17th Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. J. S. Rosevear) took the chair at 11.30 a.m., and read prayers.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) agreed to - That the House, at its rising, adjourn to to-morrow, at 10.30 a.m.
– Will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture state whether the Victorian meat dispute has been settled on tha terms and conditions agreed to at. a conference held in Melbourne on the 18th March? Did the Newmarket Meat Producers Association, and its spokesmen - Mr. McLennan and the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) - at first repudiate that agreement? Did those spokesmen subsequently make a complete change of front, and claim at a conference of the Victorian Country party that the terms which at first they had repudiated represented a victory for them and an abject surrender en the part of the Minister?
– Order ! The honorable member may not debate the subject-matter of the question.
– Were the claims that worn made to the conference of the Victorian Country party by Mr. McLennan and the honorable member for Indi corrected in statements issued to the Melbourne press on behalf of the Victorian Wheat and Wool Growers Association and the Victorian Graziers Association ? Did the Melbourne pre?s refuse to publish those statements? If so, will thi’ Minister obtain copies of them, and have thom incorporated in Hansard, so that an accurate official picture of the agreement may replace that given to the conference of the Victorian Country party bv the honorable member for Indi’
– The ment dispute in Melbourne was settled on the terms and conditions agreed upon by- all parties at the initial conference. I shall have to obtain the information which the honorable member seeks in the remainder of the question, and supply it to him.
Darwin : Housing
– In view of the shortage of housing accommodation at Darwin, due to destruction by bombing during the war years, wall the Minister for Air immediately make available for the use of civilians who wish to return to Darwin the unoccupied houses ‘belonging to the Department of Air that are contiguous to the aerodrome?
– I am not acquainted with the position at Darwin. The ‘honorable member for the Northern Territory mentioned this matter to me recently. I shall inquire as to whether there are buildings suitable for use as residences adjacent to or on the aerodrome which are the property of the Department of Air. When the matter has been examined, I shall furnish particulars to the honorable member and advise him as to whether or not his request may be granted.
Special Investigation Bureau - Awards and Medals
– I havereceived complaints from constituents of mine who are members of the Armed Forces and have been directed to serve in a special investigation, bureau which, I understand, is a section of the Provost Corps. One of my constituents, who has a fairly clean record, has been called upon to pay fines totalling £18 for having deliberately absented himself without leave on two occasions because, on the strongest personal grounds, he objects to serving in this unit. In view of the fact that some men, on conscientious grounds, do not desire to undertake the kind of work involved, will the Minister for the Army give instructions that personnel for this unit must be obtained by selecting volunteers?
– I shall inquire whether it is practicable to give effect to the honorable member’s request. If the men can be enlisted voluntarily, I think it much better to do that than to apply compulsion.
– Will the Minister for the Army give consideration to the strikingof a special defence medal and a campaign star for those members of the Australian Imperial Force who, through no fault of their own, were prevented from serving overseas, and so were debarred from participating in the general distribution of medals throughout the Empire? Thefirst class to which I refer is composed of those who joined the 1st Armoured Division, immediately after it was formed at the beginning of the war, and who several times were on the point of departure, but, owing to the character of the warfare being waged,were not sent overseas. Others who are entitled to special consideration are those who served overseas, but for a lesser period than the number of days necessary to enable them to qualify for the Campaign Star.I know it is not practicable to issue an empire medal, but many of these men were absent from their homes for six years, and as they were available for service in any theatre of war they should have some recognition.
– Sympathetic consideration will be given to the suggestionof the right honorable member. As soon as I can obtain the information which he desires it will be supplied to him.
– Can the Prime Minister give an indication whether, and when, an order will be placed with an engineering firm at Granville for the construction of 50 railway engines for China at the request of Unrra? If finality has not been reached in the matter, will the right honorable gentleman expedite a decision, in order to enable highly skilled workers who were previously engaged in war production to be retained in productive employment?
– My recollection of the matter is that Unrra desired to obtain in Australia 50 locomotives of the Mikado type. Difficulties arose regarding the general supervision of the construction of the engines, whether the work were to be placed at Granville or anywhere else. Representations were made to me by the Minister for’ Post-war Reconstruction and the Chairman of the Secondary Industries Commission that I should take the matter up with the Premiers of New South Wales and Victoria, and request them to confer with the Railways Commissioners in those States with regard to supervision of both design and construction. I spoke to Mr. McKell, the Premier of New South Wales, and he consulted Mr. Hartigan, the Commissioner for Railways in that State, who agreed to give all the help necessary by way of supervision. Mr. Cain, the Premier of Victoria, also consulted his Commissioner for Railways, who has agreed to cooperate. I understand that, with the approval of Unrra, the order can be filled.
– In view of the fact that certain firms in Australia are contemplating the manufacture of motor cars or components of motor cars, and in view of the importance of motor transport to Australia, will the Treasurer add motor cars to the list of articles upon which sales tax is being reduced; alternatively, will he, consider the reduction of sales tax onmotor cars from 121/2 per cent, to not more than 5 per cent.?
– The matter of sales tax has been examined from time to time during the last twelve months. Two schedules providing for additional exemption? have been brought down, and one of them is before the House now. I cannot promise that the proposal of the honorable member will receive favorable consideration, but it will be examined when a further review is being made.
– Has the Minister for
Labour and National Service any information to give regarding the present acute shortage of trained nurses in Australia? During the last few months, many doctors and nurses have been discharged from the forces, but hospitals in capital cities are closing wards because they cannot get adequate stall. Is anything being done to improve the position ?
– All I can do is to cite the figures for discharges of nurses and doctors from the services since demobilization began. In October, there were 2,948 nurses in the services. Since then, 1,063 have been discharged, and it is expected that by June next the number of discharges will be 1,862, leaving 1,086 still in the services. In October, there were 1,958 doctors in the services. Already, 1.011 have been discharged, and by June the number of discharges will be 1,409, leaving 549 in the services. Probably all the doctors will resume practice, and I should say that about 90 per cent., at any rate of the nurses will return to their former profession.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction been drawn to a report that a totally disabled ex-naval man was welcomed home to Tasmania last week by being thrown off the property which he and his wife and family occupied ?Is the Minister aware that the property was sold by. auction, and that because it was owned by the State Government of Tasmania it was not subject to prices control regulations? Further, is the Minister aware that it is reported that the ex-naval man in question bid up to £300 for the property, which was valued at only £150, and was eventually sold at £550? Does that not indicate some activity in blackmarketing? Does the Minister think that governmentowned property should be immune from such prices control, and is such immunity consistent with the spirit of the Re-establishment and Employment Act?
– My attention has not been drawn to the report mentioned by the honorable member. I shall have inquiries made into the matter, and see whether anything can be done to rectify the position.
– by leave - A little over a year ago, on my return to Australia after haying attended the International Civil Aviation Conference held at Chicago during November and December, 1944, I made a statement to the Parliament on civil aviation. Much. has happened since then, in both the international field and the domestic field, and- 1 should like honorable members to be informed of those developments. Honorable members will recollect that in January, 1945, I reported to the House that, notwithstanding the excellent work done at the Chicago conference in respect of the technical side of civil aviation, failure to reach agreement on such matters as allocation of routes and services among those nations which wish to operate international air transport services, and the establishment of controls over fare and freight rates and the payment of subsidies, meant that the conduct of air commerce would have to be left to the negotiation of bilateral agreements between nations. Australia is now in the process of negotiating such a bilateral agreement, with the United States of America, which will confer, reciprocal commercial rights in the United States of America and Australia, respectively, upon the scheduled airline operators of the two countries, and it is hoped that a satisfactory agreement will shortly be concluded in order to ‘permit the establishment of regular civil air transport services across the Pacific.
It is expected that Pan-American Airways will operate a service on behalf of the United States of America. The British Commonwealth service will be entrusted in the initial period to a wholly government-owned company, which will bp registered in Sydney and will be called “ British Commonwealth Pacific Airlines “. Both services will probably commence simultaneously; the date of commencement will depend entirely on thespeed with which satisfactory ground organization and meteorological facilities can he established on the route, and on the successful conclusion of bilateral agreements between the United States of America on the one hand, and Australia and New Zealand on the other.
The arrangements for the operation of
Hie British Commonwealth service across the Pacific provide for an interim service, to be. followed in the shortest possible time by the permanent service. The permanent arrangement for the Commonwealth and Empire services across the Pacific, as evolved, first, at a conference held at Montreal in December, 1944, further developed at a conference in London in July, 1945, and finalized at the conference held at Wellington, New Zealand, in March, 1946, provides for two British Commonwealth airlines to operate complementary services in partnership. One of the airlines operators will be British Commonwealth Pacific Airlines, based on Sydney, the shareholding in which will be: - Australian Government. 50 per cent.; New Zealand’ Government, 30 per cent.; United Kingdom Government, 20 per cent! The other British Commonwealth operator will be Trans-Canada Airlines, based probably on Vancouver. These two operators - British Commonwealth Pacific Airlines and Trans-Canada Airlines - will conduct their services on the basis of a parallel partnership, which provides for the employment of the same type of aircraft, the provision of facilities on the basis of joint user, the pooling of traffic, and also the pooling of revenues, which will be divided not on the volume of traffic carried by each, but on the basis of scheduled operations. The aircraft which it is proposed ;-.) employ is known as the DC4M. This aircraft is now in production at Montreal in Canada, and is being built under licence from the Douglas Aircraft Corporation, Santa Monica, California, but will be powered with British Rolls-Royce Merlin engines, which, as honorable members will remember, gave wonderful service during the war. The DC4M aircraft will have a. better performance than the standard DC4 machine. DC4M aircraft are not likely to be available until next year, but, in order that a British Commonwealth service may be started at the earliest possible date, British Commonwealth Pacific Airlines have been authorized by the governments that will own the company to make arrangements for a service to be conducted by contract during the interim period. Those arrangements are . practically concluded, but it -would be premature for me to announce at this moment the operator that will be chosen.
Suffice it to say for the present that it will he an Australian operator.
Arrangements were also concluded at Canberra just recently .between my colleague, Lord Winster, Minister of Civil Aviation in the United Kingdom, and myself for parallel operation in partnership of the services between London and Sydney, via India, the chosen operators being British Overseas Airways Corporation and Qantas Empire Airways. In the initial period the types of aircraft to be employed will be “ Lancastrian “ land, planes ‘and “ Hythe “ flying boats, tie Lancastrian providing a . very fast mail service and the Hythe a somewhat slower but more comfortable service from the viewpoint of passengers. The types of aircraft employed are to be reviewed in September next, when the results of the trials with the Tudor II. aeroplane will he known.
– How much faster will the Lancastrian service be than the flying boat service?
– The Lancastrians will take two and a half days from Australia to England and the flying boats five clays.
During Lord Winster’s visit to Australia there was also drawn up a bilateral agreement ,with the United Kingdom for the exchange of reciprocal commercial rights in the United Kingdom and Australia respectively.
At the recent conference held at New Zealand, certain important decisions were taken in regard to the provision and maintenance of civil aviation facilities in the South Pacific. Under- the provisions of the Chicago Convention, each signatory nation is, obliged to. provide whatever facilities are necessary for the conduct of international airlines .traversing its territory. Insofar as. British territories in the South Pacific .area are to be equipped for international flying, Australia and New Zealand have agreed to establish and maintain the necessary organizations in two defined zones, Australia being responsible for- the area west of 170° E. longitude and New Zealand for the area east of that line. The costs, will, however, be borne by the United Kingdom in United Kingdom territories, but assistance in this regard, if it is required, will not be withheld where the facilities are clearly of value to the defence of Australia and New Zealand or for the development of the civil aviation organizations of. the two dominions.
At the Wellington conference three other important matters were resolved. The first affects Tasman Empire Airways. As* honorable members are aware, at the present time the arrangements for capital contributions are that the United Kingdom Government, through British Overseas. Airways Corporation, is responsible for 38 per cent, of the capital, New Zealand, for 39 per cent. - 20 per cent, being held by the New Zealand Government and 19 per cent, by Union Airways - and Australia 23 per cent., held by Qantas Empire Airways. In future, capital requirements are to be allocated as follows: - New Zealand 50 per cent.., Australia 30 per cent, and the United Kingdom, 20 per cent..
The second matter relates to the operation of regional services in the South Pacific. Under the agreement reached at Wellington, Australia and New Zealand may each operate regional services in defined zones in the South Pacific area. For example, Australia may’, if the services are justified, operate services to Fiji and to the islands north and northeast of Australia. New Zealand may also operate services from Auckland to Fiji arid to the islands east of that line.
The third and rather important step taken at the Wellington conference was the establishment of an advisory body, to be known as the South Pacific Air Transport Council, whose constitution and functions have been defined, and the membership of ‘ which is open to the following governments :- -United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand. Fiji and th« Western Pacific High Commission. The main functions of this body will be to keep under review and to promote the progress arid development of civil air transport in the South Pacific; to serve as a medium for the exchange of views and information between member countries on civil air transport matters; to advise member governments on the policy of operation, development and finance of air services employed on the Trans-Pacific, Trans-Tasman and regional routes; and generally to- carry out any functions regarding air services ir. the Pacific area which may be delegated to it by the Governments. I am sure that honorable members will approve of this further evidence of Commonwealth and Empire co-operation in respect of civil air transport matters.
What I have said will give honorable members a somewhat sketchy and necessarily brief understanding of developments, insofar as Australia is concerned, in the international civil aviation field. 1 feel certain, and I am sure that honorable members will be satisfied, that the Commonwealth and Empire conferences held at Montreal in December, 1944, at London in July, 3945, and at Wellington in March, 1946, have been productive of plans which, when they are put into operation, will provide a solid- basis for the future development of those Commonwealth and Empire air services in which Australia has a vital interest. At these conferences, and in the outcome of them, honorable members will appreciate that Australia’s role has been that of a partner with other countries of the Commonwealth and Empire whose interests, as well as those of Australia, had to be given full consideration. Critics may say that Australia should have done this and might have done that, but then: must be a full appreciation and understanding of all the factors that had to bc taken into account before informed criticism may be made of what has been decided. For the Government and for myself, I may say that I am satisfied that each step we have taken since the Montreal Conference in 1944 has been a wise one, having regard to the welfare of Australia and of those countries with associated interests, and has been placed on solid, ground. The work at the conferences, whilst always strenuous, has been both a pleasing and an educational experience, not only in civil aviation planning ‘but also in Commonwealth and Empire collaboration. I believe, and 1 know my colleagues from other Commonwealth countries would willingly acknowledge, that Australia has made and will continue to make a real contribution in the development of external civil air routes in which this country is interested.
T’n this regard, I desire, to record a word of praise to the officers of the Department of Civil Aviation who accompanied me as advisers to these Commonwealth and Empire civil aviation conferences.
Developments in domestic civil aviation, particularly within the last two years, justify the inclusion in this statement of a brief summary o£ activities in connexion therewith. The most important step taken was the establishment of the Australian, National. Airlines Commission to operate interstate air services on behalf of the Commonwealth Government. The commission has now been established and has commenced the preparation of the necessary organization to enable the conduct of competitiveinterstate airline services. The trade name selected by the commission is “ Trans-Australia Airlines “, and I am certain that this organization will, within a short time, justify fully the steps taken by the Government in its establishment, and will emulate the achievements of its counterpart in Canada, Trans-Canada Airlines. During 1945 the Department of Civil Aviation was completely reorganized in order that it might be expanded to encompass more effectively the work associated with anticipated developments in the post-war years. All of the staff required has not yet been obtained, but the Public Service Board is doing its best to procure the necessary personnel. In 1945 a most extensive survey was- completed of the requirements of an international airport at Sydney, and the Government recently approved of the plan recommended as the result of this survey and of the expenditure involved. A new site has been selected for an airport at Adelaide. Extensive works are now in hand for the modernization of Essendon airport in Victoria. Eagle Farm aerodrome at Brisbane is bf.ing , taken oyer by the Department of Civil Aviation and will become the civil airport of that city. Relatively large quantities of radio equipment have been purchased and are now being installed as quickly .as possible in order to provide modern airways and to ensure, as far as possible, safe flying in all weather conditions. The Department’s navigational and safety procedures are in process of revision, and new standards are being- adopted with, the object of progressively raising the standards of safety in civil air transport. During 1944 and 1945 approval was given for the procurement by airline operators of over 30 military aircraft of the DC.3 type, for conversion for civil transport operations. All the necessary conversion work is being carried out in Australia. Recently the Jovernment approved of the purchase of four DC.4 aircraft, which are due for delivery later this year and which will bc taken over by the Australian National Airlines Commission for use on its interstate air services. These four aircraft are in addition to the four DC.4 aircraft which the Commonwealth Government lias authorized for purchase by Austalian National Airways Proprietary Limited.
The Government is determined to facilitate and foster with all the resources ar. its command, the development of civil aviation in Australia. Our climate is ideally suited for all-the-year flying, We have relatively large centres of population which are separated by distances of 500 to 600 miles or more, and are poorly served by surface transport. In the outback, means of transport and communication are relatively non-existent. These are all’ ideal conditions for the development of internal airline services. We need rapid communication with the rest of the world because Australia is one of the most remote lands from the centres of world thought and world power. Australia must play its part in those places. Our citizens in commerce and industry, with limited leisure, are almost precluded from travelling overseas unless they can travel by air. Finally, we have a very long coast line and many scattered territories to defend in time of war. The development of civil aviation is fundamental to the development of air power, on which our future safety largely depends. On every count - climate, topography, distribution of population, links with overseas countries and military security - aviation should reach a high standard of development in Australia. The Government is alive to its obligations and opportunities. There is no reason why Australia, in- the realm of air transport, should be behind any other country, and the Government is determined that it shall not. I lay upon the table the following paper : -
Civil Aviation Developments - Ministerial Statement, and move -
That the paper be printed.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Menzies) adjourned.
– Realizing, as he must, the increasing responsibility which devolves upon local authorities for the development and maintenance of airfields, will the Prime Minister say whether the Federal Aid Roads grant is to be renewed? Under any fresh proposal, will new conditions be imposed? Will the right honorable gentleman provide, under any new agreement, a substantial amount to assist local authorities to develop and maintain airfields in country areas, similar to the provision that has operated in respect of the construction and maintenance of roads to airfields?
– The matter of the renewal of the Federal Aid Roads grant has not recently come up for consideration by the Government, although, as honorable members are aware, it is due for renewal or revision at a. fairly early date. The most that I oan say is that the honorable member’s suggestion will be examined. I cannot imagine that the funds now available would be adequate to provide for the construction and maintenance of not only roads but also airfields. The provision of air facilities involves a fairly heavy expenditure, .as the honorable member knows.
– I have asked only that local authorities be assisted.
– I take it- that the honorable member is referring to municipal councils, and bodies of that kind. There have been continuous demands by local governing bodies for aerodromes all over the country. Before the Government incurs expenditure on such facilities, it must have before it a wellconsidered and definite plan which will1 have regard to the transport needs of this country in the future. It is of no use to erect small aerodromes which are not adequate in either area or condition to meet the needs of modern aircraft. However, the matter will he examined when the agreement comes up for review.
– Will the Minister for
Commerce and Agriculture inform me whether the salaries of meat experts such as Mr. Dawson, the Deputy-Controller of Meat, and Mr. Fair, who were lent to Meat Control by Vesteys, are paid by the Commonwealth Government or by Vesteys ?
– The salaries of all officers of Meat Control are paid by that authority.
Mr. DEDMAN ( Cor io- Minister for
Post-war Reconstruction and Minister in charge of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research). - by leave - Yesterday, the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Smith) asked me the following question -
In view of the statement on Thursday last in the Adelaide Advertiser by the Premier of South Australia. Mr. Playford. to the effect that South Australia had not received approval from the Commonwealth for the purchase of land for the land settlement of exServicemen is the Minister in a position to advise the House as to the present position in regard to this matter?
In reply, I can only say that the South Australian Government has departed from the Commonwealth-State agreement in acquiring such lands before consulting the Commonwealth. The agreement between the State and the Commonwealth was reached after long discussions and was designed to ensure satisfactory conditions for returned men settling on the land. It is to be deplored that the South Australian Government has failed to adhere to the agreement which was designed to protect the interests of exserv icemen.
The agreement does not contemplate the State’s acquiring land before the Commonwealth has confirmed its suitability, but provides that the State should submit details of proposals for settlement and acquire land at a value approved by the Commonwealth. Where land is acquired by the State before consultation with the Commonwealth, difficulties are likely to arise should subsequent investigations show that it is not suitable for the settlement of ex-servicemen or that the price paid for the property exceeds a reasonable valuation by the Commonwealth. Discussions are taking place with a view to reaching agreement as to the valuation of the approved properties already acquired by the State, but the financial adjustments between the State and the Commonwealth are in no way holding up settlement in areas which the Commonwealth has already agreed are suitable. The Commonwealth has already approved 49,000 acres in South Australia as suitable for settlement by ex-servicemen. There would be no delay if proposals were submitted to the Commonwealth at an early stage. However, it is obvious that if the State withholds information from the Commonwealth until it has completed purchase, then the Commonwealth decision will inevitably be delayed. The Commonwealth cannot accept any responsibility for land purchased by the State without Commonwealth approval.
– Has the Minister for Information seen this morning’s edition of the Daily Telegraph, Sydney, in which the editorial is printed in pidgin English? Can he say whether the editorial indicates a change of editors or a search for editors outside Australia? In view of the nature of the editorial, is the Minister in a position to ask the editorial board of that newspaper if it will have the whole of the contents of the newspaper printed in pidgin English ?
– I read the article referred to by the honorable gentleman with amused contempt. However, I did not think of the aspects which he mentions. I shall give the matter some thought. My first conclusion was that the newspaper’s attempt to belittle the Minister for Transport and myself contained a. tacit admission that my colleague and I had worsted the newspaper in the contest hitherto conducted in English, and that the newspaper was now falling back upon pidgin English.
– Referring to the announcement by the Government that it proposed to continue the present grant to the National Fitness Council for a period of five years at the existing rate, I ask the Prime Minister whether it is not a fact that the Social Security Committee recommended a. substantial increase of the grant after having investigated the work of the council in the various States?’ Is it a fact that, despite the increase of costs that has taken place throughout the community generally, the grant is being maintained at the rate at which it was fixed originally in respect of the foundation work of the National Fitness Movement? Will this not have the effect of reducing, rather than maintaining, the work now being done by the council ?
– This subject has come before Cabinet. My recollection is that arrangements for the distribution of the grant mia de by the Minister presumably after consultation with the States. The average amount of the grant has been £72,500, and on the basis of expenditure in recent years tho Commonwealth guarantees a sum over the period mentioned by the honorable member. Suggestions have been made that consideration might be given later to increasing the grant. I have some recollection of reading the report of the Social Security Committee on this matter. I shall look at the subject again, and give it further consideration.
– Will the Prime -Minister consider increasing the grant to the council when he is framing his next budget ?
– The most that has been asked for at any time is £100,000 a year. I must confess that I have not had an opportunity to study the value that is being obtained for the money, but I understand that the Minister is completely satisfied that an excellent job is being done. The most that I can promise the ‘honorable member for Fawkner is that the matter will be re-examined.
Repatriation of SERVICEMEN FROM Rabaul - Recruiting.
