14th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Seaker (Hon. G. J. Bell) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I have to informthe House that it is my intention to issue a writ on Thursday, the 5th November next, for the election of a member to serve for the electoral division of Kennedy, in the State of Queensland, in the place of Mr. David Riordan, deceased’. The dates in connexion with the election will be fixed as follows: - Date of issue of writ, Thursday, 5th November, 1936; date of nomination, Monday, 16th November, 1936; date of polling, iSaturday, 12fh December, 1936 ; date of return of writ, on or before Friday, 15th January, 1937.
– Will the Minister representing tlie PostmasterGeneral consider the widening’ of the regulations governing broadcasting, so that during the by-election campaign the candidates for election, or representatives of the parties, may avail themselves of this means of placing their views before the electors, and thus overcome the disability caused by the immensity of the constituency of Kennedy?
– This matter is really one for the determination of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. I shall ask the PostmasterGeneral to seek the advice of the commission upon it. No restriction is imposed on Bclass stations.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Canned Fruits Export Control Act - Tenth Annual Report of the Canned Fruits Control Board, for year 1035-36, together with Statement by the Minister regarding the operation of the Act.
Ordered to be printed.
Seat of Government Acceptance Act and Seat of Government (Administration) Act - Ordinance of 1930 - No. 42 - Industrial Board (No. 3).
– In view of the proposed heavy increase of expenditure upon defence, and as no definite steps have yet been taken to put into operation any part’ of the Government’s policy covering the standardization of railway gauges, will the Prime Minister state whether the Government will consider the appointment of a non-party parliamentary committee to examine and report upon defence expenditure,’ including the possible effect upon defence of the standardization of the railway gauges 1
– The matter will receive the consideration of the Government.
– Will the Minister directing negotiations for trade treaties state when honorable members may expect to be furnished with details of the trade agreement that has been made between Belgium and Australia?
– Next week.
-Will the Minister for Commerce inform honorable members of the correctness or otherwise of the statement attributed in the Sydney Morning Herald to-day to Mr. G. W. Brown, a delegate to the’ Empire Fruit Conference, that the British Government has increased from 4s. 6d. to 7s.6d. per cwt. the preference that it gives to Empire apples and pears ?
– A request for this inereased preference was made to the British Government, but I havn not been advised of its having been granted.
– Has the AttorneyGeneral yet come to a decision upon the request of Yugoslav citizens of Australia for permission to publish a newspaper in their own language?
– No; but I shall look into the matter to see what stage has been reached.
– Will the Minister for Trade and Customs state whether a ban has been placed on all classes of literature printed in tho Yugoslav language, or, alternatively, whether there is a ban upon certain books or pamphlets printed in that language, and, if there is, what is the reason for it? If the latter course has been pursued, what are the translated names of such books?
– There is no ban on Yugoslav literature as such imported into the Commonwealth.
– Will the Prime Minister state whether the Government has yet reecived a copy of the report of the Imperial Shipping Committee, whichhas been conducting investigations into the maintenance of British shipping on the seas of the world? If so, will the right honorable gentleman make a statement on the subject?
– The Government has not received this report, noT has it any information apart from what has been gleaned from the press, as to the accuracy or otherwise of which I can offer no oninion.
– Is the Prime Minister aware thnt the position in relation to British, shipping, with the exception of the trans-Pacific Shipping Line, in this part of the world, demands urgent attention? Can the Government do anything to expedite the completion of the investigations and the presentation of the report of the Imperial Shipping- Committee, so . that comprehensive measures may be taken at an early date to prevent the exclusion of British shipping from either the trans-Pacific, or any other trade route?
– The delay in this matter is not the responsibility of the Commonwealth Government, which has done everything that lay in its power to expedite it. If there is anything further that the Commonwealth may do, it will certainly be done.
– Is the Minister for Health aware that some people take strong exception to the receipt through the post of letters advertising and advocating the use of contraceptives? Es the right honorable gentleman able to take any steps under the postal regulations to remedy this evil?
– Many persons have written to me expressing strong disapproval of such letters. One correspondent complained that literature of this kind had been sent to his daughter, a young girl whose intended marriage had been announced in the press. He and his family stigmatized the enclosed booklet as disgusting. I have no doubt that literature of this kind is being widely disseminated through the post. In my opinion, it- is directly subversive of morality, and is opposed to the vital interests of the community. Unfortunately, the powers of the Commonwealth, to deal Avith the matter are extremely limited. I shall, however, bring it to the notice of the Postmaster-General (Senator A. J. McLachlan) to see what action may be taken.
– A returned soldier undergoing treatment in a repatriation hospital may have a broken limb. This not being accepted as a war disability, he is obliged to have it treated at a private institution, and thus suffers considerable discomfort in travelling between the two. Will the Minister for Repatriation consider the promotion of some scheme of co-ordination between hospitals controlled by the repatriation authorities and private institutions, whereby an exsoldier may receive treatment at either the ono institution or the other,
– I shall make inquiry into the matter. I believe that in some cases this transfer from one hospital to another takes place. If this proves to bc unnecessary - it would appear, at first sight, that it ought to be - I shall take slops to remedy the matter.
– I remind the Attorney-General, by way qf explanation of the question I am about to submit, that I understood him to say on a former occasion that, if there were any written legal opinions on the subject of the necessity for a referendum as a cure for the marketing difficulties, he would make them available for the perusal of honorable members, or, at all events, for my own perusal. Has the honorable gentleman looked into the matter and given effect to the promise which I understood him to make?
– I am sorry that I rather overlooked the necessity for making a subsequent statement upon the matter. No written opinions were obtained by the Commonwealth Government, although certain written opinions given to the .authorities dealing with this matter were seen by the Government. The opinions received by the Ministry were given verbally.
– In view of the statement by the Minister for Defence that, of 3,649 recruits recently enrolled in new centres, a number would not be able to pass the medical examination, will the Minister consider the advisability of the Government assisting the State Governments in some way in the. important work of physical culture?
– In the statement to which the honorable member has referred I dealt also with, retirements from the militia of men who had served for considerable periods, although that point may not have been mentioned in the press report. The medical standard required of members of the militia is fairly high, and a considerable number of applicants for enrolment are rejected on account of dental and similar disabilities which are not organic. Rejections during last year represented 3.5 per cent of the applicants. I shall be glad to give consideration to the aspect of the matter mentioned by the honorable member.
– Can the Minister representing the Postmaster-General give any information as to the possibility of an early start being made with the construction of the new broadcasting studio in Hobavt? If not, will steps be taken to have the site selected for the building offered for sale at auction?
– The answer to the second portion of the honorable member’s question is in the negative. I shall obtain information regarding the first portion of the question.
– In answer to a previous question, the Minister for Defence informed me that the speed of the planes now being delivered to the Royal Australian Air Force is 190 miles an hour, and that these machines represent the last word in British aircraft construction
– I remind the honorable member that, in framing a question, he may not refer to a question that has already been answered.
– I desire to know whether the delivery of machines for the Royal Australian Air Force las been delayed for approximately two years, and how the Minister can state that they are of the most modern design, since from such information as can be gleaned by honorable members in the Parliamentary Library, they appear to have a speed fully 100 miles an hour slower than the planes now being supplied to the British Air Force-
– Order ! The honorable member is now arguing the matter; he must not do that.
– The answer which I gave yesterday is substantially correct. It is true that the delivery of the orders for planes from Great Britain has been considerably delayed, but a considerable number of Avro-Anson and. Blenheim machines are on order. These are among the latest types of British aircraft, and are of the speed mentioned by the honorable member.
– When will they be here?
-I cannot state the exact date, but they will not be obsolete before they arrive.
– Is it true that the Government is giving consideration to the resumption of land at Mascot, facing Botany Bay, for the establishment of an airport for flying craft? If this is not the case, will the Minister for Defence consider the question of resuming this property for such a purpose?
– As I understand the position, the resumption of the land referred to is under consideration for the purpose of extending the Mascot airport. A further development, however, is that those interested in the aircraft industry have asked that the negotiations for this purchase should not proceed until they have decided where they will establish their industry, as they have been looking at the same land as that which the department is considering the resumption of for the purposes of its aircraft works.
Debate resumed from the 14th October (vide page 1070), on motion by Mr. Menzies -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- This measure, if passed, would involve a consultation with the people, and leaves to them the decision as to whether or not a certain alteration of the Constitution shall be made. In the course of his speech, the Attorney-General (Mr. Menzies) gave a very wide description, rather than a definition, of “ marketing “. He urged that it would include transactions incidental to the buying and selling of goods, and he also said that it had been construed in Australia to include the functions specified in the provision of the Constitution that relates to trade and commerce. I ask myself: “What is marketing, and what does it include?” It would appear to include finance and the transportation of goods, and that would necessarily include the conditions under which the goods are transported.
I submit also that it would cover the employers and employees engaged in marketing, and, therefore, the conditions under which they operate could not be completely separated from the consideration of the subject of marketing. I submit that the word includes a considerable amount of what is meant by trade and commerce which may be regarded as a synonymous term for “ buying and selling The transactions incidental to marketing are so comprehensive and so difficult of exact classification that the bill not only deals with those engaged in the production and sale of certain commodities, but also concerns at least those who are associated in any way with such operations. It involves an expenditure by the Commonwealth of approximately £100,000 in order to take a referendum of the people. It also involves a considerable amount of public turmoil and disputation usually associated with the determination of the degree of competence of the legislative powers of this Parliament. It involves, too, a consideration of the position of the States and of the Commonwealth in relation to this specific question. If it can bc argued that so costly and so vexatious a proceeding should be availed of in order to meet the marketing dilemma it would appear that it is reasonable to consider how far other matters in our economic structure, of equal magnitude to that of marketing, are also not capable of being dealt with by this Parliament in an effective way by legislation because of constitutional limitations. At this stage, I move -
That all ,the words after “ That “ be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words: - ‘‘this House is of opinion that the proposed alteration of the Constitution is inadequate, and that the referendum costing approximately £.100.000 should have for its purpose such alteration of the Constitution as would grant to this Parliament wider and more comprehensive powers “.
I would have moved an amendment in much wider terms and also in more specific indication had the Standing Orders permitted me to do so; but, within the limits of the Standing Orders, in relation to this bill I am taking this opportunity to test the House as to whether it is satisfied with this inadequate and paltry proposal which the Government has submitted and which involves, as I have indicated, a reference of tha matter to the people at c cost of approximately £100,000, with all the upset and turmoil associated with such a submission. Later, I shall suggest the minimum alterations of the Constitution which, I think, should be sought at a referendum taken in Australia at the present time.
This bill does not alter anything in the existing constitutional text; it leaves it as it is; no words arc altered and no omissions are made. It does, however, propose to make an addition to section 92 so that that section which, in its present form, has been construed by the Privy Council as rendering invalid certain marketing legislation adopted by this Parliament and the Parliaments of the States, shall be restored to the assumed validity which it had before the Privy Council’s decision was given. I submit that this change is totally inadequate; it does not meet all the marketing requirements of Australia and it will not in any way competently deal with the problem of primary industries in relation to marketing. I submit that marketing legislation should be entirely federal in character. Marketing is not merely an interstate business, and it should not, in this Parliament at any rate, be regarded as sectional in its origin. Every product involved in this legislation comes from a number of the States. Whether it be dried fruits, butter or some other commodity, the general characteristics associated with its production in one .State are duplicated in another. The uncertainty implicit in the future powers of this Parliament in connexion with this matter to deal adequately with such industries is, I submit, not. as entirely or competently overcome by this bill as would be the case if we were to take this matter as one which has now reached such a stage as to warrant the Commonwealth dealing with it absolutely instead of having the Commonwealth merely the registering agent for agreements arrived at by the States. It is the obligation of this Parliament to decide what degree of support and of organization is desirable for the solvency of the industries of Australia. The Constitution lays it down that it shall deal exclusively with the degree of tariff protection which industries require, whether they be primary or secondary industries; and imposes on it an obligation to deal with bounties to industries whether they be primary or secondary industries. Hitherto, in the 36 years that this Parliament has operated, as a matter of policy, it has found it desirable to use the tariff and the bounty system to support secondary industries ; and in relation to primary industries it has also found it desirable to use the tariff to protect primary production against a flood of imports from other countries, and a bounty system as a means of assisting primary production. Thus, bounties, excise duties and customs duties have for years figured among the legislative activities of this Parliament in order to support industry by and large, regardless of whether it be primary or secondary. The form of aid which should be given was a matter for decision by the Parliament and the Government of the time. But in more recent years this Parliament has devised legislation and has authorized activity giving it a more definite association with marketing. It has sent trade missioners abroad; it has a Minister negotiating trade treaties, and it has entered into definite agreements with other countries. The Ottawa agreement and the trade agreements with the dominion of Canada and Belgium, and now with Czechoslovakia, are all instances of the increasing responsibility which this Parliament has felt it should shoulder in respect of the general question of finding markets for the products of this nation. It appears to me that we have now reached the stage when we should decide how and by what means Australia’s production can best be organized, so that it can be most effectively marketed. To spread the essential legislative power over a number of governments of diverse political character and of varying points of view must lead to delay and evasion, and also to inability on the part of the National Parliament to act promptly and effectively. It is the duty of the Commonwealth Parliament to regard the subjects of overseas marketing and interstate trade as so intimately related, particularly in respect of primary production, that the whole question as to what should be done should be a matter for this Parliament to decide, and this Parliament should ask the people of Australia for the requisite authority to enable it to decide it. But if this proposed alteration of the Constitution is agreed to this Parliament will be no more competent than it has hitherto been to deal on its own initiative and its own responsibility with the vitally important subject of marketing, for in the future the State Parliaments, in the very nature of things, will have to enter into agreements before the Commonwealth can act. We know from past experience how extremely difficult it is to secure agreement between the State? and the Commonwealth in respect of many matters of outstanding importance. At the recent Premiers Conference, for example, agreement was found to be impossible as to the nature of the power that should be conferred upon the Commonwealth to deal with marketing. Even in respect of the proposal which the Attorney-General has submitted to the House in this bill there was no agreement among the States. Some States opposed the proposal that this power should be conferred upon the Commonwealth ; other States supported it. There is really a division between the States as to whether the Commonwealth Parliament should be granted even the limited added authority now sought. What will be the position of this Parliament with regard to a marketing policy, and the means by which we should organize our primary industries, even if this bill is passed, and the additional powers proposed are ultimately conferred upon it by the people? We shall be in no better shape to deal with these vitally important subjects than we have been during the last i;en years. This proposed alteration is too paltry and meagre to justify the turmoil and cost that inevitably must be involved in securing it. I therefore urge the Parliament to say that, as it must impose the taxation necessary to provide money for bounties, as it must pass the tariff measures necessary to protect our primary industries, and as it must also conduct all international negotiations in order to open up markets for our primary producers in various parts of the world, and has full authority to determine fiscal policy in respect of other countries power should be sought to avoid leav- ing the general structure of a marketing plan to the uncertainty of haphazard agreement between the States and the Common weal th. the Commonwealth actually merely providing the cement so that the building may stand. To do only the latter, in my judgment, is to reverse the proper order. Full authority should be given to this Parliament; authority should not spread among discordant States which, in the very nature of things, can never properly exercise the power necessary to formulate a sound national marketing policy. This Parliament should not be denied the power of legislative initiative on this important subject.
The proposed new section seeks, as the Attorney-General himself said, merely to restore the position to that which was thought to be held prior to the decision of the Privy Council in the James case. It is agreed that the position in respect of marketing may be restored, but I do not believe that the general constitutional power that it was thought this Parliament possessed would be as wide as before the Privy Council gave its decision. Prior to that time it was generally assumed in Australia that this Parliament was not bound by section 92 in its entirety, but that the States were bound. That status quo is not likely to be restored by the slight alteration of the Constitution suggested in this bill. The Privy Council has declared that section 92 binds the Commonwealth in all its provisions, and the Attorney-General, apparently, is content to free the Commonwealth only in respect of marketing, but not in regard to the other wide powers with which section 92 deals. The whole subject of internal , carriage and ocean navigation was held by the High Court to be absolutely free, but despite the very wide description which the Attorney-General sought to give to marketing, I question whether even he would say to-day, in view of the Privy Council’s decision on section 92, that even if the people approve of this proposed alteration the position will be as it was before judgment was given in the James case. It appears to me that this new section will not free the Commonwealth from the general bondage to section 92 except in respect of marketing. The general belief that the Government is seeking to encourage in the minds of the public - that their acceptance of this amendment will make the position as it was before the Privy Council’s decision was given - is certainly not justified.
