15th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. G. J. Bell) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., ‘ and read prayers.
– Has the Prime Minister yet come to a decision on the proposal made by the Leader of the Opposition that a justice of the High Court be appointed to preside over the proposed inquiry into crashes of Avro-Anson aircraft and will he give an undertaking that the proposed inquiry will be open to the public?
– I do not think that it is likely that a High Court justice will be available for this inquiry. I have discussed the matter with my colleague, the Minister for Defence, and I am agreeable to the inquiry being conducted by a judge, if one can be obtained for the purpose, or, failing that, by a magistrate.
– Will the Prime Minister say whether there is any truth in the report in to-day’s press that the despatch of an Australian expeditionary force overseas in the event of war is reliably reported to be the policy of the Commonwealth Government?
– There is no foundation whatever for the statement.
– In a circular dealing with defence matters, issued from the Prime Minister’s Department, the following appears -
The Commonwealth War Book should record the important action to be taken by the State governments . . .
What is the nature of this war book, and what is its purpose? If we must have a war book, why should we not also have a peace book?
– I shall be glad to furnish to the honorable member a copy of the broadcast address which I delivered last night on this subject.
– I have received the following telegram from the secretary of the Defence League at Wynnum: -
Wynnum Manly troops going camp seventh half without uniforms. Please reply definitely what allowance given men use civvies.
As the Minister knows, I discussed with him last week and twice this week, at considerable length, the position of the 15th/26th Battalions, 8th Cavalry Field Ambulance, and other units in Queensland which will go into camp at Enoggera on the 7 th May, when I urged that every effort be made to supply the men with uniforms. As honorary secretary of the Australian Defence League in Queensland, the committee responsible, directly or indirectly, for recruiting most of these men, I hope that the Minister can assure me that my representations in this connexion can be granted, and that the men will be supplied with uniforms either before they go into camp or while they are there.
– No member of the 35th/26th Battalions will go into camp without at least one uniform and consequently the question of payment for civilian clothes does not arise.
– I rise to make a personal explanation. In this morning’s Sydney Morning ‘Herald, the following report appears on the cable page -
A crisis has developed in the affairs of the Country party and may lead to the resignation of Sir Earle Page from the leadership or the withdrawal of two or possibly three members from the party.
A meeting of the party was called to-night in spite of the fact that Sir Earle Page had insisted on its postponement on the ground that ho was too ill to be present.
That report is an absolute misstatement. The meeting was called hy me for yesterday morning, but as I was suffering from a severe attack of hemicrania I consulted members of my party, and we agreed that the meeting should be postponed until 7 o’clock last night to enable me to rest and take the appropriate drugs. The whole of this report is similar to other mis-statements concerning me which have appeared recently. I wish to make the position clear.
– -Although the Chair has allowed the right honorable gentleman to speak, it reminds honorable members that a personal explanation should be made only with respect to proceedings in this House. If personal explanations in respect of newspaper reports were to be permitted a practice not hitherto allowed would develop.
– In view of the extraordinary anomaly that has arisen from the fact -that public health propaganda from abroad, whilst free from customs duty and primage tax, is subject to sales tax, will the Minister, at the earliest opportunity, consider exempting from sales tax all propaganda in relation to public health, and other matter used in public health education?
– This matter has been under consideration; it will be dealt with when amendments of the Sales Tax Exemptions Act are contemplated.
– Before last Christmas, when the present Prime Minister was Attorney-General,.! made representations in connexion with the tying up of the Zealandia by the engineers who refused to sail with “A” class licensed seamen. The right honorable gentleman promised to submit my representations to the Crown law officers and let me have a reply. So far I have not received the promised reply, and I should like to know when it will be forthcoming.
– I regret that I cannot give a definite reply to the honorable member’s question, but I shall make inquiries and let him know.
– On the Srd May the honora’ble member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins) asked me certain questions in regard to shipbuilding. A Tariff Board report on shipbuilding is in hand, but the present Government has not yet had an opportunity to give it consideration. It is expected, however, that the matter will be dealt with at an early date.
– The honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins) on the 4th May, 1939, asked a question in regard to the bounty on sulphur. I have to advise the honorable member that the Tariff Board report on his subject has not yet been received.
– Can the Minister for Civil Aviation say whether the three reports on civil aviation administration will be laid on the table of the House, and, if so, when?
– I shall inquire into the matter.
– Can the Minister for External Affairs say whether any progress has been made in connexion with the trade treaty negotiations with the United States of America, and whether advantage will be taken of the presence in that country of the High Commissioner to expedite matters ?
– Negotiations are still actively proceeding. No doubt the High Commissioner for Australia made representations on the subject when he was in Washington.
– In view of the fact that Darwin has been unduly maligned in the past because of reports of petty strikes resulting from the unwillingness of the union secretary there to co-operate with the Industrial Board and Public Service Arbitrator, will the Prime Minister release Mr. Hill, the Chairman of the Industrial Board for the Australian Capital Territory, or widen the ambit of his duties, so that he may immediately visit Darwin as chairman of a local tribunal.?
– The honorable member’s suggestion will be taken into consideration.
– Has the Minister for Defence seen the statement in the Sydney Daily Telegraph of the 18th April by Mr. A. C. Fewtrell, who is described as chief engineer of the New South Wales railways and senior engineering officer of the Australian army, that in time of war the railway break of gauge at State borders will not disturb traffic ? Can he say whether Mr. Fewtrell is the senior engineering officer of the Australian army, and whether he is authorized to speak for the army? Further, will he state whether army officers advising the Government in relation to the standardization of railway gauges agree with Mr. Fewtrell, and, if so, what are the names of such officers?
– I have read the newspaper report to which the honorable member has referred. Mr. Fewtrell is a senior military engineering officer. He spoke in his capacity as chief engineer of the New South Wales railways, not as a member of the Commonwealth Military Forces. The attitude of the Government in relation to railway breaks of gauge is as stated in a reply by me to a question by the honorable member last session. In the main, the officers who advise the Government are members of the Military Board, namely, Major-General Lavarack, Major-General Jess, and Major-General Phillips.
– Can the Minister say when a report on the activities of the Commonwealth in relation to fisheries research may be expected ?
– I shall endeavour to secure the information and let the honorable member have it as soon as possible.
– Is it correct, as reported in this morning’s Canberra Times, that representatives of the Bellanca Aircraft Corporation of the United States of America, made certain representations to the Minister for Defence, including an offer to supply modern fighting machines? If so, can the Minister give any information to the House on the subject?
– Representations were made to me in connexion with this matter. I shall be pleased to discuss them personally with the honorable gentleman at an appropriate time.
– Can the Minister for Defence say what has been done with regard to obtaining alternative fuels for defence purposes? Is an inquiry being conducted into the possibility of using charcoal gas as a substitute for petrol, and, if so, can the Minister make a statement to the House?
– Extensive investigations have been made with regard to various types of producer gas. At the present time there is in course of preparation by the Defence Department a brochure dealing with producer gas. It will be published shortly, and I shall then be happy to make copies available to honorable members.
– Will the Minister for Defence explain in detail the contracts that have been let by the Defence Department for the manufacture of shells ?
– What is the nature of the information desired by the honorable member ?
– I particularly wish to know the names of the firms to which contracts have been let.
– If the honorable member will set out his question in greater detail I shall endeavour to obtain a complete answer.
” IRON LUNG “ RESPIRATORS.
– Can the Minister for Health say how many of the respirators which were donated by Lord Nuffield to Australian hospitals are being taken by each State, and to which hospitals they are being supplied?
– I have already instituted inquiries into this matter and I hope to be able to give the information to the honorable member to-day.
– Will the Minister for
Supply tell me what steps the Government is taking through his department to make Australia self-contained in respect of oil fuel by the manufacture of oil from coal or shale? As members of the House have been invited to attend a demonstration at Annandale next Monday of a small pilot plant for extracting oil from coal, does the Government propose to send the Commonwealth Fuel Adviser or some ether representative to witness the demonstration? I asked a question on this subject of the Prime Minister yesterday.
– The subject of the extraction of oil from coal by hydrogenation or other processes is under constant review by the officers of my department. I have no new report that I can make available. As to the demonstration by a company which purports to have a suitable and adequate method for extracting oil from coal or shale to which the honorable memberhas referred, I can advise him that the company communicated with the Government on the matter on the 14th April, in consequence of which certain steps were taken for the Commonwealth Fuel Adviser to inspect the plant and report upon the method adopted. The chairman of directors of the company, however, later indicated that he could not see that any useful purpose would be served by an inspection of the plant as the company was not in a position to disclose adequate technical information in regard to the process.
– But did not the company ask for a grant?
– Several companies have asked for grants. I do not know whether this company was among them. In the circumstances, I cannot see that any useful purpose will he served by the attendance of the Commonwealth Fuel Adviser at the demonstration, seeing that he would not be given details of the process but would merely he able to examine the plant.
– I should like to know whether an observer from the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research could be instructed to attend the demonstration on Monday in order to give honorable members some information about the plant and the subject generally. Is the Minister for Supply able to inform me whether this company has requested a grant of £15,000 from the Commonwealth Government to assist it to put its plant into operation?
– I refer the honorable member to the reply that I have just given to. the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James).
– That was not satisfactory.
– In the circumstances which I have described I do not think that the Commonwealth Fuel Adviser will be able to give honorable members any satisfactory information on the process. The officers of the company could tell honorable members as much and probably more about the subject from their point of view than could the Commonwealth Fuel Adviser. A good many companies have made applications to the Commonwealth Government for grants of money to assist them in investigations on this subject. Generally, large amounts have been sought. I shall have a definite inquiry made as to whether this particular company is among the number.
– In view of the position that has arisen whereby members of the Militia Forces have to pay their fares on their way to drills and on other official duty and then apply for refunds, I ask the Minister for Defence to give consideration to the possibility of providing for free travel for the members of the Militia Forces when in uniform and travelling to drills or on other official duty.
– Consideration is being given to the adoption of a method by which initialed vouchers may be used to obviate the delay in making refunds to members of the militia in respect of travelling expenses.
Construction of Road - Purchase of Supplies
– I ask the Minister in charge of External Territories whether I am to understand that of the four routes proposed for a road from Salamaua to Wau in New Guinea, the Middle Bittoi route, which is the shortest, has been selected? If so, has the survey of the route been commenced? How many surveyors are engaged on the work and when will it be completed? When is it estimated that the actual work of construction will be commenced and the road completed ?
– I regret that I am unable to answer the honorable member’s questions in detail, but the survey is being made as rapidly as possible.
– By which route?
– I believe the shortest route. The survey is being made in ten sections so that therewill be no delay of any kind. The road will be constructed as early as possible. If the honorable member will give notice of any further details that he desires, I shall obtain the information for him.
– Will the Minister in Charge of External Territories inform me whether it is a fact that a tender has recently been accepted by the Administration of New Guinea for the supply of certain articles of Japanese manufacture at a cost of a fraction of . 1 per cent. less than would have been incurred had goods of British or Australian manufacture been obtained? If so, will he see that in future the Administration gives some preference to goods of Britishor Australian manufacture obtained from British or Australian firms?
– I am unable at the moment to say whether the allegation of the honorable member is true, but I shall have inquiries made into the subject. I shall endeavour to see that in the future a preference is exercised in favour of British goods.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce able to give me any information as to whether an international wheat agreement has yet been completed through the International Wheat Committee?
– I shall endeavour to secure the information for the honorable member.
– Can the Minister for Defence inform me whether investigations are still being made with the object of constructing a floating dock suitable to accommodate a battle cruiser? Is any report available on the subject?
– Action is being taken in connexion with a graving dock, not a floating dock.
