19th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. FADDEN (McPherson- Treasurer) [12.1 a.m.]. - It is very easy for the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) to skite and to say that the former Government with which he was associated reduced sales tax by £35,000,000.
Mr. Cai. well. - A year!
Mr. FADDEN.- What rot !
Mr. Calwell. - The right honorable gentleman knows that that is true.
Mr. FADDEN. - That amount was not remitted in respect of one year. Even if it had, it was due entirely to the- fact that the former Government, by its oppressive taxation policy, had extracted too much money out of the public over the years, and that revenue was buoyant because its estimate of revenue for that year was understated and its estimate of expected expenditure overstated. The honorable member for Melbourne has stated that Neon signs have been exempted from sales tax. I draw his attention to the fact that they have been merely taken out of one category and put into another one. There has been an adjustment of the classification only.
Mr. THOMPSON (Port Adelaide) [12.3 a.m.]. - The clause provides for the abolition of sales tax on certain builders’ hardware. As I have pointed out previously, building materials including hardware, at present subject to sales tax, represent only about 5 per cent, of the total cost of a house. A supporter of the Government has stated that at least 60,000 houses will be built in Australia during, this financial year. The Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) has estimated that all of the exemptions from sales tax now proposed will involve a loss of revenue of £1,000,000 a year. For the purpose of my submission, I should regard the average cost of a house as £2,000. Five per cent., or £100 worth of materials used in its construction are subject to. sales tax, and that would amount to not more than £10. Therefore, in respect of 60,000 houses, not more than £600,000 sales tax on materials is payable. Although some honorable members opposite laughed at me when I stated earlier that sales tax is at present payable only in respect of 5 per cent, of the materials used in the construction of a house, I assure the committee that the investigations that I carried out several years ago confirm that opinion.
Mr. TURNBULL (Mallee) [12.5 a.m.], - The honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson) has made unfair criticism of the proposal. He has omitted to refer to the proposal to exempt from sales tax such items as bath heaters, earthenware bathroom fittings, towel rails and towel rail holders, various other fixtures and hot water systems. Although the Treasurer has estimated that the total saving to the people will be £1,000,000 a year, I consider it will be nearer £3,000,000 as it depends on the number of homes we can build. The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) waved his hands about and treated the committee to one of those comic opera speeches for which he is becoming known in this chamber. He stated that the Labour party when in office had granted reductions of sales tax. The real point is that if the Labour party had met with the approval of the people it would still be in office but it was defeated. The honorable member mentioned Neon signs. I remind the committee that when Labour was in office there was not even sufficient electric power available in Melbourne and Sydney to keep those signs illuminated. Not one Neon sign could be seen flickering, because they were banned. It did not make any difference at that time whether sales tax was imposed on Neon signs or not, because if people could not use them they would not buy them.
Mr. BRYSON (Wills) [12.7 a.m.].The honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) has spoken about £1,000,000 being saved.
Mr. Turnbull.- I said £5,000,000.
Mr. BRYSON. - That makes his contention five times worse, because according to the Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) the complete list of exemptions from sales tax will mean a saving to the people of £1,000,000 for a full year and £640,000 this year. He was apparently referring to rabbits instead of sales tax. To show how far off the beam the honorable member was, I point out that he did not mention the following items not used in connexion with the building of houses, on which sale3 tax has been removed, which are enumerated in clause 4: - (6a) Cane lifts and other machinery, implements or apparatus for use exclusively or primarily and principally in the loading or unloading of sugar cane:
(15) Fencing wire strainers; (15a) Fencing tools for use in agricultural industry;
(46) Stump and tree extractors and grubbers; lifting jacks for use in agricultural industry;
(2) Fertilisers and raw materials for use in the manufacture of fertilisers.
(1) Sauces and relishes (including mustard, mayonnaise and salad dressing, whether liquid, semi-liquid or dry.
(6) Macaroni (including macaroni fancy pastes), spaghetti (including egg spaghetti) and vermicelli;
(7) Processed wheat or other processed grain for use for culinary purposes. 34a. Ice and solid carbon dioxide.
(2) Coffee . . .
(3) Cocoa . . .
(4) Instant postum, Kwic Bru Coffee and other similar preparations for potable use which are made principally from cereals or cereal products.
It is apparent that either the honorable member has not read the bill, or that, if he has, he did not understand it. When the honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson) suggested that there will be a saving of 5 per cent. in the cost of housing because of the reductions of tax proposed by this measure, he was too liberal, because there will not be a saving of 1 per cent., for the reason that as far as housing is concerned the reductions to be effected are practically infinitesimal. I should like to know from the Treasurer why, whilst certain household electrical fittings, accessories and parts therefor, which are to be used exclusively or primarily and principally as part of electrical installations in houses, are to be exempt from sales tax, bell equipment, burglar alarms and fire alarm equipment, and electric light globes, lamps and tubes are to remain on the list of goods subject to tax. I consider that if it is reasonable to exempt from sales tax electrical installations being put into new homes, then electric light globes, which are necessary for use in conjunction with such electrical fittings, should not still be subject to tax. Why have certain luxury lines been exempted from tax, such as -
(1) Wreaths and covers and mounts for wreaths.