The problem of government in general, as between the Commonwealth and the States, is one of functional distribution. We must reach some point of definiteness as to the powers which the Commonwealth shall exercise and the responsibilities which it shall carry, and the powers which the States shall exercise and the responsibilities which shall devolve upon them. What we need is a general review of the Constitution in the light of the experience of the last 35 years, and having regard to the changed character of the world and of Australia, and the probable developments of the next twenty years. If the Government had said, “ As we must now take a referendum of the people, let us invite them to decide what shall b? the functions of this Parliament, and what shall be the functions of the parliaments of the States.” To avoid a definition of the functional responsibilities of the various governments of Australia is, in my opinion, to render all governments more or less incapable of grappling with the major and acute problems of our time Even if this proposed alteration be agreed to by the people this Parliament, and also the parliaments of the States, will be incapable of rendering effective service to the democracy of this country, for they will not be able to resolve the problems of our time, and will remain incapable of dealing in a competent way with many matters of major consequence that are constantly requiring attention. This is particularly true in respect of subjects with which one State Parliament cannot deal singly. It is highly undesirable that in reviewing the Constitution we should suggest an amendment which will give only part of the power over specific subjects to the Commonwealth, and allow the residual power to rest with the States. The result of such a policy must inevitably be a hotchpotch of legislative enactments which will lead ultimately to political inefficiency and further economic disorder. In view of the failure of the Government to bring forward proposals that will deal in a definite way with the general constitutional issue, the question that emerges is, “ What shall the Commonwealth do in regard to the many and vital problems that face it?” If the Commonwealth is intended to deal with certain specific matters, no State should be in a position to prevent it from dealing with them. In order to do so the Commonwealth should not be obliged to survive the interminable conferences and disputatious inseparable from some kind of agreement being arrived at by the States. I counsel honorable members to consider the difficulties of the States. All the State governments do not go out of office simultaneously. Elections are held at different periods in the different States, and no matter how great may be the desirability of conferences meeting, the convening of. them must be a matter of difficulty, because some Ministers may bo in parliament at the time, whilst Ministers in other parliaments may he free because their parliaments are in recess. When urgent problems arise there is no regularity or certainty that a conference of State and Commonwealth Ministers can bc held at a date sufficiently early to enable the matter to be dealt with. Then, when that problem is being considered, we have presented to us the spectacle of the various governments being represented on the conference by men who, in their views on matters of public policy and political principle are fundamentally hostile to one another. Out of that antagonism between a Labour Minister from one State and an antiLabour Minister from another State, how can it he expected that a conference which is not only the very reverse of a non-party conference, but also a conference composed of definite political opponents on matters of political principle, will formulate some definite and constructive scheme to deal with a major matter? The very essence of any alteration of policy is that those engaged in. the formulation of the new policy shall have something in common on general principles. The whole theory of responsible government in. the British Empire has been founded on the principle that an association of ideas is the essential link that enables Ministers whose outlook on major principles is similar to share the formulation and defining of a coherent policy. The arrangement envisaged in this bill makes this impossible. It is not intended to amend the Constitution to give to the States power completely to control marketing; r.or is it intended to give to the Commonwealth complete power to control marketing. Thus, neither the States nor the Commonwealth will be able to deal with this matter effectually ; and between them major calamities will be an inseparable consequence of the future. All that this bill will do will be to set up a complicated system in which no government is supreme, and in which legislative competence is endangered by a multiplicity of authorities. One State Legislative Council, which, I declare, has no responsibility to the people of the State as a whole, but is responsible only to the privileged class enfranchised by a property qualification, can bold up and wreck any reasonable scheme of marketing which may have been agreed upon by a conference of the States, and may oven have won the acceptance of whatever government for the time being presides in the Commonwealth, sphere. The anachronism of permitting so vital a matter as marketing to be subject to veto by a reactionary State upper house does not enable the people of Australia, as a people, to deal adequately with it. With, I hope, great respect to the whole of the Parliament, I claim that this question involves more than the welfare of the primary producers. Iu his address to the Privy Council, the Attorney-General argued that the matter to be determined was really the whole power of the Commonwealth to pass legislation in relation to interstate tirade and commerce, and by an doing to render possible schemes of marketing control in the whole Commonwealth. He went on to say that if the Commonwealth could not control interstate trade and commerce to the extent illustrated by the Dried Emits Act, then it was clear that the States could not control it, and, therefore, substantially, nobody could control it. Later in his argument, the Attorney-General said, in effect, that it was impossible to control Australian trade as such, unless it were recognized that it fell into two groups, the precise limits of which it might be difficult to determine; that intra-state and interstate must both be controlled if there was to be control of Australian trade. I have argued for the last ten minutes that the control of marketing in the future will be anything but effective. The bill asks for a futile power and will lead to the waste of £100,000, and, worse than that, the waste of a golden opportunity to get from the Australian people powers that would be worth while, making this Parliament, in essential matters of the moment, in every respect national and competent in its character. I ask what purposes will be served by these schemes if the legal power and constitutional authority is clear. Here, again, I submit the facts clearly by paraphrasing what the Attorney-General told the Privy Council - he would not expect me to quote him literally; indeed, it would take too long to do so -
The basis of the scheme is to give a higher local price than the price normally payable on the export of the same commodity.
That is to say we are to pay more for products in Australia than in any other market. The Attorney-General proceeded -
If that is to bc done it becomes necessary to adopt some scheme whereby the quantity of the commodity in question retained in Australia for sale will not be sufficiently great to break down the special Australian price.
That means definitely that the quantity that will be kept in Australia must never be much larger than the quantity required to meet the effective demand in Australia; the surplus over and above the consumers’ demand in Australia, be it great or small, must be exported. It works out in practice that the greater the export volume when prices are low or unprofitable generally, the greater must be the levy on the Australian consumers.
– Yes! The “Minister for butter marketing” knows that that is so. I want the producers of butter to know that I have no more objection to their getting fair and right prices for butter than they should have objection to paying fair and reasonable prices for the labour of their employees. I put it to them that they have no right to ask for powers to be given to this Parliament to protect the price of butter if, at the same time, they deny to this Par* liament power to protect the workers from exploitation and low wages. I say frankly that, as the purpose of marketing schemes is to recoup from the Australian consumers the losses inseparable from overseas marketing in a period of low world prices-
– That is not correct.
– The honorable gentleman’s quarrel on that point is with the Attorney-General and not with me. When the Attorney-General appeared before the Privy Council, he was not arguing politically or talking to a few selected people at a selected place where he wanted to win some votes. He was dealing with the facts of the situation and was dealing with the matter impersonally as the advocate for the Commonwealth Government when he said that in order to give the Australian producers a higher local price than world parity it became necessary to adopt some scheme whereby the quantity of the commodity in question retained in Australia for sale would not be sufficiently great to break down the Australian price. That is what he said. I agree, and the country will agree, that it is a reasonable statement of what is intended. I agree also that Australian consumers ought not to expect to obtain Australian produce at a price below the cost of production. But when I say that the producers of butter, or dried fruits, or wheat, are entitled to a fair price for their produce I have the right to insist that the consumers of that produce in Australia, who are called upon to pay more for it than they would have to pay if these marketing schemes were not given legislative authority, shall be protected from exploitation, in the form of inordinately high prices, or unreasonable conditions in industry. The onesidedness of this proposition is seen in that it asks for constitutional power to give to the Australian producer a fair price for his commodity, which has to be paid by the Australian consumer, but does not seek for constitutional power to ensure that that consumer will not be treated unjustly.
– The same argument applies to the tariff.
– I knew that the Minister for Defence (Sir Archdale Parkhill) could not remain silent much longer.
The honorable gentleman is sitting behind a Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) and alongside a former Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), both of whom have said, on many occasions, what I have just said. In considering the rights of the producers in connexion with a marketing scheme, we ought not to overlook the obligation that rests upon this Parliament to see that every section of the Australian public shall be treated justly. Obviously, a marketing scheme will break down if a sufficient supply of commodities is retained in the Australian market to break down the Australian price. As a matter of fact, that is what Mr. James tried to do. He wanted to sell his fruit, not overseas, but in another State, so that he could break down the Australian price.
– That is just what he did not want to do; he wanted to receive the Australian price for the lot.
– Exactly. He wanted to sell all his produce in Australia.
– At the Australian price.
– Yes ; and had he been successful, every other producer would have proceeded to do the same. In that event, the quantity of produce available in Australia would have been far in excess of the demand of the home market. Any one with an elementary knowledge of the situation will agree with the statement of the AttorneyGeneral to the Privy Council that, in those circumstances, the Australian price would be broken down. Obviously, the purpose of the scheme is to prevent the Australian price from breaking down, and consequently, it aims at restricting the quantity of produce available for sale in Australia to approximately the demand for it. The surplus must be sold overseas, and the loss on the quantity exported is recoverable from the Australian people. Under this legislation, as with the sales tax or an excise measure, levies are imposed on the Australian public. In respect of excise, the extent of the levy is determined by this ParliamentTf, for instance, Parliament decides to impose a. sales tax on flour, it knows exactly what the amount of the tax will be. But under this marketing legislation, the equivalent of an excise tax is imposed on the Australian people, not by this Parliament, but by boards upon which the consumers and the employees in the industry are not represented at all. Under the excise power of this Parliament the responsibility for levying an impost on the community rests with Parliament, whose members have to account to the people for their conduct; but under this scheme Parliament, as it were, washes its hands of the responsibility, although the public cannot escape the consequences.
– No, it does not.
– Twice during the last previous period of this session when boards were being established by their fecund author, the right honorable Minister for Commerce (Dr. Earle Page), I asked that the employees should be given representation on them, but in each case, on a party division, the control was left entirely in the hands of those associated with the producing and the selling of the commodities. Vested interests, including middlemen, auctioneers, and brokers, can and do, obtain a “ rake off “, and this Parliament exercises no regulating control. I ask the House what kind of a reception a bill to deal with marketing which attempted to clip the wings of the middlemen would receive in the Legislative Councils of the States. I repeat that these schemes do impose taxes on the people; that if a tax is imposed by means of an excuse duty Parliament accepts the responsibility, whereas, under the system of boards, as established under these agreements, that is not so. In the view of the Opposition, the power to deal with marketing, instead of being shared with the States, thereby giving no protection to the consumers, should be held absolutely hy this Parliament, which would then be competent not only to assist the industry, but also to ensure that the interests of the Australian consumers would be conserved. I put that to the House as a reasonable statement of the case, hut what does this bill do? The Attorney-General said, “the proposed amendment gives to the Commonwealth no new initiative whatever . . . any Commonwealth legislation based upon the amendment, if carried, will have tn be complementary to State legislation.” In other words, the Commonwealth comes in at the end when it is asked to give its formal imprimatur to the scheme. If it does so, it does it knowing that, in effect, the scheme exercises a power over the Australian public which this Parliament alone has the constitutional authority to enforce. The Attorney-General also said that the amendment would be unable to stand by itself. “We have been told that this is a scheme to make possible the introduction of organized marketing, but there will be no organization of producers under this scheme that will be any more effective than those which have been attempted in the past. In so far as it purports to deal with marketing, it is a futile and dangerous alteration, which leaves the Commonwealth impotent to safeguard the interests of the people.
My amendment asks that the measure should make provision for seeking more competent powers. There are employees in these industries. Are they not involved ? What protection is it proposed to give to them ? Surely they are entitled to some safeguard. The Prime Minister has admitted that this Parliament lacks constitutional authority to deal properly with the conditions of employees. In his policy speech, delivered in 1931, he said -
There are some matters which should be regulated upon a uniform basis throughout Australia - such as the basic wage and standard hours. . . . Under existing constitutional powers the Commonwealth Arbitration Court can only deal with particular interstate disputes which are brought before it by the parties interested. It cannot make a common rate, either as to wages or as to hours, applying throughout the Commonwealth. If returned to power our object would be to make any amendment of the Constitution which would resolve these difficulties, reserving local matters to local authorities.
– There has been an election since then.
– There has, but the Government which the honorable member supports has made no attempt to redeem its promise. Here is an opportunity to deal with the matter. Obviously, to carry ti referendum of any kind, a campaign must be conducted to acquaint the people with the matter before them, and when the people go to the polling places in February next they can just as well give their opinion upon the subject of increased industrial powers, as upon the subject of marketing. The Government can only plead constitutional limitations for it3 failure to protect employees in. the industries mentioned in this measure.
Acting on the authority given to him as the representative of the Government at the International Labour Conference at Geneva, the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) told the members of the conference and, through them, the nations of the world, that he was authorized to state that, if a majority of nations were in favour of, and adopted, the principle of a 40-hour working week - I presume in the industries we are now considering, as well as in others - the Commonwealth would use its best endeavours to obtain agreement and concurrence on the part of the Australian States, so that the ground might be cleared for ratification by the Commonwealth. He had pointed out earlier that, owing to constitutional limitations, the Government of Australia had not power to legislate in regard to the matter. The principle of a 40-hour working week was accepted by the Government, through its representative at Geneva. Is it now proposed, while seeking the requisite constitutional power to prop up the primary producers, also to seek power to protect the employees engaged in the industries with which we are immediately concerned ? If not, steps should be taken to secure the necessary constitutional power, so that all those engaged in these primary industries, and not merely a section of them, may share in the benefits which it is designed to confer. At the recent Premiers Conference, one of the Premiers moved the following motion : -
That this conference affirms the necessity for an early introduction by the Commonwealth and/or the States of legislation designed to provide for a national 40-hour week.
I ‘cannot discuss that motion now, because it has to do with a national 40-hour week, but I may discuss the matter in so far as it relates to the principle of a 40-hour week in the industries covered by this bill. It is necessary to enlarge the industrial powers of this Parliament under the Constitution before a 40-hour working week may be applied even to the industries affected by thi? measure. Unfortunately, the Government is not making any attempt to do this in respect of these, or of any other industries. Not only has it failed to seek such constitutional power, but it also actually voted against the 40-hours’ motion, moved at the Conference of Premiers in Adelaide, thereby indicating that it did not wish to take any action to bring about the introduction of a 40-hour week.
SirFrederick Stewart. - If the honorable member will relate his amendment specifically to the principle of the 40-hour week I will support him.
– The honorable member knows that I have to relate my amendment to the subject of marketing. I explained in the earlier part of my speech that, because of the requirements of the Standing Orders, my amendment had to be relevant to the order of leave ; but my speech gives clear indication of what otherwise would be the specific terms of the amendment. However, the honorable member cannot evade the issue in this way. The purport and whole significance of my amendment is to test the House on the question of whether the powers to be sought under this bill should be extended in order to give Parliament power to legislate in respect of industrial conditions in the industries covered by the bill. If the honorable member wishes to vote for a 40-hour week, he must be prepared to support wider constitutional changes than are contemplated in the measure now before us, and I shall be astonished if the honorable member can justify himself should he vote against my amendment.
I have no more to say, except to express my deep regret that so golden an opportunity to deal with this matter of industrial powers has been let pass by the Government. It should have considered whether changes in the text of other parts of the Constitution were desirable, and it could at least have taken common ground with the great mass of the Australian people in seeking to secure for this Parliament complete industrial powers. As it stands, this legislation contemplates a narrow amendment for the benefit of sectional interests. The great mass of workers in Australia have little or no interest in the matter. It means nothing to them, except a probable increase of the price of the goods they have to buy, and it seems more than likely that they will vote against it.
– The honorable member does not seem to have much respect for arbitration.
– Let the Minister who has just interjected seek the opinion of the Minister for Health (Mr. Hughes), who is sitting beside him, and he will learn how limited are the present industrial powers enjoyed by this Parliament. I ask this House not to submit to the people a Constitution alteration proposal which is sectional in its purpose, but to direct the Government to bring down a series of bills relating to the constitutional powers of this Parliament, so that it can be made an effective, competent body, not only to establish orderly marketing, to safeguard the producers in respect of their schemes, and to assist to organize them, but also to deal adequately and effectively with the mass of the consumers of those products in Australia. I feel that the very arguments which the Attorney-General adopted in his speech for the isolation of this subject from all others was because he found it impossible to justify to himself the piece-meal treatment of constitutional powers which this proposal indicates. There are matters more important than this with which this Parliament should, deal. I say that with very great respect, because there are alternative policies which it can formulate to prop up the primary producers, and it has exercised them in other ways. It has given them substantial bounties over a period of years.
– The honorable gentleman is not in favour of those bounties?
Mr.CURTIN.- We have not voted against any of them so far. If the overseas price of some Australian products is unprofitable to the producers, I have no objection to this Parliament paying a bonus to such producers in order to compensate them for their loss; but I can see no earthly reason why such a bonus should not come out of the Consolidated Revenue as a whole. I can see no reason why it should be levied at a flat rate on the consumers generally, irrespective of their incomes. The difference between the view of the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) and my own view in this matter is that, when the . primary producers are in distress, the honorable gentleman asks that a man with an income of £3 a week should pay as much towards the relief of primary producers as he himself is asked to pay.
– That has never happened.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon.G. J. Bell).Order! The subject is irrelevant.
– Mr. Speaker, I have submitted my case. I move my amendment, and I am quite positive that, after the years of controversy surrounding the Commonwealth’s constitutional powers there is now a keen realization that the time has arrived for our Constitution to be overhauled comprehensively, and not to be dealt with in a purely sectional way. Whatever may be the fate of my amendment in this House, I have not the least doubt that the people of Australia regard my proposal as a fair and proper course which this Government can justly be expected to take.
– I have no intention to delay the House longer than it is sufficient to intimate - and to me this intimation seems unnecessary - that the Government will not accept the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Cur tin). I say immediately that the contribution which the honorable gentleman has made in this matter has not been helpful. Many times in the past it has been our experience that, when a proposal was made to remedy some evil, if we may call it so, opposition arose because something else was not being done. ‘Since the decision of the Privy Council in the James appeal, no contribution whatsoever has been made by honorable members opposite that would help towards a solution of the difficulties arising in this matter.
– They laughed at it.
– Yes; and now, when the Government puts forward a definite proposal to remedy this difficulty, opposition to it arises, based, as the Leader of the Opposition has urged, on the need for doing something else or something more than is contained in the proposal of the Government. The Leader of the Opposition has said that the time has arrived for a general review of the Constitution, and that we should not deal with it as it affects one particular section of the community. The AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Menzies) has made it quite clear that the Government proposes to deal with the primary-producing section of the community, because it is that particular section which has suffered as theresult of the decision of the Privy Council. It is suggested that this proposal is sectional in its effect, but if it is sectional, it is only so insofar as it is an attempt to do justice to a section which, under existing circumstances, is suffering an injustice. The Leader of the Opposition has made a plea on behalf of other sections of the community. He has made a plea on behalf of the workers. The workers of Australia have provided for them industrial arbitration tribunals, Federal or State, to which they may go to have their grievances redressed, and to secure adequate conditions of employment.
– Not all of them.
– Largely that is so. It is possible for them to approach these courts. Considering the industries in cities as distinct from the industries in the country, either the manufacturers themselves or their employees can approach tribunals, both in the Federal and State spheres, which provide that an adequate price may be secured for the products of factories, and guarantee the payment of adequate wages to employees engaged in such factories. I appeal to honorable members opposite to put aside party sectional considerations in this matter, and to agree to the Government’s proposal in order that some scheme may be established whereby unfortunate primary producers, particularly those who export their products overseas, may be placed on something like as safe a footing, in respect of their activities, as that of manufacturers and their employees in the towns and cities. That is all the Government is aiming to do at the present time. The Leader of the Opposition has said as much ; in fact, in many instances, he has quoted the Attorney-General as saying that this proposal is limited to a particular purpose. It is the Government’s object so to limit it, because it is an. urgent matter. The decision of the Privy Council demands that we do something to repair the damage that has been done so far as the primary producers are concerned. For a considerable time, practically every section of the Australian people believed that the Commonwealth possessed the power which it will possess if the proposed alteration is carried. Proposals made in this Parliament to enable the Commonwealth to implement the power which it was thought it possessed have been accepted almost unanimously by honorable members on both sides of the House. No objection has been taken in the past, and we have proceeded for some years believing that we had the authority to do what we were doing, with the result that great benefit has been conferred upon some important sections of primary producers.
The Leader of the Opposition has referred to the proposed alteration of the Constitution as a paltry amendment. I ask the representatives of the primary producers in this chamber if the producers of dried fruits or of dairy produce consider that the benefits they have derived under the power which the Commonwealth thought it possessed are of a paltry character? These benefits are indispensable and almost incalculable, yet the Leader of the Opposition says that it is a paltry proposal. Not a single argument has been advanced by him to-day to justify his amendment being carried. If he has endeavoured to show that it is his desire that proper provision should bo made for the effective marketing of primary produce, he should support the bill. Let us consider the position which would arise if other important questions were submitted to the people as suggested by him
– Like when the right honorable gentleman was a member of the Scullin Government.
– My policy has not changed as has that of the Leader of the Opposition and of his colleagues for whom I presume he speaks to-day. “When proposals for the imposition of a flour tax were before this House, honorable members opposite demanded a homeconsumption price for wheat. To-day the Leader of the Opposition says that he has no objection to primary producers receiving an adequate return for their products, but he does object to increased prices being passed on to the consumers. If there could be a greater somersault than that I should like to hear of it. If the policy of honorable members opposite is to fix a home-consumption price without additional cost to the consumers, it really means that they are not prepared to do anything.