– I ask the Minister for Defence whether he is aware that an admirable and safe site of strategical value is available on the Port Adelaide River for a graving dock? When the Government is giving further consideration to this subject will it remember the suitability of the Port Adelaide River location ?
– I am glad to have the information supplied by the honorable member. It will be submitted to the appropriate authorities for consideration.
– Will the Minister for Defence inform me whether his officers have considered the necessity to enlarge the plant at the Commonwealth Government clothing factory so that it may do something more to meet the greatly increased demand that has arisen for military clothing? I also wish to know whether the Returned Soldiers’ Woollen Mills at Geelong was invited to tender for the manufacture of military clothing?
– To my knowledge no proposal has been made to increase the capacity of the Commonwealth Government Clothing Factory. This matter will in future be dealt with by my colleague, the Minister for Supply. Open lenders were invited for the supply of military clothing and the Returned Soldiers’ Woollen Mills at Geelong was eligible to tender. I cannot tell the honorable member, offhand, whether it secured a contract.
Mr. JOHN LAWSON (Macquarie-
Minister for Trade and Customs). -by leave -In order to deal with the acute problems arising from a general world over-production of sugar, 21 nations met in
London in May, 1937, and made an international agreement covering the production and marketing of over 90 per cent. of the world’s sugar. Under this agreement Australia was granted a basic ex port sugar quota of 400,000 long tons for each of the five years of the agreement. This quantity was only 8,000 tons less than the record quantity of sugar previously exported by the Commonwealth in any year. The agreement also provides that Australia is entitled to additions to the basic quota of 400,000 tons in proportion to its share of any increased consumption of sugar in the United Kingdom, and of any increase of net imports of sugar by all other parts of the British Empire. Honorable members Will remember that owing to a crisis in world sugar affairs last June, Australia made a voluntary reduction of its basic quota by approximately 4,000 tons, equivalent to 1 per cent. Foreign countries, however, accepted voluntary reductions in their basic quotas very much larger than 1 per cent. I am pleased to inform honorable members that as the result of the small voluntary contribution made last June, Australia has now been granted an increase of approximately 12,000 tons on its reduced quota of 396,000 tons, and this will apply to the current international year ending on the 31st August next. Further, as the result of urgent representations now being made to the International Sugar Council by the Commonwealth Government’s delegation in London, the Government is hopeful of another very substantial addition being made to the quantity of sugar for export now authorized for the current year, namely 408,000 tons. These increases of our quota for export will very materially assist the Queensland and New South Wales cane sugar producers in the difficulties they are at present meeting owing to abundant production resulting in abnormal carry-over stocks.
– Referring to the report on shipbuilding that has been furnished by the Tariff Board, I ask the Minister for Trade and Customs whether, when the Government is considering that report, it will also consider the departmental report on shipbuilding which was furnished some five months ago? We should be sure that both these reports were considered to gather what is the Government’s policy in respect of so important an industry.
– The two reports will be considered.
– Has the Prime Minister seen a press statement by Mr. J. Crannell, chairman of the Commonwealth Council of the Amalgamated Engineering Union, to theeffect that recently 200 employees were dismissed from Mort’s Dock, and a large number was also dismissed from the Clyde Engineering Company, because large government contracts are going overseas? Will the right honorable gentleman take action to prevent any increase of unemployment in Australia in consequence of the letting of government contracts overseas?
– I have not seen the report mentioned by the honorable member, but I shall have immediate inquiries made into the subject.
– In the light of the investigations being carried out for the construction of a graving dock in Australia, I ask whether it is the intention of the Government to obtain a capital ship, either by purchase or on loan?
– It is not customary to make statements of policy in reply to questions without notice.
Debate resumed from the 3rd May (vide page 57), on motion by Mr. Perkins -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The Opposition does not propose to offer any serious objection to this measure. We agree that some form of registration of aliens is necessary. This measure, however, suggests that the Government is of opinion that too many aliens are coming into this country, and from this we can assume that a weakness existsin the administration of the Migration Branch, or, alternatively, that the Government believes it is necessary to tighten up the act. It seems that our migration law allows the Minister to give full play to his idiosyncracies should he desire to exclude any person from entering this country. On this point I recall the treatment meted out to that cultured gentleman Herr Egon Kisch. The Minister can even go to the extreme of preventing a British subject from entering Australia, as was illustrated in the case of Mrs. Freer. There can be no doubt that this measure suggests some weakness in the present administration of the migration law and that a complete overhaul of that branch is required.
In introducing the measure, the Minister (Mr. Perkins) representing the Minister for the Interior indicated that the Government was anxious to prevent aggregations of aliens in this country. Some time ago, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) explained the attitude of the Labour party on that point. We agree that the formation of separate communities by aliens militates not only against the proper development of the country, but also against the interests of the aliens themselves. It is much more desirable to encourage aliens to become naturalized citizens, and to assimilate the sentiments of the country of their adoption as quickly as possible, than to allow them to form groups in which they practically live apart from the rest of the community. This measure, however, is not designed to remedy that position; its object is simply to enable the department to keep trace of the movements of aliens in this country. Consequently, the Government must take further action if it desires to guard against the formation of colonies of aliens in our midst. The experience of the United States of America offers an illuminating example of the dangers involved in a problem of this kind. In the United States of America nationals of many countries, particularly Germans and Italians, live in distinct colonies of their own. They have their own newspapers, and continue to speak their native tongues, with the result that they never really become Americans in sentiment and outlook. We find, for instance, that notices to employees in large workshops in that country are pub lished in, perhaps, six or seven different languages. This practice leads to confusion. From the Labour party’s point of view, it is a very serious problem insofar as it affects the development of the trade union movement and the proper organization of the workers. If various sections of employees in an industry speak different languages, the difficulty of organizing them as a whole is obvious. Such a development, therefore, should be prevented. The Government should give more encouragement than it is now doing, to aliens to become naturalized so that their children will inherit a purely Australian sentiment and outlook. At present the period prescribed for the naturalization of aliens is too long. Provided an alien knows sufficient of the English language to enable him to work and engage in business in this country, and to express himself intelligently to his everyday associates, he should not be required to pass any special language test in order to qualify for naturalization. Simply because it might be said that an alien, to put it colloquially, “ murders the King’s English “, he should not be refused naturalization on a language test. No such trivial obstacle should be placed in his way. So long as the applicant is deemed to be upright and honest, he should be given the right of citizenship. Of course, the ordinary tests must apply, but I emphasize that no unnecessary obstacles should be raised in order to deter aliens from becoming naturalized. We must remember that before they are allowed to enter the country, they are obliged to pass certain tests. Their admission amounts practically to an invitation to become citizens of this country. If they are good enough to qualify for admission, surely they are good enough to qualify for citizenship. If they are not fit to be citizens of this country, they should not be allowed entry in the first place.
– One cannot ascertain what they are like until they are here.
– Yes, they must first be here.
– I cannot follow that reasoning. Is it suggested that aliens should be allowed to come here and live in separate communities rather than be encouraged to become naturalized? The honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane) seems to take up the extraordinary attitude that anybody who is not of British nationality is in some way inferior to his fellow human beings. I remind him that persons of British stock have been convicted in our courts for revolting sexual crimes within six months of their entry into this country. Similar cases could be cited in respect of persons of other nationalities. I am simply pointing out that persons of British stock may somtimes prove to be undesirable migrants.
– Let the honorable member stick to his own nationality, and not take liberties in his criticism of British nationals.
– I am an Australian, and I am not ashamed of the stock from which I come. If the honorable gentleman has sprung from as good a stock he has nothing to be ashamed of either.
The honorable member for Barton intersecting,
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. G. J. Bell).Order! These interjections must cease. The honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane) is distinctly out of order.
– I repeat that no obstructions should be placed in the way of aliens desiring to become naturalized. Once they are admitted to this country, they should be deemed to be fit and proper persons to become citizens of Australia.
The penalties provided under this measure are rather drastic. For instance, it is provided that a registered alien who fails to notify the registrar in writing of his change of address within a prescribed period, is liable to a fine of £50 or imprisonment for three months. Whilst I admit a penalty is provided under our electoral law for a like offence it is a more nominal one, andI consider this penalty too severe. Furthermore, sub-clause 3 of clause 14 provides that no prosecution for failure to furnish requisite information shall be instituted without the consent of the Minister. No Minister should be given such power because he is thus enabled to protect one person whileallowing another to be punished. I do not know of any other law under which a Minister is given similar power. For this reason this provision should be deleted. The law should be allowed to take its course in the ordinary way, and the question of punishment of an offender should rest entirely with the court.
I suggest that the definition “ Commonwealth officer “ embraces too many classes of persons. At the present time, we are admitting numerous refugees from European countries who are coming here in order to escape persecution in their native land. One outcome of such a development is that, in many cases, refugees on arriving in this country, change their names purely with the object of protecting relatives in their homeland. We know that should a refugee criticize unfavorably the government of his native country, reprisals may be taken by that government against his relatives who have remained behind. In these circumstances, refugees are justified in changing their names. I do not suggest that such persons should not be obliged to register, but I urge the Government to provide strong safeguards, in order to prevent spies and pimps from obtaining information which would enable them to identify refugees who adversely criticize the government of their homeland. It is provided that registration details shall be strictly confidential and that such information shall be given only to certain officers. However, I consider that the list of such officers, as covered in the definition to whichI have referred, is too wide, and will not be conducive to the maintenance of secrecy. We know that the greater the number of persons to whom information is entrusted, the more likely is it to be broadcast. I do not wish to introduce a controversy on international affairs, but these people are living in fear of penalties that may be meted out to innocent persons because of action taken in this country. All members of this Parliament cherish their liberty. If people come here to escape hardship and enjoy freedom, the Government should do everything possible to prevent certain information from being sent to other countries and causing innocent persons to suffer. The Opposition will not offer serious objections to the measure. I hope that the object of the bill will be achieved, and that migrants fitted for Australian citizenship will receive every encouragement.
.- In view of the unsettled conditions experienced in Australia for some time, this measure seems to be overdue. One of the necessary steps in our preparations for defence is the drawing up of a comprehensive register of aliens to enable us to have them under observation generally. During the GreatWar, difficulty was experienced owing to the activities of foreigners, many of whom were believed, on good grounds, to be the agents of foreign countries. I admit that a number of peaceful and well-behaved migrants suffered internment, which they would have escaped had we had a national register.
– Good Australians suffered, too.
– Yes. For our ordinary social requirements it is desirable to have the fullest knowledge of the aliens who come here. I foresee that increasing numbers of Europeans are likely to be admitted into Australia. It is our proud boast that 98 per cent. of Australians are of British stock, but that will be an idle boast if the numbers of our own stock are not sufficient to guarantee the safety of the country. Personally, I see no harm in admitting Europeans in greater numbers than in the past, provided that the right classes of persons are brought in, but it will be necessary to exercise a much closer scrutiny than heretofore before the migrants leave their own countries. There should be an examination of proposed migrants in Great Britain, and, if necessary, on the continent of Europe.
– How could that be done?
– We have our consular representatives in various European countries. We could impose on any foreigner seeking permission to migrate to Australia the condition that he should submit himself to our representative in his own country. We should rely on the judgment of our representatives in Europe rather than wait until the migrant arrives in Australia. Once we admit a foreigner, however, we should not treat him as an outcast, but should regard him as a poten tial citizen. We should assist him to become merged into the community, and should see that he quickly obtains employment, acquires our language and lives in accordance with our own standards.
