not have been placed on the market at the existing price, and the growers could not have lived through the period of depression or borne the reduction from an average return of £18 a ton in 1915 to one of £15 10s. 9d. a ton in 1934. It is important to note that, as is pointed out in the majority report of the Sugar Inquiry Committee, the first material advance in Australia’s efficiency in the sugar industry commenced in 1921, six years after the institution of the total embargo, to which is attributable the stability which enabled the producers to introduce and develop improvements in the confident belief that over a period of years they would obtain an assured return. The policy of Labour governments in Queensland, and of successive Commonwealth governments, has been responsible for the producer being brought nearer to the consumer in regard to sugar than in regard to any other commodity. This is borne out by the fact that 68 per cent, of the retail price of sugar goes to the primary producers in the industry, whereas in the case of fruit the figure is only 12 per cent. The wholesaler receives 2 per cent, for distributing sugar under governmental control, his average for the distribution of all other groceries being 9 per cent. Throughout the world, the wholesale distributor of sugar receives 4 per cent, or 5 per cent. The smallness of the percentage in Australia is due to governmental control of the industry. That policy was abhorrent to the Nationalist party until a Labour government 20 years ago put it into operation and, as it has proved so successful, there has been no disposition to wipe it out. Yet, there are people who, to-day, would imperil the very existence of this industry by a further reduction of price. The United Australia party member for Barton (Mr. Lane) is in that category. What effect would a reduction of the price have on the average housekeeping bill ? It is estimated that a man, his wife and three children consume 6 lb. pf sugar a week. A reduction of ½d. per lb. would represent a saving of 3d. a week, and one of Jd. per lb. lid. a week. Compare that saving with the result to thousands of workers in the industry, and ir. the factories that supply those workers with articles manufactured largely from Australian raw material by Australian labour. Under the operation of the sugar agreement effected by the Lyons Government in 1932, the saving to the average housewife was approximately 3d. a week, but the big jam manufacturers benefited to the amount of £4 ls. a. ton, which on the normal consumption of 75,000 tons per annum, represented an annual saving of about £300,000.
– The consumer obtained the benefit.
– I invite the Minister to furnish proof that the saving was passed on. It was mopped up by the middleman. One big manufacturer of confectionery saved about £20,000 per annum, another £15,000 per annum, and others amounts ranging from £5,000 upwards. Will any one say that they passed it on to the public? Definitely no.
– Is the honorable member antagonistic to the reduction that was made ?
– I am combating the suggestion that a further reduction be made. I opposed the previous reduction because, as I pointed out at the time, it took £1,000,000 a year from the sugargrowers of Queensland and reduced to 23 in every 100-1,890 out of a total of 8,000 - the number who caine within the. income tax field. A good deal of balderdash is indulged in concerning alleged profiteering on the part of the sugar-growers. The Queensland Commissioner of Taxes, in his annual report issued in August, 1935, showed that, in relation to personal exertion incomes earned during the year ended the 30th June, 1934, only 1891 of a total of 8,000 farmers, or 23 per cent., paid any tax. while liens were taken over an additional 450 crops comparing the year 1934 with the year 1932. In 1934, the average price of all raw sugar was £16 3s. 6d. a ton, as against £15 10s. 9d. a ton for the last crushing. It has been suggested in certain quarters that a further reduction of id. per lb. should be made. The honorable member for Barton makes that suggestion very deliberately. Such a reduction would cost the raw sugar producers £1,250,000 per annum..
– Of which £1,000,000 would go to the consumers.
– No. Of that amount, 70 per cent., or £S75,000, would be taken from the growers, and the balance of £375,000 would be borne by the raw sugar mills. The total income of the tax-paying cane-growers of Queensland for the year ended the 30th June, 1934, according to the Commissioner of Taxes, was £7S0,00O. Therefore, a reduction of id. per lb. would eliminate all growers from the income tax field. What would follow? We know that an effort would be made to reduce wages and increase the number of hours to be worked. The taxable income of the Queensland cane-growers for the year in question, after allowing for deductions for families, &c, was £501,000, or a little more than one-third of the amount that would be lost if a reduction of id. per lb. were made. A reduction of ¼d. per lb., which is suggested in other quarters, and which, I understand, a member of the ministerial party is to propose, would involve the cane-farmers in the loss of £437,000 per annum. I ask honorable members to be fair, and not to allow their prejudices to destroy their judgment. Such a reduction would result in the removal from the income tax field of two-thirds of the taxpaying sugar-cane farmers.
We are told of the wonderful assistance that is given to this industry by the consumers of Australia. Let us examine the facts. I believe that Professor Giblin can be regarded as impartial in the matter. In January of this year, he estimated that the cost to the Australian consumers was £5,100,000. The assistance given in other countries by way of bounties, remission of excise, and price fixation, has been as follows : -
I submit, that as Australia is the only country in which sugar is grown by white labour, as it is such a large labouremploying industry, as it is interwoven with the White Australia policy, and as it makes possible closer settlement in the north-eastern belt of Australia, we should be enemies of this country if we were to countenance action that would give the industry a set-back. Ever since the commencement of the control period, the Australian manufacturers of Confectionery, jams, condensed milk, beer and biscuits have been able to obtain their requirements of local sugar at the Australian equivalent of world parity, and for nearly two years at prices ranging between £29 and £46 a ton, although at the time, the world price went up to as high as £60 a ton. Was there then any clamour on the part of the Tariff Reform League for world parity for the Queensland cane-grower? For several months during that period, the price charged for sugar for the manufacture of jam in England was £160 a ton, compared with £46 a ton in Australia. The Australian jam manufacturers lose sight of these facts when they incite members to make the ex parte statements of interested persons in criticism of the industry. I would point out to those who indulge in such criticism that between 1915 and the end of 1920, the Australian sugar industry saved the local consumers £12,000,000, by providing them with sugar at a price much lower than imports into Australia free of duty would have cost them. The minimum retail price rose to ls. 2d. per lb. in England, ls. 3d. per lb. in Canada and the United States of America, and ls 6d. per lb. in France, Italy and other countries, while the maximum Australian price was only 3½d. per lb.
I wish to emphasize the fact that we, on this side, as a party, hold no brief for the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, which owns five of the 36 sugar mills in Queensland. Over a period of years it has been ruthless in its treatment of the growers and workers in the industry. It has availed itself of every opportunity allowed by the law to effect reductions of wages. We are prepared to support an inquiry into the operations of all large monopolies, including the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, but will oppose any amendment of this bill that could be interpreted as hostile to the sugar industry or that might have the effect of delaying the passage of the measure.
– The honorable member has exhausted his time.
Sitting suspended from 6.18 to 8 p.m.
.- Earlier to-day we heard a great deal of condemnation of monopolies, but the sugar industry, I think, is the greatest and worst monopoly that we have in Australia. It has enjoyed for more than twenty years the support of every successive government. The speech of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) resembled so closely in fact the statement put forward by the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) in introducing this bill, that we would be forgiven for suspecting that their briefs came from the same source. Indeed, it is very difficult to get anything like an impartial statement of the position regarding sugar. Those interested in the industry put forward a stream of propaganda which is anything but reliable. On the other hand, the critics perhaps are inclined to go to excess, but that is only natural when we realize that the sugar monopoly is supported by governments which should represent public interests, but concur in what seems to me to be a palpable imposition of an unfair charge on the general public. There is no desire to bring about the destruction of the sugar industry - its value to Australia is unchallenged,’ - nor bring it down to the coolie, level. Coolie-produced sugar is sold at £4 10s. a ton in a free market. We do not want that, but we object to paying in Australia seven times the free market price of sugar, merely for the purpose of maintaining the sugar industry in a position which no other industry occupies in this country. At any rate, no other primary industry has its advantages.
– How does the honorable member arrive at the calculation that the Australian price is seven times greater than the free market price for sugar?
– Allowing for refinement, the price of sugar at the moment in Java is £4 10s. a ton. The Minister knows how much Australian consumers have to pay, and he can work out my computation.
The one thing on which we can all start on a common ground is the statement by Professor Giblin that an estimate of the cost of production of the Australian sugar crop at £5,100,000 in fair and reasonable.
– That estimate was made when prices were at the lowest level on record.
