16th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. W. M. Nairn) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– In view of the many conflicting statements with regard to the banning of the principal Anzac Day celebrations, I read the following extract, from a letter that was sent to the secretary of the Legion of Ex-Service Clubs by the Premier of New South Wales : -
Having regard to the express wish of the Commonwealth Government that outdoor gatherings at memorial services on that day b e not organized, it is regretted that it is not practicable for approval to be given for the conduct of the ceremony on the modified lines suggested by your committee.
Will the Prime Minister advise the House as to whether or not similar instructions were issued to the communistic organizers of the May Day procession and celebrations in the Sydney Domain, at which, it was estimated, 25,000 spectators were present? If so, will the right honorable gentleman inform the House why such instructions were not enforced? If not, will he state why such discrimination was shown against returned soldiers of the last war, and indicate whether we may expect that similar discrimination will be exercised against returned soldiers of the present war?
- by leave-In the course of a public announcement made by me on the 18th March, 1942, regarding the observance of Anzac Day this year, I said -
The fact that the enemy is on our threshold and that dangers to the public from warlike operations cannot be disregarded makes it desirable that any large congregations of people outside the normal should be discouraged. Accordingly it is the desire of the Government that marches of returned men through the streets and other outdoor gatherings at memorial services should not be organized. However, there is no reason why church services should not be held as usual nor that wreaths in commemoration of the fallen should not be laid on cenotaphs.
This statement was also conveyed to the Premiers of the States and to the federal president of the ReturnedSailors, Soldiers and Airmens Imperial League of Australia with a request for their cooperation in giving effect generally to the Government’s proposals on this as well as other aspects of the observance of the day.
The Premier of New South Wales, in a telegram dated the 20th March, 1942, indicated that he would be glad to cooperate in giving effect to the decisions of the Commonwealth Government in this matter.
The federal president of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmens Imperial League of Australia, on the 19th March, 1942, in acknowledging receipt of my telegram, said that a copy had been sent to each State branch of the league requesting action accordingly.
In a letter dated the 16th April, 1942, the Premier of New South Wales stated that the. New South Wales Branch had communicated with him in February, stating that the branch proposed to proceed with the plans for holding the usual Anzac Day march on the 25th April, 1942, and for conducting a carnival at the Sydney Sports Ground in the afternoon. The league had asked for an expression of the State Government’s views on the matter, particularly in reference to the congregation of a large number of citizens at these functions.
The Premier further stated that, following the receipt of my telegram of the 18th March, the New South Wales branch of the league was advised in the terms of that telegram. The State president of the league, in reply, indicated that the directions that marches of returned men through the streets and other outdoor gatherings should not be organized would be observed.
The only request received by me that any modification should be made of the proposal to abandon the holding of marches and outdoor gatherings of the nature described came from the Wahroonga Community Service Association through the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart), to whom the following reply was sent by me : -
Reference your letter and enclosures from Mr. T. A. Stocks, president Wahroonga Community Service Association, regarding Anzac
Day commemoration at Wahroonga. Although steps are not being taken to prohibit such functions, Commonwealth Government is desirous for reasons of public safety that outdoor gatherings at memorial services involving congregation of people beyond normal should not be organized. To make exception in case of Wahroonga would create difficulty in withholding approval similar functions elsewhere involving large assemblies. Regarding playing of games on Anzac Day, Government has announced that provision will be made under national security powers that hotels will be closed throughout the day, that all race meetings and organized sport be not held and that theatres, including picture theatres, be closed until 1 p.m.
It will be noted that there was no prohibition. A request was made to the States as well as to the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia. I am happy to say that, throughout, the request and desires of the Commonwealth Government were given effect. A prohibition was gazetted in respect of the hours during which hotels should trade.
With regard to May Day, I received a request from the Honorable C. Tannock, M.L.C., secretary of an organization, in which he asked what the position was. This was my reply -
Your telegram reference banning May Day march by State authorities received. Commonwealth Government has not issued any regulations to prevent marches or similar assemblies. As Anzac Day ceremonies are nation-wide, and as such could be regarded as Commonwealth matter, Commonwealth Government has made request that marches and other large assemblies should, for reasons of security, be abandoned this year, but concerted gatherings arranged in one State only come within the province of the State Government concerned, and I feel that Commonwealth Government should not interfere in present circumstances.
I add to that statement by saying that I made the specific request that there should not be marches and congregations. I issued no prohibition, because there are certain marches which do not attract large attendances or in which there is not a large number of participants. The first organization to observe the request in connexion with May Day was. the Victorian Labour Day Committee, which abandoned all proceedings in connexion with a procession it had arranged to hold on a date in March. In every other State, similar action was taken by the Eight Hour Day Anniversary Committee; therefore, there was no obliga tion on the Commonwealth Government to gazette a regulation prohibiting processions. The Government indicated its wishes. Those wishes have been observed everywhere, except that there was a procession in Sydney on May Day. The Government of New South Wales had the necessary authority to deal with that as it thought fit. As a matter of fact, my telegram to Mr. Tannock commenced “ Your telegram reference banning May Day march by State authorities received ‘”. I replied to Mr. Tannock that I was not interfering with any ban imposed by the State authorities.
– The right honorable gentleman went further than that.
– I have stated the position. Nowhere else has this situation arisen. Mr. Tannock informed me that in New South Wales a ban had been imposed on a procession, and I refused to interfere with the State Government in the imposition of that ban.
– If the congregation of a large number of persons is regarded as being inimical to security, why did not the Commonwealth Government express its view?
– We did express our view.
– Only to the soldiers.
– We expressed it to every body. Any one would imagine that this matter was first raised in connexion with Anzac Day. As a matter of fact, it was first raised in connexion with the proposed Labour Day procession in Melbourne in March, six or seven weeks ago ; and in that instance there was compliance with the request that the Government had made. We have not gazetted a prohibition of processions in all parts of Australia for reasons which I think will be obvious. Certain marches might be contemplated, and assemblies of people in reasonable numbers in certain places would not constitute a danger to security. My own view is that the Government of New South Wales should have stuck to its ban.
– Has the attention of. the. Prime Minister been drawn to the published remarks of the right honorable the Leader of the United’ Australia party (Mr. Hughes) that, judging from events in Parliament last week, during the debate on the use of the Militia beyond Australia, co-operation with the Government did not represent the outlook of some members of the United Australia party who rejected the advice of their leaders in regard to whatreally amounted to a censure motion; and that now, when the inevitable consequences had resulted, they were seeking to lay the blame on their leaders and not on the reactionary tory wing of the party? Will the Prime Minister look into the matter in order to ensure that the business of the country and the prosecution of the war will not again be impeded by frivolous or vexatious motions?
– Order ! The honorable member must not reflect on the proceedings of the House.
– Will the Prime Minister take this action with a view to affording some protection to Opposition leaders and other earnest young radicals co-operating with the Government against the machinations of reactionary tory elements in their party?
– I shall give the honorable member’s suggestion most favorable consideration.
– Was the Commonwealth Government requested by the Australian Wheat Board to take over facilities for the bulk handling of wheat in New South Wales, Victoria and Western Australia? If not, at whose request was this action taken?
– I explained the position fully some time ago in reply to a question in the House, and again during the discussion on a motion for the adjournment of the House, in which discussion the honorable member participated. I investigated the position, and [ accept responsibility for the taking over of bulk-handling facilities.
– Pursuant to the reply given to a question by the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson), I lay on the table the following paper : - Beef from Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works Farm, Werribee, Victoria - Correspondence between Commonwealth and Victorian Governments on removal, by the Commonwealth, of ban on sale of beef from farm, imposed by the Victorian Government.
Use of Race-courses - Australian
Imperial Force: Colour Patches - Missing Soldiers in Java, Amboina AND TIMOR- ARMY Call-up:owners of Small Businesses - Employment Overseas - Disposition of Troops.
– Has the Minister for the Army seen a report in the current issue of Smith’s Weekly that members of a militia unit camped on a race-course near Sydney had their training interrupted so that a race meeting might be held on the course, and that, they were required to clean up the course after the meeting? This has happened, it is stated, on several occasions. Will the Minister have an inquiry made,and ifthe facts are as stated, will he see that in future the training of our military forces shall have priority over the holding of race meetings ?
– I have not yet had time to read the current issue of Smith’s Weekly, but I shall be glad to do so if the honorable member will lend me his copy. The complaints made will be fully investigated, and a reply furnished to the honorable member as soon as possible. The attitude of the Government in regard to the use of racecourses is that whenever they are found to be necessary for the accommodation or training of troops, they are taken over by the Army authorities. In all cases where the interests of racing and of the Army have conflicted, we have given preference to the Army.
– Last Friday, on the motion for the adjournment of the House, I directed the attention of the Minister for the Army to the existence of grave disaffection among members of the 17th Field Regiment in Queensland - an artillery unit - as the result of the issue to them of colour patches from which the grey background, which is the distinguishing mark of the Australian Imperial Force, had been removed.
– Had members of that unit served abroad?
– I made it clear last Friday that the men had enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force for service in Australia or abroad, but the exigencies of the war position required them to remain in Australia for the time being. That decision was made by the Minister for the Army, because he, acting on the advice of the General Officer Commanding, is responsible to Parliament for the dispersion of the troops. I believe that the members of this unit did not go overseas, but they were wearing the grey colour patches. They have now been ordered to remove them. In my opinion, that order is quite improper, because these men are members of the Australian Imperial Force. On Friday the Minister gave me an assurance that he would inquire into the matter and inform me of the result as parly as possible. Has the Minister yet had an opportunity to examine my representations and, if so, is he in a position to make a statement to the House?
– The honorable member stated on Friday that’ he believed that the order to the men to remove the Australian Imperial Force colour patches was given as the result of a political instruction.
– It was represented to me as such.
– I assure the honorable member that the instruction was issued, not by the Government or myself, but by the Army authorities.
– With the approval of the Minister?
– I understand that the members of the unit had not been despatched overseas, although they had enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force for service at home or abroad. The whole matter is being given sympathetic consideration, and I hope to furnish to the honorable member a full reply to-morrow.
– Has the Minister for the Army yet made a statement indicating the number of Australian soldiers unaccounted for in Java and Amboina, and Timor? If not, when will he be in a position to do so? Is it a fact that the next of kin of the soldiers engaged in those areas, particularly Java, have not been informed that the soldiers with whom they are concerned are unaccounted for? If that is the case, what are the reasons?
– I hoped to be able to give to the honorable member full information on that matter to-morrow.
– I ask the Minister for Labour and National Service whether the Cabinet sub-committee yesterday found time to discuss the call-up of working principals in small businesses which is causing so much confusion in Sydney? If so, what is the result of the discussion ?
– The Cabinet subcommittee has not yet considered that matter, but certain directions have been given through the Department of Labour and National Service on the subject of working principals. I shall obtain full details and make them available to the House within a day or two.
– Has the Prime Minister read the statement that appeared in an article in the Sydney Morning Herald of the 4th May, from its Canberra correspondent, that, irrespective of the inferences regarding the use of Australian military forces that might be drawn from speeches by Government supporters during the debate on the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Fadden) to the motion for the printing of the Ministerial statement on international affairs, guarantees given to General MacArthur by the Government in the name of the people of Australia must stand and will stand until the end of the war? If the statement be correct, will the Prime Minister say why the terms of such guarantees were not announced to members o.f this House?
– I have read the article which appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald on Monday last, and it is a correct statement of the facts. The forces which have been placed at the disposal of General MacArthur in this country are of the kind which have been specified in the assignment. I shall not disclose the particulars of the assignment, but some of the colleagues of the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Stacey) know what those forces consist of, and I shall only add that General MacArthur’s command is of such a nature that he is having no difficulties whatever with this Government.
– Having regard to the fact that the Department of the Navy has requisitioned fishing trawlers which previously operated along the Australian coast, will- the Minister for the Navy state what steps have been taken to ensure that supplies of fish shall be maintained? What compensation has been paid to the owners of the trawlers requisitioned?
– The trawlers requisitioned are the only kind available for the work to which they have been put, so that the Department of the Navy had no alternative but to take them over. The matter of compensation to the owners is at present under consideration.
Motion (by Mr. Cur tin) - by leave - agreed to -
– I ask the Minister for War Organization of Industry whether it is a fact that Mr. Ifould, his Deputy Director in New South Wales has recently made several advance statements in regard to proposed schemes for the rationalization of industry? Will the Minister say whether these statements have created chaos in industry and resentment among manufacturers, as well as panic buying on the part of the public? If these are the facts, will the Minister say who authorized such utterances by a public servant ? If it is a fact that this official is authorized to make statements of the kind, will the Minister take immediate steps to deprive him of such authority
– I was not aware that such statements had been made by the Deputy Director of War Organization of Industry in New South Wales, but I shall inquire into the matter and furnish a reply to the honorable member as soon as possible.
– Has the Minister for War Organization of Industry seen the statement in the last issue of the Sydney Sunday Sun, in which the Sydney secretary of the Amalgamated Engineers Society, Mr. Carney, is reported to have said that the failure of the Government to consult the trade unions regarding plans for rationalization of industry had caused a lot of unrest in industry? If so, how does he reconcile that with his statement in Parliament on Wednesday last that the active co-operation of the trade unions had been obtained in the preparation of plans for the re-organization of industry on a war basis?
– I have not seen the statement; but, in the operation of my department, whenever a plan for the rationalization of industry has been under consideration, the appropriate union has been consulted before any finality has been given to that plan.
Successors on Government Bodies.
– In view of the appointment of Sir Owen Dixon to the position of Australian Minister at Washington, is the Prime Minister yet able to name the gentlemen chosen to succeed him as Chairman of the Central Wool Committee and of the Coastal Shipping Control Board?
– I cannot do so yet because certain arrangements have yet to be completed. I have no doubt that when the names are announced they will prove satisfactory to all concerned.
– I desire to address to the Prime Minister a series of questions relating to the post-war problems that will confront Australia, but by way of preface I suggest that unless we are wholly defeatist, we should, during the. war, devote some thought and time to the vital task of winning the peace.
– Order! Will the honorable member ask a question?
– I ask the Prime Minister: First, is the Government giving any consideration to the domestic and international problems which are likely to confront, Australia immediately after the war? Secondly, does the Government consider that the Reconstruction Division, now within the Department of
Labour and National Service, is at present in a position to ensure that the work of planning a solution of these problems is being carried out effectively ? Thirdly, will the Prime Minister give consideration to the setting up of a small body, under the chairmanship of a senior Cabinet Minister, whose duty it would be (a) to co-ordinate any work of post-war significance at present being carried out by government departments, (&) to stimulate these departments to make actual preparations for probable domestic and international post-war situations, and (c) to examine various possibilities in the domestic or international situation, which may have to he faced at short notice, with a view to bringing them immediately to the attention of the Prime Minister and Cabinet? Fourthly, what official international organizations are giving thought to post-war problems, and how is Australia represented on these bodies? If there are no such organizations, will the Prime Minister take such steps as are within the powers of the Commonwealth Government to see that one is set up and maintained as an active body?
– The questions which the honorable member has asked fall into a number of categories. The Joint Committee on Social Security, which has performed admirable work, has submitted to Cabinet a series of most useful reports; and the Government has already acted upon many parts of those reports as are capable of immediate action/ Consideration is now being given to those parts which relate to post-war social security. The matter of industrial and economic problems confronting Australia has been the subject of a Cabinet decision, and authority has ‘been given to the members of the Tariff Board, which the Government regarded as a very competent and appropriate body, first to conduct a proper investigation, and, secondly, to furnish a report concerning industrial and economic re-adjustments that Australia must expect to make in order to deal with what is at present an unpredictable economic situation after the conclusion of the war. The Tariff Board will be directed to advise upon the steps which will give to us the greatest capacity for adaptation to changing con ditions. Regarding international relationships, I can only say that the previous Government had already taken action by authorizing the representation of Australia at the conference of the International Labour Organization. Those deliberations concluded a short while ago. and the Australian delegates have submitted their reports to the Government. I regard that body as the most effective de facto organization, whatever be its limitations, which enables the Commonwealth to associate with other governments in the consideration of those international problems to which the honorable member referred.
– Will the Minister for Labour and National Service inform me whether a decision has been reached regarding the serious depletion of manpower in the primary industries? On previous occasions, I have made representations to the Minister on this matter. Can he say whether any relief for those industries can be expected in the near future?
– Following the honorable member’s very strong representations to me, earnest consideration was given to this matter, and I am pleased to announce that immediate relief will be given in respect of the calling up of men engaged in the major rural industries. I hope to be able to furnish full details to the honorable member at an early date.
– Why not furnish them to the House?
– I shall announce them in the House. The many industries to which this measure of relief will be afforded include those producing wheat, fruit, dairy produce, wool, and sugar. This relief has been granted temporarily pending a thorough investigation of the whole problem, -but the Government deemed it advisable, in view of the acute position which had arisen, and following the logical case propounded by the honorable member, to take this action.
– Will the Minister for War Organization of Industry inform me why an order prohibiting the manufacture of some 60 articles applied to some States, including Western Aus- tralia, but not to others?
– The order applied originally to Victoria and South Australia, because the pressure on the labour resources of those States was much more acute than in other States. Later, the order was applied to Tasmania and subsequently to Western Australia, after I had investigated the shortage of labour in the latter State. The application of the order to the remaining States is now under consideration.
Commissioner’s Report - Release of ex-miners.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that on Thursday last the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward) stated that the Goal Commissioner, Mr. Norman Mighell, often reported to the Government occurrences on the coal-fields, but had failed to tell the complete story? In view of this, will the Prime Minister inform the House whether the Coal Commissioner has supplied a report on the subject of Mr. Ward’s charges ? Will the Prime Minister make that report available to honorable members, or make a statement regarding it?
– I am aware of what the Minister for Labour and National Service has said. Through the Minister for Supply and Development I have received a reply from the Chairman of the Coal Commission. I am considering the reply, and in due course a statement will, no doubt, be made.
– From time to time I have brought to the notice of the Minister for Labour and National Service, by way of questions in the House and through correspondence with his department, the refusal of various industries to release men formerly engaged in coalmining to enable them to return to the coal-mining industry. At present, regulations forbid the transfer of those men from their present occupations. Is it a fact that the Coal Commissioner, Mr. Mighell, stated that he could find work for 400 miners? As approximately 1,000 former miners are held in other industries, what action does the Minister propose to take for the purpose of forcing them to release this labour?
– This matter has received my earnest attention, and a certain course of action has been decided upon. I have noted Mr. Mighell’s comment that vacancies exist in the coal-mines for up to 400 miners. In view of the urgency of stepping up coal production, I have issued instructions to national service officers that all men who can be proved to have been engaged in the coal-mining industry previously are to be released from their present occupations in order that they may return to that industry. I have also advised the men themselves to communicate with the officials of the Australian Coal and Shale Employees Federation in order that they may be tabulated with a view to arrangements being made for their return to the coal-mining industry, so that coal production might be brought to the maximum.
– I ask the Minister for
Supply and Development whether twelve different governmental instrumentalities are concerned in the manufacture and allocation of producer-gas units? Have representations been made to him that this confusion is not producing the best results? What action will he take to overcome this difficulty?
– I did not know that the number was twelve. Perhaps they are separate authorities in each of the States. That is a problem which always confronts the Commonwealth when it takes action in all States. The control of producer-gas units is now in the Department of Transport. The Minister for Transport is doing his best with the allocation. Much difficulty has arisen in connexion with the supply of steel and in connexion with priorities. If we could concentrate our endeavours, things would probably be better. I am sure that the Minister for Transport will co-operate in this matter withthe Department of Supply and Development.
– by leave - Following on representations made last week by the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Spooner) and the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James), and other honorable members, in regard to the action taken by Navy and Army authorities for the immobilization of small craft in certain areas in New South “Wales, I desire to advise the House that I have arranged for an independent inquiry to be made into this matter by a committee consisting of Mr. J. M. Hardie, O.B.E., of H. B. Allard, Way and Hardie, chartered accountants, Sydney, and Mr. R. S. Westhorp, Senior Shipwright Surveyor. Maritime Services Board, Sydney. Mr. Hardie is a member of the Army Advisory Accountancy Panel, and, in addition, as an experienced yachtsman, has a practical knowledge of small craft and the problems involved in the inquiry. Mr. Westhorp is an officer of long experience whose advice is required on any technical questions. The committee will carry out its inquiry independent of the Navy and Army, and submit a report at an early date. It has been asked to make recommendations on the following matters: -
The experience gained in the Malayan campaign showed that small craft were of great value to the enemy, and that they materially aided his infiltration tactics. The best method of denying the use of such craft to the enemy was considered by the Army authorities in conjunction with the State War Effort Coordination Committee. The final plans, which were arranged with the State authorities provided for the concentration of the boats in various localities under army control so that, in the event of the necessity arising for their destruc tion, immediate action could be taken. It was not considered that the destruction could safely be left to individual owners, particularly in view of the conditions likely to prevail when the necessity arose; moreover, the time factor in warning scattered owners precluded the adoption of such a scheme. We hope that destruction will never become necessary. I realize that there are many thousands of boat-owners in New South Wales whose interests must be givensympathetic consideration, having due regard to the security and defence of the country. Consequently, this committee has been appointed.
Speaker, three times consecutively selfappointed occupants of the front bench, who are not recognized by the Opposition, have received the call from you. I have not risen myself, but some consideration ought to be given to honorable member? in other parts of the chamber who have been rising unavailingly ever since questions were called on.
– Eight calls were given on the honorable member’s side before the throe ex-Ministers were called.
– But the last three went to the front bench.