The Government is submitting this question in the form proposed, because, as the Attorney-General said, it is giving the Commonwealth the power it believed it possessed before the Privy Council gave its decision in the James case. We are merely meeting emergency conditions and placing certain of our primary industries in the position we thought they were in ‘before that decision was given. The Government having given very careful consideration to the whole subject has come to the conclusion that, if other important questions were submitted to the people at the same time, it would help to bring about, not only the defeat of those proposals, but also the defeat of the one which the Government is submitting. The Leader of the Opposition said that if the alteration the Government proposes is carried it will not give the Commonwealth complete power. That is quite true. He also said that it will not give the States complete power. That also is true. But if we leave the position where it is the Commonwealth will not have the power, and the States will not have the power, and nothing can be done. If the proposed alteration is carried, full and complete power will be, not in the hands of the Commonwealth or of the States, hut in the hands of the Commonwealth and the States in agreement. The Leader of the Opposition said that it will be impossible to reach an agreement, and cited some of the difficulties likely to arise. I remind him that we have been able to secure agreement in respect of three important primary products, and if we can place the marketing of those’ products on a firm basis we shall be conferring an enormous benefit upon the primary producers, and the community generally. I direct the attention of the Leader of the Opposition to the fact that during the depression no section of the community worked harder or played a more important part inbringing this country out of the throes of the depression than primary producers. They suffered and struggled, and, largely as the result of their efforts, Australia was able to maintain the reputation it had of being a country that met its obligations. In saying that, I am not casting any reflection on the efforts made by other sections of the community, including the workers. If honorable members wish to make a definite attempt to straighten out the difficulty that now presents itself, and to do justice to those who are playing such an important part in developing this country, and who eventually will be the real sufferers unless some provision is made for them, they should support this proposal. I- appeal to the representatives of the workers to realize that the employees have tribunals before which they can appear in connexion with their wages and working conditions.
– How can relief workers appear before tribunals? There are thousands of them in my district.
– I know that my remarks do not apply to every section of the community, but even if the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition were carved that section of our community would not be in a better position. The main problem before us to-day is that of providing work for those at present on relief work or who are unemployed.
The Leader of the Opposition said that on previous occasions I have made declarations as to the inadequacy of our industrial powers. I have always been a firm believer in the Commonwealth possessing more complete industrial power than it enjoys to-day, but I do not think it wise that proposals embodying more complete industrial powers should be submitted to the people at this juncture.
– If honorable members will recall the efforts made by means of referenda in the past they will remember that a majority of the people have never been prepared to assist the Commonwealth in obtaining such powers. Even honorable members opposite have not been unanimous on the subject. When the members of the Australasian Council of Trade Unions interviewed me a short time ago on the subject of a 40-hour week this question arose. I mentioned the fact that they had not been unanimous, otherwise the Commonwealth could have possessed complete power long ago. One delegate said, “ You are right in that regard, and if we had taken the attitude which you have taken, perhaps the Commonwealth might have possessed those powers today “. The Government is submitting this simple but definite proposal to do justice to the primary producers, and if some increased cost is imposed upon the consuming community, there are tribunals to adjust such matters. A tariff board has been appointed to enable those engaged in secondary industries to get a reasonable return on the goods they produce. All that we ask is that the power be given to the Commonwealth and the States - not a new power - to enter into an agreement to enable the producers of particular products to organize amongst themselves in an endeavour to get a fair return for the commodities they produce.’ That is the proposition which the Government makes. If there are other matters which call for consideration, and an amendment of the constitution, opportunities will occur for them to be submitted to the people. At the present time the Government, after giving the most careful consideration to every aspect of the marketing problem, has come to the conclusion that the matter is too urgent to be delayed. It is our duty to restore the protection which had previously been given to the primary producers and which was removed from them by the decision of the Privy Council. I emphasize that if other important matters which demand, the verdict of the electorate arise there will be ample opportunity to deal with them.
– In the sweet bv and by.
– In regard to industrial issues, it will not be in the sweet by and by. At a suitable time the Government will provide an opportunity for Parliament to discuss industrial matters!. But for the present, I appeal to honorable members to do this act of justice to a section of the community which stands urgently in need of it, and to support the Government in making a united appeal to the people to record an affirmative vote, in justice to the primary producers.
.- The Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) has just concluded an eloquent appeal to honorable gentlemen on this side of the House to take a thoroughly Australian, patriotic, non-party stand on this matter in the interests of the country as a whole. He has intimated, among other things, that the Labour party itself was not a united party in connexion with the proposal put forward in 1926 for the amendment of the constitution. That might have been so. But at that time the party of which the right honorable gentleman is now the leader was also not a united party. The big financial interests, including the oil interests, and those various other interests for which, iri hi? new environment, the right honorable gentleman now stands, were opposed to the Bruce-Page Government in connexion with those proposed amendments. The honorable gentlemen whom the Prime Minister now leads were not then united in advocating the amendment of the Constitution and have never supported ample powers for the nation. At the conclusion of that excellent and powerful speech which the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) made, the Prime Minister took up those three words “ thi3 paltry amendment “ and linked them with the great primary industries - dried fruits, butter, wheat, and so on - as though the Leader of the Opposition regarded them in a contemptuous manner and had described them as being paltry or of minor importance. The right honorable gentleman must know that in making that statement he entirely misrepresented the position. “We of the Labour party do not so regard those interests, and the history of this Parliament shows that we have not regarded them, as being unimportant. We have applied to them in their interests the fundamental social principles against which honorable members of the Government have always stood. The Prime Minister asked us to co-operate with him in order to straighten out this difficulty and to join hand in hand with his Government as patriotic, true-blue upholders of Australian interests. My first comment upon that is, that whatever we may do about this difficulty, it is a difficulty entirely created by him and his party; it is not something for which the Labour party is responsible. In regard to the Australian constitution honorable gentlemen opposite turned a deaf ear to the policy of the Labour party. They have resisted, and they did so when I was Attorney-General in the Scullin Government, through the Senate, and so far as they were able to do so, through the House of Representatives, proposals which would have obviated the difficulty which the right honorable gentleman now asks us to join with him in straightening out.
Turning to the bill more precisely - and it is a short bill - one would suppose that the matter to be submitted for the consideration of the people by referendum was one of extraordinary and, indeed, unprecedented- simplicity. One might well think, at least at first glance, that this little amendment of the constitution, limited as it is to the word “marketing “, might be regarded as a chip in porridge, doing neither any good nor any harm. Indeed, the Attorney-General (Mr. Menzies) himself bad difficulty in ekeing out a. speech of respectable dimensions, so lightly, apparently, did he regard the request which he was addressing to honorable members on this side of the House. The proposed amendment affirms nothing. It constructs nothing. On the face of it, it is negative in character.
– Presumably the honorable gentleman is referring to the proposed amendment of the Leader of the Opposition.
– I hope that the Minister for Commerce (Dr. Earle Page) when he comes to address himself to this matter, will take higher ground than that which he now appears to take. Negative in character, the proposed amendment of the Constitution arises from counsels of expediency. If I may quote the poet, it is thought to be sufficient, to “ stuff a hole to keep the wind away “. It is a kind of patchwork, appropriate to those who, by bungle and botch, have mishandled the constitution for more than 30 years. I would not blame the AttorneyGeneral for the position because, while I, by reason of my mature years, was able to vote for Australia a nation, he was still in the kindergarten of politics, learning from new-found political associates bow things ought not to be done. On another occasion, I said something about section 92 of the Constitution. I did so with a view to helping the Attorney-General, and I am sorry to say that up to the present he has not made a polite acknowledgment of my effort on his behalf.
– Order ! The honorable member’s reference to a previous debate in this session is out of order.
Mr.BRENNAN. - Section 92 says-
On the imposition of uniform duties of customs, trade, commerce, and intercourse among the States, whether by means of internal carriage or ocean navigation, shall be absolutely free.
The amendment proposed by the Government is to add these words -
The provisions of the last preceding section shall not apply to laws with respect to marketing mode by the Parliament in the exercise of any powers vested in the Parliament by this Constitution.
It will, therefore, be seen that if the term “marketing” is crystal clear, the effect of the proposed amendment will also be sufficiently precise, clear, and understandable. Now, “ marketing “ is one of those words of doubtful validity, the noun being conveniently converted into the verb - which may be useful enough for ordinary colloquial purposes. The Attorney-General (Mr. Menzies), if I may say so, was amusingly evasive in the matter of the definition of the word “marketing”; he preferred to give reasons why we should not adopt the term “primary production,” but gave none in favour positively of the adoption of the expression “marketing.” I presume that he consulted a dictionary, considered the derivation of the word “marketing,” and came to the conclusion that marketing is an exact term, as to the meaning of which there is no room for legal or other argument. In fact, Iassume that he came to the conclusion that it is as clear as the phrase in the Constitution which sets out that trade, commerce, and intercourse among the States shall be “absolutely free” That phrase seemed perfectly clear, but it has proved to be just so clear as to turn the Commonwealth upside down and inside out, and to lead to a number of personallyconducted tours to England, and appearances before the Privy Council for the purpose of argument. I am quite satisfied that until, by an amendment of the Constitution, we have created in Australia, for Australia, a sovereign parliament, the warring tribes will never be pacified, and there will be no peace in this country. Until the people cease wearing short-sighted spectacles, which cause them to take the toes of their boots for the horizon, there can be no end to the turmoil, misunderstanding and loss which must and do result from the present lack of balance in the Constitution. I would remind my friends, the producers of exportable primary commodities, of that fact, because I take leave to doubt whether, in the past, they have lent support to the policy of Labour in respect of the enfranchisement of the Australian people, and the giving to them of a sovereign parliament. People who, in the past., have neglected this duty on theoretic grounds, and now find on practical grounds that they have done the wrong thing, and followed a mistaken course, must not be surprised if they are left to “ stew a while in their own juice “.
– Is that what the Labour party is going to do with us - “ leave us to stew in our own juice “ ?
– Is the right honorable gentleman one of them? I thought that he was a distinguished medical practitioner. The reason is, not that we so desired or intended, but entirely that they have promoted the conditions under which they now suffer. Because of what must inevitably prove to be the impossible division of authority between the Commonwealth and the States, we have to take the situation as we find it. We have to be practical-minded. It is idle for us to hope for a moment that we can induce this Parliament and the majority arrayed against us, to. adopt even now the sane policy of a free Constitution for the Australian people. We have to accept the Constitution with all its lack of balance, all its impedimenta, all its difficulties and all its ultimate impossibilities, and ask ourselves : In these conditions, what effect is this proposed amendment likely to have, in the first place, upon the Commonwealth, and, secondly, upon the States as they are constituted at present. First. therefore, let us consider the effect of this proposed amendment upon the Commonwealth. Let us assume that we know what “marketing” means, not in the dictionary sense, but in the legal sense, the sense in which it will be expounded in due course before the Privy Council. Let us assume that we know where marketing begins, where it ends, and what constitutes its body. Let us assume, for example, that we have answered satisfactorily the questions: Does it include licensing; does it include road transport; does it include harbour and wharf regulations; and does it include a score of other things? Assuming for the moment that we have cleared away these nebulae - in fact, they have still to be cleared away - let us take the viewpoint of the Commonwealth. The Attorney-General says that the proposition in the bill is, “ As you were “, or, at least, “ As you thought you were as my leader puts it - “Let us get back to the status quo”. The honorable gentleman ventured to say - I do not know whether, on more mature deliberation, he has amended or corrected the view that he then expressed - that that is the effect of this proposed amendment of the Constitution; that it brings us back to where we believed we were in the pre-James period. I submit that that statement is entirely wide of the fact. The honorable gentleman stated that, in McArthur v. the Slate of Queensland, the High Court offered a certain view as to the position of section 92 in the scheme of the Constitution. I do not pretend to a precise understanding of this pedantry of the difference between offering a view and giving a decision in such circumstances, but I do know that the law, as laid down in the Mc Arthur rase, established principles which have been acted upon by this Parliament for a period of fifteen years or thereabouts. Tf the amendment which is now proposed was designed to establish the status quo, it would have been necessary simply to add, not the proposed new section which is now before this chamber, but merely the proviso. “ This sec- tion does not bind the Commonwealth”. That would have been clear and definite, and would have taken us back to the pre-James period. But the honorable gentleman has not done that; he has done something different, either more or less than that - one hardly knows. But we do know that the status quo went far beyond marketing. It is summed up in the following words, which I take from the judgment of the High Court in the McArthur case : -
The expression “ trade and commerce “ in section 92 includes all commercial dealings and accessory methods adopted to initiate, continue and effectuate movements of persons and things from State to State. It is not limited to the mere act of transportation over territorial frontiers. The words “ absolutely free “ in section 92 cannot be confined to pecuniary enactments oi customs laws, but must have their natural meaning of absolute freedom from every sort of impediment, regulation or control by the States with respect to trade, commerce and intercourse between them.
It is true that some dicta in the Vizzard case go far to undermine this wide concept of the implications of section 92, tout the fact is that the view of the law, as stated by the High Court in the McArthur case, was acted upon in the various marketing acts, referred to by the Attorney-General in bis speech, which have become invalid by the decision of the Privy Council in the James case. It follows that the present proposed amendment of the Constitution, covering only interstate marketing, will fall far short of the comprehensive powers implied and established >by the decision of the High Court in the McArthur case.
The proposed amendment purports to amplify the Commonwealth power by extending it to the point of taking in marketing, but, unfortunately, it is a point so vague and indefinite, and so difficult of determination, that, in the first place, it is entirely inadequate at its best, and on its widest construction. Secondly, this amendment will be a pivot of litigious argument, dispute and trouble quite equalling what honorable gentlemen on the Government side have brough’. upon us UP to the present time. Thirdly, it will involve a more or less arbitrary limitation of power in respect of all those matters covered by the term “ trade and commerce which are not marketing. Inadequacy and indefiniteness are qualities which condemn the bill entirely, from the point of view of the Labour party. It should be borne in mind that we who take the Australian view believe that a nation must have a sovereign parliament. Having that opinion, we also consider that this tinkering with the Constitution in the manner now proposed, which is calculated to discredit any appeal to the people later, is to be deplored. Sinister proposals of this kind would stand in the way of effective and useful amendments of the Constitution such as the Labour party considers should bc made. The passage of this bill would create in the minds of the people a psychology of futility and failure, and they would come to think that all proposals for amendments of the Constitution are as fatuous as this alteration now proposed by the Government and described by my leader as paltry.
I shall now consider the matter from the point of view of the States.
– The right honorable gentleman is interested; since he has been a member of this Parliament, he has created a number of new States - but only in his imagination. In putting the point of view of the States I include my own State, Victoria, which was the client of the Attorney-General when he argued this case before the Privy Council, appearing, as I pointed out on a former occasion, for two clients with conflicting interests. From the States’ point of view, the proposed new section would enable any Commonwealth Parliament to prohibit and destroy all interstate marketing of any product. For example, it could pass a law prohibiting the marketing interstate of coal, sugar, timber, potatoes, boots or fruit. Such a law would be valid under section 51 (.1), because it would deal with interstate trade and commerce, and because section 92 will no longer restrain it, as it does by the decision of the Privy Council in the James case.
– Did not the honorable member suggest that the Government could have achieved its object by merely inserting a proviso that section 92 should not bind the Commonwealth? “Would not the effect be the same if that amendment were made?
– I did not advocate such a proposal. I merely said that, if the Attorney-General desired to establish the status quo, as he said he did, the proper way was to add a proviso that section 92 did not bind the Commonwealth; but I am not submitting that as a proposed amendment of the Constitution.
– If this Parliament had full powers over trade and commerce, the effect would be the same.
– That is quite possible; but I am not now proceeding to elaborate the full effects of the comprehensive amendments favoured by the Labour party. We suggest that there should be a sovereign Parliament, with powers delegated to subordinate bodies for subordinate purposes, and within limited areas, those bodies having their own revenues, as in the case of municipal and county councils and similar bodies, which are now doing excellent work in the various cities and country districts of Australia, without any argument as to their constitutional power and without any heart-burning as to an invasion of their sovereign rights. As the amendment proposed under this bill would enable the Commonwealth Parliament to pass laws prohibiting the marketing interstate of such commodities as coal, sugar, timber, potatoes, boots, and fruit, surely State governments, which are jealous of their State rights, should realize that they are asked to give away. Such laws might destroy important industries in New South Wales. They might greatly hamper interstate trade in New South Wales coal, Queensland sugar, Western Australian timber, Victorian boots, South Australian fruits and Tasmanian potatoes. It is even questionable whether the interstate sale of newspapers could not be limited or prohibited under the proposed alteration.
The question does not arise a3 to whether the Labour party is, or is not, in sympathy with those who are carrying on the dried fruits and other industries associated with primary production. As I remarked at the outset, I say in conclusion, that the Labour party has made its attitude clear in regard to the generous support which it is prepared to give to those industries. If it thought that the proposed alteration was of such a character that it would do with certainty what it was suggested it could and would do-
– It would make the present legislation effective again, immediately.
– If the Minister is sure as a legal authority on this matter, I am not prepared to argue with him about it; but I venture to disagree with him. “We have to look far beyond any existing legislation, or proposed legislative act, when it comes to an amendment of the Constitution. The Constitution should not be lightly amended in minor detail.. I think that the Leader of the Opposition said on one occasion - and I .adopt his sentiment - that the Constitution should not be lightly amended every time a decision of a competent court of this or another country makes a declaration out of harmony with the wishes and intentions of this Parliament. Such amendments should be very carefully considered, and should be based on a substantial need, having application to all, or at least a majority, of the people of the Commonwealth. They should not be put in the same category as amendments to an act of Parliament, as is done in the present bill. I point out, also, that the Government has certainly attempted no exploration of means to effect the purpose which it has in view without the tremendous loss and confusion incidental to a referendum for an alteration of the Constitution. I submit that the Government has given no evidence of exploration of any of these matters other than the statement by the Attorney-General in his second-reading speech when the bill was printed and circulated and he had burned his boats, that the method of bounty and excise, though practicable and open for the purpose, was not to his mind entirely satisfactory. And so we have come to the stage of ah appeal to the people at huge expense. After all, the expense involved, in terms of actual cash, is only a minor detail compared with the confusion incidental to an appeal to the people by way of referendum. As one who has been, from the inception of federation, a supporter of ample and full powers for the Commonwealth and a properly balanced Constitution with the Commonwealth Parliament at the head, I could not think of accepting this proposed tinkering with the Constitution to serve this special purpose. I do not oppose the suggested alteration, merely because it proposes to secure artificial prices for certain country products at the expense of my industrial supporters, because we who represent city and industrial electorates have previously taken the risk of supporting legislation of this kind with the knowledge that our work people would have to pay for it. The Labour party supported the marketing proposals for the butter industry, in which the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Paterson) is especially interested. My opposition to this bill is not alone because the Commonwealth is not giving anything to the industrialists in seeking this power to control industry, or does nothing in regard to the fixation of general prices ; it is not entirely because of things left undone. I would not take that narrow view. Honorable members know that I supported the 1926 proposals for the amendment of the Constitution because they were substantial and logical, though insufficient. As a matter of fact the Government of -the day consulted the party of which I wa» a member and I subsequently attended a conference with members of the Government for the purpose of making those amendments worth while. But nothing of the kind has occurred on this occasion, because the proposed alteration is so inadequate and doubtful in character that possibly and even probably uncertainty and litigation will follow; because of its narrowness it is, as my leader has said, trifling; and because it fails to treat seriously a big Australian question, and is calculated to discredit any honest movement to give to Australia a truly effective Constitution, I shall vote against the bill.