– When does the Minister for the Army expect that Australian Army personnel will be returned ‘ from Rabaul to Australia?
– Whilst I cannot give ‘ a definite date for the repatriation of these men, I am able to announce that as the result of representations made by the Commonwealth Government, the very good news has been received from General MacArthur that eight additional liberty ships will be made available to transport the remaining Japanese prisoners of war from Rabaul to Japan. It. is estimated that all the Japanese will be removed from the New Guinea area by the end of August. As the only reason for keeping Australian troops at Rabaul is to guard Japanese prisoners of war, as soon as the Japanese are repatriated all the Australians will be able to return home, with the exception of a small number required to maintain materials and equipment awaiting shipment to the mainland. Before this good news was received, it was estimated” that there would still be 10,000 Japanese at Rabaul at the end of the year. That estimate was based on “ lifts “ of 22,300 that are being carried out by existing shipping. The addition of eight liberty ships is a most generous gesture by General MacArthur, and is in’ keeping with the spirit of co-operation that he has always shown towards the Australian Government.
– Before the House rises for the Easter recess, will the Minister for the Army make a statement regarding the recruiting campaign, and say whether a decision has been reached with regard to a proposal to stop recruiting? Will the Minister take steps to reduce the surplus personnel in the armed forces, and will he say whether the points system of demobilisation has been “ frozen “ for three months, as members of the forces are being told by some army officers? To my knowledge, men with over 130 points are being retained in the forces, although they are doing only menial work. Will the Minister inquire whether 70 members of Army units stationed at French’s Forest were employed recently at Roseville to load shell cases which were sold to a. private firm by the Disposals Commission, and will the men be allowed to return to civil life where jobs are waiting for them ?
– No decision to discontinue recruiting has been reached. As a matter of fact, recruiting under the voluntary system has been very satisfactory and will be continued. The Govern- ment is confident that it will be able to obtain under the voluntary system of enlistment, all recruits required to provide relief and reinforcements for the garrison troops in the islands, and for the British Commonwealth -Occupation Force in Japan. There are so many facets to the questions, asked by the honorable member that I cannot hope to answer them all to-day, because they apply to details of administration in various areas.
– What is the total number of .men left in the islands?
– That involves a discussion of the interim strength of the defence forces of Australia, and tha.t cannot be adequately dealt with in reply to a question. In round figures, however, the number of our troops in the islands to-day is about 25,000, including the Australian members of the force in Japan. These troops have to be serviced and maintained, and the whole of the foodstuffs required for the British Commonwealth Occupation Force in Japan is supplied from Australia. Certain services are rendered by the Australian Army to the Royal Australian Air Force, and that also involves additional personnel. The fact that demobilization has been carried on for the last seven months or so, has involved the employment of additional staff in ordnance stores in Australia receiving materials and equipment returned from the mainland and from overseas, and also in the records and pay offices and on echelon duties. I admit that all of these activities are diminishing, and the Government .is taking all possible steps to have the whole of the establishments on the mainland combed. A conference on the matter was held yesterday between representatives of the Army and the Government, and I intend to appoint a special committee to investigate it, in order to ensure that everything possible shall bc done to eliminate surplus personnel in mainland establishments.
The object of the Government is to complete at the earliest possible date the demobilization of all personnel not required in the fighting services.
– In many Japanese prisoner-of-war camps, Australian soldiers were under administration of their own officers who had authority to impose fines upon other ranks. The main offence. for which fines were imposed was that of going outside the wire in search of food which, when brought into the camps, was generally divided amongst, the prisoners, including officers. Many men owe their lives to those supplies of food. It has been suggested that fines imposed upon prisoners of war during their detention should be waived, and I should like to know whether the Minister for the
Army favours this suggestion,
– The honorable member’s representations will be carefully examined, and I assure him that the fullest and most sympathetic consideration will be given to them.
– To give to the public the fullest possible information in regard to the proposed Constitution alterations, will the Prime Minister consider arranging with Mr. Speaker to have the appropriate Han-sard and printing authorities issue the whole of the debate on the three Constitution alteration bills in one special volume of *Hansard *
– I shall’ examine the honorable member’s proposal.
– There is a scarcity to-day of books by Australian authors, most printing presses being busy with, other work, The answer to a question asked for trie honorable member for Moreton recently, disclosed the fact that, the Government has spent £52,000 on the publication of certain departmental advertising matter. I have two of the publications here. One is entitled Industrial Lighting, which cost £5,000,. and the other is Factory Planning, which cost £6,000. They were issued by the Department of Labour and National Service; and were printed by private publishers. As these publications, which are known as “ blah “ books, and can be obtained from commercial houses, use valuable paper of good quality and prevent printing presses from producing classics such as Henry Handel Richardson’s books, which cannot be bought to-day, will the Prime Minister make a survey of those that are being produced by Ministers, with, a view to opportunities being afforded to pub.lishers and printers to engage in other work ?
– From information that has come to me, I understand that some of the publications of which the honorable gentleman has spoken are considered by the industrial world as publications which contain valuable information. There is a Publications Committee, which pronounces upon the worth of proposed publications before they are placed in the hands of the printers. The Government Printer at Canberra is not able to print all the matter that has to be published, because of the large volume of work with which He is entrusted. Documents such as the Coal Commissi on’s report, and others that leave this House to be printed, impose an enormous “train on his resources. I am fully aware of the . difficulty of having Australian works printed. I am satisfied, however, that if all the publications of the character of those to which the honorable gentleman has referred were printed, the supply still would not meet the demand.
– The gap would be bridged very considerably.
– The position might be eased. I remind the honorable gentleman that works of an educational character .are just as important to the community as are those have an entertainment value.
– I have not in mind works that have only an entertainment value.
– Some Australian books, for the printing of which there is a demand, are largely in that category, even though they may contain some edu.ational matter. I shall examine the honorable .member’s representations.
– by leave - With the consent of the House, T incorporate in Hansard a statement on the report by the Australian Board of Inquiry into war crimes committed by the Japanese against Australian personnel, together with a summary of the report :
Following reports of Japanese atrocities in New Guinea and Papua early in 1943, it was decided by this Government, after consultation with the CommanderinChief, Sir Thomas Blarney, to appoint a commission to take evidence and report whether there had been atrocities or breaches ,of the rules of warfare by the Japanese forces in or about New Guinea or Papua. The Chief Justice of Queensland, Sir William Webb, accepted the commission on the 23rd June, 1943, and proceeded to Port Moresby, Milne Bay and other places to take evidence. He examined 471 witnesses at various places in and beyond the mainland of Australia. On the 15th March, 1944, his report was handed to me at Canberra. The principal part of . that report has already been published.
On the 8th June, 1944, I gave to Sir William Webb a further commission to investigate war crimes by enemy armed forces so far as those crimes had not already been reported on. Under this further commission he examined 110 witnesses. Among the matters reported on were the sinking of the hospital ship Centaur, also” the treatment of Australian prisoners of war in Japanese prison camps on the Burma-Thailand railway. It will be recalled that an American submarine destroyed a Japanese convoy in the China Sea in September, 1944. Among those rescued from the sunken Japanese ships were a number of Australian soldiers who had worked on the Burma-Thailand railway.
In October, 1944, before Sir William . Webb had completed the evidence and the report under this second commission, I asked him to visit England to place before the United Nations War Crimes Commission the evidence taken and the findings already made by him. He then made a report on the evidence he had already taken, and on the 6th December, 1944, he left Brisbane by air for London via the United States. Before placing the evidence and findings before the United Nations War Crimes Commission, he was invited by the Lord Chancellor, Lord Simon, to confer with him, the AttorneyGeneral, the J udge Advocate-General and the Legal Adviser to the Foreign Office on important questions which had been raised by Sir William Webb, namely, (1) whether private diaries kept by enemy soldiers disclosing atrocities should be tendered in evidence at war crimes trials; and (2) whether if any enemy unit was shown to have committed an atrocity, all members of the unit should be deemed to be implicated until the contrary was proved. Letters written to me by Sir William Webb from London reveal that he had the advantage of discussing these questions with distinguished lawyers, including judges of the highest courts, and that all had expressed the view that the strict rules of evidence were not applicable, although the leading authority, Winthrop on Military Law and Precedents, second edition, page 842, suggested otherwise.
On the second question, Sir William Webb drew the attention of the conference to section 118 of Holland’s Laws of War on Land, which suggested that when an enemy unit disregarded the laws of war all those belonging to it might be treated as implicated. As a result of the conference with the Lord Chancellor and others, the instructions to United Kingdom commanders accompanying’ the Royal Warrant to set up military courts to try war criminals included a provision for the admission of any evidence of probative value, and also a provision- that where a unit as a whole systematically disregarded the laws of war the military tribunal should be instructed that it could hold any member guilty unless he proved his innocence.
After the Lord Chancellor’s conference, Sir William Webb in January and February, 1945, presented the Australian c<“.ses to the United Nations War Crimes
Commission, including the massacres at the Tol and Waitavolo planations in New Britain on the 4th February, 1942, the atrocities against natives and soldiers at Milne Bay in August and September of the same year, the decapitation of Flight Lieutenant Newton, V.C., at Salamaua in March, 1943, the breaches of the rules of warfare by the Japanese in the Owen Stanley and Buna-Sanananda-Gona campaigns, the sinking of the hospital ship Centaur, and the murder and illtreatment of prisoners of war in Malaya, Thailand, and Burma. After the last Australian case had been presented, the then High Commissioner, Mr. S. M. Bruce, cabled to me the highly complimentary references that had been made by the Chairman of the United Nations War Crimes Commission to the method of preparation and presentation of the Australian cases.
On the 3rd September, 1945, following the surrender of Japan and the release of thousands of Australian prisoners of war, I appointed Sir William Webb, Mr. Justice Mansfield, of Queensland, and Judge Kirby, of New South Wales, to bc a board of inquiry to take evidence, and report on war crimes. Sir William Webb was made chairman of the board. As it was clearly desirable to examine the prisoners before their discharge from the Army and in the course of their transportation back to Australia, Judge Kirby proceeded to Singapore and Mr. Justice Mansfield to Manila. Meanwhile, a questionnaire was drawn up which each prisoner of war -was asked to complete. About 12,000 to 14,000 were filled in; but it was, of course, impossible to examine 14,000 witnesses. Consequently a selection was made by the judges and eventually 248 witnesses were examined for the purposes of the case against the Japanese war criminals.
In Melbourne, Sir William Webb conferred with the Army authorities on the. machinery for the trial of the minor Japanese offenders under the War Crimes Act. This machinery has been in operation for some months by the Army Legal Corps, and many war criminals have been tried, convicted and sentenced.
The evidence was not concluded when I asked Mr. Justice Mansfield to proceed to London to assist Lord “Wright with the preparation of the cases against the major Japanese war criminals. Lord Wright, as is well known, is the Chairman of the United Nations War Crimes Commission, and our represenative on that commission. Mr. Justice Mansfield flew to London in December, 1945, and was appointed an additional member of the United Nations War Crimes Commission and Deputy Chairman of its Pacts and Evidence Committee.
In the meantime, Judge Kirby also ceased to take evidence in order to become a Royal Commissioner in Tasmania. I then appointed Mr. Justice Philp, of Queensland, a War Crimes Commissioner to take the evidence while Sir William Webb was proceeding to draft the report. This draft report, after perusal by Mr. Justice Mansfield was signed by Sir William Webb and Mr. Justice Mansfield on. the 31st January, 1946.
In the meantime, Sir William Webb had been nominated as the Australian representative -on the International Military Tribunal for the Ear East, and Mr. Justice Mansfield had been appointed Australian Prosecutor before that tribunal. On the 3rd February, 1946, they flew to Tokyo. Later, Sir William Webb was appointed by General MacArthur to be the President of the International Military Tribunal which comprises a judge from each of nine nations, namely, Australia, Canada, China, France, Holland, New Zealand, Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, United Kingdom and the United States of America. Under the charter for the trial of the major Japanese war criminals, the appointment of the President rests with the Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers.
I do not intend to read any extracts from the report which I now lay on the table of the House; in an appendix to this statement I have made .selections from the report which amply reveal the i I. ,C king misconduct on the part of the Japanese troops in battle and out of it, and the callous disregard by the Japanese prison authorities of the Geneva Convention which was designed to protect prisoners of war.
On arriving at the camp there was very little food for the first two days. The Japanese in charge told the prisoners they were scum and rabble.
On 22 April all camp commanders were instructed to witness the execution with the bayonet of three Dutchmen, for attempting to escape. They had been tied to barbed wire fences. They were blindfolded. Each received six thrusts of the bayonet. One who was not killed by the bayonet was eventually shot through the head.
On 14 May, 1942, they went to Bandoeng where the accommodation was extremely bad and the rations very poor, causing deterioration in health. Rice and vegetables were the main foods. They got only one .good meal a day and that frequently late at night. The prisoners were incessantly subjected to beatings and face-smackings by Japanese and Korean guards.
On 11 September they were told they were to be treated as prisoners of war. Badges of rank were returned. On 14 January . . . was informed that the party would move, under his command, from Java to an unknown destination. Eight hundred and seventy-three men were paraded, one-third of whom were suffering from malnutrition.
They embarked 011 a ship where conditions ‘ were unbearable through overcrowding. The prisoners were placed in holds which were stuffy and airless. The latrines were on deck, to which the men moved in small parties. Exercise was not permitted. There were no arrangements for the sick. No medical supplies were provided by the Japanese.
They disembarked at Singapore on 20 January and went by rail to Bampong, arriving there on 24 January. There were 30 men in each box truck and they were unable to lie down. They arrived in the Konyu area on 25 January and engaged in the building of the Burma-
Thailand railway. There were 4,000 prisoners in Konyu, including British. . . . These British troops were suffering badly from gross malnutrition and had much beri beri, dysentery and avitimosis.
Burma-Thai “Railway. . . was in Changi until 21- April, 1943, and then went … to Thailand. On 18 May his party arrived at Shimo Songkura for work on the Burma-Thailand railway. They commenced work on 19 May before the men had had time to get a rest and provide reasonable camping accommodation.
The total strength was 2,010, but over 100 had died by the end of June. At the end of May, 850 were in hospital, and in July,- 1479. They suffered from cholera, malaria, typhus, dysentery, beri beri, tropical ulcers, pellagra, and many skin infections. They got enough emetine only for six cases out of a thousand. The only saw with which amputations were performed was an ordinary hack-saw which was borrowed for half an hour daily.
The Japanese had captured considerable medical stores in Singapore. The Japanese were well fed and received medical treatment; they had no beri beri or ulcers.
During June and July the rice ration was cut to .15 ounces and later it was made even lower; at one time it was 000 grammes for fit men and 200 grammes for patients. The rate for the fit men was adjusted by the prisoners themselves so as to give the sick about 320 grammes, which was still well below basal metabolic requirements. Undernutrition materials retarded the recovery of patients from various diseases and contributed to their deaths. The supply of fresh meat and fish was poor and was never more than half tin; Japanese own ration scale. For over a month less than half a bag of beans was issued daily for 1.850 men and beri beri increased steadily. On 0 July the Japanese camp commander was indignant that patients who had recovered from cholera were not working. ‘ He was told that they were halfstarved and would not be fit for months. Two hundred human scarecrows were paraded before him and he said that obviously they could not have been eating their ration, namely, 300 gramines..
Men got up in the dark, work twelve to fourteen hours in soaking rain, often carrying enormous burdens. They went to bed in the dark. All this had a weakening effect on their physique.
When the men’ asked for rice polishings they were told they could not have them because they were being used to feed Japanese horses. If this had been added to the fowl at the rate of an ounce per day, beri beri would have been avoided. . . went to Kranji hospital in March, 1945, where the diet then meant slow starvation. The drop in weights was tremendous. On 1 August the average weight of 180 nien was under 100 lb.; twenty of these were under SO lb. The Japanese guards and troops at that time showed no signs of undernourishment
Singapore. . . said that on 13 February 1942 the hospital was marked with the Red Cross: lt had a big Bed Cross on the ground outside and there were Bed Cross markings on the beds in the* hospital. At 4.30 p.m. the Japanese broke into the hospital buildings, and went along the ground floor bayoneting and shooting everybody in sight. The hospital attendants were wearing Bed Cross brassards. The Japanese were big men, some quite 0 feet in height. They were the biggest Japanese that . . had seen. They were in green uniforms. They wore tin helmets and had twigs in their dress, so as to make them like walking shrubs . . . saw two patients from the Manchester “Regiment bayoneted and killed. Later he saw others bayoneted but not killed. He assisted to bring the wounded men into the surgical ward for attention. There were 40 dead bodies in the corridors and rooms of the hospital.
The Japanese then lined up 183 patients. They were all who could walk. They roped them together and inarched them to the rear of the hospital. Some were in pyjamas. Some had on only pyjama pants and no boots or shoes. Some were on crutches. Some had arms in plaster or bandaged, and some had lost limbs . . . did not see any of them again, but a Japanese officer told him that they were buried in two shell holes at the rear of the hospital and at the rear of Iiic oil tanks. The total number of casualties was 323, of Which 183 were patients. The others were doctors, padres, a dental officer, a hygiene officer, and orderlies.
Kuchino. . . was at Changi barracks until he moved to Kuching. There were British and Dutch as well as Australians. The British lost 50 per cent, from starvation. They were working at an aerodrome from before dawn until after dark. Many died in bed during the night. There was a piggery in the Australian compound, supposedly for the prisoners of war, but the Japanese ate most of the pigs killed. The pigs were fed on rice polishings, which have a high food value. The prisoners asked for those polishings, but the Japanese refused the request. The pigs had first priority. The pigs were fed also with a native bean which is even better than our green pea.
While the pigs were being fed in this way, men were dying of starvation.
Medical supplies -were very poor until the. Japanese surrendered. Then they gave- the prisoners enough sulphur to treat 100 times the number of scabies cases. In the meantime officers went through purgatory with scabies; more than half the camp had it. They could not sleep.
I lay on the table the following paper : -
War Crimes committed by Enemy Subjects against Australians and others - Report of Board of Inquiry appointed under National Security Regulations.
Placing of Mandate under Trusteeship.
– Has the Minister for External Affairs read the cables published in to-day’s press, stating that Australia has practically agreed to hand over to the Trusteeship Council the Mandated Territory of New Guinea? Because of the enormous expenditure by the Commonwealth on the development of that territory prior to the war, and the tremendous quantity’ of Australian blood that was shed in it, causing many Australian mothers and other relatives of servicemen to regard it as hallowed ground which should not pass out of the control of Australia, will the right honorable gentleman ensure that this Parliament will be given an opportunity to consider and pronounce upon any proposal before conclusive action is taken?
– This subject was dealt with fully during the recent debate on foreign affairs. It is not intended that any portion of the Mandated Territory of New Guinea shall pass out of the control of Australia. To Australians, it is hallowed ground, and in addition it is of supreme importance to tills country. Nobody recognizes that to a greater degree than does the Government.
– Why then, does not the right honorable gentleman stand by that conviction ?
– We ate doing so.
– You are not.
– The only question under consideration is, whether the present system of mandate shall be continued in a,new form under the trusteeship system of the United Nations. For 25 years, Australia has made reports to the League of Nations on the Mandated Territory of New Guinea. The policy of the Government is to continue to give an account of its stewardship in that way.
– Papua was never adminstered under a mandate.
– It is not suggested that Papua will be affected. All thai’ the Australian Government is considering is a trusteeship agreement in respect of New
Guinea, similar to the mandated territory agreement, and under it Australia will have greater rights than it has at present.
– Papua is being placed under trusteeship. The right honorable gentleman is misrepresenting the position to the House.
– I emphasize that Australian control of the whole of New Guinea will not be diminished by one iota.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) proposed-
That Government business shall take precedence over general business to-morrow.
.- Will the right honorable gentleman state exactly what business will be proceeded with before the House rises for the Easter recess ?
– in re-ply - The Government desires the House to pass the National Security Bill, the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Bill, the Judiciary Bill, the Sugar Agreement Bill, the Sales Tax (Exemptions and Classifications) Bill and the .Sales Tax Assessment Bill. The measure of which notice was given to-day relating to a. university for the Australian Capital . Territory will be carried only to the first-reading stage.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
.- I move-
That the bill bc now read a second time.
The object of the measure is’ to bring about the termination of the National Security A.ct. The date which has been selected for its termination is ‘ the 31st December, 1946. It will be convenient to refer briefly to the history of the enactment of this legislation. The first bill on the subject was introduced by tho Menzies Government in 1939, on the outbreak of war with Germany.
Clause 3 9 of the measure then introduced, and as afterwards assented to, was as follows : -
This Act shall continue in operation during the present state Of war and for a period of six month* thereafter, and no longer.
The expression “ the present state of war “ used in this section was defined as referring to the state of war then existing between His Majesty the King and Germany during the period commencing on. the Srd September, 1939. It will be seen from this definition that the act was, at that time, limited in its duration to the continuance of a state of war with Germany and six months thereafter. When, in 3940, Italy declared war it was necessary to extend the operation of the act, and the Menzies Government introduced and had passed into law a bill repealing section 19 of the act and inserting in its stead the following section: -
This Act shall continue in operation until ii date to be fixed by Proclamation, and no longer, but in any event not longer than six months after His Majesty ceases to be engaged in war.
At the same time, the definition of “the present’ state of war “ which had been contained in the original act was omitted. The departmental view of the effect of these changes in the law is that the National Security Act will continue in force until the last of the peace treaties with the countries with which His Majesty has been at war at any time since 1939 has been made and ratified. His Majesty is still at war, not only with Italy and other European countries, including Germany, but also with Japan, as no treaty of peace has been made with those countries. It may well be that the act would continue for many months and even years. The Government, however, does not desire to have the act continued for any such lengthy or indefinite period, and is of opinion that the act and the regulations, rules, orders and by-laws depending on the act should be terminated at the end of the present year.
This does not mean that all the subjects now dealt with by the Commonwealth under the act’ will be abandoned after the 31st December next. The Prime Minister has already indicated that it will be essential for some subjects to be dealt with by the Commonwealth under its defence powers, notably -prices and other necessary anti-inflationary and antiprofiteering -measures. Without debating, such matters now, it is obvious to all that unless some such measures are continued by the Commonwealth, the whole fabric of our economic and trading system will be gravely imperilled, with disastrous consequences to all’ sections of the community. These, and any other matters over which it may be found necessary to exercise continued supervision, in the national interest, will form the subject of specific legislation to be introduced into the Parliament before the National Security Act terminates on the 31st December next. In other words, as a result of the present bill, parliamentary control over the whole subject will be fully and completely restored.
This, course is similar in principle to the course which was adopted at the close of the 1914-3.8 war. In that war, the principal war legislation, corresponding to the National Security Act of the present war, was styled the War Precautions Act. In that war, hostilities ceased on the 11th November, 191S, and the Peace Treaty with Germany was signed on the 28th June, 1919, and came into force on the 20th January, 1920. The War Precautions Act continued in force until the 2nd December, 1920, but by specific legislation passed in 1919 or 1920 various controls were continued after the expiration of the War Precautions Act. Notable instances of such specific legislation are the following: -
Commercial Activities Act 1919.
Land, Mining, Shares and Shipping Act 1919.
