14th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. G. J. Bell) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– Is the Minister for Commerce prepared to confirm the cabled announcement from London, that a trade agreement has been signed between Great Britain . and Argentina, providing for the imposition of a duty of¾d. per lb. on foreign chilled beef,d. per lb. on frozen beef, and 20 per cent. on other beef, mutton and lamb being free? “Will the right honorable gentleman state what will’ be the effect of this agreement on the Australian meat industry, and give details of the long-promised- long-term meat agreement between Great Britain and Australia?
– The Government has been aware for the last few months that negotiations were taking place between Great Britain and Argentina, but has received no official intimation of the making of an agreement.
Motion (by Mr. Lyons) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, ‘ adjourn until 10.30 a.m. to-morrow.
Mr.FAIRBAIRN.- In view of the expressions of concern that have been voiced in Melbourne at the continued expenditure on’ the Essendon aerodrome, the feeling being that this may indicate a weakening of the Commonwealth’s intentions in regard to the establishment, of an airport and of the aircraft industry at Fishermen’s Bend, will the Minister for Defence make a statement upon the matter?
– The original proposal submitted by the Commonwealth to the Government of Victoria was, that it would contribute the sum of £60,000, representing the additional expenditure which had to be incurred, towards the establishment of an airport at Fishermen’s Bend, if the land could be acquired on certain specified terms. That offer was not accepted. Subsequently, the Commonwealth offered the sum of £100,000 for the land at Fishermen’s Bend, but this offer also was refused by the Government of Victoria. A third offer was that the Commonwealth would contribute £100,000 towards the establishment of the airport, on the condition that all the interests concerned in the project were formed into a trust for its. management. If the steps now being taken prove successful, this last proposal will’ be adopted ; but, in addition, the work at Essendon, including that on an additional area still to be acquired, will be continued, so that’ the establishment of that aerodrome may be completed on thoroughly up-to-date lines; because the Government feels that although two airports, one at Essendon and another at Fishermen’s Bend, may not be necessary at the moment, the obvious development of aviation and the importance and growth of the great city of Melbourne will make them’ necessary in the near future.
– Is the Minister for Defence aware that a demonstration meeting to commemorate the defeat of conscription in Australia is to be held in the Paddington Town Hall to-night?
Opposition Members. - Hear, hear!
– Has the attention of the honorable gentleman been directed to the statement that the Government proposes to re-introduce conscription in Aus- tralia?
– I f such a statement has been made by any person, it is utterly untrue; there is not even the vestige of foundation for it. In the circumstances, I am absolutely at a loss to understand why there should be a demonstration. There has never been conscription in this country, and the pronouncement has been made repeatedly that no such proposal has ever been considered by this Government, which is committed to the policy of voluntary enlistment for the defence of Australia.
– Hear, hear! We are glad to hear ‘ that.
– That policy was in operation during the administration of the Scullin Government, of which the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) - who, I understand, is to be a speaker at to-night’s demonstration-was a member. This Government has adopted it, first, because it thinks that it is the right policy, secondly-
– Order ! The Minister is going beyond the bounds of a reply to a question.
– I shall conclude my reply in two sentences. Secondly, because it is an adequate policy ; and, thirdly–
– Order !
– There are only a few more sentences. I ask leave to make a. statement.
Leave not granted.
– Has the Prime Minister received any information regarding the shortage of passenger accommodation on the ferry service between Melbourne and Tasmania during the Christmas season? Can he say whether all second, and nearly all first-class, accommodation from the 20th December until after the New Year has already been booked? If so, and in view of the importance of the tourist traffic to Tasmania, will he take action to see that sufficient accommodation is made available for persons desiring to travel to Tasmania?
– I have not received any such information, but, for the sake of Tasmania,I hope that it is entirely accurate.
– I can assure the Prime Minister that it is.
– I am not aware of what additional provision can be made for accommodation, but I shall look into the matter. I ask the honorable member to make sure that, if the flow of tourists to Tasmania is so great, Tasmania will be able to accommodate them when they get there.
– Will the Treasurer state whether before his departure Sir Walter Kinnear left a preliminary report with the Commonwealth Government regarding the subject of national insurance which he was investigating in Australia, or if he made any statement regarding his views on this subject? I am moved to ask the question because of a report that the Premier of New South Wales proposes to introduce a system of social insurance, having apparently despaired of the early introduction of a national scheme by the Commonwealth. Will the Prime Minister draw up tentative proposals for a national scheme in consultation with the Government of New South Wales with a view to avoiding unnecessary and wasteful overlapping?
- Sir Walter Kinnear did not leave any report as such with the Government before his departure, although I have received numerous letters and notes from him dealing with various phases of this very large subject. We are still awaiting his complete report, which I hope to receive soon. I have no knowledge of any social insurance scheme contemplated by any individual State. I believe that if anything of the kind were contemplated, the Commonwealth Government would have been informed of it, because it has been common knowledge for some months that the Commonwealth has been investigating the subject.
SirFREDERICK STEWART. - Has the attention of the Prime Minister been drawn to information published in the September issue of the British Official Labour Gazette, showing the extraordinary social and financial success of the British Unemployment Insurance Fund? Will he, in the light of this British experience, as reflected in that official report, hasten the introduction of a similar insurance scheme in Australia?
– Honorable members know very well that the matter is now under examination and that the Government is doing everything to expedite it as far as possible. The Government, however, is not prepared to adopt any scheme based on the success of the British or any other scheme until it is satisfied that it is entirely sound. As soon as a sound scheme is submitted the Government will lose no time in putting it into operation.
– Will the Minister for Defence state whether it is true, as reported in the press, that the Commonwealth Government proposes to purchase aeroplanes for defence purposes from the United States of America? If so, how does he reconcile this proposal with the Government’s new tariff policy, and particularly with the quota restrictions which have been placed on the importation of American motor cars?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is that no such proposal has ever been suggested or considered by the Government.
– Is the Minister representing the Postmaster-General aware that the Government of New South Wales has sent into a labour camp some thousands of youths from the northern district coal-fields, and that no postal or telephone facilities of any kind are available? It is four or five miles to the nearest post office, and no telephone facilities are available in case of accident, sickness or other emergency. Will he take steps to have instituted a free mail bag service to the camp, and to have a telephone installed near by? I refer particularly to the labour camp atBullah Delah, on the north coast.
– I am not aware of the circumstances mentioned by the honorable member, but I shall have inquiries made,and will advise him later.
– Can the Prime Minister advise the House whether or not the press statement is correct that the British Government proposes to make available £1,000,000 to assist shipping companies which conduct services in the Pacific ? If so, what is the intention of the Commonwealth Government in regard to this matter ?
– I have received no official information whatever regarding the proposal. The subject of subsidies to British shipping companies operating services in the Pacific is at present being investigated by the Shipping Committee. The report of this committee will not be completed for another two or three weeks, so that it will be some time before the Government actually receives it.
– In view of the fact that chartered companies went, by the board in the days of the Hudson Bay Company, and the Red Shirts, and having regard to the statement made yesterday by the honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Abbott), as reported in the Melbourne Herald, in which he said “ that I had first indicated that the pioneers of the Barkly Tablelands should be formed into a chartered company “ - a statement that is false-
– Order ! I ask the honorable member to resume his seat. He has been giving information under the guise of asking a question. Moreover, he should be aware that it is offensive to accuse an honorable member of making a false statement. The honorable member may proceed.
– In view of the fact that the honorable member for Gwydir has stated thathe is not the mouthpiece of a group of lessees seeking to borrow money from the Government for the development of their leases in the Northern Territory, and that he did not seek to influence the Government to provide the money, I ask the Prime Minister - 1. Has he seen the foreword to a pamphlet signed by C. L. A. Abbott? 2. Is it not a fact that the foreword makes it clear that the pamphlet was written to influence members of Parliament and the public?
– The honorable member is out of order. He is definitely putting forward his own views regarding a certain pamphlet, and he may not do that when asking a question.
– Then I ask leave to make a statement.
Leave not granted.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Commerce been drawn to statements made at the Apple-growers Conference in Adelaide that rotten, or, perhaps it would be better to say inferior apples are being sent from Australia to Great Britain, and that if the present export methods continue Australia, during the next ten years, will Jose the whole of its export trade in apples with Great Britain ? Will the Minister fully investigate this matter ?
– I have not seen the newspaper paragraph referred to by the honorable member but I shall make full investigations into the matter.
– On the 14th October, the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) asked for certain information regarding the licensing of imports into the Commonwealth. At the time I undertook to endeavour to obtain the information for him. I now find that the collating of that information would prove very expensive and. would throw upon already fully worked officers a great deal of investigation. Moreover, to give the names of those who have made application for permits for imports and of those to whom permits have been granted would be against the practice of the Customs Department.
– Is it a fact that a young English woman, Mrs. M. M. Freer, though travelling on a British passport, has been refused admission to Australia for failing to pass a dictation test in the Italian language?
– Yes, and I shall be glad to give to the honorable member, in confidence, the reasons for the refusal.
The following papers were presented : -
Taxation - Eighteenth Report of the Commissioner, years1 933-34, 1934-35 and 1935-30.
Ordered to be printed.
Meat Export Control Act - Regulations amended- Statutory Rules 1936, No. 145.
Mr. SPEAKER laid on the table his warrant nominating Norman John Oswald Makin in the place of David Riordan, deceased, to act as Temporary Chairman of Committees when requested so to do by the Chairman of Committees.
Debate resumed from the 27th October (vide page . 1345) on motion by Mr. Menzies -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Upon which Mr. Curtin had moved, by way of amendment -
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 move comprehensive powers “.
– The success of the James appeal to the Pri vy Council has produced a state of chaos in Australian marketing organizations of export products. I use the words export products advisedly because the only section of the producing community which, to-day, has to struggle for its existence on the open markets of the world is the primary producing section. Australia is the’ only country in the world which has not vested in its national Parliament the right to organize or permit the organization of the people within its boundaries in some scheme for their welfare. I am surprised that, with a few exceptions, honorable members opposite have displayed such selfish tactics in dealing with this matter and in proposing an amendment of the Government’s proposal. All that the primary producers ask is that they should be permitted to organize marketing by right and not by concession. For nine years or so I have consistently sought to have placed on the statute-book of the Commonwealth a scheme of orderly marketing on an Australian basis, and to .that end I have endeavoured to seek an alteration of the Constitution which would permit of this being done. To overcome the position which has been created in the past, governments and primary producers have done much to bring about organized marketing schemes under which some stability would be achieved in the export of our primary products. The, Governments of the Commonwealth and pf the States have gone to a lot of trouble to pass legislation affecting dried fruits, dairy products and wheat, the object of which was not, as has been stated by the Opposition, to inflate Australian prices of those commodities, or to extract from the consumers and workers in Australia unreasonable and unfair profits, or even to secure a living wage for the producer or a price for his product which, would give him a return equal to the basic wage. That legislation was passed principally to bring about the orderly marketing of the products mentioned and to avoid the cut-throat competition which existed between the primary producers in. the various ‘States and practically amounted to what honorable members opposite frequently refer to as scabbing tactics. Against such tactics workers in secondary industries are protected by arbitration court awards which prevent a person from selling his labour at. les: than the minimum wage. But the minimum price fixed by the producers throughout the Commonwealth for their primary commodities does not provide the basic wage to all the producers of those commodities. An orderly marketing scheme is designed merely to prevent the so-called cutting of prices known in the Labour ranks as scabbing and also to prevent unfair competition between producers in the different States or any. organizations: established within a State. The Labour party is not quite, fair in opposing marketing schemes on the ground that they are designed to increase the price of food to the workers. We have already given some attention to the needs of the workers; arbitration laws have been passed by the States and by the Commonwealth to protect the workers engaged in secondary industries, and they have received added protection by means of the tariff, which prevents unfair external competition and ensures to the Australian worker decent conditions and wages. I have always supported duties which enable the workers to enjoy working conditions and the wages of those engaged in Australian secondary industries. These have been secured by artificial means in Australia, yet now, when an opportunity is presented to give to the primary producers some small amount of protection on the same lines, the representatives of the Labour party would deny it to them. The farmers are really making possible the higher wages enjoyed by the industrial workers, because they use the implements made in this country, and have paid high prices for them without any complaint. Otherwise they would have to pay customs duty on imported implements. Yet to-day, representatives of the industrial- workers are protesting against the action of the Government in seeking to set up machinery to ensure to the primary producers a fair price for their commodities. Many primary producers do’ not enjoy even the basic, wage. Surely the Opposition will agree that farmers should receive at least the basic wage. I contend that their returns should be comparable to the higher wages paid to workers engaged in skilled occupations. To-day our primary pro<ducers are obliged to sell their products, on the overseas markets in competition with the products of Asiatic peoples. As everyone know.s, the London market is the cheapest in the world, and it is. unfair that the farmers of Australia should be obliged to sell their products in their own country at the low prices offered on overseas markets. Workers who enjoy the protection of the Arbitration. Court should not deny to the primary producers the benefit of organization. They should’ be willing to concede the small demands that, are now being made. I am sure that the primary producers would be happy to. submit their case to arbitration, so. that proper remuneration could he provided for them on a basis at least equivalent to the cost of production. To-day, butter is priced . in Australia at1s. 3d. per lb., which is equivalent to1s. per lb. on the London market. As a matter of fact, the price of butter has. varied very, little during the two and a half years that the Dairy Produce Control Board has been in operation.
Mr.Rosevear. - Butter is1s. 4½d. per lb. here.
– It is. the middlemen, and not the dairy farmers who. get the extra money. As we are endeavouring to eliminate the middlemen responsible for the appeal in the.James case, it is surprising to find opposition from the Labour party. The farmers are doing their best to escape from the claws of the middlemen, with whom, apparently, the honorable, gentlemen of the Labour party have. suddenly discovered some community of interest. At any rate, they have performed a somersault in respect of their advocacy, of increased constitutional powers for the Commonwealth, and now seem determined to keep the farmers under, so long as the workers, can be supplied with cheap foodstuffs.
The marketing legislation which the Government is now seeking to place upon a sound constitutional basis has been in operation, throughout Australia, for some years, and no suggestion has been made until lately that the primary producers have misused, or are likely to misuse their powers: Owing to the decision of the Privy Council, a state of serious emergency exists to-day, for which the only effective remedy seems to be a readjustment of constitutional power as- proposed by the Government. Efforts made during the last few months to obtain the consent of the State governments to the vesting of additional power in the Commonwealth Parliament to provide for. the effective marketing of? our products- have proved abortive, for three State Premiers have declined, to agree to any proposals of this nature.
– Which Premiers are they?
– The Premiers of South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania.
– The honorable member is wrong there, for the Government of Tasmania stands for full industrial power for the Commonwealth.
– I am glad that the honorable member has made that statement. I direct his attention to the following utterance of the Premier of Tasmania, Mr. Ogilvie, published inthe Courier-Mail on 17th instant.
If the amendment of the Constitution is approved by the electors, it will have the effect of empowering the Commonwealth to control all transactions connected with or incidental to the buying and selling of all kinds of goods so far as these transactions are of any interstate character.
Obviously the Premier of Tasmania is not favorable to the granting of additional powers to the Commonwealth. In any case the proposal now before us will give the Commonwealth no additional power until the State parliaments pass legislation dealing with the subject.
– The honorable member will, note that Mr. Ogilvie was dealing only with this proposal.
– He has said definitely that he is against the granting of additional power to the Commonwealth. Lest there should still be any misunderstanding on the subject, I direct attention to a statement made by the same gentleman at the conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers held in Adelaide last August, at which an unsuccessful endeavour was made by the Commonwealth Ministers and the Ministers of three State governments to influence even one other State to agree to support a referendum to grant additional marketing power to the Commonwealth in the interests of the primary producers. Had Mr. Ogilvie, the Tasmanian Labour Premier, on that occasion allowed himself to be persuaded to fall in with the wishes of these Ministers, it is probable that a question providing for the granting of much wider powers to the Commonwealth could have been drafted. Mr. Ogilvie made it clear on that occasion that he would not agree to. a grant of even the small additional power now sought.. He said -
I welcome the decision that has been given by the Privy Council in the matter we are now discussing; 1 played some part in bringing it about by securing the co-operation of
Western Australia to intervene in support of Mr. James, and by briefing Sir Stafford Cripps, K.C. The federal Attorney-General did a wonderfully good job in a rotten case.
The result of the decision is to secure the free flow of trade between the States, and that is as it should be.
In the light of that statement, I cannot understand how the members of the Opposition can still assert that Mr.
Ogilvie is favorable to the vesting of greater powers in the Commonwealth in the interests of primary producers. This bill provides for the smallest measure of power which would enable the Commonwealth to give effective assistance to the primary producers. All that we are endeavouring to do at the moment is to re-establish the position that was thought to exist prior to the delivery of judgment by the Privy Council in the James case. This does not mean increased power for the Commonwealth; it means only the right to render State legislation valid and operative. Such action would merely have the effect of reverting to the former position which prevailed before the decision of the Privy Council was given. The very thing that the States should desire to do is to return to the position existing before the appeal to the Privy Council, a position which had the approval of the State legislatures. Legislation passed in Victoria, New South “Wales and Queensland is sufficient, in co-operation with Commonwealth legislation, to place the marketing of primary products upon a sound basis, but the other States, which did not oppose it previously, now refuse to accept it. There is no logic in this. The reasons advanced for this lack of co-operation are only abuse of the primary producers, and a misconception and misconstruing of the real meaning of the organization which was established to assist those producers. The Commonwealth Government realizes that the responsibility for rectifying the position rests with it and in that respect it has the assistance of three of the States, but it is necessary in order to effect an alteration of the Constitution to have an affirmative vote recorded in four States. Th, attitude of Mr. Ogilvie, Premier of Tasmania, can be judged by what he has said and can bo gauged by the damage which he is doing to Australian producers. He claims that 75 per cent, of Tasmania’s produce is sold in Australia and he desires that trade should be absolutely free between the various States. Who provides that output for Tasmanian produce? It is members of this House who support Tasmania in its desire that its potatoes shall not have to compete with potatoes from New Zealand. Mr. Ogilvie claims that the marketing boards have raised the price of commodities to the worker. By excluding New Zealand potatoes from Australia, we are increasing the price of Tasmanian potatoes to the worker. Mr. Ogilvie wants that embargo retained, but he is not prepared to extend some assistance to a most deserving section of the community, the dairy-farmers.
The Government’s proposal for the alteration of the Constitution provides for the submission of a simple question to the people which, if it is accepted by them, will merely restore the marketing position which existed before the decision of the Privy Council and which had received the approval of all sections of this House. If we ask the people to grant to the Commonwealth increased powers apart from marketing, we shall get nothing. The Leader of the Opposition has put forward a proposal to which he knows the States will not agree because they have already definitely refused to give further powers to the Commonwealth. In view of their declaration in that regard, it would be too great a risk to ask the Australian public to confer increased powers upon the Commonwealth and perhaps thereby lose for the farmers an opportunity to maintain even their present marketing position. I have always advocated that this Parliament should have complete control over marketing and enlarged powers in other spheres.
– The honorable member does not trust the people?
– In this instance we must subordinate our desire to obtain a substantial increase of power for the Commonwealth to the state of emergency which has arisen in connexion with the marketing of primary products, and it behoves us to place before the people that which would make the greatest appeal to them and make possible the surest “Yes” vote. By adopting this policy I am confident that the Government will have the support of not only ail right-thinking Labour people, but also the general public of Australia. Honorable members have claimed that the alteration of the Constitution will give the Government only a paltry power. Every effort was made to secure the 00-opera won of the Labour party in submitting this question to the people, but Hie Leader of the Opposition stated that his followers would not declare themselves or state their policy until the Prime Minister had announced the policy of the Government. He thus prevented the possibility of effecting some coordination in this regard between all parties in the interests of the primary producers. By its selfish tactics the Labour party ignores the emergency that exists and the effect that the decision of the Privy Council will have upon rural workers and citizens of country towns. Its members evidently have no idea of the farreaching effect that this blow to the primary producers will have on the -whole of the fabric of manufacture and work throughout this vast Commonwealth. I ask honorable, members to consider whether the plight of the primary producers is a genuine one. Any honorable member who would take the trouble to go out into the country districts, drought stricken as they have been for some time, would realize that no action of this Parliament, and no vote which it could record could repay those unfortunate settlers for what they arc doing in developing Australia. In seeking a. livelihood from the land they are producing commodities which they are selling overseas to the advantage of every section, of the Australian community. They are marketing their produce in a world market that our secondary industries have not ventured to touch, up to I he present time. Is there one secondary industry, with its sheltered labour and protection from the tariff to assure that labour, which has been able to produce economically an article that could be sold overseas in competition with those of Asiatic manufacturers? In my opinion, no Australian industry could do so; no secondary i industry has attempted i it.
But the primary producers are obliged to do it. Australia is a vast territory, and primary producers have been urged to go on the land and to produce more wheat, butter and other commodities. With the doors of employment in secondary industries closed to other than those registered in unions, the unplaced men hae been obliged to seek employment on the land, with the result that the number of primary producers has so increased that there is now a great surplus of production - there is a 50 per cent, surplus in the case of butter - and is it fair that honorable members should now ask these workers to produce foods for the stomachs of others at prices which are lower than those prevailing on the London market for similar produce from “ yellow “ countries? Honorable members of the Labour party ignore the position of, not only the producers, hut also their wives and children. They overlook the long hours that the dairymen consistently work in wot or dry weather, on week days and holidays, including Christmas, in drought or flood ; and they are unwilling to grant these toilers a reasonable return for their produce. Although they are required to sell their surplus on a fluctuating market overseas, the Opposition is prepared to deny them a paltry increase of the price of their commodity sold in Australia, to an amount which is only equal to an English ls. a head for the butter which is produced in Australia. The only investigation which I have known in connexion with the cost of producing butter was held in Queensland, and it was considered, after taking into account the basic wage for the full number of hours worked, that Ihe cost was 2s. 6d. per lb. A pound of butter is now worth only ls. 3d. in Australian money. In the past the Labour party has been able to hold up its head and proudly state that it believes in Australian conditions for Australian workers and .the payment of a fair wage to all, but in this instance it is denying to the producers their just due. Apparently, the worker must have cheap food with which to fill his stomach at the expense of the unfortunate primary producers, who are living in the backwoods of Australia and carving out farms in order to df-‘-flop this young nation.