– I am quite ready to concede to the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) the quality of consistency in regard to the important subject of constitutional reform because, many years ago, he was one of three members of the Labour party who supported me in an attempt to summon a consti- tutional convention to consider the general subject of constitutional revision. On a subsequent occasion, as the honorable member has said, he acted in collaboration -with members of the BrucePage Ministry in an endeavour to secure some constitutional amendment which would secure unanimous approval in this House. Although I am prepared to concede his consistency in that regard, I am not prepared, nor have I any desire to follow the legal subtleties in which he has indulged during his speech this afternoon. No matter how much the position may be rendered obscure by a plethora of words, there is no question that, if the Constitution alteration proposed in this bill is adopted by this Parliament and is carried by a majority of the people in a majority of the States, legislation regarding butter, dried fruits and wheat that is now on the statute-book of the Commonwealth, will immediately and automatically again become valid and effective. In these circumstances, I a.m surprised that the Leader of the Opposition should describe the proposed alteration as a paltry one. Surely a proposal designed to permit the continuance of a system of organized marketing in the butter industry, which has been worth £6,000,000 to the dairy producers of Australia during the last two years and £25,000,000 during the last eight or nine years, cannot be dismissed as a paltry one. On the purchasing power of the primary producers of Australia depend the wages and constant employment of the city workers. Honorable members deride that statement, but surely no one who has gone through the depression during the last six years, and has known that 33 per cent, of the members of registered trade unions, although anxious and willing to work, were unemployed because of the collapse of prices of the primary products in the markets of the world, can doubt the truth of what I say. If the prices of Australian primary products are reduced there is a corresponding diminution of the amount of work available for city workers. We are constantly subjected to gibes regarding the wages paid by the primary producers of Australia, but although Labour governments have been in office time after time in the various States they have found it impracticable to lay down any prescribed rates for rural workers even under the conditions which existed before section 92 was held by the Privy Council to render Commonweolth and State marketing schemes invalid. What chance is there of decent wages being paid in the primary industries when members of the Opposition, by their action on this question, seek to deny to the primary producers an opportunity to secure an organized marketing scheme, while, at the same time, the workers, whom they claim to represent, are protected by industrial laws and manufacturers are protected by the tariff, and have, in addition, a Tariff Board to ensure that the returns which they get from their industry shall cover the costs of production and leave a reasonable margin of profit? The Leader of the Opposition has said, in effect, that his party will not assist in any attempt to place primary producers in a position to pay decent wages until the industrial millenium has been achieved by conferring upon the Commonwealth complete industrial power. Everybody knows that that is only a will-o’-the-wisp. Whether complete industrial power be enjoyed by the Commonwealth or the States, or by both together, the mere regulation of industry and wages will not ensure the prosperity of the country; prosperity can come only from profitable production. That must be the first and essential condition. AM that is now asked is that the Labour party shall join hands with the Government in an attempt to bring about an immediate alteration of the state of affairs that has arisen as a result of the Privy Council’s judgment, so that the primary producers may be enabled to obtain immediate relief from the clangers arising from the. complete destruction of the organization under which they have been operating. In respect of the industrial power, all that members of the Opposition ask is the abolition of overlapping jurisdictions. The only trouble is that there are so many blankets on the bed of the industrialists that they suffer from an overlapping of jurisdictions, but the primary producer has no blanket at all on his bed. As the AttorneyGeneral pointed out, by reason of the decision of the Privy Council, there is a gap which neither the Commonwealth nor the States can fill to enable the primary producers to organize and secure a better price for their products. But honorable members opposite, who claim to represent the workers of Australia, are unwilling to concede to primary producers this elementary and fundamental right. They refuse to assist the Government to take action to validate existing marketing legislation which concerns three of the great primary industries of Australia - butter, dried fruits, and wheat. “What countries are the competitors of Australia in the world markets in respect of those products? In regard to butter, Australia’s greatest competitors ure Denmark, Latvia, Finland, and Russia; and if our dairy farmers are given no opportunity to regulate and organize the sale of their product in Australia, they will be forced to accept for the whole of their production a price based on world parity, which is determined by the lowest-paid exporting country in the world. Northern America, Argentina, Bulgaria, and Roumania are our principal competitors in the wheat markets of the world. Some time ago, when the Government endeavoured to secure a homeconsumption price for wheat by the imposition of an excise duty on flour, honorable members opposite opposed it; now they oppose the only other means whereby a home-consumption price for wheat can be achieved. Our principal competitors in the world’s market for dried fruits are Turkey and Greece. Honorable members opposite are content to condemn the primary producers of Australia to active unequal competition with the people of those countries.
– What about Empire trade?
– Organized marketing in the dried fruits industry has made possible the obtaining of a reasonable price for Australian dried fruits in overseas markets; it has enabled the Commonwealth to present a ease to the Imperial Government and the Governments of Canada and New Zealand, by reason of which we get a penny per lb. more for our product than would otherwise have been received. By reason of the British duty of 15s. a cwt. on foreign butter, we have been able to get a better price than we would otherwise have got on the London market.- Those prices would not have been possible, however, but for the marketing organizations. What is the history of efforts at constitutional reform? The first proposals for alteration of the Constitution were brought down by the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) 26 years ago. They were fundamental alterations such as are suggested now by the Labour party; but though they were submitted to the people six or seven times in one form or another during the last 26 years, they have never been approved by the people. Do honorable members opposite say that the primary producers should wait another 26 years before being able to organize their marketing? The primary producers know that unless a remedy is found for their difficulties within three months the whole of their marketing organizations will crash and their purchasing power for city products will be gone. Yet honorable members opposite say that the producers should wait. When the Scullin Government was in office it had the opportunity to deal with this matter in the way in which members of the Opposition suggest that it should be dealt with at the present time. They actually placed a placard before the people of Australia indicating what they were prepared to do. The measure they brought to Parliament, and which was passed in this chamber, indicated that they were prepared to revolutionize completely our systems of government, both Federal and State; hut they were prevented from passing the bill by the action of a hostile Senate, and then they did nothing more.
– And the senators were the Minister’s friends !
– The position that arose on that occasion was foreseen by the founders of the federation, who with great prescience provided in section 128 of the Constitution that if either House of the Parliament passes, by an absolute majority, any law for the taking of a referendum for the alteration of the Constitution - and the other House rejects or fails to pass it or passes it with any amendment to which the first-mentioned House will not agree. and if after an interval of three months the first-mentioned House in the same or the next suasion again passes the proposed law by an absolute majority- it may be submitted to the electors for their consideration. The Labour party, which is now making such protestation of its virtues on this issue, but is, in fact, seeking to deny elementary justice to the producers of Australia, brought a measure for a constitutional alteration before this House of the Parliament in 1930 and it was passed on the 10th April. After the bill had been defeated by the Senate, it could have been passed by this House a second time by the 10th August, of that year, but, in fact, nothing was done. That Labour Government remained in office for two years, but it did not take any further steps to give effect to its policy for the alteration of the Constitution. That bill was clearly a political placard just as is the amendment which the Leader of the Opposition has moved this afternoon.
– What about the right honorable member’s new States proposal ?
– I do not intend to suffer any gibes from honorable gentlemen opposite on this subject, for I am not ashamed of my history in regard to constitutional reform, as it has always been progressive and consistent. Pro:’posals for the alteration of the Constitution have been submitted to the people on eight occasions. The Deakin Government submitted three proposals, the Hughes Government also submitted three, and two were submitted by the Bruce-Page Government. It is interesting to note that one of the two submitted by the Bruce-Page Government was endorsed. That is a better average than can be boasted by any other government. A majority of the people in each State of the Commonwealth voted in favour of it. If the Labour party would face this issue with a national outlook, I feel sure that the marketing proposal the Government is now submitting would also be Approved by a majority of the people in each State.
– Why does not the right honorable gentleman take a national view of this issue?
– I repeat that I shall take no gibes from the Labour party on this subject, because time and time again when it has been asked to regard proposals for the alteration of the Constitution as being of national and not merely party concern the Labour party has declined to do so. In 1926, the Bruce-Page Government appealed to the Labour party to co-operate in the appointment of a non-party committee to consider the Constitution in a general way, but it refused to do so. Subsequently that Government intimated that it intended to appoint a royal commission to examine the Constitution on a non-party basis, and it asked the Federal Labour party to nominate members, but it was met with a definite refusal. Thank God, however, not all Labour men were at that time recreant to their national duty, for Messrs. McNamara and Duffy, prominent members of the Labour party, agreed to become members of the commission which subsequently presented its views to the Government in a voluminous and valuable report. Again and again Mr. Hughes tried to obtain agreement by all parties to the setting up of a national convention to consider the Constitution, but very few of the honorable members opposite would agree to that course. I believe that only the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan), the then honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Cunningham) and the then honorable member for Darling (Mr. Considine) supported the proposal. Now, however, when honorable gentlemen opposite are asked to take steps to deal with a condition of emergency that has arisen and threatens the complete collapse of the marketing arrangements of the primary producers engaged in the dairying and dried fruits industries, they are not prepared to do so. They calmly say that they prefer to wait until the constitutional millenium can be ushered in.
Parliament should look at this subject in its true perspective, and deal with it as one of emergency. Then when the time is opportune, consideration can be given to other desired amendments of the Constitution. As all honorable members know, my colleague, the honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson) and I have sought year in and year out to have set up a non-party body to consider the Constitution comprehensively, but so far we have met with little success.
It is illuminating to consider the history of the success and failure of the various proposals submitted to the people for the alteration of the Constitution. Such proposals have been put forward on very different bases from time to time. Sometimes the proposals have dealt with a number of issues in a comprehensive way and at other times with only one issue, Sometimes they have been submitted to the people at an election and at other times apart from an election. But it has been demonstrated that the only effective way to submit issues like this to the people is to state them separately and as simply as possible so that their full import may be grasped. That was done in connexion with the financial agreement referendum, and the procedure was amply justified.
– But the Government will not he able to trip the people again.
– The people knew what they were voting on at that time, for the procedure proposed had actually been in operation. Similarly, the marketing procedure in respect of which the Government is now taking the initial step3 to obtain the approval of the people is also well understood, for it has been in operation for the last sixteen years. In spite of the fact that every State legislature has helped to implement, and in fact initiate, the scheme which the Government now desires to establish as proper constitutional procedure, and the additional fact that such measures have been introduced by governments of varying political views there are Jeremiahs alleging that grave risks are being taken. On the one hand it is said that an attempt is being made to sovietize our industries, and on the other, that control is sought to be given to only one section. It is well known that when an attempt was made some years ago to obtain for the Commonwealth full power over trade, commerce and industry, those antagonistic to the proposals raised all kinds of bogeys with the result that the amendments were defeated. It was said that we were taking a leap into the unknown, and fears were encouraged that disaster would overtake the country. We should not subject ourselves to similar risks on this occasion. During the last decade or so the Commonwealth Parliament has from time to time passed bills dealing with the three industries chiefly affected by the recent decision of the Privy Council, and the State parliaments have also co-operated in setting up adequate marketing machinery; so surely we are not asking too much of honorable members opposite when we suggest that they should solidly support the proposals of the Government, which are simply to validate that legislation. The measures to which I have already referred were, so far as I remember, carried on the voices on every occasion in both Commonwealth and State parliaments, or by large majorities. It may be said, therefore, that in asking the people to endorse a continuance of the procedure to which we have become accustomed we are taking a reasonable course. It has been suggested that if the people approve of the alteration of the Constitution now proposed an unlimited charter will be given to the primary producers to exploit the consumers of Australia.
– Hear, hear!
– Honorable members opposite make no bones about affording the highest possible protection to the secondary industries of this country, but are not willing, apparently, to assist the primary producers. The consumer are safeguarded by reason of the fact that the price of primary products cannot be increased unduly in Australia, for if it becomes higher than the price at which similar products of other countries can be imported the people will, of course, buy the imported goods. The tariff protection really determines the highest price at which primary products can be sold, as is also the case with manufactured or partly manufactured goods.
– The right honorable gentleman is now advancing a very roundabout argument.
– I am stating the real position. The lack of organiza- tion in our primary industries would enable the price of the products of other countries to be the factor governing the returns to our own producers. The primary producers have shown by their conduct that they are prepared to do more than a fair thing by the people of this country. lt is well known that in the last two years the price of Australian butter on the London market has often been higher than on the local market but the dairy-farmers did not seek to increase the price of butter in Australia. This showed clearly that they were prepared to deal fairly with the consumers of this country. I appeal to honorable members of the Labour party to support the proposal which the Government is now making, not only in the interests of the primary producers, but also in the interests of every section of the community. I ask them not to adopt a sectional attitude on this issue.
– The Minister is doing so.
– That is not so. In consequence of the decision of the Privy Council our exporting industries, whether primary or secondary, have been deprived of all protection. The industrialists enjoy protection by means of Arbitration Court awards, and the manufacturers by reason of the tariff, but the primary producers have been bereft of all protection. I sincerely trust that after the warmth of this debate has cooled, as no doubt it will do during the next few days, it will be possible for the members of this Parliament to go to the country, as they did in 1926, as a united body with the object of obtaining from the people the additional power necessary to enable this Parliament to legislate effectively for the protection of our primary producers, and to restore the position that existed prior to the Privy Council decision in the James case.
.- The difficulty in which the Government finds itself at the moment in its endeavours to give effect to its policy is a difficulty which has probably confronted every government that has endeavoured to give effect to its election promises. As a matter of principle I regret that the
Privy Council, a judicial body outside the Commonwealth, still possesses the power to overrule what I regard as the only competent Commonwealth authority, this Parliament. But while we are bound by our present Constitution, which provides for a division of sovereign powers between the Commonwealth and State governments, such difficulties as we are now facing must inevitably arise. Personally, looking at it as a case of the end justifying the means, I believe that the decision of the Privy Council has been beneficial to a degree to a large section of the Australian people. The National Parliament should mirror the national viewpoint on all major questions, and should not do what this Government asks it to do, namely, appeal to the people to sanction constitutional amendments which only provide for rectifying grievances of a section of the community to the detriment of the larger section. In introducing this bill, the AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Menzies) said that it was difficult to give any adequate definition of the term “marketing”, and with him I agree; hut, if it is difficult to give an adequate definition of “ marketing “, it is much more difficult to give a satisfactory definition of the term “ orderly marketing”. Governments have made a practice of clouding the real issues to the people, in respect of both direct statutes of this Parliament and proposals submitted by referenda. As an instance of that, I recall the question submitted to the people by referendum at the time the Commonwealth Government required an extension of Commonwealth powers by the adoption of the Financial Agreement. Had the people of the States realized then just what adverse effects that extension of federal powers would have on the activities of progressive governments in the States which wanted to carry out national undertakings, and were hampered in doing so by the operation of the financial agreement and the activities of the Loan Council, I daresay they would have voted emphatically in the negative. After having had experience of the operation of that amendment of the Constitution, I have no hesitation in saying that, if the ‘Commonwealth Government were to re-su’bmit it to the people, it would be rejected by an overwhelming majority. When the Government talks about orderly marketing, it proposes to place in the hands of a particular section of the community direct control, not only of the industry itself, but also of the marketing or sale of its product. How will that operate? If the producers were satisfied with the prices that they were receiving at the moment, there would be no talk of an amendment of the Constitution to enable the setting up of an orderly marketing system; the amendment has been demanded because the primary producers are dissatisfied with the returns they are receiving. They therefore propose to have inaugurated a scheme which they call “ orderly marketing,” but which is really a scheme to give them absolute power over every member of the community - even over persons who may be engaged in the same industry and who do not favour the proposal - to control and determine exactly how they will place and market their goods, what proportion shall be sold on the home market, and what proportion shall be exported, in order to exploit the workers by compelling them to pay higher prices for their every-day wants. I was amused to hear the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) talk about the primary producers having made the largest and most important contribution towards helping this country out of the depression. Indeed, it is news to me that we are out of the depression ; certainly it would be difficult to convince the under-paid workers and those who are still unemployed that the depression is over. If the carrying out of marketing schemes means that the unemployed, because of the raising, by artificial means, of the prices of their every-day wants, will get less in return for the dole coupons which are handed out to them to-day by the State governments, they will not be satisfied that the schemes make for the general well-being of the people. Both the Prime Minister and the Attorney-General said that the primary industries must be assisted. As a matter of fact, every honorable member supporting the Government has said: tl This is an urgent matter. Parliament must take immediate action to remove the constitutional difficulties in order that, these schemes may continue to operate.” The Commonwealth Government has expressed approval of certain other matters of public policy, such as the 40-hour week; but has said that constitutional difficulties are in the way of the establishment of a shorter working week. If those constitutional difficulties do exist, it is remarkable that the Government has not shown the same celerity in coming forward with a proposal for their removal in order to accelerate a reform in which it professes to believe.
– And it is equally as urgent as the marketing amendment.
– Yes. If the Government believes what it professes to believe, why has it not sought to obtain the additional constitutional powers necessary to give effect to a shorter working week in every industry throughout the length and breadth of Australia? In this matter I am not merely concerned with the workers in urban districts. If a man works in the country, whether directly in primary industry or not, I consider his needs to he of equal importance to the needs of those employed in secondary industries. These marketing schemes will not assist the small producer, although he may imagine for the moment that they are devised for his benefit. To carry the principle to its logical conclusion, the boards which will be established to carry out the schemes will have to use powers given to them by this Parliament to restrict production. I recall that when this Parliament was discussing the wheat industry and the report of the royal commission set up to examine that industry, it was said that one of the tasks that the industry had to undertake, was the elimination of uneconomic production. The uneconomic producer will be the small producer who has not, by reason of his financial circumstances, been able to buy the most efficient machinery or to adopt most efficient means of production. He will be put out of the industry in order that the larger producer will be able to reap the benefit of the various marketing schemes. If that were not so, owing to the protection that these schemes afford, we should find that there would be an expansion of production, and if that occurred, what would the Government or the boards set up by it do to deal with the new problem? “What would be done with the surplus production?