It is essential that we should not only have a register of those who come here, but also keep a continuous check on aliens after their arrival. It would be interesting to record what positions they fill in the community, and this would assist us in determining the best kind of migrant to admit. The first difficulty a newcomer experiences is that of conversing with people whose language is different from his own. The trouble experienced in the United States of America in this regard has been largely responsible for the establishment there of foreign colonies, which are generally recognized as a menace. In that country particular attention is given to the subject of the education of migrants, and they are assisted to acquire the language of the land of their adoption. We should regard the education of a foreign migrant somewhat in the same light as we do the training of our own children. The Government should recognize its responsibility in regard to teaching migrants the English language. I much prefer the American idea of naturalization to our own. The object in the United States of America is to make the migrant an American citizen as quickly as possible. In Australia, however, we insist on five years’ residence, and that is an unnecessarily long period. I see no reason why an alien should not be naturalized after two years’ residence, provided he can satisfy the authorities that he is of a suitable type. One of the conditions of satisfaction would be his acquisition of the English language.
– The five-year period has been fixed under an Empire-wide arrangement.
– We should not be bound down to that period. I see no reason why Australia should not be prepared to initiate ideas of its own.
As indicated this morning by the Minister for Defence (Mr. Street), quite a number of foreign migrants are young men who are fit and anxious to render military service to Australia, but, under the present system they cannot be accepted for training unless they are naturalized. I believe that every ablebodied man in the country is under the obligation to assist in its defence, and, therefore, we should not exclude newcomers from military service for five years.
For some time, we members of parliament have been receiving propaganda, chiefly in the form of booklets, bearing the names of a number of our own citizens of some notoriety, but which on examination palpably carries the official imprint of the Japanese Government. The information given in these papers could be obtained officially only from that source. We have also had communications from the Consul-General for Japan. I welcome any representations which the Consul-General may put forward over his own signature, but I despise the action of Australians who lend their names for the propagation of foreign propaganda.
– Why not?
– I think it is contemptible, and I suspect that the signatures are paid for. It is a pretence that these are the bona fide opinions of Australians, whereas, in fact, they are foreign opinions merely issued over the signatures of Australians.
– How can the honorable member possibly know that?
– I do not know it absolutely, but I see from the contents that the information must necessarily have been obtained from official sources. This is one of the matters on which I am not prepared to grant the toleration asked for by the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan).
– We may get the truth in that way.
– We do not necessarily get the truth when the propaganda is put forward by a foreign power. I am not prepared to concede to any person, whether British or alien, the right to distribute subversive literature in this country, and, if the literature is associated with a foreign power, it is all the more objectionable. We should take care . to stamp out the circulation of this kind of literature. The bill is a good one, and has my support.
.- There are probably as many naturalised foreigners in my electorate as in any other part of Australia, and the great majority of them are estimable persons. There is a minority of undesirables, but that could be said of other sections. The undesirable elements are not confined to Southern Europeans. When I hear the suggestion made that the qualifications of foreign migrants should be carefully investigated before they leave their own countries, I am reminded of the fact that some of the so-called undesirables distributed throughout Australia are actu: ally very desirable citizens. It is necessary to live with them and know them in order to appreciate what they are really like.
The Department of the Interior is committing a grave injustice when it refuses many Southern Europeans the right to become naturalized on the ground that they have not a sufficient knowledge of the English language. In the area which I represent there are many aliens, men with a sufficient knowledge of English to make themselves understood by business men, and to use the telephone in the conduct of their affairs. In some instances they have been in Australia for several years, and they have no police records. Nevertheless, their applications for naturalization have been refused. Surely if a man lives in a place for seven or eight years, constantly under the eye of the authorities, and has no record against him, he has earned the right to become a citizen ‘of Australia! There are scores of such men in my electorate, with children attending the public schools, and they have applied over and over again for naturalization, and have been refused, the only reason given being that they have not acquired a sufficient knowledge of the English language. The denial of citizenship in their case does not make them better citizens ; it makes them worse. It tends to make them get together and discuss their grievances in their own language.
Suggestions have been made from time to time as to how aliens may be kept under observation. On a previous occasion I asked the Minister for the Interior how it was proposed to keep tab on aliens, and now the Commissioner of
Police in South Australia has come forward with a proposal that all aliens entering the country should be photographed and have their finger prints taken, and that these records should be kept at a central bureau. On this subject he was reported as follows in the Sydney Morning Herald of 23rd April : -
Brigadier-General Leane, in his report, strongly urged close supervision of aliens. He suggested that a photographic and finger print record of every alien should be taken, and a central record bureau should be established. This, he claimed, would help to prevent undue congregation of aliens, and give better control of clubs and meeting places, and would be a valuable aid in combating espionage in war.
I maintain that aliens would not be made into better citizens in that way, and I resent the suggestion that they should be photographed and have their finger prints taken like criminals. When the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Perkins) was. Minister for the Interior, I brought before his department an application for citizenship from a man named Frank Curro, who owns a good deal of property in Queensland, and is in a fair way to being a wealthy man. Of course, he cannot hold the property in his own name ; it has to be vested in trustees. He has two children who are attending the Catholic school at Charters Towers. He is giving them every chance to become good Australian citizens. They speak excellent English, as be does also. In support of his application I presented a petition signed by 51 persons, including business men and clergymen in the district. When the file was produced, it was found that some years ago Curro had been convicted and fined £100- for keeping a common gaming house, and on that ground the application was refused. I make no attempt to justify the man for having broken -the law, but I point out that a great many Australian citizens have been convicted of the same offence. It does not matter what we do, we know that the starting-price shops will go on just the same. I do not believe that it is right that this man should be refused citizenship because of that conviction. In the Ingham district there are many aliens seeking naturalization. They have acquired an interest in farms, and they are prepared to take the farms over if they can become naturalized. I discussed this matter with the late Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons), during his recent trip to Queensland. I suggested that he should meet some of these men, and learn for himself that they were able to make themselves understood in English, and that they were in all respects good citizens. It would be an insult to subject such men to being photographed, and having their finger prints taken. They congregate in Northern Queensland because they believe that there is a better chance of obtaining employment there at good wages than anywhere else, particularly at seasonal work in connexion with the sugar and timber industries. Aliens who remain in the cities and open shops of various kinds, have a better chance to obtain a knowledge of English than nave those who go to the country, because they are dealing all the time with Englishspeaking people. In the country, where there is a considerable number of aliens in the one community, and the number of British people is small, it is difficult for the aliens to acquire a knowledge of English. Their children learn English, of course, and, to some extent, they are able to teach their parents. It has been suggested that they are not allowed to speak English at home, but that is not the case. They are certainly taught to speak Italian, but they speak English also.
In my opinion, the period which must elapse before an alien becomes eligible for naturalization should be shortened. The police authorities in the various States are quite able to ensure that aliens do not break the law. If they have clean records and are, in a general sense, satisfactory and law-abiding persons, there is no reason why they should not be naturalized. They were admitted to Australia under the immigration laws of the country, and, according to a statement of the Minister for the Interior published recently in the Sydney Morning Herald, their characters were investigated before they were allowed to enter. It would be better for the aliens, and for Australia also, if they were naturalized, and were allowed to acquire their own farms. They would then have a real interest in the country, and every one will agree that men who have such an interest will try to protect it. I trust that the Minister will pay some heed to my remarks, and that aliens will not be refused naturalization merely on the ground of their imperfect knowledge of the English language. That is a miserable excuse, and the department is not even consistent in applying it, because some men with a very poor knowledge of English have been granted naturalization, while others, with a much better knowledge, have been refused.
.- I had the privilege, while Minister for the Interior, of preparing the bill now before the House, and I was Minister when it passed the Senate. Naturally, I support it. I do not believe that it is necessary to explain to the people of Australia why the Government has found it desirable to re-introduce some provision for the registration of aliens. This is not a new idea. The first registration was made under the old War Precautions Act, and it operated for some years after the war.
– That was a punitive provision.
– There is a good deal in that. It was felt that the aliens registration provision of those days left a good deal to be desired. It was to some degree punitive, and was administered through the State police authorities, another undesirable feature. We pride ourselves so much on the freedom of British institutions that it is undesirable that an alien coming to Australia should find himself immediately and continuously under police surveillance. Eventually, the War Precautions Act was repealed, and for a time there existed no provision for the registration of aliens, an extraordinary thing, seeing that Australian-born citizens are required to register for electoral purposes. Australian citizens must notify any change of address, yet aliens, who come here and enjoy all the benefits of Australian residence, are not required to register at all.
This measure has a bearing on defence, also. If the country were at war, it is obvious that it would be necessary to know the number and addresses of aliens in Australia, together with certain other particulars regarding them. Thus this bill, in a sense, anticipates action that would be necessary in the event of war, but I am able to say with authority that it was not with any such thought that tlie measure was prepared and introduced.
The bill provides briefly that the machinery of the Commonwealth Electoral Department shall be used in compiling and maintaining the register. That divorces the matter from any association with police departments, a thing much to be desired. It seems to me, after listening to this debate, that the arguments have turned not so much on the actual registration of aliens, as on the white alien policy as it is practised at present in this country. There is a good deal of misapprehension in the minds of the Australian people with regard to the influx, as the newspapers have continually described it, of aliens to Australia. It is not generally known that fewer aliens came to Australia during the last few years than during the ‘20’s. In my opinion quite unwarranted stress is placed upon the fact that many of our alien arrivals are Southern Europeans. I think that no country could take action more calculated to cause bad international feeling than to discriminate deliberately as between the nationalities of the people whom it would permit to come to its shores. During my occupancy of the Ministry of the Interior, I continuously and firmly advocated that in our immigration laws we should never embark upon a policy of discrimination as between nationalities. That was the policy of the government of which I was a member, and, I have no doubt, will continue to be the policy of this Government and of all governments that may succeed it. Whilst we agree that it is very desirable that, for obvious reasons, there should be no discrimination as between nationalities, at the same time we agree equally as willingly that there should be just as deliberate a discrimination as between individuals. That has been the aspect of our migration policy in which discrimination has been practised. The policy of admitting aliens to our country is not static ; it has been changing slightly with the knowledge and experience gleaned almost from week to week during the last eighteen months or so. We have been continuously tightening up the provisions of our migration laws in order to ascertain particulars of the antecedents of people who seek to come to this country.