– Yes, calls nine, ten and eleven ; that is not giving preference to ex-Ministers. They all appeared to rise together and were called one after the other.
– Will the Minister for Labour and National Service make an early statement on the activities of the. National Service branch of his department? If so, will he move that the statement be printed in order to afford the House an opportunity to debate it?
– Has the Minister for Commerce given consideration to a request I previously directed to him for the utilization of the Donald Freezing
Works for the processing of meat, including dehydration, to meet the requirements of the Military Forces of the Commonwealth ?
– Some time ago the honorable member for Wimmera approached me on the subject of the utilization of the Donald Meat Works for meat storage purposes, at thesame time stressing that complete equipment “was available for the purpose. I am now in a position to say that I have authorized officials of my department to investigate the position at the Donald Freezing Works with a view to the establishment of a dehydration unit there as quickly as possible.
– In view of the greatly increased cost of production in the pastoral industry, will the Minister for Commerce consider the advisability of making representations to the British Government for an increase ofthe price of wool to compensate the industry for added costs ?
– Thismorning the Prime Minister forwarded a cablegram to the British Government embodying a request along the lines suggested by the honorable member.
– Has the Minister for Labour and National Service been advised of the acute shortage of labour in the tin-mining industry in Tasmania? I f so, have steps been taken to meet that shortage; if not, will investigations be undertaken immediately in an attempt to relieve the difficult situation that has arisen ?
– This matter was brought to the notice of the man-power authorities, and has been referred to the Deputy Director of Man-power in Tasmania for attention and report. A report has not yet been received, and I shall ascertain what has been done in the matter.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether the statement which appeared in the Sydney morning press on Monday last, and attributed to the Minister for Housing in New South Wales, is correct, namely, that, acting under instructions from the Commonwealth Government, the New South Wales Government has suspended its scheme for housing munitions workers ? If the statement be correct, will the Prime Minister inform the House of the Government’s intentions in the matter?
– After a complete survey of the labour and material available in Australia, the Government reluctantly found that it would not be possible tocarry out the original proposed housing scheme for munitions workers which was being undertaken in New South Wales by the State Government. Due to the urgency of other works for which priority was essential, the Government was forced to consider the necessity for arranging for temporary accommodation for munition workers in all States with the exception of Tasmania. A similar difficulty arose in South Australia, where it had been arranged that the State Government should construct 500 houses. Because of the absence of labour and material in each State, the Workers Housing Trust, which comes under the jurisdiction of the Minister for Labour and Nations. Service, after surveying the field incon unction with Treasury officials and the Director-General of Allied Works,found that it would not be possible tocarry out the scheme. It is now proposed to arrange for a scheme of temporary houses for munitions workers adjacent tothe various factories in each State.
DIS allowance of regulations.
– I ask the Minister for the Army whether it is a fact that last week, by a vote on the voices in the Senate, certain regulations under Statutory Rule No. 80, which affected the right of appeal of conscientious objectors from the decision of the presiding magistrate or any other tribunal, were disallowed. If that is a fact, does the Government propose to re-gazette the regulations which were so disallowed?
– This matter was referred to the Acting Attorney-General and, by leave of the House, he will make a statement on the subject.
– by leave- Regulations 8, 9 and 10 of the National Security (Conscientious Objectors) Regulations under Statutory Rules 1942, No. 80, which were disallowed by the Senate on the 29 th April, 1942, provided respectively for appeals from, decisions of courts of summary jurisdiction in relation to applications for registration on the register of conscientious objectors, the right of the Minister to he heard on the hearing of any application, appeal or review under the regulations, and the. nature of the orders to be made on application for registration or appeals from decisions of such applications. The regulations in question, having been disallowed, are, by virtue of section 48 (6) of the Acts Interpretation Act 1941-1942, deemed to have been repealed. It may be, therefore, that any applicant having a right of appeal at the date of disallowance may still have that right. It would appear, however, that the Minister ceased to have any right to be heard on the hearing of any application or appeal.
With regard to the effect of the disallowance on regulation 10, the matter is not clear.
The question as to the effect of the disallowance is one of law, in relation to which it is not usual for replies to be given ‘by Ministers. I may, however, state that there appears to be ground for the view that the effect of the disallowance of regulation 10 is that the courts specified therein have been divested of their power to determine any applications or appeals whether these applications were made, or notice of such appeals was given, before or after the disallowance. Having regard to the likelihood of this construction being correct, it has been suggested to the Crown Law Authorities of the States that, pending a decision as to what steps, if any, should be taken to’ amend the regulations, all applications and appeals should be adjourned.
– Will the Minister for Commerce give me the names of the deputation which waited upon him and asked for a Pea Board to be constituted? Will the honorable gentleman also say what Tasmanian interests the deputation claimed to represent? Seeing that the Commonwealth Government has acquired all peas, what functions will the board perform?
– The honorable gentleman wrote to me some little time ago and asked for information on this subject. I regret that inadvertently it was not supplied. I shall lay on the table of the House not later than to-morrow, the names of the members of the deputation.
– I direct the attention of the Minister for Supply and Development to the following paragraph in a letter written by the General Superintendent of the Electrolytic Refining and Smelting Company of Australia, Port Kembla : -
We regret we are unable to purchase 10 per cent, copper ore owing to the high zinc and lead contents, but will be pleased to purchase the gold and silver concentrates.
As smelting and refining companies are receiving the Commonwealth Government’s bounty of £80 a ton on copper which they have not mined, I ask the Minister whether the Government will consider the setting up of a Government purchasing commission to huy ores, or concentrates of base metals, needed for war purposes which cannot be treated in Australia but are in demand in America ?
– The honorable gentleman raised this question previously, but the report I asked for from the Controller of Minerals is not yet to hand. When I receive it I shall make it available.
Employment - Labour Battalions - Use of Military Uniforms
– Some time ago the Minister for the Army issued instructions that alien labour battalions should be organized. Can the honorable gentleman inform me what progress has been mad(in the establishment of these battalions?
– The Government decided some months ago to call up for service in labour units enemy aliens, and also friendly aliens, who had not enlisted. These friendly aliens include Greeks, Russians, Poles and Americans.’ It also decided that refugee aliens should be called up for service. Considerable progress has been made in organizing these battalions. For security reasons I cannot give figures, but large numbers of enemy aliens in vulnerable areas have been formed into labour units and are now performing useful work. Substantial numbers of refugee aliens have also been organized into labour corps. Some refugee aliens are in the Services, but all others are now subject to the call-up conditions that apply to Australians. Complaints can no longer be justly made that preferential treatment is being accorded to refugee aliens. If the honorable member will see me privately I shall give him some statistical information on the subject.
– A photograph appeared in a section of the press to-day under the caption, “Aliens get down to work at labour camp”. The following passage was published below the picture : -
Industrious members of Eastern Command’s 1st Alien Labour Camp established near Sydney. The men are of all nationalities including Russians, Greeks, Czechs, Germans, Austrians and Italians. All of them now wear the Australian Army uniform with the rising sun on tunic, collar and hat.
Will the Minister for the Army inform me whether it is a fact that aliens from Germany and Austria are, employed in these battalions? If so, are they wearing uniforms which bear the rising sun on the tunic, collar and hat? Does the Minister consider that in the interests of safety, enemy aliens should be allowed to use uniforms similar to those worn by Australian troops?
– I shall have inquiries made into the subject.
– Is the Minister for Supply and Development aware that numbers of merchant tailors are being forced out of business in Australia owing to their inability to obtain supplies of cloth, whereas many large departmental stores, in which tailoring is a small sideline, seem to be able to secure sufficient material to maintain their operations? Will the Minister examine the anomalies in this connexion?
– I shall be obliged if the honorable member will give me specific instances in support of his allegation, particularly in regard to retail establishments.
– Ishall do so.
– If such details are furnished, a check can be made of the position.
– I ask the Minister for the Army whether he can inform me why the testing of the Trowbridge sub-machine gun has been delayed by the Department of the Army for six months or more? I am informed that this gun is superior, in many respects, to every other machine gun ; yet the inventor has been denied an opportunity to demonstrate its effectiveness. I am informed also that it is preferable to, and has a much higher firing capacity than, the Owen gun.
– The honorable member has corresponded with the Department of the Army on this subject. I shall inquire whether the fullest consideration has been given to this gun. An Army Inventions Directorate has been established to give immediate consideration to new inventions.
– It has given no consideration whatever to this invention.
– I shall inquire whether there are just grounds for the honorable gentleman’s complaint. My policy is to encourage inventors. It was for that reason that the Army Inventions Directorate was established. I hope to be able to furnish some information to the honorable gentleman to-morrow.
– In view of the fact that many voluntary women workers at the Yaralla Hospital are rendering most useful service to the country, I ask the Minister for the Army whether he will provide free transport between Sydney and the hospital for these voluntary workers, most of whom are the wives and sisters of wage-earners?
– Sympathetic consideration will be given to the honorable gentleman’s representations.
– Several references have appeared in the press lately to the subject of the employment of Chinese workmen. I ask the Minister for
Labour and National Service whether he will inform the House whether such workmen are being employed? If so, what is their number and the rate of their remuneration? In short, I should like the Minister to make a full statement on the conditions governing this employment, and to indicate the attitude of the Government on the subject.
– I hope to be in a position to make a full statement on the subject later this week.
– Seeing that a marked reduction of interest rates has occurred since Parliament fixed a penalty rate of 10 per cent, per annum on income tax not paid by the due date, I ask the Treasurer whether he will consider a reduction of this heavy penalty?
– I shall examine the matter.
– I ask the Acting Attorney-‘General whether Mr. Justice Nicholas, of the Supreme Court of New South Wales, has ruled that sole executors or executrices who are the sole beneficiaries of persons presumed dead under Statutory Rule No. 318 of 1941 - that is, persons who are presumed to have lost their lives in circumstances such as those in which H.M.A.S. Sydney was lost - must furnish a bond before probate will be granted? Is the honorable gentleman aware that, because of the indefinite liability imposed on guarantors, it is impossible to obtain- such a bond? If these are facts, will the honorable gentleman consider an immediate amendment of the regulations made by Statutory Rule No. 318, in order that grant of probate may be made in the normal way?
– I do not know whether the statements of the honorable member are facts. I shall refer them to the Solicitor-General, and shall ask him to furnish a report upon them. I am sure that whatever action is necessary will be taken in order to remedy any defects in the regulations.
– Last Sunday night the Minister for Supply and Development, in a broadcast, forecast a further rationing of foodstuffs and the possible prohibition of the supply of certain items. Can the honorable gentleman indicate the kinds of foodstuffs it is proposed to ration? If they are rural products, does he not connect any shortage that may exist with the acute labour position in rural industries?
– In the matter that I broadcast, I did not mention the rationing of foodstuffs produced in Australia, but I did say that, because of the exigencies of war, it had been necessary to ration foodstuffs that have to be imported. I added that, in my opinion, there is an abundance of foodstuffs in Australia. The major problem to which I directed attention was that mentioned by the honorable member, which is accentuated by difficulties in relation to transport; in other words, proper and adequate distribution. I stated that, for these reasons, I regarded it as necessary, for my department, in conjunction with the Department of Commerce, to set up an organization designed to overcome the difficulties with which we are confronted, in order that, adequate provision may be made for our fighting forces, and every practicable step taken to make foodstuffs available to the Australian people.
Bill presented by Mr. Beasley, and read a first time.
– by leave - T move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Honorable members are aware that the Commonwealth Government recently decided, subject to His Majesty’s approval, that the Honorable Sir Owen Dixon, a Justice of the High Court of Australia, should become His Majesty’s Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary for the Commonwealth of Australia in the United States of America, in succession to the Right Honorable R. G. Casey. The object of this hill is to enable the Government to utilize the services of the Honorable Sir Owen Dixon in that office without his position as a Justice of the High Court of Australia being prejudiced in any way.
Section 8 of the Judiciary Act reads -
A Justice of the High Court shall not he capable of accepting or holding any other office or any other place of profit within the Commonwealth except any such judicial office as may be conferred upon him by or under any law of the Commonwealth.
It is not quite clear whether this section would exclude Sir Owen Dixon from accepting this position while remaining a justice of the High Court. In order to remove any doubt that may exist, provision is made by clause 3 of the bill to override that provision, in the following terms : -
Notwithstanding anything contained in the Judiciary Act 1903-1940, if His Majesty shall see fit to appoint the Honorable Owen Dixon to be Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary for the Commonwealth of Australia in the United States of America, he may accept that appointment and hold the same act well as the office of a Justice of the High Court of Australia and his service as Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary for the Commonwealth of Australia in the United States of America shall for all purposes count as service in the office of a Justice.
By section 48a of the Judiciary Act, the pension of a justice of the High Court upon retirement depends upon the number of years during which he has served in that office. It is desirable, therefore, to make it clear that any period during which Sir Owen Dixon may hold the office of Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary for the Commonwealth of Australia in the United States of America, and shall perform the duties of that office, shall be included in his period of service as a justice of the High Court of Australia.
Whilst the bill, for simplicity reasons, does not contain any reference to the present war, the necessity for the utilization of Sir Owen Dixon’s services has arisen out of the war, and the special significance that is attached at present to the diplomatic relations between Australia and the United States of America renders it vital that the Commonwealth representative in that country shall be a man of the highest attainments and reputation. I feel confident that honorable members will agree that Sir Owen Dixon is eminently suitable for the position. He has had a distinguished career.
After practising successfully at the bar, he was appointed a justice of the High Court of Australia in 1939, a position which he has continued to occupy with great distinction. Sir Owen has, in addition to his duties as a justice of the High Court, performed services for this country as chairman of the Central Wool Committee since 1940, and chairman of the Australian Coastal Shipping Control Board and Marine War Risks Insurance Board since 1941. The Government considers itself fortunate in having been able to obtain the services of an Australian of such outstanding ability to fill its most important diplomatic post abroad. I feel sure that the appointment will commend itself to honorable members and receive the approval of the people of Australia. Events of the last few months have combined to make the position to which Sir Owen Dixon has been appointed one of great importance. I need only refer to the formation of the Pacific Council, the supply of equipment and munitions by the United States of America to Australia, and the presence of American forces in this country in order to show how important is the matter of Australian representation in the United States of America, and how close are the relations between the two countries. With a full recognition of these considerations, the Government has made its choice of a representative, and now deems it necessary that this measure should go through the Parliament as quickly as possible, in order to safeguard the position of Sir Owen Dixon in this country. I commend the bill to honorable members, and trust that it will have a speedy passage through the House.
– The Opposition appreciates the need for this bill, and the importance of it, and will co-operate with the Government in securing its expeditious passage through the Parliament.
.- Whilst I have always had a very great admiration for the man who is to be the Government’s appointee in Washington, there is one aspect of this matter to which, I believe, insufficient attention has been given. It is very important that the High Court of Australia should be composed of as able men as can be had from the ranks of the legal profession, especially at this time, when the High Court is really the only check upon the actions of the Government. Within the next few months, it is quite possible that the court will be called upon to determine the validity of legislation affecting the whole federal system. It. is desirable that at such a time the High Court should be as strong as possible, lt is no reflection on the men who constitute the High Court at present to say that the court must be distinctly weakened, first, by the withdrawal of the honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt), and now by the temporary loss of Sir Owen Dixon. The Government should consider whether the High Court as at present constituted is strong enough to solve the important problems that the war will present, and those important problems which the Government, I understand, is about to present to it. The sending of Sir Owen Dixon to the United States of America without replacing him by a leader of the bar from ono of the Australian States, will leave the High Court much weaker than before. When the honorable member for Barton left the Bench, the court nas weakened. I do not know enough about his successor to say whether he was fully qualified to take the place of the honorable member for Barton, but I know that if Sir Owen Dixon goes, and no one takes his place, the court will be weaker. If the constitutional question of the taxing powers of the Commonwealth and the States be submitted to a weakened High Court the people will not have the 3ame confidence in its decision as they had before, and that question affects the whole structure and nature of the federal system.
.- On principle I protest against the practice of concluding the second-reading debate on a bill on the same day as tha motion for the second reading is moved, thus depriving honorable members of an opportunity tn consider the speech of the Minister who introduced the bill, or to consider the merits of the bill itself. When the present Chief Justice of the High Court (Sir John Latham) was appointed to a position of some distinclion mid importance in Japan, I took occasion to criticize the wisdom of making such appointments from the High Court Bench. The observations which I made then stand for this present case also. It was not for nothing that section S of the Judiciary Act was adopted by the Commonwealth Parliament. The full text of the section is as follows: -
A justice of the High Court shall not bt capable of accepting or holding any other office or any other place of profit within the Commonwealth except any such judicial office us may be conferred upon him by or under any law of the Commonwealth. lt has long been accepted as a principle that gentlemen appointed to the High Court should have nothing to hope for, and nothing to fear from, the Executive after their appointment. Theirs should be a life appointment, subject to good behaviour, and they should be in the fullest measure practicable independent of the Executive of the day. We have departed from that principle. The Chief Justice of the High Court was appointed Australian Minister to Tokyo, and another judge resigned from the Bench and was elected to this chamber. One does not know where this practice will end, or what are to be the “ bright expectations of justices of the High Court regarding the future disposition of their services. I agree that if a. justice of the High Court must be appointed to the position of Australian Minister to Washington, .Sir Owen Dixon will ib e a very suitable choice. He brought distinction to the High Court Bench, as he had lent distinction, as an acting judge, to the Supreme Court Bench of Victoria. Both before and after he had filled that appointment,- he was recognized as being a man at the top of his profession.
I feel hopeful that the functions of the High Court, so far from becoming mort important, may naturally in the fullness of time become less important. With the pre-eminent -powers of the Commonwealth established and recognized, we should have leas straw-splitting on constitutional issues relating to the powers of the Commonwealth and the States. But the High Court Bench, having already lost the great distinction of possessing Mr. Justice Evatt, will now lose another strong man in the person of Sir Owen Dixon. With the flight of time, other members of the
Bench must necessarily be feeling the burden of years, thus throwing increasing responsibility upon the younger members.
I should have welcomed an opportunity to consider in greater detail the present position of the High Court, but 1 shall content myself with saying that I do not view with favour the appointment of justices to diplomatic posts. I expressed that opinion when the Chief Justice, Sir John Latham, was appointed to the position of Australian Minister to Tokyo, which he filled with some distinction, and in which he worked most industriously. However, as the Government has decided that a justice of the High Court shall fill the position of Australian Minister to Washington, I consider that it could have hardly selected a better man than Sir Owen Dixon. A previous government pegged the number of judges on the High Court Bench at, I think, an adequate figure, and I have no quarrel with that. Previously, the Bench had consisted of a much larger number. I have very little knowledge of the quality of the latest addition to the High Court Bench, but I do know that the High Court has now lo3t two of its ablest judges. My belief is that the best men available should occupy the positions of justices of the High Court, but that, once having been appointed, the justices should have nothing to hope for and nothing to fear from the Executive. A departure from that principle means a weakening of the Bench.
.- I oppose the bill, because it constitutes a departure from the recognized traditions of the Bench in its relationship to the Executive. The passing of a bill to be cited as the Judiciary (Diplomatic Representation) Act 1942 is such a departure as would warrant serious consideration by Parliament. Some honorable members are not aware that one of the principal functions of the High Court of Australia is to determine constitutional issues that may arise .between the Commonwealth and the States. In this sphere, the High Court is the final arbiter. In the near future, a number of constitutional problems will arise, particularly matters relating to the introduction by the Commonwealth of a uniform income tax. The position is such that well-informed opinion at the New South Wales bar believes that, as the result of the departure of Mr. Justice Evatt, a world authority on constitutional matters, and Sir Owen Dixon, the capacity of the High Court to determine constitutional matters has sunk to the level of a minor magistracy.
– Is the honorable member representative of the “ well-informed opinion of the New South Wales bar “ ?
– I am not expressing my own opinion.
– The honorable member has made an amazing statement, in view of the eminence of certain judges.
– The honorable member for Warringah was a candidate for the position to which Sir Owen Dixon will be appointed.
– That is an unpardonable statement.
– I take exception to the fact that a justice of the High Court, learned in constitutional matters, has been sent away, because he would carry out perhaps more important work in Australia towards the prosecution of the war than he may do in the United States of America. As an admirer of Sir Owen Dixon’s ability I, nevertheless, feel that he was not the most suitable person who could have been appointed to do this work. I say that because for many years be ha3 lived in the rarefied atmosphere of the High Court. His general outlook is too transcendental to enable him to do with good effect for the Commonwealth the work with which he has been entrusted. Away from the High Court Bench are many men qualified for this appointment. Indeed, there are some members of this House who might have been chosen. Members of the Commonwealth Parliament are debarred by the Constitution, and High Court judges by section 8 of the Judiciary Act, from holding any office of profit under the Crown. But this bill abrogates that prohibition so far as it concerns Sir Owen Dixon. If it is possible for a justice of the High Court to be released from the provisions of the Judiciary Act in order to permit him to fill two Crown positions at the same time, it should be possible for a member of this Parliament to be treated similarly. A member of this
Parliament might be released for a term in order to do the work which Sir Owen Dixon has been appointed to do.
– If the honorable member obtains legal opinion on the Constitution he will find that that cannot be done.
Mr.FALSTEIN.- I believe that that is so, but, at the same time, since Parliament took the precaution of inserting a section in the Judiciary Act to impose the same restrictions on High Court judges as are imposed on federal members by the Constitution, that section should not be varied or modified in any way.