– It would be destroyed.
– That is true. It would have to be destroyed. The only alternative to destruction of the surplus crops would be to ship greater quantities overseas, and to dispose of the produce at whatever prices could be obtained, and then raise the prices on the home market to compensate the growers for the losses sustained in oversea trading. If protection of primary industries by means of the “ orderly marketing “ schemes does not mean that, then it must mean that the production in this country will be restricted. Yet members not long ago said that they did not believe in a policy of restricting production. My views probably are not in agreement with the views of honorable members opposite but I contend that the problems of this, country should be dealt with, not by pandering to sectional interests, but by preparing a plan for complete economic reconstruction. With a system of orderly marketing an investigation of the exact requirements of the markets to be served is the first essential. Having ascertained the requirements of the markets, the industry would be organized under Government control to meet them.
– The weather would also have to be organized.
– My honorable friend probably believes that the Government should render every assistance to primary industry to enable it to get an adequate return for its produce. But we on this side of the House differ from the Country party as to what constitutes an adequate return. The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) believes an adequate return for the worker in industry is the lowest wage that he can be forced to accept, but, in respect of the primary producer, every means should be exploited so that he shall have opportunity to force the sale of his product on the Australian market at whatever price he determines. I heard the Prime Minister say that every other section of the community has an opportunity to protect itself and also “that the workers had the opportunity to go to the arbitration courts. As a matter of fact, when the worker approaches an arbitration court he is exposed to the attacks of those who are opposed to him. Instead of having their wants and requirements met the workers are continually placed on the defensive, because of the biased attitude of those who preside over the courts. When the arbitration courts are determining what is an adequate return for the labour of the workers, what do those courts and the judges who preside over them and the eminent lawyers who attend on behalf of the employers, do?
– Order! The honorable member will not be in order in criticizing the judiciary.
– I am discussing the methods of the wage tribunals. The court does not seek to ascertain what is required to allow the workers to live normal lives as citizens; it asks for evidence as to what is the minimum wage that will give them a bare existence in the country, so that their portion of the wealth created by their labour shall be the smallest possible, in order to give the maximum return to those who live on the unearned increment. The courts’ discuss minute details as to the clothing necessary for a worker. They decide how long a suit of clothes, or an overcoat, or other article of apparel should last a worker or his wife, or his family. They determine that he shall live in the humblest of dwellings. The workers produce all the wealth of the land ; yet, according to the courts, they must subsist on ‘the bare minimum necessary to maintain them in health sufficient to enable them to continue to produce the wealth enjoyed by those who employ them. No one would object to the primary producers enjoying good conditions, if similar conditions were enjoyed by other sections of the community. I should like to know from members of the Country party who are bound to follow me in this debate exactly what price levels for primary products must be reached before the primary industry can provide adequate wages for its employees. To-day the producer of wheat is getting as much as 5s.1d. a bushel for his product, but I have yet to hear any member of the Country party advocate the payment of the basic wage to those who grow, garner, and lump the wheat. As a matter of fact when the Labour Government of New South Wales instituted the rural award and passed the Hut Accommodation Act and did everything possible by legislative enactment, including the passage of the Workers Compensation and Family Endowment Acts, to protect the workers, its reforms were bitterly opposed on the ground that they were imposing, on primary industries, a burden which they could not bear. Notwithstanding that attitude, the parties opposite contend now that, as the Australian market is small, the surplus production must be shipped overseas; and because the producers will have to accept lower prices on the world’s markets, they should be assisted , by a direct contribution out of the pockets of the Australian consumers. I ask the Minister for Commerce (Dr. Earle Page) what has happened to the Empire preference scheme? It has been said that the principal consideration in these questions should be the maintenance of the Empire and the closer union of its component parts. Yet, because under the existing chaotic system of production and distribution, there is no alternative, the Imperial Government has been compelled to reject every scheme submitted to it for protecting the price of Australian commodities in the British market. Britain does not sell the whole of the output of its factories within the Empire, but disposes of a considerable proportion in the markets of the world, where British manufactures have to compete with the products of other nations. If Britain were to pay more than world prices for Australian commodities, its own costs of production would automatically increase, with the result that British goods would be at a disadvantage compared with those of other nations. I do not complain of what Britain has done in this connexion because whilst capitalism remains it has no alternative; but I do complain that those who speak most of Empire preference in order to influence public opinion, in actual performance know no division of colour or race where profits are concerned. They will sell just as readily to a Chinese or a Japanese consumer as to one of their own nationality, and will buy freely from producers in low-wage countries if, by so doing, they themselves reap an advantage.
I am of the opinion that this national Parliament should be the only sovereign Parliament, and that the States should no longer have the power to initiate legislation to deal with marketing and such matters. The organization of the economic life of this country should be vested solely in the Commonwealth Parliament. The Government is trying to induce the Labour party to support an amendment of the Constitution on the plea that, because that party believes in unification, it should be prepared to support any proposal which it is claimed tends in that direction. Prom a Labour point of view, I see danger in removing constitutional grievances from various sections of the community by a piecemeal process, because thereby the abolition of the sovereign powers of the States may be made impossible. If those selfish primary producers who put their own interests ‘before the interests of the nation are given what they ask for, as they will be if we pass this bill, they will probably, having satisfied their own requirements in this direction, oppose further amendments of the Constitution to benefit the workers. The way to bring about unification is not to pander to sectional interests, but to submit the whole question of making the Commonwealth Parliament the sovereign legislative authority in this country to the people for their determination.
– Is the Labour party still in favour of unification?
– The Labour party believes that the Commonwealth Parliament should be the sole authority in this country with sovereign powers, and that local authorities should be empowered to deal “with local matters.
– The honorable member has not answered my question.
– My time under the Standing Orders is so limited that I should probably not be able to explain the position to the honorable member. If the Commonwealth Parliament were made the sole governing authority in Australia, there would be unification, even if it delegated some of its powers to another body. The delegation of authority to subordinate bodies is not in- consistent with unification. The Labour party has never suggested that there should be only one direct controlling authority and that centred at Canberra. It believes in the delegation of limited powers to local governing bodies.
The Prime Minister appealed for action of a non-party character, but I am not likely to be led away by his sophistry. Society is so constructed that it consists of two classes, and it is not possible to consider subjects in a nonparty atmosphere. Whenever artificial stimulus is given to increase the income of one section of the community by taking the additional amount required out of the pockets of consumers, it must re-act to the detriment of other sections. It will be time enough to take non-party action when the causes of class distinctions in society have been removed. There can never be agreement between the exploiter and those whom he exploits, and, therefore, the Labour party is not likely to fall into the trap set by the Prime Minister.
– In what class would the honorable member place .the wheatfarmers in the Wimmera?
– If the honorable member refers to those Wimmera wheatfarmers who sit in this Parliament, and accept a wheat bounty in addition to their parliamentary allowances, I reply that I place them among the exploiters; but I include those other wheat-farmers who work their own. farms among those who are entitled to adequate recompense for their labour. Unfortunately, there is a tendency to regard as primary producers those persons who have invested their capital in primary industries, and live on the labour of others. They should be included among the exploiters. To those who till and sow the land and garner the harvest the Country party would deny decent living conditions, workmen’s compensation, family endowment and rural awards on the ground that the burden on industry would be too great. Primary producers who need assistance should approach the Arbitration Court, as the workers are forced to do, and have their claim investigated. Despite the findings of the royal com mission on the wheat industry, some honorable members of this House claim that there should not be any discrimination between primary producers when assistance is being given to primary industries. They were not willing that the assistance should be confined to those with no assessable income. When an amendment designed to exclude members of Parliament from the benefits of certain legislation was moved in this chamber some time ago it was opposed by those who, in respect of- other relief, contended that it should be given only to those in need. The determining factor was the power which certain honorable members who represented greedy interests exercised over the Government. I agree with those who say that any marketing scheme which regulates the -price of Australian products will eventually increase the price of foodstuffs in Australia. I am not prepared to support any scheme which will place the workers of this country in a relatively worse position than formerly.
– Then why support the tariff?
– When the Labour party endeavoured to have incorporated in tariff legislation passing through this Parliament a provision to ensure that the workers in industry should have decent conditions and reasonable wages, the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) opposed it. Great as is the honorable member’s antagonism to a high tariff, and much as he hates those in control of secondary industries, his hatred of the workers is much more intense. He is not prepared to protect from exploitation those who produce the wealth of this country. As to the contention of the Minister for Commerce (Dr. Earle Page), that cheap labour will improve the conditions of the people of this country, I should like to know whether the right honorable gentleman thinks that the workers of this country are now in receipt of the maximum rates that they can expect. If that be his view, it will not find enthusiastic support among the workers, nor will they be willing that the present Government shall continue in office. The people will take the first opportunity to turn the present Government out of office, and place in power one which is prepared to make the necessary constitutional alterations to ensure that justice is done for all sections of the community, and not for one section only. When that Happens, every section worthy of assistance will be able to receive it. Labour has never professed, and I hope it never will profess, to represent every section of the community. It does claim, however, to represent every section which gives useful service to the nation, including all producers, whether they be primary or secondary. Labour maintains, however, that when tha primary producers claim assistance from the community, they should be ready in their turn to concede to others some of the benefits which they demand for themselves. The scheme now before us makes no provision for ensuring that this shall be done. We know, as a matter of fact, that the Government is not anxious that it should. It has stated quite definitely that the scheme does not propose to extend the existing powers of the Commonwealth Parliament, but merely gives power to validate certain agreements between the States and the Commonwealth. If the Government be really anxious to further the interests of all sections of the community, as it has claimed, this is its opportunity. A few years ago, the Commonwealth Government then in office used its authority under the Financial Agreement to force its will on the State Government of New South Wales.
– The honorable member’s remark is out of order.
– I was dealing with agreements between the Commonwealth and the States, and whether or not such agreements could operate effectively. The Attorney-General said that the putting into effect of the proposals now before us would merely give the Commonwealth Parliament power to validate certain agreements between the Commonwealth and States. That being so, it is open to us to examine other agreements between the Commonwealth and the States in order to see how they have operated in the past. The Financial Agreement gave certain powers to the Commonwealth Parliament, and it exercised those powers in order to force its will on a State government.
– I have already told the honorable member that his remarks are irrelevant.
– I am seeking to disprove the statement of members of the Government that the effect of this proposed alteration will be to give relief to deserving sections of the community. The Prime Minister stated that, after the present proposals were carried, the Government would submit other amendments to the Constitution, which would have the effect of giving relief to sections of the community other than the primary producers. In order to determine whether or not the Prime Minister and the Government are sincere in this statement, it is necessary to trace the record of the Government in its dealings with the States with whom it has entered into agreement.
– The honorable member must obey my ruling.
– What is your ruling?
– I ruled that the honorable member’s remarks were irrelevant when he referred to what this Government, or another government, had done in regard to some matter that was not in any way related to the question now before the House.
– Having said as much on those lines as the Standing Orders, and your ruling, Mr. Speaker, will permit me, I wish now to express the hope that the Labour party will oppose this bill in the House, and will advise the workers in the cities and in the country to turn down the proposed alteration of the Constitution. It is not a proposal for orderly marketing, as has been claimed, but is one to validate a scheme to permit a section of the community to corner foodstuffs; to force up prices so that the workers shall have to pay more for foodstuffs than those foodstuffs will be sold for overseas. It is also a proposal for the continuation of an arrangement whereby the best of our foodstuffs is sent abroad, while that part which is not good enough for the overseas market is placed on the Australian market for home consumption, and the Australian consumer is forced to pay more for the second-grade goods than the overseas buyer pays for the firstgrade. Therefore, I hope that this pro- posal will be rejected. Honorable members opposite have said that there is disunity in the ranks of the Labour party regarding this matter. Judging from press reports and from conversations of Government supporters in the lobbies and elsewhere, there is certainly disunity in the ranks of honorable members opposite.
– It took the Government more than a month to make up its mind about this measure.
– That is so; it took a month to decide in what form this matter should be submitted to Parliament.. Those honorable members who believe that the Commonwealth should be supreme, and that all power should be vested in the Commonwealth Parliament, must necessarily support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition. Honorable members opposite have asked the Opposition to treat this subject in a non-party way. I retort by asking them to treat it in a non-sectional way, so that Parliament may be given power, not only to deal with the prices of commodities, hut also to fix the basic wage, and regulate industry generally. The fixing of the basic wage and the fixation of the maximum hours of labour should be removed from the authority of the Arbitration Court altogether. The men seated on the Bench of the Arbitration Court, unconsciously if not otherwise, must be biased, because it would be impossible for persons moving in the circles to which they are accustomed, and receiving the enormous salaries and allowances they receive–
– The honorable member must not reflect upon the judiciary in that way.
– It is not necessary to do so, because the position is understood. It may be said without hesitation that the workers never receive justice in the arbitration courts. What those courts decide, is not what an industry ought to pay its employees, but what, in their opinion, is the minimum tha<t the employees are prepared to accept. They examine the employment market, and if they see that there is extensive competition for the jobs available, so that a decision against the workers is not likely to engender strikes- and industrial up heaval, they always give their verdict against the workers.
– If the honorable member will not address his remarks strictly to the subject before the Chair. I shall have to order him to resume his seat.
– I bow to your ruling, Mr. Speaker, but urge those members of this Parliament who are fair-minded enough to want justice for every section of the community - and among them I do not include that wealthy exploiter, the honorable member for Grey (Mr. McBride)–
– Order ! The honorable member must withdraw that statement.
– Yes, I withdraw it, having made it.
– I again warn the honorable member.
– I withdraw the remark, seeing that you object to it, but surely the honorable member-
– The honorable member will resume his seat.
.- However much we must deplore the bitterness exhibited by the honorable member who has just sat down, we must at least recognize–
– I rise to a point of order. Is the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Hawker) in order in declaring that bitterness was infused into the debate by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) after you had taken such action in regard to the matter as you considered appropriate?
– The action taken by the Chair was in regard to what it considered offensive in the remarks of the honorable member for East Sydney. The reference to “bitterness” cannot be regarded as unparliamentary, the term being one which is frequently used. However, I ask the honorable member for Wakefield not to be personal, but to address his remarks strictly to the subject before the Chair.
– If honorable members opposite object to my suggesting that the fervour with which the honorable member for East Sydney expressed himself was due to personal feeling, I am glad to withdraw the statement, and leave it to the judgment of the House to say whether that fervour was due to strong feeling, or to some other motive. Certainly, I did not intend to be offensive to the honorable member. The honorable member for East Sydney spoke with great sincerity, and with very great frankness. He was absolutely open. There was no attempt to disguise the fact that his object, and that of those honorable members who are opposed to the bill, is to use the producers’” emergency in order to extend the overruling- powers of the central Parliament. I think he has expressed in another way what the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) referred to when he chided the Government with missing a “golden opportunity” to extend the powers of this Parliament in regard to matters other than those immediately concerning the present emergency of the primary producers. That attitude, whether adopted in this House, or outside it, is a very mean one. It is an effort to keep a section of the community in difficulty and misery so that their condition may be exploited for purposes not connected with their case at all. It is just as cruel in its way as the worst exploitation of wage-earners in the past. It is on a par with the importation into industrial centres of bodies of men so that working conditions may be depressed and the general misery exploited for the purpose of keeping down wages. As the result of the Privy Council’s decision in the James case the primary producers have been left as a section without means to organize for their own protection. Because it is composed of few units, big business is able to organize without having resort to that legislative backing which is essential in that direction to any industry concerned with thousands of individuals. As has been pointed out in this debate, the industrialist has legislative backing, through the tariff, to enable him to maintain his prices at a certain level, and, in turn, to pay a fair wage. Due to the recen depression, wages generally to-day are not as high as we would like, but they are as high as those paid at the present time in most countries. For this we can thank the tariff and our industrial tribunals, both Federal and State. These sec to it that the great majority, at any rate, of wage earners in Australia get a fair minimum wage. Even the largest primary industry, the pastoralist industry, has been able to maintain a certain degree of organization, and for that reason, it has been able, to a certain extent, to maintain economic stability, thus making it possible for industrial tribunals to apply awards in that industry. I remind the honorable member for East Sydney that since the very severe cuts were made from the wages of pastoral employees by the Commonwealth Arbitration Court in order to meet depression conditions, two restorations at least have been effected. I believe that that industry can well afford those restorations, and I am glad that they have been made, but I desire to see other rural industries placed in a position where those engaged in them, whether as employers or family farmers, can be enabled to live a life compatible with our general standard of living, and pay a reasonable wage to their employees. The dried fruits industry has been organized in that direction, with the result that workers engaged therein benefit from awards of industrial courts, but if something is not done through combined Federal and State legislative- action to safeguard the industry in its present emergency, and to see that it is not endangered, possibly as the result of the desire of honorable members opposite to exploit this emergency, it will find it exceedingly difficult to maintain reasonable wages. Although to a certain extent tribunals protect the decent employee from the man who tries to evade the law, wages are determined not so much by laws or awards, as by public opinion, which is the principal guarantee of decent wages and standards of living. As has been the case in respect of other industries, there has been a tendency in the period of depressed prices to engage nonunionists and immigrants from nonBritish countries to enter the dried fruits industry; because many of these are skilled orchard hands; but this development is not due to any malevolence on the part of orchardists. It is really attributable to hard times. Despite the assistance provided by this Parliament and State parliaments in recent years, conditions in this industry have been difficult, and if growers are now. forced to face a further reduction of their average price to the extent of 10 per cent, or more, many growers will be ruined, whilst those who survive will find it much more difficult to carry on, and the industry may have to be continued on a system of larger holdings. It may become less of a small-holding industry and more ‘of a large-scale capitalists’ industry. In this connexion I deplore the personal references which have been made to certain honorable members as employers of labour by some honorable members opposite. I am not intimate with the private affairs of the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. McClelland), but I know that in more than one year he refrained from applying for the wheat bounty, and I hope that the honorable member for East Sydney will take the earliest opportunity to withdraw his unjust remarks in this direction. Furthermore, I know from personal experience that the honorable member for Grey (Mr. McBride) is one of the best employers of station labour in Australia. I believe, however, that such remarks as I am now criticizing arise principally because heat is engendered into a debate.
