15th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. G. J. Bell) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– In view of the wide publicity given through the press and over the air to the Prime Minister’s reply to a question, namely, that he would consider the possibilityof taking a referendum before Australian troops were sent overseas, can the right honorable gentleman say anything further that will clarify his statement?
– What I stated yesterday in relation to that matter was, that the suggestion made to me by the honorable member wouldbe taken into consideration. There is really nothing that I can add to that.
Attitude towards Military Preparations.
– Has the Minister for Information yet made inquiries relative to the misrepresentation of the Daily News by the British Broadcasting Corporation? If so, has he any report to make?
– Inquiries into this matter are now being made.
– by leave - As I indicated briefly to the House yesterday, a special revised arrangement to expand and facilitate the distribution of news by the broadcasting stations of Australia during the war was made at a conference convened by me in Melbourne on Monday last. Those present at the conference were the representatives of the daily newspapers of Australia which are interested in the supply of overseas news to the Commonwealth, the Australian Broadcasting Commission, the B class stations, the Postmaster-General’s Department, and the Intelligence Branch of the Defence Department.
It is desirable that I should clear up some apparent misconceptions with respect to the arrangement which prevailed prior to the crisis that led up to the outbreak of war. The supply of international news to the British Broadcasting Corporation - apart from British home domestic news - has been largely in the hands of one or two great news agencies with world-wide correspondents and ramifications. The Australian copyright of this foreign news supplied to the British Broadcasting Corporation has been for years in the possession of the Australian Associated Press. I might add that that Australian copyright was held by Australian interests for years before the British Broadcasting Corporation came into existence. The position therefore was, and indeed still is, that, although the British Broadcasting Corporation could now broadcast to the world generally this foreign news, including all the overseas war news, and it could be received by those who had suitable receivers, such news could not be rebroad- cast or republished within the Commonwealth without an infringement of the copyright possessed by the Australian Associated Press. Indeed, this was also the position in every other country which held exclusive local copyright over the foreign news supplied to the British Broadcasting Corporation.
I might mention that the sum paid by t he Australian Associated Press for this copyright, although 1 am not in a position to disclose it, is a very substantial one, and exceeds four figures. As the crisis developed towards war, the Australian newspapers concerned very generously waived, in favour of the Australian Broadcasting Commission and the B class stations as a whole, their Australian copyright in this foreign news broadcast to the world by the British Broadcasting Corporation, and allowed Australian broadcasters the right to rebroadcast it free of charge.
In addition to this British Broadcasting Corporation supply of overseas news, the Australian Broadcasting Commission has three other sources of news. In the first place, it pays an annual sum to the Australian newspapers for the right to broadcast each day a specified quantity of their general news, including their special cable services. Further than that, the Australian Broadcasting Commission has now its own correspondents in London, and obtains a special limited supply of news of its own. It also has the British Official Wireless.
There has been throughout between the Australian Broadcasting Commission and other broadcasting stations, and the interested newspapers, an agreement as to the times at which the broadcasting stations were to place their news on the air.
At Monday’s conference, after a general discussion, a committee was formed which, without my attendance, succeeded in reaching a friendly arrangement which, I am glad to say, was subsequently declared by both parties to be completely satisfactory to their interests. Mr. Curtin. - That is to say, the interests as between the broadcasting stations and the newspapers. What about the public?
– It appeared to me to be also acceptable to the Australian people, and it was acceptable to the Commonwealth Government. This arrangement confirmed the generosity of the newspapers with respect to the continued free use of the British Broadcasting Corporation bulletins by all Australian broadcasting stations, and so recognized the natural desire of the public to obtain overseas war news as soon as possible after its release by the British Broadcasting Corporation. Speaking for the newspapers as a whole, Sir Keith Murdoch emphasized their desire to cooperate with the new Ministry of Information, in all useful ways, in consolidating and intensifying the nation’s war effort. The old arrangement as to times during which the broadcasting stations were to operate in the distribution of news, was extended and varied in such a way as will give a substantially improved service to all listeners.
The Australian Associated Press service, together withthe service of the Consolidated Press, is to continue to be made available to the commission and to the commercial stations on terms which were agreed upon as fair. Copies of all overseas press messages will continue to be made available to the commission as they are received. Supplementary to this, the commission may broadcast up to a maximum of sixteen news “ flashes “ weeklynot more than three in any one day - such flashes to be limited to 35 words each. These flashes will announce any particular or sensational happening in the war. Acknowledgments necessary to inform the public of the sources of their broadcast news, and to preserve the copyright interests of the newspapers already referred to, are to be reduced in number to two daily.
I should add that, as I said yesterday, the arrangement reached is for no fixed period, but is subject to variation at any time to meet changing circumstances.If either of the interests concerned in the agreement meets with difficulties at any time, . the. Government will be asked again to call the parties together; or it may move on its own initiative.
It is the view of the Government that the Australian public should have the fullest reasonable service over the air during the period of the war, by the latest medium there is for the distribution of news. It also takes the view that a halfhourly or an hourly continuous service of broadcast news, a great deal of which cannot be correct, is not desirable in the interests of the people of Australia or, indeed, of any other country.
– by leave - I am very disappointed at the substance of the Minister’s statement. He has detailed to us the results of a conference at which he presided, which apparently confined itself to determining the financial relations between the broadcasting interests and the press of Australia. The statement did not disclose to the House what part the Ministry of Information intends to take in making available to the Australian public informationeither to supplement or to check the information which privatenon-governmental sources are responsible for gathering and transmitting to Australia by cable, other press messages or wireless.
-i did not set out in this statement to deal with the activities of the new Department of Information.
Mr.CURTIN.- That is my complaint. During this weekI have presumed that the conference would deal with the dissemination of news by newspaper proprietors and also by radio, and also with the drafting of certain principles with respect to censorship practice. I understood that certain discussions would be held in order to make provision to check news which is received in order to ensure that greater reliance may be placed upon it by the general public than has been possible in respect of information which has been cabled to Australia during the last twelve months or so. This information, as the Minister now says, comes from comparatively few sources, or, I should say. from many sources under the control of two organizations.I say to the House and to the country that those two organizations which control these sources of information and which have, in the last year or so, supplied almost the entire news service to the Australian public on matters happening overseas have failed in their duty. The information they have supplied has been not only often contradictory but also frequently misleading.
These organizations have failed to correct in the columns of the press information which was an obvious misconstruction’ of the cables forwarded to them or which was wrongly forwarded. I had hoped that one of the reasons for establishing the new Ministry of Information, and for detaching from the Defence Department the censorship organization and placing it under the Ministry of Information, was to lay down certain principles with respect to the censorship of news both in the press and over the air. This is a tremendously important matter, yet it apparently has not yet been touched.
– The Ministry of Information is only a week old. My staff has not yet been assembled and is notat work. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr.Curtin) is scarcely fair.
Mr.CURTIN. -I have no desire to be unfair. I have had sufficient experience ofthese matters to know that unfairness gets us nowhere. I have said to the Government, and to the country in various public statements in this House and elsewhere, that there should not be repeated in connexion with the censorship activities the mistakes, to use a mild term, which marked the conduct of the censorship during the world war.
– Hear, hear!
-I have also said that at the earliest, possible time a conference of newspaper organizations should be assembled at whichI felt certain there could be formulated principles that could be put into general practice to avoid that kind of thing. F rom my own experience of these things,I am of the opinion that the officers associated with the censorship, looking at, it purely from military, naval, and official points of view, have not had the training in the editing of news which would safeguard them from repeating the very grievous defects and mistakes which operated most unjustly, and which produced so much discord and dissatisfaction, in the last, war, not only in respect of newspaper organizations but also in respect of the public a t large. I hoped that the conference would deal with that matter. I am not interested in how the newspaper proprietors and radio authorities intend to pay each other for the mutual services rendered.
– Be fair.
– I do not consider that that is a matter over which the Government should bother itself except insofar as to safeguard the Australian Broadcasting Commission from undue exploitation.
– And to ensure that the public get a proper service.
– I should like to know whether it is intended by the Minister in charge of the censorship to let the House know before Parliament goes into recess what is being done in regard to this important matter, in order to ensure that the censorship of news, and also of views, shall be carried out a little more fairly and a little more sensibly than twenty years ago.
– by leave - The matter with which the Minister for Information (Sir Henry Gullett) has dealt is one in respect of which I had close association a few months ago. I should be interested to know whether some of the difficulties that then existed between the Australian Broadcasting Commission and the Australian Associated Press with regard to the use of cable messages- have been overcome. An agreement was entered into towards the end of last year, or at the beginning of this year, which, in its spirit at any rate, provided that cables of the Australian Associated Press were to be made available to the Australian Broadcasting Commission as news at certain stipulated times. But no sooner had that agreement been signed than the newspaper proprietors adopted a new procedure. Certain cables appeared in the press marked: “ From our Special Representative “. When the Broadcasting Commission started to use those cables it was informed they were not available on the ground that they were not covered by the agreement with the Australian Associated Press.It must be recognized that the Australian Broadcasting Commission fulfils a very important government function in the community in furnishing the people withnews concerning the war situation, as well as other matters, and it is essential that accurate information should be made available.
– Why cannot the Broadcasting Commission have its own direct service ?
– That is a point which I shall not elaborate at the moment. I may say, however, that it was only during this year, for the first time, as the result of a very unfortunate incident of which members of the present Government are well aware, that the Broadcasting Commission was enabled to establish its own service in the Australian Capital Territory and to maintain direct contact with the Commonwealth Government. Under existing conditions, the quickest way to get news to the majority of our people is by means of broadcasting methods. But broadcasting methods in regard to news necessarily leave a great deal of detailed information to be furnished if people are to have a complete understanding of the position. This detailed information must necessarily he left for the newspapers to provide. The ideal situation would be for the newspapers and the broadcasting stations, both national and commercial, to work in the closest’ co-operation and harmony in order to bring the best possible news service to the community. As things were, even as recently as last April, some very serious difficulties had still to be overcome. There was a state of affairs in regard to the use of cables that the Australian Press Association should explain. If I remember rightly, yesterday the Minister for Information, in reply to a question by an honorable member, said that no charge was being made to the Australian Broadcasting Commission for the use of these cables.
– That was in respect of the British Broadcasting Corporation’s news.
-I am not so sure of that, but there was a stiff charge for the Australian Associated Press cables. When one takes into account the cost to that association and the pretty heavy fees that it collects from the country newspapers and broadcasting stations, national and commercial, one feels that the question of profits may bear a. little investigation.
– Can the Minister for Information tell mewhat financial terms were arranged between the Australian Associated Press and the Broadcasting Commission for news submitted through the Australian Associated Press for broadcasting? Further, in view of the fact that from day to day the Australian Associated Press contradicts itself in overseas news, is there any provision for deductions to be made in respect of any information that is proved, through official sources, to be misleading?
– I know the terms, but I do not think that, without the permission of the interested parties, they should be disclosed in this House.
– Why not?
– They are not the concern of the House.
– It isa public contract.
– With all respect, it. is a business arrangement.I shall ask the parties if they have any objection to the disclosure of the terms. If they have no objection, I shall make the information available. If the rule suggested in the second part of the honorable gentleman’s question, prevailed in regard to war news, especially news in the early stages of the war, I should say that payments would be completely wiped out.
– Does the Minister for
Trade and Customs proposeto take any action to fix the price of hides?I have received the following telegram : -
Leather prices fixed on rates ruling August 3 1st. Overseas parity of hides considerably above these rates. Unless action be taken by department to fix prices of hides or allow adjustment of leather prices tanners here compelled to close down.
A number of men are engaged in this industry in Brisbane.
– To enable the position to be examined thoroughly from the point of view of controlling prices, a proclamation is being issued to-day prohibiting the exports of hides and skins. Although the proclamation includes all hides and skins, it is recognized that special consideration will need to be given to furred skins and woolled sheepskins. In respect of these skins it is proposed to issue licences freely for the time being.
– To clear up any mis apprehensions regarding the Government’s war policy will the Prime Minuter say whether a definite offer to send an expeditionary force from Australia was made to the Government ofthe United Kingdom, and, if so, when? Will the right honorable gentleman also table all communica tions that have passed between the respective governments on that subject?
– I have nothing to add to statements already made on behalf of the Government. As it becomes possible to make any further statement or to take any further steps a due announcement will be made.
– I ask the Prime Minister what progress is being made in the analysis of the results of the national register and whether those results will be sufficiently far advanced tobe used in deciding on the personnel of the Expeditionary Force?
– I am not ableto answer that question now, butI shall obtain the information this afternoon and make a statement on it to-morrow.
– I think that perhaps the Prime Minister misunderstood the purport of my last question. As the statement that consideration would be given to the suggestion that a referendum he held before any troops are sent overseas would appear to conflict with another statement that the special force of 20,000 now being recruited would be used in the most effective place and in the most effective way, will the Prime Minister make a more definite pronouncement in order to clarify the position?
– I must confess that I do not understand where the conflict comes in. A suggestion was made by an honorable member - I think it was the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Gander) - and I said that it would be considered. I am not aware that I said any more than that, and any inference that may be drawn that is not warranted by the actual words of my answer is quite unsound.
– In view of the contradictory information received from overseas, will the Prime Minister state (1) whether or not the Empire is actually at war-
– Order ! The question is certainly facetious, and is out of order.
– Very well. Will the Prime Minister say whether or not the Commonwealth Government has offered to raise an expeditionary force in Australia for service in defence of the British Empire?
– I thought that a statement had been made about that yesterday.
– The right honorable gentleman said that the force of 20,000 was being raised for service in Australia.
– I am sorry that the honorable gentleman completely misunderstood the import of the statement which was made. Thestatement was to the effect that a force of 20,000 men was being raised for service at home or abroad as circumstances might permit or require. I have nothing to add to that statement.
– In view of the trouble which has arisen in the woolgrowing industry through the inability of the growers to secure woolpacks as the result of the failure of speculators and merchants to quote prices for this form of jute, will the Minister for Trade and Customs as a matter of urgency, see that prices for woolpacks are quoted as on the 31st August?
– I shall do as the honorable member suggests.
– Further to my question of a few days ago, relative to the production of aerial charts, I have a question to ask the Minister for Civil Aviation based on a paragraph in the Sydney Morning Herald to-day in which the newspaper’s aviation correspondent declares that experts recommend that, as a prelude to the proposed Commonwealth experimental aerial survey, there should first be a co-ordination of the previous efforts of various State departments.
The Government of Victoria has announced that in the near future it will introduce legislation to co-ordinate all State surveys. I now ask the Minister for Civil Aviation whether he will stay his hand until that legislation is introduced and then confer with the Government ofSouth Australia and other State governments with a view to inducing the governments of all States to introduce similar co-ordinating legislation so that there will be no overlapping and needless expense in making unnecessary surveys ?
– Every consideration will be given to the suggestion made by the honorable member.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether the Government’s decision to make up to Common wealth public servants the differencebetween their militia pay and their Public Service pay and to conserve their superannuation rights during periods of military training applies to the extended period of training announced by the Minister for Defence yesterday ? If so, will this provision also apply to employees in the Government railways service?
– With the honorable member’s permission, I shall answer that question to-morrow.
– Can the Minister for Defence tell me whether the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation is working, one, two or three shifts a day?
– The factory is working to its maximum capacity.
– In view of the fact that during the last war 900 soldiers volunteered from the Bland shire, will the refusal of the Defence Department to establish a militia unit there and in other rural districts be reviewed ?
– In view of thesevere tax that is being placed on the training resources of the armed forces of the Commonwealth, it is not possible, at this juncture, to open up any new militia training centres.It may be possible to do so later.
– What information has the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior regarding the registration of aliens?
– The only change that has been made is that that matter is now being dealt with mainly by the Defence Department instead of by the Department of the Interior. I understand that to some extent the two departments are working together.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce now able to state whether a representative of the fresh fruit growers and shippers has been appointed to the Shipping Control Board ?
– I am not able to answer the specific question asked by the honorable member, but I. give him the very definite assurance that the question of providing refrigerated space for fresh fruit is receiving the closest consideration of the Government.
– Last week, I asked the Postmaster-General whether some means could not be devised for giving information to the people of Australia of the arrival of overdue passenger vessels at their port of destination. Can the honorable gentleman now say what action, if any, he has taken in regard to the matter?
– Quite obviously, this is a matter for consultation between my department and the Censor. I have already instituted that and am awaiting a. decision. When I receive it, I shall convey it to the honorable member.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Trade and Customs been drawn to a report in this morning’s press that there is a large shortage of houses in Sydney and. other cities? Did he acquiesce in the action of the timber merchants in increasing the price of oregon by 10 per cent, since the 31st
August last? If so, why; and if not, will he see that the prices that were in operation on the 31st August are retained in the interests of home-builders ?
– By order in the Gazelle of the 8th September last, prices of timber were fixed at the level prevailing on the 31st August. If the honorable gentleman, or any one else, can offer the Government information that will indicate that that order is being disobeyed in any way, he may rest assured that the Government will take immediate action.
– On the last two Saturdays, I have had occasion to order considerable quantities of timber from timber merchants. Tho prices charged last Saturday were 25 per cent, higher than those charged the previous week. The merchants informed me that nil] erg would not supply them with timber unless they agreed to charge the increased prices. Will the Minister have immediate steps taken to prevent the continuance of profiteering of this kind?
– If the honorable member will give mc full details of the instance to which he has referred, I shall see that immediate action is taken. Any increase of the prices of timber over and above those ruling on the 31st August last constitutes an offence under the National Security Regulations.
– Can the Minister inform the House what steps are being taken, apart from the appointment of deputy commissioners in each State, to police the regulations regarding profiteering? Is it the intention of the Government to allow the deputy commissioner* to appoint their own staffs to police these regulations, or will the staffs be recruited from members of the public service?
– The policing of the price fixing regulations has been undertaken by the States, and the State public service will provide the necessary staff to carry out that work. I do not wish the House to understand from that that the Commonwealth Government will play no part at all, because customs officers are able to effect a very close check on the coat of imports, and such staff as the Commonwealth Government has available to police its regulations, will be very fully utilized.
– Will the Minister for Trade and Customs inform the House whether or not any prosecutions have yetbeen instituted for profiteering? If so, in what circumstances were such prosecutions launched?
– No prosecution has been made.
– According to that portion of Lieutenant-General Squires’ report which was released, by the Minister for Defence on the 14th March last, Lieutenant-General Squires recommended the appointment of a higher commander for the Australian forces, and also the appointment of commanders for the different States. Has anything yet been done to give effect to those recommendations?
– If the honorable gentleman will read the report again, he will find that Lieutenant-General Squires made no recommendation for the appointment of a higher commander for the Aus- tralian forces. He made recommenda- tions that each State should have a command, that the base district system be abandoned, and that the command system be instituted. That command system is now in course of institution and is complete in the case of three States.
-I draw attention to the fact that a statement made by the Minister for Defence early this year contained the following passage: -
The second objection to the existing peace organization indicated by the InspectorGeneral was that it made no provision for the personal and whole-time guidance and supervision, by a higher commander, of divisional and other formation commanders on questions of training and general preparedness for war.
Does not that indicate that LieutenantGeneral Squires recommended the appointment of a higher commander?
– No. That passage refers specifically to each particular district.
– Will the Minister for Defence state whether, in the absence of one commander-in-chief of the forces, there can be as many military methods and doctrines advocated as there are military districts?
– The honorable member is well aware of the system that operates here, because he is himself a serving member of the forces. It is the same as in Great Britain, where various commands are administered by the Army Council, the only difference being that here the supreme body is called the Military Board.
– Statutory rules No. 92 of 1939, issued by the Minister for Trade and Customs provide for the repeal of the Customs (Export of Money Prohibition) Regulations. When was the proclamation issued prohibiting the export of money and for what reason has it been repealed ?
– I shall have a full statement in regard to the matter prepared and forwarded to the honorable member as soon as practicable.
– Is the Minister for Defence now able to reply to the point which I put to him last night after receiving a telegram from Renmark, in which it was alleged that men going into militia camps would be charged for shorts issued, and will the honorable gentleman sen that these Sassenach duds are not inflicted on Scottish regiments?
– At the express request of Scottish regiments, shorts were allowed to be worn in camp last year. No instructions have been issued from base, division or battalion headquarters that such shorts were to be compulsorily acquired by any member of the Militia, but some 1,500 trainees in camp last year voluntarily agreed to wear shorts and there were only three objectors.
– Conscientious objectors?
– Probably. This year, I understand, the position has not arisen; certainly there is no knowledge of it in South Australia.
– To-day, I have received letters informing me that park playgrounds and a large residential area in Darwin are threatened by the uncontrolled infringement of industrial concerns. I note in to-day’s Daily Telegraph that a town planning scheme has been approved for Glen Davis, the new shale oil centre near Newnes. It is stated that zones will be provided for commercial and residential purposes and that noxious and noisy trades will be situated outside the town.
– The honorable member must ask his question.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior to see that the Administrator at Darwin is given sufficient funds to enable him to invite the city planner of Brisbane to zone the town of Darwin.
– I shall have the honorable member’s views placed before the Minister for the Interior.
– In view of the fact that many country centres are urgently requesting the reconditioning of old rifle ranges will the Minister for Defence see that this work is carried out as expeditiously as possible so that men may receive the necessary training in rifle shooting, and will he also see that rifles and ammunition are made available for this purpose?
– Insofar as the reconditioning of old rifle ranges is necessary for the more efficient training of the Militia Force, no time will be lost in putting ranges which are now out of order into workable condition. There is no shortage of ammunition for training purposes, but certain restrictions have been placed upon the use of ammunition by rifle clubs. I am sure the honorable member will agree that there is necessity for such restriction.
– Will the Prime Minister see that the special War Cabinet takes steps to allay fears now existing among the people generally by appointing either a committee of representatives of the Departments of Supply and Development. Defence, and Civil Aviation, or a special committee of this House to ensure that uniforms, equipment, and all materials necessary for the defence of Australia are being produced in an expeditious way?
– The matter to which the honorable member has referred is already the subject of very express instructions of the kind he mentions, and in recent weeks considerable changes have been made in order to produce greater expedition. I think he will find the results very satisfactory.
– I should like to know what system of supervision the Government is exercising over the manufacture of munitions in annexes, and whether or not government officers have been appointed to each of these places in order to exercise that supervision?
– The operations of the annexes are governed by contracts entered into between the parent firms and the Commonwealth Government. In addition there is provision for very close accountancy supervision over the costs of the annexes. Apart from that, of course,the usual inspection is carried out in order to ensure that the goods being supplied are exactly what is required by the Defence Department.
– Is the practice of paying 4 per cent. on costs causing any undue increase of the actual costs so as to make the 4 per cent. greater, and has consideration been given to the alternative method used in England whereby a certain price is agreed upon, and any saving on that is shared between the manufacturer andthe Government?
– There is provision for a maximum price to be quoted, and beyond that the price of goods emerging from the annexes will not, in any case be allowed to go. In addition to the previous supervision laid down, the Advisory Accountancy Panel, the report of which I recently laid on the table of the House, has made certain recommendations on the general lines suggested by the honorable member. That is going a little further and extending the principle of a maximum target price. Officers of the Department of Supply and Development are now going into the question of how best to implement the recommendations of the accountancy panel.
– With reference to the public statement by the Minister for Supply and Development that the increase of gold production in the Northern Territory last year from £15,000 to £110,000 was due to the geological and geophysical survey, in view of the fact that most of that increase resulted from the efforts of miners at TennantCreek who have had no opportunity to avail themselves of the information obtained through that survey, I ask the Minister on what figures he based his statement?
– If the honorable member will read carefully the report of what I said he will see tha t I had not the temerity to suggest that the operations of the North Australian survey had been solely, or even largely, responsible for the increased production. I merely mentioned the useful activities of the survey as having contributed in some sense to the increased gold production.
– Has any progress yet been made in the negotiations with employers’ organizations regarding the payment to military trainees of the difference between their civil and military pay while they are in camp?
-I am not yet in a position to answer the honorable member’s question.
– Will the Prime Minister state whether there is any information regarding the international situation beyond what was given in the right honorable gentleman’s statement yesterday ?
– I have received no information during the last 24 hours that would materially affect what I said yesterday.
– I have visited many of the timber yards in Sydney, and I was amazed to see the quantity of secondclasstimber that was turned down because of the sheer fickleness of the contractors. A great deal of really good hardwood is either burnt or sent back to the yards. Will the Minister for Trade and Customs have a survey made of the available timber for the benefit of contractors, with the idea of conserving our timber resources and preventing unnecessary importation?
– I shall give consideration to the honorable gentleman’s suggestion.
– Cyprus pine is being used in the construction of buildings at Darwin.
– Order! The honorable member has asked a number of questions, each of them prefaced by a statement giving information. The Chair has allowed that to be done where it appeared necessary in explanation of the question, but there seems to have been no need for it on this occasion.
– Buildings in Darwin are being erected wholly of pine.
– Will the Minister for the Interior give the hardwood producers of New South Wales and other States an opportunity to supply part of the timber needed with a view to keeping men employed in the timber industry?
– The request of the honorable member will receive due consideration.
– Can the Minister for Trade and Customs state whether the Tariff Board report on the tinned plate industry will be submitted to the House before the adjournment, and, if so, whether an opportunity will be afforded to discuss it ?
– It is not possible to say definitely atthis stage whether the report willbe made available to the House before the adjournment. I hope it will, but I cannot say whether there will be an opportunity to discuss it.
– Will the Prime Minister state whether the Government has reached a decision on the tinned plate industry, and, if so, when will the report of the Tariff Board be published? .
– We have not yet arrived at a final decision. I hope to be able to announce one in a few days, but I cannot say positively.
– Will the Minister for the Interior make available the report of the inquiry into the operation of the Commonwealth railways and, in particular, the administration of the Railways Commissioner? Rumour has it that at least -part of the allegations made by his own officers against the administration of the Commissioner have been proved .to be true?
– It is not the intention of the Government to make the report available. It was purely and simply a departmental inquiry, and no good purpose would be served by laying it on the table of the House.
– When I was speaking on the budget last week, I referred to labour conditions on the waterfront, and to a report thereon by the present Minister for Trade aud Customs. Does the Attorney-General intend to reply to my remarks?
– I listened to the honorable member’s speech, and I gathered that the reference he made was to the Transport Workers Act, and the recommendation of my colleague to the Government regarding the advisableness of amending, modifying, or repealing that act. Is that the question?
– The Government is considering that.
Motion (by Mr. Menzies) agreed to -
That Government business shall take precedence over general business at the next sitting.
– I move -
That Standing Order No. 70 - 1 1 o’clock r«U - be suspended !for the remainder of this week.
– I should like to know what measures the Government proposes to introduce after 11 o’clock at night?
– It. is not possible to say at this stage, but, as the honorable member knows, there are several financial measures to be dealt with, as well as certain customs proposals. There is a Supply Bill, and there are three motions standing in the name of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin).
– But thi* motion refers to new business ; those matters have been before us previously.
– Yes, but under the Standing Orders we cannot bring on any of those matters for consideration after 11 o’clock at night. It is to enable that to be done that this motion has been moved.
