14th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr.Speaker (Hon. G. J. Bell) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
Effect onDominion Supplies.
– by leave. - With the conclusion of a new agreement between theUnited Kingdom and Argentina, a further stage has been reached in the longterm arrangements for meat supplies to the United Kingdom. The principles ensuring the protection of Australian meat producers, established at Ottawa, have been confirmed and extended, and the Australian industry will retain the extraordinary financial benefits which have accrued to it during the last four years.
This agreement, which has been entered into for a period of three years, is based on understandings reached during discussions last year by the Prime Minister and his colleagues, and the final negotiations conducted this year by the AttorneyGeneral and myself. The principal provisions of the agreement are as follows : -
Provision is made for a duty not exceeding¾d. per lb. on chilled beef and veal,2/3d. per lb. on frozen beef and veal, Mutton, lamb and pork are to be admitted free. There will be a. duty not exceeding 20 per cent. ad valorem on boned and boneless beef and veal, edible offals, canned beef and beef extracts, and not exceeding 30 per cent. on canned tongues. The present duties are 10 per cent. ad valorem. These new ad valorem duties are to be reduced proportionately for six months if the ad valorem incidence of id. per lb. on chilled beef and veal falls to17½ per cent. or less in any six months. This provision is intended to maintain the relationship between the specific duty on chilled beef and the ad valorem duties on certain other meats.
The Government of the United Kingdom declares its willingness to co-operate with the Argentine Government in joint inquiry into the economic and financial structure of the meat trade, with particular reference to means of securing reasonable returns to the cattle producers.
The quantity of chilled beef from Argentina in 1937 is to be not less than the 1935 quantity, reduced by 138,700 cwt., which is 2 per cent. The quantity in 1938 and 1939 will be not less than the quantity in the preceding year reduced by 138,700 cwt., but the quantity in 1939 is to be not less than the 19.35 figure, less 5 per cent.
Frozen beef imports are to be retained at the present level, which is 65 per cent. of the imports in the Ottawa base year, 1931-32. Limitations are also imposed on the importation of offals and canned beef.
The imports of mutton and lamb in 1937 are limited to 886,000 cwt., which is the present level, while the quantity in 1938 will be 797,400 cwt., which is a 10 per cent., reduction.No quantity is specified for importation in 1939.
A supplementary agreement will be concluded to give effect to the International Meat Conference proposals, in which Argentina agrees to participate.
A brief re-statement of the position since Ottawa will help in an understanding of the stage we have now reached. In the year ended the 30th June, 1932, which immediately preceded the Ottawa conference, beef imports into the United Kingdom were 11,400,000 cwt., of which foreign countries supplied 9,770,000 cwt. or 86 per cent. of the total. The dominions supplied 1,630,000 cwt. or 14 per cent. of the total. Australia’s share was 1,130,000 cwt. The foreign supplies were chiefly chilled,but, on account of transport difficulties, the dominion supplies were all frozen, and, at that time, there seemed to be no prospect of development of the chilled beef trade. In the same year, mutton and lamb supplies to the United Kingdom were 7,300,000 cwt., of which foreign countries supplied 1,900,000 cwt. or 26.4 per cent., and the dominions 5,400,000 cwt. or 73.6 per cent. Australia’s share was 1,500,000 cwt.
The dominions then received no preference whatever in the British market, and, when the Ottawa conference met, that market was glutted, and the price situation was desperate. At the end of 1932, Australian frozen beef was selling at about 2d. per lb., lamb was as low as 4½d. per lb., and mutton was practically unsaleable at2½d. per lb. - a price which did not cover treatment and marketing costs.
The method decided upon at Ottawa to deal with the position was to reduce the volume of foreign supplies, thus leaving the way open for an increase of dominion supplies. The British Government declared that its policy was to afford to the dominions an expanding share in the meat import trade. Foreign supplies of bacon and ham were drastically reduced, while frozen beef, mutton and lamb from foreign countries were reduced on a pro gressive scale, to a maximum of 35 per cent. below the imports in 1931-32. Because the dominions could not guarantee supplies of chilled beef, the most that could be done with that commoditywas to limit foreign supplies to the quantity imported into Great Britain in the year 1931-32.
Since the conclusion of the Ottawa agreement, the story of the mutton and lamb industry has been one of unbroken progress. Since the onset of the depression there has been increasing attention to fat lamb production in Australia and an outlet has been found, chiefly in the United Kingdom, for every carcass surplus to Australian requirements. This would have been quite impossible had it not been for the reduction of foreign supplies. The negotiations conducted in 1935 by the Prime Minister and his colleagues secured the continuance of the right to expansion, and the immediate future of mutton and lamb producers appears to be as bright as has been their fortunate position during the past few years. It is always difficult to measure, in money terms, benefits of this kind. Looking at the export alone, the volume of Australian supplies has been increased from 1,500,000 cwt. in 1931-32, valued at £3,200,000 landed in the United Kingdom, to 1,800,000 cwt. in 1935 valued at £4,600,000 landed in the United Kingdom. At present the prices ruling on the London market are4½d. per lb. for mutton, and7½d. per lb. for lamb. The total increase in supplies and value of mutton and lamb since Ottawa, over and above what would seem to have been possible but for the provisions of that agreement, may be assessed as follows, up to the end of 1936 : -
Total increase in volume in the four years - 750,000 cwt.
Total increase in value in the four years - £4,000,000.
The assurance of quantities for the next three years will represent 1,000,000 cwt. during the three years over the level of the Ottawa year, and an additional £4,000,000 in value.
Since Ottawa, the share of the dominions in the total British imports of mutton and lamb have increased from 73.6 per cent. to about 81 per cent. Australia’s share has increased from 20 per cent. to 27 per cent. Thus, Australia has reaped practically the whole of the benefit of the improved mutton and lamb market.
In addition to this gain in export quantities and values, the unrestricted export market has protected the domestic market, which consumes 70 per cent, of the production of mutton and lamb. Thus is seen the extraordinary value to mutton and lamb producers of the success which has attended the Commonwealth. Government’s negotiations.
Under the new Anglo-Argentine agreement, no duties are proposed for mutton and lamb imports, but foreign supplies during 1937 will remain limited to those of 1935, the Ottawa reduction of 35 per cent, on 1931-32 imports being thus perpetuated. After the end of 1937, a further reduction by 10 per cent, of foreign supplies will be made.
The balance of imports, which represents approximately 81 per cent, of total imports, will be divided by arrangement between Australia and New Zealand. Thus, as the British market expands, so may the allocations to these two dominions be expected to advance. For 1936, Australia has the right to supply 1,800,000 cwt., whilst imports in 1935, 1934 and 1933 were respectively 1,785,000 cwt., 1,628,000 cwt. and 1,304,000 cwt.
Great, difficulties have surrounded the negotiations regarding beef, and, therefore, the greater is the significance to be attached to their successful outcome. The late Anglo-Argentine agreement contained a serious threat to the development of the Australian beef export, and to the transition from frozen to chilled beef. That these threats were successfully parried during the past few years is a tribute, not only to Government policy, but also to the consistent and able assistance of the High Commissioner in London, and .to the skilful and effective advice and administration of the Department of Commerce. Despite the constant threat of quantitative limitation, Australia has succeeded in increasing its export of beef from 1,124,000 cwt. in 1931-32, the Ottawa base year, to more than 1,700,000 cwt. in. the current year - an increase of more than 50 per cent. A market was found for every carcase of beef which was surplus to Ai’_:tra.!i::”s requirements. Moreover, .the expanding supplies of chilled beef were successfully marketed, by temporary arrangements which overcame the difficulties caused by the Anglo-Argentine agreement.
Thus, in the years since the Ottawa Agreement was made, Australia has successfully marketed a rapidly expanding surplus; foreign frozen beef has been reduced by 35 per cent., and foreign chilled beef has been reduced by 10 per cent., below 1931-1932. Existing prices for Australian beef are up to 3Jd. per lb. for frozen hindquarters, and 4½d. per lb. for chilled hindquarters.
A proper appreciation of the results of the Australian negotiations can be gained when it is realized that, early in 1935, Australian beef was threatened with duties, quantitative limitation, and a check to the transition from frozen tochilled beef. These difficulties have all been overcome. Imports of beef from Empire countries will be admitted free of duty. The opportunity for increased supplies from the dominions is afforded by the provision that foreign supplies of chilled beef will be reduced over the three years by 5 per cent, below their 1935 imports. As the volume of imports of total beef from foreign sources is nearly three times that obtained from Empire countries, a reduction .by 5 per cent, of foreign chilled beef imports will leave room for an increase of about 14 per cent, in imports from the dominions without increasing the total supply. In 1935, Australia supplied 1,701,000 cwt. of beef to the United Kingdom. Thus, in the next three years we may look forward to increasing our exports to 1.950,000 cwt. annually, which is nearly 75 per cent, in excess of the Ottawa year.
Since the time of the Ottawa Conference, the dominions’ share of imports of chilled and frozen beef into the United Kingdom has increased from 14 per cent, to 25 per cent. Australia’s share has increased from 10 per cent, to 15 per cent. By 1939, provided they have the supplies, the share of the dominions will have increased to 28 per cent., and Australia’s share to 16 per cent. It seems that the only limit to the attainment pf these percentages will be the capacity of the dominions to supply. ‘
With the operation of the new agreement, there will no longer be any distinction as between frozen and chilled beef received from Empire countries. This is very important to Australia, as it means that unlimited conversion from frozen to chilled beef will be possible. The future of the beef industry is undoubtedly bound up with the advance which will be made in chilled beef. Full access to the United Kingdom market has now been secured, and the industry is left free to develop the chilled beef industry to the fullest extent.
The following assessment is made of the increased supplies and value of beef since Ottawa and up to 1936 over and above what, it is estimated, would have been possible but for the Ottawa Agreement and negotiations since -
Total increase in volume in the four years - 1,750,000 cwt.
Total increase in value in the four years - £3,000,000.
The assurance of quantities for the next three years will represent 2,000,000 cwt. during the three years over the level of the Ottawa year, and an additional £3,000,000 in value. To these gains must be added the value of the stability of the domestic market, which absorbs 75 per cent. of the Australian beef production.
An important outcome of the United Kingdom meat import arrangements is the establishment of an International Meat Conference representative of all countries supplying meat to the United Kingdom, and an Empire Meat Council representing Empire suppliers. The Government of the United Kingdom will be represented on both bodies, which will be independent of each other. These organizations will, within the limits laid down by agreements between governments, be charged with the task of regulating the flow of meat on to the United Kingdom market in such a way as to secure maximum returns to all suppliers, and of considering any other means of improving conditions surrounding the marketing of meat in the United Kingdom. It will be readily appreciated that, in the supply of meat to such a huge market by many different countries, confusion can easily arise, no matter how well organized individual countries might be. Some means of bringing about coordination between supplying countries is, therefore, very urgently called for. Australia is ready and willing to take its place upon these two bodies, and, with the establishment of the Australian Meat Board, is fully equipped to play its part.
Generally, the outcome of the long negotiations must be considered satisfactory to Australian meat producers. Australian meat is to be free from duty, whilst foreign competitors will fee required to pay a substantial impost upon the entry of their beef. A certain definite expansion over the three-year period at the expense of foreign suppliers is assured, the principle laid down at Ottawa of providing to Empire suppliers an increasing share of the market thus being maintained. Freedom to convert from frozen to chilled beef to an unlimited degree is also a definite gain to Australia, and, finally, the establishment of the International Meat Conference and Empire Meat Council must, by reason of the greater order they will bring to the marketing of meat in the United Kingdom, be of real benefit.
To sum up, Australian producers have gained handsomely as the result of the negotiations. This gain is reckoned in millions of pounds, and Australia has gained the objectives it set out to attain, viz. : -
The following papers were presented : -
Bankruptcy Act - Eighth Annual Report, for period 1st August, 1935, to 31st July, 1936.
Public Service Act - Thirteenth Eeport on the Commonwealth Public Service by the Board of Commissioners, dated 30th November, 1936.
Sugar Agreement - Fifth AnnualReport of the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee for year ended 31st August. 1936 (in substitution for Report tabled on11th November last ) .
Ordered to be printed.
Air Navigation Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1936, No. 156.
Audit Act - Finance - Treasurer’s Statement of Receipts and Expenditure for year ended 30th June,1936, accompanied by the Report of the Auditor-General.
Apple and Pear Bounty Acts (1936) - Report on working of the Acts, together with return showing amount of bounty paid.
Australian Imperial Force Canteens Funds Act - Sixteenth Annual Report by the Trustees, for year 1935-36 (including the Sir Samuel McCaughey Bequest for the Technical Education of Soldiers’ Children).
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired at Carramar, New South Wales - For Postal purposes.
Norfolk Island Act - Ordinance No. 20 of 1936 - Dogs Registration.
Northern Australia Survey Act - Aerial, Geological and Geophysical Survey of Northern Australia - Appendices to Report of the Committee for period ended 31st December, 1935.
Northern Territory Acceptance Act and Northern Territory (Administration) Act -Ordinance of 1936 - No. 17 - Jury.
– Will the AttorneyGeneral make some inquiries into the complaint by the Australian Textile Workers Federation that delay has occurred for five months in the hearing by the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, of an application by that federation relating to holiday pay? For the information of the Minister I have in my possession . a letter from that organization stating that to deal with the application it would require the attention of a single judge for not more than one hour.
– I shall be glad to look into the matter.
– Will the Minister for the. Interior agree voluntarily to hand over to the Attorney-General’s Department the decision on the question of the admission of Mrs. Freer to Australia?
– I ask the Minister for Commerce, as the Leader of the Country party, if there is any truth in published press reports that his party has threatened to withdraw from the Ministry and cause the defeat of the Government if Mrs. Freer is allowed to land in Australia?
– Yesterday, . in reply to a question, I gave an emphatic denial to that statement. That denial still stands.
– In view of press statements that the “British Government may raise the issue of the action of the Australian Government in submitting to a dictation test British subjects carrying British passports, and advancing no reason for so doing, will the Prime Minister seek the best legal advice he can obtain in order that this practice may be discontinued by the present Minister in charge of immigration?
– I do not anticipate that the British Government will raise that issue; in any case, there is no doubt about the legal advice available to this Government.
– I ask the Prime Minister if he can give the country the assurance that in the procedure it adopted in excluding Mrs. Freer, the Government accepted the legal advice tendered to it as accurate ?
– There is no doubt whatever about the legal and constitutional right of the Commonwealth Government to exclude anybody from Australia.
– I ask the Prime Minister - and I hope he will overlook the hypothesis - whether, in the event of any overseas government querying the power of the Commonwealth to exclude any person, who is not an Australian citizen, desirous of entering Australia, he will give the House the assurance that his answer will be that the matter is purely one of Australian concern and does not concern any overseas government?
– I think that the honorable member can have that assurance from the Government.
– Can the Prime Minister give the House any authoritative statement on the question of the resumption of immigration? I desire to know whether the Oversea Empire Settlement Board, which is continually making statements as to its readiness and preparedness to embark on a migration policy, has any warrant for making these statements, and whether the Government has advised it in any way of its intentions regarding the resumption of immigration ?
– The organization to which the honorable member has referred has full warrant for making statements on its own behalf, but it is not speaking on behalf of the ‘Commonwealth Govern- merit. We have made it perfectly clear that we have no comprehensive scheme of migration in view at the present time. . In any case no such scheme would be undertaken without the co-operation of the State governments, which have been consulted in this matter from the beginning.
Intervention by German Troops.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs any authoritative statement to make regarding the report which appeared in the Press this morning that German regular troops have been landed in Spain for the purpose of assisting the rebels ?
– No official information is yet to hand.
– I ask the Minister for Commerce whether any consideration has been given to the request made to him recently by a deputation of Tasmanian honorable members for assistance to be given to the apple and pear industry in the marketing of apples and pears in the United Kingdom during the 1936 season, to compensate them for the heavy losses which have occurred in this trade?
– The Government is still considering the request and has not yet reached a final decision.
Costof Flying Instruction
– Is the Minister for Defence in a position to give me any further information upon the question of a reduction of the costs of learning to fly?
– The honorable member asked me a similar question some little time ago. The matter which he has raised and has been the subject of considerable investigation by the Civil Aviation Department, whose inquiries have not yet been completed, is linked up with the review of the future activities of aero clubs in relation to the Air Force of the Commonwealth. I hope, however, to be able to give the honorable member some definite information at a comparatively early date.
– Has the Minister for Defence any further information regarding the question of the physical training of the youth of the Commonwealth ?
Education is a State function, and physical training cannot be separated from the same authority that controls teachers. As the systems and extent of the various training schemes vary in each State, a definite answer at this stage cannot be given to the question. The Commonwealth, however, is appreciative of the value of effective physical training in producing fit and healthy citizens, and, therefore, if definite requests are received from the several State, and other, education authorities for the reintroduction of a uniform scheme throughout theCommonwealth, very sympathetic consideration will be given to it.
– Has the Prime Minister received the report of the Imperial Shipping Committee on subsidized shipping in the Pacific? If so, has any consideration been given to it, and what are the results of the deliberations ?
– The report to which the honorable member refers has been received, and arrangements have been made for its publication simultaneously in Australia and the United Kingdom on the 7 th December next.
– Has the Minister for Commerce any information as to what effect the Butter Equalization Committee has had on the price of butter in Australia and England during the recent period of short supplies due to the prevalence of drought in certain butter producing areas?
– The price of butter in England rose above 140s. per cwt., in Australian currency, which is the price fixed by the Equalization Committee, during the period which consists of the winter months in Australia, but for many months it remained practically at that point. Despite the fact that there was a very grave shortage of butter supplies, the price of butter in Australia has been kept by the Equalization Committee at a maximum of 140s. per cwt., which is sometimes less than export parity.
– Has the Prime Minister any information regarding the rumored postponement of the Coronation ?
Petrol Prices - Defaulting Contractors
– Will the Minister for the Interior obtain information as to prices ruling for petrol in Darwin, Katherine, Wave Hill, and Tennant Creek? In view of the high prices charged for petrol, will he take stops to utilize the large tank, which was erected in Darwin years ago and never used, for the storage of petrol?
– The answer to the first part of the honorable gentleman’s question is “Yes,” and the answer to the second part is that inquiries will be made.
– Three weeks ago I asked the Minister for the Interior whether he would make representations to the Public Works Department in the Northern Territory to see whether it was possible to compensate workmen who were defrauded of their wages by contractors, and the honorable gentleman replied that inquiries would be made. I desire now to know when he can supply that information? I remind him that the House is about to adjourn.
– I shall try to let the honorable member have the reply to-day.
– I have received further correspondence on the subject of the selection of bases for flying-boats to be used in the England-Australia air service, on which I askeda question recently, and I desire now to know whether the Minister for Defence has any further infor mation on the subject? If not, can he advise me when he will be able to supply the information sought?
Sir ARCHDALE PARKHILL.Considerable confusion has arisen from some speculations in the Press as to the probable sites of those bases and all that I can say is that definite localities have not yet been selected. The department is awaiting, from Great Britain, the report of Major Brackley, who madea survey of the route for the purpose of advising where these bases should be established.
– When will the report be available?
Sir ARCHDALE PARKHILL.It should be available in the near future. A request has been forwarded to Great Britain asking that its despatch be expedited.
– Can the Minister for Defence inform the House whether, during the current year, it will be possible to provide further financial assistance towards the formation of new rifle clubs ?