I repeat that big business can organize itself. Wage-earners are protected by industrial laws to a certain extent, and industrialists are protected by the tariff, so it is only the myriads of small producers who cannot organize unless they have legislative backing from either the Federal or State Parliaments or those parliaments combined. I wholeheartedly support this measure. I greatly deplore any effort to exploit the difficult position in which the primary producers now find themselves in the professed interests of other sections of the community. If the dried fruits industry is confronted with further difficulties the producers directly concerned will not be the only sufferers. Any considerable fall of the income of any important industry always causes unemployment and diminishes purchasing power; it adversely affects, not only wage-earners engaged in the industries concerned, but also those in implement factories and railway and other employees. Such a development is invariably felt right throughout our economic system. The Minister for Com merce (Dr. Earle Page) has clearly pointed out that if our primary exporting industries are threatened with having their conditions forced down bit by bit to the level of the lowest standard of living in the country, it is not only a matter of vital concern to the producers themselves, but also affects the general standard of living in Australia. It was because of ruinous conditions arising in our primary industries that the depression spread to every town and hamlet in Australia. The producers,’ difficulty in that instance was due to the fact that they had to face such unfair competition from the products of Turks, Persians, and South Americans that they no longer had incomes, and by degrees misery, hardship, and ruin spread to the wage-earners and small business people in the cities and towns, and probably, in some instances, their effects exceeded those in rural areas. But that is no reason why the National Parliament should hesitate to prevent primary producing industries from facing r, collapse, which would result in trade depression, spreading from industry to industry, and, eventually, from State to State.
I fear the effect of granting full industrial powers to the Commonwealth more particularly because, in some of the States, industries are firmly established, the population is larger and the turnover extensive, whereas other States which are far removed from the centres where manufactured goods are marketed have transport difficulties and are deficient in power resources. In the more populous States old industries can be maintained and new industries established, but that is impracticable in other States less fortunately situated geographically. There have been instances in which wages and conditions imposed by the Commonwealth Arbitration Court have seriously handicapped industries in the weaker States to such an extent that they have almost been compelled to close a own. I know of a textile industry in my electorate which was working only one shift because of the application of a common rule. The difficulties experienced in some of the States should not be used to reduce the standard in States more favorably circumstanced, but the industrial organizations are sufficiently strong to see that the conditions prevailing in the weaker States are not much below the general standard. Fm that reason I should be very reluctant to assist in giving the Commonwealth Parliament full industrial power to legislate for the whole Commonwealth regardless of local conditions. The honorable member for East Sydney, who referred to our national obligations, considers only the large centres of population. If we are to hold Australia for the white race, development must take place in other than the south-eastern portion of the continent, and it is only by assuming responsibility for equalizing the conditions in the various States that the outlying portions can hope to have very much attention. Our experience has been, not of injustice at the hands of members of this Parliament, who represent the south-east of the continent, but of obliquity in their minds to the importance of development and seeing that the outlying parts get a chance of maintaining themselves and of making progress. If economic life is to be properly balanced there should be more rapid development in fertile districts far removed from densely populated centres. The records rf this Parliament show that particular attention is given to those subjects which vitally concern the larger States, but the people of Australia do not wish only the most fertile districts to be developed or to support the abrogation of the powers of smaller communities in order to aggrandize those of this Parliament. The adoption of tho proposed new section would not have the effect of aggrandizing the powers of this Parliament. Honorable members opposite intend to oppose this proposal because they favour something more drastic, and, as the honorable member for East Sydney said, a more comprehensive proposal to provide for the economic reconstruction of the Commonwealth. But a majority of the Australian people have very grave misgivings about conferring additional industrial powers upon this Parliament, and I commend the Attorney-General (Mr. Menzies) for bringing forward a proposal which should assuage any fears in the minds of intelligent people in that regard. If the proposed alteration is carried it will enable this Parliament to co-operate with the State governments in providing effective marketing schemes, and it will also be a safeguard against hasty, drastic legislation, which may have a serious effect upon industry. It will also be a definite safeguard against the weaker States being over-ruled by New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland. A great deal has been said by honorable members opposite to the effect that marketing legislation has left the consumers at the mercy of producers’ organizations. This Parliament has as much power to limit the protection afforded to the primary producers, who benefit under marketing legislation, as it has, under the tariff, to control the secondary production. A duty of 6d. a case is imposed by this Parliament on dried fruits, but up to the present the industry has not used more than 2d. of that amount. Do honorable members opposite believe that it is right that the consumers in this country should have produce grown under Australian conditions at London prices, or at London prices less the cost of overseas freight? If this Parliament does its duty it has ample power to do as it has in the past to sec that the consumers and other sections are not exploited.
Sitting suspended from 6. IS to 8 p.m.
.- The object of this bill is to alter the Constitution of the Commonwealth with respect to marketing, and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) has moved an amendment to the motion for the second reading as follows: -
That all the words after “That” be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words : - “ this House is of opinion that the proposed alteration of the Constitution is inadequate, and that the referendum costing approximately £100,000 Should have for its purpose such alteration of the Constitution as would grant to this Parliament wider and more comprehensive powers “.
With that amendment I am in complete concurrence. It is consistent with the attitude which has at all times been adopted by the Federal Labour party. In his excellent speech upon the second reading of the bill this afternoon, ‘ the Leader of the Opposition employed such pungent arguments to expose the shallow nature of the Government’s proposal, that the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) could offer nothing in the nature of an adequate reply. The right honorable gentleman merely sought to excuse himself from not facing up to the statements of the Leader of the Opposition by saying that nothing had been advanced which was deserving of a reply, and that he was satisfied to allow the honorable member’s speech to pass without much comment. Such a lamentably weak display on the I art of the right honorable gentleman proves conclusively the shallowness of the Government’s proposal, and only serves to bring out into greater prominence the convincing character of the speech of the Leader of the Opposition.
The speech of the Prime Minister was followed by a characteristic oration from the Minister for Commerce (Dr. Earle Page), who has had, unfortunately for himself, rather a troublesome history in regard to constitutional questions. As yet he has not explained to the House why he has shown a definite indifference towards the objective principally responsible for his entry into federal politics, which was to secure an alteration of the Constitution in order to provide for a wider allocation of powers to the Commonwealth and for the reconstitution of the States themselves. Almost from the moment he became a member of this chamber he displayed considerable reluctance to persevere with that objective. In his speech this afternoon he proceeded with characteristic methods which show a peculiar political complex in him, to play off the primary producer against the industrial worker, and endeavoured to make it appear that the interests of the two sections were not identical, or that as their sympathies were not consistent, there was constant antagonism between them. Nothing can be more false than an imputation of hostility on the part of industrialists towards primary producers. Although the Labour party principally represents industrial constituencies, its members have consistently supported the granting of every possible assistance to the primary producer, but now that it asks for some measure of protection for the industrialists against exploitation which might possibly ensue from the introduction of legislation of this kind, the Government is unwilling either to grant this concession or to give consideration to the claims of industrialists. This attitude cannot be justified, and the efforts of the Minister for Commerce to cloud the issue and to create a false impression in regard to the sympathy of the Opposition towards the claims of the primary producer are not in accordance with the present facts or the record of the Labour party. The right honorable gentleman’s gibes at the Labour party are sufficient demonstration of the pathetically weak case that the Government has advanced in support of this bill. The Labour party has refused to be associated with the political make-believe with which the Minister for Commerce on several occasions has sought to confuse the Australian public, in order to make it appear that his contentions have borne some consistency. It has invoked every legitimate means to extend the power of the Commonwealth, and upon all occasions has sought to clothe this Parliament with those wider powers which are so essential in the interests of our national life. I have no hesitation in saying that, as a party, it can claim to be the pioneer of constitutional reform, for it was the onward declarations of the party, in its earliest history, that urged it to endeavour to secure from the electors an appreciation of the necessity for the granting of wider powers to this Parliament. To that fact the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Hughes) can bear eloquent testimony, because he himself. when associated with Labour, submitted to the country the “ Case for “ on behalf of the Labour movement for the granting of such powers to the Commonwealth. The Labour party desires for the Commonwealth Parliament au ample and comprehensive power that will place its legislative competence beyond all doubt, and permit a broadening of the national character of the Australian Parliament. The proposal of the Government might be described as one of timidity. Ever since it was regarded as being essential to safeguard the exporters of our primary produce, there has been a continual piecing together of legislative enactments with a view to establishing the organized marketing of those products. But those provisions are neither complete nor thoroughly- efficient. If the present legislation is passed, it will mean that any effort which may be made to improve, extend, and regulate more satisfactorily the conditions of organized marketing, will be absolutely impossible. For no other reason than that, honorable members have a perfect right to hesitate when they are asked to accept this bill, which indicates so clearly how inadequate’ and incompetent it is to meet the requirements of the primary producers and the Australian consumers of their products. To me it is inexplicable that the Government should be prepared to involve this country in the expenditure of £100,000 in order to validate certain marketing legislation, while at the same time it is not giving to the primary producer that essential protection that is so desirable for his welfare. The position becomes all the more extraordinary when it is recalled that the Prime Minister this afternoon indicated that the Government intends to formulate further proposals for alteration of the Constitution which may be submitted to the people at a later date. I realize that the right honorable gentleman views with concern the agitation in the Government ranks for the taking of a referendum to secure for the Commonwealth wider and more comprehensive powers, and to overcome this internal dissension he has indicated that, in the immediate future, the Government may submit to the people further proposals for the alteration of the Constitution. If that be a sincere and honest gesture on his part, there is even less justification for this bill. By the time that the people have been given an opportunity to express their opinion upon this proposal, a period of eight or nine months will have elapsed since the Privy Council gave its judgment in the James case, dealing with the validity of Commonwealth legislation in connexion with the marketing of primary products. “When Ave realize that, by waiting for possibly another three months the opportunity would be afforded to place before tho people proposals for the granting of more comprehensive powers, we see how unjustifiable is the choice of the present’ occasion to involve the country in the expenditure of £100,000 in the taking of a referendum in relation to powers that are so pathetically weak as to be quite insufficient to meet the position. Some government members may say that before the opportunity presented itself to obtain wider powers, the marketing of primary produce would be dislocated because an attempt would be made to prevent the securing of prices that would compensate the primary producer for his labour. There is an ample method by which such a position could be met. If the attempt were made to lower prices on the Australian market, the Commonwealth could come to the assistance of the primary producers; by the payment of a bounty, it could bridge the difference between the price received and that which might reasonably be expected under a properlycontrolled market in Australia. Thus the primary producer would obtain all the protection he requires. The Government could also fulfil its promise to seek additional powers, by placing before the people in July next, when a general election could be constitutionally held for both Houses of the Federal Parliament,, proposals to deal with the matter satisfactorily and comprehensively. It will be remembered that the Attorney-General designedly confined to the subject of marketing the motion that he moved for leave to introduce this legislation, thus proving conclusively that the Government does not desire to obtain the wider powers that would enable it to legislate in such a way as to meet the aspirations of the people of this country. If it wished to live up to the promises that won for it place and power, it would be prepared to avail itself of this opportunity to seek the wider powers that are essential if it is to legislate along those lines. Instead of doing that, however, it has so circumscribed the provisions of this legislation that there is no prospect of the Commonwealth being clothed with sufficient power to legislate adequately for the requirements of this country. I charge the Government with inconsistency, and with inability to appreciate the needs of the moment. Because of ils neglect, it cannot claim that it is in fa advanced social and industrial lt- ., is unable to take action a ij. <, .use i.nes on account of constitu .u … .mutations. Members of the 0 :line to sanction an expenditure or such magnitude, merely to enable the Parliament to pass leg. .in.. on that would be utterly ineffective in providing the primary producer with the protection that is essential to his welfare. Even if the Commonweal *ii possessed the limited powers which the Government proposes to seek that would not be sufficient, because in addition legislation would have to be passed by the several State parliaments. Those who have a clear conception of the Government’s proposals will recognize the hollowness and sham of the professions of honorable members opposite. Legislatively and administratively they have failed to give expression to the progressive thought which they constantly seek to convince the people governs their actions. 1 hope that this Parliament will not agree to the expenditure of £100,000 upon an ineffective proposal, but will support the amendment of the Opposition, which seeks the power to legislate, not only for the orderly marketing of primary production, but also for the general raising of the standard of our people. The Minister for Commerce has argued that unless the powers sought by the Government are obtained, certain foreign countries may secure an advantage over Australia by being able to market in the United Kingdom commodities such as dried fruits and dairy produce.
– He did not say that.
– He said that it might be possible for the dried fruits of Turkey and Greece to find a more ready market in Great Britain than would be available to the Australian producer of that commodity. If there is any merit in the right honorable gentleman’s argument, I demand from him an explanation of what he was doing in the United Kingdom in the early part of this year, if he could, not ensure that the primary produce of this country would be given preference over that of Turkey and Greece.
– Order ! The honorable member is departing from the principles of the bill.
– I am’ merely answering an argument which was advanced by the Minister for Commerce. However, I have stated my opinion.
If we are able to induce certain government members to act consistently, our chance of carrying the amendment will be bright; but if they fail to appreciate the keen desire of the people of this country for the clothing of this Parliament with adequate powers, no persuasive eloquence will avail them to convince the electors when the next appeal is made that they have not been recreant to their trust in having failed to take advantage of the opportunity to obtain those powers which would enable this Parliament to legislate in such a way as to afford necessary protection to every section of the community, including the primary producers.
.- The primary producers of Australia have been engaged for some years in organizing a scheme for the better marketing of their products, and they have been supported in that direction by persons of every shade of political opinion. Last year this Parliament assisted in the furtherance of marketing schemes by passing the Dairy Produce Export Control Act, and a measure was submitted to enable a home-consumption price to be fixed for wheat. In these matters there was co-operation, hot merely between all parties in this House, but also between the Commonwealth and the State parliaments. It was unanimously agreed that these schemes were essential in the interests of the primary producers and of the community generally. It was realized that if the producers failed there would be little chance of a permanent restoration of prosperity. Certainly, prosperity has been restored to a great degree, and it is largely attributable to the increased exports of primary products. Since the depression years, the value of those exports, on the average, has been £20,000,000 per annum more than at the nadir of the depression. This result has been achieved largely because of the co-operation of the Government of Great Britain, but our marketing schemes also have been of invaluable assistance.
An accidental flaw in the Constitution has been discovered. The marketing schemes have been found to be unworkable under the present legislation, and the Government is merely asking the Parliament to pass a short amending bill, which, if agreed to by the electors, will have the effect of validating those schemes. The alteration now proposed is so designed that, if it is accepted by the Parliament, and approved by the people at the referendum, the legislation already passed by this Parliament will be ratified; it has never been declared invalid. If members of the Opposition were logical, they would vote for the ratification of legislation which they themselves helped to pass last year. I did not detect in the speeches of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin), or of any representative member of it, any objection to the present bill on its merits. It is conceded that it is desirable that the primary producers should have the full benefit of marketing legislation. The only objection raised is that more extended powers than this bill confers should be sought from the people. If the Opposition cannot have its own way in that regard, it is prepared, apparently, ‘ to allow the whole plan for organized marketing to fail. Are honorable members opposite so perverse as to let the work of years go by the board ? Although marketing schemes have carried on by their own momentum, it is certain that if the referendum results in a rejection of the Government’s proposal, the whole fabric will collapse. Men like James will quickly put an end to the organized marketing arrangements. He is one of those clever gentlemen who do not wish to prevent the fixing of homeconsumption prices. He desires to take full advantage of them by selling the whole of his products in Australia.
Members of the Opposition pretend to be in sympathy with the rural workers, and to be anxious that the Australian standards of living shall be maintained.
– Pretend to be?
– I think it is largely a case of pretence. If honorable members opposite were sincere in their claims, they would be unwilling to have the rural workers kept in the beggarly position in which they find themselves at the present time. In protected industries such as the sugar and wool industries, the workers enjoy industrial awards. Awards also apply to the employees in the dried fruits industry, and to those engaged in the lumping of wheat. Generally speaking, however, there are no wages awards in rural industries. Of course, awards could be applied for, but union leaders realize that it is of no use to ask for them in industries which simply cannot afford to pay higher wages than those now ruling. In most of our rural industries the imposition of awards would make it impossible to produce for export economically, and would thus do more harm than good. The primary industries of Australia, in common with those in other parts of the world, have experienced hard times, and, if we permit the marketing schemes that have been put into operation in recent years to lapse, those industries will find themselves in a worse position than they are in to-day. If the Labour party is desirous of securing better conditions for the rural workers, let it do something practical for the purpose of assisting them.
Constitutional issues should not be discussed on party lines. I should have been pleased to hear the present bill, and also a further proposal for the granting to this Parliament of the full powers which many honorable members believe should be conferred, debated on non-party lines. The Government has decided, however, to place before the public the simple issue as to whether the position which was believed to obtain prior to the judgment of the Privy Council should be restored. Grave risk would be run in adding to the present simple proposal one for the granting of wider powers to this Parliament. A considerable change of opinion has occurred in some of the States in regard to the granting of increased powers to the Commonwealth. Up to 1929, the Commonwealth Arbitration Court was popular with the trade unions, but the workers have not been so much in favour of it since the general reduction of 10 per cent, in wages. In Queensland, where the Labour party is well in the ministerial saddle, wages are determined by a State tribunal. I am sure the unionists in that State would not give up the conditions which they have obtained from the State court, and take their chance in the Commonwealth Arbitration Court.
Mr.Deasley. - So the workers are being robbed in the latter court.
– The honorable member shouid be more of a sport. When a decision goes against him, he should not say thathe is being robbed. It is fairly certain that any attempt to obtain wider powers for this Parliament than are sought under this bill would be strongly resisted in Queensland, and also in Western Australia. This measure should be regarded in the light of what is practicable. The Government feels that it is necessary for the bill to be passed, and approved by the people, to prevent the marketing schemes from crashing. The desire of the Government is to submit to the people a proposed alteration of the Constitution that is most likely to be accepted by them, but to ask for complete powers would be to court failure.
Two primary-producing States which have most to gain from the marketing schemes took their opposition to the decision of the High Court to the Privy Council. One argument advanced by them was that the Commonwealth was trying to maintain the illogical contention that section 92 applied to the States but not to the Commonwealth. In the three less populous States, and in Queensland, there is a decided opposition to encroachment by the Commonwealth on the powers of the States. T am not a States’ rights man. I believe in the extension of the powers of the Commonwealth, though I realize that such a proposal will not find ready acceptance in the States. The Premier of South Australia, Mr. Butler, has already intimated that he is opposed to the alteration proposed in this bill notwithstanding the fact that his State has most to lose by the breakdown in the marketing organization in respect of dried fruits. Western Australia is interested in the establishment of a homeconsumption price for wheat, and to a smaller degree, in the maintenance of the price for dried fruits. As both States export the greater portion of the wheat produced and are most interested in the continuance of the legislation which is now deemed to be invalid, if the Leaders of their Governments looked after the real interests of their own people, they would do everything to support the proposed alteration of the Constitution. The stand which they have taken in regard to this matter is, however, largely dictated by a desire for personal aggrandizement; they are endeavouring to make good fellows of themselves by proclaiming that they are standing up for the rights of the States. If an appeal is made to the people of their States for increased general powers for the Commonwealth the arguments of these premiers would appear to be irresistible; but the merits of the case for the alteration of the Constitution proposed by the Government are so strong and its extent is so directly limited that I believe, when the true facts are properly presented to the people of those States, they will accept it. Although it is idle to speculate,I am hopeful that this proposal will be accepted generally by the people, as it would be by nearly every honorable member in this House if he voted merely on the merits of the issue.