– Does the honorable member suggest that a pound of butter costs 2s. 6d. to produce?
– That estimate was arrived at some years ago by the only commission of inquiry which has been held into this matter.
– Why not produce the returns in detail?
– The primary producers are not paid enough for their products to enable them to employ a row of clerks to collect statistics in this regard. After they have left their beds at 4- a.m., worked all day and retired at night at 9 p.m., as very many of them do. there is no time left for them to get down to a costing system, unless it be the cost of implements which they buy from protected industries. I am proud of the part which I have played in my support of secondary industries and for the payment of a fair rate of remuneration for the workers in industry, because I believe that the whole of our community interests are interwoven. If secondary industries are established, a market is created for the consumers of primary products, and if producers are paid a reasonable price for their commodities, a better buying power is created for city workers. I desire to be consistent, and advocate that an Australian price should be “paid to the producer for his commodity, just as I have strongly advocated the payment of an Australian wage to the employee in secondary industry.
– Does not the honorable member think that more permanent good would be done to the primary producer if an attempt were made to reduce his costs?
– The honorable member would make his costs greater by paying the basic wage to the employees on dairy farms.
– What is wrong with that?
– Absolutely nothing, provided he receives sufficient to make that payment possible, and yet he would be denied that. The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) said that there was no limit to the power of the producer to exploit the public. That is not so. The honorable mem ber would ‘call upon the primary producers to pay more to the workers on their farms, but I remind him that on most dairy farms the dairyfarmer himself, and his wife and children, are the workers. Most of them are struggling against great odds to secure even the low prices paid for their product by workers in sheltered industries in the cities. The Opposition, which accuses the Government of being unwilling to give to the workers what it would give to the farmers, seems to forget that the workers have already been provided for to a much greater extent than is now proposed in respect of primary producers. Federal and State Arbitration Courts have been established; but for the primary producer no authority exists. Another member of the Opposition said that persons who club together to falsify the price of food are acting against the interests of the workers. Surely the securing of a measure of protection for the producers cannot be regarded as falsifying the price of food. Another honorable member accused the dairy-farmers of robbing the workers of £5,000,000 by fixing the price of butter. If those who believe that statement would inquire as to the burden placed on primary producers by the fixing of Australian wages and the tariff protection given to secondary industries, they would find that the cost to the producers runs into many millions of pounds. I have heard, on good authority, that the returns of one factory in New ! South Wales reveal that, owing to drought conditions, 200 dairy-farmers received less than £1 each for the produce they delivered to one butter factory last month. There is a tendency on the part of those unacquainted with the difficulties of the dairy producers to remember only the prices obtained by them in good times, a.nd to overlook their losses at other times. In many instances, years will elapse before dairy-farmers overtake their losses of stock during this period of drought. There is trouble immediately ahead of many of them because the absence of early spring rains will mean a shortage of food next winter.
– The real problem of the primary producers is the heavy interest charges they have to meet.
– A selector who borrows money from the Agricultural Bank of a State has to pay interest. I believe that justice will never be much to the producers until Australia as a whole steps in and relieves them of some of their indebtedness; but, in the meantime, they should not be denied a reasonable price for their produce in the home market. They should not be allowed to starve pending the introduction of better conditions. The long speech of the Leader of the Opposition revealed little sympathy with the producer. The honorable gentleman moved an amendment which he knows is not likely to be accepted by the majority of the States. Of the proposal of the Government it can at least be said that it is confined to one issue, and will not increase the powers of the Commonwealth. The Leader of the Opposition said that the whole question as to what should be done in respect of marketing was one for this Parliament to decide. He went on to say that, in future, the State Parliaments would have to enter into agreements before the Commonwealth can act. He urged that full authority should be given to the Commonwealth Parliament, and not spread among a number of discordant States. I agree with him, and would accept the first opportunity to vote for full powers ‘to be given to the Commonwealth ; hut a matter of urgency such as that of safeguarding our marketing legislation should be kept free from other issues. The Leader of the Opposition also asked the House not to submit to the people an alteration of the Constitution which was sectional in its purpose. Sectional interests are inevitable. For instance, the arbitration legislation passed by this Parliament is designed to benefit one section of the community. Even the desire of the Opposition that increased industrial powers should be vested in the Commonwealth would, if granted, confer a benefit on a section of the people. The Leader of the Opposition also said that he wanted the producers of butter to know that he had no more objection to their getting a fair price for their butter than they should have to paying reasonable prices for the labour of their employees. I ask him how it is possible for dairy-farmers who themselves do not receive the basic wag.” to pay that wage to their employees? The wages fixed by duly constituted tribunals must be paid to the employees in butter factories, transport workers, and others employed in various phases of the industry, before the dairy-farmer can make any profit at all. The Leader of the Opposition also complained that there is no provision for a 40-hour week in the Government’s proposal. If it were possible for all the people in this country to enjoy a working week of 40 hours, they would rush it: but it is not right that the dairy-farmers, who work three times that number of hours a week, should be taxed in order to provide a 40-hour week for employees in sheltered secondary industries without ‘being given something by way of compensation. I do not see how the chances of the referendum being successful would be increased by submitting to the people a proposal for a 40-hour week.
– A 40-hour week might, provide more work for the unemployed and enable them to buy more of the products of the farmer.
– The honorable member’s suggestion would be feasible if we were sure that the producer himself would not be driven off his farm before a 40-hour week had that effect. If the honorable member’s argument is sound, we might as well establish a 5-hour working week and so create even more purchasers. Rut what of the primary producer ! In no other country in the world do the workers enjoy greater benefits relative to those enjoyed by primary producers than they do in Australia.
I reiterate the hope tha’t eventually the primary producer will come into his own, and that all sections of the community, including the Labour party, will agree that justice should he done to the producer. He is entitled to more than the small concession embodied in this proposal, which will enable him to obtain a price commensurate with the cost of production; and a remuneration at least equal to the basic wage. He should no longer be expected to produce and send his product to the London market in competition with “ yellow “ butter and other products, and at the same rime sell his product on the Australian market at that price less the cost of transport, insurance, &c. I feel sure that the workers of Australia as a whole will be prepared to support the measure of justice embodied in this referendum proposal of the Commonwealth Government, and that the Labour party, when it considers the matter from all aspects, will not do injury to the primary producer in a great emergency, which has been created by the money contributed by middlemen and some State governments, to enable James to fight his case through the courts.
Mr. JOHN LAWSON (Macquarie) 3. 33]. - To me it seems passing strange and very regrettable that the Labour party’s criticism of this measure has been confined almost entirely to the narrower aspects of its domestic application, and has had no regard whatever for what, after all, is the main consideration which prompted the Government to put forward its proposal, namely, the need to strengthen the somewhat insecure and uncertain hold that the Australian primary producer lias on overseas markets. That is the object of this measure - to secure the approval of the electors to the resurrection, or re-creation, of machinery that is vi tally necessary for the maintenance of Australia’s export, trade. During the last twenty years the science of marketing has undergone many revolutionary changes, and even to-day remains, very largely, an unknown science, still in the throes of revolutionary change. In that period of experiment, of trial and “error, several facts have emerged very clearly. Probably the most important of these is that individualism in the marketing of primary products, entailing, as it does, trafficking and speculating by middlemen, who serve no useful purpose and whose operations often cause violent and sudden price fluctuations, has completely failed to meet the requirements of modern times and is being supplanted gradually but surely by various systems, embodying many principles of collectivism, through which it is sought to achieve stability and security of markets by spreading the risks of price fluctuations, eliminating the middleman where possible, ensuring a fair domestic price to both producer and consumer, and by concentrating upon the development of a marketing technique to meet the needs of a world that is growing progressively fastidious as to its tastes, and is supplied in such abundance with the staple necessaries of life as to make their marketing one of the most complex of modern economic problems.
When a Government sets out to formulate a marketing policy in a country like Australia it must bear in mind several very important things. First, it must have regard to the high degree of efficiency that has been achieved in marketing by many of Australia’s most serious rivals on overseas markets, such as Denmark, the United States of America, and, coming nearer home, New Zealand. All of the3e countries have acquired a marketing technique which is far in advance of anything yet achieved by Australia. Indeed the contrast in this respect only shows up in bold relief how far Australia has yet to progress before its marketing skill equals that of its most dangerous rivals. We must also consider that the primary producers of Australia in. attempting to market their products overseas are faced with competition from countries where black, coolie and sweated labour is employed and where prevail all the loathsome and undesirable features that arise from the conduct of industry under those conditions. Furthermore, w<-. must bear in mind that Australia and Now Zealand arc more remote from the world’s main markets for primary products than are any of their competitors. Finally, our producers have become greatly handicapped during the last ten or fifteen years as the result of the new agricultural policies that have been developed with the object of achieving self-sufficiency in Italy, Germany, France, and other countries which previously imported a large proportion of their requirements of primary products. To-day these countries are concentrating upon the production of all of their own requirements in foodstuffs, and are closing their markets to those countries from which previously they bought heavily. This development has caused a tremendous diversion of Australia’s exported products from Europe to the one market that, now re- mains there, namely, Great Britain. Even in Great Britain, however, we find that the agricultural policy which has been recently developed in other European countries, is finding increasing favour. In following this course, Great Britain is making what it describes - although we may not agree with the description - as heroic efforts to produce a large measure of the foodstuffs necessary to feed its people. When I visited Great Britain last year, I heard several members of the House of Commons state definitely their opinion that it would be possible for Great Britain to produce locally the whole of its need in foodstuffs and that a policy should be formulated at once with that objective in view. Whether it is possible for Great Britain to achieve complete self-sufficiency, I shall not discuss at the moment, but I say emphatically that the new agricultural policies adopted by European countries, and by Great Britain, have tremendously intensified competition on the British market, and have greatly increased the difficulties which the Australian primary exporter must overcome if he is to hold, much less improve, the position he now enjoys on that market. Having regard to the facts which I have related, it is surely of vital importance to our rural industries and the national economy of Australia, that, in view of developments in other countries during recent years, we should grapple with the problem by entrenching ourselves behind a carefully considered export marketing system. Therefore, the measure has been introduced not because of any sentimental regard that the Government may hold for the primary producers. It is not an emotional gesture. It has been introduced not because the Government has been bludgeoned or browbeaten into taking this action as has been suggested by certain honorable members who have participated in the debate. The object of the measure is to re-establish in law a system which was in operation prior to the decision of the Privy Council in the James case. The Government’s decision to bring this measure before the House is prompted by ‘the knowledge that our rural industries form the cornerstone of our national economy, and that the main tenance of export markets is essential if we are to preserve national solvency. That being so, and the export of primary produce having become such a hazardous and speculative venture during recent years, the Government regards it as incumbent upon it in the national interest to ensure that those who undertake this hazardous and highly speculative task, and who by their exports provide the wherewithal to meet Australia’s external obligations, shall at least receive that measure of assistance which the Commonwealth can legitimately render to ‘re-establish some measure of domestic security. The Government seeks to do no more for the primary producers than the country has already done for other sections of the community. The protection of the secondary industries is a simple process, because by imposing duties on imported goods we can by one operation overcome a multitude of difficulties which in respect of primary industries have to be dealt with separately. Nevertheless the secondary industries enjoy that protection, and because of that it has been possible for manufacturers to give to their employees a standard of living which is probably higher than that enjoyed by persons performing similar work in any other country in the world.
– The honorable member has a lot to learn.
– I readily admit that I have; but I should like the honorable member to refute the statement I have made by naming a country in which the average standard of living is higher than it is in Australia. He knows that he cannot do so. The honorable member who represents a primary producing State ought to be ashamed to place the primary producers in that State, and also in other parts of the Commonwealth, in a position inferior to that of people who work in secondary industries. Any honorable member pretending to be a representative of the labouring classes but. refusing to support the claims of primary producers who are compelled to buy in a market at a price level which supports the world’s highest living standard, but have to sell in the world’s market in competition with coolie, sweated, and black labour, is, in my opinion, guilty of the worst form of class bias. The objections which the Labour party have offered to this measure are varied in character, and run the whole gamut of Labour thought upon such subjects as unification, a 40-hour week, arbitration court awards for rural industries, the fixation of .prices and so on. Many of the objections have been made without any regard for the practical difficulties associated with carrying out the proposal to be submitted to the people.
The criticism of members of the Labour party suggests that they have either failed to read the measure or that they have made a deliberately dishonest misinterpretation of its provisions. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin), in a very long and wordy speech-
– It was a sound speech.
– It was high sounding, but was more froth and bubble than anything else.
– That come3 well from the honorable member. Does he put himself up against the Leader of the Opposition?
– I admit that the Leader of the Opposition is eloquent, but he. would be more effective if he allied eloquence with exactitude. Nevertheless I prefer the subtleties of a dialectitian such as the Leader of the Opposition to the untutored bellowing of a bovine tub thumper.
– I rise to a point of order. The honorable member for Macquarie has likened the honorable member for Kalgoorlie to a cow.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. G. J. Bell).If the remark was directed against any honorable member it must be withdrawn.
– The honorable member for Kalgoorlie may console himself with the knowledge that I did not direct my remarks to any honorable member in particular, but if the cap fits any individual member he may wear it.
– I do not take any notice of- an egregious ass.
– Exchanges which reflect on honorable members personally are disorderly.
– As far as I could understand the speech of the Leader nf the Opposition, he suggested that the people should be asked to sanction an alteration of the Constitution which would make possible the complete unification of the governments of Australia. If that was the intention of the honorable gentleman, I can only repeat that in making his proposal he completely disregarded the fact that its acceptance by the people was most improbable. If there is one issue upon which the smaller States do agree, it is the need for opposing any surrender of further legislative powers to this Parliament. It is utterly futile for any honorable member to suggest that what the Government aims at in the measure before the House could be better achieved by completely submerging it in a proposal for unification, which would inevitably involve a tremendous amount of acrimonious controversy, and stir up much ill-feeling among the smaller States against this Parliament.
I come now to the amendment foreshadowed by the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn), and, I think,, several other members, who said they would support the bill if it were coupled with- a proposal for the introduction of a 40-hour week. I class that as another suggestion that is utterly idle and impracticable. It must occur to anybody whogives a moment’s thought to the subject that a referendum to decide whether a 40-hour week should be applied to industries generally, is both undesirable and impracticable. Does” anybody suggest that this principle could, be applied generally throughout Australia? Even those honorable members of the Labour party who have been advocating the introduction of award rates and hours of employment in rural industries would hesitate to claim that a 40-hour week could be put into operation in the dairying’ industry. First, it would be necessary to determine to which industries a 40-hour week could be successfully applied. As the question would have to be decided by the- arbitration courts, which, must make_ the final decision in all cases, I fail to see what purpose could be served by submitting it to the- people.
– Would the honorable member submit the marketing proposalsto arbitration?
– Yes. The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), the honorable member for Dalley (Mr.Rosevear), and, I think, also the honorable member for Bourke, took exception to the measure before the House on the ground that, in their opinion, it does not sufficiently safeguard the employees in rural industries by providing that, in the event of the Government’s proposal being accepted by the Parliament and the people, award wages should be paid in those industries which benefited from the marketing schemes under consideration. That also seems to be a plausible argument, if one does not examine the matter closely, but the fact is that the employees in any rural industry have the right to-day to appeal to an arbitration court for an award.
Mr.Rosevear. - The honorable member is wrong there.
– I am aware that in some States no rural awards operate, but I would take the matter a little further, and inquire of honorable members opposite exactly the reason for the suspension of the awards. Is it not the extremely poverty-striken condition of the industries concerned, and is not a sine qua non of awards providing for reasonable working hours and rates of pay in a rural industry, as in other industries, that there should be a condition of stability, security and prosperity in that industry? I venture the opinion that, until that condition is established, it will never be possible to provide standards of living in rural industries that are comparable with those enjoyed in most industries carried on in the metropolitan areas of the Commonwealth.
Mr.Rosevear. - But when will the prices obtained for the products of rural industries reach a point at which the payment of award rates of wages will be justified?
– -That is essentially a matter for speculation. I contend that until a measure of stability and security has been established in rural industries - and the present bill proposes to supply the machinery needed to bring about that condition - the hope that rural workers generally will obtain awards providing for the payment of fair wages will be a very barren one. By opposing the creation of this machinery, the Labour party, if it gains the day, must accept the responsibility for destroying whatever chance the rural workers may have in the future of obtaining good wages and reasonable hours of employment under arbitration court awards. I am prepared to go into the country, as I shall do, and tell the rural workers that unless they are prepared to support the setting up of the machinery necessary to permit of the development of rural industries until they are reasonably prosperous, they can never hope to see those industries in a condition that will permit the payment of wages to which rural employees are entitled.
Mr.Rosevear. - The honorable member should support the citrus growers, and confine his attention to them.
– The workers in the citrus industry enjoyed fair wages until the depression came, but, as a result of the hard times experienced during recent years, the award in that industry was suspended and it is not possible to maintain it to-day. When that industry is so stabilized and organized as to be able to control prices, regulate exports and become prosperous, as the result of marketing legislation, it will again be in a position to pay the award rates of wages to which the employees are entitled.
Mr.Rosevear. - Why do the citrusgrowers object to the Government’s proposal ?
– The honorable member for Dalley should not, from his seat, attempt to argue with every honorable member who takes part in this debate.
– The honorable member also referred to the fixation of prices. I understood him to put forward the postulate that if this bill were passed, and the Government’s proposal were accepted by the people, it would automatically bring about the appointment of boards that would first create an artificial scarcity of commodities and then establish artificial prices. That argument is entirely irrelevant because of itself the bill does nothing whatever to set up boards of control or price fixation; it does propose to establish the machinery whereby those boards may be set up by the Commonwealth Government acting in conjunction with the
States or certain of the States. Therefore, the suggestion that the granting of the constitutional alteration that is sought must automatically establish hoards which will then bring about an artificial scarcity of commodities in order to establish artificial prices is, to say the least, entirely erroneous. I should like a definite expression of opinion from the Labour party as to whether or not it accepts the principle of artificial prices for commodities which are the product of rural industries. The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) made a lot of play on that point, but he appeared to be not quite clear whether he believed or did not believe in the fixation of prices.
– The Labour party itself does not know where it stands on that point.
– I agree with, the honorable member for Barker; the Labour party does not know where it stands.
– I was merely quoting from the remarks made by the AttorneyGeneral.
– I am defending the statement which the AttorneyGeneral made on this matter.
– Except that I should expect that the honorable member would quote my remarks a little more accurately than did the honorable member for Dalley.
– I could quote a book full if necessary.
– I want an expression of the opinion of the Labour party. No authoritative declaration has been made by any member of the Opposition as to whether the Labour party supports the principle of establishing artificial prices for primary products as i;. supports the principle of establishing artificial prices for secondary products. No one has said whether the Labour party believes that the primary producer is as entitled to what may be described as an Australian price, which may be higher than the price obtainable in other countries of the world, in the same way as the manufacturer is entitled to charge for his commodities Australian prices that are higher generally than are charged for similar commodities in other parts of the world, and as the Australian worker is entitled to receive, in return for his labour, higher remuneration than is paid to workers in other parts of the world. The Government is asking for the extension to the primary producers of the privileges that have been enjoyed by other sections of the community for many years. As to the suggestion of exploitation of the community by any boards which might be setup if the referendum be carried, I refer honorable members of the Labour party to the fact that, notwithstanding that under the powers which the Commonwealth Government presumed these marketing schemes have been operating for many years, the Labour party has failed to indicate one instance of exploitation of the Australian public during the whole period in which marketing boards have been operating. Until the Opposition has been able to point to instances of exploitation we can accept its criticism of the measure on that score as being merely an empty excuse for its opposition to the proposed alteration. As a matter of fact, the primary producers have accepted lower domestic prices for their commodities for many years than are obtainable in most other countries. The Australian wheat-grower, in the last six or seven years, has been receiving anything from 2s. to 3s. a bushel for his product, while the wheat-grower in Italy has been receiving 9s. sterling for every bushel that he produces. For several years in England the wheat-growers have been receiving about 5s. 8d. a bushel for their wheat. Some honorable members have complained about the prices of butter charged in the Australian market. I call their attention to the prices realized in the last two years in European countries. I have in my possession a statement showing that, during the last two years, when butter on the London market sold at 70s. a cwt., its price was 190s. a cwt. in Holland; when the London price was 69s., the domestic price in Denmark was 180s., and the domestic price in Paris was 238s.; when the London price was 6Ss., it was 174s. in Berlin and Brussels.
– Will the honorable member give the comparable prices in Australia?
– At no period during the last six years has the wholesale price of butter in Australia been within 30s. a cwt. of the lowest price on the foreign markets that I have cited. The people who complain about exploitation of Australian consumers by the primary producers should give some closer study to such facts. When one considers that the cost of production of butter in France is reckoned at more than 200s. a cwt., one must understand why the dairy farmer in Australia cannot pay award wages. One must understand further that until the dairy farmer 13 assured of a price, at least 011 the domestic market, which will provide a reasonable return for the labour of production, it will never be possible for him to pay award rates. I conclude by saying that the measure before the House offers the country an opportunity to choose between two courses: The first is that of national planning as applied to marketing; the alternative is to continue to follow the primrose path of indolence and laissez faire, risking all
I he chaos and confusion that such a course must ultimately entail. Expressed in different form : We must decide* whether we shall concentrate upon a highly efficient marketing technique that will establish rural industries upon such a basis as will ensure a, fair return to the producer, reasonable prices to the consumer, and, ultimately, conditions for the workers that will enable them to occupy a position comparable with that enjoyed by the employees of secondary industries. The alternative is to condone the continuance of highly degrading conditions of sweated labour in rural, industries. If the Labour party by its opposition defeats the Government’s proposals, then it will be held guilty of denying to rural industries the better conditions to which they are entitled, and must accept full responsibility and the stigma attaching thereto for withholding from the rural worker, perhaps indefinitely and perhaps permanently, his undeniable right to earn an adequate wage under award conditions established by an arbitration tribunal.