I also take exception to the fact that under this bill the pension rights of Sir Owen Dixon are to be preserved. No one in this House will deny that the honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt) is doing more important work than Sir Owen Dixon will do. Yet, when he was considering whether he would contest the Barton seat, he was informed that be would be obliged to resign his seat on the bench in the event of his deciding to be a candidate. This legislation, if it is to be passed by Parliament, should contain a provision for the restoration of pension rights to the honorable member for Barton, who lost substantial pension rights when he came into Parliament to do a better job than he was doing on the High Court bench.
The appointment of Sir Owen Dixon to represent Australia in Washington is not a happy choice for the reason that aman with wider experience in diplomatic matters would put a better case for Australia and a more sympathetic case for this Govern- ment than he. This bill establishes the principle that Justices of the High Court may be appointed to a number of other positions and still retain their positions on the Bench. That is most unfair to leading members of the bar in the different States, who have a right to expect that their careers may he crowned by appointment to the highest court in Australia, Acceptance by Sir Owen Dixon or any other judge of an appointment of lengthy duration should carry with it automatic forfeiture of his posi tion on the Bench, and his substitution by some other person, who could do the job. perhaps not so capably as Sir Owen Dixon, but as capably as it can be done by the remaining judges on the High Court.
.- I share the apprehension of honorable members on this side who have spoken in criticism of this bill. I have other reasons to advance in opposition to the measure I object to the principle of granting special privileges to High Court judges. They are appointed to the High Court Bench to do a particular job of work and should remain in that position and in no other position during their judicial lifetime; if they retire on pension they should not associate with any activity that would be likely to bring them into conflict with the political parties of the Commonwealth. The honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt) sacrificed his pension rights and entered the active field of politics. The Chief Justice, Sir John Latham, however, was appointed to Tokyo and his pension rights were preserved. He returned from Tokyo without having fallen out with any of the three governments whose directions he fulfilled while he was there and is now back in his old position as Chief Justice. Sir Owen Dixon has gone to Washington on the same conditions as Sir John Latham went to Tokyo, but no one can say whether he is going to have a happy association with this Ministry or with all Ministers of this Government or with any of their successors. If he should disagree with the Government on a major issue he probably will createa sensation similar to that created by the Right Honorable R. G. Casey when he resigned. The Minister at Washington might even express publicly his disapproval of a decision of the government he represents, in which case he would have to resign and come back to the High Court position. If he were to resign in such circumstances, his position as a judge would undoubtedly suffer some impairment. He would not be so acceptable to the government that he had offended, as he probably would have been had he remained a High Court judge and not stepped down to fill an ambassadorial role. It is possible, in certain circumstances, for Sir Owen Dixon, as Plenipotentiary at “Washington, to be discredited, and that would not be a good thing for the High Court as an institution or for him personally.
The appointment of Sir Owen Dixon presupposes that there are no persons in Australia but High Court judges qualified to fill these high diplomatic posts. 1 refuse to assent to that view. Mr. Casey was appointed by a previous government, and the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) said that he represented Australia very well while he occupied his position. The previous Prime Ministers under whom he served spoke equally enthusiastically about him; therefore, it is obvious that somebody other than a High Court judge or an eminent lawyer can, with distinction and profit to Australia, represent us in any diplomatic post. I can see no reason for the appointment of Sir Owen Dixon. Other estimable people in Australia are, in my humble view, equally fitted in most respects to represent Australia, and probably better fitted in other respects than Sir Owen Dixon. Reference has been made to this gentleman’s sheltered existence. He probably knows less about men and affairs in Australia than do any members of this House. His forensic skill is famous, his general ability is undoubted, but there is no evidence that he is the kind of man to exchange views with diplomats and statesmen in other countries and to represent Australia as successfully as some who, although lacking many ‘of his attributes, have other qualifications for the office to which he has been appointed.
– Does the honorable member for Melbourne forget that Sir Owen Dixon carried out with conspicuous success two war-time administrative jobs, which involved a great knowledge of men ?
– I do not necessarily accept the premises on which the right honorable gentleman’s question is based. 1 am not opposed to Sir Owen Dixon on personal grounds, and I have no doubt that he has acquitted himself well in whatever position he has occupied. I consider, however, that chancellories in international politics are for men who have participated actively in politics, or for career men in the Foreign Office. If the American experiment is any criterion, the position could be occupied with success by a man who had a fairly good knowledge of most of life’s activities. I am not a strong supporter of any proposal to appoint a business man to a diplomatic position, but President Roosevelt seems to have made excellent choices in connexion with his diplomatic services, as was done also by President Wilson in an earlier war period. ‘ Why does the Labour Government continually ignore the claims of Labour supporters for appointment to important diplomatic positions? Why was not the Premier of Queensland, Mr. Forgan Smith, selected in preference to Sir Owen Dixon? Mr. Forgan Smith has been maintained by the Queensland electors in the Premiership for a longer period than any other leader of a political party in Australian history. He has won four elections in succession, and each time his Government has been returned with a substantial majority. He has not lacked support as the present Prime Minister and his immediate predecessors in office have done. Mr. Forgan Smith has maintained a two-to-one majority in the Queensland Parliament at each election since he became Premier.
– What has the honorable member to say about the redistribution schemes introduced by Labour governments in Queensland?
– The electorates of the Queensland Parliament are no more gerrymandered than are the electorates of this House. A former Treasurer of Queensland, Mr. Barnes, is said to have boasted after his redistribution scheme had been adopted, following the defeat of the McCormick Government, that Queensland was safe for nationalism for a long time. Even on the basis of that redistribution the Forgan Smith Government was returned with a two to one majority. A subsequent redistribution scheme made representation in the Queensland Parliament a little more equitable, and again Mr. Forgan Smith was returned with the same majority. His qualifications are outstanding, and I imagined that he would have been the first choice of the Government for the important diplomatic. post in the United States of America, or for some other high appointment within the gift of the Commonwealth Labour Government.
Why was not Mr. Parker Moloney appointed to this position? For many years he was a distinguished member of this House, and for two years he was Minister for Markets. He is quite as capable as Mr. R. G. Casey; in fact, I should be doing him an injustice if I did not say that he is more capable than Mr. Casey. Had Mr. Parker Maloney been nominated for the electorate of Hume at the last general elections, his certain election would have made the position of the Government safer to-day than it is, and undoubtedly his claims for appointment would then have received greater attention. The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) has suggested by interjection that Mr. John Lang should have been appointed.
– Or Mr. Theodore.
– Australia would be better served by Mr. Lang or by Mr. Theodore, if the choice had to bo made between those two gentlemen, than by the honorable member for Wentworth. Why did this Labour Government overlook the claims of Mr. R. S. Richards, a former premier of South Australia, and the leader of the Labour party in that State?
– Why this modest suppression of the honorable member’s own name?
– My desire is to serve democracy in Australia and not to secure advancement or a position of tinselled glory. Unlike the claims of the right honorable member, any claims I may have had were not likely to be prejudiced by the support of the capitalistic press of Australia. The right honorable . gentleman’s claims were strongly canvassed by the Murdoch press. If rumour be correct, his claims were equally strongly advocated in the right quarters, but were rejected. I should prefer to see Australia represented in the United States of America at thisjuncture by a Labour man, not a non-Labour man.
– The honorable member is a firm believer in spoils to the victor.
– My complaint is that the Government apparently believes in spoils to the vanquished. I can see no reason why three or four Ministers whose names I could mention as eligible for appointment, were not considered by the Government for the position.
– At least the appointment of one of them would have madea vacancy in the Government.
– It would not have made a vacancy that would permit the right honorable member for Darling Downs to return to the position of Prime Minister - and that is all to the good. Some years ago, when Sir William Irvine, a former member of this House, was Chief Justice of Victoria, he decided that no Supreme Court judge in Victoria would be made available for appointment as a royal commissioner. In his view, judges should be above being used for party political purposes, and their positions on the bench should not be endangered by their appointment to conduct inquiries which might possibly bring their impartiality into question with contending parties. His view was accepted by many governments. I am sure that the State Government of which the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies) was formerly a member, did not press the Chief Justice of Victoria to release judges of the Supreme Court to make inquiries which could be made just as well by members of the bar, if legal learning were required, or by other citizens if general knowledge were a sufficient qualification. This Government should not- be so anxious to dazzle every one in the community by the absolute impartiality of its appointments. The Government should not be unduly afraid of charges of political prejudice. Apparently it desires members of the public to say: “Here is a government which considers capacity and ability above everything else, and does not intend to allow itself to be blinded by political prejudice or to be affected by political associations”. The Government should not be faint-hearted about these things, for its opponents will think just the same of it, irrespective of its actions in matters of this description. Its opponent? will still have plenty of ammunition to fire at it, whether it makes or does not make appointments in accordance with Labour wishes. Who knows when we shall have another general election? Rumours have circulated that this Parliament will not be dissolved during the period of the war. In any case, a general election is a long way off. A Labour supporter should not be discriminated against by this Government merely because he is a Labour supporter. A feeling is abroad that Labour supporters are ineligible when appointments of this description are under consideration. I offer no objection to the selection of Sir Owen Dixon on grounds of personal fitness, but from my association with the Labour movement - and I maintain a personal and intimate association with it - I am able to say that the appointment was not popular with the average working man. If the Government continues to make such appointments the rank and file of the Labour party will conclude that Labour men are not being given fair consideration.
– How does the honorable member know that Sir Owen Dixon is not a Labour supporter?
-I do not know Sir Owen Dixon’s politics, but his education, training, and legal and social associations can hardly have given him a prejudice in favour of the Labour party. The lawyer who joins the Labour party is an extremely rare bird. Most lawyers believe in the maintenance of the existing capitalist order of society, and their services arc usually retained by persons interested in capitalism. Their arguments, as a rule, before judges and magistrates, and in the deliberative chambers of this country, are directed towards the maintenance of things as they are. Not many university professors or graduates strive to improve the interests of the common people, although most universities are maintained largely by public funds. From the number of university professors on the pay-roll of this Government and other governments, it would appear that Ministers are more concerned to receive advice on everyday affairs and on problems of government from university professors than from people in touch with the rank and file. Speaking generally, university professors are hopelessly prejudiced against the Labour move ment. I have no inferiority complex in discussing this subject. In the new order which we hope to establish after the war university professors and graduates may find that they will have to change their views on many subjects. Many people who invested their money in small businesses are suffering heavy losses to-day because governments have followed the advice of university-trained individuals. Lawyers may find, after the war, that their talents will need to be put to better use than in prosecuting the claims of big business in the law courts of this country. Nothing that we can do will prevent Sir Owen Dixon from taking up his new duties in the United States of America, for he has been appointed and has actually left Australia. The purpose of this bill is to ensure that on his return to Australia he shall be able, if he so desires, to resume his duties as a High Court judge. 1 offer no objection to that proposal. In fact, I hope that he may be able to resume his duties at an early date. Appointments of this kind cannot be expected to win the approbationof supporters of the Labour party, and it is time the Government took cognizance of this fact, and endeavoured to give expression to the wishes of the mass of the people of the country.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time and reported from committee without amendment or debate.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Bill presented by Mr. Chifley, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That thebill be now read a second time.
When the bill for the principal act was under consideration in the Senate last year, the Government gave an undertaking that two amendments then proposed would receive consideration and, if acceptable, would be included in an amending measure at the first available opportunity. Those amendments have been considered and, having been found acceptable by the Government, are included in this bill.
The first amendment concerns the definition of “ disposition of property “ in paragraph e of section 4 of the principal act. That definition includes, as a disposition of property -
The exercise of a general power of appointment of property (including any judgment or order of any court made in default of the exercise of the power by the donee thereof).
It was represented to the Government that almost invariably a judgment or order of a court made in default of the exercise of a general power of appointment had the same effect as if the general power of appointment had been a limited power of appointment, and had been exercised as such. The Government does not desire that the exercise of a limited power of appointment shall bring the property affected thereby under the provisions of this act, and has, therefore, agreed that the words in brackets in that provision shall be omitted.
The second provision of this bill is an amendment to section 12 of the act which defines when a gift is deemed to be made. Sub-section 3 of that section provides that when any gift is made in respect of property comprised in any instrument of gift requiring registration under a State law, the gift, for the purposes of the act, shall be deemed to be made at the date when the instrument is lodged for registration. It was represented to the Government that this provision would inflict hardship in cases where the donor had actually and irrevocably divested himself of the property prior to the commencement of the act, but, through circumstances not within his control, had not lodged the instrument for registration until after the commencement of the act. The case was mentioned of a donor who had signed the transfers of a property several months prior to the commencement of the act, but as they had to be sent to several States to secure the signatures of the transferees a considerable time elapsed before they wore ready for lodgment. The donor handed the documents to his solicitors for presentation to the Stamp Duties Office for payment of stamp duty and to the Registrar-General’s Office of the State concerned for registration of the transfers, about a week prior to the commencement of the act. The solicitor in the normal course of business lodged them with the Registrar the day after the commencement of the act. Under the law as it stands at present this disposition of property would be subject to gift duty owing to fortuitous circumstances outside the control of the donor.
Another class of gift brought within the provisions of the act, but which certainly was not intended to be made liable to gift duty, is a settlement made in Victoria with dispositions taking effect after the death of the settlor.For example, a settlor might settle certain property upon trustees with directions that the income therefrom was to be paid to his wife during his life and that upon his death the settled property was to be divided between his wife and children.
Section 177 of the Probate and Administration Act of Victoria requires that such settlements shall he registered within twelve months of the death of the settlor, otherwise they are invalid. Under the law such settlements, if registered after the commencement of the act, would be liable to gift duty, although the donor had entirely and irrevocably divested himself of the property perhaps 35 years previously. The Government has agreed that it would be inequitable to bring such property under the provisions of the act. In order to overcome these anomalies the bill proposes to insert in the act a proviso to sub-section 3 of section 12, which will place outside the operation of the act any gift of property made prior to the commencement of the act, but in which the instrument had not been registered until after the commencement of the act, where the Commissioner is satisfied that the donor, prior to the commencement of the act, had done everything in his power to divest himself of the property.
The opportunity afforded by the necessity to introduce these amendments has been taken to insert several other minor amendments for the purpose of making the act more efficient, and bringing it more into line with the Estate Duty Assessment Act and certain amendments which it is proposed to make to that act.
The most important of these is an amendment of the provision in section 18 which gives to the Commissioner certain power in regard to the valuation of the shares of a private company. It has been decided to extend these powers somewhat, so that the Commissioner may entirely ignore any artificial restrictions contained in the Articles of Association of any particular company regarding the transfer of shares or the methods of valuation thereof. The provision to be inserted is similar to the provision proposed to be inserted in the Estate Duty Assessment Act, and is substantially the same as the provision in the Stamp Duties Act of New South Wales, for the purpose of valuing the shares of such companies for probate duty purposes. It has also been found necessary to amend several of the provisions of section 14 - the exemption section of the act - in order to avoid hardship in respect of gifts that do not entirely comply with the letter, but do comply with the spirit of the. present law. The amendments will have the effect of giving more adequate expression to the spirit of the law.
There is also a provision confining objections to amended assessments to the increase of liability made by such amendments. This brings the act into conformity with other taxation acts.
It is proposed that before proceeding to the committee stage, the bill shall be considered by a special committee, which is representative of both Government and Opposition parties. Thus any differences in regard to detail may be resolved to the satisfaction of all parties, and the passage of the measure greatly facilitated.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Fadden) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr. Chifley, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
The bill be now read a second time.
When the Estate Duty Rates Bill was before this House last year, the Opposition raised the question of the exemption provided for in the Estate Duty Assessment Act in respect of the estates of persons killed on active service. The Government undertook to consider the liberalization of the exemption inserted in the act by the previous Government. Having done so, it has arrived at the conclusion that the existing provision should be liberalized. In arriving at this conclusion, the Government considered the provisions in each of the State death duty acts which grant some special benefit in respect of the estates of members of the forces and the provision in this regard in the law of the United Kingdom. It has decided to adopt in such cases a method of granting a special benefit which conforms largely, but not wholly, to the provisions of the law of the United Kingdom, and also conforms in part to the laws of some of the Australian States. Under the provision contained in the bill, a flat exemption of £5,000 will be given in all cases, irrespective of the value of the estate. This exemption will apply to estates which pass to the widow, children, grandchildren, parents, brothers, sisters, nephews and nieces of the deceased. The amendment, it is thought, will give appropriate relief to estates even in the higher ranges. An estate of £5,000 will, of course, receive an exemption of 100 per cent. of the duty otherwise payable; an estate of £10,000 will receive an exemption of 50 per cent. ; an estate of £20,000 will receive an exemption of 44.6 per cent.; and an estate of £50,000 will receive an exemption of171/2 per cent. In addition, it is proposed to insert in the act a provision which will ensure that, if the same property again becomes liable to estate duty because of a second death on active service, there shall he full remission of the duty otherwise payable in respect of that particular property on the second death. This latter provision conforms wholly to the practice in the United Kingdom.
Advantage is being taken of the opportunity afforded by the necessity to amend the principal act for the above-mentioned purpose, to introduce into that act several very necessary amendments for the purpose of blocking loop-holes that result in the loss of considerable revenue. All the amendments in this regard comply with recommendations made by the Royal Commission on Taxation, which in 1934 presented a report in regard to estate duty. No government has previously found a convenient opportunity to give effect to these recommendations. The need for revenue at the present time is so great, however, that it was decided that these matters should not be postponed any longer.
Under the existing law, a life insurance policy taken out by a person in favour of his wife or any other member of his family, and upon which he pays the premiums throughout his life, cannot be included in his estate because of certain provisions in the laws of the various States which make the proceeds of such policies trust property belonging to the person in whose favour the policies are taken out. However, such proceeds equitably form just as much a part of the deceased’s estate as do any other savings made by him for the benefit of his family. A clause has, therefore, been included in the bill, making the proceeds of such policies a part of the estate of the deceased in those instances in which the deceased has paid the premiums. Where the premiums have been only partly paid by the deceased, a pro rata proportion of the proceeds of the policy will form a part of the estate.
The matter of the valuation of shares in private companies, for estate duty purposes, has always been one of difficulty for the department, because of the restricted market for such shares duc to restrictions upon their transfer generally contained in the articles of association of such companies. This matter was overcome in New South Wales by the introduction of a special provision in the Probate and Administration Act giving the Commissioner administering that act the power to ignore such restrictions in valuing these shares. It provides that the Commissioner can value them on the basis that they were qualified to be placed on the official list of a stock exchange. The Royal Commission on Taxation recommended that a similar provision should be inserted in the principal act. Effect to this recommendation is being given in this bill.
Another recommendation of the royal commission was that the time within which gifts inter vivos made by the deceased should form a part of his estate should be extended from one year prior to death to two years, or, alternatively, to three years, with an appropriate reduction of the value of the property. In New South Wales the period is three years, and it is proposed to adopt the same period for Commonwealth purposes also. The bill contains a provision to give effect to this proposal.
Another matter that has given considerable trouble in the past is the very restricted provision in the principal act regarding the amendment of assessments. The Commissioner, under the present law, cannot amend assessments after one year subsequent to the payment of the duty on the assessment, or, in certain circumstances, after eighteen months subsequent to that date. Oases have frequently arisen in which additional asset* or liabilities have been discovered outside the time within which the assessment can be amended, and the law does not permit, in such cases, of any duty being levied or refunded in respect of these additional assets or liabilities.
The royal commission recommended that this difficulty should be overcome by permitting amendments to be made in such cases within three years of the due date for payment of duty on the original assessment, except in the case where there was an avoidance of duty because of fraud or evasion, in which event the assessment might be re-opened at any time. This recommendation would bring the provisions regarding amendments of assessments in this act into line generally with the provisions existing in other taxation acts. Accordingly, the bill contains provisions to give effect to this recommendation.
There are several other minor and machinery amendments contained in the bill which do not require lengthy explanation. One of them is to correct an anomaly that has revealed itself in the provision granting the statutory exemption. Another is to confine objections to amended assessments to the increased liability in the amended assessment. Yet another is to extend the benefit of the estate passing to the widow, children or grandchildren of the deceased to such estate which passes by right of survivorship. This amendment will give legislative sanction to a practice followed by the department under ministerial authority pending the amendment of the law. The last of the minor matters dealt with by the bill is an amendment of subsection 5 of section 8 of the principal act, which exempts bequests to funds established and maintained for the purpose of providing money for religious, scientific and educational institutions, &c. The amendment is to enable bequests for the purpose of establishing these funds to be exempted, as well as bequests to such funds already established. It is proposed, before proceeding with the debate on this bill, to refer it to the special committee of senators and members which will consider the Gift Duty Assessment Bill.
– Has the Government considered the situation which will arise in regard to duties on estates of civilians killed as the result of enemy action?
– No. We have looked into the matter of soldiers’ estates, but have not yet considered the position in regard to civilian estates.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Holt) adjourned.
– I move -
That the National Security (Values for Land Tax) Regulations under the National Security Act, made by Statutory Rules 1942, No. 128, be disallowed.
The Opposition does not wish to be obstructive in regard to this torrent of regulations which is flowing into the House, but we consider that it is necessary to give more mature consideration to some of -them. I believe that the Government, in its desire to encompass a full war effort, is apt to disregard established principles in regard to certain matters, and consequently may, unwittingly I believe, inflict injustice upon some sections of the community. When the Government has its attention drawn to the injustices it will, I have no doubt, take steps to amend the offending regulations. We have no other way in which to express ourselves regarding regulations, than by moving for their disallowance. If, after a discussion, the
Government can see eye to eye with the Opposition on these matters we shall not divide the House; but quite obviously we cannot permit the regulations now under consideration to go without pointing out certain flaws in them. Statutory Rule No. 128 has. we know, been designed for a specific purpose, which is set out quite clearly. Its purpose is to peg land values for taxation purposes at the level at which they stood at the 30th June, 1939, which is the beginning of the triennial period for land tax purposes. We maintain that so many factors may serve to bring about a change of values during the triennial period that this provision, in its present form, might easily work a grave injustice. The purpose which the Government had in view in framing these provisions is set out as follows : -
The object of these regulations is to post pone the revaluations of land required to he made for the purposes of the Land Tax Assessment Act 1910-1940, owing to the practical impossibility of making such revaluations due to the acute shortage of man-power during the present war.