– Why not accept the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition and approach the people for increased industrial powers as well? The Government would then have the support of the Labour party.
– The Leader of the Opposition would have been much more helpful had he set out in clear and precise terms the proposal which he would put before the people.
– We want full industrial power.
– The Leader of the Opposition did not say so.
– I said that I would have indicated my proposal specifically if the Standing Orders had permitted it.
– I am aware of the limitation of the Standing Orders in this respect and I admit the justice of the honorable member’s remarks; but no standing order prevented him from stating specifically in the course of his speech what his proposal was. If the Labour party has considered this question and has arrived at a decision as to what should be submitted to the people, it should have been made known to the House. It prefers, however, to take up the attitude of opposition.
– Does the honorable member know what our policy is?
– It is opposition, and while it maintains that policy it is likely to remain in opposition.
Honorable members opposite have spoken of the effect of the proposed alteration on the position of the workers in the rural industries. That, however, merely tends to cloud issues when introduced into discussions in this chamber. Imagine, for instance, what would happen if the Parliament were to introduce a 40-hour week in the rural industries. Their position would be absolutely hopeless; city workers would pay very much more for their food than they pay at present; rural industries would languish and rural workers would lose their purchasing power. The application of a 40-hour week to rural industries is entirely impracticable at the present time.
Honorable members opposite should not confuse issues that are perfectly plain. The validation of the marketing legislation is a pressing matter, and its success should not be risked by attempting to couple with it in an appeal to the people a request for extended powers for the Commonwealth in other matters.
.t-I associate myself with the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) because I think the time has arrived when the Commonwealth Parliament should be able to legislate freely on industrial matters as well as for the improvement of marketing. At present the Commonwealth frequently finds itself in conflict with the States in industrial matters, and people generally are continually changing their views on this important question. The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn) said that he cannot see why the Opposition should not support the proposed alteration of the Constitution, and went on to refer to the fact that its effect would be to ensure to the workers in rural industries a decent standard of living. In reply to the honorable member I say that if he can point out to me how the proposed alteration will clothe the Commonwealth with power to legislate effectively in the interests of the workers in rural industries, I am quite prepared to admit that it is worthy of some support; but I know full well that that is not so. The Commonwealth Parliament has no power to legislate in the interests of the workers in rural industries unless a dispute extends beyond a State ; they are left to the mercy of the State governments. The rural workers in New South Wales had an award, but the Nationalist Government thought so little of it that, in the interests of wealthy country exploiters, it suspended its operation.
Coming from a former member of a Labour government, the speech of the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) on this matter was very interesting. When the right honorable gentleman was a member . of the party to which I belong, he was in favour of a proposal put forward by the Scullin Government for an appeal to the people by way of referendum on the desirability of giving to the Commonwealth Government full industrial power and power to abolish State parliaments and to control trade and commerce. Now, when an appeal is to be made to the people on another issue a golden opportunity is presented to the right honorable gentleman to give effect to the policy which he once supported. That he still supports it is demonstrated by the fact . that in reply to an interjection which I made while he was speaking on this subject today, he said that he still holds those views. I am at a loss to understand why if that is so he neglects to seize this opportunity to ascertain the wishes of the people on these important matters. I have sent on to the Prime Minister’s Department no less than ten different letters from local governing authorities in New South Wales asking if I would request the Government to submit to the people the question of the abolition of State parliaments in conjunction with the proposed addition to section 92 of the Constitution. I have always believed that State parliaments should be abolished ; the Prime Minister himself subscribed to that view, and the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mi-. Hughes) has also been in favour of it. But the right honorable gentlemen have now changed their views. Their attitude in regard to this question brings to my mind a story related by fin old Irish friend, who said. “ Sure:, it is a strange and remarkable thing that a person does not feet of the same voracity in the morning as he did the night before “. That is perfectly true of the attitude of at least three or four supporters of the Government who were formerly members of the party to which I belong, and who then held views strongly opposed to those which they now hold. Since they severed their old associations with the party which made their political being possible they, like the Irishman, are not the same in the morning as they were the night before.
The failure of the Government to adopt the 40-hour week in Australia, which is of such importance to the working class of this country, is difficult to understand in view of the fact that it had instructed its delegate to the International Labour Conference at Geneva to vote in favour of a reduction of the hours of labour. By reason of that vote this country was committed to ratify any agreement subsequently arrived at. Though the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) on’ his return to Australia, endeavoured in his own mild way to get the Government to honour its obligations in this respect, the Government replied that the hours convention could not be ratified until after the States had been consulted and had- agreed to this reform. We all admit how difficult this is with so many governments. It is tragic that the national Government should find itself unable, owing to constitutional limitations, to give effect to policies enunciated on it3 behalf by delegates sent overseas to international conferences of one kind and another. If the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition were agreed to, and the comprehensive proposals it outlines for the alteration of the Constitution were endorsed by the people, the situation in which the Government now finds itself would not arise. It is deplorable that a government which finds itself confronted with a serious unemployment position should be hindered on every hand in dealing with the needs of the case, because it cannot without the permission of a State carry out any national developmental work. Of course, if the government in office at a particular time desires to avoid its responsibility, all it need declare is. that the subject is one that falls within the province- of the State governments. But surely this National Parliament is not to be forever handicapped by the lack of adequate power! Even if the present Government desires to hoodwink the workers, the day will come when a government will be in office that will earnestly desire to provide work for everybody as well as reduce the hours of labour. But to do this effectively the Constitution will have to be altered. The’ supporters of this Government told the people during the last election campaignthat, if they voted for the candidates of the United Australia party, they would ensure for themselves good employment at steady wages. Experience has shown - how unsound was such a claim.
The object of the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition is to secure to the Commonwealth full power over marketing, trade and commerce, and industry. In effect, the Labour party is seeking unification. The desperate needs of the people living on the coalfields demand immediate attention; yet we have been informed again and again that the lack of constitutional power precludes the Commonwealth Government from doing anything effective to encourage measures for such an important project as the extraction of oil from coal. Some years ago the Industrial Peace Act was passed to cope with a certain situation that had arisen on the coal-fields; but it is extremely doubtful if that measure would stand the test of an appeal to the High Court. The coal-mining industry, perhaps more than any other, should be nationally controlled. It must.be placed under national control before it can be rehabilitated. Yet the Government is afraid to do such a simple thing as appoint a new chairman to the coal tribunal, because of the fear that, if it does so, action will be taken before the High Court which may lead to a declaration that the Industrial Peace Act is ultra vires the Constitution.
The proposal now before us to deal with marketing is sadly deficient, for even if it be approved by the people it will provide protection only for the producers.
The interests of the workers and the consumers are undoubtedly being entirely disregarded. The AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Menzies), in the course of his argument before the Privy Council in the James case, said that the primary producers were fighting to maintain a fair price for their commodities in Australia. No one objects to the primary producers obtaining a price for their commodities which will give them a reasonable living. Certainly the Labour party >does not desire the farmers to sell their commodities at a price below the cost of production. Its desire is to protect the interests of producers, workers, and -consumers. But if power is to be sought to control prices, power should also be sought to fix reasonable hours of labour and uniform wages. The rural workers’ award has been suspended in New South Wales, and we have no guarantee whatsoever that, if the proposal which the Government is now submitting to us for the alteration of the Constitution is agreed to, the conditions of that award will be revived.
Let us consider the situation as it applies to the payment of bounties. It appears to me that pressure has been brought to bear on the Government by the Country party to extract bounties for the primary producers at the expense of the general community. In actual fact, this Parliament has very little power over the money it provides for such bounties. It is surely not unreasonable that the Government which provides the money should determine the conditions under which it shall be spent.
The Labour party seeks an effective alteration of the Constitution. I shall not support any piecemeal alteration such as this Government seems to approve. Unless provision is made for the protection of the workers in primary industries I shall resist the present proposal. The people of my electorate favour straightout unification, and will not approve of the amendment of the Constitution bit by bit, as suggested by the previous speaker. We have had sufficient experience of the effects of such a policy. The alteration of the Constitution to permit the incorporation in it of the Financial Agreement nas had the effect of so seriously curtailing the operations of the State governments on the loan market as to make them very little more than glorified municipal councils. When the people of Australia agreed to federate they were under the impression that after the establishment of the Commonwealth State Governors 11 would almost at once be abolished and State Parliaments would also disappear in the course of time. I believe that if the people were asked to-day in the clearest and plainest language whether they favoured the abolition of State Parliaments they would give a strongly affirmative vote. Some time ago I compiled figures to show the cost of parliamentary government in Australia. The following table sets out the position prior to the introduction of the financial emergency measures of a few years ago -
4s. 5d. per head of population.
Only Co-day 1 obtained from the Commonwealth Statistician figures relating to the present day cost of parliamentary government in the Commonwealth. The table is as follows -
These tables clearly illustrate the high cost of parliamentary government in Australia. Further, with so many Parliaments, we do not have effective administration. Surely the time has arrived when we should put our legislative house in order. In the interests of the progress and development of Australia it is essential that sovereign power shall be reposed in the National Parliament. So long as sovereign power is divided between the Commonwealth and State Parliaments serious difficulties will occur with resultant turmoil and strife. Most of the industrial strife of recent years has been due to the inability of various Governments to apply effective remedies to the complaints of the workers. When a serious dispute occurred in the coal fields of New South Wales in 1929-30 the. Opposition in this Parliament roundly criticized the Government for not dealing with the situation by compelling the coal-owners to observe the federal award under which they were working, but when the members of that Opposition subsequently assumed ministerial office they found themselves unable to deal with the situation and were, in turn, subjected to criticism by those whom they had previously criticized. Owing to its constitutional limitations the Commonwealth Government was just as unable to deal with the situation as was the State Government. Constitutional reform along the lines suggested by the Leader of the Opposition is therefore absolutely necessary to our national well-being.
Let us look at the matter for a moment from the point of view of wages, and their effect on industry. Assuming that the basie wage in New South Wales be £4 a week - which it is not at the moment - and that of Victoria be £3 a week, it is obvious to everybody that manufacturers will do their best to have as much work as possible done in the State where the wages are lower and flood a higher wage State with cheap goods. This would result in unemployment in the higher wage State and would not be fair to either the employer o’r the employee, lt is not long since placards were displayed in the windows of numerous shops in Sydney requesting the people to buy only goods manufactured within the . State. Such a parochial outlook should be impossible in a country like Australia. Under a proper system of government the National Parliament would be clothed witu adequate powers for the fixing of uniform wages throughout the Commonwealth. We should look through Australian eyes at the issues which are facing us to-day. It is essential in the interests of national development that uniform wage conditions shall apply as far as possible in the various States, but before even that obviously necessary reform can be effected a comprehensive alteration of the constitution is necessary.. It must be admitted that unless uniform control of industrial conditions is provided for, interstate trade competition will continue to be affected by varying arbitration awards.
The Australian tariff policy has been mentioned frequently in the course of this debate, but not in the manner in which I propose to refer to it. This Parliament has no control over the industries that benefit from our tariff laws. The Labour party advocates high protection, but is aware that many callous and avaricious manufacturers have taken advantage of the tariff protection against the cheap labour products of other countries that this Parliament has given them to exploit the people by increasing the price of commodities. The Commonwealth should be vested with power to prevent such exploitation. Under the shelter of tariff protection, exploitation is occurring every day, and it will continue so long as this Parliament has no power to say to a manufacturer: “You shall not increase the price of your commodity beyond a certain limit which will return you a reasonable margin of profit.” At present, the Commonwealth Parliament is powerless : to the States is left the power to impose price restrictions if they feel so inclined. Another aspect of this matter is the fact- that, although manufacturers have the protection afforded by the tariff, bounties and the like, there is no Commonwealth law to compel them to pay reasonable wages. Therefore, they exploit the people, not only by. causing a rise of prices, but also by approaching the Arbitration Court and using all manner of argument to reduce the conditions of the workers. I hope that the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition will be given the serious consideration which is due to it, and that we shall be able to go to the people as a united body seeking powers which will enable us to further the development of this nation, and to improve the conditions of the workers, and those who are seeking work with no hope of getting it. At present the Federal Government blames the States and the States blame the Federal Government for failure to assist these people. As the result of dual control, industry is languishing, and it cannot progress until there is one authority to lay down the standard of wages and working conditions, and demand that industries which enjoy protection shall deal fairly by both their employees and the general consumers.
.- It will ‘be generally agreed that the principle of the protection of Australian industries is accepted not only in this House, but throughout the country. That is shown by the fact that over a long period of years governments of all political colours have, in season and out of season, given protection to the industries of this country. Moreover, few will disagree when I say that the protection of the standard of living of the workers is a matter of concern to all sections of this Parliament, and of the people outside. The only difference of opinion that arises is as to the industries to be protected and the measure of protection that shall he given to them. Opponents of the proposal made by the Government seem to fear, first, that it will not achieve the result Avhich it is designed to achieve, secondly, that there will be no means of protecting the workers in the industries concerned, and. thirdly, that the public has no protection against exploitation by the industries. I suggest to the Opposition that its first fear is assuredly groundless, inasmuch as the industries which this proposal purports to protect and assist are already being protected and assisted under the legislation which has been enacted by the State and the Commonwealth parliaments. Until the judgment which was given by the Privy Council became known, there was no suggestion from either side of this House that the measures that had been taken to assist the primary industries did not assist them to the extent which was necessary. Again, until this amendment to give validity to the enactments then operating was proposed there was no suggestion that the industries concerned could not properly organize themselves, and could not properly market their products. Furthermore, no suggestion was made that the industries were in any way exploiting the public of this country. It is exceedingly strange that now that the Government is asking this House to pass a bill for an amendment to be submitted to the people by referendum all these fears are expressed by those who are opposed to this measure. I believe that this proposal is the limit of the extension of powers to this Parliament to which the people of Australia will agree. A proposal giving much wider powers to the Commonwealth may pass through the Parliament, but I doubt if it would meet with the approval of the electors. I believe that all sections of this House are desirous of assisting the industries concerned by allowing the producers occupied in them to make a reasonable living and organize their production so that it will be marketed in the best possible way not only overseas, as has been suggested this afternoon, but also in Australia. It is a reflection on the industries concerned to suggest that they nsk the Australian public to accept produce that is not suitable for export. I believe that those industries which have been organized under the legislation passed by the State and Commonwealth Parliaments have given to the public of Australia products of much higher quality than they ever marketed prior to becoming organized. Honorable members who wish, to further the interests of those industries would be well advised to support the proposals that have been made by the Government rather than the ambiguous amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin). While the proposals might not go so far as many honorable members of this House wish them to go, we should at least make sure of getting the approval of the people for the establishment of the machinery necessary to afford very deserving industries the protection that they need. The primary industries rendered yeoman service to Australia during its time of depression. Mention has already been made of the fact that it was owing to the strenuous efforts of the primary producers in increasing production that the solvency of this country was maintained early in the period of the depression and of the fact that the measure of recovery that has taken place dur ring the last three or four years has been largely clue to the producers’ efforts. But another consideration that has been overlooked is that it is due to the primary industries that the governments of Australia were not faced with a much larger unemployment problem. It might be of interest to honorable members to know that the primary industries, which, I admit, in the main, do not maintain high wage standards or provide the best conditions, were alone in maintaining the employment of their people. In the agricultural industry in 1929-30, there were approximately 200,000 males employed, and the . lowest figure to which the employment in that industry dropped was approximately 195,000. During the worst period of the depression the Governments of Australia had to provide for only 5,000 unemployed in consequence of the inability of that industry to keep its employees at work. The dairying industry had an even better record. In 1929-30 it employed approximately 95,000 male workers. During the depression it not only maintained those employees in constant work, but actually increased the number, for in the following year it employed 105,000 workers. A further increase to 115,000 occurred during the next year, with a still further increase to 119,000 in 1932-33. The latest figures available are for 1933-34; they show 122,000 employees in the dairying industry.
– What wages were paid to them?
– I have already admitted that some primary industries have never been able to pay to their employees the high rates of wages, or to give to them the good conditions which have prevailed in manufacturing industries. But we find an entirely different position when we compare the employment given by them with that provided by secondary industries. In 1928-29, the year before the depression, about 450,000 workers were employed in Australian factories. That number dropped to 336,000 in 1931-32, thereby placing on the Governments of Australia the care of 114,000 additional unemployed persons. Whilst it is necessary to give reasonable protection to all industries, both primary and secondary, we should not lose sight of the fact that the main basic industries upon which the real standards of this country rest are primary. I give place to no member of this House in my desire to maintain, and even to improve, the standard of living of the workers throughout Australia. The only quarrel that I have with some members of the Opposition, and some Labour governments, is that, whilst they strive, in season and out of season, to provide high rates of wages and satisfactory working conditions for city workers, they are not so concerned about the welfare of workers in the country. It is time that all governments made an effort to equalize the benefits as between urban and rural workers. The protection that is asked for in this amendment would make it possible for primary industries to improve the standard of living of those engaged in them.
– In what way are the country workers sacrificed to those in the city ?
– I was present at a conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers when the Premiers of certain States in which Labour governments were in power advocated a 40-hour working week. When one of them was asked whether he would extend the same privilege to rural areashe blatantly answered “ No “. He added thathe would have no hesitation in extending it to urban workers in secondary industries if the other States would follow.
Mr.Frost. - How does the Government of South Australia view the amendment ?
– I am no more responsible for the views of the South Australian Government than is the honorable member for the opinions of the government of his State. I was pointing out that some Labour governments have sacrificed the interests of the rural workers to those of dwellers in the cities. The only way in which we can raise the standard of living of the people employed in rural industries is to give to those industries sufficient protection to enable them to pay higher wages and extend better conditions to their employees. I resent the suggestion that the farmers and dairy- m en and men in other rural occupations in this country deliberately refuse to extend better conditions to their employees. They have just as much sympathy with the workers as have men in any other section of the community, either inside or outside this Parliament. Only because of the inability of these industries to pay more are their employees worse off than those in secondary industries. Industries which are able to pay better wages are compelled to pay them. In the pastoral industry, as well as in certain fruit-growing industries, awards have to be observed. So soon as other industries are established on a profitable footing the workers engaged in them will have higher wages and improved conditions. I ask honorable members to help to bring about that state of affairs by extending to the industries concerned the protection which this bill contemplates. “We have heard to-day that such protection might increase the cost of living, but I have never heard that complaint raised in respect of the protection of secondary industries. In respect of the sugar industry, the Opposition is always willing to grant the fullest measure of protection possible, even to the extent of placing an absolute embargo on the importation of sugar from other countries.
– That industry pays good wages, and we do not object to it.
