14th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. G. J. Bell) toot. the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
Statements in Parliament: Opinion of Attorney-General.
Mr.FORDE (Capricornia) [10.30]. - I rise to address myself to a matter of privilege, and shall conclude with a motion. I take this course because the privileges of the members of this Parliament have been seriously threatened in a statement published in the press by the right honorable the Attorney-General (Mr. Menzies). That statement contains the threat that Court proceedings may be instituted against honorable members who exercise their right of freedom of speech in this Parliament. It was published in all the principal newspapers of Australia on Saturday last, the 11th September. In it, the right honorable gentleman is reported to have said -
Some drastic changes would have to be made in the law relating to parliamentary privilege. His own ideas, whichhad been forming themselves in his mind for years past, were that -
When a Member of Parliament made an offensive statement and subsequently withdrew it, the offensive statement should not be recorded in Hansard, and its publication in the press should be prohibited;
That where an offensive statement was made and upon challenge was not withdrawn, no parliamentary privilege should attach either to the making of the statement in Parliament or to its publication in the press.
That opinion was expressed not by any irresponsible member of this Parliament but by the Attorney-General of the Commonwealth. It purports to give expression to the ideas that he holds after the most mature consideration and years of thought. In my opinion, it constitutes a definite threat against the privilege of Parliament by a responsible Minister of the Crown. Furthermore, so long as that threat exists, some honorable members may feel that they will be under a cloud if they discharge what they consider is their duty, namely, to express themselves in Parliament on matters of grave importance to the people of Australia. This is a subject into which we should not introduce party political bias; it transcends party politics. We should be prepared to consider it quite apart from anything that happened in this House last week or in any of the preceding weeks in the history of this Parliament.
The statement of the right honorable gentleman is a reflection upon honorable members of this House, and consequently is an example of breach of privilege. It has caused grave concern not only to honorable members on all sides of this House, but also to some of the most important newspapers of Australia, which are conducted not by the Labour party but by friends of the Government. In to-day’s Canberra Times, the proprietor of which was a Nationalist member of the Legislative Council of New South Wales for many years, appears the followingcomment in a leading article: -
To enter politics and to have been connected with a scries of political blunders may be the unfortunate lot of any Cabinet Minister who finds himself bound to accept some of the blame for actions of his colleagues unless he resigns from the Cabinet. But the failure of Mr. Menzies to measure up to expectations does not proceed from that alone, but from the development of on attitude foreign to that expected of upholders ofBritish institutions. Within the last few days the public has had an admission of this from his own lips. He has declared his discontent with parliamentary privilege. This is not apparently a sudden decision, but one which has been formed in his mind for some time past. It is suggestive of the dictatorial mind, which is impatient of every bulwark of liberty of speech or of opinion. It is the chrysaloid stage of fascism - the stage at which fascist tendencies must be checked, lest they occasion actual public harm.
Probably the most important newspaper in Victoria - the Melbourne Age - in its editorial to-dayhas published the following
It is admitted that the privilege of Parliament with respect to freedom of speech if sometimes abused, but the whole issue goes deeper than the infrequent licence of a few members. Abolition of the privilege would inevitably lead to greater abuses of a much more serious nature, which would violate the r ights of democracy. Freedom of speech without fear of penalty in the form of fine or imprisonment is the priceless privilege that hasbeen fought for by those Englishmen who handed down to us our parliamentary institutions and our democratic system of government,
– Order ! The honorable member is now discussing the question as to whether or not there should be parliamentary privilege. As to whether or not there has been a breach of parliamentary privilege, is quite a different matter, and that can be debated.
– I contend that there has been a threat to interfere with the privilege of parliament. Not only the newspapers I have mentioned, but also the Melbourne Argus said so as follows -
To adopt the suggestions made by the Attorney-General would be a retrogressive measure which would strike a serious blow at the vitally necessary ‘ independence of Parliament.
The whole of this leading article is directed against what the newspaper regards as a threat by the Attorney-General. It points out that this freedom which is threatened is part of the warp and woof of the parliamentary structure, and that any attempt to interfere with it would open doors to much graver wrongs and injustices. It says that parliament is an institution the proceedings of which are judged by public opinion, and that there is no case on record in the history of the Commonwealth Parliament in which the victim of unjust charges had not been able to appeal to public opinion to obtain justice from it. That is considered reasoning by one of the leading newspapers of Australia, in an article the preamble to which contains the statement made by the AttorneyGeneral. The Sydney Daily Telegraph of the 13th September also referred to the statement of the right honorable gentleman. I make the following extract from its leading article : -
However, understandable as the reaction of Mr. Menzies may be, the privilege of unfettered speech in Parliament should not be lightly abandoned. It is rooted in our history as a right won by patriots to protect free discussion from the displeasure of despots.
– Order! It appears to the Chair that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition is discussing the question as to whether members of Parliament should be privileged in the statements that they make. Such a matter could rightly be discussed if a motion were moved “ That the privilege which now exists should be withdrawn”, but it cannot be raised when the issue is simply whether or not the privilege which now exists has been abused or has been threatened.
– I am keeping the matter absolutely free from party political ‘bias and I intend to move at the conclusion of my speech -
That this House affirms its adherence to the principle that freedom of speech and debates in Parliament is essential to a free legislature and a free people, and in no circumstances should there be liability to impeachment in any court or place out of Parliament.
– It appears to me to be a motion that could only be discussed after proper notice has been given. It certainly involves no suggestion of breach of privilege. I propose to allowo debate, provided it is kept to the issue “ that there has been a breach of privilege “, and so as not to be unfair, I must allow a reply to be made to what is said.
– The honorable gentleman might indicate at some stage what breach, of privilege has been made.
– To me, and I think to every honorable member, this is a vital matter. The most important feature is the statement of the Attorney-General that “where an offensive statement was made and upon challenge was not withdrawn no parliamentary privilege should attach either to the making of the statement in Parliament or to its publication in the press”. I contend that that is an attempt to intimidate honorable members of this House and to smother the press of Australia on vital matters which should have the fullest ventilation in the press.
The privilege of Parliament has been acquired, mainly by custom and usage, from the House of Commons. Parliament has the power to punish its own members, just as the judicature has the power to punish for contempt of Court. The most important privilege of a legis.lature is freedom of speech. I believe that not only honorable members on this side of the House but also a large number of those who sit opposite stand for that birthright of freedom of speech. It has long been recognized and confirmed as a part of the law of Great Britain and its dominions.
– I am afraid that the Chair is not yet understood. The issue is one of an abuse of privilege or a threat against the right of privilege. As to whether honorable members are entitled to the privileges that they now have is an entirely different matter, which cannot be debated.
– My- point is that a serious threat has .been made by the Attorney-General in the considered statement he made to the press which, he declared, contained not hasty conclusions, but views over which he had been thinking for many years. That statement gave rise to a castigation by the right honorable gentleman from the leading newspaper of Victoria - the Age. I cite the following sentences from its article : -
The question of the privilege of Parliament in regard to free speech has been raised by incidents which took place in the House of Representatives at Canberra last week.
The article then dealt with the particular incident over which the matter arose, and added that a withdrawal was accepted. It then went on to say -
There the matter would end as similar incidents .in Australian and other Parliaments have ended, without any real harm to any person or to Parliament, but for the fact that the Attorney-General subsequently communicated to thu press Ms opinion, “that some drastic changes will have to be made in the law relating to parliamentary privilege.” He declared that parliamentary privilege with respect to the protection granted to statements made by members, was becoming “ increasingly abused” and he indicated the lines on which Parliament ought to take action so as to put a stop to the abuse.
The threats made by the AttorneyGeneral strike a direct blow at our freedom. They make a threat to interfere with the freedom of honorable members of this chamber to express freely their opinions on grave matters of urge]]1 national importance. I remind the Attorney-General that it is on record that on one occasion a monarch of Great Britain who was engaged in a dispute with his Prime Minister said, “Remember, I am the King of England “, to which his Prime Minister replied, “Remember, I am the people of England “.
I should like to refer to the Bill of Rights of 1688 which declares -
That the -freedom of speech and debates of proceedings in Parliament ought not Jo be impeached or questioned in any court or place out of Parliament.
I fear that the birthright which belongs to me and to every other member of the House, is likely to be interfered with by the threat of the Attorney-General. If that right honorable gentleman were a layman or even a junior member of the Cabinet, his statement might be passed over; but because of his standing at the bar and his position as the Deputy Leader of the largest party on the other side of the House, and also because he is one of the senior members of the Ministry, I gravely fear the consequences of the threat that he has made. We should jump on his Suggestion with both feet, as it were, and kill at once any suggestion to interfere with the right of free speech in Parliament. I contend that my motion, which should not, and does not, cut across the innate feelings of honorable members on both sides of the House who stand for freedom of speech, should be supported by them. This is the people’s parliament. We should not attempt to smother parliamentary discussion in any way. This is surely not a Star Chamber. This is a parliament of representatives of the people of Australia. I admit that there is no system or privilege which does not admit of abuses at times; but while the abuse of systems and privileges should be regretted, it should not be used as a justification for their abolition. Even judges on the Bench have on some occasions abused their power and privileges, and so, also, have Ministers of the Crown; but to destroy a privilege because of individual infringements of it, is in my opinion a grotesque proposal. With all the feeling and all the vehemence that I can command, I wish to say, not as a party man, but as a member of the Australian Parliament, that I deplore that a mere political tyro in the Commonwealth Parliament, although he occupies an exalted position, should take it upon himself, after this Parliament has been functioning for more than 30 years, to utter a definite threat that parliamentary privilege should not attach to the making of an offensive statement which has been made and challenged, and that its publication in the press should be prohibited. In such circumstances, what would become of the freedom of speech for which our forefathers fought? We should not seek to smother up the doings of cabinets, Ministers and members. That would be a retrogressive step that would redound to the discredit of Australia. It would be getting back to the Hitlerism or Fascism that is practised in other countries of the world, where dictatorships are in vogue, and where the minorities have no right whatever to express their opinion. We have an inalienable right to do so.
– The Deputy Leader of the Opposition has gone far beyond proper bounds in debating this subject. I have ruled that the question of whether members of parliament should be privileged, cannot be discussed. It is not an issue. The issue is whether parliamentary privilege has been impugned.
– I have moved my motion because a definite threat to the privileges of parliament is contained in the statement made last Friday by the Attorney-General. That statement has since been condemned not only by impartial members of Parliament, but also by all the important newspapers of the Commonwealth. I submit that we are entitled to express our views in an unfettered manner on the floor of this House.
– It is proper that at this stage I should point out that the debate is not proceeding in accordance with the terms of the motion which do not indicate that there has been a breach of privilege. The Standing Orders do not guide the Chair in this respect; but the Chair must consider the trend of the debate which so far is not in accordance with the terms of the motion. The question of whether -members are privileged should not, and properly speaking, cannot be debated upon this motion; the issue is whether members’ privilege has been interfered with or is threatened. For the moment I do not rule the motion out, of order and consider that a reply should be allowed.
– I second the motion, but reserve my speech.
– On a point of order. Do I understand, Mr. Speaker, that you have not ruled the motion out of order? It seems to be a very interesting one which would permit of an interesting amendment, if one had opportunity to consider it.
– My ruling is that the question of whether Parliament is privileged cannot properly be debated; upon that question there is no doubt, r am offering no opinion as to whether Parliament should withdraw the privilege of free speech or whether a newspaper should be protected if it publishes untrue statements made in the House. That is a matter which Parliament clearly could deal with on any motion of which notice has been given. But the question, of whether any one has tried to interfere with a privilege of Parliament can be discussed at once, and the Attorney-General may deal with that issue if he so desires. I am not actually ruling the motion out of order at this moment. I am still considering the point. In the meantime I propose to allow further debate.
– I do not propose to occupy much time in discussing the motion. I confess that I am very much in the dark as to the breach of privilege charged against me. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) has delivered a speech rivalling in eloquence the speeches made at the trial of Warren Hastings and with something of the same epic quality about it; but when ohe endeavours to find out what it is all about one reaches a most astonishing result. In the first place, I want to say here and now, as I indicated when I made my statement to the press, that the view I then stated on this subject was my own personal view.
– Oan the right honorable gentleman speak as the Attorney-General at one time and as Bob Menzies at another?
– Quite frequently, fortunately for my sanity, I can. What I said on Friday represents my personal view to which I adhere and to which I do not seek to commit any other honor able member of this chamber. It represents my own deliberate consideration of this problem.
Having said that, let me point out two very remarkable things about the attack made by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. In the first place, so far as I could understand him through his tears, be said I was attacking free speech.
– Hear! Hear!
– How did I attack this free speech?
– The honorable member said that the Attorney-General had interfered with his ‘birthright.
– Apparently the honorable gentleman seems to think that I attacked free speech when I was myself exercising my right to free speech. That is very odd ! In the exercise of my right as a citizen to offer .an opinion on a public matter, and on a matter on which I have every right to hold and express an opinion, I am rebuked in the sacred name pf free speech!
The second allegation in the honorable gentleman’s speech, as I understand it, is that he says I infringed parliamentary privilege by my suggestions. What were my suggestions ? I said that this Parliament might well have to consider whether it should not itself impose some limitation on, or some qualification of, its rights. I suggested merely that Parliament should exercise its own powers in its own way. So that, so far as I understood this extraordinary .and laborious attack ‘ on me, both of its points, if it possessed any, are completely blunted.
I do not propose to embark upon a discussion of the merits of parliamentary free speech ; but I imagine that I am just as familiar with those merits as the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, and also quite as familiar with the historical justifications for the privileges of Parliament. If Parliament ever loses its privileges, it will be the fault of Parliament - a thing we have to remember - and there is no more effective way of destroying our own privileges - because they are privileges - than by abusing them.
The remarks that I made on this subject arose from what I regarded as a gross breach and. abuse of the privileges of Parliament. After all, if Parliament has its privileges and its right to freedom of speech, so also has the ordinary citizen who is not a member of Parliament. If his reputation is being snatched away from him by irresponsible statements in Parliament, he is just as much privileged to preserve it as is any representative of the people in this Parliament entitled to preserve his reputation. I can say everything that I need to say on this problem by reminding honorable gentlemen of three simple fan+. The first of them is that freedom of speech does not connote freedom to defame people. Freedom of speech, freedom of honest criticism and fair criticism, freedom to tell the truth in any circumstances is one thing; freedom to defame, freedom to snatch peoples’ reputations away from them is entirely different. Let us not confuse our terms when we talk of freedom of speech. The second thing I want to indicate is that parliamentary privilege, important as it was and as it is, does not give rise to privileged blackguardism. It wa.3 never designed for that. The third thing I want to indicate in reply to this attack by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition is that one does not destroy the privilege of Parliament by. fair public criticism of the way in which that privilege is being exercised. The best way to destroy the privilege of Parliament is to abuse it by making ordinary citizens of this country wonder whether they have any rights and by making members of Parliament who are attacked as we have seen honorable members attacked in this Parliament wonder whether they have any rights. The best way to destroy any privilege is to abuse it. Now, Mr. Speaker,- there is nothing in any suggestion that I have made that need cause the slightest discomfort to any honorable member who intends to confine himself in the future to a fair presentation of the ascertained truth.
– Before the debate proceeds any further, I want to give a ruling. The motion before me, I rule out of order on the ground that it is not in accordance with the debate as it has pro ceeded. It does not relate to a breach of privilege. The motion reads -
That this House affirms its adherence to the principle that freedom of speech and debates in Parliament is essential to a free legislature and a free people and in no circumstances should there be liability to impeachment in any court or place out of Parliament.
Such a motion could only he moved after notice. The Standing Order does not require an honorable member rising on a question of privilege to conclude with a motion except in the ease of a complaint against newspapers, and May’s Parliamentary Practice affords little guidance to the Chair in this matter, except that if shows that it rests with the Chair to decide whether a question of privilege has been raised.
– Does Mr. Speaker intend to allow the debate to proceed?
– Yes, I intend to allow the debate to proceed. The point made by the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) is that Parliamentary privilege has been threatened and the Attorney-General (Mr. Menzies) has replied on that point. For the moment, I shall allow the debate to proceed. If the honorable member can frame a motion which I may accept, I shall do so, but I cannot accept the motion in the form in which it is now framed.
– I think the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) is to be heartily congratulated upon the speed and effectiveness with which he has met this enemy upon its first appearance. The very fa.ct that the honorable member’s presentation of the case raises a technical question as to whether or not he has been a little premature in what he has done goes fur,ther to prove the public importance of the matter which he has ventilated this morning. Further proof of its importance and of the effectiveness of the honorable gentleman’s speech in support of it is the obvious restiveness of honorable members on the other side of the House. I do not propose to attempt a lengthy speech upon this subject at the moment. Apparently the Attorney-General (Mr. Menzies) has brooded over the matter for years when his thoughts might well have been turned in a more useful and practical direction. But, notwithstanding his years of profound reflection, he finally acted precipitately and without due consideration of what would be the immediate consequences of what he was saying to the press. “When these statements appeared with appropriate conspicuousness in the morning press most people thought that the Attorney-General of the Commonwealth was speaking on this matter for the Commonwealth Government, and that is, indeed, the impression which might reasonably be gathered from what he said. But apparently he was not speaking for the Government, and apparently also he has not the approval and support of members of the Government because, having set these words on the wing, he hastened to assure the public generally that it was just a little thing of his own and that he had no intention whatever of involving the Government. The right honorable gentleman has apparently lived a sheltered life in the law courts and elsewhere, and as the Deputy Leader of the Opposition rightly said, with little practical experience of parliamentary affairs and little knowledge of parliamentary history, and little knowledge, consequently, of the blood and tears through which the boon of parliamentary privilege has been won and maintained throughout the centuries. But some of us regard the root and history of privilege of Parliament much more seriously than he does. We recognize that, when we speak here in defence of the privileges of Parliament, we are not speaking in support of the privileges of individual members of this Parliament; we are speaking in support and maintenance of public rights outside this Parliament. This Parliament is the instrument by which the people - the common people, of whom the right honorable gentleman does not claim to be one - express themselves and maintain their rights. It is a long history of struggle and fight and, fortunately, finally, a history of conquest by the people over the Executive, and over individual privilege in and out of Parliament.Now what does the right honorable gentleman say? I take it that he accepts as being correct the reports as read by the Deputy Leader of the. Opposition ; up to the present they have not been denied; in fact, the right honorable gentleman this morning has reaffirmed everything that has appeared in the press. The Attorney-General said -
When a member of Parliament- and this is how he proposes to commence his encroachment upon the popular rights. This is the beginning, the first blow at the structure of human liberty. We do not know where it proposes to end -
When a member of Parliament made an offensive statement and subsequently withdrew it, the offensive statement should notbe recorded in Hansard, and its publication in the press should be prohibited.
– Surely the honorable gentleman does not disagree with that?
– The honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Frost) asked “ who is to be the judge “. I suggest tha t the right honorable the Attorney-General is to be the judge - the Attorney-General with his legal and technical knowledge. He is to set the standard of good manners; he is to be the Chesterfield of this Parliament to say what should be said and should not be said; he is to be the tribunal from which there can be no appeal - the tribunal which declares the Chesterfieldian standard of good manners. Well, heaven forbid that popular rights should ever have to depend on such a rotten reed, or that the standard of popular right and wrong is to be judged by such a law giver ! The Attorney-General proceeded -
That where an offensive statement was made and, upon challenge, was not withdrawn, no parliamentary privilege should attach either to the making of the statement in Parliament or to its publication inthe press.
I point out to the right honorable gentleman that the question of decorum in this Parliament - the mere question of whether what any honorable member said should be withdrawn as being strictly or technically not in accordance with our Standing Orders - is the mere veneer of politics. Behind and beyond that is the ultimate right of Parliament, as the guardian of the public, to express itself freely and in its own way upon public questions.’
– Upon private citizens?
Mr.BRENNAN. - Upon private citizens, yes. Parliament is the only place where depradators, spoliators, and fraudulent agents can he brought to book and freely charged and condemned without fear that the moneybags behind them will save them from just criticism.
– And the only place where a liar gets privilege.
Mr.BRENNAN. - He is always a liar who says things unpleasant aboutus. The Canberra Times is a liar this morning! The Age is a liar this morning ! It may be that these vehicles of public opinion have their own points of view and think that they are right. The right honorable gentleman went on -
If Parliament was not to become a happy limiting ground of the person who liked to shoot from behind cover, some such reforms would have to be urgently considered. “ Who liked to shoot from behind cover !” “ Behind cover “ means the exercise of the immemorial rights of the people, as expressed in the right of honorable members of this Parliament, to say in it, without fear or favour, the things that an honorable member thinks ought to be said in the public interest. Why is this right so deeply entrenched in popular esteem, and why is it that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition is so naturally and properly sensitive regarding it that he leaps to action the very moment it is challenged? It is because, from time immemorial, money and privilege and influence have been able to beat down the poorer classes everywhere outside the privileged precincts of Parliament.
– And do not they know it on the other side!
– Yes, and well they know it. Parliament is the only place where the poor, through their representatives, have the right to speak out fearlessly. The Attorney-General, if he could, would drag them through the courts of the land, even to the Privy Council, until their resources were exhausted, . and might prevailed over right.
– Legal proceedings would continue as long as the shekels lasted.
– And the shekels would last as long as it was necessary to uphold the wrong against the right. The Attorney-General advocates the change in order to put an end, as he says, to gross abuse of privilege, but the honorable gentleman begs the question. The whole point is what constitutes abuse of privilege. What one regards as a gross abuse of privilege another may regard as a frank and necessary statement of a patent fact.
The Attorney-General was just tentatively sounding the public in the observation which he indiscreetly made, and which, apparently, is now being repudiated by the Government and by his party. I trust that the salutary lesson which the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has given him will put an end to this, the most recent of many indiscretions of which the AttorneyGeneral has been guilty since he entered this Parliament.
– There is 110 question before the Chair. In allowing a debate to take place without a motion being moved, I relied on the Standing Orders;but there can be no termination to a discussion of this kind without a motion; the House could not come to a decision. In the circumstances, it is incumbent upon the Chair to decide the matter, and it is the opinion of the Chair that no question of privilege has been raised; that is, there has been no abuse of privilege. An expression of opinion by the Attorney-General that redress should be provided for those who are offended does not, in the opinion of the Chair, constitute a breach of parliamentary privilege. Even if the right honorable gentleman proposed to amend an act of Parliament in order to achieve that end it would not constitute a breach of privilege, because the decision would still rest with Parliament. This matter has now been sufficiently ventilated, and I rule that no breach of privilege has been shown.
– I rise to a point of order. Two honorable members on ‘the other side have spoken on this matter, whereas only one has spoken from this side.
– If I were to allow another honorable member to speak now, I should have to allow the discussion to continue indefinitely.
– I ask leave to make a statement regarding oil in Dutch New Guinea.
– Is it the wish of the House that the Prime Minister have leave to make a statement?
– Not unless we have the right to reply.
– As the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) apparently does not desire that I should give the House the fullest information regarding this matter, I shall give it to the people of the country through the press.
Sino- Japanese Conflict - Pacific Pact - Protection of Mediterranean Shippinh: - Report of Mandates Commission on Palestine.
– by leave - On the 10th September I informed the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Baker) that I would, if possible, make a statement on the international situation before the House rose. I propose briefly to deal with the SinoJapanese dispute, the situation in the Mediterranean and to conclude with a reference to the report of the Mandates Commission on Palestine. On the 25th August the Japanese naval authorities closed the Chinese coast from Shanghai to Swatow to Chinese vessels, but at the same time announced that they would respect the peaceful commerce of other powers. On the 5th September, the Japanese authorities closed the remainder of the Chinese coast to Chinese vessels, excluding Tsingtao, and those territories leased to third powers, and reiterated that they would pay due respect to the commerce of third powers with which they did not intend to interfere.
During the last few days the British Government has been considering the measures to be taken in the event of Japanese naval vessels attempting to interfere with foreign merchant vessels, the Japanese Government having intimated that, if the Chinese resorted to action such as the misuse of the flag, the Japanese might have to examine foreign ships. In order to prevent, as far as possible, the misuse of the British flag, the British Government has decided to raise no objection to the Japanese examining British ships on the high seas for the purpose of verifying the flag.’ His Majesty’s ships have accordingly been instructed that, if a ship is flying the British flag in their presence, they should, if requested to do so by a Japanese warship, verify the right of that ship to fly the British flag. Masters of British ships in the Ear East have been advised, if they are required to stop by a Japanese warship and none of His Majesty’s ships is present, to allow the Japanese to board the ship to examine the certificate of registry on the. understanding that an immediate report will be made by the Japanese warship to the British naval authorities.
The Japanese Government has been informed that, while the British Government does not admit the rights of the Japanese Government to verify the nationality of foreign merchantmen, verification will in practice be allowed. The British Government could not, however, acquiesce in any interference with merchantmen other than for verification of nationality. The British Government has also reserved the (right to claim compensation for damage sustained by the owners of British ships delayed or stopped under this procedure.
The British Government has kept the Commonwealth Government fully informed as to this aspect of the situation. Australia is not, however, directly concerned, as no ships on the Australian register are engaged in passenger or cargo traffic with Japanese and Chinese ports, although, as honorable members are aware, three ships owned by the Eastern and Australian Steamship Company Limited, and one owned by Burns, Philp and Company Limited, which are not on the Australian register, follow the route Sydney-Rabaul-Manila-Hong Kong.
There has been little change in the situation at Shanghai during the last few days, although the extension of the Japanese offensive, and the prolonged Chinese resistance, have caused increasing danger to the International Settlement. The British Government has continued to impress on combatants their obligations to avoid damage to life cr property in this area.
It seemed at one stage that it might be necessary to evacuate all British subjects from Shanghai. In fact, about 3,700 British subjects, nearly all of them women and children, have been evacuated, but no arrangements are at present being made for further evacuation. Members of the British ‘business community are definitely unwilling to contemplate any general evacuation or abandonment of their interests.- Foreign banks resumed normal business on the 23rd August. There is at present no shortage of food, and fresh supplies are entering Shanghai daily. The lives of inhabitants of the International Settlement are still endangered by stray shells and aircraft bombs, but both Japanese and Chinese aircraft appear to be avoiding any attack on the International Settlement.
In North ‘China, the Japanese have started an offensive on a large scale south of Tientsin.
As regards the shooting of the British Minister in China, the British Government is still awaiting a full reply from Tokyo.
Reports have appeared in the press to the effect that the Japanese have occupied Pratas and Ling Ting Islands. The Commonwealth Government has now received official 90nfi.rma.tion of the report that the Japanese have occupied Pratas Island, which lies about. 180 miles southpast of Hong Kong. Since the occupation, meteorological reports from the station on the island have been suspended, but the authorities at Hong Kong have been informed that it is proposed to resume reports as soon as possible. There is, so far, no indication as to how long the Japanese intend to remain in occupation. The report of the Japanese occupation of Ling Ting Island, which lies about 15 miles west-north-west of Hong Kong, is so far unconfirmed.
There are two other aspects of the Sino-Japanese conflict to which I desire to allude. Mr. Eden, the Foreign Secretary, said in the House of Commons on 25th June, 1937-
The House will bc aware of the fact that conversations have been proceeding with representatives of the Japanese Government on the possibility of a better understanding, a better ordering of Anglo-Japanese relations generally, and it may be said that those conversations, so far as they have gone, encourage us to hope that a more definite exchange of views may lead to further progress. It is anticipate’! that it may be possible at a very early date to begin the examination of concrete proposals.
The Commonwealth Government greatly regrets that the existing situation in North China has led to the postponement of these conversations. In reply to a question in the House of Commons on the 21st July, Mi-. Eden said -
So long as the present situation in North China persists, it would not seem opportune to open the conversations to which His Majesty’s Government were looking forward, and I have been obliged to inform the Japanese Government that that is the view of His Majesty’s Government.
It will be recollected that, at the recent Imperial Conference, the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) outlined a proposal for a regional understanding and pact of nonaggression in. the Pacific. All the governments of the British Commonwealth agreed that a Pacific pact was a desirable objective. It was fully realized, however, that this was a matter which would have to be approached with some circumspection, and that it would be necessary to ascertain the views of other interested governments before attempting any detailed negotiations. It will be appreciated that the Sino-Japanese dispute has inevitably led to the suspension of conversations for the time being.
A state of grave insecurity has been created in the Mediterranean owing to recent illegal attacks on shipping by submarines and aeroplanes acting without warning, and without revealing their identity. The British and French Governments decided in the early part of this month that immediate consultation between, and action by, Mediterranean and certain other powers had become necessary in order to deal with an intolerable situation. The British and French Governments accordingly proposed that a conference should be convened on the 10th September, at Nyon, to consider what measures should be taken in order to pui a stop to the present state of insecurity in the Mediterranean, and to enforce the rules of international law regarding the treatment of shipping at sea.
The British and French Governments invited Germany, the following Medi- terranean powers - Italy, Yugoslavia, Albania, Greece, Turkey and Egypt - and the Black Sea powers, Soviet Russia, Roumania and Bulgaria, to attend the conference. Germany and Italy declined this invitation. Italy’s absence from the conference appears to have been largely due to resentment caused by Notes sent to Italy by Soviet Russia alleging that Italian warships had torpedoed Russian merchantmen inthe Mediterranean.
The conference duly met on the 10th September, and reached an agreement the following day on proposals which are now being referred to the governments of the participating Powers. It is hoped that the agreement will be signed to-day. These proposals have been fully reported in the press. Broadly speaking, they provide for a patrol of the Mediterranean, mainly by British and French naval forces, with assistance from the other participating governments, in order to protect all merchant ships which do not belong to either of the parties in the Spanish conflict. It was suggested that Italy should be asked to take action on similar lines in the Tyrrhenian and Adriatic Seas. The proposed agreement does not accord belligerent rights to either party in Spain. It is hoped that the scheme for the patrol of the Mediterranean will be in force by to-morrow, and a formal invitation to participate has already been sent to Italy. Germany has been officially informed of the results of the conference. I might add that the British Government sincerely desires to place Anglo-Italian relations on a better footing. It feels that, if the existing tensionin the Mediterranean were reduced by the co-operation of all Powers concerned, much would be done to create a more favorable atmosphere.
The Minister for External Affairs (Senator Pearce) referred at some length to the partition of Palestine in his statement to honorable senators on the 25th August. It will be remembered that the Permanent Mandates Commission recently considered the report of the Royal Commission on Palestine at an extraordinary session. The full text of the preliminary report of the Mandates Commission to the Council of the League of Nations has now been received by the Commonwealth Government. The Man dates Commission favours in principle the examination of a solution involving the partition of Palestine, but it does not endorse the immediate creation of two new independent States. It considers that a lengthening of the period of political apprenticeship constituted by the mandate would be absolutely essential to both the new Arab and the new Jewish States. This apprenticeship might take one of two forms. One solution would be a provisional cantonization whereby the two States, while enjoying a wide measure of internal autonomy and full power to regulate immigration, would be united under the mandatory Power for matters of defence, foreign affairs and customs. The other solution would be a separate mandate for each State until such time as each had given proof of its ability to govern itself. The appropriate moment for the granting of selfgovernment would not necessarily be the same for both States. The Mandates Commission closed its report by paying the following tribute to the mandatory Power, Great Britain: -
As for the mandatory Power itself, the concern with which ithas for nearly twenty years sought to appease the antagonistic feelings prevailing in Palestine must awaken in any man of good-will a degree of admiration all the higher in that it was exercised in a world in which brutal violence often stills the voice of humanity. Let the Jews, who all too often, and without justification, show impatience at the delay and hesitation which the mandatory Power has felt compelled to bring to the building-up of their national homo, ask themselves whether there is any other nation by which they have been so little persecuted, and to which, for generations past, they owe so many benefits. Let the Arabs, whose opposition to what is nevertheless a measure of higher justice which cannot be carried out without a sacrifice from their side can he readily understood, remember the origin of their national emancipation. Without British efforts, certainly there would have been no Jewish national home; but also there would have been, on the threshold of the twentieth century, no independent Arab States.
The following papers were presented : -
Defence Act - Regulations amended - StatutoryRules 1937, No. 06.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired at Richmond, New South Wales - For Defence purposes.
Statement by Oil Search Limited.
– Can the Prime Minister indicate to the House the date on which General Griffiths, the Administrator of the Mandated Territory of New Guinea, made his report with respect to the discovery of oil in New Guinea?
– Two reports were received, the first being dated the 13th January, 1934, and the second, the 30th June, 1934. Both were made available to Oil Search Limited on the 7th August, 1934.
– Has the Prime Minister any statement to add to the remarks which he has already made regarding the reported discovery of oil in New Guinea?
– The honorable member’s question affords me an opportunity to deal further with this matter, in order that there may be no misunderstanding regarding it. I shall make only a brief reference to the statement that has been made concerning reports about the discovery of oil in Dutch New Guinea, and to the suggestion by certain honorable members that the Government has not been frank regarding the matter. The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) said that I had been responsible for the suppression of information.
– Is this an answer to a question?
– The Prime Minister was asked whether he had anything to add to the statement already made.
– In view of what has already been said, I hope that I shall be permitted to explain the position. I desire to make it clear that, in conveying information to the’ House with regard to external territories, I act simply as a channel of communication. The ministerial control of those territories is vested in my colleague, the Minister for External Affairs, as Minister in charge of Territories. The question asked by the honorable member for East Sydney referred to “ the report that is circulating “ with regard to the occurrence of oil in commercial quantities in Dutch New Guinea. Officers of the department did not connect the inquiry with n report which had been made to the department over three and a half years ago.
– I rise to a point of order. Is not the Prime Minister making a statement? Normally, I should not have objected to the statement, but, since it is being made in the absence of the honorable member foi- East Sydney (Mr. Ward), I object to the right honorable gentleman making any statement which is not a direct answer *to the question submitted to him.
– The question was whether the Prime Minister had anything to add, and the form of the question gives him latitude. Any remark with regard to the discovery of oil in Dutch New Guinea would be in order, but a lengthy statement could not he allowed.-
– I cast no reflection on anybody. I propose to tell a straightforward story.
– The Prime Minister has cast a reflection on the honorable member for East Sydney, and he will receive no quarter while that honorable member is absent.
– I cast no reflection upon him, and I desire no quarter from the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan). Officers of the department bent their attention to an endeavour to obtain information with regard to any comparatively recent report about oil finds in Dutch New Guinea. The Administrator of New Guinea and the Lieutenant-Governor of Papua, when communicated with, advised that they had no information regarding such a discovery. My answer to the honorable member for East Sydney was prepared by the officers of the department after the receipt of that advice, and was given by me to the House in good faith. The suggestion that wrong information was knowingly given to the House is quite erroneous.
– That is debatable.
– If honorable members desire that sentence to he left out, it will be. Nevertheless it is true.
– But the Prime Minister has already had the privilege of saying it-
– The additional information supplied by the honorable member for East Sydney enabled his inquiry to be connected with the report received in the department in 1934, and I have now been enabled to go into the facts concerning the passing on of the report of the occurrence of oil in Dutch New Guinea to Oil Search Limited on the 7th August, 1934. That information was given to the company on the recommendation of the geological adviser, and forwarded under cover of a letter signed by the Officer-in-Charge of Territories. The following additional fact disposes of any suggestion that information of a public nature was conveyed to a particular company and otherwise suppressed, namely, that the report which was communicated to Oil Search Limited on the 7th August, 1934, was published in the mining columns of, the Sydney Morning Herald on the 10th August, 1934.
– A fine speech in the absence of the honorable member for East Sydney !
– The Prime Minister is clearly giving further information in reply to the question submitted to him by the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. John Lawson).
– Oil Search Limited is operating in the territory on funds provided by the investing public of Australia. No money has been provided by the Commonwealth Government, but every reasonable facility has been given to the company to pursue its investigations. The same assistance will be given freely to any bona fide company that is prepared to undertake a similar search under the prescribed conditions. The honorable member for East Sydney, on the 10th September, on the adjournment, endeavoured to convey the impression
– I cannot allow the Prime Minister to continue on those lines because he is replying to a debate that took place at the last sitting.