Sir ARCHDALE PARKHILL.The question of rifle clubs has recently been under consideration and the view of the Military Board, in which I concur, is that the number of riflemen should be limited to 50,000 on the grounds of expense and their usefulness as a defence unit. This precludes the formation of some of the rifle clubs that are applied for, because in many cases they are in distant parts of the Commonwealth, and therefore their establishment would involve comparatively heavy expenditure. I make this explanation because the honorable gentleman brought a deputation to me and pointed out that 20 applications had been made in Western Australia for the formation of rifle clubs. I now inform him that it is proposed to maintain the strength of rifle clubs at 50,000; but consideration is being given to the applications which have been made from Western Australia.
– Whenever it is necessary to limit the numbers of rifle clubs, to which the Government provides a subsidy, will the Minister for Defence base his limitation on the number of members of those clubs who are physically fit for military service, so that the 50,000 members whom his department considers it desirable to subsidize, will consist of riflemen who are fit for military service in any emergency? Until the limit of 50,000 men who are physically fit has been reached, will the Minister refrain from preventing the formation of clubs in districts where the members may be physically fit, compared with other areas where the members of clubs may not be so physically fit?
Sir ARCHDALE PARKHILL I shall be glad to give consideration to the aspect raised by the honorable gentleman.
Mr. STOCK. Can the Minister representing the Postmaster-General tell the House whether the matter of reducing the postage rates has recently been considered by the Postal Department? If so, what has been the result of the consideration?
– This matter was fully discussed on the Estimates, but, in any case, the question clearly involves a matter of policy, which cannot be raised in answer to a question without notice.
– I ask the Minister representing the Postmaster-General whether the Postal Department has taken any steps to make available to residents in outback areas wireless receiving and transmission instruments similar to those now being used by the Australian Inland Mission ? Does the department propose to do anything in this direction, particularly in view .of the fact that the establishment of telephonic facilities in those areas is considered to be too costly?
– In view of the cost which would be involved in establishing telephonic facilities, in outback areas, I feel quite sure that the Postmaster-General, under whose notice I shall bring the honorable member’s question, will be glad to take into consideration the matter of supplying wireless receiving and transmission instruments for use in those areas. He will ascertain if these instruments could not be brought into more general use in such areas in place of telephones.
– Will the Government give sympathetic consideration to the claims of the poultry industry for’ assistance in view of the serious position in which it finds itself,, due to unseasonable conditions and to the greatly enhanced prices of wheat and. its by-products, which have relieved the Government of the annual necessity to afford assistance to the wheat industry?
– The Government will give consideration to the honorable member’s representations.
– Has the Minister for Trade and Customs received any protest from the cement industry in South Australia regarding the action of the Government in accepting the Tariff Board’s recommendations with respect to the duties on cement, or any intimation that the duties are absolutely insufficient to meet competition from abroad? What does the Minister intend to do about the matter ?
– I do not know whether I have received a protest from South Australia, but, like most honorable members, I have received protests from other States. The Tariff Board’s report on. this matter was tabled yesterday and it will be made available to honorable members to-day. The Tariff Board claims that the c.i.f. price of ?2 lis. 6d. is. adequate. I shall meet a deputation concerning this matter this morning, and I assure the honorable gentleman that his representations will be considered.
– I ask the Minister for Defence whether the Government has yet considered the suggestion to grant passes to honorable members, desirous of obtaining them, to travel on recognized Commonwealth airways? If not, will it be considered?
– This question more closely concerns the Minister for the Interior.
– It seems to me to be more a matter for the Treasurer.
– I am not aware that any consideration has yet been given to the matter, but I shall give it attention.
– Some time ago I asked the Prime Minister if he would secure information in respect of the suggestion that youths, seeking employment, be given an opportunity to go into States where shortage of boy labour for farms is being experienced. Can he supply such information at this juncture? Further, is his Government responsible in any way for the present migration of boys to Australia to be trained for farming work, when hundreds of Australian boys are available for this work?
– The honorable member raised this question on a previous occasion and I promised to refer it to the Government of Queensland, which, I understood, was making preparations in connexion with the introduction of boys from other States for farm labour. I am not aware that any information on the matter has yet been received from the Premier of Queensland hut I shall again look into it and, if possible, give the information to the honorable member during the day. As to the second part of the honorable member’s question I should like to know what the honorable member has in mind. For instance the Commonwealth Government has nothing whatever to do with the migration of boys under the Dr. Barnardo homes scheme. That scheme is being carried out solely by the organization concerned.
– I ask the Minister for Commerce whether, with a view to allaying suspicions in certain wheat-growing circles with regard to the price of wheat, he will prepare and publish a statement reconciling the English quotations in relation to Australian prices, having regard to the factors of exchange and freight?
– I shall make inquiries along the lines suggested by the honorable member to see what can be done in that direction.
– I ask the Minister representing the Postmaster-General if he will ascertain whether the full amount of £100,000 set aside in last year’s estimates for the purpose of subsidizing improvements of telegraphic, telephonic and postal facilities in remote country areas has been expended, and if he will ask the Postmaster-General to prepare a statement setting out the details of the expenditure?
Sir ARCHDALE PARKHILL.My recollection is that the full amount has been expended, but I shall ask the Postmaster-General to supply a statement showing the details of this expenditure.
– I ask the Minister representing the Postmaster-General if, in view of the fact that the town of Darwin is not supplied with either a postal delivery or a lettergram delivery, one or other of those facilities will be provided as soon as possible?
– I shall be very glad to bring this matter under the notice of the PostmasterGeneral.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether, in view of the development of the whaling industry in Japan, Germany, Norway and Great Britain, and in view of our failure as a people to appreciate the potentialities of that industry and its national value, the Government will consider encouraging the development of this industry as is done by the Governments of Germany and Japan by making available loans, repayable over long periods, to those who wish to engage in whaling?
– On a recent occasion the Government published a statement with the object of attracting the attention of those likely to invest in this industry to its possibilities. The Government is not inclined to take any part financially in the establishment of whaling, but the matter raised by the honorable member is deserving of consideration.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs whether the Commonwealth Government receives authoritative and prompt advice from the British Foreign Office on happenings on the other side of the world that may endanger the peace of the world, and how it is that the press invariably appears to give information, and, in .the majority of cases, authoritative information, on such matters before statements can be made to this House ?
– My experience has been that it is not uncommon for the press to be ahead of the facts.
– In connexion with the representations which I made recently in respect of officers who were formerly transferred officers from the State of South Australia, and whose services were terminated in a rather unusual and, it is contended, illegal manner, can the Prime Minister give me an assurance that the claims of these officers will be further investigated, and, if possible, that a tribunal will be appointed for that purpose ?
– Although the honorable member raised this matter earlier, I cannot, at the moment, recall the details, but I shall look into it again.
Motion (by Dr. Earle Page) agreed to -
That he have leave to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Wine Overseas Marketing Act 1929-1934, and for other purposes.
Bill brought up and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
I thank honorable members for permitting me to bring this measure before the House at this juncture. Its urgency has arisen from the fact that the next few months will be a rather critical period in respect of the marketing of . wines.
The measure is designed to give effect to certain agreements arrived at by the representatives of the wine-making industry throughout Australia. For many years an attempt has been made to secure unanimity among the various phases of the wine industry in respect of certain acute points of differences, and it was only on Friday last, at a conference called at the request of the Federal Viticultural Council, that such unanimity was obtained. It has been decided to express the decisions of that conference in a statute in order that they may be put into effect as soon as possible. This bill is designed to effect amendments of the Wine Overseas Marketing Act, in accordance with the provisions of which the Wine Overseas Marketing Board was established, in 1929 for the purpose of controlling the export of wine from Australia, and regulating the supply of Australian wines on overseas markets. The hoard’s functions are similar to those of the other export control boards, namely, the dried fruits, canned fruits, dairy produce and meat boards. The Wine Overseas Marketing Board consists of one member appointed, by the GovernorGeneral as the Commonwealth Government representative, two members elected to represent co-operative wineries and distilleries, and five members elected to represent proprietary and privatelyowned wineries - two for South Australia, one for Victoria, one for Western Australia, and one jointly representing New South Wales and Queensland.
Apart from the Wine Overseas Marketing Board, the most important organizations connected with the Australian wine industry are the Federal Viticultural Council, with which are affiliated organizations in the various States concerned with the making and marketing of wine, and the various growers’ organizations, the federal body of which is the Federal Grape-growers Council.
During the last few years there have been differences of opinion in the industry upon many matters associated with wine marketing, and it has not been found possible to compose those differences by conferences arranged by the industry itself. In recent months, these difficulties having become more pronounced special representations were made to mc by the Federal Viticultural Council to take steps to bring about an improved condition of affairs. Accordingly, I called a conference in Canberra last week which was fully representative of all sections of the industry. This conference considered fully, and came to agreements on, a number of matters closely concerning the industry, including the policy to be followed in regard to the fixation of minimum prices for wine exported to the United Kingdom, the relation thereto of the wine export bounty, the conduct of research and propaganda, and the re-constitution of the Marketing .Board. The purpose of this bill is to give effect to the recommendations of the conference regarding the reconstitution of the board. The only alterations proposed in the bill for the constitution of the “Wine Board are the provisions for representation of the grapegrowers,’ and the elimination of separate representation for the proprietary and privately-owned wineries in Western Australia.
Formerly, grape-growers had no representative on the board, but the conference agreed that the growers should have a representative, and provision for this is made in the bill. This provision will enable the primary producers in the industry to keep in close touch with the manufacturing and marketing aspects, and should lead to a better understanding between the growers and the winemakers.
Ever since the board was constituted, winemakers in Western Australia have been entitled to a representative. They have not elected one of their own number, but have always been represented by the State Viticulturist of Western Australia. That State, however, has only a very small interest in the export trade. During the financial year 1935-36, only about 7,000 gallons of wine were exported from Western Australia out of a total export from the Commonwealth of 3,700,000 gallons.
The bill also provides for an alteration of the method of appointment to the board of representatives of various sections of the industry. In the past, this has been done by election, whereas it is now proposed that the members shall be appointed by the Governor-General after nomination to the Minister by the organizations concerned. The method of election previously in operation was considered by the conference to be inappropriate, having regard to the representation of those who are most vitally interested in the export trade. In the past, all wine-makers who crushed ten tons of grapes or more had one vote in the election of members. Ten tons of grapes would yield something less than 1,500 gallons of wine, and it is obvious that wine-makers producing such a small quantity would hardly be interested at all in the Australian export trade. The conference considered the substitution of the present method of election by a method under which makers would have votes according to the quantity of grapes they crushed for wine-making, but it eventually recommended that the various organizations should nominate their representatives. The grape-growers’ representative will be nominated by the Federal Grape-growers’ Council, and the two representatives of the co-operative wineries will be nominated by the cooperative wine-makers’ associations. Actually, in the past, these associations have never nominated more than two candidates, and it has not been necessary to have an election. It is proposed in the bill that the representatives of the proprietary and privately-owned wineries shall be nominated by the State organizations affiliated with the Federal Viticultural Council. This method was recommended by the conference because the Federal Viticultural Council has, in its membership, more than 90 per cent, of the wine-makers who are interested in the export trade. The representative of the Commonwealth Government will, as in the past, be appointed by the GovernorGeneral on the recommendation of the Minister.
The bill provides for the alteration of the name of the board to the Australian Wine Board. This is in accordance with the practice which is now being adopted in the naming of all export control boards, because it is the desire of the Australian Agricultural Council that all such boards shall become associated with it as advisory bodies in respect of the industry with which they are concerned.
The bill contains few other provisions. Section 13 of the principal act is pro- posed to be amended to provide that, in the event of an officer of the Commonwealth Public Service being appointed as secretary, or to any other position under the newly-constituted board, he shall preserve his existing and accruing rights in accordance with the Officers’ Rights Declaration Act 192S-33. It is also proposed that the board shall be required to submit its annual report in September, instead of in July.
The bill, as submitted, embodies the desires of the fully-representative conference to which I have referred. At that conference every resolution was carried practically without opposition. The passage of the bill will be a necessary step in the direction of strengthening control over the export of Australian wines, and the marketing of those wines overseas. The Australian wine industry has many problems to contend with in its overseas marketing, and it is particularly desirable that the board should be regarded by the industry as fully and adequately representative of it, so that it may preserve the best interests of the wine industry when it is necessary to have dealings with the powerful purchasing interests in overseas markets.
.- The representatives of the wine export industry in Australia waited upon me during the last few days, and impressed upon me how important it was that this amending bill should be passed. It would appear that the existing board has in some way failed to control satisfactorily marketing arrangements in London, with the result that avoidable losses have been sustained by exporters. It was represented to me that those losses were attributable to some weakness in the board itself.
Generally speaking, I support the bill; but I think it was a mistake for the Minister for Commerce (Dr. Earle Page) to consent to the non-representation of Western Australian privately-owned wineries on the board. I ask him whether he will, when clause 4 of the bill is being considered in committee, agree to an amendment designed to restore representation to privately-owned wineries and distilleries in Western Australia?
– I am prepared to do that.
.- I desire to support the request of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) that Western Australian interests should have direct representation on the board. In my district, in Western Australia, large areas have been planted in wine grapes, and, although not much wine is at present being produced, the expansion of the industry will be rapid, and there is no reason why all interests in Western Australia should not be represented on the board.
– From 1929 until quite recently the wine export trade from Australia was controlled by a board constituted in a manner prescribed by statute. It is proposed in this bill to dissolve that board, but no reason has been advanced by the Minister for Commerce (Dr. Earle Page) to justify this action. We have merely been told that the industry is facing a number of serious problems, that conditions in regard to marketing are not all that could be desired, and that the position of the industry generally warranted the calling of the recent conference at Canberra, at which it was decided that the board should be reconstituted. I should like to know whether the present members of the board have been guilty of conduct which justifies their removal from office. If so, particulars of their misconduct should be made known, not only to the conference which sat in Canberra, but also to others interested in the wine trade, particularly the grapegrowers. ‘ I cannot claim to have any intimate knowledge of this industry, and it may be that other honorable members are in possession of the information which I seek, but I should like to know whether it is a fact, as seems to be alleged, that the board has been responsible for losses suffered by the exporters, and for the chaotic condition of the export trade. In effect, the members of the board have been accused of failing to do their duty by the industry, and. their side of the question should be heard also. It is usual to give accused persons the right to defend themselves. If it be true that the board has betrayed the interests of the exporters, I should like to know what influence was brought to bear upon them, perhaps by overseas wine interests, to. cause them to do so. I do not know whether anything of the kind has happened, but, if the Minister has any knowledge on the subject, he should make it known, because the primary producers of this country have a hard enough battle to fight without having to put up with corruption among those to whom their interests are entrusted. We have been told that the constitution of the board provides for representation of the growers for the first time, but there is to be only one representative for the whole of Australia.
– That is one more than they have had before.
– The bare acknowledgment of their right to representation does not afford them adequate representation. In my opinion the growers of primary produce should have the greatest share of the control. I am indifferent as to the claims of those who handle goods after they have been produced. No ballot of the growers is to be taken to select their representative. The members to be chosen to represent wineries and distilleries will be appointed upon the nomination of .associations affiliated with the Federal Viticultural Council of Australia. I am speaking without full knowledge of the details of the proposal, because this measure is being passed hurriedly, but apparently the board that has been in existence since 1929 is to be dissolved, because of certain conditions obtaining in the industry. What those conditions are we do not know, hut they are apparently most unsatisfactory. The Minister should give us more definite information than has been supplied. Who is responsible for this proposal ? If this bill can be justified, as it probably can, such information as may be available would be valuable in regard to this question, as, indeed, it would be in regard to many other matters in which the interests of the primary producers are involved.
.- I agree with the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) that it is desirable that the House should have further information as to the reasons for the reconstitution of the wine board. ‘ At the same time, it is regrettable that, even with the qualifications he made, the honorable member should have suggested that the board was to be reconstituted because the old board was corrupt. If there be ground for the slightest suggestion of corruption, the matter should be ventilated ; but I have been closely connected with, the wine industry, the wine-makers and the grape-growers, and have heard no suggestion of any improper conduct on the part of the members of the board. The object of the proposal is to make the board more directly representative of the industry. Personally, I regret that the principle of direct election by producers and the other interests concerned has been abandoned. This regrettable tendency has been in evidence in the constitution of the Meat Board and the Wool Publicity Board. The real reason why it was decided to alter the constitution of the Wine Board was that it was felt that, under the old system of election of members, a very small section of the industry might outvote the major interests. Where wineries crushing, perhaps, ten tons of grapes had the same voting power as those crushing many thousands of tons, it was felt that the interests of, not only the maker of wine on a large scale, but also many hundreds of growers who supplied grapes to that winery, were in some cases being considered as secondary to those of, perhaps, one small wine-maker who crushed only the grapes grown by himself on a few acres. I welcome the principle of recognizing the stake in the industry of particular sections, when a board is to be appointed to control the operations of the industry. Although the principle of direct election has been abandoned, I still recognize that the benefits of the measure far outweigh my objections to it, and I shall support the bill.
I should like the Minister for Commerce (Dr. Earle Page) to inform the House why the drastic alteration of the control of prices of wine in London will be carried into effect, because I see nothing in the bill which can possibly prove the capacity of the board to give effect to its decisions. I understand, from the published report of the conference recently held in Canberra, that the pay- ment of the bounty itself is to be made conditional upon exporters observing the price fixed by the board for sales in London. I see no provision in this measure which can in any way alter the old position in that regard. Perhaps the Minister will state whether this is purely an administrative matter, or whether a bill to amend the Wine Export Bounty Act, or some other act, will be introduced later. There is also the question of issuing licences for the export of wine only to dealers in London whose standing is such that the board is satisfied that they do not give secret commissions, or in any other way nullify the action of the board in attempting to fix the minimum price in London. A further proposal is that the fixed price in London should not be as rigid as in the past, but that some provision should be made for its adjustment in the case of wine which has deteriorated in quality during the voyage, or while held in London. That is a matter within the purview of the board. But in regard to the other matters which I have mentioned, I should be interested to know whether the board had powers in the past and failed to use them, or whether a misunderstanding or disagreement has occurred between the board and government departments, or whether further amending bills may be necessary in order that the much more important points than the mere constitution of the board may be cleared up, and the board may be an effective instrument for promoting the interests of growers and wine-makers alike.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. G. J. Bell).I desire to inform the House that Mr. Leslie Blackwell, member of the Parliament of the Union of South Africa, is within the precincts. With the concurrence of honorable members, I shall provide him with a distinguished stranger’s seat on the floor of the House, beside the Speaker’s chair.
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear!
Mr. Blackwell thereupon entered the
– The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Hawker) has shown that the object of the measure is to place the control of the wine industry in the hands of the big interests. A wine conference was held in Canberra recently, and one would like to know who attended it. The Government might have postponed the introduction of this bill until the result was known of the forthcoming referendum, at which a vote of the people will be taken on the subject of marketing legislation. Apparently the decisions of the conference influenced the Government and induced it to submit this bill for the alteration of the constitution of the board. An explanatory note, which has been issued in connexion with the bill, contains the following paragraph in regard to the recommendations of the conference: -
This conference considered fully the constitution of the board and its future policy in regard to the control of wine sold on overseas markets, and recommended that the board should be reconstituted as a step towards strengthening the control over the expoTt of Australian wines and the marketing of those wines overseas.
The main alteration made in the constitution of the board relates to the method of appointment of the board. Previously, representatives were elected by wine-makers, any wine-maker crushing 10 tons of grapes or more being entitled to one vote. The quantity of wine produced by a wine-maker crushing 10 tons of grapes is less than 1,500 gallons, and, obviously, a man with this quantity would hardly be interested in the Australian export trade.