Moratorium Act 1919.
War Precautions Act Repeal Act 1D20.
This last-mentioned act did, despite its title, continue a limited number of regulations in existence such as-
The War Precautions (Coal) Regulations; and
The War Precautions (Companies, Firms and Business) Regulations.
Honorable members will note that clause 2 of the bill deals, not only with the termination of the National Security /Vet, but, also with the termination of regulations, orders, rules and by-laws. The act gives power to mate regulations, and in some cases the regulations give power to make orders, rules and by-laws.
Whilst it may be that the termination of the act as the basic structure would have been sufficient to ensure the repeal of all the subordinate legislation depending on that basic structure, it seems preferable that an express parliamentary declaration of the simultaneous termination of the regulations, orders, rules and by-laws should be included in the bill.
In theUnited Kingdom, a slightly different course of action was taken. The main war-time act was known as the Emergency Powers (Defence) Act 1939. The act was declared to continue in force for one year, with power to His Majesty by order in council, and upon an address from both Houses of the Parliament, to continue the act in force for a further period of twelve months. The period of “ one year “ mentioned in the original act was in 1940, when Italy entered the war, amended to extend to two years. For some years after that time the United Kingdom act was continued from year to year by successive orders in council.
During last year, legislation was passed by the Parliament of the United Kingdom extending the original act until the 24th August, 1945, with power to His Majesty by order in council, or an address from both Houses of the Parliament, to continue the act for a further period not exceeding one year. In addition, an act known as the Supplies and Services (Transitional Powers) Act 1945 was passed giving power toextend defence regulations for the purpose of maintaining, controlling and regulating supplies and services.
The Government has given consideration to this method of continuing controls through the Executive, but is convinced that it is preferable to terminate the act at the end of this year, leaving it to the Parliament to deal with any specific matters by legislation.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Menzies) adjourned.
Debate resumed from the 29th March (vide page807), on motion by Dr. Evatt -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– The sole purpose of the bill is to provide that, in the event of the absence of the Chief Judge of the Arbitration Court from office, or his inability to perform the duties of his office, the senior judge shall serve as Acting Chief Judge. I support the bill. The Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) was good enough, to show me certain documents which indicated that the present Chief Judge would not be able to sit, particularly on the forthcoming very important hours inquiry. In the circumstances, it is most desirable that the court should be able to function in his absence. I do not know why provision was not made in the past for the appointment of an Acting Chief Judge of the Arbitration Court, though I remember that a similar position arose once in connexion with the appointment of an Acting Chief Justice of the High Court. I agree that the bill is necessary, and as it deals with only the one matter, I support it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 3 agreed to.
New clause 4 -
.- I move -
That, after clause 3, the following new clause be added: - “ 4. Section eighteenb of the Principal Act is amended by inserting in sub-section (4.), before the word ‘ two ‘.’ the words ‘ not less than
There are two sections in the act dealing with the composition of the court when it considers matters affecting standard hours and the basic wage. One section states that, for certain purposes, the court shall consist of at least three judges. The other section, which deals with the power of the Commonwealth Government to intervene through the Attorney-General, says that the court shall consist of three judges. It is the intention of the court that it shall consist of five judges for the hearing now contemplated, this having been arranged, by Chief Judge Piper. It was thought that the point might be raised whether three judges or five should sit, and therefore it is intended to clarify the position by providing that, in a matter of this kind, the court shall consist of not less than three judges.
– It does not limit the court to three judges?
– No. The two sections, apparently, are contradictory, one providing for three judges, and the other for “ at least three “, thus making it doubtful whether more than three could be assembled. The decision of the court was that there should be five judges; and all that the amendment does is to ensure that there shall be at least three, thus making it possible for these, with the addition of the Chief Judge, to constitute the Full Court.
Sitting suspended- from 12.47 to 2.15 p.m.
– During the suspension of thu sitting I had an opportunity to look at the amendment of the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt). I agree with it, and, therefore, I need not. do more than say that it seems to dispose of a slight anomaly in the act. ‘
New clause agreed to.
A hill for an act to make provision for the performance by the next senior judge of the duties of the Chief Judge of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration in the event nf his absence from office or his inability to perforin the. duties of his office.
Amendment (by Dr. Evatt) agreed to-
That, at the end of the title, the following words bc added: - “unci for other purposes”.
Title, as amended, agreed to.
Bill reported with an amendment, and an amended title; report - by leave - adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 29th March (vide page 809), on motion by Dr. Evatt -
That the hill bc now read a second time.
-The Judiciary Bill is. one which, in elf.ect, increases the number of justices of the High Court from six to seven. The position is now, and has been for a number of years, that the High Court consists of the Chief Justice and five other justices. Under this bill it is to consist of the Chief Justice and six other justices. Consequently, the one question which arises for consideration is whether there is a case for increasing the number of justices. If there is not a case for increasing the number, the only function of any additional appointment would be to affect in . some way the. course of decision, and not in reality to affect the efficiency of the court. I have given some consideration to this matter, and I find myself opposed to the proposal. I desire very briefly to indicate my reasons for that opposition. There is no evidence, 1 suggest, that the lists of the High Court are overcrowded or that the work is getting into arrears. Indeed, for reasons to which” I shall refer in a moment, there are grounds for believing that the work ought to be less in arrears, or less potentially in arrears, than it has been. The argument that has been advanced by the AttorneyGeneral (Dr. Evatt) is really this: That for Full Bench purposes there should be an odd number of justices rather than an even number. If there are six justices,’ and all of them are sitting in Full Bench, there is always the risk of an equal divi-sion of opinion.. The Attorney-General has pointed out, very truly, that with constitutional matters a court which is equally divided loses some of the authority that would normally attach to its decision’s. I entirely agree with what the right honorable gentleman has said by way of technical comment on that aspect. But section 23 of the Judiciary Act deals with derision? in the event of a difference of opinion and it begins bv .saying that a Full. Court consisting of fewer than’ all the justices shall not give a decision on a question affecting the constitutional powers of the Commonwealth unless at least three justices- concur in the decision. The effect of that provision is that for the purpose of cases- which affect the constitutional powers of the Common: wealth, which are undoubtedly the most important cases that come before the High Court, a Full Bench of five is required. With a Full Bench of five, if there be agreement on the part of three -of the five justices, the requirements of section 23 are met. There is no reason at all why six justices of the High Court should sit in such cases. If only five sat, there would be no risk of an equal division of opinion; and the requirements of section 23 would be satisfied. I remind honorable members that the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, which exercises the greatest jurisdiction in the British Empire, consists normally of either three or five members. In the case of what are known to lawyers as the Indian Appeals, it is common for the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council to sit with three members, one of whom is occasionally an Indian judge, or a former Indian judge. In the case of ordinary appeals from the High Court of Australia it is, I think, a very sound rule - if the Judicial Committee could be persuaded to follow it - that five Lords of Appeal should sit; but it has not been uncommon for appeals from the High Court of Australia to be heard by three members of the Judicial Committee. But for all practical purposes, all cases of moment, and in particular all constitutional cases that might come up from the High Court of Australia’ are heard bv the Judicial Committee sitting with five members. If that tribunal, which is the ultimate court of appeal, and by either special leave or certificate the final court of appeal on Australian constitutional cases, can work with five judges, I see no reason why the High Court of Australia also should not exercise its jurisdiction with five mem- hers on the bench. That means that with six justices of the High Court, five would be available for Full Bench, matters, and the sixth justice would be available to exercise the original jurisdiction of the High Court, jurisdiction in cases’ in which litigation in what may be described as in the ordinary form occurs. In such cases one judge sits and gives Iris decision, with an appeal in certain instances against that decision. If it should be argued that seven justices would be a useful number to have, because one could be sitting in original jurisdiction while the other six were divided into two full courts of three justice.0 each, which could sit concurrently. I remind the Attorney-General, who I know is conscious of the problem, that there are doubts whether under the Constitution, the High Court can be divided in that way. He will perhaps recall an article, a very carefully written article, by a member of the Bar in Victoria, M’r. F. D. Cumbrae-Stewart. The article is headed “ High Court - Sitting in Two Divisions “, and it appears in Volume 11 of the Australian Law Journal at page 278. I do not propose to inflict upon the House what is purely a technical consideration of a legal problem. That would do nothing but weary the House. I content myself by saying that at the end of the article the learned writer says -
The conclusion, therefore, is that it is unsafe for the High Court to hear appeals in two divisions sitting at the same time, if not clearly unlawful, and that this position is probably not remediable by the Federal Parliament.
By that, of course, he means that his comment upon it is based upon an examination of the Constitution, not merely an examination of the Judiciary Act, and, if he be right, and there is a good deal of reason to think he may be, in his belief that, under the Constitution, the High Court cannot sit in two divisions concurrently, the argument that seven justices would enable us to have two courts of three justices and a seventh justice doing the original jurisdiction work would fall to the ground. As the Attorney-General knows, it is not uncommon to have two divisions of a court. The Judicial Committee sits in two divisions and the Court of Appeal in England is entitled to sit in two divisions; but, in both cases, there is expressed legal provision for that to be done, whereas, in our case, it is nol possible to find any provision that would enable the High Court to sit in two divisions. I refer to that not merely as a question of law, but because I believe that it bears on the question of what the numbers of the justices of the High Court should be.
There are four other matters that I want to refer to, each of which bears on this bill. The first is that it would n01 be to the point to say that one or two justices have reached an advanced age, as they undoubtedly have, unless it were further suggested that they are not performing their full work, and the AttorneyGeneral himself has been careful to disclaim any such allegation. I am sure that he will agree very properly, as anybody familiar with the working of the court will agree, that it cannot be said for one moment about the two oldest members of the court that they have shown reluctance to attend to their judicial duties and move from place to place on the work, of the court. The second comment is that during the period when the High Court had seven justices, as it had for a time - it began with three justices, which then became five, then seve.n. and subsequently six - one of them, for most of the time, at any rate, was President of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. The President was Mr. Justice Higgins, and subsequently, Mr. Justice Powers. Indeed, for a time, if I remember correctly, both of them were engaged on arbitration work. That state of affairs no longer exists, because the constitution of the Arbitration Court, as we have seen from the bill we have just dealt with, is entirely distinct now from the constitution of the High Court. Consequently, no justice of the High Court is drawn off on to the continuous labours of the Arbitration Court. The third point that T make, is that it is not the case in the High Court, as it is in the State Supreme Courts, or some of them, that justices are taken away from their judicial duties to sit for considerable periods on royal commissions or inquiries, because the High Court has long since, certainly for many years, adopted the rule that members will not act as royal commissioners. I know that one or two exceptions arose to that in the case of certain special inquiries during the war, but, as - the Attorney-General knows, the practice of the High Court is to say that its members will attend to their judicial duties and not serve as royal commissioners. Therefore, there is no subtraction from the Bench on that account. Finally, during this war, fir- 1, the learned Chief Justice, Sir John Latham, and, subsequently, Sir Owen Dixon, were absent from the High Court for substantial periods on diplomatic duties, but those duties have ended, and each has returned to his judicial work, and every member of the court is there now continuously available to attend to the normal functioning of the High Court and for the normal purposes of its business. Wo longer, therefore, have we a subtraction from the High Court for Arbitration Court work, for royal commission work, or for diplomatic work, and, in those circumstances, I venture to say that the work of the High Court can be efficiently performed by the Chief Justice and five justices, those cases that demand a statutory majority under the Judiciary Act being heard by five justices and the sixth being available for original jurisdiction work. The Attorney-General knows that the original jurisdiction work of the High Court though it occasionally produces lengthy litigation, has never represented a major part of the work done by the High Court. For those reasons, I believe that a case for increasing the number of members of the High Court is not made out and, in those circumstances, I oppose the bill.
.- This bill proposes to increase the number of justices of the High Court. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) has warned us that he is opposed to it. The Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) has said that the Government’s view is that there are not enough justices of the High Court properly to perform their functions. The judicature is an essential part of the Constitution. It is dealt with in sections 71 and 72 of the Constitution of Australia Act. Before proceeding, I will read to the House those two sections in order that it may have a. full understanding of the judicial - position in the Commonwealth.
Section 71 reads-
The judicial power of the Commonwealth shall lie vested in a Federal Supreme Court, to be called the High Court of Australia, and in such other federal courts as the Parliament creates, and in such other courts as it invests with federal jurisdiction. The High Court shall consist of a Chief Justice and so many other justices, not less than two, as the Parliament prescribes.
Section 72 reads -
The Justices of the High Court and of the other courts created by the Parliament -
Shall be appointed by tho GovernorGeneral in Council.
Shallnot , be removed except by the Governor-General in Council; on an address from both Houses of the Parliament in the same session, praying for such removal on the ground of proved misbehaviour or incapacity :
Shall receive such remuneration as the Parliament may fix; but the renu meration shall not be diminished during their continuance in office.
The subsequent sections set out the jurisdiction of the High Court. It will be noted that section 72 says nothing in expressed words about the term for which justices are tobe appointed. I put it to the House that, onthe construction of the words in section 72, it would seem that this Parliament could appoint a J ustice of the High Court to serve until he reached the age of 70 years. However, as the Constitution of Australia can be interpreted only by the Justices of the High Court, those Justices have held that appointment to the High Court or any other federal court means appointment for life. The construction of that section came up for consideration in Alexander’s case, which was heard in the High Court in 1918. Chief Justice Griffiths, Mr. Justice Isaacs, Mr. Justice Powers and Mr. Justice Rich, with Mr. Justice Higgins and Mr. Justice Gavin Duffy dissenting, held that, under section 72, justices of the High Court and all federal courts were appointed for life. It is worth noting t hat one of the present judges of the High Court, Sir Owen Dixon, was a counsel in that case and he contended that section 72 had nothing to dp with the length of tenure in office of a judge of the court. That, I suggest, would be the ordinary interpretation that any honorable member would attach to the section. However, the High Court has decided that the tenure of office is for life and although it is conceivable that the matter may be taken to the Privy Council, there is very little chance of. that decision being altered.
– It is unlikely that the High Court would reconsider its decision, because it has been acted upon by the Parliament, which has proceeded on the assumption that the decision in A lexander’s case was right.
– I agree. That being so, it appears that the High Courtis decision will stand the test of time. That is most unfortunate. This Parliament might get over the difficulty by amending the Constitution to provide for theretirement of judges at a specific age. However, this would seem impracticable, hut we might, as South Australia, and some other countries have done, make revisionunder the Judges’ Pension Act for the payment of pensions which will induce judges to retire at the age of 70 or 72 years. The question of theretirement of judges at the age of 7.0 years has exercised the minds of intelligent people in every State in the Commonwealth. In 1918 legislation was passed by the Parliament of New South Wales, providing for the retirement of all judges in that State on the attainment of 70 years of age. That legislation has met with the approbation of all people, and no parliament in New South Wales would dare to alter it.
– Order ! This bill deals not with the retirement of judges but with the appointment of an additional judge to the High Court. I ask the honorable member to confine his remarks to the bill.
– The Leader of the Opposition has saidthat there is no need for the appointment of additional judges, whereas the Attorney-General has maintained that such a need exists. The point I was about to make is that if young men are appointed to the High Court and the older judges are retired at, say, 70 years, the Court would probably be able to do a great deal more work. Four or five young men could probably do the work of seven elderly judges. In the High Court at present there are two judges, who are well over the age of 75 years ; one of them is so old that his date of birth is lost in the mists of antiquity. I suggest that we should adopt the practice of the United States of America, and one that has been recommended by a Royal Commission in England, by making provision for the payment of pensions to our judges sufficiently high to induce them to retire when they reach the age of 70 years.
-in reply - I am obliged to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr.
Menzies) for his treatment of this subject and also for the contribution made by the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Williams). The question before us is whether the business of the court could .be more effectively dealt with by adding an additional judge to the High Court. The Government submits that it could. The first point made . by the Leader of the Opposition admitted what is an important point, namely, that in constitution cases difficulties arise when the court is constituted of six justices, which is at present -the number, and an equal division of opinion occurs. This did occur in one very famous case and subsequently caused a good deal of confusion. That was the case which arose under section 92 of the Constitution when the importation from Queensland to New South Wales of cattle suspected of being infested with tick was under consideration in relation to a New South Wales law. The Leader of the Opposition has tried to meet that point by saying that all it is necessary to do under the Judiciary Act in respect of such’ cases is to constitute the court of five justices. He claimed that that would satisfy the Judiciary .Act, and at the same time would prevent a. situation where the presiding judge would be called upon to exercise his casting vote in addition to his own vote. The difficulty about tha t” suggestion is a very practical one. There is nothing to prevent a justice from asserting, his right to sit on the court in such cases. In fact, that is his primary duty under the Constitution, and is adopted as an almost rigid rule. All six justices would sit on such cases unless prevented from doing so by illness or something of that kind. The Leader of the Opposition admits frankly that it is better for seven justices to sit than six. As to the business of the court, it is true that the court is fairly well abreast of its business and no complaint is made by the Government in that respect. The business of the court, however, has increased very considerably since this Parliament reduced the number of justices from seven to six. We believe, after consideration, that the restoration of the number of justices from six to seven is justified by the increase of the business of the court. The Leader of the Opposition stated, quite correctly, that some justices are advanced in years - they are well past the age of 70 - but that is not material if, in fact, they perform their duties. The Government and I do not suggest that those justices do not perform their duties. As I pointed out on a previous occasion, one of them seems to acquire renewed vigour and youth by visiting the distant parts of the Commonwealth on the circuit work of the Full Court. The other very elderly justice - I do not make this statement by way of criticism - seldom visits Western Australia or distant places in connexion with the business of the Full Court. It is obvious that no matter how ably justices of that age perform their duties, the work in distant parts of the Commonwealth imposes on them a severe strain.
– A physical strain.
– Yes; but assistance will be given to the court by the addition of one new member. It is perfectly true, as the Leader of the Opposition pointed out, that when the court consisted of seven justices, one of them used to perform Arbitration Court duties. He also sat in the High Court when a constitutional matter was under consideration. Although we do not call frequently upon justices of the High Court for investiga- . tion or inquiry work, that was done on. occasions during the war. Personally, I do not see any objection to the practice of having a justice of the High Court available on such occasions.
For the reasons which I gave in my second -reading speech, I submit that it is proper to restore the number of justices to seven. The honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Williams) raised a point which is purely incidental to this matter, but the view entertained by the courts, including the High Court, is that the Parliament has no power to fix the retiring age of justices at 70 years.
– I did not contend that; but I. said that we could induce them to retire by amending the section relating to pensions.
– I am afraid that if I introduced a bill to give effect to that proposal, it would have a much more critical reception than the present- proposal.
– One criticism would be the exercise of financial pressure to evade the Constitution.
– Yes, that argument would be used. I am obliged to the Leader of the Opposition for the manner in which he approached this problem, but I submit that, on the whole, the case for an additional appointment has been established.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 (Justices).
.- Like many of the appointments made by the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt), the proposal in this bill requires thorough examination. In my opinion, it raises matters which are not altogether in accord with the professed objective of the measure, namely, to increase the number of justices of the High Court from six to seven so that, in the event of a difference of opinion, one view will always be that of the majority. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) exposed the hollowness of that pretence. He showed clearly that the matter can be adjusted, if that is the desire, by other means, but we should look more closely at the significance of this legislation. A few days ago, the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) declared at a meeting in Melbourne that the Parliament of the Commonwealth should not be in any way subservient to the judiciary, that the High Court was an obstacle to legislation, and that so far as he and the section he represents are concerned, the High Court would not obstruct the legislature. The Attorney-General made a more subtle approach to the problem than that.
In 1936, President Roosevelt, encountering similar obstruction by the Supreme Court of the United States of America, which declared invalid vital points of the New Deal programme, devised a means of overcoming the difficulty, not by an alteration of the Constitution, but by altering the personnel of the court which interpreted the Constitution. He submitted to Congress a suggestion that the Supreme Court should be reconstituted and re-organized by the addition of new appointees. President Roosevelt made it very plain at the time that the new appointees would probably uphold the New Deal legislation.
– President Roosevelt’s action conferred great benefit on the people of the United States of America.
– The people of the United States of America were so roused by this attempt to tamper with the Supreme Court that they rejected the whole proposal, and nothing came of it. The Supreme Court was not “ packed “. I use the word “packed”, because the term was employed in the United States of America at that time. I suggest that the constitution of the High Court of Australia is such thatit can be tampered with, and if the Attorney-General’s referendum proposals be defeated, it would be possible for him to obtain his objectives in another way, provided a High Court favorable to his policy could be constituted. I am not making a charge against the probity of the court, but the decisions of judges are largely influenced by their previous history and prejudices over many years. There is more in this suggestion to appoint an additional justice to the High Court than the pretence by the Attorney-General that it is essential to have an unequal number of justices. The Leader of the Opposition exposed that contention. When we find the Attorney-General so very anxious to have this bill passed, and remember that he is trying to secure an alteration to the Constitution, we have every reason to believe that the new appointee, whose decision can be the vital one in determining whether the court should uphold legislation of doubtful validity, will be favorably disposed towards the Government’s policy. If it had been established that an additional justice was needed in order to enable the court to deal with the business before it, there might be some substance in the claim made by the AttorneyGeneral.. However, in the United States of America there are nine justices of the Supreme Court. Yet the AttorneyGeneral has the temerity to say that in Australia, with a population of 7,000,000, the High Court, with an infinitely less volume of business to deal with than must arise in a country with a population of 1.30,000,000, requires seven justices. The vital point in this legislation is that one appointee of the Government at this particular juncture can put the Government in a winning position in determining the validity of legislation. One vote on the High Court Bench can do all those things which the Government must now hold referendums to achieve. In view of the Government’s previous record in these matters, I have no doubt that the justice who will be appointed will be somebody who is aligned in some form- or other with the Labour party and is to receive a. reward for services rendered to the party. Tin-; appointee might be, for instance, Mr. !. V. Barry, K.C. I am not questioning Mr. Barry’s probity, but does anybody suggest that should Mr. Barry be the appointee he would not be prejudiced, apart from questions of fact, when legislation came forward? On previous occasions I have heard the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) make some excellent speeches in this Parliament in which he pointed out that the constitutionality of legislation very often depended on the personnel of the High Court; that a decision might be given one way by the court, and a year or two later, after a new judge had been appointed, a completely different decision might be given.
– And he might be right.