I assure the House that the measure has my unqualified support. I shall oppose any move by the Labour party to establish among the farming community an economic condition comparable with the condition of peasantry in
Poland, Czechoslovakia and such countries. I shall also oppose any attitude of the Labour party, either active or passive, that must ultimately place the workers in rural industries in a position analogous to that of men who are obliged to live on the State dole.
.- I had not intended to speak until certain Government members indicated their attitude towards the Labour party’s criticism of this proposal. The concluding remarks of the honorable member who has just resumed his seat (Mr. John Lawson) were, to say the least, illuminating. This honorable gentleman has a very lively imagination, and, having drawn lavishly on it, he calmly assumed that he had made a deep impression. His statement that the actions of the Labour party would have the effect of reducing the workers in rural industries to the condition of the lowest peasantry in European countries is, at best,- absurd. No one knows better than he does that in. the past the Labour party has been principally instrumental in raising the standard of the workers of this country, and that the party to which’ he belongs has endeavoured to keep wages and working conditions at as low a level as possible.
It has been said that, because I come from a primary-producing State, my opposition to this proposal is surprising. It is true that I come from a primaryproducing State, and that primary producers are a fairly large proportion of my constituents. That is partly the reason for the opposition which I am offering to this measure.
The honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Bernard Corser) referred to the attitude adopted by the Premier of Tasmania at the recent Premiers Conference in Adelaide. I submit that that attitude was quite consistent. In Tasmania, boards have been established with the object of giving to primary producers the opportunity to control their own industry. Every inducement was offered to the butter producers to establish an organization which would effectively control their operations in their own interests; hut. when the butter equalization scheme was submitted to a ballot of the dairymen it was rejected by a majority of about three to one.
Rather extravagant statements were made by the honorable member for Wide Bay m regard to the position of the farmers. One statement was that certain farmers worked 23 hours a day. Chat is a ridiculous assertion. I have a fairly intimate knowledge of farming operations, and know that dairy farmers in particular work long hours, but the number is nothing like 23. This illustrates the value of the honorable member’s remarks generally. By some means, he worked into his speech a reference to t llc protection of the potato-growing industry in Tasmania. Admittedly, some protection has been afforded in’ this direction, so that the Australian market might be preserved for the Australian growers. Similarly, the Australian market has been preserved for the sugargrowers of Queensland. This is the right policy to adopt with a view finally to making Australia self-contained.
The likelihood of Tasmania being prepared to grant additional powers to the Commonwealth has been questioned. I have been reliably informed that Tasmania is prepared to agree to an enlargement of Commonwealth powers, and have no doubt that a reasonably comprehensive proposal would be supported by all sections of the community in that State.
It has been said that the Labour party has not co-operated with the Government, or done anything that might assist towards ensuring the success of the referendum. I should like to know when the Labour party has been approached for the purpose of obtaining such cooperation in the formulation of a proposal that would have the support of all members of this House.
– Only in that way can a referendum be successful.
– I endorse that sentiment. On no occasion has the Government made overtures to the Labour party.
– It has even refused to supply information in regard to its intentions.
– That is so. The Government has made no attempt to secure the co-operation of the Labour party in an endeavour to have the powers of the Commonwealth extended, despite the doubtful validity of its control of certain functions. It is now operating instrumentalities, such as wireless and aviation, which I agree are its rightful functions, but which may be beyond its constitutional powers. Although the time is long overdue for the enlargement of the powers of the Commonwealth, and its assumption of power in relation to marketing has been successfully challenged in the James case, the Government merely seeks to establish the status quo, claiming that the matter is one of urgency. I agree with other members of my party that the expenditure of £100,000 is too big a price to pay for the reference to the people of a comparatively small issue. The Government lacks vision. It should, have embraced the opportunity to obtain the co-operation of all parties in the formulation of a comprehensive proposal, for an enlargement of power in the manner deemed desirable and necessary. Such a proposal would have been assured of success. I agree with those Government supporters, including the honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson), and the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) who expressed the opinion that this opportunity should have been taken to seek still wider Commonwealth powers. However, the Government has been able to dragoon its supporters into line, and we have the present restricted proposal before us.
– The Premier of Tasmania stated in Adelaide that he was absolutely opposed to the granting of any increased powers to the Commonwealth.
– Of course I do not doubt the Minister’s statement, but I have the report of the conference before me, and it seems strange that it contains no such sweeping statement by the Premier of Tasmania. Indeed, I have definite information to the effect that the Government of Tasmania would support a proposal for the granting of complete industrial powers to the Commonwealth.
I do not believe that the marketing schemes, to be inaugurated if this proposed alteration is agreed to by the people, would satisfactorily solve the problem of disposing of our surplus pri- mary products. Dealing with this subject, in its particular application to the dried fruits industry, the chairman of the Dried Fruits Board, stated in evidence before the royal commission on the Constitution: -
In view of the fact that the production far exceeds the Australian consumption, and that the prices overseas are very considerably below those obtainable on the Australian market, it was found necessary in 102-1 for the Govern ments of the dried fruits producing States to appoint boards to regulate the quantities which could be sold within the Commonweatlh. Legislation was passed in all dried fruits producing States with the object of ensuring that the annual surplus above the -Australian requirements shall be exported, rand that all growers and packing sheds shall share equally in the better prices obtainable on the local market. These boards have therefore declared a uniform export percentage of the crop in each State, and supervision of arrangements for overseas sales is exercised by a board appointed by the Federal Government.
I understand that certain quotas were laid down, and all surplus production had to be exported. At the present time, most of our primary industries are producing a great deal more than is being consumed locally, and the question arises whether this surplus production is being disposed of in the best way. The position is that while we are producing more than we are able to consume, a great many of our people are receiving less than they need. This problem of equating production and consumption is still to be solved, and I do not think that the Government’s present proposal will go far towards its solution.
When the Government goes before the people in support of its proposal, it will have some difficulty in reconciling the statements made by some of its supporters a few years ago with those they have been making recently. For instance, the present Commonwealth AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Menzies) when AttorneyGeneral of Victoria in 1934, made the following statement: -
I have always thought that the intention of section !12 was that the Commonwealth should also be bound by it, and that any restriction of interstate trade should be placed beyond tho power of all invaders and not merely beyond that of the State.
The Minister for the Interior (Mr. Paterson) has also, at various times, made conflicting statements which will rake a good deal of explanation.
In dealing with the subject of marketing schemes, Professor Giblin, when discussing the wheat industry, stated: -
It might be claimed that Professor Giblin is not a practical man, but there is no doubt that he was discussing this subject as a well-informed observer. He is a keen thinker, and had given the matter full consideration. I have no doubt that the Government will secure the passage of this bill, but it has yet to be seen whether or not the people will grant the power asked for, even though, as honorable members opposite claim, it would involve so slight an alteration of the Constitution. Even if section 92 were limited as proposed, Parliament would still be without the power to protect the public in regard to prices, and workmen in respect of wages and industrial conditions. Parliamentary - power is necessarily incomplete, and therefore defective. In effect, the Commonwealth, even if granted the. power, would lack authority. Under the proposed section 92a the Commonwealth Parliament would be unable to do anything to inaugurate marketing schemes without the passage of complementary legislation by the States. If marketing powers are to be sought by the Commonwealth Parliament, then those powers should be plenary, and the referendum proposal should be couched in such terms as will vest in the Commonwealth Parliament full power to implement national marketing organizations. The present proposal falls far short of this, and, in the interests of the producers, it should be rejected until a more substantial proposal is offered. Constitutional reform is overdue in Australia, but we lack the leaders to achieve it.
.- I had intended to give a silent vote on this mutter, but certain arguments adduced in the course of the debate last night make it necessary for me to speak. I cannot altogether understand the keen desire of so many members of this Parliament for the extension of Commonwealth powers. The constitution as drafted 36 years ago, conferred upon the Commonwealth a long list of powers, many of which have never yet been exercised. Notwithstanding this, however, there is a persistent cry for a further extension of Commonwealth powers, even though the people have repeatedly refused to grant the increased powers asked for. Perhaps this attitude of honorable members is due to the fact that many of them have had little or no experience in State Parliaments. [Quorum formed.’] If I may say so without offence, there is an arrogant belief by many members of this Parliament that all they have to do is to approach the people for extended powers for the Commonwealth, and they will be granted. That seems an almost impertinent attitude having regard to the provisions of the Constitution defining the precise powers of the Commonwealth Parliament, and safeguarding the sovereign rights of the States in respect of all other matters. Tet . the demand for extended powers for this Parliament persists notwithstanding the failure which has attended similar appeals to the people in the past. In passing, may I say that it seems extraordinary that any court in Australia could have read into section 92 of the Constitution, a meaning different from that expressed in regard to it by the Privy Council. The United States of America has a useful system by which the Executive must refer to a committee of the Senate all proposed appointments to the High Court. The time is ripe for an alteration of the Constitution to adopt that principle in connexion with all appointments to the High Court of Australia, as in many instances these have been far from satisfactory. There are many who believe that unification should be brought about in Australia. In 1926, there was almost complete unanimity in this House among the members of the Nationalist party and the Labour party with respect to a proposed alteration for an enlargement of the Commonwealth’s industrial power. The only members who opposed it were the late Mr. A. S. Rodgers and myself; when the division was taken, he and I were on one side, and the combined Government and Opposition parties were on the other. But when the proposal was put to the people, it met with very strong opposition in Victoria, particularly in the electorates of the then honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Latham) and the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) who were so eager for its acceptance. It was finally turned down by the people as a whole by a two to one majority. My experience of public life and my knowledge of the desire of the people to retain for the States the power that they possessed, particularly in regard to trade and commerce, made me confident that the people would not sanction the proposed alteration. If honorable members will study the metropolitan newspapers they will see that whereas great publicity is given to happenings in the State Parliaments, very little attention is paid to the work of the Federal Parliament. In a continent with an area almost equal to that of the United States of America, people realize the difficulties associated with central control. In this national capital, we have the spectacle of bureaucratic control at its worst and people have no desire to see the evil extended. One can hardly import any commodity without seeking the authority of some wretched clerk in a government office, or being compelled to toady to some Minister for favours. Honorable members year after year are making the bureaucracy more autocratic; it is no wonder, therefore, that the people desire the States to retain the measure of control which they possess at the present time Some years ago, an attempt was made in the United States of America to influence the’ people to clothe the national Parliament with. absolute powers. Addressing a big deputation which waited on him in 1926, Mr. Coolidge, then President of the United States of America said -
No method of procedure has ever been devised by which liberty could he divorced from self-government. No plan of centralization has ever been adopted which did not result in bureaucracy, tyranny, inflexibility, reaction and decline. Of all forms of government, those administered by bureaux are about the least satisfactory to an enlightened and progressive people. Being irresponsible they become autocratic, and being autocratic they resist all development. Unless bureaucracy is constantly resisted it breaks down representative government and overwhelms democracy. It is the one clement in our institutions that sets up the pretence nf having authority over everybody and being responsible to nobody. While wc ought to glory in the union and remember that it is the source from which the States derive their chief title to fame, we must also recognize that the national administration is not and cannot bo adjusted to the needs of local government. It is too far away to bc informed of local -needs, too inaccessible to he responsive to local conditions. The States should not bc induced to coercion or by favour to surrender the management of their own affairs. The Federal Government ought to resist the tendency to be loaded up with duties which the States should perform. It does not follow that because something ought to be done the National Government ought to do it.
I -commend those words to honorable members’, and I ask them to realize the difficulties which must arise, owing to the huge areas we have to administer, and the differing conditions under which people in various parts of this continent labour and conduct their business. It is unwise lo be continually asking that we should have full power vested in the Federal Parliament in Canberra. Autocratic control of trade and commerce is an abomination and a disgrace to the Parliament which permits it to continue. Though I am sorry that there should be any need for an alteration of the Constitution, it is essential, in view of the fact that other sections of the community
Iia ve been given great concessions by way of tariff duties and restrictions and awards of the Arbitration Court. Why, then, should the primary producers bo compelled to sell their goods at less than the price which they would realize overseas, when, at the same time, they are providing the funds in other countries which enable the Australian manufacturers to purchase their raw materials? The manufacturers export nothing; they create no funds overseas to meet the purchase of their requirements of raw materials amounting to from £20,000,000 to £40,000,000 per annum. Somebody has to provide the funds for those purchases, and the primary producers do so by establishing credits with their exports.
The Government’s proposal gives some small hope that the producers will obtain a home-consumption price for Australian sales. I do not think Labour members generally intend to oppose this bill; I have come to the conclusion that they are merely setting up an ‘“‘Aunt Sally” which they know will he knocked down.
– We are opposed to the bill.
– The Labour party is well aware that unless it can win some of the seats now held by Country party members it cannot hope to secure a majority in this House.
– We are certain of it ; we will get the Country party seats.
– If this is a good Country party measure why does not the honorable member support it ?
– Labour members realize that if they want to secure a majority in this House they must win several of the Country party seats which they lost recently, and they also know That if they went to the people and advised them not to pass the Government’s proposal they would be doomed in the country.
– The honorable member ought to be pleased with that.
– I said earlier in my speech that I would have recorded a silent vote on this bill but for the remarks of some honorable members opposite. Eoiinstance, the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) desired to make the people believe that if the proposed alteration of the Constitution were made, the primary producers, through their various control boards, would bc able to exploit the community without hindrance by this Parliament. T wish to make it clear that the only power to be sought is one which will be operated and controlled by this Parliament. Whatever power is granted by the Parliament to boards may be at any time terminated by the repeal of the legislation under which such boards operate. If it thought fit, the Parliament could repeal the legislation setting up the control boards dealing with dried fruits and dairy products, and also the wheat and wheat products legislation passed recently. A Parliament which has power to enact a measure, surely also has power to repeal it. If even a suspicion arose that the people were being exploited under a particular measure, the Parliament could at once take effective action. It is entirely unfair that on the one hand, the primary producers should be compelled to sell their products in Australia at world prices, and that on the other hand, they should have to pay local prices for all that they require. .”While I have no doubt that the Labour party will require a vote to be taken on the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition, I do not imagine for a moment that it will be so foolish as to do anything to defeat the referendum if the Government’s proposal should be agreed to. That would be running too much risk. The party may, therefore, engage in a certain amount of fluster and bluster in trying to secure the acceptance of its own proposal in this House, but I have no doubt as to what will happen if it fails. It will give the Government’s proposal its blessing.
.- General agreement has been shown by honorable members of all parties in the House as to the sentiment underlying section 92 of the Commonwealth Constitution. . It is felt that section 92 was intended to prevent artificial geographical boundaries from dividing the nation in such a way as to prevent free intercourse in trade and commerce. A provision to preclude the possibility of legislative action of a discriminatory character by the people in one part of the Commonwealth against people living in another part of it is quite proper. In a democratic country it is fundamentally right that the people should enjoy equal opportunities irrespective of the geographical considerations. It would be quite wrong for State governments to attempt by legislative action to nullify a constitutional provision that our people shall enjoy equal opportunities to trade within the Commonwealth. But geographical boundaries are not the only ones that may cause a measure of separation. Boundaries raised by sectional interests may also prevent our people from enjoying the freedom which the Constitution intended them to have. It is remarkable that the section of the Constitution which pro vided freedom for the people of all the States to engage in free trade and commerce and sought to deny political privileges to one section of the people which were not possible to another section of it, should actually also debar the national Parliament from legislating so as to provide freedom for the people of different callings to act without restraint. This is surely a paradox. The national Parliament is vested with constitutional authority to make possible an artifical level of prices in Australia for secondary products and also an artificial level of wages for Australia workers- this power is being effectively used - but it has no power to make possible an artificial level of prices in Australia for primary products. Surely honorable members who agree that artificial price levels for secondary products and artificial wage levels for workers in industry are necessary in our particular circumstances cannot logically deny that power should also be vested in the national Parliament to provide an artificial price level for primary products sold within Australia, so that primary producers may be compensated in some degree at least for having to pay higher prices for manufactured goods and higher wages for services rendered than would apply if the constitutional power to which I have referred did not exist. Yet we find, now that the national Parliament is giving consideration to ways and means to secure the necessary power to compensate those engaged in our exporting industries for the disabilities under which they labour, certain honorable gentlemen are offering objections. Unless power of the kind now being sought is provided penalties will continue to be placed upon primary producers engaged in our export industries.
Accepting, as we do, the principle of equal opportunity for all sections of our people, we now find it necessary to alter section 92 of our Constitution so as to enable the Parliament to legislate in such a way as to compensate primary producers engaged in exporting industries for the difficulties they have encountered. Hitherto our judicial .authorities have held that the national Parliament possessed such power in conjunction with the State parliaments, and in fact the power has been exercised for a number of years with the approval of all parties in the Commonwealth Parliament and all parties in the State parliaments, for the legislation passed by the Commonwealth Parliament has required complementary legislation by the State parliaments. But we are now presented with an amazing spectacle. Honorable gentlemen of the Labour party who assisted to enact the marketing legislation that has been invalidated by the decision of the Privy Council are now offering adamant opposition to the proposal of the Government to seek additional constitutional authority to validate the measures which they helped to pass. As members of the Labour party shared with the members of other parties in this Parliament the responsibility for placing our various marketing measures on the statute-book, it passes my comprehension how on earth they can hope satisfactorily to explain their present action.
I say without apology that I firmly believe in the principle enunciated in the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin).
– Then the honorable member understands the Labour party!
– In this connexion I do not. Although I firmly believe in the principle underlying the amendment, I realize that no proposal has been made by that honorable gentleman for the taking of positive action. All that the Leader of the Opposition seeks is the affirmation by this Parliament of a certain principle ; but that cannot be regarded as a substitute for action. I should be quite prepared to join with the Labour party at any time in affirming the principle of the amendment, but a pious resolution of that character would be of no help to the primary producers in the circumstances in which they now find themselves. Positive action is required, for the crisis which confronts the primary producers at present is the most acute of recent years in Australia. Nothing but extreme celerity of action can possibly provide a solution of our problems. The passing of a pious resolution at this stage will get us. nowhere. This debate has now continued for some time, and I have listened intently for a single suggestion from honor- able members of the Labour party as to what positive action should be taken to meet the difficulties in which the primary producers find themselves, but their speeches have been utterly barren of a single constructive proposal of this kind. The Labour party boasts that it is the champion of democracy, but to-day it is actually resisting an effort to assist the democracy, for the Government’s proposal will at least ensure a measure of equal treatment to all sections of the community.
– It will result in the wasting of £100,000.
– That is not so. Before any government sets out to spend £100,000 with the object of securing endorsement to a suggested alteration of the Constitution it should give consideration to the various factors which might lead to the success or defeat of its proposal. Which are the factors that should be borne in mind ? First, there are the two parties which support the Government in this House. These definitely favour the Government’s proposal. Other factors are the State governments and the Opposition. I have said that I share with the Labour party the opinion that the Commonwealth Parliament should be clothed with greater constitutional power, but it will be of no use to go before the people merely carrying the banner of our aspirations when what is needed is positive action to help our primary producing industries out of their difficulties. It did not take long to discover that the various State governments presented an almost unbroken front to any proposal that the Commonwealth Parliament should be granted substantially additional powers. No one party in State politics is responsible for that attitude. There was early discovered to be an almost unbroken front maintained by all State parliaments, governments and political parties in opposition to a. substantial addition to the powers of the Commonwealth. This caused the Commonwealth Government on this occasion to decide not to seek from the people full powers over trade, commerce and industry.
I ask honorable members now to consider the attitude which we might reasonably expect the Labour party in Federal politics to adopt. Throughout the whole of its history the Labour party has claimed that the Commonwealth should have far greater powers than it now possesses, and in those circumstances it would be quite a reasonable and logical deduction to make that, while the Labour party would seek to obtain the maximum additional powers for the Commonwealth, it would be prepared to support any proposal to gain any additional power whatsoever. Weighing up these factors the Government has, in my opinion, quite rightly come to the conclusion that in view of the opposition in the States, it would be futile to seek the approval of the people for the granting to the Commonwealth of full powers in respect of trade, commerce and industry, and that it should confine the issue to the single simple one of vesting in this Parliament the power which it was believed to possess before the decision of the Privy Council, to weld together legislation passed by the State parliaments in relation to the marketing of the products of the export industries. Further, in view of the facts which I already outlined, the Government was entitled to expect the assistance of the Opposition in placing such a proposal before the people. For the Labour party to contend that the Commonwealth should have further additional powers is quite legitimate, but for it to adopt the attitude that it will oppose the marketing proposal unless the Government is prepared to go before the people with a request for a substantial extension of Commonwealth powers, is entirely illogical and unjustifiable.
– But the honorable member has stated that he believes that the Commonwealth should have those powers.
– Then the honorable member has not the courage to support his own opinions.
– I am not prepared to go before the people, and merely disclose to them the ideals which I hold, with the full knowledge that, in view of the existing opposition of State governments, the public are not likely to grant those powers to the Commonwealth. If a referendum on that basis were to fail the export industries which are the foundational industries of the Commonwealth, would be shorn of any compensation which this
Parliament could give them for the disabilities which are imposed upon them by federal policy. In the attitude of the State governments we find an ideal exposition of the principle of collective security of which we have read so much in international affairs during recent years. If the nations of the world could only take the lead from the State governments under the Australian federal system, and would present that same unbroken front that the States present whenever there is any suggestion that the Commonwealth should be given additional powers, real collective security would be established in international affairs. While I do not propose to digress in order to enlarge upon that aspect, I consider that it is most regrettable and wrong that the State governments, for the purpose of preserving their own sovereign rights and importance, should cultivate an attitude on the part of the people that the Commonwealth is in the nature of an overlord to them. Yet almost without exception such is their attitude towards the Federal Government. If we are to regard the speeches of honorable members of the Opposition seriously, we shall apparently witness the spectacle of “ State-righters “ marching abreast with unificationists in opposition to the suggestion that some limited additional power should be granted to the Commonwealth. What an unholy alliance that would be! The State-righters who are prepared to fight tooth and nail against the slightest addition to the powers of the Commonwealth, would line up abreast with the unificationists to oppose a proposal that the people should approve of conferring a most meagre additional power upon the Commonwealth. If I were desirous of viewing this matter purely from the aspect of party politics, I should be jubilant at the thought of the disastrous effect that such an attitude would have, if persisted in, on Labour candidates in the country electorates. There is not the slightest doubt that if the Labour party persists in maintaining the attitude taken up by the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Garden) and so many of his colleagues it must be prepared to forfeit all thought of adding to its numbers from country constituencies. However, I yet believe that the realization of the tangle into which the Opposition has got itself will induce honorable members of the Labour party to turn a somersault so that when the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) is disposed of they will endeavour to devise some excuse for supporting the referendum.
