18th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. J. S.Rosevear) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Motion (by Mr.Chifley) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn to tomorrow at 10.30 a.m.
– by leave - It is my great pleasure, formally, to convey to honorable members a message which I have received through His Excellency the Governor-General from His Majesty the King-
In response to a suggestion made by his Prime Ministers in New Zealand and Australia, the King has graciously consented to visit these countries in the early part of 1949. His Majesty will be accompanied by the Queen and the Princess Margaret.
I invite all honorable members to cooperate in ensuring that the Royal visit shall be a period which Their Majesties and Her Royal Highness will always remember with pleasure as well as one memorable in the history of this country.
A committee of Cabinet, consisting of’ the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt), the Leader of the Government in theSenate (Senator Ashley) and myself will have general supervision. The Minister for Munitions (Senator Armstrong) has been appointed Commonwealth Minister in charge of the Royal visit and will be ex officio a member of the committee.
I am not yet in a position to give the exact time of the visit, or any details of the itinerary. I hope that when the time and duration of the visit are known, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) and the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) will be good enough to discuss with the committee the apportionment of times which the Royal visitors will spend in the various areas suggested to be visited. I know that there will be some difference of opinion on that aspect. However, I hope that they will be good enough to express their opinions generally in that respect; the details, of course, will be worked out by the Cabinet committee.
– by leave - The visit of Their Majesties and the Princess Margaret will be received with great loyalty and immense enthusiasm all over Australia. There will be no division of opinion about it. The total time for the Royal visit, which has been mentioned in the press, is substantial, and I take this opportunity of suggesting to the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) that, with the experience we have had of Royal visits, an endeavour should be made to provide at least a few periods in which Their Majesties and the Princess Margaret will enjoy complete privacy, off parade, as it were. Otherwise, the tour may be extremely tiring to them. I am sure that that will be in the minds of the Minister in charge of arrangements for the tour. On previous occasions I have seen Royal guests grossly overworked.
– by leave - I associate myself and my party with the sentiments expressed concerning the forthcoming Royal tour of Australia. The party which I lead in this chamber is delighted that the King and Queen and the Princess Margaret are to come to Australia. We will co-operate sincerely and wholeheartedly in making their visit a success. I welcome the suggestion of the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) and I should be consulted on the allotment of the time to be spent by our Royal visitors in various parts of Australia in order that the best possible use may be made of the time they have available. I trust that they will have the opportunity of visiting some of the remote parts ofAustralia in order that they may have the opportunity of assessing the value of this country to the Empire.
Speech at Parramatta by Mr. R. G. Menzies, M.P. : Pension Scheme for Members.
– The Sydney Morning Herald of the 1st March, reporting a speech made by the Leader of the Opposition at Parramatta, states -
Mr. Menzies continued, “ Isn’t it amazing ; one term of six years and then ?500 a year for life; and you should see some of the people we get in the Senate. . . . The office of member of Parliament has been so degraded under Socialism that people expect to have cheap-jacks representing them.” “ Socialism,” Mr. Menzies continued, “was once a spiritual movement which depended upon utter honesty between man and man, and man and the State; it has now become quite mercenary through its tacticians.”
I pause, Mr. Speaker, to suggest that the right honorable gentleman’s original attack on members of the Senate appears to have extended to all members of the Parliament, who are characterized as cheap-Jacks and as mercenary individuals. I askwhether you, Mr. Speaker, will be good enough to supply the right honorable gentleman with the following questions with a request that he reply to them for the benefit of the Parliament and the country: 1. Did the right honorable gentleman make those statements as reported ? 2. If not, has he denied the report? 3. If he did make them, do they apply to all honorable senators or only to some honorable senators? 4. If his statement does not embrace all members of this Senate, will he indicate to the House and to the country which members are indicted by his statement, in order that the slur may be removed from those who do not offend his sensibilities? 5. Will he indicate - (a) whether the moral character of honorable senators disturbs him ; (b) whether it is their integrity of character about which he complains; (c) whether he refers to their mental capacity; (d) whether their physical characteristics offend his aesthetic sense? 6. Will he indicate whether he had any grounds for his statement or whether it was merely an attempt to damage or destroy the character of honorable members in order to encompass their political defeat?
-I am no more entitled than any other honorable member to question the right honorable gentleman on statements which he makes outside the House. The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Burke) might have raised a matter of privilege if this House had been attacked. Each House looks after its own privileges. The only other way in which the matter could be raised would be by notice of motion. Ofcourse, that is a matter for honorable members or the House. I do not propose to try to presume on my position as Mr. Speaker to question any honorable member on statements which he has made outside this chamber. If the House is offended by any statements which are made outside it, the House has its remedies.
– Is the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture in a positon to make a full statement to the House on the terms and conditions of the International Wheat Agreement ? If not, will he endeavour to make such a statement to the House before the Easter recess ?
– I am not now in a position to make a detailed statement on the International Wheat Agreement. The position will be considered by Cabinet in due course, and after a decision has been reached, I shall be able to make a statement to the House on the subject.
– I ask the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture what will be the position as regards price under the reported International Wheat Agreement of wheat not delivered under contracts with Great Britain and India? Will therevision be made of the price of concessional wheat owing to changed conditions under the agreement ? Also, will the Government refund moneys that it now holds under its stabilization scheme?
– Recently delegates from 33 purchasing countries and three exporting countries met at Washington. They had met on many occasions previously, but had always failed to agree. On this occasion they agreed upon terms and conditions for an international wheat agreement. The governments of the respective countries have yet to be consulted in order to ascertain whether they will sign the proposed agreement. The Australian Government will determine its attitude as soon as it has had an opportunity to consider the terms and conditions suggested. We are not yet in possession of concise details, but the delegates have agreed that, as from the 1st August, 1948, all wheat shall be subject to the terms and conditions of the plan. Agreements that have been made in the past by the United Kingdom and India have included a clause providing that the price of wheat sold under such contracts shall be brought into line with the terms of any international agreement subsequently made. This means that any wheat delivered to the United Kingdom and India after the proposed international agreement comes into force on the 1st August will be paid for at the price specified in that agreement.
– Does that apply to the New Zealand wheat agreement?
– That matter can be discussed when full details of the proposed international agreement come to hand. The honorable member will realize that it was not possible for the representatives of the 36 countries who met at Washington to include in the draft agreement all contracts that have been outstanding for a number of years, and it is improbable that the international agreement will bring the New Zealand wheat agreement within its scope. Until the Australian Government obtains further details of the draft agreement, I shall not be able to make a fully explanatory statement on the subject. However, I do know that the delegates agreed upon a maximum price of $2 a bushel for a period of five years, with provision for a receding floor price. According to our calculations, the floor price, in terms of Australian currency, will be 8s. 6½d. a bushel for the first year of operation of the proposed agreement, 7s.11½d. a bushel for the second year, 7s. 3½d. a bushel for the third year, 6s. 8½d. a bushel for the fourth year, and 6s. a bushel for the final year. Those figures are approximate and are subject to some variation on account of receding ocean freight rates. They are also based on a calculation that Australia will possibly deliver a very large proportion of its wheat yield during the five years of the proposed agreement to near-eastern markets, where a higher price is obtained than in the United Kingdom, on account of freight differences. Further information will be made available to the House when the Government has dealt with this matter.
– Who was the Australian representative at the International Wheat Conference? Was he given any instructions by the Government? If so, is the Government prepared to table a copy of the instructions?
– The representative of the Australian Government at the International Wheat Conference was Mr. McCarthy, the Secretary of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture.
– Who has never grown a grain of wheat in his life!
– Mr. McCarthy, who is recognized as one of the ablest public servants that this country has ever produced, has been in constant communication with the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, and with myself and the Cabinet in regard to the proposed wheat agreement. It was the subject of personal discussion with Mr. McCarthy before he left Australia on his last visit to Havana. I assure the honorable member that there has been no aspect of the International Wheat Agreement on which instructions have not been given to him. I agree that, from time to time in the course of the negotiations, he submitted to the Government his recommendations as to what might, or might not, be acceptable; but there has been complete consultation with Mr. McCarthy as the Government’s representative on all matters associated with the agreement.
– Last Sunday, I was at the Red Hill State Forest in the Tumut district in New South Wales, and noticed that a fine tract of stringy-bark timber had been felled and then destroyed by fire on orders issued by the Forestry Department of New South Wales. Will’ the Minister for Works and Housing inquire why this valuable timber, which was so urgently required for housing purposes, the extension programmes of the Postmaster-General’s Department, and the Burrinjuck Hydro-Electric Authority, was burned? Will he also take action to ensure that the remaining portions of this valuable State forest and other forest areas shall not be similarly destroyed, merely to clear the ground for pine-wood plantations? Will he also endeavour to ascertain the number of superficial feet of timber which was so destroyed on the orders of some State government official?
– The control of State forests comes entirely within the jurisdiction of the respective State governments. However, the Minister for the Interior still exercises a general control over the timber of the Commonwealth, and I shall ask him to examine the matters which the honorable member has raised, and take appropriate action to preserve the great assets represented by our timber reserves.
– I have been in formed by a reliable authority that orders placed for sheet metal cannot be executed for a period of from eighteen months to two years, that orders for stoves and refrigerators cannot be executed for from two to four years, and that the shortages of sheet metal are considerably delaying the housing programme. In view of the appeal which the Prime Minister made last week-end for greater production, does the right honorable gentleman propose to take any action to increase the production of those goods, and also of coal which is vital to our productive capacity? Does he also propose to take a stand against industrial unrest, including the organized restriction of production, or does he intend merely to rely on words in order to bring about the greater production for which he has appealed?
– I have already stressed in this House the need for everybody in the community to render his best service to his fellow citizens. That is all I have said, but it should be ample to support any appeal to the people of this country to increase production so that we may export commodities urgently needed overseas and, in turn, earn dollars with which to purchase from other countries many of our own requirements that are in short supply. There has been some improvement in production, but not sufficient to enable the demand by the community upon the producers to be met. The shortage of sheet metal has been given attention for some time. Other factors besides industrial unrest are contributing to this scarcity. For instance, there is the problem of plant, and in some measure that of labour.
– The Newcastle works are only operating to about 80 per cent, of their capacity.
– I have gone into this matter very fully, and rather than detain the House at length now, I shall let the honorable member have a written answer to some of his questions. Others are obviously propaganda, and I have no intention of replying to them.
– At the conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers held in Canberra in August, 1946, the Premier of Queensland proposed that meat prices should be fixed according to branded grades. The conference decided that all States should agree to the branding of lamb and yearling beef, except Victoria, where officials were to confer with Commonwealth authorities in an attempt to overcome difficulties peculiar to slaughtering methods in that State. I ask the Prime Minister whether it is a fact that since this conference reached that decision meat branding has been introduced in Queensland? If so, what has been the effect of its operation? What is the position of the other States in regard to this decision? What States, other than Queensland, have introduced branding? If some States have not introduced this system, what reasons have they offered for their failure, so far, to implement the decision of the conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers?
– It is true that the uniform branding of meat throughout the Commonwealth was discussed at the conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers held in August, 1946. Further consideration was to be given to the matter by the State Premiers. However, up to date I do not know of any communication being received from any of the Premiers in regard to this matter. In the past, some States have favoured branding to enable members of the public to know whether they were getting lamb or gummy ewe, hut other States have been averse to the practice. To the best of my knowledge branding of home-consumption meat is not carried out in Victoria, but I understand that the system is in operation in Queensland. I shall be glad to make further inquiries and to provide the honorable member with the latest information in regard to this matter.
– On Thursday evening last week, when I was speaking about statements made by members of the Opposition alleging that unnecessary delay in the turn-around of ships had been caused by workmen, I referred to the unnecessary delay of a ship at Outer Harbour, Port Adelaide, arising from the action of a shipping firm in keeping it in port overnight instead of authorizing the working of about half an hour’s overtime, which the men employed on the job were prepared to undertake. The honorable member for Richmond challenged me to name the ship.
– Order ! What is the question ?
– The name of the ship is River Loddon. Will the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping make inquiries to ascertain why, about the end of January, River Loddon was held up overnight from Friday to Saturday at Outer Harbour, Port Adelaide, when only twelve motor bodies remained to be loaded at 5 p.m.? This necessitated the bringing back of two gangs of men next morning to do 45 minutes’ work, at a cost of 23s. 4d. for each man, although the loading of the ship could have been completed by 5.30 p.m. on the Friday. The departure of the vessel was delayed until nearly lunchtime on the Saturday.
– I shall be pleased to bring the honorable member’s question to the notice of the Minister for Supply and Shipping, and I have no doubt that he will provide him with all the information which he requires.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that wool sales in Sydney, Newcastle and Goulburn have been postponed indefinitely because of the shipping holdup in Brisbane ? Is the shipping hold-up a violation of Commonwealth awards, and, if so, what action does the Government propose to take ? The sale of much of the wool involved would result in Australia securing considerable dollar credits.
– Did I understand the honorable member to say that ships were held up in Sydney and Melbourne ?
– The wool sales have been cancelled.
– I understand that the wool sales have been deferred to a date to be fixed, but I have not heard any mention of an indefinite postponement. The sales have been deferred because there is not sufficient shipping available. Everything possible has been done to alleviate the lack of shipping, and to ensure that ships are turned around as quickly as possible. As the honorable member knows, there are, unfortunately, some very grave difficulties in the way, particularly so far as the Port of Brisbane and other Queensland ports are concerned. However, I am not aware that delay is occurring at other ports. There was, of course, a recent hold-up of short duration at Port Adelaide, but that difficulty has since been overcome.
I shall inquire into the latter part of the honorable member’s question and inform him the result of my inquiries.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Immigration relating to the employment of indentured labourers in the pearling industry at Broome. I understand that employers agreed to pay crew men £15 a month and to improve their conditions of employment when they engaged them for the 1947 season. Can the Minister inform the House whether a move has been made by the employers during the 1948 season to reduce that wage by bringing in men from Koepang and engaging them for £10 a month ? Does not the Government oppose the introduction of indentured labour? Is there any justification for it? If pearlers are at present importing natives from Koepang to work at a reduced wage, or if they are attempting to do so, either at Broome or anywhere else in Australia, will the Minister see that steps are taken to place the industry on a sound basis and one that is in accordance with the accepted ideals of the Australian people?
– The premises on which the honorable member based her question are quite wrong, and I point out to her that I answered a similar question a few days ago. In reply to some of the questions asked by the honorable member, I say specifically that no indentured labour is employed in Australia, but pearlers are permitted to bring divers into this country when they cannot secure the services of local divers. However, the wages paid’ to imported divers are not small, but, on the contrary, are relatively high. There has been a dispute in the industry, but, as I informed the House recently, immediately I heard of it I asked the Minister for Labour and National Service to send a conciliation commissioner to Broome to determine the wages and conditions of people employed in the industry. Those matters, I might mention, are not covered by State law, nor even by Commonwealth law, so far as I am aware. I believe the dispute has now been settled, but I cannot inform the House of the determination made by the conciliation commissioner. However, I shall ask the Minister for Labour and National Service to supply that information to the honorable member. The propaganda indulged in by certain people concerning the employment of Malays and other foreigners in the industry is designed, not to assist a solution of the difficulties confronting us, but rather to confuse the situation. The practice which I have followed is in accordance with that which has been observed for many years. Our main purpose in encouraging the development of the pearling industry at Broome is to ensure that the maximum quantity of shell is scraped from the sea bed as quickly as possible, because, as soon as peace returns to Indonesia, I have no doubt that American and Dutch pearlers will operate from Indonesian shores, and much of the shell that Australian pearlers would otherwise secure will be lost to them.
– In a speech recently broadcast by the Australian Broadcasting Commission, the Prices Commissioner stated that the black market in used motor cars was very black. In view of this declaration, can the Prime Minister say whether it is the intention of the Government to take any action in this matter? If so, has any decision been made?
– It is unfair merely to quote one passage from the statement made by the Prices Commissioner, Mr. McCarthy.
– Will the right honorable gentleman table the text of the statement?
– Yes. Again accidentally, I heard this statement. I was not aware that Mr. McCarthy was to speak, but when I heard it announced that he was to do so I listened. The statement was to the effect that, although there was some black marketing, the fixing of the prices at which second-hand cars could be sold was amply justified. I think Mr. McCarthy’s remarks were addressed to “ back-seat drivers “ such as the honorable member for Indi. I shall arrange for a copy of the statement to be made available.
– There is an acute shortage of telephones in the metropolitan area of Sydney. Can the Minister representing the Postmaster-General say, first, how many applications for new telephones in New South Wales are outstanding; secondly, what is the order of priority adopted for the supply of new installations to applicants ; and, thirdly, whether there is any possibility of the acute shortage being relieved in the immediate future, and, if so, by what date?
– I shall ask the PostmasterGeneral to reply in detail. The question of the shortage of telephones has been raised in this House on many occasions during recent months. I can only repeat that the Postmaster-General’s Department is doing all it can with the available labour and materials. Due to good government, the state of prosperity of the nation is such that I do not expect ever to see the list of applications for telephones exhausted.
– Representations have been made to me by apple and pear growers in the Orange district and other parts of my constituency. Can the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture say when the claims made by New South Wales apple and pear growers for further compensation due to the operation of the acquisition scheme will be satisfied ? They were lodged at the head office of the Australian Apple and Pear Marketing Board in Melbourne on, I think, the 30th June, 1943.
– These claims, I understand, are the outcome of a High Court action, and great difficulty is being experienced in assessing the actual amount due to each grower. Until the accountancy work is completed, I cannot say just when the payments will be made. The honorable member may rest assured that my department, and the Australian Apple and Pear Marketing Board, are only too anxious to settle the claims, and be rid of the whole business.
Reconstruction Training Scheme
– Can the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction say whether the Commonwealth Reconstruction Training Scheme provides for the training of ex-service students in Britain when the course chosen is not available in Australia, and when the student is willing to pay his own fare ? Is any provision made for the payment of fares when the exservice student is not able to do so? Will facilities be made available for training abroad in those cases in which an exservice student has done his qualifying training in Australia, and cannot proceed further in this country? Is any discretion given to local officers of the Post-war Reconstruction Department in such cases, or are the officials rigidly tied by regulations? Does the department ever inquire concerning the availability of courses in Australia and abroad, or are applications for training overseas rejected out of hand?
– Regulations regarding reconstruction training for those who have to go overseas were drawn up after investigation by my officers, in consultation with treasury officials. Obviously, training overseas is much more expensive than training undertaken in Australia. Nevertheless, in certain circumstances, training overseas is provided, as, for instance, when facilities are not available in Australia for special courses, and when it is deemed desirable that students of very great ability should be given the opportunity to train overseas rather than at home. I shall inquire into the matter, and provide the honorable member with a detailed answer to the question.
-In February, 1946, the re-organization and expansion of the Commonwealth Investigation Service was decided upon by a conference called to consider the matter. In March, 1947, applications for positions were called for, and candidates were interviewed in September, 1947, but nothing further has been heard by them regarding their applications. Will the Minister representing the Attorney-General say whether it is intended to proceed with the proposed re-organization, and, if so, when the candidates for appointment will be informed of the result of their applications ?
– The honorable member has stated the position correctly, and some portion of the re-organization pro gramme proposed will be put into effect. I cannot say when the notifications will be sent out to applicants, but I shall try to let the honorable member have the information in a day or two.
– The retiring Trade Commissioner for Pakistan, Mr. A. D. Azhar, was reported in the Sydney Morning Herald of the 5th March, as having stated -
Pakistan was not losing any sleep over the White Australia policy. He had found no trace of social or personal discrimination on grounds of colour during his nine months in Australia. Any harm the White Australia policy does could be corrected if Australia publicized the fact that the purpose of the policy is economic.
Pakistan has no intention of encouraging members of the coolie class to emigrate, but would like to think that its educated citizens were able to come here.
In view of this statement, and the fact that China, too, has a law whereby its workers are discouraged from leaving China, will the Prime Minister consider the publication of a small, concise booklet covering all aspects of the White Australia policy for circulation among our Asiatic neighbours?
– The policy of the Australian Government in connexion with this matter, which is generally in line with that pursued by past Australian governments, has been clearly expounded from time to time. I shall, however, consider the honorable member’s suggestion.
Disposal of Vessels
– My question to the Prime Minister concerns the fact that, within the last two or three days, it has been announced that the British light cruiser Leander is to be transferred to Chinese ownership. According to Brassey’s Naval Annual of last year, the battleship Royal Sovereign is now the core of the Russian Navy. As head of the Government, and as the representative of Australia who will attend the next Imperial Conference at which, naval matters will be discussed, will the Prime Minister consider giving an opportunity to the Parliament, before an Imperial Conference is held, to consider whether we should allow units of the British Fleet to be transferred to foreign commands, especially in view of the fact that the original training of the German and Japanese Navies, against whom we fought in World War II., was given by British officers and, in some cases, was carried out in British ships?