– He is perfectly right. It has been shown clearly that there is no occasion to appoint an additional justice to the High Court, in view of the volume of the court’s business, and that the only reason for making the appointment, in the words of the Attorney-General, is to make an odd number of justices. I repeat that that odd justice can be used in such a way as to enable the court to uphold legislation embodying proposals which have been rejected by the people at a referendum, and which, consequently is against the will of the people although passed by u temporary majority in this Parliament. We should remember that under the Constitution the purpose of the judiciary is to protect the rights of a minority against a transient majority in the legislature. It is the purpose of the Constitution itself that a sudden splurge of emotion, or sentiment, which brings into power a government of a certain complexion, shall not override fundamental individual rights. That is why we have a Constitution. If we were to accept the will of a majority of members of the Parliament, and say that whatever that majority did must be considered to be right, there would be no need to have the Constitution at all. But we have the Constitution for the purpose of protecting the rights of the individual; and the High Court is established for the purpose of interpreting those rights. The real crux, of the Government’s proposal is revealed in the statement by the Minister for Transport’ in an address recently . at the Trades Hall, Melbourne, that he considered that the power of the High Court must be curbed, that a. successful referendum was essential to curb the power of the High Court to upset the attempts by a Labour government to legislate on a democratic basis. The Attorney-General could have taken his colleague aside and told him to be silent, and could have said to him, in effect, “ If you wait for me, I can achieve that purpose through the medium of a small bill which is likely to be passed through Parliament without objection. Nobody will notice it, because it seems so innocuous. But all we have to do is to get the odd justice on the High Court Bench “. The attempt made by President Roosevelt to do the same thing in the United States of America aroused such indignation throughout that country that he was not game to proceed with the proposal, with the result that the only appointments which were made to the Supreme Court of the United States of America were those to fill vacancies caused through the resignation, or death, of justices. The ‘ object of President Roosevelt’s attempt was to evade the Constitution of the United States of America. Unless the Attorney-General can give us better evidence of the bona fides of the Government in this matter than he has yet given, I shall vote against the bill.
.- In reply to a point which I made in my second-reading speech, the AttorneyGeneral (Dr. Evatt) suggested that it. might be argued that the Government intended to coerce judges ‘ if it provided for their compulsory retirement. 1 should like now to deal further with that point. Under the Constitution, justices of the High Court are appointed for life ; and that is the end of the matter. The Parliament should conform to public opinion with regard to the retirement of justices at the age of 70 years.. On that matter I refer to what is being done in the United States of America. I take the following quotation from the United States Code -
When any judge of any court of the United States, appointed to hold his office during good behavior, resigns his office after having held a commission or commissions as judge of any such court or courts at least ten years, continuously or otherwise, and having attained the age “of seventy years, he shall, during the residue of his natural life, receive the salary which is payable at the time of his resignation for the’ office that he held at the time of his resignation.
In the United States of America justices of the Supreme Court retire ‘ on full salary; but, whilst under the Constitution justices of our High Court are appointed for life, the Judiciary Act pro;vides that when they -retire voluntarily they shall receive half of the amount of the salary they were receiving at the date of retirement. If a judge knew that when he had reached the age of 70 years he could retire on a full salary, he might do so and make way for a younger man. The AttorneyGeneral will answer the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) perhaps better than I can. Nevertheless, 1 am bound to say that the remarks of that honorable member were most irresponsible. I was astonished to hear an intelligent man make the statements that, he made. We did not hear any protest from honorable members who now sit opposite when Sir John Latham, who had been Attorney-General in a government which they supported, was appointed to the High Court Bench. Many other gentlemen who had had honorable careers in politics, and had served their country well, have been placed on the High Court Bench without protest by honorable members opposite. Yet, now that it is believed that a gentleman allied in some way with the Labour party may be appointed to the High Court Bench, they clamour against such an appointment, and even suggest that if it be made the gentleman chosen to fill that high office will so prostitute his abilities as to dishonour his oath. No other interpretation can be placed on what was said by the honorable member for Richmond. I am certain that any man appointed to the judiciary by this Government will conduct himself with great ability, and will do honour to his profession. I hope that there will be no further protests, and that honorable members opposite will view fairly any appointment that may be made. ‘It is necessary to have seven justices on the High -Court Bench. I arn entirely in favour of the bill, and trust, that an appointment will be made at an early date.
– This debate would have taken an entirely different turn had it not -been for a further attack on the judiciary by the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward). The members of both the Opposition parties are unanimous on one point. They view with alarm’ arid very great misgiving the way in which some Ministers, but particularly the Minister for Transport, periodically make publicly most scathing statements which cannot by any stretch of the imagination be linked with the policy of the Government of which they are members.
– The honorable gentleman has read only a garbled report of what the Minister said.
– The Minister has not denied the statement. The Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley), when questioned on it, replied that the Minister has a perfect right to say what he chooses. Until the Prime Minister or the Attorney-General (Dr, Evatt) states that the views of the Minister for Transport are not the views of either the Government of which the one is the leader and the other- the legal member, or of the party which supports them in. office. Opposition members must view with grave misgiving the introduction of legislation which aims at altering th<constitution of the High Court Bench. A most interesting point has .been taken by the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Williams). Listening to him, I felt like one in the Old Testament felt about Absalom when he was going out to his friends, ,of whom the prophet remarked, “ They went forth in their innocence, for they knew not anything.” The honorable member for’ Robertson put to the Attorney-General, a.s though that-
Tight honorable gentleman’ has not enough intellect to arrive at a decision unaided, the proposition that, if he cared to amend the Judiciary Act so ‘ as to provide for the payment of a full pension upon retirement; he might have two vacancies , on the High Court Bench in addition to that which he is now about to fill. That would be a new method of creating vacancies on the Bench. I have not previously heard it suggested, I am led to observe that this appears to be a very odd procedure until one realizes that this is really an oddfellow’s .government, out of which anything may come. I am next moved by the belief that, in matters of this sort, there is safety in numbers. I am staggered at the modesty of the AttorneyGeneral in wanting to appoint only one more justice. If the views expressed by my honorable friend from Richmond (Mr. Anthony) be correct, and I am not disputing them - they are his, and he has expressed them well and forcefully - the number of justices- of the High Court Bench should be increased not from five to six but from five to eleven. Then there could be sittings of the High Court all over Australia,’ and a great congregation of justices whenever a constitutional issue had to be decided. I am reminded of Napoleon’s dictum to his armies, “You have to disperse to live and concentrate to ,fight.” The next matter that concerns me is the identity of the person who is to be the new justice. I have heard some most astounding reports in the last few days. I would not dare to mention here the name of one gentleman that I have heard, because it. might prejudice him and might not _ be quite fair to the Attorney-General. I know that the right honorable gentleman would not mind my referring to him, because he has-been a Justice of the High Court.
– Who started that rumour? Forget it.
– Should the right honorable gentleman intend to return to the High Court Bench, this chamber would be turned by members of the Opposition into a. “ wailing wall “, and upon his return to the Bench he would be feted as was the prodigal son. The fattest calf that could be taken to Flemington meat market would be produced for the celebration of the occasion. I accept his assurance that, at the moment, he does not intend to take that step. That forces me on to a hew line. It eliminates prospect No. 1. But I have still to ruminate on the possibilities of the situation, and to wonder exactly who the new appointee is to be.
– “ Max “ is, an applicant.
– I should not be a bit surprised if he were. I was told a long time ago that the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Falstein) had very grave objections to one highly placed legal gentleman who is to have a trip overseas. The matter is of particular interest at the moment, because the Parliament is faced with a dual position: first, there is the question of who is to be the new justice. Coupled with that, is the unanswered question addressed to the Attorney-General, “’ Who is to be the new Solicitor-General?”. The guess of any other honorable member is as good as mine.
.- I have noticed that the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) has come into the picture in uo small way since the commencement of the debate. That honorable gentleman could learn very many points from the honorable member for- Richmond (Mr. Anthony). He “smacked” the High Court in a general way, whereas the honorable member for Richmond particularized. He said that the proposed appointment would lead to corrupt decisions because of the association of the new appointee with two other justices holding similar views.
– I rise to order. I did not say or suggest that there would be corruption.
– That is not a point of order.
– The honorable member claims that he did not suggest corruption; yet he assumed that, because in the future a different interpretation may be placed on the Constitution, the new appointee as well as two of the present justices will act corruptly. That is a direct and unwarranted attack on the judiciary. I have never heard any challenge against the ‘ integrity of Sir John Latham, a former member of this chamber, since his appointment. That, definitely, was a political appointment. I have never heard any challenge against the integrity or the judicial decisions of Judge Drake-Brockman Surely it cannot be said that, a person whom a Labour government appoints to the judiciary must of necessity be corrupt, and that those appointed by the other side will not be! The judiciary in this country stands high above the people. I believe that, so long as we appoint persons with a reasonable degree of intellect, they will respect the great traditions of the law as they always have been respected. If anything is calculated to bind British people together, it is the fact that their, judiciary is above corruption. Surely it, will not be argued that because some person has had the good or evil fortune to have been a member of this or another chamber, or of some other legislature in Australia, he must, in matters of law be prejudiced in one direction or another ! That is the poorest argument I have ever heard. If the High Court is. honoured by having appointed to it an intelligent member of the community who is distinguished in law. whether the appointment be made by the party on this side or on the other side, it, cannot be assumed that in matters of law he will be’ corrupt. All that has to be decided is, whether an additional justice is necessary. If it is, then so long as the selection be made of a person who is distinguished in the law, the atmosphere to which he will be raised, will of itself enable him to arrive at a wise and proper judgment, in accordance with tho best traditions of the judiciary of this country.
.- After hearing the second-reading speech of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies”), honorable members must entertain the gravest doubts ‘as to the necessity for appointing an additional justice to the High Court. Therefore, the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) ought not to be condemned for having invited discussion of an aspect of the matter which cannot be shirked. The Government has nobody except itself to blame for the initiation of the present, discussion. If it allows ‘ one of its senior Ministers to declare that the High Court should be abolished, or should not be allowed by its .judgments to override decisions of this Parliament, as the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) has done repeatedly, then we are entitled to analyse the motives which underlie its decision to appoint an additional justice to the High Court Bench. The latest outburst by the Minister for Transport was by no means his first. We have read repeatedly the same declaration that the High Court should not stand in the way of this Parliament. Consequently, when the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) submits a proposal which, according to the careful and temperate analysis of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies), is not soundly based, we must examine the underlying motive. The honorable member for Richmond was attacked by the honorable member for Denison (Dr. Gaha) on the ground that he had implied corruption. The implication of corruption, namely, wilful distortion of the law with a view to suiting a particular political purpose, is very different from implying, as I understood the honorable member for Richmond did, that men who go on to the Bench after a long association with one political group or another almost inevitably have their judgment coloured when they are dealing with cases that have a political flavour. Without wishing to charge any member of the High Court, or of any other court, with corruption, I say that it is undoubtedly a fact that the political associations of judges have been revealed in their judgments. Indeed, this i3 unavoidable. No matter how fairly a man may try to approach the problem placed before him, he cannot entirely forget the political training and associations of a life-time. The honorable member for East Sydney has made only a. general attack upon the High Court, but certain .members of the Government have not hesitated, when they felt that the occasion called for it, to criticize members of the High Court Bench in a particular way. For instance, in 1944, when commenting on the Censorship case, the Minister .for Information (Mr. Calwell) said -
I believe that the law was undeniably on the side of the Government in the action taken and that, if it hod been taken by another government, the High Court’s judgment would have been considerably different. At any rate, a rather disgraceful spectacle was presented to the people of Australia by the conduct of two justices in that case when the matter was mentioned to them on the Monday morning. Mr. Justice Starke and Mr’. Justice Rich threw away their wigs when they took their seats on the High Court Bench and openly barracked for the press.
– The transcript showed that Mr. Justice Rich had not said a word during the whole course of the argument.
– I understand that that is so. Therefore, the attack of the Minister was not merely intemperate, but also wholly unwarranted. Although such statements have been made by two Ministers, who are presumably not without influence in ‘ the Cabinet, and certainly not without influence in caucus, they have not been rebuked by their leader. Indeed, the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) has contented himself with saying that they were speaking only in their own behalf.
Seeing that the case made out by the Attorney-General was completely destroyed by the Leader of the Opposition, we are entitled to search for the motive which underlies the proposal of the Government. Any lawyer with experience of our courts will recognize this motive when he learns the name of the person who is to be appointed. He will know whether the person ig one who, in the view of members of the profession, would be a suitable selection for elevation to the High Court Bench. I remind the Government, and the committee of the danger of making political appointments to the High Court Bench, the members of which are called upon to decide constitutional issues. The danger of appointing persons with extreme political views are only too obvious.
I have another comment to make which is relative to the issue; because it has been suggested that the present justices of the High Court are overworked. There has been a growth in recent times of the practice of appointing members of the High Court, to perform administrative functions and to fill diplomatic posts. This has also been done by governments supported by parties on any own side of the House; therefore, my ‘ criticism is not inspired by party motives. I believe that . such a. practice is unsatisfactory and open to abuse, besides which it tends to weaken the confidence of the people in the impartiality and independence of the judiciary. A judge appointed to a diplomatic post must receive instructions from the government of the day regarding matters of policy, lt may happen that he has his own views on such matters, views which differ from those of the government which instructs him. For that reason, it is undesirable that the person filling a diplomatic post should be one who will, eventually return to the Bench, and give judgments on constitutional issues. One can never tell what kind of friction may develop in such circumstances. In the case of judges appointed to perform administrative functions, the danger is even more evident. Some time ago the Chief Judge of the Arbitration Court resigned from the chairmanship of the Stevedoring Commission because, it was stated, there had been a difference of opinion between him and the government of the day. The Chief Judge denied this, but the impression certainly gol abroad that he resigned because of differences arising out of a conflict between the findings of the commission and the directions given by the Government. Whatever doubt there may have been as to the facts of that case, there was certainly no doubt in the case of the chairman of the Maritime Industries Commission, a justice of a Supreme Court, who disagreed with the Government regarding the policy to be followed as to the. continuance of war risk bonus payments to seamen. I therefore suggest to the Government that a practice which is fraught with such danger ought to be abandoned.
.- The same kind of objections are always raised by honorable members opposite whenever appointments to the High Court Bench are contemplated by a Labour government. They were raised when it was proposed to appoint .the present AttorneyGeneral, Dr. Evatt, and Mr. McTiernan. We know that Mr. Justice McTiernan has given a good account of himself, and that the decisions of Mr. Justice Evatt, were almost invariably upheld by the Privy Council, even when they’ differed from those of a majority of the High Court. The fact that he stepped down from the Bench to serve his country during a time of grave crisis showed that he placed the interests of the nation before his own. No criticism was offered by honorable members opposite when it was proposed to appoint to the High Court Bench someone who had taken a part in their own political activities, or ong who has been an advocate of an employers organization. When it was proposed to appoint Mr. Piddington, a prominent King’s Counsel in New South Wales, and a well-known humanitarian, to the High Court, the proposal was criticized by the press, presumably because he was not the representative of vested interests. Mr. Piddington, being a man of honour, was not prepared to accept the appointment in view of the clamour which had been raised. The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) has prejudiced the issue by suggesting that there is something sinister in the Government’s proposal, and his attack may have the effect of making prominent lawyers hesitate to accept an appointment. Actually, the position is very simple. The number of judges on the High Court Bench was reduced from seven to six, and it is now proposed to restore the number to seven. This is desirable so that, in all cases brought before the court, there shall be a majority one way or another. As things now stand, it has sometimes happened that an unfortunate litigant, after having convinced three of the judges that his appeal should be upheld, has lost his case because the other three were against him. Some time ago, a man was charged with the murder of
.- The bill proposes that section 4 of the Judiciary Act 3hall be amended. by omitting the word “ five “ and inserting in. its place the word “ six “, thus increasing: the number of possible appointees to the High Court Bench from five to six, in. addition to’ the Chief Justice. It is not a very extravagant increase, and does not even provide for the appointment of a& many judges as has been possible under legislation in force at various times. I rise merely for the purpose of pointing out that the party of which I am a member, and the Government of which I was a member, strove to take some action in regard to it. If we were to employ a unitary system of government - that question does not arisehere - it would be unnecessary, as the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) is credited with having argued, to have the High Court occupying its time and its somewhat expensive attention in determining the question as to how far thelegislature has transcended its proper- functions, how far it was right in it3 legislative activities and how far it waswrong, how far- it has strayed beyond theambit of its- constitutional authority. Whilst it is perfectly true that, under theConstitution, we must have some tribunal, as we have, to determine when the legislature transcends its proper functions, under the policy advocated by Labour and by the Government of which I was a member, it would be quite unnecessary to have this tribunal. Although the-
Judiciary Act contains a special provision applicable to constitutional questions, had the policy of the Scullin Government been adopted, it would not be necessary to have this tribunal constantly arguing - I almost said arguing its head off - as to whether the legislature had proceeded within its proper boundaries or not. The legislature could then go forward with perfect certainty, and with the knowledge that, like the mother of parliaments, the British Parliament could not go beyond its constitutional bounds. I venture to suggest that the proper way in which to deal with this subject is the way in which, the Government of which I was a member endeavoured to deal with it, unsuccessfully because of other considerations that I must not now discuss. What I say, shortly, is that if the full idea of the Labour party were given effect, and we had a. system of government under which the parties might legislate with perfect freedom, as governments may do in Great Britain, this bill would not be necessary. But, as the present suggestion is that the members of the High Court should be increased by the smallest possible number from five to six, I offer no objections to that not very radical proposition, though I regret that the House as a whole is not willing to adopt the much wiser and more reasonable and logical proposition made by the Labour party.
– I do not want to undertake the difficult task of discussing in advance a judicial appointment of which I know nothing except that it will be made. When the appointment has been made, the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) will agree with me, practising lawyers in this country will at once have a. perfectly clear idea in their minds as to whether the man appointed is or is not of the calibre suitable to the Bench that he has to occupy. I have no reason to anticipate who will be appointed to the office, but I have heard rumours of- a proposed appointment which to me, as a lawyer, would be disturbing if it were made. I rose not to canvass possible appointees, but to say something on a point of considerable importance that has arisen although not exactly in relation to the bill. Some one like myself who is not only a politician but also a lawyer of some experience, should say something about it. It is the problem of how far those who have engaged in politics in or out of parliament are disqualified or qualified for judicial , office. When we are dealing with the High Court of Australia we are dealing with a court which first and foremost ought to contain the finest judicial minds in the country. There is the temptation on the part of some people outside this chamber to think that all appointments to the High Court have been in some mysterious way associated with politics. That is not so. Of the six justices on the High Court Bench, four have never had, 30 far as I know, the slightest association with politics. Two of them were associated with politics.
– It is questionablewhether their association with politics is not on the whole a good thing.
– That is another matter, and, in certain cases, I see the point of the honorable gentleman’s interjection; but of the six justices, four have had no known association at any time with politics. The other two did sit in this House on opposing sides. They are the learned Chief Justice, Sir John Latham, and Mr. Justice McTiernan, and, though it is an invidious thing to refer to individuals, and though I am reluctant to do so when discussing the judiciary, i t must be admitted by every one that both are men of unimpeachable integrity. The qualifications for a seat on the High Court Bench are qualifications that go far beyond the entertainment of certain political views. A Justice of the High Court, I remind the committee, will deal occasionally, with a constitutional matter. He will on the whole deal more frequently with some matter of common law or equity, some matter which arises from the pure technique of the law and has no association with constitutional problems. I say by way of warning to every one that there is a certain temptation in the minds of all to believe that the constitutional problem is the problem par excellence engaging the High Court and that therefore a somewhat broader approach te the problem to be determined is permissible. There is no question that what we call constitutional law is only half law and half philosophy, political philosophy, and therefore it, more than any’ other branch of the law, changes according to the philosophical current in the minds of people from time to time. I do not quarrel with that. I have been the most humble instrument of -providence on one or two occasions that induced the High Court to change its decision after many years; but, for the ordinary judicial work of the High Court, which in normal times represents the bulk of its work, no one is qualified unless he has a first-class grasp of the technical problems of law. Therefore we* must look for people who have great technical skill, great learning, width of experience, not excluding political experience, wisdom, character, and balanced judgment. Assuming that we have a man who answers that description, I make it clear that I for one would not regard his political activity as any disqualification at all. But I equally make it clear that I would not regard his political experience as a qualification which served as a substitute for any one or more of the other attributes which I have described. What we must beware of, in the heated state of politics which we encounter occasionally in Australia, is thinking that we do a real honor to the appointee or the Bench by saying, “ If we appoint him, he is much more likely to give a decision in our favour “. That is an insult to him. It assumes a disqualification on his part, because .no man who considered that, he .was under any obligation on the Bench to those who appointed him could be rightly described as qualified to be a judge.
Once more, I shall refer to the present Chief Justice, and again I do so with reluctance, because it is not agreeable to a man occupying his position, to have his qualifications canvassed in the Parliament. I contend that, even if Sir John Latham had never been a member of this Parliament, he- would have been such an outstanding lawyer in this country that his qualifications for’ the Bench would have been obvious.. If it can be said of any man that, but for his political activity he would not have been ranked for judicial appointment by informed opinion in his- profession, that would, be a political appointment. But if a man is, by virture of- his own character, attainments, and experience qualified for the judicial office, I say,. “ Let us forget the notion that he loses his qualification because he has thought fit to serve his country in the Parliament in a cause in which he honestly believed, and has associated himself with, political activities outside the Parliament.” Those are matters to which most active-minded men at some time or other will find themselves drawnThere is nothing novel about what I have said. I have merely stated what most of us believe. In reality, what I have said is, to my mind, the most severe condemnation of what I would, call a “ political appointment to the Bench “. I have risen merely to say that it does not follow that an appointment to the Bench is political because the appointee has been in politics. As for individual instances, those of us whohave practiced in the courts for many years, just as others have practised in other professions or occupations, are well aware of the qualifications - the relative qualifications - of most of the leaders of our profession. I shall form my own opinion about the appointment which will in due course be made, not in the light of my own knowledge as a politician, but in the light of my own knowledge as a lawyer.
– Some of the remarks of honorable members opposite criticizing the appointment of judges, and certain comments which were directed against the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) cannot be allowed togo unchallenged. In 1335, shortly after I became a ‘member of this chamber,, a bitter debate took place on the appointment of a certain Chief Justice, and some of the remarks then made were not unlike certain things .which we have read in the press lately. The then honorable member for Reid,. Mr. Gander, said of Sir John Latham -
I regret that I was not a member of this Parliament when Sir John Latham began his political career; but I accept the statement of the honorable member for East Sydney that the right honorable gentleman is classconscious and class-biased, and totally unfitted for the judicial position to which he aspires. … I ask members to picture the spectacle of Mr. Donald Grant, or the member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), being taken before Sir John Latham. Would Sir John Latham give a decision in favour of Mr. Ward if he had advised people not to go to war?
That occurred on a motion submitted by the then Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde), that the Supply Bill be reduced by £1. The attack on the Chief Justice was confined to those who, in those days, sat in Opposition and were known as the Lang Labour party. Sometimes they were described in even stronger language. When honorable members opposite criticize the honorable member for Richmond, as they did earlier, I warn them that they cannot go scot-free. One or two of us on this side of the chamber have long and perhaps inconvenient and awkward memories, and, therefore, are able to reply on little matters such as this.
I agree with the statement of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) about the appointment of judges, and hope that we shall not’ hear about the judiciary statements such as the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) made to me a few days ago. Replying to a question, he said that he did not think that he should be called upon to state why no position had been offered to Mr. Bruce. The judiciary is one of the most important bodies in the Commonwealth. It is the more important because we function under a written Constitution. Decisions on constitutional cases focus the attention of the public upon the High Court, more than upon the Supreme Courts of the States, or upon the High Court when it acts as a Court of Appeal. For that reason, it is of the utmost importance to this .community that the gentlemen appointed to the Bench shall possess legal qualifications, and shall not be open to attack or even suspicion because of any associations that they may have had. I do not believe that because a man belonged to a, political party, it follows automatically that his decisions on the Bench will be coloured or governed by the political views which he may have espoused in private life. Once he is appointed to the Bench, he should be above the storm of politics. Nevertheless, we must get away from a condition of affairs in .which appointments are made largely because of the political associations of the appointee with the government of the day. I hope that the Government, when making the appointment, will consider all the matters that have been raised in this discussion.