– It is the estimate accepted to-day by the Minister, and by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. Thi people, therefore, are paying annually for sugar 17s. a head more than they would have to pay if they were purchasing in the open market. Expressed in pence per lb., it is just about double the amount that they would have to pay if it were not for the sugar embargo. That contention is proved by the experience of New Zealand, which charges a revenue duty of Id. per lb., and a protective duty of id. per lb., in favour of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, on sugar which is produced by coolie labour, and is retailed in New Zealand at 3d. per lb. Accordingly, in Australia sugar could easily be retailed at 2d. per lb. The only fair basis of comparison is between the position in Australia and that in other Empire countries.
– The honorable member would not apply his present arguments to wheat.
– I am talking about sugar at the moment. Australian wheat is produced for sale in the open market. If our sugar men were doing that they would not be able to earn their salt.
In the United Kingdom sugar is retailed at 2£d. a lb., of which -Jd. per lb. represents duty. In Canada conditions are nearly similar, and the retail price of sugar is 2^d. In the United States of America, where a beet sugar industry exists, and where the rates of wages and the cost of living are higher than they are in Australia, the average rate of duty is id. per lb., plus a processing charge of id. Notwithstanding these collections, the retail price to the public is 2^d. These are facts which the Minister did not place before the House.
– I gave the House all the world prices. I recommend the honorable member to read my speech.
– Perhaps unconsciously, or perhaps because he has a brief the Minister refrained from giving the House all the information.
– Who wrote the honorable member’s brief?
– The Minister withheld pertinent facts, and only one conclusion can be drawn. He gave a table of the prices at which sugar is retailed in European countries in order to show that the people in those countries are paying a fraction more for their sugar than the Australian public pays. But what he did not mention was that in those countries there is a heavy consumption charge for revenue purposes.
Italy is an outstanding example among the countries mentioned by the Minister. He refrained from informing the House that a consumption tax of £43 6s. 8d. a ton on sugar operates in that country.
Confirmation of that appears on page 100 of the report of the Sugar Commission.
– What is the difference? If the sugar is taxed the people have to pay it on sugar or in some other way.
– The price of sugar in Italy is 6£d. per lb., of which, in round figures, 5d. is represented by the consumption tax. In Australia we do not levy an excise on sugar. We do not receive one penny of revenue from it. The margin in Italy for the sugar producer is 1-Jd. per lb; in Australia the producer of this commodity receives a margin of 4d.
The Minister informed the House of the gross prices charged for sugar in European countries, but failed to disclose the fact that those countries levy consumption taxes, and that the price to the public rises in proportion to the duty. If, in Australia, we were taking an excise duty of 2d. per lb. on sugar I should have no complaint because there the public revenues would benefit. But we are not doing that. The sugar industry is entirely free, yet the public has to pay bolstered prices. It is a reflection on the case of the Government that while certain facts were disclosed impartially, relevant facts were omitted. As a matter of fact so much was left unstated by the Minister as to make that which was stated absolutely misleading.
I maintain that all sections of the sugar industry are getting too much out of it. The cane-grower, the mills and the Colonial Sugar Refining Company are battening on the public. I shall produce a few figures in support of that contention. In Queensland there is a Cane Prices Board, one of the functions of which is to apportion between the growers and the millers the total proceeds of our sugar sales. The growers have to make returns to the board. The Sugar Inquiry Committee, appointed by the Commonwealth, made computations of those returns, taking 500 characteristic growers from every sugar-cane district in Queensland. Briefly, the facts adduced by the inquiry are : -
In the northern section the averages of 129 growers were taken. Individually the average acreage of the plantations was 60 acres. The gross average return amounted to £2,430. Running costs, including hired labour, amounted to £1,566, giving a balance of gross profit of £864 for each grower. The balance of gross profit was divided thus: - Owner’s labour, £405; plants, £71; interest and depreciation, £388. The figure set down for interest and depreciation was too high. On an average capital of £4,000, £388 is about 9$ per cent. Can honorable members tell me any wheat-farmer who gets an allowance of 9-J per cent, for interest and depreciation on his farm? If one can be produced, he is in most fortunate circumstances indeed.
In the second’ district chosen by the industry, the growers on whose returns computations were averaged numbered 208. The average acreage of the plantations was 44 acres, and the average income to the growers £1,538. The wages to the owner were set down at £391 a year.
In the third district the number of growers was 179, the average acreage 33 acres, the average income £862, and the wages £350. The average wages over the whole of the districts were set down at £382 a year. They are not large farms, the return from the largest being £2,430 a year, but the average wage allowed to the farmers was £382 a year. Moreover, the farmers have their homes rent free, and are able to grow a great deal of the produce they and their families consume. They have no great expenses outside their ordinary living costs. The sugar-farmers are in an infinitely better position than any other group of farmers in Australia. The royal commission which inquired into the wheat industry recommended in its second report that a living allowance of £125 a year should be made to the wheatfarmer and his family. Compare this with the £382 allowed to the sugarfarmers. The wheat-farmer, it is true, was to be allowed £1 a week, plus keep, for each adult member of his family employed on the farm, but it was pointed out that very often such adult members did not receive any regular wages at all. I do not suggest that, because the wheatfarmer is not receiving a fair thing, the sugar-farmers should be brought down to the same level. I do suggest, however, that the sugar-farmers are in a position in which they could very well stand a reduction.
According to the Minister’s speech, out of a total price of £37 6s. 8d. a ton for sugar, £7 123. 2d. a ton goes to the raw sugar mills. That is just about the price that Australian sugar fetches on the open market in England, even with the benefit of the concession, allowed by the British Government. The wage workers in the sugar industry are in an infinitely better position than are the general run of rural workers, or even the great body of factory employees. Their wages are fixed by Arbitration Court awards on the cost of living, plus additions for seasonal occupation and regional allowance. In the northern districts, field workers receive a basic wage of £4 4s. a week. In other industries farm labourers do not get anything like that amount. Indeed, if they get half as much they are 1;> Mill hands nominally receive the same wage of £4 4s., but actually very few of them are on tho minimum wage, the average wage received being just on £5 a week. Then there is another class of specially favoured wage-earners, the canecutters. In 1932, they were receiv 2s. 5-Jd. an hour, and most of them were employed by the hour. Then it was found that more men were offering than were required, and the union prevailed upon the Arbitration Court to increase the hourly rate so as to make it unprofitable for the farmers to employ men by tha hour. At a time when wages were declining generally, in some cases, by as much as 20 per cent., the cane-cutters applied for, and obtained, an increase of their wages from 2s. 5-J. an hour to 2s. 8 2-lld. an hour for a 44-hour week. The result is that, it no longer pays the farmers to employ men by the hour, and cane-cutters are engaged on piece-work, at which they earn from 26s. to 27s. a day. Those figures are taken from evidence presented to the Arbitration Court, and from the report of a royal commission which inquired into the industry. It will be seen that these workers are in an extremely favoured position, and the consuming public of Australia are paying to keen them there. I am not protesting against high wages as such; it would be a good thing if every industry could pay such rates. In the sugar industry, wage do not count for so much now as they did years ago, because of the increased efficiency of the industry. Land is producing on an average 30 per cent, more from each acre than it did twenty years ago.
Now we come to the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, a firm which has so many noisy advocates in this chamber. The royal commission found that this company was making a profit of £600,000 a year out of the sugar industry. It takes over the raw sugar, and refines it and sells it, and for this service receives £5 2s. lOd. a ton. The cost of selling cannot be great, because sugar is a commodity which, for the most part, sells itself. Any expense under this head must be confined to sugar sold abroad. The company pretends that most of its profits are made outside Australia. It declares a dividend every half year of approximately £450,000. It has watered its stock freely, and is, perhaps, the wealthiest concern operating in Australia. It is nonsense to suggest that the wealth of the company depends upon enterprises outside this country.
– The honorable member should prove that statement.
– It is obvious that the company is not making its profits out of sugar grown in black countries. We have been told that such sugar-producing countries as Java and Cuba are insolvent, and that the people are starving. How, then can the Colonial Sugar Refining Company make huge profits from its operations in Fiji when competing with those countries. I know that the company has a monopoly of the New Zealand market, but that is not a large one. It also enjoys a preference of £2 a ton on sugar sold in England, but that does not make up the difference between the price of black-grown sugar at £4 10s. a ton and that of Australian sugar at over £30 a ton.