The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Hawker) said that those who had the greater interests in the wine export business should have the greater measure of control. I can understand, of course, that the honorable gentleman favours some kind of property qualification in elections of all kinds. The bigger the interests of the man the more influence he should have, according to the honorable gentleman. It seems to me that the principal purpose of this bill is to concentrate the control of wine marketing in the hands of big vested interests to the exclusion of people with smaller interests. I object to the measure for that reason. The explanatory notes circulated by the Minister make it clear that that is its main purpose.
I support the remarks of the honorable member for “West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) in regard to electing the members of this board. Under the old system the individual growers could exercise their vote personally, but under the new system the growers’ representative will be nominated by the Grape Growers Council. That may mean that a person who is not a grape-grower may be elected. It is well known that persons not directly connected with producing industries secure election to boards of control at times. In some country centres estate agents and people of that class actually hold executive positions in the local branches of producer organizations. In all the circumstances I request the Government to state some better reasons than have been given so far for the proposed variation of the conditions under which the Wine Board shall function. I am definitely opposed to any system which will concentrate control in the hands of big interests, for that must inevitably cause a feeling of antagonism to arise among grape-growers; and if the rank and file becomes restive the success of the marketing arrangements for the industry may be jeopardized. If this alteration of the constitution and method of election of the board is due to any incompetence on the part of members of the present board - I do not say that it is so, for I have no information on the subject - the trouble should be remedied by some other means. There should be no need to alter the franchise or the basic construction of the board. Definitely, no action should be taken which would tend towards monopoly control. If that policy is pursued the rights of the small grape-growers may as well be handed over, holus bolus, to vested interests.
– Having listened to the speech of the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) I am quite satisfied that he does not realize the conditions governing the wine-making industry. It should be borne in mind that the co-operative wineries will be directly represented on the new board by two of their own representatives. The proprietary wine-making concerns are definitely debarred from taking any part in the selection of the representatives of the co-operative wineries. The growers’ representative is to be nominated by the Federal Grape Growers Council. I am willing to agree that it would probably be better to allow the grape-growers to elect their representative by direct vote, but this would involve considerable expense. After all, by far the larger number of grapegrowers interested in the production of grapes for making wine for export reside in South Australia. The wine export bounty payments last year totalled £194,000. ‘Of this amount, £186,000 was paid to growers in South Australia. This is, therefore, very largely a South Australian problem. It must be remembered also that the price of grapes for the manufacture of wine for export is fixed each year by the Commonwealth Customs Department.
– On what basis is it fixed?
– I cannot give the honorable member exact information on that point but I know that discussions are held by the parties concerned with the object of arriving at an equitable price. The growers of grapes for the manufacture of wine for export a.re, therefore, in a different position from that of the butter producers and the graziers who sell their butter and meat on the overseas market, and must depend for their returns upon world parity. In all the circumstances, while I agree that some better method might possibly be devised to elect the representative of the grape-growers on the board, I feel that very little, if any, harm will be done by accepting the proposals of the Government. The system of marketing wine provided for in the bill is new. It is not so long since it was regarded as a radical departure to grant direct representations to growers on marketing boards of thiskind. The conference held in Canberra, last week of those interested in the winemaking industry was responsible for theproposals underlying this bill and honorable members should, therefore, feel that they may be accepted with a certain degree of confidence.
– I support the main provisions of the bill,. but wish to refer briefly to the proposed method of electing the representative of the grape-growers on the new board. This subject has caused a considerable amount of agitation among grape-growers for several years. It has been desired by these people that they should have the right to elect their own representative, and I trust that means will be found to make this possible. I support the remarks of the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Hawker). Speaking in general terms, the basis of the proposed reconstitution of the board, is sound. The conference held in Canberra last week of those interested in the wine-making industry was thoroughly representative, and for that reason the provisions of this bill may, generally speaking, be safely accepted. I trust, however, that when the Minister for Commerce (Dr. Earle Page) is replying to this debate, he will agree to the request that has been made that flic growers should be given the right to elect their own representative.
– in, reply - I assure the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) that the conference held in Canberra last week was thoroughly representative of all parties directly interested in the wine-making industry. There were present representatives of the wine-makers, the wine merchants, the grape-growers, the Wine Overseas Marketing Board, the various Commonwealth and State departments associated with this industry and also the Ministers of Agriculture of the different States. Considerable pains were taken to ensure that all interests would be represented. The main reason for reconstituting the Wine Overseas Marketing Board is to strengthen it so that it may be able to make an effective fight against overseas vested interests. It was felt that as the board was constituted, previously, its power to cope with the strong competition and intensive methods of overseas interests was too limited. I assure the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) that the board has not been reconstituted in consequence of any suggestion of corruption, or of any failure on its part to perform the functions that -devolved upon it. The whole purpose of the reconstitution is to enable the board to operate more effectively. As a matter of fact two representatives of the old board were appointed members of the sub-committee to give effect to the decisions of the recent conference. This must show clearly that the conference did not intend to reflect, in any way, upon the members of the old board.
– Were those two representatives on the sub-committee ch’osen by the old board?
– Yes. It is desired to ensure that the new board shall afford improved representation to all the people vitally interested in our wine export trade. Members of the old overseas marketing board may quite likely become members of the new board - possibly not all of them, because of the different method of election. Not one of them is likely to be displaced because of past failure. It was felt by all that selection and nomination through affiliated organizations would result in a board more representative of the whole of the wine-making industry, and especially the export section of it, than was obtained under the old constitution. Very long and protracted discussions took place on the subject of the franchise. The view held by the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Hawker) was very strongly advanced, but finally it was felt that the desired result would be more likely under the method decided upon than by adherence to the original franchise or any suggested alteration of it. The grape-growers present felt that they had sufficient representation, because they are not vitally interested in the marketing of wine, although it is desirable that they should be kept in contact with those who manufacture and market it. The grower usually sells his grapes to wineries, which manufacture the product. The view was held that the Federal Grapegrowers Council was fully representative of the growers, and that election by it meant, in effect, election by the grapegrowers themselves.
I may say also that the conference came to a decision on certain other matters, which are to be dealt with in another bill that is to be brought down later. This measure will cover the matters raised by the honorable member for Wakefield. The conference decided that a minimum price should be maintained overseas, and that the bounty should be withheld if it were not received. Provision for this will be incorporated in the second measure. The two bills dovetail, and when enacted will give the extra strength needed.
The other matters dealt with by the honorable member for “Wakefield are largely administrative. Effective and satisfactory control is more likely with important exporters properly represented on the board. It is believed that the board will feel better able to withstand the overseas vested interests to which I have referred, if freed from the suggestion that it has the slightest intention to interfere with the small wine-maker or grape-grower.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 3 agreed to.
Clause 4 - (1.) Section five of the Principal Act is repealed and the following section inserted in its stead: - “5. - (1.) For the purposes of this Act, there shall be an Australian Wine Board. “ (2.) The Board shall consist of -
– I propose to move a number of amendments, with the object of meeting the wishes expressed by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) and other honorable members from Western Australia, as well as to correct a slight literal omission to make it clear that the representation of New South Wales and Queensland shall be a joint one. It was intended that the representation of South Australia and Western Australia should be a joint one, but that will not now be necessary. I move -
That the words “State of New South Wales”, paragraph (c), sub-section 2, proposed new section 5, be omitted, with a view to insert in lieu thereof tie words “ States of New South Wales and Queensland “.
– I have been particularly struck with the brevity of the course adopted by the Minister for Commerce (Dr. Earle Page) in regard to this matter. When all is said and done, the right honorable gentleman must appreciate the fact that honorable members have not a close-up knowledge of the industry, and that at least they are entitled to be given reasons for the proposed changes. Details of this kind are usually supplied by the Minister in charge of a bill. As drafted, this measure provided for the direct representation of New South Wales. There must have been a reason for that. The right honorable gentleman would not have directed its preparation in that form unless he had good grounds for doing 80 It is now proposed that that shall be altered. The committee should continue the discussion until it has obtained information that it should have. We have not been told why the constitution of the board is to be changed, and cannot understand the reason for it, particularly as we have been advised that the same personnel may again be elected to take charge of the export market, which is said to have reached a chaotic condition. If reasons are not given, I shall vote against the clause.
– I thought that I had made the matter quite clear when I said that I was adopting the suggestion of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) in regard to the expression of the joint representation of South Australia and Western Australia. I believed that it would be wise to clarify the position, in regard to New South Wales and Queensland. There is a very small number of wine-makers in Queensland, and it cannot be doubted that the representation of that State and New South Wales will be by one wine-maker from New South Wales.
– This clause deals with the constitution of the board. The reason for the proposed alteration which has been given in the circulated memorandum and the speeches that have so far been made, is to strengthen the board, so that it may do more effective work than has been done in the past. The Minister for Commerce (Dr. Earle Page) has told us that the same men may be elected to the new board. It is highly probable that every member of the old board will be elected to the new hoard, and will, therefore, have control of the overseas marketing of wine. That being the case, I should like to know how the bill imparts any strength to the position. If it provided for more competent control by men who have a better knowledge of the industry, and a more suitable personality for marketing purposes, I could understand it. One is impelled to think that there must be something more behind the matter than has so far been mentioned. A ministry is strengthened by the appointment of better men,not by a reconstruction that makes no alteration of its personnel. . Wherein will this board be strengthened? It was constituted to do a certain job, and apparently was not sufficiently qualified to do it. No greater powers are to be conferred by this measure. The Minister cannot expect us to accept the few figures that he cares to throw at us. We are reasonable men, and are ready to accept a reasonable explanation. I submit that such an explanation has not been given. Nor am I satisfied with the withdrawal of the franchise from the growers. This board could be constituted of men who are not grape-growers. There are many boards throughout Australia which, while purporting to represent primary producers, have no primary producers on them. Frequently, important offices are held by those who farm the farmer instead of being themselves farmers.
Amendment agreed to.
.- I protest against the low standard of wine that is being placed on the market. The producers are allowing an inferior form of vodka to be bottled.
TheCHAIRMAN. - Order ! The honorable member’s remarks have no relation to the question before the Chair. Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
– I move -
That after paragraph (e) sub-section (2) proposed new section 5 the following new paragraph be inserted - “ (ea) one member to represent proprietary and privately owned wineries and distilleries in the State of Western Australia; and “
– The Minister for Commerce (Dr. Earle Page) has stated that the purpose of this bill is to strengthen the board and to provide means whereby the export marketing of wine would be put in a much better position than it occupies at the moment. This clause deals with the membership of the board and at the outset apparently it was intended that it should consist of eight members, which is a number equal to the membership of the board which, it is intended, it shall supplant. The Minister for Commerce has now moved an amendment which will increase the membership of the new board to nine. Earlier he made the extraordinary statement that members of the old board shall be eligible for election to the new one, and in effect he said that it was likely that they would be elected.
– Some of them may be.
– How can this bill provide for the strengthening of the industry when the board it proposes to establish may be entirely the same as the old board which it is intended to destroy?
– The new board may not be exactly the same as the old board.
– No, but there is nothing to prevent the old board beingrevived in the new board unless it is laid down that members of the old board shall not be eligible for election to the new board. No reasonable argument has been advanced, therefore, in favour of this bill. The Minister cannot definitely declare that the personnel will be any different from what it is at present, or that the majority which rules the present board will not rule the proposed board. That forces me to the conclusion that other reasons exist for this legislation which the Minister has failed to disclose to the committee. Anyone with the slightest knowledge of the wine industry must refuse to accept the explanation that this bill has been introduced solely for the reasons advanced. They are not sound and would not be accepted by anybody of men called together to accept this legislation as being necessary to protect the export trade of the Australian wine industry. I can neither accept thereasons advanced by the Minister for the introduction ofthis measure, nor his statement that it is necessary to strengthen the wine export industry, when I realize that the members who constitute the presentboard will remain as powerful factors in the proposed new hoard.
– Although the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) may not be satisfied with the position, this bill gives effect to the considered view of the conference of the industry which was most representative of the whole of the Australian wine export industry. The conference laid down the principles of this bill as the basis upon which the Australian Wine Board should be reconstituted. I have already told the the committee that there is to be complementary to this bill a further one dealing with the payment and use of the bounty in such a way as to ensure the receipt of minimum returns in respect of sales of wine overseas. The conference felt that the procedure adopted in this bill would be the best means of strengthening the board. It may be that the whole of the old board will be elected to the new board, but it is not likely.
– Then it is a polite way of putting the skids under the members of the old board.
– That is not so. It is certain that some of the members of the old board will be elected to the proposed board. I emphasize, however, that this legislation was agreed to by a conference which represented the whole of the members of the Wine Overseas Marketing Board, as well as every section of the wine industry.
. -I am surprised that the Minister (Dr. Earle Page) should see fit to move an amendment designed to increase the membership of the proposed new board from eight to nine, particularly in view of the fact that the proposed additional member shall represent Western Australia, which has an exceedingly small wine export trade.
– But it is expanding.
– Yes, but there is still a terrific amount of room for growth. The total amount paid out last year in respect of the wine bounty was £182,466, and of that amount
Western Australia received £414. If that entitles Western Australia to representation on this board in a direct way, then I have lost all sense of proportion in regard to industry representation. With very great respect to the Western Australian wine industry, I declare that it is insignificant. According to the returns, the whole of the bounty was paid to one individual. Of the amount of bounty distributed, Western Australia, as I have already said, received £414, compared with £4,000 paid to New South Wales, £3,600 paid to Victoria, and £186,000 paid to South Australia. I think that Western Australia could very well join with South Australia in this matter. The two States work very well together on the Dairy Produce Control Board. Both States are very small exporters of dairy products.
– The question of expense should be considered.
– Yes, I think that the expenses of one Western Australian member of the board will amount to more than the bounty paid in respect of wine exported f rom that State. The Western Australian wine export trade is so insignificant that it represented . 00021 per cent. of the total Australian exports last year. I desire to know from the Minister whether the amendment he has so surprisingly submitted was agreed to last week at the wine conference.
– No, it was not.
– Then why has it been submitted ? I think the Government is taking a grave responsibility upon itself. What was agreed to at the conference last week represented the views of the whole of the industry, and we should leave well alone.
Amendment agreed to.
– I move -
That after sub-section (7.), proposed new section 5, the following: new sub-section be inserted : - “ (7a.) The member appointed to represent proprietary and privately-owned wineries and distilleries in the State of Western Australia shall be appointed upon the nomination of the associations in that State affiliated with the Federal Viticultural Council of Australia.”
– I desire to know if there is an association in Western Australia?
– It is affiliated with another association.
– If it is affiliated with another association^ I think it would have sufficient representation from that other association.
Amendment agreed to.
.- Despite the explanations given by the Minister, I have reached the conclusion that the only reason for the introduction of this measure is the desire of the Government to destroy the individual vote of the primary producers, and to give that vote to other interested persons in order that they may “ wangle “ affairs. Every time the franchise is narrowed the gates are opened wider and wider for jokes to be perpetrated. I move -
That the words “ upon the nomination of the Federal Grapegrowers’ Council subsection (8.), proposed new section 5, be omitted, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ by vote of the Commonwealth grape-growers “.
– The proposal contained in the bill was actually brought forward by the representatives of the growers at the conference. At the conference there were present representatives of the growers from South Australia, from the irrigation areas of New South Wales, and from Rutherglen, as well as from Queensland, and it was suggested that this would be the best way of securing proper representation. I am not prepared to accept the honorable member’s amendment.
Clause verbally and consequentially amended and, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 5 to 7 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments; report - by leave - adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Motion (by Mr. Menzies)- by leave - agreed to -
That he have leave to bring in a bill for ;in act to amend the Air Navigation Act 1020.
Bill brought up, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This is a very short bill, the abject of which is simple. The Air Navigation Act, passed in 1920 in the belief that the State parliaments would hand over legislative power to the Commonwealth Parliament, has recently been discussed by the High Court, which decided in the Henry case what field of power was open to the Commonwealth. I may mention that, so far from that field being narrower than was at one time thought, it. turns out to be wider than was believed, but, in effect, the High Court has made it clear that the “power of the Commonwealth to legislate in respect of aviation is confined : 1 to legislating for interstate trade and commerce; 2 to legislating for territories of the Commonwealth ; and 3 to legislating in order to carry out the Air Convention. That leaves outside the scope of Commonwealth power intra-state trade and commerce except in so far as it is covered by international convention. The regulations challenged in the Henry case were made under the Air Navigation Act 1920, which provides in section 4 that -
The Governor-General may make regulations for the purpose of carrying out and giving effect to the convention, and the provisions of any amendment of the convention made under article 34, and for the purpose of providing for the control of air navigation in the Commonwealth and territories.
That section is invalid because it is too wide, and it is therefore desired to alter it in order to bring it within the scope of the High Court’s decision, so that, under such an altered and validated provision, new regulations may be validly propounded, pending the determination of the referendum in which we are seeking full Commonwealth powers.
– The power proposed to be given in the amendment would appear to be almost complete. In respect of interstate trade and commerce it will be complete, but not in respect of trade and commerce confined to a single State.
– That is so. The limitation is that we cannot legislate in relation to anything of a purely intrastate character, except to the extent that it comes within the provisions of an international convention. This bill does not raise the question as to whether Commonwealth powers should be wider or not, but is a very proper attempt to make our existing law valid by reducing the operation of the Air Navigation Act 1920 in conformity with the decision of the High Court.
Clause 2 provides that section 4 of the Air Navigation Act 1920 shall be amended by omitting the words “ in the Commonwealth and the territories and inserting in their stead the specific provision, “ in relation to trade and commerce with other countries, and among the States; and within any territory of the Commonwealth “. The effect will merely be to make our legislation fit within our prescribed powers as limited by the decision of the High Court in the Henry case. There is no contentious quality about the bill.
For the last six years the Acts Interpretation Act has contained certain provisions which were intended to. give validity to Commonwealth laws in so far as they were made within the powers of the Commonwealth, and to enable the courts to read them down if they went beyond those powers, so that they might, within the proper limits, continue to be valid. On that point, section 15 a of the Acts Interpretation Act reads as follows : - 15a. Every act, whether passed before or after the commencement of this section, shall be read and construed subject to the Constitution, and so as not to exceed the legislative power of the Commonwealth, to the intent that where any enactment thereof would, but for this section, have been construed as being in excess of that power, it shall nevertheless be a valid enactment to the extent to which it is not in excess of that power.
Section 9a of the act relates to regulations. In the Henry case, several members of the High Court found that it was impossible to apply that section to the Commonwealth regulations in question - that they must stand or fall as a whole - and the court found them to be invalid. If this bill is passed, it will be possible, at once, to re-constitute regulations which are valid within the established limits of Commonwealth power. That will give such validity as can be given to Common- wealth aviation law, pending the determination of the referendum. If an affirmative vote is recorded, we shall then be able to add other regulations under this legislation in order to deal with the situation as it will exist after the Commonwealth is clothed with’ full power.
– Does the carrying of passengers by aeroplanes from one State to another come within the control of the Commonwealth?
– I should say that it does, but the carrying of passengers from one point within a State to another point within the same State is outside the range of Commonwealth power, except to the limited extent that such traffic comes within the provisions of the Air Convention.
– This is an instance of legislation being brought before Parliament upon the shortest notice during the closing hours of the session, and, in its wider aspects, dealing with a matter which has been the subject of considerable controversy. I am impressed with the views expressed by the Attorney-General (Mr. Menzies), that the bill is intended to safeguard the position as it now exists, and to make effective the undoubted powers which we possess in regard to aviation, but I should be .flattering myself, and deceiving the House, if T were to suggest that I have had an opportunity f faithfully to consider the matter in all its bearings. Accepting the Attorney-General’s word as I do, on behalf of the Opposition, and his assurance that the bill, for the reasons he has given, is one of real urgency, and repeating that the responsibility for it is his, I do not propose to offer any opposition to its ready passage.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - hy leave - read a third time.