– I shall not disagree with your ruling, Mr. Speaker, but, even to-day, charges of improper conduct are hurled across the chamber, and I think that I have the right to reply to them.
– That question, does not arise at this stage. A lengthy statement may not be made in reply to a question without notice.
– Let me emphasize that the report in question, related to a discovery in Dutch New Guinea, with the administration of which the Commonwealth has no concern. I repeat that petroleum in payable quantities has not been discovered in Australian territories, but that facilities are being given by the Government to bona fide companies and individuals who are engaged in the search.
There is one other phase of the matter to which I feel I should refer. Yesterday theConsul-General for the Netherlands advised that no oil had been discovered in Dutch New Guinea and that there had never been any drilling on a commercial basis in that country. Therefore, the rumour that wells had been sealed down was ridiculous and obviously untrue. The Consul-General added that in one or. two places oil indications had been reported, but that, although one or two geological expeditions had been sent out by the Dutch authorities, the reports had not been verified to date. Thus. I point out, no oil has been found either in Dutch New Guinea or in the Mandated Territory.
– I ask leave to make a statement following that made by the Prime Minister.
– I object. The Prime Minister did not make a statement.
Leave not granted.
– I ask the Prime Minister what was the date of retirement of General Griffiths from the position of Administrator of the Mandated Territory?
– The 12th September, 1934.
– I desire to make a personal explanation. On Thursday evening last the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) alleged that I was associated with Oil Search Limited. On Friday I contradicted that allegation and the honorable member accepted my denial.
– Was that not sufficient?
– It was sufficient, but on the adjournment of the House on Friday the honorable member for East Sydney went further and said that I was associated with other oil companies operating on the border of Dutch New Guinea and in territory bordering upon areas held by Oil Search Limited. I am not making any accusation against the honorable member, but I wish now tv> say that his second statement was also wrong so far as it concerned myself. I do not hold shares in any company engaged in the search for oil in Dutch New Guinea or in close proximity to that territory, nor do I hold any share in any oil company connected with New Guinea.
– Can the Minister for Commerce inform me when a reply will be given to the question which I recently asked with regard to the increase of the price of butter?
– I understand that a reply will be available almost im- . mediately.
– Will the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) make a statement to the House, before the Parliament is dissolved, setting out the nature of the assistance that has been given by the Commonwealth to local governing authorities under the States Grants (Local Public Works) Act 1936?
– I shall prepare a state- ment on the subject in the course of the day, and. make the information available on the adjournment of the House either to-day or to-morrow.
Special Stamp Issue
– I have received a letter from the Treasurer of Tasmania, Mr. Dwyer-Gray, with respect to an application made by himself personally to the then Acting Prime Minister (Dr. Earle Page) and the Assistant Minister for Commerce (Senator Brennan) for the printing of a special postage stamp in commemoration ‘ of the Royal Hobart Centenary Regatta, to be held in February next. I ask the Prime Minister whether anything has been done in con nexion with this application, and if so, whether he will expedite the issue of these stamps by November next, so as to enable Tasmania to obtain full value from this method of publicity?
– The Postal Department has gone into the matter, and is unable to undertake the special issue of stamps referred to by the honorable member, but it is now considering the provision of overprinting on postage stamps in order to provide publicity for the regatta.
– I have received a telegram from the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, of Perth, “protesting against the appointment of a South Australian lady to supervise nutrition inquiries in Western Australia, and asking whether there is not a lady hi Perth, who would have the added advantage of local knowledge, suitable for the appointment. I ask the Minister for Health whether it is true that a lady from South Australia has been appointed to this position in Perth, and if so, what were the reasons which induced him to go beyond making a local appointment ?
– Yesterday I received a telegram which, I assume, is substantially a facsimile of that received by the honorable member, and I referred the matter to the Director-General of Health, who furnished me with a reply which I have forwarded to the Women’s Christian Temperance Union of Perth. The substance of that reply was that the lady appointed possesses special qualifications. She has been conducting similar inquiries in other States, and her services were availed of because it was thought desirable that comparable statistics and returns should be compiled. The hope was also expressed in the reply that in these circumstances the members of the organization to which the honorable gentleman referred would accept this officer as being, on the whole, the best qualified for the appointment.
– I ask the Minister for Health whether the Government has given consideration to the making of grants to the States with a view to helping them to make provision for the aftercare of sufferers from infantile paralysis ? If not, will the Government come to an early decision on this matter?
– That matter has been brought to the attention of the DirectorGeneral of Health who, in consultation with members of the Victorian body which is dealing with the epidemic, offered the Commonwealth’s co-operation in dealing with the after effects of the epidemic. With respect to the after-care of sufferers from this complaint, the Director-General of Health has submitted certain suggestions in the event of the number of patients exceeding that which it is within the capacity of the State to handle. Happily, it appears, however, that there is now a lull in the epidemic. This may be only temporary, but we hope it marks a permanent decline. If it should happen that the number of patients warrants such action, my department will be only too pleased to cooperate with the State of Victoria in this matter.
– I lay on the table the following paper : -
Australian Wool Board - first annual report, dated 31st July, 1937, and move -
That the paper be printed.
Question put. The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. G. J. Bell.)
Majority . . 14
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Nominations by Members of State Parliaments.
– In view of the fact that a number of members of State Parliaments desire to nominate as candidates for the Federal Parliament at the forthcoming general elections, and to do so will have to resign their seats fourteen clear days before the date of nominations, will the Prime Minister make to the House to-day a definite pronouncement as to when the elections are to be held, and also indicate the probable date of nominations?
– I expect to make a statement within a few hours. I shall make it as early as possible.
– Can the AttorneyGeneral inform the House as to whether Judge Wanliss, judge at Rabaul, has retired, whether his appointment has been terminated, or whether he is on leave ?
– The matter is not within my jurisdiction, but I understand that Judge Wanliss is at present on leave.
Mr.HOLLOWAY.-In view of the many complaints, some of which may have reached the Minister for the Interior, concerning the hut accommodationprovided for shearers and other pastoral employees in the Federal Capital Territory, will the honorable gentleman consider, if he has not already done so, the application of the Hut Accommodation Act of New South Wales to the Federal Capital Territory?
– None of the complaints referred to have reached me, but I shall be very glad to look into the matter to see if there is anything in it.
– Will the Minister representing the Postmaster-General ascertain what stage has been reached in the inquiry concerning the establishment of telephone . communication with Flinders Island?
– I shall not only ascertain, but also inform the honorable member.
– On Friday last the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral promised to furnish me to-day with a report in connexion with the wireless broadcasting studio at Hobart. Has he yet received it?
– The report has not yet arrived. As soon as I receive it I shall let the honorable member have it.
– In the light of the grave scandals that have arisen in other countries out of the private manufacture for profit of arms and ammunition, is the Minister for Defence in a position to give to the House the assurance that the manufacture of armaments and munitions for profit- by private enterprise will not be allowed in Australia, at least between now and the date of the general elections ?
– I direct the attention of the honorable member to the speech that I made last week on the Works Estimates of the Department of Defence. If he will do me the honor to read that speech, he will obtain full information on the subject.
– Will the Prime Minister state whether we are to understand that the Administration of New
Guinea, and the methods adopted for the collection of information are so lax that two reports in regard to the discovery of oil, one dated January, 1934, and the other dated June, 1934, were forwarded to the Prime Minister without proper confirmation ?
– If the honorable member will place his question on the notice-paper, the information will be supplied to him.
– That will be next week, I suppose.
The following bills were returned from the Senate without amendment or requests : -
Income Tax Bill 1937.
Post Office Works Bill 1937.
Repatriation Fund (Baillieu Gift) Bill 1937.
Assent to the following bills reported : -
Appropriation (Works and Buildings) Bill
Post Office Works Bill 1937. Income Tax Bill. 1937.
Repatriation Fund (Baillieu Gift) Bill 1937.
Motion (by Mr. Lyons) proposed -
That Orders of the Day Nos. 1 to 5 be postponed until after the consideration of Order of the Day No. C.
.- The Opposition has a right to be consulted before a change is proposed of the order in which business appears on the notice-paper. Several honorable members asked me the order in which the business was to be taken to-day, and. I told them that it was to be taken in accordance with the business paper. Usually, when variation is intended, the Leader of the Government confers with the Leader of the Opposition. Certain honorable members who wish to discuss the National Oil Proprietary Limited Agreement Bill are not in the House, and the Government is not treating them fairly in bringing that measure forward as the first business. I object to the alteration of the order of business being sprung on us without having been consulted.
– I am sorry to have overlooked consulting with the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde), but the National Oil Proprietary Limited Agreement Bill is an urgent matter which has already been partially discussed by the House-
– Why was not the business paper arranged accordingly?
– That does not make a scrap of difference. The one principle underlies the five measure for the postponement of which I have moved. There is also the additional reason that their consideration will not be postponed for any great length of time, because the whole of the business has to he concluded within two days.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from the 10th September (vide page 949) on motion by Sir Archdale PARNELL -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– We have before us a bill which endeavours to do something in the way of opening up the oil possibilities of the Newnes shale oil-fields. When the bill to provide £250,000 to subsidize the search for flow oil was before this House, 1 said that I considered that, in the event of flow oil not being discovered in Australia, the first obvious locality in which a search should be made for oil was at Newnes.
Although I do not approve of a great deal of what is contained in this agreement, I think that the Government is to be commended for Laving attempted to carry out what I regard as a necessary work. In this connexion, one must pay a tribute to the persistency with, which the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. John Lawson) has advocated the claims of Newnes since he has been a member of this House.
The question that we have to decide is, whether we shall accept this agreement. I am a member of a party which believes in the principle that industry shall be developed by private enterprise. From my viewpoint, however, we are here introducing an entirely new principle, which it would be bad for , this country to establish, if private enterprise is to be assisted with public money to an amount of 15s. in the £1 in the prosecution of certain ventures. I do not know whether this venture will be a failure or not; there seem to be very divergent views on that point. Some of my friends opposite appear to think that the gentleman concerned is likely to make a fortune out of Newnes, while others apparently fear that the real trouble will be the loss by the Government of everything that it puts into the project. Quite probably, the truth lies somewhere between those two extremes, but at what point it is impossible for anyone to say.
One point that has not been dealt with very fully, even by the Minister, lies in the rather unusual statement in the sixth line of the preamble to the agreement, which says that the ‘Commonwealth is desirous of inducing the development of the shale oil industry for national defence purposes. I regard that as an objective with which every honorable member of this House will be in complete accord. But, if it be a. question of developing Newnes with a view to ensuring national defence - and Heaven knows there is great necessity for the discovery of oil in Australia to ensure the protection that .’e need - there are other means at the disposal of the Government which could have been tried before entering into this agreement. For example, one question that arises in my mind - I have raised it in this House, but have never had a satisfactory answer given to me - is, what part, in the economic life of Australia does the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited play? I have never been able to discover what useful purpose is served by that company. It was founded as the result of an agreement between the Commonwealth Government and the AngloPersian Oil Company. That agreement contains some rather remarkable statements. For example, the ownership of Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited is. 10 the extent of a bare majority of iiic shares, in the hands of the Commonwealth Government, yet the majority of the directors are the nominees of the Anglo-Persian Oil Company! That brings me up against an amendment which I believe is to be moved from the Opposition side of the House. The Opposition proposes to commit itself to the rather foolish suggestion that the Commonwealth shall have a minority representation on the directorate of the Newnes shale oil concern, notwithstanding the fact that- it will provide slightly over 50 per cent, of the capital involved, and the Government of New South Wales will find a further 25 per cent. The experience behind us in connexion with the Commonwealth Oil Refineries is such that we should not be justified in accepting such an amendment.
In my opinion the Commonwealth Oil Refineries should have been detailed by the Government to develop the Newnes shale deposits. There was no necessity for the making of the agreement incorporated in this bill. If honorable members care to examine the report of the Chairman of the Royal Commission on Petrol, they will be convinced, I believe, that in the opinion of that gentleman the Commonwealth Oil Refineries has worked hand in glove with the four other big oil companies in Australia. We are therefore entitled to ask whether, from a taxpayer’s point of view, the investment of Commonwealth money ‘in the Commonwealth Oil Refineries has not been an entire frost.
Some rather interesting points about the agreement in this bill deserve consideration. First, the Commonwealth Government is to find 10s. in the £1 of the money to be risked. This money is to be regarded as a loan and is to bear interest at the rate of 4£ per cent. The honorable member for Echuca (Mr. McEwen) dealt very effectively a few days ago with the possibilities arising from the agreement in this regard, and also the provision that the rate of interest on the debentures will be very little more than the rate of interest which the Commonwealth has to pay for the money. When private enterprise has to be subsidized to the amount of 10s. in the £1 a big risk is involved. Incidentally the risk in this case is of an unusual kind. This Parliament has already provided £250,000 to assist in the search for flow oil in Australia. Very little of that money has so far been spent, although two experts made available by the AngloPersian Oil Company have been engaged for two years in a geological survey of Australia to ascertain whether the geological features of the country are favorable to the existence of flow oil here. It seems to me that if we pass this agreement in its present form one amount of money will be used to cancel any good effect that may be secured from the expenditure of the other amount.
– At least we shall have two irons in the fire.
– Has the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) considered paragraph 24 of the agreement, which provides that in the event of flow oil being discovered within the Commonwealth, adequate compensation shall be paid to the National Oil Proprietary Limited?
– The paragraph provides that the Governments of the Commonwealth and of New South Wales shall favorably consider granting adequate relief to the company.
– At any rate, the matter will have to come before the Executive, and it is bound, under the terms of the agreement, to give favorable consideration to any request of that nature. It cannot adopt a neutral attitude.
– It can do ‘ nothing without the consent of Parliament.
– I do not know what effect the consent of Parliament is likely to have if the amendment, of which notice has been given by the Minister for Defence (Sir Archdale Parkhill) is agreed to, for it provides that Parliament shall here and now appropriate all sums necessary for the purposes of meeting the liability .– the Commonwealth arising out of this agreement. I have never known of a more remarkable provision. If it is included in the bill it will be tantamount to giving this and every succeeding Government a blank cheque to carry out the Commonwealth’s obligations under the agreement.
My views on this subject are very strong. I shall not voice them at the moment, but if the amendment is persisted in at the committee stage of the bill I shall say exactly what I feel.
I am not concerned very much about the provision of the agreement to grant remissions of duty on materials required by the company, for it is quite in keeping with my own idea that rather low duties or no duties at all should be imposed upon equipment necessary for the establishment of new industries in Australia. I am not concerned either about the proposed amendment of the Income Tax Assessment Act to give this company easier conditions than those which generally prevail in regard to depreciation.
The provision of the agreement in regard to the dominant nationality of this company suggests to me, however, that we have reached another dead-end in government policy. Last year when the bill for the provision of £250,000 to stimulate the search for flow oil in Australia was under consideration, I made a strong but unsuccessful endeavour to limit the assistance to Australian companies or British companies. I could get no consideration whatever from the Government on that point. Yet, to-day we are informed that one of the virtues of the agreement now before us is that the company must always be British, that every shareholder and director must be a British subject, and that even the senior executive officers of the company must be British. That may seem all right; but I direct the attention of honorable members to the provision of the agreement that the Memorandum and the Articles of Association in regard to the ownership of the company may not be altered without the consent in writing of “the Commonwealth or the State”. The obvious intention of that provision is, I take it, that the Articles of Association shall not be amended without the consent of both the Commonwealth Government and the Government of New South “Wales, but the word “ or “ is used, not the word “ and “. It seems to me therefore that either the Commonwealth Government or the Government of New South Wales may approve of an alteration of the Articles of Association and it will become effective. Surely the consent of both governments should be necessary to abrogate the provisions relating to the ownership of the company.
What the Government is to get out of this concern in the event of default amounts to nothing. It will lose the £334,000, plus any arrears of interests.
– It is a sort of bounty to the industry.
– I should not be greatly concerned about that, if we were likely to achieve any definite results; but it seems to me that the cost of employing the individual workers in this concern will be altogether prohibitive. No work that the Government could pursue could be fraught with greater possibilities of good to the country than the search for flow oil; but this agreement should, in my opinion, he examined by a select committee of the House, or by a committee composed partly of honorable members and partly of gentlemen with technical knowledge capable of advising the Government on the rather complex questions arising out of it. I am prepared to vote for the reference of the bill to a select committee, but if the Government does not agree to that course of action I shall vote against the motion for the second reading, and trust that some other more satisfactory method may be adopted to develop our shale deposits.
One thing that should be borne in mind in view of the large amount of money to be spent on this project is that the extraction of oil from shale has passed beyond the experimental stage. A good deal of literature has been supplied to honorable members on the subject.
– The production of wheat has passed the experimental stage, but the Government still has to provide bounties for wheatgrowers.
– I have no doubt that the production of wheat has passed the experimental stage in some parts of Australia, but I could takethe honorable member forParramatta to some parts of South Australia where it, is still in the experimental stage. If the honorable gentleman has a few thousand pounds to lose, I could provide him with some properties in the northwest of Victoria and in parts of South Australia on which he could lose it at a greater Tate than in many other undertakings.
– The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) did not oppose the provision of bounties to wheatgrowers.
– I have done so. If the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane) had any concern for the truth in these matters, or if he had a memory upon which he could rely, he would know that I have on several occasions in this House said that neither Commonwealth nor State Governments could afford to subsidize the wheat industry in country where the Lord never intended wheat to be grown. But the honorable member for Barton could hardly be expected to remember that.
In a pamphlet on the extraction of oil from shale, that has been supplied to us, it is stated that in Scotland from 15 to 25 gallons of oil is obtained from each ton of shale treated. In Manchukuo, the J apanese are making ‘a success of a proposition which is yielding only from 11 to 16 gallons of oil from a ton of shale. It is claimed by the Newnes people - whether rightly or wrongly, I do not know - that the Newnes shale is capable of producing from110 to 140 gallons of oil a ton.
– About 98 I should say.
– If the statement of the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. John Lawson) is true, a serious misstatement occurs in the pamphlet published under the name of the Newnes Advancement Development League. But even if we took a total of SO gallons, we should have a yield three times that of the Scottish shale and five t imes that of the Manchukuo shales. Yet we are told that this industry cannot succeed unless it is given preferential treatment by the Government for 25 years. The Crown is to be obliged to forgo excise duty at 51/2d. a gallon for the period, or alternatively, in the event of the reduction of the excise duty, to pay a bounty equal to the reduced excise duty on 30,000,000 gallons of oil.
– The preference we are proposing is not so great as that given to the Scottish shale oil. There, the shale oil has a preference of8d. a gallon sterling, which is10d. a gallon Australian.
– But surely the Minister must realize that our shale is alleged to be three times as rich in oil as is the Scottish shale..
– That should give us a better chance of success.
– I shall not debate the subject at length. I have indicated my attitude to the bill. I do not offer any criticism of the Government for having entered into an agreement. I simply say that possibly there has been an error of judgment attributable to a rather enthusiastic desire on the part of the Government to develop the oil possibilities of Australia in one way or another. We have no such drastic laws in operation in Australia in regard to oil as operate in some countries to the north of us. One nation - Japan - requires that every oil company shall always keep six months’ supply of oil on hand. Otherwise it may not sell a gallon of oil. Here, however, there seems to be no attempt to hold the whip over those octopuses which operate under the name of oil companies. It is unquestionable that oil will present one of the biggest problems to be confronted by the Australian Government before very long. I am not at all satisfied with the methods of tackling it that have been adopted up to date. Unless this bill is referred to a select committee I shall vote against the second reading of the measure.
.- This bill has been brought down during the expiring weeks of the Parliament at a time when there is no opportunity to give to it the consideration which its importance deserves.
– There has been no check on the consideration of the bill.
– Insufficient time has been provided to give to the bill that extensive examination that is required before committing two governments, the Commonwealth Government and the Government of New South Wales, to a total expenditure of £500,000. Under the agreement it is proposed that the Governments shall provide three-quarters of the capital and the company only onequarter. A fair inference to be drawn from that is that the company regards the venture a3 something in the nature of . a hazard.
– A patriotic hazard too. Do not forget the adjective.
– It is easy to be patriotic if you have the expectation of securing dividends from your act of patriotism, and if you can have that act supported by the public to the extent of threequarters of the risk.
– The honorable member is not forgetting that the company is to invest £167,000 of its own money in the venture? That is a pretty considerable sum.
– It is; but it represents only 25 per cent, of the total sum to be risked.
– The loss of that sum would mean much more to the company than to any government.
– The company has expectation of success, but nevertheless a three to one bet is a very good one if it comes off. If the venture is approved by the Parliament, from the point of view of profits earned, it will be the biggest thing in Australia.
– And for Australia.
– The company is to hold a privileged position for over twenty years. In these circumstances, its investment in the venture is not unlike that of purchasing a ticket in Tattersalls consultation - it is a fair proposition if it comes off ; it provides a sporting chance for the investors to make large profits. From the point of view of the Government which has control of public funds, however, it is not a hazard which should be undertaken.
– What about the Wiluna gold-mine?
– The honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) is displaying extraordinary interest in this subject.
– I have no desire to make imputations ; surely the honorable member for Parramatta will agree that honorable members generally are entitled to criticize an agreement of this kind. I have en deavoured to point out the great risk involved in this venture. When 25 per cent, of its capital has been subscribed in cash the company has a right under the agreement to make a claim upon the governments of £3 for every £1 of subscribed capital. The company is to be given until the 1st January, 1940, to have its plant in complete working order ; until then the governments will be called upon to pay £3 for every £1 of subscribed capital.
– The honorable member is not forgetting that interest has to be paid.
– What is the value of a promise to pay interest when there is no backing behind it? Anybody seeking to borrow money has no difficulty in promising that interest, will be paid. I do not regard the promise to pay interest as important, particularly the promise to pay interest during the first, two years of its operations, when the company will have no income. Obviously, during that time interest will have to be paid out of capital. That the company is to agree to pay interest at the rate of 4£ per cent, gives us no guarantee that it will be paid -in future or that the capital invested by the governments will ever be returned. In order to secure itself the Government is taking what is called a charge over the company’s assets. Apparently the Minister for Defence (Sir Archdale Parkhill) places some reliance upon this charge; in my opinion it is worth very little, if anything. If the company should fail, the value of its assets will be negligible, just as when an earlier concern operating the Newnes shale oil deposits failed, and lost its money, it had very little to show in the nature of realizable assets. What the governments are banking on, apparently, is the success of the venture. If it is a complete success, the governments will get their money back, but if it is a failure practically the whole of the amount advanced by the governments, will be lost.
I agree with certain of the pro-visions in the agreement, notably those providing for the admission of machinery duty free, the remission of excise, and the undertaking to purchase the products of the company, other things being equal as to quality and price; but that portion of the agreement which I most abhor is the undertaking that the Commonwealth Government will maintain the present rate of duty on petrol, 7d. a gallon, and primage, four-tenths of a penny a gallon for a period of 22 years, in default of which compensation shall be paid to the company by way of a bounty. I am of opinion that this Parliament has no right to attempt to bind future parliaments.
– Neither has it the power to do so.
– The Government must also consider its obligations to the users of petrol in this country. Promises have frequently been made that a reduction of the duty on petrol would be made. Thu great objection to a provision such as I have outlined is that it will peg the rate of duty on petrol for a period of 22 years.
– Not necessarily. q
– If any reduction of the rate of duty is made a bounty is to be paid to the company to the degree of that reduction on 10,000,000 gallons of petrol per annum. The cost of such a bounty would have to be borne by the general taxpayers and would be so great that no reduction of duty could subsequently be contemplated. I repeat, therefore, that the adoption of this agreement means nothing but, the pegging of the duty on petrol at the present rate for the next 22 years.
– There is nothing to prevent the rate of duty from being increased.
– No. Paragraph 24 of the agreement deals with the event of flow oil being discovered in this country. I commend the Government for the assistance it is prepared to give towards the discovery of flow oil in Australia, but if this arrangement is made it seems that if flow oil is subsequently discovered, the Government will he under an obligation to pay compensation to this company. Paragraph 24 reads -
If within the period ending on the 31st December, 1950, petrol is produced from Australian flow oil to an extent that it is impossible for the company as a result of such production to operate except at u loss and if at that time the company is not in default under this .agreement or the deeds of covenant and charge hereinbefore referred to the Commonwealth and the State shall favorably consider granting adequate relief to the company.
I should like to know whether the Attorney-General (Mr. Menzies) has approved of that paragraph. What is the meaning of “granting adequate relief ? “ In my opinion “ relief “ means nothing hut “ compensation that as, “ compensation to the company for loss of profits that it otherwise would make if flow oil were not discovered in this country “. I am not very impressed by the view put forward by the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Paterson) that the payment of compensation or otherwise shall remain to successive parliaments. I point out that if this bill be passed the Commonwealth will be committed to a definite agreement with the company which future parliaments may neither alter nor amend. Contracts made between governments and private companies are enforced notwithstanding changes of governments and successive parliaments.
Much as I commend the Government for its attempt to provide a local supply of oil, there are circumstances associated with this agreement which do not justify us in passing the measure without further consideration. I should like to know the attitude of the Labour party in connexion with this bill. According to press statements the Labour party is opposing the bill, but I am doubtful whether the speeches of honorable members opposite will be supported by their votes. The State Labour party in New South Wales has come to a final decision in regard to this agreement; it has not minced matters. I suspect from the speeches of honorable members opposite that there is a great deal of shadow sparring in their opposition to this measure and that their votes will not reflect what their speeches indicate.
Sitting suspended from to 2.15 p.m.
– Now that honorablemembers of the Opposition have been fortified by a meal, we shall see whether they have the courage to refuse to follow their prophet in New South Wales, Mr. Lang. Possibly, the intimation that they are not going to vote against the bill is intended to imbue the public with the idea that occasionally, on some matters, they do enjoy a, separate existence. However, I can promise honorable members opposite that there will be a vote on the bill and that they will have the opportunity to prove by their votes whether they meant what they said.
– I commend the Government for having introduced this bill, and also the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. John Lawson) for the indefatigable efforts he has made to have the Newnes shale industry resuscitated. I also congratulate the Davis company upon its national outlook. Every honorable member of this House, I think, is agreed on the national importance of obtaining oil in Australia. I remind honorable members, particularly those who have suggested further inquiry by a parliamentary committee, into the possibilities of extracting oil from shale, that, for the eighteen years in which I have been a member of this Parliament, all governments have strenuously striven to promote the discovery of oil in this country. The Hughes Government suggested that a reward of £50,000 should be awarded to the discoverer of flow oil in Australia. Later, that suggestion was altered to one that companies or individuals should be subsidized to bore for oil in likely areas. The Hughes Government took the view that it was of no use to give a reward of £50,000 to a company which had already gained the prize that would be represented by the actual discovery of oil, and that it would be better to subsidize the various companies engaged in boring. The Bruce-Page Government introduced legislation to implement that purpose, and that policy has been pursued by all successive governments. In :i.!)27 and 1928, I was the Minister who controlled that legislation, and I did not feel competent to decide what companies or individuals should be subsidized ; I was the first Minister, and the Bruce-Page Government was the first government, to seek the advice and co-operation of qualified geologists. Dr. Wade, who enjoys a world-wide reputation, reported extensively on possible oil-fields in Australia, and the Commonwealth Government was successful later in obtaining the services of Dr. W. G. Woolnough. I remember well that, when the Scullin Government came into office, Mr. Blakeley, as Minister for Home Affairs, supported the Bruce-Page Government’s policy by retaining Dr. Woolnough as geological” adviser. That gentleman still occupies the same position. Having said that, and having stressed the national need for the discovery of oil in Australia, I now say that Ave should, if we had the time, investigate some of the printed reports that are at the disposal of honorable members as to the likelihood of the discovery of oil. in Australia. Most geologists have said that as Australia is an old country geologically, and has become fractured, the gases have escaped, and much of the oil that was once here has become transformed into coal. Nevertheless, the great national need for the discovery of indigenous sources of power should be paramount in the minds of all honorable members.
The bill provides for subsidizing the extraction of oil from shale. No one would be 30 foolish as to suggest that this process is comparable to the discovery of flow oil; the latter will always be more economical than the production of oil from either shale or coal. In passing, I must say that I agree with many of the remarks made by the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) concerning the need for a further examination of ourcoalfields for the purpose, - not only of giving work to the unemployed miners, but also of using coal for the production of -oil. Any proposal that the Government may make in that connexion will have my wholehearted support. ‘This is not the first move to develop the shale deposits. Companies have been operating for years at Newnes. How successful or unsuccessful they have been the printed reports will show. Further efforts are now to be made with up-to-date plant to develop these resources in the interests of industry and defence. All governments, including the Scullin Government, have been concerned about the need to find or produce* oil in quantity at commercial prices. X believe that I am right in saying that the Prime Minister’s Department, when it was administered by Mr. Scullin, would have nothing to do with this industry unless it were undertaken by private enterprise.
– That is not representing it correctly.
– I do not want to misrepresent the right honorable gentleman. ‘
– We said that we were not in the position to finance any public expenditure of that description. We had no constitutional power to do so.
– I accept that. I said that I was in favour, and, I believe that the Scullin Government also was in favour, of allowing private enterprise to develop this field. I think I am right in saying that Mr. Lang is in favour of private enterprise as against nationalization in this matter. From the viewpoint of defence, I believe in the nationalization of the manufacture of munitions and other requirements necessary to the national safety.
– - What about oil?
- Mr. Lang refused to nationalize the oil industry. Private enterprise has developed many of our industries in a way which redounds, not only to their credit but also to the credit of Australia. I did not agree with the proposal of the Government of the day in connexion with the establishment of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, in -which company the Commonwealth owns half the shares; but that company has been efficient and successful. For a glaring example of the ills of nationalization and the virtues of private enterprise, I refer honorable members to. Mount Isa. On one side of the river, there is a Government town set up by an administration representative of the party which at present occupies the treasury bench in Queensland. In that town there are not houses but hovels, with no water supply, no sewerage, and no lighting of any sort. The people have to fend for themselves under a municipal council. Across the river where the Mount Isa company is operating is a town beautifully laid out, with decent residences supplied with electric light and power, and water, and sewerage. If one compares these two towns on opposite sides of the river one obtains a striking instance of the superiority of private enterprise in commercial undertakings. Notwithstanding that that company has not paid any divi dends it has done something to raise humanity to a higher level and a better1 form of government. I have never believed and do not believe now that any commercial business can be managed successfully by a government. Although the governments of the Commonwealth and New South Wales are providing the greater portion of the money for the Newnes enterprise, one of the Davis brothers said to me in Sydney the other day, “If Anybody else will take the proposal off our hands, we shall willingly and completely stand aside “. I remind the House that when Mr. E. C. Riley represented Cook in this House he fought most strenuously - honorable members who were connected with the Scullin Government know this - to induce the Davis brothers, of gelatine fame, to take over the Cockatoo Dock. I commend him for his efforts in that regard. Nobody will deny that the Cockatoo Island Dockyard is managed better to-day than it was when the Government controlled it. The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear), will admit himself that the present management of the Cockatoo Dock treats its employees fairly, that more work is being done, and that the dock is being carried on more efficiently than it was under government control. The unions themselves, I believe, would rather be associated with an organized business under private enterprise than, a disorganized business under government, control.
Everybody admits, I repeat, that we have either to discover oil or manufacture it. I do not regard this bill as the last word to be said in connexion with the production of oil from shale in Australia. If this company should be successful, we can then turn our attention to wonderful deposits of oil shale at Latrobe in Tasmania.
– The Government will not provide any money for the development of the Tasmanian deposits.
– I shall be one of those who will support the enterprise in Tasmania if Newnes is successful. Further, I am prepared to support the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) in his efforts for the utilization of the Australian coal resources for the production of oil. Every one will agree that the desire of the Commonwealth and State Governments is to get the Newnes industry on its feet again in order to assist in the rehabilitation of the unemployed miners whom the Scullin Government had in mind when it set aside £100,000 for the development of the Newnes field. The Scullin. Government’s effort was not successful. Successive governments have tried to get private enterprise interested in the development of the field. I have not heard the whole of the debate on this bill and, accordingly, do not know whether critics of it have suggested an alternative. If there is an alternative honorable members should not hesitate to suggest it. I have never believed in destructive criticism; members, when they criticize, should offer something constructive. If there happens to be an alternative method of carrying out the desire of the Commonwealth and the State of New South Wales to put Newnes on a better footing, 1 am ready to examine it and, if it be preferable, to accept it-
– The only suggestion made was that the industry should lie nationalized.
– I am personally opposed to nationalization except in connexion with those defence activities which I mentioned at the beginning of my remarks. If this company be successful our investment will be successful, unci I think that the Government is justified in feeling that it has the confidence of the people of Australia when it invites Parliament to pass this bill which is designed to give a potentially important industry a chance to prove itself. Granted that we cannot put the men back to work in the Newnes field, still those who have been to the field and round the Capertee Valley have seen the possibility of a great industrial revival with the rehabilitation of the men who have been out of work ‘for a long time. In the work of hewing coal, thousands of miners lui ve been displaced by machines, but the suggestion of the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) to exploit that coal again by means of machinery in the manufacture of oil from coal points to m means of putting them in work again.
– Oil from coal is the more economic proposition.
– I personally think it is, but 1 have not been able to convince other people of it. I am glad that the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research is going into the matter. There has been a tremendous delay on our part in investigating the possibilities of the production of oil from coal, and I would welcome and support any proposal made here to carry out scientific investigation on an exhaustive scale, not by means of mere laboratory tests, but by the actual installation of a plant to test the possibility of producing oil from Maitland coal - which after all is the best coal in the world - mOre efficiently and cheaply than from shale. I gladly support the measure to give the industry a chance to prove that it is all that is claimed for it. If this venture should fail, then the gamble will have been worth while; if it should succeed, its importance to Australia cannot ‘be over-estimated.
.- If it were possible, I should like, as I think every member on this side would like, to have this industry developed by a national effort, but I cannot see how that can be done by the Commonwealth Parliament in a territory which is not under its own exclusive control. We could develop oil in our” territories because there is no division of power there, but it is- very difficult to see that in the State of New South Wales .we should have the constitutional power, as a government, to exploit the industry ourselves. Consequently, if we do anything at all in this direction, it must be by means of subsidizing or aiding private enterprise. There is no more objection to doing that by means of a dole or bounty than to doing it by means of tariff protection. It seems to me that if a fair scheme were devised, there would be no objection to the Commonwalth aiding such a company in the way proposed in the bill, but I do not think the scheme laid down by the Government is fair, nor is the agreement one that can be accepted by the House. There are several reasons for that, some in the terms “of the agreement itself, and others arising outside. One is this, that we are engaged in a search for flow oil, and we now propose to engage in aiding the search for oil from shale; we shall be committed to both of those and spending money upon both and it will be very difficult indeed to induce the people of this country to embark upon what I believe is the better means, namely, the extraction of oil from coal. I believe that it is the proper means, more suitable for this country, and more likely to be advantageous to it than is the extraction of oil from shale; but the adoption of the scheme contained in the bill will preclude any possibility of coal oil production in the near future. That is one of the objections I have to it, but, as I say, I also have objections to the agreement itself. In what I say now I am conscious that I am really elaborating what was so effectively said this morning by the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron). One of the prime objects of the agreement is not achieved at all by the words of the agreement. Its framers went to considerable trouble to preclude the possibility of foreigners acquiring control of the enterprise. They provided that a foreigner should not be an officer or shareholder of the company, and that a company incorporated in a foreign country should not be a shareholder in the company; they went beyond that by saying, “ We shall deal with the case of foreigners coming here and incorporating a company under our law”, so they provided that , a corporation controlled by foreigners should not be allowed to be interested in the enterprise. They drew up a fairly elaborate scheme to achieve those ends, but by the agreement itself all those provisions can be waived with the consent of the Government of the day either of the Commonwealth or of the State of New South Wales. Either government can release the company from the obligations intended to be imposed upon it, and so destroy those safeguards. One of the objects that this country should, like every other, have jealously in mind, is that its natural resources, particularly oil, shall not pass under the control of people who may possibly become its enemies; yet paragraph 23 of the agreement is so drawn that either Government can release the company from the obligation to comply with the first schedule.