I am accepting that statement of the position, but I have no doubt that some honorable members will point to the fact that most of the work of revaluation would be done by men who are not of military age. They may point out that, on the plea of conserving man-power, many things are being done which have no real bearing upon the man-power problem whatsoever. Neither do I propose to criticize the Government’s proposal for the stabilization of land values. It may well be that such stabilization is desirable in time of war, but I do suggest that the Government has chosen the wrong point of time for this purpose. In my opinion, the end of the triennial period would be the ideal time to choose. We know that, during the triennial period, the lodging of appeals may have a direct bearing upon the valuation of land for taxation purposes, and if values be stabilized at the figure prevailing at the beginning of the triennial period, anomalies may well be created and injustices perpetrated. In section 20 of the Land Tax Act 1910-1940 it is clearly pet out that, during the currency of the triennial period, values shall not be increased except upon a change of owner- ship. On the other hand, it is stated that a reduction of value may be permitted in the event of a successful appeal against a valuation. That immediately raises a problem of great magnitude because, within the triennial period, land values may materially alter due to circumstances visualized in the act, as well as to a multiplicity of other factors which may induce the taxpayer to invoke the provisions of the act, and lodge an appeal. En stabilizing the values obtaining at the 30th June, 1939, which is at the beginning of a triennial period, these regulations ignore the fact that the assessed value may have been altered since that date. Of course, I assume that I have accurately interpreted them. If I should be wrong, I ask the Treasurer to correct me.
I shall now cite examples for the purpose of showing how these regulations may cause injustice. In one instance the assessment for 1939-40 was accepted after an objection lodged by the taxpayer company had been disallowed by the department. The company also objected to the 1940-41 assessment, and, after negotiation, the unimproved value of the lands concerned was reduced by approximately £3,600. In the 1941-42 assessment now issued, the department reverted to the values obtaining on the 30th June, 1939. The taxpayer is denied the right of objection and is forced back on tothe higher assessment. This completely ignores the fact that the value tion in 1939-40 was incorrect, not, possibly, at the time that the valuation was made, but during the period over which the appeal was lodged, because the value of land fluctuates.
– The value of city property usually increases.
– Unfortunately, a downward trend is evident at the present time.
In another instance, land was acquired during the year 1939-40 for a figure considerably below the value assessed in the vendor’s hands, as at the 30th June, 1939. Although the 1941-42 assessment has not yet been issued, it appears that the present owner will be assessed, in pursuance of the regulations, at the vendor’s value as at the 30th June, 1939, and that this fictional value will remain unaltered until the regulations are amended or repealed. In other words, this property was purchased for a figure considerably below the assessed value, and now the owner will be taxed upon the increased value, as it was assessed at that particular period. Doubtless these anomalies are accidental, but they illustrate that injustices can he inflicted upon some persons when, in the drafting of a regulation, no consideration is given to its incidence upon taxation.
My third instance is most interesting because it reveals an extraordinary in crease of taxation during the last few years. In 1939 the property was assessed at £81,000. In 1940-41 the figure was reduced on appeal to £73,000. The department proposes to revert to the 1939 valuation, though it had already agreed that the value of the property had been overestimated by £8,000. However, the taxpayer will again be taxed on the value of the property in 1939, namely, £81,000.
– Did a court of appeal reduce the valuation?
– The valuation was reduced on appeal. In 1938 the tax paid upon this property was £741; last year it had increased to £1,450. With the reversion to 1939 values and various increases of taxes which have been imposed by successive governments, the tax for the current financial year will be £1,920. From that assessment, there is no appeal.
– Does federal land tax account for the whole of that sum?
– Yes. I remind honorable members that the three instances that I have cited relate to city properties. They are acknowledged to be large holdings, because the land tax applies only to large holdings.
I shall now refer to the effect of these regulations upon country properties. The assessed value of one property in 1939 was £39,409. In 1940 the owner objected to the valuation and the department reduced the figure by £5,076.I remind honorable members that the department does not reduce a valuation unless the owner makes out an excellent case, and shows that the value is not in the land. On appeal, then, the department accepted the taxable value of the property as being £34,333. As the result of the promulgation of these regulations, the rebate of £5,076 is immediately forfeited and the land will be assessed at the old figure of £39,409. The examples which I have cited should convince the House that if my interpretation of the regulations be correct, injustices will be inflicted upon various persons, who will have no right of appeal. In my opinion, the Government should have the right of appeal if the value of a property has appreciated; the taxpayer should have the right of appeal if the value has depreciated.
I shall now analyse the assertion that taxpayers will not be the victims of injustice if they are denied the right of appeal against the valuations of their property. Has the war affected the value of land, causing it to fluctuate between the upper and lower limits? Quite apart from the incidence of war itself, there are factors operating, including the Government’s own actions, which materially affect the value of land. For example, taking the value of city properties first, I remember that at the beginning of the war, when I was Minister for Trade and Customs, it fell to my lot to impose upon the community import restrictions which had a grave effect on small importers. Those men were forced out of business and their offices became vacant. The rent was no longer available to the owners. The value of the properties depreciated, and income was not available to the owners to meet their ordinary obligations, let alone their increased liability for land tax brought about by reversion to the 1939 valuations. The operations of the Minister for War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman) in rationing industries must have a still more far-reaching effect on the value of land in cities because it will almost indiscriminately close up blocks of shops and offices. Restrictions upon trading will have a serious effect upon land values and the income will not be available to the owners to enable them to meet their ordinary business obligations, let alone pay tax on increased land valuations. Let us look at the properties in the vulnerable areas - Darwin, for example. Darwin has been bombed, and is now evacuated entirely by the business community and the civil population. The value of land in Darwin must have depreciated extraordinarily. Likewise, the value of properties on the waterfronts of the big capital cities has also depreciated. In my electorate there are huge blocks of flats which are half, or, in some instances, three-quarters, empty. What will happen to the owners of properties when the Government compulsorily evacuates certain areas? Will they get any relief, or, notwithstanding that they will have no income, will they still have to pay the increased taxation and, mark you, have no right of appeal ? The absence of a right of appeal is a fundamental flaw in these regulations. Let us consider holdings in the country. The value of land in country areas where production of crops has been limited by many factors, including the destruction of crops, shortage of manpower and fertilizers, has depreciated to an extraordinary degree. I do not say that the value of all the land has depreciated. Where I can cite a case in which these regulations bear harshly upon land-owners, the Treasurer can probably cite another case in which the value of land has appreciated. 3 acknowledge that, but the taxpayer must have given to him the right of access to a board of appeal. The Government must have equal access to such a board. The values of land in areas near defence works, of country holdings purchased by evacuees, and of land on which crops have been sown under government contract no doubt have appreciated, but anomalies and injustices will be created if all cases are lumped together, irrespective of whether values have appreciated or depreciated. The only way in which to overcome such anomalies and injustices is by the creation of aboard of appeal.
As I said earlier, I am assuming certain things with regard to these regulations, and the Treasurer may be able to correct me on certain points,so placing the matter beyond all reasonable doubt. Honorable members on this side, and the business community generally, are concerned.
– This is absolutely the first time that I have heard any objection to these regulations.
– The Treasurer amazes me, because, since this motion has been on the notice-paper, I hare been almost inundated with protests against the regulations. I should like the Treasurer to explain regulation 6(3), which reads -
Nothing in the last preceding sub-regulation shall apply to any objection posted to or lodged with the Commissioner prior to the commencement of these regulations.
Where a taxpayer, before the issue of these regulations, has lodged an objection against the 1941-42 assessment, will it be proceeded with, and, if successful, will a reduced value continue in force, even though it is less than that which was in force in June, 1939? Regulation 5 reads -
All assessments of land tax to which these regulations apply shall be tentative only, and subject to amendment when the value of any area of land or of any interest therein is varied, in suck a manner as the Parliament prescribes, in respect of any financial year.
Does that imply that where sales or any other evidence warrant an increase of value the tentative assessment can later be amended retrospectively, or will the 1939 values be accepted as final? Those are two clauses which I should like the Treasurer to explain more fully. As I have said, the Opposition wishes to be not obstructive, but helpful in these matters. We do not object to the stabilization of land values for taxation purposes. Whilst possibly it is necessary at present, we claim that the Government has chosen the wrong period to stabilize. The Government proposes to stabilize at the beginning of a triennial period instead of at the end; irrespective of the fact that in the interim appeals have been lodged, concessions and reductions have been made, the department is reverting to valuations at the beginning of the triennial period. I suggest to the Treasurer that he should consider amending the regulations to provide for the right of appeal. I agree that these factors have an important bearing on land taxation, but more important is the fact that such adjustments will not overcome injustices which have been perpetrated or might obtain from month to month as the war progresses. Injustices can be overcome only by the creation of an appeal board. It is a fundamental principle of all taxation that the taxpayer should have the right of appeal against an unjust assessment. At the same time, I should give the Commissioner of Taxation the right of appeal against what he considered an insufficient assessment. I seek an assurance from the Treasurer that an appeal board will be constituted.
– I haveno personal objection to the main object of the statutory rule, because it will be advantageous, not only to the Government, but also to the taxpayer. If th, rule be retained in its present form, however, it will create many grave anomalies. The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) has referred to a number of cases in which, if the alteration in values between the 1st July, 1939, and the present date be not taken into consideration, grave hardship will result. I understand that the Treasurer (Mir. Chifley) has already received a letter from the Taxpayers Association of Queensland in reference to a more glaring case than those already mentioned by the honorable member for Wentworth. The taxpayer concerned was assessed for federal land tax purposes in 1939-40 on a land valuation of approximately £500,000. After argument his appeal was settled out of court, the taxpayer and the Commissioner of Taxation agreeing to accept a valuation of £500,000 for 1939 and a valuation of £400,000 for 1940. It is clear that the Commissioner was satisfied that the appeal was justified, because he was prepared to accept a lower valuation in 1940 than had been placed on the property for 1939. Under the rule, however, the Commissioner of Taxation must revert to the valuation of the 1st July, 1939, and assess the taxpayer for land tax purposes at the original valuation of £500,000, notwithstanding that he had agreed to accept the lower valuation of £400,000 for 1940. I do not think the Government intended that such a case should be interfered with when it introduced the statutory rule. In the interests of both the taxpayers and the Government, I think we should maintain the right of appeal which is provided for in the Land Tax Act.
The honorable member for Wentworth has referred to the appointment of an appeal board, but I think all that is necessary is to preserve to the taxpayer the right of appeal which at present exists. There are many cases in which valuations have depreciated because of conditions that have arisen since the outbreak of war; other properties have appreciated in value since the 1st July, 1939. I realize that the Government must obtain revenue, but the value of the land should be just; it should enable the owner to earn sufficient to live on and to pay the tax. In some cases it will be impossible for the property owners to cover themselves in such a way that they will be able to meet both the State and. Federal land taxes and also municipal rates. As I read regulation 7, it would appear to me that if an owner subdivided a property valued at £10,000, the new owners in the aggregate would have their properties valued for laud tax purposes at the total value of the land on the 1st July, 1939. How is that value to be arrived at? One cannot take the ratio of the value of the sub-divided blocks to the value of the area as a whole because the owner of a corner block would have a more valuable property than an owner in another part of the area.
– Is there not provision for a revaluation on a subdivision?
– No, not on my reading of the regulation, but perhaps the Minister can explain it. The original value for the whole block will be maintained. As an example, if a block of land valued at £40,000 were subdivided among ten owners the value would be split up equally among the ten owners. That cannot be done equitably because one portion might be more valuable than another.
– It might be a corner section.
– It would be all right so long as the whole worked out at the previous total.
– No, but I can see the Treasurer’s point. He claims that as long as the department maintained the £40,000 valuation, it would not matter how the amount was split up. That would not be fair. In such cases there should be provided a right of appeal, because special consideration is justified. Have the State governments been approached by the Government to carry out a policy similar to what is embodied in the statutory rule? If that has not been done we shall lose much of the benefits of these regulations. Land tax returns submitted to State governments far exceed the number submitted to the Commonwealth Government. I assume that even if the Government’s uniform tax proposals become effective they will relate only to income tax and not to land tax. We shall still have separate assessments in respect of State and Federal land taxes. Apparently this lack of uniformity is to continue. Another aspect of the subject must be borne in mind. I keenly regret that the land tax has not been left to the local governing bodies as a field of revenue. According to the latest available figures, Commonwealth and State Governments are raising £5,300,000 annually in land tax. But, because of Commonwealth and State legislation, local governing authorities arc not able to raise sufficient revenue from sources available to them, and they are receiving Government grants which aggregate £6,300,000 a year. Instead of tinkering at this subject, the various governments should allow to the local governing bodies the sole exploitation of this field for their revenue purposes. Whatever the land tax could do to effect the breaking up of large estates, has already been done, and we do not need to retain the tax for that purpose. Whether what has been achieved is satisfactory is another matter. To the general principle of the pegging of land values I offer no objection, but the submissions of the honorable member for Wentworth should receive the close consideration of the Government.
– Some of the objections raised by the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) to these regulations have come before me to-day for the first time. Possibly, of course, when it became noised abroad that the honorable member intended to move for the disallowance of these regulations, persons who considered that they had a grievance buzzed around him like bees around a honey pot. The fact is that no objections such as he has described have been submitted direct to the Treasury.
– I have received letters on the. subject from several responsible organizations.
– That may be so. As I understood the honorable member, he has made two requests. He asked first that, when, on appeal, an assessment has been reduced the Taxation Department shall accept the new valuation and not that in force at the 1st July, 1939. The honorable member made a reasoned case for this, and I am prepared to recommend to Cabinet that the regulations be amended to give effect to his proposal. The honorable gentleman submitted, secondly, that a valuation agreed upon between the taxpayer and the Commissioner of Taxation should he accepted as the basis of assessment and that no steps should be taken in such a case to revert to the valuation as at the 1st July, 1939. I am prepared to recommend to Cabinet an amendment of the regulations to give effect to that proposal also.
The honorable gentleman then went on to contend that a right of appeal should rest with a taxpayer who considered that his property had depreciated due to circumstances over which he had no control, and that a similar right of appeal should rest with the Commissioner of Taxation if he considered that, because of, say, the building of a munitions factory ot the establishment of a military camp in a particular area, a certain property had appreciated in value. If we were to agree to a right of appeal in every case of temporary appreciation or depreciation of values we should sentence ourselves to a maddening and continuous headache. It is true, as the honorable member pointed out, that references are made in these regulations to “the acute shortage of man-power during the war “. I remind the honorable member that that man-power shortage. has seriously affected the Taxation Department. If the honorable gentleman would examine the taxing measures passed by this Parliament within the last twelve months he would realize what an enormous amount of additional work has been placed on the shoulders of the officers of the department. The position became so grave that the Prime Minister agreed to the withdrawal of hundreds of the officers from the services in order that the work of the department could be done. If we were to agree now to the granting of a right of appeal to aggrieved taxpayers, on the one hand, and to the department, on the other hand, because of temporary variations in the values of land we should create an impossible position. It may be quite true that local developments affect the value of property, but I cannot agree that, in wartime, such temporary variations should entitle affected persons to a right of appeal. Adoption of that procedure would cause endless trouble. That course has not been followed in Great Britain. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, speaking in the House of Commons on this subject, said that the Government could not agree to a right of appeal on land values because of temporary variations. The British Government, in fact, declined to agree to revaluations even in areas evacuated because of bombing.
– What about valuations for probate purposes?
– That is a different matter altogether.
– I agree with the right honorable gentleman. How could we possibly deal with variations in the valuation of land due, let us say, to the bombing of Sydney, or Melbourne, and consequent evacuations? Just recently we had a notable illustration of what might happen. Because of danger from bombing, a certain coastal town in New South Wales was evacuated by very many people. As soon as the danger was thought to have passed, the people returned to their former localities. It would be impossible to deal with temporary variations in the values of properties in such circumstances as those. That policy could not possibly be applied in these days. Land values, in normal times, are largely hypothetical. Assumptions of values may then be drawn with reasonable facility and equity. But in war-time they cannot be drawn in respect of areas which may be subject to certain damage, or from which large-scale evacuations may take place when danger is apprehended, with resultant depreciation of value, and subsequent appreciation when there is no longer any danger of invasion. The residents of the aristocratic districts of Sydney are sufficiently well off to purchase houses or board at hotels in the mountains so soon as they think that there is likelihood of an air raid. Should they be permitted to appeal against the valuation placed on their property because its value depreciates during their absence? So soon as they believe that they will be safe, they rush back to the city. Similar circumstances would not operate in Surry Hills because the residents of that suburb cannot afford to pay exorbitant prices for houses or to board at expensive hotels in the country. The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) is suffering from parochialism, due to having lived in an aristocratic suburb, where every little ripple causes either depreciation or appreciation of the value of property. Even such grievances have not yet reached a board of appeal, but are merely circulating in those particular areas.
– If the honorable gentleman accepts the principle that a successful appeal or an agreement should be upheld, is he not assuming that the values of property will not further depreciate? Would there not again be injustice if, having allowed an appeal or agreement made in 1940, that right is denied in respect of properties the value of which has subsequently depreciated?
– Taxpayers had the right of appeal against valuations that were made at a time when there did not appear to be great danger to this country. Those who did not exercise that right must have ‘believed that they had no chance of succeeding. I am prepared to amend the regulations in order to meet the position of those whose appeals have been successful, or who have made an agreement. The request that the right of appeal shall be allowed at a time when the country is at war, and all sorts of different factors govern the Values of land, is made on a completely false assumption.
Reference has been made to agricultural lands. In some rural areas, values may have depreciated temporarily. But it is ako true that in numerous instances there has been appreciation. Where hardship exists, a taxpayer has the right to place his circumstances before the Land Tax Board of Relief.
The honorable member for Wentworth has made out a very good case, but some of the matters he has mentioned need careful examination in order to determine the strength of his representations. I assure him that it is not proposed to apply any increases to the tentative assessments mentioned in regulation 5. I am prepared to amend the regulations in order to make the two concessions previously mentioned, and to examine any similar points that may be raised.
– What is the interpretation of regulation 7?
– ‘Upon subdivision, the value stands.
– The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) and the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) have referred to the shortage of man-power as the cause of these regulations. Surely the difficulty of issuing assessments has been overstated. Those who have seen the persons who make land valuations know that usually they are men of from 65 to 75 years of age. They have been going about the country for the last few years preparing material for assessments for the new year; consequently, there must be in the files of the Taxation Department a considerable number of assessments that have already been made for the year beginning the 1st July, 1942. I cannot believe that these assessors will be required for either war purposes or munitions purposes. That there is a great deal of work in the Taxation Department is undeniable, hut because the department has to deal with a lot of new forms of taxation, recently devised, that is no reason for withholding from the usual taxpayer his ordinary rights.
These regulations contain a few outstanding points. The Treasurer put his finger on most of them, hut did- not deal with one, which is perhaps of major importance: Why is the date at which land is to be assessed put hack to a period before the outbreak of war ? It is obvious to every body, I imagine, that the present value of land is not likely tobe identical with the pre-war value. Possibly, values have risen.. That would apply particularly to cities, which have experienced a big influx of population, or to areas where there are large defence works, and therefore an increase of population. In such places there follows a natural increase of land values in spite of the war; but there aTe other areas, mostly in country districts, where land values have undeniably fallen. This decline of values is, in my opinion, largely due to the Government’s own policy. I should like to ask the Treasurer why the value of land is to be pegged at the figures obtaining prior to the war, while the wages of industrialists are being pegged at the rates prevailing at a date two years after the war broke out. It might be fair to peg land values as at the date of the outbreak of war, but then it should be equally fair to peg wages at the rates then prevailing. Why should they have been increased again and again by war loadings over a period of two years, and then suddenly pegged at that inflated figure? Land values in country areas have suffered because of the fixing of prices of primary products, the rising cost of production, and bad seasons. I should also like to direct the attention of the Treasurer to another matter. It will be a remarkable thing if our cities escape bombing during the course of this war, and it may well be that a great city building erected at tremendous cost will be wiped out altogether in the course of a raid, and the land upon which it stood piled deep with rubble that will cost many thousands of pounds to remove. Is it in any sense equitable, that if such a thing were to happen, the department should tax the land on its value in the middle of 1939 ?
– Surely the honorable member is not suggesting that some relief would not be given in such a case?
– I suggest that some provision for the giving of relief in such cases should be included in the regulations.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to8 p.m.
– I now propose to deal with the matter of land which has been over-assessed, possibly as the result of purchase at an exorbitant figure. Before these regulations were promulgated, there were means by which the incorrect figure could be adjusted. For example, when a taxpayer died, valuations for the purpose of estate duty very often clarified the actual value of the land. But these regulations provide that whether land devolves upon trustees or beneficiaries, or is transferred for value to a purchaser, the value of the property as at the 1st July, 1939, shall stand. In the computation of the land tax, the value of the land at the time when it devolves upon the trustees or the transferees will not be taken into account.
– Probate is computed not upon the unimproved, but upon the improved value of the land.