– What has this bill got to do with the Colonial Sugar Refining Company?
– The company is one of the beneficiaries under this scheme.
– Can the honorable member quote any part of the bill which confers a benefit on the Colonial Sugar Refining Company?
– Honorable members know that the company gets certain profits out of the industry, as was explained by the Minister. All the profits are not set out in the agreement. Those concerned in the industry, the growers and their employees, the milling companies and their employees, and the Colonial Sugar Refining Company are all getting too much out of the industry. It is not for us to say how these various parties should divide up the proceeds of the industry, but it is proper for us to say that a fair reduction of the price of sugar should be made, say, to31/2d. per pound. I do not say that the price should be as low as in New Zealand or England, but it should certainly be reduced. The people of Australia are paying too much for their sugar. They are paying nearly twice as much as do the people of England and Canada.
Mr.White. - That is not so. The honorable member has the figures before him.
– I challenge the Minister to deny that the price of sugar in England and in Canada is 21/2d. per pound.
– The honorable member persistently omits to mention the tax that has to be paid on sugar in those countries in addition to the price.
– If my figures are not correct, I invite the Minister to correct them, and I should be obliged if he could explain to me why Australians have to pay twice as much for their sugar as have the people of other countries.
– The agreement which this Parliament is now called upon to ratify has been the subject of much discussion among large and influential sections of the Australian public. When it became known that the Government had signed this agreement about eighteen months before the expiry of the existing arrangements, and further, that this was being done behind the back of Parliament, it naturally caused a good deal of speculation regarding the hasty methods employed, especially when it was realized that the new agreement would remain in force until the end of 1941.
I am of the opinion that this method of binding the Australian people, either by agreements or treaties, behind the back of the Parliament, is becoming far too pronounced, and it is time an end was put to the practice. Whether an agreement be good or bad, I claim that Parliament should have its rights preserved at least so far as to allow honorable members to express their opinions before the signature of the representative of the Government is attached. More particularly does this apply when the agreement entered into by the Government binds a possible successor as this one will do.
The Government seeks to justify its haste in entering into this agreement by saying that the growers should be given an early indication of national policy so that they may know how to regulate their industry. It is natural that the interested parties which benefit by the agreement should put forward the strongest points in support of their case. During the last six months, particularly, there has been a constant stream of press propaganda in support of the agreement, and I feel certain that the growers are not bearing the cost of this propaganda. This provides grounds for suspicion that the whole truth is not being made known to the sugar-consuming public in Australia.
On the 20th March of this year,I moved the adjournment of the House in order to urge the Government to appoint a parliamentary select committee to review this agreement, and also report on the financial position of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. In my opening remarks on that occasion I stated that Labour had no quarrel with the spirit of the agreement, and did not. desire to injure in any way the Australian sugar industry, or those employed in it, but was determined to resist in every possible way the exploitation of the Australian sugar consumers.
Since March of this year nothing has happened to alter the views that we then held. In fact our doubts as to the bona fides of some of the people associated with this industry, and particularly those of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, have, if anything, increased. We feel that, until a thorough, complete and impartial investigation has furnished proof to the contrary, the Australian sugar consumers will continue to feel that a great injustice is being done to them. My submissions on this subject will, 1 know, be met with the statement that many investigations of this industry have already been made by governments of different political complexions. That contention might have carried some weight prior to the announcement of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company towards the end of last year that it proposed to make an early bonus share distribution of about £7,000,000 to shareholders. It was actually done shortly after the intimation was given. This action of the company almost staggered the Australian public, particularly in view of the fact that the leaders of big businesses, and also the high financiers, were still directing almost daily attention to the necessity for continued sacrifices on the part of the people in respect of either their wages or the social services they were receiving. I therefore contend, all past inquiries notwithstanding, that there is not even a shadow of a doubt that a form of bare-faced robbery has been going on, by means of methods which have been hidden from both the investigators and the public. This huge bonus share distribution would not have been made in such a bare-faced and blatant way had it not been for certain amendments of the Income Tax Assessment Act earlier in the year. It will be remembered that the royal commission which inquired into the income tax laws suggested that bonus shares should be subject to the same rate of tax as cash dividend payments. Although the amendments wore introduced in July, 1934, and passed by the Parliament without delay, the Government delayed the operation of the amended law in respect of this form of income until the 1st January, 1935. The Treasurer described this as a “ breathing space “. At any rate it gave such interests as the Colonial Sugar Refining Company ample opportunity to “ unload “ without paying the tax ; and “ unload “ they did. No less a sum than £7,000,000 was distributed in one act by this one company. If the Government had been unaware of the intentions of this company, and had honestly delayed the application of the law, I feel that, in justice to the country, it should have recommitted the measure as soon as it became aware of what was happening, so that these manipulators could have been brought to heel. No doubt some honorable members are waiting patiently to repeat a statement that they have made on a number of occasions to the effect that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company has nothing to do with this agreement. On the surface of it, a very strict adherence to the language of the agreement might possibly sustain this point, but only a very superficial knowledge of the industry is sufficient to dispel such contention. This agreement means everything to the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. I do not regard the company’s refining activities as its major undertaking. Its banking operations in relation to the growers are undoubtedly its principal concern. The interest it receives from the advances it makes to the growers is a lucrative part of its business. If the agreement is to be maintained for a further period of six years with a fixed price for the products of the industry, and the Colonial Sugar Refining Company is to continue the control it now exercises over the industry, the investments in this company become gilt-edged. They are as good as, if not better than investments in Government bonds or stock. I hope, therefore, that the argument will not be pressed that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company has nothing to do with this agreement.
We feel anything but satisfied that the Australian sugar consumer is getting a fair deal. But in our anxiety to protect the consumers we do not wish to become involved in any process that will be harmful to the growers and the workers engaged in the industry. In order that justice may be assured to both consumers and producers, we submit that a select committee, clothed with the powers of a royal commission, should be appointed to investigate the whole position. It bas been proved over and over again that royal commissions are a. very expensive farce. Furthermore, no opportunity is provided for the Parliament to examine the commissioners upon the report they submit. All that we get is a lengthy document, which is laid on the table, and ordered to be printed. There the matter generally ends. If a select committee is appointed the members of it will know that they will have to justify their conclusions, not only in the Parliament, but also in their electorates. A select committee would be much more likely than a royal commission to ascertain the full facts and publish them.
Although four inquiries have been held into the sugar industry - in 1912, 1920, 1922, and 1930- we are all perfectly satisfied that the financial ramifications of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company have never been completely explored. The bonus share distribution of last year amply proves that contention.
The signatories to the 1930 minority report, after endeavouring to grapple with the financial ramifications of the company, declared -
No evidence was given to show whether the large profits in past years were made from the Australian sugar industry or from the company’s other interests.
Honorable members can therefore appreciate our reluctance to accept the argument so often advanced that the company’s profits are obtained from sources outside Australia. No guarantees whatever have been given on this point. Here again the necessity can be seen for some action by this Parliament to penetrate the veil of secrecy which shrouds the operations of this company. It is not too much to ask those who allege that the company’s profits are derived chiefly from sources outside Australia to support our request for the appointment of a select committee so that their allegations may be definitely substantiated or otherwise.
Further evidence of the reasonable-^ ness of our doubts as to the source of the company’s profits is furnished by Mr. J. M. Fowler, at one time member for Perth, who was chairman of the Public Accounts Committee which held the inquiry into the sugar industry in 1922. In a statement published on the 9th August, 1930, Mr. Fowler declared -
Skilled accountants have given up in despair the task of trying to read the true position of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company in balance sheets. Mr. Edward Nixon reported to my committee in 1922 that there was evidence of millions of pounds of undisclosed profits camouflaged in many ways. He discovered enough to know that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company holds the whole sugar trade of this country in the hollow of its hand. It met us with an absolute refusal to divulge the full extent of its profits.