– As the subject under consideration is whether it is reasonable and proper to’ increase the number of justices of the High Court from six to seven, I submit that this is not the occasion, to canvas the qualifications of particular members of the bar for possible appointment. Nothing could be more embarrassing to the High Court, the Parliament, or the Executive on whom the responsibility for the appointment rests. I do not know what rum our* have been circulating in the lobbies.
– The AttorneyGeneral must be the only man who does not know them.
– That may be so; but I a.m responsible for recommending to Cabinet who the appointee shall be.
– Therefore, the Attorney-General does not need to listen to rumours.
– These rumours are bad. The High Court is the most important judicial body in the Commonwealth. I agree with the Leader of the Opposition that a great deal of its work is done in relation, not to constitutional cases, but to ordinary appeals from the Supreme Courts of the States dealing with questions of law and equity. Appeals lie under certain conditions from the High Court to the Privy Council, and the gentlemen appointed to the Court, regardless of the political causes they may . have espoused or the political parties which they have supported either publically or in private, should not be influenced in arriving at their judgment. At any rate, there is an Appeal Court to deal with these matters. It would be very bad if public service in the- Parliament or any other sphere were to be regarded as a disqualification for appointment. It has never been so. The first three justices of the High Court who have established a very high tradition were associated with politics. One was premier of Queensland for many years, another was thefirst Prime Minister of the Commonwealth, and a third was a member of the Senate. All ‘ became very distinguished judges. Therefore, the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) was not justified in imputing to the Government an intention to make an appointment of a particular kind. The time to consider whether there is any ground for criticism is when the Government has ‘made the appointment.
– It is too late i hen.
– Worst of all is the effect of the honorable member’s mention of the name of Mr. J. V. Barry, who is a distinguished member of the bar, and whose work in the courts is well known.
– He is reputed to be . a prospective Labour party candidate.
– What about Sir John Latham?
– The honorable member for Richmond’s interjection shows the unfair position in which people may be placed. If the Government decided upon such an appointment, the previous discussion of hi? name would be embarrassing to the appointee. It may, in several respects, be calculated to injure him in his position. The honorable member, upon reflection, will see that that is not the proper way in which to deal with :i possible appointment which he seems to fear in advance.
In my second-reading speech, I gave three grounds for. the justification in the public interest of an .additional appointment to the High Court, and I submit that all of them have been established. Since the second-reading debate, 1 have ascertained from the department the actual increase of business of the High Court between 1933, when the number of justices was reduced from seven to six, and 1945, the last complete year. With Full Court business, the work, measured by Sitting days has increased by 21 per cent., and in single justice business, in which the court is constituted by a single justice, the work of the, High Court has increased -by 54 per cent.
– That does not mean that the justices are overworked. The number of sitting days in 1933 may have been very low.
– 1 am pointing out that the situation now is unlike the situation when the number of justices was reduced from seven to six, and there is warrant for the restoration of the number of justices to seven. The honorable member practically admitted, and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) conceded, that an even number of justices is not desirable. The Leader of the Opposition suggested that that difficulty could be met by five justices sitting, but I repeat that there is no means of preventing six justices from sitting. That is the answer to the right honorable gentleman’s criticism. Some time ago, no one was more critical than the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) of the threatened cancellation of sittings of the High Court in Adelaide and Perth. In that respect, the additional appointment would be desirable. I regret the importation of names and personalities into this discussion, and ask the committee to postpone its judgment until the appointment is made. I regret also that some references have been made to previous appointments, and that names have been bandied around. That is undesirable in the interests of the court. Not a single reference df that kind was made until the discussion of the bill in committee commenced. The House agreed to the second reading and the committee should now support the increase of the number of justices from six to seven. leaving it to the Government to make an appointment which will be worthy of the High Court as an institution and worthy of Australia.
.- In my previous remarks I referred to the provision in the Constitution for the protection of the’ judiciary in connexion with the discharge of its functions. I utterly disown the intention, attributed to me by the honorable member for Denison (Dr. Gaha), of imputing corruption in respect of any member of the High Court Bench or any possible appointee. I said clearly that an appointee to the High Court, or to a magistrate’s court, or to any other position for that matter, could not possibly divest himself of his previous experience and hackground, and of opinions that he had held throughout a lifetime. Whatever he did must be coloured by his previous experience. Men cannot possibly throw off their accumulated experience in a moment. The best example of the truth of that statement is the AttorneyGeneral (Dr. Evatt), who, for more than a decade, was a distinguished member of the High Court Bench. That he had not divested himself during that period of his earlier views and associations was shown clearly by the fact that on his retirement from the Bench he rejoined the political party with which he had been associated previously. What better evidence could we have of the truth of my statement? If, by death or resignation, there had been a vacancy on the High Court Bench, I would not have spoken as I have done this afternoon; but the proposal to make a new appointment has come “out of the blue”. No representations or demands for a new appointment have been made, so far as 1 know, by the Law Society or any other organization. Possibly the AttorneyGeneral, while lying awake in the small hours of the morning, may have said to himself, “ We should have another judge on the High Court “. But. we must also consider the statement made by the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) in Melbourne last week-end. If the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) will not discipline in embers of his Cabinet, he and hiscolleagues must accept responsibility for their statements, whether they be made inside or outside of the Parliament. Unless the Prime Minister is prepared flatly to deny the statement of the Minister for Transport it must stand as a government declaration. That is in accord with parliamentary practice throughout the British Empire. The Minister for Transport is reported to have said -
I am not a lawyer and cannot argue about’ the lcga.1 basis of High Court judges’ decisions, but .1 can say that many of them have been contrary to common sense and to, the will of the majority of the people of Australia.
I also quote the following paragraph from the same report: -
Unless the Commonwealth Government was given the power to legislate for the people of Australia on a national basis, certain judges would continue to upset all attempts by federal Labour to effect its policy, Mr. Ward said.
The Attorney-General introduced this bill for the appointment of an additional justice to the High Court about the time those statements were made.
– I gave notice of this bill a fortnight ago.
– But I have not the slightest doubt that the matter was discussed in Cabinet more than a fortnight ago, and that reasons for the making of such an appointment we’re submitted to Ministers. . If the Cabinet colleagues of the Minister for Transport disagree with the statements I have quoted they should repudiate them. I am not alleging any corruption in regard to High Court appointments, but I consider that this Parliament is in duty bound to ensure that appointments shall be made under proper conditions, and not under conditions which may be construed as an attempt to “get round “ the Constitution by means other than a referendum.
Appointments to supreme courts have been the sub ject of a good deal of agitation in the United States of America recently. In this connexion I direct the attention of honorable members to a volume entitled The Struggle for Judicial Supremacy, by Robert II. Jackson. Mr. Jackson is the prosecutor in the- Nuremburg trials of war criminals and was one of the protagonists of the late President Roosevelt in connexion with proposed alteration of the constitution of the Supreme Court of America. Mr. Jackson writes -
The ultimate function of the Supreme Court is nothing less than the arbitration between fundamental and ever-present rival forces or trends in our organized society.
Later he stated -
The student of our times will nowhere find the deeper conflicts of American political philosophy and economic policy more authentically and intelligently portrayed than in the opinions and dissents of members of the Supreme Court. 1 also direct attention to the following extract from his book : -
The Constitution, in making the balancebetween different parts of our Government a legal rather than a political question, easts- the court as the most philosophical of our political departments, lt keeps the most fundamental equilibriums of our society, such as that between centralization and localism, between liberty and authority, and between stability and progress. These issues underlie nearly every movement in an organized society.
Our High. Court will have to decide between unification and State rights. My final extract reads -
The court has as its highest responsibility the duty to hold every such movement, in its legislative and executive phases, within all express bounds ‘of the Constitution.
If the Attorney-General had been able to show that any reason or demand existed for an increase of the number of justices of the High Court I should not have made my remarks, but he has not done so. He mentioned that an increase of 21 per cent, of sittings of the Full Bench of the court and an increase of 54 per cent, of sittings of single justices had occurred between 1933 and 1946, but what do those percentages” represent? Do they represent 10 days, or 20 days, or 50 days? Such percentages mean nothing to us. A case cannot be made out for an additional appointment unless it can be shown that the justices have been asked to do more work than they are capable of doing. The Attorney-General has suggested that we should- withhold criticism until an appointment has been made; but I consider that the right time to. speak is before such an appointment is authorized. If a person be appointed in respect of whose views there can be no charge of bias constitutionally or politically, my remarks will have been unjustified; but if a supporter of the Labour party be appointed whose , political and general philosophy is such as to lead to an expectation that his findings will be acceptable to the Labour party, what I have said will have been justified. I have not alleged any corruption. What I have said, in effect, is that it is impossible for persons appointed to judicial positions on the High Court or on other tribunals to divest themselves of their previous views. Such views must necessarily colour their judgments. We must remember that most of the judgments of the High Court are majority decisions. Justices who dissent from the majority no doubt do so in. good faith and give what they regard as. substantial reasons for their dissent. In all the circumstances I submit that it is the duty of this legislature to watch vigilantly any move that may be made, the effect of which may be to “get round” the Constitution by means other than those laid down in the Constitution. It is. also our duty to protect the rights and liberties of citizens against the power of a temporary majority in this Parliament. I_ shall await with the greatest interest the announcement of the name of the person to be appointed to the High Court in the terms of this measure. If he should be a person in respect of whose political views no criticism may justly be uttered, my remarks, as I have said, will be proved to have been unnecessary, but if a person should be appointed who may be suspected of political bais, what I have said will have been justified.
– I regret that it is necessary for me to speak again on this subject, but the attitude adopted by the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) compels me to do so. The honorable member’s observations have been hardly germane to the question whether or not an additional justice should be appointed, for he has made suggestions and insinuations about a possible appointee. He has also misconstrued some of my remarks and made statements that are quite untrue. He has said, for example, that it is my prerogative to make an appointment to the High Court. Surely the honorable member knows enough about Cabinet procedure to realize that all I shall do is to make a recommendation to Cabinet. The decision on that matter will rest with the full Cabinet. The honorable member has not, done good service to the High Court in discussing this subject as he has done. He may not be satisfied that a need exists for an additional appointment, but he should have withheld the criticism’ he ha”s uttered until the Executive had made an appointment. He could have issued his challenge when that was done.
– The time to do that is before an appointment is made.
– The speech of the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward), to which reference has been made, was made well after the introduction of this hill, and had no connexion with it. The suggestion is that with six justices the appointment of an additional justice represents an attempt to obtain control of the court in the interest of a particular political philosophy. That is quite untrue.” The honorable member for Richmond drew a comparison with the American proposal to increase the number of Supreme Court judges from nine to no fewer than fifteen. That was criticized as a most extraordinary proposal, and was not persevered with. There is some truth- in the honorable member’s contention that the approach to some constitutional questions is determined by whether an individual takes what may be described as a liberal or broad view of the Constitution rather than a. narrow view. I do not regard that as having anything to do with party politics. Throughout the history of the High Court in this country, it has been found that two points of view are possible. What the honorable member read from Justice Jackson’s book is to that degree right. But it should be said that that is not determined by the fact that a particular person had been actively engaged in politics. Honorable members know that there are people not actively engaged in polities who are narrow and biased in their political views. A judge does not cease to be a man. The law compels him’ to vote at elections; therefore, he holds political opinions. The sharp distinction that is drawn between men who have been associated with politics and men who have not, is a narrowone and is prejudicial to those who are engaged in the service of their country in public life. It is not in accordance with practice in any State of the Commonwealth or in relation to High Court appointments. Therefore, it is the more regrettable that the honorable member should have mentioned the name of a possible candidate for appointment. It is most embarrassing to the Government that a name- should be canvassed before there is legally a vacancy to fill. It is now for the committee to determine one matter : Is there a case for an increase from six justices to seven? The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) has denied that there is; but, in stating the position, he did not make any suggestion such as was made by the honorable member for Richmond. His contention that there should be a Full Court of five justices in constitutional cases is, as I have shown, untenable, because six justices always sit on such cases unless one justice is ill or is absent from any other cause. There has been not merely a nominal but a substantial increase of the business of the court. I ask the committee to reserve judgment about any appointment that may be made, and to consider only whether it is not proper now that the number of justices should bo restored to that which existed in 1933.
Clause agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 2Sth March (vide page ‘730), on motion by Mr. Dedman -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The purpose of this bill is to approve an agreement between the Government of the Commonwealth and the State of Queensland to fix even conditions in the sugar industry as will be equitable to the growers, distributors, manufacturers and consumers. The agreement is to be of five years’ duration, and has been renewed from time to time over may years.
The sugar industry has been fortunate in that it has been developed under a complete prohibition of imports of sugar since 1915, except of some qualities which are definitely needed arid are admitted under by-law. The Government is asking for the ratification of an agreement that was made last December and is to operate from September of this year. I speak for the Opposition when I say that we are aware of what this industry has meant to Queensland. Successive Nationalist and United Australia party Governments have signed agreements in relation to it. The’ present Labour Government has now signed an agreement in almost identical terms. The sugar industry, unlike any other industry in Australia, has been specifically protected, because it. has meant so much to the State of Queensland. Without it, Queensland would not have been developed as it has, and there would not be in that State the largest proportion of white people that is to be found in any tropical country in the world. Although this arrangement has been, considerably criticized, I know full well, having had to bring down the agreement in previous years, that a good deal of misunderstanding has existed in regard to it. The agreement is fair and equitable, in that the refining as well as the growing side of the industry is so efficient that the price charged for sugar in Australia is reasonable. It is the same in every capital city. From time to time, the criticism has been levelled that Australia pays a bounty to the sugar industry. It has never done so. The protection which the industry enjoys enables it to operate as a monopoly on the home market. Although we do not like the term “ monopoly “, the statistics show that the Australian price is fair, and has protected the consumer against wide fluctuations during war periods, when there has been a scarcity of supplies. The Australian price, is 4d. per lb. in every capital city. In the United Kingdom the price is 5d. per lb.; in Canada it is 5.6d. per lb.; in South Africa it is 4.38d. per lb., although labour in that country is cheaper than in Australia; in New Zealand it ‘is 4d. per lb. ; in India it is 5.9d. per lb.; in the United States it is 4.9d. per lb.; in Sweden it is 4.9d. per lb.; and in Italy it is 27. 9d. per lb. In some European countries, sugar is unobtainable to-day. Various clauses of the agreement have been revised from time to time, but the main provisions still stand. An export price concession is also given in respect of all sugar bought by canning works, and there is also an export rebate in respect of all foodstuffs containing sugar “that are exported from Australia. The price in Britain that I have cited, does not take into account the fact that for many years the beet sugar industry in that country “has been subsidized. In Australia,, the beet sugar industry exists only on a small scale, and has been purposely kept so because beet sugar is more expensive to produce than is cane sugar. The two industries have worked in harmony. But in
Britain, because it was known that in a time of war supplies would be unobtainable, beet sugar was subsidized. When the stocks that had been accumulated in the years just prior to the war became depleted, the British Government was able to supply the needs of its people with beet sugar, even though on a rationed scale.
There is not much which one needs to say in regard to the agreement generally, because it follows, almost word for word the agreements previously made, including that which I brought down in 1936. We have scrutinized it, and can find little to criticize in it. The industry has asked for a subsidy in case export prices should fall. In my opinion, such a possibility is remote. There is a tremendous scarcity of all foods in the world to-day. A criticism that I would voice is that we might send more sugar to Britain. These are the export figures, so far as I have been able to discover thom to-day : Over the years, approximately one half of the Australian sugar production has been exported in the form of raw sugar, the Australian price being fixed and the export price . being world parity.. In 1940, we exported 371,000 tons. In 1941, the figure dropped to 200,000 tons ; in 1942, it was only 67,000 tons; in 1943, it was 95,000 tons; in 1944, it wa3 154,000 tons; and in 1945 it was 200,000 tons. I have endeavoured to discover the distribution of those exports. If the figures are correct, they are astounding. The United Kingdom last received from, us sugar in any quantity in 1942.
– Because it was not wanted.
– The honorable member would not say that had he been in Britain during the last few years. I know that the late. Prime Minister, Mr. Curtin, said that at one time Britain declined a shipment of 100,000 tons. The reason was that it badly needed fats, butter and meat, and shipping space was limited.
– Order! This debate cannot be converted into a “ Food for Britain “ issue. 1 1 is concerned with the sugar agreement, not the exports of sugar to Britain.
– With due respect, I submit that the local price of sugar is fixed according to the quantity of sugar exported. The grower has been asking for a subsidy to counteract any reduction of export prices. I do not consider that an industry which is so well ‘ protected as is the sugar industry needs export assistance of that kind. Our exports should be sent first to Britain, and secondly to European countries in which humanity’s oldest enemy, famine and ‘disease, stalks so fiercely through the land. Australia is a great producer of sugar, and has sent large quantities to New Zealand, Canada, the Middle East, and the United States of America.
– At the request of the British Government.
– That is so.
– The honorable member should make that clear. The sugar was offered to the United Kingdom, and that is what the British Government decided should be done with it.
– That was in 1942.
– And this year, also.
– Does the Minister say that if we were to offer 50,000 tons of sugar to Great Britain the government of that country would refuse it?
– The Government of the United Kingdom would have to put it into the pool, and might decide to send it elsewhere. The honorable member is trying to make out that we are not fulfilling our obligations to Great Britain. He is wrong.
– I say that the Government is not fulfilling its obligations. A fortnight ago, I asked a question upon notice as to whether the Government had, at any time, given one pound’s worth of food to Great Britain, and the answer I received was “ No “.
All parties in this House support the renewal of the sugar agreement. I hope that the Department of Commerce and Agriculture will endeavour to arrange for the export of more and more sugar to countries which need it. Mr. Hoover, the United States delegate to the Food Commission now sitting in Great Britain, and the man who played such a magnificent part in the distribution of food after the last war, said : -
The final voice of victory is that of the guns, but the. first voice of peace is food.
Let us see if we can restore our sugar exports to 300,000 tons, the figure at which they previously stood, but from which they have steadily receded. The Opposition supports the renewal of the agreement which has, during the last 30 years, proved to be fair to all the interests concerned - growers, manufacturers, distributors and consumers.
.- I support the bill, and I hope that it will have a speedy passage through the House. As the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) pointed out, the sugar agreement was first entered into in 1915, at a time when there was a Labour government in this Parliament, and a Labour government in Queensland. Thoughout World War II., that agreement ensured to the people of Australia a plentiful supply of sugar. One of the terms of the agreement was that the growers should produce sufficient sugar to meet Australia’s needs. Prior to that time, some sugar was imported from Fiji. The agreement has been reviewed from time to time. While the Scullin Government was in office it was renewed, and in 1944 it was investigated by the Tariff Board, and is to be again renewed. The growers have nothing to lose by even the most searching investigation. The sugar industry has done much to develop Australia, and has provided the country with desirable overseas credits. From time to time, there have been outcries against the industry from those who do not wish to see it taken as a model for the organization of other primary industries. The price of sugar to the consumers is fixed, as also are mill charges and. refining charges, whilst the wages of the workers are fixed by arbitration. Thus, the industry is completely organized. Moreover, efficiency in all its branches has steadily increased - on the farms, in the mills and in the refineries. During the last six years, the people of Australia have been getting sugar at a cheaper price than prevails in any ‘other part of the world, and Australian sugar is produced wholly by white labour. Along the northern coast of
Queensland there is a white population of 250,000 people, largely supported by the sugar industry. In the corresponding area on the west coast of Australia there is nothing like so great a population. In 1942, when the Japanese were threatening Australia, the value of the sugar industry for defence purposes was brought forcibly home to those who were charged with the defence of the country. Sugar mills were used for the manufacture of implements of war, and the military authorities made use of such facilities as roads, water supplies, wharfs, &c. Airports had already been established in many centres; these were extended, and others were constructed. This was of tremendous importance in the dark days of 1942, when a delay of a few weeks might have been disastrous. I was in Queensland in February, of 1942, and at the time of the Coral Sea battle, I saw aircraft which took part in that battle operating from aerodromes which only a little time before had been ploughed paddocks, and which were being used without any further preparation. From aerodromes in the north of Queensland flying fortresses and fighter planes flew out to defeat the Japanese. Moreover, in - 1942, the machinery of local bodies and farmers, including tractors and road making plant, was impressed for the purpose of constructing more aerodromes. That machinery would not have been there but for the existence of the sugar industry. As for the demand that more sugar should be sent to Britain, we know that at one time the late Mr. Curtin offered to send’ an extra 100,000 tons to the United Kingdom, but, unfortunately,because of the shortage of ships, the British Government was unable to accept the offer. In most other parts of the world, cane-sugar is produced by black labour, but the sugar agreement in Australia provides for the exclusion of black grown sugar, which would otherwise flood the local market. At one time, wages in the sugar industry in Australia were very low, but it has been possible to raise them because of the operation of the sugar agreement. Many people believe that the sugar industry is subsidized, but that is not so. The agreement merely provides for fixing the price and for prohibiting importation. In other countries, the production of sugar is substantially subsidized. The following figures show the amount of assistance provided per annum for sugar-growers in various countries by way of tariffs, bounties, ‘ remission of excise and price fixation : -
In most of those, countries sugar is produced from beet. There does not seem to be any objection to the bill now before us, although we know there are some in this Parliament who do not like the sugar agreement. Before the war, one-half of the sugar produced in Australia was exported. I should like an assurance from the Government that, in the event of a fall in prices or rising costs of production, this agreement will be reviewed. The price of sugar to the Australian consumer was reduced from 4£d. to 4d. per lb. in 1932, but, despite the increased costs as the result of the war, the cost of sugar to the consumer has remained at that level. Costs have increased on the farms, in the mills, and in the refineries, but the Australian consumer has not been called upon to bear even a part of the increase. I concede that the industry is receiving a higher price for the sugar that it exports than it did before the war. During the war Australia was obliged to feed Allied forces in this country. Sugar, as food, had to be supplied to them. In January and February of this year, I saw ships come into the port of Cairns to load sugar for export. In one vessel 8,000 tons was loaded for disposal overseas. Australian sugar goes into the world pool which is controlled by the British. Ministry of Food, which decides where consignments will be taken. Neither the Commonwealth nor the Queensland Government has any say. Owing to shipping difficulties, our sugar is ‘ directed by the British Ministry of Food to countries in or bordering the Pacific area. I am aware that, under paragraphs 9 and 10 of the agreement, the Government of
Queensland accepts responsibility for loss arising from the export of sugar, and for the control of production; but no one knows what lies ahead of the world, and I, as one with a strong desire to ensure the preservation of the sugar industry on a sound basis, would welcome an assurance that, in the event of either contingency that I mentioned earlier arising, the agreement shall be reviewed.