– Even if the other Government objects?
– Yes. The paragraph provides -
The company shall not without the consent in writing of the Commonwealth or the State alter the provisions of its memorandumof association which are set out in the first schedule hereto or alter the articles of association made in pursuance of such provisions …
If the company, without that consent, were to alter those provisions it would be liable to proceedings instituted against it by the Attorney-General of the Commonwealth or the Attorney-General of the State, but those safeguards can be destroyed, and those provisions can be waived, without the consent of the Commonwealth Government at all.
– Does that clause provide that they can wipe out all those safeguards if they like?
– Yes, if the Government of New Sou th Wales consented, they could he wiped out without the consent of the Commonwealth Government, and vice versa. I believe that that is an error, and that it, was intended to rectify the defect, but I also understand that the third party to the agreement is not prepared to waive the advantage so given to him. He desires to retain the power to bring in foreign capital, and put the company under foreign control, so long as the Government of either the Commonwealth or New South Wales will consent. In my opinion, it is absolutely necessary to require both governments to consent. In fact, the paragraph would be much better without any stipulation for consent at all. It should provide absolutely that the company shall not infringe the provisions of the first schedule, in no circumstances allow foreigners to hold shares in it, or a foreign corporation to acquire shares in it, or permit a corporation controlled by foreigners, but registered in Australia, to manage the enterprise. Paragraph 23 as it stands simply allows a coach and four to be driven through the most vital partof the agreement, so long as the consent of one government of the day can be had. It would be an advantage to require the consent of both governments, because it is quite possible that different parties will be in control of the respective Parliaments, but better still to stipulate absolutely that the company shall not depart from the strict provisions originally laid down, and that no government may release it from them.
Another objection, and a very important one, to the agreement is that it is proposed to tie the hands of this Parliament for 20 years in respect of its control over customs and excise duties. Honorable members will remember the criticism levelled at the Ottawa agreement, that it, and the legislation to be passed under it, would tie the hands of the Commonwealth Parliament by prohibiting the raising of duties. The answer to that was that they could not tie the hands of Parliament, because the people who made the agreement knew that this Parliament was free. Having in mind that position, the framers of this shale oil agreement have provided that, if the Commonwealth Parliament does alter relevant duties, then the Commonwealth Government of the day shall pay to the company the amount that the company may be thought to lose as the result. A protected manufacturer takes the risk of protection being withdrawn, but in this case the company is to have a guarantee for 20 years that, if it suffers by any alteration of duties, it shall be compensated by the Commonwealth.
We are pursuing our quest for flow oil, and paragraph 24 of the agreement provides that, if we do find it, the Commonwealth Government of the day and the State Government of the day together, shall favorably consider the granting of adequate relief to the company. The answer to all that, of* course, is that governmentscannot do these things without the money being voted by Parliament. The Ministry, foreseeing that objection, has tabled an amendment which provides for the appropriation for 20 years in advance of any amount that may be necessary to discharge any obligation that may be incurred by the Commonwealth.
– Without limit?
– Yes, the amendment provides that Parliament hereby appropriates in advance for 20 years such sums as may be necessary to meet the liabilities of the Commonwealth arising under or out of the agreement.
-Why, that is giving a blank cheque !
– It means that we practically give a blank cheque for the period of the next generation, enabling the Government of the day, without asking the consent of Parliament, to pay such amount as it may think is fair compensation to the company for any loss arising from the discovery of flow oil, or as may be required to compensate the company for loss resulting from the imposition of duties. Those are provisions that Parliament should not accept. The control of the purse, which is vested in this House, will be taken out of its hands, if those provisions be accepted, by means of a bill passed by a dying Parliament. This Parliament, which has only a few more days to live, is asked to pass legislation enabling the Commonwealth Government, for 20 years, without the consent of Parliament, to pay money for the purpose of meeting its obligations under the agreement. This, therefore, is a measure which the House should not pass. It, seems to me that the agreement is in all respects one in which theCommonwealth and the State of New South Wales, particularly the Commonwealth, are giving away a great deal which should not be given away. I am reminded by it of the old distich -
In matters of commerce, the fault of the Dutch
Is giving too little and asking too much.
.- I wish to pay a tribute to the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. John Lawson) for what may be termed his stickatitiveness. In this matter he has stuck up most determinedly for what he thinks is right, not only for the Government, but also for the people of Australia, and we should give credit where credit is due. We certainly should give some measure of credit to the honorable member for the introduction of this bill. The idea of obtaining our oil supplies from within Australia appeals to me, inasmuch as it will make us independent of outside supplies, and will create another important Australian industry. The importance of such an industry for defence purposes is uppermost in all our minds at the present time, and from that point of view, this measure has much to recommend it. However, before agreeing to the proposal, we should give very careful consideration to what is involved. A little while ago, “the honorable member for .Bourke (Mr. Blackburn), in that keenly analytical maimer which is characteristic of him, pointed out some of the defects of the proposed agreement, and mentioned, amongst other things, paragraph 28 of the agreement which contains these words -
Iiic company shall not, without thu consent in writing of the Commonwealth or the State . . .
The honorable member suggested that the word “ and “ should be inserted in place of the word “ or “, and with that I agree. It is vitally important that the Commonwealth should retain its control in this regard. Paragraph 24 states -
If within the period ending on the 31st December, 1900, petrol is produced from Australian flow oil to an extent that it is impossible for the company us a result itf such production to operate except at a loss and if ut that time the company is not in default under this agreement or the deeds of covenant and . charge hereinbefore referred to the Commonwealth and the State shall favorably consider granting adequate relief to the company.
This practically amounts to giving to the company an open cheque, because the Commonwealth is promising to make good any losses the company may incur. I have studied carefully the efforts of various groups and companies to develop the shale oil resources of this country, and I have seen them fail one by one. If this company fails also, the Commonwealth may be involved in serious financial commitments. I should like to see this provision materially altered.
– .But we cannot alter the agreement.
– Perhaps not, but it is my duty to point out these things. Although we should do everything possible to make ourselves independent of outside supplies of oil, we should take the greatest care in the drawing up of an agreement of this kind. A great deal of public money is involved in the enterprise. The Commonwealth will be committed to provide £334,000, New South Wales £166,000, and the company £166,000. I do not relish the idea of voting against the bill, but I believe that the matter should be more carefully investigated before we commit ourselves, i. recognize that this represents a genuine attempt by the Government to develop the industry, but I cannot refrain from voicing my private opinion that the enterprise will not succeed.
It is remarkable that, up to the present, flow oil has not been discovered in Australia in commercial quantities, although £250,000 of public money has already been expended on the search. I hope that eventually the search will be successful. Reference has been made during this debate to the activities of Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited. I must confess that I have been very disappointed with the results achieved by the company to date. Indeed, I do not think it has been of any real value to Australia at all. I had hoped that it would serve the purpose of keeping petrol prices down to a reasonable figure, but in practice it has joined in a working agreement with the other companies, and always charges the same prices as they do.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. G. J. Bell).The honorable member is now discussing something outside the scope of the bill-
– I mention the matter now in order to voice my disappointment with the Commonwealth Oil Refineries, and to express the opinion that it might very well have taken a more active part in the search for flow oil in Australia.
I have no complaint to make regarding the financial backing of the company which is to undertake the work at Newnes, and I believe that the men in charge of it are really actuated by a desire to promote the national interest. They are putting a considerable amount, of their own money into it, but I do not believe that it is in the public interest that the Commonwealth and the State of New South Wale3 should commit themselves to the enterprise upon the terms proposed. The bill uses the term “adequate relief”, and I should like to know just what is meant by that. I confess that I am in a quandary over this measure. I do not like the terms of the agreement, though I recognize the need to make ourselves independent of outside oil supplies. Some one asked a little while ago what was the alternative to this proposal. There is one, though it does not fit in with my idea of creating an industry that would provide employment. The alternative is to establish in each State adequate oil storage facilities, and then convey supplies of oil in tankers from the source of supply. A great many people would rather see this done than that we should waste public money as must necessarily occur in connexion with the Government’s proposal. I do not propose to support this measure.
. -It must be admitted that there is a most noticeable lack of enthusiasm among Government supporters for this measure, and honorable members of all parties will agree that it would be unwise to commit ourselves to an agreement of this kind without first making the most careful investigation. No parliament should be asked to deal with a matter of such importance during the last few days of its life. The proposed agreement could have been circulated amongst, honorable members a long while before it was, so that those who are not lawyers could consult competent legal opinion in order to learn the full implications of the proposal. The comments of the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) were such that the Government cannot afford to ignore them. He mentioned three points that require serious consideration. The proposal involves the expenditure of a large sum of public money, and those honorable members who support it will have to justify their action from public platforms throughout the country. The public are keenly alive to this issue, and will want to know how their money is to be spent.
The honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. John Lawson) devoted a considerable part of his speech to an historical review of the shale oil industry in Australia, and particularly at Newnes. He tried, for reasons that are obvious, to malign the Lang Labour Government in New South Wales for not having done what he thought it ought to have done. I remind him, however, that the present Government has been in office for six years, and it is a remarkable thing that only at the end of that period has it seen fit to bring down a proposal for dealing with such an admittedly important matter. This Government has enjoyed a majority in both chambers, and could have brought in a measure of this kind almost at the beginning of its term of office. I invite honorable members to consider for a moment just what was the condition of the country in 1930 and 1931, the period in respect of which the honorable member for Macquarie saw fit to criticize a Labour Government in New South Wales.
For seven years, the Scullin Government was preceded in this Parliament by a ministry of the same political colour as that now in office. During those years the Bruce-Page Government enjoyed many advantages on account of the very prosperous conditions that then existed. Almost immediately following its removal of that Government from office, every government in Australia was faced with problems of exceptional difficulty, because unemployment was rife. Many employers closed their factories, and caused their employees to be thrown on the streets. This happened in every capital city in the Commonwealth. The responsibility of providing the unemployed with sustenance was thrown upon the various governments, and, particularly, the State governments. It was impossible for them to advance hundreds of thousands of pounds for the carrying out of such ventures as this because the most pressing need was the provision of food, clothing and shelter of those who were out of work. It is merely begging the question to attempt to cast blame on the government of that day for its failure to develop the shale deposits. The honorable member for Macquarie should realize that criticism of that kind will not strengthen his case, particularly as the Government which he now supports has been in office for six years and is now only considering the question. During the trying times to which I have just referred, wages and social services were reduced, and, therefore, the circumstances at that time should he remembered in discussing the present proposal. The Scullin Government was also faced with the problem of assisting the miners on the northern coalfields of New South Wales, and it placed a sum of money at the disposal of th:
Stale Oil Development Committee, which was appointed to investigate the problem of providing employment for the miners. The chairman of that committee, in the course of a speech in the Parliament of New South Wales, remarked -
We produced oil. . . . Then the Lyons Government assumed office in the federal sphere, and gave instructions that the industry must cease. The Lyons Government said that it was not the Government’s policy to run the industry, and we were given 21 days in which to call for tenders, with the object of some company taking over the undertaking. We had no alternative but to act on the Federal Government’s instruction. The successful tenderers were Messrs. Treganowan and Chambers, and I have before me the prospectus that was issued and the report submitted by Sir Herbert Gepp.
Those honorable members who happened to be in this Parliament at the time will recall a great nourish of trumpets when an announcement was made regarding proposals to be put in hand in the Newnes Valley. The people in the district were led to believe that a brighter day had dawned for them. All of us were interested in this subject, and we watched the developments patiently, hoping that the work to be undertaken by Messrs. Treganowan and Chambers would meet with success. Reference to the records of this House will show that, on the 16th March, 1933, I submitted a formal motion for adjournment for the purpose of discussing the agreement entered into by the Commonwealth Government with Messrs. Treganowan and Chambers. The Opposition, having waited for a reasonable period, was anxious to ascertain why Messrs. Treganowan and Chambers had not proceeded with the work at Newnes. Considerable space in Hansard was devoted to the discussion of the efforts that this firm had put forward. I consider that it made a genuine attempt to develop the field. It proposed to install a cracking plant that was to cost about. £60,000, and iia plans were approved by the Government. It contemplated the construction of a tunnel into Capertee Valley, and the present Government provided in the agreement for a guarantee by the English, Scottish and Australian Bank of the firm’s bona fides. In default of compliance with the conditions laid down, the sum of £5,000 was to be paid to the Government. It was further provided that “this bond shall not be waived for any reason whatsoever, whether for granting of time or otherwise. “ Those are definite words. Apparently, those entrusted with the framing of the agreement, endeavoured to make it as binding as possible. I asked a question in this House regarding the matter, and suggested that the papers dealing with the agreement and an account of the subsequent events, be tabled in the library, because I subsequently ascertained that the Government had relieved Messrs. Treganowan and Chambers of their guarantee of £5,000, irrespective of the fact that the agreement had stated that in no circumstances was that condition to be waived. An interesting point arose with regard to the following letter sent by the company to the Government -
The failure to carry out the terms of thu agreement of the 12th May, has been due to many causes beyond my control, and I am now reluctantly compelled to appeal to you regarding my bond of £5,000, and expenses amounting to £3,000, and sincerely hope that same will receive your favorable consideration. In my efforts to establish the shale oil industry, t have been confronted with problems which I did not contemplate, and in general the propaganda has been far too strong for me to combat. In addition to this, the action of the Shell Company, in cutting off supplies of crude fuel oil has placed me in a very embarrassing position regarding my finance.
The company was unable to combat the propaganda directed against it, so the Government relieved it of its guarantee and compensated it for the expenditure incurred.
It must be clear to all honorable members that, before reaching this decision, the Government should have had good ground for doing so. It is obvious also, to all who have studied the subject of oil supplies, and are familiar with the history of oil scandals in various parts of the world, that the forces beyond the control of Messrs. Treganowan and Chambers were no other than the foreign major oil companies, which eventually succeeded in preventing the development, of the shale oil industry at Newnes. In my opinion, the oil combine has continued to prevent the discovery of oil and the development of oil resources in this country. We, therefore, have good grounds for saying that the position of the Government in this matter is no different from its position when dealing with Chambers and Treganowan. The major oil companies prevented operations then; the Government has done nothing to curb their influence, and what they have already accomplished they are certain to repeat unless proper safeguards be provided. Consequently, we are not prepared to allow this bill to pass without providing a measure of control over the expenditure of the money to be provided by the Commonwealth and State governments. The foreign major oil ‘ companies should not be able to prevent development at Newnes, robbing the Commonwealth and the States of £500,000, and, in the process, denying employment for all time to a number of men badly in need of it.
That is where I stand on this matter. I am not merely indulging in party political propaganda. The facts in regard to this matter must be made known in order that the people interested will not be misled into believing that the passage of this bill in its present form will bring great activity to the Newnes district. There is grave doubt whether the venture will result in the success said to be anticipated by the Government and its supporters. Unless the proper safeguards which I will later propose are inserted in the agreement, first of all, every effort should be made to see that we do not put £500,000 into a pool over which we shall have no control. It seems to me that if the company does not produce shale oil in the desired quantities, it will be impossible to ascertain the reason for the failure. I understand that Messrs. Treganowan and Chambers were engaged in an oil refining business in Melbourne, and, in order to tie them up there, the Shell Oil Company cut off their supplies of crude oil.
– Is the Shell Oil Company the only company that supplies crude oil? What about Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited?
– When the price of petrol is raised, even Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited falls in with the arrangement made by the major oil companies.
– Was there not an obligation upon the part of the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited to provide the crude oil required?
– I understand that the conditions under which the companies supply oil are such that they remain a law to themselves. Who would dare to fight them in the courts on the grounds of breach of agreement or restraint of trade? I often wish that the Government of one of the States would take legal action against them. Obviously the oil combine is an allpowerful body, as was shown when sanctions were applied against Italy at the time of the Italo-Abyssinia war, but the interests of the oil companies were not in any way affected. The point I make is that the power possessed by these major corporations at the present time is such, that it would be a forlorn hope on the part of any private individual to tackle them.
The question that concerns me at the moment is: Who was responsible for the draft of this agreement? From the report submitted to the Minister in charge of Development (Senator A. J. McLachlan) it would appear that the principles laid down by the Newnes Investigation Committee, which has been giving its attention to this matter for some years, have not been followed in the agreement. Apparently some one else has come into the picture. One would have thought that the Government would be influenced by the recommendations of the committee and that it would attach some value to the information which its investigations elicited. Apparently this aspect was ignored. Speaking in the New South Wales Legislative Assembly on the 18th August, the Premier, Mr. Stevens, said - ‘
It is said that thu general agreement is one that gives an undue advantage to Mr. Davis and his associates. ‘.Chat is not true. It is hu agreement which Mr. Davis did not seek. H is an agreement that lie was asked to enter into
Yet on the next page of the New South Wales Hansard report, Mr. Stevens said -
The agreement has been drawn up by the Federal and State legal authorities after consultation with the Davis Gelatine Company.
– The two statements are not incompatible.
– I consider that they arc. When attempting to answer the charge that the agreement gave undue advantage to Mr. Davis, Mr. Stevens paid that Mr. Davis did not seek it, his intention being to convey the impression that Mr. Davis is one of those loftyminded gentlemen with a great national outlook, and that some ‘ one had come along and said to him, “ Here you are, Mr. Davis, take this agreement.”
– And that, substantially, was the position.
– There can be no doubt that, whatever happened, Mr. Davis was well in on the ground floor when the agreement was’ being drawn up.
– Would the honorable member expect him to be outside?
– Very well. lt would seem that honorable members opposite are agreed that Mr. Davis was right in on the ground floor when the agreement was made. Therefore, the agreement embodied in the bill is in the form determined entirely by Mr. Davis. This, [ suggest, is an extraordinary thing for the Government to accept.
– Mr. Davis was in this House all last week listening to the debate.
– The honorable member for Bourke raised a number of major issues when he was debating the memorandum of agreement this afternoon. They have not yet been answered. The defence aspect of this proposal is, perhaps, one of the most important. If. as appears likely, foreign interests can come into this venture if Davis wishes them to do so, then the argument that this scheme has been propounded in the national interest falls to the ground. Paragraph 23 of the agreement is vital. The honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Price) admitted its importance, but I have no doubt that honorable members opposite will attempt to dispose of our fears regarding it by simply contradicting them. It has been stated that Mr. Davis is not prepared to waive the right given to him by the provisions of paragraph 23 to seek an alteration of the agreement.
– Does the honorable member think that either the Commonwealth Government or the State Government would do what he suggests?
– Provision is -made in that clause for the alteration of the memorandum of agreement with the consent of the Commonwealth or State Governments. “It is in this connexion, I suggest, that one sees the possible intrusion of foreign interests again. In short, the agreement is presented in such a form as to make possible its variation in certain circumstances over which the Commonwealth Government’ has no control. Therefore, the argument of the honorable member for Bourke that this is a matter which the House should consider, has not been disposed of. Another aspect of importance is that of employment. I am certain that when supporters of the Government mention this matter outside they will refrain from stating the facts, and, unfortunately, many who are interested will not be in a position to analyse all the reports concerning this subject. It has been stated, in an offhand manner by our opponents, that we on this side are not concerned with the employment aspect of this scheme. I emphatically deny any such suggestion. The employment value of any proposal is of paramount importance to everyone who has at heart the welfare of the people and the country. The report of the Newnes investigation committee states that on a capital investment of £600,000, this scheme will give employment to 350 pea-sons directly, and probably an equal number of persons indirectly. The honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. John Lawson) and the Premier of New South Wales have asserted that employment will be provided for 600 persons directly and probably 700 persons indirectly. The honorable member for Macquarie, when making this observation, said that the output, according to the committee’s report, would be 6,000,000 gallons, whereas this agreement provides for 10,000,000 gallons. The point is that the committee’s report states that on an amount of capital invested, namely £600,000, only 6,000,000 gallons can be produced, and the supporters of this agreement say that on the same capitalinvested, namely, £600,000, 10,000,000 gallons can be produced. Whom are we to believe? I know that in this Parliament during the last few years it has been customary to present exaggerated estimates of the numbers of persons to be employed by various projects. It is quite wrong to mislead the people in this way.
– The honorable member is astray as to the amount of capital to be invested.
– I am not astray ; I am quoting from the Shale Oil Investigation Committee’s report, and I am prepared to accept its comment as against that of the honorable member for Macquarie. It is, I repeat, wrong to suggest that any project will give employment to a greater number of people than actually will obtain work from it. It is misleading, and these practices should be condemned. I know that the honorable member for Macquarie has led people in portion of his district to believe that this scheme will provide work for twice the number that will actually get employment from it. All that the Government has presented to the House is this bill; there is no report or investigation to back its contents in any way. On the other hand, we have the report of the Newnes investigation committee which made its inquiries in 1934, and I am afraid that the estimate of the number of persons that will be employed may not be realized. It will not be denied that ever since the report was submitted in 1934, the mechanization of industry has proceeded at such pace as to make possible, if not probable, a substantial reduction of the estimated number of persons to be employed from the capital investment of £600,000 on this proposal. In all probability the number to be employed will be reduced to 300.
The Shale Oil Investigation Committee, having in. mind the power wielded by the major oil corporations, has laid clown in its report certain guiding principles as to the constitution of the board. It has suggested that the board should consist of a chairman and four other directors, one to be nominated by the Commonwealth Government, one by the New South Wales Government and two by the preference shareholders, and the chairman to be nominated by the Com monwealth and State Governments conjointly. Will any honorable member say that this recommendation is not sound? No person would be willing to invest his capital in a business venture without some such safeguard; therefore, the same precautions should be provided in transactions by the Commonwealth as would be applied by private individuals in any business venture. The honorable member for Macquarie referred to Messrs. Orr and Nelson, representatives of the miners.
– -I did not mention Mr. Orr’s name.
– Perhaps I am wrong; but he did refer to the men who are in charge of the miner’s organizations in Lithgow.
– I referred to the miners’ representatives in the Western District.
– Very well. The honorable member asked if they stood by this agreement. I know that they arc concerned] with the welfare of their members and would not favour any agreement that did not, first of all, give preference in employment to them. That would be the first stipulation the miners would make, and I challenge the honorable member for Macquarie- to deny that. The next point which they would lay down in keeping with the -present-day developments would be that ample safeguards should be provided for them against the consequences of mechanization, because, after all, that is the great problem to-day on. the mining fields. The honorable member cannot rightly claim the support of union officials as he has done, unless I am very much mistaken in the attitude a union official should take. Furthermore, from my knowledge of these men and the movement with which I am associated, I know that one of the cardinal conditions they would insist upon is representation of the workers on the boards controlling industries in which government capital is invested. Whilst capital is one thing, labour power is another, and if the rights of capital are to be preserved through representation upon boards and directorates, the rights of labour and labour power must be preserved in the same way. That is a cardinal point in all our undertakings.
Does any honorable member opposite object to that policy? If the outlook of the officers of this organization is in keeping with the policy they have adopted in this respect in the past, they would not be a party to ignoring any of the three cardinal points involved in this instance - mechanization, preference to unionists and representation of the workers. Therefore in these circumstances alone they could not support this agreement. Quite a lot has been said about private enterprise, and in that respect the most appropriate observation in the debate came from the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron). When the honorable member for Boothby was speaking about the great national purpose behind Mr. Davis, the honorable member for Barker said : “ Yes, with national revenue.” It is remarkable that private enterprise with its reputedly great capacity to meet the requirements of the country, has to come to governments to secure a sum. of £500,000 before it can set out on this venture. Private enterprises that can survive only under those conditions is not entitled to the name.
– It is to be spoon-fed for 27 years.
– I have not sufficient time to deal with this matter as fully as I should like. I point out that, according to the agreement, if this company has not made satisfactory progress by 1940, the Government, as a government, will lui ve no power to call it to book. Any failure on its part in this respect is to be referred to the Auditor-General of the State of New .South Wales. What is the reason for that provision? The AuditorGeneral of New South Wales is an authority apart from this Parliament altogether, whilst, in respect of the Parliament of New South Wales, he enjoys an overriding power and ca.n condemn, criticize, say and do what he likes in his official capacity. Why is it proposed, to hand the matter over to this official? We in Parliament are not to bc allowed to deal with it; and the workers in Newnes Valley, whose interests will be involved in this undertaking, will not, be able to place before this Parliament their views concerning any hitch that occurs. For instance, in the event of a hold-up, say, through the failure of the company to put a tunnel through to Capertee Valley, they will not be able to voice their protests in this Parliament. They will have no right to make any adjustments through their representatives in this Parliament. Apparently, in the event of any difficulty through the power of foreign major oil interests, they may pitch their tents in the valley and their lot will be to remain there to rot. until the matter has been dealt with by the Auditor-General of New South Wales, who can, like many mining wardens do in similar circumstances, give extension after extension to this company: ‘possibly in time the company will claim to have proved to the world at large how impossible it is to extract oil from shale, and so justify the contention that after so much money has been spent on the project without result, the whole enterprise should be regarded as a washout. In that event, the major oil companies will, register another victory. This Parliament cannot accept this agreement in its present form, but must, as the. honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) suggested, provide for the establishment of a. board through which it shall have some say in the progress of this work. That is how honorable members on this side of the House regard this measure, and we feel that this Parliament must give serious consideration to the points we have raised. I therefore, move -
That all words after the word “That” be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words: - “the bill be withdrawn, with the object of having the agreement reconsidered so as to eliminate the possibility of foreign control or influence by amending paragraph 23 and to eliminate paragraphs 13 and 24. and of having the bill with the amended agreement redrafted and resubmitted in such a form as to make provision for a Board of Control in accordance with the recommendations of the Newnes Investigation Committee of 1034, which recommended a board to consist of a chairman and four other directors, one director to be nominated by the Commonwealth, one by the New South Wales State Government, and two by preference shareholders. The chairman to be nominated by the Commonwealth and State Governments conjointly
.- I regard this bill as an attempt on the part of the Government to tackle one of the greatest and most’ difficult problems of defence in Australia, and for that reason I commend the Government for introducing it. If the measure purported to establish a new economic industry I could not seriously consider it; however, I do not think that the Government rnakes that claim in respect of it. This is a definite attempt to meet the very difficult problem of providing oil supplies in Australia in time of war. So long as Australia follows the policy laid down by this Government of co-operating with the Empire as a whole for the defence of the Empire, including Australia, we shall be capable of handling adequately the military side of defence. But even if we can do that, it is very doubtful whether we can adequately safeguard Australia from being starved, of oil. It is often said that in the event of war Australia, at any rate, could not be starved out; so far .as that observation applies to food supplies,” it is indisputably true, but whether we can prevent Australia from being starved of oil is a very different question. In the first place, in time of war, all our services would be rendered futile if our supplies of oil were cut off. This applies obviously to the navy and air force, which could not operate at all without adequate oil supplies, whilst the efforts of our army would necessarily be much circumscribed. Apart from the needs of our fighting forces, we must also realize that oil is the very life blood of our primary production and of our distribution generally. In time of war a great deal could be done to ration available supplies of oil by prohibiting its use for luxury purposes and by greatly curtailing our road transport services. “We must also bear in mind however, that thousands of farms to-day are entirely dependent for their production on oil fuel. Many people say that the transfer from the horse to the tractor so far as our farms are concerned was a mistake, but the fact remains that that transfer has been made, and we could not revert to the horse within a few months, or a few years, because the number of horses available would not be sufficient to replace motor traction and motor transport in that period even in a case of emergency. Therefore, if our oil supplies were cut off, our primary production would he dislocated to .an extent difficult to visualize, and very alarming even to attempt to visualize. That the Government shows its realization of this danger is, therefore, so much to the good.
In regard to the adequacy of this measure I have personal misgivings as to whether the security it gives is proportionate to the expenditure involved and whether greater security could not be provided foi1 the same expenditure in other directions. However, I realize that one has to be very’ careful as a critic if one cannot show an. alternative, and I do not pretend to be able to suggest an alternative. The expenditure involved in this proposal is very great, and much has been said on that point. If the sum of £500,000, which is the amount immediately involved, were even a substantial fraction of the ultimate cost so far as this Parliament is concerned, I would support the bill without any misgivings at all. My concern arises from, the extent to which we shall be committed to support this proposal by way of tax remission or bounty during the next 27 years. Capitalizing our liability of £250,000 a year for the next 27 years, one ‘ feels that a very great deal might be done with such an amount in establishing great reserves of oil. However, we must consider the problem of oil supplies in the light of the possibility that if there is a war in the Pacific it will not be of short duration. Many people say that a modern war cannot lastvery long but that was said at the beginning of the Great War in 1914. It is being said again to-day and, perhaps, with regard to Europe, there is some truth in it. But it is reasonable to assume that in the event of a war in the Pacific zone, neither side could bring the conflict to a conclusion in less than several years. With the help of the British Empire we could defend Australia from invasion; but I do not think that we could force an enemy in the Pacific to sue foi- peace within a few years. If we adopt a sound defence policy, . Australia could not be invaded, but our economic life could be made almost impossible by our oil supplies being almost, if not entirely cut off. The quantity of oil that would be required to be held in reserve would be so colossal as to be almost impracticable. In these circumstances the value of this measure is the extent to which production of oil from shale could in time of national emergency be increased, and on that point I should like further information from the Minister. If we could expect an increase from the 10,000,000 gallons proposed to, say, 50,000,000 to 70,000,000 gallons within a reasonable period, the undertaking would be justified. I commend the Government for realizing our great danger in this direction, and for what it is doing in an endeavour to encourage the production of flow oil in the Gippsland district. Many people are asking why the Government is not incurring more expenditure in that locality where already considerable supplies of oil are being obtained, and where it is hoped increased supplies will be obtained in the near future; but it is already doing everything that can be reasonably expected of it in that connexion. At present it is subsidizing the two companies operating in that district on a £1 for £1 basis, and the results obtained to-day are indeed very encouraging. Unfortunately there has been some delay owing to the inability to secure a boring plant capable of penetrating to an essential depth ; but the Government has now ordered from Great Britain the necessary plant, which it will make available immediately it is delivered. Delay has occurred in delivery owing to some of the parts required not. being available. We can only hope that the Gippsland field will produce as. much oil as is expected. It would be madness, however, to depend entirely on the optimistic belief that adequate supplies will be available from this source. Even if the more optimistic estimates of the capacity of the field prove to be true, it is still unlikely that that field would be able to produce more than a considerable fraction of the oil required in Australia, particularly in time of war. Therefore, the Government is justified in spending money in other directions, and in making still further provision for obtaining supplies in time of war. Although I trust that production of oil will be much greater than we have been leo to believe, I commend the Government for tackling what I consider the most difficult of our defence problems.
– Although I am somewhat in a quandary in determining whether I shall or shall not support a bill which, although based on uneconomic principles, is of national importance to Australia, the Government also is faced with considerable difficulty. The Government, which is not entirely responsibile for the position, is confronted with the heavy responsibility of meeting the situation which might arise should Australia be deprived, of oil supplies from overseas for defence purposes. While the Government knows that it is sponsoring an uneconomic venture, it also realizes that if the undertaking were nationalized, the difficulties would be accentuated. In these circumstances, it is the responsibility of every honorable member to study the problem from every angle. I am incapable of analysing the agreement in the critical way in which it was examined by the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. McEwen), and, I must, therefore, rely upon other honorable members to study the proposal in detail in the interests of the taxpayers. The remarks of the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. McEwen) indicated that the agreement has been loosely conceived. The honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Fairbairn) said it was unwise to criticize the proposal unless one had an alternative to offer. The alternative I wish to bring under the notice of the House is the desirability of encouraging the production of power alcohol, which the Minister for Defence (Sir Archdale Parkhill) regards as uneconomic.
– We should deal “with one source of production at a time.
– I trust the Minister will not lose sight of the ability displayed by. Sir David Rivett, whose services should be invoked in connexion with the production of power alcohol in tropical regions. Even New Zealand is interested in the production of power alcohol, and in the Sunday News of the 15th December, 1934, a newspaper published in that dominion, the following paragraph appeared : -
If petrol is cut off, New Zealand would be paralyzed. Even poor old Dobbin would not help. Power alcohol would solve a national problem. ls power alcohol is produced more readily in tropical and sub-tropical regions, its production in North-Australia should be more economical than in New Zealand. I propose now to deal with the soil and the climatic conditions in different countries in which power alcohol is produced economically, and to show the similarity between them and the conditions in certain parts of Australia.
– Will the honorable member accept my assurance that Mr. Davis and those with whom he is associated in this project would not entertain the proposal to exploit the possibilities of power alcohol. They are committed to Newnes.
– Last year, I was deprived of the opportunity to place my views on this subject before the House, and I trust that some courtesy will now bo extended to me. I propose to quote from a publication entitled : The possibilities of power alcohol and certain other fuels in Australia, by G. A. Cook. Dr. Cook is a Master of Science and a world authority on the subject. I do not propose to delay the House by quoting other authorities, but I shall show how difficulties in the matter of fuel oil supplies were overcome during the war.
– The honorable member will not be in order in dealing at length with the production of power alcohol, as that subject is not covered by the bill.
– I propose to show how the difficulty was overcome in other countries.
– The honorable member must discuss the extraction of oil from shale at Newnes.
– I propose to show .that it is uneconomic to produce oil from shale at Newnes, and that an attempt to do so will not be in the best interests of the nation. We should produce power alcohol, which is practicable in many parts of Australia, particularly North Queensland and the Northern Territory.
– The honorable member will be entitled to make passing reference- to that subject ; but he must not deal with it at length.
– During the war, an international committee was appointed in Great Britain to report on the production and utilization of alcohol for power and traction purposes. Dr. Cook says -
The vegetable sources of raw material and the manufacture of pure alcohol in Great Britain must rely mainly, if not entirely, on increased production in tropical and subtropical countries.
Our attention should, therefore, be focussed on the production of power alcohol in the tropical and subtropical portions of Australia. Germany and Belgium, which were in a position similar to that of Great Britain, decided to engage in the production of power alcohol. Activity has also been displayed in certain parts of Australia, particularly near Mackay, and in this connexion I again quote Dr. Cook, who, in 1926, said -
Tinning to Australia, it may be noted that a power alcohol distillery is now practically complete at the Plane Creek sugar mill near Mackay, Queensland. It is expected that production will commence early in 1927.
The following quotation shows that the Commonwealth Government interested itself in the matter in 1927, since when the possibilities have increased: -
Alcohol extracted from molasses, and prepared in the Federal Government’s acetate of lime factory at Brisbane, lias been used over a period of three years in transport vehicles belonging to various Government Departments. The alcohol plant was installed in the factory to make cordite and other explosives. The manufacture of these materials was temporarily suspended in 1923 and in order that, the plant should not. lie idle it was decided to experiment with alcohol as a fuel in motor vehicles. Tests oi the product of the factory were made under the direction of the chemical staff and a fuel consisting of 70 per cent, of ethyl alcohol (95 per cent.), 20 per .cent, of petrol or benzol, and 10 per cent, of ether to which waa added a small quantity of wood naphtha and pyridine was evolved as being the most satisfactory and efficient product.
A nucleus has therefore been established in the northern regions of the continent, to which the energies of the Government and Mr. Davis might be directed. Surely, as the Government is at its wits’ end to demonstrate that production can be economically carried out at Newnes, we are justified in asking that it give a further trial to the production of fuel in the northern regions of the continent, where land is available for such operations toproduce all our fuel requirements. I ask leave to continue ray remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– by leave - I desire to inform honorable members that I propose to recommend to His Excellency the GovernorGeneral that a dissolution of the House of Representatives be granted with a view to the holding of the General Elections on the 23rd October next. I have to-day seen His Excellency, and have informed him that the necessary financial provision has been made for carrying on the public services of the Commonwealth during the period which must elapse before Parliament can re-assemble.