In the light of this definite assertion by a gentleman who has had a much better opportunity to examine the circumstances of this company than probably any honorable member now in this Parliament, it can hardly be expected that we should calmly accept the unsupported assurances that are offered by some honorable gentlemen that this company has not camouflaged its accounts in every possible way. In all the circumstances I marvel that any honorable gentleman could honestly suggest that this agreement has nothing to do with the Colonial Sugar Refining Company.
At the meeting of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company held on the 28th November, 1934, it was disclosed that, for the year ended the 30th September, 1934, the company’s profits totalled £937,170, and that a dividend and bonus at the rate of 12J per cent, had been declared. The accounts presented at the annual meeting this year disclosed net profits of £443,067 for the half-year, which, added to the profit of £487,167 for the previous half-year, made a grand total of £930,234 for the year. A dividend of 12s. 6d. and a special bonus of 5s. a share for the half-year were decided upon. The dividend for the previous half-year was also 12s. 6d. a share. The chairman of the company, Mr. H. R. Knox, explained that the special bonus of 5s. was intended to enable shareholders to meet the extra taxation which they would be called upon to pay by reason of the distribution of the new shares. This recent decision indicates that the common pool of reserves is still at such a high level that a special appropriation over and above the dividends can be made to enable extra taxation to be met. Information as to how much the pool really contains would, I am sure, amaze the Australian sugar consumers and the growers, who are in the clutches of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company.
It is intensely interesting to read the names of some of those who control this company. I invite the attention of honorable members to the following list of names : -
Mr. Fairfax, a director of the Sydney Morning Herald.
Sir Norman Kater, a director of the Wool and Produce Company, the Graziers Co-operative Shearing Company, the Globe Worsted Mills, and other concerns.
Mr. R. W. Gillespie, a director of the Bank of New South Wales.
Major-General J. W. McArthur Onslow.
This combination includes leading personalities in the banking, insurance, finance, pastoral, newspaper and shipping concerns of the Commonwealth.
Since September, . 1929, the total net profit disclosed by the Colonial Sugar Refining Company has amounted to £4,590,671. Out of this, shareholders have received £4,021,875 in cash dividends. The balance has been placed in the reserve accounts. In the last ten years the cash dividends of the company have amounted to £7,000,813. A further astounding fact is that the capital of the company, £11,700,000, has actually cost the shareholders nothing. The following figures are worthy of careful scrutiny : -
It will be seen that, in addition to the cash dividends paid each year, the shareholders have had returned to them in cash £3 900,000, or £1,475,000 more than they have invested. Above all, they are the owners and controllers of shares valued at £11,700,000 in respect of which they will apparently continue to obtain an annual profit of £1,000,000. This, of course, is won from the toil and sweat of the producers and workers in the other two sections of this industry.
Each £20 share which is represented in the recent £7,000,000 bonus distribution is quoted on the stock exchange at £42 10s., so that, in effect, the value of the distribution was actually £14,875,000.
It will be appropriate at this stage to quote a further remark by Mr. Fowler, Chairman of the Accounts Committee in 1922. He stated-
In the course of a lengthy inquisition into the tangled mazes of the subject I came to certain definite conclusions. One of these was that the political influence of the wealthy sugar interests was so vast that relief was practically impossible, another that the key to the whole situation was the extraordinary rich company, the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, which was able to throw a smokescreen around their dealings with such effect that the committee was not able to get at any of the facts on which to base a recommendation; the third was that this difficulty was deliberately engineered because the company dared not let their huge profits become known.
Just recently in New South Wales, we had a very clear example of its political influence in the filling of the vacancy caused in the State Parliament by the elevation of Sir Thomas Bavin, to the Supreme Court Bench. The inner group of the United Australia party was able to place in one of the safest anti-Labour seats, Gordon, no less a person than a gentleman known as the “ Sugar Baby “, Sir Phillip Goldfinch. The word “ gold “ seems to fit in very well in this case. How can honorable members expect us to accept any figures or information that emanates from the Colonial Sugar Refining Company? Mr. Fowler’s words, “ deliberately engineered “, should be sufficient for any one to regard the company as a very unreliable witness in this case. Yet, in spite of this knowledge, we are now asked to accept the company’s estimates of its refining costs when it states that if it carried out this operation for nothing, a saving of only onetwelfth of a penny a pound to the consumer would result.
But we refuse to accept the figures of the company whose evidence, up-to-date, has been tainted. Hence our desire to find some means of curbing this ruthless monopoly. Mr. Fowler further stated -
This company dominates the planters, the millers, the workers, even the Parliament of Australia. Every household in the Commonwealth pays its tithes to it.
Its domination over the workers was exemplified in its action in approaching the Federal Arbitration Court recently, to have the wages of all metal trades workers, carters and engine-drivers reduced. Several hundred men are affected by the reductions which bring their wages down to the same basic wage scale as that of other employees under the court to whom emergency reductions were applied. The loss in New South Wales will be 5s. 6d. a week to each employee.
The following letter is typical of a number which have been received from sugar-farmers in the north : -
Many hundreds of small cane-farmers like myself are just existing, and in a very short time will be compelled to leave our farms through this great sugar octopus and the greedy mill-owners.
We are getting very little now from this sugar agreement, the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, and the millers are taking the lot. To give you first-hand evidence of this I will tell you about things as they exist with us poor farmers to-day. We have restriction and we are almost stopped from growing cane. If we do. we have to let it stand on the field. We have what they call No. 1 and No. 2 pool. No. 1 pool the people pay for at 41/2d. per lb. for sugar. No. 2 pool is what is sent away overseas and for this we get6s. a ton. Considering that to out this cane costs 5s. a ton, youcan imagine our sorry plight.
Take No. 1 pool. If we have, say 400 tons of this, we have to leave standing 30 tons in every 100 (that was last year), and this year it is fifty-fifty. We got 21s. a ton of cane. Considering what we lose (to the mills and the Colonial Sugar Refining Company) the people should be getting their sugar for 2d. a pound. If you can get sugar for the people at this price it will help us to got more cane off and not so much sent overseas. The way to do this is to cut the profits of the mills and the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. Our mill at Bingera, for quite a long while has made profits from £50,000 to £150,000 a season. Half of this profit, which is taken from us. should go to the people for cheaper sugar and the profits would be still great.
Another letter, received from a small grower reads -
I will state my own case, and there are thousands of cases worse than mine. My tonnage is 500. This is all I am allowed to grow under restriction.
I can toll you that the sugar industry is one of the biggest sweating industries in the Commonwealth. Talk about White Australia. Why the conditions which we are living in to-day are far worse than the black labour days.
We are allowed to grow a certain amount of cane according to assignment. We are blocked completely from making a living while the big planters and millers have increased their tonnage per acre from 20 tons to 70 tons.
So you see who is getting the benefit of this sugar agreement. The sugar agreement, as it is, is no good to us. When the agreement was first given us, we could live, but not now. The difference is that instead of us getting £2 2s.6d. a ton we have suffered a reduction of £11s.6d. All this has been saddled on to us small farmers while the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, and the millers have suffered very little in comparison.
The only way out of this slavery is for the agreement to be amended so that instead of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company and the millers making such enormous fortunes, sugar will be given cheaper to the people. The huge profits being made by the company should be cut down to allow for this without touching us. The people are being fleeced under this notorious agreement.
Originally the co-operative mills were purchased by the farmers with money borrowed from the Government acting as agent for the bondholders, and upon this money interest has to be paid. The following figures, in respect of loans up to the 30th June, 1933, show how the interest problem is troubling the grower.
It will be noted that the growers have paid back £193,623 more than they borrowed, and that they still owe £913,997 in respect of the original principal. It. is impossible to get a complete up-to-date list of bondholders, but a short list published a few years ago disclosed the fact that the Knox family, with two other families, held more than £340,000 worth of Government bonds on which they received £330 per week in interest. These bondholders are relieved of many taxes that other citizens have to pay.