Motion agreed to.
Motion (by Mr. Harrison) agreed to -
That he have leave to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Australian Broadcasting Commission Act 1032.
Bill brought up, and read a first time.
Motion (by Mr. Spender) agreed to -
That he have leave to bring in a bill for an net to amend the Income Tax Assessment Act
Bil] brought up, and read a first time.
Motion (by Mr. Spender) agreed to -
That he have leave to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Sales Tax Exemptions Act 1935-1038, to exempt certain defence supplies and plant and building materials for use in connexion with the manufacture of defence supplies.
Bill brought up, and read a first time.
Customs Tariff Amendments (Nos. 7 and 9)
In Committee of Ways and Means:
Consideration resumed from the 19th September (vide page 728) on motion by Mr. John Lawson -
That the schedule to the Customs Tariff 1933-1939 … be further amended . . . (vide page 627).
.- I am pleased that the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. John Lawson) has agreed to allow honorable members to debate together Customs Tariff Amendments Nos. 7, 8, 9 and 10, and the excise schedules. This will facilitate the passage of the schedule, and will also meet the convenience of honorable members.
In view of all the circumstances in which increased excise duties are being imposed, honorable members on this side of the chamber will take a more lenient view of these additional imposts than would be the case in time of peace.
Looking through the schedules that have been brought down, I find that the most important items affected by way of reductions are: (1) Woollen piece goods; (2) cornflour; and (3) glucose.
In the course of his speech when introducing a schedule last Thursday, the Minister pointed to the fact that that schedule provided for a further 90 reductions of tariff duties. Thus he is adopting a policy consistent with that of his predecessor, in that he is gradually whittling away the protective incidence of the tariff. The previous Minister (Mr. White) on one occasion very elatedly gave the information that approximately 2,000 items and sub-items of the tariff had been reduced since the Lyons Government first assumed office. I deplore the shortsighted policy of the Federal Government, by means of which the protective incidence of the tariff is whittled a.way. It is probable that the Government will find later that it has to review many of the decisions it is now making, and increase the protection afforded. We know that, unfortunately, existing world conditions will militate against a big flood of imports to this country; but that, we sincerely hope, will not last very long, and then many of the industries which to-day can carry on with the protection afforded will be vulnerable to imports from cheaplabour countries.
Schedules Nos. 7 and 9, which are now before us, are connected with the disastrous trade-diversion policy brought down by the present Minister for External Affairs (Sir Henry Gullett) in May, 1936. That trade-diversion policy was partly discarded in 1937, and was finally abandoned in May, 1938.
– It was always mischievous, in my opinion.
– I should like to say quite a lot about it, but probably that would not be wise in the present circumstances. It certainly was a most mischievous policy, which interfered with the relations that existed between Australia and other nations with whom we were at complete peace and amity. The May, 1939, schedule was a reiteration of the May, 1938, schedule, and was rendered necessary because the then Minister for Trade and Customs desired to placate the very persistent honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory), who insisted upon an amendment of the Customs Act to ensure that tariff schedules would be discussed item by item within six months of their being laid on the table of the House. So for some time we have had the experience of a. schedule being brought down containing the whole of the items in the previous schedule, without their being discussed seriatim. This practice has been adopted to overcome the difficulty caused to the Government by the amendment of the honorable member for Swan. That amendment was accepted by the Government because the Ministry was a composite one and had to placate certain gentlemen of the Country party with definite freetrade tendencies. The Government asked Parliament to validate the May, 1938, schedule in order to carry over for a period of twelve months. It then re-introduced the schedule in May, 1939. The proposals contained in Schedule No. 9 amend the proposals in Schedule No. 7 which was introduced on the 4th May, 1939. Schedule No. 8 introduced on the 8th September, 1939, deals with the budget revenue duties, and the excise schedule of the same dateis in a similar category.
When discussing tariff protection we realize that there is interwoven with it the expansion and development of the great secondary industries of Australia, which give employment to approximately 560,000 of our people. Any action taken by the Government in respect of the tariff has very far-reaching effects.’ The establishment of secondary industries in this country has progressed despite the continued hostility to them actively displayed by persons within and without Australia. Down the years, propaganda has been carried on to induce the inferiority complex that Australia cannot manufacture goods as well as they can be manufactured in other countries, but that has gradually been broken down. I was very pleased to play a part in a government which proved conclusively, by giving adequate and effective protection ro Australian industries, that those industries have the necessary engineering and executive ability, and the class of labour, to do the job as economically and efficiently as it can be done in any other part of the world. The progress made by some secondary industries, which at one time were considered backyard industries, is of the nature of a veritable romance of Australian industry. Surveying the past, we realize the stage to which secondary industries had progressed before the outbreak of the last war, and the very much greater part they are now playing in the economics of Australia. This puts Australia in a much better position to meet the shock of the present world war, and to carry on with a minimum of inconvenience, compared with what had to bc suffered in ihe days when we depended very largely on imports from other countries, and were subject to restrictions in relation to shipping space and excessive freights.
Tn 1913, the number of factories was 15,500; in 1914, it was 15,400; and in 1937-38 it was 26,395. The number of persons employed in those factories increased, in respect of males, from 250,000 in 1913 to 408,000 in 1937-38, and in respect of females, from 82,000 in 1913 to 150,000 in 1937-38. The total number of employees increased from 330,000 in 1913 to 559,000 in 1937-38. These figures show clearly the very big part that, is played to-day bv the secondary industries of this country. No one will deny that a country like Australia, which has wonderful natural resources and a climate equal to the best in the world, should be able to carry a larger population than i! now has. . I believe that an increased population, will be carried only if there be steady development of efficiency, economy, and the application of scientific methods, in the conduct side by side of our primary and secondary industries; not by ranging the primary industries against the secondary industries and vice versa, bur by co-operation and an understanding by each of the problems of the other. That is the principle which has actuated the Labour party since the inception of federation.
According to the press, federal departmental experts recently prepared for the Federal Government a report which showed that goods to the value of £31,000,000 which could be manufactured in this country were being imported. If that be the case, evidently there is room for a large expansion of our secondary industries, particularly some of those highly skilled industries which would alford opportunities of employment for bright boys who are leaving school and wish to be apprenticed to a trade but find it impossible to contact accommodating employers who will engage them. This is a problem with which every honorable member is confronted every week-end when he visits his electorate. I should like the Minister to look into tlie matter further, and to request the Tariff Board to make an investigation and report to him U non it. The Metal Trades Employers Association has issued a booklet in which it is pointed out that trade returns show that the imports into Australia of machines and manufactures of metal for the year ended the 30th June, 1938, were of a value of £ A. 19,000,000. The production of much of this is within the existing capacity of Australian manufacturer’s, and it could well be undertaken by firms that are already established and are willing to expand their enterprises in order to cope with additional orders. Recently the Prime Minister stated that we were on the threshold of our national career. He spoke in glowing terms of the progress of our secondary industries. But, undoubtedly, this Government will have to do considerably more to assist our secondary industries it the right honorable gentleman is to see the realization of his dreams. No one can deny that the big impetus to the manufacturing industries of Australia, which caused their expansion and development to a remarkable degree, was due to the activity of the Scullin Government, which laid the foundation for the protectionist policy that is now a notable feature of our national economy. The Scullin Government determined to provide adequate protection, and it, therefore, increased duties sufficiently to enable the whole of the Australian market to be reserved for Australian manufacturers who were com peten t to supply its needs. This insured that our manufactured goods would bo produced under Australian conditions, and that our workmen would receive Australian rates of wages. The platform of the Australian Labour party is clear and definite on this issue. It reads -
Effective tariff protection of Australian Industries, with measures to prevent profiteering and to assure industrial protection to workers.
Import embargoes to assure the home market to Australian industries capable of fully supplying the demand subject to control of prices and of industrial conditions, Australian standard.
– There is onlyone difficulty about a platform; it may bo. used as a scaffold by some industries.
– I do not know what the honorable gentleman means me .to infer from his remark, but I assure him that the Labour party is irrevocably committed to its platform. When it was in office, it did its best to put its platform into effect, and when it is again returned to office, as it will be, it will also follow that course.
– At least our platform is printed, and can bc read by people interested in it!
– That, is so. Certain gentlemen who lead political parties in this Parliament stand on very uncertain fiscal ground. The policies of their parties change from year to year, and week to week. I have a very great respect for the Leader of the Country party (Mr.
Archie Cameron) personally, and I congratulate him upon his elevation to thu responsible office he now holds. He is most outspoken in his convictions and does not hide his light under a busheL While he was a member of the South Australian Parliament, he indicated his tariff views in the following terms: -
Aa a straight-out freetrader, I believe in buying in the cheapest market. It does noi matter to me where the article is made so long as it serves the purpose for what I want it.
The Treasurer of South Australia interjected -
Do you have any regard for the condition)’ of labour that produce the articles which you buy?
The reply to that statement was “ That is not my affair “. Apparently, therefore, the honorable member for Barker is chiefly concerned about buying in the cheapest markets. He does not care anything about Australian wages and standards. Yet this honorable gentleman may become Deputy Prime Minister of the Commonwealth, for it is quite on the cards that a composite government will be formed, and that the Country party may be given almost half of the portfolios in the new government.
– Talking about scaffolds, suggests to me that the honorable member might make that a scaffold to reach the Prime Ministership.
– If the policy which be enunciated while a member of the South Australian Parliament were put into effect, it would have devastating consequences for 560,000 Australians now employed in our secondary industries.
– May I remind the Deputy Leader of the Opposition of the attitude he adopted in respect of Japan and the United States of America when the trade diversion policy was under discussion a year or two ago?
– I have always stood four-square for the adequate protection of Australian industries. If I have erred a t all, it has been on the side of generosity to the Australian industries, and .not t» cheap-labour countries overseas. The Leader of the Country party, on the other hand, has made it clear that he would be prepared to buy in the cheapest possible market, irrespective of the wages and conditions of the workers. I take it that the honorable gentleman has not changed his policy. I have no doubt that the Country party stands behind him, so we can imagine what would be likely to happen if that party should, by any chance, become a dominating influence in Australian politics. The primary producers of Queensland are, at least, mindful of the fact that they enjoy enhanced prices for their commodities because the Australian market is being extended by the development of secondary industries. They know very well that the 560,000 Australians now receiving -award rates and enjoying award conditions in our factories are the best customers that the farmers of this country, and its primary producers generally, can have. They are, therefore, prepared to pay higher rates for dried fruits, sugar, wheat for home consumption, butter, pineapples, bananas, cotton, tobacco and other primary products, because they realize the advantage of our protectionist policy. I am glad that some members of the Country party are solid on protection in respect of tobacco; but, generally, they do not appreciate to the full the value of the home market.
The international situation, the nationalism of certain overseas countries, and our own uncertain future generally, suggest to lis that we shall have to rely more and more in the future upon our home market. We should realize that the problems of one section of the community are inextricably involved with the problems of other sections. Our primary producers should appreciate the importance of consistently supporting our protectionist policy. Only by this means shall our people be able to afford to pay enhanced prices for primary products. Certain members of the Country party are favorable to protection by 300 per cent, or 400 per cent, of a certain primary product, but they are antagonistic to protection for certain secondary industries. If they had more regard for other classes of the community, it would be possible to put a good many of the 180,000 Australians who are now out of work in profitable secondary production. By this means we could supply a considerable proportion of the £31,000,000 worth of goods that we now import from overseas.
The right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) belongs to the same fiscal school as the present Leader of the Country party, and though he recently retired from the office of leader, he doubtless still wields much influence in the party. He suggested that we should tear down “our tariff wall to the 1921-28 level. The honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) and the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) also favour that policy. The members of the Country party are temporarily out of this Government. But we know that for seven years they held important positions in a composite government. The party did not hold any portfolios for three years, but subsequently it held portfolios for another three years. This shows, to my mind, that the difference between the Country party and the United Australia party is the difference between Tweedledum and Tweedledee. The time may not be far distant when the Country party will again be associated with the United Australia party in a composite government. This leads me to urge that all possible steps shall be taken to ensure that there shall be no slackening in the application of our protectionist policy. Otherwise a lack of confidence will develop among secondary industry executives. They may fear a further slashing of the tariff. There must be no truckling with free traders or with the agents of foreign manufacturers. Our first duty is to the Australian people. The Federal Labour party is the only party that knows where it stands on this important question. Fifteen years ago, the then Leader of the Australian Labour party set out clearly in this Parliament the attitude of his party. He said -
The Labour party stands not for what is merely spectacular, but for what is fundamental, important and imperative.. All talk about defence is mere sham if we are not getting down to the real and essential preparations for defence. The Labour party stands for the development of those industries which, whilst fulfilling definite, useful purposes in times of peace, have a necessary part in defence, lt stands for peace-time production methods so planned that the change from peace to war manufacturing can be rapidly effected. Standardization of plants and rollingstock are essential. The nation should not be found wanting in essentials when it has to fight for its life.
That declaration still stands. The Labour party does not favour the making of embarrassing alliances with foreign interests. We know very well, however, that antiLabour governments have compromised the position of this country from time to time, and have not taken the strong stand that they ought to have taken. For example, aeroplanes, should have been manufactured in Australia years ago, but the industry was not encouraged by the Government. The manufacture of motor car engines ought also to have been put in hand here long before the war occurred. The honorable member for Henty (Sir Henry Gullett), who is now Minister for External Affairs and Minister for Information, said years ago that 30,000 employees could be engaged, directly and indirectly, in the manufacture of motor engines in Australia. The honorable gentleman was out of the Ministry for some ‘time. He is back in it again now, but I doubt whether he will do anything to establish the motor manufacturing industry here. .The proposal was resisted mainly in the interests of the American and other overseas manufacturers. The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) was favorable to the proposal, but he is not how a member of the Ministry. It seems to me that the present Minister for Supply and Development (Mr. Casey), who represents Geelong, an important centre for the assembling of Canadian made motor cars, was able to have the whole proposal shelved. Ship-building provides us with another illustration of the failure of anti-Labour governments to give adequate support to Australian industry. When it was decided some time ago to obtain two cruisers for the Autralian Navy, it was proposed that at least one should be built in Australia. Ultimately, however, both vessels were purchased in Great Britain. Mr. Bruce, who was then Prime Minister, said that the British Government had urged that the cruisers should be built in Great Britain. He said the employment position was so acute there that the Government was anxious to do everything possible to relieve it.
– What about our own here?
– Yes, we owe a duty to our own people. Our first responsibility is to the unemployed of this country and to the trained artisans who have been forced through lack of work in many Australian factories to take unskilled work.
– There are plenty of ship-builders out of employment in Australia.
– I believe that the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford), who has had long experience as a representative of an Australian industrial constituency and has had collaboration with ship-builders and artisans, knows that what I say is true, and that the Government has let these people down. Australia, instead of having a flourishing ship-building industry, has practically none at all. This Government is merely playing with the question and it is quite evident that it does not intend to take any action to encourage the industry or to ensure that all vessels necessary for Australian requirements are constructed in Australia.
– The Government refused to help the industry when it was established in South Australia.
– That is so. The Government, through lack of confidence, was not prepared, in the initial stages, to give the industry the necessary bounty and later the required protection, and those behind the industry became disheartened, and so it went to the wall. We find that in order to save a few thousand pounds the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited and the interstate shipping companies and the like, when they need vessels, place orders overseas, notwithstanding the fact that their interests are here, They do so with the connivance of governments of the type that have been in office for the last eight years. Shipbuilding should be one of the largest industries of Australia, but it has been retarded and has gone almost out of existence because of the unsympathetic treatment meted out to it by governments of the type that we have in Australia to-day.
Sir Leopold Saville, who came out from England to advise on a suitable site for a dock, said that the Australian engineers and workmen could hold their own anywhere in the world. Why then, cannot we manufacture our own merchant and war vessels by laying down a long-range plan so as to give continuity of employment? The Tariff Board in its latest annual report said -
The circumstances not only justify but force Australia to expand its secondary industries.
It went on to say that -
It cannot be ignored that importing markets are contracting and probably Will continue to do so, whatever action Australia takes or does not take.
It is not so very long ago that the right honorable member for Cowper, as Minister for Commerce, made an extensive tour around the world in what was characterized as a search for markets for primary products. His mission was a complete failure; in fact, it was money wasted. The honorable member for Henty (Sir Henry Gullett) went on a world tour, boasted of the fact that he had visited twelve countries, and said that his main aim was to get new markets for Australia. But we know that he came back empty-handed. Then we had that very large and expensive delegation that visited Great Britain - the unfriendly trio, the right honorable member for Cowper, the present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White). They went over there, stayed quite a long time and came hack, their trip having been a complete failure. Surely all these things should be sufficient to convince us that we cannot continue to whittle away the secondary industries in the hope of getting a better market overseas. It is reasonable to give the whole of the Australian market to the Australian manufacturers on the condition that they employ Australian workmen at award rates ; because those workmen provide the very best market for the primary .producers.
Now I shall deal with another important item in these tariff schedules, namely, item 392 -2 b which increases the duty on condenser yarns and coconada yarns for the manufacture of towels from free British to 2d. per lb. or 20 per cent, ad valorem. At the present time about 2,000,000 lb. of condenser yarns comes to Australia annually, and there are in this country the necessary equipment and willing workmen to turn out the whole of our requirements. I do not quarrel with this increase; my only hope is that it is hig enough to give the whole of the Australian market to the Australian spinners. There are four towel weavers in Australia, two in Sydney and two in Melbourne. They are capable of manufacturing the whole of the towels required in Australia. There has been a corresponding increase of the duty on imported towels to make up for the increased duties on condenser yarn. There was a 30 per cent, duty on British towels which has been increased to 2id. per lb. and 25 per cent, on white towels and to 2Jd. per lb. and 22£ per cent, on coloured towels. In 1937-38 about £84,000 sterling worth of white towels and £125,000 worth of coloured towels were imported. I am glad to see that there has been an increase of the protection given to the Australian towel manufacturers. I am very interested in the supply to towel manufacturers of the raw materials in the form of yarns made from cotton grown on some 3,600 farms in Queensland. Eighty per cent, of them are in my own electorate, »so I claim some personal knowledge of them. I know that the industry has had its ups and downs. Unfortunately we produce only 12,000 bales of cotton a year, whereas last year Australian spinners required 35,000 bales, and we imported cotton goods to the equivalent of 350,000 bales of raw cotton. This extra duty on condenser yarns will not give the necessary assistance .to the grower to enable him to expand the acreage under cotton. Something more must be done. The Government for some years now has been assisting the industry. It was established in Queensland because of the sympathetic actions of the Labour Government that gave a guarantee price of 5£d. per lb. for raw cotton for three » years as from 1920. Later the industry was placed on a national basis and a bounty was granted by the Commonwealth Government. In 1930 I introduced the cotton bounty legislation providing for a diminishing bounty to be replaced by a protective tariff. There were several subsequent alterations of the tariff and of the assistance given by way of bounty. It was in 1934, I think, that the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) introduced the cotton bounty legislation which will expire in November this year. The cotton-growers have been desirous for some time of knowing what the Government will do when that bounty expires.
– When is the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. John Lawson) to make a pronouncement?
– The Minister said last Friday that he would make a pronouncement this week, but I say to the Minister that there has been too much delay in this matter. It was referred to the Tariff Board on the 13th September, 1938, and the board submitted its report on the 3rd April, 1939. On the 12th of September the Minister said -
A statement will be made at the earliest possible moment.
On Friday he said -
It will be possible to make a pronouncement next week regarding the proposals of the Government with respect to the cotton industry.
I point out to him that the cotton crop is planted in the spring and that the growers must know some time ahead what they can« expect. If the bounty is not reenacted on a more liberal basis or on the present basis, the industry will be more than discouraged.
– The Northern Territory wants to know about it.
– Yes, the industry has strong possibilities in the Northern Territory. I do not desire to see cottongrowing confined to one State.
– The Commonwealth Government has confined the growing of rice to New South Wales.
– Yes, the Leeton-Griffith irrigation area, which is given adequate protection ;and does not depend on a bounty, can supply the whole of the rice requirements of Australia. There is a great possibility of cotton being grown in other States and I should much prefer it, because it would not be members from only one State that would be found taking an interest in cotton. A widening of this great industry would result in greater security and continuity of policy. I feel sure that under the present war conditions, which will probably continue for a considerable time, the cotton industry is more vitally necessary than ever before to Australia. The early history of the industry is interwoven with a story of failures and setbacks. That to some degree has been due to the uncertainty of seasons. I believe that that problem will not be solved until water conservation and irrigation is undertaken in those areas where cotton is grown. The Queensland Government has already taken up that matter. It has, in collaboration with the Queensland Cotton Board, supplied individual irrigation plants to farmers in the cotton areas with a view to increasing the acreage under cotton. The results of experiments tell us a great deal. Whereas the average for Queensland was 300 lb. an acre before irrigation was practised, the average in the irrigation areas is now 1,500 lb. an acre. In California, hundreds of thousands of pounds of cotton are grown annually under irrigation, and the average yield is 1,500 lb. an acre. The Queensland Government has definitely stated that irrigation development will be undertaken in association with the development of the cotton industry. Its projected schemes, which it says are now well under way, will place the cotton industry on a much sounder basis; but of what use will be all these initial steps if the Commonwealth Government fails to re-enact the cotton bounty legislation which expires in November next?
– It is pretty sure to re-enact it.
– I sincerely hope that it will. I base my confidence on the assurance given by the Minister a few months ago that he would not let the Queensland cottongrowers down. There has been so much delay in making a pronouncement in regard to this matter, however, that growers are naturally apprehensive. A couple of months ago a deputation of cotton-growers from the Callide Valley waited on me with a view to enlisting my aid to have some decision arrived at, and I have since received telegrams from the growers in that area asking for some definite pronouncement of the Government’s intentions, because many farmers are ready to put their land under the plough. They say that if they can get an assurance of continuity of the Government’s policy in connexion with the cotton industry, larger areas will be cleared and bigger crops planted, and a livelihood will be provided for many families that to-day are looking for work in the cities of Queensland. It cannot be said that there has been any great prosperity in the industry as the result of the cotton bounty legislation. I have figures before me which show that the net return paid to the cotton-growers for seed cotton during the years 1936-39, was as follows: -
There is no doubt that the Raw Cotton Bounty Act stimulated the production of cotton in Queensland, and during the first years of its operation brought about an increase of the acreage planted by farmers. Unfortunately, however, the industry in Queensland experienced three years of drought. The years 1937 and 1938 were most unfavorable for production, not only of cotton, but also of all other agricultural crops, and as the result the yield obtained by growers during those two years was reduced to such a level that the net return per acre to growers was entirely unremunerative and resulted in the retardation of the industry.. The cotton industry has played a very important part in the rapid and economic settlement of the Callide and Dawson valleys and the Burnett area, which were thrown open for closer settlement fifteen or sixteen years ago. The Monto, Biloela and other cottongrowing districts are well known to many honorable members. “When I visited those districts for the first time fifteen years ago they were scarcely inhabited ; to-day they are dotted with prosperous towns and settlements. To-day there are some 3,000 settlers in each of . those districts - the Callide and Burnett - where formerly only 20 or 30 people were engaged in pastoral pursuits. When the cotton industry was established many settlers in those districts were enabled to get on their feet. Many of them have since engaged in mixed farming. It is very important that the cotton-growing industry should not be allowed to regress, and the Minister should net delay in announcing the Government’s proposals in regard to it. There ar? many other aspects of this question upon which 1 should like to dwell, but I shall reserve my further comments until I hear definitely from the Minister what he intends to do regarding the industry.
With regard to the reductions of duties on textiles, the following telegram was received by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) to-day from Mr. S. Jones, the secretary of the Geelong Textile Workers Union : -
View with alarm tariff reductions on textiles. Geelong textile workers have had IS per cent, unemployment, this year. If present reductions are passed .mein ploy ment in this section will be deplorable.
If the reductions have the disastrous effect predicted by Mr. Jones, it will be a very had thing for Australia at a time when we need to keep every man in a job. Schedule No. 10, introduced on the 14th September last, covers item 105f (1) and (2), which embraces textiles, woollens and worsteds. The manufacture of woollen and worsted goods is one of Australia’s important and valuable secondary industries, and as Australia is the leading wool-growing country in the world, it is logical that every possible encouragement should be given to the manufacture of woollen goods in this country. During 1935-36, the Australian mills purchased approximately 91,083,000 lb. of locally-grown wool, or 10 per cent, of Australia’s total wool clip for that year. There are 87 woollen mills in Australia employing 19,103 persons. The quantity of wool used in Australian mills in 1937-38 was 228,000 bales. The competitive part played by the buyers of wool for Australian mills has resulted in keeping up prices and preventing racketeering by wool-buyers from other countries. In view of the importance of this industry, I stress the advisability of reconsidering these proposed reductions of duties. Australian mills specializing in top-making have the plant to supply the full requirements of Australian spinners not equipped with combing plants. No steps should, therefore, be taken that will permit the dumping of wool-tops on the Australian market. Importations of yarns are increasing and
Australian production has declined. Imports from the United Kingdom in 1935-36 were 219 per cent, above the preceding year’s figures. Imports of blankets and piece-goods have also risen and the Australian production has decreased. This all shows the effect of the whittling away of the protective incidence of the tariff. The view of the general body of worsted manufacturers is that tops can properly be regarded as the raw material of the worsted industry, and duty on tops may, therefore, be regarded as an impost on the industry. The main function of the duty on tops is to ensure that the great bulk of the people are clothed in wool grown in Australia, and so it is actually a duty for the benefit of the pastoral industry. The statistics of the Australian Textile Workers Association show that at no time has it been possible to preserve continuity of employment for its members. This could be achieved only by the preservation of the local market for Australian manufacturers. I remember that when the Scullin Government came into office in 1929, the employees of the woollen mills were only working half-time because of the large importations from abroad. At that time, money was being borrowed in London at the rate of £40,000,000 per annum and was coming into this country in the form of imported goods, which were sold in the local market that could have been supplied by the Australian woollen mills. The Australian manufacturers appealed for and were given protection. Within three months, 8,000 employees in the industry who formerly had been employed on half-time were placed in fulltime employment, and within another six months an additional 3,000 persons were employed, notwithstanding that by that time Australia was wallowing in the depths of the depression, because the bottom had fallen out of prices for our exportable products and the national income of Australia had been halved. At that time, many thousands of persons were out of employment and did not have the money to buy goods, whether manufactured locally or abroad. Notwithstanding the troubled economic conditions that existed in Australia at that time, as the result of the protection afforded by the Scullin Government the
Australian manufacturers were able not only to employ their normal staffs on fulltime work, but also to add considerably to the number of their employees. When the duty was extended to cover lightweight ladies’ dress materials, further employment was provided and a steady expansion of the woollen mills in Australia fallowed. This is not an exotic industry; its raw materials are grown here. I submit that the whole of the Australian market should be reserved for the Australian manufacturers. The very fact that the Textile Workers Union sends a telegram such as that which I have just read shows that the industry is very apprehensive as to the future. I appeal to the Minister to reconsider this whole question, because if he does not do so he will probably find that the further unemployment in this industry anticipated by the secretary of the Geelong Textile Workers Union will follow.