– The Land Tax Assessement Act lays down the saint rule to govern the assessment of all land, whether improved or unimproved. The rule prescribes that the true value shall be ascertained. The method proposed under these regulations provides for ascertaining, not the true value, but the value on the 1st July, 1939. Thus the original value of land which passes, by the death of the owner, to trustees or is transferred at a lower figure, will still be assessable.
– That still applies if the value of the land appreciates.
– I do not want to exclude from increased taxation land the value of which has appreciated.
– The honorable member wants it both ways.
– I do not The real intention of the Land Tax Assessment Act is that the true value shall be ascertained. For instance, the definition of “ improved “ value in relation to land means -
The capital sum which the fee-simple of the land might be expected to realize if offered for sale on such reasonable terms and conditions as a bonafide seller would require. “ Unimproved value “, in relation to unimproved land, means -
The capital sum which the fee-simple of the land might be expected to realize if offered for sale on such reasonable terms and conditions as a bona fide seller would require. “ Unimproved value “, in relation to improved land, means -
The capital sum which the fee-simple of the land might be expected to realize if offered for sale on such reasonable terms and conditions as a bona fide seller would require, assuming that, at the time as at which the value is required to be ascertained for the purposes of this act, the improvement did not exist:
In each of those definitions, stress is laid upon the fact that it is the capital sum which the fee-simple of the land might be expected to realize if offered for sale, not three years ago, but at the actual time of the transaction.
These regulations will remain in force indefinitely, regardless of the duration of the war. There is certainly a recital which refers to the “ practical impossibility to make revaluations of land during the war” but regulation 10 provides that-
These regulations shall apply to all assessments of land tax issued after the commencement of these regulations, in respect of the financial year beginning on the first day of July, 1940, and of each financial year thereAfter.
I emphasize that it is not my object to ensure that land, which has been under-assessed, shall not be re-assessed at its proper value. What [ claim is that the real value should be assessed. If the value increases, the owner should he taxed upon the appreciated value. If the value has depreciated, he should have the benefit of reduced taxation. These regulations virtually abolish all the definitions of land values that have always regulated the taxation of land, and will certainly cause many inequities. For that reason, I urge the Treasurer to ensure that people who are being heavily hit by declining land values, shall receive sympathetic consideration, whilst others who own property the value of which has appreciated because of an increase of business in their locality, shall pay a higher tax. This inequitable assessment of people should be avoided, though I admit that the regulations will affect mainly people in a relatively well-to-do position.
– Very well-to-do.
– Whilst that may be true, does the Treasurer consider that it is fair for them to be assessed on the value of the land several months before the outbreak of war? Every body with any knowledge of land knows that since the commencement of the war the values in country districts have declined tremendously. I urge the Treasurer to consider the matters that I have raised.
– My remarks upon this subject will be brief, because the case for the disallowance of the regulations has been ably stated by the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) and the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Jolly), but I wish to bring a few points to the notice of the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley). First, there is the very important fact that the earning capacity of land in these times of stress will not be constant. Because of the shortage of labour, the earning capacity of great areas in country districts will fall considerably; and when the earning capacity decreases, values must fall in sympathy. A man can only afford an assessment that bears some realistic relationship to the earning capacity of his land. That axiom applies equally to city and country lands. The times through which we are now passing will cause certain reductions of the rentearning capacity of city land. But whether it be city or country land, the Government should be fair in arriving at an equitable assessment. The Treasurer would be the last man to assure the House that, for the duration of the war. income tax assessments would he fixed at the rate existing on the 1st July, 1939. There is just as much logic in one contention as in the other. If we say that land tax assessments should be fixed as at the 1st July, 1939, we are equally entitled to claim that income tax assessments shall be fixed at the rate ruling on that date.
The point made by the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. DuncanHughes), namely, that values of land may rise or fall, is most important. It is not a matter of striking an average, because that would not give justice. 1 am rather surprised that a member of the Labour Government should seriously contend that no appeal should be allowed against assessments based on the value of the land on the l3t July, 1939. The Treasurer stated that, in certain cases of hardship, the taxpayer would have the right of access to a relief board, but the taxpayer does not want that. All he wishes to receive is a just assessment. If he has a just assessment, there is no need for him to approach a relief hoard for justice on that score. He might have occasion to appeal to the relief board in the circumstances to which the Treasurer referred, but that is an entirely different matter. It cannot, by any stretch of imagination, be made to relate to the case that the Opposition has put to the Government. The effort by the Treasurer to substantiatethe contention that no appeal should be allowed was most remarkable. The Government contends that the taxpayer, who holds some big properties in the capital cities, or the man in country areas who provides the great bulk of the land tax, should be compelled to pay tax upon the valuation of his land on the 1st July, 1939, a few months before the outbreak of war. He will be permitted no appeal against assessment. That is not the attitude which the Government takes towards conscientious objectors, who have the right to appeal to a court.
– That is not so now.
– The Senate deprived them of that right last week, and I heartily endorse the action. It is rather remarkable that some people discover their consciences only when they are asked to risk their skins. The Government has in existence at the present time a series of tribunals to which internees may appeal for the purpose of securing release. For eight days, one of those tribunals, at Tatura, heard the appeals of every confounded almond-eyed Japanese in the internment camp. Whilst the conscientious objector and the Japanese are entitled to a hearing, the taxpayer is not. My contention is unanswerable.
– My point is that, at any given time, a value can only be assumed. We have no definite facts on which to form an assumption.
– I do not accept that dictum. Proceeds from the land tax form a very small portion of Commonwealth revenue. The number of men who are engaged to deal with appeals against land tax assessments is very small compared with the number who are employed to check income tax assessments. The Treasurer will not contend that the income tax should remain static. In my opinion, every justification exists for the attitude adopted by the Opposition. Section 44 k 1 of the Land Tax Assessment Act reads -
The taxpayer who is dissatisfied with the assessment made by the Commissioner under this act may, within 30 days after service by post of the notice of assessment, post to or lodge with the Commissioner, an objection in writing against the assessment stating fully and in detail the grounds upon which he relies.
I am sure that we have not arrived at the stage at which that provision cannot be carried out. The Lord knows that any numbers of men are engaged in perfectly profitless pursuits, for instance, the racing of horses and greyhounds, of which we see so much in New South Wales. By no stretch of imagination can it be said that those people are assisting in the defence of this country or in the organization of this country for war ; but the people who own the properties which produce the wool, mutton, beef and butter and run the factories on which the land tax is paid are entitled to some consideration. What has been not done for the conscientious objectors! Tens of thousands of pounds, I believe, has been expended to look after every Fritz, Wop and Jap. The Government is in charge of this country, and it cannot stand up and tell the Parliament that the taxpayers are not entitled to what is given to the enemy and to the conscientious objector who, although one of us by birth, is not prepared to stand up to his responsibilities.
.- These regulations were gazetted with a view to conserving man-power, and I concede that they will reduce the number of valuers needed, but I think that the point raised by the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Duncan-Hughes) in connexion with probate duties is a much more serious thing than the shortage of valuers. For the purposes of probate, an actual valuation should be made, and I believe that the sense of justice inherent in the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) will lead him to amend the regulations in order to make it clear that they apply only to land taxation in the ordinary sense. The land tax, in any case, is a capital tax, one of the few capital taxes we have in this country. The Treasurer taxes the income raised from the land and also the machines, so to speak, by which the income is raised. Since, following a resolution of the Commonwealth Parliament, certain businesses became defunct, thereby depreciating property values, the pegging of the values of land for taxation purposes at the levels obtaining on the 1st July, 1939, is too drastic and is bound to create injustice. No self-respecting government would wish to engender a feeling of injustice in the minds of the citizens.
– I shall look into the probate aspect, but I think that that position is exaggerated.
.- I shall deal particularly with taxation of land in the country districts. My information is that there is a triennial revaluation of land in rural areas for taxation purposes. The last was in 1939, since when landholders have had ample time to have claims for re-appraisement heard by the constituted authority. The argument has been advanced that conditions over which the land-holder has no control should be taken into consideration in the reappraisement of the land. It has taken the Opposition more than ten years to discover that land in rural areas ought to be valued on the basis of productivity and capacity to earn a profit. I welcome the introduction of that phase into tin1 debate, because I think that the primary producing land-holder should be considered on the basis of what his land can produce and of the return he obtains from his products. I direct the attention of honorable members to the statistics contained in the Commonwealth YearBooh showing how the values of our primary products have fluctuated lately. The following table sets out in Australian currency, the average values per lb. of greasy wool : -
The following table sets out the weighted average price a bushel of wheat: -
The following table sets out the average price a bushel of maize : -
Wool and wheat are our staple exportable products and they, with maize and the figures .1 have cited in regard to them, represent what has happened generally to our primary industries. If the productivity of the land and the value of the products to the farmer had been taken into consideration in assessing the value of the land, there ought to have been a reappraisement of the land practically every year, but that would have been physically impossible owing to the limitations on the courts and tribunals. The productivity of the land and the value of the product, however, should determine the value of the land. We regard certain parts of the country as the average for the fixation of land values - the two extremes, the far west and the rich coastal strip, are ignored because, apparently, there is no control whatever over the prices that the products command. I maintain that the queer antics of prices of land caused by war hysteria should not be taken into consideration.
– This debate has nothing whatever to do with the merits or demerits of the land tax. The Opposition has requested the Government to make certain amendments of its regulations in order to safeguard the rights of the taxpayer in connexion with the method of assessment of the tax. The Government has decided for the reason advanced by the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) - I have heard no other reason advanced - to peg land values in order to conserve man-power and to save administrative costs. I think that the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) “hit the nail on the head “ when he said that if that were the only reason for the regulations a far greater saving of man-power and of costs would be made if taxable income were pegged. There is, therefore, no logic in the Treasurer’s specious argument that land values are .pegged at the 1939 level for the specific purpose of saving man-power and cost of administration. The Opposition asks that all rights that exist to-day, not only in the taxation laws, but also in the laws referred to by the honorable member for Barker, shall be preserved so far as the right to object is concerned. Although the Opposition does not agree with the policy of pegging land values, it recognizes that there will be a saving to the Government if that be done. From the viewpoint of expediency, it could reluctantly accept the principle of pegging land values as is required by the Treasurer, although, I repeat, the arguments put forward oan only be regarded as specious. The Treasurer stated that there is no scientific method of valuing land for the purpose of the land tax and that hypothetical cases only are taken. I do not agree with that statement. Since the introduction of the Land Tax Act, certain principles and formulae have been set down and followed in the fixation of values for land tax purposes. The basic principle is the same as the principle that governs methods followed by land valuers for local government purposes - value as disclosed by an a average of sales of the same class of land to a not over-eager purchaser by a vendor who is not over-eager to sell. We all know that the principles laid down with regard to unimproved value have been accepted throughout Australia ever since the introduction of taxation on land values and more particularly since local government has been instituted. Whilst Opposition members submit that the pegging of values at the 1939 level is not a fair method, we agree that the value of land is the only basis on which the Treasurer can obtain land tax revenue. The logical and sensible view is that if one reduces the aggregate values of the land which constitutes the basis upon which the tax is assessed, then, in order to get the same amount of revenue,’ one must necessarily increase the rate. The pegging at the 1939 value may be left because, if the Treasurer had no other basis on which to raise increased revenue for war purposes, naturally he would have to increase the rate. We submit, with conscientious reasonableness, that the right of objection should be preserved to the taxpayers. I recognize and appre- ciate that it may cut both ways, that whilst certain land in Australia which is subject to tax will have depreciated as a result of the reduction and inaccessibility of overseas markets and the decreased productivity of the land, at the same time certain lands, as a result of the huge war expenditure that is being incurred, will have appreciated in value. Although the taxpayer may have the right to object against what he considers an unfair value, I think the Treasurer should also preserve to himself the right to increase valuations in the circumstances I have outlined.
I urge the Treasurer to preserve what is natural, collateral and fundamental in the taxing laws of the community - the right of appeal where a taxpayer considers that he is aggrieved. And the appeal should be upheld if the owner can adduce proof that the value had not been maintained under conditions over which he had no control. The Treasurer has suggested that the taxpayer will be able to go to the Board of Relief. He knows as well as I do that that is distinct from the right to object to over-valuation and over-assessment. Naturally, the right of approach to the Board of Relief should be preserved in order that cases of hardship might be satisfactorily and equitably adjusted. I emphasize, however, that the right of objection, which is fundamental to our taxation laws, should not be removed because, if it is removed under the statutory rule, assuredly this will become the thin edge of the wedge for removing the right of appeal in other classes of taxation.
Question resolved in the negative.
– There is precedent for the simultaneous debating of cognate matters. The two motions may be debated together, but will be put separately.
.- I move -
That the amendments of the National Security (Supplementary) Regulations made by Statutory Rules 1942, No.111, be disallowed.
The regulations made under Statutory Rule No.111 are closely related to the subject-matter dealt with in the following notice of motion which also appears in my name: -
That the regulation under the Commonwealth Bank Act, made by Statutory Rules 1942, No. 123, be disallowed.
Statutory Rule No.111 seeks to amend the Commonwealth Bank Act, whilst Statutory Rule No. 123, which also refers to the Commonwealth Bank Act, seeks to amend a former statutory rule drawn under this act. The two statutory rules make important changes in the procedure of dealing with the accounts of the Commonwealth Bank, more particularly in keeping this House advised from time to time of the position of the bank. Statutory Rule No.111 deals with a variety of other matters to which I take no exception. It deals with the treatment of the profits of the Commonwealth Bank and the Commonwealth Savings Bank, and that, I believe, is largely consequential upon the amending measures proposed in the early part of the rule in regard to the treatment of accounts. The rule also deals with the calculation of interest on savings bank deposits and with the supply of statistics to the Treasurer. Upon those matters I do not desire to comment, and my remarks will be directed only to the
Treatment of the hank accounts. Honorable members are aware that the forms of the House do not provide for the amendment of the statutory rules. Chough one is satisfied with the great body of the proposals contained in a statutory rule, one has no alternative to moving for the disallowance of the whole of the regulations because of a small section with which one may not agree. That position arises at present.
The Commonwealth Bank Act, in sections18, 19, 20 and 20a, deals with the accounts of the bank. Section 18 provides -
The board shall furnish to the Treasurer, in accordance with the prescribed forms, quarterly statements of the assets and liabili- ties of the bank and of the business of the bank, which statements shall be published in theGazette, and also such other periodical statements as are prescribed.
That is done at present. The quarterly abstracts until recently furnished by the Commonwealth Bank were published in the Gazette of the 11th September, 1941, and the 23rd December, 1941. I am not aware that any subsequent abstracts have been published. Section 19 refers to the inspection and audit of the bank’s affairs. I ask honorable members to note that section 20 provides that the board shall, at least twice a year, prepare certain accounts. The wording of section 20 comes from the original Commonwealth Bank Act, and is as follows: -
The board, at least twice in each year, shall prepare a balance-sheet in accordance with the prescribed form and submit it to the Auditor-General for report as to its correctness or otherwise, and transmit it with the report of the Auditor-General to the Treasurer, and shall also transmit a true copy of the balance-sheet and report to the Presi dent of the Senate and to the Speaker of the House of Representatives to be laid before the Senate and the House of Representatives respectively.
Section 20a, which was an addition to the principal act made in 1927, sets out - (1.) The Treasurer shall, at least twice in each year, prepare a statement of the combined accounts of the bank and the savings bank in accordance with the prescribed form. (2.) The Treasurer shall submit the statement to the Auditor-General for the Commonwealth for certification as to its correctness. (3.) The statement shall, within fourteen days of its being so certified, be laid before both Houses of the Parliament if the Parliament is then sitting, and, if not, then within fourteen days after the next meeting of the Parliament.
That was the position before the new statutory rules became law, and I shall now show how the act is amended by the two statutory rules, the disallowance of which I now seek. Under these rules returns which the bank is now obliged to make quarterly, and the Treasurer is required to publish in the Gazette, will be discontinued, and the accounts which are at present required to be submitted under section 20a will also be discontinued. Henceforth, the Commonwealth Bank will be required to furnish to Parliament only its annual audited balance-sheet, and the annual audited balance-sheet of the Savings Bank Department.
The regulations under Statutory Rule No. 123 relate to the Note Issue Department of the bank. At present half-yearly statements must be furnished in relation r.o the note issue, but under the new regulations an annual statement to the 30th lune each year is all that will be necessary.
The balance-sheets of the Commonwealth Bank and of its Savings Bank Branch were prepared for the year ended the 30th June, 1941, and were tabled in the House on the 1st October, 1941. Three months is not an unreasonable period to allow a large organization like the Commonwealth Bank for the preparation and auditing of its balance sheets and their presentation to Parliament. Under the new regulations it may be assumed that the next balance-sheet will be submitted to the Parliament about three months after the 30th June, 1942, which means that it should be available to honorable members early in October. About September the Treasurer will submit his budget statement to Parliament together with Estimates of Receipts and Expenditure for the financial year 1942-43. The balance-sheets and other data in relation to the Commonwealth Bank should also be available to Parliament about that time. But if these regulations remain in force without amendment such accounts will be available to us only once in each year for the future.
Honorable members will recall that two budgets were presented to the Parliament last year. The former Prime Minister and Treasurer, Mr. Fadden, presented his budget, and a few weeks later, the present Treasurer, Mr. Chifley, presented his budget. Those budgets were the best statements of the financial position that could be prepared at the times they were submitted, and I do not propose now to enter into a controversy concerning their merits. The present Treasurer informed the House that he anticipated that £220,000,000 would be required for war expenditure during this financial year. Yet in December, only two months later, he had to inform honorable members that it had been discovered that not less than £240,000,000 would be required. A great deal had happened in those two months. Japan had entered the war, and Australia’s expenditure had increased enormouslyThe fact is that no government and no treasurer can forecast what is likely to happen, owing to war developments, from one week to another - I might almost say, from one day to another. The most recent authoritative statement made on behalf of the Government concerning war expenditure, is that not less than £270,000,000, or £280,000,000, will be required for war purposes in this financial year, and that our war expenditure in the next financial year may well exceed £300,000,000, and even rise to £350,000,000, or £360,000,000. No one can forecast with any accuracy what amount of money will be involved in the developments of the next two or three months. These facts are important, because the money needed by the Government must be obtained from taxation, loans, and the Commonwealth Bank. The Treasurer told us in his last financial statement that the gap between estimated revenue and expenditure would have to be bridged by funds made available through the Commonwealth Bank. The nation’s bank would be obliged to bridge the gap between expenditure and revenue whatever government was in power. The position next September will be similar to that which we faced last September, except that the gap will be greater. I shall not try to forecast the position, and I do not think that even the Treasurer could make anything like an accurate forecast. In these circumstances it is vital that Parliament shall have available to it, from month to month if necessary, financial statements showing the effect of the nation’s financial operations upon the Commonwealth Bank so that honorable members may keep themselves informed of the trend of finance.
The Commonwealth Bank issues a Statistical Bulletin, every month. I receive a copy of it through the post, and I find it an interesting and informative document. Statements of the assets and liabilities of the bank are not given in every Bulletin, but information of considerable importance is published. No obligation rests upon the bank to publish this Bulletin and the directors could discontinue the issue of it to-morrow if they so desired. Periodically, also, authorized statements appear in the financial columns of the public press concerning the operations and assets and liabilities of the bank, but no obligation rests upon the Bank Board to publish these reports. It is desirable in times like these that the board should be required, by statute or regulations, to make such information available at frequent periods. The obligation to publish the information once a year is not sufficient, and unless such information he fur.nished frequently the Parliament and the country may become hopelessly out of touch with the bank’s position.
I do not wish to be misunderstood. I do not suggest that it is the intention of the Bank Board to discontinue publishing its monthly Statistical Bulletin or its regular statements in the press or that the Government desires the board so to do, but we must view the position as a Parliament and take proper steps to see that the interests of the public shall be safeguarded. No government would regard the situation carelessly, but it is desirable, in fact, imperative, that Parliament shall have the information furnished to it regularly and more frequently than once a year. If the regulations to which I am objecting be allowed to operate without amendment, particularly as to the frequency of reports, there could be ushered in a new era of censorship over the financial operations of the Commonwealth at a time when they should be subject to the closest scrutiny. Many people in Australia to-day are watching with great concern, and sympathy, the financial trends of the nation. It is known that the Commonwealth Bank is carrying a huge responsibility. Finance is, in fact, more closely allied with government than ever before. Upon the budget estimates the bank may be required to finance the nation by shortterm credit for very large amounts. To-day governments are required to give consideration to totals which were beyond the imagination of governments a few years ago. Matters of much greater importance than those directly related to the mathematics of the budget are presented to the Parliament from time to time. The Prime Minister, the Treasurer, and other Ministers are appealing to the public to save. They should make such appeals, and the public should save. The appeals are being made because the Government wishes to ensure that as much as possible of the money in circulation shall :be deposited in the Savings Bank, or conserved in other forms of savings, and he capable of being used by the bank and the Government for war needs and form a base upon which the bank may safely issue whatever credit is demanded by the Government to finance its operations. It is important that this Parliament shall be able to study the Savings Bank deposits month by month. It should he in a position to form an opinion as to whether the issues of notes and treasurybills on the one hand are safely related to the bank’s resources on the other hand. That information can be available only if adequate statements are tabled in the Parliament from time to time. It is not sufficient that the Parliament should be dependent upon information received from other quarters.