During the period 1920-24 the price of sugar lands rose rapidly, and the money lender and the city cane-farmer established themselves in north Queensland solely to farm the farmer. Farms were sold at high prices on small deposits but always on onerous terms at high rates of interest, and a condition was inserted in the contract of sale that the vendor should receive a certain proportion of the gross proceeds of the crop, amounting in some cases to as high as 60 per cent. Some idea of the position can be obtained from the fact that, though there are about 7,000 cane-farmers in the whole of Queensland, over 4,000 crop liens were registered in North Queens land alone during the year 1934. The figures I shall give show how these liens affect the farmers and the workers. The average price of cane in the 1932 season was less than £2 a ton, and the average output of each farm was 490 tons. Even at a price of £2 a ton for cane the average gross income of each farm would be £980. Thus, a farmer paying 60 per cent of the proceeds of his crop to the mortgagee would pay £588, and would have left for his own use only £392. In the north in 1932 cane cutters received 7s. 6d. a ton. On an average farm their wages would amount to £87 16s. 8d., leaving the farmer with £204 3s. 4d. out of which he had to pay rates and taxes, buy fertilizer, and pay his field workers. This is the lot, according to my information, that the workers, the farmers, and their wives and children have to accept in the tropical cane-fields to provide Collins Street, Pitt Street, and the Colonial Sugar Refining Company and banking and insurance capitalists with millions of pounds of profit each year. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) spoke of the tropical heat of the north, and of the conditions under which the people engaged in this industry have to work. It makes us think seriously that the hardships they have to undergo to provide the luxuries of the city capitalists cry out for redress. It will be observed, if these facts are correct, that the producers and workers in this industry are much in the same position as many other primary producers throughout Australia to-day.
The members of my party have given this matter serious consideration. We feel that so far as it is within our power to do so, we have a duty to perform not only to the consumer and the farmer, but also to the worker. We will not support the lifting of the embargo, nor do we want to take any steps that harm the workers and farmers in this industry. We are mindful of the importance of this industry to the northern parts of Queensland and are aware that many have put their life’s savings and energy into their small holdings. With the present feeling in the southern States in regard to this matter it appears that the position cannot be allowed to remain where it is. The ratifying of the agreement will not by any means overcome the doubts that exist. There is substantial evidence that at both ends of the industry ruthless exploitation is active. In the interests of those whose welfare is so bound up in the industry I firmly believe that some action is necessary to clear up the whole question.
Briefly, our position is: On the one hand we have the actual producers and workers in this industry whom we do not desire to harm, and there is evidence available to show that they have good grounds for complaint as to their conditions; on the other hand we have the consumer who is equally dissatisfied in regard to the price he is being called to pay. Between the two there is a ruthless monopoly, the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. In the most blatant fashion it distributes its ill-gotten gains, and snaps its fingers in the face of the workers, growers and the public alike.
The members of my party do not propose to vote against the second reading of the bill, for we are anxious not to do harm to the industry. We believe that we have good ground for doubting whether the industry is controlled to the best advantage of the people directly engaged and those who consume the product, and at the appropriate time I shall move that the matter be referred to a select committee of the House, the committee to have the powers of a royal commission. If the Government and the Colonial Sugar Refining Company have nothing to fear, this request cannot be refused. I appreciate the fears and anxieties of my friends who represent the northern State, but I claim that I cannot fairly be regarded as selfish in taking up my present attitude, seeing that New South Wales is not such a large sugar-producing State as Queensland. Many things are done in this Parliament which directly affect my electorate, but I must take the consequences of decisions reached, and work in the interests of the community as a whole. Wo realize the good that the industry has done for Australia, and we are aware of the difficulties of the growers who toil in tropical heat to eke out a hare existence. I am sure that honorable members who sit behind the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) are not satisfied with the actions of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. It may be contended that there is insufficient time to make the inquiry which I have indicated, but my reply to that criticism is that if the Parliament had been summoned earlier in the year, more time would have been available for the consideration of such important matters. The agreement will not be renewed until August next, and I therefore contend that sufficient time is available for an investigation into the conditions obtaining in the industry. T commend my proposal to the House, because my object is not only to help the workers and growers but also to uphold the interests of the sugar consumers throughout Australia.
– The claims of the sugar industry have been under the notice of the Commonwealth Parliament since the establishment of federation, and prior to that they were constantly the subject of attention in the Parliament of Queensland. It is unfortunate that throughout its career the industry has been surrounded by a political atmosphere. It has had to fight for its existence from the very beginning, although it is one of the natural industries of this country. Yet it is inconceivable that this Parliament would take steps to do it an injury. At the establishment of federation, the people of Queensland were prepared to place its destiny in the hands of the National Parliament, satisfied that justice would be done to it. Sir Edmund Barton, in the very first session of this Parliament, made clear what he considered to be the duty of Australia to its great industries when he said-
It will be the policy of the Government to avoid the destruction of industries and to regard existing substantial industries as the possession of this nation.
That principle was recognized by every succeeding government. The sugar industry was regarded as a national one, which it was the duty of the Commonwealth authorities to preserve.
One of the first questions that arose on the establishment of federation was “ Who shall be the citizens of the Commonwealth “ ? It was decided to base, the citizenship of this country upon the policy of a White Australia. Then came the natural sequence that all the industries of the Commonwealth, whether carried on in tropical or temperate zones, should be conducted with white labour. Thus Queensland had to convert the coloured labour, with which the sugar industry had up to that time been largely carried on, to white labour. The problem involved no light task. It was easy for this Parliament to pass a law embodying the White Australia policy, but the real difficulty had to be faced in the application of the policy to an industry then being carried on with coloured labour. The sugar-cane growers in Queensland faced the task that confronted them, knowing that they would have to clear many northern jungles to make land available for sugar-growing. The credit of making sugar-growing in Australia a white man’s occupation is due not to anpolitical party, hut to the people engaged in the industry. Since it is the general desire of the people of this country to keep Australia white, we must consider what is a fair and just thing to do by the industry. It is suggested that another inquiry into it is necessary, hut I point out that no other industry has been subjected to so many investigations as have already been made regarding sugar-growing. Despite numerous inquiries, the industry has always justified its position. Every committee or commission has emphasized its importance from a national point of view, and has recommended the policy which, parliaments have so steadfastly applied.
In the early days of federation a strong attack on the industry was directed against the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. Practically every committee that has been appointed has investigated the position of the company, but it has not received condemnation. Even the last commission which was referred to by the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn), sustained the company’s position. Paragraph 175 of the majority report stated -
In all the circumstances we are of opinion that the earnings of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company in Australia are not excessive, and that the work of refining and distribution of sugar is carried out efficiently and at reasonable charges. The refining and freight charges are adjusted annually with the Queensland Sugar Board on the basis of the actual cost, and it is clear from previous experience that any savings in the cost of refining, freights, &c, in any one year are always returned to the sugar industry in the next seaton. In view of the fact that the net profit of the company, after paying income tax, is only 54 per cent, per annum on the working capital and written-down value of the fixed assets used in its Austraiian operations, ive are of the opinion that the fee of £1 per ton for administration, depreciation and interest on refinery capital, and the fee of 7s. per ton for selling - from which two fees alone the company obtains its refining and distribution profit - are reasonable.
– What did the minority report say?
– No condemnation of the company will bc found in it. A further examination of the affairs of the industry is unnecessary. The growing, milling, refining and distribution of sugar have been thoroughly investigated, and the agreements mack with the industry have been approved by the various bodies appointed to consider thom. Why is this particular industry subjected to so much inquiry? It is merely one of the great protected industries of Australia. No other has been the subject of such critical investigation, but it has emerged creditably from all inquiries. No other industry is so completely organized from the growing of the cane to the sale of the finished product to the consumer. The growers have proved the efficiency of their methods of cultivation, and they have taken all possible steps to increase their production. The same may be said of the sugar mills and the refineries, which have adopted up-fr date methods to increase their output and reduce their costs. No other sugar industry in the world is carried out more efficiently than that of Queensland.
The honorable member for Perth has made criticisms which he will have difficulty in substantiating. He said, first, that this industry is the greatest and worst monopoly in Australia, but he did not attempt to justify his assertion. Can it be shown that this industry has received benefits from the public to such an extent that it has been able to get complete control of the marketing of its sugar in its own interests, and has exploited the public? That is not the position. This industry embraces a personnel of about 32,000 in its various aspects. Can it be said that the growers who supply cane to the different mills are monopolists, or that there is any monopoly in the mills where the raw sugar is manufactured ?
– Is there no monopoly in the areas planted?