– An industry which is capable of paying good wages is forced to pay them. The per capita consumption of sugar in Australia is 110 lb. a year; at 4d. per . lb., which is the full retail price-
– Which government signed the sugar agreement prior to 1931?
– There was no opposition to it from the Labour party.
Mr.Frost. - That is not correct ; there was opposition.
– I cannot recall that any member of the Opposition voted against it. At 4d. per lb. the sugar used in Australia costs an average of 36s. 8d. a head per annum. A measure designed to protect the wheat industry along lines recommended by. a royal commission, which thoroughly investigated the ramifications of the industry, was severely criticized by the Opposition.
– Order ! The honorable member may not reflect on the votes given by the Opposition on questions which have been determined in the House.
– I am endeavouring to show that if we give to these primary industries the protection that they need, they will confer on the workers employed in them advantages which are the objective of every member of this House, as well as of the people of Australia generally. If, with wheat at 5s. a bushel, the cost of flour should be increased to 25s. a head a year, the burden would still not be so heavy as in respect of sugar. I cannot understand why members on all sides of the chamber are willing to protect the sugar industry, and yet are not willing to extend the same measure of protection to the wheat industry, which is the most important of the primary industries of this country.
– It is because they cannot agree amongst themselves.
– Although I have no doubt that Parliament will pass this bill . by the requisite majority, I am concerned that it shall have the support of all the members of all parties, because, after all, the people have the last say on this subject. I hope that if we get unanimity regarding it in this House, we shall get the same support from the people. In order to further the objective that we all have, namely, the raising jf the standards of living in both primary and secondary industries, we ought to agree to the measure of protection which this bill aims to restore to rural producers. The amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition purports to seek powers over and above those asked for in the present proposal. I agree entirely with the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn), that we should be in a better position to judge the merits of the amendment if the Leader of the Opposition had stated what those increased powers should be, and if he had outlined the exact nature of the proposals which, in his opinion, should be submitted to the people. “We should then be able to make up our minds whether or not we could support his amendment. If the proposals were in conformity with the ideas of honorable members on this side of the House, they would, I am sure, have no hesitation in supporting them. It is very unfair of the Leader of the Opposition to put before the House an amendment which does not give any indication of his real intentions. Honorable members opposite have stated that they want the Commonwealth to enjoy full industrial powers, but I am’ at a loss to know just what they mean by that. Do they mean that the Commonwealth Arbitration Court should be the sole tribunal to which workers may have access for the determination of their wages and working conditions? Or do they suggest that full powers should be given to this Parliament to determine rates of pay and working conditions throughout the whole field of industry? No doubt honorable members opposite realize that if they came out openly, and asked the people to confer such power on the Commonwealth Parliament, their request would be refused, even though it were sponsored by all the members of this Parliament. I believe that, even if the first proposal were submitted to the people it would be turned down by some of the States, at any rate. I doubt whether any industrial powers in excess of those at present exercised by the Commonwealth would be agreed to by the people. I appeal to ah honorable members to support the Government’s proposal, not only in this Parliament, but also on the hustings. In this way, the people will be led to recognize the importance of the primary industries, and will give the increased powers asked for.
.- The Australian community is divided into three large sections - the manufacturers, who produce secondary goods for use in Australia, the industrialists who work in our factories, or in providing services, and the producers of commodities for export. Under our economic system we have, by means of the Customs Tariff, ensured to our secondary producers a home-consumption price. In addition to this, they enjoy the advantage of being able to import the major part of their manufacturing plant from overseas free of duty. The mining industry is granted a similar privilege. The employees in all organized industries are protected by Arbitration Court awards. But the primary industries, which produce for export, enjoy no protection, and are even penalized by the tariff. It is on their behalf that this proposed referendum is to be taken. Section 92 of the Constitution, usually interpreted in a common-sense way by the public of Australia to mean that there shall be no customs duties on trade between States, has been interpreted by the Privy Council to mean that there shall be no interference with interstate trade in any shape or form. This has nullified, or made invalid, all legislation for the purpose of securing a home-consumption price for primary producers. “We know that, ere long, unless some action is taken to validate our marketing schemes, all primary produce, whether sold overseas or in Australia, will fetch no more than overseas parity prices. It amazes me that, although we have a national policy of protection, and although our tariff ensures a home-consumption price for the products of our secondary industries, many Opposition members who favour the policy of protection in general, are ready to take advantage of every paltry excuse to oppose the extension of that policy for the benefit of primary producers.
The proposed alteration of the Constitution merely provides that section 92 “shall not apply to laws with respect to marketing made by the Parliament in the exercise of any powers vested in the Parliament by this Constitution.” Surely it is obvious that any one who opposes so simple an alteration must be opposed to all marketing schemes, and to the principle of a. home-consumption price for primary products. The vote on this question will be a test of sincerity. Personally, I have never subscribed to the theory that the Government should make any industry pay, or that necessity should be the basis for help by the Government, and there is no justification for the suggestion of the Leader of the Opposition that, under the proposed scheme, the greater the exports of primary produce, the greater will be the burden upon the people. I go right to fundamentals, and say that the policy of the Country party is protection for none, or protection for all. If we believe, as we do, in protection for manufacturers by a reasonable tariff, and protection for the workers through the Arbitration Court, then we must admit that the primary producer is equally entitled to protection. At the present time, not only has he no protection, but also, through the tariff, and as the result of our arbitration policy, he is made to pay heavily for practically everything he requires. He has to pay more by way of rates on his land, more for the transport of his produce, and more for the plant and machinery he uses. Various economic commissions which have inquired into the matter, including the Gepp commission on the wheat industry, have all stressed this point, and the Gepp commission definitely stated that the burden of the tariff renresents an added capital cost of £560 on the average wheat farm of 1,280 acres.
– Is hot every member of the community burdened in some way?
– Yes, but the others can pass it on; the primary producers cannot.
– The workers cannot pass it on.
– It is passed on to them through the Arbitration Court, which grants them wages in accordance with the cost of living.
– Most of the rural workers are not covered by Arbitration Court awards.
– Some of them are not, but when prices were good many rural workers received high wages. I have myself paid as much as £1 a day to workers, and 14s. a day and keep was a common harvest wage when the industry was profitable.
– What about the protection which has . been given to the wheat industry in the form of bounties?
– The wheat industry has been given assistance but not protection, and the honorable member merely displays his ignorance when he makes that suggestion. The Prime Minister referred to-day to the injustice of the existing position, and pointed out that the Government’s proposal for a referendum was intended to secure power to enable the Commonwealth Government, in conjunction with, the State governments, to remove the existing anomaly. The butter and dried fruits industries have organized to help themselves, but their marketing schemes have now been declared to be invalid, and it is necessary to amend the Constitution in order that those schemes may be continued. Unless the referendum is carried the collapse of these industries is only a matter of time. The Leader of the Opposition spoke of the local consumers having to make up the losses on exports, but that is not what is desired. He said that he was not averse to the paying of compensation for losses incurred by primary producers, but again that is not what we desire, and it is not what we have asked for. If such a policy were adopted, it would inevitably lead to inefficiency, and would encourage production on uneconomic areas. There is no obligation on the part of the Government to make industries pay. All we ask is that the primary industries be put on the same footing as the secondary industries, and that some means be evolved to compensate the primary industries for the burden of our national policy which embraces a protective tariff and arbitration. The Leader of the Opposition also made it clear that his main objection to the Government’s proposal was that it did not go far enough. I submit that it would be hypocritical and useless to place before the people proposals which have no chance of be.rig agreed to. This referendum will cost £S0,000 to £100,000, and there is no chance of obtaining an affirmative vote if we complicate the issue by asking for full trade and commerce power, and extended powers in other directions. The Leader of the Opposition himself admitted that there was already opposition in some quarters, even to this small proposed alteration; surely he can see that the opposition would be greater and the chance of success less were we to seek still greater powers - or does he desire to see the referendum defeated?
We must be guided by history, and we know that practically all requests for greater powers submitted to the people in the past have been refused.. The States already enjoy control over trade and commerce within their own borders, and it would be futile to ask for a transfer of those powers to the Commonwealth. I believe that the Government is wise in placing before the people this minimum and simple request. I hope that it will adhere to this intention, and that the people will be fair enough to vote in such a way that the referendum will be carried and the crisis now confronting primary producers will be satisfactorily passed.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Francis) adjourned.
Motion (by Sir Archdale Parkhill) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I protest against the intention of the Government as indicated by the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) to make available to the States from the proceeds of the petrol tax an extra amount of money to be used by them as they wish - not necessarily for roads, but for forestry or rnining purposes or public works of any description. I believe that the- Treasurer’s statement on this matter caused a good deal of surprise among honorable members. He said that it would be invidious to place any restriction upon the States in regard to the expenditure of this money. It would be more correct, I contend, to say that it would be invidious for this Government as the collector of the tax not to have something to say as to the direction in which tins money is to be spent. One would think that in a country like Australia, with its vast distances and centralized population, and in view of the trend of its general development, every move possible would be made to improve and cheapen transport facilities. The petrol tax is colossal; the total duties collected on petrol during the year ended the 30th June, 1936, were - customs, £7,277,74S; excise, £630,644. In addition, primage duty amounting to approximately £379,295 was collected. Of the total amount of £S,2S7,687 collected in customs, primage, and excise duty on petrol, the following amounts were, in accordance with the terms of the Federal Aid Roads Agreement, allocated to the States for road purposes: - Customs, £2,599,630; excise, £179,269. Thus the States last year received a total grant for road purposes of £2,778,899. This year they will be granted £3,000,000. I submit that as this money is collected by a tax on transport, it should be expended in the improvement of transport facilities. Undoubtedly money expended in this direction to date has conferred great benefits on road users, and I maintain that the principle governing this aid in the past should be continued in the granting of any further sums of money from this tax to the States. [Quorum formed.] Furthermore, I believe, that a certain amount of this money should be made available through State authorities to shire councils. Hitherto, most of it has been spent by the State authorities on main roads, whilst the responsibility for improving by-roads and developmental roads has been left entirely on the shoulders of shire councils. Today, many of these roads are badly in need of repair. Particularly is this so in the larger States; to an extent it is so in Victoria also. If a portion of this money were made available to the local authorities through the State governments it would enable them to’ improve their back roads, and would also relieve the drain upon their finances. I ask the -Treasurer to reconsider this matter. An important principle is involved, and I hope that when the matter next comes up for discussion the Treasurer will indicate his willingness to adopt my suggestion.
– This afternoon I received from the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) a statement referring to an allegation by me last week that he had failed to answer a letter sent by me to him in July last. He said -
Inquiries which I have made into the matter show that a letter dated the 27th July was received by me from the honorable member, and that I sent it on to the Minister directing negotiations for trade treaties, who replied to the honorable member on the 14th of August.
I received that letter from the Minister directing negotiations for trade treaties, and its opening paragraph read -
I have received a note from the Prime Minister asking me to give you whatever information I can regarding the recent tariff changes and the facts leading up to the trade dispute with Japan.
Since then I have sent you a rather bulky mass of material which, I hope, you will find of some help.
That letter from the Minister directing negotiations for trade treaties (Sir Henry Gullett) did not in any way indicate that it was a reply to the statement which I addressed to the Prime Minister. I say that the Prime Minister has not, either personally, or through the Minister directing negotiations for trade treaties, attempted to deal with the matter I addressed to him. The facts are that I received from the Prime Minister a somewhat lengthy telegram marked “ private and confidential “. I remember it fairly well, because I had to pay 9s. to get the telegram, but it told me nothing. It requested me to refrain from public criticism of Government policy, and to a somewhat generous extent I did so. I had a right to address the Prime Minister on the subject. In the letter I put two or three points to him. Speaking entirely from memory, because it is unusual for me to keep copies of my correspondence, I said that my capacity to remain silent ‘ on such subjects depended upon the information at my disposal, and that up to that time I had not received any. The next point was that I was unable to reconcile the attitude of the Government, which was conducting a rather provocative type of trade war with certain countries, with, putting it mildly, its passive defence policy. I then asked the right honorable gentleman if he could reconcile the policy outlined at Geneva in respect of certain matters dealing with nutrition with the Government’s present attempt to prevent certain Australian products from being acquired by those who needed them. 1 concluded the letter by telling the right honorable gentleman that it would be useless to tell the people in my electorate to trust the Government in this matter, because, speaking quite frankly, they distrusted it. I would not have raised the subject but for the Prime Minister attempting to put into Hansard a statement which makes it appear that my pronouncement in the House last week was incorrect. I did not make an incorrect statement. I object to the tone of the Prime Minister’s remarks, which were so worded as to make it appear that the Minister in charge of negotiations for trade treaties answered the points which I put to the Prime Minister on the 27 th July. The Minister did not answer my questions ; in f act. he did not attempt to do so. Figures were supplied with the object of trying to divide the Commonwealth into .States for the purpose of playing one State against another, and the stand I took was that the subject is too big to be disposed of in that way. If the right honorable gentleman is able to read in this somewhat lengthy document, which I shall not criticize at this stage, a reply to my letter of the 27th July, he is a greater master of the English language than I think he is.
– The honorable member for Indi (Mr. Hutchinson) has directed attention to the fact that, at the conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers held in Adelaide, the Government increased by 20 per cent, the money to be paid to the States from the petrol tax, and that it was decided to allow the States to use the sum so provided not solely for roads construction, but also for forestry and/or other works. That was done in an attempt to give to the States rather more freedom in the use of this money than is possible under the Federal Aid Roads Agreement. The States may use the money for road construction if they so choose, or for forestry or any other type of work desired. In any case, legislation for the ratification of the agreement with the States, will be brought before the House later in the financial year.
– Can the . States in the meantime use the grant for purposes other than roads?
– No; the existing agreement has been, extended to cover the period ending the 30th June, 1937. The Commonwealth having eliminated from the agreement any qualification in respect to the type of roads on which the money is to be used, it can now be employed on main roads, shire roads, by-roads, new roads, maintenance, or on bridges or for other purposes incidental to road construction. When replying to the budget debate I shall have a better opportunity to discuss the subject at greater length, and later a bill to give effect to the new agreement will be before the House.
– In the absence of the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) I desire to make one or two observations on the subject raised by the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron).
– I should prefer the Prime Minister to make the observations.
– I was present in the chamber last Thursday when the honorable member said that he had written to the Prime Minister a letter concerning the Government’s trade policy and that he had not received a reply.
– Yes, and I stand by that statement.
– The Prime Minister has now stated that he handed the honorable member’s letter to the Minister directing negotiations for trade treaties, requesting him to reply to the communication, which he did.
– He did not.
– As to whether the Minister’s letter covered all the points to the satisfaction of the honorable member, I can only say that that would be most difficult.
– It did not cover any of them.
– The honorable member has admitted that he received a communication from the Minister, but whether it was entirely satisfactory to him is another matter.
– The Minister admitted that it did not purport to be a reply to the points. I raised.
– I have nothing further to say on the subject.
I desire to inform honorable members that to-day the New Zealand Governmentintroduced legislation regarding a transTasman shipping service. It is the intention of the Commonwealth Government to introduce complementary legislation at a later date.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House -adjourned at 10.17 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
k asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows : -
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Commonwealth Land in Melbourne.
y asked the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
y asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
In view of the serious danger to every chemist shop in Australia by the proposed chain pharmacies of the great English or American combine being inaugurated in Australia, will the Minister, when Cabinet considers the question, bring under notice the system used in some European countries of charging accumulative costs of each succeeding chemist shop that would be opened, and so by consecutively increasing the cost per licence make it impossible for any combine, or individual to be able to pay the increased costs of each licence?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
Except in relation to the territories of the Commonwealth, this question is one which primarily concerns the governments of the States. The honorable member’s suggestion is being brought to the notice of the appropriate Commonwealth and State authorities.
Refund of War-time Fines.
r asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Oil Search in Mandated Territory and Papua.
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The- answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Territory of New Guinea. - No permit has yet been insuerl under the Petroleum Ordinance 1936 of the Territory of New Guinea, but approval I has been given for the issue of permits iu Oil Search Limited and Island Exploration Company Proprietary Limited. Permit* may be issued only to companies two-thirds oi whose shares are held by British subjects.
Territory of Papua -
Territory of New Guinea. - The dimennions of the areas to be granted under permits in New Guinea have not been determined..
Island Exploration Company Proprietary Limited. - Hugh Hamilton, John Dunlop Millen. Wesley Armstrong Ince, Joseph Crosswell Blair.
The names of the directors of Oriomo Oil Limited and Oil Search Limited will be obtained and communicated later.
Island Exploration Company Proprietary Limited. - 50.000 shares of £1 each.’
Inquiries will be made as to the paid up capital of these companies and also as to the nominal and paid up capital of Oriomo Oil Limited and Oil Search ‘Limited.
Oriomo Oil Limited is required to expend at least £5,000 during the first six months and £7,500 during the second six months of the currency of the permit.
Provision is made in the permits for the Lieutenant-Governor to empower any person to enter upon the area comprised in a permit for the purpose of inspecting the work being carried out by the permittee. The LieutenantGovernor is also empowered to call upon the permittee to show that the luring am.! conditions of the permit and of thePetroleum (Mining) Ordinance 1034-1930 are being complied with, and if the permittee does not satisfy the Lieutenant-Governor that he has suflic.ently complied with such terms and conditions the Lieutenant-Governor has power to cancel the permit and to forfeit a sum that must be lodged as security for the due compliance by the permittee with the provisions of the permit and the ordinance and the regulations.
ShortWave Broadcasting Stations.
asked the Minister, representing the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
en asked the Minister for Commerce, upon notice -
– The information is using obtained and will be furnished to the honorable member later.
y asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Willhe lay on the table of the library all correspondence between the honorable member for Parnimatta and the Government on the subject of his position as Government delegate to the 1935 International Labour Conference?
– The only correspondence which has not been placed on the table of the library in connexion with his position as Government delegate is a confidential letter of the Minister for External Affairs to Sir Frederick Stewart and the larter’s reply thereto, prior to the issue of his instructions by the Commonwealth Government.
l asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Will he have a return prepared showing -
The total amount paid in relief to wheatgrowers since 1930, giving - (a) the amount paid each year from general revenue, and (b) the amount paid eaeh year from flour tax?
The total amounts- paid by way of bounties, grants or other forms of assistance to other primary industries between 1929-1930 and1935-1936, giving the total amount for eaeh year for each product t
Mr.Casey. - The information is being obtained and -a reply will be furnished as soon as possible.
s. - On the 14th October the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) stated that he had not received a reply to a letter which he had addressed to me in relation to the trade diversion policy of the Government.
Inquiries which I have made in the matter show that a letter dated the 27th July was received by me from the honorable member and that I sent it on to the Minister directing negotiations for trade treaties, who replied to the honorable member on the 14th August.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 22 October 1936, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1936/19361022_reps_14_151/>.