There are to-day two schools of thought in regard to the publication of financial information. There is one school which ‘believes that as little information as possible upon finance should be available to the public. That is the old, conservative school; it comes down from the days when people believed that finance was too technical for the public to understand, and that matters were more safely and better controlled if detailed information was not made available to the public. The second school of thought, which I venture to think is growing, believes that safety lies in the fullest and most regular information being conveyed to the public for a thorough understanding of the financial position. I make no apology for declaring my allegiance to the second school of thought. Since the departure from the gold standard, finance has ceased to be a mechanical subject and is to-day a living, vital subject. What are its limits of safety is a matter of opinion. This House can have no worth-while opinion unless it is regularly supplied with information upon which a sound opinion may be based. This is a time when the Parliament should be encouraged more and more to take an interest in the movement of finance, and in matters that flow from financial problems. Finance is now inextricably bound up with politics and the management of the nation’s affairs. There is no subject with which this House is concerned that does not in some way eventually tura back to the subject of finance. Whether it be the conduct of the war, the problems of post-war reconstruction, or social problems, none can be intelligently discussed without knowledge of the financial implications. I believe that these regulations are a retrograde step. This Parliament cannot hope properly to direct the policy of the country unless it is encouraged to take that close and intimate interest in finance which is expected of it. The new regulations should be amended so as to compel the Bank Board to recognize and act upon the necessity for publishing more regular statements of the position. If the people in these critical days, are to give of their best they should be encouraged to think upon financial matters, and. to work in with the Government in respect of all the needs of the country. One of the Government’s greatest, difficulties is that the people do not understand its problems in regard to material and manpower. The Government will have difficulty in explaining these things to the people. Because the education, of the people has commenced late, the Government has a lot of leeway to make up. The more the people understand and appreciate the problems of finance, the better will they be able to follow the problems of government. It is vital that they should know them. I say of finance what General MacArthur recently said of the need for keeping the people advised upon military matters. Fie is reported as having said -
In democracies it was essential that the public should know the truth. The reason why the United States of America and the Commonwealth of Australia were trying to keep the public informed of what was going on was that imagination ran riot when the people did not know the truth, and as a result their confidence was reduced. The people must be instructed so that they could summon all their confidence, determination and purpose in support of the war effort.
What was there said in regard to the necessity for making the people acquainted with the military position is equally true of the financial position.
Any danger of inflation to this country lies in misunderstanding finance. We have to take steps to see that there shall at least be supplied to the people such basic information as will enable them to assist the Government and avoid difficulties in the future. The only limit beyond which information should not be made available, whether it be in regard to the military, the economic or the financial position, is when it may be of some value to the enemy. One may ask: What are the reasons for the discontinuance, at this critical stage, of the regular financial statements provided for in the Commonwealth Bank legislation? I am not prepared to believe that it was considered wise that the country should not know the financial position. I do not accept that for a moment. I do not suggest it, and ‘ hope that the Treasurer will not imagine that I have done so. I do not think that the matter was considered in that light. I believe that the proposal has been prompted by staff difficulties, and without proper thought on the part of those who framed these regulations, as to the implications that could flow from the change. I do not know whether the reason is, entirely, staff difficulties. It is so easy to-day to say “Let us make the change because we must economize in manpower”. I have heard that some years ago, long before the war, and before the shortage of man-power had become evident, the Commonwealth Bank was pressing for these changes to be made. It may be claimed to-day that because of shortage of staff and the difficulty of getting trained officers it is desirable to reduce the amount of work required to be done, and that so much of this highly technical preparation of accounts might be dispensed with if these alterations were made. I am prepared to pay due regard to that, because it is a problem.’ I have not any doubt that the Commonwealth Bank, like most other organizations, is suffering from staff difficulties. But it is vital that the bank should provide at least as much staff as is necessary in order to keep this Parliament and the nation properly supplied with information. I make bold to suggest a compromise in this matter. I commenced by saying that there are parts of these regulations with which I have no disagreement. I say to the Treasurer now, that the quarterly publication in the Gazette of the abstract of assets and liabilities does not serve any useful purpose, and helps the country very little; that the preparation of the half-yearly statements, and the tabling of them in Parliament, is equally vital to this country; that the preparation of the note issue accounts and their presentation to this Parliament, is vital. I do not suggest that the honorable gentleman should put the Commonwealth Bank to the trouble of having its accounts closed and audited twice a year. Let it perform that operation once a year if it so desires; but let it prepare, at not less than quarterly intervals, a complete statement of the assets and liabilities of the bank, including the Note Issue Department and the Savings Bank and let that statement be tabled in Parliament, and debated if necessary. That is the minimum of inf ormation that should be available to this Parliament. I believe that if the Treasurer would agree to that course, the bank would not be involved in any great amount of work, whilst this Parliament would be given the opportunity to review the position regularly, and would be kept in touch with what is happening, with the result that, when the annual accounts were presented in October, the reason for changes would be known, and Parliament would have the latest information connecting the existing position with the accounts for the previous October. The Treasurer may say that accounts which have been presented to this Parliament in the past have not been debated. I do not know whether that is so or not. But I do say that the Parliament should have the opportunity to debate them, and I hope that in the future it will debate them sometimes, if not on all occasions. I believe that, if this Parliament made a practice of studying the bank accounts, and of keeping itself informed of what was occurring, there would be at least short debates upon the financial position from time to time. I hope that such debates will be encouraged. More than the actual financial position of the bank is involved; there is the linking of that position with the policy of this Par liament, and the connexion of the movement of the note issue with the war policy of this country, together with the connexion of the short-term credit of the bank with all the policies that are approved by this Parliament from time to time. Parliament would be kept informed as to where the bank was moving, and where lay the point of safety or danger to which its attention must be directed. If these regulations remain in their present form, there may be a drift away from the proper control of the Commonwealth Bank. During the next two or three years, if not within a shorter period, it will .be very easy for this Parliament to forget its responsibility for the Commonwealth Bank. The Parliament and the Government of the day should, from time to time, infuse more of its policy into the operations of the bank. It is my opinion - it was an opinion that I held between 1932 and 1939- -that had there been more infusion of government policy into the policy of the bank, the difficulties of the depression would have been overcome more quickly than they were.
– How would it be infused ?
– By insisting from time to time that there must be recognition of government policy.
– How would the honorable member do that?
– If necessary, the Government might have to see that it had on the Bank Board from time to time, representation consistent with its policy. I would not accept the position that any financial institution in this country could say to the Government and the Australian Loan Council : “ You have no right to support from us, and we refuse to give to you any more assistance than the maximum we lay down from time to time “. I do not want any position to arise that could in the slightest degree endanger Australia’s financial position. I believe that, by encouraging greater interest in the control of finance, the risks associated with the over-reaching of finance in this country would be minimized. There are many “wild and woolly” thinkers on finance. Honorable members will have noticed that when. I said that I was looking carefully over the heads of every body. It is a duty of this Parliament to see that the people are not misguided. They will not be guided properly unless the fullest information is given to them, and Parliament takes the lead. Under war conditions things are being done in the realm of finance which were beyond the imagination of any one a few years ago. It may he that Australia is entering upon a new era in finance. I recognize the difficulties which have given rise to a suggestion for a change in the method of presenting Commonwealth Bank accounts, but I suggest that the Treasurer is going too far. If the regulation remains unaltered there will be a risk of the Commonwealth Bank becoming a completely autonomous institution owning no responsibility whatever to this Parliament. If he will amend the regulation as I have suggested he will provide means whereby Parliament will be able to take a proper interest in the affairs of the bank.
– I desire to make it clear that what has been done in regard to the preparation of statistics and returns by the Commonwealth Bank is not a part of the Government’s policy; it was done at the suggestion of the Commonwealth Bank Board itself. The bank board pointed out to me that over 1,600 members of its staff were in the fighting services. This represents about 43 per cent, of the male staff, and when those now being called up leave the service of the bank this figure will he increased to 55 per cent. It was explained to me that the preparation of yearly returns and half-yearly balance-sheets involved a tremendous amount of clerical work. The war has imposed additional duties on the hank, such as interest control and the reception of deposits from private banks, and these duties are making heavy demands upon a greatly depleted staff. The private hanks do not prepare halfyearly balance-sheets, nor does the Bank of England.
– Does the Commonwealth Bank take out this information for its own purpose?
– Not in the form prescribed. I understand from the honor able member for Robertson (Mr. Spooner) that he wants information to be prepared and tabled so that Parliament may watch the financial position of the Commonwealth Bank, and the relationship between the bank and the Government. I should be surprised if 2 per cent, of the members of this House ever read the bank returns when they were tabled, or if more than 3 per cent, would be able thoroughly to understand them. That is no reflection upon the ability. or interest of honorable members. I do not suggest that I, myself, would be able to understand them thoroughly. However, it is comforting to reflect that there are some honorable members who get pleasure from browsing upon such dry and dreary tables, and I confess that I am reluctant to deprive them of their pleasure. I agree with the honorable member for Robertson that an opportunity should be given to honorable members in these difficult times to study and debate any matter arising out of the banking arrangements of the Commonwealth, and the relationship between the Government and the Commonwealth Bank. If it will satisfy the honorable member, I am prepared to amend the regulations to provide that a statement shall be prepared setting forth the assets and liabilities of the bank, where the assets are situated, and the form in which they are held. I have here a draft statement, and submit it for the consideration of honorable members.
– I support the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Spooner) in his objection to these regulations. We have heard from the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) why the provisions of the Commonwealth Bank Act relating to the presentation of accounts and balance-sheets are now to be done away with. The relevant parts of the act, sections 18, 20 and 20a, are as follows : -
These regulations provide that, instead of the returns prescribed in the act, there shall be compiled a balance-sheet which, together with the report of the AuditorGeneral, is to be laid before the Treasurer. Honorable members will note that it is not prescribed that these returns shall be placed before Parliament. I have no doubt that the sections I have quoted were inserted in the act because it was believed that Parliament was vitally interested in the affairs of the bank. As a matter of fact, Parliament is directly concerned with the profits made by the bank. As one who, for a time, held the position of Treasurer, F. believe that generous spending by the Commonwealth Bank has sometimes had the effect of depriving the Commonwealth of some of the profits which it might otherwise have obtained, profits which would have gone towards the liquidation of the national debt. It is no answer to say that only two or three members of the House ever look at the bank returns. It is enough if one or two publicspirited members capable of understanding the matter give it their attention. The only reason so far advanced for varying the existing arrangement is that 1,600 Commonwealth Bank employees have been called up for military service. However, the honorable member for Robertson has stated what I believe to be true - that the Commonwealth Bank Board has been urging since long before the outbreak of war the abolition of those sections of the act which stipulate that the returns be prepared. That leads one to the conclusion that the Bank Board is reluctant to give the information - not from any ulterior motive, but for a reason well-known to the Treasurer. “When I was Treasurer, I directed several requests to the Bank Board for further information regarding several matters referred to in the balance-sheet. It did not seem to me that the balancesheet had been prepared on a proper commercial basis. As I never received full replies to those questions up to the time when I left the Treasury I cannot say what the actual position is. I have heard nothing to justify the claim of the Bank Board that, because of a shortage of staff., it cannot prepare the returns required under the act, and I take the liberty to doubt the reason put forward for these regulations. Parliament should insist upon receiving, periodically, the information for which the honorable member for Robertson has asked. A balance-sheet by itself is of no value. I have looked - very quickly, I admit; - through the draft statement which the Treasurer has placed before me, and I say that it would not convey sufficient to the House to enable an intelligent debate to take place. The important thing is to have a balance-sheet and return, so that we may know the items in the balance-sheet to which the AuditorGeneral has directed attention; and we must have a statement of the current accounts of the hank in order to understand its operations. Without both statements, we cannot intelligently discuss the affairs of the bank. In fact, anydiscussion would be quite futile. I take strong objection to the affairs of the bank being more and more removed from the surveillance and investigation of Parliament, and I urge the Treasurer to accept the suggestion of the honorable member for Robertson. Unless we adopt such a policy, we shall have no data upon which we may properly debate the operations of the bank. No reason has been advanced by the Treasurer to convince the House that it should adopt the regulations in their present form, and I shall vote against them.
The honorable member for Robertson believed that it was important to infuse government policy into banking policyIn a measure, no exception can be taken to that statement. But if the honorable member had in mind that the policy of the bank should be determined in accordance with the political colour of the government from time to time, reflection upon the matter will, I hope, induce most honorable members to reject the proposition. It is of the utmost importance that general lines of financial policy should be laid down, as they are, to a large degree, in every budget. When I was Treasurer, I never found that the Commonwealth Bank Board was unwilling to appreciate the problems of the Commonwealth. It was earnestly desirous, within the limits of sane finance, to render all possible assistance. I refer to this matter for the purpose of forestalling any statement that the Opposition considers that political appointments should be made, or that the operations of the bank should be placed under political control. I reject any such suggestion. It is most important that the finances of the country should, to the utmost degree, be removed from political partisanship.
– The purpose which the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) had in mind in gazetting these regulations was to spare the Commonwealth Bank the labour of preparing statements which would not be comparable with the banking structure as a whole, and to confine the submission to Parliament of balance-sheets, &c, to an annual statement, so that it would be comparative with the information prepared and published by the private banks. Honorable members will recall that the Royal Commission on Monetary and Banking Systems devoted, an elaborate part of its report to the necessity for the banks to have a common nomenclature in describing their accounts. The commission also recommended that all the published accounts should mean the same things. The object was to ensure that Parliament would have available to it, in a clear and comprehensive form, the whole of the essential facts relating to the Australian banking system. So that recommendation was designed to achieve the very purpose that the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Spooner) has in mind.
The Australian banking system consists of a group of private banks and the Commonwealth Bank. For some years, the
Commonwealth Bank has submitted to Parliament quarterly statements of accounts, &c, and an annual balancesheet, which must also bear the certificate of the Auditor-General. The Government has no intention of interfering with the submission of the annual balancesheet. The purpose of the Government is to relieve the Commonwealth Bank of the obligation to make these interim statements, which have not been required of the trading banks. But the operations of the trading banks must be taken into account if Parliament is ever to view ihe functioning of the Australian banking system as a whole.
– The regulations, as drafted, do not provide for the submission to Parliament of even a balancesheet.
– The honorable gentleman knows that the bank must produce an annual balance-sheet, and I am certain that the regulations would not override the authority of the Treasurer, by order, to direct certain statements of accounts to be prepared. The Government is willing to consider the very reasonable case submitted by the honorable member for Robertson. In amending the regulations, the Government simply proposed to relieve the Commonwealth Bank of a burden on its clerical administration, which the institution has found, under war conditions, to be oppressive. Having regard to the report of the royal commission, I have only to say that any amendment of the regulations will be designed to impose upon all the banks in the Australian banking system the same periodical obligation to submit to Parliament their statements of accounts.
– The Commonwealth Bank is on a different footing from thai of the private banks, because we, as a people, have a direct interest in its profits.
– Yes; and the Treasurer has a very special interest in the profits of the Commonwealth Bank. The Government will consider the views expressed by the honorable member for Robertson and the honorable member for Warringah. Their purpose, I understand, is to enable Parliament to consider the whole of the working of the
Australian banking system, the place of the Commonwealth Bank in that system, and the relationship of Parliament to the system, not only as a whole but also in its several parts. Any amendment of the regulations to impose upon theCommonwealth Bank an obligation to present statements to Parliament must be accompanied by the imposition of an equal obligation on the private banks. Those documents would give to Parliament the fullest information. Knowing the problems of the Commonwealth Bank and the private banks in the present circumstances, we should not ask them to do this more often than at half-yearly intervals. Under those conditions, the Treasurer will consider the views expressed by the Opposition. But [ make it perfectly clear that, in view of the reasons given for promoting this discussion, any changes will be applicable to the banking system as a whole.
.- in reply - It may be found in the future that the debate this evening has been of great value to Australia. I welcome the remarks of the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin). I see no reason why statements of the trading banks, as well as the statements of the Commonwealth Bank, should not be submitted more regularly to Parliament, so that honorable members may be able to take an over-all view of the important subject of finance, which goes to the root of the economic wellbeing of the nation. The suggestion of the Prime Minister is an excellent one. In my previous observations I made no reference to the private banks, because their position is, in a measure, a matter of concern between themselves and their shareholders or depositors. The position of the Commonwealth Bank is a matter of wide national concern. It greatly concerns Parliament, and the policies that emanate from it. Regulations now provide that the surplus deposits of the trading banks shall be deposited with the Commonwealth Bank. In other words, the whole resources of the nation are pooled for the conduct of the war and to enable important policies to be put into operation. As the finances of the trading banks are bound up more than ever before with the position of the Commonwealth Bank, I welcome the proposal of the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister suggested that the statements of accounts should be submitted to Parliament at half-yearly intervals. I have no objection to that proposal, although I considered that the information should be made available quarterly. I have no intention of asking the Treasurer to impose upon the Commonwealth Bank all the detailed work of closing its accounts, adding interest, and doing all the book-keeping work which accompanies the balancing of the accounts. The figures which the Commonwealth Bank and the trading banks will prepare for Parliament are taken out month by month, for their own domestic purposes, and the compilation of a summarized statement for submission to Parliament will not impose upon them any great burden. In a well-organized, well-conducted concern like a bank, these statements are tabulated at regular intervals for internal consideration.
Whilst I am greatly obliged to the Treasurer for his proposal, I suggest that he should not ask the House to-night to give an expression of opinion upon any particular form of account, because that requires consideration. Prom this discussion may emanate a small committee to deal with this subject and various phases of Australian banking operations. If only 2 per cent. of honorable members read, or are capable of understanding the statement, that will be our misfortune. Let us hope that in time, the 2 per cent. or 3 per cent. will increase to 4 per cent. or 5 per cent. If that occurs it will be to the benefit of the nation.
I do not wish my attitude regarding the position that the bank should occupy towards the government of the day to be misunderstood. In my opinion, the bank should work in harmony with government policy. “ Government policy “ does not mean necessarily that the Treasurer will interfere with the operations of the bank from day to day. At present, Government policy means war policy. The bank must support the Government’s war policy. A few years ago, it was necessary for the bank to be behind the policy of the Commonwealth Government for combating the depression.
– A long way behind.
– The Commonwealth Bank was a little too far behind the Government in its support of the depression policy. The Loan Council will need to devise machinery to compel the bank to keep close behind it in the solution of problems of reconstruction and development when the war is over. The Commonwealth Bank must be in harmony with the Government’s financial policy. When the Australian people decide policy the banks should be the means by which that policy is carried into operation. I hope that the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) will not construe my remarks to mean advocacy of political interference with the Commonwealth Bank - I should be the last to suggest that - but out of this debate may come a greater interest in the finances of Australia and in the financial tables published from time to time.
Question resolved in the negative.
Notice of motion No. 3, in the name of Mr. Spooner, for disallowance of Statutory Rules 1942, No. 123; being regulations made under the Commonwealth Bank Act, called on, not moved, and withdrawn.
Days of Meeting - Treatment of Pri vate Members by Ministers - Commonwealth Public Service : Payment of Overtime; Sick Leave - Firewood Supply - Acquisition of Peas - Rural Industries: Manpower; Production Costs - Potato Industry - Immobilization of Small Craft - Wheat-growing : Reduction of Acreage ; Moratorium - Government Advertising in Country Newspapers - Price of Almonds.
Mr.CURTIN (Fremantle - Prime Minister) [9.47]. - I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
Next week, the House will sit on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday; in the next week on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday ; and in the ensuing week on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Then we shall make provision for another long week-end if, as I hope will not be the case, that should be necessary.
– I must complain about the attitude of some Commonwealth Ministers in con sulting people who are not members of this Parliament - State Ministers for example - upon certain policies that they mean to apply. Those people are given information which they pass on to the public whilst we, who are private members of this Parliament, are left in ignorance. That strikes a blow at parliamentary representation whether it be done deliberately - as I suppose it is not - or inadvertently. In order to make my case clear, I shall refer to what has occurred in Tasmania. The Premier determined that a State Minister should be in Canberra for the purpose of co-operating with the Commonwealth Government on many matters in which the State wished to help. I welcomed the attitude of that State. One of the reasons given by the Premier to federal members for his decision was that there were many matters which the Commonwealth Government would wish to place before the State Government, but which it could not tell members of Parliament. He said that the Minister who would be sent to Canberra would have access to the Federal Cabinet. Federal members to whom he announced his decision expressed some surprise. The Tasmanian Minister for Agriculture has, in pursuance of that decision, been in Canberra on many occasions, and it is quite clear from his statements in Tasmania that he has had information supplied to him by the Minister for Commerce (Mr. Scully) and, in all probability, the Minister for Supply and Development (Mr. Beasley), which has been withheld from members of this Parliament. This information has concerned rural industries in which I am especially interested, but it cannot possibly be claimed that the information is of a nature that could not be conveyed to honorable members of this House. For example, the Commonwealth Government has said it is necessary to grow a greater quantity of vegetables, including potatoes. Apparently from what was said in Tasmania by the State Minister for Agriculture, the Commonwealth Government advised him that it was prepared to make contracts a’ guaranteed prices for these vegetables if they can be grown in sufficient quantities. Of course, they can he; I have said all along that all that is required is an assured market at reasonable prices. But the Minister for Agriculture has held, in my electorate, meetings to which he has taken some of his colleagues and has told the people there something of what is proposed. What he has said has appeared in the newspapers, and I have been asked by the farmers what the Commonwealth Government means to do. I have been obliged to reply that I have no knowledge of the proposals. One man said, “ Why then are you in Parliament ? “ and I could not answer that question either. Ministers are courteous to honorable members, but they are treating them with contempt by denying to them information which they give to State Ministers. I have seen no statement naming the price which the Commonwealth Government is prepared to pay for potatoes. I fear that there will be a repetition of the lamentable blue pea position. According to the State Minister for Agriculture, the statement was made on behalf of the Commonwealth last year, that the farmers would be paid 20s. 6d. or 21s. - I am not sure which - a bushel for blue peas. Commonwealth Ministers now deny that such a promise was ever made. The Minister for Supply and Development, replying by interjection to some accusations made by me, said that perhaps one or two farmers had thought that that was the case, but that there had been no contract with the British Government or a promise to pay any price. Nevertheless, that statement was made in Tasmania: There would be no charge of a breach of faith if experienced people had been allowed to handle the blue pea crop, because there would have been no danger of misunderstanding. Precisely the same situation will arise if the potato-growers are induced to grow more potatoes in the expectation of receiving a certain price when, in fact, no price has been specifically guaranteed. The potato-growers demand to know precisely what the Government will pay.Some sort of a tribunal has been set up in connexion with this matter, but I say with all modesty, I hope, that I know very much more about the growing of agricultural products than is known by either the State Minister for Agriculture or this tribunal which has been set up to advise the Government. I do not accuse Ministers of deliberately ignoring honorable members, but they have ignored us, and as the result they have suffered no less than we. If State Ministers or members of Parliament are to be told what the Commonwealth Government inintends to do, the federal members representing the electorates or States concerned should be told simultaneously.