– Sales of merchant vessels to foreign countries have taken place from time to time. In most instances these have covered vessels which have become largely obsolete. I am not aware that any sales of British warships or of Admiralty vessels have recently been made to foreign countries. Other nations have, however, made such sales. This is the first time I have heard the statement that the battleship Royal Sovereign forms the core of the Russian Navy.
– It was also stated that it is proposed to train in the British Navy 1,000 .men of the Chinese Navy. It is time that such a practice was stopped.
– I shall obtain what information I can on the subject. The honorable member will, of course, appreciate that the Australian Government would have no control over the sale of such vessels.
– Have representations been made to the Prime Minister by the honorable member for Watson and the honorable member for Perth to investigate subversive associations? Did the honorable member for Watson allege that the Soviet legation was a “nerve centre of communism in Australia “ ? Did the right honorable gentleman promise that the Minister for External Affairs would present a report by the Commonwealth Investigation Service on the Australian Communist party’s activities to members of the ministerial party ? Does this report bear out the allegations made by the honorable member for Watson against the Soviet legation? Will the right honor able gentleman make available copies of the report to all honorable members?
– I know of no representations by the honorable member for Watson and the honorable member for Perth regarding any activity of the Soviet legation, nor do I remember any special reference to the Soviet legation. Judging from the honorable member’s remarks, I believe that somebody has been “pulling his leg”. The answer to all his questions is “ No “.
– I wish to make a personal explanation. Last Thursday evening, when speaking on the tariff debate, the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett), with lack of substantiation but with the venom typical of antiSemitics, made a statement in which he said that I had used my membership of this House to avoid service with the military forces until such time as I could do so with relative safety. I inform the House that I have brought with me this afternoon my flying log-book. I enlisted on the 16th January, 1942, that is, five weeks after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbour, but a considerable time before the Coral Sea battle and the Bismarck Sea battle had made Australia relatively safe as an operational area. I was trained to fly as pilot and captain of operational type aircraft. My log-book, it is true, i9 written in my own handwriting, but, as will be appreciated by the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White), the entries were verified each month by my commanding officer and flight commander. I shall make my log-book available to him or the honorable member for Henty, or any other person who wishes to read it. It shows that when I undertook my initial training I was classified “ average “ ; later I was classified “ good average “ and later “above the average”; and that finally I passed with special distinction, these entries being recorded in the loghook in handwriting other than my own.
– Has the honorable member the record of how he crashed the Catalina?
– The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie
Cameron) should be more careful about what he says, because if he knew the facts he might be sorry to learn that, instead of achieving a joke, he was indeed paying me a compliment. I draw the attention of honorable members to these facts because they show quite clearly that the statement made by the honorable member for Henty cannot be substantiated. Before referring to my operational flying record I shall read a passage from a booklet which was handed to me and my colleagues by our commanding officer upon graduation. The passage contains sound common sense, particularly- when honorable members realize that as pilots and members of aircrews we were specially trained to do particular work. The passage reads -
A great deal of nonsense is talked about bravery by people who know little or nothing about psychology and the workings of the human mind. The civilian usually judges bravery by medals and decorations, but these are not necessarily an accurate guide.
It is a queer thing, this question of courage. The nian who flies recklessly or exposes himself unnecessarily is not brave, but a plain fool who is not only endangering his own life but the lives of his crew and the future usefulness of his fighting aircraft.
I come now to the main point, because the trouble with the honorable member for Henty seems to be that T was not killed during the war -
The country does not train or pay an airman to get killed - but to stay alive and kill his country’s enemies.
I am very happy to say that my contribution was as good as that of any other member of Royal Australian Air Force aircrews.
– The honorable member is over-modest.
– My log-book tells the story, and I am inviting honorable members to read what it says. I did everything that I was asked to do as a member of the Royal Australian Air Force. I claim that my keenness was no less than that displayed by every member of an aircrew. My squadron record shows that my operational flying time was 145 hours 40 minutes day flying, and 143 hours night flying. That was exclusive of training flying, in which there was some element of risk. Whilst some of my flying mates were killed during their courses, or on operational duty, I was, perhaps, a little more fortunate. The “Returned from Active Service Badge” which I wear was given to me because I gave service ; and I earned it.
– Has the Prime Minister informed the Taxation Institute of Australia that the Government does not propose to review taxation in the near future ? If so, does the expression “ the near future” mean the period between now and the presentation of the next budget ?
– Long ago I intimated to the House that taxes, which include not only income tax, but also company tax, sales tax and entertainments tax, are constantly under review and are levied in accordance with the revenue needs of the country. I cannot indicate any prospect of an immediate reduction of taxes.
– In view of the increasing incidence of arthritis in Australia, with its trail of despair, incapacity and loss of man-power, will the Minister for Repatriation confer with the Minister for Health and Minister for Social Services with a view to a study being made of the latest methods used in Great Britain to combat this dreadful ailment? Should the Director-General of Health, Dr. Metcalfe, who is returning from the Conference of the World Health Organization at Geneva, be still in England, will he be asked to study those methods while there?
– I shall be pleased to confer with the Minister for Health and Minister for Social Services about that important matter. We will certainly explore the possibilities of using the services of Dr. Metcalfe in the direction suggested by the honorable member. When a specialist on the staff of the Repatriation Commission goes abroad soon, I will ask him to study the problem.
– The Prime Minister recently said that the payment of 3s. a day subsistence allowance to former Australian prisoners of war had been refused not by the Government but by a vote of the House. No vote has been taken on the subject in the House.
– Order ! That is not a question.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether, in making such a misstatement, he has not confused the Parliament with the Labour caucus ?
– I think the honorable member is the one who is confused. The matter of subsistence payments to former Australian prisoners of war has been raised in the Parliament on several occasions, on one or two of which the honorable member himself took part in the debate. At least one formal motion for the adjournment of the House was moved to enable the matter to be debated. Both the Minister for the Army and I have provided written answers to questions on notice about it. The Government’s attitude has been made clear, but I will arrange for some of the material already obtained to be collected and supplied to the honorable member.
– Has the Prime Minis ter seen reports that the United States Secretary of Defence, Mr. Forrestal, has stated that the belief that the world is relatively safe from war for ten years has been abandoned by the United States military authorities in Germany? Has he seen the statement of the Labour peer, Lord Addison, who was recently in this country, that “Events of the past fortnight have shown that Britain has to be prepared to exercise the vigilance necessary for the defence of liberty as almost never before “ ? Has he seen the statement by Lord Pakenham that communism is being disseminated by fanatical agents of a great power? In view of the general apprehension expressed at a conference in Belgium of representatives of Britain, France, Belgium and Holland about the encroachments of Russia in Europe, which are reminiscent of those of Nazi Germany ten years ago, does he think the defence forces of Australia are adequate to our responsibilities if war should unfortunately occur ? If not, does the Government intend to review the defence plans for Australia in view of the ominous march of events overseas?
– Statements have been made previously about Australia’s defence policy by the Minister for Defence. Not long ago it was made perfectly clear that the Government had laid down a defence programme covering the next five years. For the first time in this country a defence plan ‘has been prepared. The programme provides for the expenditure of £250,000,000 over that period. That is far in excess of any expenditure on the defence of Australia ever suggested in peace-time as being necessary. The Minister for Defence made it clear that we are in constant consultation with the British WarOffice on certain aspects of defence, particularly that relating to the guided weapons testing range, the expenditure on which is of a type never previously undertaken in this country. I have seen some of the statements referred to by the honorable member, and I have also heard some of the world’s prominent soldiers speak on the possibilities of war. Opinions widely differ on the possibilities of the nations waging war again. I am not able to judge from the opinions of Mr. Forrestal, or any one else, the likelihood of war in the near future. I can only say that the Government hopes that no stone will be left unturned in the search for means by which the world may avoid another war, which would inflict an appalling disaster on civilization.
– I have received from the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang) an intimation that he desires to move the adjournment of the House” for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely -
The Commonwealth Bank of Australia’s Statement No. 1 on Advance Policy, which includes -
A direction to all banks to embark upon a policy of credit restriction;
A threat to the development of small business undertakings ;
Withdrawal of the discretionary lending authority from individual bank managers; and
The first step towards the programme of deflation with consequent depression.
That the House do now adjourn.
– Is the motion sup ported ?
Five honorable members having risen in support of the motion,
– On the 21st November last, the Commonwealth Bank of Australia issued to every bank in Australia a lengthy directive, and it was headed, “ Statement No. 1 - Advance Policy “. It comprises instructions to the banks under 24 headings, giving detailed directions as to how every particular type of bank advance is to be dealt with in the future. The Commonwealth Bank issued the directive under powers which it obtained from the Banking Act of 1945. The private trading banks of Australia are required to carry out these instructions. That, in effect, provides for a, regimented financial policy for the whole of Australia. The directive calls for a rigid policy of financial restriction. All the discretionary authority which was formerly exercised by individual bank managers is withdrawn. The directive states quite specifically what kind of advances may be made, or may not be made. The overall effect is a curtailment of credit. That is definite deflation, and deflation is the invariable prelude to a financial and economic depression. It is the forerunner of unemployment. It means the strangulation of industrial initiative, and it is the cultivation of an industrial slump produced by artificial means.
The directive commences with a general instruction which reads -
Bank advances should not be made where it is obvious that the applicants require additional capital, rather than overdraft accommodation, to keep their business on a sound basis. Where overdrafts are already being used to finance capital expenditure, new capital should be raised and the overdraft liquidated.
The question whicn I ask is : Who will be the victims of this new policy? It Will not be the large monopolies. They can raise capital on the open market. The large capitalists are known to the investors. The victims will be the small enterprises, those which are just starting in business, the men with new ideas, exservicemen, and those with a little capital of their own who require the support of a bank overdraft. Under this directive, they will not haveany hope of obtaining financial assistance. Until this new banking policycame into operation, they could interview their local bank manager, and lay all their cards on the table, and he would deal with their proposition’s on their merits. Now, whatever the merits of the case may be, and regardless of the security which they can offer, there will be only one answer to their requests for financial assistance. The bank official will tell them that under the directive issued by the Commonwealth Bank authorities no advance is permitted.
Newly established enterprises, which did obtain bank accommodation, are now being told that their overdrafts must be liquidated. When overdrafts are called up under such conditions, what hope have these enterprises of obtaining money on the open market ? In addition, there is a “ blanket “ direction which reads -
Banks should notfinance new enterprises, or the expansion of existing enterprises -
Where the production is not essential to the Australian economy; or
where the added capacity is likely to increase production above ultimate demand; or
where production is likely to be uneconomic in the long run because of excessive costs, or other factors.
How is the local bank manager to decide whether or not any particular business is essential to the Australian economy? How is he to ascertain the ultimate demand for production? If he decides to play safe and observe the strict letter of the objective, he will refuse every request for an overdraft. The effect of this directive is to create a black market in money. Instead of paying the ruling bank rate of interest, new firms will be driven to other kinds of lenders. Perhaps the intention underlying the issuing of the directive is to curb the black market, but I find it difficult to conceive of anything more likely to foster a new black market than these instructions. This ban on new enterprises will protect the older, established business concerns from competition. It will assist the growth of monopolies, and destroy the incentive to produce. By attempting to remove all elements of risk from business it will entirely destroy enterprise.
The directive also instructs the banks to place pressure on primary producers to reduce their overdrafts. It does not provide for the granting of further financial assistance to retailers and places a limit of £500 on overdrafts for exservicemen, with the stipulation that the banks must -
Interpret this provision carefully, to ensure that wasteful or obviously unessential ventures are not entered upon.
Had that provision operated in 1919, the Coles brotherswould probably never have embarked upon their chain store venture when they returned from “World War I., and had only their war savings to finance the new enterprise.
It is impossible, in the time available to me, to deal with all 24 paragraphs of the directive, but the really important issue at stake is to ascertain who is responsible for it. The instructions are not signed by the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank, Mr. Armitage, and it is not clear whetherProfessor Melville had anything to do with the matter. Is the real author of the new banking policy at present not to be found inside the Commonwealth Bank at all ? Is he, in fact, the head of the present Government, and the Treasurer of the Commonwealth? The policy enunciated is certainly the same reactionary, deflationary policy to which the right honorable gentleman has been committed for the last eighteen years. It is the policy that has been his fetish. It is a real throw-back to the Premiers plan. It is Bourbon-like in its conception and application. Under the Banking Act of 1945 the Commonwealth Bank must give effect to whatever policy is laid down by the government of the day; and this is the Labour Government’s policy. Whether or not the Commonwealth Bank is in agreement with the Government’s policy is not clear. Under the Banking Act, there is no obligation on the bank to disclose its own views if they conflict with those of the Government. On the other hand, it is quite conceivable that the directive is also in line with the ultra conservative monetary ideas of the Commonwealth Bank’s own economist. If the Government gets its way, control will become more rigid and more reactionary. But this Parliament and the country are entitled to know who is responsible for this disastrous policy. Banking and monetary policies are of paramount importance. If either the Government or the Commonwealth Bank decides to initiate policy in the matter of advances that is likely to upset the Australian economy, there should be the fullest discussion by the Parliament of that policy prior to its implementation. If it is the Commonwealth Bank’s sole responsibility, the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank should be brought to the bar of this House. If it is the policy of the Government in the matter of advances, Parliament should, without delay, give the fullest consideration to all its implications, all its possible consequences, and all the disasters that may be brought about because of this new policy. It is the duty of this Parliament to reverse the policy laid down in this directive. How many members of the Government had any voice in the formulation of this policy. In this Government, the Prime Minister alone decides financial policy. Caucus isignored. It will be the Prime Minister’sfinancial policy that will destroy this Government. It is time that members of the Government took some active interest in their own political future, and this is their opportunity to do so. Had they the courage to say what they are thinking, the Prime Minister would find himself utterly deserted on this issue. I challenge Government supporters to speak now and say where they stand.
– The latter portion of the honorable member’s speech indicated that it was not intended to convince members of the Parliament, but had been prepared for publication before being delivered in this chamber. I propose to deal with this matter briefly. Some of the references that the honorable member himself has made provide the reason for the issuing by the Commonwealth Bank of the instructions relating to policy in the matter of bank advances. The need to restrict the activities of nonessential enterprises must be apparent. In view of the shortage of labour and materials, it would hardly be proper to permit the erection of unnecessary structures such as picture theatres and amusement parks, thus diverting building materials and labour from more important undertakings such as housing. Actually there has been & substantial increase of bank advances in this country, as I shall show later by quoting figures. Let me first make this point clear: The instructions relating to bank advances have been issued at the instance of the Commonwealth Bank, but I say at once that they have the endorsement of the Government.
– Were they considered by Cabinet?
– I remind the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt), as I have reminded other members of the Opposition who have made charges against the Government, that Cabinet and caucus do not interfere with the policy of the Commonwealth Bank.
– But the right honorable gentleman said that the instructions had been endorsed by the Government.
– When the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank put the position to me, and explained how inflationary trends were being accentuated by excessive advances, I, as Treasurer, intimated on behalf of the Government that I endorsed the proposal. For the information of the honorable member for Reid’ (Mr. Lang), therefore, I say that the instructions were issued with the full approval of the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank; that they were discussed with him; and that on behalf of the Government I agreed with the bank’s decision. With more than 200,000 additional people required to do essential work throughout this country, it would be highly undesirable for the Commonwealth Bank, through the private trading banks, to facilitate the expenditure of large sums of money on non-essential, enterprises. The aim of the instructions is to ensure that the increased money that is being made available in bank advances shall he directed into channels which will provide the greatest benefit to the community.. The honorable member for Reid spoke of deflation, but the fact is that general advances have increased from £200,000,000 to £320,000,000 in two and a half years. That is what has happened. Since June, 1946, about nineteen months ago, the total has increased by £113,000,000.
At this point I emphasize that many trading companies want to carry on their businesses on bank advances instead of going to the public and getting the capital necessary for expansion. This is because interest rates are much lower than they were, and because companies can secure bank advances more cheaply than they can raise funds in other ways. There has been a tendency on the part of many firms - not small companies such as the honorable member for Reid mentioned, but big companies - to use bank advances even for the purpose of financing capital expenditure, which ought to be financed by calling up capital from the great amount of surplus money which is available in the community. There can be no question that there is an inflationary spiral, not a deflationary spiral, in the community. . I shall quote a few figures in order to illustrate this fact before I finish my speech and conclude this debate.
– Honorable members on this side of the House have something to say on the subject.
– They have had plenty of opportunities to do so.
– When? The Government “ gagged “ private members’ business.
– I hope that the honorable member will not interfere with his blood pressure by making statements that are not true. We had a private members’ business day last week.
– But the debate was “ gagged “. We did not have a “ grievance day” at all.
– Returning to the subject-matter of the discussion, I say to the honorable member for Reid that there has been a great and expanding spiral of advances in this country. There can be only one ultimate result to such a process if the money is used for purposes other than the legitimate expansion of production. An increasing amount of new credit is being made available. Whether it is made available by the Commonwealth Bank or by private banks does not matter ; the effect within the community is precisely the same. The instructions which we have been discussing were issued in the belief that the most disastrous thingthat could happen to Australia to-day would be’ an inflation such as is occurring in other countries. Inflation is almost as bad as deflation, because finally it brings about an economic collapse. Unless the national bank of any country exercises some control in periods of inflationary trends as well as in periods of deflationary trends, it does not do justice to the community. It must take steps to ensure that any unduly inflationary or deflationary movement is corrected.
– Should hot the Parliament determine that policy?
– I still seem tohear echoes in this chamber of “ political interference with the banks “. The Opposition cannot have it both ways by saying on one day that there should not be political interference with the banks and then, on another day, saying that directions as to the administrative policy of the Commonwealth Bank should come from this Parliament.
Listen to these figures, which show that great additional quantities of money are available in the community. The national income for 1947-48 is estimated at £200,000,000 more than for 1946-47. The gross value of rural production - I am sure this will interest the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) - is estimated this year at £537,000,000, an increase of £157,000,000 over thetotal for 1946-47.I need not go into details of wage earnings, but their rate is 20 per cent. above the rate for 1945-46. By the end of December, 1948, it is likely to Be 35 percent. above the rate for 1945-46. Export prices in December, 1947, were 200 per cent. above the average level for the period 1936-39. There has been an increase of 44 per cent. since December, 1946.Wool prices in January, 1948, were 220 per cent. above the 1936-39 level and were even 79 per cent. above the level which prevailed inJanuary, 1947. Wheat prices in January, 1948, were 400 per cent. above the 1936-39 level and were 49 per cent. above the January, 1947, level. These facts prove that a vast accumulation of money is flowing into the community. Whether this money comes in the form of wages, returns to wheatgrowers, or in other ways, it is clear that a great number of people in the. community, instead of engaging in further speculative business, should be paying off some of the advances that were made to them when there was not so, much ready money available in the community as there is now. It is of no use for the honorable member for Reid to talk about deflation. What we are faced with in Australia now is the opposite of deflation. That is proved by the fact that bank advances have increased by a total of £120,000,000 in two and a half years.
As I have often said, control of the Commonwealth Bank, or of any national bank, subject to over-all government policy, must be exercised to a fair degree by those persons who are responsible for its functions. They are in possession of the facts and figures necessary for their guidance. I have cited some of those figures to-day, and I consider that what has been done by the Commonwealth Bank is very wise in the light of existing economic circumstances. Many firms want to continue to operate on advances when what is really needed is additional capital in their businesses; This is due to the fact that they can obtain bank advances cheaply.
– Small businesses cannot do that.
– I have heard all about that. Many companies are trying to obtain bank advances, which the bank would readily give to them in many instances, in order to engage in nonessential enterprises at a time when we have neither sufficient men nor sufficient materials for the purpose of doing the essential jobs of the community. I do not propose to discuss this matter at further length. The honorable member for Fawkner has said that I have not made a statement which I promised to make. If that be so, I shall make a statement on the subject, supplying all the figures that I have mentioned to-day and many more. This statement will be made available to all members of the House. It will show that in the community to-day there is a great amountof money over and above what is essential to the monetary system.
Mr.white. - It is in the wrong hands, though.
– It might be in the wrong hands. I do not deny that.What this Government is trying to do is to prevent more and more of that money getting into the wrong hands. The statement which I shall have prepared will contain facts that ought to be presented to honorable members. Nothing could be gained by holding a lengthy debate on this subject. Individual judgments about whatought to be done differ greatly. I move-
That the question be now put.