Bill received from the Senate, and (on motion by Mr. Menzies) read a first time.
.- I move -
That Statutory Rules Nos. 69 and 92, being amendments of the Customs (Prohibited Imports) Regulations, be disallowed.
When I gave notice of this motion some little time ago I had little doubt that honorable members, realizing the extensive nature of the power given to the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) under these regulations, would approve of their disallowance, but my more recent experience in this House in respect of tariff matters has placed me in some doubt as to what attitude honorable members will now adopt towards it. I impress upon honorable members the peculiar importance of this motion. In May last, the Government issued regulations which seriously affected our trade relations with almost every other country, and gave the power to the Minister to prohibit or to approve imports into Australia, subject to such conditions as he might see fit to impose. A huge list of items was given in this prohibition schedule, comprising motor chassis from Great Britain and foreign countries ; and from all foreign countries - iron and steel plates, sheets and wires, copper, iron and steel pipes and tubes, machinery of almost every class and particularly many engines and machinery requisites for manufacturers and for primary production, cranes, hoists and elevators, hats, costumes, clothes and boots, paper, motor bodies, parts and accessories, piece goods - in fact, almost the whole ambit of a nation’s trade. None of these goods may now be imported into Australia without the Minister’s approval. I ask honorable members to realize not only the extraordinary power we are placing in the hands of the Minister, but also the injury that has been done and may be done, to established business before trade requirements may be ordered, and the effect of these restrictions when retaliation follows. This regulation has been issued under section 52 of the Customs Act, which never intended the power of prohibition on commerce that has been assumed. Are honorable members pre- pared to permit Ministers to grasp and to hold this despotic power without even asking Parliament to pass a measure enabling them to do so? If so, we are setting up a precedent which may prove much more dangerous later. The power actually given to the Minister under the Customs Act was based on our desire to prevent entry into this country of goods that might be inimical to the health or morals of the people. I am now asking Parliament to make it clear that this power has been given to the Minister for that specific purpose only, and not for the purpose of enabling the Government to prohibit trade generally with other countries. I point out that a similar power was vested in the British Government by the British Parliament to enable that Government to prohibit the importation of arms, ammunition, and. explosives, or any other class of goods, and, when that Government extended the application of that power beyond that sphere, an application in respect of the matter was made to the King’s Bench, which decided that the British Government had power only to prohibit the importation of arms, ammunition, and ‘ explosives, or goods of a simliar class. In its decision the court clearly pointed out that, had the British Parliament desired that the power should be applied in respect of commerce generally, it would have done so specifically. In 1901, the Commonwealth Parliament gave to the Commonwealth Government power similar tq that given to the British Government, yet, as I have pointed out, it is exceeding the power so given to it without the approval of Parliament.
The enforcement of this regulation must increase the cost of production, although the export industries cannot stand this increase; it furnishes the opportunity for the grossest partisanship in the granting of trade permits ; it tends to encourage corrupt practices; it has already been responsible for huge losses to most of those engaged in the motor industry; it tends to ruin certain firms long established; and it establishes a system of discrimination against a friendly nation that, I believe, is practised by no other country in the world.
It is said that these restrictions are made so as to rectify our adverse trade balance with the United States of America. Prom 1924 to 1938 the value of our imports from the United States of America averaged £38,000,000 annually, or 24.5 per cent, of the total value of our imports. From 1931 to 1934 our imports from the United States of America were of an average value of £8,000,000, or 16 per cent, of the total value of our imports. I believe the figures for 1936, due to the mining boom and better wool prices, show an increase, but nothing abnormal. It is remarkable, therefore, that this sudden discovery of an adverse trade balance, which in former years was 100 per cent, more adverse than at present, was never noticed, and, probably, would not have instigated this very vicious attack but for the Tariff Board’s recommendation that the duties on agricultural machinery should be reduced. Like the glass industry, in whose interests the pastoralists in the Kimberleys and the barley-growers in South Australia were ruined, the agricultural implement maker has a big political influence, and, of course, any legislation which might imperil his profits must be counteracted, and accordingly, the bogy of this adverse trade balance was introduced. The Government did not dare to include agricultural implements in the list of restrictions, but it did the next best thing; it directed that the ball-bearings in a machine and special parts in engines should be omitted before the machines would be permitted to be imported. Why did the regulations provide that ballbearings could be refused permission to be imported ? It seems to show the undue influence exerted to prevent competition with favoured manufacturers here.
The figures I have quoted show that imports from America of recent years are considerably less than in earlier years. Official figures also show that, in trade between the United States of America and the Empire during recent years, the balance of trade is in favour of the Empire. But there are special reasons why we should not adopt this method of discrimination against a friendly nation. I have no personal reason for asking that concessions should be made in favour of the United States of America as against any other country. I do so simply because I fear the serious economic disorganization which will probably result from action of this kind. The Prime Minister, in his budget speech for 1932-33, said-
As a result of reparations and debt adjustment under the Hoover moratorium, further relief to the extent of £3,090,000 was obtained last year. . . . No provision for this is being made in the budget, and if we are subsequently called upon to make payment the budget will be affected accordingly.
Up to the present, no demand has been made for the payment of this debt.
In 1922, the British war debt to the United States of America was 4,715,000,000 dollars. Under the terms of the debt settlement the interest was reduced from 5 per cent, to 3 per cent., and the burden of carrying this reduction amounting to 280,000,000 dollars had to be borne by the American taxpayers. For several years there has been no payment of principal or interest,, and the whole burden is borne by America. The United States of America was one of the chief exporters of wheat. In 1933 it determined on crop restriction, and forced reduction to home needs. Is not our action likely to induce it to enter the field again to our disadvantage? And are we satisfied that it is not possible to secure favorable treatment and a fair agreement with the United States of America? Has not the present administration of that country shown an intensive desire to enter into trade relations with other countries? I understand it has entered into trade agreements with fourteen or fifteen nations, and particularly one with Canada which mutually enhances trade and good will. As the present administration has got a renewal of power, that policy must be extended. Is it not worth while making an effort to obtain concessions for our fruits, our wines, and other products, instead of declaring a trade war?
The Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) recently visited the United States of America and Canada. Speaking at the Montreal Club on the 17th July, 1935, he said -
World recovery will not be achieved until the barriers against trade between nations are lowered. To maintain a better standard of living requires a better appreciation of the other nations’ problems, and a greater readiness to meet them half way.
He then condemned high tariffs as unprofitable, but now he has approved of absolute restrictions being placed on trade with the United States of America in a form which must engender the most bitter animosity. In the past, nobody has been more emphatic in opposition to such a policy than the Minister directing negotiations for trade treaties (Sir Henry Gullett). I draw attention to remarks made by him in this regard when he sat on the Opposition side. On the 25th September, 1931, he pointed out, and almost wholly repeated his statement in this chamber seven months ago, the grave danger of the very policy he now advocates. Hansard, volume 132, page 282, shows that he stated in 1931 -
There is a danger in carrying to extreme lengths this action against the United States of America or any other country. If those countries that have an unfavorable trade balance with us were to apply to us the medicine it is so often urged we should apply to America we could not possibly dispose of our great wool clip. In the case of Japan, Belgium, France, Germany and Italy the balance in our favour amounts to something like £40,000,000 a year. There is only one attitude to adopt and that is to consider the balance of our trade with all countries. It cannot be considered piecemeal without striking heavily at ourselves.
How can he now ask the House to sanction a policy a thousand-fold more vindictive and dangerous than that denounced by him previously? The Minister for Defence (Sir Archdale Parkhill), according to Hansard, volume 129, page 1555, stated on the 1st May, 1931 -
I submit that nobody in this country should have the power that is now exercised by the Minister for Trade and Customs who, without referring to Parliament at all, can introduce embargoes on imports at his own sweet will, can make one man wealthy and ruin another.
That is what is being done to-day in the motor trade. The policy now adopted is to refuse one firm the right to import certain goods, but to allow another firm to import them. The Minister for Defence further stated -
I point out the power is inherent in one member of the Government to say to a huge business organization behind the back of this Parliament, “You can bring in £50,000 worth of your products this year, and nobody else can”. I object in unmeasured terms to government by regulation and government by officers of the Customs Department.
How can the Minister now have the assurance to ask the House to approve a regulation which gives power to restrict almost the whole gamut of imports from foreign countries. Previously, the Minister for Defence and the Minister directing negotiations for trade treaties emphatically objected to the action of the Labour Government in imposing embargoes.
Speaking in London recently, Mr. Bruce, the High Commissioner for Australia, gave the three following reasons why the nations should hasten to break down tariff barriers and restore world trade : -
Anybody who has followed tariff-making in the United States of America and Great Britain must recognize that when corporations become very wealthy they constitute a danger to the community and a menace to clean politics. They have the means of financing propoganda to maintain the concessions granted to them. We read in the press from time to time of the acquisition of enormous power by these corporations. Even in Australia proof of their power is furnished by the concessions obtained by them.
Time after time the Minister directing negotiations for trade treaties has offered insults to honorable members who have had the courage to speak against the trade diversion proposals submitted by him, and time after time he has played on the emotional appeal of selfsufficiency, especially in case of war. Great damage is done by propaganda that leads to the granting of tariff concessions which must tend to grave antagonism between Australia and a neighbouring country. Wo country can object to reasonable trade restrictions but, when we select one or two nations for discriminatory treatment, we must expect that a feeling of antagonism will be aroused. If a crisis occurs the people will be brought to realize that great harm is done by action of this kind.
.- In the absence of the Minister directing negotiations for trade treaties (Sir Henry Gullett) I shall reply to the speech by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory), whose views on tariff matters are well known. The honorable member’s attack is rather unfair in that he knows full well that Australia can import only a certain quantity of goods from other countries. This quantity is conditioned by our exports, less the interest bill which we have to meet overseas; therefore, we have to discriminate as to the goods we shall import. We have a preferential tariff that attracts a great deal of trade to Great Britain, which is our best customer, apart from our sentimental ties with the Motherland. After that the balance is distributed among other nations from whom we buy. With the United States of America, with which country we are on .the most friendly terms, and which as the other great English-speaking nation, has meant so much to civilization, we have had an adverse trade balance. Reports have been made year after year with a view to inducing that country to reduce some of its duties. The honorable member, for Swan applauds any reduction of duties by Australia, but he is not so enthusiastic about asking another country to take off duties. In 1933, when Mr. Cordell Hull announced that the United States of America proposed to adopt a policy of tariff reduction, I pointed out to the representative in Australia of the United States of America that the Government would be glad to negotiate with a view to securing a more satisfactory trade balance with that country. These representations were placed before the Government of the United States of America, but we received no reply. The honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart), when he was Minister for Commerce, had similar correspondence with that country, but he also had no response. Less than two years ago the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) had a conference with President Roosevelt, and informed him of our desire in the matter, but all these representations have been useless. Yet the honorable member for Swan complains that the Government will not allow the present state of affairs, to continue, although there is a margin of over £15,000,000, including; interest, between the value of the goods we buy from the United States of America and that of the goods which that country buys from us. Nations, cannot always balance their accounts with other nations, but, with a reasonable amount of reciprocity, the best possible results can be obtained. The Government found it necessary to depart from the time-honoured policy of giving; our foreign tariff general application by discriminating against the United States of America. Of course, we had no desire to hurt the feelings of that country, with which we have always been on friendly terms. A list of goods which we knew could be purchased in other countries, that buy goods from us was tabulated, and applications must now be made for licences to import any of the goods mentioned on the list.
– Look at the delays that take place under that system.
– The honorable member is shifting his ground. I am dealing with broad principles. Where it is found that goods can be purchased only from the United States of America, licences to import them are readily granted. If goods made in that country are also produced in Great Britain, a licence is not issued, and the trade is diverted to the United Kingdom, which buys 90 per cent, of our primary products, apart from wool and wheat, of which it also purchases the largest quantity. The trade diversion policy represents such a wide departure from former practice that some delays are inevitable. The Minister directing negotiations for trade treaties has been busily engaged on negotiations with Japan, but the efficient officers of the department deal with these matters as expeditiously as possible. If the honorable member can bring forward instances of undue delay, inquiries will be made in regard to them, and every effort will be put forward to avoid them.
The honorable member said that articles such as ball bearings were excluded, and that certain machines have had to be imported without the bearings, but I point out that ball bearings which are an integral part of a machine would be allowed to come in.
– That ruling was given only after objection was made.
– The honorable member did not tell the House that, and to that extent he misled honorable members.
– It is hardly fair to say that he misled us.
– I think it is fair to say so. At any rate the position is that ball bearings are manufactured in the United Kingdom, Germany,France, Italy and Belgium, with all of which countries we have a favorable trade balance. If a person desired to import a large quantity of ball bearings without reference to particular machines he would be told to divert the trade to a good customer country, but if he wished to obtain ball bearings which were part of a particular machine, he would be able to get them.
– What if the price asked in other countries was very much higher than that asked in the United States of America?
– I do not think that that would be likely, for there is usually keen competition. The United States of America holds certain exclusive rights in regard to moving picture apparatus, and so on, in respect of which import permits would be granted. I remind honorable gentlemen that only 100 items appear on the list out of thousands that could he affected.
I agree with the honorable member that difficulties must occur in connexion with any trade diversion policy. If a firm in Australia has been dealing solely with the United States of America, the trade diversion policy of the Government would seriously affect it; but the Government’s policy would benefit other firms which dealt mainly with the United Kingdom. This Government has done more than any other government to deal with monopolies, and it has used the tariff as a means to force prices down in the interest of consumers.
– Ihopethat it will not grow weary in well doing.
– Ihope that the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) will be able to give it a little credit occasionally. It cannot be denied that the honorable member for Swan spoke most favorably of the United States of America.
– I do not think that that is quite the right way to put it.
– Neither do I.
– I doubt whether the honorable member for Barker heard the whole of the speech of the honorable member for Swan. If he did not, I regret that I cannot repeat it for his benefit. The honorable member for Swan undoubtedly attacked the Government for having discriminated against the United States of America but he said nothing about the failure of the United States of America to grant reasonable trading conditions to Australia. Australian wool is accorded free admission in almost every country of the world except the United States of America. It was with great reluctance that the Government departed from the old system of a general tariff, and it would like to return to it as soon as possible. If the United States of America would afford Australia better trading conditions and a more reasonable share of its business, there would be very little difficulty in reverting to the old policy. The new trade diversion policy undoubtedly has disabilities of which the commercial world is fully conscious. So, also, are the overworked officers of the Trade and Customs Department, ibut they are carrying out the Government’s policy as fairly and as consistently as possible. Seeing that Mr. Franklin Roosevelt has been re-elected President of the United States it may be that he will take steps to arrange for America to ensure to Australia a more reasonableshare of the business of the United States of America than it has hitherto enjoyed. If he takes any step in this direction he will find the Commonwealth Government very ready to co-operate with him.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Nock) adjourned.
.- I move -
That in the opinion of this House industrial legislation should be uniform in Australia, and, to end the overlapping of industrial awards and the clashing of jurisdiction and the consequent confusion and expense owing to the multiplicity of Arbitration Courts and other industrial tribunals in the Commonwealth, action should be taken in conjunction . with the States with a view to the initiation of one general industrial arbitration system in Australia.
The necessity to review the industrial power of the Commonwealth Parliament is urgent. This is one of the most important national subjects that could be discussed in this House. The issues which I raise in my motion have been agitating the minds of a very large section of our people throughout Australia for many years. It is unfortunate that this motion must be discussed in the closing hours of the session. Seeing that I had the opportunity to advert to it at some length in my speech on the budget, and the fact that the Government has come to a decision to have a referendum on the question, I do not wish to occupy very much time this afternoon, for I have no doubt that other honorable gentlemen will wish to discuss it. In view of the national importance of this subject it should, be approached with complete freedom from party political considerations. I do not think that there is any personal or party political axe to grind in this regard. All sections of the community suffer in consequence of the industrial chaos caused by the multiplicity of industrial tribunals and industrial awards in Australia. We should therefore, all combine in an endeavour to correct this unhappy situation, and do something worthwhile for the people we represent, irrespective of the State in which they reside. I find myself in agreement with certain honorable gentlemen opposite who have suggested that opportunity should be provided for a non-party discussion of certain constitutional issues which are becoming increasingly serious in the Commonwealth. It must be apparent to honorable members that it is almost impossible for us to obtain increased power for this
Parliament unless we approach the people unitedly. The national Parliament must first reach agreement on the issues to be submitted. Many people fight shy of any interference with the Constitution with respect to industrial arbitration. The action of Mr. Bruce in seeking a redistribution of industrial power between the Commonwealth and the States was severely criticized some years ago, but Mr. Bruce perceived the ills of our dual system of control and endeavoured to rectify them. I presume to suggest that he made the mistake of seeking a mandate to abolish the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. Had he requested from the people a mandate to establish one Commonwealth court with full power and supplementary minor State courts with subsidiary power, I have little doubt that the policy would have been approved. He endeavoured to free the Commonwealth of all responsibility in this connexion, . and so brought defeat upon himself. Unhappily, at present, we find one State playing itself off against another State, and also playing itself off against the Commonwealth. At ‘ present people hardly know where they stand because of the multiplicity of tribunals and awards. It is not only a case of clashing between Commonwealth and State tribunals but also a case of clashing between State tribunals of one kind and another. We have a medley of Arbitration Courts, wages boards and various other industrial tribunals all doing the same kind of work, but lacking coordination, each heedless of action taken by other tribunals dealing with similar industries across the borders in other States. The same industry is governed by different conditions in different States. The conditions of New South Wales, for instance, are different from those of Victoria and Queensland. Superimposed upon all the awards of State tribunals in connexion with various industries we find the awards of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court which may be different again. It is sometimes said that we have a dual system of control, but actually we have a triangular system, for we have State against State, and Commonwealth against State. Such conflicts must obviously cause dislocation in industry.
We pride ourselves in Australia that “we hold a foremost place in regard to political action in the industrial field. It is true that in days gone by we gave a lead to the nations of the world, but to-day we find ourselves sadly lagging behind. For this, I think, our cumbersome, conflicting and confusing industrial arbitration methods are largely to blame.
My motion has direct relation to the subject of hours and wages in industry throughout Australia. Our delegates representing the Commonwealth Government at the last two international Labour Conferences supported the proposal for the establishment of a 40-hour working week. The opposition to the proposal came from delegates who said that, unless all countries adopted such a policy, nothing effective could be done, and that it was hopeless to expect all countries to agree on such a subject. They added that even if all countries did agree to the general principle, its application would be impracticable owing to differing standards of living and the disparity of conditions in dear and cheap labour countries. But surely the first business of Australia is -to put its own industrial house in order. We talk sometimes about other countries being divided on this subject, but here in Australia we are ourselves like so many countries divided on the question. In New South Wales we have one law on the subject - if indeed the various ruling and findings of our numerous arbitration tribunals’ can be regarded as law - whereas in Victoria there is another law and in the other States there are still different laws. In each State there are varying practices according to the nature of the industry concerned. A shorter working week cannot be introduced successfully into Australia until it can be adopted uniformly. If we had a 40-hour working week in one State, .a 44-hour working week in another, and a 48-hour working week in another, disaster would overtake the industry of the State with a 40-hour week, for it would not be able to compete on equitable terms with the industry in the State where the 48-hour or 44-hour working week applied. The only way to reach a shorter working week in Australia is through the gateway of a uniform indus trial system. It is interesting to’ note that approximately 15,707 of the 48,000 employees of the Commonwealth Government - or about one-third of the total - are working 40 hours a week or less. The following table sets out the details: -
It is time that we reached a common understanding between the Commonwealth and the States so that a common rule could be arrived at. It can only be done, of course, by an alteration of the Constitution. Conditions, such as the varying climates of the different States, are such that necessary adjustments could be made to meet local conditions. Governments, as well as private employers, are greatly concerned in this matter owing to the big undertakings- in which they are engaged, particularly the railway services. In the railway services there are conflicting awards. Not only would industry and employees benefit from the alteration which I have proposed, but the State governments themselves would also be saved much worry, vexation, and expense. It is easier to serve one master than two; more so is it to serve one instead of half a dozen. The Government, by holding a referendum on this important national question, would render a great- service, to the Commonwealth and its people.