.- This measure for the continuance of the sugar agreement, to my mind, illustrates the manner in which primary industries should be dealt with, because it provides one. of the most striking examples that one could imagine of what happens to an industry with variations in the returns. The first acquisition of sugar by the Commonwealth Government occurred in 1915 at a price of less than 2d. per lb. The Fisher Government was in office, the first world war was raging, and costs were soaring. A new award in Queensland, called the Dixon award, made it impossible for the sugar-cane growers to market their product profitably at the price paid by the Labour government. As the result, about 40,000 acres of land went out of cultivation, and production fell by about 150,000 tons a year. The net result was that, in 1918 and 1919, the Government of Australia was compelled to import sugar from foreign countries - especially Java and Cuba. The sugar imported from Java cost £100 a ton, and that from Cuba cost £80 per ton, whereas the price that was being paid for the sugar acquired from the Australian producers was only £18 per ton. The only way in which the price could be maintained at a reasonable level was to bring the price to 6d. per lb. by pooling the local sugar at £18 a ton and the imported sugar at £100 and £80 a ton. That action was taken in 1920-21 and it more or less enabled the ledger to be squared. The only means of lifting the sugar industry from the calamitous position into which it had been cast by the earlier policy was that taken by the Government led by the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), which fixed the price at £30 6s. 8d. a ton for the next three years. That increased price stimulated production to a great degree, and, by 1922, we were able to supply our own needs and begin to export. In 1923, the sugar agreement between the Commonwealth Government, known as the Bruce-Page Government, and the Queensland Government, came into being. It is being continued by this bill. One of the striking features of the original agreement was that the industry was given not only a guaranteed price, but also a guaranteed price for five years. Subsequent agreements have always been for three years. We considered it necessary to provide for a long-term agreement to enable the industry to get on its feet. Not only were the sugar producers assured of their position for a substantial period, but also the consumer was assured of the reasonable price of 41/2d. per lb. The manufacturers of products in which sugar was an ingredient were given a substantial discount. That applied chiefly to the manufacturers of jams, the processors of canned fruits, and so on, for sale in Australia. Manufacturers of commodities for export were given sugar at world parity. So the Australian manufacturers engaging in export trade were not penalized. The sugar industry went further than that by announcing its willingness to assist in the development of the export of canned fruits, and honorable members will find in paragraph 7 of the agreement the provision made for concessions to the manufactured fruits industry. Subparagraph g sets out the constitution of the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee. It reads -
The Commonwealth Government;
The Queensland Sugar Board;
The growers of canning fruits;
The growers of non-canning fruits;
The co-operative and State manufacturers of fruit products; and
The proprietary manufacturers of fruit products;
That committee decides on the amount of bounty that shall be paid to enable the goods covered by it to be sold in competition overseas. I am grateful for this opportunity to pay a high tribute to the late Albert Townsend, who, for many years, was the representative of the Commonwealth Government and the chairman of the committee. No one rendered greater service to Australia than he did in connexion with the sugar industry, especially in organizing the assistance that that industry gives to industries that are dependent upon it, the berry-growing industry of Tasmania, and other fruit-growing industries on the mainland. The. sugar industry activities cover a wide field. When the economic depression occurred, the Government felt it incumbent to order an inquiry into the industry. The committee set up to conduct the inquiry, which was not a royal commission, reported that the industry was efficiently managed. It is worthwhile to place on record as a testimony to its efficiency the fact that whereas in 1918-19 fourteen tons of sugar-cane was required to produce a ton of sugar, by the time that inquiry was conducted the sugar-cane growers had so improved the quality of their cane, and the millers had so improved the efficiency of their mills, that only 7 or 7i tons of cane was required to produce a ton of sugar. That demonstrates an extraordinary increase of the efficiency of the industry, in respect of both the production of the cane and its crushing in the mills. When the first sugar agreement was made in the early twenties, the machinery in most mills in Queensland was out of date because of the impoverished condition of the industry; but, by 1930, and ever since then, the mechanical, technical, and scientific efficiency of the mills has been comparable to that of sugar mills anywhere else in the world. At that time the price of sugar to the consumer was reduced from 4£d. to 4d. per lb. That price has been maintained ever since. It has been profitable to the industry only because in 1932 the Ottawa agreement was made, whereby the substantial preference of between £5 and £6 a ton on sugar was obtained from both Great Britain and Canada. When war broke out, practically all Australia’s surplus sugar was going to those countries. I think it was in 1936 that I attended the International Sugar Conference in London as the representative of the Commonwealth of Australia. Whereas the price paid for sugar at that time to producers in other countries was only £5 a ton, the return to the Australian producers was £10 or £12 a ton. In addition, the sugar industry had a guaranteed home consumption price. That state of affairs has existed ever since. Fourteen or fifteen years have elapsed since the price was fixed.
During the- war the cost of production rose considerably. First, the labour available was much less skilled because of the enlistments that took place among the cane-cutters and the mill hands. As an instance of the reduced efficiency of the cutters owing to the infusion of less experienced hands to replace those who had gone into the various branches of the armed forces, I cite the fact that thousands of tons of sugar-cane was left standing in the field in the Clarence district at the end of the last season. The same thing happened in ‘the electorate of my colleague the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony). There were two reasons for that. First, there were insufficient cutters, and, secondly, they were not nearly so efficient .as were the men whom they replaced. The less efficient workers had to be paid practically the same wages as were paid to the more skilled. Many other additional costs have been incurred on the sugar-cane farms. The price of machinery, fertilizers, and all sorts of other things needed in the cultivation of sugar-cane have risen. Another item of increased cost which has never been properly assessed is the loss of time caused through the growers not being able to replace parts of broken-down tractors. That is due to the absence of blacksmiths to repair and recondition the growers’ machinery. As the result of the lack of attention, the machinery frequently breaks down, and the growers thereby lose many working days. The position must be reviewed. The sugar-producing area in New South Wales is included in the arrangement, although the agreement is specifically between the Commonwealth Government and the Government of Queensland. Clause 4 provides -
That the Queensland Government shall purchase all raw sugar manufactured from sugarcane grown in New South Wales during the seasons of 1946-47, 1947-48, 1948-49, 1949-50 and 1950-51.
The growers in. New South “Wales have succeeded in continuing production, despite shortages of labour and material. As the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) has shown, the export of sugar from Australia has seriously declined, but production in. New South Wales has been maintained because of the tenacity, pertinacity, skill, efficiency and patriotism of the producers. But they have pointed out repeatedly that the accounts of the sugar industry are gradually moving from the credit to the debit side of the ledger. The growers in ‘New South Wales state, “ We do not desire to alter the main provisions of the agreement, but if externa] costs continue to increase we should be paid a subsidy iii order to enable us to make ends meet “. The Government must not overlook the importance of this industry. When a previous government failed to keep the industry profitable, the production of sugar declined, and thousands of acres of land upon which cane had been grown became idle. Then Australia was compelled to import sugar at a time when prices were exceptionally high. The explanation of the soaring values was that sugar-growers in other countries had ceased production. For nearly five years after the war of 1914-18, the price of sugar in many countries, especially in Europe, was £50 a ton. The retail price in Australia, 4£d. per lb., was about equivalent to the wholesale price in some other countries. One honorable member suggested that the agreement should be reviewed only if the export price of sugar falls. In my opinion, an investigation should be conducted immediately for the purpose of determining whether conditions in Australia necessitate a review of prices in order that growers may be able to continue production. Great Britain showed during the last six years that, in order to secure a continual surplus of food, an “ incentive “ price must be offered to the producers. I hope that the Government will heed my representations. If we neglect this industry serious difficulties will arise in the next two or three years. We must ensure that the growers, and many of their sons who, on being discharged from the services, desire to engage in sugar-growing, shall receive a price that will cover the cost of production and allow a reasonable standard of living.
One aspect requires emphasis. The sugar industry is the principal inducement to people to live- in northern Queensland. If the industry were to collapse, between 100,000 and 150,000 people would move from that area to other parts of the Commonwealth. By settling in that vast area, those people are strengthening the national economy and defences. They are really garrisoning northern Queensland, and are entitled to at least the same justice as other primary producers receive. For economic and defence reasons, we should act promptly to prevent any failure within the industry. Experience has* shown that often it requires very little assistance to prevent the beginning of an economic “ slide “, but once an industry begins to fall into the abyss, infinitely greater measures are needed to save it. One interesting feature about the population of northern Queensland is that, since the sugar industry became prosperous during the last twenty years, the gain of births over deaths has been greater than in any other part of Australia. Yet one would expect northern Queensland, being situated in the tropics, to have an uncongenial climate. The Government should make it possible for those healthy, virile people to continue to occupy that portion of the Commonwealth.
During the last 30 years, sugar-cane growers in New South Wales have insisted that they are an integral part of the arrangement under discussion, even though the agreement is between the Commonwealth and Queensland. They contend that if, by improved methods of production, they are able to increase the output of sugar from the acreage under cultivation, the size of their area should not be reduced. Instead of being penalized in that manner, they should be encouraged. Therefore, I urge that in any consideration of this matter, the needs and rights of these growers should be heeded. At present, a review of the conditions is urgent, so as to enable all sugar growers in Australia to enjoy reasonable prosperity.
– I support the bill. It provides for the renewal of the sugar agreement between the Commonwealth Government and the State of Queensland for a period of five years. This agreement has made possible the continuance of one of Australia’s most valuable industries, but even under present conditions its existence is due entirely to efficient methods of production, constant research and experiment, improved varieties of sugar cane, an unceasing fight against pests, and the application of science to the problems pf sugar-growing. In addition, the mills are the most efficient of their kind in the world. Australia is the only country in which sugar is grown with white labour,, and the difficulties associated with obtaining a reasonable return for the growers were overcome by efficient methods. The growers are not completely satisfied with this bill, because they hoped that the agreement would not be sighed until the trend of world conditions in the next few years had been revealed, and had dispelled their anxiety regarding the future. Deputations which met the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) at Bundaberg and other towns urged that the renewal of the agreement should be delayed. Although the agreement has now been signed, the acting Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Dedman) has given an assurance that, when necessary, conditions will be reviewed. Such a review should not be restricted to overseas markets hut should include all conditions affecting the economy of the industry.
Sugar-growing is a most valuable industry. Without it, we should not have been able to develop and populate the vast rich area of northern Queensland. During the economic depression about / fifteen years ago, the prices of primary products were reduced, all values and wages fell, and workers suffered voluntarily or otherwise a reduction of the payment for their labour. Sugargrowers voluntarily adopted a suggestion by the Commonwealth government of the day that the price of sugar should be reduced. I mention that in fairness to the sugar-growers who, since that time, have endeavoured to meet that reduction by improved methods of production. These growers are the only group who, since the depression, have not benefited from a restoration of the price or a subsidy. Therefore, when the conditions of the industry are reviewed, the Government should give full consideration to all the facts. An increase of the price of sugar will not impose any burden upon the community, because Australian consumers purchase sugar more cheaply than do consumers in any other country and there is no customs duty because it is a local product. The price paid in Great Britain is not much higher than that paid in Australia, but British taxpayers pay an import tax and also a subsidy for the production of beet . sugar. It must be remembered also that sugar refineries have been established in every capital city except Hobart, but the people of Tasmania are not under any disability in this connexion. In fact the fruit and berry growers of that State are thoroughly satisfied with the generous concessions that have been made possible to them by the co-operation of the sugar-growers in Queensland. These concessions have enabled fruit-growers in Tasmania to process their fruit under very favorable conditions, and I am glad that the fruitgrowers there have a right conception of the value of the concessions which they enjoy.
Because of the high degree of organization in this industry sugar is retailed in all the capital cities at a uniform price.’ The people of Perth, for instance, pay the same price for sugar as do the people of Brisbane. I . emphasize, however, that the cane-growers have a struggle to make ends meet. Economic operation of this industry has been possible only because of a high degree of efficiency from the planting to the refining stages. Extra costs that have been incurred in sugar production have not been passed on to the purchasers, but have been offset by effi- c]ent organization. This .fact should be recognized throughout the Commonwealth I believe that, generally speaking, the whole community appreciates the national value of this industry
.- Two-thirds of the sugar required in New South Wales is produced in the Richmond and Tweed River areas. I therefore consider it incumbent upon me to bring to the notice of honorable members certain features of the sugar agreement which this bill has been introduced’ to ratify. Unfortunately we are obliged to accept or reject the agreement in toto. That being so, I shall vote for the bill, but I must record that some features of the agreement are wholly unsatisfactory to sugargrowers in New South Wales. The Minister has stated in his second-reading speech -that the retail price of sugar in Australia has not been altered for fourteen years, and that if this agreement be ratified it will remain unaltered for another five years. In other words, the price of sugar will have remained stationary from 1932 to 1951. There must be certain reasons which have made this possible. One reason could be that the price originally fixed in 1932 was so much above the cost of production as to allow sugar-growers a big margin. That is not so. The price was fixed after a very complete investigation of all the factors involved in sugar production. Another explanation could be that during the last fourteen years this industry has increased the efficiency of its organization to such a degree that it has been able to meet its added costs without increasing the retail price of sugar. That is only partly true. The third reason which could account for this situation, is that the maintenance of an unchanged retail, price of sugar for fourteen years has involved many growers in a substantial loss of income. That is certainly the case of the sugar-growers in the district that I represent. I have been a sugar-grower, and I am intimately acquainted with the industry in New South Wales. I assure honorable members that if canegrowers had not been alert enough to produce other crops as well as sugar-cane, in order to supplement their incomes, they would have had ck abandon sugar-growing. It would not be possible for producers to continue operations under the existing conditions if they had to rely wholly on sugar production.
The agreement which we are now asked to approve provides that the Government of Queensland shall purchase the whole of the Australian crop of sugar-cane, irrespective of whether it is grown in Queensland or New . South Wales. The agreement may be satisfactory to the sugar-growers of Queensland, but the circumstances under which the industry is being conducted .in northern New South Wales make it definitely unsatisfactory to the growers there. Sugar is grown in Queensland, particularly in the Cairns, Innisfail and Ingham districts, under much more favorable conditions than those of the Richmond and Tweed River, districts. The cane grows more quickly in Queensland and has a higher sugar content. This means that the growers in Queensland get a bigger tonnage with a higher sugar content in a shorter time than do the growers in New South’ Wales. The industry is, therefore, on a better economic basis in Queensland than in New South Wales. The sugar production of New South Wales amounts to about 30,000 tons annually. The price paid to the growers of cane in that State varies slightly according to the amount by which the production exceeds 30,000 tons per annum. I do not believe that the existing state of affairs can continue for much longer. Unless more consideration be given to the cane-growers of. New South Wales they may find it desirable to cease production. That would be a bad thing for Australia. For that reason, I urge that there should be differentiation in the prices for cane in Queensland and New South Wales. The present .price is definitely unprofitable in the Richmond and Tweed River areas.
The Minister, in introducing the bill, stated that if it could be shown that substantial increases were occurring in the cost of production during the currency of the agreement, prices would be reviewed. He also stated that the Tariff Board had made an exhaustive investigation of this industry in 1944, and that prices had been fixed in the light of its findings. The board was instructed to ascertain whether an increased subsidy was necessary, and it had decided that such was not the case. I point out, however, that, in the course of its investigations, the board did not visit any sugar-growing area in New South Wales. I urge that in any future investigation the New South Wales industry should be given more consideration. I do not consider that we should take pride in the fact that the price of sugar is lower in Australia than in other parts of the world, if our price is kept low at the expense of the sugar-growers. There is justification for another investigation to ascertain whether the retail price of sugar should not be increased at once. In those fourteen years, which include the war years, there has. been a substantial increase of costs in every branch of trade and industry. Despite that knowledge, it is proclaimed with some pride that the price of sugar has not varied. I can say, with definite knowledge of . the income tax returns of sugar-growers in New South Wales, that the reason for the absence of any variation is that they and other sugar-growers in Australia have had to bear substantial losses of income.
.- This is an important measure. It combines the interests of two great primary industries - sugar and fruit. I am concerned as to its provisions primarily as a representative of one of the great fruit-growing areas of Australia. The sugar agreement has had the effect of stabilizing the fruit canning industry as it had not been stabilized before the agreement was made, and probably would not be stabilized without it or an effective substitute. The bill proposes to ratify once more that provision in the agreement under which £216,000 is derived by the fruit processing industry as a concession in respect of the cost of the sugar that is .used in the exported proportion of the pack. A condition is attached to this subvention, which from time to time fixes the prices of all grades ‘ of canning and jam fruits, and, I believe, certain other fruits also. As was stated during the debate on other legislation, stability is given to a primary industry by an assured and adequate price combined with full production. The fruit canning industry has had assured prices through the medium of this agreement. The granting of £216,000 a year to the industry would be purposeless if it were not enabled, because of other considerations, to continue in existence. The exports of the fruit canning industry have’ been dependent almost entirely upon Empire preferences. It was a combination of this provision, and efficiency within the industry, which lifted it out of a deep trough of depression, and has enabled it for many years to provide a reasonable living for those engaged in it, as well as award rates of pay for every employee. I am happily able to say that with few, if any, exceptions, fruit-growers in the Goulburn Valley have been- for many years content not only to accept Arbitration Court awards, . but also to pay slightly higher than the award rates and to observe meticulously the stipulated conditions of labour. Here is a bright example of the prosperity that can be enjoyed by both principals and’ employees when an industry is established on stable grounds. We know that powerful forces in the United States of America are attempting to destroy Empire preference. Current discussion in quite high places indicates that such pressure will be exerted on the United Kingdom as will result in a partial abandonment or modification of Empire preferences in return for the loan by America that is now being negotiated. I can appreciate that some primary industries in Australia which “ have enjoyed the benefits of Empire preference - for example, the meat and dairying industries - could sustain themselves even with a modification of Empire preference if, concurrently, the American market were open to their products. There is in that country a market that is hungry for meat and dairy products at a high domestic price level. But canned fruits have no hope whatever of gaining an entry to the American market, because that country has a continuous surplus of<? canned fruits produced under very favorable internal conditions, and using sugar that is grown very largely by black labour in the United States and contiguous islands. So I point out to the Government that, splendid as have been the results up to date of this very substantial subvention to this great industry, the whole of the benefits could be lost were ..there any effective modification of Empire preference. I cannot urge the Government too strongly to exercise all the influence it is able to bring to bear in order to prevent any modification of British preference in respect of our processed fruits. We have to develop this country. There are very few industries which provide a living for a man on a smaller acreage than is needed in the canning fruits industry. At the present time, a soldier settlement project is under consideration, the intention being to allot an average holding of 40 acres over a considerable area of the fertile Murray and Goulburn Valley lands for engagement in the canning fruits industry. It will be readily recognized that very few industries could hope to establish a man on a comfortable living basis on 40 acres. I am not prepared to say that 40 acres is quite adequate; 50 acres may be needed. But that does not affect my argument. An area of 40 or 50 acres, planted with canning fruits, will employ more than one man regularly all the year, when the crops are in production and for a considerable period during the pruning season, and particularly during the picking season, scores of men could be employed on very small orchards. It would be tragic if an industry which rnakes such efficient use of our lands, and has shown the capacity to provide so satisfactory a return to the principals and such satisfactory rates of pay and conditions to the employees were to’ be prejudiced and brought to an unprofitable level. This measure is an important integral part of the structure which enables the canning fruits in-, dustry to function. I put that very strongly to the Government.
While on the subject, I point out that this measure is a standing exemplification of the fact that where the will exists it is possible to establish the organized marketing of a primary product on lines that are profitable to all engaged in it, even under the Constitution as it now is. Here is an example of primary producers willingly combining and capable of being negotiated with, the State and Commonwealth Governments being two of the principal parties.
– The Government is fathering them.
– Exactly. The Commonwealth Government takes the initiative in gathering them together and preparing an agreement. The Constitution, which we have been told is incapable of enabling us to achieve the organized marketing of primary products and assured prices, has in this instance been demonstrated to. contain adequate provisions to effect that purpose where the will exists in the governments concerned and those who are engaged in the industry. This is one of the most stable of our industries.
– What happens when the will does not exist?
– I realize that there are governments without the will to do such things.
– There are organizations in which the .will does not exist.
– I do not know what organizations the honorable gentleman has in mind. If he will name them, I may be able to reply to him.
– In some branches of primary production, there are two organizations.
– The Prime Minister is entirely correct. If producers .are inadequately organized or there are two organizations dealing with the one product, surely the Government should endeavour to merge the two into one adequate organization, so that there would be one body with which negotiations could be conducted !
– The peculiarity of the sugar industry is that it is practically confined to one State. Therefore, negotiations have to be conducted with only one State government.
– This is a simple industry compared with some others. On the statute-book of every parliament there is a stabilization scheme in respect of the wheat industry. That is one of the most difficult industries in which to achieve a completely comprehensive organization of the growers. It has wide ramifications in four major States, and also exists in two States which consider that they would be likely to be adversely affected by a comprehensive organized marketing scheme. Tasmania, being a small producer of wheat, reasonably enough wished to have the benefit of the prevailing low export parity price. Queensland, which did not quite produce all its own requirements, but which enjoyed a natural protection, wished to go on enjoying high local prices. However, even with the existence of those difficulties, it was found possible to get the producers into line in the four States which are major producers of wheat, as well as the two other States which produce it only in small quantities. Out of this agreement has come a comprehensive plan for the stabilization of the .wheat industry. If that could be achieved, as it was, through the agency of the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page), it can be done in respect of other industries. The sugar industry is another which has been satisfactorily stabilized. ‘Therefore, we ought not to despair of stabilizing any other primary industry, the result of referendums notwithstanding.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a- second time.
Clauses 1 to 3 agreed to.
Clause 4 (Approval of agreement).
.- Sugar refineries have been established in all States except Tasmania, which is under a distinct disadvantage in being without one. Clause 11 of the proposed agreement is as follows : -
That the Queensland Government, if and when requested by the Commonwealth Government shall establish a sugar depot at Hobart, provided that the Commonwealth Government shall not make such a request unless the request be accompanied by evidence proving that a general shortage of sugar has occurred in Hobart which is due to ‘ wholesale merchants in Hobart or the Queensland Sugar Board failing to adhere to the present arrangements whereby special reserve stocks of sugar are supplied to and held by such merchants.
That provision has been in operation in previous agreements for a number of years1, and it is now to be renewed.
I am concerned with the shortage of sugar for housewives, who recently, in Tasmania, could not obtain sugar for making jam, with the result that thousands of pounds of small fruits was lost. At the time, the authorities said that there was a shortage of sugar, but it was also generally known that the processors were getting large quantities of sugar from the mainland. The housewives were able to get only raw sugar, which was useless for jam-making, because jam made with it will not keep. The agreement provides that large quantities of sugar must he kept in depots in Hobart. I have been told that the sugar was, in fact, in the depot in Hobart. If so, why were housewives denied sugar for jam-making, with the result that there is to-day a shortage of preserves on their shelves? In the absence of a refinery in Tasmania, there will always be periodical shortages of sugar in that State. I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs whether he will inquire as to the quantity of sugar in the depot in Hobart at the time housewives were unable to get any. If there was enough sugar in the depot, why were they prevented from getting it? If there was a genuine shortage of sugar, why were the processors allowed to import sugar, if it was imported, and if there was a general shortage, will the Minister approach the Government of Queensland with a view to having a refinery established in Tasmania as in the other States?
– The suggestion of the honorable member is hedged round with so many “ ifs “ that it is difficult for me to disentangle his meaning.