Question put, the House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. J. S.Rosevear.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the negative.
Proposed Charter of International Trade Organization
Debate resumed from the 4th March (vide page 420), on motion by Mr. Dedman -
That the following paper be printed: -
United Nations Conference on Trade and Employment - Second Session of Preparatory Committee - Ministerial Statement.
Mr.MAST (Flinders) [4.41].- This debate has been proceeding for some time, and the subject is one which is worthy of full discussion. It is necessary for honorable members on both sides of the House to express their opinions, and I hope that the ventilation of ideas will give the Government something to think about before its representatives affix their signatures to the proposed agreements. Although our primary duty is to consider the probable effects of the proposed agreements on Australia’s economy, it is necessary for us also to consider the matter in the light of the probable effects on Great Britain’s economy. Obviously, the economy of the United Kingdom will be vitally affected by implementation of the draft charter, and whatever affects Great Britain affects us. If the United Kingdom wilts under the strain at present imposed upon it, it is quite certain that Australia’s economy will be adversely affected. For that reason I emphasize that we must approach consideration of the matters involved, not only from our own viewpoint, but also from that of the people of Great Britain. One feature of the situation which stands out quite clearly, and one of which we are all aware, involves a simple matter of mathematics. Before the war Great Britain’s exports of manufactured goods represented approximately 20 per cent. of the trade of the world, but even with that percentage the United Kingdom was barely able to balance its imports and exports. We know that the British trade balance was “ down “ approximately £100,000,000 per annum, and if Great Britain is to carry on it must have at least 35 per cent. of the trade of the world. Of course, members of the Parliament, and responsible people in. other parts of the Empire, realize that it is physically impossible for Great Britain to acquire such a share of the trade of the world. That being so, it is necessary that we should do all that we can to increase the total trade of the world, and to ensure that no impediments are placed in the way of its expansion. That leads us to consideration of another important matter, which was mentioned by the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) a few days ago, namely, that the draft charter forms part of the general economic framework which is designed to expand trade by removing impediments and restrictions. The other parts of the framework are the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the International Monetary Fund and the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations. The genesis of these agreements and bodies is the Atlantic Charter, clause 4 of which states, referring to the United Nations -
They will endeavour, with due respect for their existing obligations, to further the enjoyment by all States, great or small, victor or vanquished, of access on equal terms to the trade and raw materials of the world which are needed for their economic prosperity.
In clause 5 the desire is expressed to bring about the fullest collaboration of all nations in the economic field.
The Prime Minister said - somewhat apologetically, I thought - that we were committed to this draft charter by the terms of the Atlantic Charter and the lend-lease agreement. It . is probably generally agreed that we have some moral responsibility in this matter and are committed to a policy of fostering international trade, as well as of ensuring that all nations are justly treated in their com.merial dealings with the rest of the world and that no nation is debarred from the markets of the world or of any country for reasons of race, ideology and so on. Whilst there is probably general agreement upon these great principles, there is not necessarily agreement upon the methods to be applied to put them into practice. Those who support this draft charter contend that freedom of trade means expansion of trade, that all barriers reduce trade and prevent its expansion, that maximum expansion means maximum production and employment, and, finally, that all forms ofdiscrimina tion and all arrangements for mutual concessions, including preference, constitute barriers that must be removed. I find it hard to accept those contentions, and .1 propose to quote examples to show why 1 think some at least are wrong. I am certain that it is fallacious to assume that maximum expansion means maximum production and employment. Production, employment and the welfare of the people do not depend only upon the volume of trade crossing frontiers but upon total trade, external and internal. Australia, for instance, has built up a sound economy. That was not achieved by an ever-in creasing volume of trade flowing across our frontiers. By the imposition of protective duties, we first of all built up our industries. In that way we increased the volume of trade, both external and internal, and at the same time appreciably raised our standard of living. The insulation of a country may be necessary in order to bring about an expansion of trade within that country. Russia, by its own desire, has been cut off from world trade for many years. The volume of Russian trade crossing the frontiers has been extremely small, but Russia has built up powerful industries and will eventually, if it so wishes, be able to participate in world trade and assist in increasing the total volume. Britain was, and still is in many ways, the greatest trading nation in the world. It built up its strength first of all by protecting its own trade by navigation laws and other devices. British trade supremacy was the marked feature of the nineteenth century, and, by approximately the end of that period, Britain held two-thirds of the world trade in manufactures. At that time the majority of nations adopted the system of free trade. Towards the end of the nineteenth century, the United States of America, Germany and Japan erected protectionist barriers to counter free trade and to assist in expanding their internal production. British trade decreased. By 1913 Britain’s trade in manufactured goods had fallen from twothirds of the total world trade to onethird, and by 1938 the proportion was one-fifth. Nevertheless, although those barriers were erected and bilateral agreements entered into, world trade as a whole increased greatly during that period.
It is a favorite argument of honorable members opposite that almost everything that occurred in Australia or in the world generally was caused by the depression. They have stated in the course of this debate that the depression caused the fall in world trade, but I ask them to ponder the question of whether that is so. I believe they are inverting cause and effect. It is true that the volume of world trade diminished, that nations imposed restrictions and quotas and that some devalued their currencies, but I contend that those events followed the fall in world trade and did not cause it. I believe that the depression or the fall in world trade was caused by the high tariffs imposed by the United States, superimposed upon its huge production, coupled with the failure of other countries to maintain their balance of payments and so prevent the drain of gold to America. Their tariffs walls were not sufficiently high to prevent tb: ingress of American goods and their gold drained away to America, with the result that their currencies were undermined. That was the reason for the restrictions that were afterwards imposed.
What reason is there to believe that a general lowering of tariffs will increase the volume of trade? The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) will probably agree that during the last 30 or 40 years there has been a definite tendency for trade in manufactures to diminish. Between 1900 and 1939 the production of manufactures throughout the world increased by 100 per cent., but trade in them between nations decreased by 20 per cent. That the total volume of world trade remained large was mainly due to the fact that the character of trade moved from manufactures to foodstuffs and raw material. We are living in an age of mass production, when large nations or associations of nations with vast markets have been able to establish large economic units within their boundaries. That is the present tendency, and I believe it is the right one if we are to provide cheap goods for the people. The proposals we are now considering, however, have entirely the opposite effect. They seem to be intended deliberately to split the world into small units and to bring about the disintegration of the present large regional groupings. Nations and groups of nations are allowed to enter the scheme, and no attempt is made to strengthen the tendency in the direction of the formation of large, economic units.
I now propose to discuss two important principles, the first of which is concerned with the making of multilateral trade agreements. This means the application of the most-favoured-nation clause to all the nations involved in the agreement. The entry of goods under this proposal depends upon competitive price, and not upon mutual benefit such as might result from bilateral trade treaties in which both parties get something out of the bargain. Countries enter into agreements, one with another, when their economies are complementary, and such agreements are a direct encouragement to production because they give a promise of increased markets. The larger and more assured the market, the greater the stimulus to the development of resources. It seems obvious that the greatest expansion is obtained when a group of nations, with varied resources, and a large consumers’ market, agree to give a measure of priority to one another’s goods in their own markets. That has very positive advantages, and should be seriously considered by the Government. The mostfavourednation clause has had a discouraging, rather than an encouraging, effect on trade and production. When countries entered into bilateral agreements, the nation offering a concession gets in return something which it requires itself, so that both the parties to the agreement benefit, but under the mostfavourednation arrangement, extending as it does to all nations other than those with which either country has made an agreement, the contrary occurs. Concessions, granted by the one nation to the other must be extended by both parties to all nations with which they have a most-favoured-nation agreement, and that is what it is proposed to do under the charter. The arrangement discourages the granting of mutual concessions because those who receive concessions must share them with competitors, while concessions given might bring in more formidable competitors.
It may be that the world ison the way to multilateral trade, but it is taking a circuitous route. During the last few months, Great Britain has negotiated seventeen bilateral agreements with other countries, including Australia. Canada has imposed trade restrictions. Australia has negotiated treaties with India, Great Britain and New Zealand. The Marshal plan, which is necessary if Europe is to be saved, is bilateral rather than multilateral, because it really consists of an arrangement in each case between the United States of America and the individual country which is to be helped. As I have said, Canada recently imposed restrictions on its trade with the United States of America, and yet Canada is one of the most prosperous nations of the world. Its production has increased by 100 per cent. as compared with the pre-war period. During the war, Canada supplied the Allies with food, arms, munitions, &c., yet its civilian consumption increased by 40 per cent. Never has its economy been so vigorous as now - which may be due to the fact that no socialist experiments have been attempted in Canada. Canada’s labour force has increased by 59 per cent. since the outbreak of the war, and production has increased between 50 per cent. and 60 per cent. per head. In spite of all that, however, Canada has been forced to place restriction’s on its trade with the United States of America, with the result that a large proportion of that trade has been cut off.
Regarding one thing, I am, I confess, confused. The honorable member for Watson (Mr. Falstein) accused honorable members on this side of the House with being conservative, and with wishing to go back to the conditions of 1931. He was, of course, thinking of the depression again. While he was speaking, I thought, “Why limit it to 1931? Why not go back to 1881? “. As a matter of fact, the trade agreements which we are now considering represent an attempt to push the economy of the world back to the conditions which prevailed in the nineteenth century. We are being asked to reintroduce free trade; the system which prevailed in the nineteenth century, when conditions were very different from what they are now. We have in Australia a socialist Government, which believes in a planned economy, in nationalization, bulk buying; State monopoly at home, &; yet, abroad, it is advocating free trade’, free world economy, and no planning, which represents subservience to price mechanism and the profit motive. I sh all be interested to hear the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction explain this curious contradiction.
The charter provides that, up to the end of 1948, the nations which are parties to the agreement may exercise trade discrimination, but not after that date - except in certain circumstances, when it may be persisted in up to 1952. We have some knowledge of what nondiscrimination means. Under this system, when Great Britain was compelled to restrict imports from the United States of America, it was also compelled to restrict imports from Australia in the same degree. For instance, when Britain was forced to impose a tariff of 75 percent. on films from the United States of America in order to conserve dollars, a similar duty was imposed upon Australian films, so that our films were also debarred from entering the British market. In the same way, if we, because of the shortage of dollars, have to reduce our imports of tractors or motor cars from the United States of America, we shall be compelled,under the non-discrimination clause of the charter, to reduceproportionately our imports from Great Britain and Canada. There is a further danger inherent in this policy of nondiscrimination. I ask the Government, how can the policy of non-discrimination ever overcome the present dis-equilibrium in the balance of payments ? If every concession made to extend our trade be met by a similar concession to American trade, the position of accounts must remain static. Non-discrimination is the father of the status quo. As long as the currency of a major country such as the United States of America is in short supply, the adoption of non-discrimination by any other country must result in the contraction of trade and increase and perpetuate the disequilibrium between the United States and the rest of the world. Discrimination, as opposed to non-discrimination, must be maintained, at least for the time being, first, in order to adjust the disequilibrium of payments now existing between the nations, and, secondly, in order to build up large and strong economic areas. We all want to witness an expansion of trade. We want friendly relations to exist between nations, and above all we want Great Britain to be strong and on its feet again. I am sure that the proposals now before us if adopted in their present form will not achieve that result. For that reason I am opposed to them. I believe that they rest on a wrong appreciation of the true fundamentals of world trade. I am sure that if this agreement be signed by the nations and given effect, a large number of individual nations one by one will default, as France did not long ago when it devalued the franc. There are three courses open to the British peoples. The first is to permit the existing unbalance between payments to continue. That, I believe, would bring about a worse state of affairs than exists at present. The second course is to allow Communist influence to spread, not only over most of Europe as it is doing now, but also over the whole of Europe. The third course - and I believe this to be the right one - is to create a strong economic bloc, not antagonistic, but complementary to the United States -of America. With that bloc we shall have the closest relations. In the last few days an agreement for a Western European Association of Nations has almost reached the signing stage. We should encourage such an association with all the powers within us, because in France, Great Britain and the Benelux countries, with their vast overseas possessions, assisted by the British Empire with its vast overseas possessions, and resources, we shall have a powerful economic bloc which will be able to restore the economy of those countries and to reduce the disparity between the old and the new worlds. I trust that when the’ representatives of the Australian Government continue their discussions at Havana something better will come out of their deliberations than the agreements now before the House.
.-I approach the consideration of this subject with very mixed feelings. Having spent a good deal of my life in the political arena, I have cOme to the conclusion that in the international sphere nobody is to be trusted, not even ourselves. Because of that mistrust one is almost in conflict with oneself when considering the implications of these various arrangements. The purpose of the tariff in other days was to give a stimulus to industrial development within the nation itself. In those days, in a slowly developing world, the tariff had its sphere of usefulness; but as the years went by the tariff, after giving protection to industry seems to impose ever-increasing duties until industry itself finds -a great deal to criticize in it, because, as the result of its operation, efficiency has too often given way to inefficiency. For that reason I believe that while the tariff has had very beneficial effects on our industrial development in the past, it has provided a stimulus to war. Because of that I approach the consideration of this agreement with very mixed feelings. I had some very harsh things to say in this chamber when we were discussing the Atlantic Charter and its consequences upon Australia as a part of an exceedingly selfish world. As an Australian I approached it with an extremely selfish outlook. The observations I then made were not incorrect. My principal observation was that I saw on the very front doorstep of Australia a new nation- in building and that no one could forsee what part that new nation might play in a future war. Because I could not foretell what role it would play I criticized it ruthlessly and was taken to task for my pains.- Only the ignorant criticized me. The only mistake I made at the time was that I anticipated that war would break out in two years. The country to which I referred made a liar out of me and commenced the war within 18 months. I believe that our representatives went abroad for these trade talks with the same “ hi-falutin “ ideas as were held by our fathers when they established the League of Nations in 1918. The League of Nations turned out to be what I believe this agreement will be, a hopeless failure, because world morality has not improved. The slogan of all peoples to-day is : “ Get what you can, while you can “. One does not need to go abroad to see that commercial immorality - and it is that kind of immorality of which I am speaking - exists. One can 9ee as many examples of that as one wants at home. In my view, the world is divided into two groups, nationally into those who have and those who have not, and internationally into those who have and those who have not. While that state of affairs exists there will continue to be turmoil at home and wars abroad. I see no reason to place great hopes in the discussions at Geneva or Havana if that remains the philosophic approach to these questions. I do not believe that the full implications of the recent happenings in the scientific world have made themselves felt upon the microscopic minds of some honorable members in this Parliament. Having entered an atomic age, with all its potential dangers, we must apply atomic minds to the problems of the world in general; but I see nobody doing it. I have listened most intently to the debates on this agreement. I have heard speeches made by some honorable members that might very well have emanated from the political forbears of my friend the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan) in the nineteenth century. We have seen these tariffs in operation. We have also experienced three terrible wars in which 100,000,000 people have been destroyed. I believe that the authors of these tariffs have goodwill, but I do not believe that the peoples of the world have goodwill. The “ have’s “ and the “have not’s” in the world are still a.t variance, and international trade agreements will serve a useful purpose only so long as the nations involved sincerely wish to reciprocate goodwill. But only recently, when we discussed in this chamber an idealistic document called the 1’retton Woods Agreement, while honorable members were still .proclaiming its virtues, the very authors of that document were running out on its principles. What happened? The nations concerned fixed our economy on sterling, and then changed the basis to the American dollar, the United States of America having practically a monopoly of purchasing power. Later, France walked out on the agreement. Agreements of this kind are all right so long as the people who sign them intend to abide by them. Inter- nationally, we shall never achieve anything worth while so long as the representatives we send abroad are subject to criticism by the press and public at home, which tends to jeopardize the efforts of those representatives in the best interests of this country. For example, what happened just after the San Francisco conference, which was the preamble to these international trade’ agreements? When it was proposed that Australia should hand over Manus Island to the United States of America, there was an outcry in the press of this country, all because some one proposed ceding a few feet of Australian territory about the existence of which very few people knew anything at all. At that time a hullaballoo was caused in this country on the cry that somebody was going to give something away. Therefore, we must see whether we, ourselves, really entertain goodwill towards other peoples, and not merely be concerned whether other peoples have goodwill towards us. In order to illustrate the curious selfconsciousness of our own people, I point out that during the last few weeks I have been approached by representatives of big business to see what the Government would do about the exchange rate between Australia, and Great Britain. I believe that honorable members opposite, particularly members of the Liberal party, would be anxious to modify the exchange rate considerably, if not to abolish it altogether, because there is no justification for its existence at present; but members of the Australian Country party, in their prejudice, say to that proposition, “No, we shall have nothing of it. We must have the 25 per cent, exchange “. No one knows why, in these days of high prices, the present rate of exchange should be maintained. Dozens of people have asked me to try to have it removed. It becomes a matter of sheer politics. I do not condemn those people, because they are out to get their pound of flesh just as are members of the Liberal party, or, for that matter, my own colleagues on this side of the chamber.
If the purpose of these agreements is to initiate industries at home they have great virtue; but if their purpose is merely to maintain inefficiency in our industries they are a curse. I understand, although I am subject to correction on this point, that at the last conference between employers and employees held in Canberra most of the discussion emphasized the inefficiency of our industries. That inefficiency has arisen not because of incapacity on the part of the workers of this country, but out of the inefficiency of our existing machinery to maintain the business life of this country. If the purpose of these tariffs is to maintain inefficient industries at home, they are not a blessing but a curse.
Other matters also must be considered Li any review of the present international set-up. If we seek to eradicate war, which is the world’s greatest curse - :and that should be the prime concern of our generation– the cost of doing so does not matter so long as we do not lower our standard of living. We should be prepared to pay that cost, because Avar is the greatest curse of the world ; and in these days of atomic energy no one knows how far it can go. In view of the primitive jungle mind we are applying to problems of this kind, I should not be surprised if the next war means the extermination of western civilization. That problem must take precedence over all others. If the purpose of tariffs is to create international understanding, I support them wholeheartedly. But I have not seen them achieve that objective. ‘ Over the years we have been raising our tariffs not for the purpose of building up our own industries, but very often for the purpose of protecting inefficient industries. If that is the purpose of these tariffs, they are highly dangerous from an international point of view. The “ have’s “ of the world must urgently consider the needs of the “ have not’s “ and the cost involved, whatever it be, will be cheap compared with that of another war. This Parliament, regardless of party, should make the abolition of war its first consideration.
It is time that we had a good look at our own morality. Certain happenings in this country require urgent attention. Whenever honorable members opposite speak about the 40-hour week or the inefficiency of the coal-mining industry, or some other industry, I am reminded of what a famous jurist in this country said in 1908. His statement, which was de livered when dealing with the Harvester Award, was exceedingly prophetic. It reveals the cause of much of the internal strife and trouble in our economy. He said -
The first difficulty that faces me is as to the meaning of the act. The words are few, and at first sight plain of meaning; but, in applying the words, one finds that the legislature has not indicated what it means by “ fair and reasonable “ - what is the model pr criiterion by which fairness and reasonableness are to be determined. It is to be regretted that the legislature has not given a definition of the words.
I particularly impress this point upon honorable members -
It is the function of the legislature, not of the judiciary, to deal with social and economic problems; . . .
Yet, last year, when the Government asked for an alteration of the Constitution to give it power to legislate in respect of industry, honorable members opposite burst their “ boilers “ and used every specious argument they could find to defeat that proposal. I repeat that a famous jurist over forty years ago said -
It is the function of the legislature, not of the judiciary, to deal with social and economic problems; it is for the judiciary to apply, and, when necessary, to interpret the enactments of the legislation. But here, this whole controversial problem, with its grave social and economic bearings, has been committed to a judge, who is not, at least directly, responsible, and who ought not to be responsive to public opinion.