When the committee reaches the discussion of the items, honorable members on this side will have something to say as they think fit. Suffice it for me to say in conclusion that this party stands to-day where it has consistently stood since federation, namely, for an adequate and effective protectionist policy for Australia, for proper control of prices and for award rates and conditions for those engaged in secondary industries. By giving effect to that policy, we believe that we shall be able to play an important part in the development of this country, and do much to have a happy virile population engaged in lucrative employment compared with those engaged in similar industries in the older countries of the world. In that way, we hope to be able to maintain for the primary producers, who are* so often misrepresented in this Parliament by the Country party, the very best market they can obtain, the local market. Honorable members of the Country party should all be protectionists because- they must realize that those they represent depend on the Australian market for enhanced prices for their products. It is of no use to be one-eyed in’ this matter. We must take the Australian view. Some of the primary producers in my electorate were once freetraders because they listened to the spurious propaganda of Country party organizers, but to-day they are wholehearted protectionists. I do not make any apology for standing whole-heartedly for a continuance of the protectionist policy for which this party has stood continuously since federation.
. -I would not have spoken to the general debate but for the fact that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) gave the impression that the Lyons Government had in some way injured secondary industries.
– Well, is not that true?
– No, the Lyons Government did not injure any secondary industries, and I shall quote a few figures which will answer any of the misapprehensions which led the Deputy Leader of the Opposition to say what he did. The honorable member said that there had been too drastic reductions of the tariff by the Lyons Government, but he did not mention that many of the reductions were on raw materials for manufactured goods. At one time reductions were made on some 400 items of machinery and other items of that kind involving capital expenditure. The tariff was revised thoroughly, each item being taken in turn; and where any variation was thought.to be advisable, a Tariff Board inquiry was held and, if necessary, a new rate was recommended. That revision was of immediate benefit to Australian industries, and that benefit was reflected in manufacturing figures. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition claimed that, owing to certain tariff alterations which he made as Minister for Trade and Customs in the Scullin Government, employment was given to thousands more men in factories, and that that improvement was not continued during the administration of the Lyons Government. On the contrary, the fact is that consistently throughout the Lyons regime men went back to work, particularly in factories. According to the figures supplied by the Commonwealth Statistician the number of factory employees in 1932 was nearly 336,000, whereas in 1938 the number was some 559,000. During that period of six years the greatest industrial advance in Australian history was made, which fact may be checked with any statistics available. There has been no greater expansion in our secondary industries than that which took place during the regime of the Lyons Government. It is true that when the Labour party assumed office in 1929, this country and other countries of the world were struck by an economic blizzard, but Labour’s method of helping industry was so crude and haphazard that its efforts resulted in the drying up of the very revenue of the country. The fact that a tariff has to fulfil a triple purpose was forgotten. It has first to rectify any adverse trade balance, but Labour’s tariff policy was so ill-advised that, instead of rectifying the trade balance, there was an insufficient importation of goods to provide the revenue the country needed. Customs revenue supplies approximately threefourths of the total Commonwealth revenue. Secondly, a tariff has to assist in the expansion of industry in a young country. As I have shown, during the régime of the Lyons Government, a sound tariff policy, involving a careful industrial survey and the prudent use of customs duties, did consistently help the people back into employment. Thirdly, a tariff has to provide revenue, otherwise social service and government commitments could not be serviced. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition claims that the tariff policy of the Scullin Government was the foundation of Australia’s protectionist policy, but nothing could be more historically inaccurate than that statement. The State of Victoria used tariff protection for many decades, and the Commonwealth policy itself has been one of protection since the inception of federation. As I have said, through not adopting a sound tariff policy, but merely putting on duties more or less with a spade, the Scullin Government produced results which were adverse rather than beneficial. Australia must be a protectionist country. The most ardent freetrader will admit that a new country must protect its industries. Even the high priest of freetrade, John Stuart Mill, admitted that. The freetrader in Australia is almost extinct, but he occasionally comes to light at election time or occasionally in broadcasts. We all know that our economy cannot carry on under a system of freetrade. Our customs tariff is in the nature of a differential or gear that separates us or protects us from the standards of living and industrial conditions of other countries. For example, if we departed completely from a policy of protection, our industries could not survive against competition from countries such as Japan in which labour is much cheaper. On the other hand, if duties were excessively high and a prohibitive tariff such as that introduced by the Labour regime were introduced there would be a huge loss of revenue and unemployment would become greater and greater. By means of a careful tariff survey it is possible to bring about more and more industrialization, in which Australia’s destiny lies. We have to march steadily on to considerably greater industrialization than we have at the present time. During the six-year period which I have mentioned, approximately 4,000 new factories were started, giving widespread employment, a consequent greater impulse to spending, and an element of prosperity throughout the nation. Our hope for the future lies in such a policy. We have not yet reached anything like the industrialization which exists in Great Britain or Germany, but we must proceed carefully. My belief has always been that industry is our second line of defence and I think we would be found very much wanting had our industries not reached their present high standard of efficiency. For instance, the iron and steel industry has grown so rapidly that we are in a position to export our steel products to the Mother Country which is bearing the brunt of the war while we are not doing anything comparable to what our brothers in Great Britain are doing at the present time. [Quorum formed.’] Tariff and industry have a particular significance to-day because, as I have said, our industrial strength is our second line of defence. That is something that must always be borne in mind. We must go on to greater industrial strength because only by such expansion will we be able to make om tenure of this continent secure, and bring about the immigration which we need.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition spoke of the cotton industry which, of course, is almost entirely confined to his own electorate. He must be aware that the first steps to put the cotton industry on a solid foundation were taken by the Lyons Government in 1934 by the introduction of the Cotton Bounty Bill. Prior to that, bounties were paid on the manufacture of yarns and on seed cotton, and as there was very little manufacture of cotton goods within Australia, the bounty on yarns practically amounted to exporting money from Australia. The Lyons Government imposed a duty on certain cotton goods such as dungarees, drills, and denims, thus giving Australian cotton goods a market in this country. Under this scheme, which also gave them Australian cotton at Liverpool prices, Australian manufacturers were able to use much larger quantities. I agree with the Deputy Leader of the Opposition that there is great scope for the cotton-growing industry in Australia. It is one of the few primary industries that can go on to greater and greater expansion, but side by side with that expansion has to march continued support on the secondary side. Had it not been for the duty placed on imported cotton goods by the Lyons Government the Australian cotton-growing industry would not be in the healthy position in which it is to-day. That, I think, answers any criticism which the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has made. I agree with him that the Government should make an early pronouncement of whether or not the policy of the Lyons Government is to be continued.
While I was Minister for Trade and Customs 1 had an inquiry made by the Tariff Board into the Australian shipbuilding industry because I think that it is an industry which should be considerably expanded. A large scale industry of that kind can give considerable employment, but it must be handled carefully. We must not be too ambitious a bo1! I. it, but we can certainly do more fina we have been doing in the past. During the last war ships .of up to 8,000 tons were built in Australia. I have seen some of these ships in various parts of the world since, and they are a credit to Australian workmanship. The report made by the Tariff Board on this industry was not very favorable and I ordered a departmental inquiry to be held in order to obtain further information. As the result of that inquiry the Government announced that a bounty was to be paid on ships up to .1,500 tons, but I do not think that is sufficient. It would be better to pay a bounty on the first 1,500 tons of ships of any tonnage, and then there would be scope for the construction of ships of a much greater size. Already 33 ships of the British mercantile marine have been lost in the present war, and it is evident that as the war proceeds fewer and fewer ships will be in a position to trade to our shores. This is sufficient reason alone why the shipbuilding industry in this country should be encouraged. Undoubtedly the objective of hostile aircraft will be not only military areas and centres of civil population as they were in Poland, but also the docks and shipyards of the United Kingdom. lt is well known how near to complete success submarine warfare came during the last war. it is true that to-day there are new and more effective methods of coping with hostile submarines, such as the detector system, but submarine warfare will be substituted largely by aerial attacks, lt is essential, therefore, that Australia should build its own ships, and to this end assistance much great.2.: than that which is already proposed by the Government must be given.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition said that the Government had not encouraged the construction of aircraft, but I point out that it was the encouragement given by the Lyons Government that enabled the formation of the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation. But for the encouragement of the Government which invited them to set their corporation working, and which gave them the initial orders, there would be no manufacture of aeroplanes in Australia to-day. It was the fact that Australia was in a position to supply aircraft that induced the British Air Mission to visit the country, on suggestions put forward by me when I was in England last year.
There has been much criticism of the proposal of the Lyons Government to establish a motor car manufacturing industry in Australia, but I believe that the industry will yet be established. I have always been an enthusiast, and 1 hope that the present Government will also be enthusiastic. I admit, however, that there was little enthusiasm among manufacturers in Great Britain over the idea. I talked with many of them when in England, and they mostly felt that the Australian market was not large enough to justify them in undertaking the expense of setting up factories here. Others recognized that there would be opposition from foreign countries, and they did not feel like taking the risk. When 1 was a member of the Government, an invitation was issued to prospective manufacturers to submit propositions by the 31st March last for the manufacture of cars under a bounty system. I believe that some offers were received, and I hope that the Government will look into the matter again in the light of the new circumstances that have arisen and new proposals arising. Most of the component parts of the motor car are already made here, and it is but a short step, though an important one, to make the chassis, which represents only a fraction of the total cost of a car.
I feel that it is necessary to refute, the criticism of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, or it might be thought that the Lyons Government was not sympathetic towards the secondary industries, when the fact is that it afforded those industries greater assistance than did any previous government. The honorable -member also criticized the last trade mission to the United Kingdom, saying that it was wasteful and unproductive. That was unjust. He should know, if he read the White Paper, that the negotiations resulted in the retention of the preferences which Australia enjoyed under the Ottawa Agreement. Had it not been for the vision of Alfred Deakin, who instituted the system of preferential treatment for British trade we should not now be in as favorable a position as we are. But for our good record in this regard, the British Government would not now be purchasing Australian sugar, wool, and wheat in huge quantities. The only lapse over the years was when the Labour Government, by the imposition of extravagantly high duties, and total prohibition in many cases, nullified the effect of preference. There must be fair trade, and not free trade; protection, and not prohibition. The British representatives, with whom the trade mission discussed these matters, were Lancashire men, and doughty negotiators. They still believe that Great Britain is the workshop of the world, and that the dominions should not be industrial rivals; yet from them we obtained a declaration that Australia’s secondary industries were essential to its development, a declaration not written into any previous agreement. We also obtained a clarification of the contentious Article 10 of the Ottawa Agreement, and a new ruling that, though a rate of duty recommended by the Tariff Board must be submitted to Parliament, its rejection by Parliament would not constitute a breach of the agreement. No Australian government would dare to go back on the policy of protection. If this Government attempted to do so, it would be attacked, not only by the Opposition, but also by those honorable members on this side of the House, of whom I am one, who support our secondary industries. However, we must have prudent protection, not the unbridled methods of the Labour government. It is impossible to stimulate prosperity by drying up trade altogether. I believe that the Country party has, in a large degree, turned towards the policy of protection. From being protectionists only in regard to the primary industries, most members of the Country party now recognize that the tariff which helps . them should also assist the secondary industries. If Labour representatives would study statistics, they would have to admit that the tariff should be used with prudence; that there should be a careful study of each industry in order to determine those that are worth while. Those industries should then be pushed ahead, while, at the same time, steps should be taken to prevent profiteering. If that is done, Australia will go on to greater economic and industrial strength, and in that lies our hope for the future. If we do not develop and people our country, we have no right to it, and we might lose it even during the currency of this war.
.- I find myself in agreement, to some extent, with what the honorable member for Bala clava (Mr. White) said with regard to the protection of Australian secondary industry. I do not, however, agree with his criticism of the tariff policy of the Scullin Government, as implemented by the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde), when he was Minister for Trade and Customs. No one knows better than does the honorable member for Balaclava that high tariffs and prohibitions were imposed by the Scullin Government in ‘order to correct Australia’s adverse overseas trade balance.
– I said that.
– The honorable member said it very reluctantly, and he sought to give the impression that the policy of the Scullin Government was so extravagant that it had to be corrected by the Government in which he was Minister for Trade and Customs, and that it was this correction which brought about the prosperity of Australia’s secondary industries. That is not true. The Soullin Government had to prohibit the importation of luxury lines in order to correct the trade balance. With the latter part of the honorable member’s remarks regarding the protection of Australian industries, I find myself in agreement, and it. seems to me that he is on the wrong side of the House. He should not be associating with those who believe that freetrade or low protection is the proper policy for Australia. Most people admit that there should be greater industrial expansion. Our industries ore, as the honorable member pointed out, our second line of defence.
Since this tariff schedule was tabled, I have had a telephone conversation with the manager of one of the largest woollen mills in Australia, and he is very perturbed over the reduction of the duty on woollen goods.. His factory employs 1.200 persons, and is the second or third largest of its kind in the Commonwealth. I have not been supplied with figures to support his statement, but I have- been assured that the reduction of the duties will have a serious effect on the industry in Launceston. There has not been time since the tabling of the schedule to prepare data, but I have been told that this firm will be ready in a very short while to submit evidence in support of its contention. I think that the authorities should hear further evidence on the matter in view of the statement that the reduced duties are likely to bring serious injury to the industry. If the Government is not prepared to reconsider this particular item, with a view to allowing the old tariff to continue, and evidence can be produced to show that the industry will be very seriously prejudiced and that men and women will be thrown out of employment as the result of the reduction, I suggest to the Minister (Mr. John Lawson) that he should agree to have the matter referred back to the Tariff Board for further inquiry and report’. Naturally, in view of the statements that have been made to me, I am gravely concerned regarding the possible effects. I know what the industry means to Launceston, where there are several factories employing a considerable number of hands. It is a more or less luxury fine wool which is used for the making of jumpers and the like, and the reduction of the duty will encourage the purchase of the imported article. Something should be done to keep in employment those who have been working at high pressure so that the Australian mar kef might be supplied. When the difference between the locallyproduced and the imported article is only Id. or 2d. a skein, purchasers ask for the imported. If we could induce our people to be loyal to our own industries, even if the prices were equal, much of this difficulty would be overcome, and there might not be the same need for a protective tariff.
.- This tariff schedule is so important that it is necessary to make a few comments concerning it, and to remind the committee that the fiscal policy of Australia is the adequate protection of its secondary industries. 1 believe that the desire to amplify that policy is apparent in all parts of Australia, particularly among the younger generation. We have ample supplies of raw materials of all kinds, but our development is dependent upon the expansion of our secondary industries. A very striking illustration of the beneficial effects of the expansion of secondary industries lies in the fact that in the present crisis Australia is being made more self-contained, and an extensive market is being provided at enhanced prices for primary products. A further rise of world prices would accelerate the development of our secondary industries. There are many industries which, despite opposition to their establishment, have been able to make substantial progress. I need refer only to the romance associated with the progress of the Newcastle steel industry, which to-day not only is meeting the requirements of Australia, but also is exporting its commodities. We must remember that Australia has to compete with lower wage standards and lower standards of living abroad. Nor must it be forgotten that our manufacturing industries are providing employment for over 550,000 persons, and that the number is increasing every year. Statistics show that during the last 25 years the secondary industries of Australia not only have largely expanded their production, but also have increased the volume of their employment by over 50 per cent. Although the primary industries have largely increased their production, employment in them has remained stationary, due to the introduction of scientific farming methods and the advances that have been made in connexion with labour-saving appliances! We all desire to see our primary industries expand and flourish - primaries and secondaries help each other. We particularly want employment and population. So from both these points of view, it is essential to give all support possible to our secondary industries. In recent times there has been considerable complaint in regard to the delay that has occurred in the making of inquiries and the presentation of reports by the Tariff Board. I urge the Minister to see that those inquiries and reports are expedited. We should hesitate before interfering unduly with the protection of sound secondary industries, because they are essential to the progress and prosperity of Australia.
– I regret that again there is occasion to protest against the lowering of the tariff. Such a policy is not in the interests of the people of Australia. In discussing the tariff we discuss what may rightly be described as Australia’s future, because undoubtedly that future will be largely moulded according to the action taken by the Government in relation to tariff matters. The honorable member for Watson (Mr. Jennings) has referred to the large number of persons employed in secondary industries. Those industries use annually raw materials to a value of £287,000,0000, and the value of their output is £500,000,000 per annum. That is something which is needed and should be encouraged in a country like Australia. When we find the Government bringing down items which have the effect of gradually whittling down the policy of the Scullin Government, which really established many secondary industries on a prosperous basis, I think it will be agreed that there is some cause for concern. I admit that in some instances, after investigation, the Government has increased the tariff, and that in consequence certain manufactures have been stimulated. But, on the other hand, it has reduced tariffs on a large number of items and the Government is apparently applying a policy the inevitable effect of which will be to make it very difficult for employers to function at what they consider a reasonable profit, and that must have a disadvantageous repercussion on he workers. When tariffs are whittled down, many employers do not seek to lower their costs entirely by the application of scientific methods, but endeavour to employ as much juvenile labour as possible. I could mention instances in which the percentage of juvenile labour is so great as to make us ashamed. I have been approached in my electorate by numbers of young people seeking employment in the munitions factories. They tell me that the reason they are out of employment is that they were working in a competitive industry and were dismissed when they had reached the age of nineteen and twenty years and had to receive reasonable wages. That is a wrong principle. This position is due partly if not wholly to the fact that the Government is gradually whittling down tariffs. The employer does more than seek to engage juvenile labour; he rushes to an arbitration tribunal, and attempts to prove that he cannot operate at what he considers a reasonable profit, because the tariff does not give him sufficient protection; and the court is disinclined to raise wages, or it may even consider the reduction of wages or the worsening of conditions. That is an effect which we should all try to avoid. It would be possible, I believe,, under a scientific tariff policy, to make the conditions such’ that wages would be good and the profits- if we continue to operate under the profit system - would be reasonable for those who are engaged in industrial enterprises. That should commend itself to Government members as well as to those* who sit on this side of the chamber. But that is not taking place. The present schedule continues the policy operated by the previous Government, of whittling down the tariff. I say that with all due respect to the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White). It has been admitted, I believe, that more than 1,000 items and sub-items of the Scullin tariff have been reduced since that Government left office. Surely these facts should suggest to the Minister the desirableness of reconsidering further proposed reductions. The schedules- now before us do not indicate that this Government is reversing the unsatisfactory policy of the previous Government, yet if this policy is continued much further, disastrous results will occur to Australia.
It cannot be denied that obstacles have been placed in the way of the complete development of many of our manufacturing industries. Successive anti-Labour governments have declared that they desire to assist. in the development of secondary industries in Australia, but the net result of the tariff schedules introduced during the last five years is that development has been retarded. I do not deny that, there has been an increase of the number of persons employed in our factories, but a good deal of the new labour consists of females and juveniles. We should be employing adult male labour to the fullest possible degree. The situation is not proved to be satisfactory merely because there has been an increase of the aggregate number of persons employed, because we must not overlook the fact that there has been in the same period an increase of population. We must also have regard to the class of labour engaged. More female labour is employed now in factories, proportionately, than when the Scullin Government was in office.
The Metal Trades Employers Association has published a valuable little booklet in which it is pointed out that importations of machinery into Australia for the year ended the 30th June, 1938, were entered at £19,000,000. This is a very large amount of money. If the importation of such machinery could he made unnecessary by the establishment of certain industries in this country, it would be all to the good. It is stated in that booklet that the manufacture of many of the machines imported is well within the capacity of Australian factories. That being so, the Government should give close attention to this subject. As I believe that the Minister for Trade and Customs desires to foster and develop Australian industries, I commend this booklet to his attention. In existing circumstances, I do not see that Great Britain can expect us to continue to fulfil certain obligations of the Ottawa Agreement, for conditions have entirely changed since that agreement was ratified. The Prime Minister has indicated that the war is likely to last for a long time. It is therefore reasonable to ask for a quick revision of our trade policy with the object of stimulating the manufacturing industries of this country. Many items previously imported could and should, from now onwards, be manufactured here. We should make ourselves self-contained as far ‘ as possible. No one will argue that this is undesirable. Trade obligations entered into years ago should be reviewed in the light of the changed conditions. I hope that certain articles of the Ottawa Agreement will he reviewed. In view of the prognostications of the Government in relation to the war, our whole trade position should be re-examined. The Prime Minister, in a recent broadcast speech, said that we were on the threshhold of our national career and that events were about to occur which would test the stamina of the Australian nation. In these circumstances, the important problems to which I aim referring should be under the continuous notice of the Government and there should be no delay in providing adequate protection for Australian industries in the interests not only of the rank and file of the workers but also of the entrepreneurs of industry and of the nation as a whole, in order that we may develop our manufacturing industries in a way commensurate with our needs.
The Government should do a great deal more than it is doing to foster our secondary industries.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) in the excellent speech which he has just delivered, which was full of information that must be of benefit to all honorable members, cited certain comments made by the present Leader of the Country party (Mr. Archie Cameron) when he was a member of the South Australian Parliament, that wages and working conditions were not his affair, and that he intended to buy in the cheapest market. I do not know whether the honorable gentleman was expressing the opinion of his party. I should like to think that the members of the Country party, as a whole, are interested in the provision of good wages and working conditions.
– We certainly are.
– Then I hope the honorable member will take an opportunity to make that clear, for the statement of his leader, to which I have just referred, indicates the reverse to be the case. If that honorable gentleman has changed his views on the subject, he should say so. Surely, in a Parliament such as this is, the Country party should be interested in the development of markets and should realize that the provision of good working conditions and the payment of good wages to increase the purchasing powers of the workers and providing employment for them are necessary in order to develop a sound home market. The day has long passed when Australia should rely on importing its requirements. We must become more self-contained. To-day we are obliged to sell our primary products in bulk because of war conditions. If we had a sound policy in operation for the development of secondary industries and the expansion of our home consumption, our circumstances would be greatly improved. I hope that our secondary industries will be developed and that they will be decentralized. I have a strong objection to the centralization of industries. Although our munitions manufacturing industries are concentrated, to a large extent, in my own electorate, I think the Government would have acted more wisely had it encouraged the distribution of industries in various towns so that a substantial local market could be developed for primary products. This would eliminate heavy transportation costs and would ensure primary producers of better returns. The Labour party is favorable to the decentralization of industries. I therefore think that the Country party could well reciprocate by declaring that it stands for the payment of good wages and the provision of good working conditions.
-We do stand for that.
– Certain members of the Country party say that they do, but their actions in regard to the tariff prove otherwise. The Country party has always endeavoured to keep tariffs down to the lowest possible figure. This is not in the best interests of the community. Possibly we shall always have to import some of our manufactured goods, but there is no reason why we should not exert every effort to provide other items that we can manufacture in this country. Our tariff schedules should be revised to meet presentday conditions.
Unfortunately certain powerful interests overseas seem able to exert an influence upon Government policy in this country. I refer particularly to certain British manufacturing interests which are always active when negotiations are occurring in respect of trade agreements. For this reason, I urge that the closest regard should be paid to any proposed reductions of the tariff. It is a matter for very great regret that the articles of the Ottawa Agreement to which I have already referred have not been repealed, for as long as they remain in force the progress of our secondary industries will be retarded and perhaps jeopardized. In these days, British manufacturers are not likely to be so much concerned about the retention of their overseas trade as they were at the time the Ottawa Agreement was ratified, for undoubtedly they will be very busy at present and possibly for some time to come in the manufacture of armaments and munitions. This factor alone should cause the Government to reconsider its trade policy.
I realize that any government must, in these days, havea man-sized job in pro viding for the defence of the country, but that is no reason why effective steps should not be taken to protect our trade and develop our industries. The Labour party has promised its support to the Government in measures necessary for the effective prosecution of the war, and that promise has been accepted. That being so, I suggest that the Minister for Trade and. Customs should pay more attention than usual to the constructive criticism that is now being offered of the Government’s tariff policy. In view of the policy of economic nationalism which is being applied relentlessly by certain countries overseas, we should give far more consideration than we are doing to making Australia self-contained.
I direct attention, particularly, to the desirableness of encouraging the shipbuilding industry of Australia. While the Deputy Leader of the Opposition was speaking on this subject I interjected that much more could be done than is being done. More men could be employed in this industry. The secretary of the Shipwrights Union resides in my electorate, and I have discussed with him the circumstances of this industry. The Government has been guilty of a serious blunder in not finding permanent work in their own calling for the shipwrights and others who were brought to Australia when our own line of steamers was constructed. These capable men . are anxious to engage in ship-building operations, and it is regrettable that, in consequence of government policy, they are deprived of the opportunity to do so. The recommendation of the Tariff Board that tariff provisions relating to vessels exceeding 500 tons should be revised to apply to vessels of smaller tonnage suggests that the board considers that Australia is incapable of building larger vessels. I entirely disagree with that view. We have thoroughly experienced artisans in Australia who are capable of building first-class vessels. Seeing that the submarine menace is so serious, and that a considerable tonnage of British shipping is being lost owing to submarine attack, it should be obvious that we should be doing our utmost to replace the vessels that have been sunk. This industry, which should be encouragedby means of bounties or otherwise, should be scientifically organized in order to ensure that lost tonnage shall be replaced at the earliest possible moment, in the interests of the nation.
On the general question of the building of cruisers I am firmly of the opinion that our ship-builders are capable of doing all that is necessary. The cost, of cruisers built here might be somewhat higher than the cost of similar vessels built in Great Britain, but in a country with a long coastline, such as Australia has, cost should not be the determining factor. Work of this kind should be done for defence purposes. While we may not be able to build the largest battleships we could certainly build vessels suitable for the adequate protection of our own coasts.
Items relating to the woollen industry appear on the schedule, and will be discussed at a later stage. I take this opportunity, however, to bring under the notice of the Government an urgent telegram that I have received from one of my constituents. It reads -
Proposed tariff reductions would seriously affect woollen industry urge restoration of former duties.