– The honorable member’s statements make it hard for the Labour party to repent.
– I believe that I could do no more, in inducing them to repent, than to point out the disastrous result that their advocacy will bring on them in country constituencies.
During this debate honorable members have listened to a good deal of blather from certain members of the Opposition, in regard to the Australian consumers providing the best market for the products of primary industry. Associating this statement, which should be correct and which, unfortunately, is not so in respect of certain major primary industries, with their opposition to legislation which has for its object the establishment of an Australian home-consumption price for primary industries, we have the amazing spectacle of honorable members of the Opposition who, on every possible occasion, support protective duties aimed at the establishment of an Australian level of prices for the products of secondary industries, bitterly opposing the establishment of an artificial level of Australian prices for primary industry. The honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) and others have expressed the view that it is utterly wrong that the produce of the dried-fruit growers of Australia should be sold to fellow Australians at a higher price-
– I did not say that.
– That deduction can be made from the honorable member’s speech. Having listened carefully to the remarks of the honorable member, I concluded that he was opposed to Australian consumers paying a higher price for dried fruits than that which is obtained for similar products from Turkey, Greece and Asia Minor on the British market. Although the honorable member holds that opinion, he would view with abhorence any proposal that boots which are manufactured in his electorate should be sold in Australia at a price established by importations from Czechoslovakia. He apparently considers that it is quite just for us to pay an Australian level of prices for the boots, shirts and clothing that we wear, but that it is utterly wrong for the public to be asked to pay more for their dried fruits and diary’ products than the price which is established by contemporary producers in Asia Minor, Latvia and other countries. If honorable members of the Opposition persist in maintaining that attitude throughout the conduct of the forthcoming referendum campaign, the recently endorsed candidates in the country electorates of Victoria have my entire sympathy.Reflection on the part of honorable gentlemen will possibly yet induce them, after the defeat of the amendment, which is so obvious, to see the light, and logically support the proposal for the granting of this limited additional power to the Commonwealth.
I can say nothing in regard to the virtues of organized marketing that has not already been said by many speakers during this debate, and I therefore do not propose to traverse the necessity for this legislation. I shall conclude my remarks by asking members of the Opposition to review the speeches which they have made and to join with the ministerial parties in seeking to obtain for the Commonwealth necessary additional power which, before the Privy Council decision, we presumed that it possessed. They will thereby make it possible for this Parliament to legislate in order to compensate the exporting industries for the disabilities which are imposed upon them by the Australian protection policy and legislation dealing with wages and conditions in secondary industries.
– I have endeavoured to keep out of the ring in this debate, because I feel sure that the Attorney-General (Mr. Menzies) must be weary of listening to speeches upon the proposed alteration of the Constitution. By this time, the debate has become like a piece of string, but as all parties including the “Parramatta party “, the “ Garden party “, and others have expressed their views upon this subject, the “ Independent party “, myself, would be classified as a rail sitter if it refrained from explaining its views on this matter. ‘ The honorable member for
Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) also has stated that he did not desire to be classified as a rail sitter. I have, bow ever, been inspired to participate in the debate by the oratory of the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. John Lawson), because if I were to abstain from speaking to this measure, I might later be charged with giving expression to those terminological, inexactitudes to w hich he was referring.
I do not propose to give a legal interpretation of the situation in regard to the proposed constitution alteration, because it is beyond my limitations to do so. The legal aspect has been explained to us by honorable gentlemen well qualified to do so, and I should like to think that the Attorney-General will always give us the benefit of his legal knowlsdg-3 in such a manner that laymen can follow it, as he has on this occasion. In view of the fact that other honorable members have considered the legal aspect, I do not propose to enter, into a technical discussion of it. It also applies to those in the outlying regions of this vast continent, who are now disinherited by their inability to produce profitably. I am amazed that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) should ask the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons), “What is marketing?” for I have no doubt that he is quite capable of occupying the dual roles of both buyer and seller. The honorable member threw out a challenge to the Prime Minister almost as if the right honorable gentleman were a clairvoyant and could, by gazing into the crystal, reveal secrets hidden from others. The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan), who is himself clothed in the drapery of obscurantism, chided the Attorney-General with not knowing what the term “marketing” meant.
I do not think that the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition is regarded seriously by any one in this country. It is merely a political gesture which leaves the way open for the placating of the electors in the future. It postulates that in the future when we pass legislation dealing with national insurance we must have something to sell in order to keep the electors in a good humour. I can almost hear the voice of the auctioneer asking, “ How much am I offered?”. Moreover, I do not think that the Labour party itself regards the amendment seriously. The’ introduction of this bill presents an opportunity to do something remedial instead of something penal and obstructive. At times, 1 have criticized the Government severely, but on this occasion I shall support it, because I believe that on this subject a united parliament should give to the people a lead, so that those primary producers whom we all desire to assist may be placed on the same footing as others who are already protected. The amendment of the Leader of the Opposition strikes a death-blow at something which I regard as basic, namely, the product of the soil. Its most serious defect would be the concentration of power in one place. Coming from a vast electorate, far removed from the Seat of Government, I object to such concentration, for I know that when power is so concentrated as to establish a bureaucracy, it becomes a menace. What applies in the administrative sphere applies also in the industrial sphere. There cannot be uniformity in a continent like this; the Australian continent is not homogeneous, nor is each locality in it capable of producing, on an equal footing, both primary and secondary products of every description. But in an endeavour to make up the leeway outlying areas should be assisted by special grants or rights to produce both primary and secondary commodities. The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Hawker), who mentioned this point, but passed on without elaborating it, said that South Australia was penalized in that it could not compete in secondary production with the eastern States. The truth is that the dice are loaded against South Australia lifting up its head industrially and competing with other States more . favorably situated. The position of Western Australia and Tasmania is even worse, and, accordingly, I am tho more amazed that the Leader of the Opposition, who represents a constituency in the western State, should move an amendment which virtually strikes a death blow at his own State. I like to think that when a bill to deal with immigration comes before us, my party will be able to suggest. a scheme for national planning and the sectionalizing of the continent. Even if the Govern- ment does not offer a remedy for the difficulty confronting our primary producers, it does at least offer a palliative pending the introduction of a long-range plan. It is the duty of Parliament to pass this legislation so that those primary producers who are affected by the decision of the Privy Council may escape from the slough of despond and carry on, knowing that, because their produce can he marketed, their labours will not be in vain. The basic nature of this legislation is realized when we reflect that the farmer is to a degree at a dead end or disinherited. In the settled districts there is no more new land to be developed, whilst the land in cultivation is deteriorating by possibly from 3 to 5 per cent, per annum. There are few areas where new land is coming into cultivation, and causing an upward trend by reason of the unearned increment. Because such areas are now few and isolated, there is urgent need to assist the primary producers whoso activities, though of a basic nature, are cramped because the capital value of the farmer’s assets is now in retrograde motion, or being eaten away. I have pleasure in supporting the Government’s endeavour to assist them, and I ask the Opposition to reconsider its attitude towards this measure and to follow the lead of the Labour party in Queensland in an attempt to solve the problems confronting the primary producers of this country.
.- I listened with .a great deal of interest to the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. McEwen), whose speech was not so much an appeal to this House as propaganda for the electors. I am opposed to the bill before the House, first, because the Government has not shown that the. powers which it seeks are not already contained in the Constitution, and, secondly, because it provides for the transfer of powers which I am not prepared to give to the present Government unless and until those powers are fully defined and limited. There are other factors than the anomalous position occupied by the AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Menzies), which make caution imperative and impel me to look for the real motive behind this bill. I cannot escape from the belief that there is something sinister behind the proposed referendum. Obviously, the AttorneyGeneral knew prior to leaving Australia to plead the case for the Commonwealth before the Privy Council, that section 92 of the Constitution bound the Commonwealth, for he had already argued that way as a lawyer, and indeed, was so convinced that he was right, that he had allowed his opinion to be printed. Yet, as Attorney-General of the Commonwealth, he allowed the farce to go on, and accepted a brief to argue against his own convictions. It is too much to believe that the honorable gentleman was overruled by the non-legal members of the Cabinet for, if I understand the functions of an Attorney-General aright, one of his duties is to advise the Government on matters of law. This House is entitled to know why the Attorney-General gave bad advice, knowing it to be bad. Why, for instance, did he not advise the Government to take advantage of other powers conferred upon it by the Constitution before rushing the country into an expenditure of £100,000 on a referendum? Although the onus is on the Government to show that it has not the necessary power it has not done anything to discharge the obligation that rests upon it. The basis of the sugar price stabilization and marketing plan is an agreement between the Commonwealth and Queensland Governments. The plan works well for every one except the consumer. A way was found to give protection to the sugar combine without incurring either the expense, or the risk of a referendum, and I contend that similar methods are available to this Government to enable it to provide orderly marketing and price stabilization in respect of every primary” product. Under paragraph 37 of section 51 of the Constitution this Parliament has power to make laws with respect to any matter referred to it by any of the States.
– The matter, first of all, lias got to be referred to the Commonwealth by the States.
– Yes, and we have yet to learn why, if the States concerned, for instance, with the dried fruits industry, refer this matter to this Parliament, laws cannot be validly passed to ensure proper control of marketing in that industry. The same observation applies to the marketing of other products. The onus rests on this Government to show, before it asks the people of the Commonwealth to make another stab in the dark, that it does not now possess power to provide orderly marketing. Under this proposal the people will simply he asked to make a guess at what the High Court might, at a future date, interpret this measure to mean.
– What power does the honorable member suggest that the Commonwealth should implement?
– It should have unlimited powers.
– Is not the honorable member suggesting that the Commonwealth already has unlimited powers?
– If .the honorable member says that the Commonwealth has not the marketing power, is he in favour of giving extended powers to it? If he is, I submit, he should support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition. [Quorum formed.”]
I am not prepared to take the risk involved in submitting so hazy a proposal as this to the people. No satisfactory explanation has been given by the Attorney-General as to where this measure leads, and no such indication is apparent in the bill itself. For instance, what is the exact meaning of the phrase “laws with respect to marketing.” What does “marketing” mean?- Even the Attorney-General admits that he does not know. How, then, can honorable members or the people be expected to know? An opinion prevails among high legal authorities that it is impossible to define satisfactorily the meaning of “marketing.” A law to reduce wages in ah industry might be interpreted as “ a law with respect to the marketing” of the product of that industry. Furthermore, laws to restrict production, or to compel producers to destroy excess production, might reasonably be interpreted as “laws with respect to marketing.” How can we be sure of our ground in this matter? The Attorney-General cannot give the House any assurance that such laws as I have just mentioned would be incompatible with this measure. In those circumstances we cannot face the people honestly, and, therefore, any appeal to them by way of a referendum will be a step in the dark. From the AttorneyGeneral’s remarks I gather that the power which the Government proposes to seek from the people is merely to enable it to validate certain legislation that has been declared invalid. But no provision is made in this measure in that respect. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) dealt at length with that point this afternoon. Indeed, the bill seeks to procure for the Government power to go on indefinitely making laws on a basis that cannot be defined legally.
– The Attorney-General did not say that the phrase “ with respect to marketing” had no meaning; he said that it might have a very extensive meaning.
– No authoritative indication was forthcoming from any section of the people or press or legal profession as to what actually were the powers transferred by the States to the Commonwealth under the Constitution until the James case was brought before the High Court. When section 105 a was inserted in the Constitution as the result of the last referendum held, and the Financial Agreement was ratified, the position was so farcical that the exAttorneyGeneral, now the Chief Justice (Sir John Latham), was coming to this House almost every five minutes to rush through amendments to stop up some hole that had been found in that legislation. To-day, that gentleman, who had not the slightest idea then of the meaning of section 105a, is now Chief Justice of the High Court, which will be called upon to tell us exactly the meaning of this amendment if ever it reaches the statute-book through the adoption at a referendum of the Government’s present proposal. When section 105a of the Constitution was interpreted by the High Court it was found to mean something entirely different from what this Parliament had been told it meant when the relevant legislation was introduced and something entirely different from what the electors were told when the referendum was held. I shall not be a party to a recurrence of an incident of that nature. I have not the slightest doubt that this proposal will he rejected when the referendum is taken, and I believe that the primary producers will be its greatest opponents because the
Government is merely seeking to establish more securely the middleman and exploiter. There can be no doubt about that.
I am forced to look for the motive behind this proposal. I always look for the motive for actions taken by this Government, and I seldom look for them in Australia; in fact I have seldom found them in Australia. The motive for this proposal will be found not in Australia but in the same place as that responsible for most of this Government’s legislation, namely, the city of London. For reasons best known to himself the Minister for Commerce (Dr. Earle Page) happened to be in London when the AttorneyGeneral was there, and I have no doubt that both honorable gentlemen interviewed many of the same people and heard quite a lot of the same talk. Whilst the Attorney-.General has been fairly discreet since his return, the Minister for Commerce, however, has talked too much and has “let the cat out of the bag.” He has declared” himself in favour of what he describes as, “ Empire rationalization of primary and secondary industries so as to make the industries of the Dominions complementary to the industries of Britain, and not competitive “. An analysis of that high-sounding and comprehensive utterance discloses that it is the intention to place certain Australian primary industries in a straight jacket manufactured by Empire councils which the Minister for Commerce says are to be established. Apparently, a board sitting in London will instruct the primary producers as to the commodities they are to produce, the markets in -which they are to sell and the prices -which they shall receive for their produce. Apparently the Minister is to arrange that primary produce shall be disposed of in such a way that the producers will be deprived of all control in the matter of marketing. In order to overcome the difficulties alleged to exist, the Government has decided to ask the people to approve an alteration of the Constitution, and if the proposal is approved by a majority of the electors in a majority of the States, the producers and consumers will eventually bebound by the decision of an overseas council. If the Government is given the power it is seeking, primary producers in Australia will not have the right to determine the quantities they are to produce, and they will have to sell in the markets decided upon by some outside authority. The bill is sinister and is opposed to the interests of Australian industry and of the Australian people. I shall vote against it, andI, shall also bring its objectionable features before the electors during (the referendum campaign. If the Government is anxious to assist the primary producers it should help them to reduce costs by providing for a re-appraisement of their holdings, the elimination of the middleman and a reduction of interest. If effect were given to the policy of the Labour party and the interest on borrowed money reduced, a majority of the primary producers would be able to make a decent living.
– Some of them own luxurious motor cars.
– I have no objection to those engaged in primary or secondary production living under the best conditions possible, and I believe that I am speaking for the party to which I belong when I say that the primary object of the Labour party is to bring happiness and comfort to the people and particularly to the working classes.
– The Australian secondary industries can not prosper if the primary industries are not conducted successfully.
– Satisfied persons lack ambition and consequently cannot make progress. I trust that honorable members opposite will decide to support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition so that eventually the Government will be able to submit a comprehensive proposal which would be acceptable to a majority of the Australian electors and thus enable this Parliament to exercise greater power in carrying out the great national work entrusted to it.
Mr.R. GREEN (Richmond) [5.58].- I do not think that it is the desire of any honorable member to obstruct the passage of this bill which provides for an alteration of the Constitution; but as it is provided that the third reading of any measure to alter the Constitution must be agreed to by an absolute majority it is only right that we should express our opinions on the measure and answer some of the criticisms offered during the debate. I should imagine that the only criticism of the Government’s proposal in this instance would be offered by cranks, and had the Opposition supported the bill there would have been no necessity for a lengthy debate. Section 92 of the Constitution is to remain intact, and the following new section is to be inserted: -
The provisions of the last preceding section shall not apply to laws with respect to marketing made by the Parliament in the exercise oi any powers vested in the Parliament by this Constitution.
That is quite definite. [Quorum formed.] In criticizing the proposal embodied in the bill the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) said that the decision of the Privy Council in the James case was known to every lawyer in the Commonwealth before it was announced.
– -I said that the decision given was expected by every lawyer in the Commonwealth.
– It is easy to be wise after the event. In 1920, the High Court declared -
Notwithstanding judgments in previous cases the true office of section 92 is to protect interstate trade against State interference or control, but it does not affect the legislative powers of the Commonwealth.
If the members of the legal fraternity thought tha;t section 92 would be declared invalid by the Privy Council, it is strange that eminent judges, and lawyers in this Parliament and in others held the opinion that section 92 did not bind the Commonwealth.
By the amendment which he has submitted to the simple and definite proposal of the Government, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) has given a striking display of vagueness. To the motion - “ That the bill be now read a second time “, he has moved as an amendment -
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 “.
But the honorable gentleman has given the House no indication as to the nature of the wider and more comprehensive powers which he considers should be sought. He has exhibited a narrowness of outlook in drawing attention to the cost of the proposed referendum. The sum of £100,000 is a paltry amount compared with the enormous advantages which the primary producers would derive from orderly marketing arrangements. I was surprised to hear the honorable gentleman speaking in terms of pounds, shillings and pence on the subject of vital alterations of the Constitution. After listening to the speeches of the Leader of the Opposition and his colleagues, one gathered that the wider powers which they consider should be granted to this Parliament are full powers to deal with industrial matters.
– No. Those have been emphasized merely because they are the more important of the increased powers desired.
– The discussion has been mainly directed to the need for wider industrial powers than those now enjoyed by this Parliament.
– Because they are the more urgent.
– Nothing is so urgent at the present time as the proposed alteration of the Constitution for the specific purpose of validating the marketing legislation already passed by the Commonwealth and the State Parliaments, thus restoring the position which the Parliaments and the people believed to obtain prior to the decision of the Privy Council. It is more necessary that that position should be restored than that additional powers should be granted to this Parliament.
It is conceivable that additional powers could be obtained in regard to certain matters without raising much contention. There would probably be no serious objection to this Parliament having full power to deal with two matters which did not come under consideration when the Constitution was framed. I refer to the control of aviation and wireless broadcasting. It is considered that the Commonwealth Parliament has full power to deal with both aviation and broadcasting, but there may be some doubt as to its position in regard to broadcasting. Even to enable additional powers to be granted thi3 Parliament on matters in regard to which it is generally conceded that there should be full Commonwealth control, it would be necessary to introduce separate bills relating to each subject.
– Those measures could be carried easily.
– Yes, but the Leader of the Opposition desires “wider and more comprehensive powers”.
– Is the honorable member aware that he wished to propose the granting of specific powers, but was informed that such an amendment would be ruled out of order?
– After carefully reading the amendment, and the report of the debate, the impression left on my mind was that the honorable gentleman desired wider industrial powers for the Commonwealth.
– An opportunity will be presented to test the feeling of the House in regard to the matter when the amendment foreshadowed by the honorable member for Bourke is put to the vote.
– The Standing Orders do not permit of the discussion of that amendment at this stage, but, when the bill is in committee, I shall listen with great interest to what the honorable member for Bourke may have to say, and I shall then consider his amendment on its merits. In my opinion, a proposal to seek full industrial powers for the Commonwealth would be regarded in this House as contentious, and it would be necessary to introduce a separate bill to provide for such an alteration of the Constitution. The granting of wider industrial powers is notso urgent as the validation of the marketing legislation already on the statute-book. I understood the Prime Minister (Mr Lyons), in his reply to the Leader of the Opposition, to state definitely that this Parliament would be given an opportunity to deal with the question of the widening of the industrial powers of this Parliament.
– I cannot probe the mind of the Prime Minister, but I thought he gave an assurance that the opportunity would be afforded during the life of the present Parliament, and that appropriate steps would be taken to test the feeling of the House and the country in regard to this matter.
– Does the honorable member consider that the Government should spend a further £100,000 to obtain the opinion of the people concerning the necessity for the granting of wider powers over industrial matters?
-No; that question could possibly be submitted to the people at a general election. It is paltry to deprecate the expenditure of £100,000, when millions of pounds are at stake over the issue regarding the marketing legislation. It would be worth millions of pounds to the primary producers of Australia to have orderly marketing in place of the chaotic conditions which have resulted from the decision of the Privy Council in the James case.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
– Before the dinner adjournment, I pointed out that the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition could be condemned on two grounds, one that it was vague and indefinite, and the other that it appeared as if it dealt with only one subject, namely, the increase of Commonwealth industrial powers. A further aspect of the matter is that alterations of the Constitution have to be dealt with in water-tight compartments; separate proposals for Constitution alterations must be the subject of separate bills passed by Parliament. That means that were industrial powers included or proposed to be included in the contemplated referendum, a special and separate bill to deal with the matter would be necessary. Is the Labour party, in putting forward this amendment, trying to cloud the issue, to draw a red herring across the trail, or is it putting it forward as a basis for bargaining in this way : “ If we support an appeal to increase Commonwealth marketing powers, will the Government support an appeal for additional industrial powers?”
– That is no worse than to say to the Government, “ If we get a few portfolios we shall support your policy “.