One of the last steps I was able to take while Minister for the Interior was to arrange that a central bureau should be established at Australia House in London to deal with alien migration so that there may be closer and more intimate scrutiny of applications from aliens on the continent of Europe, whence, of course, most of the applications for permission to enter this country originate. I have no doubt that the present Government will continue along those lines and that it will probably extend, as I had it in mind to extend, this particular provision by the appointment of some Australian officials to reside on the continent of Europe so that they will be a’ble to make first-hand contact with applicants for permission to come to Australia by actual interviews. I think that whilst we should insist on getting the fullest particulars of them on paper it would be even more desirable to have personal interviews as a prelude to the issue of permits for aliens to come to this country to live. I think that we will recognize, in these days when defence is so much to the fore in the minds of all of us, that a nation of 7,000,000 people, occupying so vast an area as we occupy, cannot possibly, of its own efforts, take such defence measures as to make it secure in face of the aggression of some great power. The only ultimate way in which this country can be given a really final feeling of security with regard to its national integrity is by increasing the population to several times its number to-day. Every one of us has in mind an order of priority as to the sources from which we would seek to gain our additional population. Not one of us would not wish that our population should be at least double its present strength, and we would prefer that the gain should be from the natural increase. Secondly, I th’ink none would dispute that we would wish that this increased population should come from people of “ British stock. Just twelve months ago there was put into operation a plan to assist British migrants to come to these shores ; but their rate of entry is far too slow to give us any confidence that the population of our country would be built up sufficiently rapidly from a defence aspect. There must also be brought into the picture the thought that, in these days when the peace of the world is constantly in jeopardy, partly because of the demand of certain over-populated countries for territorial expansion to meet the needs of their own people and for increased facilities for the procuring of raw materials, it would be foolish indeed for this young country so richly endowed in raw materials to attempt to give effect .to a policy of the closed door to people who are not British nationals. If we attempted to do so we would be immediately and seriously challenged by some of those powerful and heavily populated countries to which I have * referred. 1 think it is quite unlikely therefore that any government would think of embarking on a policy of the closed door against alien people who wish to come to this land. “While we continue the practice of a stringent policy of investigation into the character, health and antecedents of people who desire to come from foreign lands, and permit entry only of those whom we feel quite sure are desirable potential Australian citizens, we are on. very good ground. If we combine with those investigations a policy calculated to ensure that the admission of these people will not break down Australian industrial standards, we shall still be on quite good ground. I would be the last to say that the existing machinery is perfect and complete. It is not easy to be completely assured that an alien used to working long hours for comparatively small wages, when permitted to come to this country, will not be unwilling to introduce into Australia something of the industrial standards to which he was accustomed in the country from which he came. We must set ourselves strongly in the direction of endeavouring to establish the most adequate safeguards against such an undesirable possibility. For that reason a step was taken very recently to which reference was made by the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Martens). A Mr. A. L. Nutt has been appointed to the Department of the Interior, especially to keep under continuous scrutiny industrial practices of aliens who are permitted to come into this country, in order to see, as far as can be, that they observe one of the conditions upon which they were permitted to come here, namely, that they would not accept employment at less than ruling rates of pay, or engage in any employment in contravention of wages board conditions as established by law.
– He is a very fine officer.
– That is so. While we have investigated, during the last eighteen months or so, every complaint that has been made with regard to any breach of industrial conditions by aliens, or any sweating, it is felt that a special branch of the department should be established, under the guidance of a wellqualified officer, the duty of which will be to maintain a continuous scrutiny of the industrial conditions under which aliens admitted to this country are working. The second function which will fall to the lot of this branch will be to make continuous investigations into area after area and report on the degree of aggregation of aliens. It has been the policy of the last Government, and I have no doubt it will also be the policy of the present Government, to prevent the development of alien colonies or any undue aggregation of aliens in particular areas. The initial steps in this policy were taken by the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson.) when he occupied the office of Minister for the Interior. The honorable gentleman arranged for the first investigations that were made on this important question of the aggregation of aliens in the sugar-growing areas in Queensland.
– Nevertheless aggregation of aliens is still taking place in those areas.
– As the result of the report which followed the first investigation, action was taken to refuse the issue of any further permits for aliens to come to Australia for the purpose of settling in those districts,’ other than to dependent relatives of aliens who had already been admitted. It is not regarded as a good thing that admission should be refused for the wife or dependent children of an alien once he has been permitted to enter this country and has satisfactorily established himself here. That policy has been applied now for about eighteen months.
– Aliens are still going into the sugar areas from other parts of Australia every day.
– That is a point upon which I shall have something to say presently. No permits have been issued to aliens during the last eighteen months to go to the sugar-growing areas, other than to dependent relatives of those already settled there. The next field for investigation into the question of the aggregation of aliens was the Leeton irrigation area in New South Wales. The report which followed that investigation did not disclose an alarming degree of aggregation, and no immediate action was taken. Then the next field to be investigated was the Shepparton and adjoining areas in Victoria. As the result- of investigations made there I took the step of deciding to refuse the issue of any further permits to aliens to settle in those areas. Later, investigations were conducted along similar lines in the Werribee district in Victoria. Similar action was also taken there. I believe that investigations are at present proceeding in certain other areas, and I have no doubt that, if what is regarded as undue aggregation is disclosed, similar action will be taken. The honorable member for Herbert intimated by interjection that it is quite obvious that such action has been taken, and that aliens are still going there from’ other parts of Australia. I do not dispute that; it is a matter that is very difficult to control. When we as Australian people permit an alien to come here, engage in employment and live a normal life, we do not wish him to have a halter around his neck. That is the policy adopted in certain continental countries.
– Why do you do it?
– We are not doing it. lt would be entirely out of sympathy with general Australian sentiment to adopt such a practice in Australia.
– Migrants are coming to Australia under the pretext that they propose to settle in certain parts of Australia and they then settle in the sugar districts in Queensland because of the better opportunity to obtain work.
– I am glad that the honorable member for Herbert has raised that point. I am able to say that, although it may occur in rare instances, it is not practised on a large scale.
– It is.
– The honorable member for Herbert says that an alien receives a permit on the pretext that he proposes to settle in a certain district, and he then goes to what I might call a forbidden district. It is impossible under the present alien migration law for that to be done on a large scale. Permits are issued to aliens under certain conditions. They must have a minimum of £200 of capital, and in other respects their application must be acceptable. Alternatively, they must be nominated by some person in Australia who is already established here, and who must undertake to find work for the alien. The work must be a definite job which must be specified and identified. Investigations are then made to ascertain ifby giving the man the job he would displace some Australian already engaged. Moreover, the nominator must guarantee that the migrant will not become a charge upon the State within five years. Fully 99 per cent.’ of the southern Europeans who came to Australia during the time I was administering the department came either as dependent relatives of aliens already settled in Australia or as nominated migrants to go to a certain specified job. If the job specified in an application was within a forbidden area, the application was refused. In practice, of course, it works out that an alien who is already settled, for instance, in the sugar-growing area is able to secure a job for his prospective nominee only in an adjacent district. It is obvious that it would not be easy for an alien settled on one of the sugar-growing areas in Queensland to secure a job for a nominee for whom he would be responsible in a country district in, say, New South “Wales. Therefore the decision to refuse permits for aliens to come to the sugar areas to work means, in fact, that aliens already resident there are now largely excluded from nominating other than dependent relatives. In practice, what the honorable member for Herbert mentioned cannot occur on a large scale. There may be instances where an alien secures permission to come to Australia to work in a certain State and then goes to another State; but I can assure honorable members from personal knowledge and continuous investigations into many charges made in this direction that that is not practised on a scale of any magnitude.
Certain points of view have been presented by honorable members who have spoken in regard to naturalization, language and land ownership. The lastmentioned falls entirely within the constitutional jurisdiction of the States.
– Aliens cannot hold land in Queensland.
– As statedby the honorable member, the Queensland laws forbid an alien to own freehold land, but that policy does not operate in Victoria. It would be very desirable if the States were to adopt uniform laws in this respect. I would suggest that the Minister - I had the matter in mind when I was Minister - draw the attention of the State governments to the lack of uniformity in this respect.
– If an alien is given the rights of citizenship, why should he not be permitted to own property?
– That is a matter that falls within the State laws.
The honorable member for Herbert has directed attention to the fact that naturalization is refused aliens because of their inability to speak the English language. Under our laws, naturalization cannot be granted to an alien until he has been resident in this country for five years. That is a probationary period. We make the most complete investigations that can be made as to the desirableness of applicants, ‘but naturally it does not follow that we are able by correspondence to form so firm an opinion of the desirableness of prospective migrants as to justify us immediately conferring the rights of British citizenship upon them. The practice followed in this country is that adopted in other countries. After the probationary period, the benefits of naturalization are granted. The period provided in Australia is five years and personally I think it wouldbe undesirable to reduce it. When I was Minister, representations in this respect were made to me by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) and the honorable member for Herbert, and I gave the matter very serious consideration, but I came to the conclusion that, on the experience gained by the department over a period of years, it would not be wise to reduce the period. I was under the impression that it would be desirable to introduce perhaps some interim period if that were possible.
– They do that in the United States of America.
– I have had some inquiries made and find that in the United States of America that is the practice to some degree. I urge the Minister to follow up this matter by making further investigations, because . I believe from experience that it would be desirable to introduce some system, with adequate safeguards, of conferring some interim or probationary rights of citizenship. When an alien applies to come to Australia to live here more or less permanently, a pertinent question to ask him is whether if he is permitted to come here he will, when the law permits, apply to become a naturalized British subject. I found that no inquiries had ever been made on that particular point, and during the last few months I had introduced into the questionnaire which the applicant is required to fill in, certain additional questions. For instance, he is now asked whether he can speak the English language. In regard to one type of alien of whom only a quota is admitted - I refer to refugees - the answer to that question is one of the factors which guide the department in its decision as to whether a permit shall be issued. He is asked whether he can speak the English language.
– What is the test?
– He is required to produce a certificate from some acceptable authority that he can speak English. The second question. I had introduced provides that an alien is now required to state in his application whether it is his intention, when the law permits, to apply for naturalization. The reply to that question is a factor in determining whether a permit shall or shall not be issued.
– If the reply were in the negative, would that prohibit his entry into this country?
– It would not automatically prohibit him, but it would influence the department to take serious cognizance of his replybefore issuing a permit. No provision is made in the act in this respect; it is a matter of departmental practice. While the probationary period of five years remains, it is not unreasonable to expect that aliens allowed to come here and enjoy the benefits of Australian citizenship should, during the probationary period, develop the capacity to make themselves understood in the English language. That is all that is required of them. No special examination “ is conducted. It is customary to utilize the services of the police authorities in the respective States in this matter. When an alien applies to become naturalized, it is customary to ask the police authorities whether the applicant is able to make himself understood, for the purposes of normal business transactions, in the English language.
– I know of half a dozen good citizens at Halifax who can pass that test and who havebeen turned down.
– The honorable member must he in error. The police authorities are asked to report upon the capacity of an alien to make himself understood in the English language, and if the report is satisfactory it is accepted by the department on that particular point.
During the last eighteen months, there has been introduced, really at my instigation, another qualification in respect of naturalization. I found that many married aliens were coming to this country and enjoying the benefits which we have to offer, and, after five years were anxious to become naturalized British citizens without making any attempt tobring their wives or dependent children to Australia. We have therefore introduced a new and desirable condition in the matter of granting naturalization. Now it is not the practice to grant naturalization to married aliens living in this country unless they are prepared to unite their families by bringing their wives and dependent children to live here also. It is desirable that such conditions should exist.
Reverting again to the speaking of the English language, I am glad to say that during the last year or so special classes have been established in Melbourne. I think it is intended to establish similar classes in Sydney and perhaps later in other areas for the purpose of teaching aliens, and particularly refugees, the English language as soon as possible after their arrival in Australia. In that respect, I have to say that there has been a happy degree of co-operation between the Commonwealth Government and the governments of- the States I have mentioned. Certain voluntary migration organizations have been established so that the interests of such persons may be protected.
So much publicity has been given to alien migration, to Australia, that many people believe that during the last few years, it has resulted in a heavy dilution of our population. That is an entirely wrong conception which I look to the press of Australia to correct. The most recent census disclosed that of the total population of Australia, there is a greater percentage of British citizens than there is of the total population of the United Kingdom itself. Actually it disclosed that 98 per cent, of the population of Australia are naturalborn British subjects, and 99 per cent, of the people of Australia are legal British subjects. Approximately 1 per. cent, of the population are naturalized people. Thus only 1 per cent, are unnaturalized aliens from whom there is a steady flow of applications for naturalization. This has become particularly noticeable in the last year or so.
– That 1 per cent, includes the Chinese and other coloured races to whom naturalization is refused.
– That is so. Every encouragement is given by the department; no barriers are erected to prevent or to delay naturalization subject only to those particular points which the law provides and those other points of policy which I have mentioned. The House will be on very safe grounds in providing what might be regarded as the coping stone of this gradually developed policy of white alien migration by carrying the measure before the chamber to provide that in future there will be provision for registration of aliens in this country so that we shall have them on an equal foot ing with ordinary citizens. It is a desirable change, that the register shall be compiled and conducted by civil authorities, the electoral authorities, and entirely divorced from the practices which previously obtained. During the war years the register had some relation to the military authorities and during the time it was kept after the war it was controlled and implemented largely by the police authorities.