Forty years ago that was said, and we are seeing its great economic bearing to-day. Were truer words ever spoken by any one on any industrial question? But, when we, nearly 40 years later, put before the people, the proposition that the Parliament, not the judiciary, should deal with social and economic propositions, they were not fitted to accept it. So we have the spectacle of a basic wage of less than £6 a week, which even the Opposition, with all its conservatism, has to admit is inadequate to meet the needs of the people in Australia. What was predicted 40 years ago has come true. As soon as a problem arises in this ‘ country, the first thing that people do is to give it a name. The popular name to-day is “ Communism “. I know where the Communists are to be found in Australia. They are to be found not so much on the wharfs or in the mines as in lots of places very much higher amongst the frustrated and the distorted minds of people who want to be gentlemen and cannot be, and whose conception of their intellects is immeasurably greater than that of the community. All this is associated with industrial disturbances at home. If we wish to maintain efficiency at home, we have to apply ourselves to our problems in a more scientific way, having regard for all the difficulties that surround us. I have never defended communistic behaviour in Australia, but I will not be panicked by any side into action and then find myself, having been almost dragooned into it by others, left up in the air, deserted by the urgers. They have done it before and will do it again. I believe that the proper approach to our problems is along international lines. No one in this chamber would be prepared to go as far as I would go on international lines. but not on international theories. I make bold to say that the whole basis of the Christian doctrine is internationalism. But all I have seen arise from tariffs since I have been in public life and studied them has been not nationalism in the intellectual sense but super-nationalism, which invariably leads to war. I challenge any one to say anything to the contrary. If the doctrine of the International Trade Organization is that those who have shall give to those who have not, it is just, humane and highly Christian. If its purpose is something more stable than the old-fashioned League of Nations, which left us up in the air, and it helps young industries in our country to get on their feet but does not maintain inefficiency, I am all for it. I favour any kind of international co-operation. We send our representatives abroad to do the best they can, and 1 do hot doubt the sincerity of those we have sent. I believe, though, that very often the people whom we Send abroad as our representatives are so far ahead of the rest of the people that they are eyed with suspicion. The others can-not understand what they are doing. I believe that we shall achieve something if we apply ourselves soundly to the problem of internationalism. But my mind goes back to the time of the continental system when Napoleon was asked, after he had pretty well brought Europe to its knees, what he wanted to do and why he had done what he had, and he said : “ For the purpose of establishing a league of nations “. Then, 117 years later, Wilson established the League of Nations that hardly saw the light of day. It was of no use at all. We have seen arise out of World War II., the Atlantic Charter, theBretton Woods Agreement and, now, theInternational Trade Organization, all at a time when we can hear the rumblingof atomic bombs and guns around theworld. We wonder what it is all about.. I do not know. However, I have criticized the philosophy of the obscure form of nationalism. If our representatives,, who go abroad with our authority, commit us to something that will lead to international understanding and co-operation and the avoidance of war, we shall approve; but if they create something: that, however specious and pretty it may. look on the surface, leads to war, they will have done a great disservice to thecountry. Upon that note I leave my comments on the International TradeOrganization. I only hope that my observations, which I make taking a line from, the past, are entirely wrong, but events of the last few years have left me with littlehope for international co-operation. I do not believe the people of the world areready for social evolution. Science is sofar ahead of them that they do not know what is going on about them. But they have to be made to realize. The first thing we have to do is to encourage a freemovement of goods and people amongcountries. If the discussions at Geneva and Havana have that result, a great service to mankind will have been done; but if, in the final analysis, they lead tothe establishment of super-nationalism which lead9 to war, woe betide the western world before the end of the century !
– in reply - One would scarcely imagine from the speeches of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies), the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) and other honorable gentlemen opposite that the debate that I am closing has been on international affairs of the utmost concern to not only the people of Australia, hut also all the other inhabitants of the globe who number more than 2,000,000,000.
– I rise to order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The Minister ha9 just stated that he is closing the debate. I want to be certain whether he is closing the debate on only one paper or all the papers which have been debated. Mr. Speaker ruled earlier that when the Minister spoke, the debate on only one paper would be closed.
- Mr. Speaker ruled earlier that when the Minister spoke he would close the debate on only the first paper and that the other papers would be debated and voted on separately.
– In relation to the ruling which Mr. Deputy Speaker has just given, I point out to the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) that the other two papers deal with very restricted matters indeed, and I hope that the debate on them will be confined to that limited field. However, that is not my business. I make it clear that, in my opinion, I am speaking on the first of these three papers, which covers a wide field.
I regret that, with few exceptions, the attitude of honorable members opposite in considering these matters has been narrow, insular and biased beyond measure. They had the opportunity to analyze the economic problems facing Australia and the world to-day, and to examine critically the degree to which the provisionally operative General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade and the proposed International Trade Organization might help in a solution of these problems. Instead of keeping the debate on the high plane which the subjectmatter merits, members of the Opposition side-tracked the main issues, and misused the opportunity in order to draw attention to alleged deficiencies in our own domestic economic activities. The short answer to the narrow criticisms of the kind indulged in by the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) is that the national income of Australia, which is derived from the production and productivity of the workers, whom the
Opposition and those they represent so constantly malign, has increased by 37 per cent, during the term of office of the Labour Government, and that the social and economic welfare of our people is the envy of the whole world.
– The Minister is certainly keeping the debate on a non-party plane !
– The Commonwealth Statistician must be lying.
– Order ! The Minister should be heard in silence.
– I said that I would give a short answer to the narrow criticisms of the kind indulged in by the Leader of the Australian Country party, and I am doing so in one sentence. On an appropriate occasion - this is not the time to do so - I shall deal in detail with the criticism directed against our domestic economic effort. Meantime, I return to the international issues before the House, the Geneva draft of. a charter for an International Trade Organization and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. The Government’s activities on both these matters stem from a definite obligation freely accepted by us in the dark days of 1942. In elaboration of what the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) said in his outstanding contribution to this debate, and in order to enlighten the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen), who said specifically that we were free agents in. this matter, I wish to have recorded the documentary evidence of this obligation.
– The Minister is putting words into my mouth.
– The extracts that I propose to make are from parliamentary papers, which are available in the Parliamentary Library. On the 4th September, 1942, the then Prime Minister of Australia, the late Mr. Curtin, made a statement on the receipt of lend-lease aid hy Australia from the United States of Am erica, which contained the following sentence : -
In addition, the note addressed by the Australian Minister to the Secretary of State declares on behalf of the Commonwealth Government that Australia accepts the principles contained in the Mutual Aid Agreement concluded between- the United States of America and the United Kingdom Governments on 23rd
February, 1942, as governing alao the provision of mutual aid between the United States and the Commonwealth.
In contravention of what the honorable member for Indi said, I point out that we are not free agents in this matter.
– I never used the term.
– The honorable member did, because I made a special note of it.
– The Minister should read the report of my speech.
– The honorable member said that Australia’s obligation in this matter was second hand in nature, because there was an obligation on the United Kingdom. That is not the case. An obligation does devolve upon Australia.
– The Minister is resorting to the old trick of putting words into my mouth.
– What is the obligation?
– The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) will hear in a few moments what the obligation is.
– Order ! Other honorable members have spoken in this debate without being subjected to interruption. If some honorable gentlemen persist in interjecting, I shall deal with them immediately.
– I now quote a part of Article VII. of the Mutual Aid Agreement, substituting the word “ Australia “ for “ United Kingdom “ to bring out the meaning of the extract that I have just made from the late Mr. Curtin’ s statement -
In the final determination of the benefits in return for aid furnished under the Act of Congress of the 11th March, 1941, the terms a.nd conditions thereof shall be such as … to promote mutually advantageous economic relations between them and the betterment of world-wide economic relations. To that end they shall include provision for agreed action by the United States of America and the Commonwealth of Australia, open to all other countries of like mind, directed to the expansion, by appropriate international and domestic measures of production, employment and the exchange and consumption of goods which are the material foundations of the liberty and welfare of all peoples; to the elimination of all forms of discriminatory treatment in international commerce and to the reduction of tariffs and other trade barriers.
Well do I remember the long discussion; on this matter which took place in theWar Cabinet, of which I was a member. Without that lend-lease aid, I make bold’ to say that this continent might havefallen under the domination of Japan, Having committed ourselves to this clearcut obligation, I suggest that any omission, on our part to participate in the- discussions on trade matters would have been aclear repudiation of our obligations. I go even further, in answer to a sneering reference by the Leader of the Australian Country party about long visits overseas, and say that the time which I have spent overseas on missions connected with tradematters was the minimum necessary toavoid a recrimination that we were not in earnest about fulfilling our obligations.
Haying, I hope, clearly established’ the obligation to participate in these international trade discussions, I hasten to add that, in my opinion, the future peace and prosperity of the world depends on the extent to which nations can agree to cooperate in trade matters instead of resorting to the trade warfare which led up toWorld War II.
I now proceed to make some comments on the part which Australia has played in negotiations initiated by the United States of America, in its endeavours togive effect to Article VII. of the Mutual Aid Agreement. Just before the general” elections in 1946, certain officials of theUnited States Government arrived inSydney to discuss a draft of a charterfor an international trade organization sponsored by the United States. ThePrime Minister (Mr. Chifley) and I instructed our representative, Dr. Coombs,, to put forward the view that the draft was too negative in character and should; be amended to include positive obligations on all countries to give effect to a policy” of full employment and positive measures to assist in the economic development of under-developed countries. Since the 1946 elections, a sub-committee of Cabinet, consisting of the Prime Ministerthe Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr Pollard), the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Courtice),, the Minister for Works and Housing(Mr. Lemmon) and myself has directed”! the course to be pursued by our representatives taking part in these negotiations. The sub-committee of Cabinet has met almost every week and has, at these meetings, some times lasting a whole day, given the most detailed consideration to every proposal affecting our trade and tariff policy. Assisting the Cabinet sub-committee, there has been a committee of departmental officers who have worked long hours, some times far into the night, to ensure that Ministers should be thoroughly informed on every point. I wish to express my appreciation of the work of all these officers. As a result of all this effort and industry, Australia can claim to have made an outstanding contribution to the discussions, first in London late in 1946, later at Geneva, and now at Havana. Early in 1946, the United Nations took over the conduct of the negotiations which, as I have indicated, had been originally sponsored by the United States in collaboration with the United Kingdom. Eighteen countries were invited to the Geneva conference. Of these, only the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics was not represented. The text of the charter as it emerged from Geneva was tabled in this House by me when I made the statement we are now debating. Regarding this text, I do not for one moment claim that it is a perfect document. “What I do say is, first, that it evinces a degree of unanimity on the principles that should govern international commercial transactions far in advance of anything previously obtained. Secondly, that the Australian delegation, so ably led in the early stages by Dr. Coombs, and so ably assisted by Mr. McCarthy Secretary of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture, and Mr. Morton of the Department of Trade and Customs, made an outstanding contribution to the work of the conference. I take some pride in recording that, on my arrival in Geneva, prevalent opinion was that Dr. Coombs was the outstanding personality at the conference. On the text itself, I confine myself to the observation that it now contains two chapters not included in the -original draft. These two chapters are beaded “ Employment and Economic Activity “ and “ Economic Develop ment.” May I take the liberty of reading Article 3, Chapter II. -
Maintenance of Domestic Employment
At long last, the policy of full employment, propounded on behalf of this Labour Government by me when I presented the White Paper on Employment to this House in 1945, pursued diligently by Mr. Beasley, the then Minister for Supply, now High Commissioner in London, at the International Labour Organization conference at Philadelphia, and by the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) at San Francisco, is in this document recognized as an -international obligation.
Last week there was placed on my table a brochure published by the New South Wales branch of the Institute of Public Aff airs, dealing with bank nationalization. It was written by Mr. C. V. James, who, I understand, is economic adviser to the Bank of New South Wales. On page 5 of the brochure the writer expresses the opinion - I have no doubt that it is shared by the Opposition - that full employment is unobtainable. That, in fact, is one of the sub-headings of the brochure, which states that no apology need be offered for attacking maintenance of full employment as a practical objective. I have not the slightest doubt that some of the opposition expressed to the charter for the International Trade Organization is due to the fact that it places an obligation upon all subscribing countries to implement full employment within their * own borders. It is because the Opposition parties in this chamber do not believe in full employment that they object to the charter.
I pass now to the Havana conference which is still in progress. At this World Conference on Trade and Employment, attended, on invitation by the United Nations organization by 58 countries, the
Geneva draft drawn up by seventeen of them, has been subjected to intense criticism. Honorable members will recollect that I left Australia on the 14th November in order to be present at the meetings of this conference right from its opening on the 21st November. In substantiation of the statement I have made regarding the outstanding nature of Australia’s contribution to the whole series of meetings of which Havana is the culmination, I have to record that I was unanimously elected to the general committee which directed the work of the conference and unanimously elected chairman of one of the six main committees of the conference, that, appropriately enough, the one dealing with employment and economic activity. Incidentally, this committee had completed its task before I left Havana. In addition, Australian representatives were elected to 30 committees and subcommittees and in many cases were asked to assume chairmanship of the committees. I pause to make this observation, in answer to those who criticize expenditure on overseas missions, that if a job is worth Undertaking it is our duty to put forward our best effort, and that cannot be done without adequate representation.
I do not propose to enter into details regarding the Havana conference. In due course, after having taken into account how and when the United Kingdom and the United States propose to give effect to the proposals which will come out of Havana, the Government will decide upon the course it will recommend to this Parliament. I emphasize that the Government is in no way committed, and that this Parliament will have another opportunity to debate this question before any conclusive action is taken. What will result from the Havana conference will be a recommendation for the establishment of an International Trade Organization, whose members will not only pledge themselves to take positive measures on matters I have indicated, but also pledge themselves not to resort, except under certain specified conditions^ to discriminatory trade practices, which have in the past caused bitterness and ill will between nations leading te retaliatory measures and so poisoning international relationships. Difficulties at Havana have centered on the definition of the exceptional conditionswhich would warrant a member resorting to such practices. It is well to remember that one of the main objectives of the Charter will be defeated if the field, of exceptions is widened indefinitely.. I draw attention to the following statement which .appeared in the press quite recently and which emanated from the correspondent of a Wall-street journal -
The World Conference on Trade and Employment in Havana is promoting the very things it was called to prevent - new trade blocs.
That statement is dangerous nonsense. One might as well say that international conferences called to consider ways and means of suppressing traffic in illicit drugs promote that traffic. The very fact that nations are free not only to discuss but also to implement- plans which would divide the world into a number of warring economic blocs emphasizes the necessity for an international organization pledged to prevent the application of a. doctrine which can only result in disaster to every one.
Opposition speakers have either been hostile to or sought to damn with faint, praise the work undertaken at Geneva and Havana. It is interesting to list those who have either taken no interest, in this work or seek to decry its value. I have stated that the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics has declined to take part in both conferences. I have described as “ dangerous nonsense “ the unhelpful attitude of a Wall-street journal. I now turn to an article published in the Sydney Tribune, organ of the Communist party. The article is headed - “ Dedman opening gate to dollar invasion “, and it links the Havana trade talks with the Marshal] plan. The Tribune has run true to its usual form and has completely twisted, distorted and reversed the truth about the International Trade Organization charter. The Communists need starvation and chaos in which to pursue their evil aim of revolution, so naturally they hate the Marshall plan and all other international schemes to promote economic welfare. Prosperity, especially for the worker, does not suit them at all. That is why the Tribune attacks the International Trade Organization charter.
The truth is, of course, that an important function of the International Trade Organization will he the industrial and economic development of “underdeveloped “ countries as part of a plan to raise world living standards. This is related to the point raised by the honorable member for Denison (Dr. Gaha). By entering, this field,, the International Trade Organization will be able to ensure that development takes place under the eye of an international body in which every member country has a vote, so that the interests of weaker countries will be protected against any possibility of exploitation. Dollars, if used properly, will help the world to recovery and further development. That is why the Communists hate them and invent so many curious tales. The development provisions, as is to be expected, will work in the opposite way to that asserted by the Tribune. They will permit special measures to be taken to assist development schemes which otherwise would be against the general articles of the charter, enabling imports to be stopped which otherwise would flood the local market, and make production and economic development impracticable. The reference to Argentina being nearly always a supporter of American imperialist foreign policies is just another instance of the absurdity of the Tribune’s misinformed comments. In belittling the International Trade Organization, the Opposition finds itself in the company of Russia and the Communists.
Before concluding my remarks on the charter discussions, I must say a word or two about the sugar industry, because the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, which- I shall presently discuss, does not contain any .reference to this product. The Government has taken every precaution to ensure that the sugar industry will be safeguarded to the same degree under the charter as it has been in the past. The form of protection may be slightly different from that provided in the past, but-“- and I am prepared to stake my political reputation on this - it will be equally effective.- The sugar industry is entitled to protection; it will continue to have protection. However, it is not entitled, when other methods of complete protection are provided, to insist that the charter be amended to permit the indiscriminate use of embargoes, which, if availed of by other countries, might have disastrous effects on ‘other primary industries in Australia.
Honorable members will recollect that the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) did not answer my interjection : “ How would you like the United States to be free to place a complete embargo on the importation of Australian wool ? “
Complete protection for the sugar industry will be a condition precedent to the favorable consideration of the charter by this Government. In any case, the Parliament will have another opportunity to debate the subject before a final decision is made.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– When the sitting was suspended I had almost concluded my remarks on the charter for the International Trade Organization. Whilst the Government supports the joint efforts made at Havana to evolve a system for the future conduct of the trade of the world which is intended to lessen the dangers of economic warfare and to assist the harmonious solution of common problems, it is, naturally, not in accord with all the provisions of the charter. That, of course, is true of all the nations which participate; nevertheless, we must attempt to work out a satisfactory modus vivendi. We should have preferred an empirical approach to the problems of international trade to the elaborate constitutional one which has been made, but other nations with whose representatives we had to work, and with which we have to trade, had different ideas. It is also true that the charter is designed to meet long-term requirements rather than the emergencies of the moment. The bilateral arrangements which the United Kingdom Government, has recently concluded are not really trade treaties, but a series of contracts in the nature of” short-term expedients designed to meet Great Britain’s present dire need. Theterms of those agreements, especially of the one made with Argentina, reflect the straits to which the United Kingdom has been reduced. However, even if the- charter were adopted, equilibrium would have to be established in international payments before it could function. Only when that has been achieved do the “ nondiscrimination “ provisions become effective, and because of that reservation adoption of the agreement suits Australia. I remind the House that our trade has suffered severely in the past because of discriminatory action on the part of some countries, particularly so far as the sale overseas of our primary products is concerned. For that reason, the Government desires that loop-holes in the agreement, which might permit of the exercise of discrimination, shall be eliminated as far as is practicable, consistent with the formulation of a workable system of international trade. If the present shortage of dollars should prove to be more than a temporary one, and degene-rates into a chronic condition, many features of the charter will have to be revised. However, the charter itself provides that its terms can be reviewed from time to. time. Incidentally, I trust that next time the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) feels inclined to criticize the United States of America, he will remember the tremendous efforts made by that country to relieve the shortage of dollars and to supply the goods which give rise to that shortage. That applies also to the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen). One has only to think of Unrra, of the loan made to the United Kingdom, and of the dollars provided through the International Monetary Fund - matters which were referred to by the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley), on a previous occasion - to realize that the United States of America has been extremely generous. The adoption of the Marshall Aid Plan should result in even greater contributions being made by the United States of America. Therefore, the Government believes that the right course for it to pursue is to co-operate with the United States of America in the International Trade Organization, and not to turn its back on that country, as some members of the Opposition would apparently like it to do. The Government prefers to work alongside the United Kingdom and the United States of America for the political and economic salvation of the world, rather than to run the risk of embittering international relations.
The basic approach to the solution of the present economic problems confronting the world is the promotion of multilateral, non-discriminatory international trade, and simultaneously, the institution of a satisfactory means of making payments to settle transactions. This approach depends upon’ the existence of adequate supplies of some currency which is acceptable to all nations, and without such a currency resort will have to be made of all sorts of make-shifts. That is the core of the problem. While participating in the International Trade Organization, the Government has never been unmindful of the scale of reconstruction that is necessary before that organization can be made effective, and that very considerable modifications may have to be made in the charter itself as time passes. In the meantime we do not propose to allow what we hope are only shortterm difficulties to stand in the way of these long-term proposals.
I turn now to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. Here we are in the realm of accomplished fact. The negotiations began in Geneva and, except for the final decision taken here by the Government to apply the agreement provisionally from the 18th November last, were concluded in Geneva.
My colleague, the Minister for Works and Housing, who is a practical farmer, lias dealt with the balance of benefits received by Australia under the agreements, as against the concessions made by us in the form of reductions of tariffs and preferences. Perhaps the House does not realize that we are dealing with by far the most comprehensive trade treaty ever negotiated, by Australia or any other country. The concessions obtained from other countries directly and indirectly as a result of the most-favoured-nation provision cover thousands of items and fill 1158 pages of the three volumes which I have with me. The number of concessions obtained directly by us is many times the number of concessions obtained under the treaties negotiated during the ‘thirties by governments formed from the present Opposition -members. Incidentally, during that period the Government appointed a Minister for Trade Treaties, who spent a much longer period abroad than I did at Geneva.