Stanley, Managing. Director,
Port Phillip Woollen Mills Pty. Ltd.,
I have no doubt that the managements of other mills feel the same way about it. They are alarmed at the prospect. With the managers of one or two mills in my electorate I have discussed the difficulties with which they have to contend. If there are any reductions of tariff on woollen goods the Australian woollen industry will not be able to operate properly. It will be forced to go on with the mistaken policy of employing juvenile workers, who, when they have reached the age at which they are ready to marry and establish a home, are put off to become a drug on the market. I emphasize that urgent telegram. I believe that similar telegrams have been received by other honorable members; that shows widespread dissatisfaction. I. support the suggestion made by the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) that this matter should be referred back to the Tariff Board and that, meanwhile, the duties should be restored to theirprevious level. Apart fromparty politics, I feel sure that the Minister and many honorable members behind him are concerned at the prospect of people being thrust out of employment. If the Government yields to the forces that are pushing it in the direction of reducing the tariff on woollen goods, it will do something which will eventually be disastrous to Australia. If this matter were referred back to the Tariff Board and meanwhile the duties were restored, the anxiety that prevails among honorable members and in the industry would be lifted ; it would make for better feeling, too. My leader has satisfactorily put the case from the point of view of my party, and I do not intend to elaborate on what he said, but events which have happened in the last quarter of a century prove that the policy of reducing tariffs is very much to our disadvantage. This type of government, in regard to tariff matters in the past, has a most unfortunate record. It has reduced the Scullin Government’s tariff in a way which re-acts to the disadvantage of the workers and of some people engaged in enterprise. We do not want that to go on. I am firmly of the opinion that the policy contained in the Ottawa Agreement was forced on the Government by the pressure of powerful overseas interests. The present Minister for Trade and Customs and the former Minister (Mr. White), whom I am glad to see in the chamber, would not for one moment, I should say, wish to retard the progress which this country is making. But they would do much more to advance it. We have madeprogress in this country, but not the progress that we should have made had the Scullin tariff remained in its entirety. If that had been so, unemployment would be less than it is. Many of the 200,000 unemployed could be absorbed if secondary industries were given proper protection. We hope that the Minister will reconsider this whittling away of the tariff. If he stopped it, I should feel satisfied that the Government is j us t as concerned with the unemployment problem as are we on this side of the House. This discussion should not be a heated argument with widespread differences of opinion, but one in which all parties, even including the Country party, could get together to assist to place Australian industries and the markets which those employed in them provide on a permanently satisfactory basis.
Mr. BLAIN (Northern Territory) 1 5.35]. - 1 support what was said by lie honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) about the development of the Queensland cotton industry, but before dealing with the No. 1 economic problem of Australia, Northern Australia, I declare that I do not support protection being given to manufacturers of cotton goods in Australia unless they agree to distribute their activities throughout the Commonwealth at the sources of the raw material. We are all familiar with the fact that two years ago, when some cotton manufacturers were “ lobbying “ here, they were distressed about the prospect that they would not receive the support of honorable members from Queensland. It seemed almost that, in order to enlist that support, they would have to erect a spinning mill up there. It is pretty hard that members of this Parliament should have to descend to bargaining, or what amounts to political blackmail, to compel decentralization of industry in Australia. Those manufacturers said to me - jocularly, I admit - “ We had better put a mill in Queensland “. Nevertheless, as members of the Commonwealth Parliament, we should consider the position seriously and ensure that protection should be accompanied by either voluntary or forced distribution of manufacturing activities.
I put that suggestion to the House deliberately for this reason : We all realize that the Far North is the No. 1 economic problem of Australia, and that Queensland, as it were, is the “ half-way house “ ro the Northern Territory. Whilst I support the endeavour by the honorable member for Capricornia on behalf of the cotton-growers in Queensland, I am supporting to a greater degree the people in that area which is even further north, the Northern Territory, where there are millions of acres suitable for cottongrowing. I direct the attention of all honorable gentlemen to this outlook, because we must realize that when we sent the Kanaka back to his Pacific island it was our duty to apply a policy which would make it possible for white men to take their wives and families into the northern areas to engage in economic activity. I shall not reiterate what I have said before on this subject, but the northern areas have a limited diversity of crops which it is economic to grow. Cotton is one product that is suitable, and we have the market in Australia waiting for as.
It would seem, therefore, that in fostering the cotton industry in the north we m4ist start from ‘basic principles and ensure that every Minister who controls the Northern Territory has the advantage of the advice of men competent in tropical agriculture similar to the officers with which the Minister for Agriculture in Queensland has surrounded himself. The present subject, concerns two Commonwealth Ministers, the Minister for the Interior and the Minister for Trade and Customs, and it is for them to see that in any plans that are laid down they shall have the advice of tropical experts. The policy of. the Department of the Interior is not concerned greatly with agricultural pursuits in the Northern Territory in spite of the fact that the rivers there make great areas suitable for those pursuits. The Northern Territory is looked upon as a cattle area, and the interests that control cattle-raising in the Northern Territory foster the idea that the land is useless for anything else. I disagree entirely with that point of view, and later I propose to read some correspondence that I have had lately with the Minister for the’ Interior in relation to two agricultural pursuits which some of my agricultural constituents in the Katherine River district wish to undertake. I have been asked by one of them to make representations to the Government immediately so that he will know just what his position is. He has not been able to get the necessary information from the field officer. I do not wish to do that officer an injustice, because in his own sphere as an officer of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, he is a brilliant person; but he is by no means a tropical expert and has started at a disadvantage. As the result of his lack of knowledge of tropical things, I have had to make inquiries in Sydney on behalf of people who are endeavouring to obtain peanut seed from South Africa, and who are not sure whether they will be allowed to do so. These people also want to know what their position is. in relation to cotton before the next growing season commences. This part of a letter which I wrote to the Minister for the Interior illustrates the position -
There seems to be a further hold-up now to Mr. Bruce’s farming activities, as he was informed by the Superintendent of Agriculture that it would be necessary to obtain his (the superintendent’s) permission to grow cotton, as he (the superintendent) thought there were quarantine regulations. No reply, in confirmation, has yet been received.
I am still endeavouring to get complete information. The Director-General of Health, Dr. Cumpston, to-day gave me an assurance that peanut seed could he imported from South Africa for the growing of peanuts, and that if the seed were fumigated cotton seed and lint could be brought from the Northern Territory to Queensland and the other States for treatment. I feel that the Minister himself should have the assistance of field officers who can give him this information at a moment’s notice, rather than have me dilly-dallying for three months seeking information. The position now is that the growers have taken the bit in their teeth. About a month ago they ordered seed from the Queensland Cotton Board, and it is now on the boat.
The Minister for Trade and Customs should be in a position to indicate what the Government intends to do when the cotton bounty ceases in November ; he, however, is keeping that information to himself. Serious as this matter is to the honorable member for Capricornia and his constituents, it is more serious to my constituents, because the cotton-growers in Queensland have other activities in which they can engage, whereas there is a limited diversity of crops in the far north. I mention these facts so that we may get some policy whereby the north could carry out agricultural activity as well as beef production. I’ ask for an assurance from the Minister that doubt as to whether people in the Northern Territory are to he encouraged to engage in peanut or cotton growing shall be removed immediately, so that they will not be subject to any delay or uncertainty when the season starts two months hence.
– I rise to protest against this proposed reduction of duties on woollen piece goods. I am not one of those who believe that we should impose exorbitant duties for the protection of backyard industries; but I do believe that great industries, such as the wool and steel industries, should be afforded adequate protection. Any great industry that employs a large number of men and obtains the greater part of its requirements of raw material from the local market should be assisted in every way. The wool industry has been Australia’s major industry for very many years.We all know that during the last ten years on at least three occasions there would have been a very serious decline of wool prices but for the fact that our own local mills supported the Australian market very strongly when Bradford buyers were not operating. The Australian woollen mills employed over 16,000 persons in 1932 and in 1935-36, the peak year, gave employment to 19,600 persons. Since then the number of persons engaged in the industry has been reduced by 590, and the output of woollen manufactures has diminished. In 1937-38, the production of woollen piece goods dropped by 1,700,000 yards compared with the preceding year, and in addition 65,000 fewer pairs of blankets and 61,000 fewer rugs and shawls were manufactured. What would be our position if, during this time of war, we did not have our great Australian woollen mills to supply our requirements of uniforms, blankets, overcoats and many other articles necessary for our armed forces? The woollen industry is of such paramount importance that we should be prepared to do our utmost to see that nothing is done to jeopardize it. I urge the Government to abandon the proposal for the reduction of the duties under this item, or, failing that, to refer the matter back to the Tariff Board for inquiry and report. During the last ten years, the Australian woollen mills have used annually on the average 81,000,000 lb. of wool. It will be seen, therefore, what a great asset they are to the pastoral industry. In 1936-37, the number of employees engaged in the woollen and clothing trades was 44,785, and the wages bill was over £5,000,000. In considering any variation of the duties on woollen piece goods, the effect of the decision on a large number of people should be given very careful consideration. Some members of the Labour party, even the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford), see fit to cast a slur on the Country party by saying that it is nol interested in” seeing that the workmen oi’ Australia enjoy decent wages and conditions; but immediately a small measure of protection is sought to be extended to primary industries there is a howl from all the members of the Labour party who-
– That is not true.
– Who take every opportunity to slight the Country party. The honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane) also takes a delight in indulging in that practice.
– That is untrue and unfair.
– Honorable members opposite object very strongly to any proposal for the protection of. the dairying industry.
– That is not true.
– They adopt the same attitude in connexion with proposals for assistance to the wheat industry, which has had such a great struggle to exist recently because of low prices.
– A Labour government was the first government to give assistance to the wheat industry.
– That is so; but the members of the Labour party seem to take a delight in sneering at the wheat industry because it has received some small measure of the protection afforded to secondary industries. The Country party is just as anxious as other parties in this . Parliament to maintain Australian standards and conditions. Although I am opposed to any proposal for the protection of monopolies or backyard industries in Australia, I give my unqualified support to any proposal designed to assist those industries which employ a large number of people and absorb large quantities of our primary products as their raw materials.
.- On the 18th August last, I wrote to the Minister for Trade an,d Customs (Mr. John Lawson) suggesting that, as an amended tariff schedule was being brought down, the time was opportune for the correction of a small anomaly arising out of an interpretation given by the department in respect of motor tricycle delivery vehicles. In European countries three-wheeled motor vehicles are used extensively. Vehicles of this type have the advantages of being very cheap and safe to operate. Their importation into Australia has been made impracticable, however, because of an interpretation on the part of the Trade and Customs Department which, I have no doubt, was a proper one under the form of the item as it then existed, but which, nevertheless, needs correction. The department ruled that these tricycle delivery vehicles should be classed under the heading “ Bicycles and Tricycles “. The claim was that they should he classed under the heading “ Motor Cycles “. I think it is quite clear that the item “Bicycles and Tricycles” was intended to refer to push cycles that are not driven by an engine. It is clear, I think, that the classification “ motor cycles “ should include any cycle which is motorized whether it runs on two or three wheels. I should not have thought that there would be much doubt about the desirability of making the alteration, but not having heard from the Minister, I have been rather disappointed at not finding the amendment in the schedule which he has brought down. I mention the matter at this stage in the hope that he may find time to explain why the desired alteration was not made.
.- Representations have been made for the assistance of the shipbuilding industry. As honorable members all know, that industry is a most important one, especially a& an adjunct to another growing industry in Australia, namely, the fishing industry. I urge upon the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. John Lawson) the desirability of affording adequate protection to the shipbuilding industry in order to encourage the construction of a fleet of trawlers which can be used in time of war, not only for fishing purposes, but also, as is the case in Great Britain, as mine-layers and mine-sweepers. I understand that Hobart offers very good facilities for the building of vessels of this sort. Now that we have to depend on our own resources for ship construction, every effort should be made to foster the Australian industry.
I appeal to the Minister for consideration for the magnesium industry. Magnesium with zinc and copper makes an alloy which possesses the characteristics of aluminium in that it is of extraordinarily light weight and could be utilized to replace aluminium for many purposes, such as the manufacture of cooking utensils and the construction of aeroplanes. The whole of Australia’s requirements of aluminium have to be imported, and if a high duty were placed on aluminium it would be rapidly replaced by magnesium alloy for many purposes. If the magnesium industry were given adequate protection employment would be provided for 4,000 men. However, in its requests for this protection, the magnesium industry comes up against the big steel industry, which is interested in the importation of aluminium. I made representations to the Minister for Supply and Development (Mr. Casey) in regard to the fostering of the magnesium industry in Australia, but so far have not received h satisfactory reply. We all know that the right honorable gentleman has to obey the dictates of Mr. Essington Lewis, a member of the Supply Advisory Council, and one of the biggest shareholders and a director of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, a monopoly whose operations have done this country incalculable harm. 1 understand that the use of magnesium instead of aluminium in cooking utensils is better from a health point of view.
– That is so.
– Medical men, including the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney), have frequently supported that theory. This is a matter which must be taken into consideration, because the interests of the community at large must be safeguarded. Of course the Minister for Trade and Customs is not prepared to give any consideration to Tasmania be cause he has to obey his masters in the State of New South Wales. These people control the policy of the government and prevent it from distributing industries evenly throughout the States.
– The honorable member for Denison should read the recommendation with regard to the paper industry.
– That action has been rendered necessary because of the war. If the Commonwealth Government assisted in the establishment of industries in Tasmania then we would not need Commonwealth grants. We would have sufficient employment for our workers, and we would be self-supporting. Tasmania has enormous mineral resources awaiting development. The use of magnesium has been extensively developed by the great powers of the world and magnesium is now essential for the manufacture of aeroplanes, light gun carriages and certain other armaments. Instead of importing magnesium into this country the Government should take steps to develop the vast deposits in Tasmania. At present aluminium to the value of £50,000 is imported from overseas every year for use in Australian industries. It seems evident that the war will develop into a prolonged struggle and, in the very near future, it may be difficult for the Government to continue the importation of essential commodities. Therefore some consideration should be given to the representations which I have made in connexion with the magnesium industry. At present Australia’s supplies are obtained from America and, despite the fact that the Government claims to he sympathetic towards the development of this industry in Australia, nothing has been done. If - the magnesium deposits were in Victoria or New South Wales then they would be developed immediately, but because Tasmania is isolated from the rest of the Commonwealth and cannot exert pressure upon the Government nothing has been done. Tasmania is an integral part of the federation and I submit that it is the duty of the Government to treat that State as it is treating the larger States. Tasmania has valuable natural resources which for the want of financial and moral support from the Commonwealth are lagging behind in development. In the case of the magnesium industry Tasmania wants little more than moral support. The Commonwealth Government merely has to say that it will use certain quantities of magnesium each year, and the development of that industry in Tasmania will proceed. So far, the Government has not had the courage to face up to its obligations and has refused to give any assistance whatever. When a member of the rank and file of this Parliament, the Minister for Trade and Customs pleaded for £350,000 for the development of the Newnes shale oil deposits in New South Wales, He got that money and now he is in the Cabinet, he refuses to lend his support to the smaller States’ who seek just the same assistance as he sought on behalf of the shale industry. The Minister should do his duty as a member of the Government of the Commonwealth and not as a citizen of New South Wales. If that is the way the Commonwealth Government proposes to give effect to the principles of federation it will not be long before the smaller States are up in arms.
The fishing industry is also one which would be of great benefit to Tasmania if it were soundly established. The manager of H. E. Jones and Company of Hobart informed me that his company was willing to assist the development of the canned fish industry, but it had not the trawlers to go far out to sea in order to catch tuna and other fish for canning. I point out that fleets of trawlers can be of great assistance in time of war as mine sweepers. Their value in this regard was demonstrated by Great Britain during the last war. In Hobart there are ship-building facilities. In fact I have heard it said that Sir Leopold Saville has recommended Hobart as the site for the establishment of a naval base and battleship dock.
As I have said, in countries such as Great Britain, Russia, Germany and the United States of America, the magnesium industry has been developed to its fullest possible extent because of its importance in the manufacture of munitions. There are millions of tons of magnesium in Tasmania, as well as huge deposits of copper and zinc. In addition cheap hydro-elec- trie power is available for the development of these industries. If the Government is sincere in its desire to formulate a sound defence policy for Australia, it should not depend on overseas supplies of such essential commodities as magnesium, because with the expansion of submarine warfare and the consequent restriction of shipping there is no certainty that these supplies will reach Australia. If the industry were developed in Tasmania all the magnesium required in the Commonwealth would be available. I know that such large concerns as the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited say that these deposits will be developed at some future date, but I submit that work should be started now. It is immaterial to me who carries out the development of the magnesium industry so long as it is developed. I do not want to see the State of Tasmania coming cap in. hand to the Commonwealth begging for grants every year in order to alleviate the unemployment position in that State. Apparently there is no difficulty in obtaining money for expending on the development of industries in New South Wales and Victoria, because the Commonwealth Government has given protection to the galvanized iron industry, the wire netting industry and many others. But a deaf ear is turned to appeals made on behalf of the island State which, because of its geographical isolation, is not able to influence the Government in the same way as the larger States can. We in Tasmania have continually to fight against the political pull exerted upon the Government by Victoria and New South Wales manufacturers who are in a position to force the Government to protect their industries. I appreciate the Government’s endeavour to give assistance to the paper industry. That is a. very fine example which should be followed in connexion with other industries awaiting assistance. There is no doubt the price of paper will rise because it will be required for munitions, and the Government will be unable to obtain supplies from overseas. Canada, no doubt, will require all that it produces to meet its own defence requirements. During the last war the price of paper reached £90 a ton.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
.- I believe in a fair and reasonable tariff. Some honorable members have advocated free trade, but that would be impossible. Unless free trade were introduced throughout the whole world, our secondary industries would not last three months if we adopted it as our fiscal policy. There are other honorable members who say that they believe in high tariffs, but I believe that this Government and the Lyons Government did the right thing in following the middle course. When the Scullin Government was in power, very high tariffs were imposed, and the importation of many items was prohibited altogether, and this adversely affected our trade. Before the advent of the Labour Government, we exported to France about £15,000,000 worth of goods annually, but practically all of that trade was lost when high duties and prohibitions were placed on French imports. France retaliated by raising the duty on Australian wheat from2s. to 10s. a bushel, and the duty on butter from 8s. or 10s. to £3 18s. per cwt.
– I think that our trade with France is about five to one in our favour to-day.
– Yes, it has improved since the time of the Scullin Government. That is the point I want to make. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) said that the high tariffs imposed by the Scullin Government were responsible for the economic recovery of Australia. I point out, however, that one of the first things the Lyons Government did was to review the tariff schedule of 2,200 items, and to reduce the duties on no fewer than 1,600 of them. The volume of employment in Australian factories increased immediately, and within eighteen months, nearly twice as many persons were employed in our factories as before.If we impose very high duties on goods from other countries, we must expect those countries to retaliate against us. The Government did the right thing in reducing the extremely high duties imposed by the Labour Government. Our industries have not suffered as a result, and we have been able to hold our markets on the other side of the world. We must expect two-way traffic in overseas trade. If we want to sell our products to Great Britain, and to foreign countries, we must be prepared to buy from them, and if we raise duties too high against them., they will not buy from us.
– Then what about removing the duties on motor bodies?
– I said just now that I believed in a reasonable tariff, and at the time the duty on motor bodies was imposed, I believed, as did the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Frost), that that duty was necessary for the protection of the industry. In the light of what has taken place and the excessive profits made, 1 would say that these profits should be taxed, and in this I do not think that even the companies concerned would raise objections. I hope that the Government will take that fact into consideration, especially at a time like this. We must be fair in all things, and all fairminded people will admit that the Government has in general done the right thing in regard to the tariff. It has steered a middle course, and I congratulate it upon it policy.
.-I have no illusions about the exploitation that takes place under protection, but I have always held the opinion that at least it is preferable to be exploited in Australia by local manufacturers with whom we can deal, and for whose employees we can assure fair working conditions, than to be exploited by overseas exporters. I am particularly interested in the woollen manufacturing industry, in regard to which the Government has followed its usual practice of accepting without question the recommendations of the Tariff Board. In practically every case the Government accepts the recommendations of its advisers, its experts, and its various boards and commissions. The Government should be prepared to accept respon- sibility for its own actions. There are several woollen mills in Ballarat, one at Castlemaine and another at Daylesford, and all the employees are vitally concerned with this tariff schedule. Both employers and employees have been in touch with me, and have asked me to protest emphatically against the cutting down of the protection which they have enjoyed in the past.
.- I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Two very important aspects of our defence legislation are involved in this measure. In a bill submittedby the Go vernment during the last sittings of Parliament, the provisions of the Defence Act were amended to provide for an extension of the obligations of Australian citizens to serve overseas. The Minister for Defence (Mr. Street), who introduced thebill, argued that the obligations of citizens were not being enlarged, and he based his contention on the wording of section 49 of the Defence Act. The argument of the Minister is, however, challenged by the Opposition. Section 49 of the Defence Act reads as follows : -
Members of the defence forces, who are members of the military forces, shall not be required, unless they voluntarily agree to do so, to serve beyond the limits of the Commonwealth or those of any territory of the Commonwealth.
The Minister for Defence argued that the word “ territories” in that section included the territories of the Commonwealth which had been acquired during recent years. The Opposition contends that the provision was only intended to apply to those territories which were administered by the Commonwealth at the time the act was passed, and not to those territories which have since been acquired. In other words, it applies only to those territories under the direct control of the Commonwealth but within the confines of the continent of Australia. The original Defence Bill was submitted to this Parliament by the then Defence Minister, Sir John Forrest, shortly after federation, and after it had been debated for some time, the Government decided not to go on with it. Not only the Opposition, but also several Government supporters objected to those parts of the bill providing for the conscription of manpower for overseas service. Clause 48 of the original bill was as follows : -
The Governor-General may call out the defence force, or any part thereof, for active service anywhere within the Commonwealth, and also without the Commonwealth, for the defence thereof at any time when it appears advisable so to do in the event of an emergency.
Sir John Forrest, in an attempt to allay the grave doubts regarding the intentions of the Government which were in the minds of honorable members of that day because they were arguing that the Government had included in the bill powers which would enable it to send men out of the country against their will, said -
The words “ without the Commonwealth for the defence thereof “ are intended to provide for an emergency in which it may be necessary, in order to defend the Commonwealth, to send forces to some place outside it, such as Fiji. The men who will be liable to be called upon to serve without the Commonwealth will be the small body of permanent men who are employed to man the forts and to look after the armaments generally. No member of the Citizen Forces - and these constitute the vast majority of the whole body - will be required to serve without the Commonwealth unless he voluntarily agrees to do so for the defence thereof; or, in the case of the naval services, while training on board ship.
It was evidently the intention of the majority of the members of the Parliament of that day, when first dealing with defence legislation, that in no circumstances were Australian men to be obliged to leave this country against their will for military service. As the then Minister for Defence said, it was not even the intention of the Government of the day to compel men to go to Fiji for military service, even if it were believed that the necessity for military action there had arisen.
During the discussion which took place in the course of the last sittings of this Parliament, honorable members argued that “territories under the authority of the Commonwealth “ meant not alone territories within the Commonwealth but also external territories. ] point out that when section 49 of the Defence Act, upon which the Minister for Defence relies, was first agreed to in this Parliament, the Commonwealth had no external territories. Having read very closely the debates which took place on that occasion, I venture to affirm that members who objected to men being compelled to serve even as far afield as Fiji could not have imagined that the Commonwealth Parliament would some day use the powers conferred under section 49 to compel men to go to such far-distant parts as the Admiralty Islands, the German Solomon Islands, and other territories which the Commonwealth has since acquired.
During the last war, the people of this country were given the opportunity to decide whether or not compulsion should be applied in respect of overseas service, and on two occasions they negatived the proposal of the Government that men should be conscripted for that service. I have heard some honorable members of the Government parties, speaking in this House in recent days, rightly argue that they must accept the decision of the people in respect of this very important matter. I venture to say that there is not one person in every thousand in this community who is of any opinion other thai that the Government did not possess th power to compel men to undertake military service except within the confines of the Commonwealth itself. Had that not been so it would have been possible for the Government, from time to time, lv extending the territories over which it exercised authority, to widen the obligation of Australian man-power in regard to military service.
– Would not that require an act of Parliament?
– The point is, that the Prime Minister argued that there had been no alteration of this ‘ obligation in regard to military service in the last 30 years. I say that when the defence legislation was first passed through this Parliament 30 odd years ago Australia had no external territories and that, under section 49 of the Defence Act, the Government had no power to compel men to serve anywhere except within the continent of Australia. If the interpretation which the Government is prepared to place on section 49 be accepted, namely, that it has the power to send men to territories subsequently acquired should it believe that course to be necessary for the defence of Australia, it is quite evident that the obligation of every citizen to serve in parts outside Australia has appreciably increased the original obligation. Evidently the Government itself entertains very serious doubts as to whether it had that power under existing legislation prior to the Inr-t amend ments, because the Minister said that it was not intended to extend the obligation of the citizen to serve in a military sense abroad, the reason why the Government wanted to extend the Defence Act to other territories being that it wished to be in a position to raise forces in those territories for local defence, on which account it was an urgent measure. Members ofl the Opposition have no objection to the! Government having the power to raise forces in the territories for local defence purposes, but we take very strong exception to its arrogating to itself the power to compel Australian troops to go out of this country to defend those particular territories. In that respect we differ from the interpretation of the Government in relation to the powers which it says it has always possessed. I ask the Minister to explain why the Government, if it believed that it possessed these powers, included in the amending bill that it brought, before the Parliament during the last sittings, definitions in regard to “ Australia “ and “ the Commonwealth “. The bill laid it down. that “Australia” includes “ the territories of the Commonwealth to which this act extends “, and “ the Commonwealth “ includes “ the territories of the Commonwealth to which this act extends “. A new sub-cla-use, oa, reads -
This act shall extend to the territories of the Commonwealth as if en eli of those territories were part of the Commonwealth.
I argue that if the Government believed that those territories already constituted a part of the Commonwealth, there was no necessity for those amendments. If we are. to believe that some doubt existed as to whether the Government possessed power to raise troops in the territories, and that the only purpose of the Government in bringing forward the amendments was to place it in a position to raise troops for the local defence of the territories, I suggest that that object could have been achieved bv an amendment providing that the Defence Act in its then existing form should extend to the territories; because, under existing legislation, as honorable members know, in respect of every territory over which the Commonwealth exercises authority to-day, the only case in which there is no provision against.
Commonwealth legislation extending to those territories is that of the Antarctic regions; in every other case, special provision is made in the legislation dealing with the territories - such as New Guinea, the Ashmore and Cartier Islands, and other territories - that Commonwealth legislation shall not apply to those territories unless such application is expressly stated in the relevant act. Because of that fact, had the Government wished to extend the existing provisions of the Defence Act to those territories, that could have been done by the enactment of a provision expressly stating that it was the intention of the Parliament that those provisions should extend to those territories.
I would say to honorable members of the Government that their opinion in relation to the existing obligation of the citizens of this country to serve outside Australia is not generally shared by the community. Every member of this Parliament recognizes that there is an obligation upon every citizen of this country to serve in case of the actual invasion of our shores. At the same time, the Opposition will not concede to the Government that that obligation should be extended to provide that Australian troops should be compelled to go overseas to defend territories acquired by the Commonwealth. The Prime Minister himself, judging by his statements in this Parliament, evidently firmly believes that the very important question as to whether or not a man shall leave Australia to render military service should be one for that man alone to decide, and that no government should have the right to take from him his liberty to decide it ; because I have a recollection of a recent occasion when the motives of the right honorable gentleman were questioned in regard to his failure to offer himself for service during the last war. I have read the reply of the right honorable gentleman to the charge then made against him. Here is what he said with respect to this important matter -
I was in exactly the same position as any other person who at that time had to answer the extremely important questions : Is it my duty to so to the war, or is it my duty not to go? The answer to those questions cannot he made on the public platform. Those questions relate to a man’s intimate, personal and family affairs, and, in consequence, I, facing those problems, problems of intense difficulty, found myself, for reasons which were and are compelling, unable to join my two brothers in the infantry of the Australian Imperial Force.