.- An alien in a foreign country still maintains a natural connexion with the country of which he is a national. There may be very good reasons why a convenient method of communication should exist between an alien and his own country and very good reasons also why the country from which he comes should, up to the date of his naturalization, desire to have machinery for communicating with him. But there are sounder reasons for requiring the registration of aliens.Every citizen of this country has certain citizen obligations imposed upon him which spring directly from ‘his citizenship. He has for example, the duty of implementing the administration of justice in his own country by service upon a jury. An alien may not serve and therefore an alien is free from the obligation of service. An alien may not be registered as a voter and therefore an alien is free from the obligation to register as a voter. He may not exercise a vote and therefore he is free from the obligation to exercise a vote. According to the point of view, in proportion as his rights are limited, so is he free from ‘obligations, having regard to that well-known correspondence ‘between duty and right upon which British jurisprudence rests. An alien in the State of Victoria, part of which I represent, as has already been pointed out, may own land; in other States he may not own land. He may, I apprehend, enter into ‘business in all States. He certainly may in the State of Victoria. He enters into business in competition with citizens of our own country. I do not think that it is unfair or oppressive to require a person who is competing for the favour of citizens in carrying on business to manifest that degree of interest that it manifested by applying for letters of naturalization in a country upon which he is dependent for his means of living. I agree that there should be discouragement of those who feel that they can come into Australia, accumulate wealth by business with the people of this country, and then take that wealth to their native land without having manifested a sufficient degree of interest in the country which has served them so well as to become citizens of it, and to exercise the responsibilities and rights of citizenship. This matter of alienage becomes increasingly important as we have to realize the obvious fact that we can look less and less to the British Isles for healthy infiltration of further population into Australia.For many years, of course, the natural flow was from the British Isles - Scotland, Ireland and England. There are purely historical reasons for that fact. When we say that Britain is less British ina certain sense than Australia, we merely call attention to the fact that Britain is much nearer to great centres of population. More important than that, it has an ancienthistory behind it which Australia does not enjoy. The origin of Britain’s foundation is lost in the mists of antiquity, whereas the origin of Australia as a distinctively and exclusively British colony is well known to extend back to a period of only five or six generations. Inasmuch as very unhappily our birth rate is, at the moment at all events, almost static, the very widest opportunity should be given and encouragement extended to the whiteraces of the world to come to Australia. I say white races’ merely because I do not propose at the moment to discuss the wider question of race discrimination, although that question transcends in importance the question which we are at the moment discussing. What is to be the future attitude of Australia towards the coloured races of the world, coloured as we call them for the purpose of convenience? What, indeed, may arise out of development, probably after our time, when we shallbe confronted with the problem that the world is becoming more and more congested and greater and more just regard must be paid to the claims of those who are overcrowded to places in those parts of the world which are under- settled? That is a tremendous ethical problem, not merely a political question. It is of great interest’ to Australia, because of Australians tremendous spaces and expansiveness and the fact that its population is not increasing at anything like the rate that we should desire. I must not be taken, in this passing reference to this wide problem which I have described as partly ethical, to admit a weakening of adhesion to what is known somewhat arbitrarily as the White Australia policy. That is ethically defensible as well as being solitically desirable. It is not so far back in history since Malthus propounded a doctrine of an overcrowded world overtaking means of subsistence and starving itself to death. By the means of subsistence rapidly increasing proportionate to the increased knowledge of the human family, the lie has been given to that somewhat painful prognostication. That applies also to the general question of an overcrowded world. I leave, for the moment, the colour question altogether. I think we should give the fullest encouragement to people of the white races of the world to migrate to Australia. I was pleased to hear the former Minister for the Interior (Mr. McEwen) say that he does not favour discrimination. In may opinion he is entirely right. We are accustomed to hear persons who have little real knowledge of the subject, speaking disparagingly of people of other races, such as Southern Europeans. Such talk drifts thoughtlessly from the lips of persons who seem to have very little knowledge of the culture and historical background of the great people of whom they speak with little respect and less knowledge.
In my opinion theregister of aliens which is proposed should not be regarded as a secret record. I see no reason why it should not be open for inspection under the usual official conditions, perhaps for the payment of a small fee. This suggestion that it should be a secret document recalls too unpleasantly the lettres de cachet of mediaeval times. The idea apparently, is that we shall have a list of people who, in certain circumstances, may be regarded as almost proscribed persons. I do not like that idea at all. There is nothing disgraceful in being an alien, or having one’s name appear ‘in a list of aliens. It may be that an alien’s name is necessarily on the list; he may be waiting the passage of time, or he may not desire to apply for naturalization. In either case he would be, either by choice or from necessity, an alien. Wo discredit ipso facto would attach to him for that reason. I see a good deal of danger in the compilation of a secret list of persons who, it may be said, are aliens and therefore not qualified to do this or that, perhaps under police supervision. I see no reason at all why the register should be secret. So far from- an alien being regarded as under a stigma in this country, he should be looked upon as a welcome visitor, once he has earned the right to be admitted. Migrants to Australia must undergo an examination as to their , qualifications, their state of health and record in accordance with departmental regulations. When these formalities have been observed they should be regarded as welcome visitors who, we hope, will later become citizens of this country, and they should be so treated.
It is sometimes said - the former Minister for the Interior had a good deal to say on this subject - that the tendency of aliens is to form aggregations of colonies within the Commonwealth. On this point I would like the people of Australia to ask themselves how far they are responsible for this tendency; how far they fail in their duty to welcome an alien who has not mastered the English language; how far they have discharged their duty to make him feel at home in his new country ; and whether it is not to some degree their own fault that aliens have been driven to find society and pleasure in fraternal association with people of their own race and speaking their own language.
I incline to the belief that the necessity for all immigrants to be able to speak the English language may be exaggerated. No doubt, as a matter of convenience, it would be very desirable for the world to have a common language, and I recall that a member of the ‘Senate not long ago interested himself in this subject, as others did long before his time. The invention of Esperanto was the outcome of a desire to produce a common denominator in language with a* view to bringing to the peoples of the world a greater knowledge and better understanding, and less fear and distrust of one another. After all, diversity of language in a country is in itself a sign of extended culture. It would be a good thing if people speaking foreign languages in this country could imbue the people of Australia with a wider knowledge of their languages and literature. There is no special virtue in the English language, or any other particular language, even the older and more classical tongues. It is merely a convenience to give ready access to the literature and records of one’s country and to promote intercourse and therefore a more liberal point of view between individuals. So I think something may be gained as well as something lost from a foreign language being spoken in this country.
I have no objection to the bill, in principle. It does no offence to aliens, unlike that measure, the War Precautions Act, which I described while the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) was speaking, as a punitive measure, and to which I always had the strongest objection. Following the passage of that act harsh measures were taken against foreigners in this country. As a citizen of a free Australia I was ashamed to observe the, invidious treatment and insults to which aliens were subjected. I hope that the bill will be accepted and that, in due course, it will be administered with sympathy and understanding. Immigration and the natural growth of our own population are matters of fundamental importance which, with other subjects of grave concern, have been utterly neglected by this Government and its predecessors. In their unfortunate state of fear and apprehension they constantly envisaged Australia as being threatened from outside, when they should have been giving their attention to the business that lay to their hands.
.- The bill deals with matters of vital importance to Australia, and, in the opinion of a large majority of people, it is long overdue. Doubtless there will always be a certain amount of controversy in this country on the subject of immigration. The standard of living is higher in Australia than in most countries, and in undertaking any scheme of immigration we have to ensure that it will not be interfered with. When this matter was discussed in this chamber several months ago, I with other honorable members referred to the fact that certain types of migrants that were being admitted to Australia were causing considerable public indignation even amongst their own nationals. So pronounced was the state of public feeling eventually that the Government refused landing permits to some of these people, and others were allowed to land on probation for six months. Prevention is better than cure. Australia should have officials stationed in Great Britain and at certain Mediterranean ports in order to examine the credentials and records of migrants intending to come to this country. In other words, migrants coming here should be hand-picked. It is most desirable that only people of the best type should be admitted. There can be no valid objection to this legislation. Migrants coming to this country it is anticipated are prepared to accept Australian ideals and standards of living and must agree to become assimilated into Australian communities. The restrictions to be imposed on foreigners under this bill are far less drastic than would be imposed on Australians desiring to live in other countries. America’s experience of alien immigration should be heeded. Anybody who has travelled through American cities knows that foreign nationals have congregated in separate communities, with undesirable results. We do not wish to have such a state of affairs in this country. Our standards of living must be maintained. I know of alien families that have come to this country and readily adapted themselves to Australian conditions and ideals. As a matter of fact, some of these people in the second generation are indistinguishable from British, native-born Australians. I emphasize that the aggregation of aliens in separate communities should be discouraged. If we must have immigrants, then let us have people of the most desirable type. British migrants, although the most desirable from our point of view are difficult to obtain. When I was in England in 1937, the question of migration was discussed, not only at the Empire Parliamentary Association Conference, but also in many parts of Great Britain. The standard of living in Great Britain has vastly improved in recent years. Extensive housing schemes have been undertaken, and the benefits from social services such as social insurance have been greatly increased, so that the people of Britain are now regarded as the most contented in Europe to-day.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
– Although there is not the same urge to leave the Old Country as in the pioneer days, numerous inquiries have been made by people there who are interested in the establishment of new industries in Australia, chiefly because this country is far from the seat of of international troubles, and because of the wealth of raw materials available here. Those people are willing to send British capital and skilled artisans to Australia in order to open up new industries. In this way, acceptable migrants would be brought to the country and additional employment for Australians wouldbe provided. Such projects should be encouraged. A good publicity campaign in Great Britain would help in that direction. Competent migration officials should be appointed to hand-pick the migrants. Men and women of every nationality are making excellent Australian citizens to-day. I refer also in this connexion to members of the Greek community who recently donated a fighting aeroplane to the Australian Defence Forces.
The long period of five years’ residence which is a necessary qualification for naturalization should be reconsidered with a view to shortening the term. I should like to know if the Government has considered taking such a step. Aliens should be asked to make themselves . fully acquainted with the English language, and after a reasonably short term of residence in Australia, should be required to submit to simple tests inboth writing and reading. The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) this morning referred to the necessity for a common international language, such as Esperanto. I draw attention to the proposal to use basic English, a system which hasreduced a range of 7,500 common English words to 850 basic words. The system is so effective that books have been written embracing only these 850 words. Some of them are in the Parliamentary Library. I suggest that the Department of the Interior should investigate the system with a view to its utilization in dealing with migration matters. The Minister for the Interior said that the last Aliens Restriction Act, passed in 1921, became a dead letter becausenot sufficient State police were available to supervise alien registration. That is a striking commentary on the Australian Constitution. It would appear that because of the clash between Commonwealth and State authorities, much important legislation has become valueless. The position should be clarified. The system proposed in the bill seems to be the only practicable one; it certainly will give to the Commonwealth control over aliens in Australia. The administration of this legislation will place a great deal of extra work upon our electoral officers. I hope that the Minister will appreciate the need to have these officers fully equipped with material and organization to implement the measure, if it be passed, in fairness to the officers themselves, and in order to make the registration system completely effective. I support the bill because it is designed to deal with one of our great national problems.