– I second the motion.
.: - I find myself in agreement with many of the statements made by the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Jennings), but I could only agree to it with qualifications. I agree that we should have uniform industrial legislation throughout the Commonwealth. I agree also that no fundamental advance or real adjustment of the economic conditions can be made without uniformity on both a geographical and industrial basis. We all must agree as the result of experience lasting over nearly 30 years of the working of the Commonwealth arbitration system, that it has failed, and that it is failing with greater momentum every day, because of the lack of power in the Commonwealth Arbitration Court to grant a common rule. I believe that the people who are trying to remedy the faults of the existing system on a State basis are wasting time and deluding the people of Australia. They must know that no fundamental improvement can be made unless uniformity is achieved. States cannot successfully compete with one another unless the public and private enterprises in each of the States are subject to uniform conditions. I ‘ should like the AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Menzies) to help us in this matter. The workers of this country, who comprise 80 per cent, of the population, will never have the whole-hearted enthusiasm for arbitration that they had some years ago unless the whole basis of it is changed. The court should move with the time and drop the fodder and fuel basis of fixing the standard of living of bur people. I do not like to confess it in the presence of our distinguished visitor ‘ from South Africa, but the standard of living in Australia to-day is lower than it was in 1907.
– That is hardly a correct statement to make before a distinguished visitor.
– Facts and figures support me in that contention. The first attem.pt to fix a basic wage in Australia was made in 1907 when Mr. Justice Hig gins introduced what we know as the “Harvester” standard, under which he fixed the minimum wage at which men could be employed. He made it clear that 7s. a day or £2 2s. a week was totally inadequate as a living wage, but he said that as the application before him was the first experiment he was unable to collect sufficient data and recommended that as time passed improvements be effected in the system. At the time of the making of the 1907 award an index number was fixed at 875, which was arrived at after working out the cost of living on the basis of 7s. a day. If the index figure of to-day is compared with the index figure of 1907, and adjusted to the cost of living now compared with the standard at that time, it will be shown that the basic wage of to-day is less in real value than it was in that year. I regret that that fact has tobe admitted. Quite recently we made sure that that statement of the position was correct, because we were ashamed to have to tell the public of this country, and much less visitors from other countries, that we had drifted back. For at least 20 years we have known that the Commonwealth Arbitration Court has no power to grant a common rule. In the first case dealt with by the court, an application concerning the boot industry, I appeared as a witness. The legal adviser made an error - that is not unique, of course, because even High Court Justices to-day make mistakes - when he suggested that a selection of a few of the largest employers in the industry would be sufficient to cite for the purposes of an award. His suggestion was acted on by the union, and about thirteen or fourteen of the largest employers were cited in connexion with the case. The case was heard and an award was given which made improvements in the standard of living in all industries, but immediately it was given, the legal representative of the employers examined the constitutional aspects of the matter and advised the manufacturers that the award could not be enforced in respect of the employers who had not been cited by the union because the court had not power to fix a common rule. Accordingly, the award was limited to the thirteen or fourteen employers who were cited. It will be seen, therefore, that ever since then we have known that the Commonwealth Arbitration Court has no power to make a common rule. In order to surmount the difficulty, we applied to the State governments for the establishment of wages boards which would give exactly the same ruling as was given by the Commonwealth court. In our application for this, we had the support of the thirteen or fourteen employers whom we had cited. They naturally supported us, because the court’s decision placed them at a disadvantage in competition with the other employers whom we had not cited, and now, after all these years, we still have the same condition of affairs, in which every State has either an arbitration court or a wages board, whose activities overlap those of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, as a legacy from the early failure of the Australian governments to remove all constitutional difficulties in the way of the ‘Commonwealth Arbitration Court making a common rule. We have to chase employers from one tribunal to another, and the result is that no really satisfactory results can be achieved. The procedure is so cumbersome that the people have lost faith in the arbitration system. I shall give, one outstanding illustration of the cumbersome nature of the machinery of the court. It is true that there has been no recurrence of the trouble which occurred - the causes have since been removed - but I remember assisting in the drafting of a statement of claim which was lodged more than a year before it reached the court. In the interim, conditions had changed to such an extent that the claim made was not for as much as was warranted by the conditions operating at the time at which it was dealt with. The learned judge said that the law would not allow ns to remodel our claim. He said that he could give us only what we asked for when we lodged the claim, but admitted that even if he granted the full amount of wages claimed, the amount of the award would still be less than the existing cost-of-living figure. The position is almost as bad to-day. Only this morning I had to ask the Attorney-General to help in pushing along a case. Trouble arose in the textile industry last Easter and Anzac Day as to payment for holidays. For the last six months an application for the interpretation of one of the Arbitration Court’s own awards has been; lying in the court, and the employees in the textile industry are anxious that the matter be settled before Christmas. I hope that the Attorney-General will be able to straighten it out next week.
Before it can be expected that the workers will have an enthusiasm about arbitration, the added powers suggested by the honorable member for “Watson will have to be granted to the Commonwealth court. The court must be given power to deal more rapidly with applications for awards, and I suggest that an inquiry into the standard living wage is necessary and, a new and much higher basis fixed in order to straighten out the tangle which has occurred in the last three years as the result of action taken by the Full Bench of the Arbitration Court. In 1931, the court imposed a 10 per cent, cut on the basic wage, amounting to about 7s. 7d. a week. In 1933, a new index number was fixed, and the cut was so reduced that it was fixed at 4.2 per cent.; the workers have never got back the rest. In 1934, the Full Bench of the court introduced another index number, known as the “ C “ series, under which the 1931 and 1933 index numbers were wiped out and a totally new basis for arriving at the costofliving figures was laid down. A striking feature of that is the fact that the 10 per cent. cut was imposed when the cost of living was going down. In 1934, when there were signs of returning prosperity with consequent increased demands for goods and services with higher prices for commodities, this new principle was established, under which no adjustment is made in the costofliving figure unless there occurs a difference of 2s. The result has been that, for periods of up to six months, employees, in many instances, have been forced to work for amounts of up to ls. lOd. a week less than they would have received under the old system of adjustment, or less than the cost-of-living index figures indicate that they should receive. This means that the basic wage is coming down instead of going up. Some years ago, Mr; Justice Powers, recognizing the injustice to the workers of this constant lag behind rising prices, instituted what became known as the Powers loading of 3s. on to the basic wage, and it remained in operation for twelve years. In 1934, however, the Full Bench of the Arbitration Court re-arranged the index number so as to abolish this loading of 3s. Therefore, when this amount is deducted, and we take into consideration the cost of living fluctuations, it is seen that the workers are still in a worse position than they would have been if the cost of living figures had been brought up to date. How can the workers be expected to be enthusiastic about the Commonwealth Arbitration Court when they are made the victims of decisions of that kind ? The various State governments have repeatedly said that they do not possess power to fix standard hours, and they point out that this should be done by the Commonwealth. Unfortunately, although the Commonwealth has the power, it declines to intervene, saying that it is not its duty to do so, and this notwithstanding the well-known fact that the policy of the Government undoubtedly becomes the policy of the Arbitration Court. The Commonwealth will not even introduce the 40-hour working week among its own employees. Before the workers can be expected to give up their chances of obtaining higher wages and better working conditions through the State tribunals, the Commonwealth Arbitration Court will have to be made more attractive to them, and the Commonwealth Government will have to make clear to the court what its policy is in regard to such an important matter as working hours, for instance.
I am sure that the AttorneyGeneral will admit that the outlook of members of the court is affected by the known policy of the Government. I do not suggest that any wrongful influence is brought to bear on the judges, but if they recognized that it was the opinion of the Government that progressive steps should be taken to raise the ‘basic wage and reduce the number of working hours, so that employment might be spread over a greater number of persons, with a consequent increase of the individual and aggregate purchasing power of our people, ana if the Government showed its good faith by reducing the number of working hours of its own employees, the minds of members of the court would be favorably disposed towards these reforms. Indeed, it is frequently stated by members of the court that the Government itself should give a lead to the court in regardto such matters.
I believe in arbitration, and I believe that there should be a uniform set of industrial conditions throughout the Commonwealth. I am opposed to the overlapping of industrial powers which exists at the present time, but -I am certain that the workers of Australia, while they want a common rule and uniform working conditions throughout the country, will not give up what they have now, bad as it is, and pin all their hopes to the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, unless that court is remodelled, and its procedure simplified, and unless the Commonwealth Government itself gives the court a lead in the direction of meeting the altered industrial conditions which exist in the world to-day. The Government must realize that something will have to be done to meet present conditions if the workers are to remain even as content as they are to-day. I myself would not feel justified in urging the workers to place their faith in the Commonwealth Arbitration Court while it operates in its present inadequate way. All over the world to-day industrial conditions are being liberalized. From the first of this month all the metal trades throughout the republic of France were placed upon a 40-hour basis, because the French Government had subscribed to the convention at Geneva in which this was laid down. The Government of New Zealand has given effect to the convention for which its delegate voted at Geneva. Nearly all the industries in Czechoslovakia are now working on a 40-hour basis, and in the United States of America, though the Government lacks constitutional power to enforce the provision, the same end has been achieved by agreement with the employers. Australia, which once led the world in such matters, has now fallen far behind. There is hardly a hig employer in Australia to-day who does not give his employees holidays once a year on full pay, but this concession has not yet been granted by the Commonwealth to its own. employees. How can the Government or the employers expect workers to risk their conditions by relying on the decision of a court led by a gentleman who makes public statements to the effect that the workers have no hope of obtaining a 40- hour week if they make application before him? I urge the Government to fix a new basic wage and a shorter maximum working week.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Menzies) adjourned.
I move -
That in the opinion of this House it is desirable that the Commonwealth Government, with the assent and assistance of the Western Australian Government, should construct a railway from the meat works at Wyndham 200 miles, with the object of making a practicable and profitable outlet for the cattle from the Victoria River Downs and Wave Hill districts of the Northern Territory.
In order to assist the beef industry in the western part of northern Australia it is essential that steps should be taken by the Commonwealth Government to provide quicker and cheaper transport for cattle from the stations to the meat works at Wyndham. The Government of Western Australia has spent £1,000,000 at Wyndham on plant, &c, for chilling beef, although practically half the number of cattle treated at these works come from the Northern Territory. I am aware that the available figures may not bear out that statement, but we must remember that large numbers of cattle are brought from stations in the Northern Territory to others in Western Australia owned by the same interests, before being sent on for treatment at Wyndham. In 1935, the average return from cattle treated at the Wyndham works was £2 14s. 7d. a head, at which price the industry cannot possibly pay. The reason for that is, that the cattle have to be driven over long distances, in some cases 200 miles, to the port of Wyndham. Cattle from the western portion of the Northern Territory cannot be sent to any other port, because the only works available are at that port. Indeed, if Vesteys were to re-open their works at Darwin, as has been rumoured for some years, cattle from this portion of the territory would still have to be sent to Wyndham. In order that it may be made profitable for the grower to send cattle for treatment at Wyndham, a new stock route must be provided. For many years now, cattle from this portion of the territory have been driven over the same stock route, and, as any one with a knowledge of herbage is aware, especially in country of this kind, where the rainfall is restricted to certain seasons of the year, thatroute is eaten out for most of the time. A conference of members of the Meat Board in Sydney, in September last, suggested that a new stock route should be surveyed, preferably a route which would later serve for purposes of a railway line to Wyndham. That letter has been officially acknowledged, but the Government has not yet indicated that it is prepared to go on with even the survey of the route. The construction of a railway line to serve this country cannot be considered solely from the business viewpoint any more than any of the railways constructed in the past in the Northern Territory, from Pine Creek to Wyndham, and north from Oodnadatta were considered in that light. But the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Paterson) surely recognizes that it is the duty of the Commonwealth Government to accept responsibility for the development of sparsely populated areas, such as the far north. That is a national work which cannot be said to be the job of any State government. If this proposed line were constructed, it . would be possible to despatch cattle to Wyndham within 24 hours, compared with the period of six weeks now entailed when the cattle are driven on the hoof. When the journey takes so long a period, only about 50 per cent. of the cattle which leave the stations as fats are fit for treatment as fair-class beef. The rest has to he sold as boneless beef, which brings a very low price. But the day of frozen beef is over. The only reason why a market exists for frozen beef today in Great Britain, is that its price is within the reach of the poorer sections of the community. Indeed, the workers of England live ‘upon frozen beef which we export, not from choice, but because they cannot afford to pay for chilled beef. If we ‘are to look forward to the time when we can’ compete seriously with Argentine beef, we must export most of our beef as chilled beef. If this railway line were constructed, the growers concerned contend that they would get at least £2 a head more for their cattle, because 90 per cent, of the beasts could be accepted at the Wyndham works for export as chilled beef. The Government of Western Australia has spent £32,000 in chilled beef export experiments at Wyndham, and it has been proved beyond doubt that this trade can be undertaken profitably. It will be impossible, however, to export chilled beef from Wyndham unless a railway is constructed to serve pastoralists in -supply areas. I suggest that if such a railway is built, freights should be determined not on a basis for the profitable operation of the line, but at a price that would enable cattle-growers to improve their properties, which they are unable to do to-day. My individual opinion is that the cattleman, not only in the Northern Territory, but also at Wyndham’ and in other sparsely populated parts of Australia, has been too anxious in the past to take up larger holdings than he is able to manage successfully. Individual blocks at the present time consist, in some cases, of areas up to 1,000,000 acres. It is impossible for an individual owner to improve such a vast area and to get the best out of it; his only alternative is to float a company to take control of his holding, and to-day, investors are not willing to take such a risk unless the market abroad for our beef is improved.
It is impossible for us to develop the Northern Territory successfully if we continue the methods which we have applied in those areas in the past. Cattleraising can only be made a profitable investment in those parts of the Commonwealth in the way which I have indicated. To show what the prospects in the Northern Territory are at the present time, I point out that, out of the 13.500,000 cattle in Australia, there are only 859,000 in the territory. That is a very small percentage. Furthermore, the number of cattle slaughtered in the Northern Territory is surprisingly small. In Western Australia, in which there are slightly more cattle than in the Northern Territory, the number slaughtered last year was 100,000, compared with 4,635 cattle slaughtered in the Northern Territory. This comparison shows the territory in a very unfavorable light, and its backwardness in that direction has been due entirely to the fact that its cattlemen have no outlet for their beasts, except at Wyndham. I point out, further, that about 16,000 of the cattle slaughtered at the Wyndham works each year come from the Northern Territory. This, however, brings the number of territory cattle slaughtered last year to only 20,000, compared with 84,000 Western Australian cattle. Very few Northern Territory cattle would have been slaughtered at all but for the fact that, at a great financial loss, the Government of Western Australia established the works at Wyndham. It is on that point mainly that I base my argument that the Commonwealth Government should view the development of our sparselypopulated areas, such as the Northern Territory, with greater vision, and more generously, than it has done in the past. I hold that the whole of northern Australia, including the northern part of Western Australia, the Northern Territory, and the northern part of Queensland, should be controlled by the Commonwealth Government. I am aware that most people in Western Australia do not agree with that view. I do not suggest that the present system of longrange control by the Commonwealth, as instanced in its administration of the Northern Territory, is as successful as is the administration of the northern part of Western Australia by the Government of that State. In this connexion I do not reflect upon the present Minister’s administration, but merely point out the difficulties arising from long-range administration. I suggest that, if the parts of Australia which I have indicated, were taken over by the Commonwealth, they should be governed on a system under which the areas would be more directly administered by bodies, somewhat in the nature of glorified town councils, to deal with local affairs; they would have a representative in this Parliament, and that representative should have a vote, owing to the fact that he would represent a larger number of people than the honorable member for the Northern Territory now represents.
Since its establishment, one-third of a million cattle have been treated at the “Wyndham works. The main argument- in favour of the construction of the railway I am suggesting is that it is impossible for the beef industry to Succeed until the whole of our beef for export is treated by the chilling process. To that end, facilities must be provided to enable beasts to reach Wyndham works free from bruises and in tip-top condition. Eventually, of course, the matter of breeding of the beast will also have to be considered. That time is a long way ahead, but we should at least aim in that direction. In order to place before the House the views of people directly engaged in the meat trade, I point out that the Wyndham Growers Committee, after considering the matter of the supply of beef to the Wyndham works, came to the following conclusions : -
It is certain that practically all of the frozen beef now exported from Australia is marketable at a much higher price chilled. The Wyndham Meat Works is the only meatworks in Australia that has no railway connexion with its cattle areas.
That anomaly should be removed. Stock is bruised to a certain extent, even when carried on a railway. If holding paddocks were established at Wyndham, the cattle could be kept until they were in a good condition for killing, and they would then be worth an extra £2 a head to the growers. The committee further states -
Until the safe carriage of chilled beef to the United Kingdom had been demonstrated, there was no justification for recommending the construction of such a railway, as the price of frozen “beef did not warrant any such expense. The efficient carriage of chilled beef on a commercial scale has now been demonstrated . . . but it will not be possible for a large percentage of the Wyndham beef to be so exported unless there is a tremendous improvement in the condition of the cattle as delivered to the works.
The present stock route is entirely eaten out, and the first duty of the Government is to survey a new route. I trust that the Minister for the Interior will place this matter before the Cabinet. The committee adds -
It therefore appears essential that something should be done to ensure the delivery of the cattle in better condition to the works.
In some quarters motor transport has been advocated. This has been tried extensively in Western Australia, but even on the Murchison, which, being fairly level, is considered suitable country for motor transport, it has been abandoned. The construction of a railway would overcome the difficulty in connexion with Wyndham. It would not be practicable to transport 10,000 cattle to the meat works within the few months of the killing season by means of motor vehicles. The construction of the proposed railway should be regarded as a project to develop the interior of the continent. Plenty of water is obtainable in the valley of the Ord River. Within nine miles of Wyndham is a stretch of water containing 20,000,000 gallons. If the cattle trade were made profitable to the growers they would soon improve their properties; otherwise their leases would not be renewed.
The quantity of chilled beef to be exported from Argentina to Great Britain in 1937 is to be not less than that shipped in 1935, less 138,700 cwt., which is 2 per cent. The quantity in 1938 and in 1939 will be not less than that in the preceding year reduced by 138,700 cwt., but the quantity in 1939 is to be not less than the 1935 figure, less 5 per cent. The prospects appear to be good, if we do not closely examine the total quantity of meat now sent from Argentina to Great Britain. About £600,000,000 is invested by British capitalists in railways and in other undertakings in Argentina. Australia has always paid its overseas interest bills, but the interest on British capital invested in Argentina has not always been available regularly. Even at the Ottawa conference, the representatives of this non-British country sat cheek by jowl with the representatives of Australia, huckstering for as large a share as possible of the British meat market. Our large export trade in mutton and lamb is profitable. Argentina is not able to compete with us in that regard. As to beef, however, whilst Argentina has two and a half times as many cattle as Australia has, it enjoys a large proportion of the total trade.