It is proposed that the date of the issue of the writs shall be Friday, the 24th September; that the closing date for the receipt of nominations shall be Saturday, the 2nd October; and that the writs shall be returnable on or before the 27th November.
In accordance with established practice, it is proposed that the elections for the Senate also shall be held on the 23rd October.
– Will the election for the Northern Territory be held on the same date?
– Not necessarily; it may be a week later.
– I was about to quote from a publication of the Australian Commonwealth Engineering Standards Association, a body which functions under the aegis of the Commonwealth Government. In 1927, a Power Survey Sectional Committee of this association presented a report on power alcohol as a potential source of power within the Commonwealth of Australia. As sugar has since had to be exported overseas at a loss, a totally new phase has been introduced, while millions of acres remain idle.
– The Chair will not be able to allow the honorable member to continue on those lines; his remarks relate to a subject that is entirely foreign to the bill.
Mr.BLAIN.- Sir David Rivett has not been given an opportunity to test out the possibilities of power alcohol to do what we have already failed to do economically by other means. I suggest that the possibilities of molasses, sweet potatoes, corn, maize and sorghums be thoroughly tested in respect of both productivity and economics, in the light of present conditions, before this agreement is signed.
– in reply- When I had the privilege and honour to move the second reading of this bill, I intimated that the volume of production at the outset would not be so great as our requirements, but that it could be greatly increased. I inform the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Fairbairn) that it is anticipated that this industry can produce the 10,000,000 gallons stipulated in the agreement now under discussion; but the promoters of the enterprise believe, or they would not have embarked on it, that they can produce at least 20,000,000 gallons a year. As there are unlimited quantities of shale in this area, and extending across to Murrurundi, I believe that if the extraction of oil from shale proves successful the volume of production will be much greater than has been suggested.
– The duty remissions will apply only to the 10,000,000 gallons.
– They will apply only to the 10,000,000 gallons referred to in this agreement. In a conversation that I had with Mr. Davis, he informed me that he would not have taken the matter up had it meant the production of only 10,000,000 gallons: he was convinced that a great deal more could be produced. All that we are endeavouring to induce the House to agree to is an honest and well-planned effort to establish a great industry which is of considerable national importance, particularly from the viewpoint of the safety of the people of this country. That is the ground on which the proposal is brought forward; it would not have been submitted to the House for any reasons other than those that I have given. I beg honorable members to believe that the Government was actuated mainly by the consideration that this is a very considerable step forward in the provision that is being made for the defence of Australia.
I regret very much the nature of some of the criticism that has been offered in regard to the proposal. I say quite frankly that the views which some honorable members have expressed fill me with dismay. The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) last week endeavoured to show that the Government was takingvery great risks. He said that in the event of the industry closing down, the assets would be of no value and the Government would have no return for the money it had loaned. He quoted from a speech made by the Premier of New South Wales, Mr. Stevens, in the Legislative Assembly of that State. In making that quotation the honorable member did what I expected him to do and what he very often does in his addresses - -which, by the way, excite the admiration of the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. McEwen)-
– That is absolutely uncalled for and incorrect.
Sir ARCHDALE PARKHILL.That is 111v view, and I advance it. I emphasize it by saying that I shall be in this House when the honorable member for Echuca listens to the honorable member for Dalley with feelings very different from those to which he gave expression last week. The honorable member for Dalley quoted only part of Mr. Stevens’ speech. I shall complete the quotation. Mr. Stevens said -
Let us suppose that the Government loses this £100,000. What will it receive in return? It will have some claim against the assets, if they are worth anything.
That is the only part which the honorable member for Dalley quoted. Mr. Stevens went on to say -
Their value will be entirely in proportion to the activity of the enterprise. Assets that are in situ in an industry of this description depend wholly for their value upon the momentum of its activities except as regards their mere residual value. By and large, that is an accurate assessment.
– That does not help the honorable gentleman.
Sir ARCHDALE PARKHILL.That is my concern. The quotation continues -
Even should the enterprise eventually fail, it will in the meanwhile have provided employment for 500 or 000 men, who will have been taken off food relief.
That, I assume, does not interest the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr., Beasley). This assumption is based on the nature of the speeches that have been delivered from the other side of the House.
– Mr.. Stevens said that no food relief was given in the district.
- Mr. Stevens went on to say- - -
They will no longer be on the Government’s books, and it is to bo hoped for their good that they will have gone off those hooks for ever. There must be reckoned all’ the goodwill and the home contentment for these men and their wives and families, resulting from the re-establishment of their moral fibre ami social outlook. Even if that costs the Government a grant of £.100,000 the money will have been well spent. All that is asked is that this House should pledge £100,000 of public money, for which it will he paid interest and which will be repaid if the venture succeeds, in an enterprise that will operate 100 per cent, in relief of suffering and distress to say nothing of the great possibility of winning new wealth and of exploiting a new industry. This House has never before been invited to accept terms that aru so generous from the view of the taxpayer, and so humane from thu point of view of the men and families who are to be relieved. It would seem that Mr. Lang does not want to revive this industry at Newnes and provide employment for hundreds of men there.
I endorse those views, and say that that would not seem to ‘be the attitude of some honorable members of this House. Last year and in the early part of this year, when it was thought that this industry was not to bc revived, and that the Commonwealth did not intend to take any steps in regard to it, day after day and week after week the Labor Daily of Sydney attacked the Government for not doing something at Newnes. Had the Government not done what it is doing to-day, it would have been attacked by the Labour party for its inaction; yet when it. brings forward a carefully considered proposal,; which in the circumstances is the ‘best that could be proposed, to exploit these deposits and thus make provision for the safety of Australia, it meets with nothing but opposition from those who were previously in favour of it, ‘and whose official organ has constantly, in’ season and out of season, advocated that the industry at Newnes should be revived. I propose to cite several statements from the Labor Daily of comparatively recent date. In one issue, that newspaper stated -
Australia can win its independence from the nil combines only by developing its own oil resources, and national development of the Newnes field is one of the first steps.
Mi: Brennan. - I did not hoar Davis’s name mentioned.
– I also direct attention to the following comments made by the Labor Daily as recently as the 25th March, 1937-
A sum of £005,000 is regarded as sufficient to capitalize the Newnes project, and that would be eminently an economic investment for the Commonwealth Government.
Tu this case, something in excess of that amount is ‘being provided with the private resources of the Davis people in an endeavour to revive this great industry, which is of such vital importance to the Commonwealth. The Labor Daily continues -
A sum of £005,000 is regarded as sufficient to capitalize the Newnes project, and that would be eminently an economic investment for the Commonwealth Government that could be fitted into the defence programme. Only through such direct control can the Government ensure that there will not be another closing-down after a certain stage in development has been reached.
The Labour movement is definitely committed to a programme of synthetic oil production, and it is determined to clean up the sabotage that has marked the policy of both the Lyons and Stevens Governments for the past six years. Easter conference will consider the problem in the light of the recommendations of Lithgow conference and will adopt a policy for submission to thu federal leader, Mr. Curtin, to be placed in his policy speech. The obstructions of both Lord McGowan and the oil combine must cease.
What is to be said now about the obstruction by Mr. Lang and his supporters in this Parliament of the proposal now before the House?
As I wish to be particularly frank and candid in dealing with this subject, I want to say that I have seldom heard such a bitter attack by the representatives of one class of the workers on another class of them as that made by the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) in discussing this proposal. The honorable gentleman .seems to desire to prevent the workers of Lithgow and Newnes from obtaining any employment under this scheme because it does not suit his ownparticular ideas and does not assist the coal-mining industry.
– Honorable gentlemen opposite did not even consult the leaders of the miners on this subject.
– It is only proper that I should direct the attention, not only of honorable members, but also of workers throughout the country, to the attitude of certain honorable members opposite to this measure. Laborious efforts have been made to belittle the amount of employment likely to be provided when this agreement becomes operative. Member after ‘member on the Labour side of the House endeavoured to show that this effort to revive the Newnes . shale oil industry can provide only a small amount of employment. Let them go to Newnes and Lithgow and make such statements.
– I am quite prepared to go to Lithgow with the Minister and also the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. John Lawson).
– The honorable member for Hunter would find himself in quite a different atmosphere there. He would be told that the facts are as I am stating them, and that the workers at Newnes desire this bill to be passed and the agreement to become effective. As the workers want the industry revived, it is extraordinary that honorable members opposite should be doing their best to defeat it.
I have been somewhat surprised, too, that some honorable members of the Country party have opposed the measure, though I do not assume that their attitude expresses the general opinion of their party. In view of the criticism that has emanated from them, chiefly those who represent constituencies not in New South “Wales, I am entitled to direct attention to the treatment accorded certain measures which in my opinion were of no greater importance to the nation than is this one. It is admitted, of course, that the wheat industry is of profound importance to the people of Australia. For that reason measures introduced into this Parliament to assist it have found general support. During the last five years, about £21,000,000 has been provided by this Parliament to maintain, extend and improve our primary producing industries. Of that amount about £11,500,000 has been provided for the benefit of those engaged in the wheat industry. The Scullin Government provided £3,500,000 for the assistance of the wheat industry by means of a loan from the Commonwealth Bank at 4£ per cent, repayable in fifteen years.
– How much did those engaged in the wheat .industry lose in the preceding year?
– I shall deal with that aspect.
– If the Minister thinks he will bolster up his case in this way he is a bad judge.
– I shall make my reply to the speeches of honorable gentlemen in my own way. The conditions for the amortization of that loan will oblige the people of Australia to continue to contribute £350,000 a year by taxation for quite a few years to come.
– The men engaged in the wheat industry have produced £150,000,000 worth of wheat for the benefit of the nation.
– I recognize that the wheat industry and also other primary producing industries are of great benefit to Australia. I merely point out that £350,000 a year is being provided by the taxpayers to pay interest at the rate of 4£ per cent. on money raised by the Commonwealth for the benefit of the wheat industry. That money, I remind the -House, was given to the wheat-growers. No suggestion was offered at the time that bill was passed that the distribution of the bounty should be policed in anyway to ensure that it got. into the hands of the right people and not into the hands of those who did not need it. In view of the conditions under which that money was made available, it was somewhat unreasonable for honorable members of the Country party to ask that onerous terms and conditions should apply to the money being made available now for the development of the shale oil industry. We are being requested in this instance to provide all kinds of checks and all kinds of supervisorymeasures to police this agreement although bounties have been paid to primary producers generally with a great deal of freedom.
– The Minister must know that the assistance given to the wheat industry was consequent upon an inquiry by the wheat commission which cost £40,000. The assistance for the shale oil industry is to be provided without any inquiry.
– The honorable member’s interjection is reasonable and I shall deal with it. N<> more investigation was made into the wheat industry than has been made into the Newnes shale oil industry. This particular project has been the subject of investigation by committees and. commissions of one kind and another set up by both the Commonwealth Government and the Government of New South Wales.
– The amount of £3.500,000 provided by the Seullin Government was made available before the wheat commission was appointed.
– The interjection by the honorable member for Parramatta is an effective reply to the honorable, member for Echuca (Mr. McEwen).
I wish now to deal with the observations of the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn).
– That’s right: give the United Australia party a turn!
– I shall do so, for I am quite unbiased. The honorable member for Perth was quite wrong in describing this proposal as approximating to Tattersalls, for it has no resemblance to that enterprise whatsoever. We have before us a fair and .honorable agreement, which has been accepted by the Commonwealth Government and the Government of New South Wales. I venture to prophesy that it will also be accepted by this Parliament. I remind the honorable member for Perth that some time ago when an amount of £500,000 was provided to assist the goldmining industry, the activities of which are mainly in Western. Australia, he did not raise a single protest.- I remind him also that the gold-mining industry enjoys just as much exemption from taxation as is proposed for the Newnes shale oil project.
– But gold-mining- was a sure winner.
– I hope that this also will be a sure winner.
– It is a long odds chance.
– The honorable member has adopted an inconsistent attitude. He could well show more generosity to a proposal to develop a great national industry in a State other than Western Australia.
– What does the Minister propose to say in reply to the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Hawker), the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Price) and the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Fairbairn) ?
– 1 =hall not leave them out. I also propose to deal with the remarks of the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) .
– I should feel offended otherwise.
– I wish first, however, to discuss the views advanced by the honorable member for Echuca, if he has no objection. He was perfectly frank in his trenchant, criticism of this bill and I presume that he will not mind my replying with equal candour, even though I may not be able to rise to his heights of cynicism. The agreement was drawn up by the Crown Law officers of the Commonwealth and of the State of New South Wales, and the three parties to the agreement were determined that positive steps should be taken to establish and promote this new and vital industry in Australia.
They .were conscious of the fact that that could only be done in a spirit of compromise; and, in all circumstances, the governments concerned are satisfied that this agreement represents the best bargain that could have been made. If the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. McEwen) and other- honorable members had applied themselves to the negotiation of the agreement for the development of the shale industry in the spirit in which they have addressed this House, it is hardly likely that any agreement would have been reached. In . the past the development of Newnes has not been a feasible proposition due to the fact that only five gallons of oil could be extracted from a ton of shale; hut the march of science has brought about a transformation, and now 50 gallons of excellent oil can be produced from every ton of shale. On the figures of the Newnes Investigation Committee, the profit on the operation was estimated to be 14.2 per cent., while Messrs. Crichton and Conacher, the Scottish shale oil experts, put- the figure as low as 5.62 per cent. These figures did not provide for payment of excise duty. If we take the mean figure., the company might make a profit of 10 per cent., but with all new industries, especially a highly technical industry like that associated with the production of oil from shale, laboratory results often differ widely from results obtained on a commercial scale. In the interests of Australia, the National Oil Proprietary Limited is taking this risk to the amount of its own capital of £166,000. I should say that the public of this country, in the interests of security, ought to he prepared to take the risks associated with the investment proposed in this measure.
I propose now to refer to some of the detailed criticism of the agreement. The honorable member for Echuca said that the agreement should have been brought before the House in draft form for ratification or that the draft should have been submitted to a committee of the House. No company would have submitted to such cumbersome methods, much less a company that had been asked by the Commonwealth Government to undertake this enterprise when no one else was disposed to do so. Advertisements inviting people to undertake the development of Newnes were inserted in newspapers all over the world. There was nothing secret about it; the whole facts associated with the venture were revealed in the clear light of day and, as I have said, published in all the newspapers circulating in the Englishspeaking world. That advertisement however, brought forth no response. May I say in passing that I am glad that no attack has been made upon Mr. Davis, similar to that made upon him in the New South Wales State Parliament. As I said in the House at an earlier stage, Mr. Davis is a public-spirited citizen who has always been willing to do something for this country on national lines with the money he has made in it. He has demonstrated that willingness by taking over the Cockatoo Dock to the obvious benefit of the people who live adjacent to it. He is a man against -whom no word of suspicion could be uttered, and one of whom this country may well be proud. Indeed, it is a matter of regret that there are not more who would be prepared to do what he is doing in this regard.
When Mr. Davis was approached and asked if he would go into this venture which no one else was prepared to take on he said that he would, out of his own private purse, contribute £166,000 for the purpose. A man who will do that is entitled not only to the approbation of honorable members generally in this House, but also, considering he is venturing such a large amount of his own capital, to the greatest consideration from the Government, and in this bill the Government is endeavouring to extend to him that consideration which his public-spirited interest in this national venture deserves. The company associated, with Mr. Davis stated the terms upon which it was prepared to develop Newnes. Those terms formed the subject of negotiations and were eventually accepted by the two governments. I do not think it is reasonable for the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) to endeavour to attach some sinister significance to the fact that the company was consulted in the drawing up of the agreement. The honorable member for Echuca (Mr. McEwen) referred to the operation of Newnes as a government enterprise. He explained why this could not be done but failed to explain how it could be done if private enterprise were agreeable to operate Newnes on a basis similar to arrangements applying in respect of the Colonial Oil Refineries and Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited. The Davis company however, would not accept such a basis, making it clear at the outset that it would not submit to the intrusion of polities into its operations.
– It did not mind getting its capital from politics.
– If the honorable member wishes to say that I cannot stop him, but I do not regard it as a kind interjection. The company required a free hand and a flexible arrangement in order that it might be in a position to meet the fierce competition of the major oil companies which it would have to withstand.
The question of representation of thu governments on the directorate of the company has also been raised. The governments are debenture holders and, as such, are not entitled to representation on the directorate. The arrangement in regard to Newnes is not analogous to that in regard to the Colonial Oil Refineries and the Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited.
The attitude of the Scullin Government in regard to the development of Newnes was also mentioned during the debate. I am pleased to say that the policy of the Scullin Government in connexion with the nationalization of this industry and in regard to the formation of a company with government shareholding was consistent with that of the present Government. When the funds of the Shale Oil Development Committee, the history of which is known to honorable members on both sides of the House, were exhausted, Senators Daly and Dooley, on the 6th October, 1931, attended a meeting of the Board of Directors of the company and informed the board that the Commonwealth Government had decided not to continue the control or ownership of the shale oil project at Newnes and that it was not intended that the committee should continue to control it after the trial operations then proceeding had been completed. Senator Daly further informed the hoard that Cabinet had decided to limit the committee to an expenditure of £30,000 on Newnes. That advice was still further amplified when the members of the board of Shale Oil Development Committee interviewed the then Prime Minister and Senator Daly at Canberra, on the Sth October, 1931. J.n a letter addressed to the Secretary, Prime Minister’s Department, Canberra, the secretary of Shale Oil Development Committee, after outlining these facts, stated : -
Will you kindly have this matter considered either by the Prime Minister, or if necessary by the cabinet, and advise nic. at the curliest possible moment.
The reply to that communication, furnished by the then Secretary to the Prime Minister’s Department, Mr. J. G. McLaren, now Sir John McLaren, on” the 22nd October, 1931, con tains the following paragraph : -
As you have advised, Newnes presented the most promising locality in which the possibilities of the industry might bs explored. Further as you indicated that no legitimate section of private enterprise would undertake such exploratory work it was recommended to cabinet that your committee’s proposal to spend £30,000 at Newnes should be agreed to. Cabinet concurred in this recommendation and I M in instructed to confirm the advice already conveyed to you that the conditions associated with the appropriation of this sum by Parliament render it imperative that private enterprise must be interested in the project, or otherwise your committee must retire from this field of activity when the maximum amount allocated for the work has been expended.
That was a clear statement that when its money was exhausted the committee must interest private enterprise in the venture in order to carry on. That is exactly what has been done in this instance.
In regard to the payment of interest, the best legal advice supports the opinion that paragraph 8 of the agreement places an obligation on the company to pay in- terest charges at the due rates, whether it makes a profit or not. The provisions of paragraph 9 do not detract from this obligation. Paragraph 9, which is a splendid piece of legal draftsmanship, provides for the payment of working expenses including interest; the restoration of capital to the extent that profits have been insufficient to meet working expenses, including interest, during previous years; the payment of taxation; the redemption of debentures to the extent of onetwentieth of the highest amount of advances; the payment of any arrears due in respect of redemption of debentures; depreciation and arrears of depreciation. After all this has been done, the company becomes entitled to take its dividend subject to any amount in excess of 10 per cent, being also applied for the reduction of debentures. If the company does not make a profit the interest Charges must be met from capital. In what other way would the honorable member for Echuca suggest^ that the money could be found?
Mention has also been made that compensation would have to be paid to the company if flow oil were discovered in Australia. I remind honorable members that under paragraph 24 of the agreement the Governments of the Commonwealth and the State of New South Wales merely give an undertaking that, if flow oil is produced to such an extent that the company is unable to operate except at a loss, they will “favorably consider “ granting “ adequate relief “ to the company. I emphasize the words “favorably consider”. The paragraph as it stands merely imposes a moral obligation upon the governments to come to the assistance of the company, but the measure of that assistance, referred to as “ adequate relief “, naturally cannot be determined until the eventuality arises. The settlement, of this question is the prerogative of the Parliament and not of the Executive.
– In the event of discovery of flow oil the probability is that the present excise would have to be continued for revenue purposes.
– That is so. This bill provides that Parliament is to decide how much assistance shall be given and that such assistance will be based on the development of the enterprise, the circumstances, and eventualities of the time. It seems to me that paragraph 24 is not by any means unreasonable.
I propose now to deal with paragraph 23 referred to by the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) to which some importance seems to have been attached by the honorable member for West Sydney and others. The insertion of the word “ or “ instead of the word “ and “ was due to a typographical error. Unfortunately, however, it was not noticed until the agreement had been ratified by the New South Wales Parliament. It was thereupon decided that, instead of referring the agreement back to the New South Wales Parliament, it should be left as it is because the Companies Act of New South Wales precludes the company from altering the provision in regard to the British composition. In any case it is unlikely that either the Commonwealth Government or the Government of New South Wales would agree to any variation of this provision. That is the plain unvarnished explanation, of this matter. I think the right, honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) will be frank enough to say that it. removes part of his objection.
– I accept that.
– I arn glad of that. Mr. Davis has made no suggestion regarding this amendment and he did not know until a few days ago that the word “or” instead of “and” was in. the agreement.
– I am told that when he found that that was so he insisted upon the retention of the agreement in its present form.
– 1 give the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) the assurance that that is not so.
– Why was not this scheme entrusted to the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited?
– I cannot say. The Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited comes under the Development Branch and I should have to consult the Minister in Charge of Development (Senator A. J. McLachlan) in order to ascertain if there were any negotiations with that company in this respect. I know of none. It was thought that the best method of dealing with Newnes was to invite private enterprise to take it off our hands and endeavour to develop it.
The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) referred to what he described as a “ promise “ made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) that the hydrogenation of coal would be established in Australia. No such promise was made. What the Prime Ministor said in his policy speech is as follows: -
The problem of absorbing the workless minors of the Australian coalfields is great and if the extraction of oil from coal by the hydrogenation, or any other process, can be demonstrated to he profitable, the Government will have no hesitation in providing assistance for the establishment of the industry.
That is where -the Government stands to-day. I assure the honorable member for Hunter that the shale-oil scheme was brought forward before any proposal for the hydrogenation of coal because it was regarded as being more likely to be successful. The Government considers - the honorable member no doubt will not agree - that the processes of hydrogenation are not sufficiently advanced to be introduced into this country without some further investigations, except at the risk of a great sum. of money, running into millions. That is the sole reason why hydrogenation has not been accepted by the progressive Government which is in office to-day.
The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) declared that the whole of the capital of the company should be paid up tit once, thereby involving the governments in an immediate outlay of £500,000.
– Whereas- our money will not be paid except in proportion to the money subscribed by the shareholders of the company.
– That is so.
I am sorry that I cannot agree that the proposal should be referred to a select committee; nor can I accept the amendment of the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley), which would have the effect of postponing action indefinitely. This agreement has been passed by the Parliament of New South Wales and the company is ready to start. I ask that the House accept this agreement with the one amendment of which notice has been given.
-Surely the Minister for Defence (Sir Archdale Parkhill) does not intend to go on with that amendment?
– Yes. The bill, as it stands, provides that in certain eventualities the Government should consider the payment of adequate compensation.No amount, however, is fixed for that, and there must be some provision to cover it.
– Why fix that now when the matter will not arise before another ten years?
– The actual compensation if it should ever be necessary will be a matter for decision by Parliament years hence. It cannot be assessed at this moment because it depends upon development.
– The commitment under the bill as it stands is £334,000; why strike that out and write an open cheque?
– This amendment is by no means an open cheque. It is necessary to provide in a legal way for the undertakings contained in the agreement. This amendment is rendered necessary in order to ratify the agreement. If the appropriation were limited to £334,000 in accordance with clause 7 as originally drafted, the measure could not be regarded as completely ratifying the agreement which has been entered into. The agreement provides that the Commonwealth will find £334,000 of debenture capital ; that in certain circumstances a bounty may be paid to the company, and that, if flow oil is produced in Australia to an extent that it is impossible for the company to operate except at a loss, favorable consideration will be given to the question of granting adequate relief to the company. The company has accepted its obligation under the agreement and it is for the Commonwealth Government to seek parliamentary authority to perform it,3 obligations. The measure of those obligations is expressed in the agreement. In its present form clause 7 is inconsistent with the agreement. In essence the amendment means that the company will be given an assurance that, if a bounty becomes payable, or if it is decided to grant the company relief in accordance with paragraph 24 of the agreement, Parliament will be asked to appropriate funds for these purposes.
– Why appropriate it now?
– This is merely an authority for the appropriation. I am informed by officers of the Crown Law Department that it is the usual form adopted in matters of this nature.
– But clause 7 states the money “ is hereby appropriated accordingly.”
– I can only say that it is the form adopted by the Crown Law Department in all other measures. I therefore commend this measure as an honest endeavour to provide additional oil in this country mainly for defence purposes, but also for the many other national purposes to which oil is put.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be omitted (Mr. Beasley’s amendment) stand part of the question.
The House divided. (Mb. Speaker - Hon. G. J. Bell.)
Majority . . . . 6
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question put -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. G. J. Bell.)
Majority . . 4
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and committed pro forma.
Message reported recommending an appropriation for the purposes of an amendment to be moved in this bill.
In committee (Consideration of Governor-General’s message) :
– I move -
That it is expedient thatan appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of an amendment to be moved by the Minister for Defence in a Bill for an Act to approve an agreement made between the Commonwealth of Australia of the First Part, the State of New South Wales of the Second Part, and National Oil Proprietary Limited of the Third Part, and for other purposes.
– It is usual, when the Governor-General recommends an appropriation of money for certain purposes, to detail the purposes for which the money is required, and also to state the amount required. The whole procedure in this instance is entirely irregular and out of order.
Sir ARCHDALE PARKHILL.What I have proposed at this stage is merely a machinery motion to allow of the discussion and subsequent adoption or rejection of the amendment which I have circulated. The motion in itself does not commit honorable members to anything more than a consideration of the proposal which I intend to bring forward.
– But we prima facie accept the Minister’s motion, dowe not?
– No, the honorable member does not commit himself to anything except the discussion of the proposal at a later stage.
.- The contention of the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) that a message from the Crown recommending an appropriation ought to recommend the specific amount to be appropriated, and ought not be an appropriation at large such as this is, is unanswerable. Linking up the message with the amendment that the Minister has in view, obviously no sum at all is named. I do not suggest that the motion is out of order, but, as a matter of practice, it is unfair to ask the committee to vote indefinite sums by way of appropriation.
Question put. The committee divided. (Chairman - Mb. Prowse.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative. Resolution reported; arid - by leave - adopted.
In committee (Consideration resumed) :
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
Clause 3 (Approval and ratification of agreement).
– I move -
That clause 3 he postponed until after consideration of clause 7.
This is the clause which states that the agreement is approved and ratified, but it would be ridiculous to pass it now when there is an amendment pending to clause 7 of such a controversial nature that it mayhe defeated, and the whole bill vitiated.
– I am prepared to agree to the honorable member’s amendment on condition that the clause comes up for consideration immediately after clause 7 is dealt with.
Amendment agreed to. Clause postponed. Clauses 4 to 6 agreed to. Clause 7 -
There shall be payable out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund, .which is hereby appropriated accordingly, the sum of three hundred and thirty -foul- thousand pounds for the purpose of meeting the liabilities of the Commonwealth arising under the agreement.
Sir ARCHDALE PARKHILL (Warringah - Minister for Defence) [5.18 j . - I move -
That thu words “ the sum of three hundred and thirty-four thousand pounds for the purpose of meeting the liabilities of the Commonwealth arising under” be omitted, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “such sums as are necessary for the purpose of meeting the liabilities of the Commonwealth arising under or out of “ in place thereof.
This amendment is rendered necessary in order to ratify the agreement. If the appropriation were limited to £334,000 in accordance with clause 7 as originally drafted, the measure could not be regarded as completely ratifying the agreement which has been entered into. The agreement provides that the Commonwealth will find £334,000 of debenture capital; that in certain circumstances a bounty may be paid to the company, and that if flow oil is produced in Australia to an extent that it is impossible for the company to operate except at a loss, favorable consideration will bc given to the question of granting adequate relief to the company. The company has accepted its obligation under the agreement, and it is for the Commonwealth Government to seek parliamentary authority to perform its obligations. -The measure of those obligations is expressed in the agreement. In its present form, clause 7 is inconsistent with the agreement, or at any rate does not cover all the ground. In essence the amendment means that the company will be given an assurance that, if a’ bounty becomes payable, or if it is decided to grant the company relief in accordance with paragraph 24 of the agreement, Parliament will be asked to appropriate funds for these purposes. This is not a.n unusual procedure. Section 3 of the Cockatoo Island Dockyard Agreement. Act states -
There shall be payable out of the consolidated revenue fund which is hereby appro- printed accordingly, such amount as is necessary to meet any liability of the Commonwealth arising under the agreement referred to in the last preceding section. .
This procedure is adopted when the exact liability cannot be stated, ‘because it depends Upon future circumstances. The same principle is observed in the Peace Officers Act.
– There is no analogy between the two measures.
– If that interjection were allowed to go unchallenged, it would read in Hansard as if the honorable member knew something about tine matter. As a matter of fact, the provision is the same in both cases. In the act providing for the establishment of a force of Commonwealth, peace officers, section 3 states -
Peace officers appointed in pursuance of this suction shall bc appointed at such remuneration as the Governor-General thinks fit, and the Consolidated Revenue Fund is to the necessary extent hereby appropriated accordingly.
The principle is the same as in the bill now before the committee, though, of course, the amount involved is different.
.- The Minister for Defence (Sir Archdale Parkhill) has tried to make light of this amendment, to dismiss it in an airy fashion as if it were something of little importance. If the best argument he could put forward, is that a similar provision is to be found in the Cockatoo Island Dockyard Agreement Act, he is putting up a very poor case for the amendment. ‘The act which he has cited, was passed in the 42nd hour of a record sitting of Parliament which lasted for more than 55 hours. The Minis.i (,1. will not find it so easy to get this amendment through. I do not agree with him that it is necessary. If, at any time in the future, the obligation devolves upon the Commonwealth to make additional payments under the agreement, the necessary funds can be appropriated by a vote of Parliament, and the safeguard would be preserved that the matter must come before Parliament. The Minister, however, is asking Parliament to give the executive an open cheque to pay whatever amount it thinks fit without taking the House into its con fidence at all. This proposed amendment must be considered in conjunction with three important paragraphs in the agreement. Paragraph 3 fixes the direct financial obligation of the Commonwealth by providing that it must find £334,000 as its share of the capital. Paragraph 13 establishes the obligation of the Common wealth to maintain a certain level of protection against imported oil fuel, and provides that if the duties be reduced within the next 27 years, the Government shall compensate the company to the extent of the reduction. Paragraph 24 of the agreement provides for the granting of relief to the company in the event of flow oil being discovered in Australia before 1959. The paragraph states -
If within thu period ending on the 31st December, 195!), petrol is produced from Australian flow oil to an extent that it is impossible for the company as a result of such production to operate except at a loss and if at that time the company is not in default under this agreement or the deeds of covenant and charge hereinbefore referred to the Commonwealth and the State shall favorably consider granting adequate relief to the company.
The obligation on the Commonwealth under paragraphs 13 and 24 is regrettably indefinite, but at least,’ if the bill goes through without the proposed amendment, the obligation under paragraph 3 is fixed and definite, and any payments which it is proposed to make to the company by virtue of paragraphs 13 and 24 must be made the subject of appropriations by Parliament. This safeguard the amendment would take away. Honorable members will note that in paragraph 24, the words “ adequate relief “ occur. That, is certainly a vague expression. Parliament might take a wholly different view of what constitutes adequate relief from that held by the Executive. I maintain that all parties to the agreement are amply safeguarded without this amendment. The Government cannot possibly forecast the amount to which it might be committed in the future as compensation for reduced duties, or to make good losses incurred by the company through the discovery of flow oil. As the Government asks for a blank cheque, I am disposed to vote against the amendment. At all times the disbursement of Commonwealth funds should be under the control of the Parliament.
– As is provided for under this bill.
– I arn afraid that the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Paterson) fails to grasp the significance of the amendment, which is to omit the words “ the sum of three hundred and thirty four thousand pounds for the purpose of meeting the liabilities of the Common wealth arising under the agreement,” and to insert in lieu thereof the’ words, “such sums as are necessary for the purpose of meeting the liabilities of the Commonwealth arising under or out of the agreement “. Under the bill as it stands, we know our present obligations, which, in certain contingencies, will have to be met as they arise, and the Parliament will have to be consulted about meeting’ them; but, under the amendment, we should not know how much the Government would, have to appropriate immediately, and the Parliament would not have any control over actions of the Government with, regard to this matter in the future. We are asked to give the Government a blank cheque for an unlimited amount to meet any contingencies that may arise. There might be a difference of opinion between the Parliament and the Government as to the meaning of “ favorable consideration “ and “ adequate relief “. The committee would be well advised to keep a tight grip on the purse strings, to enable the Parliament to retain the right to say how much money should be paid to the company in certain contingencies.
– Under this amendment the position would bc as the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) desires. Under the bill as it stands, the Government will be responsible for the direct payment of £334,000, a bounty in certain contingencies, and such further payment as the Parliament may think fit as adequate compensation in other circumstances. The amendment would enable these payments to be made, hut they would not be made by the Cabinet; they would be provided for in the Estimates and discussed and approved by the Parliament in the ordinary way. The amendment would merely provide the necessary machinery to allow this to be done. It would not take from the Parliament .any control whatever over the payments to be made.
– In what way would these payments be facilitated by the proposed amendment?
– .1 shall answer that question in a few moments. The Government does not ask for a blank cheque. I give an assurance that every payment to the company will have to be authorized by Parliament. We cannot state in the bill the exact amounts which the -Parliament will eventually be called upon to pay, because we do not now know what the developments will be. What the Government is seeking is a general authority for payment of the amounts which the Parliament may eventually decide to make for unspecified services. I point out to the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) that the amendment merely gives authority to pay these sums, not when the Cabinet decides, but when the Parliament later determines, what the amounts shall be. When that decision is made an appropriation will be necessary. The amendment merely gives to the company an assurance that the Commonwealth will carry out its obligations under the agreement. It is reasonable to give to the Commonwealth the necessary authority to meet its obligations when they arise.
.- The explanation given by the Minister is contradictory. He claimed, that the amendment is necessary to enable the agreement to be carried out. He said that the agreement calls for an appropriation larger than the sum mentioned in clause 7, and that it is therefore necessary to amend that clause. The only purpose of the amendment would be to enable this dying Parliament to authorize the Executive, without consulting any future Parliament, to make these payments.
– It does notmean that.
– It means nothing unless it implies that. The Minister said that the amendment is necessary to enable the Commonwealth to carry out its obligations under the agreement. If it is necessary to do that, the amendment would provide that money now, and in such a way that the payments would not be subject to the control of this Parliament in the future. This provision might be altered by an act passed by a future parliament, which would be said to be repudiation, but it could not be altered by this House refusing to vote the money. Sums for the payment of the salaries of judges, both Commonwealth and State, are permanently appropriated; they do not have to be appropriated every year. Under an act of the Victorian Parliament there is a permanent appropriation of the money necessary to satisfy judgments given against the Crown, and it is unnecessary to wait for parliamentary approval of these payments. Undoubtedly, an act of Parliament can be altered by another act, and clause 7 could be removed from this measure by a future Parliament, with the assent of the Governor-General ; but such a step would be regarded as repudiation. This appropriation, however, could not be expunged by any vote of this House. In future, any sums necessary to discharge the obligations of the Commonwealth under this measure would have been appropriated by the mere authority of the act, and it would not be necessary, as the need for payments arose, to ask this House to vote the money. Neither the House of Representatives nor the Senate in. any future parliament would be able to refuse to vote moneys to meet the obligations incurred under this measure.