.- On many occasions the Department of the Interior has objected to granting certificates of naturalization on the ground that the applicants have had an insufficient knowledge of the English language. That disability should not be an entire bar to naturalization. It is necessary, of course,’ for an alien to have a working knowledge of the terms that are used in the particular industry in which he is employed. Men who are working in mines, for instance, should have some knowledge of the language in order to ensure the safety of themselves and of those with whom they work. But it is unreasonable to hold that a complete knowledge of the English language is an essential qualification for Australian citizenship. That there is no more insular class of people in the world than the British is apparent to any one who has travelled on the continent. I have met many British people living in foreign countries, and have found that many of them take pride in the fact that they have learned very little of the language of the people among whom they live. If they had to pass language tests, few of them would be able to secure naturalization. An official of the consular service at Rio de Janeiro, in Brazil, told me that although he had been residing there for two or three years, he had to call in his typist who was of Spanish or Portuguese extraction and had been there for many years to answer questions, because he, himself, had never bothered to learn the language. It should not be essential for aliens residing in Australia to know the English language in everycase, because most of them are gregarious and it is natural for them to form colonies. Britishers in foreign countries do the same thing. Many aliens have a tendency to keep themselves apart from the rest of the population, because the naturalization laws make five years’ residence an essential -qualification. The residential provision has a tendency to make them feel that Australians are doing all they can to keep them, as a class, out of the community. Instead of making naturalization difficult, the Government should make it compulsory for foreigners who have resided here for two years, excepting only those who can show that they do. not intend to reside in the country for a long time, to apply for naturalization. If naturalization were made compulsory after the expiration of two years, aliens would be more ready to believe that Australians wanted them to become citizens of the country. The main objection of Australians to the naturalization of foreigners is not on the ground of race; it is based on the fear that an influx of foreigners will increase unemployment. The workers look askance upon aliens because they cannot see any wisdom in bringing additional people into a country where employment is already scarce. That feeling applies as much to Britishers as to Italians and Yugo-Slavs, thereby proving that there is no enmity towards foreigners on racial grounds. I have heard that Australian workmen in the mines at Kalgoorlie object to the employment of foreigners, ‘because some of them “ throw back “ to the shift bosses. Some shift bosses give foreigners to understand that they cannot hold a job unless they “ throw back “ to them so much money each week. The same thing is not unknown in trade union circles where employees are working under award conditions. Employers sometimes persuade their employees to sign receipts for the full amounts due to them under arbitration awards, in spite of the fact that they are paid less. Although this practice is said to exist, neither I nor any one else can say how general it has become. I have, had personal experience of YugoSlavs and Italians on the gold-fields of Western Australia for the last 35 years, and I know that, as a class, they are equally as law-abiding as is the average Australian citizen. As workers they are not excelled by Australians; and it has been said frequently that Australians are the finest workers in the world. Almost all the wood-cutting for the mines is done by Yugo-Slavs and Italians, and any one who has had experience of the work knows that no man engages in it merely as a recreation. The work is left to those men because it is laborious; and Australians, like the citizens of the United States of America in their country, feel that they have a right to easier jobs for which higher wages are paid. Italians and Yugo-Slavs employed in the mines have to do the work generally known as “bogging”, which consists of shovelling ore material into the trucks underground. The work is the hardest and worst paid in the mines. There is a State hotel at Gwalia, a mining town in Western Australia, where many Italians are employed. Only one policeman is stationed in that town of more than 2,000 people. The Italians frequent the hotel regularly, play their own games, and mix with the British workmen. The policeman has told me: “We never have any trouble at all with these fellows “. This applies also to the men working on the wood line. One factor that counts heavily with the Labour party in favour of these people is that they are 100 per cent, unionists. Honorable gentlemen opposite may not regard this as a favorable factor, but to us it is of great importance, for we know that the average wage rate can be maintained only with the help of trade unionism.
I wish these people to become naturalized Australians because they get their living in this. country. They marry and rear families here, and from my experience of them, the children, whether they be of Italian, Yugo-Slav or German parents, are just as desirable as are children born of British parents. I have seen a good deal of them on the gold-fields. I know that some children of Yugo-Slav and Italian parentage win the highest marks in the high schools, and I have in mind one Yugo-Slav who is a school teacher. These people are in no sense inferior in mental calibre to people of British stock. Their physique, we must frankly admit, is far superior to that of many former British factory workers who come to this country. I say with sorrow that the British factory system has caused deterioration of the physique of the British people. It may be argued that some of these people are foreigners in habit and outlook even after they have been in the country for many years, but if we do not make it reasonably easy for them to become naturalized Australians they will inevitably remain foreigners. It has been said that many foreigners send out of the country a great deal of the money they earn here. In my opinion that tendency is rapidly diminishing. I was at one period in an office where I had facilities for checking such remittances. Some honorable gentlemen opposite have said that all foreigners should be required to register so that a check may be kept upon them. I would prefer to see it made easy for them to become naturalized.
We all are well aware of the difficulties presented by differences in language. The Yugo-Slav, whose language is so different from our own, finds it much more difficult to learn English than does the Italian, from whose language many of our own words are derived. The speech of the Yugo-Slav is that of Dalmatia, and it is difficult to learn. I have known Yugo-Slavs who have resided in this country for 35 years, and have become intelligent workmen and good citizens, and yet cannot use more than the few common words that are necessary to enable them to get what they want from the stores and to make themselves understood. They could no more engage in a sustained conversation for say half-an-hour, than could the average Australian engage in a similar conversation in the language of Yugoslavia after a residence of perhaps 20 years in that country. But this does not prove that. they are inferior people. It is our duty to make it easy for them to accept the full responsibilities of citizenship in this country. If they become naturalized they will (become part and parcel of the community, and if the war that some honorable gentlemen opposite fear actually occurs, they will undoubtedly feel it incumbent upon them to fight for the country of their adoption. The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) is interjecting. Though I refuse to be drawn off the course that I have set myself, I remind him that in the district that he represents in this Parliament many of the sons of Germans who settled in Australia, fought for this country during the Great War, and their names are to be found in large numbers on the honour boards of numerous churches and public halls throughout South Australia. Two prominent members of this Parliament illustrate the point I am making. The honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Martens) on my right comes from Nordic stock, and the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini), on my left, is, I take it, of Southern European origin, yet no member of this Parliament will deny that these two honorable gentlemen have shown the utmost zeal for the welfare of Australia. They have been chosen by the people of their electorates to represent thom in this Parliament, and they have represented them well. That is a complete answer to those who contend that we should limit immigrants practically to people of British stock. I do not wish to pursue this point further, but it will be remembered that not so long ago the Sun newspaper of Melbourne published a caricature of a typical British colonel who, by many inane remarks, tried to show that the Australian did not know bow to play cricket. He had the monocle affected by a certain class of Britisher, and told, us many things that we knew perhaps better than he did. I have no desire to belittle the race from which I sprang. My father was an Englishman; my mother was an Australian, and none the worse for that.
In considering this measure, we must surely have in mind the welfare of Australia. We have had Prime Ministers in this country who have been willing to rush Australia into any overseas war that happened to occur. I do not refer to- the World War, for there was no escape from that ; but I have in mind one Prime Minister who wished to rush Australia into a war between Turkey and Greece! In my opinion, it is our duty to take all proper steps to safeguard Australia and to develop a courageous race here whose motto will be “Australia First”. We should welcome people of European blood who are prepared to be of the warp and woof of this country.
Some mention has -been made of racial difficulties in the United States of America. I lived in that country for three years, and I know something of the mixed streams in its population. At one period, people from all parts of Europe entered the United States of America in great num’bers, and some of them formed colonies of their own within that great country; such colonies were perhaps, not the best thing for the country. But we are ali aware that many Italians, .Spaniards, Yugo-Slavs, Austrians, and Germans, who went to America became fine, citizens of the country. They and their descendants stood shoulder to shoulder with other Americans in many enterprises for the advancement of the country. Many of them have marched in the vanguard of the sciences and others have taken leading parts in the development of the industries of the United States of America. The late Mr. Keir Hardie said of these different races in America, in what may, perhaps, be regarded as the grandiloquent language of the Americans themselves: “I call you a grand mozaic on the floor of the universe.” The people of the United States of America are, in my opinion, second to no British race in the world. In all these circumstances, I hope that the Government will consider this whole subject very carefully.
In passing, may I give one or two illustrations of the unfairness with which some European people in this country have ‘been treated. I have received a letter from a man named Epis, who has lived at Leonora, in Western Australia, for 25 years. He raised a family there and worked on the mines. Now he has been overtaken by miners’ phthisis. He asked permission from the authorities for his brother to come to Australia to take care of his wife and family. This man married an. Australian woman and has a family of three fine Australian children, but because of national prejudice, his brother was refused permission to land here. Herbert Spencer, in one of his books, Social Statics, has a very fine chapter on national bias, which some honorable members of this Parliament could read with profit. I well remember that during the war a great deal of distress and sorrow overtook certain families who, because of national prejudices, were torn apart. On the wharf at Albany, Western Australia, on one occasion during the war, I saw some Yugo-Slavs together with their wives and children of Australian birth deported. For one reason or another these men had neglected to become naturalized, and because the war occurred they were forced to leave Australia and take their wives and families into foreign exile. Could inhumanity go further?
Naturalization lias never been a very easy process. Certain documents have to bc filled in, and certain steps taken in a strictly legal order. ‘We are all well aware of the disinclination of many Britishers for the filling in of official documents. These feelings are naturally intensified ten times more in foreigners when asked to make out documents in a language other than their own. I urge, therefore, that the taking out of naturalization papers should be made as easy and as simple as possible. We may take it for granted that only those who wish to be naturalized will take the required steps. There is every reason why, with our small population, we should encourage naturalization. If naturalization were made compulsory, some reason could he advanced for added safeguards; but I believe that we should do our utmost to encourage all foreigners who live within our borders to become naturalized citizens of this country.
Debate (on motion by Sir Charles Marr) adjourned.
Consideration resumed from the 3rd May (vide page 79), on motion by Mr. Perkins (vide page 2820, Vol. 158) -
.- I congratulate the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. John Lawson) upon his appointment as Minister for Trade and Customs. That is a very interesting and responsible position, in which he will have great scope for the exercise of his undoubted ability. On the 3rd May he tabled a schedule that had been in operation from May ‘last and which we were told would be ratified by Parliament by November of last year. However, that period was extended a further six months, which meant that the schedule should have been dealt with item by item by the 4th of the present month. But finding that this would probably embarrass the Government, the Minister has brought down a further schedule, with the result that these items may remain on the table for another six months. I draw attention to the history of this particular amendment of the Customs Act 1901-1930 which was effected in July, 1934, by adding to the appropriate section the following words : - or before the expiration of six months after such tariff or tariff alteration is proposed, whichever first happens.
We were told that this amendment would become operative as from the 1st January, 1935, and that it was intended that all schedules would be considered by Parliament item by item before the expiration of six months after their having been tabled. Although it conceded this amendment to the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory), the Government, apparently, has found it inconvenient to adhere to it. We have been told that all items contained in this schedule have been inquired into by the Tariff Board. In addition, I presume the experts of the Customs Department have also investigated them. That being so, I am satisfied that ample inquiry has been made. Perhaps, however, the Tariff Board has been hamstrung to some extent by the provisions in clauses 9 to 13 of the Ottawa Agreement, which caused the board to take an altogether different view from that which it held previously as to what constitutes reasonable protection for Australian industries. Those clauses have proved an embarrassment to the board, as, indeed, they would to any government that stands for adequate protection of Australian industries. I was glad to hear the Minister say -
The secondary industries of the Commonwealth are expanding, and the output from Australian factories is now 20 per cent, higher than the maximum figure recorded prior to the depression.