– The two come into different categories. In the one ease it is a persona] matter, and in the other it is a matter of broad national nature; the two cannot be compared. If it is the object of the Opposition to ‘bargain in order to have additional Commonwealth industrial powers included in the Constitution, I point out that, as two separate questions must be put to the people, they may vote “No “ on one and “ Yes “ on the ‘other, or “Yes” or “No” to both. There would be very grave risk of having both defeated or only one carried. The matter to be dealt with at this referendum is one of urgency to meet an emergency, and it is possible that from a clash of interests which might arise from two proposals being put .before the people, both would be defeated. The matter of industrial powers is not at the moment urgent, but I think that every honorable member realizes the chaos that has resulted from the Privy Council decision will ‘brook of no delay. It needs to be dealt with at the earliest possible moment. Therefore, bargaining might have a boomerang effect, and defeat the object which the Leader of the Opposition possibly has in. mind.
From the speech of the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) last night one might infer that the main industries concerned in the Privy Council decision, three of the major industries of the Commonwealth, are having a very good time at present. This afternoon certain figures were given by my honorable colleague, the member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser), but if any honorable gentleman in this House desires to know the trials which are .being experienced by men engaged in the dairying industry in certain parts of this country he need not actually visit such an area as the Clarence River district in New South Wales; he can get some reliable information about it. In the area from Ulmarra to the coast, a distance of 20 miles, in September alone more than 1,000 milking cows died. At the present time, on the Clarence River, there are many farms without a hoof on them, the Whole lot having died. The returns from one butter factory show that in the SeptemberOctober period - the spring season, when a farmer expects reasonable returns - more than 50 per cent, of the dairymen have received no returns. The suggestion of the honorable member for Dalley that men engaged in the dairying industry, one of the main industries affected by this legislation, are even able to meet their commitments, let alone have a good time, is disproved most conclusively by the facts concerning that one district which I have just mentioned. The honorable member said last night, in pleading for increased industrial powers, that the dairy farmers should he expected to pay award wages. When the farmer himself is not receiving anything from his farm, not even returns on capital outlay, how can he pay any wages, much less award wages? It is too much to expect a section of the community which is obviously and admittedly suffering at the present time to be further penalized by having to pay award wages or to expect the country people to agree to the granting of additional powers to the Commonwealth in the industrial field which would enable them to be forced to pay award rates. After all, at the present time industrialists are protected.
By the way, Mr. Speaker, in passing there has arisen in this country and noticeably in this House a peculiar way of describing certain persons as “workers.” It has become a glib term, bin when one tries to find who are covered by it, one discovers that it is the persons who work under industrial awards. I suggest to honorable members who have not yet spoken that a far better term would be “wage earners”, because it is not only those who work under industrial awards who are workers. Even the term “ wage earners “ is not strictly correct because many of them may be receiving wages but not earning them. Rather than “ wage earners “, therefore, they should be called “wage receivers.” However, to refer to them generally as “ workei’3 “ is very far from the mark ; and although it is not strictly correct, I suggest that the better term to use is “ wage earners.”
Those wage earners who are employed under industrial awards arc definitely protected in respect of hours, conditions and wages. The farmer has no such advantage. He is not protected in any way. One of the objects of this proposed alteration of the Constitution is to give some sort of protection to the farmers in respect of the goods he produces that are actually sold in Australia. In certain of these industries, particularly the three major industries, dairying, dried fruits and wheat, the producers receive in Australia what is loosely termed a “homeconsumption price.” That homeconsumption price in the case ofbutter has existed without variation since the legislation was passed nearly three years ago when it was set out as 140s. per cwt., or roughly1s. 3d. per lb., wholesale. That I have found even in the cities has been considered to be a fair and reasonable price to pay for butter Even in industrial suburbs where I had inquiries made, one finds that, instead of the fluctuations that occurred in years gone by when butter actually at one time went up to 2s.6d. per lb., the price is now without variation and satisfaction exists. The setting of the price at 140s. per cwt., has given the people in the industrial suburbs a better chance of obtaining a balanced household budget than they had previously. Butter is astaple item of diet in the home, and the housewife whose income is limited and who has to know how much is to be spent every week on every item, is able to say at the beginning of the week exactly how much butter she will be able to purchase in that week. When the price varies considerably as it did prior to the price fixation, it was not possible for the housewife to do that. Great advantage, therefore has accrued from price fixation to the housewives in the industrial suburbs.
It was pointed out by the AttorneyGeneral in reply to an interjection by the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) that we have already on the statute-books, both of the States and the Commonwealth, legislation which has operated in the case of some products for several years and that if the people of the Commonwealth granted the powers sought in the proposed referendum no fresh legislation would at the moment be necessary or desirable. The people have lived under the legislation which is already on the statute-book for several years and there has been no complaint There has been no outcry against the Commonwealth’s right to pass legislation for the regulation of trade, nor has there been any complaint as to the prices that have been fixed under legislation. The States in the first place passed this legislation and the Commonwealth passed complementary legislation and as I said earlier, the High Court itself said that this legislation was perfectly valid. The people of Australia for sixteen years since 1920 have believed that the Commonwealth had the power which it is now seeking ; and which was not harshly used.
Last night the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) said this -
I shall oppose this referendum, as it is sectional; it will give assistance to one section of the producers, at the expense of the others.
I contend that the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition is definitely sectional. I have been able to obtain an approximate idea of the number of persons working under industrial awards in Australia only from the membership list of trade union organizations. The number of trade unionists at present in the Commonwealth is about 760,000, but all of these would not be working under industrial awards. I shall, however, adopt that figure, although it is generous. To it has to be added the 135,000 members of employers’ organizations, making a total of between 800,000 . and 900,000. Therefore, the legislation which the Leader of the Opposition desires to have passed would benefit only about 13 per cent. of the population of this country. If that is not sectional, I should like to know what is. The remaining 87 per cent. are to be expected to support the weird and wonderful ideas which sometimes originate in the minds of certain persons in regard to industrial conditions. That is my reply to the charge of the honorable member for Dalley that the proposal of the Government is sectional and would give assistance to one section of the producers at the expense of the others.
– I did not say that. What I said was that it would give power to one section to exploit the rest of the community.
– I wrote down the honorable gentleman’s words as he said them. But even though my phrasing might be slightly different from his, he will, I think, agree that the proposal of the Leader of the Opposition is for an alteration of the Constitution to deal with 13 per cent. of the community. Only a person with myopic vision would not consider that sectional. The honorable member also made the following weird statement : -
It will force an artificial scarcity in order to get an artificial price.
– I quoted the words of the Attorney-General before the Privy Council. He said that that was the basis of the scheme.
– The honorable member agreed with that contention. I invited him at the time, by way of interjection, to give one instance of any section of the primary producers having deliberately brought about a scarcity of their commodity, and he was unable to do so, because no such case exists. Every honorable member knows that the farmer does not desire an artificial scarcity of the commodity that he produces. It is to his advantage to produce as much as possible. The higher the price that he receives, the better for himself. “Whenever there has been an attempt to restrict production, the producers have been the strongest combatants of it.
– Particularly in Australia.
– What about the dumping of coffee in Brazil, .and the burning of wheat in Canada?
– What becomes of the commodity after it is produced is another matter; the producers themselves do not restrict production. In Australia the policy of restriction has never been applied. Yet the honorable member for Dalley says that the producers will force an artificial scarcity in order to get an artificial price!
– The Attorney-General said that, not I.
– The honorable gentleman mentioned it with great unction. He practically commended the Attorney-General for having made the statement.
– If the Attorney-General said it, would it be true?
– Not necessarily, any more than if the honorable gentleman said it. This argument in regard to an artificial price will not bear investigation. Can it be said, for example, that at 140s. per cwt. butter is at an artificial price? I do not think that it is. The honorable member for Wide Bay pointed out this afternoon that, on more than one occasion, the price of Australian butter overseas has been higher than the price paid for it in Australia. I invite those who did not have the privilege of hearing the speech of the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Paterson) yesterday, to read, mark, and learn it’. Those members of the Opposition who have since spoken have not been able to answer his very sound argument with respect to the comparison of the Australian price and the overseas price of butter.
The honorable member for Dalley also said that marketing boards would exploit the food of the people.
– Hear, hear!
– What marketing boards that have been set up under legislation which has already operated have exploited the people? Does the Australian Dairy Produce Board, which is acting under Commonwealth legislation, exploit tho people? It does not. A charge of that description has never been levelled at it. Does the board that handles Australian dried fruits exploit the people? It does not. In its case also, no such charge has been made. Has it ever been said that, at the prices at which wheal ha3 been sold, the wheat-farmers have exploited the people ? Certainly not. In many cases, the people of Australia are able to purchase the products of this country at world parity, less the cost of transport to overseas markets. Some of this legislation has been on the statutebook for years. There has been no exploitation of the .people by these boards, and there is no’ justification for saying that they are likely to practise exploitation in the future.
A consideration of the electorates held by members of the party that now sits in opposition will show that it is out of favour in the country districts of Australia. If it wishes to rehabilitate itself in the estimation of the country people, it should not attempt to cause a division between them and the people of the cities and towns. In the matter of the industrial powers of the Commonwealth, the country people would give a fair and unbiassed opinion. We ask industrialists to give a fair and unprejudiced verdict upon this legislation, which we claim will be beneficial, not only immediately to those who are directly affected by it, but also, in the long run, to the whole of the people of Australia.
– It appears to me that there are three grounds on which this issue may be discussed. The first is that of law, the second that of economics, and the third that of politics. On the legal side, I intend to refer only to the possibility of what may take place in the event of an appeal against this law being carried to the High Court and the Privy Council, if the judges in either of those courts should hold a different idea as to the interpretation to be placed on the word “ marketing “ from that which is held by the members of this House. In the enactment . of legislation, particularly such fundamental legislation as that which affects the Constitution, Parliament has always to guard against the use of language which is capable of misinterpretation, even by judges in a fairly highly constituted court. It is rather remarkable that there should exist wide differences of opinion between the legislature on the one hand, and the judiciary on the other hand, in regard to the exact meaning of a term which is commonly understood to have a definite meaning in the mind of what may be called “ the man in the street “. The legislature cannot overrule the judiciary on matters affecting the Constitution; it is only the people who can do that. If the High Court and the Privy Council adopted a certain interpretation of the term “marketing”, it would almost certainly necessitate a further alteration of the Constitution in order to get over the difficulty which would be created. Therefore, it is necessary that we should have a clear understanding of what is meant by the term “marketing”.
The history of those countries with written constitutions, subject to alteration by the will of the people expressed through a referendum, has indicated that the average democracy takes a very conservative view of such matters. This has been the experience in the United States of America and in Switzerland as well as in Australia where it has been found to be extraordinarily difficult to induce the electors to agree to proposed alterations of the Constitution. It is all the more necessary, therefore, that this Parliament should, if possible, make a unanimous appeal to the public to support the present proposals. I regret that there does not seem to be any possibility of achieving such unanimity, and this places the Government in rather an awkward position. There are several honorable members on this side of the House - I am not one of them - who think that still wider powers should be granted to the Commonwealth in respect of trade, commerce and industry generally. We should remember, however, that the objective of the Government is not a general remodelling of the Constitution, but the repairing of a certain gap in Commonwealth powers made by the decision of the Privy Council in the James case. Therefore, the question of the ideal Commonwealth Constitution is not open to debate during the consideration of this measure. Moreover, I hold the view that if major alterations of the Constitution are to be made, they should be considered by a convention of the States before ever the matter comes into this Parliament at all. For the Commonwealth to assume full responsibility for such major constitutional alterations would leave it open to the suspicion that it was entirely ignoring the fact that the Commonwealth consists of six sovereign States which agreed, after three conventions, to form a Commonwealth for certain purposes. Nor should it not be overlooked that the Commonwealth has not yet exercised many of the powers granted to it under section 51 of the ConstitutionOnly very recently the Commonwealth assumed control of bankruptcy matters, and before it seeks greater power in respect of trade and commerce, it’ could very well exercise the powers it already possesses to legislate in respect of banking, insurance, marriage and divorce and companies. It is a strange thing that we should have six sets of company laws in the Commonwealth, and that in each State companies registered in another State are regarded as foreign companies, and are so defined in its legislation.
Those honorable members who have discussed the economic side of this question have displayed an unfortunate lack of knowledge of actual conditions, both in Australia and in overseas countries. Many European countries have taken a more generous attitude in regard to the protection of their primary industries than members of the Opposition seem prepared to adopt.For many years past, highly industrialized European countries such as Italy, Germany, France and Switzerland have protected their agriculturists against competition, particularly in respect of such commodities as wheat, butter, cheese, &c.
– The reason is not economic, but military.
– Military considerations . admittedly have something to do with it, but they were not even the prime reason. It is a fact that in some European countries, bounties have been paid on the export of butter, meat, &c, to the United Kingdom market, while high prices have ruled for those commodities in the internal markets of those countries. I am convinced that if there had been greater freedom of trade, as was suggested by the Australian High Commissioner, Mr. Bruce, at Geneva recently, the whole economic outlook of the world would have . been changed. The general level of prices for primary products such as meat, wheat, butter, and base metals, would ‘have been higher, and a proposal such as we are now considering might not have been necessary.
One of the most important phases of this question, namely the political one, las not been dealt with by the Opposition at all. I understand that there is a serious difference of opinion in the ranks of the Opposition in regard to the Government’s proposal. For instance, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) proposes to follow one course, while his deputy is determined to follow another.
Mr.Rosevear. - Of course, there is no difference, of opinion among Government supporters !
Mr.ARCHIE CAMERON. - The honorable member will find when the vote is taken, that the Government has an absolutely united following.
– What about the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane) ?
– I hope that there will be no fragments on this side of the chambersuch as there are on the other.
– The Government will not get much help from some of its supporters during the referendum campaign.
-The attitude of members of the Opposition is that the support of their party can be purchased by the Government in return for certain political concessions in the way of increased Commonwealth industrial powers.
Mr.Garden. - In return for justice.
– The honorable member for Cook (Mr. Garden) is not yet the industrial wing of his movement. He may be a feather in the wing, but that is all. Before long, I fear that it will be said of him, as it was of Samson, that more men were killed by him at his death than he killed during his lifetime.
The Constitution has been breached, and the Government has brought down a proposal to repair the breach, and’ to protect the interests of the primary producers. Members of the Opposition, during the last few weeks, have frequently told us that their party will shortly be in power. They always unequivocally opposed the imposition of a sales tax on flour to help the wheat-growers. I ask them what steps they will take to protect the interest of the wheat-farmers if this present proposal is defeated, and they remain hostile to the principle of a flour tax? Unless they reverse their policy in regard to the flour tax, what relief do they propose to give to the primary producers in this protection - ridden country?
– That is a matter of policy regarding which we cannot give information in answer to a question.
– I do not expect the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) to have any information to give unless he can open somebody’s letters in order to get it. The question I have raised must be answered by the Opposition, if not in this chamber, then in the country, and that before long. The Opposition must either accept the principle of an excise or sales tax on primary products, or agree to give the Government the necessary power to protect the dried fruit growers, the wheatgrowers and the butter and cheese producers. I come from a State which, for many years, has enjoyed the benefit of a Commonwealth wine export bounty, raised by means of an excise duty on certain kinds of spirit. If the Labour party is returned to office will it take steps to abolish the export bounty on wine? An Opposition which aspires to power places itself in a hopeless position if it has to confess that, on an important matter of this kind, its policy is a complete blank; if, in effect, it must offer to the people the prospect which confronted Cicero on the desert island -
Sea, shore, and sky,and utter desolation.
Up to date that is all we have had from the federal Opposition, except the Queensland members. Although I am one of the opponents of the Federal Labour party, I must admit that, for many years past, the Queensland Labour party has been blessed with the leadership of a man with common sense, political ability, and the courage to differ from thebig union bosses in. Sydney and Melbourne when it is necessary for him to do so. In a primary-producing State such as Queensland, it is a blessing that a man of the type and calibre of Mr. Forgan Smith should lead the Labour party. If, on important questions such as that now before the House, honorable gentlemen opposite would take the same broad national stand as is taken by the Premier of Queensland, we would see an entirely different state of affairs in the Commonwealth.
The proposed alteration of the Constitution is a very important question, which the people of Australia have to decide. I believe, at bottom, that the average elector of this country is a fairly conservative individual, and that it will be necessary to present the greatest possible degree of unanimity on this measure if the proposal is to receive the endorsement of the people. If the proposal is not carried the responsibility of dealing with the aftermath will probably rest on honorable members opposite, and I hope that the Lord and the electors will spare me to be here to participate in the discussion of certain matters which will arise, at any rate in South Australia, before the new Government has been long in power under the circumstances I have foreshadowed.
– What about a word regarding the Premier of South Australia?
– The honorable member may himself essay that task; I have had my experiences. I do not propose to discuss the attitude of the Premier of South Australia to-night.
– The honorable member dare not.
– I cannot be provoked like that. Notwithstanding what may be said by any State Premier, whether he be a member of my own party or of the Labour party, the fact stands out that the Commonwealth is not asking for additional powers in this bill. All that it asks is that the people shall give to the Commonwealth. Parliament power to do certain things which it did in good faith, at the request of the State governments, including the Government of South Australia, for a number of years before this unfortunate gap in the Constitution was made apparent by the successful appeal to the Privy Council of a certain South Australian grower of, and trader in, dried fruits. If that gap had been revealed as the result of an honest attempt to better the conditions of the primary producers of my own State or of the Commonwealth, I would not have minded so much. I characterize the whole litigation as an attempt on the part of certain interests to play ducks and drakes with produce in the markets of Australia. The motive behind it was not one of public good, but of self-interest, and nothing more. I trust that after the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition has been defeated there will be a solid front on this question,so that it may be put to the people of Australia with the unanimous approval of the members of this chamber.
.- I listened with great interest to the speech of the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron). Generally speaking, I have not much fault to findwith it except in respect of that part of it in which he criticized the party to which I belong, and which it is my duty to defend. Two points, however, which, the honorable member has raised, can be easily answered. In endeavouring to prove that the Opposition was averse to granting to primary producers homeconsumption prices for their products on all occasions, the honorable member cited the fact that the Opposition was not in favour of the imposition of the flour tax. That is true; but, on the other hand, it favoured the establishment of a homeconsumption price for wheat and measures to control the price of flour which would have “ hit up “ the manufacturing millers. Honorable members opposite were not prepared to support that policy. The Labour party’s proposals constituted a sound means of dealing with the problem, because they would have given to the farmers a fair price for domestic wheat, while at the same time the consumer, whose interests also must be considered, would not have had to pay more for his flour than a fair price fixed by a board set up for that purpose. The honorable mem: ber also said that he doubted whether any honorable member on this side of the House would cast his vote in favour of this measure, and that, on the other hand, he also doubted whether one member on the Government side - I have in mind the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane) and others - would vote against the bill. I interjected that, while honorable members opposite may vote for the measure in this House, I doubted very much whether many of them would assist in endeavouring to secure an affirmative vote of the people on the question to be submitted to them. Time will prove whether I was right or wrong. The honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. John Lawson) pointed out that certain rural awards were abolished because of the adverse position in which rural employers found themselves. From his remarks we may draw the inference that if the proposal of the Government, with the addition proposed by the Leader of the Opposition were approved by the people, the rural employers of this country would bt in a position similar to that of the farmers of Czechoslovakia and Poland. The statement has been made that the Leader of the Opposition failed to make clear what he actually meant by his amendment. My honorable friend from Echuca (Mr. McEwen) who spoke logically and well on this subject, as he generally does when addressing himself to measures before the House, was ungracious enough on this occasion to say that the amendment was intended to be only a pious resolution. The honorable member knows very well that the amendment was drafted with the idea of protecting the workers and the consumers against any attempt on the part of primary producers’ boards to secure unfair advantages from the fine market which is sought to be made secure for primary products. That is expressed very clearly in a report of the speech of the Leader of the Opposition, published in the Melbourne Ag& -
The Government proposition, Mr. Curtin declared, was one-sided. It asked for constitutional power to give the Australian primary producer a price for his commodity which had to be paid by the consumer, but it did not ask for power to assure that the consumer and the employee would not be treated unjustly.
That is a clear statement of the position, and undoubtedly explains the proposal of the Opposition; but all the talk by Ministerial members neglects this phase of the proposal. It has been said in criticism of the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition that he is seeking to barter and’ to drive an unholy bargain. Can primary producers in this House - and I speak as one of them - complain if members representing industrial electorates in Australia are anxious to ensure that the workers shall not he called upon to pay an unfair price for their food? For evidence of the importance of this aspect I refer honorable members to to-day’s issue of the Sydney Morning Herald which reports that the basic wage of £3 9s. has been increased by 6d. in the case of women and ls. in the case of men. Knowing how comparatively high is the cost of living to a man on that wage, can any honorable member wonder for a moment that the industrialists, who have to live oh the basic wage when they are working and on the dole when they are unemployed, urge their representatives in this Parliament to do everything possible to ensure that if the primary producers are to be given powers that will enable them to boost up the home-consumption price of their products, the consumers shall not be unduly penalized. I do not think, however, that the price of dried fruits and butter in Australia is unduly high. On the contrary, wandering about the world I was impressed by the fact that food is as good and cheap in Australia as it is in any other country that I visited.
– The honorable member has charity in his make-up.
– Justice demands that the primary producers shall be charitable enough to extend to the wage earners, who are the consumers, the same advantages as they seek for themselves. The honorable member for Macquarie asked where the Labour party stands on the question of a protective price. The inference which may be drawn from that is that the party with which he is allied is always anxious to help the primary producers, whereas, on the other hand, the party to which I belong has never attempted to assist them in any way. When the Labour Government was in office - I do not expect the honorable member to know this because this House was not graced by his presence then - it brought down for the first time a bill to provide a bounty, for wheatgrowers. It did more than that. It took steps to initiate a compulsory wheat pool. This, in the opinion of many primary producers, was essential as the basis for fair marketing. A large majority of the farmers throughout Australia favour a compulsory pool. But many members of the Country party in the Senate voted against the bill, urged on, so we were told, by honorable gentlemen who are members of this Government.
– That was because of certain financial clauses of the bill.
– We all know that speculators and market riggers had a hand in the business.
This bill seeks to insert after section 92 of the Constitution the following new section : - 92a. The provision of the last preceding section 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.