– There is none, except what is necessary to regulate production. It is not a monopoly in the ordinary acceptance of the term. The only single institution connected with the industry is the Colonial Sugar Refining Com’Pany; and no complaint can be made against the agreement between that company and the Queensland Government for the refining and distribution of sugar. The honorable member also said that it is difficult to obtain impartial statements about the industry; that there has been a stream of propaganda. Impartial statements have been made by committee after committee, as well as by Commonwealth officers, in the numerous reports that have been presented. There is an abundance of absolutely reliable statements in support of the industry. The only discordant note is that sounded by the propaganda against the industry. Prom what source does that chiefly emanate? It mostly originates from men who expound freetrade theories, and ask that the industry be placed on a freetrade basis. Whenever a comparison of prices is made to support a suggestion for a reduction, the price standard adopted is that of the lowest figure ever reached in black-labour countries, the price quoted being lower than the cost of production. That is proved by the report made by Lord Olivier, who conducted investigations on behalf of the British Government. It was his report which led to the adoption of a preferential rate in the British market. The honorable member also quoted from the recent report of the Sugar Commission in relation to the condition of the industry, but confined his attention to the minority report. An examination of both the minority and the majority report, however, will reveal very little in support of his contention that the price of sugar should be reduced. He also charged the Minister for Trade and Customs with not having acted fairly hy failing to give complete information. What can he said of his own action in quoting a portion of the minority report, and ignoring the findings of the committee? Two of the recommendations of the majority were -
The minority made the following recommendation : -
The reduction which is recommended is £2 (is. 8d. per ton, or i± per lb. of refined sugar. Let us examine first the effect of such’ a reduction on the price of raw sugar. The present price of 1a refined sugar to the retailer is £37 Cs. Sd. per ton, or 4d. per lb. The retailer sells for 41(1. per lb. (equal to £42 per ton). It is not proposed that his margin of id. per lb. shall bo altered, so that, with a reduction of id. per lb., the price of 1a relined sugar to the retailer would be reduced to £30 per ton, or 3Jd. per lb. lt will thus be seen that the latest investigation confirms the Government in its adoption of this agreement. It must be remembered, however, that since this committee made its recommendations in 1931 the industry voluntarily agreed to the reduction of -Jd. per lb. That is the agreement which the Government now asks the House to renew. Yet it is suggested that the price should be further reduced !
I wish to make a few remarks concerning the value of this industry to Australia as a whole. Queensland is not a manufacturing State. Its interstate exports and imports within recent years have been as follows: -
Therefore, if any injury is done to thi? industry, the southern States will be most seriously affected. Queensland, of course, would be a heavy loser. Population would disappear from the northern portion of that State. The shipping industry would suffer materially. If honorable members care to study the list of articles imported by Queensland from the other States, they will see that it provides a very big home market for the whole of the secondary industries of New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia. It is not asking for the reduction of the protection given to those industries, but it does strongly urge that this industry is entitled to protection on a proper basis.
– Some of the industries in Tasmania are being ruined, because of its failure to fulfil the obligation to establish a depot in Hobart. The fruit industry has no sugar at the present time-
– That is not the fault of the sugar industry. It is only since the making of the agreement that the fruit-growers of Tasmania have been able to obtain a fair and reasonable price for their product. Were a ballot to be taken of the fruit-growers of Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania, I am of the opinion that it would be strongly in favour of the sugar agreement. I point out to the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) that Queensland imports from Tasmania goods to a total value of £422,000 annually, of which fresh fruits represent a value of £135,280. Consequently, Tasmania does not suffer at the hands of Queensland. I also direct his attention to the list of companies concerned in the, fruit industry, mentioned by the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) in his second-reading speech, which have written to the department approving the action of the Government with respect to the sugar agreement. Taking a typical year, it will be found that Queensland imported goods to the value of £7,906,8S2 from New South Wales, £4,688,616 from Victoria, £401,931 from South Australia, and £422,411 from Tasmania. The value of the imports from Western Australia was only £18,450. A bond of sympathy ought to exist between Queensland and Western Australia, because they are the two outlying States, which have the largest territory, and the biggest burden of development. There should be a bond of sympathy between them in their common problems. It is distressing, therefore, that strong attacks upon the sugar industry should come from Western Australia.
The time allowed for the second-reading debate has expired.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I move -
That the bill he referred to a select committee.
In my second-reading speech I intimated that I intended to move this motion, and, at this stage, I do not wish to elaborate my reasons for doing so. These I have outlined sufficiently already.
– Obviously, the motion cannot be accepted by the Government, and as I have already spoken on the second reading, I do not want to take up further time I shall reply to points raised in committee. I suggest that the motion be divided upon immediately.
.- For the reason stated in the course of my second-reading speech, the official Opposition cannot support the motion that the bill be referred to a select committee, because such action would mean holding up the agreement until next year. As I have already pointed out, if the bill is not passed before the House adjourns for Christmas, the farmers and storekeepers in the sugar-cane districts will be hamstrung for lack of credit. The banks will not make credit available unless the agreement is renewed. As a Queenslander, and one who has made a study of the sugar industry, I can state without fear of contradiction that delay in the passage of this bill will result in dislocation of the industry and create unemployment. In 1931, before the Scullin Government agreed upon a renewal of the sugar agreement, a most exhaustive inquiry into the industry was made. The Colonial Sugar Refining Company is not a party to the agreement; half of its profits are made outside Australia. It would be wrong at the present time to delay this agreement, and I am speaking for the official Opposition in saying that the motion moved by the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) cannot be supported from this side of the chamber.
.- 1 agree with the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) that further investigation of the sugar industry is urgently required. The fullest investigation possible should be made before this Parliament commits Australia for a further period of five years to the continuance of the sugar embargo. I fail to see how any harm can result from agreeing to the suggestion made by the honorable member for West Sydney. We have until August next year before there is need to determine what action is to be taken regarding the agreement. I suggest, therefore, that the House should support the motion.
– I do not propose to support the motion moved by the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley), because there is no necessity for a further investigation so soon after the exhaustive inquiries by the Sugar Inquiry Committee, which represented every section of the community. That inquiry in both the majority and the minority reports reached its findings after investigating the very matters which now form the basis of the honorable member’s opposition to the immediate ratification of the sugar agreement. The honorable member bases his desire for an investigation of the industry on statements claimed to have been made by Mr. Fowler, who was a member of the Joint Committee of Public Accounts which investigated the sugar industry in 1922. Reference to the committee’s finding ventilates this report signed by the chairman, Mr. Fowler - “ Owing to the limited time at the disposal of the committee and the difficulty of obtaining reliable records, no finding of any reliability could be recorded.” The statements quoted by the honorable member were merely private opinions of Mr. Fowler, a Western Australian, ten years after the Public Accounts Committee’s inquiries were made, although it has been cited as if it forms part of the report of the joint committee. Mr. Fowler is a definite opponent of the sugar industry, determined to support aid for wheat and gold, as are many other Western Australians, but not sugar. The interests he represented would take from the coffers of the Commonwealth £4,000,000 for wheat and gold bounties, but they will give the sugar-growers nothing.
All that Queenslanders desire is a fair commodity price for sugar based on the results of the most complete inquiry that has every been made into any industry in Australia. Queensland seeks the continuance of the sugar agreement upon such notice as will enable the growers of the only white-grown sugar in the world to make preparations for planting next season. The Australian sugar industry is the most efficient sugar industry in the world, but, in order to maintain that efficiency, it must know its future.
I do not support the motion, because the further reasons advanced by the honorable member for West Sydney regarding the Colonial Sugar Refining Company do not enter into the question. The operations of that company are a matter for the Queensland Government. That Government alone is responsible for the agreement under which the company operates. If everything that the honorable member has said about the Colonial Sugar Refining Company is true, it simply means that Queensland governments have been lacking in their duty towards the sugar-growers; but, as a matter of fact, I can say that, whatever party may have been in power in Queensland, the governments have always been too au fait with the position to allow that company, which has operations beyond the shores of Australia, to exploit those engaged in the industry in Australia.
.- In declaring my opposition to this motion, I must emphasize that the operations of the Colonial .Sugar Refining Company have no connexion with the sugar agreement. The company is not even referred to in it.