– The honorable member means that no future parliament would be able to repudiate its obligations.
– .Under this bill there are three obligations, but they are not obligations of the Commonwealth Parliament. The Commonwealth Executive, not the Parliament, is a party to the agreement. Of the three obligations which the Commonwealth Ministry undertakes by this agreement, one is immediate and definite, the second is not immediate, but fairly definite, and the third is neither immediate nor definite. The first obligation is to pay the sum of £334,000, and authority for that payment is provided by clause 7 as it stands. The next is the payment of certain sums under paragraph 13 of the agreement, as the result of the variation of duties, or losses sustained by the company. That is not an immediate, but a definite, obligation. The third thing is one which may or may not be an obligation, according to the decision of the Executive. Paragraph 24 of the agreement provides for something which may or may not be an obligation, as the Executive decides. The Executive is bound to “ favorably consider “ the company’s claims. That means that it may or may not make a payment to the company; it is not mandatory at all. The Executive may look at the claim with a benevolent eye; but, once the Executive decides to give the company something under paragraph 24, that sum will be available to it under this permanent appropriation. No good purpose can be served by ignoring that fact. It might be said that without this appropriation the Commonwealth could be sued under paragraph 13 of the agreement; but there is no possibility of the Commonwealth being sued under paragraph 24 if the Executive decided not to make payment. Under that paragraph the Executive could make payments without consulting Parliament, and those payments would be in order. They would already be appropriated, just as are the salaries of judges and counsel, or moneys represented by judgments against the Commonwealth. It would thus not be necessary for the Government to submit legislation covering payments.
The agreement embodies a contract with a currency of twenty years, during which period certain sums of money are to be paid. It is not right that this dying Parliament should authorize payments covering that period. Authority to appropriate money should be vested solely in the Parliament, which’ alone has control of the Executive. There was a time when Parliament voted money in perpetuity without defining the purposes for which it was -to be used. Consequently, the government of the day could use it for purposes of its own; but to put an end to this undesirable practice Parliament hit upon the device of appropriating specific sums of money for specified purposes. If under the general provisions of this bill we give authority for the expenditure over a period of twenty years of large and unspecified sums of money, we shall be dishonouring ourselves, tying the hands of future Houses, and betraying the trust of the people. This measure is entirely different from the legislative arrangements made for the payment of salaries of peace officers.
– The payments are identical in principle.
– They are not the same in principle. The legislation under which the salaries of peace officers are paid merely gives the Executive authority to determine the salaries of peace officers. This bill appropriates in the same way that public service salaries are appropriated, such sums as may be necessary to make certain payments. It gives the Executive authority, at any time during the currency of the agreement, to pay money, not only in performance of the obligations imposed upon it by the statute, but also in the performance of what it might regard as a moral duty. Whatever may be the merits of the bill, we cannot vote for the amendment. If, as Ministers have said,. Parliament will always have control over money to be appropriated under this measure, why not leave it at that? Why not appropriate the sum specified, and allow future sums to be appropriated by future parliaments? If the views expressed by the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Paterson) and the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) arc right, that is what we ought to do. We should appropriate now the £384,000 specified in. the bill, and allow future sums to be appropriated as they become due. But this is not what the Government wants. It wants to be in a position to say, “ We shall give this company, for the discovery of flow oil, compensation of an amount which we may decide. We shall not consider ourselves bound to make any payment if flow oil is discovered, but if we feel like giving compensation, we shall be able to do so without authority from the Parliament.” Neither this Parliament, nor any succeeding parliament should he impotent as regards control of the Executive.
Mr. JOHN LAWSON (Macquarie)
Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) has a distinct advantage over lay members of the committee, but I believe the necessity for the amendment will be realized if honorable members will read carefully paragraph 13 of the agreement, which provides for the payment of a bounty to Mr. Davis in the event of a reduction of the duty on imported petrol. In order to ensure the payment of a bounty, it will he necessary to introduce a bill, because of the constitutional provision that bounties shall ‘be uniform throughout the Commonwealth. Therefore, if a bounty is payable on petrol produced at Newnes, and petrol is produced by others operating elsewhere in the Commonwealth, those other producers will also he entitled to a bounty. As the bill stands, it provides for the appropriation for £334,000, but it makes no provision for the payment of a bounty. If, in the assertion of his rights, Mr. Davis obtained a judgment against the Commonwealth, it would not he enforcible, because no provision is made in the bill and no legislation would be in existence to enable him to take advantage of the provision for a bounty. The amendment is necessary to give Mr. Davis a guarantee that the obligations of the Government will be honoured and can be legally enforced. Without the amendment he will have no real protection, and if he did go to law and obtained judgment it would not be enforcible.
.- On the point made by the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) I find myself in complete agreement. I emphasize this fact because of the attempt of the Minister for Defence (Sir Archdale Parkhill) to strengthen his case for the amendment by remarking that I gazed with adoration on the honorable member for Dalley when he was criticizing the bill. As’ a matter of fact I was in sharp conflict with the honorable member in the second reading debate, as the nature of his interjections during my speech will indicate. The purpose of the amendment is to change a specific obligation to an indefinite one. Let us examine the agreement and see for what purposes the appropriations will be made if the amendment is agreed to. The first provision is for £334,000 to meet Commonwealth liabilities arising under the agreement; the second contingent liability is the payment of a bounty under paragraph 13 of the agreement, and a third contingency is the possibility of the Government being asked to grant relief under paragraph 24. The provision for the appropriation of £334,000 is covered by the bill as drafted. In regard to the second contingent liability, paragraph 13 provides that in the event of the Commonwealth Government, at some future date, reducing the import duty on petrol, thus lowering the rate of protection which otherwise would be enjoyed by the company, the Government should, concurrently with the lowering of the import duty, introduce a bill for the payment of a bounty equivalent to the amount of the reduction.
– What would be Mr. Davis’s position if the Government “refused to introduce a bill to provide for the payment of a bounty?
– As a party to an agreement which had been dishonored, Mr. Davis would have redress at law.
– He would have no redress, unless this amendment is carried.
– I shall pass to paragraph 24 of the schedule which visualizes that after the Commonwealth has advanced to the company £334.000 in capital and a certain eventuality has transpired, namely, the discovery of flow oil in such quantities as to make the production of oil from shale unprofitable, the Commonwealth is to be committed to grant “ adequate relief “. This brings me back to the point which I raised in my second-reading speech concerning ‘the interpretation likely to be placed upon the words “ adequate relief “ - that a government could give something which most of us would “ regard as very adequate relief by writing ofl the advance of £334,000 even without making any new appropriation of money. Thus I can only construe the substitution of .an unlimited appropriation for a specific one as meaning that the Government visualizes the possibility of giving adequate relief not only by writing off the money advanced but also by actually recouping the company some of its own money which, in those circumstances, it would have lost.
– That is a very strong point.
– I should say that it may not bc entirely impossible for a government actuated by motives of defence necessities to convince the House that it is necessary to grant even more adequate relief than the writing off of such a vast sum of money as £334,000. But if that is in the mind of the Government let it be candid about the matter and say that that is one of the purposes of the Minister’s proposed amendment. Wo should then be enabled to judge the proposal on its merits. For my part, however, I am not prepared to support an amendment, which, in the absence of any convincing explanation by the Minister, might mean leaving any future government, purely by executive act, not only to write off the “ sum of £334,000 hereby advanced, but also to make even a further advance of money under the terms of this agreement in the guise of recouping the company for money it may have lost, possibly, as might be claimed, in an endeavour to serve the country.
– The meaning of the term “ appropriate “ as used in an act of parliament, is the authorizing of the Executive of the day to spend money under a particular appropriation. Unless it has that meaning it has no purpose whatsoever. Appropriation bills of various types are constantly being brought down. During this session, since June, two such bills have been brought down and they determined amounts to the last pound which the Federal Government was authorized to expend on certain services whilst it was further stated <in those bills that the amounts appropriated in respect of each item must not, until the budget was passed, exceed the rate of expenditure incurred on the same items during the preceding financial year. We have other classes of appropriation bills besides supply bills, for instance, various bills for the payment of bounties. Those bills determine payments to be made on a certain basis of units, the payments being so much a bushel or case. This illustrates the definite control of the lower house of the legislature over appropriation measures by which it is enabled to limit payments to a basis of units. An appropriation bill of another class is one dealing with pensions, and here again the House of Representatives lays down the conditions which shall be fulfilled by applicants before they can become recipients of such pensions. Parliament says that the Executive is authorized to pay a pension of so much a fortnight to certain people after they have complied with the conditions it has laid down. In addition to these we have other classes of appropriation bills.
If the Minister for Defence (Sir Archdale Parkhill) argues, as he does, that his proposed amendment is necessary for the carrying out of this agreement, I ask why it was not necessary to have a provision of this kind inserted in our three Oil Agreement Acts, which constitute our legislation in respect of the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited. In one of those agreements the Commonwealth Treasurer was authorized to borrow certain sums of money in order to take up a number of shares, the number being specifically laid down in the agreement. In another the Commonwealth Government was authorized to pay to the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, 12s. 3d. a ton on all oil up to 200,000 tons refined in the first twelve months, and 7s. 6d. a ton in respect of the succeeding twelve months. In each of those cases there is a limitation of the amounts to be paid to so much a ton, and also in respect of the number of _ tons on which such money can be paid. That appropriation was quite all right; Parliament knew what it was voting. In addition to those cases, however, we have the example provided by the appropriation made by Parliament when the Australian Broadcasting Commission was set up. In that legislation certain amounts are specifically set aside - so much out of each wireless licencefee - to be paid to the broadcasting commission for certain purposes.
– In those cases the Commonwealth’s liabilities were definitely known, and, therefore, could be provided for.
– The Minister is arguing that this liability is not on the same premises, and that the
House of Representatives should give some future Executive power, without meeting this Parliament, to pay an unknowable and unforeseen liability. That attitude is absolutely contrary to everything laid down in the conduct of lower houses throughout the British Empire. One thing on which our parliaments pride themselves is their control of the country’s purse.
Honorable members interjecting, Sir Archdale Parkhill”. - The honorable member can be urged on very easily.
– I do not need to be urged on by anybody in this matter, because I can deal with it without the aid of the Lang party or any other party. But surely the Minister for Defence is not going to get the Attorney-General (Mr. Menzies) or the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) to say that this procedure is in line with that adopter! in the House of Commons. In the past I have had some very grave doubts as to the way in which the business of the Commonwealth was conducted by this Parliament, and in the three years I have been a member of this chamber I have had a lot of those doubts justified by methods of this sort. I warn this Government and its successors that the sooner such methods are done away with the better it will be for parliamentary institutions in this country.
In his arguments in respect of his proposed amendment the Minister has taken up two stands. First, he declares this agreement will not be valid, or that it will be unsatisfactory to one party to the agreement, unless this appropriation is provided for in the form he suggests in his amendment. I wish to know why that provision was not put in the original bill. The Minister says that the Crown Law Department declares that the amendment is necessary. I say to the Minister that I do not take much notice of the Commonwealth Crown Law Department; that is my view of that department. This bill was not even copied out rightly in the Crown La.w Department. There is a vital error in it, and I should like to know who was responsible for it. If we review the history of the last three years and study some of the cases which the Commonwealth Crown Law Department has fought in the courts, we must come to the conclusion that there is something radically wrong with the advice given by that department to the Government. Therefore, if it comes to a question f accepting the advice of the Crown Law Department, I would sooner follow my own judgment.
While the Minister argues that it is necessary to -have this appropriation in the form he now proposes in order to satisfy one party to the agreement, he - and, judging by his interjections, also the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Paterson) - argues that this money cannot be paid out unless it is appropriated by future parliaments. I have never yet heard of double appropriation. Once the Executive is authorized by parliamentary appropriation to expend money for certain purposes, that particular appropriation does not come back to the Parliament for consideration. If it does there is no earthly reason for putting thi3 provision in. If it becomes a matter as to what Mr. Davis is Willing to accept in the agreement, I ask the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. John Lawson), whether that gentleman was not prepared to accept clause 7 when this agreement was approved of originally.
– I did not raise that point.
– The honorable member said that unless this amendment was made the agreement would not be ratified.
– I said that Mr. Davis would not he protected.
– How does the aspect of protection arise? Does it not stand to reason that no future Commonwealth Government is going to refuse to act up to an agreement signed by a previous government?
– On the assurance of the Minister that the payment of this appropriation depends on a future parliament, and that no money can be appropriated by this Parliament except on a message brought here by a Minister, Mr. Davis will have no more protection than he had before; some government must come to Parliament and ask for that additional money. But I say. that that is a perfectly erroneous assertion and that after the House of Representatives and the Senate agree to this very wide appropriation, and it receives the royal assent, there is nothing arising out of, or under, this agreement which the Minister cannot settle casually without consulting Parliament. Unless that is the purpose of the amendment there is no justification for agreeing to it. I shall oppose it.
.- I can fully appreciate the desire of Mr. Davis to have the amendment proposed by the Minister for Defence (Sir Archdale Parkhill) embodied in the agreement, because he will then be able to get whatever the government of the day will pay him without the necessity for having that money voted by Parliament. Sir Archdale Parkhill. - I can assure honorable members that this amount will appear in the Estimates and must be passed by Parliament.
– The money which, it is proposed in this agreement, should be paid to the company following the discovery of flow oil, will be paid at some future and uncertain time, and the amount also is uncertain. Indeed, it is uncertain whether any such money will be paid at all. If the bill is left as it is future appropriations will have to be approved by Parliament, but the effect of the proposed amendment will be to authorize the government of the day to pay to the company such moneys as it deems should be paid without there being any necessity on the part of that government to com’e to Parliament for authority to make such a payment. Indeed it would be redundant to ask for authorization of payment a second time; the authority will be contained in the proposed amendment should it be adopted. It is especially desirable that Parliament should retain control of the payment of any moneys in the future. Assurances have been given by both the Minister for Defence and the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Paterson) that whatever moneys are paid by way. of relief to this company, their payment will be under the control of Parliament, and will have to be voted by Parliament. With all respect I say that that is not the case because, if the amendment is carried, appropriating as it does all the money payable under the agreement, there will be no necessity for the government of the day to come to Parliament at all. This proposal, therefore, is the most objectionable of the many objections which I have to this agreement. Silking suspended from 6.15 to S p.m.
– There are two or three points that I wish to put to the Minister for Defence (Sir Archdale Parkhill), because I think that they ought to be cleared up. The honorable gentleman has argued that, in the case of an appropriation along the lines suggested by him in his amendment, the Executive must come to Parliament and ask for the money. I invite the honorable gentleman to tell me why it is that, under the Australian Broadcasting Commission Act of 1932, there is appropriated the sum of 12s. in respect of each broadcast listener’s licence-fee, to be paid to the Australian Broadcasting Commission. Section 26 of that act reads as follows: -
The next sub-section fixes the amount at 12s. According to last year’s report of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, the number of licences issued is 825,000, and the amount received from fees, according to the audited accounts, is £461,374 18s. Od. The Minister cannot show me that amount in the Estimates. It is not only the right but also the duty of the Government to pay out that money from time to time as it becomes available.
I take the Minister to his own department for the second case. Before the dinner adjournment he said that if the Government entered into a contract of any sort it had to appropriate the money, because the contractor would otherwise have no security. He then said that the Government had to come to Parliament to obtain authority for its appropriation. From time to time previous Ministers for Defence, and doubtless the present Minister also, have contracted in the United Kingdom for the construction of men-of-war. I have seen in the Esti mates year after year the amounts necessary to meet the obligations of the Commonwealth as they have arisen from time to time. If the Minister’s first argument is the correct one, then that money must be appropriated forthwith; otherwise the contractor in the United Kingdom would have no protection in regard to payment for the warship upon its completion. We all know that that is not the case.
A more recent ease is that of the Wool Publicity Research Act of last year. This Parliament passed three acts. The first imposed a tax on all wool shorn in Australia after the 1st July of last year, the second fixed the rate of tax, and the third appropriated, the money into a fund to be used by the Wool Publicity and Research Committee. The provision in that act reads as follows : -
There shall be a Wool Publicity and Research Fund, into which shall be paid out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund, which is hereby appropriated accordingly, all moneys received bv the Commissioner of Taxation tinder the Wool Tax Act 11)3(1.
I again invite the Minister to produce the Estimates for this year, and to showwhere they appropriate that money, which is payable to the Wool Publicity and Research Fund. In this argument the Minister has not a leg to stand on. I have very great respect for the forms under which public ‘business is conducted in a parliamentary institution such as ours. The proposal of the Minister is a distinct departure from those forms, and should not be agreed to by the committee. We should conform to the proper procedure. I shall be very interested to hear the Minister explain the problem that I have just placed before him.
– This matter has been explained time and again ; but it is only natural that those honorable members who have spokenagainst the measure as strongly as it was possible for them to speak, and have voted against the motion for the second reading of it, should continue their opposition, as they can, on an amendment of this character. T have already explained on two, or three occasions that the course followed in connexion with this measure is similar to the course that has been followed in a number of cases. There is nothing new in this procedure. As I have pointed out before, an appropriation can be in definite terms when the amount of the liability is clear and. distinct - as for example, the fixed sum of £334,000 in the measure; but where there are other commitments which form part of the agreement, and in respect of which the Government incurs a liability, the exact amount being impossible of estimation at the moment because it depends on later circumstances, developments and eventualities, it is a* fairly common procedure to place in the measure a provision such as X have proposed. I have already said that this provision is absolutely identical with one that this Parliament inserted in the Cockatoo Island Dockyard Agree.ment Act, which reads -
There shall be payable out of Consolidated Revenue* Fund, which is hereby appropriated accordingly, such amount as is necessary to meet any liability of the Commonwealth arising under the agreement referred to in the lust preceding section.
– Can the Minister cite another case?
– I have cited the case of the peace officers, in which, although the amount is less, the principle and the wording of the provision are exactly the same. I am assured by the Crown Law officers that ti ds provision is necessary if the Government wishes to give to Mr. Davis, one of the parties to the agreement, the protection to which he is entitled. I say that, despite the attack which was made by an honorable member on the Crown Law officers prior ‘to the dinner adjournment.
– What he said was true.
– I say that it is not true. It is all very well to attack officers who have not a voice in this chamber. It would be far better if honorable members were to confine their attacks to those who can reply to them. The Crown Law officers of the Commonwealth are men of whom the Commonwealth is entitled to be proud.
– No one has said anything to the contrary.
Sir ARCHDALE PARKHILL.They have done very good work for the Commonwealth, and I am prepared, as are the people of Australia, to rely on their advice. Those are the two measures to which I desired to refer. If this provision is not inserted, and a succeeding government does not choose to recognize the liability involved under the agreement, Mr. Davis will be unable to obtain any compensation.
– The honorable gentleman said earlier that it would not tie a future government.
Sir ARCHDALE PARKHILLI said nothing of the kind. What I said was that it would not tie this Parliament, and that it was for future Parliaments to decide the amount to be paid by way of bounty, or given in the form of compensation, or under what is termed “ adequate relief.” It would be for the Parliament of that day to bring in a measure to cover the cost of the bounty or to provide the amount needed to give “ adequate relief. “ An honorable member has suggested that a future government might, on its own initiative, pay out money without consulting Parliament. That is not an argument against this agreement. Any government that was foolish enough to pay away money which the Parliament subsequently refused to appropriate, would have to “ stand the racket “ for having done so. The payments under this measure really represent an authorization by Parliament. No money can be paid to any party to the agreement without Parliament having the opportunity to discuss the measure and to pas9 judgment on any action taken by the Government. Therefore, Parliament is paramount in connection with the arrangements that are made for the payment of money under ‘the agreement. This amendment is an eminently fair one, and I am quite sure that it will be agreed to by a substantial majority of honorable members, because they recognize that it is essential to have it in order to complete the agreement in a business-like way and on a basis that will be fair to all parties.
– I cannot understand the position that has been taken up by the Minister for Defence (Sir Archdale Parkhill). He says that this amendment is necessary to protect the company with which the contract is made, and., almost in the same breath, that no amount will be available for payment unless Parliament passes it at the time when the claim arises.
– I did not say “ at the time when the claim arises.”
– I withdraw those words. I thought that they made the Minister’s meaning clear. The honorable gentleman said, first, that without this provision no protection would be afforded to the company, and secondly, that no money could be paid to the company unless the Parliament of the day voted it. It seems quite clear that this is a standing appropriation of an unspecified sum. This dying Parliament should not appropriate money that will have to be raised by the operations of future Parliaments. Money is not payable out of the Treasury unless it is appropriated. The Constitution deals with that point in section 81, and the following sections, which are amplified by the Audit Act. Section 81 reads : -
All revenues or money raised or received by the Executive Government of the Commonwealth shall form one Consolidated Revenue Fund to be appropriated for the purposes of the Commonwealth in the manner and subject to the charges and liabilities imposed by the Constitution.
Section 83 reads -
No money shall be drawn from the Treasury of the Commonwealth except under appropriation made by law.
Then follows a reservation which did not apply after the first month of federation. Section 31 of the Audit Act reads -
No money shall be drawn from the Commonwealth Public Account except in the manner provided by this act.
Section 34 provides -
The Minister is now seeking to amend clause 7 of the bill to provide that then’ shall be payable out of Consolidated Revenue - such sums as are necessary for the purpose of meeting the liabilities of the Commonwealth arising under or out of the agreement. The liability of the Commonwealth under the agreement is £334,000, but there is also a possible liability in. connexion with bounties, and a further possible liability under that paragraph of the agreement which provides that the Commonwealth may give favorable consideration to a claim which the third party to the agreement may consider represents damages he has suffered through the discovery of flow oil. Apparently the Executive will decide what, amount may be due under that heading, and may authorize the payment without approaching Parliament. That is the point on which the whole argument that has been relied upon to support the amendment breaks down. The point at issue is not the authorization of the payment of £334,000, or even the authorization of the payment of a bounty, but is the authorization of the payment of any amount - the claim may be for £100,000 or more - that the company may consider to be due to it under this measure la twenty, fifteen, ten or even five years’ time. I understand that it is suggested that without an appropriation the company entering into this contract suggests that it cannot be sure that it will be paid. It seems also that the Government is afraid that unless this appropriation covers a claim that may be made within any period up to twenty years the contractor may not be paid. If this amend; ment is made in the bill this contractor will be in a much better position than any other person who enters into a contract with the Government. Every other person who enters into a contract with the Government with the authority of Parliament can sue the Government, and if he obtains a certificate from the court the Treasurer may pay him out of any moneys legally available. This contractor, however, wants to be put in a special position, and that seems to me to lie unreasonable.
A difficulty which has only occurred to me since I heard what was said this afternoon is whether the Commonwealth Parliament can validate an agreement which provides, as does paragraph 13 of this agreement, that a bounty shall be paid to one company in respect of operations in one State. The Commonwealth Constitution provides that any bounty shall have uniform operation throughout the Commonwealth. There is room for considerable legal doubt as to whether the paragraph in the agreement to which I am now directing attention is valid. A provision for a bounty must have uniform application throughout the Commonwealth. Oil might be obtained from shale in certain other parts of the Commonwealth, say, in Tasmania. It seems to me, therefore, that paragraph 13, which provides a bounty for one person operating in one State, would be invalid.
– What about the bounties to certain secondary industries?
– They are, on the face of it, not confined to one State.
– Many are confined to one State.
– That is not so, though general. A bounty, general on its face, may in fact be payable to one person only, but on the face of it this, provision applies to one company in one State.
– What about the bounty on galvanized iron? Galvanized i ron was being manufactured by one company in one State for many years.
– The honorable member is confusing the grant of a bounty which, on the face of it, is confined to one producer in one State with a. bounty which, though general on the face of it, may benefit only one producer in one State. The bounty contemplated in this bill will not apply uniformly throughout the Commonwealth. I doubt very much whether a bounty can be provided in this way. It seems to me that it might be necessary for Parliament to pass a bill providing for a bounty, which, on the face of it, would have uniform operation but which might in effect be paid only to one producer in one State. This point has occurred to me only since our discussion this afternoon. I have not had time to consider it fully. At the moment, I submit that we should not appropriate money in these general terms. It does not matter how worthy we may consider a particular object to be, it would be wrong for this Parliament to tie the hands, of not only future Parliaments but also this House. As I stated this afternoon, it is quite conceivable that a future Parliament may amend this measure, but while this stands it will not be necessary for Parliament to be called upon to vote additional money to this company, and it should be necessary to approach Parliament on such a subject.
– I support the amendment. A great deal of time is being wasted in dealing with this hill in committee. I do not make that remark offensively. The bill covers a complete contract to which two governments and a private company are parties, and it must be taken, or rejected, as a whole. We had a long and detailed debate on the hill at the second-reading stage of the bill and the motion was agreed to on a division. Obviously, therefore, honorable members ought now to leave the responsibility with the Government. Unless the contract is agreed to as a whole it must collapse. I put it to honorable members, and particularly to honorable gentlemen opposite, that unless this bill is passed in its present form the whole project must he postponed indefinitely, for Parliament is about to be prorogued. If any proposal for an amendment of the agreement is insisted upon the whole matter will be indefinitely delayed. Apart from the merits of the agreement, I remind honorable gentlemen that the project will provide work, directly and indirectly, for from 1,000 to 1,500 men. Honorable members opposite seem to be entirely blind to the considerations of the workers in this matter. They expressed their views fully on the motion for the second reading, and I submit that to prolong the discussion at this stage is a sheer “waste of time. I cannot understand the attitude of honorable members opposite. Indeed I am forced to the conclusion that had the Government introduced a project to produce oil from coal in the Hunter district, the Opposition would have received it with continuous applause. We have been deafened during the last two or three years by appeals to the Government from honorable members opposite, and particularly from members of the New South Wales Labour party, to initiate some scheme for the production of oil from coal or shale. The Government has now taken steps in this direction. I do not say that this is a perfect agreement. The subject with which it deals is extremely technical and I am not competent to discuss it on technical grounds. In the circumstances, I contend that we must permit the Government to accept special responsibility in connexion with the matter. The fullest investigation has been made by the most expert scientists on the subject in the count 17, and the Government, having obtained their report, has propounded this scheme. I, therefore, appeal to honorable members opposite not to continue to make this a petty party political sordid thing. They have, so far, bitterly opposed the whole project, the reason being that it is notorious that the Lang party of New South Wales-
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Prowse).Order !
– Everybody knows of the unfortunate disagreement between the miners of that State, and the New South Wales Labour party. This applies particularly to the miners of the Lithgow district, who would benefit by this bill. That, apparently, is not pleasing to honorable gentlemen opposite. This is one of the clearest instances of party politics-
– The honorable member for Henty is out of order.
– I shall leave it at that.
.- The honorable member for Henty (Sir Henry Gullett) in the course of a short speech, most of which was out of order has succeeded-
– Order !
– Well, Mr. Chairman, you yourself said that his speech was out, of order, and I accept your ruling on the subject.
– The honorable member will either accept it or resume his seat.
– I certainly shall accept it. Imputing the basest motive? to those in opposition to himself-
– Order ! The honorable member will confine himself to the clause and to the amendment. Mr. BRENNAN. - I may not answer anything that the honorable member for Henty (Sir Henry Gullett) has said? Really, that was my main objective in rising.
– Order ! The honorable member recognizes ‘ that he is out of order; he must confine himself to the clause or be seated.
– Yes. I appreciate the principle of what you, Mr. Chairman, have said from the point of view of both discretion and propriety. Now, sir, the; honorable member for Henty said one thing it least which was elementary and true, namely, that the agreement which is an annexure as a schedule to this bill is already an accepted fact. The agreement has been solemnly entered into, signed, sealed and delivered, and it is submitted by the honorable member for Henty that we cannot alter it in any particular and that, by reason of the fact that we cannot alter it in the brief time at our disposal, our only alternative is. whatever the1 consequences, to accept it. Well, I am not prepared to proceed along those lines or to accept the honorable member’s argument. If, in this belated amendment of the Minister for Defence (Sir Archdale Parkhill), which he himself most clearly did not understand; there is a fundamental invasion of the ordinary principles applicable to the appropriation and spending of money, then we should face that fact, doing our duty in our day and generation and leaving it to the future to decide as to what will ultimately come of this measure. The whole measure as you, Mr. Chairman, must have appreciated, is of a highly controversial character. It seems to me that the arguments advanced by the honorable” member for Dalley (Mr.
Rosevear) and the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn), who has applied his trained mind to the subject, are quite unanswerable. The effect of this amendment is to depart from the written word by virtue of which the commitment of the Commonwealth was definite and precise to the last shilling in order that, because of the persuasion of one of the contracting parties, better and wider terms should be given to him. I think he has already got too wide terms. 1. am not prepared to give him wider terms and I am certainly not prepared to give this Government a blank cheque to fill in as it pleases with regard to the amount of money which may be paid out from time to time under this special clause. The minimum is fixed in the agreement at £334,000, a fairly liberal sum. I suggest that, unless we have the expressed and clear approval of Parliament, the maximum should be there fixed too, and that any advance upon that substantial sum of £334,000 should first be sanctioned by this Parliament, if, indeed, it continues to sanction the matter at all.
– But there are some contingent responsibilities in addition to that £334,000?
– Of course there are. Apparently, the amount of money to be expended is entirely contingent. Nobody knows how much it is to be in the total or how many or how great the payments are to bo from time to time.
– Contingencies are dealt with in Supplementary Estimates from year to year.
– “ Supplementary Estimates !” Once money has been appropriated, matters are ended by that appropriation and, if I understood the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) aright, that was his own argument - unless he has changed his ground.
– I have not changed my ground. We shall see how the honorable member himself votes.
– The honorable member for Barker is agreeing with the honorable gentleman.
– If the honorable member is in agreement with me, his interjection is quite intelligible. My own observation is quite intelligible” too, because I understood him to be in contradiction to himself. Nov/ I understand that he is not. On this occasion, at all events, he is right.
– The honorable member’s quarrel is with the AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Menzies).
– I know that the Attorney-General has been called in. He is standing by holding the bottle. The Minister for Defence is rattled.
– Not quite.
– But these points are really, I think, outside the question. The question is not that the AttorneyGeneral has been called in in aid of the state of mind of the Minister for Defence. The question is this essential fact, the amendment. It is a very curious thing, Mr. Prowse, that this provision which is now regarded as of the very first importance should have been left out of this solemn agreement and not provided for in this most important measure, a measure upon which ‘ as everybody knows the political fate of the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. John Lawson) is intended to depend.
.. - If it were not disorderly I should congratulate the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) on his ingenuity in having risen to make one speech and having succeeded in making another.
– I often have to do that.
– I rise, however, for the most specific and pacific purpose of endeavouring to explain from my own point of view, the reasons for the amendment now before the committee. It is quite true that most frequently appropriations by Parliament are of specific sums of money. Wherever it is possible to appropriate specifically it has always been the practice to make specific appropriations. It is equally true that appropriations not confined to some particularsum of money are quite well known. Instances of that have been given already to the committee by the Minister for Defence (Sir Archdale Parkhill). I want to indicate shortly why this appropriation in general terms is being submitted to the committee in this case. As I understand the law on this matter, the position is that if a government makes a contract with a private individual or company in circumstances which may, or do,” involve the provision of money by the Government, the contract has no validity unless it is ratified or authorized by Parliament.
– As a whole?
– That has been established in practice. It cannot be done in bits. Therefore, I did not use the phrase “ as a whole “. Where a contract provides for an appropriation or payment of money it becomes effective as a contract when it is either ratified or authorized by Parliament. In other words, the obligations which exist on the part of the Government become real and effective obligations as the result of parliamentary authority. That, however, does not conclude the matter because, unless some appropriation is made of the moneys to he paid under the contract, the position may be reached where the Government is, by the authority of Parliament, bound to pay money, but where Parliament, at the time, refuses to provide it. That would be a very unfortunate position for any1 country to get itself into. It would be extremely unfortunate for the credit of the Commonwealth if the Commonwealth made a contract validated by Parliament, and two, three, five or ten years later, when the liability arose to pay the money under that contract, the Parliament of the day refused to appropriate it, so that it would never become payable out of moneys legally available for the purpose. I ask honorable members to bear in mind two things: First of all, parliamentary authority is designed to give validity and binding effect to a contract which involves payment of moneys, and, secondly, payments cannot be made until moneys are legally available, and moneys cannot be available unless they are appropriated. Consequently, it is the practice of Parliament when validating contracts which involve the payment of money, first, to authorize the execution of the contract and, secondly, to appropriate moneys that may become payable under it. So far I do not imagine that anybody can dispute the proposition before the committee. Now let us turn to the particular case that we have here. Under this contract, which) by the passing of this bill, will become validly executed on behalf of the Commonwealth, moneys will become payable by the Commonwealth to the company, in the first instance in respect of debentures. - that is the specific sum of £334,000 - and in the second place, under paragraph 13 of the agreement, in a certain event, by way of bounty - moneys which are just as much due and payable to the company under the contract as the debenture money. The only difference is that the amount of the debenture money can now be ascertained, whereas the amount of the bounty payment cannot be ascertained until certain circumstances have arisen. These are the only two matters of real liability of a financial kind which exist under this contract.
– Under paragraph 24 there are certain other moneys which might become payable.
– I shall come to that, but my argument is that these are the only two real liabilities, and I wish to deal with them before I pass to paragraph 24. Does any honorable member really suggest that this Parliament, in ratifying this contract and making it binding, not only on this Parliament hut also on the Commonwealth, ought now to appropriate the debenture money, but leave the contract in a position where the contractor’s chance of getting paragraph 13 carried out would depend on whether some future parliament agreed or did not agree to make the appropriation in relation to paragraph 13? This would be giving with one hand and taking away with the other. We cannot approbate and reprobate this contract. Either we approve of it as a whole - and we indicate that paragraph 13 will be carried out, in which case there is no reason at all why we should not make an appropriation in respect of it - or we mean to make a mental reservation of some kind, in which case we shall do exactly what the critics are. suggesting, that is, appropriate £334,000 and say to the contractor: “ Your chance of getting the moneys pay- able to you under paragraph. 13 will depend upon whether the Parliament at that time decides to appropriate the money which the Commonwealth will be obliged to pay you, because the contract has been ratified, but which cannot be paid to you ‘in fact without parliamentary appropriation “.
– If another company were producing oil from shale without any agreement could we pay the bounty to this company with the agreement and exclude the other?
– If the other company were producing oil from shale in similar circumstances ?
– Yes, without an agreement.
– It is quite true that bounties must be uniform, which means that bounties must be paid upon a basis which is common to all persons concerned wherever they may be in the Commonwealth of Australia. I am not shutting my eyes to that liability, nor is the Government shutting its eyes to it. That does not mean that this agreement becomes invalid; it merely means that some other persons in _ similar circumstances would equally achieve rights.
The final matter which is put relates to paragraph 24 of the agreement, which provides that, in certain circumstances relating to the production of flow oil in Australia, the Commonwealth and the State of New South Wales shall favorably consider granting adequate relief to the company. That is not an obligation to pay money; nor is it a matter of liability to pay money. The only obligation is to give favorable consideration to the granting of some relief to the company.
– What is “ favorable consideration “ ?
-“ Favorable consideration “ is the kind of consideration that I should give to a proposal by the honorable member that he should leave Parliament. I cannot put’ it more adequately. That, too, would not involve any liability on anybody’s part. That is the point I am making. I think, that under paragraph 13, there is a liability, as that word is used in the amendment now before the committee, which, on the occurrence of certain conditions, can be mathematically deter mined. But in regard to paragraph 24, all that occurs is that the two governments say: “We shall give favorable consideration to granting relief to you should certain circumstances occur “. I have no doubt that, if those circumstances did occur, and ‘.hose governments gave favorable consideration, and the result of that favorable consideration was that they decided that they ought to make some compassionate payment to the company, such a compassionate payment would not be made as a matter of liability, because, under this contract, it would be entirely distinct, and would, therefore, involve a separate appropriation by Parliament when the time came.