I am entirely in favour of that proposal. I believe all the members of the Labour party favour it, but we demand that some security shall be given to other sections of the people.
If the Labour party had been in power I have no doubt that it would have introduced a proposal in conformity with the views expressed by the Leader ofthe Opposition. If the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) had been sitting with the Labour party he also would have been seeking more complete power for the Common wealth, for he has taken a prominent part in the many efforts that have been made to secure additional power for the Commonwealth in respect of industry and trade and commerce, and I honour him for it. It is true that in the past I have not been as whole-hearted as some of my colleagues in the desire to transfer power from the States to the Commonwealth. Western Australia is isolated, and the people of that State have not been able to see eye to eye with the people of Victoria and New South Wales onthis subject. But I confess that in view ofthe imminent collapse of our marketing machinery, there is need for definite action. It may be truly said that we all are at our wit’s end to know what to do. To go to the people with a proposal for the alteration of the Constitution is almost as uncertain a business as to go to Flemington to pick the winner of the Melbourne Cup. Many conflicting factors will have to be faced when this subject is being placed before the electors to ascertain their will. I frankly admit that when vested interests challenge the legislation passed by this Parliament for the benefit of the primary producers, and try to hold the country to ransom for private gain, their attitude is extremely galling to me as it must be to others in this Parliament. This is particularly so in view of the fact that fortunes have never been made by the producers engaged in the dried fruits or dairying industries. In spite of these considerations I stand by the Leader of the Opposition, and endorse the following statement which he made: -
The one-sidedness of this proposition is seen in that it asks for constitutional power togive 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.
– But that is an incorrect statement. It is not only the primary producer who is to be protected.
– I understand that; but the honorable member forForrest (Mr. Prowse) must realize that when wc approach the people on this subject we shall encounter, many conflicting interests. Even when any question of policy is raised in the Government party rooms serious divergences of opinion are revealed. For example, the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane), who may be said to disagree entirely on most subjects with honorable gentlemen, on this side of the House, has also been one of the bitterest opponents of proposals for the granting of assistance to primary producers. He is out of step with the Connery party which, however, supports the Government. In such circumstances, how can it be expected that the industrialists of Australia will be prepared to sign a blank cheque?
There is substantial reason why the Government should agree to the proposal 6f the Leader of the Opposition. Honorable members of all parties in this Parliament must realize that a referendum campaign can only be fought successfully if the proposal put to the people has the united support of honorable gentlemen of all parties. The task which the Government is facing to-day may be our task to-morrow. To-day the State parliaments fear every move made by the Federal Parliament to secure an increase of its constitutional power. Although I belong to a State in which State rights may he said to be held supreme, I am convinced that the Commonwealth Parliament will never be able to function satisfactorily mtil it is clothed with much greater power than it has at present, and certainly greater power than, is contemplated in this bill. I therefore urge the Government to accede to the request of the Leader of the Opposition and seek from the people additional industrial power so that the workers of this country will feel that they are not being unjustly treated. If the Government will do this, we shall stand behind it and fight our hardest for an affirmative vote at the referendum. “We all know that the States are very jealous of their powers. This is true not only of politicians, but also of persons in Government positions and of other sections of the community. To secure an affirmative vote for any proposal for the alteration of the Constitution we must approach the electorate unitedly, ifr. A.. Green. otherwise our case is hopeless. Honorable members opposite realize in their hearts that this is so. The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) spoke the truth when he said that the electors are in many ways most conservative. An affirmative vote will only be obtained by hard work and intense propaganda in the different States. Not only the apathy of the electors, but also their fears will have to be overcome. If the Government persists in its present tactics it will be both unjust and unfair, and I appeal to it to amend its proposal in the direction suggested by the Leader of the Opposition. If it does so, we shall fight to the very utmost for an affirmative vote.
.- As I have listened to this debate, 1 have come to the conclusion that in comparison with the tumult and division revealed, by the speeches of honorable members of both the Country party and the United Australia party the confusion in the Tower of Babel or in pandemonium was a mere circumstance. If the electors have to listen to many speeches of the kind delivered in this House they will need to pray very earnestly for guidance in order to make a sound decision. We have been told by some honorable gentlemen opposite that the Government merely desires to reestablish the position that was thought to exist prior to the delivery of the judgment of the Privy Council in the James aase. Other honorable gentlemen, however, have assured us that unless the extra power which the Government is seeking he granted by the people, stark ruin will face the primary producers. Some honorable members who support the Government have told us with tears in their eyes and a sob in their voice that the primary producers have had to work year in ,and year out for a return that does not approximate the basic wage paid in secondary industries, and that it is therefore necessary that additional powers shall be granted to the Commonwealth Parliament to permit of the organization of our primary industries on a more lucrative basis. What are we to gather from these conflicting ideas? Honorable gentlemen opposite cannot have it both ways. The Attorney-General (Mr. Menzies) has said that if an affirmative vote be given by the people at the referendum the Government will simply have the power that every one thought it had until a few months ago. For once a lawyer has spoken in the plainest and simplest terms and without ambiguity ! The AttorneyGeneral, in advocating the Government’s proposal, said that it was intended to preserve artificial prices in Australia for certain commodities and that these artificial prices were intended to help to make up the loss sustained by primary producers in the sale of their exportable surplus. The AttorneyGeneral said -
If that is to bo 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 U’ break down the special Australian price.
A further amplification of that view is to be found in the argument of Mr. Wilfred Barton, before the Privy Council -
The effect of that legislation was that no man may send any dried fruit from one State of Australia to another, unless he exports, destroys or feeds to stock that percentage of his total crop which is named in the determination of the Dried Fruits Board . . . The whole object of the legislation is that the State Dried Fruits Boards, consisting of officials and representatives of the growers, should have and exorcise the power to decide exactly what quantity of dried fruit should be marketed in Australia.
Honorable members may recall numerous instances of the destruction of primary products in order to maintain price levels. In the .South American States sufficient coffee to supply the world’s requirements for a year has been destroyed in one season; and in the United States of America, pigs have been slaughtered wholesale in order to raise the prices of ham and bacon and other products of pig flesh. Large producers of wheat throughout the world have burnt this commodity in large quantities for the same reason; in Australia itself fruit has been dumped into the sea, although many Australian children in the slum areas seldom taste fruit. This Parliament itself approved of the abolition of sales tax upon blankets for animals while the impost was permitted to remain upon clothing for human beings. Although in practice large quantities of primary products have been destroyed in order to maintain prices, the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr.
Bernard Corser) and others contradict the assertion that marketing legislation will substantially increase the price of primary products to the Australian consumer; but their contradictions are themselves contradictory. Those honorable members contend that this legislation, so far from restricting production, will actually increase it. Although members of the Country party have repeatedly made that assertion in the course of the debate, the Attorney.General (Mr. Menzies) expressed the opposite view and contended that it must restrict production. If the home-consumption price is fixed sufficiently high to make payable the export of the surplus, it follows that that surplus shall not exceed a certain quantity, otherwise the yield of the homeconsumption price will not be sufficient to give a reasonable return to the producers on the export quota.
– History has proved that theory to be wrong.
– No; it is a matter of simple arithmetic. The Labour party has been charged with abandoning its rural policy. We have been told that in the past we have advocated the fixation of a home-consumption price for primary products. But that is only a half truth, because the Labour party never applied this principle to the rural industries alone. Its plan of economic reconstruction certainly involves marketing schemes, which are much more comprehensive and efficacious than any system of control which can possibly be brought into operation through the alteration of the Constitution proposed by the Government. The reason is to be found in the fact that the Labour party’s policy takes into consideration the economic affairs of the nation as a whole; it would operate a policy of economic reconstruction through all channels. Such a plan is infinitely more sound than the proposal of the Government, which is simply an attempt to deal with the effect while disregarding the cause. While that policy is’ continued, the primary producers’ problems will never be solved and their industries will sink deeper and deeper into economic chaos. The butter equalization scheme, the wheat pools, and even Bawra, which was concerned with the sale of the surplus wool held in store in Australia and Loudon, had the one big effect of raising the price of land in Australia. Before the recent redistribution of seats, the Boorowa district formed part of the Werriwa electorate and during one of my periodical visits to it I inspected a sheep property which had been sold for £8 an acre. That price was prohibitive and made the property an unpayable proposition from the outset.
– Will it grow lucerne?
– Perhaps in small areas near the creeks, but there are no rich river flats. This property is ordinary sheep grazing country which will carry up to 1 sheep to the acre. In view of the class of land, £S an acre was a prohibitive price and as the result of this over-capitalization the grazier could not be expected to make a success of woolgrowing. If the price of butter was stabilized at ls. 6d. per lb.; wheat at 4s. a bushel and wool at a satisfactory figure, the immediate effect would be to increase the capital value of the land, perhaps by so much as 20 per cent. As the result, the owners of large properties who could have operated them profitably, sell them to speculators at an uneconomic price. The properties may be mortgaged to banks or other financial institutions, an which case the burden of interest is most severe, the overcapitalization of the property becomes excessive, and the efforts of the new purchasers are consequently doomed to failure from the outset. Instances of this experience can be found in many primary producing industries of Australia. I refer specifically ‘to the prune industry, in which many returned soldiers are engaged. To tell the Australian public that the conferring on the Commonwealth of the marketing powers which it now seeks will be of great advantage to the primary producers, is to state a palpable untruth. Unless the Government is prepared to accept the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) to extend the powers of the Federal Parliament in regard to marketing, the regulation of prices, and industry generally, we shall not be able to reach an economic re-arrangement of our national production. In my opinion, none of the marketing schemes has been anything but a stop-gap. Although they may give primary producers security for one season, they give them no guarantee for the following year; and the growers do not know whether or not they will be forced off their holdings. In spite of the operation of marketing schemes in the Commonwealth in the past, honorable members have heard the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) relating the sad fact that hundreds of men have been evicted from their farms. If the marketing schemes are to be of such advantage to primary producers as hai been represented by honorable members opposite, why did they not confer great boons upon the producers in the past, before they were rendered invalid by the decision of the Privy Council?
– Why does not the honorable member confine himself to a relation of the facts!
– My statements are indisputable, and are proved by the history of the primary producing industry during the past few years. The honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. John Lawson) made extensive reference to the policy of economic nationalism which has been embraced by various countries of the world. They are making desperate efforts to produce their own requirement* of food, shelter and clothing, and in many directions are launching out to stimulate the production of primary commodities. For example, Great Britain now claims that it will soon be in a position to feed its own population. The Minister for Agriculture, Major W. E. Elliot, stated that the policy of the British Government was directed to serve first the interests of the British farmer and the British people, after which consideration would be given to the purchase of primary products from the Empire. That expression of opinion synchronizes with the development towards self-sufficiency which has taken place in practically every country in the world. As this policy of economic nationalism crystallizes, nations will become more and more self-supporting in respect of primary products. That development can have only one result: Australia’s markets overseas will continue to shrink until finally they reach vanishing point. In those circum- stances, we should focus our attention upon our home market. While honorable gentlemen refer extensively to the necessity for seeking markets abroad, and expensive ministerial delegations are sent to the United States of America, Japan, and Great Britain, in an endeavour to find new markets for Australian products, they disregard the fact that at our own door we have a most valuable market about which the Government does not seem to care a tinker’s curse. Why does not the Government attempt to stimulate and develop the Australian market? If it took action to restore the purchasing power of the Australian public to such a level as to enable them to consume what the normal human being requires of dried fruits, citrus fruits, butter, &c, the present exportable surplus would be substantially reduced. Honorable members have complained that farmers are being evicted from their properties. While that is quite true, those self -same honorable gentlemen have not protested against the annual eviction of 12,000 persons from their homes in Newcastle and Sydney during the last three years. Although this unfortunate section is homeless, the Government has proposed no scheme to provide them with suitable habitation, or to restore their purchasing power in order to enable them to pay the rents of decent dwellings. Until it is prepared to reconstruct the national economy as a whole, the Government’s policy is mere humbug. The honorable member for Macquarie challenged the Opposition to cite any country in which the condition of the workers is superior to those prevailing in Australia. In this connexion, I listened with great sadness of heart to remarks of a gentleman who recently returned from the International Labour Conference. He showed that whereas a few years ago Australia was in the proud position of leading the world in this sphere, it was now almost a bad last as regards its social legislation.
– Conditions were better before the Lang regime.
– Mr. Lang was in power for so short a time that he had no opportunty to do much. For over twenty years the economic policy now in operation has continued almost with out break. I remember when the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), who has been in practically every Cabinet for twenty years, made the proud boast that not one stone in the proud structure of Labour would be removed. To-day, as a result of the economic policy of anti-Labour governments, which has operated in this country for over twenty years, scarcely one stone of that structure stands upon another. Even Czechoslovakia has a working week of 40 hours, and in some industries only 36 hours. A number of South American republics put Australia to shame in this respect. Honorable gentlemen opposite speak of standards of living, but do they think that a dole of 6s. 6d. a week for single men or a pay ment of 14s. 6d. a week to single relief workers is a satisfactory standard? I say that there is no general standard of living in Australia to-day, and that those honorable gentlemen who speak of the protection afforded to workers by the Arbitration Court speak with their tongues in their cheeks. I admit that when Mr. Justice Higgins gave his judgment in the Harvester case, and laid it down that industry must pay a progressive living wage, the Arbitration Court was a protection to the workers. Mr. Justice Higgins said, further, that industries which could not pay a living wage were not wanted in Australia. Arbitration courts are no longer a protection to the worker, for throughout Australia they are slashing wages and bringing about the sweating conditions which they were established to destroy.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. G. J. Bell).The honorable gentleman is going beyond the legitimate scope of the discussion.
– Much of the argument of Government supporters was to the effect that, as protection had been given to the workers, this bill should be passed because it aimed at protecting primary producers.
– The honorable gentleman will not be in order in condemning the Arbitration Court during the debate upon the question now before the Chair.
– Conditions in the industries particularly concerned are not the only things considered by the court to-day. Many other matters, such as the possibility of balancing budgets, are taken into account. Even the protection supposed to be given to secondary industries under the tariff is not so effective as it should be. Whatever the decision of the people in this referendum, the result cannot justify the expenditure of £100,000 in submitting it to the people. The carrying of the proposal will not mark any progress, and, indeed, will be of little interest in the constitutional history of Australia. The Leader of the Opposition has submitted an amendment which, if agreed to, will at least give to the people of Australia an opportunity to say whether six or seven authorities are to control the economic life of this country. Is the Commonwealth to be able to do only what the States allow it to do? I emphasize that the endorsement of the proposed alteration will not give to the Commonwealth the powers that it ought to have. Nearly every municipal or shire council in New South Wales has written to the Government asking that the scope of the referendum be widened.
– Those letters are not all spontaneous.
– In New South Wales, and probably in the other States also, few municipal or shire councils are composed of supporters of the Labour party, yet many such bodies have passed resolutions asking that the scope of the referendum be widened. They did not pass those resolutions if they did not believe in them.
– Those letters did not advocate an amendment such as that of the Leader of the Opposition, but the abolition of State Parliaments, with which some of us agree.
– Irrespective of their political leanings, eight out of every ten of the electors of New South Wales regard the State Parliaments as encumbrances and nuisances. They would welcome an opportunity to get rid of them and have only one Parliament for the whole of Australia. If complete power were given to the Commonwealth, it would be necessary to delegate certain powers to other bodies. Those who advocate the abolition of State Parliaments must, agree that certain powers should he conferred by the Commonwealth Parliament on inferior bodies.
– Don’t let there be a quarrel in the family.
– There is no quarrel in the family. The policy of the Labour party which is available for anyone to read, is such that two-thirds of the people of the eastern States would put into operation, if given the opportunity. In addition to being a waste of money, a referendum on the alteration in the bill proposed will be an insult to the intelligence of the people; they will be asked to vote for something which means practically nothing. The Attorney-General spoke almost in fear and trembling when he said that the Government was asking for the least that could be given to it. Apparently he is willing that the Commonwealth Parli ament shall beg the States to give to it powers that it ought, to have had long ago. Until additional powers are vested in the Commonwealth, this country cannot develop as it should. Because the Attorney-‘ General does not want to offend any one, the Government proposes to expend £100,000 in asking the people for the least that they can give, and which, if given, will be of no use. The Government would make this Parliament subservient, to the States. Even if the referendum be earned, the States will be able to prevent the Commonwealth from doing the things that it seeks the power to do. Moreover, the carrying of the Government’s proposal will not give to the primary producers any guarantee that these marketing schemes can be carried out. It will not. confer full marketing powers on the Commonwealth, for should Western Australia. Tasmania or South Australia or any other State refuse to implement the legislation it will be of no effect. In the past, State governments have enacted legislation complementary to Commonwealth legislation, but that is no guarantee that any of them will agree to follow a similar course in the future. The complexions of parliaments change; different parties assume power and the desires and aspirations of the people generally vary from time to time. Honorable members opposite are to-day lean- ing towards socialism, hut, perhaps, in the future, the conservative elements may recapture their party organizations and endeavour to inaugurate an era of glorified private enterprise immune from interference by governments. Why is the Government asking for this power? At one time we are told that private enterprise can control industry admirably and should be left entirely alone, and, at another, that it has totally collapsed, and that in order to prop up industry a certain infusion of socialism is necessary. In this instance it is proposed to find that remedy by making an appeal to the people, at a cost of £100,000, to give to the producers that slice of socialism which they are now demanding. The point 1 emphasize is that honorable members opposite have no objection to socialism when State interference will help private enterprise in industry, but they support private enterprise unreservedly when any plea is made for the betterment of the conditions of the workers, and for fair treatment of the consumers. The Labour party believes in giving to the community as much of socialism as it can, and as soon as it can, and it hopes, before long, to apply socialism in an effective form to Australian society. We believe that a Commonwealth Parliament vested with supreme powers will be better enabled to bring that about and perform the functions of government in the interests of tho nation than can State Parliaments. 1 notice that an honorable member on the back bench opposite smiles at my statement; he is one of our biggest captains of industry. I say to him, and future history will prove it, that to-day the human race has one alternative - socialism or destruction.
.- I believe that the proposal now before the House is not in the best interests of the country, and that the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition is more in keeping with the present desires of the people. I am convinced that after the referendum is taken - for %ve have no reason to doubt that this measure will be passed by the Parliament - my opinion will be confirmed. There was much conflict of opinion concerning the construction of section 92 of the Constitution prior to the decision of the Privy Council in the James case. To-day that decision is taken as final, and the Government must take steps to rectify the situation resulting from it. Section 92 reads -
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 Government has not had the courage to repeal that section, but as has been stated by the Premier of Tasmania (Mr. Ogilvie), it has, in a more subtle manner, attempted to alter it. Its proposed amendment reads -
The provisions of tho last preceding section 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.
Opinions among the States on the effectiveness of this amendment differ greatly. The Premier of Tasmania has described it as most ingenious. He said -
It has been carefully framed to disarm criticism as much as possible, but it is necessary to point out that, if approved by the electors, the amendment will have the effect of empowering the Commonwealth to control all transactions connected with, or incidental to, the buying and selling of all kinds of goods, so far as those transactions are of an interstate character.
The Tasmanian Government takes strong exception to this proposed amendment of the Constitution, and has pointed “at that the Commonwealth Government might just as well have proposed to repeal section 92, because if the alteration be carried, section 92 and the proposed new section 92a will be in conflict, and there will he much disorganization of industry, and probably further appeals to the Privy Council to decide which of the two provisions shall prevail. The Premier of South Australia (Mr. Butler) also has strongly expressed himself against the amendment as follows -
The Commonwealth already possesses all the powers it needs to assist primary producers. I predict the defeat of the issue to be raised at the referendum . . . The Federal Government’s determination to take a referendum when it already has available an easier and a better method” of assisting the primary producers is like compelling a patient to undergo a major operation when a change of diet would “be ample to effect a cure, and would entail only a fraction of the expense. The wording of the new section means that, apart from dried fruits marketing, which is admirably controlled by the Australian Dried
Fruits Association, there would, if the referendum were carried, be compulsory pooling for both wheat and butter. There is no other way to avoid constitutional difficulties.
Mr. James, who figured in the now famous appeal to the Privy Council, has expressed his opinion on the Government’s proposal as follows -
What is trade and commerce except the marketing of goods and commodities?
The Attorney-General has not attempted to define the term “marketing “ and no indication of its full meaning is given in the measure itself. If marketing does not mean trade and commerce, I am at a loss to understand its meaning. Marketing is generally interpreted to refer to all aspects of the buying and selling of goods. It is not confined solely to the selling of goods over the counter, but refers also to the payment and conditions of labour employed in the marketing of goods, and the financing of marketing arrangements, including credits for both growers and buyers. All of these matters can reasonably be included in a definition of marketing; it refers to all phases of trade and commerce, including transport insofar as transport enters into marketing. The general distribution of goods covers a very wide scope - buying and selling by either retailers or wholesalers, the obtaining of orders, the handling of stocks, the management of sales organizations, and many other ramifications of marketing. All of these functions, I submit, can equally be called phases of trade and commerce. Section 51 (i) of the Constitution reads -
The Parliament shall, subject to this Constitution, have powers to make laws for the peace, order, and good government of the Commonwealth with respect to: -
Trade and commerce with other countries, and among the States.