It is important that the agreement should be ratified with the least possible delay, because it is necessary for the sugar industry to know eighteen months or two years beforehand whether or not the agreement is to be renewed, if the normal duties of the sugar-growers are to continue. Also, it is essential for banking institutions, machinery and fertilizer companies, and tradesmen to know whether the agreement is to be renewed before a continuance of credit can be granted. The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) quoted long extracts from the minority report of the Sugar Inquiry Committee, but he failed to remind the House that, after a long examination of all the facts, that committee found that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company was not making undue profits. The Colonial Sugar Refining Company, for which I have no brief, is to-day paid only for the work of refining sugar, and for its distribution all over Australia. What the company receives is paid to it under an agreement with the Queensland Government, and only after the State Auditor-General has made a report. About 8,000 individual growers of sugar are operating in Queensland, but only about 700 of them supply the mills operated by the Colonial Sugar Refining Company.
No industry has been subjected to more examination than has the sugar industry, and on each occasion the Colonial Sugar Refining Company has been brought into the examination. No report has ever been .made accusing the company of making undue profits. If it were making unjustifiable profits I should be the first to support this motion, but no valid reason has been advanced by the honorable member for West Sydney to justify the examination of the activities of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, either by a royal commission or by a select committee.
The honorable gentleman based his arguments in favour of the establishment of a further committee of inquiry on a series of statements made by Mr. Fowler, who,, in 1922, was a member of the Commonwealth Accounts Committee which inquired into this industry. ‘Now, after thirteen years, Mr. Fowler has made rash statements upon which the honorable member for West Sydney has seized as a reason for asking for the appointment of a select committee.
.- I do not propose to support the motion moved by the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley), to refer the bill to a select committee. If he is desirous of an investigation of the ramifications of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, the purposes for which he wants the select committee to he appointed can he served after the hill has passed this House by the appointment of a royal commission to inquire into the monopoly. This hill is the implementation of an agreement between the Commonwealth Government and the Government of Queensland. It directly affects the livelihood of more than 60,000 persons.
The sugar industry has been the means of creating a population in the tropical belt which, if the population were not present, would require a garrison of about 100,000 men for defence purposes. The work that such a garrison would perform is rendered unnecessary by the existence of a large population in the area. Certain remarks made by Mr. Fowler, who was a member of the Public Accounts Committee in 1922, were a further reason advanced by the honorable member for the appointment of a select committee. When Mr. Fowler was a member of that Public Accounts Committee he recommended that the price of sugar in Australia should be £26 10s. a ton, or £10 10s. more than the grower is getting to-day. Ten years afterwards, when he is employed by a freetrade league, namely, the Henry George League, to break down Australian industries, Mr. Fowler says that the sugar-growers are receiving too great a price for their products. Yet, in 1922, he suggested they should be paid £26 10s. a ton. So much for Mr. Fowler.
The honorable member for West Sydney said that he did not regard the refining operations of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company as its major consideration. I can understand him wanting to investigate the Colonial Sugar Refining Company; but I cannot understand him wanting to hold up this bill as a means of doing so. Later on he would get the support of every member of this party if he asked for the appointment of a royal commission to investigate the affairs of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. Delay at this moment would throw into chaos an industry which is providing a great deal of employment. Another statement was that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company makes profits out of financing the sugar crop. The company advances money for the financing of the crop at 1 per cent, less than the ordinary bank rate. It is necessary to obtain finance for the crop, because the miller is not usually in a position to pay for the cane as it is received. As a matter of fact, the Cane Board recently approached the banks in an endeavour to obtain finance at a cheaper rate. Dealing with this phase of the company’s operations, the Minister, in his introductory speech stated -
The first of the other two payments is the item of 0s. 4d. a ton for interest on money borrowed by the sugar pool, so that the sugar mills may bo paid cash for raw sugar when it is placed on board ship. Without this payment, the mills would not be able to pay growers promptly for their sugar-cane, and many growers would find it difficult, and sometimes .impossible, to pay cane-cutters’ wages. The Colonial Sugar Refining Company, with its diverse interests in Australia and overseas, has large liquid cash resources available during the Australian sugar season, which enable it to advance the necessary money - the peak amount each season running up to £0,000,000. The company finds these advances on raw sugar a convenient means of investing its cash resources, and .it does so always at less than bank rates of interest.
The sugar industry has been investigated by four different governments, and this is the ninth occasion that the agreement has been renewed. The first agreement was made with the Government of Queensland by the Fisher Government. It was renewed by the Hughes Government, then by the Bruce-Page Government, and then by the Scullin Government, of which the honorable member for West Sydney was a member. Now it has been renewed by the Lyons Government. Surely, the honorable member for West Sydney does not suggest that the Scullin Government allowed itself to be influenced by political considerations, or that such considerations weighed with the Hughes Government, when the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) was a member of the Labour party. Does the honorable member for West Sydney suggest that the protective duty should be removed from glass or from clothing manufactured at Marrickville ?
– The honorable member for West Sydney does not suggest that any thing of that kind should be done in respect of sugar.
– Does the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) suggest that Government assistance to the grape-growing industry should be abolished, or that the protective duty be removed from motor car parts and bodies manufactured in Australia and especially South Australia? If this were done, it would he possible to buy cars much cheaper in Australia than is the case at present. Does the honorable member suggest that the Treasurer should not go on with the proposals for the renewal of the flour tax because John Darling and others have made huge profits out of the flour milling industry? The honorable member for Barker voices in this House the opinions of the Sugar Consumers Association, which is composed of a small number of relentless freetraders and single tax advocates. These in turn are linked up with the Housewives Association, the Henry George League, the Tariff Reform League, and every other branch of freetrade thought. “Why do they hide their identity and their real objective under the name of the Sugar Consumers Association? They try to bring pressure to bear upon the Government to reduce the price of sugar, although many workers from the southern States are employed at good wages in the sugar industry in Queensland. The average wage received by workers in the sugar industry works out at about £160 a year. The men employed in the industry do not earn more a year on an average than those working on the waterfront, or those employed as shearers. Thehonorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn) said that cane-cutters earned as much as 26s. a day, but he omitted to mention that they do so for only six or seven months a year. The average sugar worker, unless he be employed in a mill, does not average the basic wage throughout the year. The honorable member complained because workers in the sugar industry were earning more than those in any other primary industry. Our endeavour should be to bring the other industries up to the standard of the sugar industry. He said that the sugar industry was the only primary industry in which full award rates were paid, but I remind him that the policy of this Government, and of most of the State governments also, is that wages should be fixed by arbitration, and that arbitration awards should be enforced The only reason that award wages are not paid in other rural industries is that the workers in those industries arc difficult to organize. The following table shows the relative place occupied by sugar in the diet of people: -
– That does not prove anything.
– The honorable member for Barker joins with the other free traders in making the sugar industry the first point of attack upon their protection policy of this country. He belongs to a party which opposes protection except to primary industries. In regard to the sugar industry being completely under the influence of the Henry George League, he is prepared to abolish its protection, even though it is a primary industry. Why should there not be a consumers’ association in respect of the commodities referred to above? The honorable member for Perth complained that it was impossible to obtain an impartial statement on this subject, and he proved it by his own partiality. Until last year, I represented a primaryproducing constituency that did not produce one stick of cane, hut I did not object to protection for the sugar industry, any more than I objected to the payment of a bounty on wine, or to organized marketing in respect of butter, wheat, iS;c. The flour tax yields £900,000 a year, which is taken from the consumers and handed over to the wheat-growers. Many honorable members in this House oppose the giving of assistance to any industry which does not function in their own State. Their outlook is too parochial. The sugar industry is welldeserving of our support, and it has been inquired into to a greater extent than any other industry in the country. In 1931. when the Scullin Government renewed the agreement, an exhaustive inquiry was made, and not by a committee of this Parliament selected from those who had an axe to grind for themselves. What sort of a select committee would we have if it were composed of the honorable member for Perth, the honorable member for Barker, and the honorable member for Swan. It would be so well selected that it would put an end to the sugar industry, and we should have the dear old kanaka back again. On the other hand, if the select committee were composed of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde), the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Martens) and myself, it would probably restore to the industry the million pounds a year which was taken from it when the price of sugar was reduced by1/2d. per lb. At that time the industry was attacked, because it was paying high wages. I hold no brief for the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, and the farmers have no love for it either. The farmers now control the majority of the sugar-mills in the north of Queensland.