– That sort of thing is happening all over Australia.
– Yes. We bitterly complain. We have not been treated fairly. We cannot help the Government if it does not allow us the opportunity to do so.
.- I raise the matter of the payment of overtime to certain officers of the Commonwealth Public Service. It was alleged at the meeting of the Fitzroy City Council on the night of Monday last week that in a branch of the Department of Air, an officer had received up to £20 in a fortnight in payment for overtime. This officer was said to be in receipt of a salary of £550 per annum. Councillor Baker said that these figures compared very badly with the basic wage, the recipients of which were being urged by the Commonwealth Government to purchase £10 bonds. Councillor Foley deplored the overlapping and “ red tape “ in the Department of Air and referred to highly-paid officials drawing from £15 to £17 a week as compared with their earning capacity of approximately £5 a week prior to the war. I have since had a conversation with the members of the council who made the statements, and I am able to say that several persons were named. Mr. G. Alexander, who is in charge of the pay section, works practically every week-end and, I understand, receives £5 for whatever work he does in that time. The other persons concerned, none of whom was in the Public Service prior to the outbreak of war, were C. E. Page, H. Roberts, T. R. Davey and E. Noltenius. Those officers are in charge of different sections in the Air Board and each is in receipt of a high salary. Each receives overtime pay when he works overtime, yet temporary clerks employed in the same branches of the Air Department are allowed to work overtime on two nights a week only, and not at week-ends. I do not favour overtime work when there are persons available who can also be employed, but apparently this is a case of “greasing the fat pig”. The men at the top receive overtime pay, but the struggling worker who is in receipt of approximately£4 a week is passed over. Recently, the Air Board decided that the staff should be put into uniform. The high salaried officers will probably become squadron-leaders, or perhaps air vice-marshals, although none of them would be able to fly an aeroplane; in fact, I doubt whether they could fly a kite. Doubtless in their uniforms they will look the part, even if they cannot do an airman’s work. It is apparent that when their dependants’ allowances are taken into account in conjunction with their air force pay, the officers concerned will be better paid than has been alleged by my correspondent. I propose to read a letter published in the Melbourne Age of the 1st May on this subjects -
Having read Cr. Baker’s allegations relative to overtime worked by officers of the Public Service, and the Public Service Board’s retort, I would ask the board the following questions: -
How much can the Public Service officers under discussion draw over and above the regulation £624 per annum for Saturday and Sunday work? What rate of pay do officers who are on a salary of £438 per annum draw for Saturday and Sunday overtime per day? In the board’s reply it is stated that it would not be possible to draw £20 per week overtime per fortnight “ regularly.” In The Age report of the meeting no mention was made of the word “ regularly.” -OldDigger (East Melbourne ) .
I contrast the state of affairs referred to with the position obtaining in the accounts branch of the Department of the Army, situated in Tattersall’s Buildings, Melbourne. Approximately 300 old diggers and females are there employed under Major Raper. They keep the records of this section of the Army, and if they work until 8.15 p.m. they are entitled to receive tea money. The male members of the staff are in uniform and do not receive overtime pay. Major Raper recently conceived the brilliant idea of denying employees even their tea money by reducing the normal threequarters of an hour evening meal period by requiring his employees to go for their meal at 5 p.m., to return at 5.30 p.m. and, instead of working until 8.15 p.m. and in that way becoming entitled to tea money, to cease work at 8 p.m. That is the regular practice in the branch and is a reprehensible one. In contrast to the extravagances in the Air Force, there is the contemptible meanness of the officerincharge of this accounts branch of the Department of the Army. I ask the Minister for Air and the Minister for the Army to rectify both anomalies.
I protest against the failure of the Government to make an adequate provision of firewood in my electorate. The shortage was forecast some time ago and the stage has now been reached where many old-age and invalid pensioners and other poor people with children will not be able to obtain firewood to provide warmth during the coming winter months. Much unnecessary suffering will be caused if adequate steps be not taken at once to alleviate the position. There are very few electric heaters or gas stoves in the Melbourne electorate, and the majority of my constituents must depend upon firewood for cooking and heating purposes. It is regrettable that some Ministers are so unsympathetic to the interests of the suffering masses in my electorate that they find my protest a fit subject for jesting. If firewood is not provided sickness will increase, and I fear that the death rate amongst elderly people and infants will be heavier than usual.
– It is due to the failure of this and previous Governments to allow adequate petrol supplies to sawmillers to cart firewood to the nearest railway stations, to the shortage of railway trucks, and to the fact that many skilled workers have been taken unnecessarily from the industry into the Army, although the Army is not in a position to supply them with the necessary equipment with which they may be properly trained.
– The shortage of coal supplies is a contributing factor.
– The coal shortage has accentuated it. The Minister for Social Services (Mr. Holloway), the Minister for Air (Mr. Drakeford) and the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) will probably join in my protest because they also represent in this House the poorer class of people who are the worst sufferers as a result of the shortage. I ask the Minister for Commerce and the Minister for Supply and Development, both of whom are at present in the House, to see that appropriate action shall be taken at once so that firewood will be made available where it is most needed. Fuel merchants have informed me that they turn away twelve times as many people as they can supply. The diversion of briquettes from the State Electricity Commission’s brown coal mine at Yallourn for war purposes is another contributing factor. The existing deplorable and unfortunate situation would not have arisen had briquettes, mallee roots, and firewood been made available in ample quantities.
.- I associate myself with the remarks of the honorable member for Darwin (Sir George Bell). It is a fact that State Ministers in Tasmania have announced certain Federal Cabinet decisions whilst federal members have been left in ignorance of the subject. Members of the Commonwealth Parliament should be taken into the confidence of federal Ministers to a greater degree than has been done in the past. Recently a State Minister announced that a flax-retting mill was to be established in Tasmania and that a Pea Board was to be constituted. I am satisfied that the confusion and misunderstanding concerning blue peas was caused largely by the failure of the Department of Commerce to keep federal members fully informed on the subject, although the information was supplied to State Ministers. Recently, a member of the Tasmanian Parliament was appointed to administer a federal office in that State. Such appointments savour of partisan administration, because most of the appointees belong to the same political party as the Government.
– Has there not been a controversy in the press recently between the Premier of Tasmania, the honorable member, and the State Minister of Agriculture ?
– There has been a controversy with the Premier of Tasmania,
Mr. Cosgrove, about another subject altogether, namely, the appointment of a State Minister to the mainland.
– The honorable member came off second best, and he is now attempting to continue the controversy in this House, where the Premier of Tasmania cannot reply.
– Federal members in Tasmania who were present at a conference held in Launceston can bear out the correctness of my statement that Mr. Cosgrove informed us that his Minister would have access to theCommonwealth Cabinet. In order that the public might be in a position to ascertain whether the expense involved is commensurate with any doubtful advantages to be obtained, I challenged Mr. Cosgrove to publish the total expenses directly and indirectly involved in the visit of the Minister for Agriculture to Canberra with a retinue of officers who recently travelled between Melbourne, Canberra, Sydney and Hobart. I wanted to know what aeroplane, railway and steamer fares were paid for the visiting officials, but, so far, the challenge has not been accepted. The Minister for Repatriation has alleged that I came off second best in the argument.
– The honorable member did come off second best, and that is why he is now speaking on the subject in this House.
– The people of Tasmania definitely say that Mr. Cosgrove is in the wrong. He misled the people in that State when he said that the Prime Minister had requested the appointment of a Tasmanian Minister to come to Canberra. The right honorable gentleman has denied that statement, both in this House and in a letter to me. The Minister for Repatriation cannot have it both ways. Does he accept the statement of the Premier of Tasmania or that of the Prime Minister? The blue pea position in Tasmania is most unsatisfactory. Rightly or wrongly, the Commonwealth Government has been accused of repudiating an implied contract alleged to have been referred to by the Department of Commerce when it wrote to the Tasmanian Government indicating that growers of blue peas would receive approximately £11s. a bushel fortheir product. Instead of honoring that promise the Commonwealth Government referred the whole matter to the Prices Commissioner. In doing so it made a serious mistake. The promise undoubtedly implied a contract for this year.
– How much have the growers received this year?
– They have received 12s. a bushel to date. Price (fixation is a commendable practice in relation to secondary industries, because production costs are ascertainable almost to a fraction; but that is not the case in rural industries. In many classes of primary production it is impossible to ascertain exact costs, and very difficult to ascertain even approximate costs. It is impossible accurately to assess costs on any two farms because of wide divergences of climatic conditions, soil fertility, labour availability, and even land contours. Unpredictable emergencies in relation to seasons, bush fires, floods, pest infestation, and other things affect costs. The underlying principle of price fixation in secondary industries, namely, the ascertainment of production costs, cannot be applied to primary industries. The cost of production of peas has increased greatly. Of the ascertainable costs, wages have increased twice since the beginning of the war, threshing costs have increased from ls. 3d. to ls. 5d. a bushel, and seed now costs 30s. a bushel. If insufficient supplies of superphosphate are available production costs increase enormously, because it becomes necessary to cultivate twice as much land in order to obtain the same yield of peas, and this involves double charges.
The Government is asking primary producers to increase their production of vegetables, including potatoes and peas, and also of flax, but it will be impossible to secure even last year’s volume of production without additional manpower. Many men who were engaged in primary production in Tasmania last year have been called up for military service. Unless something he done quickly to meet the man-power shortage, numbers of farmers will have to leave their farms, and the land will revert to its natural condition. The production of vegetables requires a great deal of labour, and, obviously, vegetable production will not increase unless men become available to do the work. Increased production costs, and the raw deal that the primary producers are receiving, militate greatly against progress. This is so in Tasmania, and 1 have no doubt that it is so in other States.
Many blue-pea producers contracted to sell their crop this year to private merchants at £1 ls. a bushel, but the Government, by its compulsory acquisition scheme, not only compelled the growers to break their contracts, but also involved them in a loss of 6s. a bushel for it paid only 15s. a bushel. It is reported, whether accurately I cannot say, that 8,000 bags of blue peas have been landed in Australia recently from New Zealand and are being sold privately at 28s. 6d. a bushel.
The position of the potato-growing industry also requires consideration. A few years ago, because of big yields in the potato-growing districts, a glut of potatoes occurred in the market. Prices fell and the growers lost heavily. No suggestion was made at that time that the Prices Commissioner should fix a minimum price for potatoes in order to preserve the interests of the growers. The industry was allowed to drift towards bankruptcy. In the following season a shortage of supplies occurred and high prices ruled. In that period, when the growers might have expected to recoup their losses, the services of the Prices Commissioner were invoked and maximum prices were fixed for potatoes. If a maximum price may be fixed when supplies are short, why may not a minimum price be fixed when supplies are abundant? The one procedure is surely the natural corollary of the other. The Government is now rightly urging growers to increase their area under potatoes, and, as an inducement, has offered to fix a guaranteed price for potatoes. The growers wish to know whether the Prices Commissioner will be invited to fix the price, and whether the amount fixed will be reasonable in view of all the circumstances of the case. Remembering the failure of the Government to honour itf implied agreement to pay £1 ls. a bushel for blue peas this year, the potato-growers are naturally chary about accepting an undertaking that a satisfactory price will be fixed for potatoes. It is surely not too much to ask, at the beginning of the season, that a definite price shall be assured to the growers. As the blue-pea growers and primary producers generally have had such a raw deal, a general desire has been expressed for a definite agreement in respect of potatoes.
Reverting to the blue-pea position, I point out that although the crop was acquired at 15s. a bushel and certain growers delivered their peas to government stores as early as last February, they had not received payment up to the end of last week. I wish to be fair to the Minister for Commerce. He promised me last week that payment would be expedited. Therefore I hope that the growers will receive their cheques within a few hours. However, when the cheques are paid they will be on the basis of only 12s. a bushel, and not 15s. a bushel as promised.
– The honorable member must realize that the 12s. is a first advance.
– That may be so, but it is contrary to all business practice to pay 12s. as a first advance and to withhold the remaining 3s. Why is that amount being withheld? The payment on delivery and grading at the stores is 12s. a bushel for first-grade peas, and 10s. a bushel for f.a.q. The final payment of 3s. a bushel is not to be made until after a second inspection. What does that imply? The peas may remain in the stores for months awaiting shipment. During that period they may deteriorate because of dampness, rat infestation, and other causes. On the second inspection first-grade peas may be regraded as f.a.q. Who will bear the loss in such a case?
– The peas have been acquired by the Government, so naturally the growers will not lose.
– I am glad to hear the Minister make that statement, but the growers will be relieved if the Minister will indicate in specific terms that they will not suffer through any deterioration of quality after the peas have been delivered to the pool. Why is the second inspection necessary beforethe growers may be paid the final 3s. a bushel due to them? [Extension of time granted.]
Once the peas are delivered at an authorized government store the Government should surely be responsible for them.
– That is so.
– We often hear government enterprise praised in this House, but if private enterprise conducted its business as this Government has conducted the blue pea acquisition scheme, there would be a public uproar. The farmers desire to know exactly where they stand, and they also desire some assurances in relation to next season’s crop. Does the Government intend to acquire the whole of next season’s crop? If so, does it intend to pay 15s. a bushel for the peas? If there should be a surplus, what will be paid for the surplus?
I should like the Minister for Commerce to inform me whether the following statement, which was attributed to Senator Aylett in the Tasmanian press on the 1st April last, is correct: -
Offer by Minister for Next Year.
The Department of Commerce would take the whole of the blue pea crop from Tasmania next year, whether it be 6,000 tons or more, at not less than 15s. per bushel delivered into store.
Senator Aylett said yesterday that he had been given this assurance by the Minister for Commerce (Mr. Scully) before he left Canberra.
If so, will the Minister make a specific pronouncement in similar terms ? Finally, I should be glad if the honorable gentleman would answer these questions -
Will the Prices Commissioner be requested to fix the price for next season?
Will payment be made in full immediately on delivery to authorized government agents?
Will arrangements be made for sufficient man- power?
Will peas grown in other States be acquired, and under the conditions applicable to those grown in Tasmania?
Have peas grown in other States been acquired this year?
The question in relation to man-power is important, because ploughing for blue pea sowing is, or should be, in progress in many districts in Tasmania, and will be in progress in other districts in the near future. It is desirable that the growers should know at once where they stand. An announcement that the growers will receive full payment on delivery of the peas will be the best way to encourage an increase of production. When peas are sold to private merchants payment is made immediately.
.- I bring to the attention of the Government what I regard as a grave injustice to certain members of the Public Service because of the inflexibility of Public Service regulations. Certain regulations have not been relaxed to meet war conditions. Several weeks ago a raid occurred atDarwin, and I found subsequently that certain members of the Commonwealth Public Service were required to perform duties which they were neither employed nor fit to do. They are surveyors, who are carrying out administrative work. I shall not ask honorable members to imagine the condition that Darwin is in. All that I need say is that their supplies had been cut off and that they were getting as much food and. clothing as they could “scratch” from the Army. The man who was put in charge, a Mr. White, was a surveyor on the temporary staff who was employed on a three years’ contract to go to Darwin. In the circumstances, he was not entitled to sick leave until he had completed three years’ service. He had completed two years’ service, and on the departure of the administrative staff from Darwin, was appointed acting secretary to the Administration and chief warden in charge of air raid precautions. He undertook duties for the performance of which he was not equipped. He had no office, no stationery, no staff. He had to try to keep records on odd pieces of paper that he could pick up. He had to arrange for the rationing and clothing of sailors who came off sunken ships, and of workmen whose places bad been “ removed “. He was responsible for the finding and the burial of the dead, the carrying on of the sanitary services, and the feeding and clothing of the people. At the end of a month, he collapsed. Several others did the same. ‘ He was ordered out of Darwin on account of ill health, and was sent to his home in Melbourne. Having been medically examined, he was advised that he might return. Upon contacting the Administration in Alice Springs, he was asked to get in touch with the Director of Works in Melbourne. He did so and was told that, if he would pay his fare back and sign an order agreeing to refund his fare for the journey to Melbourne, he would be given an order to go hack to Alice Springs. I raised the matter with the Treasurer, who placed it before the responsible. Minister, by whom the. following reply was made : -
Yours 28th, W. J. E. White granted sick leave and fare paid to Melbourne. At White’s request, return fare Melbourne to Alice Springs also arranged and he was told the 23rd April call Works Director, Melbourne. Public Service Regulations do not provide for payment fares sick leave and White informed necessary him refund by instalments.
Here is the gist of the matter -
In the circumstances it would not be possible to release Mr. White from the obligation to pay his fare without creating a most un desirable precedent.
Was there ever a more ludicrous position than that a man carrying out work under such conditions should be asked to pay his fare both ways when he had collapsed ? I request the Minister in charge of the House to have the position rectified. Several weeks ago, I reported on this man and several other men whom I saw doing work of a particularly noble character in Darwin and recommended them for special commendation. I implore the Minister to see that this injustice shall not be continued in respect of public servants who, because of special circumstances, find themselves in the position I have mentioned.
– The matter raised by the honorable member for Henty (Mr; Coles) was brought under my notice a couple of weeks ago, and I referred it to the Minister for the Interior (Senator Collings). It is true, as the honorable member has said, that as the regulations stood, the payment of return fares fell upon the individual when he had been released on sick leave. The honorable member now stresses that, in view of the unusual circumstances in which this man fell ill - the illness:being due to his war work - the Public Service regulations covering the payment of fares should be waived. I discussed the. matter this morning with the. Minister for the Interior, and asked for a complete review of it in regard to not only White, but also other men who had fallen ill as the result of the war conditions under which they were working. I assure the honorable member that I shall follow the matter up with the Minister for the Interior and shall see whether it be possible to comply with his request.
– I desire to refer to a subject upon which statements have been made in this House by the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) and the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Makin), namely, the impounding of small river craft. One does not care to criticize directions which emanate from the Army Command; but in respect of the impounding of river craft we are entitled to exercise a little of our native common sense. There is tremendous dissatisfaction along the whole of the Australian coast, including the area that I represent. I have heard the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) protest very strongly on behalf of his constituents. It is possible for prompt action to be taken should the occasion arise, but why is it necessary, with the enemy so far away, virtually to destroy the greater part of our small craft in the coastal districts? Some of the craft have been taken to different points, and have been drawn up on the banks of rivers, where they are cracking and disintegrating in the sun. The boats are guarded by men who could be employed on a more useful service. There is no need to guard the boats. Who wouldbe likely to interfere with them if they were left in the possession of their owners ? It seems to me that a first-class farce is developing, and that we have humbly to submit to the superior judgment of the higher command. I have no desire to question too deeply ; but I do suggest that whilst the Government is responsible to the people for the defence of Australia, and must take cognizance of what the higher command and the Army leaders say, it is also expected to exercise a certain degree of civilian discretion and to use a little plain common sense which might not necessarily be associated with a knowledge of military tactics and strategy.
– What practical suggestions can the honorable member offer?
– I wish, first, to refer to what has occurred. I have received to-day two letters, one of which is from a widow who has a small farm, every acre of which is subject to floods, in the Swan Bay district, on the Rich mond River. At times, huge floods come down and the cattle have to be rushed for safety to a higher part, whilst the residents have to take to boats. This woman states -
About a month ago I saw a motor boat towing many boats up the river and then minutes later I saw a heavy smoke from where my boat was pulled up ready for repairs for the wet season. On investigating I found that my boat was set on fire by some men from the motor boat. This boat cost me about £7 10s.about three years ago. We specially had it built for carrying a certain number of milk cans. The boat was drawn up on the bank to have a new plank put in, otherwise the boat was in excellent condition, having been tarred and painted some months ago. I am a widow and being without a boat in case of a flood is a great worry to me.
The other case occurred well away from that area. It is that of a resident of Brunswick Heads, who writes as follows : -
I myself reside in Lismore and had a boat under my house at Brunswick, under lock and key.
Brunswick Heads is about 30 miles from Lismore.
I understood all boats under lock and key away from the water’s edge were all right. But on going to Brunswick to see what had to be done about the boat, I found my boat damaged in such a destructive manner that it is beyond repair.
These are examples of what is happening. I want to know whether the Government stands for this sort of thing at the present juncture. All of us recognize that war is war, and that most unpleasant things have to be done; the loss of everything that we value may have to be faced. But is it necessary to do it ourselves, before the enemy arrives? This man makes a very pertinent remark. He says -
I understand we have a big enemy to fight in front of us. But it seems to me that our military authorities in charge of the boats are trying to make enemies of us all.