The General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, and indeed the charter, must be judged by the contribution which they will make to a solution of the economic problems confronting the world to-day. Three of those problems are (1) the desperate position of the United Kingdom, (2) the slow recovery of Europe, (3) the world shortage of dollars. The reductions of United States tariffs made by the agreements will assist in a solution of all three problems. Contrary to the opinion expressed by the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr.Fadden), those reductions are on a scale without parallel in history. In many cases they bring the United States tariffs down to the level of 1913.
In proof of this I quote from a booklet issued by the United States administration entitled Analysis of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. Page 133 of the booklet records the concessions made by the United States of America, all of which accrue to Australia as the result of the multilateral form of the treaty. The total imports of the United States of America in 1939 were valued at 2,250,000,000 dollars; the concessions made at Geneva account for 78 per cent. of its total volume of trade, that is to say, the concessions cover 1,770,000,000 dollars’ worth of international trade.
Motion (by Mr. Lemmon) - by leave - agreed to -
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Minister for Postwar Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) from concluding his speech without interruption.
– The booklet from which I am quoting states that existing rates of duty were reduced by from 35 to 50 per cent. on 43 per cent. of the total dutiable imports entering the United States of America, by from 25 per cent. to 35 per cent. on 27 per cent. of the total dutiable imports into the United States, by less than 25 per cent. on 10 per cent. of the total dutiable imports into the United States, and were bound on imports accounting for 20 per cent. of the total dutiable imports into the United States of America. Yet the Leader of the Aus tralian Country party has the temerity to say that concessions on that colossal scale, unparalleled in history, are paltry. On page 136 of this booklet, in a table headed “United States’ imports in 1939; total and by the countries participating in the Geneva negotiations, showing kind and extent of concessions “, the following item appears: -
Value of imports covered by concessions - $14,752,000
Value of imports not covered by concessions - $723,000.
On the 1939 figures, the concessions obtained by Australia at Geneva cover 95 per cent. of our exports to the United States of America.
Mr.White. -Will the Minister table that booklet?
– It is available in the library if the honorable member desires to read it. The title is Analysis of General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade signed at Geneva, 30th October, 1947.
Moreover, all these reductions in the United States of America tariffs are now completely operative, whereas under the escape provisions of Part II. of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade the reductions made by countries other than the United States of America are almost completely nullified because of import restrictions. That the agreement has already had an appreciable beneficial effect is indicated by the following statement taken from the Sydney Morning Herald of the 18th February of this year : -
Washington, February 17. - Trade officials say the narrowing gap between United States imports and exports indicates that other countries are beginning to regain an economic footing.
In return for these very great concessions, the United States of America insisted, first, that the agreement should be multilateral in form; secondly, thatother countries should make worthwhile reductions in their tariffs; and, thirdly, that the countries within the British Commonwealth of Nations should make some reduction in Imperial preferences. ‘Contrary to the opinions expressed by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies), I am a firm believer in multilateral treaties. Does any one imagine that in a bilateral treaty with the United States of America, Australia could have obtained anything like the concessions I have just described? For example, the United Kingdom negotiated a reduction of United States of America tariffs on woollen textiles. Australia, by virtue of the multilateral nature of the agreement, receives the benefit of that reduction, not only in regard to textiles but also in relation to a stimulation of the demand for Australian wool generally. In any case, the right honorable gentleman himself - who is, I regret, not present in the chamber - failed completely to negotiate a trade treaty with the United States of America. That is an interesting story to which I shall refer later. The reduction of our tariffs made in exchange for the concessions of great value that we received were decided upon only after very careful examination by the Cabinet sub-committee and the interdepartmental committee that I mentioned earlier. I again pay tribute to that committee for its excellent work. No instance has yet been brought to my notice of any of the industries affected being unable to withstand competition from overseas at the reduced tariff rates.
Perhaps the strongest criticism against the agreement has been directed to the reductions of Imperial preferences. I make it quite clear that the preferences that we enjoy are the object of deep animosity by all countries outside the British Commonwealth of Nations. Without some reduction of these preferences there would have been no agreement, and if there had been no agreement, Great Britain would have been in an even worse position than it is in now. It may not be generally known that during the final stages of the negotiations a complete breakdown was only avoided after discussions had taken place between Sir Stafford Cripps and the American Secretary of State, Mr. Marshall. The reductions of preferences agreed to were the very minimum necessary to get any agreement at all. Since reductions had ‘ to be made, were we to stand by and allow Great Britain to carry the whole burden?
The reductions to which we have agreed will have no adverse effect upon the industries concerned. Honorable members opposite are trying to pin on to the Government a charge that it has “ sold the pass “ on Imperial preference. I deny the charge. The Government, in order to get a worthwhile agreement, exchanged part of our preferential margins for worthwhile reductions in United States of America tariffs, whereas members of the Opposition, when in office, gave away certain preferences and received nothing in return.
Long before the war the United Kingdom recognized the necessity for freer access to the United States market. Negotiations were begun in 1937 which culminated in a trade treaty between the United Kingdom and the United States of America in 1938. Whilst these negotiations were in progress, at a time when the Opposition parties formed the Government of this country, a delegation consisting of the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page), the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) and the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) went overseas on a trade mission. The sole result of the combined efforts of these three wise men was announced in this House on the 27th September, 193S. The statement was accompanied by what was called a Memorandum of Conclusions. The conclusions were mostly of a general character ; at any rate, they disclosed nothing of practical benefit to Australia. There was ft recognition that Empire producers were entitled to second consideration only in the United Kingdom market. That is the only way in which the memorandum can be construed. A further result of the delegation’s visit, and presumably of subsequent negotiations, was announced on the 18th November, 1938. I read the following extract from Hansard, page 1713, volume 158, of the 18th November, 1938 :-
The Government recognizes the great influence which would be exercised on world economic affairs by a comprehensive trade agreement between the United Kingdom and the United States of America; and fully realized its responsibility to assist in the conclusion of such an agreement, provided the vital interests of Australian industries would be preserved.
The alterations to formerly existing preferences which have been agreed to by Australia are the following: -
Apples -Reduction from 4s.6d. to 3s. per cwt., during the period 15th August to 15th April. The full duty of 4s. 6d. still operates during the Australian season, viz. 16th April to 15th August.
Pears - Reduction from 4s.6d. to 3s. per cwt., August to January inclusive. The full duty of 4s. 6d. still operates during the Australian season.
Fruits, tinned orbottled in syrup -
Apples - Reduction from 3s.6d. to 2s. 3d. per cwt.
Grapefruit - Duty of 15 per cent. removed; free entry substituted.
Fruit salad - Change from ad valorem rate of 15 per cent. to specific rate 5s. 6d. per cwt.
Pineapples - Change from ad valorem rate of 15 per cent. to specific rate 5s. per cwt.
Loganberries - Change from ad valorem rate of 15 per cent. to specific rate 4s. per cwt.
Honey - Reduction from 7s. to 5s. per cwt.
Wheat - Duty of 2s. per quarter removed; free entry substituted.
In other words, we formerly enjoyed a preference of 2s. per quarter for wheat, but the government of the day, now the Opposition, gave that preference away, and got nothing whatever in return. The quotation continues -
In addition to the above changes in preferences enjoyed by Australia, the agreement between United Kingdom and America provides for reduction in the duty on rice imported into the United Kingdom from foreign c ountries. The duty provided in the Ottawa Agreement between United Kingdom and India was1d. per lb. This is now to be reduced to two-thirds of a penny per lb. Although Australia had no treaty rights in respect of rice, the strongest representations were made by the Commonwealth Government to the United Kingdom Government to retain the duty of 1d. per lb. This action was taken because Australia has built up a substantial trade in rice during the past five years. The small reduction in duty, while regretted, could not be prevented by Australia. However, it will not seriously affect the Australian rice industry.
Lest there should be any doubt on this point, I propose to quote from other documents in order to show that the then government knew exactly what it was doing. It was giving away preferences for nothing in order to facilitate the making of an agreement between the United Kingdom and the United States of America. That isone of the reasons why the present Government, on this occasion, has exchanged some of our preferences for worthwhile concessions by the United States of America. I invite attention to the purport of communications between the then Prime Minister, Mr. J. A. Lyons, and the then High Commissioner, Mr. S. M. Bruce, in December, 1937. This was prior to the conclusion of negotiations between the United Kingdom and Australia, and the communications are recorded in Hansard of November, 1938. In December, 1937, the communications passed in the form of questions and answers. The questions were asked by the Prime Minister of Australia, Mr. Lyons, and the answers were supplied by the High Commissioner, Mr. Bruce. They are as follows: -
Question 1. - Are we expected to surrender preferences on the items mentioned before we know whether United States will enter into discussions with us?
Answer to1. - Yes.
Question 2. - Even if United States will enter into discussions with us, are we expected to make the above concessions merely to create goodwill and without any understanding for reciprocal concessions in the United States market ?
That shows quite clearly that the present Opposition, when it was the Government, in 1937 and 1938 did exactly what it is now criticizing this Government for doing. It gave away certain preferences and received nothing in return, whereas this Government exchanged certain preferences for worthwhile concessions from the United States of America.
I regret that the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) is not present, because he made some very offensive statements in the course of his speech in the House the other night to which I shall now reply. He referred to the “ snide “ manner in which the Prime Minister had done certain things. The honorable member also made a number of mis-statements. On the subject of the exchange of preferences enjoyed by Australia for worthwhile concessions by the United States of America, the honorable member for Indi said that it was equivalent to cutting up the British body. If there is any question of cutting up the British body, the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) was the first person to start the business. He, with all his surgical skill, made a very rauch deeper incision in the British body than this Government did at the Geneva Conference. Not only that, but the honorable member for Indi, who criticized the exchange of preference margins for concessions by the United States of America, was himself a member of the government which first started cutting up the British body. If the right honorable member for Cowper was the first Minister in an Australian government to operate on the British body, the honorable member for Indi sharpened the knife. He was a member of the government which gave away those preferences for nothing, and was quoted in the press recently as saying that the reduction of the margin of preference on canned fruits under the Geneva agreement would cost the industry £80,000. The reduction will cost the industry nothing, for we have a contract at a fixed price with the United Kingdom. I assume that the honorable member arrived at the figure of £80,000 by multiplying the reduction of preference per case by the number of cases exported. The honorable member has excelled all his previous efforts in the art of distortion. But suppose we apply the same method of calculation to one item alone of the preferences given away in 1938 - the preference of 2s. per quarter on wheat. On the recently announced sale of 80,000,000 bushels of wheat to Great Britain, the loss due to the giving away of the preference on wheat by a government in which the honorable member was a Minister would amount to £1,000,000. The value of that part of our trade with the United Kingdom which was affected by reductions of preference given away for nothing by the Lyons Government in 193S was three and a half times as great as the value of that which has been affected by the recent reductions of preference made at Geneva in exchange for worthwhile concessions to the United States of America.
The Genera] Agreement on Tariffs and Trade negotiated at Geneva has been commended as a distinct achievement by the great majority of those who are in a position to appraise its value. I have a number of statements from leaders in the community which I propose to have recorded iri Ilansard to indicate whether or not the Opposition has any supporters in the country when it refers to the agreement in critical terms. The first statement is from Mr. Douglas Boyd, chairman of the Australian Wool Board. It reads as follows: -
Reduction in the United States of America tariff on raw wool and on wool textiles, would further the Australian Wool Board’s aims to promote the use of wool all over the world.
Mr. P. B. Newcomen, president of the Graziers Federal Council, had this to say-
The statement of details of Australia’s trade agreement made at Geneva was of great interest to the wool and meat industries, both of which would benefit as a result of the negotiations. Reduction of wool duties in the United States of America is very satisfactory.
Mr. A. E. Heath, president of the Sydney Chamber of Commerce, said -
Trade on a freer basis would benefit the whole of the trading world. Wool, butter and meat agreements with the United States of America for Australia’s good.
The finance editor of the Melbourne Herald, in an article published in that journal, wrote about the agreement -
Consensus of opinion among authorities is: - Australia gained more than she gave away in the Geneva Trade Agreement announced this week. Benefits to wool may outweigh all other items.
Discussing the agreement editorially, the Melbourne Age said -
General agreement must be accepted In a spirit of reasonable compromise - with reservations, Australia will nevertheless accept the agreement as the first really effective evidence of international co-operation since the end of the wai’.
Mr. Peter Malloch, a member of the Dried Fruits Export Control Board from Mildura, said -
Australia’s sultanas and raisins would still enter Britain duty-free. Even with redue tion, California would not be able to compete with Australia because of the enormous increase in the cost of production. Turkey, through inflation, was also in an unfavorable position. In Canada, California would be a serious rival, but Australia would still be able to laird her fruit duty-free and should retain the bulk of the market.
Mr. P. R. Wilkins, federal secretary of the Associated Chambers of Commerce and the Australian Council of Employers Federations, discussed the agreement in these terms -
It is a matter of satisfaction that the concessions granted on Empire preferences do not involve abandonment of the essential structure of the preference system.
The reduction of tariff barriers negotiated at Geneva is a practical implementation of the United Nations Charter which will develop into full trade collaboration.
Mr. H. E. Tancred, a prominent operative in the meat industry, had this to say-
The reduction in the meat tariff by the United States furnished Australia with an opportunity to revolutionize its meat industry to the national advantage as well as the benefit of many phases of that industry.
Mr. T. F. Plunkett, M.L.A., chairman of the Australian Dairy Produce Board, said -
Arrangement under the Geneva world pact to admit butter to the United States is a notable achievement. Could well make a material contribution to the continued stability of Australia’s dairying industry.
Mr. H. F. McLennan, chairman of the Victorian Meat Provisional Council, stated -
America’s offer of a 50 per cent. reduction in Australia’s meat imports opened up great possibilities for the future, and meat producers were assured of a wide market even when Britain’s supplies were satisfied.
In the opinion of the Government, this agreement constitutes the greatest measure of co-operation in trade matters, by all the important trading countries in the world outsideRussia, that the world has ever known. The Government is satisfied that, as a consequence of it, not only will Australia benefit in a large measure, but also a significant contribution will have been made to the solution of the larger economic issues which to-day confront the great countries of the world.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. Dedman) agreed to -
That Orders of the Day No. 2 and No. 3, Government Business, be postponed until after consideration of Order of the Day No. 4.
Customs Tariff Amendment (No. 3)
In Committee of Ways and Means: Consideration resumed from the 18th November, 1947 (vide page 2174, volume 194), on motion by Mr. Pollard -
That the schedule to the Customs Tariff 1933-1939 … be further amended . . . (vide page 1 of appendix following page 3284, volume 195.)
– In order to implement the concessions resulting from the negotiations at Geneva, action under one or more of the following headings has been found necessary: -
Of these, Customs Tariff Proposals No. 3, Customs Tariff (Canadian Preference) Proposals No. 2 and Customs Tariff (New Zealand Preference) Proposals No. 2 have been introduced, and each item affected by those proposals will be open to debate, during which I shall indicate what changes have occurred in respect of any particular item, and the country with which negotiations took place. I shall also give any other pertinent information which honorable members may seek.
In respect of the proclamations covering the application of the intermediate tariff, primage duty alterations and the applications under the British preferential tariff to Malta on the item covering gloves, such proclamations will not directly come under the notice of honorable members during the progress of the Customs Tariff Proposals through the chamber. However, the comparative memorandum which has been circulated to honorable members contains details of all the alterations which have taken place as a result of the Geneva negotiations, and should honorable members desire to deal with any of the items which will not be coming up for discussion under Customs Tariff Proposals No. 3, I suggest that such questions be raised when the general debate is taking place on the first item in Customs Tariff Proposals No. 3, that is, item 3 (a). I shall endeavour at that time to give such information as is practicable in reply to any questions asked.
In some instances where the rate of duty has not been altered, the negotiators at Geneva dealt only with the binding against increase of the then existing rates. Such items are not in every instance covered by Customs Tariff Proposals No. 3. However, they are included in the comparative memorandum circulated to honorable members. At Geneva, the general desire of all countries was to have negotiated rates bound against increase during the currency of the agreement. In our negotiations we endeavoured to avoid the binding of the duties wherever there was the possibility of such binding detrimentally affecting Australian industry. In such cases we would agree to the removal of primage duties or to a maximum margin of preference, or both, and avoid dealing in any way with the ordinary customs duties, thus retaining the liberty, if it is later found necessary, to increase the duties for protective purposes. In the case of the United Kingdom, however, we departed from this principle on certain items where we proposed to reduce the duties on an unbound basis. In these cases, should circumstances show that the Australian manufacturer has been detrimentally affected, we have liberty to raise the duties to their previous level. Any increase above their previous level could be done only as a result of a Tariff Board inquiry in accordance with our general commitment under the Ottawa Agreement. Those unbound reductions in the ordinary duties do not appear in the schedules attached to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, although they appear in Proposals No. 3.
The binding of the duties has, in general, been along the following lines : -
It will be seen, therefore, that every effort has been made to complete the negotiations without detrimentally affecting Australian industry. There was a considerable number of items in the tariff concerning which the rates of duty applying to foreign countries were much higher than the rates of duty recommended by the Tariff Board. In quite a number of these cases the duties have been brought down to Tariff Board’s levels or to a figure still higher than that recommended by the Tariff Board.
The primage duty alterations have been extensive. Generally, wherever an item was negotiated with a foreign country, primage duties were removed from such goods originating in countries entitled to the British preferential tariff or to mostfavourednation treatment. The list of such countries now includes practically all nations having any material external trade. Where negotiations were confined only to the United Kingdom, primage duty was removed from goods entitled to the British preferential tariff and a corresponding reduction made in the mostfavourednation rate, this latter action being necessary in order to avoid any increase in margins of preference. Honorable members will appreciate that the primage duties were introduced for revenue purposes only and have continued to operate as revenue duties, consequently removal is of revenue significance and does not affect the general level of protection. In fact the Tariff Board has consistently referred to the danger of primage duties being used for protective purposes and has recommended their removal from protective items. Although for many years primage had not been considered as a protective factor, the board stated in its annual report for the year ending the 30th June, 1946, that “in future it will not be in the national interest to continue the prewar practice of ignoring the protective effects of primage duties on protected articles “. However, the effects of this change in policy have not yet been reflected in tariff rates, and in no instance in the items now before the House can primage be considered an integral part of the necessary protective level.
There has been a number of suggestions that the British preferential system has been seriously affected by the arrangements made at Geneva. A number of reductions has been made in the preferences that existed prior to the Geneva negotiations, but insofar as Australia is concerned the number of preferences brought down to a level below that required under the Ottawa Agreement is comparatively few and only then with the full consent of the United Kingdom. A very large number of the items carried a margin of preference which was in excess of that required under the Ottawa Agreement. There are several reasons for this. For example, exchange adjustment, when it operated, applied only to the British preferential tariff ; consequently on all protective rates of duty the British preference was increased to the extent of one-quarter of the British preferential tariff rate. There are additional preferences in primage duties, a number of British goods being exempt from duty or subject to 5 per cent, primage duty, when goods of foreign origin were subject to a full 10 per cent, primage duty; also in a number of cases the intermediate tariff rate was not operative and all foreign countries were subject to the general tariff rate.
As a rule the difference between the British preferential tariff and the intermediate tariff represented the Ottawa margin and the difference between the intermediate tariff and the general tariff represented the added preference. This practice was followed so that countries which desire to be placed on the intermediate tariff should pay something for the privilege of obtaining the lower rate of duty. In other words, some of the preferences surrendered at Geneva were expressly established for the purposes of trade treaty negotiations. Therefore, insofar as preferences are concerned, I might briefly state that the preferences remaining in respect of those items negotiated at Geneva - it must be remembered that there is still a large number of items not affected by the negotiations - are mostly in keeping with the original commitments taken by Australia at Ottawa and that where a new preference is lower than the Ottawa margin the item generally is not one of material interest to the United Kingdom, or is one in respect of which, after fifteen years of operation, the. United Kingdom has not been able to obtain a reasonable share of the trade under the Ottawa margin. In most of these cases the Ottawa margin, while not assisting the United Kingdom, was unnecessarily increasing the imported cost of the article. Should I mention, in the course of the debate on the items in Customs Tariff Proposals No. 3 that there has been no variation of the margin of preference, I shall mean that there has been no variation in the margin of preference between the British preferential tariff rates and the mostfavourednation rates. Where both the British preferential tariff and the mostfavourednation rates have been lowered, the general tariff remains unchanged and consequently margins of preference between the British preferential tariff and the general tariff have actually been increased. I shall ignore this aspect when dealing with the items as I assume honorable members’ interest will be associated with the most-favoured-nation tariff and not with the general tariff which applies to-day to very few countries.