– Surely it is possible to find out whether there were adequate supplies in the depots, as provided in the agreement.
– After I have exhausted all the honorable member’s “ ifs “ I shall try to find out. The honorable member has put up an argument for the establishment of a refinery at Hobart.
– If sufficient sugar cannot be otherwise provided.
– Claims for the establishment of a refinery at Hobart have; I think, been mainly actuated by recent shortages of sugar in that State. Whilst I appreciate the difficulties with which Tasmanians have had to contend during the past few years, I mustpoint out that other -States have also been adversely affected by the general fall in sugar production and the shortage of shipping. These shortages, of course, are a temporary war-time phase, and not a permanent condition. For a number of reasons it is very doubtful whether the establishment of a refinery in Hobart at present would be economically sound. Further, it would not result in the alleviation of the shortage of refined sugar in Tasmania. The establishment of a refinery in Tasmania would not relieve that State of its dependence on shipping. On the contrary, it would place Tasmania in a more unfavorable position. The raw sugar which would need to be shipped would be of a slightly greater tonnage than refined sugar, and would be transported from Queensland in coastal tramps instead of by the more regular shipping service, which is now used to carry the refined product. The availability of adequate coal supplies in Hobart is also an important consideration.
Another factor to be considered is the advantage which Tasmanian consumers now enjoy over other States in the prices they pay for sugar. Tasmanians, as a whole, get their sugar cheaper than do people in any other State. Sugar is made available in mainland capital cities, where refineries are established, at a uniform price, but transport costs to all other mainland ports and inland towns, except Fremantle, are borne by the purchasers. Tasmanian consumers, however, are given special concessions. Hobart and Launceston receive their sugar free of transport costs, and are given allowances to cover landing charges. In addition, persons purchasing through such ports as Burnie, Devonport, and Regatta Point, served by direct shipping routes, are granted concessions which enable them to obtain sugar at approximately capital city prices. The establishment of a refinery in Hobart would probably result in transport costs of refined sugar from Hobart falling fully on the purchasers. Whilst the Commonwealth is, of course, vitally concerned in the Australian sugar industry, the establishment of refineries is more the province of the Queensland Government. The Commonwealth Government has no control over production. However, I shall obtain for the honorable member the information for which he has asked.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
.- I refer to the matter raised by the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Guy), namely, the problem of refining sugar once it is sent from Queensland. The honorable member for Wilmot referred to the special situation obtaining in Hobart, but I ask the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) to examine with me for a moment another aspect of sugar refining. I am certain that this matter will strike a responsive chord in the breast of the Minister, because there are three aspects of it that will interest him. In the first place, as the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs, he is in charge of this legislation in this chamber and will have some knowledge of the relationship existing between the Commonwealth Government and the Government of Queensland regarding sugar. Secondly, as Minister for Postwar Reconstruction, he will recall the difficulties that occurred last year, particularly in Victoria, owing to the shortage of refined sugar supplies, particularly for. the processing of food. Thirdly, as a Victorian consumer, he will have a first-hand knowledge of the discomfort and inconvenience that Victorian housewives suffered as the result of the shortage. The position, as it was revealed then, was this: we have a sugar refinery in Victoria. A dispute occurred between the employers and the employees, as the result of which no refined sugar could be made available to the Victorian public. It is not my purpose to canvass the merits of the dispute, or to say whether one party or the other was right; but the cold fact of the matter is that while the dispute lasted, insufficient sugar was refined in that State. That had a serious effect in reducing the output of factories engaged in’ food processing. It also caused discomfort and inconvenience to the housewives by depriving them of refined sugar for jam-making and other purposes. I ask the Minister whether the Government cannot work out with -the Queensland Government a better method of storage or treatment of sugar in order to ensure continuity of supplies in the various States. It should not be beyond the ingenuity of those governments or the authorities administering the transport and distribution of sugar to devise arrangements whereby the refineries shall store a certain quantity of .sugar so that, in the event of a mishap, perhaps a fire or an industrial dispute, there shall be no consequential hold-up of the distribution of sugar required for industrial and domestic purposes. It appears that Victoria is almost as vulnerable in regard to sugar as in regard to coal, but the solution of the problem should be very much easier in respect of sugar than in respect of coal.
I advise the Minister, if he cannot give me an answer offhand, to investigate the matter and see what can be done to ensure availability of supplies in future.
– I shall do that.
– I find myself somewhat in disagreement with my Tasmanian colleague, the honorable member for “Wilmot (Mr. Guy). The honorable gentleman suggested that a sugar refinery in Hobart would solve Tasmania’s problem of a shortage of sugar. Well, that may or may not ,be, In normal times we have little or no difficulty in obtaining sugar supplies. The arrival of regular supplies in Tasmania depends on the availability of shipping. We have had difficulties since the outbreak of war, but so have other States. In fact, I think Victoria last year suffered a worse shortage of sugar than Tasmania did. That was my experience of Melbourne, anyway. Sugar was available in Tasmania for a longer period than it was in Melbourne, and Melbourne has a sugar refinery.
– It is alleged, of course, that a lot of sugar was locked up in the depots.
– Th at may be. There was a controversy about the quantity that was actually stored. I have never heard proof that the quantity stored was as great as has been alleged ; but, if it was stored, why was it not released ? I do not know t] at a refinery would be of much use to us in the event of a lack of shipping, because ships would be required to carry the raw sugar to the refinery. I think the solution of the problem lies in a more frequent shipping service between Sydney and Launceston. I know that it is the popular thing to say that we should have a refinery in Hobart because there are refineries in other States; but I am not so concerned about that as I am about having a regular flow of refined sugar coming to the northern and southern sugar depots on ships. The sugar agreement has worked very well over the years. During the war, shortage of labour and ships caused difficulties, but the sugar industry -was not singular in that respect. If the problem of a shortage of sugar in Tasmania arises in the future I think this clause is sufficiently broad for the i natter to be raised again, and then I should be happy to join with the honorable member for Wilmot in proposing the establishment of a refinery in Hobart; but, at the moment, I see no practical difficulties or reasons for supporting his proposal.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 5 agreed to.
Schedule and Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill - by leave- - read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 9th April (vide page 1167), on motion by Mr. Chifley -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- This bill seta out to give some minor relief in respect of items affected by sales tax. The Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley), when introducing the bill, said that the concessions set out in it would involve an annual loss of revenue amounting to £1,400,000, and he recalled that, in September, 1945, relief to the amount of £2,800,000 per annum was granted. He went on to say that the sales tax concessions allowed during the current year therefore involved a total revenue loss of -£4,200,000 a year. We are becoming in- creasingly familiar with the right honorable gentleman’s technique. He comes to us with a proposal for a concession and tells us how much it will cost during the year, but he omits to tell us that, in point of fact, the tax collections are rising and that, even with the concessions, the Treasury will collect more than it expected to collect. This concession runs true to form. If honorable members examine the sales tax figures for the last few years they will be interested to find that in 193S-39, the pre-war peak year, sales tax revenue amounted to about £9,000,000, compared with more than £29,000,000, collected in 1944-45, the peak war year. In the budget the Treasurer forecast the collection of £28,000,000 in the financial year 1945-46. In the first nine months of 1945-46, £24,78S,000 was collected. Disregarding the fact that the tendency is for sales tax revenue to rise, we must reach the conclusion that, on those figures, £33,000,000 will be raised from the tax this financial year, or £5,000,000 more than the Treasurer estimated. Most honorable members will recall the predictions of the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden), who closely analysed the financial statements, that it would be found that the Treasurer’s estimates were very conservative. These figures certainly confirm the argument which he advanced at that time. Let us examine the value of concessions compared with the actual receipts. It may be true, as the Treasurer pointed out, that in a complete financial year the concessions would involve an amount of £4,200,000; but, of course, the remissions already granted last September and by this bill do not operate for a full twelve months. The concessions ‘given last September involve an amount of £1,900,000, and concessions given under this legislation involve, for the remainder of this financial year, approximately £350,000. The addition of those two amounts produces £2,250,000. Therefore, it will be seen that despite having conceded these reductions on certain items subject to sales tax, the Treasurer will actually collect in the course of this financial year approximately £3,000,000 more than the estimated receipts from sales tax which he gave when he introduced the budget. Surely the right honorable gentleman must be placed on a pedestal as the most reluctant benefactor that this Parliament has as yet witnessed ! Every concession has a catch to it, and invariably seems to bring in greater revenue to the Treasury. But we must not be too carping about tax concessions, however limited they may be.
I have given those figures to the House, not so much to attack the Treasurer for not having granted greater concessions, but, to indicate to honorable members that there is within the range of his original forecast still a considerable margin, which he could use if he desired to grant additional relief in respect, of sales tax. In a moment I shall suggest items on which, in the national interest, sales tax should be reduced. Let us examine, first, the main headings of this legislation. We are told that certain goods are now being removed from the Third Schedule- that is the schedule which applies sales tax at the rate of 25 per cent. - and the tax applicable to them, will now be 12-) per cent. Perhaps I should pause on the reference to the general rate of 12£ per cent, to remind the House that the pre-war rate, which itself represented an advance of 5 per cent, on the earlier rate of sales tax, was about- 6£ per cent. That was the standard rate just prior to the outbreak of the war in 1939. Honorable members will readily calculate that sales tax of 12£ per cent, does represent a very substantial burden of indirect taxation upon the Australian purchasing public. Further, it should be borne in mind that all these purchases are not merely for consumption. Many of them are purchases of capital goods for use in industry.
One important schedule of items which is referred to in this legislation is that which deals with certain processed food Stuffs. I am somewhat astonished at the inconsistency which the Government has displayed here. It is always easy for honorable members to find anomalies in sales tax legislation, and. the Treasurer himself has .conceded that every lot -of remissions creates its own- set of anomalies ; but here, I confess to a special and personal interest, because most of the processed foodstuffs which I am interested in manufacturing seem to have eluded the Treasurer when he granted these concessions. He has included under those items upon which relief from sales tax is to be granted imported fish, fish of Australian origin, meat and meat products, vegetables processed or treated, mixtures of vegetables, meat, canned ‘or bottled, cider, essences, &c, but other items which are in general . use to-day, such as processed puddings, desserts, soups; junkets and jellies are to remain in the taxable field. I suggest to the Ministor assisting the Treasurer (Mr. Lazzarini) that these items should be closely examined. To-day more than at any previous time in the life of our people, because of the shortage of domestic labour and probably because more people, particularly women, are working, there has developed a more extensive use of various processed foods or ready-to-serve foods; consequently, the maintenance of the high rate of sales tax of 12^ per cent, on foodstuffs of this kind represents a heavy additional burden of tax on the breadwinner. The larger the family, the heavier the burden becomes. I ask the Minister to examine that particular aspect.
There is another important field which, having regard to the finances available te the Treasurer, should be granted relief from sales tax. I refer to items which are used in the building of a modern home. It is true that the Government has removed sales tax from the actual materials which went into the construction of a home, but a home contains far more than timber, bricks and cement. For example, such items as paints and lacquers are still subject to the high rate of 12-& per cent. Carpets, upon which sales tax was reduced last September from 25 per cent, to 12£ per cent, and floor coverings generally are an important item of expense in a modern home. They still bear a rate of tax double that which was in existence prior to the outbreak of war in 1939. Therefore, one could describe it fairly as a war-time emergency tex rate. Another household item subject to sales tax at the rate of 12-i per cent, is crockery. I emphasize this phase more particularly because house construction costs have risen very sharply. Despite remissions of sales tax on building .materials, the cost of home-building ‘ has increased inordinately, and falls particularly heavily upon young servicemen who desire to re-establish themselves, and young men and women who are trying to finance the construction of their homes in the next few years. Although sales tax has been removed from the material elements of a home such as bricks, timber, and cement, all these other item? of expense are still subject to a punitive rate of tax. Furniture also carries a rate of 12-J per cent. These items should be examined before the Government introduces its next budget, because, as I have already shown, the Treasurer, even on the remissions of tax which he has granted in this legislation, will collect nearly £3,000,000 more .from sales tax than he expected when he cast his Estimates. It is probable that receipts from sales tax, even at the present, rates, will be much greater in the next financial year. Now that consumer goods are becoming more freely available as war-time production is converted to peace-time uses, people will be able to buy many things for the home and for their own needs which previously they were not able to purchase. People of even modest means to-day regard a refrigerator as a neces-. sary adjunct to their home life. It may be a kerosene refrigerator in the country, or a gas or electric refrigerator in the city, but people who were able to accumulate modest savings in the war years envisage that at an early period, they will be ‘able to buy a refrigerator for their homes, if they are lucky enough to possess homes. But refrigerators now carry sales tax at the rate of 12^ per cent.
This afternoon I received a telephone call from the manufacturers of cinematograph plant in Sydney, who directed my attention to the fact that the equipment bad not received any relief from sales tax, although most forms of capital equipment, which are to be used in various income-producing ways, are now receiving the benefit of remissions. There is, I know, a widespread belief that the people in. this industry have had most extraordinarily favorable conditions during the war. That, no doubt, is true of some of them; but what most people do not realize is that for every large and consequential entrepreneur in the industry, there are perhaps five or six who are carrying on in a small way in country districts and the outer suburbs to whom the capital equipment which they put into ‘their theatres represents a very large item. It was explained to me that equipment of this character at present carries the high sales tax rate of 25 per cent., although sales tax on radio receivers was reduced last September to 12-A per cent. The manufacturers pointed out to me that when they set to work, they produce enough equipment probably to cover a two-year period, and, consequently, any remissions which, may be granted later will not be of benefit to the man who, after being unable to procure this equipment for -six or seven years, now desires to install it in his theatre. That man will have to pay a high rate of tax. As the matter had been brought to my notice, I said that I would ask the Treasurer to give the request sympathetic consideration. In the past, it has not been the practice of the Treasurer to accept amendments during the debate on sales tax legislation, and, no doubt, he had sound reasons. The very anomaly that one sets out to remove by an amendment might, in turn, . create many other anomalies ; but he has shown a disposition, when a case was established in the House, to examine it with a view to seeing whether relief could be granted when the next amending legislation was introduced. I hope that between the passing of this bill and the presentation of the budget, the Treasurer will find it practicable to grant relief in respect of the items which I have mentioned, and reduce the standard rate of tax to approximately the pre-war figure.
As all honorable members have pointed out from time to time, sales tax is a most unsatisfactory tax, because its incidence does not, as the income tax does, relate to the circumstances of the person who has to pay it. The sales tax bears heavily upon the family man in the lower income ranges, who carries a much heavier burden, proportionately, in sales tax than in income tax. This tax has a depressing effect upon industry and causes increased prices. That, of course, in turn, has a deadening effect upon economic development. I therefore ask the Government to investigate, before the budget is presented, the practicability of granting substantial reductions of the rates of sales tax.
.- I am pleased that the Government has decided to grant additional concessions in sales tax, particularly in regard to food and building materials. I wish that greater relief could have been given, because those items have a considerable effect upon the cost of living. It is desirable that this tax should be lifted as early as possible from all items essential to the man on the basic wage. The pyramid effect of sales tax is very great and the value of -the tax, in relation to some items at any rate, is out of proportion to the amount of revenue received from it. The tax should be removed as early as possible from all foodstuffs and all building materials which are still subjectto it. The tax should also be lifted from all goods required for agricultural production.
I bring to the notice of the Government, two anomalies which should be corrected at once. I refer first to septic tanks and chemical materials required in connexion therewith. The Government has removed the tax from certain items but, unfortunately, not from tanks required by country people for the storage of water for domestic purposes. All items connected with drainage and water supply in cities and towns have been exempt from the tax, but tanks for the storage of water on farms are still taxable. I am confident that this anomaly needs only to be mentioned to ensure that it will be rectified without delay. Galvanized iron for the manufacture of tanks should also be free. All nails required for building purposes should be exempt from the tax. It will be appreciated that great quantities of nails are used in constructing timber houses in country towns. Whereas nails may not be a very important item in brick and cement buildings, they are important in timber constructions.
It is urgently necessary to reduce transport costs in country districts. All food products should be transported at the cheapest possible rate from the farms to the market.For this reason, I ask that sales tax be removed from lorries required for such purposes. A great deal of co-ordination has been effected in motor transport services in country districts because of the shortage of petrol and the difficulty in securing tyres. Although I appreciate that there might be some difficulty in differentiating between lorries required for different purposes, I am sure that a method could be devised which would permit of exemption being granted in respect of lorries required for the transport of food. Such a concession would beof inestimable value in country districts’ Unless we can reduce costs to dairy-farmers, I fear that many of. them will divert their ‘activities to the raising of cattle for beef. We should not do anything to accelerate the tendency in that direction. I therefore urge the Government to give early consideration to the points I have raised. In particular, I hope that it will remove the two anomalies to which I have referred.
– I ask the Government to make acomplete review of the sales tax schedules. I am glad that a move has been made to reduce the rates of tax and to increase exemptions, but a great deal more must be done in this direction. It is fallacious to assume that the reduction of the. rate of tax and the granting of additional exemptions will necessarily reduce the total revenue of the Government. In fact, the reverse has always proved to be true. Larger turnovers follow lower taxes, for people engaged in small businesses are encouraged’ to extend their operations when taxes are reduced. The sales tax was introduced as an emergency measure during the regime of the Scullin Government. An officer was brought to Australia from Canada to introduce the system. The first schedules were full of anomalies. Some of these were removed in thecourse of time, but it cannot be deniedthatthesales tax has had, and still has an irritating and harrassing effecton business people. During the war the rate of tax were increased to punitive proportions, with the object of diverting money from expenditure on luxuriesso investment in war loansand forwar purposes. Thistaxis described in Great Britain as a purchase tax andit has reached the dizzy heights of 100percentonsomeitems. We havenotgotto that stage, but we have reached the stage where the economic principle of diminishing returnshas begun to operate and that is bad for industry. If sales tax were completely removed from all foodstuffs, all buildingmaterials, and all goods required for primary production, it would be excellentforAustralia. I am glad that the Government is moving in this direc- tion,butitshould move more rapidly. We allknow that the cost of labour and materialsforbuilding has increased tre- mendously. Recently we passed a bill to provide largergrants to ex-service men andwomenwho desire to purchase homes through the War ServiceHomes Commission.Undoubtedly, building costs have increased because of the Government’s taxation policy. Sales tax must always be paid by the customers,because merchantsmerely add the tax to their invoices. In these circumstances people who are buying homes on long term mortgage are at a heavy disadvantage. They rimy make repayments for many years and even then find that they have little or no equity in the properties. For that reason, I submit that all building materials should be exempt from sales tax. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) referred to the many thousands of ex-service men and- women who desire to buy homes and will be required to pay inflated prices partly because of the Government’s taxation policy. It is regrettable that tools of trade and many other necessary items of equipment for ex-servicemen should still be liable to sales tax. The Government has abounding revenues, and has embarked ‘on a project to spend £9,000,000 on 61 Lincoln bombers which will never be required for use in war; nor were any used in war. If it ‘would remit £9,000,000 in sales tax on essential goods it would do a great deal to encourage the revival of industry. It is ridiculous that sales tax should ever have been imposed on ships. Braille watches and explosives should never have been subject to this tax. I am glad that school and university requirements areto be exempt, but I cannot understand why card-tables, puzzle games and the like should be on the exempt list while refrigerators, carpets and furniture for the home are still subject to tax.
The right honorable member for Cowper stressed the necessity to lift the sales tax from motor vehicles. I support his remarks. It is still commonly supposed by many people that motor vehicles are a luxury. That is not the case. Many men and women who arcreturning to civil life from the Navy, the Army and the Air Force, particularly young medical men, desire to acquire a motor car but they cannot afford the extortionate prices that prevail.
– Sales tax is not imposed on. second-hand goods.
– That is true, but the price of new vehicles influences the price of second-hand cars and lorries. Two or three makes of British motor vehicles are now coming on the market; but even 12 horse-power cars cost up to £600. The sales tax of 32£ per cent, on chassis is partly responsible for these high prices. Components for these vehicles are manufactured in Australia, it is true, but even some of these are taxable. Ford and Chevrolet cars are to-day priced as high as superior quality vehicles. Britain is now reviving its trade, and the bulk of its manufactures are being exported. Some motor chassis are coming to Australia. Doctors and businessmen who must have motor cars should not bc penalized because they were in the services and did not have the opportunity to purchase them, as did other men who stayed at home. They should be given special consideration. It would not be beyond the competence of the Parliamentary draftsmen to draft an item which would free from sales tax motor cars purchased by men in categories approved by the Government. That applies also’ to motor trucks. Does the Minister know that pre-war there were more truck drivers in Australia, than there were employees on all the railways in the Commonwealth? Thousands of trucks that were taken over by the defence authorities have not yet been returned to their former owners. They are needed by persons ‘engaged in the transport business, farmers, and many others. Now that the war is over, the need for this punitive tax no longer exists. The Government has as much revenue as it can handle, and the time for revision of the tax has arrived. It presents a profitable field for investigation by the Treasurer. I hope that the present reductions and exemptions are merely a beginning. An exten:sion of the principle would encourage many people to go into business, our economy would be improved and expanded, and the national revenue would not fall appreciably. I know that departmental officers are in contact with the business world. The Minister might call a conference of representatives of the Associated Chambers of Commerce. and Chambers of Manufactures, and the Repatriation Department - which disburses money to many ex-servicemen who find difficulty in obtaining their requirements - in order to ascertain from what items the tax should be removed. I trust that a more comprehensive list will be introduced before long.
.- This bill is welcome, because I believe it to be the forerunner of more reductions which will prove helpful to the business community, and assist to restore trade and commerce to normal proportions. There must be further reductions of the tax in the future, if we are to return to anything like the conditions of pre-war days. Sales tax exemption item SIa authorizes the exemption of “ goods purchased, imported or manufactured by an organization not carried on for the profit of individuals - (i) for donation to, or for the use, comfort or recreation (whether as goods or in some other form) of, members of the defence force of the Commonwealth “. Throughout Australia, many patriotic bodies are buying goods for presentation to ex-servicemen all over the country. These organizations are not carried on for the profit of individuals. If the conditions of item 81a are complied with, the goods may be purchased free of sales tax by the patriotic bodies referred to, but they must give a certificate to the Commissioner of Taxation in these terms -
I hereby certify that the goods purchased by the organization will be donated to members of the naval, military or air forces of the Commonwealth.
I had hoped that by means of an amendment of this bill, or the introduction of another measure, exemption, could be extended so that it would apply to exservice men and women, and not be confined to existing members of the forces. The persons to whom the presentations are to be made may be members of the forces when the goods are purchased, but they may be discharged before becoming the recipients of them. Consequently, the goods cannot be tax-free. That seems to be an anomaly. If a person is entitled to the benefit of the exemption to-day, because lie is a member of one of the forces, why should he not be entitled to it tomorrow, even though he has been discharged ? In all other respects, I approve of the bill wholeheartedly. I believe it to be a step in the right direction, and hope that greater reductions and exemptions will be made in the near future for ihe good of business throughout Australia and of the community generally.