Question put; -
That the amendment (Sir Archdale Park- hill’s) be agreed to.
The committee divided. (Chairman - Mr. Prowse.) Ayes . . . . . . 26
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Postponed clause 3 (Approval and ratification of agreement).
.- I was referring to the provisions of paragraph 23 of the agreement when the Minister for Defence (Sir Archdale Parkhill) invited me to consider whether the provisions of the New South Wales Companies Act 1936, did not make that objection that I had raised to that paragraph otiose, I have looked at the act, and, to my mind, the position is this : Paragraph 23 provides that neither the memorandum of association of the company, nor the articles of association of the company can be altered without the consent of either the Commonwealth or the State of New South Wales. I have no doubt that it was intended that the consents of both governments should be required, but the agreement in the form in which it has been executed provides that only one consent shall be necessary. The Minister for Defence suggests that although that omission is unfortunate, it is immaterial, because the memorandum of association cannot be altered without certain consents in ‘New South Wales. That is so in regard to the memorandum of association, but the articles of association can be altered by the company itself. There is a distinction between the memorandum, which sets out the objects of the company and some of the conditions, and the articles of association, which set out the contract between the members of it. The memorandum of association cannot be easily altered; the articles of association can be altered by the members of the company. I have asked for a copy of the memorandum of association and articles of association of the company, but have been unable to obtain them. It seems to me that some of the provisions contained in the second schedule would more properly appear in the articles of association. It is usually in the articles of association that the conditions of the transfer of shares and the holding of shares are contained, and it seems to me that objection does exist as to paragraph 23. I should like very much to see the memorandum and articles of association of the company.
The other point I wish to raise refers to paragraph 13, relating to bounties. It seems to me that we. are on the horns of a dilemma as to that paragraph. It imposes a bounty now, but payable under certain conditions which have not yet arisen, and if it does that it seems to me that it is of doubtful validity, because it imposes a bounty only in favour of one producer in one State, and is, therefore, not uniform within the Commonwealth. That is one horn of the dilemma. The other is that this is a contract made by the Executive, that the Parliament in the future will grant bounties. I do not see how this Parliament can have any claim to tie the hands or fetter the actions of future parliaments. 1 would certainly not regard myself, if a member of a future parliament, as bound to vote for the payment of a bounty on oil produced from shale, and I do not see how any future parliament could be so bound.
When I heard this proposal first discussed, my prejudices were in favour of the agreement, but when I examined the document itself, I was convinced that it was not an agreement which should be adopted by Parliament, because it represented an attempt by one parliament to fetter the discretion of subsequent parliaments. Desirable as it is to give employment on a large scale, we can purchase employment at too great a cost. No one has any idea what may be .the amount of money which the Commonwealth will be called upon to pay under this agreement.
– Give the unemployed a chance.
– Apparently the only unemployed in New South Wales are in the electorate of the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. John Lawson). If that is so, the position can be remedied at the next elections by removing the honorable member, and raising the electorate he represents to the same happy level as the other electorates of the Commonwealth. It seems to me that the very large sum of money which the Commonwealth is being asked to pay out during the next twenty years in connexion with this enterprise, might be better expended in other directions. The present proposal, if it is successful, will further enrich an already rich man, while if it is unsuccessful it will result in the pouring of public money down the sink.
– I should not have spoken again were it not for the incidents which occurred here a few minutes ago. Some honorable members on this side of the House have been trying to obtain answers to certain questions from the Minister in charge of the bill (Sir Archdale Parkhill). In a spirit of great humility he handed over his responsibilities to the Attorney-General (Mr. Menzies) who was good enough to talk to us for a few minutes, but that honorable gentleman failed utterly to clear up a single one of the obscure points about which information had been sought. I had asked for various particulars on the Estimates. The Treasurer (Mr. Casey) actually brought them into the. chamber, and tendered them to the Attorney-General, but the right honorable gentleman merely shook his head, and the Estimates were taken away again. The truth is, of course, that there is. no possible answer to the points I raised regarding payments for ships of war, the Wool Publicity and Research Committee, or the Australian Broadcasting Commission. The polished utterance of the AttorneyGeneral really amounted to no more than an assertion that the Minister for Defence (Sir Archdale Parkhill) had not treated the matter as it should have been treated. This is a subject of very great importance. If we live long enough, w«, on this side of the chamber, will, no doubt, at some future time, be participating in the proceedings of Parliament on the other side of the-chamber. My imagination may be blunt, but I can picture what would happen if a Labour Government were to bring in a measure of this description. It is nothing new for me to find myself on the wrong side in regard to an important measure, but time will decide who is right and who is wrong. With all due respect to the AttorneyGeneral I have yet to learn that a future parliament cannot be relied upon to honour an agreement which this Parliament has approved and ratified. The suggestion that a future parliament might fail in this respect is one that I did not expect to hear from a member of this Government, led as it is. Having said that much, I leave the matter to the judgment of time. I have no doubt that either I or my friends will have cause to be eloquent, if not sarcastic, regarding this proposal on a future occasion.
– The purpose of this clause is to ratify and approve the agreement, paragraph 18 of which provides -
Within one month from the date of ratification of this agreement by the Parliaments of the Commonwealth and the State the company shall complete the purchase from the Commonwealth for the sum of £3,500 (such sum being payable by the Commonwealth to other persons in accordance with the obligations previously contracted) of the option granted to the Commonwealth in respect of certain machinery plant and other property at Newnes by Shale Oil Investigations Proprietary Limited whose registered office is situate at 3(i0 Collins Street, Melbourne, in the State of Victoria . . .
On the 21st July, 1931, Mr. Broue entered into an agreement with the Shale Oil Development Committee Limited, under which the committee agreed that if the option were exercised prior to the 30th of June, 1932, the sum of £3,500 would be paid by the committee in the manner set out in the agreement. Annexure “ B “ of the agreement contains a list, compiled by Mr. Broué, of the names of men to whom payment should be made, together with the amount due to each of them. I should like to know whether a man like Mr. Broue-
– Who was a Labour candidate a little while ago.
– For what seat?
– For Parramatta.
– That is a bad guess. I should like to know whether the Government is considering only those names which are on the list compiled by Mr. Broue. I have before me the case of a man who claims that there is owing to him a sum of about £9, but his name is not on the list. Is there any provision for meeting the just claims of men whose names have been omitted from the list? It seems strange that the Government should have accepted Mr. Broue’s list as final without making any investigation.
Sir ARCHDALE PARKHILL (Warringah - Minister for Defence) f9.ll]. - I assure the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) that the whole of Schedule “A” is in the memorandum of the company, and that, as he admits, cannot be altered under the company law of New South “Wales.
– Except by leave of the court.
– The articles of association are not inconsistent with the memorandum.
In reply to the point raised by the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley), I have to state that the Government proposes to honour an agreement entered into by the Shale Oil Development Company, and it is not proposed to deviate from that. The sum of £3,200 has been set apart for the payment of wages owing by the previous lessee of the Newnes area. A list of persons to whom Mr. Broue owed money has been prepared, and the satisfaction of. those claims will absorb the whole of the sum. of £3,200. That is as far as the Government is prepared to go in the matter.
– That is a rather offhand way in which to deal with this matter. How can the Government discriminate against men who are able to prove their claims, but whose claims do not happen to be on the list? I cannot understand why the officers of the department handling this matter were content to accept the list without inquiry, and without taking any steps to see that it included the name? of all those who had just claims.
– Does the honorable member know of any others who are owed money besides the man who claims to be owed £9 ?
– That is the only case of which I know, but I have not made a canvass. However, if one case can be established, there may very well he others. It may be that some men, who were prominent in pressing for their rights, were victimized, or their names may have been accidentally omitted from the list. It is not right that they should be pushed aside. The Government should at least agree that if this man can prove that he worked for Broue and has owing to him the sum of £9 for wages, his claim should be honoured. It cannot rightly discriminate between one man and another. If this man’s claim is established I ask that steps be taken to pay the amount due to him.
– The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) is in error when he suggests that this matter was treated lightly by the officers whose duty it was to determine what men were entitled to payment under this agreement. The list was compiled by the Shale Oil Development Committee, which made a thorough investigation of all the claims submitted. After consultation with Mr. Broué and the Western Miners Federation it fixed £3,500 as the maximum sum required to meet liabilities of this nature. The oil committee was appointed by the Government of which the honorable member for West Sydney was a member. Mr. Hamilton Knight, a member of the New South Wales Legislative Assembly, was appointed by the Lang Government. He knew practically every man who had worked there, because he himself had been a worker on that job.
.- This clause, which enacts the approval and the ratification of the agreement, gives honorable members opportunity to discuss in general terms the agreement itself. It seems to me that, so far, we have not had a very clear explanation on the Government’s proposal to appropriate sums of money under this measure. When members of the Country party expressed concern about the probable effect of the amendment of clause 7, and suggested that it might mean payment of compensation under paragraph 24 of the agreement, as well as involve the Commonwealth in other obligations, they were told by the Minister for Defence (Sir Archdale Parkhill) that all such payments would come before Parliament in appropriation messages from the Governor-General, and that the amounts would be specifically mentioned. I have no doubt that the assurances given by the Minister induced a sufficient number of members of my party to support the Government and thus carry the amendment. It is unusual to appropriate money in such general terms.
– The committee has disposed of clause 7. The question now before the committee is clause 3, which provides for the approval and ratification of the agreement.
– I appreciate your point, Mr. Chairman, and will speak in general terms on the clause which reaffirms everything that has been done by the committee. We have been assured that no clause of the bill gives authority to pay compensation under paragraph 24 of the agreement, although, apparently, having amended the bill, we have authorized, in general terms, the payment of a specific sum of £334,000. We were told definitely that the amendment would not enable the payment of certain sums under one paragraph of the memorandum of agreement without the introduction of a further measure, yet we have already been given to understand that the amendment can be construed as authorizing the payment of a specific sum under another paragraph of the memorandum. I contend that the ratification of the agreement will commit the Commonwealth Government to appropriate a specific sum of £334,000; to forgo approximately £250,000 a year from the import duty on petrol for a minimum period of 20 years and to pay bounty in certain circumstances. It is conceivable, also, that it will commit the Commonwealth to the writing off of the original sum of £334,000 which it will advance to the company, as well, also, as the payment of further compensation. All this is involved in the carrying of the amendment and the adoption of this clause.
The extent of the Government’s liability will be determined very largely by the efficiency of the management of this new venture. The Commonwealth Government and the Government of New South Wales will have a debenture interest in- the company of up to £500,000. Whether the money will be used profitably, whether it will ever be repaid, whether the interest will be met, or whether all of this Commonwealth money will go down the sink, together with other contingent liabilities, will depend on the successful management of the company. Vast as is the extent of the Government’s financial obligations, it is not asking for the right to have one representative on the board of directors. This is not right. Ministers and supporters of the project have spoken highly of the character and business ability of Mr. Davis. They have pointed to hi3 successful management of the Gelatine Company and of Cockatoo Dock. All that they have said may be true, but it is no reason why the Government should be so liberal in its treatment of Mr. Davis in this particular venture. I accept wholeheartedly everything that has been said as to his integrity and business efficiency, but I emphasize that, in this project, vast sums of public money will be involved, the successful use and return of which will, according to the speeches of the Minister, largely depend upon Mr. Davis continuing in good health. There is no assurance that any person will not die suddenly. This is a contingency which the Government should keep in mind. It should, therefore, endeavour to protect itself by having at least one representative on the directorate. It is only because I feel that the passage of the bill would be jeopardized if such an amendment, along these lines, were carried, that I have not submitted one. I realize that such an amendment, if carried, would involve a further conference with the Davis Company and would also necessitate the bill, which has been carried through the New South Wales Parliament, being referred back to that Parliament. I am further impressed by the necessity for getting on with the job of extracting oil from our shale deposits. For this reason, I am reluctant to do anything which might have the effect of destroying the bill. I cannot, however, allow this opportunity to pass without expressing the hope that, in future legislation of this kind the Government will consider the advisability of submitting its proposals to a committee of the House and, also, that it will make provision for government representation on the directorate.
Clause agreed to.
Schedule agreed to.
Preamble and title agreed to.
Bill reported with an amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 10th September (vide page 932) on motion by Mr. Menzies -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– According to your ruling, Mr. Speaker, we are permitted, in the consideration of this bill, to discuss simultaneously the associated measures providing for amendments of the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act 1920-1937, the War Service Homes Act 1918-1935, the Science and Industry Research Act 1920- 1926, and the High Commissioner Act 1909. The object of these bills is to confer benefits of superannuation and long service leave upon a number of employees in the services established under those acts who are not classed as permanent employees. The first point that attracts my attention is that, whilst we are all anxious to give .these employees the benefits of superannuation, a number of other employees who are similarly situated have been overlooked. It would not have been out of place had the Government given consideration to the claims of the other employees when the present proposals were being formulated. In the course of the second-reading speech by the Attorney-General (Mr. Menzies), I interjected that the position of a number of employees associated with this Parliament and with the federal members’ rooms in the capital cities should be considered. These men and women have given good service, particularly to members of Parliament, and I think that it is generally recognized that they are entitled to the same consideration when we are dealing with these bills. The AttorneyGeneral pointed out that we could not deal with their case under these measures, and stated that if their position was brought under notice, steps would be taken to consider it. That raises a difficulty which none of us can overcome at the present time, but I still think the same consideration should have been given to the claims of these officers. Most of us were unaware that these bills were to be brought down, until the matter was men tioned in the budget speech. I understand that only about eight individuals are employed at the federal members’ rooms, who are entitled to be provided for in a superannuation scheme, their salaries ranging from about £3 to £4 5s. a week. It is difficult to understand why, for the last 21 years, no provision has been made on the Estimates for them, except as temporary and casual employees. I have before me a long list of their duties and periods of service, and I hope that the Government will take immediate steps to give them the same benefits as are proposed to be conferred on the employees with whom these measures deal.
Under clause 3 of the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Bill (No. 2) 1937, proposed new sub-section 3a of section 21 of the principal act provides that before superannuation rights can be given to the employees in the Repatriation Department, a recommendation to that effect must be made by the Repatriation Commission. In the case of the War Service Homes Bill there is a similar provision. Under_ the Science and Industry Research Bill the council must make the recommendation, and under the High Commissioner Act the recommendation must be made by the High Commissioner. In certain circumstances an employee might not be recommended as entitled to superannuation rights, and the Minister would have no power to go beyond the recommendation made. The suggestion was put forward by the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) that provision should be made for anneals, and it was said» that that was unnecessary, because no head of a department would fail to recommend the inclusion of the name of any employee who was entitled to he included.
– The departmental headwould have no interest in preventing any employee from inclusion in the superannuation list.
– The Minister has not had to battle against those who exercise control over employees, whether in the Public Service or in private employment. In the Public Service, particu.larly, promotions are made on the recommendation of the heads of departments, and, in many cases, the employees do not receive their just, reward. The reasons for this are not always made known. Therefore, I hesitate to allow absolute power to rest in the hands of the heads of departments where the rights of employees are involved. The right of appeal to an impartial tribunal against decisions of the departmental head should be allowed. In the postal service, for instance, such an appeal board is provided for. It seems to me that in this bill, on recommendations being made for the granting of superannuation benefits to certain employees, the Minister should be required to ascertain the reasons for refusing to submit the names of any other employees desirous of securing these benefits. The Superannuation Act states - “ Employee “ means a person employed in a permanent capacity by the Commonwealth, who is by the terms of his appointment, required to give his whole time to the duties of his employment, but does not include a justice of the High Court, or a judge of any other court created by the Parliament.
The Attorney-General appeared to have some difficulty in giving a definition as to permanent employment. He said that if an iron-clad definition were laid down, it might be detrimental to the interests of an employee, but I fail to see what’ difficulty could arise. The Attorney-General might have furnished a specific example. In most industries of a semi-governmental nature, an employee is regarded as permanent when he has served for a given period. In the case of men employed on higher duties than those required of them in the service to which they were originally attached, after being employed in a higher capacity for a certain period they automatically become entitled to a higher rate of pay. I have in mind the employees in the electricity service of the Sydney County Council. I should like to know if there is any good reason why the principle should not be laid down definitely that, after a certain period of service, the employment should be regarded as permanent. This matter should not be left to the whim of the particular statutory body which exercises control over the employees at the time.
The Attorney-General explained in detail the reasons for the provi dent account, and how it is to operate. He said that should a contributor retire owing to infirmity, or die in the service, leaving a widow or dependent children, or should he be retrenched after ten years’ service, there will be paid to him, or to his wife or children, from the provident account, not. only his contributions plus 3 per cent, compound interest thereon, but also an equivalent sum to be provided by the Commonwealth. He then proceeded to say that should a contributor resign, or be retrenched prior to completing ten years’ service, or be dismissed, there shall be paid to him the amount of his contributions, together with 3 per cent, compound interest. It is quite possible for an employee to be retrenched prior to th, completion of ten years’ service for reasons which could not be justified before an appeal tribunal. I recall, for instance, that, after ten years’ service in the Commonwealth railways, an employee has special privileges in the form of long-service leave. Many of these men feel that, after serving eight or nine years, the Commissioner may, through no fault of their own, dispense with their services, and as they have not, completed the statutory period of service they will not be entitled to long-service leave. Some officers who have incurred the displeasure of their superior officers may suffer seriously on that account. Can any protection be afforded in such cases? Reference is also made to employees who die without leaving a widow or dependent children. A contributor in that category may yet have dependent parents. There are many instances in which a son has supported his parents because he has felt it his duty to do so, while other members of the family have married and assumed responsibilities of their own. A son who has maintained his parents may not leave a widow or dependent children, and is therefore unprovided for under this legislation. Under repatriation legislation pensions are paid where it can he established that a deceased soldier has supported dependent parents, and the same principle should apply under these measures. These bills cover actually more than was stated by the Attorney-General in his second-reading speech, in that they provide for commissioners who have been members of the Public Service, and who, in passing to higher grades, may have sacrificed certain rights. That is the position ‘under the War Service Homes Bill, which provides that, when an officer appointed under section 15 of that act becomes a commissioner, he shall retain his accruing rights.
– I omitted to mention that. The same principle applies in the Repatriation Bill.
– It applies to men who have been paying their contributions to the superannuation fund.
– This is for the purpose of preserving their rights.
– Officers directly associated with the Public Service have been appointed to certain departments in which the employees were not regarded as permanent public servants.
– I trust that these measures will have a speedy passage through Parliament, because they represent a simple act of justice to a most deserving group of public servants. I listened with interest to the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley), who appealed to the Attorney-General (Mr. Menzies) to extend the superannuation benefits to other sections of temporary employees in the Commonwealth Public Service. I was particularly pleased to hear the honorable member commend to the notice of the Minister the typists employed in Parliament House and in the federal members’ rooms in the various States. I understand that the Attorney-General has promised to give consideration to the suggestion of the honorable member at an early .date. It will be found that the position of some of the employees in the federal members’ rooms is peculiar in that they do not come under the administration of Parliament, and stand in a somewhat nebulous relationship to the Public Service Board. I trust that the Attorney-General will give consideration to their claims, and, if possible, will see that in the absence of a recommendation from the Public Service Board they are not debarred from receiving superannuation benefits.
.- I support the bills in which provision is made for the benefits of superannuation and long-service leave to be made available to employees in certain governmental activities. I am also heartily in accord with the representations made by the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) and the honorable member for Henty (Sir Henry Gullett) that these benefits should also be extended to .certain employees in Parliament House and in the federal members’ rooms in the various States, particularly as the number involved is, I understand, small and the additional expenditure would not be great. I understand that some of those now employed in the federal members’ rooms were appointed as far hack as 1916. All parliamentary appointments are made by the Executive Council, but for some unknown reason all privileges of service have been withheld from some members of the Parliamentary Staff. .1. trust that if the Attorney-General (Mr. Menzies) cannot recommend the introduction of the necessary legislation before Parliament prorogues he will instruct his officers to bring the matter before the Government after the elections. This appears to be a suitable opportunity to review the case for the restoration of deductions from payments in respect of furlough to retired officers of the Commonwealth Public Service. Section 73 of the Commonwealth Public Service Act introduced in 1923 provides that an officer with 20 years service shall be granted six months furlough on full pay, and for 40 years service, twelve months furlough on full pay. Provision is also made for the cash equivalent of such furlough to be given in a lump sum. Forty years service generally synchronizes with the retirement of an officer from the Service. Eight years later, on the 1st July, 1931, the Financial Emergency Act came into operation under which all salaries over the basic standard were reduced by 20 per cent. The Commonwealth Public Service Commissioner ruled that as “ salary “ means the actual rate of pay that an officer is receiving, and that all officers when being retired from the service should be granted the furlough to which they were entitled and should receive payment for such furlough at the reduced salary and not at the classified salary. I shall give the House two examples : “ A “ and “ B “ each complete 40 years of service on the 1st January, 1931. Both were 60 years of age, or under 65, and received a- classified salary of £500. “A” who retired on the 2Sth June, 1931, or two days before the Financial Emergency Act came into operation, received £500 as furlough pay. “ B “ who did not retire until the Srd July, or two days after the Financial Emergency Act became operative, received only £400 in respect of furlough, thereby suffering a reduction of £100. Obviously a very grave injustice has been done to “ B “ who was equally entitled to what the Commonwealth Public Service Act accorded “ A “. I shall now take the case of “ C “ receiving £750 per annum. He had completed 45 years of service and had to retire on the 1st December, 1934. From the 1st July, 1931, to the date of retirement about £360 was deducted from his salary as his contribution to “the stabilization of the Common wealth’s financial position. On his retirement the payment in’ respect of furlough - twelve months on full pay - was not at the classified rate of £750, but at the reduced rate of £600, notwithstanding that he had qualified for his furlough some years before the Financial Emergency Act was even thought of.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. G. J. Bell).The Deputy Leader of the Opposition is referring to the Commonwealth Public Service Act and not, to the bills before the House.
– I realize that I shall be out of order in pursuing this subject further at this stage’. I conclude by again expressing the hope that some measure of relief will be afforded to that very deserving section of the Public Service which is still excluded from superannuation benefits, and also to those public servants who had to retire after the 20 per cent, cut was imposed.
– I congratulate the Government upon having introduced this measure which is long overdue. Those honorable members who were in this Parliament when the first bills relating to repatriation and war service homes were introduced will remember that representations were made that the employees in those departments should be classified us permanent officers, lt was said that the period during which these departments would function would be limited, and that the work of the Repatriation Department, for instance, would terminate within a few years. It was also said that the demand for war service homes would continue for only a brief time. The activities of the Repatriation Department to-day are more . extensive than they were immediately after the war, and many of its officers who rendered very valuable service then are still carrying on. The War Service Homes Department also is as active to-day as it was in the initial years of its establishment. At last justice is being done to some of these officers who for years have been seeking some method by which they could provide for themselves after their retirement. I support the remarks of the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) and other honorable members in advancing the claims of members of various parliamentary staffs, and also employees in the federal members’ rooms in the State capitals. After a certain number of years of service these officers should be considered as permanent employee.-;, whilst those who fail to pass the medical examination, particularly returned soldiers, should be enabled to contribute to the provident fund, and so make provision for their old age.
I draw the attention of the Government to the claims of another class of officers in the Service. In the Postal Department many temporary letter carriers have been employed a great number of years. I shall instance the cases of two men, one of whom was a returned soldier. Both have been employed as letter carriers for ten years. One was appointed to the Willoughby post office from which, after a few months’ service, he was transferred to the Pymble post office, where he has been employed ever since. When I took this case up with the Public Service Board, I was informed that the Pymble post office, notwithstanding the fact that it is a double-storey building, and is situated in one of the busiest suburbs in Sydney, was a nonofficial office under the control of the widow of an ex-public servant. These officers enjoy all the privileges of permanent officers except that they are not allowed to contribute to the super- annuation fund. The Public Service Board has at last classified the man whose i- a se I have mentioned, as a permanent employee. I suggest that there are many other officers similarly situated. Some men who are acting as postmasters at 110nofficial offices are to all intents and purposes permanent officials. The Commonwealth Government is getting all the duties of official postmasters done by these men, but, because they control nonofficial offices, they are paid much lower salaries, and, in some cases, less than the basic wage. Such a situation is a discredit to the Commonwealth Government Mild to this. Parliament. Those men should be brought under the superannuation scheme. I am satisfied that if the Public Service Board were asked to prepare a statement on this matter for the guidance of the Government and the information of honorable members, showing the position of those engaged on all the staffs of the Commonwealth Government under conditions similar, perhaps, to those operating in respect of employees of the War Service Homes and Repatriation Departments,, we might find many who would be entitled to the privilege similar to that being extended under this measure. I support the remarks made by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde).
Another case which I should like the Government to consider is that of an officer of the Postal Department who, as honorable members will probably recall, was attacked in the course of his duties in William-street, Sydney, and as a result the department was robbed of a certain amount of money, and the official himself was blinded. Parliament made provision for his retirement by voting him a special pension. After the pension was approved he married an estimable young lady who had nursed him- in hospital. When he asked the Postal Department, quite naturally, whether in the event of his predeceasing his wife she would become entitled to a pension, the department replied that there was no provision whereby she could be given a pension. Surely a man who served his country so valiantly in the course of his duty is entitled to receive better consideration than that. Since raising this matter, I have received a reply from the department which I have submitted to the Government, and I hope that the Government will see its way clear to amend the Superannuation Act to provide for this and other deserving cases. The officer concerned was a Mr. Johnston. I believe that every honorable member would support such a proposal. I again commend the Government for introducing these measures which I hope will be the forerunners of further legislation designed to extend to other sections of Commonwealth employees the benefits of the superannuation scheme. I feel sure that if the Public Service Board were asked to report upon the Government’s employees who are at present outside the scope of the act - not only in. the services directly controlled by the board itself, but also temporary officers employed by the Defence Department and the Department of the Interior - they would be found to be not very numerous. I understand that the foremen of the Commonwealth Works Department in the various States are classified as temporary employees and are. therefore, not entitled to contribute to the superannuation fund. The institution of a provident fund is a step in the right direction. The Public Service Act provides that every man must pass a medical examination before appointment, and many men who have had war service and are filling temporary positions - they might be termed temporarypermanent officers because they have been employed for so many years - have hitherto been precluded from ben.fiting from this scheme because they could not pass a medical examination. Now they may contribute to the provident fund. I feel sure that these measures will meet with the commendation of all honorable members.
– The principles of these bills follow largely those of similar measures in Victoria and South Australia and, undoubtedly, are very desirable. Most of the points with which I propose to deal have already been covered by other honorable members, but I wish to add my plea for the consideration of the claims of those people who are employed in the federal members’ rooms in the various capitals. Furthermore, I understand that several women who are engaged in the Commonwealth railway department as temporary-permanents do not enjoy the long service leave or furlough benefits applying to permanent employees. An injustice is being done to these employees. Pleas have been advanced for the consideration of so many additional classes of employees that the mention of others might prejudice their claims in the eyes of the Government. Nevertheless there are other classes, for instance workers in Government munition establishments, who are entitled to consideration similar to that being extended under these measures. There is a fringe of men who are on and off from time to time, and perhaps, it would not be possible to consider them in this connexion, but, on the other hand, many are employed over long periods and are just as essential to the carrying on of the government services as are employees in the War Service Homes and Repatriation Departments. I trust that at a later date, if not at this juncture, the Government, will give consideration to their claims. They have been overlooked in respect of many other benefits which apply in other branches of the service. Several of my constituents who come within this category have asked me to voice their claims. I pointed out that it was rather late to expect that anything could be done for them under these measures, but that, at all events the AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Menzies) might give sympathetic consideration to such claims. The specific cases which have been quoted by the honorable members for Parkes (Sir Charles Marr) and West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) and other honorable members could be greatly multiplied. I have in mind the claims of men who have been employed in the Repatriation Department for many years and whose services, unfortunately, was broken when staffs were reduced during the depression. Quite naturally these people are feeling anxious about the position in which they find themselves to-day. One man has had ten and a half years’ service spread over a period of less than fourteen years. Today he is over 56 years of age ; there has not been any dissatisfaction with his services and he feels that he should enjoy the benefits of the superannuation scheme, because he will, most likely, be continuously employed until he reaches the retiring age. I doubt, howover, whether he would come under the provision of this legislation. Perhaps the Attorney-General will enlighten me on that point. Possibly this employee will be allowed to participate in the provident fund benefits; I sincerely trust so. We must also consider the cases of men who are advanced in years but who are likely to be employed until reaching the retiring age. In the Victorian Railways Department, in which I was employed for many years, it was found that there was an ebb and flow of employees. For instance, one would find no permanent appointments for as long a period as ten or eleven years, and then a large number of temporary employees would be appointed. In the more important departments it should be possible to estimate the number of permanent workers required and as vacancies occurred, either through retirement or death, temporary employees should be appointed to fill them, and if they are not appointed permanently they should be entitled to participate in superannuation benefits. If. as has been suggested by the honorable member for Parkes, the Public Service Board were asked to report upon this matter to the Attorney-General, I believe that a course of action would be indicated which could prove of great benefit to a large number of deserving public officials. In fact, it would give justice, which at present is not given. Some are very harshly served, while others receive all the benefits that are conferred. We should aim, as a Parliament, at ensuring that, as far as possible, the advantages of superannuation, sick leave, furlough, and long-service leave, sh al be spread as evenly as possible over the whole of the Service. I know that that is not contemplated in this’ bill. I believe that it ought to be possible, however, even in this measure, to do justice to the women who are working at the federal members’ rooms in the different State capitals, and who are deeply concerned at not being included in this provision. Many honorable members have been spoken to on their behalf. It is generally recognized that they are capable servants. Those who have no other avenue of employment and are looking forward to ending their days in the service of the Government should not be overlooked. I am quite sure that .if it be possible for the Attorney-General to do this
Ik; will give the matter favorable consideration. If it cannot be done at present I trust that a record will be left of the suggestion so that the next government may make the necessary provision at the first opportunity.
– in reply - I shall deal first with what has been said by the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford) and other honorable members concerning certain groups of employees who are not covered by the bill. I merely wish to repeat what I said by way of reply to an interjection by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) ; that is, that if the claims of any other people or groups of people in like case with those with whom we are dealing in these four measures are brought to the attention of the Government it will certainly give the matter consideration. I realize that it cannot be expected that, in these four measures, which admittedly cover a very large number of people, we should have succeeded in covering everybody who should be covered. Doubtless there are others who ought to be admitted to the same benefits. I suggest that the best way to help those who have good cases to submit is to establish the position of the four groups whose case is now before the House, Having done that, it. will be much more practicable to consider the cases of other persons.
The honorable member for Maribyrnong also referred to the particular case of a man employed in the Repatriation Department, who has had a lengthy, though not a continuous, term of service, tinder the bill before the House he is quite eligible to be certified by the commission. If the commission, forming its own judgment, considers that he ought to he regarded as a permanent employee, it will submit his name, which will be gazetted, and he will be eligible either for superannuation or, if he so elects, for the provident fund. It cannot be said that he is excluded from this scheme. Whether he is included in it or not depends entirely, as does the case of every other employee of the Repatriation Department, on whether or not he is on the certified list.
– That is one of the defects of the measure: he has to be certified.
– Somebody has to determine this matter. I venture to say that the commission may be expected to take a broad and sensible view of the problem. Doubtless, it is just as anxious as are those employed under it, to see that they get the benefits of superannuation if that be possible, because that would help to make a contented Service. I am quite sure that if I were a member of the Repatriation Commission I would have no motive to exclude from the list any man who ought to be on it.
The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) raised two points, one dealing with retrenchment before the expiration of ten years, and the other dealing with the death of a contributor, leaving no widow or dependent children, but perhaps leaving a dependent parent. The provisions of the bill dealing with the provident fund, to which the honorable member has taken exception, are merely a reproduction of corresponding provisions in sections 34, 39 and 40 of the Superannuation Act itself. Consequently if any amendment were desired - as to which I offer no opinion - to meet - the case put by the honorable member in relation to the provident fund, it would be equally necessary to make some such amendment of the Superannuation Act. Therefore, while the problems he has raised are interesting, they cannot be dealt with merely by the bills that are now before the House.
I have already commended these measures to the House.. I am quite sure that the wishes of all honorable members will be best helped if we take the opportunity now presented to us to bring into line with other sections of the Public Service the four groups of people for which provision is being made.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time and committed pro forma.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Menzies) agreed to -
Chat it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to amend the Superannuation Act 1022-1034.
Resolution reported and - by leave - adopted.
In committee (Consideration resumed) :
Bill agreed to and reported without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Bill (on motion by Mr. Menzies) read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Bill (on motion by Mr. Menzies) read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a. third time.
Bill (on motion by Mr. Menzies) read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Bil] - by leave - read a third time.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Thorby) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to provide financial assistance to the States in the making of payments to primary producers, and. for other purposes.
Resolution reported. Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted. Ordered -
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.
The subsidy on artificial manures which first came into operation in December, 1932, has been of great financial and educational benefit to our primary producers. It has encouraged pasture improvement and better farming methods generally. The original subsidy was paid at the rate of 15s. a ton. It continued at this rate until the 30th June, 1936. For the year ended 30th June, 1937, the subsidy was 10s. a ton and it will be paid at that rate on all fertilizers used for the production of crops other than wheat for grain prior to the 30th June, 1938.
The approximate amounts paid each year since the inauguration of the scheme have been : -
The estimated expenditure for the current year -is £250,000.
– How does the Minister justify the continuance of this subsidy in view of the present price of wheat?
– The subsidy has nothing to do with the price of wheat. Subsidy has never been paid on fertilizers used for the growing of wheat. I wish to emphasize, for the information of some honorable members of the House, that this scheme has been of immense value to primary producers generally.
The quantity of fertilizer on which subsidy has been paid has increased from 326,000 tons in 1932 to approximately (150,000 tons in 1937. This has not only contributed towards an increase of production, but has also considerably increased employment in various directions.
The only variations of the conditions governing the payment of the subsidy this year, compared with those of last year, are the decision to limit the quantity upon which subsidy will be paid to twenty tons, and to make eligible approved organizations, such as research bodies, relief committees, and the like, in the past relief committees have not been eligible for benefit under the act, for although they purchased the fertilizers they did not use them; their supplies were purchased for persons working small properties. Many of these users were unemployed persons occupying small plots of land. This is particularly true in respect of South Australia. The provision of this bill which makes relief committees eligible to benefit by the subsidy will be of great value in that it will make the subsidy available ‘ to small users.
– I take it that the States distribute this money.
– Yes ; to ensure economy and to avoid overlapping of administration, the distribution is made wholly through State instrumentalities.
– Are the payments made direct to the farmers?
– The producers get directly the whole of the benefit. The conditions governing the granting of the subsidy are that “the land occupiers shall use the fertilizer on their holding prior to the 30th June, and furnish their applications for subsidy prior to the 31st December, certifying to the quantity of fertilizers used, and also to the fact that it has been used for the prescribed purposes, and not for the growing of wheat for grain. In all approved oases cash payments are made. The money has been distributed in every State of the Commonwealth.
– Has the price of fertilizers been affected by this subsidy?
– A substantial reduction has been made of the price of fer tilizers in every State since the inauguration of the system, because the manufacturers have been able to increase their output. The provision of the subsidy has led to a much greater use of fertilizers than formerly.
– In what class of agriculture is the fertilizer used?
– AH classes of agriculturists have applied for the subsidy. An extensive use of fertilizers has been possible for the purpose of pasture improvement. This has enabled landowners to carry larger numbers of stock than would otherwise have been possible. This increase of productivity has, in turn, led to increased employment and to an added revenue for the Commonwealth. Orchardists, vegetable-growers, market gardeners, dairymen, fat lamb raisers, growers of oats and hay, and people engaged in other classes of primary production have benefited by this scheme. I again remind honorable members, however, that the subsidy is not made available in respect of fertilizers used for the growing of wheat for grain. I commend the bill to the favorable consideration of the House.