Owing to the fact that ad valorem duties have been changed as a result of the new basis of value for duty which is now related to Australian currency instead of to British currency as previously, confusion could easily arise by comparing the present actual percentage rates with the previous actual percentage rates. In order to avoid any such confusion my comments when making a comparison between one set of rates and the other will as a general rule relate to the duties which would be payable on the new value for duty basis.
Regarding the consequential New Zealand and Canadian tariff proposals which will come up for debate following Customs Tariff Proposals No. 3, I should like to mention that there were no direct negotiations at Geneva between Australia and New Zealand or Canada except insofar as each country was in close contact with the others with a view to watching its preferential interests. The consequential New Zealand and Canadian proposals cover items which in the AustralianNew Zealand or the AustralianCanadian trade agreements carry specific rates of duty when entering Australia. Some of these specific rates of duty were lower than the British preferential tariff, and some were at some point between the British preferential tariff and the mostfavourednation rates. Unless such rates were changed, anomalies in preference would occur. These proposals ensure that both New Zealand and Canada are not detrimentally affected by the arrangements made between Australia and other countries.
A few minor amendments will he moved during the course of the debate. As honorable members are aware, the proposals were introduced within a few weeks of the conclusion of the negotiations at Geneva. This was, in fact, an unreasonably short time for the preparation of documents of this description as the complexities from a tariff aspect were tremendous, particularly when associated as they were with a complete change in the basis of value for duty. It has been found subsequently that one anomaly had been created and in a few instances the proposed rates of duty are not strictly in keeping with the principles of the agreements. These variations do not affect the duties by more than 5 per cent, in any instance. However, as the objective of the tariff proposals is to carry out fully the Geneva undertakings, the amendments will be moved as the particular items are called.
Division I. - Ale, Sprang and Beverages
Item 3 (Brandy, gin, rum, &c).
– I protest against the cavalier treatment meted out to the Opposition by the Government in proceeding immediately to the consideration of this schedule before completing the business which the Government undertook would first be completed. The schedule itself is most formidable. It consists of approximately 170 pages with an average of ten items, at a conservative estimate, set out on each page. Thus, the committee is now called upon to deal with about 1,700 items, and we are asked to consider them at a moment’s notice. Furthermore, the implications of the speech just made by the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) cannot clearly be understood by the committee at this juncture. Indeed, honorable members will require some time to weigh those implications. I have no doubt that honorable members opposite do not yet clearly perceive the implications of the Minister’s speech. In these circumstances, the debate should be adjourned in order to give to honorable members an opportunity to study the Minister’s speech. I am not satisfied that it i9 as innocent as it appears to be. I believe that its implications are tremendous; and if ministerial supporters do not wish to consider it properly, an opportunity should at least be given to the Opposition to do so. It is obvious that there is a wide difference of opinion between ministerial supportei’9 and members of the Opposition with regard to these proposals. We know that most of these alterations have been made as the result of the Geneva charter. We know . that the terms of the charter have not been determined and are still being discussed at Havana. The Minister is adept at drawing red herrings across the trail, but I am talking about the implications of his speech. The items are put before us under certain headings, but we have no means of making ready reference to them individually. In ordinary circumstances, we should be prepared to consider the items now, but we have had only about three minutes to consider the implications of the Minister’s speech. The honorable gentleman did not even have the courtesy to provide Opposition members with copies of his speech before he delivered it, although we know it was in typescript. Had he done so we might have had the opportunity of realizing its implications. I am not prepared to proceed with the debate in the circumstances, and I therefore move -
That the Chairman do report progress and ask leave to sit again.
Question put. The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. J. J. Clark.)
Question so resolved in the negative.
.- I join with the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) in protesting against the way in which this debate is being conducted.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Clark).Order ! The honorable member must confine himself to item 3.
– I am referring to the whole schedule. I understand that the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) asked that a general debate be allowed on item 3.
– Order! He did not ask that.
– The Minister said that the general debate would take place on item 3. It is one of the items in the bundle of papers tabled by the Minister a little while ago. In one breath the honorable gentleman said, “ This is the greatest agreement over made on an economic subject “, and, in the next, gabbling through his speech, ho said, “ Nothing much has been done by way of changes; the preferences are still there; the changes are only minor”. He did not have the courtesy to supply honorable members with copies of his speech, but I gathered from his remarks that recommendations made over the years by the Tariff Board for a reduction of duties on foreign goods are to be carried out. I point out to the Minister and his followers, because I am quite sure that caucus members have not realized the extent of the changes to be made, that that means a substantial reduction of protection against competition from cheap-labour countries. These proposals are the result of a multilateral agreement under which any concession given to one signatory is automatically given to the others. That means that a concession given to the United States of America will also be given to a reconstructed Japan and Germany when they, in their turn, become parties to the agreement. I refer the Minister to an industry within his own electorate. The Tariff Board made a report on agricultural implements. Honorable members, if they refer to the report, will see that the board, in addition to making a recommendation as to the British preferential tariff, also made a recommendation on the rates of duty on the products of foreign countries. That was resisted by the government of the day, because it realized that the maximum aid should be given to Great Britain. It believed that our own manufactures should receive first consideration, but after that, trade should be -kept within the Empire as far as possible. That government refused to make the reduction, and as the result of its policy, the International Harvester Company - :an American organization - established a branch in Australia.
– Order ! The honorable member is departing from item 3. He is entitled to discuss ale, spirits and beverages which are related to item 3, but he will not be in order in dealing with other matters.
– I rise to order. The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) informed us, when he gave a general survey of what was contained in these items, that there would be a general debate. In fact, he invited us to engage in a general debate on item 3 (a). The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) had that fact in mind. The Minister put it to us specifically that a general debate would be allowed on that item. We have been refused an adjournment of the debate, which would have allowed us to study the details of the schedule. In the circumstances, we should be allowed a general discussion of the items in the schedule.
– Order ! The committee is now considering item 3 of Customs Tariff Proposals No. 3, and it deals specifically with rates of duty on ale, spirits and beverages. Honorable members are entitled to discuss only the rates referred to, and the method by which they have been arrived at. I interpret the Minister’s speech as explaining to the chamber the method by which the rates were arrived at, and the new rates which now prevail. I propose to confine the discussion to the actual rates in the schedule.
– I rise to order. I listened carefully to the speech of the Minister, and checked his words with what is contained in the typewritten document which was circulated to honorable members a few days ago. He mentioned, first, Customs Tariff Proposals No. 3, of the 18th November, 1947, and then referred to Customs Tariff Proposals No. 2, of the 18th November, 1947. I should like to know which of the two statements is correct.
– The matter before the Chair is item 3 of Customs Tariff Proposals No. 3.
– I contend that a tariff debate in Committee of Ways and Means closely resembles a budget debate in Committee of Supply. It is customary for the budget debate to take place on the first item of the Estimates. The Minister seems to agree with that view, for he stated that a general debate could ensue on the first item of this tariff schedule. He mentioned the specific item. It appears to be clear in his mind that a general debate, similar to that which may take place on the first item of the Estimates, may occur on the first item in a tariff schedule. That procedure would allow an opportunity for a general debate on the first item in the schedule, particularly as the consideration of Orders of the Day Nos. 2 and 3 has been postponed until such time as this schedule has been passed. The procedure which I recommend would be in conformity with the rules and customs of the chamber.
– The only difference between the ruling of the Chair and the point of order which the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) has taken, lies in the interpretation of the word “ general “. The discussions will be confined to the items contained in this schedule, the rates and the method by which they were arrived at, and other matters which have a strict relation to the items in the schedule. I shall not allow a general discussion.
– The subject of agricultural implements, to which I was referring, may be raised under Division VI., “ Metals and Machinery “. As I was saying, the Australian Labour party does not realize that the system of protection of secondary industries which it has strongly advocated in the past, is being destroyed.
– To which item is the honorable gentleman referring?
– I am referring to Division VI., “ Metals and Machinery “, The Minister did not extend to us the courtesy of circulating a copy of his speech.
– Order ! The honorable member must confine his remarks to the particular matters referred to in item 3 of Division I.
– Are we dealing with Division I., or with the whole schedule?
– We are dealing with item 3. Perhaps the discussion will be facilitated if it is confined to the particular items now under consideration. Item 3 is now before the committee, and if an honorable member desires to speak on other items at a later stage, he will be able to do so.
– I understood that you, Mr. Chairman, stated previously that any item in the schedule could be discussed, but now you say that discussion will be confined to item 3. I remind the committee that such considerations as primage and exchange adjustment come within the scope of this subject. Every item may have to be discussed under those headings. The Minister has introduced something drastic and revolutionary in tariff administration, and his own supporters are not aware of it. I should like to know whether you, Mr. Chairman, will permit a general discussion, or will honorable members be prevented from referring to primage and other matters mentioned in the Minister’s speeches?
– The Chair will not continue to give rulings on this matter. Honorable members have just concluded a general discussion in relation to tariff proposals, and the Standing Orders will not permit them to refer to a debate which has been concluded. Two other items on the notice-paper deal with specific matters relating to tariffs, but the subject before the Chair at the moment is Customs Tariff Proposals No. 3. Honorable members may discuss any specific item in that schedule, and matters having a definite relation to it. If the committee desires to have a general discussion on these items, I shall allow it, but the discussion must be confined to the specific items in the schedule.
– With great respect, Mr. Chairman, I point out that we have not concluded a debate on the tariff items. We have just concluded a debate on the paper relating to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Employment.
That paper was presented to the House by the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction, but two other papers which deal with international trade negotiations and tariff requests have not been fully debated. As you, Sir, know, the Chair ruled that the Minister’s speech would close the debate only in reference to the paper relating to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Employment. Some honorable members who desire to speak on tariff duties cannot do so because the tariff schedule is before the House.
– I must be guided by the Standing Orders. Honorable members are not entitled to refer to subjects raised in a debate that has beer* concluded nor are they entitled to anticipate debate on items appearing on thenoticepaper. My ruling is that honorablemembers must confine the discussion to* Ihe schedule before the committee. I call1 the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr, Turnbull).
.- I desire to refer specifically to hand-set telephones. In this schedule-
– I rise to order. I assume that if an honorable member speaks on a specific item which the committee has not yet reached, all the preceding items will not be regarded as passed. Will the Chair proceed item by item?
– Yes. A vote may be taken on each item. In order to make the matter clear, I ask whether the committee desires to discuss the whole schedule, or to proceed with the consideration of the schedule item by item.
– Item by item.
– With the concurrence of honorable members, each item will be considered separately.
– I notice that in respect of almost every beverage there are two lists of duties, one for ales or spirits - “ not exceeding the strength of proof “ and the second for these beverages “ when exceeding the strength of proof “. In each case the two lists of duties are identical. Why is it necessary to have these two sets of figures when there is no variation of the duty?
Item agreed to.
Items 8, 12 and 13 agreed to.
Item 17 (Aerated or mineral waters).
– The British preferential tariff on aerated or mineral waters is printed as 5 per cent., with an intermediate tariff of 12½ per cent. and a general tariff of 35 per cent. However, in the roneo-ed schedule that has been circulated there is an ink figure “ 4 “ in front of the “ 5 “ in the case of the British preferential tariff. I should like to know whether the intention it that this duty should be 45 per cent.
– The British preferential tariff should read 5 per cent.
Item agreed to.
Division II. - Tobacco and Manufactures thereof.
Item 22 agreed to.
Item 23 (Cigar tobacco).
.- I notice that the duties on Southern Rhodesian tobacco are the same as those levied upon tobacco imported from foreign countries. Surely the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) would have done a better job for the Empire had he fought for a preferential tariff for tobacco from Rhodesia. This would have conserved our dollar resources. The duties imposed upon tobacco generally in this country are punitive. A 2-oz. packet of any popular brand of tobacco carries a duty of1s. 9½d. out of a total cost of 2s.11½d. This is a heavy burden upon the citizens of this country. I realize that the taxing of tobacco is a method of raising revenue that is resorted to in most countries, but the duties imposed in this country are almost prohibitive. Nevertheless, quite a considerable amount of tobacco is being imported from America. Surely at Geneva or Havana the Minister could have fought for a preferential tariff on Southern Rhodesian tobacco. That country to-day is producing good tobacco, and is exporting substantial quantities of it to Great Britain, thereby conserving the Empire’s dollar resources. The Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) continually harps upon the necessity to save dollars, and I urge the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction to consider re-opening this question with a view to extending Empire preference to the product of Southern Rhodesia. I point out also, that although primage is paid on most of our imports and many millions of pounds are gathered annually by this levy, we cannot discuss that matter at this juncture. These items will be passed rapidly by the committee and we shall be confronted with a fait accompli. I venture to say that some Government supporters will be astounded to find that many duties have been reduced that they did not know about. Much of the time-honoured tariff structure of this country will be destroyed as the result of the association of the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction with this half-baked mischievous agreement.
– I take this opportunity to voice again my protest at the state of affairs which the Government has allowed to continue, in which the amount of duty to be imposed upon imported tobacco is left to the personal discretion of a Minister. It is utterly wrong that the collection of revenue amounting to many millions of pounds in a year should be a matter for personal decision by a Minister. Conditions to-day should have been such that the Government would have been able to establish a statutory and unalterable tariff, but we find incorporated in this schedule, as in an earlier schedule with which we dealt recently, a provision for personal ministerial discrimination in the collection of duties. This is necessary only because the Government has permitted the volume of production of tobacco in Australia to fall to such a low level that it is no longer possible to maintain the provision that at least 3 per cent. of Australian tobacco has to be mixed with tobacco imported for the manufacture of cigarettes to qualify the mixture for a lower rate of duty. The present deplorable state of affairs in the Australian tobacco industry is due to the fact that the Government, possessing in recent years complete authority in respect of the tobacco industry through medium of the National Security Act, has fixed the price of Australian-produced leaf at such, a low figure that former tobaccogrowers have- been driven to more profitable occupations. The principle of permitting ministerial discretion in the imposition of duties is dangerous and it is reprehensible that parliamentary approval of it should be sought. Unhappily, about 90 per cent, of the tobacco imported into Australia is brought in by one company. Yet we had the spectacle a few weeks ago of a Minister who had recently been in a position of authority over the industry making a vicious personal attack upon that company, which is dependent, to an amount of perhaps millions of pounds of its income annually, upon whether or not customs duty shall he levied on its imports.
– Order ! The honorable member’s remarks are not related to the subject before the committee. Item 23 is under consideration. It refers to unmanufactured tobacco imported to be locally manufactured into cigars. The subject of cigarettes has already been dealt with and, although the honorable member is entitled to make passing reference to it, he must confine his remarks generally to the item before the Chair.
– I bow to your ruling, Mr. Chairman, and in its light I conclude by expressing the hope that the Government will not allow another tobaccogrowing season to pass without increasing the price payable to Australian growers to an incentive level calculated to bring about a volume of production that will enable the industry at leastnext year to escape from what Ihold to be a very pernicious provision in the schedule now before the committee.
– It is evident that the Government intends these tariff charges to be merely revenue-producing. The rate of 31s. per lb.-
– Order ! The honorable member is referring to item 22. The committee is now considering item 23.
– The argument which I intended to apply to item 22 also applies to item 23. Obviously, the tariff charges imposed upon tobacco have been fixed for. the purpose of producing revenue for the Government rather than for the purpose of assisting the Australian tobacco industry - an industry which has almost disappeared. When we compare the rates of duty with the price paid to growers, it is evident that the industry will never be revived as long as the Government maintains its present policy. The price paid to Australian growers represents about 10 per cent, of the rate of duty imposed by this Government. Under existing conditions the growers cannot continue to pay their way, and the few who have remained in the industry are contemplating walking off their properties. As the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) pointed out, the Government can no longer enforce the inclusion of Australian leaf in manufactured tobacco to a. proportion of 3 per cent. Surely it must awaken to the fact that the growers need more favorable treatment if they are to continue production and if we are to reduce the volume of imported tobacco. Item 22 practically annihilates any preference previously enjoyed in respect of fine cut tobacco for cigarettes. Item 23 will not vary existing rates, but, nevertheless, the charges provided in it are high and when collected are not used in any way to assist the Australian industry. The Government’s policy of seeking only to gain revenue from duties on imported tobacco will prevent the revival of the industry in Australia.
.- Item 23, relating to unmanufactured tobacco imported for the manufacture of cigars, provides charges of 2s. 6d. per lb., British, preferential tariff, 2s. 6d. per lb., intermediate tariff, for unstemmed tobacco, and 3s. per lb. in each case for stemmed or partly stemmed tobacco. Those are particularly high rates of duty to impose on tobacco required for any purpose. As the honorable member for’ Maranoa (Mr. Adermann) has said, these duties are of no help to the Australian’ tobacco industry. Production of tobacco in this country has been gradually decreasing, and I protest against the folly of inflicting such heavy charges on im-‘ ports while no effort is being made to stimulate local production. I remind the
Government that Australia produced 12,200,000 lb. of tobacco in 1931-32, but only 2,800,000 lb. in 1944-45, the last year for which figures are available. That decrease clearly shows that the industry is going out of existence in Australia. The situation calls for some explanation of the Government’s reasons for charging excessive duties on tobacco in any form. The Government should use revenue obtained from duties on imported tobacco to create a fund for the purpose of increasing tobacco production. Many parts of Australia, particularly in Queensland, are capable of producing tobacco of a quality second to none in the world. I have discussed this subject with Australian tobacco experts. With many commodities, such as wheat-
– Order! The honorable member must refer to the item before ,the , committee.
– In passing, I point but that we have produced in Australia many commodities that are peculiarly suited ‘to our own climatic and soil conditions. We can do likewise with tobacco if the Government will make use of revenue obtained from import duties to encourage research and development in the industry. Funds from that source have been used to foster the selection of strains of wheat, maize and other agricultural products equal to the best of other countries and. with the result that our products are now ideally suited to Australian climate and soil conditions. We should import tobacco seed and, by means of scientific investigation and experimentation, develop varieties that will flourish in this country. The Government would do a great service to Australia if it used receipts from duty on imported tobacco for such a purpose. A great deal of our imported tobacco comes from dollar areas, and this accentuates the severity of the dollar shortage in Australia. We should not encroach upon dollar resources, but should leave that field as much as possible to Great Britain, which is struggling to save itself from complete economic collapse.
I appeal to the Minister to explain to the committee what the Government proposes to do- to stimulate the production of tobacco. Tobacco was first grown in this country in 1861, and a few years later the acreage under tobacco was far greater than it is to-day. For that reason I say that the Government has failed dismally. Since it has occupied the treasury bench production of tobacco has declined. In 1934-35, 3,600,000 lb. of tobacco was produced in Australia, in 1937-38 to 5,800,000 lb., in 1838-39 to 6,000,000 lb., in 1936-37 to 5,500,000 lb., in 1937-38 to 5,800,000 lb., in 1938-39 to i,000,000 lb., in 1939-40 to 4,900,000 lb., and in 1941-42 to 7,000,000 lb. A Labour government came into office in October, 1941, and the production of tobacco began to decline immediately. In 1942-43 production declined to 4,900,000 lb., in. 1943-44 it fell to 4,600,000 lb., and iri 1944-45, the latest year in respect of which official statistics are available, it declined still further to 2,800,000 lb. That decline has occurred notwithstanding that it has been demonstrated that tobacco of acceptable quality can be produced in substantial quantities in this country. We have the soil and the rainfall, and, with proper irrigation tobacco grown in Australia should be second to none in the world. In support of my contention I point out that tobacco of really outstanding quality has been produced in odd parts of Australia. Will the Minister make a recommendation to the’ Government that the proceeds of the very high duties imposed on tobacco imported into this country he used to develop the local industry? Other items in the schedule have been passed over in silence, but I trust that the cavalier treatment so far meted out to the committee by the Minister will not continue throughout the debate. The Minister should have examined the requirements of the tobacco industry before he went to Geneva, and he should now explain to the committee why the production of Australian tobacco is declining, and what action the Government proposes to take to arrest this decline. The mere fact that production has declined from 12,200,000 lb. in 1931-32 to 2,800,000 lb. in 1944-45 is sufficient to warrant a full explanation. In any case, the large annual sums which the high duties yield should be applied to the development of our primary industries.
– The honorable member would kill the industry.
– The honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McLeod) and many of his colleagues should have been killed long ago. His interjection certainly does not improve the standard of the debate. I appeal to the Minister to review the very high duties imposed on tobacco and to give the committee an assurance that every effort will be made to develop the production of tobacco of acceptable quality and of distinctive Australian flavour. Similar action has been taken in respect of wheat and maize, and if sincere efforts were made to stimulate the production of tobacco I feel confident that before long cur product would be second to none in the world.