I am pleased to note such a big expansion in our secondary industries. I believe that I can rightly claim that this improvement is largely due to the very sound protectionist policy inaugurated by the Scullin Government in which I was Minister for Trade and Customs. That policy has played some part, at least, in laying the foundation for the big development which is taking place in Australian industry to-day. Naturally, some time elapsed before the benefits of that policy became apparent. When it was introduced, Australia was suffering one of the worst economic depressions in its history. Our warehouses were filled with imported goods, whilst the purchasing power of the people had been reduced by half. A considerable time had to elapse before those goods could be cleared and the purchasing power of the people improved as the result of better . conditions. It is very gratifying to know that the sound protectionist policy inaugurated by the Scullin Government has proved so fruitful, and that, to-day, as the result of that policy, economic conditions generally have improved and greater employment is available for our people. I was pleased to hear the Minister say that there was evidence of increased efficiency in secondary industry and that a fair export trade had been established. That is what we aim to do. We wish not only to supply our own requirements, but also to build up an export trade, and it is gratifying to know that, notwithstanding improved working conditions and higher rates of wages, our factories reveal a sufficient margin of efficiency to enable them to compete with the manufacturers in countries adjacent to Australia. The Minister said that the margin between the intermediate tariff and the general tariff is provided for the purpose of treaty making, the benefit of that margin being given to countries which complete treaties with us. That brings me to the whole question of trade treaties, including the Ottawa Agreement, with respect to which 1 shall have something to say later.
I should like to have heard something from the Minister concerning the manufacture of motor car engines in Australia. The establishment of such an industry would be one of the biggest engineering enterprises ever attempted in this country. I should like to know if, and when, the present Minister intends to revive the proposals which were so carefully considered three years ago by a government in which the honorable member for Henty (Sir Henry Gullett) was Minister directing negotiations for trade treaties. That honorable gentleman is Minister for External Affairs in the present Government, and, perhaps, it is premature to suggest that either he, or the Minister for Trade and Customs, is not now so enthusiastic about the establishment of that industry.
– Surely the honorable member would not expect the honorable member for Henty to be of the same opinion for two years in succession ?
– Yes, I would. For instance, the honorable gentleman once said that the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) was the most tragic Treasurer that Australia has ever had. I believe that he would say that again to-day. As he is a member of the present Government, I expect him to take definite steps to bring to fruition the proposal upon which he waxed so eloquent in this Parliament on a number of occasions. In the past he assured us that if Australia embarked upon the production of motor engines at the rate of 35,000 annually, which he said was the number the trade could absorb, direct employment would be provided, for 10,000 people and the industry would support, directly and indirectly, 40,000 people. In May, 1936, in a speech which I greatly admired, and which was favorably commented upon by the press of Australia as a whole, the honorable gentleman said’ -
In the opinion of the Government, reached after considerable investigation, there is room in the Commonwealth for the profitable working of at least three separate units of motor manufacture.
That statement reveals the opportunities now offered to the young and energetic honorable member for Macquarie in his new position as Minister for Trade and Customs, working in collaboration with his colleague. The honorable member for Henty went on to say that in Great Britain numerous factories were manufacturing from 10,000 to 20,000 units annually at a profit, and concluded that if we manufactured 35,000 out of the 88,000 engines required by the Australian market, our factories could be run at a profit. Some of us were in doubt as to whether the Government seriously contemplated proceeding with these proposals, but the honorable member dispelled that doubt when he made the following emphatic statement -
There was not a detail in my speech in the way of fact that had not been agreed to by the Ministry. The whole of it had been submitted to, and approved by, the Prime Minister.
As recently as the 16th November last, the honorable member said -
If the Government will not establish this industry then there is some sinister and mysterious influence stopping it, arid it is well for one to speak plainly on this subject.
No statement could be more direct, or challenging, and, whilst I do not accuse the honorable member of going back on anything he advocated in the past, I say that time will tell whether this Government intends to carry this scheme to fruition. I appeal to the new Minister for Trade and Customs to give consideration, at the earliest possible date to the proposal made by the honorable member for Henty for the manufacture of motor cars in this country. An early further extension of secondary industry is urgently needed in order to open up fresh opportunities for our tradesmen, apprentices and labourers. We must remember that 80,000 children, including 50,000 boys, leave our schools annually and seek employment. Many thousands are disappointed because they cannot find places in the various trades. Here is an opportunity to establish a great engineering industry which would absorb a large number of these youths. I ask the Government to consider the political morality of the action of its predecessor in continuing to’ collect a dutyof ,7d. per lb. on all imported motor car chassis over a number of years, until the fund to-day amounts to the colossal figure of £1,250,000, while failing to implement the scheme for which this money was collected.
– What has become of that money?
– That is what- we wish to know. When we asked that a trust fund be created in this connexion, we were told that this was unnecessary, and were assured that the money would be available as a subsidy to encourage the manufacture of motor engines. If the Government does not intend to go on with that proposal, surely it will not continue to levy this unfair impost. In view of the success attending our endeavours to establish a huge enterprise for the manufacture of the complete aeroplane, including engines, in Australia, surely we are capable of establishing the motor manufacturing . industry, including the manufacture of engines, on a scientific and efficient basis. Eighty per cent, of the value of cars in use in Australia to-day is represented by parts and materials produced in this country.
Reverting to the Minister’s reference to trade agreements, I recall a’ very important mission which visited England last year. We were greatly disappointed over the result. The speech of the right honorable member for Cowper, and the articles which appeared in the press from time to time, emanating from him and from the present Prime Minister, represented a big effort to hide the complete failure of the mission. Possibly some of the recent happenings in this Parliament have their origin in the personal animosities engendered in the course of that ministerial trip overseas: but, of course, I cannot speak on that matter with absolute knowledge.
I shall refer, briefly, to misleading statements that have been made in regard to these negotiations. On the 4th July last, the then Prime Minister said that satisfactory progress had been made, and it was hoped that a definite agreement would be reached. He denied reports of a deadlock, and, on the 5th July, after a conversation with the then Minister for Commerce, said that that Minister had assured him that there was no hitch. He added that the work of the delegation was proceeding smoothly, and that there was every prospect that the new agreement wouldbe completed shortly. Despite those statements, it is known that a deadlock did occur, and that the mission was a complete failure from the point of view of the Australian people. The following press paragraphs, published in the Melbourne Age of the 22nd July, 1938, bear out this contention : -
London, July 21. - It is admitted that agreement has been found to be impossible. and thata deadlock, which at the time was so strenuously denied, actually occurred.
All hope of agreement vanished weeks ago.
The Times and Telegraph devote leading articles to the report. All the papers admit failure.
I refer to this in order to show the public how they were misled by the Commonwealth Government. Spurious propaganda was put forward in order to cause the people to believe that the mission was a success. The then Prime Minister said that Sir Earle Page had assured him that the new agreement would be completed shortly. There is no new agreement, and, by way of excuse for its nonexistence, the then Attorney-General stated-
He had always entertained some doubts about the wisdom of creating precise written contractual obligations between various portions of the Empire.
There is nothing definite in any of the statements made by the Government or in the memorandum of conclusions. The first paragraph of this memorandum states -
Not only have the existing preferential arrangements between the two countries been examined, but Empire problems have, in a spirit of mutual sympathy and goodwill, been considered in their widest aspects, with a view to ensuring the maximum co-operation between the United Kingdom and Australia in their solution. Ministers have reviewed the broad principles which should, in their opinion, be regarded as the character of United KingdomAustralia trade relations.
The then Minister for Commerce stated that he was happy to say that mutually satisfactory arrangements had been made. There is nothing satisfactory in the report of the leader of the delegation. Nor has he accomplished anything of a specific nature which will be of practical benefit to Australian industries, either primary or secondary. On the contrary, he failed to arrive at any arrangement that will provide for the marketing of our surplus primary products or the permanent establishment and progress of our secondary industries.
The then Prime Minister declared that the objectives of the Australian delegation were to discuss with British Ministers the Ottawa Agreement and its revision in relation to changes in the situation since 1932, and in particular -
With regard to the objective outlined in the first paragraph the delegates failed completely. As to a portion of the second paragraph they also failed, and their only success was in regard to the lesser considerations contained in the third paragraph. Regarding the first objective relating to Articles 9 to 12 of the Ottawa Agreement, the mission was a complete failure. As to securing a greater portion of Britain’s trade, it also failed. Its only success, if it can be termed a success, was in regard to foreign trade.
From the first day the terms of the Ottawa Agreement were made public the Opposition strenuously opposed the provisions contained in Articles 9 to 13 of the agreement. We as a party contended then, and still maintain, that Parliament and not the Tariff Board, must be given the sole right to determine Australia’s fiscal policy. Australian manufacturers have also strongly opposed these provisions of the agreement, and on many occasions have criticized the attitude of the Government to fiscal matters. If I remember aright, the former Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White), speaking at a Nationalist conference at Bendigo, admitted that it was necessary to have the agreement reviewed. Up to the 6th December, 1938, the Lyons Government made reductions in 1,340 items in the British preferential tariff and 710 items in the general tariff, a total of 2,050. Altogether the reductions of tariff items made by the Lyons Government to the 6th December, 1938, as compared with the Scullin Government’s tariff, numbered 2,125. The Opposition is not alone in its belief that the backing and filling of the Government has been prejudicial to the progress and development of our secondary industries. I notice that Mr. Eady, an ex -president of the Victorian Chamber of Manufactures, in criticizing the frequent changes made in the tariff, said -
With these changes, mostly reductions, it was impossible for manufacturers to feel secure.
Mr. Sanderson, chairman of the Victorian Chamber of Manufactures, remarked -
Admittedly, secondary industries in Australia as a whole had not substantially lost ground. In many industries progress bud been made, but that progress had been made in spite of the Ottawa Agreement, not by reason of it; because, fortunately, during the currency of the agreement, the Commonwealth, in common with other parts of the world, had been passing through a period of prosperity.
These opinions clearly show the attitude of representative men in the associations of manufacturers throughout Australia regarding the way in which the agreement was administered and its effect upon the Tariff Board. Mr. Holden, managing director of General Motors-Hol den’s Limited, and president of the Associated Chambers of Manufactures, was also very outspoken in his denunciation of these clauses of the Ottawa Agreement. He deprecated the statement of responsible Ministers and of the Australian Association of British Manufacturers that the
Ottawa Agreement had provided employment for many operatives who would otherwise have been unemployed. He added -
Such statements were wide of the mark and utterly misleading, the increase in employment being mostly due to improved economic conditions.
It was popular for a time to say that after all the reductions of duties had been made there had been a substantial increase of employment, although, in fact, the increase was due to the expansion of secondary industries and the increase of the prices obtained for the products sold by Australia overseas. The national income practically doubled, and the. people were thus enabled to purchase manufactured products to an increased extent.
I shall now deal with the concessions that the delegation was alleged to have obtained for Australian industries. If those who took part in the mission did not work more harmoniously in England in Australia’s interests than did the individual members on their return to this country, it is not surprising that the trip was completely abortive.
– The honorable member is now referring to two entirely different matters.
– I am not blaming the former Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White), because I have heard no adverse criticism of him in connexion with the trip overseas. I consider that he did all he could to make the mission a success, but the Opposition believes that the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) and the present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) were not in complete harmony. Their speeches were not put over the same broadcasting network. While they were political bedfellows in Australia, they were completely divorced from one another overseas.
– They were on opposite sides.
– Yes. Australia suffered because the speeches of one queered the pitch of the other. The personal animosity and bickering displayed was most regrettable.