The honorable member forFranklin (Mr.Frost), by interjection, said -
It is the business of no one but yourself.
The Prime Minister, agreeing with the honorable member for Franklin, said -
I say that.
That is exactly what I say. The important matter of whether or not a man shall leave this country to render military service is one for the individual himself to decide. It is a liberty which, in my opinion, the people should neversurrender to any government, no matter what political colour it may have; they should never surrender the right to decide whether or not they should go overseas to render military service. On the other hand, I, and the Opposition generally, are prepared to say that we believe that, if the shores of Australia were actually invaded, there would be an obligation on every citizen to render service in its defence. I remember well that in the discussions which took place in this Parliament in the last period of the session, honorable members argued that it was just as necessary for the defence of Australia to defend territories in close proximity to our shores as it was to defend Australia itself. That opens up an entirely different question, because, if it could be argued that one must defend certain territories in close proximity to Australia in order adequately to defend Australia itself, defence operations could be extended right round the globe; you would have to move further afield and say, “ We have to defend some additional territory in order that this first territory itself may be defended “. That is a wrong procedure for the Government to follow. Had it wished to make such a vital departure from the policy that has been in force in this country since the inception of federation, namely, that the citizens shall have the right to determine these questions, the honest course would have been to give to the people the opportunity to decide what should be done. But the Government did not do that. As a matter of fact, this Government is a minority government ; it is representative of a party that is in a minority in this Parliament.
I have already read what the Prime Minister had to say in regard to the matter of personal service abroad.I agree with the view that he expressed. Members of the Government have continually said, when answering questions put to them by members of the Opposition, that it is not their intention to compel men to go abroad; yet on the other hand the Minister for Defence, relying on the phraseology of section 49 of the Defence Act, has said that that obligation already exists. We challenge the soundness of that opinion. In any case, it is undeniable that a difference of opinion actually exists on this subject. In my opinion, there never has been any obligation on a citizen of Australia to serve overseas as suggested. The Opposition is submitting this bill in order to put beyond doubt what we believe to be the meaning of the Defence Act. Clause 3 of this bill provides - (l.) No inhabitant of Australia who has not voluntarily enlisted for service -
Forces, shall he required to serve outside the territory of which he is an inhabitant. (3.) In thissection “overseas territory” means any territory of the Commonwealth which is not within the limits of the continent of Australia, and “ Australia “ does not include any territory of the Commonwealth which is not within the limits of the continent of Australia.
That provision is included to meet an objection that was raised when this subject was last under discussion to the effect that if the Opposition point of view were accepted it would not be possible to defend Tasmania. That was a ridiculous contention, because Tasmania has always been recognized as part of the continent of Australia and as being included within it. When the original act was passed the “ territories “ under the Commonwealth of Australia were intended to mean territories that might be acquired by the Commonwealth within the con fines of the continent. At that time, the Northern Territory was in existence, and since then the Commonwealth has acquired the Australian Capital Territory. These, and similar territories that may be acquired from the States, were all that were contemplated. It certainly was never intended that the power provided by the act should be used to compel men to serve beyond the Commonwealth.
The members of the Opposition also consider that the principal act should be amended in regard to conscientious objectors. The present exemption does not go far enough, for it provides exemption only from combatant service. We are of the opinion that conscientious objectors should also be exempt from non-combatant service. We contend too that the only occasion on which conscientious objectors should be required to serve in any way whatsoever is when this country has been actually invaded by a foreign foe. Even if such an occasion should arise, we submit that the service required from conscientious objectors should be limited to civilian service. Conscientious objectors should not even in such circumstances be required to render non-combatant service.
– Not even inside Australia ?
– I am speaking of service within Australia in the event of Australia having been invaded. The Opposition believes that on such an occasion conscientious objectors should be required to render civilian service, but that they should not be required to serve as combatants or even as non-combatants behind the lines. We also believe that the definition covering conscientious objectors should be extended. At present, the only persons covered are those who belong to a certain religious organization, the teachings of which are opposed to participation in warfare of any character whatever. It is probable that members of other religious sects may also conscientiously believe that they should not participate in warfare, even though their religious organizations may not specifically declare against it. Such individuals should be exempt from service. We therefore propose that the following new sub-section shall be added to section 61 of the principal act - .
3 ) In this sub-section “ conscientious beliefs “ includes any ground of conscientious objection, whether the objection is of a religious character, it is or is not a part of the doctrines of the religion of the objector; and “actual invasion” means -
These alterations are necessary to provide additional protection for those who may be described as conscientious objectors. Further, we are of the opinion that a conscientious objector whose claims to be so regarded have been rejected should have a right of appeal. At present, there is no tribunal to which a conscientious objector may appeal. The bill, therefore, provides that -
It is also provided that in the case of such an appeal the hearing shall not be limited to questions of law, but shall cover all facts of the case. In short, a complete re-hearing is provided for, and we think that nothing short of this will meet the case. It is very necessary that provision shall be made to give such citizens the full protection to which they are entitled.
I hope that honorable members will recognize the merits of this measure. Possibly some may not be prepared to agree to our proposals in every detail, but surely every honorable member will recognize the fundamental right of every individual to determine for himself whether he shall or shall not engage in overseas military service. Some honorable members have already expressed an opinion on this subject. I believe that the views that I have enunciated are shared by many other honorable gentlemen. The honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) has stated that in his opinion the people of Australia have already decided this issue. He added that he was prepared to respect the decision of the people. I do not think that any honorable member should use his vote in this Parliament to inflict some law upon the people of which the people do not approve.
Another point should be kept in mind. It has been stated on many occasions that the conflict in which we are now engaged is necessary in order to defend democratic institutions and democratic liberties and rights. Surely one of the fundamental liberties of a man is to determine for himself, just as the present Prime Minister did in the last war, whether he shall or shall not render overseas service. He alone should determine that issue. The people of Australia have already approved of that principle, and honorable members, simply because they may form part of a majority in this Parliament, should not seek to take away from the people at large their right to deal with this issue. If there is any meaning in democracy at all, it surely means that the people shall have a voice in the final determination of the policies to be applied by the Government. Honorable members are in this Parliament by the will of the people, and it is their duty to give effect to the will of the people. The people have already decided on two occasions against compulsory military service abroad. Consequently, the Opposition is of the opinion that it would be entirely wrong for this Parliament to inflict conscription for overseas military service upon the manhood of this country without giving to the electors the opportunity to express their mind on the subject. If certain legal powers are in existence by which that course could be taken, they were also in existence in 1916 and 1917, yet the Prime Minister of that day felt it necessary to refer this very important issue to the people. We have been told that the law in this respect has not been altered for 30 years. Any obligation of this nature that now exists must consequently have existed for 30 years. When the people were invited in 1916 and 1917 to express their mind on this principle they showed themselves to be overwhelmingly opposed to it. Consequently Parliament should not introduce the principle without consulting the people and I therefore hope that this bill will be agreed to.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Street) adjourned.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This small bill has one purpose in view. It will be remembered that the Supply and Development Act was passed by the Parliament earlier this year in circumstances which prevented the Opposition from fully expressing its opinion upon certain of its provisions. Section 27 of the act should not have been passed in its present form. It is true that the Opposition was able to persuade the Government to make certain amendments to the measure now on the statute-book; in fact, 75 per cent. of our objections were probably met. Unfortunately, however, the definition of “ employee “ is still very unsatisfactory, and the purpose of this bill is to alter that definition in order to give effect to what I am sure was in the mind of the Government when it accepted the substance of what was the purpose of the Opposition. The object of this bill is to extend to the 5,000 or 6,000 persons employed on the production of munitions in government workshops the safeguards contained in section 27 (2) which, by the terms of the existing definition of “ employee “, are now limited to similar employees of private enterprises and certain public servants. The interpretation of the word “munitions “ is wide. The range covers the manufacture and disposal of almost every commodity that we could conceive of. As it now stands, section 27 of the Supply and Development Act. empowers the Governor-General to make regulations enabling the Minister, whoever he may be, to suspend, cancel, reduce or otherwise interfere with wages, customs and practices that have taken a century to develop. The guillotine prevented the Opposition from effectively exposing the weakness of the act in this respect. This bill amends section 27 of the principal act as follows: -
The definition of “ employee “, which it is intended to omit is - “ Employee “ means employee other than an employee in the Public Service within the meaning of the Arbitration (Public Service) Act 1920-1934.
Section 10 of the Commonwealth Public Service Act reads - (1.) For the purposes of this act the Public Service shall comprise - (2.) The Commonwealth Service shall include the departments specified in the Second Schedule at any time proclaimed by the Governor-General . (3.) The Provisional Service shall include any department or branch of the Public Service of a provisional or temporary character which is included by proclamation.
The amendment now suggested means that the safeguard will cover not only what are generally understood to be public servants, that is, permanent employees of the Government in public service departments, but also those persons who are temporary employees. At all times, peace times or war times, there are large numbers of people who go in and out of departments; they are not on the permanent staff; they are temporary employees. This amending legislation would cover those people. The Minister knows better than I that at present there is a great number of people - between 4,000 and 5,000 in one big workshop in Melbourne - who are temporary employees. In ordinary times the wages, conditions and customs of such employees are never interfered with. They are settled at round-table conferences. The officials of the Defence Department sit around the table with representatives of the employees and there is never any friction. But these are different times. I believe that if the Minister had had the matter sufficiently impressed upon him - the guillotine did not give us time - he would have straightened out the difficulty when the original measure was before Parliament, and I believe now that the Government will have no hesitation in accepting this bill which is merely an extension of the Government’s own amendment. In present circumstances practically the whole of the people engaged in armaments-making are not covered by the safeguard in section 2’7. As the war proceeds, more and more people will be employed on munitions work. Some people think that any expansion of defence operations will be under the control of private enterprise, but the Supply and Development Act gives power to the Government to take over any private plant for defence purposes, and I have no doubt that, should trouble arise, that power will be used. In such a case an even Larger number of employees than that which I have mentioned would have no safeguard, because all of those employed in any enterprise taken over for defence purposes by the Government would become employees of the Government. After Parliament adjourned in June this omission was so serious to the people that we represent-
– Why was it so serious! Can the honorable member explain ?
– I should have thought that the honorable gentleman would have been wide enough awake to have heard me when I explained at the beginning of my speech what can he done by regulations under the Supply and Development Act. I repeat for his benefit that regulations can be made to interfere with wages and working conditions of all employees working on the manufacture and transport of munitions, except those in private enterprises.
– Does the honorable member mean that in time of war they may be under military discipline!
– That could happen. It could be more than that.
– What is wrong with that !
– It gives power to the Minister - it may not he the same Minister - to break down wages and extend hours of labour. The transfer of employees from one workshop to another could be prevented. When the principa.1 act was before Parliament Ministers disclaimed any intention to exercise such powers, and I accept that, because an attempt was made in the short space of time that we had at our disposal to straighten the matter out. That we failed to do so was shown early.
After the adjournment we conferred with the Minister for Defence, and pointed out clearly the dangers and difficulties and the fact that psychological fears - no, more than that! material fears - had been created in the minds of the workers. After consultation around the table the Minister said that he would give us a written guarantee that the regulation would not be made for any of the purposes which we had suggested as being possible. He said, however, “ I cannot give it to you on behalf of the Government “. He then suggested a fur ther conference with the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) after he had had time to confer with his colleagues. The Prime Minister, m conjunction with the Minister for Defence, met us, and agreed that nothing in the shape of what we feared would be done. We do not doubt the right honorable gentleman’s word, but his word will not bind a successor. Wc have the written guarantee, but we feel that the guarantee should be incorporated in the law. I am certain of the Minister’s sympathy and, conscious of the logic and fairness of the proposal, I confidently move the second reading.
[8.58J. - The Government is prepared to accept in substance the proposal embodied in the bill. I feel, however, that the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway), in moving the second reading, quite unconsciously created the wrong impression as to the real position which existed after the Supply and Development Bill had been carried. Perhaps honorable members will bear with me for a few moments while I trace the history of the section which this bill now seeks finally to amend. When the bill was submitted to the House there was no provision which, as such, gave a particular protection to the industrial conditions of those workers who might come within the scope of the legislation. The Government had no intention whatever in the use of the wide powers which were embodied in that measure of doing anything that would adversely affect the working conditions of the industrialists who came within its scope and, consequently, as the thought had not entered the mind of the Government, no specific provision was made to give any special protection to the industrial conditions of the “workers. The honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) did, however, express certain fears while the bill was being considered that, in times of emergency, such as we are experiencing at present, there might be a temptation on the part of a government - not necessarily the present one - to interfere arbitrarily with working conditions and, therefore, he submitted an amendment which would have the effect of giving protection to those conditions. The Government considered his amendment and, as the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) has pointed out, accepted it almost in toto. It did, however, at that time, exclude from the protection which was conferred by section 27, those employees who were employed in government establishments. The “ honorable member for Melbourne Ports has suggested that this left those employees without proper protection of their industrial conditions. As was pointed out at the time, these employees always had the opportunity of recourse to the Public Service Arbitrator and, as was pointed out during the debate in this House, an award of the Public Service Arbitrator would have the effect of overriding any regulations inconsistent with it. That was made very clear by Government speakers at that time.
– The Assistant Minister is not quite right. The position was the reverse. An award could not operate if it were inconsistent with a regulation.
– If it came before either House of the Parliament the Parliament could override an award of the Public Service Arbitrator; but that is a possibility which, in practice, I think, has only been found to occur, at most, on two or three occasions. It is open to Parliament at any time to take away whatever protection roRy have been afforded by an earlier act, or to delimit it in one way or another, so the objection of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) does not, I suggest, take away from the force of the arguments advanced when the matter was before the House.
– The employees were not then working under an award of the
Public Service Arbitrator, because they did not want it.
– No, they were working under agreements with government representatives which, I believe, they felt were probably more generous on the whole than the conditions prevailing under awards having more general application. I point out that, far from this matter being considered inadequately when it was before the House on an earlier occasion, the Ilansard report shows that no less than fifteen speeches were made on this particular point. I mention these facts only to make it clear that the Government, when it first accepted the amendment of the honorable member for Bourke, did consider that it had left full protection for those employees under its own control.
– What is the reason for the change now?
– The Government feels that, in actual practice, there will not be any great change. It recognizes, however, that the fear expressed by the industrial movement has created a psychological atmosphere which, as honorable members of the Opposition have pointed out, is unfavorable towards the full co-operation which should be forthcoming from all sections of the community at the present time. The Government, in accepting this amendment, is making that gesture of co-operation which it hopes the Opposition will accept in the same spirit, and which it is sincerely felt is manifest among the employees now engaged in its own establishments. We had an instance the other day in one of the establishments controlled by the Department of Supply and Development where female employees at the small arms factory were working on a two-shift basis. These employees voluntarily carried a resolution, which they offered as their contribution towards the defence of this country, to work on a three-shift basis. That is the spirit of co-operation we look for from all sections of the community at the present time. We recognize that the members of the Opposition and those they represent are just as much and just as vitally concerned in the welfare of the defence of this country as are members on the Government side. It is with a view to breaking clown any unfavorable psychology which may exist at the present time” and to maintain friendly relations within the government establishments, that the Government is now prepared to meet in substance the proposal embodied in this amending bill. I use the words “ in substance “ because at the committee stage I propose to move an amendment to clause 3, the principal clause of the bill, which is merely the draftsman’s improvement of the form of the clause as it is now printed. The honorable member for Bourke, who has shown particular interest in this matter, has seen the form of the Government’s amendment. Ibelieve that he will concur with me that it achieves completely in substance the objective which the bill seeks to attain.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
Clause 3 -
Section twenty-seven of the principal act is amended as follows: -
– I move -
That all the words after the word “ amended “ be omitted, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words: -
by omitting from sub-section (3.) the definition of “ employee “ and inserting in its stead the following definition : - “’ employee ‘ means employee not being a person who is an officer within the meaning of the Commonwealth Public Service Act 1922- 1937.”: and
by omitting from the definition of “trade union” in sub-section (3.) the words “ but does not include an association of employees in the Public Service “.
This is purely a formal amendment which has in substance precisely the objective which the clause, as printed, seeks to attain.
– The Opposition accepts the amendment moved by the Assistant Minister (Mr. Holt) . I have only to say that we are deeply appreciative of the spirit in which the Government has carried through the undertaking arrived at in order to terminate a very unfortunate position. We say to the honorable gentleman that the workers of this Commonwealth are as concerned with the defence of Australia as any other section of the people - they are Australians to the very core - and that the fears they had in respect of what might occur in the factories which the Government might acquire from private enterprise can now be banished, in that this amending legislation makes certain that the protection enjoyed by them in private establishments will be equally available to them should the Government take them over.
– I am not so much concerned about the bill itself as about the circumstances in which it comes before us, as detailed by the Assistant Minister (Mr. Holt). They are such that one must have a word or two to say about them. It seems that the Government gave certain undertakings in writing to the Opposition in regard to certain matters which, apparently, the Opposition was not prepared to accept. The Government then agreed to put this bill through. The Assistant Minister has just given another verbal undertaking. I would be interested to know whether that undertaking will also be followed by another bill to put the matter right.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with an amendment; report - by leave - adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The Acts Interpretation Act 1901-1937 contains a general provision relating to regulations, which applies to all regulations unless the contrary intention appears in the act which confers the power. The genera] provision is that regulations, when made, shall be notified in the Gazette, shall have a day fixed for coming into operation and shall be laid before each House of the Parliament within fifteen days after its first sitting; but the point is that when a regulation is made it comes into operation at once, before Parliament has an opportunity to consider it. This becomes tremendously important when we have regard to the fact that under the National Security Act there has been delegated to the Government power to make regulations in respect of any matter it pleases. “When that power is exercised under the defence power in time of expected war, it enables the Government to do anything it likes within the four corners of the Constitution. That means that it probably could not make a regulation contrary to an express prohibition of the Constitution ; but the Government may disregard the distribution of powers made by the Constitution. We have, then, the position that this Parliament has conferred upon the Executive for the time being power to make regulations in respect of any matter it likes, and the Government having that, power can make a regulation as soon as Parliament has adjourned or prorogued, and can bring it into operation at once and administer and enforce it, without any check at all until Parliament meets again. The only check is that when Parliament does meet the regulation must be laid before each House, and it may then be disallowed by either House. That, however, provides no protection for persons who may have suffered under a regulation made while Parliament is in recess. This bill proposes that in respect of regulations made under three acts, namely, the Defence Act, the Supply and Development Act, and the National Registration Act, the general rule laid down by the Acts Interpretation Act shall not apply and that any regulations made at any time the Government likes to fix shall not come into force until they have been placed before both Houses of Parliament. The regulations must be laid before each House Of Parliament when it meets, and either House may disallow them. The bill provides for two exceptions. If a regulation is made repealing altogether a regulation previously in existence the repealing regulation shall come into force at once without waiting for Parliament to meet, and if a regulation is made abolishing or reducing a penalty created by a previous regulation, that regulation shall also come into force immediately without waiting for
Parliament to meet. On the other hand, if a new regulation imposes or increases a penalty it will be deprived of any effect until it is laid before each House of Parliament. It may then be reviewed and either House may disallow it. Having regard to the way in which the war power of this Commonwealth has been enlarged until it includes every detail of power, State and Commonwealth, at present subject only to the express prohibitions of the Constitution, and seeing that that power has already been delegated to the Executive, it seems that such a measure as this is the only check Parliament may have upon the Executive. As I said on a previous occasion, the essence of a totalitarian State is that the power to legislate and the power to administer are united, the Executive and the legislature being the one and the same body. That state of affairs in fact exists in Australia while Parliament is in recess. Parliament can be adjourned or prorogued on Friday next and may be in recess for months. During that time the Executive has full power not merely to execute and administer laws passed by Parliament, but also to make and administer regulations on any subject. If this bill be carried, it will still be possible for the Executive to make regulations while Parliament is not sitting, but these regulations will not come into effect until Parliament meets. The object of this bill is to enable Parliament, if it chooses, to disallow regulations ; it is to give Parliament control.
– I regret that I am unable to give the Opposition the same cheerful assurance with respect to this measure that I was able to give in respect of the preceding amending bill. The Government is not prepared in any circumstances to accept this proposal. As the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) pointed out, safeguards are at present provided under the Defence Act, and also under the Acts Interpretation Act, which make secure the. rights of Parliament in respect of regulations. Section 124 of the Defence Act provides that regulations made thereunder shall be notified in the Gazette and shall thereupon have the force of law. The regulations must be laid before e.~Ai House of Parliament within fourteen a ays after the making thereof, or after :he next meeting of Parliament if Parliament is not sitting when the regulations are made. Either House may, b;v resolution passed within fifteen sitting days after the tabling of any regulation, disallow that regulation. It is clear, therefore, that there is very real protection with respect to regulations made under the Defence Act. The disallowance of regulations made under the Supply and Development Act and the National Registration Act is governed by section 48 of the Acts Interpretation Act. That section provides that regulations are to be notified in the Gazette and shall take effect from the date of notification. These regulations must then be laid before each House of Parliament within fifteen sitting days and they may be disallowed by resolution, of which notice is given within fourteen sitting days after the tabling of the regulation. By an amendment made in 1937, regulations which are not prejudicial to any person’s rights and which do not impose liabilities may be made to take effect prior to the date of their notification in the Gazette. If this bill is passed no regulation under the acts mentioned, however advantageous to the public it may be, or however necessary it may be for the defence of the country, can take effect until it has been tabled. For example, a regulation increasing the rates of pay or otherwise ameliorating the conditions of service of members of the Military Forces or of persons employed in munitions factories, could not come into force until tabled. Under the Defence Act regulations may be made for many purposes necessary for the prosecution of a war, such as the furnishing of means of conveyance and transport, the control of the construction of buildings and other structures in defence areas, the regulation of artillery practice, the regulation of the emission of smoke from factories near defence works, the preservation of public safety, and generally for all matters necessary for the efficient defence and the protection of the public. Surely it is not suggested that in time of war Parliament should sit continuously. That is what would be necessary if the many regulations which must necessarily be made in time of emergency had to be laid on the table of the House before they could come into effect. The exigencies of war throw a strain upon the Executive of the Commonwealth which does not admit of the continuous sittings of Parliament. If, therefore, it became necessary to make regulations for some urgent defence purpose while the House was not sitting, the regulations could not take effect until the House had been called together which, having regard to the notice of meeting customarily given, would mean a delay which might well be vital. Honorable members may rely upon the past policy of the Government in this regard, and also upon the assurance which I am now giving. The Government has no intention of abusing its very extensive regulation-making power; in fact, I point to the proposal of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) to create an all-party committee to examine regulations, as evidence of our earnestness in this regard. Wherever practicable, regulations made under the Government’s powers will be tabled at the earliest possible date. For example, regulations under the Supply and Development Bill will, it is hoped, be laid on the table of the House either to-morrow or at least before the end of the present sittings. Honorable members who were interested in the previous measure will note that no interference whatsoever with industrial conditions is contemplated in these regulations. There is also, in addition, the assurance which the Prime Minister has given that he does not wish to stifle criticism during this emergency period, and that he does wish to give Parliament frequent opportunities to meet and afford constructive criticism of the Government’s proposals. I suggest in conclusion thai the Government would not at any time, particularly in this period of emergency accept a proposal that would tie its hands to the degree that this measure proposes to do. No government from whatever party in this House, charged with the responsibility which this Government at present has to carry out, would consent to the restriction which this bill would bring about of its freedom to make regulations having an immediate effect.
– I have looked through this bill very carefully and I am absolutely opposed to it. Prom the concluding words of the speech by the Assistant Minister (Mr. Holt) I gather that there might yet be corn in Egypt, and we hope that the Government will take a stand in this matter and ring the bell.
.- I. can understand the Leader of the Country party (Mr. Archie Cameron) agreeing to whatever legislation this Government brings down. His motive is obvious. 1 submit that the bill is a reasonable one, particularly in. view of the fact that the Government is endeavouring to get Parliament into recess as soon as possible. How long that recess will last, we do not know. What may happen in the course of the next week of so, nobody knows. In view of the Government’s attitude to this measure, I feel disposed to oppose strenuously the proroguing or adjourning of Parliament. Under the National Security Act extraordinary powers have been conferred upon the Executive, which in turn will delegate them to others. New regulations will be made which may possibly. change the whole economic life of our people. Surely it is reasonable to ask that honorable members of this chamber who are the elected representatives of the people should -have a voice in the making of those regulations. Experience makes us wary of giving such wide power to the Executive. On one occasion when there was a dispute on the waterfront the Government was sympathetic to the views of the waterside workers and made regulations to overcome certain difficulties, but the regulations were disallowed in the Senate. The anti-Labour forces in this Parliament did not hesitate to use their power in the Senate to disallow regulations with which they did not agree, but they seek now to deprive Parliament of an opportunity to do the same thing. Apparently it is intended to govern wholly by regulation. Insofar as I have any influence with those on this side of the House, we shall do everything in our power ‘to prevent the Government from going into recess on Friday next, so that we may delay the time when it will be free to make regulations that will oppress the people.
.- In normal times, the Government of the day is able to make regulations, but two safeguards are provided: One is that the regulations have to be brought before Parliament within fourteen days, if Parliament is sitting, when either House may disallow them; the other is perhaps more important, namely, that every regulation must conform to the act upon which it is based, and if the power conferred by the act is exceeded, any person injured by the regulations may apply to the court for their disallowance. In wartime it is customary to give the Government unlimited power to act in any emergency. To-day, there is a state of war, and it is a proper occasion upon which to give extensive power to the Government. If this bill be agreed to, the Government will be deprived, not only of any unusual powers, but of those powers which it is entitled to exercise in normal times. There would be no effective power to make regulations left to the Government, because no regulation would have any force until passed by Parliament. Therefore, every regulation would be, in effect, a statute, and we might as well abolish the Government’s regulationmaking power altogether. This would lead to an intolerable situation. Suppose there were a sudden attack on Australia. Under this measure the Government would have no authority to take any action until it could call Parliament together. That savours too much of joh control. I am glad the Government has had the backbone not to give way on this point.
– I am sorry that the Government has not shown the same spirit of goodwill in regard to this bill as in regard to the one which has just been passed. I am surprised at the readiness with which Government supporters and members of the Country party are prepared to sacrifice their rights and responsibilities as members of Parliament; because that is what they are doing when they agree to confer on the Government the power to make regulations on any matter without the consent of Parliament. The Opposition has stated that it is prepared to cooperate with the Government at this time in protecting the interests of Australia and its people. It is also willing that Parliament should be kept continuously in session. We are not asking for any portfolios, which seem to be the main consideration with members of the Country party. The Government is proposing to take away the rights of honorable members either to help or to criticize under the guise of urgency during this time of crisis. It is our duty to give every assistance possible, but those who represent the people can help best by keeping Parliament sitting continuously, or with only very short adjournments. The Government has given certain assurances, and I do not want to throw doubt on them. It may be, however, that the Government will take the view that Parliament need not meet for a considerable time. During the recess, oppressive regulations might be made, and members of Parliament would have no opportunity to take any action for reconsideration or to voice their objection. I am not prepared to give up my rights without a fight, and I commend the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) for bringing in this measure, the purpose of which is to safeguard the rights of members of Parliament, and to preserve the liberties of the people. In the Victorian National Security (Emergency Powers) Act, which came into operation on the 8th September last, the Government was authorized to make regulations in respect of the following matters : -
Sub-section 2 of section 2 of the same act provides as follows: -
Parliament shall be summoned to meet as soon as practicable thereafter.