– The present debate affords one of the few opportunities available to honorable members to discuss the tariff imposed on such an important item as tobacco. The tax imposed on tobacco smokers in this country is most excessive, and millions of pounds are collected from the suffering taxpayers by this means, apart altogether from the huge sums contributed by other forms of taxation. Now that World War II. is over, and before we embark on World War III., we should seek a substantial reduction of the unfair imposts placed upon taxpayers during the war. The very high duties on tobacco were imposed, along with other excessive charges, because of the necessity to secure the maximum amount of revenue for the prosecution of the war. Item 23 does not provide for any worthwhile reduction. It proposes to reduce the present duty by 6d. per lb., which would reduce the intermediate tariff to the level of the British preferential tariff. The Government’s justification of its proposal is that special representations were made by the United States of America. Reduction of the intermediate tariff from 3s. to 2s. 6d. per lb. will have the effect, of course, of abolishing any advantage gained by Empire countries under the British preferential tariff. So colossal is the revenue yielded by the duty on tobacco that £12,000,000 is extracted from the smokers of this country every year. The import ance of this item warrants our dealing with the whole subject of tobacco-
– The Chair will not permit that.
– If honorable members will refer to the explanatory memorandum presented to them, showing the tariff on items in respect of which negotiations were conducted by Australia’s representatives at Geneva, they will realize that the committee has omitted from discussion items 17 to 22. However, items 18 and 19 are mentioned in my copy-
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order ! The explanatory memorandum, which was circulated for information only, is not before the committee.
– What is the value ‘of the information if we cannot use it?
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The committee is discussing item 23.
– How are we to examine primage duties if we do not discuss them? We have skidded over a number of items, and this has deprived us of an opportunity to advocate the adoption of a vigorous policy for the production of Australian tobacco. However, the committee has not discussed the items to which I have referred, and although I am confined to discussion of item 23, that does not prevent me from supporting the suggestion put forward by other members of the Opposition that machinery should be established to foster the development of the tobacco industry in this country. We have in Australia the climatic conditions and the soil necessary for the production of first-class tobacco, and there is no reason why the Government should not encourage the scientific development of tobacco production on lines similar to those adopted so successfully iii Canada. Tobacco-growing in Canada is concentrated in one State, which produces all the tobacco needed in that country. In Australia, however, although growers have been allowed to produce tobacco, they have been given no assistance in the marketing of their product, and have not been assured of a reasonable price for it. The fixing of the price to the grower for their leaf has been left to organizations which are opposed to the growing of tobacco in this country.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN The honorable member must confine his remarks to the item under discussion.
– Because this help has not been given, sufficient quantities of leaf of the requisite quality are not being produced in Australia to-day. The production of tobacco is important at present because the importation of our requirements involves a large expenditure of dollars. “We have an unfavorable trade balance with the tobacco-growing countries because we grow so little tobacco, and the fact that we grow so little is due to the failure of this and past governments to ensure that sufficient quantities of good quality leaf were grown and that the growers received a fair price for their product. . Although growers have produced leaf of the quality demanded by the manufacturers, it has been left to those manufacturers to fix their own prices, with the result that the industry has not developed as it should have done.
– I think it is reasonable to ask the Minister (Mr. Dedman) to indicate to the committee the policy of the Government with regard to the development of the tobacco industry.
– That has nothing to do with import duties.
– I contend that it has, because, as the Minister well knows, an import duty can kill an industry. The duty has already been altered ; the intermediate tariff has been reduced to 2s. 6d., and the United States of America and the countries to which the British preferential tariff is applicable are now on the same basis. If the Minister indicates what is proposed to be done to develop the tobacco-growing industry in Australia, it may appear that this duty will not be so destructive as Opposition members fear it may be as the Minister in charge of this business is also the Minister in charge of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, it is proper to point out that the tobacco-growers are faced with complex problems, and that some of the most important steps taken to advance tobacco culture in Australia have been taken by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, which in the past, has supplied groups of experts to advise the growers. I do not know whether further money is to be made available for instruction purposes and for the scientific development of this industry. Honorable members on this side of the Committee are seeking that information.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! The honorable member is entering upon a general discussion. Item 23 is concerned with “ tobacco, unmanufactured, entered to be locally manufactured into cigars”.
– That is the item to which I am speaking. The unmanufactured tobacco is the product of the tobacco-grower. If it is the policy of the Government to encourage the growing of tobacco in Australia, sufficient quantities of unmanufactured tobacco to meet our requirements will be available and this duty may require to be increased considerably in order to protect i lie industry. It is legitimate for honorable members on this side of the chamber to ask whether the Government has any policy designed to help the Australian tobacco-growers. If the Minister remains silent, the growers will know that the Government has no such policy and that they cannot expect to receive any consideration. The Minister should be in a position, first, to justify the duties set out in the schedule, and secondly, to say whether from the revenue so obtained he proposes to earmark a certain sum to encourage the growing of tobacco in Australia and to assist in finding a solution of the complex problems associated with the industry.
– It is appropriate that the Minister introducing this schedule is also the Minister in charge of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, because it is to that body that the tobaccogrowing industry must look for technical and scientific guidance. When the industry was in its infancy, it received the benefit of the results of the research conducted by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. The war, I know, intervened, and interrupted a longrange programme for the development of the industry by making available to growers the knowledge and experience accumulated by trained officers of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. The importance of the tobacco industry to Australia must be evident to any one who thinks about the matter. It is particularly important in view of the present acute dollar shortage. Having regard to the large quantity of tobacco imported, tobacco-growing should be one of the most important agricultural industries in Australia. Our immediate object should be to reduce the importation of foreign leaf which must be paid for in dollars. Tobacco-growing has been described as scientific gardening, and those engaged in the industry should have the benefit of scientific research. That Australia can grow leaf which is palatable to Australian smokers has been proved beyond all doubt. There are parts of Australia which can produce leaf equal, if not superior, to the best imported leaf. The Government should embark upon a vigorous policy to encourage the industry.
.- It is most discourteous of the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) to refuse to reply to the speeches which have been made on this item. He is the Minister in charge of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, the institution which should interest itself particularly in solving the scientific problems which confront the tobaccogrowers. The Minister could have helped towards relieving the dollar shortage by insisting upon more preference for tobacco grown in sterling areas, thus saving something from the wreck created by the trade agreements.
The honorable member for Wide Bay said that £12,000,000 was collected annually in duty on tobacco consumed in Australia. As a matter of fact, he greatly underestimated the yield. According to the annual report of the BritishAustralasian Tobacco Company Proprietary Limited presented to the annual meeting last month, the company paid £24,750,000 last year in import and excise duties. This is the principal company engaged in the manufacture of tobacco in Australia. It would have to be a company with huge resources to carry on under present conditions, because import duty must be paid on imported leaf at the time it is brought into the country for processing, and excise duty must be paid when the leaf is purchased. Thus, a great deal of the company’s capital is tied up in the payment of duty alone. The Government, collects nearly £25,000,000 annually in duty on tobacco, yet it refuses to do anything substantial in the way of helping the local tobacco industry. If the industry were developed, it could do more than any other industry, with the exception of cotton, to relieve the dollar shortage. The tobacco industry was discussed in the Parliament a few weeks ago, and a spokesman for the Government said that the matter would be looked into. Apparently, that is all that has been done. It is only necessary to study the production figures to see how the industry has declined. Tobacco is not an easy crop to grow. In the United States of America, tobacco was at one time grown in every one of the 48 .States; now, the crop is practically confined to Virginia. In 1941-42, 7,000,000 lb. of tobacco was grown in Australia. By 1944-45, production had declined to 2,800,000 lb. Production was increasing up to 1941, because the Lyons Government had instituted a system of guiding and helping the growers, who were encouraged to produce the best quality of leaf, rather than rank leaf of a kind not suitable for local consumption. The Lyons Government gave £40,000 a year for- five years for expenditure on research and field work. Trained men were sent to the plantations to teach the growers how to produce the best leaf. The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research interested itself in the industry, and, as a result of its efforts, the disease known as blue mould, which had ravaged the tobacco crops, particularly in Queensland, was brought under control by the use of benzol. The Government should be more generous in its treatment of this important industry. The Lyons Government, when revenue was small compared with present figures, was able to spare £200,000 for the development of the industry. Therefore, it behoves the present Government to apply an active policy designed to expand the tobaccogrowing industry in Australia, thus saving dollars, assisting an important Australian industry, and giving aid to Britain.
.- Honorable members have every right to know how money collected in customs duties is to be expended.
– It is squandered on airways.
– Yes, and in other ways also. If the Government has a policy for the encouragement of the tobacco industry in Australia, it should announce it now. This subject was discussed in the Parliament a fortnight ago, but the Government has not yet, it would seem, made up its mind what it ought to do in order to increase production. The nation is in need of dollars with which to buy necessary commodities, yet millions of dollars are being wasted each year on the purchase of imported tobacco, when we could quite well grow in Australia all the tobacco we use. In the last seven years, the production of Australian leaf has declined from 12,200,000 lb. to 2,S00,000 lb. The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman), who is also the Minister in charge of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, should be able to inform us what that institution is doing to assist the tobacco industry. In my opinion, the council is not doing all that it should in this direction. Australia is importing too much tobacco, and too little^ is being paid for leaf produced in Australia. The proceeds of the tobacco duty should be utilized to some extent by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research for the development of a tobacco plant peculiarly suitable to Australian cultural conditions. We have done that in connexion with other products.
– Order ! The honorable member must confine his remarks to item 23.
– I am dealing with the duty on tobacco which is covered by the item before the Chair.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! If the honorable member transgresses the ruling of the Chair, he will be asked to resume his seat.
– I am contending that the duty collected on imported tobacco should be utilized for the purpose of stimulating tobacco production in this country in order that we may save excessive expenditure on the purchase of American tobacco. The amount now paid for imported tobacco is approximately £25,000,000 per annum, and our outlay under this heading is growing rapidly. In order to . save the expenditure of precious dollars, or to enable us to utilize our dwindling dollar resources for other purposes such a policy should be given effect. I ask the Minister to state what the Government proposes to do in order to reduce the extraordinary volume of tobacco imports into this country seeing that Australia can produce tobacco which is second to none in the world. We have been treated in a very cavalier fashion by the Minister. He came into the chamber and delivered a speech at so rapid a rate that it was beyond the capability of the Hansard reporters to take it down. The speech was typewritten and was handed to the Ilansard reporters in advance. I know that no body of men can make a shorthand record of a speech with greater facility that the members of our own Hansard staff, yet the Minister’s rate of delivery was beyond them. Furthermore, the speech was delivered in what sounded almost like a foreign language, which made the task of the Hansard staff even more difficult. I can understand most of the languages spoken in Australia, but since the Minister has come back from Havana he is even more difficult to understand than formerly. His pronunciation of the English language, always difficult to follow, seems to have been further tainted by his visit to Havana. We have an obligation to the tobaccogrowers to encourage and develop their industry to the greatest possible degree. That an industry which is capable of producing £12,000,000 worth of tobacco annually, as it did in 1931-32, is producing now only £2,000,000 worth calls for an immediate explanation by the Minister. Recently, in order to meet dollar deficits, restrictions were imposed on imports to the value of £70,000,000. Under the terms of this agreement we are obliged to help Great
Britain. We are all aware that the shortage of dollar resources forms the basis of Great Britain’s troubles. Its difficulties have been greatly increased by the fact that it played more than its fair share in helping to win the war from which we have recently emerged.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN. Order! The honorable member is not in order in making a general tariff speech at this stage. He must confine his remarks to the item before the Chair.
– The Minister is under an obligation to inform honorable members fully as to the Government’s policy in connexion with the tobacco industry. On behalf of our democracy and of the members of this chamber; on behalf of the tobacco-growers; and, on behalf of the British people whom we are led to believe these amazing proposals are designed to help, I make my protest against the Minister’s failure to explain the Government’s policy to us and I appeal to him to have some regard for his obligations as a Minister of the Crown and to supply the information sought.
Item agreed to.
Items 24 and 43 agreed to.
Item 44 (Cocoa beans).
.- I ask the Minister whether, in his deliberations at Geneva and Havana recently, any consideration was given to the produce of New Guinea. The growers of cocoa beans in New Guinea have received a subsidy for the last ten years, though since the advent of the Labour Government their activities have been curtailed and their industry has been almost liquidated by the policy adopted by the dictator of New Guinea, the Minister for External Territories (Mr. Ward). In spite of that Minister’s efforts, some cocoa beans are still being grown in the territory. Is the production of New Guinea to be given the same protection, or is it covered in some other way? Copra grown in New Guinea is taxed, and the growers receive for their product less than the world price.
Item agreed to.
Items 46, 49, 50 and 51 agreed to.
Item 52 (Bananas)
.- The present rates of duty on bananas are 2s.1d. per cental British preferential tariff, and 8s. 4d. per cental intermediate and general tariff. This was one of the items covered by the Ottawa Agreement under which a tariff duty of 2s. 6d. per cental was imposed, with the stipulation that only 40,000 centals of bananas were to be imported into Australia annually, and then only in the months of November, December and January. At the time of the signing of the Ottawa Agreement, representations were made to the Fijian Government whereby these 40,000 centals were to be imported into Australia at the rate of not more than 1,000 centals a month into the ports of Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide. No bananas were to be imported into Queensland, where the production was ample to meet requirements. What is the extent of the variation now proposed? Are only 40,000 centals of bananas to be imported, or is the quantity to be unlimited? The schedule contains no information on this point, nor do the explanatory notes circulated to honorable members. Originally a primage duty of 5 per cent. was imposed. That has been abolished. The item bears a special mark which, apparently, refers to an explanatory note, but I cannot find any explanation. Those engaged in the banana-growing industry are entitled to know what variation, if any, of the British preferential rate arranged under the Ottawa Agreement is to be effected under this schedule. I presume that some variation is being made. I again ask the Minister what imports of bananas are to be permitted under this schedule? Is the quantity to be limited to 40,000 centals as set out in the Ottawa Agreement? I was advised at the time the Ottawa Agreement was ratified that the 40,000 centals were to be imported only from Fiji. Is that provision to remain, or may bananas be imported from the Netherlands East Indies? If so, will those bananas be subject to the general tariff which is at the rate of 8s. 4d. per central? We are entitled to answers to those questions, and I shall do all in my power to ensure that we get them. I again protest against the cavalier treatment meted out to the Opposition in this debate. The
Minister cannot continue to treat us in the way he has done up to this juncture. I insist that he shall supply the information for which I have asked, and I urge honorable members to nail him down on this item until he supplies it.
– I do not ]:nOW what the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) is ranting about. Under this schedule the British preferential margin in respect of bananas is unaltered. No mention of 40,000 centals is made in either this or any previous schedule. Apparently, the honorable member is mixing up his 40,000 centals with the 40,000 horsemen.
.- I protest against the lack of knowledge of this item displayed by the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman). I am satisfied that the departmental officers sitting behind him know something about the matter, but the Minister simply refuses to obtain the information from them. Where is Dr. Coombs? Is he at a meeting of the Communists? He should be here. Obviously, the Minister knows nothing about the item, and I protest against the futile procedure we are being forced to follow. The banana industry is confronted with sufficient problems without having to deal with the additional problem reflected in the Minister’s attitude in this matter. He has refused to give to the committee the information I have sought. He simply rose in his place and talked about “ 40,000 horsemen “. I repeat that under the British preferential tariff resulting from the Ottawa Agreement imports of bananas were limited to 40,000 centals exclusively from Fiji at a rate of duty of 2s. 6d. per cental. The Minister says that the schedule contains no reference to 40,000 centals. The banana-growers of Australia will not take that sort of “ cheek “ from any Minister. Honorable members and those engaged in the industry are entitled to know what variation is being made in this schedule compared with the duties arranged as the result of the Ottawa Agreement. So long as. the Minister adopts his present attitude I’ shall fight every issue arising under this schedule to the limit allowed under the Standing Orders. The departmental officers have before them a mass of information, and, apparently, they are anxious that it be conveyed to honorable members, but the Minister refuses to give it to us. That information was not compiled within ten minutes. The Minister knows “ sweet nothing “ about this matter. I again ask that honorable members be given the information I seek.
– What exactly does the honorable member wish to know?
– What variation of the Ottawa duties is being made under this schedule, How much was whittled away at Geneva?
– I said that no alteration at all is being made in the margins of preference.
– Will the provision limiting the imports of bananas to 40,000 centals a year exclusively from Fiji be continued under this schedule?
– No reference to 40,000 centals is made in either the schedule or the agreement.
– It is evident that the Minister for Postwar Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) is not informed with respect to the duty on bananas. This subject has a long history. The banana industry was probably the only Australian industry which suffered as the result of the duties arranged under the Ottawa Agreement. That reduction was partly remedied as the result of protests by banana-growers when imports were limited to 40,000 centals a year from Fiji at a rate of duty of 2s. 6d. per cental, which is equivalent to 1 cwt., compared with the preceding rate of duty of 8s. 4d. per cental, which is still the prevailing rate of duty. Consequently, the point raised by the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) should be cleared up. The Minister said that there is no reference in the schedule, or the agreement, to 40,000 centals. I assure him that there is; because a little while ago, when I learned that this debate was to proceed, I consulted his departmental officers, who showed me the paragraph in the schedule which limits imports to 40,000 centals a year from Fiji.
– There is no alteration.
– The Minister denied that there was any reference in the schedule to 40,000 centals. However, the point 1 wish to emphasize is that the item before the committee simply states -
It is true, as the Minister has said, that there is nothing in the item about a limit of 40,000 centals, therefore, should the committee pass this item as it stands, it will be open to the interpretation that any quantity of bananas, 40,000 or 400,000 centals, can be imported at the rate, of duty set out in the item. This matter should be cleared up immediately. Owing to the conditions prevailing during the last few years, the banana industry is not in a very good position to-day. There have been heavy plantings, with the result that the price of bananas in Australia is probably at the lowest it has been for many years, and, even if no tariff were applied to-day, it is quite improbable that any imported fruit, whether it was grown in black-labour countries or not, could compete with Australian-grown fruit at prevailing prices. The price of bananas in Australia is lower than it has ever been in our history.
– That has occurred only within the last couple of weeks.
– I am talking about the return to the growers. Since Christmas at least, prices have been unprofitable. It is unlikely that, even if bananas were duty free, imported bananas could compete with the Australian fruit. We hope that these conditions will not always obtain. The purpose of the duty, when it was first imposed, was to encourage the development of the Australian banana-growing industry, which it succeeded in doing, because, immediately Fiji bananas were eliminated from the Australian market, there was an almost instant stimulus to the Australian industry, which has grown by leaps and bounds until to-day some thousands of growers in northern New South Wales and Queensland are earning their living from it. I do not intend to make a long dissertation about their grievances and what they expect, because they will themselves have to determine how best to solve their problems, but, in view of the unprofitable state of the industry to so many small growers in particular - it is mostly a small man’s industry - the Australian Government will have to help to stabilize it by limiting planting in some way. All I ask now is that the Minister will make it clear, because the schedule does not, whether the limit on the importation of Fiji bananas to 40,000 centals a year still applies.
– Whatever limitation existed before still applies.
– I am content to accept that assurance.
.- The inadvisability of proceeding with this debate in these circumstances is clear. The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) has not risen to explain the position. When the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) rightly asked whether the quantitative limit on the importation of bananas from Fiji still existed, the Minister was silent. Now, after a good deal of questioning, he has said that it does.
Mi1. Dedman. - The honorable member for Moreton did not make himself clear.
– He did to me, if not to the Minister. I well remember the imposition of the duties.
– What were the rates?
– General tariff, 8s. 6d. a cental and British preferential tariff, 2s. 6d. The honorable member for Griffith, who comes from Queensland, was not a member of the Parliament then, but at that time, because of the oppossition of Queensland members, the matter was reviewed and the quantity of bananas that could be imported from Fiji was limited. The preferential rate of duty was arranged in order to help Fiji, which is a British colony, and 1 think that Queensland members were unduly alarmed, but I am discussing not the rates of duty but the way in which this debate has been conducted. First, we had no information at all from the
Minister and then we were given a halfhearted answer that the position is “ as you were “.
– I said that it was as far as the limitation was concerned.