The present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) said that the British ministers, iu order to avoid difficulties which presented themselves, were prepared not to press their objection to the interpretation now placed by the Australian Tariff Board on article 10. This was to the effect that article 10 should be treated as providing, not only for equalization of competition between British and Australian manufacturers, but also for an actual margin in favour of Australian manufacturers. The Prime Minister said that adequate protection was provided for Australian secondary industries and that Parliament had the right finally to decide whether sufficient protection was afforded He went on to say that the Parliament would be invited to adopt the recommendations of the Tariff Boa.rd, and that in its hands would remain the final decision. It is difficult to understand how the Prime Minister could make such a statement. How can Parliament be the sole deciding factor in relation to tariff duties while articles 9 to 12 of the agreement remain intact? We have never had an adequate explanation by the members of the mission of why they failed to have those alterations made which they said were inevitable. Article 9 States that the Commonwealth Government agrees that protection shall be afforded only to those industries which are reasonably assured of sound opportunities for success. Who will determine that matter? What will he the actuating motive in reaching a decision? Nearly all big industries that are prosperous to-day were backyard industries at one time, and had to be developed. There was a time when those who desired to encourage importations from overseas would say “Wipe out this uneconomic industry and would probably find specious arguments in support of the suggestion. Article 12, which is, perhaps, the most important of them all, provides that no protective duty shall be imposed, and no existing duties increased, on goods from the United Kingdom in excess of those recommended by the Tariff Board. . These articles prevent Parliament from making any increase of the duties on British goods over and above those recommended by the Tariff Board, and although the British Government has given what it calls a concession in connexion with the Tariff Board’s interpretation of article 10, so long as those articles remain in force, Parliament has not complete control over fiscal matters.
It has been said that, by way of compensation, Australian Ministers gave an undertaking to apply article 11 more rigorously. Article 11 stipulates that the Government shall arrange with the Tariff Board to review all existing protective duties which affect British goods, in accordance with the provisions of article 10. This is where the board finds its work very difficult, because it is required to afford equal opportunities in the Australian market to both British and Australian goods. Surely, however, an industry in which Austraiian capital has been invested, which employs Australian workmen at wages sometimes double those paid by manufacturers overseas, and which pays Australian taxes, is entitled to a definite preference, and not merely equal opportunity.
The then Minister for Commerce, speaking upon his return from abroad, stated that paragraph 9 of the Memorandum of Conclusions, which deals with article 11, was not an absolute undertaking that Parliament should give effect to the recommendation, but only that Australian Ministers should make every effort to ensure that Tariff Board recommendations were made effective, as provided in article 11. Australian manufacturers will derive little satisfaction from that interpretation, in view of the fact that the delegates gave an assurance to do everything possible to give effect to article 11.
A perusal of article 9 shows that Australian Ministers have definitely undertaken to make every effort to ensure that Tariff Board recommendations under article 11 shall be made effective. So long as these articles remain in force, Australia will not be able to adopt a progressive programme for the development of secondary industries. Probably the present Minister for Commerce, coming to his job with no embarrassing alliance with the free trade party, may be able to bring to bear upon these questions a new. and more helpful scrutiny.
The Prime Minister seemed to attach great importance to the fact that Great Britain officially recognized the essential need for Australia to develop its own secondary industries. Was that a new discovery? Was this recognition brought about by the eloquence of the delegates, or was it something that had been understood for years past by the statesmen of Great Britain? Australia has always recognized the undoubted right of Great Britain to develop its primary industries, in fact, to develop any industry, and yet we are supposed to be elated by the fact that Great Britain has decided to recognize the right of Australia to develop its secondary industries. Although Great Britain makes this so-called concession, at the same time it prevents Australia from following such a course by insisting upon the retention of the disputed articles in the Ottawa Agreement.
The second objective of the Government was mainly to obtain a larger share of the British market, and here, the delegation failed again. The then AttorneyGeneral, and present Prime Minister, pointed out that it was agreed that, subject to the interests of British agriculturalists, oversea traders and consumers, an extended market would, as far as possible, be afforded Australian goods in the British market. Sub-clauses (b) and (c) of section 3 of the Memorandum of Conclusions sets this out -
Australian Ministers recognize -
The position of the United Kingdom as a great international trader, investor, and ship owner ;
The consequential necessity that the United Kingdom should maintain the. position as a great overseas trader and in particular as an exporter of manufactured goods to Empire and foreign countries.
This, in effect, is a polite way of saying that Great Britain will not give to Australia a share of its foreign trade, and that we cannot rely upon securing an increased share of the British market. Apparently, the Government has accepted this position because the late Prime Minister stated that Australia had been getting more and more of the markets of Great Britain, but could not expect that to continue.
A perusal of the statistics relating to imports into the United Kingdom from Australia and foreign countries since 1932, when the Ottawa Agreement became operative, shows that, although Great Britain purchased more goods from Australia, the increase of its Australian purchases was proportionately less than the increase of its foreign purchases.
It was stated in the White Paper that Great Britain recognized the necessity for an increased Australian population, and a special commission Avas to inquire into ways and means of bringing this about. Surely there is nothing new in that proposal! All these platitudinous conclusions are merely an attempt to hoodwink the people of Australia into believing that the delegation had made some very important discoveries, whereas, in fact, it appears to have learned nothing that wa3 not known long ago.
The Departmental Committee entrusted with the responsibility of giving consideration to the proposals in the London White Paper that the present Australian tariff making system be changed, and that a schedule of fixed maximum duties be substituted, has, apparently, not yet made much progress in its’ work. It appears that considerable time will elapse before the committee’s report will be available to the public. It was hoped that the utter impracticability of the proposal was so evident that the whole scheme would be thrown overboard. We should not tie the hands of Parliament in regard to a matter of this kind. Parliament should remain unfettered, retaining the right to vary duties as it thinks fit. Duties should not be fixed for periods of three, five, or seven years, because the rates that are adequate to-day may not be adequate under a new set of conditions in a year hence. Conditions alter so rapidly that an important Australian industry might become vulnerable to overseas competition from low-wage countries without Parliament having the power to protect it. We have in Australia, at the present time, upwards of 100,000 men out of work, men who are fit and willing to work. We have a responsibility to those men, and also to the 50,000 boys who are leaving school every year and looking for employment”Ve shall” not be able to discharge that responsibility if we limit our freedom of action by fixing maximum rates of duty for years ahead. We must keep ourselves free to act as circumstances dictate.
Position of Senator Allan MacDonald - National Insurance.
Motion (by Mr. Menzies) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– It has been reported to me that Senator Allan MacDonald, formerly Assistant Minister, whose name does not appear in the list of Ministers or persons to whom duties have been allocated, as announced by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has been, or will be, allotted certain duties equal in status to those of an Assistant Minister, or a parliamentary-secretary. I have no knowledge of the truth or otherwise of the report, but it was made to me by a responsible person, and I take the first opportunity to ask the Prime Minister to clear up the matter.
.- I ask the Minister for Social Services (Sir Frederick Stewart) whether there is any foundation for the rumour that an intimation will be made almost immediately to the approved societies under the national insurance scheme to the effect that they will be suspended. If so, I think that a. statement shouldbe made to the House before any action is taken. I am quite sure that when we return to our electorates there will be a great deal of anxiety and disturbance among those connected with such associations. I hope that the Minister will be able to give an assurance to the societies on this point, and that if they are to be wound up, they will receive adequate compensation. I, in common with a great many other honorable members, believe that the approved societies, which have not in any way been responsible for the extraordinary delay that has occurred in connexion with this matter, should not be called upon to bear expenditure they have legitimately incurred in anticipation of effect being given to the national insurance legislation.
– An intimation is already on the way to the approved societies of the temporary suspension of the national insurance legislation. The societies have been asked for information in regard to expenditure incurred by them to date with a view to making appropriate arrangements in regard to it.
– I may inform the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) that Senator MacDonald is not a member of the Government and has not been appointed a Parliamentary Secretary. The rumour to which the honorable gentleman referred may have arisen from this circumstance: As I indicated in answer to a question raised by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) on the motion for adjournment last night, the Government is completing an investigation, which has already been carried a considerable distance, into certain waterfront problems. These investigations were first undertaken by me; they were continued by the present Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. John Lawson) when he was Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury, and, finally, when they passed to the present Attorney-General (Mr. Hughes), he suggested to me that, as Senator MacDonald had had a good deal of experience of marine affairs connected with the Commerce Department, the Government should ask him to carry on the inquiry in certain ports that had not been covered. The honorable senator very generously agreed to do that, not as a Minister or a Parliamentary Secretary, but for the purpose of completing the collection of the material necessary in order to deal with the waterfront problems.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Papua - Report for year 1937-38.
Citrus Fruits Bounty Act - Report on working of the Act, together with return showing amount of bounty paid for 1937.
House adjourned at 3.33 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
s asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
– I am giving consideration to the honorable member’s questions, and I shall make fullyconsidered replies at the earliest possible opportunity.
n asked the Minister for. Civil Aviation, upon notice -
– I am giving consideration to the honorable member’s questions, and I shall make considered replies at the earliest possible opportunity.
n asked the Minister for
Civil Aviation, upon notice -
– I am giving consideration to the honorable member’s questions, and I shall make considered replies at the earliest possible opportunity.
n. - On the 4th May, the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) asked the Postmaster-General the following question, upon notice -
Will he consider affording to the residents of western Queensland and the Northern Territory a benefit similar to that received by Tasmanian residents by having mail to western Queensland and the Northern Territory carried by air without surcharge?
I am now in a position to inform the honorable member that in view of the financial consequences and far-reaching effects of such a step, also the heavy commitments entered into for the provision of air-mail facilities, it is not practicable to extend further concessions at present.
n asked the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
– I am giving consideration to the honorable member’s questions, and I shall make considered replies at the earliest possible opportunity. aircourtofinquiry.
n asked the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
When will the promise given on the 12th December last that an Air Court of Inquiry would be established to deal with air crashes of a serious nature be fulfilled?
– I am giving consideration to the honorable member’s question, and I shall make a considered reply at the earliest possible opportunity.
n asked the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
– I am giving consideration to the honorable member’s questions, and I shall make considered replies at the earliest possible opportunity.
y asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
In view of the enormous profits made from wireless licences, will he make available to the Australian Broadcasting Commission a sum of money to enable a new broadcastingstudio to be built in Hobart?
– The information desired by the honorable member is being obtained and will be supplied as soon as possible.
e asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained.
Charges for Radio Messages from Ships.
e asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce, upon notice - 1.What are the names of the representatives of wheat-growers from the various States who will attend the conference to be held in Canberra this week, and what organizations do they represent?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
h asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained.
l asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Is it the intention of the Government to introduce a system of payment of taxation by instalments?
– No decision has yet been arrived at, but the matter is receiving the careful consideration of the Government.
n. - On the 4th May, the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) asked the following question, upon notice : -
What is the total amount paid by the Postal Department for supplies from the metal manufacturers of Port Kembla?
I am now in a position to inform the honorable member that the total payments by the Postmaster-General’s Department to Metal Manufactures, Port Kembla, were as follows: -
Financial year, 1937-38, £343,302; financial year, 1938-39, to date, £309,867.
e asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
n asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Will any parts of the report of the InspectorGeneral of the Australian Military Forces be made available to honorable members? If so when?
-Press statements have been issued on those sections of the report that can be made public. These have been reproduced in pamphlet form, and will be circulated to honorable members by the Publicity Officer.
Aeroplane Landing Grounds on Blue Mountains and at Ballarat.
Mr.clark asked the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
n. - I am giving consideration to the honorable member’s questions, and I shall make considered replies at the earliest possible opportunity.
asked the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
n. - I am giving consideration to the honorable member’s questions, and I shall make considered replies at the earliest possible opportunity.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 5 May 1939, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1939/19390505_reps_15_159/>.