.- The members of the Opposition will facilitate the passage of the bill. It is evident from the remarks of the Assistant Minister (Mr. Thorby) that agriculturists in all parts of the Commonwealth have availed themselves of this subsidy, which last year cost the Commonwealth £326,000.’ The Labour party believes in encouraging primary production in Australia, but it expects the primary producers to realize the importance to the nation of the development of secondary industries. Primary and secondary industries are dependent upon each other. Those engaged in secondary industries, undoubtedly, provide the best market for our primary producers. If it were not for the market available in the big industrialized centres of Australia, our primary producers would be in a much less happy position than that in which they now find themselves. No doubt, orchardists, market gardeners and a big section of the dairy farmers have been experiencing a very lean time, and assistance of this kind does promote the best use of many of the smaller holdings by increas- ing the carrying capacity of lands. The work that has been done by the various State governments in instructing the. small dairy farmers, agriculturists and struggling graziers in the better utilization of the land will mean that a bigger population can be carried, particularly along the coastal belts of Australia. Because this bill is in accordance with the Labour party’s policy of rendering assistance to the struggling primary producers [ do not intend to offer any opposition t.o it.
.- I support this bill, which will enable primary producers to get the best out of their lands by the more liberal use of fertilizers. But I impress upon the Assistant Minister for Commerce (Mr. Thorby) that, under the measure, whether the cost of fertilizer is £4 or £18 a ton, the subsidy is 10s. a ton. As the Minister is aware, I have advocated on former occasions that the subsidy should be paid on a sliding scale with a minimum of 10s. a ton. The fertilizers used by the fruit-growers cost from £10 to £15 a ton.
– What kind of fertilizers do the fruit-growers use?
– Sulphate of ammonia, muriate of potash, blood and bone, and bone dust. Graziers and dairy farmers use superphosphate, which is the cheapest of fertilizers, for top-dressing their pastures. Notwithstanding the disparity between the prices paid by the men engaged in the various primary industries for their fertilizers, the rate of subsidy paid to them is uniform. An assurance from the Minister that the subsidy will be paid on a sliding scale would be appreciated. The Minister said last year that he would give consideration to a similar suggestion made by me, but, evidently, no consideration has been given to it.
– On the contrary, the honorable member’s suggestion was very fully considered,
– I agree with the limitation of 20 tons of fertilizer in respect of which the subsidy will be paid, but ten tons of fertilizer used by a fruit-grower may cost him £100.
– I remind the honorable gentleman that the fruit-growers are paid a bounty on each ca3e of fruit.
– And I remind the honorable gentleman that he is a supporter of a government which was miserable enough, to reduce the bounty on apples and pears from 4-Jd. to 2-Jd. a case.
– Some of the orchardists are wealthy men.
– They have made wealthy some of the persons whom the honorable member and the party to which he belongs represent.
– This bill does not alter the rate of subsidy.
– No, but it provides for a flat rate of 10s. a ton. The fact that it costs anything from £10 to £15 a ton to buy muriate of potash and less than £4 a ton to buy superphosphate has .not been considered. I think that some greater consideration should be given to those persons who are forced to use the more expensive kinds of fertilizers.
Mr. FAIRBAIRN (Flinders) [10.50 J. - What is the position of a partnership in respect of the 20 tons limitation on the quantity of fertilizer on which the subsidy is payable? And how will the limitation apply in respect of land owned by one man but worked by several’- on the share-farming system ?
.- The honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Frost) has complained of disparity in the treatment of different primary producers under this legislation. We must remember that this assistance was introduced, not as a bounty or subsidy to any particular section, but as a rebate on fertilizers to encourage the greater use of superphosphates and other manures, and that it has had the effect of increasing our national wealth very largely. Throughout the whole of Australia, I have had many people tell me that it has educated them to the value of the use of fertilizers. I remind the honorable member for Franklin that the price of sulphate of ammonia has already been reduced by £1 15s. a ton as the result of the reduction of the customs duty by the present Government, so users of this fertilizer get this advantage as well as 10s. a ton provided for in the bill.
– What is the price of sulphate of ammonia?
– The price of sulphate of ammonia in New South Wales is £11 15s. a ton, whereas before the reduction of the tariff occurred a few years ago it was £13 10s. a ton.
– And what reduction has taken place in the price of ordinary superphosphate ?
– A reduction of 10s., from £4 to £3 10s. a ton. That, however, occurred some time ago. The reduction of the price of sulphate of ammonia by £1 15s. a ton occurred in recent years, as the result of an inquiry by the Tariff Board.
– The price of the fertilizers used by fruit-growers is nearly three times that of the superphosphates used by the graziers and dairy-farmers.
– But fruit-growers do not use anything like the same quantity to the acre. The ratio of cost to the value of the production is not greater than in respect of superphosphates, which costs less per ton, but is used in larger quantities for a production of lower value. The reduction by £1 15s. of the price of sulphate of ammonia has been of great advantage to those using the more expensive manures.
– in reply - The suggestion by the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Frost) that the fertilizers subsidy should vary according to the value of the fertilizers used has had a very careful examination, not only by the Department of Commerce, but also by the Agricultural Council, which had the advice of all the departmental experts throughout Australia. After very full inquiry the reports of the departmental experts were furnished to the Agricultural Council, which decided that it would not be practicable to ‘ take into account the value of the various fertilizers used and apply a formula to determine the amount of subsidy to be paid in accordance with such values. There is a long list of fertilizers, and the prices vary from £3 10s. a ton to £18 a ton. As has been pointed out, the value of the fertilzers used cannot be assessed in that way, because the quantities used to the acre vary according to their strength. Examination showed that in different brands of superphosphate the chemical content varies considerably; therefore, if a sliding scale were adopted, it would be necessary to pay varying rates of subsidy, according to the strength of the superphosphate used. It was thought by the Agricultural Council to be inadvisable to attempt to introduce a new system which would cause many complications, and, perhaps, prove to be very unsatisfactory.
To the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Fairbairn), I reply that the purchase of fertilizers by a partnership would be regarded as one purchase, and the partnership would be restricted to the collection of subsidy on a maximum quantity of 20 tons. In the case of sharefarming, the owner and each of the sharefarmers would be entitled to collect the subsidy in respect of the first 20 tons of fertilizer used by each of them. Each would apply for the subsidy in respect of the proportion of the fertilizer that had been used in the production of his share of the crop. In this respect, the bill favours the small producers and discontinues the payment of the subsidy in large amounts to those who launch out on big operations.
– If a lawyer owned the land, which was farmed by others on the share system, on what quantity of fertilizer could the subsidy be collected?
– Subject to a maximum of 20 tons each., the owner and his share-farmers would be entitled to apply separately for the subsidy in respect of the fertilize]1 used in the production of their respective shares of the crop.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 3 agreed to.
Clause 4 (Amount payable to each State).
.- Recently a wheat farmer in a country town informed me that had it not been for the restrictions imposed on incomes at one time, he would have been able to receive a portion of the money made available by the Commonwealth for the assistance of wheat-growers and could have employed a number of sharefarmers. In the pastoral industry and other primary industries fabulously wealthy farmers are willing and anxious to engage share-farmers to work their holdings, but under the provisions of this bill such share-farmers would not be eligible for the subsidy on fertilizers which they would have to use. The time has arrived when commonsense business principles will have to be applied to subsidies of this kind. While I have no objection to the granting of assistance to those in need, I have very strong ob’jections to payments of this kind out of the public purse to wealthy farmers, squatters and dairymen. I have no doubt that quite a number of these wealthy squatters will make a present of the subsidy to their wives to finance a trip to Sydney. If money is handed out in this way to men who do not need it, it merely goes to swell their already full pockets; it is not used to improve their pastures. In the pastoral areas of New South Wales there are thousands of men so wealthy that they do not require a penny of this subsidy, yet this Government led by the Country party insists that they should take it. I have jio doubt that wealthy members of this Parliament will scoop in their 20 tons of fertilizers at a reduced price. One has only to consider the huge wool cheques drawn by wool-growers after the recent wool sales, and the position of the raisers of mutton and lamb, to see that there is no justification for pouring further wealth into their already full coffers. When an industry is engaged in profitable production it has no right to ask for assistance. When similar legislation designed to assist the wheat industry was before the House, we inserted a clause which provided that no wheat farmer who had had a taxable income in the preceding year should be entitled to receive a bounty.
– The honorable member voted for the deletion of that clause.
– That is not so; I have always sought to help the man on the bottom rung of the ladder, contending that men of wealth can look after themselves. It is necessary that at least some of us should fight for the interests of the man at the bottom of the ladder. I have travelled throughout the length and breadth of New South Wales and I have been repeatedly told by farmers that, although they did not want a subsidy of this sort, the Government had forced it on them.. No Government should hand over the taxpayers’ money to those not, in need of assistance. A great number of secondary industries are to-day in a very difficult position, and although they need assistance to enable them to carry on, no effort is made by this Government to provide it.
– Can the honorable member name any secondary industry that is not receiving protection?
– Yes, the manufacturers of margarine have had a tax imposed upon their product by the State Government in order that the butter producers may be able to continue in profitable production, yet the butter producers are to receive this subsidy. I have no. objection to the granting of a subsidy of this sort to dairymen with small herds and to small graziers who are in difficulties. All of those engaged in the pastoral industry in certain areas are entitled to assistance of this sort, but I know no reason why those who are able to afford to pay the full price for fertilizers should be granted the benefits of this legislation. One has only to consider the long list of assistance granted to primary producers, which the Minister for Commerce (Dr. Earle Page) recently published, to see that those engaged in the primary industries in Australia have already received adequate assistance from the Commonwealth. I want it to be understood that I do not grudge the payment of the subsidy to the small men engaged in primary -production. I rise simply to voice my protest against the continuance of the policy of this Government of providing money for those who do not need it. I do not agree that members of Parliament are entitled to receive a subsidy of this sort; they have good jobs and are not in need. I have always subscribed to the principle that a primary producer with a taxable income should not be granted assistance of this sort. I hope during the life of the next Parliament to be given an opportunity to carry on the fight on behalf of those on the lower rungs of the ladder even more vigorously than I have done in the past.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 5 and 6 agreed to.
Clause 7 (Payments to States).
.- Some time ago when legislation similar to that now before the committee was being discussed, I brought under notice the fact that applications for subsidy posted by primary producers before the prescribed date had not been received in the department owing to the Xmas holidays intervening, and that the claims had been disallowed on the ground that they had not been received within the prescribed time. I should like the Minister to state whether any such difficulty is likely to - arise in connexion with the subsidy proposed to be paid under this bill.
– That matter has been safeguarded against in bills dealing not only with the fertilizer subsidy but also with other subsidies and bounties. In clause 2 the prescribed date is fixed as the 3lst ‘ January, 1939, “or such later date as the Minister, iu any exceptional case, determines “. That provision will overcome difficulties associated with earlier legislation of this sort due to circumstances such as that mentioned by the honorable member.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses S to 10 agreed to.
Preamble and title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Second Reading. Debate resumed from the 8th September (vide page 732), on motion by Mr. Casey -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- As a party, we have an objection to the provisions of clause 3 which provides -
Section fi of the principal act is amended by adding at the end thereof the following words : - “, and for buildings, works and sites (including shore bases and marine facilities), radio, aeronautical and direction-finding equipment and control and auxiliary launches in connexion with the scheme known as the Empire air mail scheme”.
That clause is all right so far as it relates to moneys in the Civil Aviation Trust Account to be used for buildings, works, sites and so on, but then we are asked to agree to the fund being used to carry out work in connexion with the proposed Empire air mail scheme, which Parliament has not yet ratified. Can the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) give the committee an assurance that the sum of £200,000, which I understand was voted in the Works Estimates, and is to be paid under this bill to the credit of the Civil Aviation Trust Account out of the moneys standing to the credit of the Defence Equipment -Trust Account, will not bo spent on an Empire air mail scheme until Parliament has had an apportunity to consider that project in all its aspects ? It seems to me quite unnecessary to make provision for that expenditure at this stage, for a scheme which Parliament has not yet ratified. We desire to hear more about it, and the Treasurer may shorten the debate if he gives the committee an assurance on the lines I have indicated.
– in reply - The bill has two purposes. One is to transfer £200,000 from the Defence Equipment Trust Account into the Civil Aviation Trust. Account, and the other is to alter the list of purposes for which the money can be expended from the Civil Aviation Trust Account. As set out in clause 3, briefly they are to enable the money to be spent on the construction and provision of bases for the projected Empire air mail scheme. This is not a measure which sets out in the first place to appropriate new moneys. The moneys have, I understand, already been appropriated, by Parliament in the Works Estimates which was passed last week. On page 282 of these estimates, under the heading of th? Department of Defence, appears the item “Empire air mail scheme, buildings, works, sites, &c, £200,000”. This is purely a machinery measure for dealing with that money by transferring it from, one trust account into another. Actually the general purpose of the Civil Aviation Trust Account is to enable the money in it to be used for the development of civil aviation. It might be thought unnecessary to alter and expand the existing title of the trust fund, but we in the Treasury like to be completely careful as to the use of trust funds, and, in order that there might be no misconception whatever, this additional wording has been provided.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
Clause 3 (Payments from civil aviation trust account).
– This is the contentious clause of the bill but it gives no details. All we are told is that the money is to be spent for buildings, works, sites, and so on, in connexion with the Empire air mail scheme. The item on page 282 of the Works Estimates simply repeats that wording. The Empire air mail service and its bases have been the subject of fairly wide controversy in New South Wales. This clause uses the word “ bases “ regarding which the committee is entitled to know the exact decision of the Government. For example, what does the Government propose to do at Rose Bay? Does it regard Rose Bay as a base which has been finally determined upon; or is it true, as has been stated in many reports, that certain improvements are to take place at Botany Bay, so that Botany Bay will in the end be the Australian terminal of the service? The clause provides that £200,000 shall be set aside for the purpose of buildings, works and sites, including shore bases and marine facilities. I should like the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) to give details in that regard. What buildings, works, &c, are to be provided at Rose Bay? The committee is entitled to know whether the Government is proceeding with a scheme upon which it intends to spend a certain amount of money at Rose Bay, and then later to spend much more at another place. Has Rose Bay been finally decided upon, or has the Government two sites in view? If the Treasurer gave the committee this information, it might clear up the controversy that has raged for many months on this subject, and that, as far as the public is concerned, has never yet been satisfactorily concluded;
Mr. CASEY (Corio - Treasurer j [11.22]. - The point raised by the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) was dealt with by the Minister For Defence (Sir Archdale Parkhill) who made in this chamber a considered statement on behalf of the Government in regard to the Rose Bay-Botany Bay proposition. I shall not try to improve on what he said, but, from memory, it was to the general effect that the Government proposed to adopt the Rose Bay site in the first place, and at the same time, or within a short time, to investigate the potential site at Botany Bay, with the idea that, if the traffic developed to an extent which warranted it, this might eventually become the permanent base in New South Wales. I can assure the honorable member that the whole matter is contained in the official record of the speech which came from the lips of the Minister for Defence.
– What is the Government to spend at Rose Bay? What is it going to build there?
– That is a detail which is not yet determined.
– The Minister is asking us to vote £200,000 to a trust account for civil, aviation, and Ave are entitled to know what it is to be spent on.
Mi’. CASEY.- That is a. detail which will be made available to the House when the Government, early in the life of the new Parliament, brings in the necessary bill. I anticipate that the present Minister for Defence will then fully satisfy the honorable member.
Clause agreed to.
Preamble and title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
– I move -
That the hill he now read a second time.
This measure is necessary merely to ensure that the duties set out in the customs tariff resolutions of the 24th June and the 7th September of this year shall operate until the new Parliament assembles. It provides for their validation until the 28th Febraury, 1938. I do not intend to discuss the pros and cons of any of the items in the schedules. That can be done when Parliament reassembles. If honorable members require further information, I shall be glad to afford it. [Quorum formed.]
.- As this and the succeeding bills are intended to validate the collection of tariff and excise duties up to February, 1938, T do not intend at this stage to say much about them, because I hope that, within a month or two, I may have to say a good deal about them from the other side of the table. We may then find the present Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) adopting quite a different attitude from his present one. He will probably then be a keen critic of what the government of the day proposes in the way of an adequate protectionist policy for the benefit of the secondary and primary industries of Australia. In view of the fact that we are now in the last two days of the session, I shall reserve what I have to say until after the elections.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
– I move - That the bill be now read a second time.
This measure is incidental to the Customs Tariff Validation Bill, and is concerned with the validation of exchange adjustments until the 28 th February next.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill proposes to validate collections of Customs where an increase was made in regard to certain imports, and also reductions of duties in respect of Canadian sheet steel. The validations are to be effective until the 28th February next.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This is an excise validation bill which merely seeks to validate excise duties imposed in the June schedule. It relates to spirits used in essences and goods of that kind. This will allow time for the whole of the schedule to be debated when the House meets again in February.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 8th September (vide page 737) on motion by Mr. White -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- This is a small bill, the purpose of which is to extend the payment of bounties on certain tropical products of Papua and New Guinea. It will be supported by the Opposition. The products upon which the bounty is to be paid are cocoa beans, hemp, coir fibre, kapok, spices, bamboo and rattans, sago and vanilla beans. The bounties are payable only when these products are imported for consumption within the Commonwealth. I was amazed to observe the small amount which had been expended in the payment of the bounties, the annual payments being as follows : -
The bounties represent an attempt to encourage agriculture in Papua and the Mandated Territory of New Guinea. When I visited those territories I was impressed by the large area of rich land which is not being put to very great use at the moment. A considerable number of Australians are doing an important work pioneering these areas, and they deserve assistance. An effort Ls being made to encourage the growing of various crops, and these bounty payments are intended for this purpose.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Sitting suspended from 11.40 p.m. to 12.15 a.m. (Wednesday).
Wednesday, 15 September 1987
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s Message) :
Motion (by Mr.- Thorby) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue he made for the purposes of a hill for an act to provide-for the payment of a bounty on the export of apples and pears from the Commonwealth.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted. Ordered -
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.
For the last four years the Commonwealth Government has granted an export bounty to growers of apples and pears, and after a careful examination of the present position the Government has decided to continue the bounty for this year at the rate of approximately 2-^d. a bushel case of apples and pears exported, at a total cost of approximately £60,000. In 1933 the freight from Australia to the United Kingdom and Europe was 4s. 1 1/2d. (Australian) a case. In August of that year the Government secured a reduction of 2fd. a case for shipments during the month of June and 3£d. a ease for shipments during July and later months, In December, 1934, a rebate of 2d. a case was secured, provided the shippers filled the space booked. Further negotiations were carried on with the shipowners with the result that we have now secured a further freight reduction, commencing from the beginning of the 1938 export season, of an additional 3d. a case, making a total rebate of approximately 6d. a case Australian currency. In other words, since 1933 the overseas freight has been reduced from 4s. 1-Jd. a case to 3s. 7£d. a. case. I would also remind honorable members that for the last two years the Government has spent over £20,000 on research and has voted a further £5,000 to continue the work this year. To this can be added a further £5,000 on a £1 for £1 basis with the States to provide a fund to conduct an Australia-wide publicity campaign. Since’ overseas returns last year showed a considerable improvement over previous years, it is considered that the financial provisions of this bill provide a reasonable contribution by the Commonwealth to the industry.
– I am disgusted that the Government assistance to this important industry is less this year than was given last season. Last year the growers received a bounty of 4Jd. a bushel ease; this year the bounty is to be only 2$d. I am quite at a loss to understand the reason for this reduction, because the growers are to-day in a much worse position than they were last season. In recent years, nearly every other form of primary production has enjoyed payable prices in overseas markets. This year, unfortunately, the London prices for apples and pears have declined seriously. The Government is spending a huge sum of money for defence purposes. It has also brought forward proposals for heavy expenditure in other .directions, and notwithstanding the buoyancy of the revenue, it has reduced the bounty on apples and pears to such an extent as to cripple one of the best Australian industries. The Assistant Minister for Commerce (Mr. Thorby) has told us that the growers have benefited through a reduction of freight charges. The present freight is 3s. 6d. a case, but apple and pear growers alone among primary producers are penalized to an amount of 7 1/2d. a case on account of exchange. When the management of the Conference Line steamers agreed to reduce the freight to 3s. 6d. a case, it demanded payment at this end, because of the supposed risk in carrying perishable products. The Assistant Minister has said, that as the result of recent negotiations, there will be a further freightreduction of 3d. in the 1938 export season, making a total rebate of approximately 6d. a case in Australian currency. I do not know how he arrives at that figure, because the previous reductions were 2d. and 3d., making only 5d.
– The reduction is expressed in sterling.
– As I have explained, the growers pay the freight at this end, so the exchange charges will add further to their costs The apple and pear growing industry employs more labour than any other. It also pays higher prices for the fertilizersrequired, and for timber. There has been an increase of the price for wrapping paper which is now over 4s. a ream, as compared with ls. 9d. a ream last year. Pine cases, which last year cost 9d. are now about ls. 3d. All charges in connexion with the growing and shipping of apples and pears are increasing, but unfortunately the grower is not getting higher prices in the overseas market.
The official figures show that this season 1,134,933 cases, or about 41 per cent, of the fruit, was sold f.o.b. at an estimated price of 4s. ll£d. a case, and 1,690,761 cases, or 60 per cent., were sold on consignment at approximately 3s. a. case. As” the cost of production is, roughly, 5s. a case, the growers suffered a substantial loss on all fruit sold on consignment. Furthermore it is not possible for growers to sell more than a specified quota f.o.b. For example, if a grower had 10,000 cases he would be fortunate if he could secure shipping space for 5,000 cases under the quota system. The Government should endeavour to meet the growers by making the bounty this year at least equal to the amount paid last season. There 19 usually a good market in the United Kingdom for apples and pears, but this year it collapsed. Growers were told that the unfavorable turn of the market was due to the fact that shipments made early in March were over 70 days in transit - one steamer actually took 74 days. Some shipments made at the beginning of April arrived in London before the fruit which had been shipped a month earlier. As the Government has given the Conference Line steamers a monopoly of the refrigerated space for small cargoes, the growers are in the hands of the shipping companies and have to ship their fruit when vessels are offering.
The Assistant Minister may say that the growers could have refused to use those vessels, but the trouble is that, if they do not avail themselves of certain vessels, they are left short of space, as there has not been a sufficient number of vessels calling at Tasmanian ports in the last few years. Owing to the slow speed of some of the steamers the early varieties of fruit were placed on the market after the late varieties had- arrived, and this is one of the causes of the collapse of the market. This year, the growers had a number of good f.o.b. orders from the continent of Europe; but, owing to the impossibility of obtaining sufficient refrigerated space, these orders could not be met. Prior to the Great War, the growers shipped about 1/500,000 bushels of fruit to Germany, and they hope soon to recover that market. France took a considerable quantity of fruit last year.
A limited quantity has been asked foi by Czechoslovakia and other countries, and probably these will increase their orders in the near future; but the majority of the growers will be bankrupt if the Government does not come to their assistance. At least the same bounty as was paid last year should be made available.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Message recommendating ‘ appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of Governor-General’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Thorby) agreed to -
That it is expedient that au appropriation of revenue be made for the puiposes of a bill for an act to grant and apply out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund a sum for the purposes of financial assistance to the States.
Resolution reported. Standing Orders suspended ; resolution adopted. Ordered -
That Mr. Thorby and Dr. Earle Rage, 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.
This bill is the outcome of a promise given by the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) that the Commonwealth Government would assist the States to overcome the problem associated with unemployed youths who had missed their opportunity to receive an industrial training during the years of depression through which Australia had passed. Following several conferences with representatives from each of the States, at which I presided on behalf of the Commonwealth Government, it was agreed that there was no general problem associated with the employment of girls or young women, but that a considerable number of youths and young men between the ages of IS years and 25 years h?.d failed to secure any vocational training, and were now amongst the ranks of the unskilled unemployed. Each State undertook to carry out a comprehensive survey amongst that group, with a view to enabling the Commonwealth to assess the degree .of unemployment in each State. Then the Commonwealth decided to contribute £200,000 as a grant to be distributed amongst the States to assist them to carry out a plan of vocational training best suited to their requirements. These plans were then to be submitted to the Commonwealth for approval, and each State was invited to put forward proposals, including provisions for both, girls and boys within the prescribed age group. I emphasize that, because it was definitely stated at the conference by the Ministers representing their respective States that there was no definite problem associated with unemployed girls and young women. Since the conference, however, some of the States have asked that provision should be made in the bill to give them the right to provide in their schemes for girls and boys . and young men and young women between the ages of 18 and 25 years. This proposal was submitted to the Loan Council at its meeting on the 16th April last, when it was agreed that the amount of £200,000 should be made available by the Commonwealth Government to the States for the year 1937-38 from revenue, if possible. After taking into consideration all of the circumstances associated with each State, the following allocations were decided upon: -
All of the States agreed to submit proposals to the Commonwealth for approval, and the States of Queensland and South Australia have already furnished their plans of operation for consideration. The whole of the work will be carried out by the State authorities on the understanding that the Commonwealth will assist in every possible way.
This bill represents an effort on the part of the Commonwealth to give financial assistance to the States to enable them to grapple with their respective problems with regard to unemployment among young people. This is not, in the first place, a Commonwealth responsibility, but we recognize that exceptional circumstances arose in the various States during the depths of the depression, when many young people, on leaving school, were unable to receive the vocational training necessary to enable them to be absorbed in employment. The bill makes a substantial monetary contribution to assist the States in carrying out this work. The States are supplying a considerable . amount of information regarding the unemployment that prevails among various groups, and I particularly compliment the State of South Australia upon the complete set of figures furnished by it. This information has been of great assistance to the Commonwealth in calculating the degree of help necessary. Victoria has a comprehensive plan, but, up to the present time, has not supplied details of its scheme to the same extent, as have some of the other States. “We have made special provision for each State to submit a proposal that will meet its particular requirements, recognizing that the conditions in Queensland, for instance, are different from those in Tasmania, - and that the conditions in Western Australia are not comparable to those in the larger industrial States such as New South Wales and Victoria. Therefore, the bill is so framed that it gives to each State the greatest latitude in the formulation of any plan it may desire to adopt to enable it to share in the distribution of this £200,000 for the current year.
– This is a belated measure, and makes inadequate provision for dealing with the problem of youth employment. Definite promises were made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) in 1931, and again in 1934, when one of the chief features of his election policy was that he would find jobs for the workless, particularly for growing boys and girls. Instead of the responsibility being assumed by the Commonwealth Government immediately after the elections in 1931 it displayed a pronounced inclination to place it upon the States, which, at that time, were faced with substantial deficits amounting to approximately £8,000,000 per annum. Moreover, the States were confronted with the problem of providing hospital accommodation, health clinics, social welfare departments, and of generally caring for the sick and needy. The employment of youths necessitated immediate attention, but the States had insufficient funds to carry out this great work, which, we were told six years ago, would the responsibility of the Commonwealth Government. This was a great injustice to those 50,000 boys who leave school each year, the majority of whom, during the depression years, were unable to obtain employment. Unfortunately, nothing was done for. about 100,000 youths during a period in which they should have been able to learn a trade. The responsibility can be laid at the door of this Government, because it balanced its budget in July, 1932, not as a result of its own administration, but owing to benefits it derived from the rehabilitation policy inaugurated by the Scullin Government, to the general improvement of trade, and to the increase of prices for exportable commodities. This problem was totally, neglected by a government that had surpluses aggregating nearly £10,000,000, which enabled it to remit taxes paid by the wealthy amounting to approximately £18,000,000.
– Such remission enabled additional work to be provided.
– This £200,000 is a niggardly contribution made in the dying hours of the Parliament. The Govern- ‘ ment has failed to honour a promise it made six years ago.
– It was not even referred to six years ago.
– It was. I can produce Nationalist literature circulated during the election campaign six years ago which stated that votes for Nationalist candidates meant jobs for the workless boys and. girls.
– That is a different matter.
– Many of those who should have been receiving training in skilled trades were on the dole or were working one week in four on relief work. I disagree with, the Assistant Minister (Mr. Thorby) when he says that the Commonwealth Government is not responsible; because it had substantial surpluses each financial year, while the State governments, which had deficits, were trying to provide work for armies of unemployed.
– Is the Deputy Leader of the Opposition ignoring the millions that were granted for the relief of unemployment each year?
– I admit that loan money was made available, but the States were responsible for its repayment. Within the last two week3 the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) pointed out with great pride that, the public debt had been increased not by the Commonwealth, but by the States. This was due solely to State authorities endeavouring to ameliorate the conditions of the unemployed. Little or nothing was done by the Commonwealth, which “passed the buck” to the State governments. I presume that the Commonwealth will make money available to the State authorities to carry out schemes submitted to it. Although the contribution is small and somewhat belated, the Opposition will not oppose the bill.
.However belated this measure may appear to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde), I feel sure that, it will be welcomed by honorable members on both sides of the chamber, and by all sections of the community. There has been no more tragic legacy from the -depression than the spectacle of thousands of ablebodied young men being unable to find regular employment even of an unskilled character quite apart from the skilled work, which we trust will become available as the result of this measure becoming law. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition said that there are 100,000 youths out of work, but that figure is grossly exaggerated. When a census was taken in Victoria, it was found that there were 6,000 between the ages referred to by the Assistant Minister (Mr. Thorby) who were actually out of work or in dead-end occupations. In these circumstances, I should imagine that the number of unemployed youths throughout the Commonwealth would be considerably less than 20,000. Nevertheless, this “ hard core “ of unemployment presents a problem which must be tackled if Australian youths are to be given a reasonable chance to find suitable employment. Inadequate as the amount mentioned in the bill may appear to be, it represents the first substantial measure of financial assistance which this section of the community has received since the beginning of the depression. The amount should not represent the total which the Commonwealth is prepared to make available, and I trust that the States may look for further contributions from the Commonwealth towards their funds for this purpose. Each State, which has its own unemployment relief fund, collects taxes from which specific problems of- unemployment can be financed. Although unemployment has decreased very materially within the last six years, there has not been a corresponding diminution in the amount of tax collected as the result of these relief taxation measures. In Victoria, for example, when the unemployed registered in the depth of the depression was 27 per cent, of trade union memberships, £200,000 less was collected by way of relief taxation than in the last financial year when the figure had fallen to 9 per cent. The Commonwealth Government, therefore, might very reasonably ask the State governments to make a substantial contribution from their own funds towards financing their schemes should they consider that the amount proposed to bc made available under this measure is inadequate for the purposes contemplated. The Assistant Minister stated that to receive financial assistance the schemes which the States are preparing must receive the approval of this Government. I sincerely hope such schemes contemplate the provision of technical training in order to make skilled employment a reasonable possibility for these people.
Another point which I wish to have cleared up is in respect of youths engaged in dead-end jobs. The census taken in Victoria covered not only unemployed youths but also those engaged in deadend occupations; and, whilst this bill refers to the placing of persons between 18 .and 25 years of age, I hope that it is not to he taken as referring only to those out of employment at the moment, but that, as it also ensures that those engaged in dead-end occupations will be given an opportunity to learn skilled trades. 1 should welcome any information which the Minister could give me on that point.
– Every honorable member will welcome this measure. We know that during the depression the youth of Australia suffered more than any other section of the community. Employment could not be found for them in secondary industry and they had no opportunity to learn skilled trades. This proposal will give those unfortunate youths a start in the right direction. The Deputy Leader of .the Opposition (Mr. Forde) said that hundreds of thousands of youths were unemployed; he exaggerated the position. In South Australia, where, I believe, we suffered as badly as, if not worse, than those in any other State during the depression, applications were called from unemployed persons between 18 and 25 years of age to participate in a scheme of vocational training as soon as money was made available for the purpose; and, although those applications were left open for three weeks, the number who applied to enter various schools did not run into four figures. I am not now suggesting that there were only a few hundred unemployed at that time, but it is obvious from the experience of South Australia, at any rate, that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition exaggerated the position. All honorable members have been most anxious that money should be made available for the purpose contemplated in this measure. Therefore, they welcome the bill. We know that when this Government is returned to office at the next elections and this money becomes exhausted, a very much larger sum will be made available for the same purpose.
– in reply - In respect of the point raised by the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt), I point out that the Government purposely refrained from laying down any hard-and-fast conditions in this measure but deliberately left it open to the States to bring forward their own proposals in order that each State might meet its own peculiar requirements. At the conference on youth employment it was made clear that conditions vary to a great extent as between one State and another. It was recognized, therefore, that it would be wrong to lay down hardandfast conditions to be applied to the States as a whole. I assure the honorable member that no conditions will be imposed on a State other than the obligation to see that the money is used for the purpose for which it is voted by this Parliament.
– .Are the States making any contributions from their own revenues?
– Yes, but we did not tie them down to a £1 for £1 contribution basis feeling that even that would cause obstacles. I assure the honorable member that each State has agreed to vote a larger sum of money for this purpose than will be given to it under this measure by the Commonwealth. The scheme, therefore, will be comprehensive and. will effect a tremendous amount o*f good throughout the Commonwealth.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from the 24th August (vide page 52) on motion by Mr. Thorby -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– This proposal differs slightly from previous bounty proposals in respect of citrus fruits insofar as the bounty of 2s. a case in future will be paid in respect of all classes ‘of citrus fruits exported to countries other than New Zealand. When a similar measure was before this Parliament last year the Opposition urged that the bounty should be broadened in this way and, therefore, it welcomes this measure. There are 10,500 growers engaged in the citrus industry throughout Australia. They are settlers with small capital and the industry could be developed extensively in New South Wales and Queensland. After the grower lays out his capital he has to wait a number of years before the trees come into productivity. Many of these growers have experienced a very lean time and anything that can be done to assist them will be greatly appreciated. I take it that mandarin growers are brought within the scope of this measure.
– That is so, but they do not benefit to any great extent because there are not many export markets available to them.
– This proposal will involve a total payment of £8,000; but as the industry produces 4,000,000 bushels of fruit a year, that is hut a very small measure of assistance. The average annual value of the industry’s production in Australia is £1,465,000. In 1935-36 271,000 acres were under production compared with 281,000 acres in 1931-32, or a decrease of 10,000 acres over that period; but in 1913-14 only 248,000 acres were under production.
I was astonished to hear from the Assistant Minister (Mr. Thorby) that the difficulty in the way of reconciliation between Australia and New Zealand in the matter of the embargo was the need for measures to prevent the introduction of disease. Probably the honorable gentleman will be able to give us some idea as to the stage to which the negotiations for the complete removal of the embargo have progressed. At a conference held in Canberra about two years ago, which was attended by plant pathologists and representatives of the States and the Commonwealth as well as the Dominion of New Zealand, it was unanimously decided that it was no longer in the interests of public health that these quarantine prohibitions should be retained. It seems a pity that complete success has not attended the efforts to wipe out these prohibitions, for which, in the opinion of experts, there is no need to-day.
I read with interest a speech by the Honorable Robert Semple, Minister for
Agriculture in New Zealand, who recently visited several of the Australian States. At civic receptions he expressed the view that it was deplorable that any bad feeling should exist between the two dominions. In his opinion, there should be no restrictions imposed on trade between Australia and New Zealand. It was most unfortunate, he said, that New Zealand had prohibited the importation of oranges from Australia, and that Australia had prohibited the importation of potatoes from New Zealand. Surely, he said, the two countries could get together and come to an understanding of mutual advantage to each of them. I know, of course, that certain of the States do not want to meet the competition of potatoes from New Zealand. I shall not refer to that matter at the present time, except to ask the Minister to let me know whether his department has made any decision in regard to allowing potatoes from New Zealand to enter Australia. He has had the matter under consideration for a long time. It is a burning question in certain parts of Australia. He is being pressed by the citrusgrowers on the one hand, and the potato-growers on the other hand. What are his intentions? It was stated at the conference of experts to which I have referred, that the ordinary quarantine provisions would be sufficient to prevent the introduction of corky scab and fire blight into Australia and of sandy blight into New Zealand.