– Ah! When the duty was reduced there was also primage duty and sales tax. You will remember, Mr. Chairman, that I said earlier that I intended to discuss primage, exchange adjustment and such matters, but you ruled that there could not be a general debate. The absence of any document to show whether the primage still applies or has been wiped out shows the inadequacy of the information available to us. The duty we are asked to approve is 2s. Id. a cental. There was an adjustment for exchange on all imports from Britain, and, apparently, it applied to Fiji. The Government has got somewhere near the mark by making the duty 2s. Id. a cental. Probably 2s. 1 1/2d would be even nearer. I should not have risen but for the shabby way in which the Minister treats the Opposition on matters like this. The banana-growing industry in Australia is important and must be protected. . In the past, the system of tariff-making has been that all industries seeking protection have had to run the gauntlet of the Tariff Board. The years in which the tariff was refined are being thrown away by the Minister, who jeers and refuses to rise to answer questions. We must wonder about the future of Australian industries if after six or seven months abroad dealing with these matters the Minister is not conversant with them. This is a minor industry, but we are concerned about the future of major industries like the textile industry and the motor-body industry. The Minister should ask that progress be reported, and in the next couple of days lie should obtain information from departmental officers on the various items in order that he may be informed himself and be able to inform us. I say that in the friendliest way possible for the sake of Australian industries, because all these duties were thrashed out years before he entered the Parliament. He does not know the background. The provision in the Ottawa Agreement is that 40,000 centals of bananas per annum from Fiji will be admitted in reasonably equal monthly quantities at 2s. 6d. a cental, provided that the goods are entered at the ports of Sydney and Melbourne. Does that still hold in this great international agreement that the Minister has flaunted ?
– Yes, I have said so a dozen times.
– I challenge the Minister to show me that provision in printed words in the agreement. I shall be pleased if he is able to do so. I repeat my advise to him to ask that progress be reported in order that he may more thoroughly study the subject.
– I want to make sure that the intention of the Government is on record. As the schedule reads, any quantity of bananas could be imported at the duty of 2s. Id. a cental instead of the general tariff rate of 8s. 4d. a cental. I have pointed out that imported bananas could not now be profitably marketed in Australia because of the prevailing low prices; but, in normal times, if no limit were placed on the importation of bananas, the Australian banana-growing industry would be virtually wiped out. Therefore, in order to have the intention of the Government made clear, I ask whether the provision still applies in respect of item 52(a) that, under the British preferential tariff, only 40,000 centals of bananas annually may be imported, provided that they are entered at the ports of Sydney and Melbourne. I shall be satisfied to accept the Minister’s assurance that it does, and say no more about it.
– I have already told the honorable member that the limitation still exists.
Item agreed to.
Item 53 agreed to.
Item 54 (Fruit and vegetables n.ed., including ginger).
– My attention was directed a few weeks ago by some men engaged in the gingergrowing industry, which is a comparatively small industry in Australia and is located in the electorate of Wide Bay and a part of my electorate, to the fact that large quantities of ginger are being imported from the islands and. other places abroad where low wages prevail. I am concerned whether greater protection ought not to be provided for the Australian industry. I also direct the attention of the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) to a statement made to me this week by a gentleman who operates more than 100 chain stores, mainly in Leicester, and other cities in that part of England. He told me that the British Government had refused him a licence to import Australiangrown ginger at £250 a ton. Approximately one month later, Great, Britain imported Chinese ground ginger at £400 a ton. Why did the British Government exclude this particular commodity from Australia, when its price was a little more than one-half of that which Britain cheerfully, apparently, paid to China? This matter should be discussed with members of the British Food Mission, who are now in Australia for the purpose of ascertaining why preference was shown to China. The industry is not large, and only a comparatively small number of farmers, principally in the Wardell area in my electorate are engaged in it. However, it should be protected against the product of people of other countries, who are paid only a few pence a day for their labour, whereas a substantial wage is paid to those employed in the industry in Australia.
– The point which the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) has raised does not refer to this item.
– I am not sure whether it is the same product.
– I shall make inquiries, and inform the honorable member of the result.
Item agreed to.
Items 55, 57, 58, 74, 76, 78, 82, 86, 87 and 90 agreed to.
Item 91 (Seeds and nuts).
– If the Minister for Post-war Reconstructure (Mr. Dedman) will give me an assurance that no alteration has been made in the conditions relating to the importation of seeds and nuts for oil, I shall be quite satisfied. Under a departmental provision, the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Courtice) will not approve the importation of these commodities free of duty, unless the position of stocks in Australia warrants it and suitable contracts are entered into for such stocks.
Motion (by Mr. Dedman) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I bring to the notice of the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman), who represents in this chamber the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Courtice), the position regarding 1,021 tractors to which I referred some time ago in a question. These tractors, I believe, will be the last that will be delivered to Australia under the lend-lease arrangement, and, unfortunately, only 23 of them are destined for Western Australia. They will be distributed, I understand, under the lend-lease system, and the number allocated to each State will be determined in accordance with the base year. During World War II., Western Australia was not able to obtain its full quota of tractors of all descriptions, because this class of machinery entering Australia was diverted to the eastern States to fulfil the Australian Government’s food production programme close to the canneries and also to meet the requirements of the armed forces. In fact, the position became so serious that during one period of the war Western Australian farmers were paid 12s. an acre not to grow wheat. This position, it was claimed, was brought about by the shortage of tractors.
During that period Western Australian farmers were at a decided disadvantage. That they were compelled to cease growing wheat was bad enough, but they were caught both ways because no tractors were consigned to that State. If the 1,021 tractors are distributed under the lend-lease arrangement, “Western Australia will receive, in accordance with the base year, 23 tractors, plus a possible nineteen which have been in dispute since 1945. The nineteen tractors were allotted to a firm in Queensland, but, because they were of the tricycle type, the firm did not want them. The nineteen tractors were part of a total of 56, and they were then allotted to Tasmania, South Australia and Western Australia. Under that arrangement, Western Australia would receive 42 tractors out of a total of 1,021. If Western Australia does not obtain the nineteen additional tractors, it will get only 2.25 per cent, of the total. If it does obtain them, it will have 4.1 per cent, of the total. I understand that the Queensland firm, learning that the tractors of the tricycle type have left the United States of America, decided to accept them. Tasmania, South Australia and Western Australia have had them on an indent number since 1945.
A few days ago, I was in touch with the Queensland firm. Because of the present shortage, and probably the continuing shortage, of tractors, as the result of the dollar situation, it is prepared to accept any kind of tractor, and will not “ hold out “ as it did in 1945. I understand that the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr, Pollard) has supported a proposal that any tractors entering Australia should be distributed on the basis of the tractor population in the various States, but other authorities are “ making their weight felt “, with the result that the allocation to Western Australia is only 2.25 per cent, of the total. The basis of re-allocation to the States has also been discussed with the factory representative, and it was finally agreed that the allocation should be made on the basis of the tractor population - in other words, the number of tractors operating in the various States at the outbreak of World War II. Under those terms, New South Wales would receive 28.9 per cent, of the tractors, Western Australia 13.35 per cent., and Queensland 19.1 per cent. In my opinion, that distribution would be fair and equitable. The factory representative also mentioned that a decision had been reached that the tractors shall be allocated to. all agricultural distributors on. the basis of the numbers in 1939 except - he was very fair in this mattei - that no State should receive more than 25 per cent., or less than 5 per cent, of the total. Therefore, Western Australia would have received 13.7 per cent., but the position in Western Australia was that the distributors of the Allis Chalmers tractors were, prior to 1937, handling Case tractors and were selling quite a number of them. They changed to the Allis Chalmers tractors in 1937, and in that year they imported only three. In 1938, they brought in 111. It will be recalled that towards the end of 1938, the Munich Agreement was in the air and that 1939 was known as the “ panic “ year. In 1939, unfortunately, only nineteen tractors reached Western Australia. Actually, therefore, although these people had been handling the tractors for only a short period they had done very well. In 1939, of course, they found the position most difficult. For the eight years ended the 31st December, 1947, the total importations of Allis-Chambers type tractors to Western Australia were restricted to 31, and now that normal conditions are operating, it is only fair that that State should be given a reasonable quota of tractors.
As I said earlier, during the war wheat-growers in Western Australia were compensated to the amount of 12s. an acre for all land in respect of which wheat production was curtailed, and I think that the House will agree that, as normal food production is now being restored, war-time restrictions should be taken into consideration. We were quite prepared to accept the production programme laid down during the war, whereby most of the food was produced in the eastern States in which processing plants and canneries were situated, and the largest numbers of Australian and allied fighting forces were stationed. But now we are in our third year of peace and Western Australia is seeking a more equitable distribution of production.
I have endeavoured this evening to communicate with the people who are handling this matter, but have been unable to do so. I shall try again in the morning; but time is of the essence of the contract, and I raise this matter now in the hope that the fullest consideration will be given to my representations, and that the Western Australian quota of tractors will be increased from the miserable 23 or 2.25 per cent, of importations, to a more reasonable figure. Primary producers in Western Australia have been denied tractors for eight years. In the south-western portion of that State, in the electorate of the Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon), dairy-farmers and primary producers generally are endeavouring to do their utmost to improve food production, and I ask the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) to do everything possible to ensure that Western Australia shall have more of these tractors.
– Some days ago, I asked the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) the following question regarding the payment of a subsistence allowance of 3s. a day to former Australian prisoners of war : -
When the Prime Minister refused our plea for the payment of a subsistence allowance of 3s. a day to former prisoners of war, the right honorable gentleman said that he would review the decision if any fresh evidence were produced. In view of General Percival’s report that the defenders of Singapore were illorganized and ill-equipped and the fact that medical men throughout Australia are continually reporting that the health of former prisoners of war is deteriorating, will the Prime Minister give the matter the further consideration that he promised?
The Prime Minister replied that he could not see any connexion whatever between General Percival’s report, the fact that the health of former prisoners of war is deteriorating, and the claim for 3s. a day subsistence allowance. But there is a very obvious connexion. The defenders of Singapore became prisoners of war through no fault of their own. General Percival has made it quite clear, as have other generals, that the men defending Singapore were ill-equipped and badly organized. At least the Government should put these men on the same basis as servicemen who never left Australia, and worked, say, at the Royal Park, Camp, Melbourne. When these men went on leave they received 3s. a day subsistence allowance. Surely the same privilege should be enjoyed by the unfortunate men of the 8th Division who were led into a trap at Singapore. It can only be called a trap, because I saw no more armament at Singapore than I can see looking around Parliament House now, with the exception of one or two big guns which were very speedily put out of action so that they would not fall into the hands of the Japanese. Much of the money spent upon the defences of Singapore was used in the provision of houses for officers and barracks for the men. Little preparation was made for the defence of the island, particularly across the Straits of Johore. The few guns that faced the sea were not worth any more than the microphone that is in front of me now for defence against a force from the direction from which the Japanese struck. When I moved the adjournment of the House to discuss this matter,’ I pointed out that if the ex-prisoners of war received the subsistence allowance they could buy for themselves certain foods that were essential to improve their health and rid them of diseases such as beri-beri caused by lack of nourishment in prisoner-of-war camps. But the Prime Minister could not see any connexion between the events that I have recounted and the necessity for the payment of this allowance. Again I urge that this matter be reviewed. Replying to my question, the Prime Minister said that he had not rejected the claim for 3s. a day subsistence allowance, nor had his Government done so, but that it had been rejected by a vote of this House. The truth is of course that a vote was never taken upon the matter. I went to one or two members of the Labour party who, I thought would support the claim for the subsistence allowance, and they said “ Yes, a vote was taken “. When I asked, “ How did you vote ? “, they started to think. They said they could not remember how they voted. I said, “ No wonder you cannot remember ; a vote was not taken “. My purpose in speaking now to clear members of the Opposition of the reflection cast upon them by the Prime Minister’s statement that the claim of ex-prisoners of war for a subsistence allowance was rejected by a vote of the Parliament. Of course I know that the Government has the numbers to reject a claim in this House. I can assure the Government that if a vote were taken every member of the Opposition would favour the proposal.
As an alternative to my request for payment of the allowance I ask the Government to set up an all-party committee to investigate the matter. I am firmly convinced that many government supporters would vote for the payment of the allowance if they were at liberty to do so. Undoubtedly, the people of Australia are behind the proposal. In these circumstances, it is hard to understand why the highest authority in this chamber should make a statement that the Parliament was responsible for the rejection of the claim whereas we know that it was a. decision of Cabinet.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determinations by the Arbitrator, &c. - 1948 -
No. 9 - Federated Ironworkers’ Association of Australia.
Nos. 10 and 1 1- Commonwealth Public Service Artisans’ Association.
No. 12 - Australian Workers’ Union.
Commonwealth Bank Act - Appointment - H. J. Foster.
Commonwealth Public Service Act - Appointments - Department -
Postmaster-General - R. N. Lowe.
Treasury - E. A. Reynolds.
Twenty-third Report on the Commonwealth
Public Service by the Board of Commissioners, dated 19th January, 1948
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for Defence purposes - Salisbury, South Australia.
House adjourned at 10.49 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated : -
t asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows : - 1 to 7. The purchase of property by the Commonwealth Savings Bank for extension services is a matter of internal administration for decision by the bank and it is not the practice to disclose information concerning such matters.
e asked the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping, upon notice -
How many military rifles (all rifles over 22 calibre)which were used by any of the armed forces of any country have been sold or disposed of by the Disposals Commission
How much ammunition suitable for the above military rifles has been sold by the commission?
– The Minister for Supply and Shipping has supplied the following information : - 1. (a) 1,739 .303 rifles. (b) 4,143 . 310 rifles and 11,978 .303 rifles. The above figures do not include .303 rifles and .30 carbines sold either to the Department of Munitions or to licensed gunsmiths for conversion under supervision to . 22 sporting rifles. In accordance with the agreement reached at the Premiers’ conference in August, 1947, no sales of military rifles have been made in the Commonwealth since that date, except in Western Australia, where the use of firearms is controlled under the Firearms Act 1931-39.
Australian War Medal.
s asked the Minister for
Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the 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 information: -
Above figures do not include chairman of the board, board members, Coal Industry Tribunal or local coal authorities constituted under the Coal Industry acts.
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
No particulars of (c) farm machinery are available.
n asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Aborigines: Income Tax; Social SERVICES
y. - On the 19th February, the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. McBride) asked questions concerning the payment of income tax and social services contributions by aboriginals. I promised to have a full reply on this matter prepared, and am now able to inform the honorable member as follows : -
Income Tax. - The substantial position of aborigines under the Commonwealth taxation laws is no different now from what it has always been. These laws have never provided for the exemption of aborigines. Aborigines are subject to the same liabilities and entitled to the same deductions and concessional rebates as other residents of Australia. Whether an aborigine is actually obliged to pay income tax or social services contribution depends, of course, upon the amount of his taxable income and the extent to which he is entitled to concessional rebates for dependants, &c. Aborigines, when liable to pay tax, are required to pay the same amount as any other taxpayer earning the same income and having the same family obligations. The tax payable varies, of course, according to the amount of income derived and the concessional rebates allowable.
It is unnecessary to emphasize that income tax is concerned principally with income derived. It could not, therefore, very well be argued that a particular income in -the hands of an aborigine is less able to bear tax than the same income in the hands of any other person with the same domestic obligations.
While the Government, naturally, is seriously concerned with the care and well-being of aborigines throughout Australia, it finds itself unable to provide that they should be entirely exempt from income tax and social services contribution. The granting of such an exemption would create a difficult precedent which could have far-reaching results in relation to other classes of taxpayers.
The Commonwealth income tax ‘ system is based upon the fundamental principle of ability to pay. If, therefore, there were any departure from this principle with respect to aborigines, many requests would undoubtedly be made for the extension of similar concessions to other classes of taxpayers, e.g., taxpayers who, for various reasons, are ineligible for some, or all, of the social services provided by the Commonwealth. Obviously, it would bc impracticable to provide such concessions for all the classes of persons concerned.
It will be recalled, however, that since the war, the Government has followed a policy of reducing taxation, as the financial position of the nation permitted. In particular, every effort has been made to relieve those taxpayers in the lower income groups. Succssive reductions have been operative as from 1st January, 1046, 1st July, 1946 and 1st July, 1947, respectively. As a result of these reductions, the following persons are exempt from both social services contributions and income tax, if their incomes are less than the amounts indicated: -
These reductions, it will be realized, havebeen of particular benefit to those Australian, aborigines who have been required to pay tax during the war years.
Age, Invalid and Widows’ Pensions. - A pension may be granted to an aboriginal nativewho is for the time being exempt from the provisions of the law of the State or territory in which lie resides relating to the control of aboriginal natives. In the case of natives whoreside in a State or territory the law of whichdoes not make provision for such exemption, a pension may be granted if the Director-General: of Social Services is satisfied that, by reason of the character, standard of intelligence and’ social development of the native, it is desirablethat a pension should be granted.
Provision for exemption from State control laws exists in New South Wales, Queensland,. South Australia, Western Australia and the Northern Territory. Consequently, in those States and in the Northern Territory, only those aboriginal natives who have been granted a certificate of exemption are eligible for pensions, subject to other qualifications. In Victoria and Tasmania eligibility for pension depends upon whether the Director-General! is satisfied, by reason of the native’s character,, standard of intelligence and social development, that a pension should be granted. The policy followed in respect of natives in thoseStates is to approve of the grant of pension only in those cases where the native’s standard of living is such that he would be granted a> certificate of exemption if residing in a State in which such exemption is provided for. Thispolicy is necessary in the interests of uniform and equitable administration.
The provisions referred to above apply only to natives in whom aboriginal’ blood predominates. They do not apply to half-castes.. Pensions, however, are not granted to halfcastes who reside on aboriginal stations,, reserves or settlements.
Maternity Allowances. - The position is thesame as for age, invalid and’ widows’ pensions, with the exception that maternity allowances are paid to half-castes residing on. aboriginal stations, reserves or settlements.
Child Endowment. - Endowment may begranted to an aboriginal mother unless she is nomadic, but endowment is not payable inrespect of aboriginal children who are wholly or mainly dependent for support upon theCommonwealth or a State.
Unemployment and Sickness Benefits. - An aboriginal native may be paid’ either of these benefits, subject to other qualifications, if theDirectorGeneral is satisfied’ that, by reason of character, standard of intelligence and socialdevelopment, he is a suitable- person to receivepayment.
y. - On the 26th February, the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) asked the following questions, upon notice: -
The answers to th ehonor able member’s questions are as follows: -
y. - On the 5th March the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) asked a question in connexion with the continuation of clothes rationing in Australia. Further to my reply on that occasion I now inform the honorable member that a short time ago it was thought that the Rationing Commission would be able to recommend the termination of clothes rationing. The financial situation in the United Kingdom, however, . complicated the matter. If purchases are not to be made from dollar countries, and purchases from the United Kingdom are to be reduced to permit that country to export to other countries, there may be a shortage of cotton piece goods as soon assupplies to Australia from the United States have been disposed of. The Minister for Trade and Customs recently considered the question of clothes rationing in consultation with the Director of Rationing. The Minister is of the opinion, and the Government is in agreement, that before rationing is discontinued there must be adequate supplies of all kinds of cloth for the Australian people. The premature lifting of rationing may result in a demand for dollar goods; an increased demand for goods which may ultimately result in the transfer of gold, and a reduction in the quantity of woollen goods available for export to dollar countries. Moreover, should circumstances require it, a reimposition of rationing would be rendered difficult once control was removed.
Mr. A. A. Kingsford.
y. - On the 27th February the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) asked a question as to whether I would consider the employment of officers of the Commonwealth Investigation Service to assist in ascertaining the whereabouts of Mr. A. A. Kingsford. I have to state that the tracing of missing persons is a matter for the State police. It is not proposed to ask officers of the Commonwealth Investigation Service to assist in the search.
l. - On the 3rd March, the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Falkinder), asked the following question : -
In view of the inadequacy of the existing trunk-line telephone service between Hobart and Launceston resulting in delays particularly during peak hours, will the Minister representing the Postmaster-General recommend to. his colleague that the department provide an adequate service?
The Postmaster-General has supplied the following information: -
During the past twelve months, four additional channels have been provided between those centres, making a total of sixteen circuits available for calls.
The plans of the department include the complete re-arrangement of the trunk-line route between Hobart and Launceston and the erection of additional lines. This work, which is of considerable magnitude, is now in hand and is expected to be completed early in 1949, when steps will be taken to install a modern 12-channel carrier wave telephone system in order to further augment the facilities.
The rehabilitation plans of the department include the provision of 2,500 additional trunk-line channels throughout the Commonwealth and the honorable member may be assured that the department is doing its utmost to expedite the provision of these facilities.
An additional line was erected recently on portion of the pole route between Hobart and Queenstown, and a three-channel carrier system was installed. . This hag not only effected improvement in the service between those centres but it has provided an alternative route betweenHobart and Launceston.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 10 March 1948, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1948/19480310_reps_18_196/>.