It was held by the Privy Council that that provision is limited by section 92, and to my mind the amendment now proposed by the Government is equivalent to taking section 92 out of the Constitution altogether. If such is the Government’s intention it should delete section 92 from the Constitution in preference to adopting this petty method of over-riding it, because this will only lead to further litigation and disorganization of our primary industries. In such circumstances the people cannot be expected to give as satisfactory a decision at a referendum on this matter as they would be able to give if the provisions of the Constitution and the intent of the Government were explained more clearly. The view of the Labour party on this matter is expressed in the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition, the object of which is to secure wider and more comprehensive powers for the Commonwealth Parliament, That is a plank of the party’s platform. It believes that we cannot deal effectively with the various phases of marketing or organize primary industries for the benefit of, not only those who operate them, but also those engaged as workers in them and dependent on them for a livelihood, unless more comprehensive powers are obtained by this Parliament. In order that primary industries may be operated on a sound basis the Commonwealth Parliament should have full powers to deal with all sections of them. In the early stages of this controversy supporters of the Government were at variance as to what attitude it should adopt. As the Premier of Tasmania has pointed out, and the Attorney-General himself has admitted, this Parliament already possesses ample powers under the bounty and excise provisions of the Constitution to deal with this matter. Furthermore, the Constitution provides that the State Parliaments may refer a power to the Federal Parliament. I believe that the chief reason why the Government has brought down the bill is that the hand of the Cabinet was forced by the public declaration of the Deputy Prime Minister (Dr. Earle Page) without the sanction of the Government, thatit was intended to hold a referendum. The Government keenly resented that statement, and because it was committed in that manner, is now obliged to submit this matter to a referendum. This will involve an expenditure of £100,000, which I believe will be wasted. If it is the Government’s intention to hold a referendum on every occasion on which an adverse decision on constitutional issues is given in the courts, then it fails to comprehend the principles of responsible government. Money should not be wasted in this manner. We cannot hope to get a complete and well-balanced Constitution by piecemeal alterations of this character whenever decisions adverse to government policy are given in the courts. It has not been denied that the Commonwealth Government to-day possesses the power to deal with this problem more effectively and cheaply than by a referendum. No alteration of the Constitution was required to permit of the adoption of a scheme to control the production and marketing of sugar. That commodity is covered by an agreement between the Commonwealth and the State concerned.
– Production is almost wholly in one State.
– That is so; but it is controlled by an agreement between the Commonwealth and Queensland Governments. If the Constitution is to be placed on a sound and workable basis so that the Commonwealth Parliament can deal with all national problems that arise, it should be altered in a comprehensive way, instead of in a piecemeal manner as is proposed in this instance. Surely every time a decision is given against the Commonwealth Government on a constitutional point this Parliament will not be asked at huge expense to agree to an alteration of the Constitution? Provision should be made for the Commonwealth Parliament to have complete power to deal with all national problems, but it cannot obtain such powers under the alteration proposed in this bill. If this proposition is agreed to by the Parliament and the people, the Commonwealth will be able to exercise its new power only to the extent permitted by the States, and in these circumstances it is unlikely that harmony will be secured. State governments will have the power to initiate legislation, and the Commonwealth Parliament will be subservient to them. The honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) stated that he had received numerous letters from municipalities and shire councils requesting him to appeal to the Government to make the proposals which it proposes to submit to the electors sufficiently comprehensive to enable the people to vote on the abolition of State
Parliaments. Almost every localgoverning body in my electorate has sent to me a similar communication, and I believe that it is the desire of a majority of the people to give this Parliament complete authority. This measure has been introduced merely with the object of placating one section of the community upon which it is proposed to confer special benefits to the detriment of other important sections. It is unlikely that this proposal will be acceptable to the States, because it is impossible at present to get them to agree upon many subjects of importance to the Australian people. The representatives of the Tasmanian and South Australian governments stated that the attitude of the governments of their States differs from that of other State governments ; this is evidence of the impossibility of securing unanimity between the Commonwealth and the States on all matters. Moreover, negotiations between these authorities will lead to interminable delays on vital matters of public policy and such delays will not be in the best interests of the community. Until full powers are vested in the Commonwealth Parliament the marketing of primary products cannot be dealt with efficiently. The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) said that if this proposal be agreed to by the people the position which obtained prior to the decision of the Privy Council in the James case will be restored, but I doubt whether that is so. I believe that this power may be used to prevent the export of goods from some of the less populous States to certain markets in other States where there is a good demand for them. Some Tasmanian producers have said that the only means of carrying on industry efficiently in that State is by selling their produce in favorable markets on the mainland, but the adoption of this proposal may prevent them from doing so, thus restricting rural development in that State, and bringing about the ruin of some producers. The terms “ trade and commerce “ and “ marketing “ are capable of a very wide interpretation, and can be made to apply to the buying and selling of all commodities, including manufactured products. A government might use its power to prevent the manufactured products of one State from being sold in another State, because the term “ marketing” is sufficiently wide to cover all transactions associated with the buying, selling, and transport of goods. This power may be used to interfere with the interstate trade in stock. Owing to the monopoly operating in the Homebush saleyards, stock-raisers in New South Wales are trucking fat lambs to Victoria in order to sell on a better market. When I was in the far west of New South Wales recently, I saw six train-loads of fat lambs being trucked to the Melbourne market, where, notwithstanding the additional transport costs involved, the owners expected to obtain a better return. The proposed alteration may interfere with such traffic, and the free interchange of goods between the States. At the present juncture there is a good deal of feeling in border towns in respect of interstate transport, and I believe that, under the powers which the Government is seeking, it would have constitutional authority to restrict the marketing and transfer of goods in a way that is not intended. The adoption of this amendment will not only place an additional burden on primary producers, who already have sufficient responsibilities to shoulder, but it will also increase the cost of the necessaries of life. The Government has the constitutional right to assist primary producers by paying bounties from general revenue, as has been done in the past, and it would be better to continue that policy than to place additional imposts upon the people which would restrict still further their purchasing power. The adoption of the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) would give this Parliament the power which it should enjoy, and would be more effective than the proposal submitted by the AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Menzies),, who, addressing the Privy Council, said -
If this is to be done it becomes necessary to adopt some scheme whereby the quantities of the commodities in question will not be sufficiently great to break down the special Australian price.
It may “even be held that the word marketing “ is sufficiently comprehensive to cover the restriction of production, and even the destruction of foodstuffs. We have heard how meat and cotton have been destroyed in the United States of America, and coffee in South America, and also of the restriction of the production of rubber and other commodities. By proclamation, this Government imposed restrictions on the export of meat from Australia, and if restrictions on imports are imposed in other directions, the primary producer will be at a further disadvantage.
– It is not the intention of the Government to bring about restriction of imports.
– There is ‘no guarantee that that will not be done. 1 have a circular letter from Mr. George Quisenbury, editor of the British Publishers International Co-operation, in which he stated -
You remember the glut of wheat in 1929 and the low price thereafter. Remember, also, that prior to 1929 the United States of America exported about 200,000,000 bushels of wheat annually - an amount equivalent to the entire Australian crop. In 1929, there were live wheat suppliers to world markets - Canada, Australia, Argentina, the United States of America, and Russia - and by 1930 we know there was too much wheat. We experimented with several panaceas, none of which worked. Then, by 1933, we determined on crop restriction (this was the AAA) that placed our products on a domestic basis - that is, we forced reduction of production to home needs by taxing millions of acres out of use. Drought was a factor in 1934, and again in 1936.
The policy carried out in the United States of America may be adopted in Australia, which at present is enjoying high wheat prices, due to the fact that wheat production in Canada and America has fallen off. Owing to the trade diversion policy of this Government, the United States of America is showing hostility towards Australia, but there is no guarantee that America will keep out of the wheat market. The letter continues -
As you know, we withdrew from the world wheat markets, leaving them to Australia, Canada, Argentina, and Russia. This was a governmental policy, which has been of immense importance to Australia.
But, saying that, I must tell you also what was threatened in 1.933 and is again becoming of concern as possible political action. Backed by our wealth and large home market, many of our agriculturists and politicians have been trying to force us to adopt a different agricultural export policy. It is that we should regain our wheat export business by subsidizing wheat exports. It is again being threatened ‘as part of our 1930 po .iti cai campaign, and the Australian action of restricting tmi- products has been seized by these unfriendly politicians as proof that we, too, should bo ruthless in foreign trade warfare. Therefore, Australia bus assisted those who would force us into subsidy for exports, which would be a severe, if not fatal blow to her export trade in these products. The scheme is called the Two-Price Plan - that is a high price for domestic sales and a low price for export sales, with tiro Government reimbiirsin.it farmers for the difference between the domestic price and export price.
Under one phase of this scheme, seriously proposed and close to adoption in 1033, it would have been possible for us to sell wheat abroad at ten cents a bushel. That ought ti make you pause - ten cents a bushel for wheat, with our Government reimbursing farmers for the difference! What would that scheme do to Australia ?
Undoubtedly, if the United States of America adopted such a scheme, a policy of restriction of production might bc put into operation in Australia. The Government cannot definitely say that no such policy will be adopted in the Commonwealth. Our meat exports have been restricted, and a similar policy has been suggested by the Royal Commission on the Wheat Industry.
Owing to the trade policy of the present Government, Japan has withdrawn from the wool market in this country, whilst Germany and Italy have reduced their purchases of Australian primary produce by many millions of pounds. Because of Great Britain’s foreign trade agreements, and its policy of helping its own primary producers, there is every danger that primary producers in Australia may have great difficulty in securing adequate markets. Theprimary producers generally would have nothing to gain if the Government’s proposal were accepted., and if they realized the true significance of the request for marketing powers they would not accede to it.
The wheat commission pointed out that many farmers are carrying on their business on uneconomic lines, but the report gave no guide as to who should determine which section of the farmers should be classed as uneconomic. Possibly these farmers would be the first to be required to restrict production; but, in many cases, they are the men who have been the greatest strugglers on the land, because they started with a small amount of capital. The farmers who work large holdings, and began with plenty of capital, could no doubt afford to grow wheat at a lower price than would be required by the struggling section of the farmers. If this bill is passed I shall, during the referendum campaign, point out these dangers to the farmers. I think there will he little chance of an affirmative vote being recorded. I have shown that disaster has befallen this country because of the trade diversion policy of the present Government. Under the marketing powers now to be sought, the Government might be able to put such a policy into operation again and cause disaster among primary producers. It might be able to do this even within the boundaries of the Commonwealth, causing ‘trade diversion from one State to another. The Government already has the necessary powers to meet the emergency that has arisen, but, if it were given the powers sought under the bill, the pri-mary producers might he faced with a most difficult position.
A few days ago, Mr. McKean, a member of the New Zealand Parliament, made the following statement, according to a Sydney newspaper, regarding the operation of the butter stabilization scheme in New Zealand: - :
By setting up the Reserve Bank as a purely State concern, the Government was successfully handling its dairy stabilization scheme. After a conference with the farmers, the Government had fixed a price for their butter. This price was paid by the Government for all butter produced, irrespective of whether the world price was above or below it. At the moment the world price was slightly higher.
Through the reserve bank the Government financed the purchase of the butter, and then sold it both for home-consumption and for export at the world’s price.
The farmers were satisfied with the arrangement, which gave them a guaranteed price, whether butter went up or down; the people were satisfied because butter waa not dear: and the Government was satisfied because the scheme was paying ite way and the bank was collecting the exchange on overseas sales.
Profits were going into a special reserve account against the possibility of a fall in the world price below the Government’s fixed price.
It seems to me that the New Zealand scheme is more sound than that proposed in the present hill; at any rate, the legislation passed in that dominion has operated successfully. The primary producers cannot hope to receive the full benefit of high prices in any particular year, and, when adverse times are experienced, expect the Government to give them bounties. They must be prepared to accept a reasonable average price over a period of years.’ They would be satisfied, I think, if they received a fair average price. They would then know exactly where they stood, but at the present time the prices move mostly to suit the speculators. When prices are high, they are largely controlled by the speculators, and these persons, rather than the actual producers reap the profits. It has been truly said that the man who sells wheat on high markets is not the grower but the speculator. Although the conditions in the United States of America have a good deal to do with the present price of wheat, those conditions may not continue for a long period.
It is stated in the Wheat Commission’s report that the debt of the farmers of Australia amount to £140,000,000, and it has also been estimated that the debt of all primary producers actually reaches the appalling total of £300,000,000. The interest on this debt represents one of the greatest burdens which the primary industries have to carry; it is the greatest of their actual costs of production. These industries should have power to market their own goods, and eliminate much of the profit that goes to middlemen. It has been contended that the workers of this country are amply protected by awards of the Arbitration Court; the fact remains, however, that the unemployed, and those who are only partially employed, are not covered by wages awards. It would be difficult to convince the unemployed and those working part-time that they should record a vote that would increase the cost of foodstuffs. I should like to see honorable members opposite trying to induce those who are dependent on the dole that a measure such as that now before the House would operate in their favour.
The Government recently sent a representative to the International Labour Conference at Geneva with instructions to support the adoption of a 40-hour week. I assume that the Government considered that that reform was a desirable one, but, when it was requested to introduce legislation to give effect to the principle throughout the Commonwealth, the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) offered the excuse that the Constitution would not permit of such action. The Government did not then rush to the country to obtain the necessary power to introduce a 40- hour week. When it was pointed out to the Prime Minister that the Government should endeavour to secure wider industrial powers for this Parliament, the reply given was that the Government would probably do so at some future time. Evidently it hopes that by postponing this reform the matter may be forgotten. It seems to me that the proposal before the House is designed to placate a small section of the supporters of the Ministry.
The best outlet for the primary producers of Australia is their local market. The granting of a shorter working week would ensure increased employment and greater spending power. The home market is a protected market which the primary producers should exploit to the full, for there their greatest opportunity lies. In the overseas markets they have to compete against the products of cheap-labour countries. Many speakers in this debate have reminded us that the workers in secondary industries have the protection of awards of the Arbitration Court, but I point out that the marketing boards fix the prices of their own products. Would these boards be prepared to give the workers the right to fix their own wages? I do not think they would. There is no analogy between these boards and the Arbitration Court, because the wages of the workers are determined only after a thorough investigation by the court, whereas the prices for primary products are fixed by the boards which are appointed by the producers themselves. It is only to the Federal Parliament that the people can look for a sound economic system under which they can prosper. It should be the desire of this Parliament to afford the people an opportunity to cast a vote on what powers they are prepared to give to the Commonwealth Parliament. My experience has been that very little interest is taken in the federal elections as compared with the State elections, because it is believed that the States deal more with the bread and butter of the people than does this Parliament; but the people can look only to the Commonwealth Parliament for salvation and improvement in their conditions, and it is in the federal elections that they should take greatest interest. It is to be hoped that the people will realize what the powers of the Commonwealth Parliament are and that they will rise to the occasion and demand for it a greater and wider range of powers.
I presume that before the vote on the second reading is taken the AttorneyGeneral will reply to the numerous arguments that have been put up against the Government’s proposal by members of the Opposition. I am concerned with one aspect of the proposed alteration of the Constitution. The Attorney-General said quite frankly that he had not included in the bill a definition of “ marketing “. He said that it could cover a large number of things such as the handling and transport of primary products. In my electorate are hundreds of railway workers and many of them handle primary products.. I am concerned as to whether, under the heading of marketing as contained in this proposal, legislation could be passed, in the event of this referendum being passed which would affect workers engaged in the transport of primary products. The bill does not provide any safeguards or protection for workers engaged in primary industries, and because I have grave doubts regarding its effect on those engaged in primary production, I will oppose it.
– Nearing the close of such a long debate as has taken place on this bill, there remains little new ground to be covered.
– Hear, hear !
– I hear the honorable member opposite saying, “ Hear, hear “ and others joining him, but for the most part supporters of the Government have merely repeated the argument put forward by the Attorney-General (Mr. Menzies) and other Ministers, and they have not contributed a great deal to the debate except to bring up and emphasize the fact that the Government is afraid to face up to its real responsibilities by endeavouring to widen the Commonwealth sphere of influence. I feel that if the Government were prepared to face right up to the problem and offer the people an opportunity to say whether or not they want this Parliament to have greater powers in respect of, not only marketing, but also industrial matters, the verdict would be favorable. Speakers on the other side of the House have contended that only referenda dealing with single subjects have been carried, and, on the facts, that would appear to be true, but to suggest that there has been no alteration in the public mind over a long period of years shows conservatism which does not make for achievement of the progress of this country which the Labour party desires. One of the objections taken to the amendment submitted by my leader (Mr. Curtin) is that it does not provide for anything specific. The honorable member for Echuca (Mr. McEwan) took up that attitude, but he was not the only one who submitted the view that the amendment meant nothing, that it was airy, that it merely looked nice, and that it did not mean anything effective. I think the honorable members who put forward that view realize that if specific reference had been made in the amendment to such things as a shorter working week, the amendment would have been ruled out of order, and we should not have been able to have the debate that we have had. A subject of this kind should be widely debated, and even if some repetition does occur, it is well to have recorded the views of those who feel that the Commonwealth Government should be given powers, not only of the nature which it thought it had, but also others, which a great many honorable members on both sides of the House believe that it should have to enable it to do effectively the work of the nation. I understand that a good number of honorable members sitting behind the Treasury bench feel that industrial powers should be granted to the Commonwealth, but for political reasons are not prepared to declare themselves.
The charge has been thrown across this chamber that the Opposition is divided on the present issue. It is not divided on the need to give this Parliament the fullest possible powers or on the desirability of taking over the functions of the States and delegating to those States lesser powers, a reform which is necessary if Australia is ever to become a truly great nation. We cannot hope to accomplish that state of affairs, except over a long period of years, unless this Parliament asks for and is granted powers which at present it does not possess. I realize of course that several honorable members who support the proposal for additional Commonwealth marketing powers do not want to go any further. I can understand the views of the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) who, according to the Hansard records, on every occasion when referenda have been submitted for an extension of Commonwealth powers, has opposed them and has submitted the view that in this Parliament there is a greed for power which the States are not prepared to give. He has also indicated, if I understand his views correctly, that, rather than extend the powers of the Commonwealth, it should be maintained in the position it occupied when the Commonwealth Parliament was established. Apparently he is against increasing the power of the States and does not hesitate to say so. I hold that the intention of those who framed the Constitution was that the national Parliament should gradually grow in power and extend its influence so that eventually it should control every one of the main factors governing the welfare of the nation. When I heard the argument advanced against the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition on the grounds that it was not specific, I felt that honorable members who used it knew well that had it been in specific terms it could not have been moved, and we should not have been able to express our views to the people. In its proposal the Government is merely placating the States. The right honorable the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) has said that at a suitable time, the Government will provide an opportunity to Parliament to discuss industrial matters and the advisability of SUDmitting a referendum on that question,
Ifr. Drakeford. but he has made no attempt to specify the period when we shall have that opportunity. He has not said that it will be provided within the life of this Parliament or that the Government proposes that a referendum shall be held on this question. As far as I see, the differences of opinion prevailing between the Country party and the Nationalist party, and the divergent views which exist even in the Nationalist party make it appear that there is very little chance of having that question discussed or presented to the people for decision. I feel that within the ranks of the Nationalist party there is a large body of opinion that it would be wise to submit industrial matters to the people at the same time as the proposed referendum on marketing, but those who hold this view have been subdued by party influences and in consequence they have not been able to express their opinion. The Prime Minister has apparently mollified - I shall not say satisfied - that section of his party which is favorably disposed towards the extension of Commonwealth powers, by suggesting that he is prepared to do something in the direction they desire at some time in the distant and uncertain future. Seemingly, that section is very easily placated, and has accepted the lure of the vague promise that something will be done if what is termed a suitable opportunity presents itself. They prefer that, to fighting for what, they know to be right and really believe to be necessary, in other words, they prefer procrastination to a realistic attempt at performance. This attitude compels the adoption of the view .that they are lacking in enthusiasm; and that suggests that they are not sincere in regard to the advisability of securing these additional powers. I. believe that if honorable members were to speak as they feel most of them would say that they favour the granting oi additional powers to the Commonwealth. I should like the Commonwealth to obtain an enlargement of its powers in almost every direction, as long as provision was made for the delegation of authority to appropriate bodies. For example, domestic matters are more easily handled by subordinate tribunals in the State sphere. I feel, however, that if the Commonwealth were vested with the marketing power which the Government, and I suppose, everybody else believed it always possessed, it might prove dangerous to the workers by enabling the forcing up of prices, against which the largest proportion of the workers would have no protection, ff such action resulted in a crisis, those who are covered by awards might find that their awards were set aside. The Attorney-General knows quite well that in a previous crisis the protection spoken of by Country party members in particular, which the workers are supposed to possess, disappeared. In fact, a very large body of men who are rendering splendid service and have never been overpaid, but on the contrary are still underpaid, had their awards set aside and were left entirely at the mercy of the employers. That is not real protection. Then there is the case of the men whose awards were still maintained but who were subjected to a 10 per cent, cut. In his speech on the budget, the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) made it quite clear that the standard of living of the workers of Australia is now considerably lower than it was 25 years ago. What a proud record that is! I am confident that the workers would view as a menace the vesting of this power in the Commonwealth, because of the possible effect on the prices of the foodstuffs that they have to purchase, without their being given any guarantee of protection by means of industrial awards. To those who reason that the workers are protected by means of the tariff and Arbitration Court awards, I would say that the workers do not fix their own rates of pay and conditions; these are fixed for them by what is termed an independent tribunal. But there is no such suggestion in this marketing proposal, which really means that the farmer will have the right to fix his own prices. If it be true that he could bring about a shortage of commodities in order to do that, I view the proposal with very grave apprehension. Much as I should like the primary producers to have the power to secure fair and reasonable prices for their products, I do not want such prices to he fixed as would be to the detriment of the workers in particular and of consumers generally. At page 4 of the report of the James case before the Privy Council, Mr. Wilfred Barton is reported to have said -
The effect of that legislation was that no mau may send any dried fruit from one State of Australia to another unless he exports, destroys or feeds to stock that percentage of his total crop which is named in the determination of the Dried Fruits Board, the balance amounting to 10 per cent, or 12) per cent, is all that may be marketed interstate; the object of the legislation being to keep up prices for the benefit of the growers.