That takes away from the Government power to keep Parliament in recess against the wishes of members. Members of this Parliament should also have the right, during a time of crisis, to take action to call Parliament together. It is unfortunate that the Government takes the view that it alone should determine when Parliament shall meet. It may well be that members on this side of the House will be forced to remain silent when they feel that they should enter a protest against regulations issued by the Government, and I think it should reconsider its attitude.
If this bill were intended to give effect to the purpose suggested in the concluding sentences of the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford), there might be some reason to regard it favorably, but I can see nothing in it which would give members of Parliament the right to have the House called together in the event of an emergency. As a matter of fact, the obvious intention of the bill is to repeal the National Security Act passed last week, and that would certainly be its effect. If it were passed, the Government would not be able to make any regulations, under the Defence Act in particular, unless they were laid on the table of the House, so that, unless the House were sitting continuously, the Government would be unable to function. The honorable member for Maribyrnong appealed to the Government to exercise the same goodwill in regard to this bill as it did in regard to the bill that has just been passed. If it did, it might as well abdicate its position immediately, and hand over the reins of government to the Opposition. The honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) said that the National Security Act was designed for a time when we were expecting war. I remind him that we are not now expecting war; it is a time of war.
– I used that phrase, but not in that way.
– The honorable member said that we were getting down to the level of the totalitarian States in our methods of administration. I submit that we have to do just that when we are at war. We must have the same flexibility of action as our opponents have. It is useless to ask the Executive to go into a fight against an opponent that uses fists, claws and boots, and expect it to conform to Marquis of Queensberry rules. During the debate on the National Security Bill, I expressed my concern over the proposal to confer such extensive powers on the Government, but I also expressed the opinion that the Government should take determined and prompt action should such be necessary. If this bill were passed, it would almost completely sabotage the National Security Act. Therefore, I commend the Government for its rejection of the measure in toto.
.- I see some merit in this bill. While it may not be everything necessary in the present situation, yet it would place a responsibility on the Government to meet this House at frequent intervals so that some check could be exercised by the elected representatives of the people on regulations gazetted from time to time. The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn) observed that this measure would take away from the Executive the power to issue regulations in normal times. I submit that these are not normal times, and for that reason special provisions and special precautions are necessary. I see nothing wrong, and a good deal that is right, in the principle that Parliament should meet as often as possible when the nation is at war, so that a check may be kept on every act of the Government. I am somewhat surprised at the apathy of Country party members regarding the interests of those whom they allegedly represent. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) is to be praised for his activity on behalf of the workers, and for his endeavours to safeguard their interests. In that respect the Country party can play an important part on behalf of its electors. We have learned through the press of proposals for the control of primary products of various descriptions, and boards have been appointed, the personnel of which is far from being representative of the actual producers; they have been composed mainly of persons who have “ farmed “ the farmers for a very long time. The Country party could take action to see that this Parliament meets as frequently as possible by supporting this amending bill. These matters could then be examined in the light of equity and pronounced upon when necessary. I believe that, as this bill implies, the House will have to meet probably every fortnight, even if only for a day or two, to deal with these regulations and to express an opinion upon what has been done and what is proposed. The same principle affects business people, wage-earners and other sections. There is little wrong with this measure; it is entirely democratic. I assure the House that it is not my intention to impede in any way the activities of the Government in playing its part efficiently in this time of national stress, but rather to help it. I am absolutely convinced that we shall be serving the nation in the very best manner by meeting as frequently as possible, or by actually remaining in session until the danger is past, which I hope will not be very long.
Mr. BLAIN (Northern Territory) [9.4SJ. - I should be failing in my duty to the outlying people of Australia did I not support this bill. I realize that those honorable members who have opposed it have attempted to draw a screen across the eyes of the people. I do not wish it to be understood that this Government should not have necessary power, but I do object to power being conferred while the House is not sitting. Perhaps I can speak with greater experience than can any other honorable member, because the area that I represent is not favoured with a subordinate legislature or even a local authority, as is every other electorate in this Commonwealth ; it is not even allowed a body to administer its own domestic affairs, and thus it has no voice in guiding its own destiny. I am not unmindful of the fact that over quite a number of years regulations and ordinances have been promulgated, in respect of the Northern Territory, and we have not known when they have been tabled in Parliament. Whilst I am in agreement with the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn), and would vote for the bill did I have the power to do so, I am rather disappointed that a crisis was needed to engender among honorable members opposite a truly democratic spirit in the matter of the menace of regulations. The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin), however, last year made an outstanding appeal on behalf, not only of the Northern Territory, but also of the outlying territories of New Guinea and Papua. He is the only honorable member apart from myself who to my knowledge has voiced in peace time a protest against the manner in which bureaucracy has been operating in regard to those territories, and he is deserving of congratulation on that account. I take this opportunity to congratulate him, as I did at the time, for his outspoken remarks. We are all aware of the existence of the new despotism. In Great Britain, Lord Hewart was impelled to say that we are governed by regulation. If he could be so outspoken in a country which we do not believe is as democratic as ours, surely our leading lawyers should stand up to the sentiment which he so well expressed. If the Government wishes to be clothed with bureaucratic powers, and to scuttle into recesss on Friday, surely the people of Australia have the right to demand that the Parliament shall sit whenever it is necessary to introduce legislation to meet any situation that might arise. I object to legislation being introduced in skeleton form, and afterwards fleshed with regulations. The honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) voiced similar sentiments at the termination of the last period of the session, and I should like to hear him again on this subject. Particularly in war time is it necessary that this Parliament should meet to confer the very powers which the Government seeks to obtain by bureaucratic methods. My only regret is that I have not the opportunity to vote for this bill.
.- Apparently the purpose of the Opposition in bringing forward this measure is quite consistent. I take it that its objective is to nullify the usefulness of the principal measure against which its opposition did not prevail, and that the pur pose of the Government in introducing that principal measure - which, of course, could not function as was intended were this measure to be passed - was to endeavour to enable this country, through its government, during a time of war, to match in the efficiency of that part of the government which is directed to the conduct of the war, those powers that are arrayed against us. There is no basis for comparison between efficiency of government in time of war and efficiency of government in time of peace. We pride ourselves upon being one of the democratic nations of the world. To that end, we desire to reserve to the Parliament, and through the Parliament to the people, as complete control as can be given in respect of the exercise of all governmental authority. It was with a firm belief in that principle that I voiced the criticisms to which my friend the honorable member for Northern Territory (Mr. Blain) has referred, when dealing with a measure that was brought before this Parliament during peace time. I have no doubt that the hope and expectation in the minds of all of us was that peace would prevail. I repeat that during peacetime the Parliament itself should retain to the utmost its control over legislation, and that the delegation of that power should be reduced to a minimum. To say that that is a desirable ideal during a time of peace is not to convey in any way the impression that it remains a desirable ideal during a time of war.
– Why not?
– Because it would limit the Executive of the day in the freedom and celerity of action which are absolutely essential to the effective conduct of the active military operations of war, and of those civil actions which are necessary to prevent profiteering.
– That is an indictment against the whole system.
– It is not an indictment against the whole system; it is a recognition of the fact that the democratic system does not compare favorably with the totalitarian system of government in respect of preparations for the conduct of war. Whereas totalitarian governments may be well established partly for the purpose of preparing for the conduct of war, the constitutions of democracies - I hold - are certainly not framed with that object.
– The honorable member knew, when he criticized the regulation powers, that those powers were designed to be used only in the event of the outbreak of war. His criticism still holds good.
– The honorable member does not know what he is talking about. My criticism was directed, not to the National Security Act, hut to the Supply and Development Bill, which was a peace-time measure. The honorable member surely ought to be sufficiently familiar with the proceedings of this Parliament to know that the National Security Act was introduced after the outbreak of war. I repeat that it would be quite impossible for the Executive of the day to function during a time of war were it to comply with the proposal that this Parliament should remain continuously in session. I have not the slightest doubt that the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) would not associate himself with such a proposal even in time of peace, let alone in time of war, and claim that the Executive could function as efficiently as it does when given some breaking space in the intermissions between the sittings of Parliament. I was amazed at the opposition of honorable members opposite, supported outside their ranks only by the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr.Wilson), to the National Security Act when it. was brought before this Parliament. I feel quite safe in saying that no government has attempted to conduct a war without first arming itself with the authority to take immediate action, comparable to that given to the Executive in the National Security Act. I am confident that any modern power to-day would be reduced tremendously in its competence to engage in warfare with the totalitarian powers were it not to be clothed with authority to make immediate decisions and to take action with celerity. That is the whole purpose of the National Security Act.
– I do not deny that.
– The honorable member for Wimmera has the temerity to interject that he does not deny that no government could efficiently conduct a war in these days were it not clothed with the authority given in the National Security Act; yet he is the one member of this House outside the ranks of the Labour, who voted against that measure. Let him square that vote with his present admission if he possibly can. We know that, apart from the immediate military measures to be taken under the authority of the National Security Act, other steps must also be taken in the Government is with effect to pit itself against individual profiteers and exploiters of the community. Acute brains in the commercial world are always watching for an opportunity to circumvent the law of the land for profit. Certain individuals will undoubtedly discover, during the progress of this war, how they may enrich themselves. If we were to pass the most exhaustively considered act of parliament to control profiteering, some individuals would be. sufficiently acute to discover loopholes in it, and would take the advantage of them to exploit their fellow citizens. That has been the experience of every country in every war. The only way to prevent that kind of thing happening is to clothe the Executive with unlimited authority to legislate by regulation.
The honorable member for Hunter interjecting,
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon.G. J. Bell).I have had to ask the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) on several occasions to cease interjecting, hut he has continued to interject. His conduct amounts to a defiance of the Chair. Consequently, the Chair will have to take other action if he does not cease interjecting.
– Only by acting under some complete power can the Executive counter the operations of profiteers.
– The object of this bill is not to stop the Executive from acting promptly, hut to give Parliament the opportunity to test its actions.
– The honorable member must surely misunderstand the purposes of the bill. Either House of the Parliament already has power to disallow regulations under the act, and it is not proposed to vitiate that power. What the bill really proposes is that the Government shall not have authority to issue regulations unless Parliament is in session. That is a most impracticable proposition. In my opinion it is imperatively necessary for the Executive to have authority to issue regulations under the National Security Act with respect, not only to military matters but also to profiteering, price control, and so on. I rest content in the knowledge that Parliament will retain the power to disallow regulations. I quite visualize that some injustices may possibly be done to individuals by reason of the provisions of the National Security Act, and I am not unmindful of the injustices that were done to individuals under the War Precautions Act during the last war. We know that at that time certain individuals had their civil liberties curbed and their businesses hampered by reason of the provisions of the War Precautions Act. But we must remember that we are engaged in a war during which many thousands of people will doubtless lose their lives. If, in order to enable the Government to shorten the period of the war, or to conduct the operations of the war more efficiently and thereby save the loss of even one life, it is necessary to take the risk of infringing the civil liberties of a few individuals, I must take that risk. I make no bones about declaring my opinion that this power is necessary to enable the Government to conduct its operations more efficiently with the object of shortening the war. It should therefore have the power even though I must contemplate the unfortunate possibility of certain persons having their civil liberty restricted in some way. I make no apologies for holding these views. I visualize such possibilities as the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) has described but nevertheless I cannot support the bill.
.- The plausible arguments of the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) are characteristic of the skilful debating of the honorable gentleman, but he entirely misrepresents the position. He has stated that the object of the bill is to destroy the effect of the principal act, and that the Opposition, having voted against the principal measure and having failed to defeat it, is now attempting, by an ulterior process, to test the House again upon the original issue. As a matter of fact, there is very little positive legislation in the principal act. The objection which honorable members of the Opposition are seeking to remedy is not what the act actually does. Our complaint is that the act derogates from the authority of Parliament. We are seeking to establish the ultimate authority of the Parliament. The honorable member for Indi, on the other hand, is seeking to repose final authority in the Executive.
– Not at all. The ultimate authority still rests with the Parliament.
– But injustices will be perpetrated before Parliament can deal with the situation.
– Parliament will simply exercise a post-mortem authority. It will only be able to act after the fell deed, if fell deed there be, has been perpetrated. Surely honorable members must realize that it is too late to vindicate the innocence of a man after he hasbeen hanged. That is the principle at stake. The argument of the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony), which the honorable member for Indi has repeated, is that in a time of war the processes of democracy are slow and inefficient, and consequently the processes of the totalitarian States should be adopted. If we accept that principle, we give away the whole democratic claim. The contention amounts to this : That democratic institutions are inefficient and futile and therefore it becomes necessary, in a time of war, to vindicate the democratic principle by the methods of the despot.
– Democratic Rome always appointed a dictator to wage war.
– But he only held power for six months.
– The Leader of the Country party (Mr. Archie Cameron) must surely know that Cincinnatus was called from the plough to the dictatorship in order to deliver the Roman consul and army from peril. He laid aside his toga, saved the army, defeated the enemy and after holding the dictatorship for only sixteen days returned to his farm !
The honorable member for Indi, in seeking to assert the authority of the Executive, desires to provide that Parliament shall, in effect, pay homage to the despot. This is the whole issue. The honorable gentleman says: “You must strike quickly; you must not suffer delay for consultation or discussion. You must not delay to enable the representatives of the people to express their minds. In effect, you must act as a dictator “. In that way we should be paying homage, even if it be unwillingly, to the dictators. In the last resort, therefore, the honorable gentleman’s view favours dictatorship. That is the logical conclusion to which he drives himself.
– The honorable member has misinterpreted his views.
– I hope the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane) will not- drive his spring cart into this argument ! It. would be very difficult to exchange ideas with him, intelligently, on the subject. I remember, when I was a. member of a ‘government, having occasion to make regulations.
– And the honorable member will remember that the power of disallowance was very considerable.
– The power of disallowance may be exercised now, as it was then, by a single branch of the legislature. But the position was that I was a. member of a government and a member of the popular House which had just been constituted by an overwhelming vote of the people. I was fully aware that it was perfectly legitimate, notwithstanding that the other place had not been before the people and had no right to lay claim to express the will of the people, that it should have the authority of disallowance. But, as we had come fresh from the people, we repeatedly made certain regulations to give effect to the mandate from the people, and just as repeatedly the branch of the legislature, which had not been before the people and had no mandate from the people, in the exercise of its despotic power, disallowed them.
– The honorable member could not get away with his dictatorship.
– There was no dictatorship on our part. We were the servants of the people and we met Parlia ment, and Parliament remained almost constantly in session. While we were making regulations that represented the view of this chamber and were accepted by this chamber, they were rejected by another place, which, as I said, had no mandate.
– Why did not the honorable gentleman’s government exercise the constitutional power of a double dissolution and go before the people ?
– The honorable gentleman knows that I may not proceed very far along those lines on this bill. If I may be allowed just one sentence, we proceeded on that course just as faras we could against the continued obstruction in another place.
– The honorable gentleman went to the brink of the precipice, but was not game to jump.
– That is not the position at all, but I am here not to discuss that, but to re-state the intention of the bill introduced by the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) - the just, democratic object, namely, that this Parliament, the people’s Parliament, should retain its control over the Executive. All the main constitutional struggles in the history of British institutions have arisen from the filchings by the Executive, sometimes by the Judiciary, of authority which rightly belonged to Parliament, and the history of Britain in its brightest parts is the history of brave men who have insisted, not only against verbal opposition, but also in peril of their lives, on the maintenance of the rights of Parliament. These regulations are regulations of legislative character. At the present time, even in Great Britain, which, being nearer to the theatre of war, is more intimately concerned with it than we are, the Government has realized the importance of meeting Parliament in moments of grave emergency. Our Parliament is readily available. A telegram from Mr. Speaker is sufficient to assemble members of our Parliament from all parts of Australia in a week for the purpose of considering and giving legislative approval to urgent matters - so urgent that the Executive cannot at this moment see the necessity tor them. What is the objection to that course? The objection is the timedishonoured objection, namely, that governments do not like to be embarrassed by Parliament ; they .like to act alone ; they like to act on individual judgment. But I say finally that, if democratic institutions cannot stand the supreme test of war conditions, they are not worth defending and our sacrifices for democracy are in vain. As a bridge must submit itself in tests to a greater load than it would ever be likely to have to bear, so democratic institutions must be able to bear a test much greater than the normal test of the institutions.
– By the same argument the honorable gentleman would subject the fire brigade to the ordinary traffic laws.
– I am not quite sure what the honorable gentleman means. At all events the Assistant Minister (Mr. Holt) started off by being complacent and obliging. He took one glance across the chamber and saw the Leader of the Country party (Mr. Archie Cameron) looking stern and unrelenting, and, applying lime to his spine, he became rigid in his opposition to this measure, which the honorable member for Bourke has asked to have passed.. The Leader of the Country party said “ For heaven’s sake at least do not let them get away with this ! “, so the Assistant Minister is not prepared to do it. I think that the bill should be passed. I support it and I shall vote for it, and as Cincinnatus said on that memorable occasion to which I have referred, “Let those who wish to save the republic follow me “, when I cross the chamber at the division I shall say, “ Let those who are really in earnest in their sympathy for democratic institutions follow me “.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Lane) adjourned.
– by leave - The Government has decided to offer to the United Kingdom Government, for service overseas, the administrative personnel and air crews, including staff and specialist officers, pilots, air observers and air gunners, for six squadrons - four bomber squadrons and two two-seater fighting squadrons.
This decision is in complete conformity with our previously announced policy to provide first for the most adequate defence possible for Australia, and then to give to the United Kingdom whatever help is possible without detracting from our capacity to discharge our first responsibility.
We have been in very close touch with the Government of the United Kingdom as to the most appropriate and effective means of rendering assistance, and we know from the communications which have passed between us, and from our study of the position generally, that - particularly during the first year of the war, when the production of military aircraft in Great Britain and in France will be rapidly expanding, and when it may be anticipated that air warfare will be of predominating importance - the greatest possible assistance that can be given to Great Britain will be in the provision of trained air crews.
A careful survey of Australia’s capacity to train such crews has shown it to be far greater than is required to man all the military aircraft that in the most favorable circumstances and within any measurable time will become available in Australia through local manufacture and purchase overseas.
After a very thorough examination of this problem by the Defence Department, we find that, after providing fully for our present and contingent requirements, it will be possible, in addition, to train enough men to provide for the Air Expeditionary Force to which I have referred.
Honorable members will at once appreciate that whilst the sending of such a force out of Australia will represent a relatively small subtraction from our total man-power, it will render a very real measure of help to Great Britain in an arm of the service in which its requirements are greatest. In other words, the intrinsic loss to Australia is immeasurably smaller than the intrinsic gain to Great Britain, and we may feel that in rendering this help we are performing a service to the centre of the Empire which will be much greater than the service we could render in any other way in the same time.
The sending of this force will not reduce Australia’s air defence by a single aircraft, and will leave ample personnel for the effective manning of our present air fleet and such aircraft as we may construct or acquire in the future.
Under the terms of our offer, the six squadrons will operate as an Australian force.
We have given consideration to the question of sending ground maintenance staff also, but we have deferred this pending inquiry into the effect which such action might have on our own reserves of skilled mechanics.
Unless it be found that the sending abroad of a ground maintenance staff would prejudice our own productive capacity in Australia, such staff will be sent in addition to those already mentioned.
It is expected that the force will be ready to proceed overseas, if circumstances permit, before the end of the year, though naturally the whole matter will be subject to any unexpected difficulties or changes in our strategic position that may occur during the next few months.
As our capacity to do so increases, the Government will give consideration to the possibility of still further reinforcing the great air effort in which the British and French peoples will undoubtedly have to engage before long.
I feel that not only honorable members but also all Australians will be pleased that so early as this the way has been found of giving real help to the United’ Kingdom without impairing in any way our duty and capacity to provide for Australia’s own security in the Pacific.
.- I rise to express my deep disappointment at the stand taken by the Opposition. I should have thought that honorable members would show some faith one in another. The Government made a fine gesture in accepting the bill moved by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway). Now we come to the issue raised by the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) in a bill which is aimed to destroy weeks of work by this Government. Have honorable members opposite no faith in their own country, or in its democratic institutions ? It is obvious that their statements were intended to throw doubt and suspicion on every act of this Government.
When I first became a member of this Parliament we had a very free discussion on dictatorships. I remember very well how honorable members opposite, who to-night are talking about democracy and how they propose to defend it, were split into two factions, one led by an honorable member opposite who was a disciple of Lenin and the other by a more distinguished right honorable gentleman. How certain members of the party championed the cause of Lenin in those days ! How anxious they were that Australia would have its own Lenin ! One of their number, the former honorable member for Cook, Mr. Garden, went so far as to say that Mr. Lang was even greater than Lenin. I ask honorable members opposite: Do they display their love of democracy in the domestic affairs of their own unions? The honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford), who represents one of the strongest trade unions in this country, and the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan), would be first to say that there are occasions when meetings of the unions cannot be held and that, during those periods, authority to act on their behalf should be vested in the executives of the unions concerned. As a matter of fact, that is done every day. I rose mainly to draw attention to the lack of faith exhibited by honorable members opposite in the democratic institutions of this country. Listening to their joyous patriotic expressions when the Government promised to let them have this bill, I almost felt like draping the Union Jack, the Australian flag and perhaps De Valera’s flag around them. No other occasion has ever brought forth such an outburst of loyalty and devotion from honorable members opposite.
– Order ! The honorable member is not discussing the bill.
– Apparently honorable members opposite understand only the sort of democracy which they practice in their unions outside.
– The honorable member will be at some pains to connect that remark with thebill.
– The honorable member knows very well the sort of dictatorship which exists in the trade union movement. I lived in Balmain, a strong trade union centre, for 39 years. I knew some of the trade union boys there and I have some knowledge of the workings of the movement. Why, when a “poor fellow got a job, he was often told to hand it over to some one else because it was not his turn to get a job! Yet honorable members opposite have the audacity to think that the workers and the people of Australia generally are likely to believe what they say.
– On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, the honorable member is nol discussing the bill. I ask you to direct him to do so.
– The honorable member is not discussing the bill. He must do so.
– I believe that I am entitled to draw the attention of the people to the so-called democracy of honorable members opposite, and to show how their actions in this Parliament differ so widely from their actions outside.
– The honorable member will not be in order in doing so.
– Then perhaps I might be permitted to reply to a point made by the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan). The honorable member claimed that what this bill is seeking to do is to prevent the government of this country from nullifying parliamentary action. Could anything be more stupid? Let us consider for a moment what honorable members opposite had to say regarding important measures passed by this Parliament recently. What had honorable members opposite to say about the National Register Bill? The honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard) stormed in this chamber and said, “ I shall never register; I shall go to gaol first “ ; but since the executive of the Australasian Council of Trade Unions in Melbourne said that all unionists should register, the honorable member changed his mind and has remained silent.
The honorable member for Batman endeavoured to prove what a democracy is ‘by misstating what are the very fundamentals in any democracy. He also charged honorable members on this side of the House with being in favour of autocracy or a dictatorship. I am sure that, when the opportunity is presented to them, the people of Australia will show by their votes that they have every confidence in the parties on this side of the House. This country is fortunate in the possession of a democracy unequalled elsewhere in the world.
The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has promised the House and the country that, in the event of a state of emergency arising, Parliament will be immediately summoned, so that the opinions of the people may he expressed through their elected representatives. Contrast that with the tactics adopted by honorable members opposite who, by their stonewalling, have endeavoured to prevent the defence policy of the Government from being put into operation at a time when this country is actually at war. The only purpose behind the introduction of a bill such as that now before us is to delay the Government in giving effect to its proposals for the defence of this country. The honorable member for Maribyrnong has told us of the wonderful things done by a democratic government in Victoria. What has that government done? Surely nothing more than every other government has done, and what the people themselves would have done if it had failed in its duty ! We must all realize our responsibilities as the elect of the people. I claim that I represent my constituents faithfully. Honorable members have spoken concerning the possibility of injury being done to certain members of other nations who find themselves in Australia during this crisis. Already I have been asked by friends to intervene on behalf of certain enemy subjects born in Australia, who have been subjected, very unfairly, to questioning by the authorities in regard to certain matters. I regard it as my duty as a member of this Parliament to see that justice is meted out to these people.
I have always objected to regulations being made when the Parliament is not in session. I believe that, where it is practicable to do so, the government of the country should be by legislation and not by regulation ; but during a period of emergency it is necessary that the Government should be given very wide powers. Are we to wait to act until the enemy is at our door? Before we fight, are we to take a referendum to ascertain the views of the people regarding the advisability of sending men to defend the approaches to Sydney Harbour? Are we to wait until Parliament can be summoned to meet to deal with matters such as that ? I fee] sure that such stupidities can be conceived only in the minds of those who are the enemies of the British Empire and of Australia’s rights and freedom.
– The honorable member is out of order.
– Honorable members opposite endeavoured to set up a dictatorship in this country about eight years ago.
– I have already reminded the honorable member that he is not in order in proceeding along those lines.
Mi-. LANE. - I sincerely hope that this bill, which was conceived by the honorable member for Bourke, will be rejected. I regret that the honorable gentleman has allowed his associates to “ SOO “ him on to do things which he otherwise would not do. I trust that the honorable member will endeavour to use his restraining influence on his colleagues to induce them to cease their unprovoked attacks on the democratic institutions of this country of which we are so proud.