Reference has been made to the alleged inflated value of sugar-producing lands and the high price of sugar in consequence thereof. I point out that in 1923-24 sugar was 6d. per lb., although no sugar was exported that year. After 1924, when the export of sugar began, the price of sugar in Australia fell to 5d. per lb., and then under the Scullin agreement to 41/2d. per lb. It remained at that figure until it was reduced to 4d. per lb. as the result of action taken by the Lyons Government, due, no doubt, to the propaganda of members of the freetrade leagues and other similar bodies. That reduction of per lb. in the price of sugar was a very great blow to the sugar-growers. It is incorrect to say that the price of sugar-producing lands has been increased in recent years. The Queensland Government controls the transfer of all sugar-producing lands. Most of this class of land is held on the leasehold tenure. Before a farm can bo transferred application must be made to the Minister, and if the price is con sidered to be too high, the case is referred to the Cane Prices Board.
Some honorable members have said that it is impossible to get an impartial statement as to the real position of the sugar-growers. I therefore direct attention to the following calculations made from information appearing on page 25 of the last report of the Queensland Income Tax Commissioner : -
Comparing the taxation year of 1934-35 with that of of 1933-34, it is found that the - Number of taxpayers generally has increased 4 per cent.
Number of cane-growers who are taxpayers has decreased 26 per cent.
Not income of all taxpayers has increased 10 per cent.
Net income of all cane-growers who paid tax has decreased 30.65 per cent.
The taxable income of all taxpayers has increased 13.9 per cent.
The taxable income of cane-growers has decreased 32 per cent.
The total tax assessed for all taxpayers has increased 20.5 per cent.
The total tax assessed for cane-growers has decreased 41.3 per cent.
The impaired financial standing of the sugar-cane growers is undoubtedly consequent upon the lower price obtainable for their cane. Most of the land adjacent to the Tully sugar mills is owned by canegrowers who practically control the mills which operate in their particular areas. The Colonial Sugar Refining Company does not mill the cane.
In all the circumstances honorable members of the Opposition intend to vote against the amendment. While we do not approve of the operations of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, we feel that the major concern at the moment is the ratification of this agreement. If a move is made after this bill has been passed to appoint a select committee or a royal commission to investigate the ramifications and the distribution of the profits of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company it will have our wholehearted support.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Lyons) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. White) agreed to -
That the time allotted for the remaining stages of the bill be extended as follows: -
For the committee stage, until 3.30 p.m., Wednesday, 4th December.
For the remaining stages, until 3.46 p.m., Wednesday, 4th December.
– by leave - The Commonwealth Government has learned with regret, that at a meeting of the Seamen’s Union, held in Sydney this morning, it was decided to continue the shipping strike which was begun several days ago, and that at meetings in Melbourne, Brisbane, Port Adelaide, and Newcastle, this decision was supported.
The Government takes a very serious view of what it regards as a deliberate dislocation of the seaborne trade and commerce of Australia, and a repudiation of an award made after exhaustive judicial examination by the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration in settlement of disputes, including a dispute submitted by the Seamens Union itself. It desires to make itclear beyond doubt that a strike against a lawfully made award, which is also a wanton interruption of a service important, not only to ship-owners and seamen, but also to farmers, manufacturers, merchants and the general public, could not be tolerated by any responsible government.
The Government has considered the extension of the operation of the Transport Workers Act to seamen. It has decided to notify, and hereby notifies, the seamen that unless work is resumed within 48 hours the Commonwealth Government will proceed to apply the provisions of that act to the manning of ships at ports which are affected by this dispute, and will take such other action as the law allows with a view to the maintenance of trade and commerce.
The Government wishes to point out that if the Transport Workers Act is applied to seamen, its application will be continued, not merely for the present, but also permanently; and seamen who fail to resume work will find themselves substantially excluded from future employment in the Australian shipping industry.
Should the prompt re-manning of coastal steamers prove impracticable, the Government will not hesitate to take action to grant permits to overseas ships to engage in the coasting trade in respect of both passengers and cargo.
The Government appeals to the seamen to reconsider their action, and avoid what can only be a disaster to themselves and their families.
Later (on adjournment motion) :
– In the circumstances, namely, an adjournment motion on account of the death of Her Royal Highness Princess Victoria, I do not propose to refer at length to the statement made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) on the shipping strike. I wish, however, to ask that the time allowed by the Government for the resumption of work be extended. In view of the ramifications of the industry, and the difficulties of the situation, it would be impossible to do very much within 48 hours.
.- The Government fixed 48 hours because it felt that it would be sufficient to meet the needs of the case. If, however, there is any real indication that the seamen intend to return to work without delay, the Government would not nullify the effort for the sake of a few hours.
– by leave - It is with deepest regret that I announce formally to the House the death of His Majesty’s sister, Her Royal Highness Princess Victoria, which occurred early this morning. I move -
That the following address to His Majesty the King be agreed to: -
To the King’s Most Excellent Majesty: Most Gracious Sovereign:
We, the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Australia, in Parliament assembled, have received with profound sorrow, the news of the death of your August Sister, Her Royal Highness the Princess Victoria. We wish to express to Your Majesty the heartfelt sympathy of Your subjects in the Commonwealth of Australia in the great loss which you have sustained.
.- I second the motion.
– On behalf of my colleagues I support the motion.
Question resolved in the affirmative, honorable members standing in their places.
– As a mark of respect to the memory of the late Princess Victoria, I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the affirmative,
House adjourned at 10.11 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
d asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1. (a) 76; (b) 53. 2. (a) 489; (b) 565.
n asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
What is the total number of items in the tariff upon which reductions have been made during the last twelve months?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: - 529 (British Preferential Tariff) ; 453 (General Tariff).
Excise Duty on Tobacco.
n asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Australian Cotton Production.
Mr.Francis asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
What are the quantities of seed cotton, raw cotton, and cotton yarns respectively, that have been produced in Australia during each of the last five years?
Is it a fact that an extra ginnery, located at Gladstone, in Queensland, was operated last season to handle increasing production of seed cotton?
Have any new cotton spinning mills been established during the last three years, and have any further new mills been announced; if so, how many, and where?
What average prices have been paid to seed cotton-growers in respect of the seasons 1931 to 1935 inclusive?
What quantities of Queensland raw cotton have been sold to Australian manufacturers during each of the last five years?
e. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - l.-
Note. - The production of cotton yarnsfor 1932 wasin excess of current market requirements, due to spinners taking advantage of the expiring bounty.
y asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
In view of the fact that Switzerland buries the poor as citizens and not as paupers, when another amendment of the Invalid and Old-tige PensionsAct is being considered, will he obtain consideration by the Government of a scheme for the payment of a special payment of (Id. or less a week toa mortuary fund in order to ensure that every Australian pensioner will be buried as a citizen and nut as a pauper?
– Provision for payment of funeral expenses in Switzerland is made under a scheme of social and sickness insurance. The question raised by the honorable member will receive the consideration of the Government.
r asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Royalties on Books.
y asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
If Commonwealth funds are being used for the purpose named, does the Treasurer approve of the practice?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1 and 2. I have not seen the reports referred to, butI can assure the honorable member that any royalties on books that may have been paid by the Victorian State Education Department have not come from funds provided by the Commonwealth.
r asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows: - 1 and 2. The Government is not in possession of any information that such a demonstration has been made.
Common wea lth S uperann uation Payments.
Mr.Blackcburn asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Whether he will bring before Cabinet the question of refunding to superannuated Commonwealth public servants the amounts deducted from their pensions during the period from July, 1931, to November, 1933?
y. - Recent representations on this matter by the Commonwealth Superannuated Officers Association, Victorian section, will receive the consideration of Cabinet. I might add, for the information of the honorable member, that the percentage reductions in superannuation pensions, which were imposed as part of the financial emergency legislation, were fully restored in October, 1933. relief towh eat-growers : Administrative Costs.
asked the Minister for Commerce, upon notice -
e. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
In subsequent years the administration was the responsibility of the State governments.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 3 December 1935, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1935/19351203_reps_14_148/>.