There is a great deal of truth in that remark. The Minister for Supply and Development (Mr. Beasley) has asked me for practical suggestions. I have already suggested to the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Makin). that committees of dependablemen be formed in each area. I believe that the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) has made a similar suggestion. The enemy is not going to descend suddenly out of the sky ; at least, we assume that he is not.
– He has done so in some instances.
– He is not likely to do so in areas that are 1,000 miles distant from where he is operating at the moment. At all events, there are reputable citizens in the different districts who could be entrusted with this responsibility. They would willingly accept it. Many of them have made the suggestion to me. They are prepared to gather the boats together quickly, and see that their destruction is properly carried out. The operation could be performed as quickly as the military authorities could desire.
– Could it be made a condition that all the boats should be tied up at one spot in order that they might be destroyed, if need be ?
– I do not think that that would be satisfactory, because it is desirable that the boats be used for the time being. They could quickly be brought to a given spot. We are not dealing with a country like Penang, where there was an extensive fifth column, and any member of the native population might be an enemy. We could depend entirely on the population to act in accordance with the Government’s direction. The Army authorities say that they are acting in the light of the experience gained in Malaya. Our men have had experience; they would know exactly what to do at the appropriate time, and would do it rapidly. I say with all due respect to the military authorities that to destroy our own river craft, at a time when the enemy is still a long way off, is the height of folly - for the boats which have been hauled up on the bank are rapidly going to pieces. I suggest that the Government should immediately review the whole matter, and make an honest endeavour to mete out justice to the owners of the boats. Most of the owners are persons to whom a boat represents a valuable asset, perhaps a more valuable one, comparatively, than the yachts moored in Sydney Harbour and elsewhere. The Minister said that one member of the committee which had been appointed to deal with this matter had had experience as a yachtsman. That means nothing to the owners of the boats. These men have used their boats for getting their children to school, for carting their cream and to evacuate their families in times of flood.
.- I desire to bring to the notice of the Minister for Commerce a matter of great importance to primary producers in Western Australia, namely, the manner in which wheat acreages are being restricted under this season’s licensing plan, which provides for a reduction of 33 per cent. below last year’s sowings. I have had placed before me particulars of a farm of 6,421 acres, of which 6,000 acres has been cleared. The owner is licensed this year to sow 471 acres of wheat for grain, and 57 acres for hay and other purposes, a total of 528 acres. Last year, the area permitted to be sown to wheat was, approximately, 780 acres, so that the 471 acres permitted this year represents a reduction of 43 per cent., not 33 per cent. as it is supposed to be. Most farmers in Western Australia are in debt to financial institutions and to machinery merchants, and if they are not to be allowed to grow what hay they want to, they will have no chance of meeting their obligations. I have in mind one farmer who has a mortgage of £8,700 and who is this year licensed to grow 200 acres of wheat. He has been in the habit for years of growing 180 acres of hay, but under this year’s licence he is restricted to 30 acres. It is clearly stipulated that the licensee shall not sow a greater area to wheat than the number of acres indicated in the licence. Production costs have increased a. great deal since the outbreak of war, as the following table shows: -
Farmers will not be able to continue in production if further restrictions are to be imposed upon them, particularly in regard to the growing of hay. Men have told me that if the acreage under hay is to be restricted they will walk off their farms. Most of them have the very greatest difficulty in carrying on at present, because of high production costs and low prices. I urge the Minister for Commerce to use his influence with his colleagues in the Ministry to have brought in some form of moratorium for the protection of primary producers who are suffering grave hardship because of the restriction of acreage to be sown in wheat, and because of the pegging of prices. I have read statements by the Minister for Commerce himself in which he appealed to farmers to grow more wheat for hay, particularly in drought areas. Now the quantity of hay produced is to be severely restricted unless, at the last moment, the Wheat Board or the State Government instructs the farmers to cut more wheat for hay. That was what happened during the drought of two years ago, when the State Government threatened to cut the wheat for hay if the farmers did not do it. Then, those who did cut for hay were left lamenting. In my opinion, if the necessary labour can be obtained, farmers should be encouraged to cut as much wheat for hay as possible. There is an urgent need to produce a greatly increased quantity of meat in Western Australia. Farmers should be allowed to sow whatever acreage they want to sow so that the wheat may he fed to pigs and sheep. There is no comparison between the wheatlands of Western Australia and those of the eastern States. The farmers in the west have not been able to pay off the debts incurred in the clearing and fencing of the land, and most of them have a high interest bill to meet every half-year. They can meet their bills only if they are allowed to grow hay for stock and for sale.
– I am indebted to the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Marwick) for bringing this matter to my attention. The reduction of acreage under wheat by 33 per cent, was intended to apply only to sowings for grain. I never intended any restriction to be placed upon the area sown for hay. I shall take the matter up immediately with the Wheat Stabilization Board and correct the present anomalous position. So far as I am concerned, any farmer is at liberty to grow as much, wheat for hay as he likes. I am very sympathetic towards the honorable member’s request that a moratorium should be instituted for the protection of primary producers, and 1 shall take the matter up with the Minister concerned.
.- I wish to enter a strong protest against the failure of some Ministers, when communicating with State departments or State members of Parliament, to send the communication through the federal member concerned. This trouble has arisen on several occasions since the present Government came into office. Prior to that, I was always notified by Ministers when matters relating to my electorate were brought before them, and a similar courtesy was extended to me by the Commissioner for Repatriation, the Commissioner for Pensions, and the Deputy Director of Posts and Telegraphs. Recently, my attention was drawn by a friend of mine to the following clipping from the Adelaide Mail of the 18th April : -
The tobacco shortage here and at Quorn will be relieved following representations which were made to the federal authorities for an increase in the quota.
Advice to this effect has been received by Mr. Riches, M.P., from the Minister for Trade and Customs.
I have received no advice from the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane) that representation had been made to him by a member of the State Parliament.
On another occasion, Mr. J. M. Beerworth, who is a colleague of Mr. Riches, approached me with a letter which he had received from the Quorn Water Trust. It requested the Minister for the Interior to order the cleaning of the dam, which when it contained water, supplied the Commonwealth Railways. Mr. Beerworth gave to me the letter which was dated the 2nd April. On the same day, I forwarded it to the Minister for the Interior and advised him of the necessity for urgent action. About a week later, the Minister wrote to me that Mr. Riches had approached him, and that he was dealing with the matter. If Mr. Beerworth, through me, had not made the representations to the Minister for the Interior, I would have been ignorant of the whole affair. I should like to know whether the policy, which was followed by previous Governments of acquainting federal members of representations affecting their constituencies, has been abandoned. Now, the first intimation that a federal member receives is when a reference to the subject is published in the press. I strongly support the remarks of the honorable member for Darwin (Sir George Bell) and the honorable member for “Wilmot (Mr. Guy). The Government, at the present time, is too ready to give to State governments information which should be conveyed through federal members. That has happened more than once in South Australia.
The allocation to country newspapers of South Australia of advertisements relating to National Security Regulations has caused concern. For a considerable time, the country press, which is represented by’ Mr. 0. O’Reilly, of Adelaide, has been endeavouring to obtain these advertisements. Many country people particularly those living in the electorate of Grey, purchase the local publication because city newspapers are some days old when they reach outback centres. With one exception, country newspapers have notsucceeded in obtaining these advertisements. This appears to be an instance of discrimination, because the successful newspaper is conducted by L. G. Riches, a Labour member of the State Parliament, who- controls the Transcontinental, at Port Augusta. This journal has a circulation of 850. but other newspapers in my electorate have a circulation exceeding 2,000 copies. I ask the Government to give consideration to this matter in order to ensure an equitable distribution of advertisements among the country newspapers of South Australia.
– I support the remarks of the honorable member for Darwin (Sir George Bell) and the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Guy). Peas are grown in my electorate, but, our experience is totally different from that of Tasmanian growers. No guarantee was suggested to is, even by implication. The crop was harvested in late December and in early January, and was sold on the open market at prices ranging from 4s. 6d. to 9s. a bushel. Three months later, the unfortunate growers learned through th<? press that the Commonwealth Government had acquired the whole of the pea crop at 15s. a bushel. That is an awful state of affairs.
– Is the honorable member aware that I asked the Premier of South Australia and the Minister for Agriculture, whether they desired the Commonwealth to acquire the .South Australian crop under the same conditions as the Tasmanian crop? They rejected the offer. That occurred before we acquired the Tasmanian crop.
– The Commonwealth Government cannot always “ pass the buck “ to the State governments.
– What more could I do? South Australia rejected the proposal. I delayed the introduction of the scheme for a. fortnight until the Premier of South Australia reached his decision.
– Why did not the Commonwealth ask the Tasmanian Government the same question?
– The Tasmanian Government pressed for it.
– That is not correct.
– The explanation of the Minister will not satisfy me. The Commonwealth Government does not ask a State whether it objects to the acquisition of a particular crop. It has acquired wheat, wool, and barley, regardless of whether the producers liked the terms and conditions. In nearly every instance, the Commonwealth acquired the commodity compulsorily at, a price that was announced before the crop matured.
– Is it not the custom, before the Commonwealth acquires a crop, to secure the acquiescence-
– Order ! The Minister should not interject.
– I know that the Minister is in deep water. The Government must adopt a Commonwealth policy on these matters. It cannot escape responsibility by declaring that one State may have black, another State blue, and a third State yellow and pink, if it so desires. The problem can be settled only if the Commonwealth Government declares that certain commodities will be acquired at specific prices; and that information should be communicated to the grower before the crop is sown.
In addition to peas, I have the vexed question of almonds. The price of almonds in South Australia alone has been fixed. Did the Commonwealth Government say to the Government of South Australia, “ We shall fix the price of almonds in South Australia, but not in any other State”?. The result is that two big buyers in South Australia have purchased practically the whole of the crop, which they are now retailing for a “ cool “ 6d. per lb. Purchasers in Western Australia have been notified that, as imports cannot be obtained from Italy and Spain, they will get no almonds this year. All consignments will be sent to Sydney and Melbourne. When a shortage occurs, the Government should ensure that each State receives its fair quota.
– It is nothing for Western Australia to go short.
– That is true; and the position would be worse if the State did not have such an excellent representative as the honorable member for Swan.
Another important matter is potatogrowing. As my electorate happens to be very potato-minded, I should like the Minister to explain the policy of the Government in this matter. Does the Minister propose to allow a “free for all”? The position appears to be that persona who know no more about a “ spud “ than they know about a nugget of gold will acquire land, which is not worth 2d. for growing potatoes, incur considerable expense, and present the bill to the Commonwealth Government. I have even heard a suggestion that the cost-plus system may be introduced for the purpose of encouraging potato-growing. In a good season, there will be a substantial surplus; but glut conditions could be overcome by drying the potatoes. Presumably, an insistent demand will be made for the erection of a drying plant in the Wimmera electorate.
Unlike the honorable member for Grey (Mr. Badman) I have no complaints about a tendency on the part of Ministers to disregard Commonwealth members when replying to representations affecting their constituencies, but then,I have no Labour members in my electorate. My electorate in South Australia has thirteen members, but so far the worst that I have are four independents. I would exchange them for four Labour men any time.
– I assure the honorable member for Grey (Mr. Badman) that the Government has not agreed, as a matter of policy, to ignore federal members when replying to representations from State members affecting their constituencies. As the honorable member stated, the Postmaster-General’s Department, the Pensions Department, and the Repatriation Department follow a long-standing practice of forwarding through a federal member replies to representations raised by State members. Whilst that custom has been rigidly observed, a departure could conceivably happen under the stress of war conditions. Since the outbreak of war, federal affairs have tended to intrude upon domestic matters. The rationing of tobacco provides an instance.
– It never occurred under previous governments.
– The honorable member will agree that the Government has been compelled to impose restrictions, “freezing” orders and rationing of all kinds far in excess of that undertaken by previous governments. However, I shall not attempt to excuse or to condone what has occurred. I shall ask the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) to circulate to all Ministers a memorandum requesting them to reply through federal members to representations by State members.
I am not aware, naturally, of any discrimination in the allocation of advertisements to country newspapers in South Australia. I understand that advertisements relating to National Security Regulations have been published in newspapers in districts to which the regulations have application. I understand that it is the practice to advertise only in districts or in States in which the matter advertised will have effect. Any departure from that practice should not be tolerated, because no government should discriminate in the disbursement of revenue for any advertising or any other purpose.
– I am not speaking with out knowledge.
– I do not think that the honorable gentleman would. Advertising is under the control of the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley), whose attention has been directed to this matter. He will Bee what adjustments can be made to meet the point raised by the honorable member.
I have listened with interest to the various references in this House to the controversial subject of the immobilization of small craft, raised again to-night by the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony). I should be loath to interfere with the administration of another department, but I do appreciate how easily these small boats deteriorate without constant attention. Frankly, it appears to me that sometimes governmental orders are carried out ruthlessly without any real regard for the consequences. All honorable members will agree that it is impossible for Ministers to police the carrying out of their orders down to the last detail. The objective of those entrusted with the carrying out of the military decision to immobilize small craft should be not to destroy but, on the contrary, to save, unless war conditions dictate otherwise. The people who own these craft would naturally resent seeing them being towed away and burned. Tt may be possible to devise some means whereby these craft would be collected in some place and guarded by the owners or their representatives on an undertaking that they would be destroyed if necessary.
– That system operates satisfactorily in Tasmania. “Why is it that in
Borne States the owners of the craft are compelled to store them on land, whereas in other States they are allowed to keep their boats in the water?
– I do not know what strategical reason there may be for that. The Minister for the Navy (Mr. Makin) may have something to say about it. I am sure that he is most anxious that these craft he not destroyed. He has been asked by the Army to carry out the immobilization of these craft. The military authorities say that it is necessary to immobilize them, because of the use the Japanese made of small craft in the Malayan campaign.
– There is no quarrel with that policy. The only objection is to the craft being taken from the water and placed on land where they will be ruined in less than a month.
– That is understood. I shall discuss this matter with my colleagues, because I see the need for some scheme to be evolved whereby certain people in the localities concerned will be called upon to supervise the immobilization of their own craft. There are no better supervisors than the owners themselves.
The honorable member for Darwin (Sir George Bell) and the honorable member for “Wilmot (Mr. Guy), supported by the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron), raised the matter of consultation between Commonwealth Ministers and State Ministers. I am loath to enter into a controversy between Tasmanian Ministers and Federal members. The growing interest of the States in the affairs of the Commonwealth arose at the first Premiers Conference held in Canberra “ after the Labour Government took office. Many matters which concerned the States were discussed, and the representatives of the States were given certain information. Other information has been given to them at subsequent conferences. The States took the view that there should be the closest liaison between them and the Commonwealth in matters which affected their areas. For instance, a representative of the Government and the Leader of the Opposition in Western Australia recently came to Canberra for the purpose of discussing with the Commonwealth Government matters of strategy in Western Australia which they claimed were worrying the people in that State. In order to maintain morale it is necessary that the people be told as much as is possible of what is being done. That applies equally to members of the Commonwealth Parliament who, commensurate with security, should have all the information that is available. We find it necessary to use the State machinery in order to carry out many projects which we find necessary. The honorable member for Darwin specifically referred to the Minister for Agriculture in Tasmania. It is a fact that the CommonwealthGovernment consulted that Minister; it consulted all the State Ministers for Agriculture. As Minister for Supply and Development I am concerned in the production of sufficient food for military and other requirements. The State Departments of Agriculture have the organization and all the information which is needed to intensify the cultivation of vegetables. I do not deny, therefore, that the State Ministers for Agriculture have been approached by the Commonwealth in connexion with agricultural matters. Again I take Western Australia as an illustration of the way in which the State Ministers can help the Commonwealth Government. We approached the Minister for Agriculture of that State in order to enlist his aid in a project for the transfer of between 20,000 and 30,000 head of cattle from the Kimberleys, of which we hope to get 12,000 head to Perth and the rest to the Queensland border. That transfer has been necessitated by the closing down of the Wyndham meat works. I do not put that forward as an excuse for the denial of information to federal members. I readily appreciate the embarrassment that a federal member would suffer in his electorate in circumstances like those cited by the honorable member for Darwin, who was unable to answer questions by his constituents concerning the Commonwealth’s potatogrowing project. It is true that the State Ministers take full advantage of information that reaches them. That is a natural intrusion of the personal element. The Commonwealth Government’s bona fides in this matter cannot be questioned. It desires to the greatest possible degree to keep federal members informed. The difficulty is in the method of doing that. I shall discuss the matter with the Prime Minister. It may be that the suggestion I made in answer to the honorable member for Grey will have equal application to this matter. When Parliament is sitting and members have the opportunity to elicit information at question time and on the adjournment it is easy to keep them informed, but when we are in recess difficulties arise. The complaints voiced by honorable members about consultation between Commonwealth and State Ministers on the growing of potatoes might equally be made about my discussions with the State Ministers for Mines about minerals. I have to go direct to them because they have the information in their departments. There is no intention to slight federal members. Whatever practical steps can be taken, will be taken, to ensure proper recognition of federal members.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determinations by the Arbitrator, &c. - 1942 -
No. 16 - Amalgamated Engineering Union.
No. 17 - Arms, Explosives and Munition Workers’ Federation of Australia.
No. 18 - Amalgamated Postal Workers’ Union of Australia; and Federated Public Service Assistants’ Association of Australia.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired - For Defence purposes - Wynyard, Tasmania.
National Security Act -
National Security (Building Control) Regulations - Order - Exemption.
National Security (General) Regulations - Orders -
Basis of Compensation.
Boats (Information) (2).
Control of Hydrographical Publications.
Defence Quartering (Allied Forces).
Immobilization of Vessels (2).
Prohibited places (2).
Protection of Exposed Personnel (Merchant Ships).
Removal of Direction Signs.
Requisitioning of property other than land (3).
Taking possession of land, &c. (129).
Use of land (10).
National Security (Medical Coordination and Equipment) Regulations -Order - Control of Medical Equipment.
Regulations - Statutory Rules 1942, Nos. 190, 197, 198,l99, 200, 201.
Naval Defence Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1942, No. 202, 203, 204, 205.
Seat of Government Acceptance Act and Seat of Government (Administration) Act - Regulations - 1942 - No. 5 (Cemeteries Ordinance ) .
Bouse adjourned at 11.28 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
n- On the 1st May, 1942, the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn) asked the following questions, upon notice: -
I am now in a position to furnish the following answers : -
t asked the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Schedule of Reserved Occupations and Industrial Priorities. As such men are registered for military service in their own residential areas, and as the granting of individual exemptions is also dependent on the group or class to which the men, when called up, belong, it would be necessary to refer to a largenumber of Area Man-power Officers to ascertain the number of men holding exemptions.
The registration of waterside workers is now undertaken by the newly constituted Stevedoring Industry Commission, which is charged with the general responsibility of ensuring that waterside work and stevedoring operations are carried on with the utmost efficiency.
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– Action has already been taken to intern those alien and other elements in Australia who, if left at liberty, would represent a menace to security. The position is constantly under review, and such internments are from time to time effected as the situation requires. It is not the policy to resort to mass internments, as such a policy does not materially add to the security achieved by the present course of action. Measures believed to be effective have already been taken to investigate and restrict the activities of female enemy aliens and subversive females of other nationalities. A suggestion that an independent commissioner should be appointed to inquire into and report upon all naturalization certificates granted during the last five years will receive consideration, but I point out -
l. asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1. (a) Melbourne - Victorian Club (recreation centre for United States Forces); (b) Sydney - none.
Exchange of War Prisoners with Italy.
e. - On the 29th April, the honorable member for Denison (Mr Beck) asked the following questions. without notice: -
Can the Minister for the Army say upon what basis the recent exchange of prisoners of warwas made with Italy?Was the state of health of the prisoners taken into account, or was length of service the determining factor? Will the Minister state upon whose recommendation the release of Australians was made, and what was the reason in each case?
I now inform the honorable member that there is no question of an exchange of prisoners of war with Italy. The recent repatriation of parties of British and Italian prisoners of war was effected in accordance with the terms of the Prisoners of War Convention, which provides for the examination of sick and wounded prisoners of war by mixed Medical Commissions to he appointed by each of the belligerent powers. The mixed Medical Commissions recommend which prisoners of war should he repatriated.
It is understood that a limited number of medical personnel were also repatriated in accordance with the terms of the sick and wounded convention.
Australian Consolidated Industries LIMITED.
– On the 5th March, the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Falstein) asked me whether I had read the report of the War Expenditure Committee, which stated that an agreement bad been reached between Australian Consolidated Industries Limited and the Government whereby the Commonwealth benefited substantially by refunds from the company, and whether the Commonwealth had yet received any of the money. On that occasion I intimated that I would have a report prepared on the matter, and I am now in a position to inform the honorable member that when negotiations were being conducted with the company in respect of the costs to be applied in connexion with the munitions annexe, the company intimated that whereas the payments under the agreement were to be on a target price basis, it would work upon a cost and nonprofit basis. It desired, however, that in the first instance it should work to a cost basis plus the standard allowance of 4 per cent. and that payments in excess of bare costs should be refunded later. My department agreed to this suggestion, and so far £40,925 has been refunded. In respect of fixed price contracts the company and certain of its subsidiaries voluntarily notified my department in November, 1941, that in respect of contracts which they had secured by way of public invitation of tenders, they proposed to refund the profits, if any, in excess of 71/2 per cent. upon their costs. The refunds so far on this account have been£7,500.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 6 May 1942, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1942/19420506_reps_16_170/>.