– It is not my purpose to detain the House for more than a few moments. I merely wish to re-state an interjection which I made when the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) was speaking. The honorable member declared that the proposal put forward by the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) would, in effect, prevent the Government from making regulations dealing with profiteering, price-fixing and other such matters that he felt were desirable in the interests, not only of those who might actually be engaged in the war, but also of those who remained in this country. The honorable member apparently regarded my interjection as a misstatement of what he had said. The purpose of this amendment is not to stop the Government from bringing down regulations dea.ling with these subjects, but is to give Parliament an opportunity to con sider these regulations before they are enforced. That is an entirely different principle from that which the honorable member attempted to ascribe to this measure. Section 18 of the National Security Act is a very serious one, especially in relation to the regulation-making power which the Executive proposes to take. It provides opportunities for the Executive Council to make regulations overriding existing statutes. That is a very wide departure which, in effect, takes away from the legislature not only its constitutional powers but also its powers under legislation passed during the 40 years of its existence. Is not the proposal put forward by the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn), therefore, a reasonable one, even if only from the point of exercising some restriction over the Executive Council in matters of this kind? Strong protests against ‘the regulation-making power of the Government have been voiced in this House on many occasions. One of the first speeches which the Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Spender) made here related to the evil of government by regulation. He observed that this method of government had reached a stage far beyond what was originally intended by the Constitution, and he thought that it was time steps were taken to force the Government to place its decisions on the statute-hook rather than implement them by means of regulations. If that view is supported generally by honorable members, then, in spite of the arguments advanced from the aspect of the exigencies of war, this system should not be allowed to continue. The serious consequences which it is alleged might arise should this bill be carried have not been named, but have been left to the imagination of honorable members. By means of a catch-cry an endeavour is being made to make Parliament give to the Government powers which it should not have. I am satisfied that the proposal put forward by the honorable member for Bourke provides a very necessary restriction. When all is said and done, as the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) pointed out, we are engaged in the war for the purpose of defeating in a foreign country a form of government which we abhor, yet, at the same time, we are actually setting up the same form of government in our own country. Because we take that stand we are accused by some members of expressing un-British sentiment. In conclusion, I wish to answer one allegation which I think should be answered, and that is in regard to trade unions. It is true that trade unions do delegate certain powers to their executives, but these powers are restricted by the rules which govern the unions. Furthermore, the rank and file of the unions have power to requisition a meeting to deal with ‘any decisions which may be made by the executives from time to time. There is no similar power in the hands of the rank and file of this Parliament. Honorable members have no power to call Parliament together or to force the Government to table regulations in order that honorable members may have an opportunity to veto them if necessary. Within certain constitutional limits, the power of calling Parliament together is in the hands of the Government. It must be borne in mind that, after all, any regulations that a government may make are based on the political thought and theories of that government. In the opinion of supporters of the Government the regulations may be quite right, but from the point of view of the people generally they may be totally undesirable. It is not right that such wide powers should be placed in the hands of any body of men because, no matter how lofty their intentions may be or how sincere they may be in their beliefs, they may still be misguided in their actions. We ask that power should he given to Parliament to disallow any regulations that are made.
.- I am in agreement with what the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford) said about the more frequent meeting of Parliament, and if this bill would ensure that Parliament would meet, I should support it. In his book on the Australian Constitution, Sir Isaac Isaacs points out that it is provided in the Constitution that the Commonwealth Parliament shall meet at least once in every year. It does not say when the session shall begin or how long it shall last, but the words “ at least “ are significant. Sir Isaac Isaacs holds that it is an obligation on the Government to see that Parliament does meet regularly and often. With that I agree. The Victorian Parliament has passed legislation providing that a certain number of members may demand a meeting of Parliament, and that I think would be a wise provision in our Constitution. Before we go into recess I would like an assurance that this Parliament will meet frequently.
– The Prime Minister has already given that undertaking.
– That is so, but I hope to hear something more specific before the House adjourns. I do not agree with the principle of government by an inner group of Cabinet whoever the members of that group may be. In fact, I resigned from the Cabinet on a similar matter of principle, because I regarded that practice as undemocratic. Whilst it is definitely a fact that the tempo of things must necessarily quicken, the Government cannot just place all responsibility upon those six men, whoever they may be, and believe that it is doing a democratic thing. The effect of this bill, which the honorable member for Bourke has put forward, would be to destroy the utility of much of the emergency legislation which we have just passed. A war in which we are participating is now in progress, but so far, things have been moving all too slowly from an Australian point of view. I have voiced on a number of occasions my opinion of the inadequate part we are playing, and I was glad to hear the Prime Minister announce to-night that Australia would send a flying corps overseas. I hope that that will be followed as soon as possible by an expeditionary force.
– Order ! That may not he debated in this bill.
– If this bill be passed it will destroy the efficiency of the Government to legislate in case of emergency.
– How would it do that?
– It would prevent the immediate making of regulations under the Defence Act, the Supply and Development Act or the National Register Act, should the necessity for urgent action arise within the next few weeks, or at any time when Parliament is in recess.
– Then there should be no recess.
– Obviously Parliament cannot sit continuously. The honorable member for Bourke has sufficient knowledge of parliamentary practice both in Victoria and in the Commonwealth to know that the Executive must be entrusted to take certain action. Parliament can decide subsequently whether or not that action was right. The power of the Government to legislate in time of emergency would be sabotaged by this stringent measure. I do not think that the honorable member would want such drastic restrictions to be placed upon the Government. As I said before, if this bill merely provided that Parliament must meet at regular periods I should support it.
Question put -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. G. J. Bell.)
Majority . . . . 6
Question so resolved in the negative.
Debate resumed from page 826.
– The bill standing in the name of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin), and introduced by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), is one with which I am substantially in disagreement, but I suggest that the House should pass the second reading in order that such amendments as are desirable may be made in committee.
– Is the Government selling out to the Opposition?
– I suggest that the honorable member who made that interjection should familiarize himself with the amendments which it is proposed to move. The bill falls into two parts. The first places limitations upon the service of those who are already members of the forces, while the second places limitations on those who are not undergoing military service. The principles involved were discussed some months ago when the bill amending the Defence Act was before the House, and the arguments used now by the honorable member for East Sydney are substantially the same as those he used then. I do not propose to reiterate the arguments used from this side of the House when the previous bill was under consideration.
Clause 3 of the bill cuts right across the existing provisions of the Defence Act, under which any member of the defence forces raised within the Commonwealth may be required to serve in any of the territories under the authority of the Commonwealth, and any member of the forces in a territory of the Commonwealth may be required to serve anywhere within the Commonwealth of Australia. Notwithstanding the opinion of the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn), and of the honorable member for
East Sydney, I am of opinion that section 49 of the Defence Act imposed a liability on those serving in the defence forces of Australia to serve in any territory within the authority of the Commonwealth. There is no doubt that the framers of the Constitution clearly contemplated the addition of further territories to the Commonwealth. It is essential that the defence forces should function as a whole in relation to th .’ territories which, though not in fact pan of the Commonwealth, are regarded as part of Australia. It may be that the continent of Australia could be more adequately defended from Papua. Any defence force normally located in Papua would necessarily be very small, and it. would be deplorable if that territory could not be assisted in time of need by forces from the mainland. This clause would be dangerous from a. defence point of view, inasmuch as it would prevent the application of elementary principles of strategy to the defence of Australia as a whole.
Further reference was made during the debate to conscription for service overseas, and though I do not think that the honorable member for East Sydney suggested that service in Papua or any of the territories would be regarded as service overseas, yet he appeared to attach considerable importance to this point. I repeat the assurance that the Government does not intend to introduce conscription for service overseas, but I am sure that no honorable member in this House would regard sei” vice in the territories as service overseas. Sub-section 3 of clause 3 of the bill is as follows: -
In this section “ overseas territory “ means any territory of the Commonwealth which is not within the limits of the continent of any territory of the Commonwealth which is Australia, anil “Australia” does not include not within the limits of the Commonwealth of Australia.
I am not sure that any definition of the “continent of Australia” has ever been given. I presume that by those words is meant the continuous mainland, or something like that, but it may be that such a definition would exclude Rottnest Island, which lies off the coast from Fremantle, and which is so vital to the defence of that port.
Clause 4 of the bill proposes to amend section 61 of the principal act by omitting from paragraph i of sub-section 1, the words “who satisfy the prescribed authority that their “ and by inserting in their stead the word “ whose “. The present section reads -
Persons who satisfy the prescribed authority that their conscientious beliefs do not allow. . . .
However, section 61a provides that when any question arises as to whether a person is or is not exempt, the obligation rests upon him to submit proof, and the matter must be decided by an authority authorized by the regulations. Therefore, the situation would not be substantially altered even if this clause were agreed to. Paragraph b of clause 4 proposes to insert after paragraph i the following paragraph : - (ia) Persons whose conscientious beliefs do not allow them to perform any duty of a military character, whether of a combatant nature or a non-combatant nature.
In paragraph c the following proviso is added : - . . Provided further that the exemption by virtue of paragraph (to.) of this subsection shall be granted on condition that, during an actual invasion of Australia, the persons so exempt shall perform such civilian service ass they may be, from time to time, required to perform.
The Government could not accept an amendment of that kind. Indeed, I have considerable difficulty in interpreting it. It is difficult to know just what is meant by the expression “ duty of a military character, whether of a combatant nature or of a non-combatant nature”. For instance, the baking of bread is an occupation of a non-combatant nature in the ordinary way, but some one might claim that the baking of bread for the army would assist the military forces, and he might claim exemption on that ground. The proviso that exemptions shall be granted on the condition that, during an actual invasion of Australia, the persons exempt shall perform such civilian service as may be required, is as close to industrial conscription as anything I can think of. It has never before been suggested that power should be taken under the Defence Act to impose civilian service.
Certain amendments have been prepared, and will presently be circulated, which will have the effect of redrafting these provisions, because, in the main, the Government does not take exception to them.
– Why does not the Government bring in its own legislation?
– I regret that the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn) does not seem to be aware of the circumstances leading up to the bringing in of this bill. At a conference presided over by the Prime Minister and attended by the Leader of the Opposition and myself, the Prime Minister gave an undertaking that .bills of this kind would be discussed, in the House, and that the Leader of the Opposition would be given an opportunity to bring them in.
– And that the Government would consider every measure on its merits.
– I ask the House to agree to the second reading of the bill, and I propose to move certain amendments in the committee stage.
– The whole of the circumstances connected with the introduction and discussion of this measure call for a fair amount of comment. This afternoon, the first business of the House was to pass a motion giving government business precedence over general business to-morrow. The House next decided to suspend the 11 o’clock rule on account of pressure of government business. Then at 8.10 p.m., another debate was adjoined in order, as we thought, to allow the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) to introduce three bills. According to the statement of the Minister for Defence (Mr. Street), these bills are the result of an agreement between the Opposition and the Government which was arrived, at at some conference. The singular feature is that the Leader of the Opposition, although the official sponsor of each measure, did not move the second reading of either of those already brought forward.
– I obtained leave to introduce them.
– The honorable gentleman then passed them on. What is still more remarkable is that the sponsor of this proposed amendment of the Defence Act is the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), who I may say is not regarded in our quarter as one of the very ardent advocates of defence measures in this country. That, at a time when the Government is telling this Parliament and the country that it has urgent defence measures to pass, over three hours of valuable parliamentary time should have been devoted to the discussion of these bills, is a remarkable circumstances demanding a . definite explanation as to the relations between the Government and the Opposition which countenance this extraordinary procedure of allowing the Opposition to bring forward legislation that by no stretch of the imagination can be regarded as having any bearing on the conduct of the present war, unless it be to try to prevent the Government from giving effect to the most useful means of prosecuting the war. No other construction can be placed on what has been done. The Minister for Defence may well say that he has drafted amendments embodying the Government’s point of view, it would have been very much better had the Government not come to any agreement with the Opposition, but had taken the initiative of bringing down the original proposals instead of advancing amendments which will alter practically the whole of the bill. If clause 3 were given effect, Australia and its territories would bo divided into practically defence-tight compartments. A man living in the territory of New Guinea would nave no obligation whatever to serve in the Commonwealth. A man living in the State of Queensland would not be concerned in any way with the welfare of Australian territory across the Torres Straits in Papua or New Guinea, or the defence of the phosphate deposits on Nauru, or the safety of the inhabitants in not far distant British or French possessions, in respect of which we ought to have some responsibility. Clause 4 contains a completely novel interpretation of what constitutes a conscientious objector. Surely that clause was drafted by the Communist party and given to the honorable member for East Sydney, the Leader of the Opposition merely acting as political godfather to it at its birth ! If this clause be given effect, a conscientious objector will no longer be a man having any particular religious objections to active service, or to being connected with it; he will be one who objects on political grounds to taking any active part in military operations. The sponsoring of such a proposal by the Leader of the Opposition places him in an awkward position before the Australian community. This is not the time when we ought to be paltering with matters of this description. The law of the Commonwealth already provides facilities for conscientious objectors to sustain their objection to active service. If the gate be opened so widely, the Leader of the Opposition and those who sit behind him will have something to explain to the people of the Commonwealth. The mere fact that the Opposition initiated this proposal is sufficient to condemn its policy and its outlook. I believe that the proper, the honest, and the decent thing to do is to vote the bill right out. It is not worthy of serious consideration by this legislature. When other Government business comes up for consideration, honorable members of the Country party will be fully entitled to ask the Government to explain the use of parliamentary time on matters which should not have seen the light of day, particularly during the currency of a war.
.- The attitude of the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. John Lawson) does not affect me in the slightest degree, particularly as this is the first occasion on which these proposals have been referred to the members of his party.
– We have never been consulted.
– So he has no cause to shrug his shoulders, and to complain if members of the party do not accept the proposals. The attitude of the Government in this matter is miserable and craven.
– Order ! The honorable member must not use such expressions.
– I should like to know who is running the war in this country. Apparently the Opposition is. There were several complaints last week that the Government was not getting on with the business which had to be transacted.
I did not join in them, because I believed that the Government had a good deal of ground to cover in a very short space of time. But now, when I find the Government simply putting itself into the hands of the Opposition, I ask: Who is running the war machine of this country? I was one of those who voted to give the Government plenary powers for the conduct of the war. If it acts in this way, it is not worthy of such powers. The substance of this bill is merely an expression of negative ideas; it declares only what Australia will not do in connexion with the war. We may all agree that in the present circumstances no man should be sent out of Australia without his consent, but to make a public declaration to that effect does not do credit to Australia in the eyes of other parts of the Empire. Even though we hold that opinion there is no need to publish it. The occasion might arise when it would be necessary and desirable for Australians to give their services outside Australia. Supposing that New Zealand were attacked, would not Australians readily go to the assistance of their fellow citizens in that dominion ?
– The bill does not prevent that.
– The bill merely gives expression to what has been the political belief of many members of the Opposition during the last few months, and even years. It is an attempt to make party political capital out of the proposition that Australians shall not be sent out of this country. For some years I have seen the Opposition endeavouring to lure the Government into a declaration in favour of conscription. It has never forgotten the success which it had on the two referendums over twenty years ago, and its greatest hope of return to political power lies in its being able to inveigle the Government into active support of conscription. The same sentiment which animated the Labour party in that direction for years has been responsible for the introduction of this bill. I am sorry that the Government has accepted the position in which it stands in relation to this measure. It is a poor spectacle to see the Government proposing amendments to legislation introduced by the Opposition. If it is to govern at all, it should take responsibility for the legislation brought before this Parliament ; it should draft its own legislation, bring it down, and pass it. That applies to a greater degree to military legislation than to legislation of any other type.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Blackburn) adjourned.
Consideration resumed from page 821.
.- When progress was reported earlier, I was expressing regret that the Government had seen fit to place the woollen industry particularly in a most precarious position. As the result of this tariff schedule, we have had throughout Australia a united protest by both the employees and the employers in this industry. It is an industry which is peculiarly suitable to Australia. The raw material that it uses is produced in this country in abundance. There is an adequate labour supply, and the local machinery manufacturers are able to provide a large proportion of the plant needed. The industry to-day has the lowest wholesale price index of any industry in the Commonwealth, clearly indicating that in no sense is it exploiting the people of Australia. I am not necessarily asserting that it would not exploit if it had the opportunity to do so. I am not able to explain why its price index is lower than that of any other industry, but I do say that that fact indicates that it is entitled to a full measure of protection - even a larger measure than that which it has to-day. The Tariff Board has reported that certain classes of manufactured woollen goods had a very small sale in Australia and that therefore a lower rate of duty or a complete removal of the duty was desirable, and would not impose any hardship on the industry. I cannot follow that reasoning at all. The Australian people are surely entitled to these special lines - suitings and the like - and they should be manufactured in this country. The following wholesale price index will indicate that my contention that the price of woollen goods is low is amply borne out: -
Those figures clearly demonstrate that the price levels of woollen goods are low. It cannot be argued, therefore, that the woollen industry has used the present duties to exploit the public. The position to-day is due entirely to certain obnoxious articles of the Ottawa Agreement. I believe that the proposed reduction of duties is due to representations and pressure from British manufacturers. It is outrageous that Parliament should be expected to accept, without any qualification whatever, all of the recommendations which the Tariff Board sees fit to make. The Government should be prepared, if necessity arises, to set aside recommendations made by the board in order to apply equitable duties. The recommendations of the experts may sometimes be technically sound but economically unsound. We have to keep in mind the desirableness of developing our industries to the fullest possible degree. I make no apologies whatever for urging the Government to recommend duties appropriate to the industries concerned. This course is specially justified in the case of the woollen industry, the operations of which are decentralized to a greater degree than possibly any other Australian industry. Very many woollen mills are situated in country towns contiguous to railway sidings, with raw materials close at hand. The people employed in them live in a healthy atmosphere and enjoy happy surroundings. These woollen mills undoubtedly contribute to the development of some of the more remote areas of the Commonwealth. As I believe that the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. John Lawson) has his measure of wisdom, I trust that he will see the desirableness of according to the woollen industry the protection to which it is justly entitled. It has not been suggested that the duties which have hitherto been in force have resulted in the exploitation of the public in any way. Our people should be given an opportunity . to obtain woollen goods manufactured in Australia by Australian workmen under Australian conditions. The duty should not be reduced.
Honorable members of the .Country party frequently protest against our customs duties, and some of them even go so far as to advocate freetra.de. It can be demonstrated, however, that an equitable protectionist policy actually results in a reduction of prices. In 1919, I wished to buy a reaper and binder. This implement was not being manufactured in Australia at that time, yet £105 was asked for every imported implement.
– A reaper and binder could be bought for £38 in 1919.
– That may be true, but the honorable member is well aware that the price rose uniformly throughout the world just after that time. ‘ In 1921, tariff protection was accorded to the local manufacturers of agricultural implements. The Hugh V. McKay organization placed a reaper and binder on the market that year for £98 10s. A few months later, the price was reduced to £95. This clearly shows that the importers had been exploiting the public. It also showed that reasonable protection for local industries was abundantly justifiable. I have always stood for full protection for Australian industries, and I am prepared, in appropriate cases, to apply prohibitions against imports. Undoubtedly, in days gone by the importers of agricultural implements exploited the primary producers of this country. The Australian agricultural implement manufacturing industry has proved to be very valuable, for subsidiary enterprises have been developed, and industries involving the chemical, engineering and commercial aspects of agriculture have been encouraged.
In all of the circumstances, I protest strongly against a reduction of duties at this stage. It is particularly objectionable that duties on woollen manufactures should be reduced. I hope that the Government will take notice of the protests that have been uttered by honorable members on both sides of the chamber. The manufacturers of woollen goods have not exploited the public, and they are therefore entitled to the protection of their industries.
.- This Parliament now has an opportunity, under the enlarged wartime powers that have been taken by the Government, to regulate conditions in a way that was tried in 1907 but without success.
– The honorable member desires to go back to the old Harvester days?
– Not at all. I do not suggest that the circuitous methods adopted at that time should be applied now. I urge the Government to use its wartime powers to protect, by direct legislation, not only the workers engaged in certain protected industries, but also the purchasers of the goods. There are difficulties in taking action of this kind under normal circumstances and a measure of uncertainty would have existed concerning the validity of any such legislation, though I think that even under such conditions something could have been done. Under the conditions of to-day, however, no uncertainty would exist. The Government, under its wartime power, could take positive legislative measures to protect employees and consumers alik? in respect of the products of certain indus tries operating under substantial customs duties.
– Would that not be an abuse of the wartime powers?
– No. I am not suggesting that action should be taken under regulations. My view is that Parliament should take legislative action to regulate prices and determine conditions in respect of certain protected industries. This is not a time to reduce duties. It is possible in the textile industries that if the reduced duties are approved, many employees may be dismissed. That should be prevented. The employees in the textile industry have recently approached the Arbitration Court for a review of their wages and working conditions, and this step has led to a certain amount of tension with employers. It is not easy to obtain the redress of grievances under our technical arbitration system. The Government could easily protect the interests of workers and consumers alike by taking certain action under its wartime powers, and if it did so it would be unnecessary for the employees to set in motion our technical arbitration machinery. The Government could now provide by Act of Parliament that certain conditions in relation to both prices and wages should apply to protected industries. This would tend to prevent any exploitation of the public.
The honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard) has drawn attention to the report of the Tariff Board on woollen textiles. It should be borne in mind that that report is already twelve months old. It is curious to me that at a time when we cannot gauge the possibilitiesof the future, and cannot say what is likely to happen overseas, the Government should be proposing a downward revision of the tariff in relation to textiles. The woollen industry is admirably suited to this country. It is economical that the raw material of the country should be manufactured within the country. The proper course for the Government to pursue would be to refer these items back to the Tariff Board for reconsideration under the conditions now existing. There is urgent necessity for the Government to ensure that the benefit of our protectionist policy is not enjoyed exclusively by manufacturers. It should be shared by manufacturers, employees and consumers.
Sitting suspended from 11.45 p.m. to 12.15 a.m. (Thursday).
The general debate being concluded,
– I move -
That that portion of the Tariff Resolution described as Customs Tariff Proposals No. 9 introduced into the House of Representatives on 14th September, 1939, be incorporated in the present proposals as on and from 15th September, 1939, in lieu of the corresponding items of the Tariff Resolution introduced into the House of Representatives on the 3rd May, 1939.
This motion is one of which I gave notice during my second-reading speech. Its object is to incorporate in Customs Tariff Proposals (No. 7) the amendments made by Customs Tariff Proposals (No. 9) which were introduced on the 14th September.
Motion agreed to.
Items 161, 176, 179, and 180, with amendments of the 14th September, 1939, incorporated, agreed to.
By omitting the whole of paragraph (2) of sub-item (a) and inserting in its stead the following paragraph: - “ (2) Valves for wireless telegraphy and telephony, including rectifying valves, each, British 2s. 3d., general 4s.; or ad val., British 20 per cent., general 40 per cent.; whichever rate returns the higher duty.”
Amendment (by Mr. John Lawson) agreed to -
That the following be added to paragraph (2) of sub-item (a): - “and on and after the 21st September, 1939-
Valves for wireless telegraphy and telephony including rectifying valves, each - British, 2s. 3d.; intermediate. 3s.6d.; general, 4s.; and for each £1 by which the equivalent in Australian currency of £100 sterling is less than £125 at the date of exportation, each - British, 12d. ; intermediate, . 12d. ; general, 12d., or ad val. - British, 20 per cent.; intermediate, 40 per cent.; general, 40 per cent.; whichever rate returns the higher duty.
Item, as amended, agreed to.
Item 208 agreed to.
Items 351 and 359, with amendments of 14th September, 1939, incorporated, agreed to.
Item 397 agreed to.
Preliminary paragraphs -
Amendment (by Mr. John Lawson) agreed to -
That the preliminary paragraph of Customs Tariff Amendment (No. 7) be omitted, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following preliminary paragraph : -
That the Schedule to the Customs Tariff 1933-1939 be amended as hereinafter setout and that, on and after the fourth day of May, One thousand nine hundred and thirty-nine, at nine o’clock in the forenoon, reckoned according to standard time in the Australian Capital Territory, Duties of Customs be collected in pursuance of the Customs Tariff 1933-1939 as so amended.
Preliminary paragraphs, as amended, agreed to.
Standing Orders suspended ; resolution adopted.
That Mr. John Lawson and Mr. Fairbairn do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill brought up by Mr. John Lawson, and passed through all stages without amendment or debate.
Consideration resumed from the 4th
May, 1938 (vide page 819, volume 155), on motion by Mr. Perkins (vide page 818).
– The excise tariff proposals now under discussion relate to one item only, namely, item 19, valves for wireless telegraphy and telephony, including rectifying valves, on which it is proposed that the excise duty be reduced from 2s. to 1s. 9d. each, a reduction of 3d. a valve. This amendment in the excise tariff is associated with the amendments made by the Customs Tariff Proposals No. 7 of the 3rd May, 1939, to the duties on imported wireless valves. The import duty under the general tariff on wireless valves was increased by 6d. a valve, and with the proposed reduction of the excise of 3d. each on Australian-made valves, an increased protection of 3d. each against British valves, and 9d. each against foreign valves, has been given to the Australian manufacturer, who is now accorded an effective protection of 6d. each under the British preferential tariff and 2s. 3d. each under the general tariff.
The importation of wireless valves from North America was restricted for a period of two years to approximately 50 per cent. of previous importations. During that period, production in Australia increased fourfold, and a second Australian manufacturer commenced business. Before the import restrictions were removed, local production costs and landed duty-paid costs were examined. A comparison of these costs indicated that, if the duties were permitted to remain unaltered, importations would tend to revert to their previous dimensions, and the increased capital of about £200,000 which had been expended in further developing this industry, as well as the increased employment created, would have been endangered. It was decided therefore to adjust both the import and excise duties so as to give increased protection to the local manufacturers, pending a full inquiry into the industry by the Tariff Board. The Tariff Board has submitted its report, and the committee has already dealt with the import duties which have been adopted in view of that report. The import duties passed by the committee are based on an excise duty of1s. 9d. each, as now proposed, and accordingly I submit the present proposal for endorsement.
Item agreed to.
– I move -
That the preliminary paragraph be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following preliminary paragraph: - “ That the schedule to the Excise Tariff 1921-1936 as amended by the Excise Tariff 1938 and the Excise Tariff (No 2) 1938 be further amended as hereunder set out, and that on and after the fifth day of May, One thousand nine hundred and thirty-eight, at nine o’clock in the forenoon, reckoned according to standard time in the Australian Capital Territory, duties of customs be collected in pursuance of the Excise Tariff 1921-1936 as so amended.”
This is a formal amendment. The preliminary paragraph of the proposals when introduced in May, 1938, referred to the 1921-1936 tariff as proposed to be amended by tariff proposals of 8th December, 1937, which was the position of the excise tariff at that time, but as the excise tariff has subsequently been amended it is necessary to move this formal amendment.
Amendment agreed to.
Preliminary paragraph, as amended, agreed to.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. John Lawson and Mr. Fairbairn do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill brought up by Mr. John Lawson, and passed through all stages without amendment or debate.
Consideration resumed from the 14th September, 1939 (vide page 579), on motion by Mr. John Lawson -
That . . . the Schedule to the Customs Tariff (Exchange Adjustment) Act 1933-1939 be amended as follows: -
– Customs Tariff (Exchange Adjustment) Proposals No. 3 represent merely a machinery measure consequent upon the customs tariff proposals just dealt with by the committee. Under the latter customs tariff proposals provision is now made for duties based upon present exchange conditions, whereas in the case of some tariff items the British preferential tariff duties were previously struck at a rate based upon parity of exchange as between Australia and London, and a deduction, usually referred to as exchange adjustment, made from the duty to offset, in part, the protective effect of exchange. As the duty level is now on the basis of present exchange conditions, it is necessary to remove these particular items from the exchange adjustment list.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. John Lawson and Mr. Fairbairn do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Consideration resumed from the 14th September, 1939 (vide page 579), on motion by Mr. John Lawson -
That the Schedule to the Customs Tariff (Canadian Preference) 1934-38 be amended as hereunder set out…
– This Canadian preference proposal has the effect of imposing a special rate of duty on brake and transmission linings from Canada. Australian manufacturers of these goods incurred increased capital expenditure during the currency of the trade diversion restrictions. One effect of those restrictions was to divert some of the trade from the United States of America to Canada by reason of the fact that Canada secured the benefit of free admission under the British preferential tariff. The result has been that in some classes of brake and transmission linings the Canadian manufacturers have been able to sell in Australia very much below Australian manufacturers’ prices. The Tariff Board has recommended a duty of 25 per cent. ad valorem against Canadian linings, and the proposal now before the committee gives effect to the board’s recommendation.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
Consideration resumed from the 8th September, 1939 (vide page 341), on motion by Mr. John Lawson -
That the schedule to the Customs Tariff 1933-1939 be further amended . . . (vide page 335).