That may seem, and no doubt is, a very attractive proposition. It is one that has been operating for a very considerable time. But it is outrageous to ask for such powers, those which we thought we had having disappeared, without simultaneously giving to the people the opportunity to say whether the Commonwealth shall have further industrial powers. It is entirely wrong to spend such a large sum as £100,000 in the taking of a referendum on the one question, when the two questions could be submitted. Such a waste of public money will have to be explained by the United Australia party and the United Country party. Australia cannot afford an expenditure of that magnitude upon what is not a practical attempt to settle all the questions that may arise. . Honorable members opposite might occupy a far better position if they were able to inform the House that the Prime Minister had promised to submit to the people during the next general elections, a referendum for the widening of the Commonwealth’s industrial powers. But we have had no statement of that nature; there has been merely an airy allusion to the fact that at some time in the distant future something of that kind may be done. I am not satisfied, and I am sure that many honorable members opposite also cannot he, if they are reasoning men. If the referendum were held at the time of the next general elections, additional expense might be avoided. Government members still have the opportunity to say that the attempt to have it taken will be made. It is within the bounds of possibility that such a pronouncement would considerably alter the view of honorable members who sit on this side of the House, but apparently it is hopeless to expect that such an announcement will be made by this Government.
The statement made by the AttorneyGeneral to the Privy Council on the subject of marketing emphasizes what was said by Mr. Wilfred Barton. It is this -
If that ia to be 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.
If that does not mean the destruction of a proportion of what is produced, I do not understand the position.
– It means that the balance must be exported.
– The balance may be exported.
– Must be.
– Not necessarily; it could be destroyed. Mr. Wilfred Barton made that clear, and there is no escape from it.
– Who would destroy it if he could sell it overseas?
– In some countries it has been found advantageous to destroy coffee and other commodities, and to pour milk into rivers. In my view as a human being, the destruction of commodities that could be consumed by the poorer people, in order to keep up prices, is wanton. Where such a state of affairs is found to exist, we must admit that our economic order needs to be completely changed. If the policy of the Labour party were followed, all would be well. I believe that eventually it will be. It may take a long time; but the Country party must realize that the real interests of the farmers are in safer keeping with the representatives of the workers than with the representatives of the exploiters who sit opposite. When they are able to appreciate that, by co-operation with the workers and by realizing that their interests are identical, a better state of affairs will be brought about for all sections of the community, Australia will begin to make real progress. As regards increased industrial powers, most of the arguments submitted by honorable members opposite are based on the assumption that, if the two questions relating to marketing and industrial legislation are submitted to the people at the same time, both will be defeated, but that, if the question relating to marketing is submitted by itself, it stands a good chance of being carried. The only warrant for this belief is the result of previous referendums in which, when more than one question waa submitted at a time, most were defeated. The proposal of the Government, which it is claimed, merely seeks to preserve or restore certain powers previously enjoyed, will involve the expenditure of £100,000 in order to obtain an expression of opinion by the people, but for the expenditure of that sum the opinion of the people in regard to other necessary alterations of the Constitution could also be obtained. I am not at all sure that £100,000 would cover the cost of the referendum. According to figures supplied to Parliament, the referendum held in 1926 cost £105,365, and the forthcoming referendum will probably cost even more than that if the Government is to resort to the issuing of pamphlets to all electors, explaining its proposal. I was not able to learn the cost of the referendum which was held in 1928, but it is probable that it cost even more than the other, having regard to the increased number of electors. I do not subscribe to the view that the people would necessarily refuse to grant complete industrial power to the Commonwealth. On the contrary, I believe that, with the growth of knowledge and public opinion on such questions in the last decade, it would begranted by the people. We know that many public bodies have expressed the view that. State parliaments, as such, should be abolished, and it is a common thing at conferences for resolutionsalong those lines to be carried, mainly because many people believe that thereare too many parliaments, and too much conflict between the various authorities. The feeling undoubtedly exists among a large section of the public that there are in Australia too many parliaments and too many legislators. When I was a member of a State Parliament, and since that time, I persistently advocatedthe granting of supreme power to theCommonwealth Parliament, and certain delegated powers to the State legislatures. I am convinced that, under such a system, Australia would be better off than it is to-day, and that that is the general feeling throughout the community. Any one who, at a public meeting, urges theabolition of State parliaments generally and the substitution of State authorities with lesser powers to deal with matters delegated to them is always applauded. That, however, is not why I put forward the suggestion now. I do so because it 13 only natural that, as the nation develops, additional power should be handed over to the national Parliament, while the powers of the State parliaments should diminish. It may be argued that, at the time federation was achieved, a compact was made that the States should always retain their sovereign powers, but I do not believe that any such compact was ever intended or made.
Proposals for the alteration of the Constitution have been submitted to the people by referendum on nine separate occasions. The submission in 1906 relating to Senate elections was carried, as waa also that relating to State debts in 1910. Then, in 1928, the proposal in connexion with the Financial Agreement was agreed to by the people. However, the other proposal put forward in 1910 relating to finance other than State debts was defeated. In 1911, two questions were submitted relating to legislative powers and monopolies, and both were turned down. On the 31st May, 1913, five questions were submitted, all of which were answered by the people in the negative. Then two referendums we’re held in connexion with conscription, and they, too, I am happy to say, were defeated. To-day is. the anniversary of one of those referendums, and at the moment is being, and deserves to be celebrated as a great day in the history of the Labour movement. The people were again appealed to in 1917 and in 1919 in connexion with the nationalization of monopolies, but they declined to grant the powers asked for, and the Government was no more successful in 1926, when it submitted proposals in respect of industry, commerce, and essential services. It does not follow, however, that because certain proposals were defeated in the past, they would necessarily be defeated if submitted now. A great deal of attention has been concentrated on the Federal Parliament since the depression, and the people have learned that if any substantial progress is ever to be made through legislative channels, they must look to the Federal Parliament to make it.
Much use has been made by honorable members opposite of the argument that the workers are protected by Arbitration Court awards, while the primary producers are not. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway), and the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear), both showed that the protection afforded by the Arbitration Courts is of a very shadowy character. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports made it clear that the standard of living of the workers has been definitely reduced during the last quarter of a century, as the result of Arbitration Court decisions. That this applies particularly to skilled workers, I myself can vouch, as one who has represented them in every industrial jurisdiction in Australia, except before the wages boards of Victoria and Tasmania. Compared with the standards enjoyed by skilled workers in other English-speaking countries, the standard in Australia has definitely declined, because we have failed to preserve the margins for skill. The fact is that the Arbitration Court has not given the workers the advantages which some honorable members on the’ other side, quite honestly, no doubt, believe to be the case, a fact which is known to all those who have had experience of the working of arbitration courts. The allegation that the workers are protected by Arbitration Court awards, because the basic wage rises or falls in accordance with price figures ascertained and published by the Commonwealth Statistician, and that any increase of the price of primary commodities which might arise from the misuse of marketing powers conferred upon the Commonwealth will be reflected in wages awards, is not borne out by the experiences of the workers themselves before the Arbitration Court. Even if it were admitted that the Commonwealth Arbitration Court afforded such protection to the workers, which I claim has been disproved on this occasion by arguments which I have no desire now to repeat. It has been shown that an increase of the price of primary commodities arising from the marketing legislation would do an injustice to a great number of people which could not be remedied. My view is that an increase of the purchasing power of the workers will enable a greater proportion of our primary products to bo consumed within Australia instead of being exported as they are at present. The honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) submitted figures which showed the extent to which primary produce grown in Australia is consumed within the Commonwealth. Those figures will be a very valuable record. The honorable member, I think, referred to figures presented by a former Commonwealth Statistician, Mr. Wickens, in an address to the Industrial Peace Conference in Sydney, in 1929, showing that the proportion of Australia’s primary products consumed locally was about two-thirds. Any increase of the purchasing power of the people would enable an even greater proportion to be consumed.
While I have the opportunity, I desire to refer to the state of affairs that exists amongst the workers, and this is an indication of the real standard of living in Australia. In doing so, I want it to be understood that I am not voicing my own opinion as one who has represented the workers, but am quoting from statistical records available to members. I should be happy indeed if we had the highest standard of living in the world. The honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. John Lawson) issued a challenge to any member on this side of the House to show that better standards do not exist here than in any other country. Whatever may have been the case 25 years ago, Australia does not now stand foremost in the world in this regard. Instead of holding our lead we have receded. As has been pointed out by the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark) substantial progress has been made in the conditions enjoyed by the people of Czechoslovakia and other middle-European countries. That may be accounted for, to some extent, by the fact that new industries have been started in those countriesequiped with machinery of the latest type whereas older countries are endeavouring to carry on with a large amount of capital invested in outofdate machinery. I claim that the Australian standard of living will be effected by the marketing legislation, unless industrial powers are also granted, and when I hear challenges thrown across the table such as we have had from time to time, I feel that it is essential to bring under the notice of honorable members the figures published by the Commonwealth Statistician bearing on this matter. The latest Census Bulletin, published in January, 1935, shows the earnings of male and female breadwinners for the year ended 30th June, 1933. While I think everybody will be prepared to admit that there has been some slight improvement in respect of the earnings of the people since that time, there has been no substantial improvement in the aggregate. Though there has been some lessening of the number of the unemployed, there has been no substantial gain from the position as set out in that publication.
– I ask the honorable member to show how he proposes to relate that matter to the question before the Chair?
– I am replying to statements made by honorable members opposite that the standard of living in Australia is better than it is elsewhere, and that it will not be affected by the marketing legislation if prices are raised. I submit that if prices are raised as the result of the validation of the marketing legislation the standard of living of the people will be lowered. When it is alleged that the Australian standard is higher than elsewhere and the real figures are available, it is helpful to quote them in order that members generally may fully appreciate the true position in Australia. The figures show that at that time the number of breadwinners in Australia totalled 3,155,621.
– More than onehalf the population of Australia !
– Yes, they were actually breadwinners, although included in that number might be young people. The honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. E. F. Harrison) knows as well as I do that, in many cases, the younger members of families are in employment, because they are forced by economic circumstances to seek it, whilst the older members are out of work. All honorable members know that, though very frequently boys and girls from fourteen and fifteen years up to seventeen and twenty years of age are a’ble to obtain employment, they are subsequently put off to make room, for younger persons, but that while they are working they are classed as breadwinners. The total of 3,155,621 breadwinners in Australia probably included quite a number of young people whose wages were less than the basic wage. When these figures are analysed it will be found that there were 566,814 male and 308,689 female breadwinners, a total of 875,503, whose incomes were under £52 per annum.
– Those figures included all invalid and old-age pensioners.
– Tha t is so and I have no doubt that they also included military and war pensioners and others unable to work, but nevertheless have dependants. I quote these figures not to show that workers are getting low wages but to depict the true state of affairs in relation to income earned over the whole of Australia. In 1933 there w.ere 385,055 male and 1S8,5i56 female breadwinners whose incomes were less than £2 a week.
– I ask the honorable member to connect his remarks with the bill and to show what relation these figures have to the proposal contained in it.
– I am endeavouring to show that the argument advanced by honorable members opposite, that the standard of living will not be affected by the marketing legislation, is wrong. If the marketing legislation is validated and food products are destroyed for the purpose of maintaining price levels, the workers ;vi.ll suffer. We do not want that state of affairs to come about, and unless the Commonwealth Parliament is clothed with full industrial power to enable it to meet the conditions brought about by such tactics by an increase of wages and the adoption of shorter working hours, honorable members on this side cannot support the bill, and must vote for the amendment. I shall endeavour, however, to curtail the figures to satisfy the rules of debate by quoting generally from the Census Bulletin that, of the total of 3,155,621 breadwinners in Australia, there were 1,641,549 earning less than £3 a week, a standard of living for themselves and those they support which is less than the basic wage standard. Those figures reveal a condition of affairs about which we cannot afford to boast. At any rate, we cannot now claim that our standards are the highest in the world. We desire, however, that these standards, such as they are, shall not be endangered or reduced by the raising of the prices of necessary commodities. I believe that it will be impossible to get the workers to believe that the existing standards of living will remain unaffected if certain boards are granted powers that may be abused. Frankly, I am afraid that powers proposed to be vested in the marketing boards may be abused. It may not be the intention of honorable gentlemen opposite to set up bodies which will abuse the powers vested in them, but such things have happened in other countries, and they may happen in Australia. It would be wrong for us to take a risk of that nature if it can be avoided; and the risk of it could be avoided by submitting the two issues separately to the people at the same time.
It has been argued by prominent members on the Government side of the House, and particularly by the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) with great energy and dramatic effect, that, as the tariff gives protection to manufacturers engaged in secondary industries, and the Arbitration Court gives protection to workers, power should be vested in the Commonwealth Parliament to protect the primary producers. We say in reply to that statement that if certain organizations are set up to deal with primary products, Commonwealth authority should also he provided to deal with industrial matters. While the workers are desirous that the. primary producers shall be fairly dealt with, I am sure that they will not be prepared to grant power for the organization of primary producers which may be abused. In my opinion the proposal which the Government has submitted to us is one-eyed. That is, perhaps, a rather vivid phrase to use, but it is the most apt term that I can call to mind at the moment. I deny flatly the statements of the right honorable member for Cowper, the honorable member for Macquarie and the honorable member for Echuca that the Opposition wishes to deny facilities to the primary producers which the workers possess. We are prepared to endorse a proposal for the widest power to be vested in this Parliament.
In view of statements made in the course of this debate it is perhaps desirable that I should read the relevant planks of the platform of the Labour party, particularly as the platform was the subject of consideration and review at the triennial conference as recently as July of this year. They are as follows : -
Amendment of the Commonwealth Constitution -
There can be no misunderstanding of the position of the Labour party. While the platform of the two parties supporting the Government can be altered to suit almost any political wind that blows, the platform of the Labour party can be varied only at stated times and according to a certain procedure in which every member of it can share. Every honorable member of the Labour party stands by his platform. We believe that if we had at our disposal the resources of the press and the radio which are available to honorable gentleman opposite, and our platform could thereby be made more widely known and understood, it would be possible for us to obtain for it the approval of the people.
The statements frequently repeated in the course of this debate that the industrialists are opposed to the primary producers, are entirely unwarranted and incorrect. We are just as anxious that the primary producers of Australia shall get a fair deal as we are that the condition of the workers shall be improved and made as secure as possible in their position. It must be remembered that the arbitration tribunals set up to determine wages and conditions of employment for the workers have only a limited jurisdiction. As one who has had a long experience of these tribunals, I wish to say quite definitely that they involve the workers in heavy expense. Moreover., it is felt by the workers that they re-act more readily to arguments on behalf of employers than to arguments on behalf of employees, particularly . when possibilities of loss are suggested. If it is contended that the adoption of a particular proposal of the workers is likely to involve the employers in an immediate loss considerable heed is taken to the point, and it is felt that very little regard is paid to the fact that the employers concerned may, in the past, have made large profits over a period of years. This, of course, should put them in a better position to bear a temporary loss than the workers, who have no reserves to fall back upon.
The honorable member for Melbourne Ports made a most excellent contribution to this debate, particularly insofar as he resisted the allegation that the standards of living of the workers were high and were thoroughly protected. What I have said reveals the true position. We do not desire to prevent the primary producers from improving their standard of living, but we feel in duty bound to protect the interests of the workers and the consumers. I agree with the honorable member for Melbourne Ports that if the proposal of the Government for an extension of power to control marketing were accompanied by a proposal to increase the industrial power of the Commonwealth Parliament, we could regard it with more equanimity. The Labour party stands for increased powers for the Commonwealth Parliament. The platform that I read a few minutes ago is quite clear and unambiguous. If the Government would adopt the course suggested, the goodwill of the workers might be won, and we should be able to fight side by side with Government supporters in the endeavour to obtain an increase of power for the Commonwealth Parliament, which would be in the real interests of the democracy and to the advantage of the whole of the people of Australia.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Menzies) adjourned.
Labour Conditions on Waterfront.
.- I move-
That the House do now adjourn.
On the 29th September, the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) brought under notice a matter relating to the endorsement of first preferences on licences held under the Transport Workers (Seamen) Regulations by seamen at Port Adelaide. He suggested that the failure of a number of seamen holding first preferences to renew their licences justified the endorsement as “ first preference “ of a number of licences carrying other preferences. I am. now advised that a number of further first preference endorsements have recently been made with the result that the total of first preference endorsements made in respect of licences issued at Port Adelaide now approximates the normal requirements at that port, plus a 50 per cent. margin. In view of suggestions that have been made, it is also a matter of some interest that of the 52 additional endorsements of first preferences, 50 were granted to members of the Seamen’s Union and two to volunteers.
– I thank the AttorneyGeneral for that information.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.20 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
en asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Mr.Rosevear asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Is he prepared to amend the naval regulations in order to permit the refund of fines inflicted upon naval officers and men for minor offences during the war period, if not as a general policy, then at least in the case of men either wholly or partially dependent on war pensions?
– No. Any such fines were imposed by competent authority at the time and the cases are definitely closed.
l asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Is it a fact that, in addition to what the Government has done regarding the manufacturing of petrol in Australia, it has supplies of petrol stored, which would be sufficient to maintain transport facilities for a considerable period in the event of blockade in time of war?
– The Defence Department does not control any stocks of petrol, but stocks of oil fuel are held and further provision for oil fuel supplies will be made as the financial position permits. Appreciable quantities of petrol are held in stock by commercial companies and these supplies would be available in an emergency. Particulars of such stocks are supplied by the major companies to the Defence Department periodically.
Trade with Malaya.
d asked the Minister for Commerce, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Mr.R. Green asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
In view of the extremely conflicting reports received in Australia concerning the present situation in Spain, as well as divergent news respecting the attitudes of different governments and nations towards Spanish affairs, will the Prime Minister make a statement to the House, for debate if considered desirable, giving authentic information regarding Spain and the international situation arising from the internal troubles of that country?
s. - I would inform the honorable member that the general situation in Spain has been marked by the success of the insurgent armies, both in the north and the south. General Franco has now been formally appointed by the insurgent Junta at Burgos as “Head of the Spanish State”. In the north the capture of the coastal towns of Irun and San Sebastian -was followed by the relief of Oviedo. General Franco’s army, advancing from the south-west along the valley of the Tagus, is now within a few miles of Madrid. It was reported on Monday that, with the exception of the road to Valencia, on the east coast, all communications with the capital were cut off. It would seem that the capture of Madrid is not likely to be long delayed. It does not follow that the fall of Madrid will mean the end of the present Spanish Government, as it is reported that it will withdraw to an east coast city still controlled by government forces. The British Government has felt impelled to appeal, on humanitarian grounds, to the authorities on both sides to come to an agreement for an exchange of hostages, of whom there are many, a particularly large number being concentrated in Madrid. The Non-Intervention Committee has been continuing its sittings in London and hearing various charges of breach of the agreement relating to the non-supply of arms, munitions and war material to Spain. The latest advices are that although it seems clearly established that both parties in Spain have been receiving and are still receivinga certain quantity of arms and aircraft from abroad, the agreement has none the less been largely effective in forestalling a large-scale competition in supply. The Commonwealth Government has not received any confirmation of the report in to-day’s press that Portugal has broken off diplomatic relations with the Madrid Government and has officially recognized the insurgents. Throughout the dispute the attitude of the Commonwealth Government has been one of strict nonintervention. On the 12th September 1 stated the Commonwealth’s traditional policy of non-interference in the internal disputes of a foreign country. This attitude was re-affirmed by me in reply to a question in this House on the 9th October.
e asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– Inquiries are being made and a reply will be furnished to the honorable member as early as possible.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -
Can he inform the House whether any decision has been- reached by the Assembly of the League of Nations with reference’ to proposals to amend the Covenant, and, if a decision has been made, what is the nature of that decision.
– A general commission was set up by the recent Assembly to consider the subject of the application of the principles of the Covenant, of which Mr. Bruce was appointed chairman. On the report of the general commission the Assembly decided to set up a committee to study all the proposals which had been made, or may be made by governments regarding the application of the principles of the Covenant and the problems connected therewith. On the basis of this study the committee will prepare a report as soon as possible indicating the definite provisions it recommends for adoption. This report will be submitted to the Governments of the members of the League to serve as a basis for the decisions to be taken in this matter. The committee is authorized to propose a special session of the Assembly, should it consider this advisable.
The members of the League represented on the committee are: - Argentine, Austria, Belgium, Bolivia, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, China, Czechoslovakia, Ecuador, France, Greece, Iran. Italy, Latvia, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Portugal, Roumania Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Uruguay, Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.
According to the latest advice, this committee, which is known as the committee of 28, is to meet on the 7th December, when it will elect its chairman and begin its task.
t asked the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -
In view of the international developments, which have taken place since he announced to i Ite House the proposals of the Government for the reform of the Covenant of the League of Nations, developments which include the understand ing reached between Germany and I Italy, the Belgian declaration of neutrality, the reported impending dissolution of the Little Entente and the announcement by Russia that it does not propose to adhere to the pact of non-intervention in Spain, does he consider any change in the attitude of the Government to the League of Nations is necessary or desirable?
– The proposals of the Commonwealth Government, as well as those of other States Members of the League, will be considered by a special committee of the League, which will meet on the 7th December, 1936. This committee will no doubt take due note of any changes in the international situation since the proposals were submitted.
None of the questions referred to by the honorable member has actually come before the League, except a plea from the Spanish Minister for Foreign Affairs at the last Assembly meeting for other States to respect the rights of -Spain.
In regard to the Belgian declaration of neutrality, I can inform the honorable member that the Belgian Government, in reply to the United Kingdom note of the 17th September, stated that she will continue to observe iri respect of the obligations of the Covenant the scrupulous fidelity which she has always shown in the past.
In the circumstances, no fresh consideration of the attitude of the Commonwealth Government towards the League of Nations is called for at the moment.
Broadcasting Station at Kalgoorlie.
en asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Export of Butter to the United Kingdom.
s asked the Minister for Trade and “Customs, upon notice -
What was the quantity and value of butter exported from Australia to the United Kingdom for the years 1932, 1933, 1934 and 1935?
Mr.White. - The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
Trade with Japan.
asked the. Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
e. - The information is being obtained. relief to Wheat-Growers.
– On the 22nd October, the honorable member for Martin (Mr. McCall) asked the following questions, upon notice: -
Will the Treasurer 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 each year from flour tax?
The total amounts paid by way of bounties, grants or other forms of assistance to other primary industries between 1929-30 and 1935- 36. giving the total amount for each year for each product?
I am now able to supply the following answers : -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 28 October 1936, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1936/19361028_reps_14_152/>.