The first annual report of the Australian Meat Board, which was tabled in this House recently, shows that our exports of chilled beef to the United Kingdom in 1935 amounted to 232,000 cwt., whilst the quantity sent from Argentina to Great Britain in that year was practically 7,000,000 cwt. Although Argentina exports to Great Britain 30 times as much chilled beef as Australia does, the quantity of frozen beef it sends to Great Britain is only about one-third of the quantity which we export to London, this being an unprofitable trade to Argentina, as indeed it is to Australia. The best that we can hope for, even under the new agreement, is a very small proportion of the chilled beef trade. In 1939, when our exporters will be allowed a maximum shipment to the British market, their trade will be less than one-eleventh of that allowed to a foreign country. The gentlemen from Argentina seem to exercise a strong political pull because of the large investment of British capital in that country. Australia has always given tariff preference to Great Britain, and because of our ties of kinship with the Motherland, we are entitled to a larger share of the chilled beef trade.
I trust that my remarks in favour of the Wyndham railway proposal will be carefully considered by the Government, because the line advocated would assist in the development of the Northern Territory.
– I second the motion so ably moved by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green). I do not wish to traverse the ground that he has covered so, comprehensively and soundly, but I want to assure honorable members of the valuable asset which Australia possesses in the country behind Wyndham extending, not only into the Kimberleys in Western Australia, but also into the north-west of the Northern Territory. Some little time ago a commission inquiring into State disabilities, reported to the effect that it would be wise to leave this country alone, but I entirely disagree with its views. Its members did not visit the area which we are considering, and we cannot regard their report as reliable for that reason. We shall have to appoint a commission with a different personnel before we can hope to get a carefully considered and reliable report on the subject of northern development. I am fortified in my conviction that the country that would be served by the railway advocated by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie, is valuable, because of my own experience there. I have had the opportunity to travel over a great deal of it, not only by motor car, but also by pack horses. Moreover, I now find that my view on the subject is corroborated by a report on the subject made as long ago as 1914 by a commission consisting of Mr. Frank Clarke, chairman, Mr. David Lindsay, explorer and surveyor, and Mr. A Combes, late supervising surveyor in charge of railway surveys, Victoria, 1906- 1913. Although I have only had time to peruse part of the report of these gentlemen, I regard it as being most valuable, and consider myself fortunate to have obtained from the musty archives of the Department of the Interior apparently the last one available. The document is so valuable that it should be reprinted. A great many of the conclusions of the commission have been borne out by the experience of the last 25 years. The report was presented to His Excellency the Governor-General Sir Ronald Crauford Munro-Ferguson, on the 20th February, 1914. I propose to cite certain passages from it, because they corroborate views expressed more recently by the manager of the Wyndham Meat Works, by Mr. M. P. Durack, of the Ord River, and by other prominent settlers in that remote part. The following passage gives certain questions put to Mr. J. A. Harper, at that time Assistant Railways Commissioner of New South Wales: - 617. By the Chairman. - Would you expect stock from the Northern Territory to be trucked to the eastern parts of Australia rather than to Port Augusta? - Yes, but much would depend upon where the markets were. 618. Do you think stock would be sent from the Northern Territory to eastern ports for shipment oversea? - That would depend upon the operations of those buying the stock. 619. By Mr. Lindsay. - Is not the distance from the Northern Territory to the eastern ports of Queensland greater than to the ports of the territory itself? - From some parts of the territory, yea. It is nearly twice the distance to the northern ports. 620-21. Are you aware that the contract with South Australia absolutely binds the Commonwealth to construct the direct line from north to south? - We are looking at it from a railway point of view only. 622. By Mr. Combes. - Would the system you suggest be used for trucking starving stock in times of drought? - Undoubtedly. 623. By Mr. Lindsay. - In suggesting these eastern connexions you are not looking at the development of the territory as the prime reason for building railways? - No. 624. Do you not think that is a most important consideration in developing a country? - I think the most important consideration is to establish communication with the western coast of Australia by the trans-Australian line, which is now in course of construction, and with the northern coast by a line which will give connexion with the large centres of population in the east of the Commonwealth, both for mails and for defence. “We cannot disregard the views expressed by Mr. Harper as to the importance of adequate communications for defence purposes, but I wish to emphasize that we shall not properly develop this country merely by constructing a railway from Alice Springs to Darwin, any more than we have developed a very large part of the area traversed by the railway from Port Augusta to Perth. The pertinent questions asked of Mr. Harper by Mr. David Lindsay support my view. What we need, as a matter of fact, is spur lines from northern ports running out into the better sections of the country, particularly with the object of supplying cattle to the Wyndham Meat Works and to various ports. ‘The report has quite a deal to say about the Victoria River country, as these qualified men sectionalized the territory. In this connexion I direct attention to the following paragraph from it:-
There is a consensus of opinion amongst those qualified to judge, that after the Barkly Tableland, the most valuable area of country in the territory is the Victoria River district, and of that area the portion most capable of development, and likely to produce revenue for a railway, is the country near the head waters of the river and Sturt’s Creek. The formation of the more fertile part of the district is mostly volcanic. Unlike the Barkly Tableland, the Victoria country is intersected by numerous rivers, creeks, and water courses, and only requires conservation works to ensure a plentiful supply of surface water.
Some interesting evidence was also given by Mr. L. A. Wells, at that time Surveyor and Deputy Commissioner for Federal Land Tax, South Australia. He said -
In the Victoria River district and east from the river’s source, there are some 20,000 square miles of excellent fertile valleys and downs highly suitable for sheep and cattle raising. There are also similar lands of large area in the vicinity of Sturt’s Creek and Ord river.
The report says -
There does not seem to have been any sustained or serious effort made to introduce sheep into the Victoria River country. This no doubt may be safely attributed to its remoteness from markets.
Development has, of course, occurred since that time by providing water. As the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Paterson) has recently visited the area I do not need to emphasize this point. The report also states -
One station owner and manager expressed the opinion that the whole of the Victoria River country was, generally speaking, good sheep country. He estimated that with railway facilities the country would carry from 20,000,000 to 30,000,000 sheep easily and a great number of big stock as well.
Time has proved the soundness of those conclusions, but the area is still too remote for sheep. However, it still needs to be emphasized that the construction of a railway from the north to the south will not solve all the problems of the situation. Mr. Wells also said in the course of his evidence -
With facilities for transit, this country, in addition to cattle which at present depasture on it to the extent of from three to four hundred thousand head, is highly suitable for sheep raising and, if fenced and improved, would carry several millions.
In a special report over the signature of Mr. Combes, I find the following paragraph, which is most interesting and to the point: -
In any case this commission is charged to report on the routes of railways “ in their relation to the development of the Northern Territory, not defence “, and the writer is in agreement with Mr. D. J. Gordon, of South Australia, who, in evidence, told the commission -
Q.4G1. We should, in expending public money, be more concerned in building our railways mainly for developmental purposes than to meet any imaginary military necessity.
In my opinion the Government would be well advised to make provision for northern ports to which cattle from the “Northern Territory could be sent for shipment. It is useless for us to expect to transport cattle 2,000 miles by railway and get them to market in good condition. It would be far better to provide facilities for them to be sent to Wyndham, as the honorable member for Kalgoorlie has suggested.
Dealing now for a moment with the proposed railway, I urge the Government to take steps to have a trial survey made to be followed by a detailed survey. Diesel-engined locomotives could be used on the line and oil supplies could, if necessary, be obtained from Borneo, which is comparatively near Wyndham. I understand that 1,400 tons of oil from Borneo are used every year at the Wyndham Meat Works. If the Government did not desire to import oil from Borneo, it could provide for supplies to be made available from Persian sources through th<3 Commonwealth Oil Refineries. The railway advocated by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie would be valuable for defence purposes, but it would be far more valuable now to the people in that remote territory who, with reason, have in the past felt themselves to be both deserted and disinherited.
– The provision of transport facilities to encourage the development of the cattle industry in northern Australia, is of immense interest and concern to Australia. I have visited the Wyndham Meat Works and I realize that the present position is quite unsatisfactory. The works, so far as I could gather, were well managed, but the percentage of cattle which reached Wyndham in suitable condition for killing was relatively small. In fact by the time the cattle had been brought by the drovers over hundreds of miles of country, they were, in many cases, more like trained bovine athletes than fat stock. A comparatively small proportion of each mab was in a sufficiently good condition to be chilled, owing to bruising and other detrimental effects of long travelling. The percentage that could be converted into frozen meat was considerably larger. The balance of the output of the works was treated as boneless meat. One cannot regard as wholly satisfactory the future outlook of the cattle industry there under those conditions. Nevertheless, when a proposition is put up for the construction of a 200- mile railway from Wyndham, through part of the country of Western Australia immediately south of that town, and across the border into the territory, one cannot forget the immense costs that would be involved. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green) pointed out, quite rightly, that one could never hope that a railway in that district’ could be a thoroughly sound paying proposition. Indeed, one could not expect railways in such a locality to pay; but one cannot overlook the extent of the loss which would be involved. When this matter was first placed before me, I communicated with the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner and asked for a rough estimate to be furnished of the cost of constructing 200 miles of railway from Wyndham to the Wave Hill and the Victoria River Downs district. The estimate was required for a 3-ft. 6-in. gauge railway of light construction, suitable for the conveyance of cattle at a speed of approximately 20 miles an hour. A railway of that type would be all that would be required. The Commissioner replied as follows: -
It will be appreciated that, without a survey of the route, it is not possible to submit a firm estimate, but the approximation given hereunder will, no doubt, serve for present requirements.
To connect Wave Hill and Victoria River Downs homesteads by rail with Wyndham would involve somewhat more than 200 miles of railway construction, but it would be possible to fix a terminal point not exceeding 200 miles, which would be within reasonable range of the two properties for cattle trucking requirements, and the estimate has been compiled on this basis.
The route would probably cross the Ord River at about 50 miles from Wyndham, where the river bed is about 20 chains wide. It would follow up the eastern side of the valley of that river through Argyle Downs Station, crossing into the Northern Territory at about 150 miles and terminating at a point to be selected in the Wave Hill-Victoria River region, not more than 200 miles from Wyndham. The approximate cost would be as under : -
I admit that if a railway of the nature recommended were built, the number of cattle treated at the Wyndham works would increase, but on a basis of the present 30,000 cattle treated annually, the capital cost would be about £52 a head of cattle handled, which would be an immense burden to place on any industry. On a 4 per cent. basis, the interest on £1,555,000, spread over 30,000 head of cattle, would be £2 a head, and if only two-thirds of that number of cattle were travelled on the railway, the interest would be equivalent to £3 a head.
– Several times that number of cattle would be travelled.
– The figures probably would grow, but one would have to be very sure of one’s ground before embarking on a scheme of the nature envisaged in the motion, as it would impose an immense overhead burden on a comparatively small cattle industry.
Interest is being aroused in the Northern Territory in a new type of internal combustion engine, driven by producer gas. This engine, I believe, is a British product, and will, it is claimed, reduce the cost of transport to a small fraction of thecost of petrol-driven engines, and even to a small fraction of the cost of crude-oil engines. I hope that something will come of that. Tentative arrangements have been made for a trial to be made of a transport vehicle of this type in Canberra at an early date. I concede that the honorable members who have raised this matter are justified in entertaining some scepticism regarding the possibility of using road vehicles successfully in the transport of huge numbers of cattle, but I point out that in other parts of the world, particularly in Argentina, where the roads are much better than they are in the Northern Territory, road transport is used to a great extent.
Another aspect of this matter which is worthy of consideration is that, within 50 or 60 miles of. Wyndham, there is a stretch of country which appears to me and to those who have had more experience of northern Australian land matters than I have had, to be suitable for development as a cattle fattening area. On two sides of the river Ord there exists a stretch of land which appears to be eminently suitable for irrigation purposes. In this locality there is a stretch of beautifully fresh water about six miles long and up to 300 yards wide which, with my knowledge of Victorian conditions, appears to lend itself to the possibility of such irrigation as would permit of splendid crops being grown. I realize, of course, that that is possibly looking at the matter with a very long vision, but I feel that at some time in the more or less distant future those areas must be developed in this way. If a species of lucerne, able to withstand the hot climate of the Northern Territory, were grown with the help of water from the river Ord in a locality within 50 or 60 miles of the Wyndham Meat Works it would not matter if the cattle had to be brought in from the Northern Territory by road, because, before being taken to the works for slaughter, they could recover their condition in the paddocks to which I have referred. I was assured that the amount of land suitable for irrigation on the side of the river from which I viewed it was at least 100 square miles. That would indeed be a substantial lucerne paddock. On this matter I spoke to the Minister for Agriculture in Western Australia and he agreed that something could be done. The honorable gentleman promised to send me a letter setting out what the Government of Western Australia proposed to do in the way of conducting experimental plots in that area. I have heard nothing further from him yet, but I still hope to receive a communication from him. Whilst I cannot encourage honorable members to hope for the immediate construction of a 200 mile railway at Wyndham, I can assure them that the Government is alive to the necessity to improve the transport conditions of the cattle industry in North Australia as soon as a sound and reasonable economical way of dealing with the situation can be found. I do not think that honorable members would ask for more.
– What has the Minister to say with regard to the construction of all-weather roads?
– That is a point which deserves a lot of consideration. Roads might be a satisfactory solution of the difficulties if producer gas driven road vehicles can be successfully constructed and cheaply operated.
Question resolved in the negative.
Motion to Disallow
– I move -
That Northern Territory Ordinance No. 11 of 1935 be disallowed.
During this session, an ordinance, No. 11 of 1935, published in the Commonwealth Gazette, of the 1st August, 1935, has been laid on the table of this House, and, unless disallowed by this House, it will inflict hardship on certain members of my constituency. The citation of the ordinance reads -
To vest certain roads in the Road Board for the road district of Bagot, and for other purposes.
The roads in question are those situated within a radius of 20 miles from the town of Darwin, but of course they do not include the roads within that town, which are under the control of the Municipal Council. I have no objection to offer to the roads being vested in the Bagot Road Board, but I do strongly and emphatically object to such vesting being made retrospective. Honorable members will, I feel sure, agree with me that retrospective legislation, by act of Parliament and especially by ordinance, should at all times be discouraged. Usually it is abhorrent in principle, and unjust in application. At times, on occasions of national emergency it may be necessary to legislate retrospectively, but on any other occasion it is a negation of democracy. In no circumstances I submit, should penal legislation be made retrospective, or should the people be deprived of an accrued constitutional right. A perusal of the ordinance will reveal that -
It is ordained that all roads covered by the ordinance shall be deemed to be, and at all times since the thirteenth day of June, one thousand nine hundred and eighteen shall have been, vested in the Road Board of the road district of Bagot.
As stated in my opening remarks, I have no objection to the roads now being vested in the board, but I do object to such vesting being made retrospective for seventeen years; that is to say,, the retrospectivity has been made to the date when the board was first created. Many retrospective pieces of legislation have been put forward in Australia, but I do not know of one which has dated back seventeen years. I am tempted to feel that this method of legislating is a good thing, as it might enable the Minister for Innocence - I mean the Interior - not only to remedy the difficulties of a lady from Lahore, who has been excluded in defiance of the intention of the Immigration Act, but also, to remedy a lot of injustices which have been perpetrated by regulation against the intention of the Constitution. However, this case is so flagrant that I cannot agree with the amazing methods adopted on this occasion.
Honorable members will agree with me that if a business man or a business organization makes an error in his or its conduct of affairs, he or it, as the case may be, must put up with the consequences, legal or otherwise. I submit that the same principle should apply in this case, for it was the duty of the persons who have from time to time constituted the board to have ascertained and made certain of their powers. The powers of this board have been challenged by my constituents throughout its existence, and many of them have refused to pay rates, on the ground that no service was rendered, and that the constitution of the board was illegal.
My constituents have protested against the making of the ordinance retrospective, because it would penalize them, in that it is ordained by the ordinance that the board shall have power to do the things which my complainants have so far successfully resisted. They claim that rates have been illegally levied, and illegal action threatened to obtain payment of those rates illegally charged. I must confess that I am intrigued with the wording of the citation of the ordinance. “With the words “ to vest certain roads in the Road Board for the Road District of Bagot”, I have no quarrel, but with regard to the words “ and for other purposes “ I join with my constituents, for I can find no other purposes, outside the vesting of the roads in the board, than that of making the board’s operations retrospective over a period of seventeen years. It must be known to the department, as my constituents inform me, that some of the members of the present board have been illegally appointed, that is to say, they have not the requisite qualifications for appointment as members of the board. As propertyowners to whom the ordinance is directed, they claim that it is most unfair that people who are not qualified to be members of the board should be members of it, as I am informed is the case, and be imposing on them certain obligations which they themselves are under no liability to meet, and that they should be appropriating and expending funds to which they have contributed nothing.
For the information of honorable members, I might state that the members of the board are nominees appointed by, or on the recommendation of, the Government. The ratepayers have no say in the selection of the nominees, nor are they consulted regarding their choice. Actually, the board is a semi-government body, as it is dependent on government aid to perform its works. Further, its secretary, as provided ‘by the Roads Ordinance, is a government official, whose salary is paid from the funds of the board, that is to say, from the rates paid by the ratepayers. I do not wish this House to think that I am defending those who refuse to pay rates for social services. Most of the lands dealt with by the ordinance are in a state of nature. The blocks average 320 acres, and a bush track winds its way through the area. Little or no road work has been done in the area; the only road constructed has been to give Darwin town residents access to golf links.
The scene is changing to-day, however, because Darwin has become an air and military base, but the Bagot Road Board, by threats of forced sale and actual forfeiture, has- deprived the original holders of their land. The land speculator operated at the sale because money is now to be spent on improvements. My information is that seven blocks of 320 acres each, in close proximity to Darwin, were sold for a total of £17 10s., because the original lessees were harassed by the board, and had to sell. I have said enough to explain the position. The Bagot Road Board failed in its duty by allowing this land to be given away in such a manner. “Now with regard to legislation by ordinance and regulation in general : Lord Chief Justice Hewart was years ago impelled to say that the people’s liberties are being filched by means of regulations left open to bureaucratic interpretation. I submit that this is a danger against which there is a need for constant watchfulness in Australia. Northern Territory legislation, however, suffers under still further disabilities. Its merits or demerits are never even discussed in Parliament. The territory is governed by ordinances, implemented by regulations, and I hope that before long they will be discussed. The member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) recently expressed in this chamber his indignation that legislation dealing with our outlying territories is rarely made known, let alone discussed in this House, and I commend him for his outspokenness.
I am fortified by the action taken by the members of the Senate during last year in regard to retrospective legislation. On that occasion, they proved that they were in sympathy with the democratic outlook of Australia, and were keenly watching the rights of the people where an injustice might be done, or where hasty legislation would leave the people at the mercy of bureaucratically-framed ordinances. On no account should retrospective legislation interfere with the people’s accrued rights.
This House, which is forced through a programme of legislation too long to handle in the time, like sheep through a flooded creek, is continually used as a shield for bureaucrats. If we are not careful, we shall, in a few years, kill the democratic system which elects us, and makes the British system of government possible.