– These proposals, which were introduced in connexion with the budget, provide for increased customs duties on beer, whisky, rum, gin, petrol and allied products, and mineral lubricating oil, while a revenue duty is imposed on heavy oil and kapok fuel, both of which were previously admitted duty free under the Customs Tariff. In addition, cotton cord and cotton cord fabric for the manufacture of pneumatic tyres have been removed from Customs by-laws and a small revenue duty imposed.
In introducing the proposals I indicated that additional Customs revenue amounting to £1,417,000 was expected during 1939-40 from these sources. This estimate was made on the basis of normal trade conditions and it is difficult to say whether, in the present situation, these expectations of increased revenue will be realized. The international situation is not yet sufficiently clarified to enable the Government to assess with any degree of confidence the ultimate effect on the Commonwealth’s finances. I feel sure, however, that Customs revenue will not. during the period of hostilities, reach the high levels to which we have been accustomed, and that other avenues for raising money to assist in the financing of Australia’s war-time requirements will have to be explored. In the meantime I ask the committee to pass the present proposals into law.
Items 1 and 3 agreed to.
Item 122 agreed to.
Item 229 (Fuel oil).
.The Government is making a grave mistake in imposing a duty of 4d. British preferential tariff and 4½d. intermediate and general tariffs a gallon on diesel fuel oil because in so doing it will add to the burdens on the cost of primary production. Diesel oil which is used in tractors on the farm should be exempt. I have no objection to tariff being imposed on oil used in diesel trucks which use the roads. But many farmers and other primary producers have swung from the ordinary kerosene power tractors, which cost about £400 or £500 apiece, to the heavy and expensive diesel tractors, which cost from £950 to £1,300, in order to economize their costs by using the diesel fuel, which is cheaper than power kerosene. This Government professes to have real sympathy with the men on the land, but it would not seem that that is” so from its action in placing this extra burden on them.
– The wheat-growers do not have to worry about world parity now.
– They have to compete in the world’s markets. The price received for Australian wheat is much less than for North American or Argentine wheat.
– The Australian wheat will be sold at a fixed price.
– Which will be lower than the price for wheat from the United States of America or Argentina, who can sell to enemy and neutral countries. The Government should exempt, from tax what is used on the farm. Many times in this Parliament it has been suggested that petrol used for production, either in factories or on the land, should be exempt from tax. It is done in New Zealand, but I admit that it would be practically impossible to police such an exemption, because the man who uses petrol in his tractors could also use it in his private motor car. There would be no such possibility with the diesel oil. I admit that this tariff would be justified on diesel oil used in big trucks that use the roads, even to cart wheat, but this extra heavy burden on the cost of production on the farm is not warranted, and 1 ask the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. John Lawson) to withdraw this item and to give it further consideration. In New Zealand a. statutory declaration is given in regard to petrol for primary production. The same thing could be done here, with regard to diesel oil.
– I support the remarks of the honable member for Riverina (Mr. Nock), and I trust, that the Minister (Mr. John Lawson) will consent to give this item further consideration. It would be interesting to hear the views of other members of the Country party on a matter which vitally affects those engaged in primary production, and especially the wheat-growers to whom the honorable member for Riverina referred.
– Diesel oil engines are used in the sugar fields.
– Yes, and in connexion with cotton-growing, tobacco cultivation and, I presume, in the production of rice. If the Minister would state the amount of revenue likely to be derived from this source we should know the loss likely to be incurred if the additional impost were withdrawn. Honorable members representing country constituencies must have been impressed, particularly during the last few years, with the abnormal condiditions under which many thousands of primary producers are working. Many of those with whom I have come in contact have finished their year’s operations with a loss. The position of some will be improved as the result of their products being purchased by the British Government, but they have not yet received any benefit in that respect. Moreover, we have not yet been told the nature of the contracts to be entered intoand the prices that are likely to be paid. If a reduction of this duty tax were made it wouldbe of some assistance to the cotton growers ; but much more is required. The legislation now on the statute-book which affords some assistance to that industry expires in November, and we have had no statement from the Minister as to what is to be done to protect it. In these circumstances, I am anxious to do all in my power to assist to reduce the production costs of those engaged in our primary industries. Honorable members on this side of the chamber have always supported every reasonable concession to those producing for export, and although we endeavour to assist those conducting secondary industries, we are always willing to help those engaged in the arduous work of primary production. Is it the intention of the Government to penalize this section of producers by adding to the cost of diesel oil? If the Minister cannot satisfy the committee we shall have to support a motion to postpone the item.
.A number of persons in my electorate travel to and from their work in buses in which diesel oil is used, and if consideration is to be extended to primary producers in the direction suggested by the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Nock) some assistance will also have to be afforded to those who use buses as a means of transport and whose fares are doubtless based upon the cost of running buses. If diesel oil were available at a lower price a reduction of fares might be expected.
.Throughout the history of the Commonwealth there has always been a standard policy, in respect of which there has been no controversy, that no revenue duty should be imposed upon commodities which affect the cost of production in export industries. Such a policy has been adopted by every government regardless of the party or combination of parties of which a government may be formed; but this seems to cut right across such a policy.
– No such concession has been made in respect of petrol.
– The representatives of every party have expressed regret that it has not been possible to devise machinery to apply such a policy to that product. I believe that I am correct in saying that a provision was once adopted under which petrol used by primary producers in stationary engines, or, in fact, for all purposes other than for use on roads, should be exempt from that form of tax, but it was withdrawn because of the difficulty in implementing it. No one has ever disputed its equity. For the first time it is now proposed to collect a revenue tax upon a commodity which is a very substantial factor in the cost of producing commodities for export. If a comparison were made between the quantity of diesel oil used in stationary engines and in tractors on farms with that used for transport purposes, it would be disclosed that more diesel oil is used on farms than for transport purposes. I believe that we would be justified in opposing this item which, while giving to the Government an insignificant addition to its general revenue, would at the same time impose an added burden on production costs. A very substantial scale of taxes is imposed upon the products of factories; but no one can dispute that a staggering burden of costs is being borne by those engaged in wheat-growing and this at a time when there is an extraordinarily low export value of the product. The present value of Australian wheat is extraordinarily hard to determine ; there is not really any stable export value. In the minds of those competent to judge the wheat export market, there is a real fear as to whether it will be possible to sell Australian wheat, and while this state of affairs prevails, no concrete proposal for the stabilization of the wheat industry has been brought before this Parliament. The Government would be well advised to reconsider this item and if it should do so I feel sure that it will realize that the additional tax is not justified.
– According to the remarks of the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Nock), the increase under this item is to be Id. a gallon. Previously the rate was British free, but it is now to be British Id. Whilst I do not like, duties on commodities used in primary production to be increased, I realize that the Government has to obtain revenue, and an increase of Id. is not a very severe impost. Although Id. a gallon is not excessive, I should like the Government to give further consideration to this item.
– It has not been pleasant for the Government to devise means to raise revenue. It has had to consider many proposals and make decisions and it has done its best. I suggest to those honorable members who have criticized this proposal to impose a duty of Id. on crude petroleum that possibly they have overlooked the purpose for which the revenue is to be raised. The only reason which has prompted the Government to take this action is the urgent necessity to raise money to finance our war efforts.
– How much money does the Government expect to receive from this duty?
– I shall come to that. I suggest in all seriousness that honorable members should keep that fact very clearly before them when they criticize the Government’s proposals under the budget for the raising of additional revenue. I say again that the sole purpose of imposing this duty is to raise money to finance Australia’s war effort.
– Probably the Government could raise the money in some less objectionable way.
– It will have to raise money in this way and in many other ways before the war is over.
– All imposts are objectionable in one way or another.
– No matter what duty is imposed, certain sections of the community will feel it heavily. The imposition of this duty upon the primary industries will yield approximately £20,000. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) has mentioned the sugar industry and the cotton industry, which use diesel oil, and other honorable members have mentioned various other industries that will be affected by this duty. I ask the committee to consider the many millions of pounds provided by this Parliament every year in the way of special grants for the very industries referred to this evening as being unable to bear an impost which, when spread over all agricultural industries, is almost negligible. I ask honorable members to “consider how the primary industries will fare under this proposal compared with industrial undertakings. If we make a comparison on that basis we find that industrial undertakings will pay £120,000, whereas the whole of the primary industries will be called upon to pay only £20,000. Having regard to the impelling motive which obliged the Government to propose this duty, I do not think that that is too great a sacrifice to ask of primary industries. I suggest to honorable members, particularly to members of the Country party, that, if they oppose the Government’s proposal, they do so only by blinding themselves to their obligations to assist the Government to find the necessary finance to carry on its war operations.
– If the honorable member wishes to block the passage of this measure statements of that kind will go a long way towards doing so.
– I do not make these suggestions with any offensive intention at all. Perhaps with a more happy choice of words I might 3ay that, in their desire to safeguard the interests of the industries which they specially represent in this Parliament, the members of the Country party may have overlooked the obligation that rests upon this Parliament to support the Government in taking all steps it considers necessary in the interests of Australian defence. The price of diesel oil I think ranges from about 4£d. a gallon.
– Where can diesel oil be procured at that price? o
– It can be bought in various places at from 4£d. to 9d. a gallon. I suggest that a duty of Id. a gallon on fuel which costs between 4½d. and 9d. a gallon does not represent a heavy impost. When we increase the excise on petrol no great cry is made that we are differentiating between different sections of the community. Petrol is used just as extensively in the primary industries as diesel oil ; in fact, I believe that in the primary industries it is used to a far greater degree than diesel oil. Having regard to all of the circumstances, the necessity there is to impose new taxation, the fact that petrol to-day carries such a heavy burden of taxation, and that diesel oils and fuel oils have so far completely escaped taxation, I suggest that the impost is a just one. There is no reason why diesel oils and fuel oils should be permitted permanently to escape taxation having regard to the urgent necessity that exists for the exploration of every possible reasonable means of raising money for defence purposes. I urge the committee to view the Government’s proposal in that light.
– I am afraid that the Minister will not get very far by pursuing the line of argument he adopted a few moments ago. The position is that we should avoid as far as possible imposing duties which tend to increase costs of production. To argue that the amount involved is only a matter of £20,000 simply means that in a budget of well over £100,000,000 it is a negligible amount from the Treasurer’s point of view, and suggests that it was hardly worth while going to such trouble to devise a new source of taxation such as this. It is true, as honorable members have said, that certain industries are in a bad way ; it is true that the Government will require money from time to time to finance the war; but it is also equally true that some better method should be devised for the apportionment of the costs of this enterprise than that of simply holding up industry to levies of this description. I point out to the Minister, too, in regard to the £100,000 which he says will be paid by secondary industries, that a good deal of that will be passed on to the people in the form of increased prices. I suggest that the Government would be well advised to have another look at this proposal.
– I am just as sympathetic towards the proposal of the Country party as are members of that party themselves, but in viewing this question one cannot for a moment compare the cost of running a diesel engine to that of running a petrol engine. Owners of petrol- driven trucks frequently have them converted to run on fuel oil, because it is found that a considerable saving is made in the cost of operation. It is possible to run a 10-ton truck equipped with a diesel engine from Sydney to Hawkesbury and back, a total distance of 60 miles, for a fuel outlay of 2s. 6d. It has been stated that this duty will result in the raising of only £20,000; it might well be found that the cost of policing the new duty will be almost as much. In any case, is it worth arguing about? The imposition of this duty will not add a farthing to the cost of production. All up-to-date buses to-day are powered with diesel engines because they are so much cheaper to run than petrol engines.
I am not unsympathetic towards the primary industries. If I could do anything to bring about a reduction of costs of production, I would do it gladly. As a matter of fact, the various taxation measures passed by this Parliament, particularly the sales tax measures, exempt from tax all things necessary for use on the farm. It is not because I am unsympathetic towards the suggestion made by the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Nock) that I have spoken in regard to this matter; I merely rose to question whether the argument over it is worth while. This impost will not add oneeighth of a penny to the cost of production of a bushel of wheat.
– I should hope not.
– I should not imagine that it would add that amount to the cost of a bag of wheat. Furthermore, only the rich farmers can afford to buy diesel engines.
– Not at all; the poor farmers buy them on the hire-purchase system.
– Exemption should also be sought for the fishing industry.
– Fishermen, who have to work hard to earn a living, are just as much entitled to claim exemption from this duty as are primary producers. If we are to exempt one industry we should exempt all industries.
.- I listened with interest to the arguments advanced by the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. John Lawson) and those honorable members who support this proposal. The only argument so far advanced by them in favour of the proposal is that, as the baby is only a small one, it does not matter. Ifwe are to accept at this stage that revenue duties may be imposed upon those goods which contribute to the cost of production in the primary industries, and justify their imposition on the ground that a particular proposal does not involve a large sum of money, it means that we are to surrender everything in principle to the immediate financial proposals of the Government. That is a suggestion that I have never before heard in this Parliament. It would be just as logical if the
Government were to bring forward a proposal to impose some small tax, for instance on cornsacks, and suggest that the Parliament should accept it because only a small amount of, perhaps, £20,000 or £30,000 was at stake. I feel sure that that is about the most unsound argument that could be used on behalf of the Government to bolster up an unsound proposal. Only two reasons have ever previously been advanced for the duty on petrol. The original argument was that petrol was more or less a luxury item, and therefore a proper item on which a revenue duty should be imposed. When the first petrol duties were imposed I thought that that was clearly an accurate statement of the case. Later, additions were made to the tax for the specific purpose of procuring funds for road construction. There was logical justification for the impositions on both counts, but those arguments cannot be advanced in connexion with the present proposal. The Minister has told us quite definitely that it is not suggested that the revenue derived from this particular tax should be distributed even in part to the States for road construction.
– The duty is put on for a special purpose.
– I propose to recount the special purpose which the Minister has related. He says, on the contrary, that this is a special revenue tax imposed because of the necessity for financing the defence requirements of the country. Not one honorable member in this chamber would dispute the need for the Government to castabout to find sources of additional revenue for this purpose; but I contend that no matter how far and wide the search may have been the Government could not have discovered a more inappropriate source of revenue than a tax which imposes a charge on the cost of production of certain primary industries which to-day are absolutely insolvent. So far as the wheat industry is concerned, that is a statement of fact; it is beyond dispute. We know that the wheat industry has been insolvent for very many years. During the last seven or eight years this Parliament has voted from £14,000,000 to £15,000,000 for assistance to that industry, and has committed itself to find £12,000,000 for farmers’ debt adjustment, the greatest .proportion of which, it is acknowledged, will toe used for the adjustment of wheat-farmers’ debts. During the last few months this Government has submitted proposals to the State Governments that some further millions should be provided in order to assist the wheat industry, whilst quite recently the Prime Minister announced other proposals, which have been criticized only because of their inadequacy, to provide further millions for the aid of this insolvent industry. Yet, whilst this state of affairs exists and those engaged in wheat-growing are grappling very determinedly with rising costs of production, the Government brings forward as one of its war-time emergency financial proposals a suggestion which will add immediately and substantially to the costs of the industry. By way of interjection, the Minister asked whether an extra Id. a gallon was a substantial increase. Any proposal which, on the Minister’s own statement, will increase by 20 per cent. the average cost of diesel oil, which is the most economical power unit available to the wheat industry, is not a trifling addition. Such a suggestion discloses an attitude of mind quite out of sympathy with the needs of the wheat industry and of our primary industries generally. This proposal shows that those who have conceived it are not familiar w;th the dire financial straits of those engaged in primary production. I again appeal to the Minister to postpone this item for further consideration.
.I have always regarded the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) as being fair-minded, but the attitude which he has taken up on this matter surprises me. He is concerned with the interests of one industry only.
– The wheat industry is typical of our primary industries generally.
– The honorable member is following the lead given by the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Nock), who represents the hungry section of the Country party, which is always clamouring for more concessions to the primary producers. No other industry enjoys anything like the concessions enjoyed by the wheat industry. Every imported article required by that industry is either totally exempted from customs duty and sales tax or is the subject of some other tariff concession. Many other industries which are just as badly off as the wheat industry are not given any concession whatever, simply because no section of honorable members in this House can barter their political support in return for such concessions as are squeezed out of the Government by the Country party for the wheat-growers. If, as the honorable member for Indi has claimed, the wheat industry has been insolvent for the last seven years, why did the Country party make it a condition of its support of the second Lyons Government that the wheat bounty be payable to all growers and not only to those growers who did not enjoy a taxable income? This bounty was raised by a flour tax upon bread to which the lowwage worker contributed the greatest portion due to the fact that he consumed the most bread. Apparently the country party was not concerned then with the interests of the bankrupt wheat-growers. In view of that episode I can only describe members of the Country party as blood-suckers more concerned with the greedy, rather than with the needy, farmer. For too long in this Parliament have wc seen the tail wagging the dog. In return for its support the Country party has continually squeezed concessions out of successive governments for the wheat industry and for that industry alone. I point out that workers who are obliged to travel to and from their employment in diesel-driven vehicles will pay this tax indirectly. Further, an important industry like fisheries will also contribute a considerable amount under this tax. If the Minister proposes to exempt one he will have to exempt the lot. Many small mines, which cannot afford an elaborate ventilating system, have installed a small diesel engine to operate a fan and an exemption should be granted in respect of the fuel used for such engine.”. I believe that all who use diesel oil to provide power for any kind of machinery, whether it be a lift on a building construction job, a crane, or a marine engine in a fishing-boat, are entitled to this concession.
.Reference has been made in the course of this discussion, to the comparatively small amount of diesel oil used in this country in order to make the tax appear small. The honorable member for Indi (Mr. McE-wen) answered that, and I point out in addition that the change-over from ordinary kerosene engines to diesel engines is going on rapidly, so that the amount of diesel oil used is constantly increasing. The change-over was made for purposes of economy, and this tax will be a serious discouragement to those who have incurred the expense. We often hear from honorable members opposite that taxes should be imposed upon those best able to bear it. No one can say that the wheat-growers are best able to bear this impost. Though reference has been made to the taking over of the wheat crop by the ‘ Government of the United Kingdom, the fact remains that the crop has not yet been sold, and the price at Australian country sidings is still less than 2s. a bushel. It would not be difficult to grant the exemption asked for. A statutory declaration is accepted in New Zealand in respect of petrol. The use of petrol requires policing, but policing would not be necessary in regard to diesel oil. I ask the Minister to hold this matter over at least until to-morrow in order to see whether an exemption from this tariff cannot be granted in respect of fuel used in primary production.
– I am not a keen supporter of this duty, and I am not much concerned whether the committee agrees to it or not. I have been struck, however, by the attitude of the Country party to this matter.The Leader of the Country party (Mr. Archie Cameron) is always urging that unlimited sacrifices should be made in order to prosecute the war.’ He is prepared to tear the liberties of the people to pieces, and to impose conscription for service in any part of the world, but he will not agree to even the smallest tax when it affects his own interests. All his loyalty and patriotism go by the board when his pocket is touched. ‘ Mem bers of the Country party want every one else to make sacrifices, but they are not prepared to make any. Of course, this is merely a political manoeuvre. They want to be able to say to the people in the country, “ We fought in your interests, and so you should send us back to Parliament “. They are making a political issue of this question, and sacrificing everything to party considerations.
– Financially, the Government will not be much better off after this tax is imposed, yet the cost to those numerous sections of industry which have installed diesel power units will be considerable. Many road transport firms, and business houses which do their own carrying, have in recent years changed over to crude oil at heavy expense. The cost of this tax will, in their case, be loaded on to the goode they handle, so that the consumers will have to pay, but the primary producers are in the unenviable position of not being able to pass on costs. A tax of Id. a gallon does not sound much, but it means a lot to the struggling wheat-grower, or the fisherman who uses diesel oil. I hope that the Government will not insist on the imposition of this heavy levy on industry generally, particularly the primary industries that can ill afford to meet it.
– I join wholeheartedly with those who have pointed out that diesel oil is much used by those operating small businesses on working class standards. One of the main problems confronting this country, whether in peace or war, is that of power at a moderate price for transport by road, transport for the purpose of cultivation of the soil and transport for small businesses. For once in my life I am not quite in agreement with the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini), who has been pleased to pass strictures on the members of the Country party in regard to this matter. He suggests that the members of the selfstyled Country party in the corner on my left represent purely sectional interests in a self-seeking spirit, but I do not quite accept that view. I think that on this occasion all sections of that party are right. I exclude my friend, the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Wilson) only because he is always right. The rail-sitting section of the Country party on my right, the section that is hopeful of getting into the Ministry, and the “ diehards “ and the “ pro bonus publico “ section are all right. I refer to the “ Country King “.
– I remind the honorable member that the committee is considering Item 229.
– Users of crude oil are to be found in my electorate. Some are engaged in small businesses and others operate on a larger scale, but all are working class people. Therefore, I appeal to the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. John Lawson) for the removal of this tax. He represents an important mining area, and should realize that diesel oil is used by the working classes. The day may come when this country will be dependent on locally produced oils. I am informed that oil suitable for power purposes can now be distilled from many substances. Chemical science has so far advanced that power alcohol can be distilled from the offal resulting from the process of extracting sugar from cane. I recently visited the magnificent cane fields in the Kennedy and Herbert electorates, where oil is being extracted in a profitable and entirely satisfactory way, and with great promise for the future. I do not wish to speak lightly of matters that are of really serious importance to the country at this time, but I point out that we do not know from day to day how far imports of oil may be affected, and when and to what extent we may be restricted to local production. The greatest encouragement must be given to the distillation of low-grade oil from various products. I intend to support those who are advocating the protection of what for the time being may be poetically and properly described’ as the “ dinkum oil “. I have often criticized the Country party, although reluctantly and only from a high sense of duty, but in this matter of diesel oil, I am with it “ to the last movement of the pump handle “.
– I am opposed to the imposition of this duty on crude oil. It is ill-considered, and is brought forward without any conception of what its effect will be. In the present serious crisis in our history, it is essential that our petrol reserves shall be conserved as far as possible. The use of crude oil lessens the use of petrol. It is used mainly in engines of a comparatively heavy type, by industrial enterprises and primary producers. The imposition of the duty will definitely discourage its use, and will increase the demand for petrol for light motor vehicles which do not now run on crude oil and will not be likely to do so. It will have no relation to ability to pay; it will not bear on the oil companies, but will be universally passed on to every small user in the Commonwealth. In many cases, diesel oil is used on the farm in engines of from two horse-power upwards - engines driving milking machines, chaffcutters, saw benches, and tractors in the field. This impost will bear without discrimination as to the net returns of those who use those different engines. Important also is the fact that crude oil is extensively used throughout the Commonwealth to-day ‘ by municipalities, for the generation of power for electric light plants in country townships. All such instrumentalities will be heavily hit by this tax. Crude oil is the staple fuel of many industrial concerns in the cities. Such institutions, as the State Savings Bank of Victoria in Melbourne, and many large commercial concerns, have installed crude oil engines of very high power in the basements of their buildings, where they can be made to operate at a moment’s notice should there be failure of the electricity supply. I am not making a plea for these concerns, but am pointing out that a heavy burden will be placed on municipalities in the scattered and sparsely populated portions of the Commonwealth which have not access to the cheap electricity generated by water power or coal. I instance the undertaking at Yallourn. In addition, the duty will “have an adverse effect on a very fine industry which is being developed in Australia for the manufacture of crude oil engines.
Already, various engineering concerns in. different States are devoting their attention to the development of crude oil engines of high-grade. Anything done by this Parliament to discourage the more extensive use of crude oil, particularly at the present time, will be of distinct disservice to the Commonwealth. I hope that common sense will prevail, and that some more equitable and just means will be found to raise the revenue required by the Government.
Question put -
That the item be agreed to.
The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Mr. Price.)
Majority . . . . 28
Question so resolved in the negative.
The following bills were returned from the Senate without amendment: -
Defence Equipment Bill 1939.
Sales Tax Assessment Bill (No. 5) 1939.
The following paper was presented : -
High Commissioner for Australia in London - Report for 1938.
House adjourned at 2.4 a.m. (Thursday).
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
h asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
d asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
y asked the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1 and 2. As soon as copies of the report have been made, I shall be pleased to make a limited number available.
y asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
In view of the difficulty of securing tonnage to transport our primary products overseas, does the Government intend to proceed immediately with the construction of vessels and/or the purchase of vessels, to be controlled by the Government?
– The Government is fully seised with the necessity for making adequate provision for the transport to overseas destinations of our primary products, and is in communication with the United Kingdom Government in the matter. Action to build or acquire vessels for the purpose is not contemplated at present.
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– It is not considered that any good purpose would be served by supplying information of this personal character to the honorable member.
Collins ville Post Office.
s asked the Postmaster-
General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Iron, Steel and War Goods.
n asked the Minister for
Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The honorable member will realize that at the present time it is not in the national interest to disclose such detailed information of this nature.
Employment of Waterside Workers at Port Adelaide.
n asked the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
d asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The Minister for the Interior has supplied the following answers : - 1 (a) Under section 55 of the Commonwealth Public Service Act, an officer (other than an officer in the first or second division) who has committed a minor offence and has been punished by a fine imposed by an officer other than the chief officer may appeal to the chief officer. Where an officer (other than an officer of the first or second division) has committed an offence other than a minor offence and where the punishment imposed or recommended be other than a fine not exceeding £2 or if in the case of an officer who has been deprived of his salary during suspension the amount of the fine imposed, together with the amount of the salary of which he has been deprived, exceeds £2, the officer may appeal and the appeal shall be heard by the Appeal Board constituted under the act. The appeal may be made on the ground of innocence of the charge or excessive severity of the punishment. The Appeal Board consists of the chairman with the qualifications of a stipendiary or police magistrate, an officer of the department to which the appellant belongs and an officer who is the elected representative of the division to which the appellant belongs. Where an officer of the first or second division is charged with an offence, a board of inquiry shall be appointed to inquire into the charge. 1(b) Under section 50 of the Commonwealth Public Service Act an officer who considers that he is more entitled to promotion to a vacant position than the officer provisionally promoted by the chief officer may appeal to the Public Service Board against the provisional promotion on the grounds of (a) superior efficiency, or (b) equal efficiency and seniority.
Militia: Surveyors’ Unit.
t. - On the 15th September, the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain) asked the following question, without notice : -
Can the Minister for Defence say whether the offer of the Queensland Institute of Surveyors to form a militia unit has been accepted ?
I am now in a position to inform the honorable member that it is proposed to raise militia survey units as soon as practicable and it is intended that one unit shall be raised in Queensland. Personnel for such units will be selected by an officer of the Defence Department in consultation with the State Government authorities. In the selection of the personnel for the Queensland Survey Unit, the assistance of the Queensland Institute of Surveyors will be sought.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 20 September 1939, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1939/19390920_reps_15_161/>.