– I have taken careful note of the items referred to by the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page), the honorable, members for Fawkner (Mr. Holt), Balaclava (Mr. White), and others. On the present occasion ‘ when the sales tax was being reviewed, the reductions or exemptions proposed in the bill were regarded as the limit of the concessions that could be made. I have made many speeches against the sales tax, which 1 dislike as much as any honorable member. Its imposition was a financial expedient which, as the honorable member for Balaclava has pointed out, was found essential in Great Britain and elsewhere. I shall be a very happy man when it can be completely removed. That is the view of the Government and its supporters. The Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) has authorized me to inform the House that all the items referred to by honorable members, as well as many others, will be carefully and sympathetically considered, and that there will be a complete review of the sales tax when the next budget is being considered.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
In committee :
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
Clause -3 (Amendments of the First Schedule).
.- I welcome, as I am sure all honorable members do, the assurance which the Minister has given that the Government will examine sympathetically the representations that have been made to-night, as well as many other features of the sales tax which bear harshly on the community as a whole. There is one aspect which I believe to be of first-class importance to the future of Australia, and. I shall emphasize it so that it may be given due weight when the matter is being considered departmentally. I refer to the effect on the export trade of the Commonwealth of the continuance of sales tax at the high rates that apply to a number of the items that are mentioned in clause 3. But there is also a more general application. I urge the Minister to place before the department, when the sales tax is being investigated prior to the introduction of the next budget, the effect which the high rates of sales tax will inevitably have on our export trade should they be continued. A substantial reduction would give to us an opportunity to compete in the markets of the world, which otherwise we might not have.
.- The exemption of items associated with homebuilding might have received the consideration of the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) before he presented this bill. I refer particularly to that essential of homebuilding, paint. Seven or eight- months ago, I placed before the Parliament certain facts in relation to the costs associated with the painting, of a home, and the additional expenditure involved in the payment of sales tax. For the benefit of the committee, I shall repeat the remarks that I then made, which appear in Hansard of the 28th September, 1945. Requesting the Government to consider the exemption of paint from the sales tax. I said -
Paint is the only basic raw material of importance used in building construction which is not already exempt from this tax. The approximate value of the annual production of paint in . Australia is £4,000,000. It is estimated that, under present conditions, about two-thirds of that production is subject to sales tax, and, at the rate of 12^ per cent., yields £292.000 per annum. The remaining one-third, being for government, shipping and export use, is not subject to sales tax. The average cost of the paint that is used on a house newly constructed, taking into account brick, wood, and other forms of construction, and including exterior and interior painting, is estimated to be £20, the sales tax on which is £2 10s On this basis, the additional burden on housing costs duc to sales tax, on the erection of the 40,000 or 50,000 houses per annum now proposed, would be from £1.00,000 to £125,000 per annum, lt is estimated that approximately SO per cent, of the total houses erected cost less than £1,800. These, very hugely, are privately owned homes, from which the owners get no relief in respect of the additional cost of the sales tax that is required in connexion with the painting ‘ maintenance of their properties. The balance of the houses, flats. &c.. are largely owned by investors, who get some relief from the additional burden of sales tax, in that they, are allowed to deduct from their incomes the cost of maintenance for income tax purposes. The estimated use of paint produced prior to the war was.: New building construction, 10 per cent.; building maintenance, 50 per cent. ; shipping and export, 10 per cent.; and industrial and other uses, 30 per cent. The proportion of the total paint production used in connexion with new building construction during the next ten years is likely to be considerably higher than 10 per cent.
I have repeated those remarks because they give a summary of the reasons why paints should be exempted from sales tax. Paint represents a. considerable item in building costs, and if sales tax were removed it would enable homes to be built more cheaply, a matter of importance to those in the lower income groups. In my electorate are some of the largest paint manufacturing companies in Australia, but, apart from that, I realize what a benefit it would be to the people generally if the cost of paint were reduced. Therefore, I ask the Minister to give the matter his close attention.
I also ask that sales tax be removed from ice, which is not. a food, but a. service, and the only service on which sales tax is levied. A little while ago, I introduced a deputation representing the New South Wales Associated Ice Manufacturers, which asked for this concession, and I thought that the Government would keep this in mind when the present bill was being drafted. This is a matter which affects many thousands of householders . in my electorate, and hundreds of thousands of householders throughout Sydney. The concession for which I ask could be granted with a little cost to the Treasury, but it would represent a definite advantage to the public. I also suggest that this sales tax concession shall be immediately passed on to the public.
.- At the present time, country traders have to pay sales tax on the price of goods which they have obtained from the capital cities, and also on the freight which they pay on the carriage of those goods from the city to their own towns, because freight charges are added before the tax is levied. This constitutes a heavy additional burden in cases where goods are carried perhaps hundreds of miles by ‘rail or sea., when the rate of sales tax may be as high as 20 to 25 per cent. For instance, if a firm in Lismore buys £100 worth of goods from Sydney, and pays £10 freight for the carriage of the goods, it must then pay sales tax on £110. I have asked that this system be altered, because it represents additional taxation on country people who live a distance from the city. The Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Lazzarini) is himself a country resident, and he is acquainted with the burdens which t country people are called upon to bear. The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Fuller), when he buys goods in Sydney for his business in Tumut, has to pay sales ta.x of from 10 per cent, to 20 per cent, on the cost of carriage, as well as on the goods themselves. That is not fair, and I take a very strong view of the matter. Representations have been made by chambers of commerce in various parts of the country, but in every instance they have been told that, because of administrative difficulties, it is impossible to grant their request. My opinion is, that where an injustice is being done, a way must be found to remove it. Now that I have drawn attention to the matter in this chamber, I hope that the Government will see its way clear ‘to amend the rates bill to give effect to my request.
.- Members- Of show societies, and particularly the executives of agricultural societies, will be keenly disappointed that the Government has not removed sales . tax from ribbon used by them as awards. However, T welcome the announcement of the Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Lazzarini) that all representations made now will be considered with a view to their acceptance when further taxation concessions are being considered during the preparation of the next budget. I have already made representations to the Treasurer on this matter, and T now take this opportunity of urging upon the Government, through the Assistant ‘Treasurer, the importance of exempting award ribbons from taxation. These societies have done excellent work, particularly during the war. Despite numerous difficulties, they have carried on, rendering valuable service to the Government and to the community. Indeed, the value of their work cannot be over-emphasized. The granting of their requests would cost the Government little, but it would be of great help and encouragement to the societies. Perhaps a concession could bo; granted in the same way as has been done in respect of goods bought by police boys’ clubs, police ambulance ‘ brigades, and the authorities in charge of Boys’ Town. In this instance, the goods would be bought through the co-operative purchase scheme of the Council of Agricultural ‘Societies. These societies do not work for profit, but for the good of the community, and their work has a high educational value.
.- My request .iS such a simple one that I am sure the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) will grant it without delay. Sales tax has been lifted from such building, materials as are used in the construction of sceptic tanks, and that is all to the good. Also, the tax has been removed from sterilizing appliances for sanitary purposes. I am certain that it was because of an oversight that it was not considered before, but I now ask the Minister to consider the sales tax on other filtering and sterilizing plants that must be used for domestic purposes. The honorable gentleman knows that in many country areas people depend on artesian bore water, which is alkaline and not fit for human consumption until treated. The amount of money involved would be small, but the lifting of the tax would be a relief to outback people who have to filter and sterilize water for household consumption. Will the Minister include that in the list of exemptions?
– I think the proposal of flip honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) has much merit, but the hon.ora.blp member will realize that it is difficult to interfere with the schedule at short notice. I shall certainly make representations to the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) oil the matter, because
I have full sympathy with the honorable member’s request. Perhaps something can be done in the Senate.I shall also ask the Treasurer to examine the representations of the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr.Fraser) about the sales tax on show ribbons. I give the same assurance to the honorable member for Martin (Mr. Daly). I shall try to have a further examination made of the matter raised by the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony).
– What about gifts to ex-servicemen?
– I have notforgotten that. I made a note of each matter as it was raised. The representations made will be conveyed to the Treasurer, who will also be able to study the Hansard proof of the debate. I will ask the right honorable gentleman to give sympathetic consideration to all the requests made and try to have a review made before this Parliament ends.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 4 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill -by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 9th April (vide page 1167), on motion by Mr.
That the bill be now read a second time.
Questionresolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to;
Clause 3 -
Section four of the Sales Tax Assessment Act (No. 9) 1930-1936 is amended -
.- I am glad to have the assurance of the Minister assisting the Treasurer (Mr.
Lazzarini) that he will carefully consider the matter that I raised in my second-reading speech, but, as an earnest of what I believe to be the rights of country people, I propose to do more than merely talk. I intend to put on record what I regard as the amendment that ought to be made, because I believe that a really serious injustice is being inflicted on all country people. There can be no justification for the levying of sales tax as a super tax on freight. If a retailer in acountry town ran a motor lorry to the city to pick up goods instead of transporting them on an organized transport system requiring the payment of freight, he would not have to pay a penny of sales tax on freight, but, if he uses the railways, or any other form of public transport, he has to pay sales tax ranging from 71/2 per cent, to 10 per cent., according to the classification of the goods, as a super charge onevery penny of freight paid. That is indefensible. I therefore intend to move my amendment, not that I think that the Minister assisting the Treasurer, in view of what he has said, will accept it at this juncture, but to demonstrate that we believe that something ought to be done. It should bo put on record in order that it may not be forgotten; and I sincerely hope that, after the bill leaves this chamber and before it is finally dealt with, the Government will examine the point and endeavour to make an appropriate adjustment. I move -
That the following sub-clause be added: - “ (2.) No sales tax shall be chargeable on any freight paid on the transport of goods from wholesaler to retailer or between city and country.”.
It may be that the Parliamentary Draftsman could achieve my purpose in better phraseology, but that will convey to the Government what I hope will be adopted by it before this bill is finally passed. There is a strong feeling throughout the country amongst retailers and all classes of businessmen against this unwarranted super charge. If the Government meets the wishes of country residents in this matter, it will not only be appreciated, but also recognized as just.
– The amendment is out of order, because it is not relevant to this bill, which does not deal with freights.
Clause agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill- by leave - read a third time.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- In November, 1943, the Australian Women’s Conference for Victory in War and Victory in Peace was held in Sydney. Ninetythree organizations were represented. Among the subjects considered and upon which resolutions were adopted and incorporated in the Australian Women’s Charter were the following : - “ Women in War and Peace “, “ Women in Public Life”, “Women at the Peace Conference “, “ Equal Rights Legislation “,
Employment and Social ‘ Security “, “Health”, “Education”, “Housing”, “Child Care”, “Birth-rate”, “Legal Reforms”, “Divorce”, “Widows’ Pensions “ and “ The Census ‘”. It was originally intended that that conference should be an international one, and the then Prime Minister, the late Mr. Curtin, was asked to authorize the invitation of delegates from Great Britain, the Soviet Union, China, India and the United States of America, but, owing to travel restrictions, the attendance of delegates from those countries was impossible. The organization intends to hold an international women’s conference in August next year. A. copy of the agenda, which I have received from the organization, sets out that at the conference it is proposed to report on and consider the San Francisco Conference, the International
Women’s Democratic Conference in Paris in November, 1945, the All Women’s India Conference, held at Hyderabad, India, in January, 1946, and the Australian Women’s Charter, 1943, and to hear addresses by visiting delegates. All women’s organizations in Australia have been invited to subscribe to the Australian Women’s Charter and to assist in entertaining the delegates whom it is proposed to invite from overseas, to ensure that they shall be catered for in a truly Australian fashion. I urge the Commonwealth Government to provide financial assistance in the valuable work that- this international conference of women will do.
– In the Sydney Morning Herald to-day there appears “ An Open Letter to the Devil “, which begins “ Dear Satan “ and ends -
May I suggest that you adhere to the brimstone business, and leave it to us our job of getting our service people solidly on their feet, and so forth. I want to know one or two things about this. Exactly what prompts the Government to publish advertisements of that sort? How does the Government get into touch with His Satanic Majesty?
– We have liaison officers in every department.
– I have no doubt about that. I have a strong suspicion that many investors are much more afraid of the Labour Government than they are of the devil, and, therefore, they are not likely to take much notice of this advertisement. In my opinion, advertising matter of this description, which is paid for out of Commonwealth revenue, is unpardonable.
– Is the honorable member afraid of His Satanic Majesty?
– His Satanic Majesty would not be frightened of me. I. have been in many lonely places at night, and I have never met anything worse than myself, but a man never knows what he might encounter. However, I put it to the Treasurer that this advertisement is intolerable. On previous occasions, I have protested against some of the propaganda employed in loan campaigns. I have in mind the circuses in front of certain town halls, one or two of which I witnessed for a moment until the measure of my disgust overflowed. This is not the method by which public business should be transacted. Last week, a professor, who has acquired certain press publicity for a number of years on account of his researches into rocket matters, visited Canberra. I understand that he is identical with a gentleman who has talked of the possibility of getting rocket communication between the earth and the moon. This morning, some strangers were present who were interested in similar projects. I should like to know whether the desert areas of the electorates of Kalgoorlie, Grey, and the Northern Territory are to be used for some of these ventures. In the event of any attempt to obtain rocket communication between the earth and the moon, what Ministers will go on the trip? It is obvious that members of the present Government and some of its supporters have just about left the earth. I expect that in the event of any great rocket experiments, the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) will seek new fields. Possibly he will try to take charge of the moon. I leave the matter there.
– I have been in correspondence with the appropriate departments for some time about a travel priority for the wife of a member of the American forces, and I have not been able to get the slightest satisfaction. This correspondence, which relates to my negotiations and efforts on her behalf, has extended over months, and the lady has sent to me the names of Australian wives who have received travel priorities and passages on boats to go to England. This has caused a good deal of dissatisfaction, particularly to. this woman who has persistently endeavoured to rejoin her husband. I have the names of women who have obtained preferential treatment to enable them to leave Australia. I cannot get any satisfaction, and it is evident that preferential treatment and favoritism are being extended to certain persons. Australian women should not be allowed passages on foreign ships before the wife of anAmerican serviceman who desires to rejoin her husband in the United States of America.
I now direct attention to a letter which I received to-day relating to the treatment of English brides. This position should be closely examined in order that there shall not be a repetition of this alleged ill-treatment. The letter reads -
I would like to place a few facts before you of the treatment by the present Government to our English brides.
My wife is only now en route to Australia although I arrived back here some twelve months ago.
I have personally visited the Repatriation Department in Sydney on numerous occasions and have not been able to receive any definite information from them concerning the departure of the Highland Princess on which my wife and baby are travelling.
Although I had received a letter from a friend in the United Kingdom giving me details and the actual time of departure,I called at theRepatriation Department a week after receipt of this advice and I was informed that they had no official notification, but, they gathered from the press that the boat had left.
My next inquiry was to ascertain the date of arrival of the ship. The reply was, “ We haven’t any idea but we should know a week before it berths”. I then interviewed a private shipping company and they were able to tell mo the route, ports of call and date of arrival in Australia.
Finally I was advised by Repatriation Department that the ship would call at Fremantle and Melbourne and thence to New Zealand. When asked what provision they made for me to meet my wife in Melbourne, the answer was, “ We discourage this practice as much as we possibly can “, they also added that should I. go to Melbourne I would not be allowed to accompany my wife on return to Sydney.
I received a telegram from the shipping company to-day, Highland Princess now due Sydney16th April.
Judging by past experience with the Repatriation DepartmentI will probably receive a letter containing this same information shortly after my wife and I have returned home toNarrabri.
By to-day’s air mail I received letters from my wife with several details of the accommodation and facilities with which they are provided on this ship. These include -
Facilities for drying babies’ and their own washing is a piece of string in their own cabin.
In the one cabin there are five women and four small babies.
The checking of the babies’ weight for the one Medical officer on board has to be done by taking the baby down to the kitchen and using the butcher’s meat scales.
I view the whole business with utter disgust and as an absolute disgrace and hope by bringing these glaring facts and examples of mismanagement before your notice .that you will endeavour to see that these conditions are remedied for those- unfortunate brides who have yet to make the voyage.
I fully realise it is difficult for you to remedy the position but I know that it is hopeless to appeal to any supporter of such a government at present in power.
Trusting you will endeavour to take this matter up,
– Will the right honorable gentleman .allow me to peruse the letter?
:- I direct the attention of the Government to what a ppears to be a marked injustice to Tasmania. Before the outbreak of the war in 1939, the passenger ship Zealandia, and overseas mail steamers, and other vessels during the fruit season called at Hobart and carried to Sydney a considerable number of passengers and quantities of cargo. After the outbreak of war, Zealandia was taken off this service, and trade between Hobart and Sydney was discontinued. A revival of that trade is now urgently required. We have also lost a first-class cargo vessel, and that is having a detrimental effect upon the business of merchants in Hobart. I urge the Government to see whether it is possible to provide a suitable passenger vessel to meet the ordinary requirements of the trade between Hobart and Sydney, and a suitable cargo ship for regular trade between those two ports. This shipping service is not only of commercial value to business people in Hobart and Sydney, but is also a great attraction to tourists, who visit Tasmania at certain times of the year in great numbers. I emphasize the urgency of this matter, because trade between Hobart and Sydney was sadly reduced by the war, and no great effort has been made to rehabilitate it in the post-war period.
.- Unlike any other dependants of servicemen, the . dependent parents of deceased servicemen are subject to a means test. I do not blame the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Frost) or the Government at the moment, because this is hereditas damnosa from previous administrations. During the economic depression, pensions were whittled down by the Scullin Government. Some years ago, I proposed, unsuccessfully, that a select committee should be appointed to examine and recommend .improvements of the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act. When f. was abroad in 1942, a .parliamentary committee was appointed for that purpose, and amending legislation based on its recommendations was subsequently introduced. Whenever I raise these matters now, I am inf ormed that the Parliament had considered the recommendations of the committee; but I contend that this particular anomaly was not properly considered at that time.
– It was.
– I shall relate some facts which will interest the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Frost). Last week, I placed on the notice-paper a series of questions relating to the rate of war pension for approved dependants, parents of ‘ deceased servicemen, and the means test, and made certain comparisons. There are some sad cases. In one family, the two single sons were killed. Their allotments had supported the home. The mother and father received a letter from the Repatriation Department inviting them to apply for a pension as bereaved parents, and they believed that the granting of the pension was almost automatic. When they applied, a policeman came to. the home, and they were asked to go to the police station, fill in a humiliating form, and answer numbers of personal questions. Because it was found that their weekly income in each case was more than £1 19s., the parents were disqualified from receiving a pension. Subject to a means test, an old-age pensioner, at the age of 65 years, automatically receives the pension, and a similar test is applied to bereaved, parents who have lost those very dear to them. The public does not know of the operation of the means test. I could mention other sad cases, but I am sure that the Minister has received many .letters on this subject. I also asked -
How many applications were rejected for such casualties during the 1939-45 war?
I was surprised to learn that the number was 1,130. I also asked the Minister -
What is the qualification and amount of pension for a de facto wife?
I asked this question, not with the object of criticizing the amount, but for the purpose of indicating the favorable treatment of a de facto wife compared with such parents as I have mentioned. The Minister’s reply was -
The term “ de facto wife “ does not appear in the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act. 1 030-1 945. It is deemed, however, that the honorable member’s question is intended to relate to certain female dependants referred to in section 42 of the act.
The point is that a de facto wife automatically receives a pension of £2 10s. a week, without a means test.
– So does a wife.
– That is so. Why should not a parent who was dependent upon a deceased soldier son be treated as liberally without a means test?
– The government of which the honorable member was a Minister introduced the provision in relation to de<facto wives.
– I am not arguing that’ point, and I am not blaming this Government for the deficiency to which I am referring. The benefits provided under the Australian Soldiers’- Repatriation Act were reduced during the depression years. They are being gradually restored. Some time ago I gave notice of my intention to move for the appointment of a select committee to discuss repatriation matters generally. I was supported by the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard), but I was overseas at the time the subject was dealt with. I am sure that if I had been here, with the help of the honorable member for Ballarat in this matter; it would have been adjusted. An organization has . been formed by the people to whom I am referring, but it is not very vocal. I am glad that the Minister foi1 Repatriation (Mr. Frost) is present, and I hope that he will give consideration to my submission. It is regrettable that these parents who have been thrifty and possess property of a value of even £400 are disqualified for a pension. I urge that the means test in this connexion be abolished. The Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act was intended to deal justly with all sections of the community, and I trust that the anomaly to which I have referred will be rectified. If the Minister for Repatriation would submit the matter to Cabinet at the first opportunity, I am sure that good results would follow.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
National Security Act - National Security (Prices) Regulations - Orders - Nos. 2458- 2492.
House adjourned at 9.51 p.m.
The following answers -to questions were circulated: -
Flood Damage in NORTHERN New South Wales.
y. - On the 4th April, the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain) asked the following questions, upon notice: -
Royal Family were accused of degeneracy and perversion; and (e) owns and published a journal The Record ? .
The honorable member was then informed that the information was being obtained. The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Ci. Mr. Garden was appointed to his present position when he was a resident of Maroubra, in the Watson electorate, and he is now a resident of Wentworth electorate. What he does after his hours of service is his own private affair.
s asked the Minister for Air, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
The amounts payable as compensation to each officer will be the total of -
Repatriation : Cerebro-spinal Meningitis.
n asked the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
n asked the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
– The answers to the right honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping - upon notice -
– The Minister for Supply and Shipping has supplied the following answers : -
n asked the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
Coal-mining Industry : Wallarah Colliery.
– On the 5th April, the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Williams) asked a question concerning the Wallarah Colliery.
The Minister for Supply and Shipping has supplied the following answer : -
The Assistant Production Manager of the Coal Commission investigated the position at Wallarah Colliery on- Wednesday, the 3rd April, 194C. As a result of the investigation the management agreed to withdraw the notices to underground employees for one month during which time the management and employees were to negotiate further on matters effecting production and displacement of labour. These arrangements were considered satisfactory and accepted by Wallarah Colliery lodge officers.
n. - On .the 5th April,’ the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Breen) asked a question concerning Government control of petrol supplies.
The Minister for Supply and Shipping has. supplied the following answer: -
The honorable member seems to have confused the matter of the distribution of petroleum products which is under the sole control of the private company, Pool Petroleum Proprietary Limited, with the rationing restrictions on thu consumption of petrol which are under the control of the Government It is the pool system of distribution of petrol supplies which iill cease at the end of June. The physical distribution of petrol supplies has never been under the control of the Government but has resided at all times within the control of the oil industry.
For the information of honorable members, 1 would advise that in 1942, with a view to making the most effective use of bulk petroleum storage, the several oil companies were asked by the Government to pool such resources. The companies responded to this request and formed what is known as Pool Petroleum Proprietary Limited, for the purpose not only of pooling bulk storages but of rationalizing distribution in the light of the then existing man-power and other shortages. lt should be emphasized, however, that the distribution of petroleum products has never passed from the control of industry to the control of the Government but has remained at all times an industry responsibility.
n. - On the 3rd April, the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Breen) asked a question concerning the shortage of power kerosene in the Tullamore District of New South Wales.
The Minister for Supply and Shipping has supplied the following answer: -
The representations of the honorable member have been brought to the notice of Pool Petroleum Proprietary Limited, with a request that the matter be examined urgently with a. view to all possible corrective action being taken. Further advice will be available for the honorable member when the investigations are completed.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 10 April 1946, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1946/19460410_reps_17_186/>.