I do not suggest that the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Paterson) is endeavouring to deceive this House, but I do suggest that some officer in Darwin has not informed the Minister of the facts, and has clothed the real intention of the ordinance under the words “ and for other purposes “. The Minister should see the real danger of retrospective legislation, and some of his recent experiences should warn him to be careful of too readily taking the advice of his junior officers, even though they may achieve glamour by living 3,000 miles from Canberra, which is not as far away as Lahore.
I repeat the claims of my constituents that the ordinance as promulgated is grossly unjust, and is in defiance of democratic principles. Because it is retrospective, it is objectionable both in’ principle and in equity. I say, emphatically, that it should be disallowed by the House. This is the first occasion since a member for the Northern Territory entered the House in 1922, that he has had a chance to vote on any measure in this Parliament. No better occasion could have arisen, and this ordinance shows what can happen when there is no parliamentary supervision of the making of law?.
.- I second the motion. I believe that the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain) should be given the Tight to test the House on this matter. There is much in the argument that it is undesirable to make legislation retrospective, particularly legislation which imposes taxation. This point of view was, I remember, expressed very strongly some years ago by present members of the Government when they were in Opposition.
– But it is not proposed to do that.
– The honorable member for the Northern Territory said that the ordinance affected the collection of rates by a road board, and that the purpose of the regulation was to make legal something which was previously illegal. If the regulation be not disallowed, the board may be given power to collect rates previously imposed, but not up till now collected, because its legal power was in question. I think that the honorable member has made out a prima facie case sufficient to justify an inquiry into the authority of the board, and the legality of its action.
– I can understand the desire of the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain) to exercise his newly-won vote, but I cannot agree with his statement that the ordinance is wrong in principle or in equity. The remarks of the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) were based on the misapprehension of the honorable member for the Northern Territory that the ordinance proposes to permit the retrospective collection of rates which the board would otherwise not have power to collect. That belief is based upon the false assumption that the purpose of the ordinance is to validate the collection of rates by the Road Board. As a matter of fact, the board has always had the right to collect rates, and the purpose of the ordinance is merely to validate the expenditure on certain roads of the money so collected. I cannot see how any good would be achieved by preventing that validation.
Northern Territory Ordinance No. 11, of 1935, the subject of the honorable member’s motion of disallowance, is named the Bagot Road Board (Vesting of Roads) Ordinance 1935, and is incorporated and read as one with the Roads Ordinance 1915-1934. In 1915, as the only machinery existing at the time for the creation, control, &c, of roads in the Northern Territory was the Roads Act 1884 of South Australia, an ordinance was passed relating to the construction, repair and maintenance of roads in the Northern Territory. This ordinance was called the Roads Ordinance 1915, and commenced on the 1st December, 1915. This ordinance provides for the proclamation by the Governor-General of areas in the Northern Territory, outside areas vested in any district council, as road districts, and the appointment by the Administrator of a road board in respect of any road district consisting of not less than three, nor more than seven persons, who are occupiers or owners within the road district.
Section 9 of the Roads Ordinance 1915 provides as follows: -
A road board is required to make, repair and maintain in good repair, so far as its revenue will enable it so to do, all roads in its road district, and for such purposes may enter into contracts, &c. A road board, for revenue purposes, is empowered to make an assessment of the unimproved capital value of all land within its district, and in each year may levy a rate, not exceeding 6d. for each £1 of unimproved capital value, on all rateable property in the district.
On the 10th April, 1918, the Bagot Road District was proclaimed. This road district comprised all lands in the Hundred of Bagot outside the Town of Darwin, and on the 13th June, 1918, the road board for the district was appointed. Since its creation, the Bagot Road Board has collected rates in pursuance of the Roads Ordinance, and has expended such moneys on the making, repairing and maintenance of roads within the road district.
In 1934, certain lands in the Hundred of Bagot were acquired for the purposes of the Darwin aerodrome, and as it was necessary to close the roads adjoining those lands, the question arose as to whether any action by the Bagot Road Board was required. When this matter was being investigated, it was discovered that no declaration by the Administrator of the day, placing the roads in the Bagot Road district under the control of the Bagot Road Board, as required by section 9 of the Roads Ordinance 1915, previously quoted, had been made. In consequence of this omission, it appeared that the Bagot Road Board, since its creation in 1918, had been without complete authority to expend moneys properly collected by it on the maintenance and repairs of roads in its district, and in order to clarify the position the ordinance now objected to was gazetted. This ordinance, No. 11 of 1935, rectifies the original omission by vesting all roads, &c, within the Bagot Road District, in the road board and validates the action taken by the road board to expend its revenue on the roads within its district, since the date it was created, namely, the 13th June, 1918. Whilst it is considered that the assessment of the unimproved capital value of all land within the road district and the levying and collection of rates in respect of such land have been quite legal, the validating clause in ordinance, No. 11 of 1935, has been made sufficiently wide to cover every possible contingency. No ratepayer under the Roads Ordinance 1915 has suffered, nor will suffer any disability through the framing of ordinance No. 11 of 1935, and the only effect of the disallowance of that ordinance, if the Government agreed to same, would be to make all expenditure by the road board to date on the repair and maintenance of roads, &c, within the road district unauthorized. I do not think that the honorable member himself would wish to bring about such a position as that. No harm will be done to anybody; no ratepayer has suffered, or will suffer. I have already emphasized that the validity of the collection of these taxes does not arise, yet that is the basis upon which the honorable gentleman has made his claim. The only issue arising here is whether this board has the right to apply those moneys, which were legally collected, towards the repair and construction of those roads, and it was with the object of clarifying that position that this regulation was framed. In view of these facts, I hope that the honorable member will not persist with his motion for the disallowance of this regulation.
Question resolved in the negative.
– The question has already been resolved. There was only one voice raised in the affirmative, and it was not the voice of the honorable member.
Debate resumed from the 24th September (vide page 501), on motion by Mr. Abbott -
That this House declares that closer settlement oi the good lands of the Northern Territory is of urgent national importance, and requests the Government to open a port in the Gulf of Carpentaria, which would he available for all classes of shipping.
– My main purpose in taking part in this debate is to place in its proper perspective the position of certain people, some of whom reside in the electorate which I represent, and have lessee interests in the Northern Territory, because their reputations have been prejudiced by the remarks of certain honorable members in this House. I do not pretend to speak with any authority on the Northern Territory. I have not had the privilege of visiting that part of Australia. I have gathered all my information concerning it from what I have read about it, and from discussions with honorable members who have a first-hand knowledge of the territory. I prefer, therefore, to leave the consideration of the merits of the motion moved by the honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Abbott) to those honorable members who can speak with authority concerning the territory and can best examine proposals for the development of that very important part of Australia. In speaking, as I have already indicated, with the object of safeguarding the interests of certain persons who have lessee rights in the Northern Territory, I point out that . I have no great personal knowledge of them, except that several of them, including Mr. J. P. Holloway, managingdirector of the Peel River Land and Mineral Company Limited, and Mr. James “White, of the Barkly Tableland Co-operative Development Company Limited, reside in the electorate which I represent, the former at Tamworth, and the latter at Muswellbrook. I have not met any other people who have lessee rights in the territory and, therefore, all of the information which I propose to place before the House has been obtained on behalf of the two gentlemen whose names I have mentioned.
I should like to remind honorable members that some time ago, within the last two years, a considerable amount of space was devoted by the press of Australia to a proposal that a chartered company should develop the Northern Territory. I recall that an important newspaper in Sydney devoted nearly a full page to the details of this proposition, the requirements of the company for the development of the Barkly Tableland, and the conditions that were to be imposed by the Federal Government upon the lessees collectively, or upon any single group that might be formed subsequently. There has not been a great deal of attention devoted to this proposal in this House, apart from the motion submitted by the honorable member for Gwydir, and various statements made from time to time by the honorable member for the Northern Territory. I do not think I am exaggerating, however, when I say that the general tenor of the comments made by the press concerning this company has been unfavorable. It has been assumed that this is an attempt to revive an historic anomaly, something in the nature of the old East India Company, or the Hudson Bay Company, and, in short, represents a proposition that smacks of economic slavery for the people who would come under its control. The opinion waa widely expressed by press commentators that this proposition was a retrograde move and would not be tolerated in the political life of Australia. I have not given any great thought to any proposal that a chartered company should be allowed to develop any part of Australia, because, in my opinion, it is utterly impossible to get this Parliament, or any State parliament, or any substantial section of the people, to endorse the principle of a chartered company. I am not concerned in this instance, therefore, in advocating the claims of a chartered company. I repeat that it is impossible to carry out such a proposal to-day in this or any British country. From my knowledge of the history of chartered companies, and, allowing for their merits, I would not be prepared to support such a proposal. But when a number of estimable people, who have sunk a lot of money in the Northern Territory, and have rights as lessees and as potential exploiters of the territory, are misrepresented in the eyes of the public of Australia and are classified, as it were, as a lot of “ go-getters “ and adventurers who want to get away with something inimical to the interests of Australia - in short, to filch one of the best parts of Australia from the control of the people and use it for their own purposes, I believe it to be my duty as a member of this Parliament to bring before this House information which will safeguard those people from such misrepresentation. I have not gone out of my way in any direction to confer with these people ; they approached me as their representative in this Parliament. From the information which they have supplied to me, it would appear that those interested in the Barkly Tableland Co-operative Development Company Limited, were being misrepresented by some honorable members in this House and by certain people outside of this chamber, as “ go-getters “ and selfish persons whose interests were in conflict with the interests of the people generally. They put their case before me as their nearest federal parliamentary representative. Mr. Holloway sought me out and said that he was very anxious that the real facts of the case should be placed before Parliament, and in discussing this matter at this juncture, I am simply carrying out a promise that I would put those facts before honorable members. It was only because of my position as a member of this Parliament that I evinced any interest in the subject, and, agreeing to do so, I stipulated that, unless the information supplied to me was above suspicion, I would have nothing at all to do with the business. Mr. Holloway said that he would supply me with facts in regard to the proposal that a chartered company should develop the Barkly Tableland. The most important point in regard to it is that he and his colleagues did not make such a proposal; they say that it emanated from the Commonwealth Government. A definite and continuous misconception has arisen that these men came to Canberra and worried the Government to give them a charter over a valuable portion of the Northern Territory, and to guarantee a loan of £1,000,000. All that happened is that these men were invited by the Government to confer with the spokesmen of the Ministry as to the best method to adopt in developing the territory, particularly the Barkly Tableland. The proposal for the establishment of meat works at Vanderlin Island, the granting of leasehold rights for 60 years and a loan of £1,000,000, guaranteed by the Commonwealth, resulted from the anxiety of the Government to get into touch with these men who had had first-hand and long experience of the territory. A letter has been sent to me by Mr. Holloway, manager of the Peel River Land and Mineral Company Limited, who is now chairman of the Barkly Tableland Cooperative Development Company Limited. He resides in my electorate and has asked me to place these facts before the Parliament. He writes -
I now enclose a copy of the notes taken by the secretary of the Northern Territory Pastoral Lessees Association, Mr. J. W. Allen, who was present when a deputation from the association waited on the Prime Minister at Canberra, on Ctb October, 1933.
From these notes you will see that the proposal to form a chartered company, or companies, to work the whole or portion of the Northern Territory emanated from members of the Federal Cabinet.
It was subsequently decided by a number of lessees on the Barkly Tablelands to try to form a co-operative development company to work that area; speaking from memory, I think about 125,000 square miles.
Following on the deputation to the Prime Minister on 6th October, 1933, we had conferences with the .Hon. John Gunn, as well as with the Eight Hon. Sir George F. Pearce and Senator the Hon. A. J. McLachlan. Later on, the Government sent a party of Government officials up to the Northern Territory, and on to Vanderlin Island, in order to inquire into the whole scheme. This party consisted of the following: - Messrs. Stokes (engineer), Bevan (Meat Works expert), whittit (agristologist), and Commander Bennett, R.N. (reporting on river and waterfront for shipping)
I understand the report of these people was generally favorable to the whole scheme.
However, what I specially desire to point out is the fact that the proposal to form a chartered company originated in the first place amongst the members of the Cabinet, and whilst we, who have been associated with the proposal were, and still are, most anxious that the scheme, or something similar, should be inaugurated, we did not attempt in any way, at any time, to induce members of Parliament to do anything that would not bear the full light of day or stand public discussion. Furthermore, at no time did we discuss the appointment of Mr. Abbott or any other person as being suitable for the position of administrator.
As I mentioned to you when discussing the subject at Murrurundi, I want you to be in possession of the facts relating to the inception of the proposed company, because Mr. Blain’s utterances, when speaking on the subject of Mr. Abbott’s appointment, must convey the impression that we were trying to “ engineer “ the matter. Such a suggestion as he made is unfair to Mr. Abbott and equally unfair and untrue as regards those of us who are trying to evolve a scheme to develop this large area of valuable but, at present, waste land.
That is the only proposal for the development of the territory that has been placed before us for a considerable period. It is most necessary that the Government and the Parliament should give encouragement to those who have big interests in the territory, and have sunk much capital there. As far as I am aware, they have not made sufficient profits to justify them in pouring out their money as they have done in the past.
It is unfortunate that the whole proposal has been accompanied by a sinister suggestion of corruption. When it is suggested that these men are large landholders who speak and spend in millions, and are necessarily considering only their private, selfish interests, having no concern for the interests of the nation, an unfavorable impression is made on the mind of the public, and it becomes dimcult to focus public attention upon the need for the development of Northern Australia in the right way. Parliament reflects the opinions of the people, and, unless the people can be induced to take a serious view of this problem, it will be difficult to have the matter dealt with satisfactorily by the Parliament. A number of men who have bought their experience dearly have come forward with a concrete proposal. It should not be suggested that they are merely “ go-getters “. They should be given every encouragement to remain in the territory and develop it. I have a further statement indicating the policy of this group of men. It is from Mr. J. W. Allen, general secretary of the New South Wales Graziers Association, who is an authority on all pastoral and agricultural problems. He states -
The lessees are certainly not in a position with their limited resources to finance the developmental scheme which has been put forward to provide an outlet market for cattle from the Barkly Tableland area, and seeing that most of the contemplated expenditure would be in the direction of providing road and river transport, harbour facilities and moat works, which would be Government assets, it does not appear unreasonable that the necessary finance should be made available by the Government by way of loan. The proposed company is not a company of a usual kind, but is one to embrace all pastoral lessees within a certain area, the objective of which is to develop a large “portion of the Northern Territory which is held on leasehold tenure. The transport facilities, which it is suggested to provide, represent facilities such as have been provided by the governments of the various States, and should, therefore, not be regarded as works which should be a charge upon lessees, but the proposal, nevertheless, provides that the money advanced by way of loan should ultimately be repaid by the company, and this should represent some offset to the exceptional nature of the advance which the Government has been asked to make.
I shall not traverse the ground covered by the honorable member for Gwydir who deal fully with the actual proposals of this company for the development of the. Barkly Tableland on the basis of the establishment of meat works at Vanderlin Island. This scheme involves the expenditure of at least £1,000,000 for roads and harbour facilities. The company estimates, and its conclusions are supported by the party of experts sent to the territory by, the Government, that it would require immediately the expenditure of £1,000,000 to carry out the big developmental scheme necessary to ensure the production of a large supply of first-class cattle for a period of 60 years. This is an important proposal in view of the fact that the Northern Territory has been more or less a white elephant for many years. I think that the Government is making a mistake in throwing a wet blanket on this or any similar proposal. The lessees concerned say that they will be at a dead end, unless the Government is prepared to adopt a forward movement by providing the necessary financial support. They have submitted a schedule of works endorsed by experts. They say that they have lost their own money, and now consider that, the Government should show its faith in the territory. The requisite loan of £1,000,000 would be secured on the assets of lessees or by a government guarantee.
Mr. Holloway states that the money can be obtained in London, provided that the repayment of the interest is guaranteed by the Commonwealth Government. The Minister’s reply to that suggestion was that it was unthinkable that the Commonwealth Government should guarantee such a large amount of money to a private concern. This, however, is not exactly a private concern. It would become practically a public concern under such conditions for it would be charged with the responsibility to develop, over a period of 60 years, a vast tract of country which is not being developed at present. If the proposition failed, the Commonwealth Government would lose the money it had expended, but the company would also lose all that it had put into the project. The Government is actually being asked to share the risk, and as it has not available the experts and staff necessary to develop the Northern Territory, it should be prepared to consider this perfectly sound proposition. If an agreement were reached on the subject, it could be incorporated in an act of Parliament. I do not agree with the view of the Minister, that the Government should “ fight shy “ of this proposition. Seeing that we have a public debt of £1,300,000,000, the addition of another paltry £1,000,000 should not cause us undue concern in view of the vast issues involved. It has been denied that the proposal is to establish a chartered company. All that is desired is a certain amount of co-operation. As this project has been endorsed by the Government’s committee of experts in the territory, I suggest that the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Paterson) be authorized to negotiate with the persons concerned, for they have undoubtedly proved their bona fides and are earnestly desirous to develop the Northern Territory.
Debate (on motion by Sir Archdale Parkhill) adjourned.
The following bills were returned from the Senate without requests or amendment -
Customs Tariff (No. 2) 1936.
Customs Tariff (Exchange Adjustment) Bill (No. 2) 1936.
Customs Tariff (Canadian Preference) (No. 2) 1936.
Customs Tariff (No. 3) 1936.
Customs Tariff (Exchange Adjustment) Bill (No. 3) 1936.
In Committee of Ways and Means:
Motion (by Mr. Thorby) agreed to -
That Colonial light dues at the rate of one penny per ton of her register tonnage shall be imposed, with respect to each voyage of a ship, British or foreign, which is at any port, harbour or place in Australia, and which, in the course of any voyage, has passed and derived benefit from any of the following lighthouses or from the following buoy, namely: -
Cay Lobos .
Great Stirrup Cay
Matanilla Shoal; and in respect of which benefit the Collector is not satisfied that Colonial light dues have already been paid in some part of His Majesty’s dominions.
Sombrero Island; and in respect of which benefit the Collector is not satisfied that Colonial light dues have already been paid in some part of His Majesty’s dominions.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Thorby and Mr. Menzies do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill brought up by Mr. Thorby and read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read, a second time.
On the Bahamas and Leeward Islands, forming the eastward fringe of the “West Indian groups of islands, the Government of the United Kingdom has, at its own expense, provided and maintained twelve lighthouses, together with a lighted buoy, for the benefit of passing ships in the navigation of the narrow coral-strewn channels intersecting the islands and reefs.
Under section 670 of the Merchant Shipping Act, provision is made that where the British Government has erected any lighthouse or other aid to navigation on or near the coasts of any British possession, light dues may be imposed on ships passing and receiving benefit therefrom. These dues are leviable throughout the Empire.
In compliance with a request by the Government of the United Kingdom for the co-operation of the Commonwealth in the collection at Australian ports of light dues in respect of ships which, in tho course of their voyages to or from Australia, via Panama, pass and receive benefit from such lighthouses and the lighted buoy in the “West Indies, the Colonial Light Dues (Rates) Act, fixing the rates at which dues were payable was passed in 1932. Since then light dues at such specified rates have been collected on behalf of the United Kingdom Government and remitted quarterly to the British Board of Trade, less 5 per centcommission to cover cost of collection.
The Colonial Light Dues (Rates) Act 1932 is made, by section 3 (1) thereof, to apply to every ship, British or foreign, in any port harbour or place in Australia, which, in the course of any voyage to or from Australia, has passed and derived benefit from any lighthouse or from the buoy specified in the schedule to the act.