The embargo on the importation of citrus fruits from Australia was imposed by the Government of New Zealand in 1932. It was released in 1933 to the extent of admitting oranges from South Australia only. In 1934 the Government of New Zealand again decided to allow oranges from South Australia to enter that dominion, but only in specified quantities and by certain vessels. The Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) has stated that negotiations have been proceeding without interruption. The Assistant Minister for Commerce may be able to explain the present position. Is Australia awaiting a reply from New Zealand, or is New Zealand awaiting a reply from Australia ? The volume of Australian trade with New Zealand, including bullion and specie, from the year 1927-28 to the year 1936-37, is shown in the following table : -
The value of the market in New Zealand to the Australian citrus-grower is shown by the exports of citrus fruits to that dominion. Those exports were valued at £40,000 in 1927-28, at £65,000 in 1928- 29, at £S0,000 in 1930-31, and at £129,000 in 1931-32. In 1933-34, owing to the imposition of the embargo, the value dropped to £55,000. In 1934-35, it was £105,000, in 1935-36 it was £131,000, and in 1936-37 it was £176,000. When one makes a survey of the imports of oranges into New Zealand one realizes that there is scope for a big development of our export trade to that dominion. The latest figures that I have been able to obtain from the Commonwealth Statistician show that in 1935 New Zealand imported from Australia. 45 per cent, of its requirements of citrus fruits, the balance being imported from the United States of America, British West Indies, and a number of other countries. As we are so close to New Zealand, there is no reason why we should not supply 75 per cent, of its requirements. There is no doubt that the imposition of the embargo against the importation of citrus fruits from Australia was a very serious blow to the Australian citrus-growers. That was shown by Mr. A. S. Brown and Mr. J. W. Black at a deputation that waited on the Minister for Commerce (Dr. Earle Page) some time ago. Mr. Brown said that, owing to the loss of the market in New Zealand, the Australian growers were faced with a surplus, and were in financial difficulties. Other growers who took part in the deputation drew attention to the same fact. In 1935, a total of 12,800,000 cwt. of oranges, valued at £10,473,000, was placed on the British market by all exporting countries. Australia’s share of that was insignificant, its exports to Great Britain having a value of only £49,000, or 0.5 per cent. That position calls for investigation. Great Britain imports almost one-half of it3 total requirements between July and November, a period during which Australia could supply the British market with a greatly increased proportion. In 1936-37, the output of the citrus industry in Australia was 4,820,000 bushels-=-4,17 0,000 ‘bushels of oranges, and 650,000 bushels of lemons. The United Kingdom offers possibilities for the considerable expansion of the Australian citrus industry. The Assistant Minister is connected with a department that can assist the growers very materially in the development of that market. Apart from the loss of the market in New Zealand, the growers were handicapped during the depression because of the fall of the purchasing power of the Australian people. In many instances, fruit was regarded as a luxury, and the masses of the people had either to eliminate it entirely from the daily regimen, or greatly curtail their purchases. Now that there has been a return to something like a reasonable degree of prosperity, we can. look forward with some confidence to a. big expansion of the citrus industry in Australia. The local - market, of course, presents the greatest opportunities. I remind the citrus-growers that 62 per cent, of the whole of the products of the farms of Australia is consumed locally. It is to their interest as well as to the interest of the dairying industry, which sells 79 per cent, of its products in Australia, the pastoral industry, which sells 44 per cent, of its output locally, and the agricultural industry, which sells 65 per cent, on the home market, to develop that market by helping along the policy of the general protection of Australian industries.
Order ! The honorable member is now embarking on a tariff debate.
– I submit that the best market is the local market. This bounty will, of course, assist our export trade; but the local market always offers much better prospects for a reasonable return to the primary producers.
– As the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) may be regarded as an expert on embargoes his remarks on the subject interested me.
– By its trade diversion policy the present Government has done more to impose embargoes than ever the Scullin Government did.
– It must be remembered that both the Commonwealth Government and the Government of New Zealand are interested in this subject. “The Deputy Leader of the Opposition quoted certain trade figures which showed a. disadvantage to the Commonwealth, but it was the policy of the Scullin Government that first caused our trade difficulties with New Zealand.
– The honorable member is talking absolute nonsense.
– I am glad to say that our citrus trade with New Zealand has improved, for the Government of the Dominion is now prepared to accept oranges not only from South Australia but also from certain portions of New South “Wales where the fruit-fly is not troublesome. The citrus export quota to New Zealand is now about 180,000 cases a year, whereas before the embargo became fully effective, we were exporting to that dominion only 155,000 cases a year. I do not give way to any honorable member of this House in my desire to improve our trade with New Zealand. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition referred to the potato-growing industry. I do not know that that should be a consideration, for Australia is producing its own requirements of potatoes. Any one who cares to read the Hansard report of a debate on this subject which occurred in this Parliament some time ago on a motion for the adjournment of the House, will realize that the friends of the citrus-growers are not in the ranks of the Labour party. The Lyons Government has done a great deal to endeavour to improve our trade relations with- New Zealand. It intimated some time ago that it was prepared to send a delegation to ‘New Zealand to discuss trade matters with representatives of the Government of that Dominion, but Mr. Savage and his colleagues did not encourage the proposal. I am sure that this Government would renew it3 offer to send a delegation to New Zealand if it were likely to be accepted.
We all are aware of the need .to enlarge the market for our citrus products. For that reason I welcome the introduction of this bill. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition suggested that the amount of the proposed bounty was not large enough to he of much benefit to individual citrus-growers, but as the expenditure is estimated to be £8,000, it will assist in the exporting of- at least 80,000 cases of fruit. The lifting of that quantity of fruit from the local market must undoubtedly be beneficial to the growers.
I am aware that I shall not now he permitted to discuss the subject of bounties in general, but I wish to say that we should bear in mind that we have a duty to all our constituents. I represent many citrus-growers and have always regarded them as my special care; but not all the electors of Robertson are citrus-growers. Many of them are engaged in other forms of primary production. It is only proper that as bounties are provided for those engaged in secondary industries, similar consideration should be given to those engaged in primary industries. At the same time I believe that if we could revert to a more natural trade policy and abolish bounties, it would be far better for” the public in general. In the final analysis the people have to provide the money that the Government spends in bounties. If they do not provide it by direct taxation, they do so by indirect taxation.
Recently a very representative meeting was held at Gosford, an important town in my electorate, at which a motion was carried requesting the Government to obtain assistance from the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research to encourage the production of orangeade in Australia. This drink, which is manufactured in large quantities in the United States of America, consists of practically the pure juice of the orange, and is not a chemical preparation. The meeting expressed the view that if the production and marketing of orangeade in Australia could he encouraged, it would he of very great advantage to the citrus industry. It would perhaps be possible to develop an export market in this product, in which case we should have no trouble about the fruit-fly or even the sandy blight, to which the Deputy Leader of the Opposition referred, but which to me is something new in the industry. Capital would be available for investment in the production of this drink if the industry could* be put on a sound basis. A large quantity of Valencia oranges, for which it is difficult to find a market in the ordinary way, could be converted into orangeade. Last season the yield in New South Wales was not very great because the drought conditions extended even to the coastal portions of the State. The result was that the growers did not have the surplus which they generally have. This fact should not be lost sight of by the department when it is considering the needs of the citrus-growers.
– Does the honorable member think the bounty is large enough?
– Although I had thought it possible that the rate of bounty might have been raised from 2s. to 2s. 6d. a case I am grateful for the assistance which the Government is rendering in this measure, but, as I have already indicated in this House on other occasions,. I believe that the bounty system should be abolished as soon as it is possible to do so. I appreciate the fact that the Government has not lost sight of the conditions under which those engaged in the citrus industry have laboured for some time past, and I trust that it will continue its interest in this matter and take adequate steps to ensure that inferior fruit is not placed on the local market. As I have mentioned, a considerable quantity of fruit, otherwise difficult to market, could be used in the manufacture of orangeade; the use of such fruit would go a long way towards assisting a very deserving industry. In New South Wales the citrus industry is more or less in the melting pot because the State Government, as I am sure the Assistant Minister is well aware, is conducting an inquiry into the fruit industry generally.
I feel sure that Mr. McCulloch, who has been appointed by the New South Wales Government to conduct the inquiry with regard to costs and method of production, marketing, the sale or other disposal of fruit, the improvement of the financial position of the growers, and the manufacture and sale or other disposal of byproducts of fruit, will cover a very wide field of investigation in connexion with the fruit industry generally in New South Wales. Although this inquiry has been instituted by the New South Wales Government, I feel sure that the Commonwealth Government is not unmindful of the need for it and that every assistance will be rendered to Mr. McCulloch by the Department of Commerce. I wish the bill a speedy passage.
.It seems that there is no opposition to this bill, and that there is no need for long speeches in connexion with it. The position of the citrus-growers has not altogether been brought about by quarantine restrictions, but is largely due to national policy. It cannot be denied that the effect of the embargo on New Zealand potatoes, followed by the retaliatory action on the part of the New Zealand Government, has brought about the serious dislocation that exists in the citrus fruit industry. I think, therefore, that there is an obligation on the Government to continue this small measure of assistance for a further period. We have been told that the exports of citrus fruits to New Zealand last year were the highest ever reached, but those exports were confined practically to the State of South Australia, except for a short period last year, when the embargo was removed in respect of citrus fruit grown in the Murray and Murrumbidgee irrigation districts. Although the suppliers of citrus fruits to the eastern capitals have had relief due to the shipments of citrus fruits from South Australia, which have given them an advantage locally, the growers of New South Wales have not bad their share of the market in New Zealand which they previously had. It has been found necessary even to remove a small quota from the local market. The honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Gardner) hit the nail on the head when lie said that that small quota if not exported would depress prices. Consequently, if this small bounty enables citrus producers to send away 80,000 cases to some overseas market other than New Zealand, it will be of advantage to those who sell their fruits on the local market. It is not fair that the exporters of citrus fruits should have to carry the baby in order to maintain the local market for those who do not export, but this small bounty will enable them to do so. They are endeavouring to get a start in the Eastern markets; last year some thousands of cases were sent in that direction, and the market has expanded. The Government oan justify the payment of a bounty of 3s. a case because the growers desire an opportunity to extend their markets abroad to relieve the pressure on the home market, thus enabling those producing for home consumption to get a fair price for their fruit.
– I commend the bill and express my appreciation of the efforts which the Government is making to assist citrus-growers generally. I believe that no section of the primary producers is more reluctant to accept assistance of the nature proposed in this bill than the citrus-growers.” I think that I can truthfully say that the citrus-growers are not desirous of obtaining bounties or assistance of that kind. All that they seek is -the right to trade as they have always been accustomed to, and to conduct their export trade, which they themselves developed without government assistance. Because of their attitude on this question, 1 urge the Government to continue its efforts to solve the difficulties which have arisen between the Commonwealth and the dominion of New Zealand in connexion with citrus fruits. The trouble that the citrus-growers have had to face is that at short notice they have been called upon to adjust their crop to a market 12,000 miles away, whereas previously it had been necessary to produce a crop for a market only three or four days away. That has presented insuperable difficulties which make assistance of the kind proposed in this bill very necessary. There is a tendency to regard the restrictions that are at present operating, against the export of .Australian citrus fruits to New Zealand, as an embargo Those restrictions. did amount to an em.bargo once, but they do not do so to-day> The fact is that during last year, prior to the imposition of the embargo on exports of Australian citrus fruits to New Zealand, a total of 165,000 cases of fruit were exported to that dominion. During the period, May to September this year, the total number of cases that will be admitted to New Zealand from Australia will amount to 155,000, and during the months October to April no restrictions whatever will be imposed on fruit grown in areas throughout Australia which are free from the Mediterranean fruit-fly. It is quite conceivable that for the twelve months from May of this year to May of next year the export of Australian citrus fruit to New Zealand will be almost double, or perhaps even double, the quantity exported in the year immediately prior to the imposition of the restriction. That being so, I suggest that the term “ embargo “, which is frequently used to describe the restriction, should be dropped entirely. I also urge the Government to continue, and even to redouble, its efforts to overcome the difficulties of exporting citrus to England, and meeting the requirements of the English market. It is perfectly obvious to anybody who studies the supply of citrus fruit available in Australia that, if the restrictions at present operating in respect of the New Zealand market were completely removed, it would still be necessary to find an outlet for our surplus fruit, and, therefore, export it to Great Britain. That places upon the Government and the industry the obligation to explore every avenue, and- exert every possible effort with a view to solving the many problems that confront those who seek to develop the British market. These are problems of transit, of selecting the types most suitable for the market, and of developing fruit that will carry and keep during the time occupied in travelling between Australia and Great Britain. Because those problems are so urgent, 1 beg the Government to make a special effort to carry out and encourage research in ‘ respect to them. I know that something has been done, but a great deal more assistance could be rendered to the industry by encouraging research along scientific lines into the problems of transit, carriage and marketing of fruit in distant countries, than has been given in the past. I commend the bill to the House.
.- 1” shall not oppose the bill, but it seems rather strange that I should be asked to support a bounty of 2s. a case on oranges,
And only 2id. on apples and pears. hose proposals are brought in by the same Minister, but he does not blush. The citrus industry is a mainland one; the growing of apples and pears is to a great extent a Tasmanian industry. Tasmania is one of the smaller States, and this is a mainland Ministry. When I was in Great Britain in 1935, I saw Australian citrus fruit being sold in the borough markets. The get-up of both the oranges and lemons was a credit to those who shipped them from New South Wales. The fruit was in beautiful order, well packed, well graded, and of a good colour. The oranges brought from 17s. 6d. a case, and the lemons over £1 a case. Just prior to that I saw apples being sold at a very much lower rate; yet, to-night, I am supporting a bounty of 2s. for oranges and 2-Jd. -for apples and pears. We have heard a good deal about the embargo put on Australian citrus fruit by New Zealand as a retaliation for our embargo on its potatoes. Statements, however, made to-night show that there is no embargo in New Zealand on Australian citrus fruit. The honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Gardner) says that we are sending more fruit this year to New Zealand than we have sent in any previous year. We are able to ship oranges from the Murray in South Australia, and from parts of New South Wales which are free from the fruit-fly, so where does the embargo come in? We can send to New Zealand all the fruit we wish.
– No, we cannot, because they will not allow navels from New South Wales to come in.
– Because New South Wales has the fruit-fly.
– That is not quite the position.
– It cannot be said that there is an embargo, when citrus fruit can be sent from South Australia and other parts of i the continent, and when, as the honorable member for Robertson said, more will be sent this year than in any previous year.
– That is quite true.
– Then where does the embargo come in, and what difference would it make if New Zealand potatoes were allowed to enter Australia? Would New Zealand then take any more Australian citrus fruit?
– It is the honorable member’s Deputy Leader (Mr. Forde) and not members on this side who has been emphasizing the term “ embargo. “
– The Assistant Minister knows that the reason why Australia could not at one time ship its citrus fruit to New Zealand, was the imposition by Australia of an embargo on New Zealand potatoes, I know that the citrus industry needs assistance, and that the export of oranges and lemons to Great Britain should grow to great dimensions. As I say, the New South Wales fruit that I saw in the English market was in perfect condition, and brought prices equal to those of any other citrus there that day. The Government should encourage the industry, but why pay Tasmanian apple and pear growers a bounty of only 2 1/2d. while giving citrus growers 2s.?
– I will explain that.
– The Assistant Minister will probably say that the reason is that so many more apples and pears are shipped. My reply is that there are many more employed in the apple and pear growing industry, which is established in every State of the Commonwealth, although Tasmania is its principal centre. ‘ It, is of vital importance to that State. If Tasmania, which does not grow citrus, were the principal citrus producer, the positions would be reversed, and the Government would propose a bounty of 2-Jd. a case on oranges coming from Tasmania, and 2s. on apples and pears grown on the mainland.
– in reply - I direct particular attention to the fact that we anticipate that this year at least 200,000- cases of oranges will be sent to New Zealand. That will represent 35,000 cases more than was sent in 1932 prior to the embargo being imposed.
– Does the Assistant Minister mean bushel cases or bushel and a half?
– They are bushel and a half cases, that is, full cases of oranges. I am referring not to bushels but to cases. That is why. I deplore the attempt of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) to make party political capital out of the fact that the Government of New Zealand, is still imposing a certain amount of restriction upon the importation of Australian citrus fruit, particularly during certain seasons. It must be admitted that the Dominion authorities have been gradually relaxing those restrictions, and have allowed the importation of Australian fruit guaranteed free from Mediterranean fruit-fly. There has been a definite commercial development of this export trade recently as compared with the position when the embargo was first imposed. It is unreasonable to suggest that New Zealand still imposes an embargo against Australian citrus fruits, when we realize that this year we shall export 200,000 cases to that country.
– There has been a relaxation of the restrictions, but they still exist in some measure. -
– Yes, for the purpose of preventing the importation of Australian fruit which may be affected with Mediterranean fruit-fly. That is the disease of which the New Zealand authorities are afraid. Such restrictions as remain have no connexion with the Australian embargo on the importation of New Zealand potatoes. I have discussed the matter with the New Zealand Minister for Customs, and have been assured that the Government of New Zealand desires gradually to open the door still wider to the importation of citrus fruits from this country.
The honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Frost) endeavoured to draw a comparison between the export bounty on apples and pears of 2 1/2d. a case and the bounty of 2s. a case on oranges. I remind him that the apple export trade is one of the oldest in Australia, whereas the citrus export trade is in its infancy, and is battling against a number of serious disabilities. There are difficulties in connexion with shipping and cold storage, and in connexion with such diseases as blue mould and green mould, which are engaging the attention of scientific research workers. Only citrus fruits of the highest quality, picked under ideal conditions, can be landed on the London market in perfect condition. The honorable member for Franklin suggested that this was a mainland Government, which, he said, accounted for the fact that a bounty of only 2 1/2d. a ease was paid on apples and pears. That suggestion is most unfair, in view of the fact that the Tasmanian. growers are this year receiving £35,000 in hard cash by way of bounty on the export of apples and pears. The Commonwealth Government is expending more money in advertising apples in the Commonwealth alone than it is paying by way of bounty to the citrus fruit-growers, and this notwithstanding the fact that Tasmania is exporting apples and pears of a quality worse than that of any others leaving Australia, as the” honorable member should know.
– That is wrong.
– It is not wrong, as I can show.
– Then what are the Government inspectors doing to allow it?
– During the last two years, £20,000 has been expended on the employment of instructors to teach the apple and pear growers of Tasmania to grow and pack their fruit and graft their trees.
– The fruit is rotting on the ground in the orchards.
– Largely because of the growers’ own carelessness. From the mainland States the net return on apples exported was 6s. 9d. to 7s. 9d. a case, whereas the average return on apples exported from Tasmania was only 4s. 9d.
– The Tasmanian fruit has taken prizes at all the exhibitions, even as far north as Queensland.
– I have had a good many years’ experience in connexion with agricultural shows, and I know that the fact that a certain district, or a certain grower oan take prizes is no indication of the commercial quality of the bulk of the produce from that area. Prizes may be won by the careful selection of a few dozen apples.
– The Assistant Minister for Commerce is not in order in discussing apples.
– This bounty is for the purpose of assisting citrus-growers - whether they be growing oranges, lemons, grape fruit or mandarins - to develop an export market even to those countries to which at present only a few cases are being exported. During the last two years, we have established a satisfactory export trade with Canada. As yet it is small, but the whole citrus export industry is, so far, not a large one. It is important that we should expand our export trade, and that is why the Government has decided to continue the. bounty of 2s. a case, and to extend it to all citrus fruits, no matter to what countries they may be exported.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
– I move -
That the hill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to provide that the qualifications of electors of the Australian Dairy Produce Board shall be conferred only on those persons who are enrolled on the Commonwealth electoral roll in accordance with the provisions of Part VII. of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918-1934. ‘
By an amendment of the Dairy Produce Export Control Act in 1935, the Australian Dairy Produce Board was created. The constitution of this board is : -
One government nominee;
One elected by the Federal Council of the Australian Dairy Factory Managers’ and Secretaries’ Association ;
Two elected by owners of proprietary and privately-owned butter and cheese factories;
Two elected to represent co-operative butter and cheese factories in each of the States of New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland; and
One elected to represent co-operative butter and cheese factories in each of the States of South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania.
One elected by producers in each of the States of New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland; and
One elected by producers of the States of South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania. In all of these cases, with the obvious exception of the Government nominee, election is as prescribed.
Under these conditions, unnaturalized aliens are entitled under the existing law to enrolment, and therefore entitled to sit as representatives on statutory boards.
We find that, for the elected representative of the Federal Council of the Australian Dairy Factory Managers’ and Secretaries’ Association, the secretary of that council must furnish to the chief electoral officer , a list of the names and addresses of the members of that council, and that list is deemed to be the roll for that election.
With regard to the election of cooperative butter and cheese factories - that is, for the two representatives from each of the States of South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania - all producers are entitled to vote who supplied, during the year preceding the election, milk or cream to any co-operative butter or cheese factory in the State in which they were entitled to vote. It is also provided that a producer entitled to vote for cooperative representatives, as well as for all other representatives of which I have made mention, shall, before his name is placed on a roll in respect of any of these representative elections, lodge with the returning officer certain prescribed forms attesting his eligibility to vote as ah owner or a producer. It will be seen from this, therefore, that there is no question of basic eligibility of the voter to comply with the first principles of citizenship: i.e., that he should be qualified to have his name enrolled on the Commonwealth electoral rolls. Thus there is a means whereby any man not having this qualification as an Australian citizen is nevertheless entitled to record his vote as to who should or sh ould not be elected a representative on this Australian Dairy Board. To remove this anomaly the present bill is brought down, and I commend it to the favorable consideration of honorable members. The bill will merely impose on those who become electors under the act exactly the same conditions as have always been imposed upon an elector under the Commonwealth Electoral Act.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The principle of this measure is exactly the same as that of the bill which the House has just passed. It imposes the same electoral conditions on those who will be entitled to vote under the measure as we have already agreed to with regard to the Dairy Produce Export Control Bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported, from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Motion (by Dr. Earle Page) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I have already informed the AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Menzies) of my intention to mention the subject of the alkali industry in Adelaide. Mr. G. K. McPhail, a South Australian engineer, was trying to establish the alkali industry in Australia for a number of years, and was given every encouragement by the Scullin Government. When a change of Government took place, he felt that there was a change of attitude towards him in regard to the establishment of the industry in South Australia. Imperial Chemical Industries Limited of Great Britain, through an Australian subsidiary company, obtained a lease of certain land which Mr. McPhail had selected as the most suitable site for the establishment of the industry. He now thinks that he is morally entitled to compensation by the Commonwealth Government. He asks that a committee of inquiry be appointed consisting of a representative of the Commonwealth, a representative of himself and a chairman to be mutually agreed upon. tHe put this proposition to the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) in the following letter dated the 28th August last from Messrs. Edmunds, Jessop, Ward and Ohlstrom -
Referring to the interviews of this week which have been had with you and the senator the Hon. A. J. McLachlan 6n the above subject matter, the writer has advised Mr. McPhail to place before you the following proposition for a settlement of the existing differences: -
That he should unreservedly with draw all threats of litigation against the Government and rely upon his moral rights (if any) in such matter.
That such moral rights (if -any) should bo determined upon by a committee of investigation consisting of a nominee of the Government and a nominee of Mr. McPhail, presided over by a chairman to be agreed upon between us.
Such committee to inquire into the question as to whether Mr. McPhail has any moral rights, and, if so, as to the nature of same and as to the amount of compensation (if any) to be .paid to Mr. McPhail for any infringement of or in relation to such rights.
The writer’s advice has been accepted by Mr. McPhail, and consequently we place the above proposals before you, and shall be glad if you will let us know whether or not such proposals are acceptable to your Government.
We appreciate the’1 fact that very heavy business must be and is at this time of the year before your Government, but as both
Mr. McPhail and the writer are in Canberra, we respectfully request urgent consideration of our proposal in order that, if acceptable, the details might be worked out between your, officers and ourselves during the writer’s stay here.
That communication, was directed to the Prime Minister on the 28th August last, and I understand that representatives of the firm have interviewed the Postmaster-General (Senator A. J. McLachlan) who assured them that the matter would be considered by Cabinet. 1 met Mr. McPhail some years ago and also quite recently, and I believe that the request he has submitted to the Prime Minister that there should be an inquiry into his claim is reasonable. I have discussed this matter with the Attorney-General, who will find all the information on the subject ho desires in the Prime Minister’s Department. I trust that he will see that the request made on behalf of Mr. McPhail is carefully considered, and that the decision of Cabinet is’ conveyed te him without delay.
.~ I feel it incumbent upon me to voice the opinion of a large number of persons in Tasmania and particularly in my electorate, concerning the steamer service from the mainland to Tasmania. A subleader on this subject in the Launceston Examiner reads. -
Launceston is supposed to enjoy the benefits of an express service from the mainland, but in fact the present schedule gives the Taroona an average speed of about twelve and a half knots on the basis of the direct crossing, which makes the position considerably worse than in the days of the Pateena and Coogee. It seems hardly reasonable that 90 per cent, of the travelling public should be inconvenienced for the benefit of 10 per cent. When this emergency service was started we suggested that passengers via the Tamar route might be prepared to put up with it for what might bo urged as the general good; but in view of what the figures show, a return to the direct service seems more than justified.
The Council of the Launceston Fifty Thousand League, which represents every section of the business community of Launceston, is to meet on the 23rd September to protest against the continuance of the present steamer service to Launceston. I suggest that the PostmasterGeneral (Senator A. J. McLachlan) be requested to give immediate consideration to the question of providing a direct shipping service to Launceston, because it is felt by the business community of that city that the present service increases the time beyond that provided in the mail contract. As stated in the Launceston Examiner, to-day, the service is considerably worse than in the days of the .Pateena and Coogee which operated over 30 years ago. I bring this matter under the notice of the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, so that the improvement requested by the people of Tasmania desiring to travel via Launceston may be provided. It seems inconceivable that the Government should maintain a service to Launceston which inconveniences 90 per cent, of the people in order to benefit only 10 per cent. I therefore ask the Minister to correct this unjust position.
– I know very little personally of the subject raised by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde), but I understand that it is to be brought before Cabinet for consideration. I realize that such consideration will need to be as expeditious as possible. The matter raised by the honorable member for Bass will be brought under the notice of the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral.
Question resolved in the affirmative. House adjourned at 2.11 a.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
son asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Mr. WHITE.-The information is being obtained.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Will he, before granting any increase in duties on cotton textiles, inquire as to -
whether, after three years’ protection in respect of heavy weight drills, they are not able to cope with local demand ;
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Postal Department: Telephoning of Telegrams.
– On the 9th September, the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Nock) asked a question, without notice, regarding the telephoning of telegrams when post offices are closed on special holiday occasions. The PostmasterGeneral has supplied the following information :-
In any case where a post office is closed and the local telephone exchange is open, a trunk line connexion to the nearest telegraph office which is open may be utilized by a telephone subscriber to despatch or receive a telegram, subject to the payment of the trunk line fee plus the telegraph, charges. Any person may also arrange for a telephone office to be opened specially after normal hours upon payment of an opening fee, in addition to the telegraph charges. These arrangements apply, not only on special holiday occasions, but also after normal business hours on other days. It would be anomalous to waive the trunk fee on special holiday occasions, while imposing it after normal hours on other days. The trunk fee is collected in return for a special service rendered, and its waivure is, therefore, not justified. Free trunk line service could not logically be given to subscribers alone, and there are serious practical difficulties which prevent provision of free after hours service to non-subscribers for the transmission of telegrams.
Seaplane Base at Hervey Bay. Sir Archdale Parkhill. - On the 8th September, the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) asked if inquiries would be- made as to the advisability of establishing an air base at Hervey Bay, Queensland. I am now in a position to inform the honorable member that no provision exists in the current programme of development of the Royal Australian Air Force for the establishment of an air force seaplane base on the east coast of Australia. Before deciding on the site for any such base that may be contemplated in the future the claims of Hervey Bay will be considered, together with other localities that meet departmental requirements, or have been proposed from, time to time by honorable members. The compulsory stopping places on the Darwin-Sydney section of the proposed Empire flying-boat service are being selected in consultation with the United Kingdom authorities. These stopping places will be determined having regard to the objective of providing a high-speed service for Empire mails, which can only be achieved by avoiding any unnecessary intermediate landings. It is considered, however, that the provision of a base at Hervey Bay is not necessary owing to the relative proximity of that centre to Brisbane.
Williamstown Docking Facilities.
– On the 8th September, the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) asked the following question, without notice: -
Will the Minister for Defence inform me whether he has received any correspondence recently from the port authorities at Melbourne seeking co-operation of the Government in an effort to modernize the Williamstown dock facilities?
I am now in a position to inform the honorable member that I have received no correspondence recently from the port authorities at Melbourne on the subject referred to. The matter has been brought under the notice of the department through the honorable member’s representations.
Aero Club in Western Australia.
– On the 10 th September, the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn) asked the following question, -without notice: -
Has the Minister tor Defence yet been able to allot a permanent site to the Aero Club of Western Australia upon which to erect a clubhouse? Does the department, in view of the increased expenditure on the Air Force of Western Australia, propose to assist the Western Australian Aero Club in the erection’ of a clubhouse, as has been done in other capitals?
I am now in a position to inform the honorable member that the future building layout at Maylands Aerodrome is now under consideration, and until finality is reached in this matter it is not possible to allot a permanent site to the Aero Club of Western Australia, upon which to erect n clubhouse. The matter will, however, receive further attention when a decision bas been reached regarding the building layout. The position regarding accommodation .for this club is that at present a government building is leased to them at a small rental for use as a clubhouse at Maylands, and last year at the club’s request extensions were made by the Defence Department. I might point out, however, that the fact of increased air force activities in Western Australia has no bearing on this matter.
Report on Oil Production.
n. - On the 9th September, the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Scholfield) asked the following questions, upon notice: -
I am now in a position to furnish the following information : -
Transferred Offices : Claim for Compensation.
s. - On the 10th September, the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) asked the Attorney-General the following question, without. notice: -
An ex-State officer named H. C. Batchelor, who was transferred from South Australia to the Commonwealth, has a long-standing claim for compensation against the Commonwealth. I believe that there have been negotiations between him and the Government in connexion with the matter. Will the Attorney-General have inquiries made, with a view to the matter being finalized and a satisfactory conclusion arrived at as early as possible?
I desire to inform the honorable member that negotiations have been proceeding between the Public Service Board and the solicitors acting on behalf of Mr. Batchelor with a view to a settlement of the claim. It is not at present practicable to indicate when the matter is likely to be finalized, but action will be taken to expedite consideration so far as the Commonwealth Government is concerned.
Public Service: Leave for Temporary Officers.
s. - On the 2nd September, the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green) asked that consideration be given to the question of granting recreation leave to temporary employees who have not completed the required period of twelve months’ service. The honorable .member’s representations were submitted to the Public Service Board which has advised that the question of granting leave on a pro rata basis for service of less than twelve months has at different times been the subject of claims to the Public Service Arbitrator, but that leave on that basis has not been awarded in any determination applying to the Commonwealth Service, the Arbitrator taking the view that recreation leave is granted for recuperative purposes after a stipulated period of duty, fixed at one year. The board has indicated that it is in accord with the foregoing view, and that it would be unable to support any departure from the existing practice.
s. - On the 9th September, the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Gander) asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General the following questions, upon notice:- -
The names of the three directors appointed by the Commonwealth Government were furnished by me, and I indicated that the company was being asked to supply the information requested in parts 2 and 3. The general manager, Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia; Limited, has advised that it is not the practice to disclose information of this character in regard to the directors of public companies. As, however, the three above-mentioned directors are appointed by the Commonwealth Government, the following information has been supplied : -
Number of board meetings held since the !>t.h October, 1931, 128; number of board meetings attended by Senator J. 1). Millen, 96; number of board meetings attended by Honorable J. F. Coates (or substitute), 104; number of board meetings attended by Mr. F. Strahan ( or . substitute ) , 1 20 ; fee paid by the company to each director nominated by the Government, £333 per annum.
By reason of the detailed work and time involved in examining the records of the company from the date of Senator Millen’s appointment, viz., the 17 th November, 1924, the company has furnished information as to his attendances only in respect of the period between 9th October, 1931 (the date of appointment of the other directors), and the present date. Should the honorable member desire to have the names of the other directors of the company, the following additional information is furnished: -
Directors elected by the holders of shares other than those held by the Commonwealth - Sir Ernest Fisk (chairman), Mr. C. P. Bartholomew, Mr. T. J. Parker. Director selected by the other six directors in accordance with the provisions of section 3 (iii) of the agreement dated the 28th March, 1922, between the Commonwealth of Australia and
Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited -Right Honorable W. M. Hughes, K.C., M.P.
Price of Australian Butter. Dr. Earle Page. - On Tuesday, the 7th September, the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn) asked the following questions, upon notice: -
I am now in a position to supply the following information: -
Northern Territory : SelfGovernment - Postal Services at Darwin - Dismissal ok Police Officers. Mr. Blain asked the Attorney-General, upon notice -
In view of the desirability of invoking the aid of residents of the Northern Territory to assist in its development and defence, is there any section in the Constitution that would prevent self-government similar to that extended to New Guinea being granted to the Northern Territory t
– It is not the practice to express opinions on matters of law in reply to questions.
– On the 10th September, the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain) asked a question, without notice, relating to the provision of mail and lettergram deliveries at Darwin. I am now in a position to inform the honorable member that the number of articles which would be involved if outdoor letter delivery facilities were introduced at Darwin is very considerably below the minimum necessary before the provision of such facility is economically justified. A lettergram to which a specially low tariff is applied is dealt with in delivery from the office of destination as a postal article, and is posted early on the morning of the day following the date of lodgment. The department could not logically acquiesce in the proposal to effect delivery of lettergrams by telegraph messenger at Darwin, while withholding a similar concession at many other centres at which outdoor letter delivery is not undertaken. It is impracticable on economic grounds to provide for delivery of lettergrams by messenger in such cases.
asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
Will he review tlie cases of Mounted Constables McCann mid Cameron who were dismissed from the Northern Territory Police Force and deprived of their accrued rights in the matter of holidays due and superannuation bv referring’ to section 28 of Ordinance 10 of 19.12?
n - Both the ex-constables referred to were refunded the amounts contributed by them to the Commonwealth Superannuation Fund. The grant of recreation leave is discretionary, and is subject to the good conduct, diligence and efficiency of the officer. There are no grounds for reviewing the decision given in either case.
New Zealand Perpetual Forests Limited.
– On the 10th September, the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) asked a question, without notice, regarding New Zealand Perpetual Forests Limited. I am now in a position to inform the honorable member that the position of Australian bondholders has been the subject of considerable correspondence with the Prime Minister of New Zealand (Mr. Savage), and assurances have been received that the rights of original bondholders in New Zealand Perpetual Forests Limited have been adequately safeguarded and are being fully honoured. The New Zealand Government indicated some little times ago that it contemplated a national investigation into the physical condition of the whole of the forests owned by the forestation companies and into tie economic possibilities of their utilization. That Government indicated that the basic consideration which led to this decision was the fact that in the ultimate analysis the financial stability of the companies is directly dependent on the state of their forests, their management and their utilization. The latest information received was that the Now Zealand Government had not lost sight of the question of the national investigation, but that owing to pressure of work, the necessary arrangements had not been finalized. Mr. Savage reiterated his previous assurances that no effort would be spared to safeguard the interests of Australian investors in the Now Zealand enterprises. Bte promised to keep the Commonwealth Government fully informed regarding current developments.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 14 September 1937, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1937/19370914_reps_14_154/>.