In three recent instances vessels which passed and derived benefit from the Bahamas lights were, at the time, bound for ports on the west coast of North America, from whence they subsequently came to Australia. In each case, it was claimed that the voyage on which the ship was engaged at the time it passed the lights was a separate voyage which ended with the discharge, at ports on the west coast of America, of the cargo it had on board ; that on the vessel taking aboard there an entirely new shipment of cargo for Australian ports, it entered upon a. new voyage, and that, as a consequence, the vessel, when it passed the Bahamas lights was not on a voyage “ to or from Australia “, and was, therefore, not liable for the payment of colonial light dues.
The Commonwealth Government, in the collection of colonial light dues, acts solely as the agent of the British Government. The Board of Trade, London, was therefore advised of the nature of the claims made on behalf of the threevessels concerned and, after conferring; with its solicitor, who took the view that the voyage of a ship rather than that of its cargo, was the relevant factor for consideration, and suggested that, to avoid future contention, and to bring the Commonwealth legislation into line with the intention of the British Legislature as expressed in section 670 of the Merchant Shipping Act, steps be taken to remove the words “ to or from Australia “ from the ‘Commonwealth statutes.
The Solicitor-General for the Commonwealth has also expressed the opinion that the only satisfactory way to overcome the difficulty is to amend the relevant Commonwealth acts in the direction suggested by the British Government. The bill now submitted for the amendment of the Colonial Light Dues (Rates) Act 1932 provides accordingly.
The words proposed to be added to subsection 1 of section 3 of the principal act by paragraph 6 of clause 3 are designed to ensure that demands for payment of dues are not made when evidence is produced that they have previously been paid at another port in any of His Majesty’s dominions.
Advantage is also being taken of the proposed amendment of this act to delete from the first part of the schedule the names and positions of two lighthouses in the Bahamas Islands, viz. : Gun Cay and Cay Sal, which have recently been discontinued.
The bill is purely a machinery measure involving no question of Commonwealth policy. It is designed for the express purpose of bringing our legislation into conformity with British legislation on a matter which is the concern of His Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time and passed through its remaining stageswithout amendment or debate.
Mr. MENZIES (Kooyong- Attorney-
General) [5.57]. - by leave - I move -
That I have leave to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Bankruptcy Act 1924-1933.
I desire that this motion be agreed to so that I may bring up the bill in order that it, together with the report of the committee of the Parliament on the matters involved, may be circulated and studied during the parliamentary recess.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 10 p.m.
The following bills were returned from the Senate without requests or amendment : -
Customs Tariff (Industries Preservation) Bill1936.
Sales Tax Amendment Bill 1936.
States Grants (Unemployment Belief) Bill 1936.
Trade Agreement (France) Bill 1936.
Customs Tariff (No. 4) 1936.
Customs Tariff (Exchange Adjustment) Bill (No. 4) 1936.
Papua and New Guinea Bounties Bill 1936. Customs Bill 1936.
Customs Tariff (Papua and New Guinea Preference) 1936.
Coinage Bill 1936.
Bill returned from the Senate with an amendment.
In committee (Consideration of Senate’s amendment) :
Clause 11 -
Section eighty-five of the principal act is repealed. . . .
Section proposed to be repealed -
The provisions of the Commonwealth Workmen’s Compensation Act 1912 shall apply in relation to any personal injury caused to an employee by accident arising out of and in the course of his employment on the railways in like manner as by accident arising out of and in the course of his employment to a workman in the service of the Commonwealth.
Senate’s amendment. -
Leave out the clause, insert the following new clause : - “11. Section eighty-five of the principal act is repealed and the following section inserted in its stead: -
The Commonwealth Employees Compensation Act 1930 shall apply to employees of the Commissioner as if they were employees within the meaning of that act.’.”
– I move -
That the amendment be agreed to.
Last night, when this bill was under consideration, the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) submitted that, under the existing law, Commonwealth railway employees were not entitled to statutory protection under the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act 1930. He contended that such protection was afforded to our railway employees only by regulation, which could be withdrawn by ministerial action. I assured the honorable gentleman that, if this were actually found to be the case, the Government would introduce an amendment of the bill in another place. On investigation, it was discovered that the honorable member’s contention was sufficiently well founded to justify such action. The amendment made by the Senate, therefore, gives Commonwealth railway employees statutory rights under the Commonwealth Railway Employees’ Compensation Act which cannot be withdrawn by ministerial action.
Motion agreed to.
Resolution reported; report adopted.
Bill, amended accordingly, returned to the Senate.
Mr. MENZIES (Kooyong- Attorney-
General). - I lay on the table -
Bankruptcy Committee - Report of the committee of Senators and of Membersof the House of Representatives appointed to examine certain proposals to amend the Bankruptcy Act 1924-1933. and move -
That the report be printed.
In doing so, I take the opportunity to thank the committee for the extremely valuable work it has done and the great assistance it has rendered the Government in connexion with the matters submitted to it. I wish particularly to associate with this expression of thanks a reference to the able work of the chairman, the late Sir Littleton Groom, who was in charge of the first bankruptcy bill to be passed through this Parliament. As chairman of this committee, he did invaluable work. The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn) has been good enough to assume the office of chairman of the committee and has dealt with further matters that have arisen.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill brought up by Mr. Menzies, and read a first time.
Sitting suspended from 10.12 p.m. to 12.12 a.m. (Friday).
Friday, 4 December
The following hills were returned from the Senate without amendment: -
Income Tax Assessment Bill (No. 2) 1936.
Petroleum Oil Search Bill (No. 2) 1936.
Colonial Light Dues Collection Bill 1936.
Colonial Light Dues (Rates) Bill 1936.
Public Works Committee Bill 1936.
Air Navigation Bill 1936.
Wine Overseas Marketing Bill 1936.
Treasurer’s Statements - AuditorGeneral’s Report.
Motion (by Mr. Casey) agreed to -
That the following paper laid on the table of the House this day be printed : -
Audit Act - Finance - Treasurer’s statement of receipts and expenditure for year ended 30th June, 1936, accompanied by the report of the Auditor-General.
Motion (by Mr. Lyons) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until a date and hour to bc fixed by Mr. Speaker, which time of meeting shall be notified by Mr. Speaker to each member by telegram or letter.
Motion (by Mr. Lyons) - by leave - agreed to -
That leave of absence be given to every member of the House of Representatives from the determination of this sitting of the House to the date of its next sitting.
– I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
Once again we reach the close of another year.
– But not the end of the session.
– Not yet; that will depend upon circumstances. I take this opportunity to express appreciation on behalf of members of the Government and members generally on this side of the House, first to you, Mr. Speaker, for the manner in which you have carried out the duties associated with your office. You have displayed marked ability and the utmost impartiality throughout the year. In this expression of thanks, I embrace the Chairman of Committees and all the officials of the House, including the Mansard staff and the attendants, all of whom have done their best to lighten the load that is imposed upon honorable members.
– What about the Whips ?
– We are deeply indebted to the Whips for always keeping us up to the mark. We appreciate their extraordinary ability and unfailing good humour. I wish also to thank members of the press gallery for what they have done on our behalf.
– For some of the prophecies that they have made?
-Although some of their prophecies have been slightly astray, generally speaking they have been fairly good. When we notice how often they are right, we must realize that it would be safer to follow them than some of the tipsters who advertise their qualifications in the newspapers that our friends of the gallery represent. These gentlemen have been very closely associated with us, and between them and us there is a personal contact that I am perfectly sure honorable members generally appreciate. That they have been of assistance to the Parliament, I think no one will deny. I also express the appreciation of my colleagues and myself, as well as honorable members generally on this side of the House, of the unfailing courtesy that has been displayed by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr.Curtin).
HonorableMembers. - Hear, hear!
– The Leader of the Opposition has maintained throughout his occupancy of that office the fine example set by his immediate predecessor and his earlier predecessors. He has brought to the discharge of his duties ability, dignity, tact and courtesy. In that we have been able to proceed satisfactorily with the business that has had to be dealt with from time to time, we have largely to thank the honorable gentleman and his colleagues. We greatly appreciate the reasonableness of the attitude he has adopted, while fighting with all the vigour at his command for the principles for which he stands I also thank members of my own party, as well as members of the Country party, for their fine spirit of loyalty and cooperation, which has enabled the Government to complete its programme for the year without undue loss of time. I wish you, Mr. Speaker, and all those to whom I have referred the happiest Christmas that they have known for many years, and hope that honorable members and the community generally throughout Australia will experience in 1937 a more prosperous year than has been their lot in the past.
Mr.CURTIN (Fremantle) [12.20 a.m.]. - I am very glad to be able to reciprocate the expressions that the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) has used towards my colleagues and myself. We have attempted to uphold the dignity of the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia and to enable it, in the discharge of its important duties, to set a standard in keeping with the traditions of the Parliament as they were conceived by those responsible for its establishment. I am indebted to you, Mr. Speaker, and to the Chairman of Committees, not only for the very able manner in which each of you has presided over our deliberations, but also for your courtesy and a good deal of consideration. I am also indebted to the clerks for the assistance which, freely and sometimes with great difficulty, they have given unstintingly. This applies also to the members of the Hansard staff, and to my friends who work in the Parliamentary Library.. They are always ready to go to any amount of trouble to enable me to collect facts that may better equip me tocontribute to the debates in this House. I wish well my old friends in the press gallery. I call them old friends because, when I parted with them, having regard to the circumstances, the parting was what I may describe as “ such sweet sorrow “. I was sorry to leave them because they are such a happy band; but, at the same time, I was glad, indeed, to be no longer associated with them, because I felt that there was another national institution in which I should like to play a part. They treat the Opposition in a way that may be described as fair, but critical. I feel certain that if newspapers were controlled in, shall I say, a more national conception of thefunctions of newspapers in Australia, our friends of the press gallery would be able to improve upon the very high standard that even now they display. The Parliament is about to disperse, and honorable members will be going to their own homes. I wish each one of them a merry Christmas and a happy New Year. I feel that every honorable member may be regarded by me as a friend, and most certainly as a colleague associated in a very big responsibility. As I look back upon the days that are past, I think of occasions when strong contests have occurred which have been marked by some degree of feeling. Such feeling is merely human inevitability and in no way affects the respect and friendship we have foreach other. I am glad that we part as friends and hope that we may meet again as such. Having regard to our conception of what we owe to our country, I trust that we shall have the mental and physical strength to do what is demanded of us.
.I join in the felicitations of the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin). Many years ago I took part in the performance of a Shakespearian drama. I remember clearly that one of the characters was required on that occasion to say -
Though he had bit me should have stood that night against my fire.
That passage may be aptly cited to-night. In the course of dealing with the business before the House, I have on occasions had disagreements with some honorable members opposite, but I feel sure that no malice is harboured in that regard. I have continually had to ask Ministers to do certain things in the interests of my constituents and while I think that they have tried to meet my requests to a considerable extent I feel that I owe a great deal to their private secretaries and to public servants generally for what has been achieved. Those are the persons to whom I give the credit, for, of course, I could not give any credit to the Government for anything. I wish to express thanks to the officers and attendants of the House. Those who are at the beck and call of honorable members do a great deal to make life easy and happy for us. I think, also, of the waiters in the dining rooms. There is a distinct tendency for their work to make us happy.
Parliament is about to enter a recess which will last, according to present plans, until next March. I feel it necessary, in the circumstances, to make some reference to the disquieting news that has been published in the newspapers today concerning certain events in Great Britain. What has appeared in the press so far, is sufficient with the information known to all honorable members to justify the belief that Britain and the British Commonwealth of Nations faces a very grave crisis. I think it is the duty of the Prime Minister to indicate to the House and to the country exactly what the position is and what attitude the Government proposes to adopt in regard to this very serious matter. I ask the Prime Minister whether the Ministry has been con sulted on any point in this matter by the British Government; whether it has been asked for a decision on any point; and whether it has made a decision on any point and what that decision is. I particularly ask the Prime Minister to say whether, in the event of certain advice tendered by the British Prime Minister on a certain matter, being rejected and the British Prime Minister resigning, will this Government be involved in any way in the action taken by the British Prime Minister?
I think that this Parliament, before it goes into recess, and also the country, are entitled to some official pronouncement by the Prime Minister. In the absence of any such statement, I strongly urge that Parliament should not adjourn until the Australian people know exactly where they stand in this matter.
. - The remarks of previous speakers suggest that the session is about to terminate, but I remind the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) that the Constitution provides that “ There shall be a session of the Parliament once at least in every year’’. Since the Parliament first met in Canberra there has been only one session during the life of each Parliament. I cannot allow this opportunity to pass without again registering my protest against the procedure which has been adopted for some years. When the Parliament met in Melbourne a session was held in each year, and the Parliament was opened by His Excellency the GovernorGeneral, who delivered a speech in which the policy of the Government was outlined. Moreover, I remind the House that the Government which was in power when the present session of Parliament was opened was not the present Government, and therefore the policy outlined in the Governor-General’s speech on that occasion is not the policy of this Government. A Governor-General’s speech gives, in broad outline, the legislation to be considered during a session of Parliament, which is of considerable benefit to honorable members. On numerous occasions I have asked the Government to revert to the constitutional procedure, and to hold a session each year. The Government is now in a position to prorogue Parliament within the next week or so, and when it re-assembles next year the Governor-General could deliver the customary opening speech.
In view of the disquieting rumours received in Canberra to-day concerning events of vital importance overseas, in which Australia is deeply interested, I appeal to the Prime Minister to allay our fears, if possible, and to state, so far as he is able, what has actually occurred.
– During the course of a very heated debate on the subject of the manufacture of motor cars in Australia, by way of interjection, I used a condemnatory phrase against a Canadian firm. It has been pointed out to me that that phrase is capable of a sinister interpretation. I regret if 1 unintentionally reflected in any way upon the integrity of that firm and its representatives, because, for many years, I have held it and its officials in the highest esteem.
– In answer to the question raised by the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Gander) as to whether information has been sought from the Government upon a certain subject, I may state definitely and emphatically that neither the British Government, nor any other authority, has asked the Government for an expression of opinion. At this stage I have no further announcement to make, but should I receive information while the House is in recess, which I am permitted to disclose, I shall make it public immediately.
– The right honorable gentleman has not received any communication.
– No. As soon as I am in a position to do so I shall make a pronouncement to the public.
At the present time, the intention of the Government is to prorogue Parliament at a future date, and terminate the session. It may be possible to do that before Parliament meets again. It is intended to hold a brief session in the early part of next year.
– Will that be February ?
– No, I think in March. It may be necessary to prorogue Parliament before the beginning of that session, or it may be prorogued immediately afterwards so that the new session will begin with the next meeting of Parliament, when the Government is submitting its policy, and particularly its budget, to Parliament. It is the definite intention of the Government to prorogue Parliament, and hold a new session.
I thank the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) for their expressions of the appreciation of the work I have done in the Chair. I cer- tainly have, with what ability . I can command, done my best, and I am pleased if I have satisfied honorable members generally. I wish sincerely to thank honorable members of all parties for the uniform courtesy they have extended to me, and for their co-operation with me in carrying on the work of the Parliament. I wish also to thank my deputy, the Chairman of Committees (Mr. Prowse),.
– And my deputies.
– And the Temporary Chairmen who, so far as I have been able to see when I have been in the chamber when the House is in committee, have always performed their duties in such a manner as to give satisfaction.
The expressions of appreciation of the work of the officers of the House have not been exaggerated. Probably, I know better than does any other honorable member, just how much we owe to the officers at the table. Were it not for their extraordinary ability, unfailing courtesy, and very great patience, the work of the House could not have been carried on so smoothly. The work of the other officers of the House, indeed, the whole of the parliamentary staffs, including members of the Hansard staff, as well as those who serve in the refreshment room, has been such as to deserve our gratitude. I am glad to be able to pay them this tribute, and, on their behalf, I thank honorable members for their expressions of appreciation, and for their good wishes for the Christmas season. I wish all honorable members a happy Christmas, and hope that, after the recess, they will come back with renewed vigour to undertake the work of the nation.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 12.40 a.m. (Friday) until a date and hour to be fixed by Mr. Speaker.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
on asked the Trea surer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable members’ questions are as follows : -
s asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether the Government proposes to take similar action to that proposed by the British Government to prevent British shipping carrying arms for the Spanish belligerents?
– In view of the fact that Australia is not an arms-exporting country, and that Australian shipping is largely coastal, the Government does not consider it necessary to take action similar to that proposed by the British Government to prevent British shipping carrying arms for the Spanish belligerents. The run of the ships on the Australian register is known to the Commonwealth Government, and if there is any evidence of diversion from normal running the matter will be further considered.
Mr. Claude de Bernales : Inquiry into Transactions.
n asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
-It is not the practice for the department to disclose particulars about the business of any person, firm, or company.
y asked the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice -
With reference to the request made to him by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports for the appointment of additional inspectors to police Arbitration Court awards governing clerical employment, will he state whether he has yet considered the matter, and, if so, with what result?
– The matter is still under consideration.
d asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
In connexion with the termination of the services of Mr. McCarthy, previously employed as a leading hand toolmaker at the munitions establishment, Maribyrnong, was a protest against, and a request for an inquiry into, his treatment prior to his resignation, made by the Returned Soldiers Association; if so, is it the intention of the department to grant the request foT an inquiry; if not, what are the reasons for refusing the request?
– Mr. McCarthy voluntarily resigned from employment at the ammunition factory in February, 1936. During his employment he contracted an illness which necessitated his removal to a position as fitter, and he was paid weekly compensation to maintain his rate as leading hand toolmaker. Subsequent to retirement at his own volition, he was paid a lump sum of compensation, determined by the Compensation Commissioner. The amount was £200. No protest was made nor official request for inquiry submitted by the Returned Soldiers Association in connexion with Mr. McCarthy’s treatment prior to resignation.
InfantileParalysis: Establishment of Clinic at Newcastle.
s asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
In view of Sister Kenny’s success in the treatment of infantile paralysis, and in order to assist the children of the Newcastle district so afflicted to receive this treatment,willthe Minister give early and favorable consideration to the establishment of a Sister Kenny clinic at Newcastle?
– The establishment of such a clinic is wholly a matter for the State Government. I understand that the question of establishing a clinic at Newcastle is now under consideration, but I shall bring the honorable member’s suggestion under the notice of the State Minister for Health.
l asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice - 1.Is it a fact thatas early as 1928 Japanesecrews on pearling luggers began to visit Bathurst Island? 2.Is it a fact that members of these crews consorted with native women, who contracted a disease in consequence?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Labour Government Delegations : Costs of Overseas Visits.
y. - On the11th November, the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. E. J. Harrison) asked me whether I could inform the House of the cost of overseas delegations -during the term of office of the Scullin Government. I am now in a position to furnish the following particulars -
The Rt. Hon. J. H. Scullin, M.P., the Hon. F. Brennan, MP., and Hon. P. J. Moloney, M.P., attended the Imperial Conference 1930. The Rt. Hon. J. H. Scullin, M.P., the Hon. F. Brennan, M.P., and Mr. P. E. Coleman, M.P., attended the League of Nations Assembly 1930.
The Hon. J. E. Fenton, M.P., attended the Naval Disarmament Conference, 1930.
Mr. V. E. Coleman, M.P., attended the International Labour Organization Conference, 1930, the meeting of the Mandates Commission, 1930, and made a special investigation of the organization of Australia House.
No Commonwealth Minister attended the League of Nations Assembly 1931, and no Government delegate was sent from Australia to the International Labour Conference 1931.
The foregoing expenditure includes that of the personnel’ accompanying the delegations, and, in the case of the League of Nations Assemblies and International Labour Conferences, the expenses of substitute, and employers’ and employees’ delegates; respectively.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 3 December 1936, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1936/19361203_reps_14_152/>.