(2) Floral tributes (including bouquets, posies, floral baskets and sheaves), containing natural flowers.
Those are all luxury lines. There are so many contradictions in this clause that the committee is entitled to some explanation of how the Treasurer arrived at the decisions that are incorporated in it. The clause is a mass of contradictions. The Treasurer’s stated reasons for the introduction of the bill are contradicted by almost every item in this clause, so I should like to have some reasonable explanation of it, if there is one.
Mr. FADDEN (McPherson- Treasurer) [12.11 a.m.]. - The reason for the proposed exemptions and increases of rates, is that the Government has decided accordingly.
Mr. CLYDE CAMERON (Hindmarsh)
Fadden) re-consider the matter of the incidence of sales tax of Land Rovers purchased by shearers? I mentioned this matter in my second-reading speech and referred in error to those vehicles as station wagons. I apologize for the error. Why has a shearer to pay tax on a Land Rover when other people can purchase them tax free? Will the Government give consideration to allowing shearers who need Land Rovers specifically for the purpose of following their occupation to purchase them tax free?
Mr. FADDEN (McPherson- Treasurer) [12.14 a.m.]. - It is a pity that the honorable member was not in the chamber when I replied to the second-reading debate, because I explained that Land Rovers are exempted from tax when they are purchased for use by primary producers, principally or exclusively for agricultural pursuits. That position does not apply to the shearer. However, I shall re-examine the matter and see whether any action can be taken when the sales tax is next reviewed.
Mr. Clyde Cameron. - All I want to say is that the shearer uses the vehicle only to follow bis occupation in a primary industry.
Mr. FADDEN. - So does a baker who delivers bread.
Amendment (by Mr. Fadden) agreed to-
That, in paragraph (m), proposed sub-item (7) be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following proposed sub-item: - “ (7) Cere-creme, Cerevite, Eycena, Rycola, Vigorice, and similar products for use for culinary purposes (Nos. 1 to 9)
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 5 agreed to.
Clause 6 (Third schedule).
The Third Schedule to the Principal Act is amended by omitting all the words before Division XIII. and inserting in their stead the following division: -
Division I. - Musical, Band and Orchestral Instruments.
1. Musical, band and orchestral instruments (and accessories and parts therefor) including
(S) Wireless receiving sets and combined wireless receiving and gramophone sets ; record players and pickups.
Amendment (by Mr. Fadden) proposed -
That, in proposed Division 1, item 1, subitem (3), after the word “sets”, second occurring, the following words be inserted: - “ but not including batteries therefor “.
Mr. CALWELL (Melbourne) [12.16 a.m.]. - The Treasurer’s proposal is completely impracticable. He proposes to exempt from taxation batteries for radio sets that will operate in country districts, but purchasers of batteries for radio sets used in city areas are to pay sales tax on them. How can the Wireless Branch of the Postmaster-General’s Department possibly administer a provision of this sort? As a person who lives in a country district not served by electricity may buy a battery for a wireless set tax free, obviously all that people who live in city areas which are not regarded as areas not served by electricity have to do to obtain such batteries tax free, is to go to the prescribed areas and buy batteries tax free for use in the city. This provision is just a foolish and fatuous attempt to pretend that the Government is giving some advantage to a person who has a radio that is not served by electric power.
Mr. FADDEN (McPherson- Treasurer) [12.18 a.m.]. - There is only one thing wrong with the remarks of the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), and that is they are not correct. This sub-item causes tax to be payable at the rate of 25 per cent, in respect of wireless receiving sets and combined wireless receiving and gramophone sets, as well as batteries for use therewith. It has been represented that the taxing of batteries at this rate will operate to the disadvantage of people who live in areas not served by electricity and who depend upon batteries to operate their radio sets. Persons living in city areas do not need such batteries and obtain power for the operation of their sets from electricity which is not subject to sales tax. In order to remove this anomaly, it has been decided to exclude batteries for radio sets from the Third
Schedule and thus to allow them to remain taxable at the general rate of 8$ per cent., as was the case prior to the introduction of this bill, which refers to all parts applicable to radio sets.
Amendment agreed to.
Mr. CALWELL (Melbourne) [12.19 a.m.]. - The committee will realize that in division 1, musical, band and orchestral instruments are to be subject to various rates of tax that will not be uniformly borne. Purchasers of wireless receiving sets already pay £600,000 in sales tax, and under the new provisions will pay another £1,200,000 in tax. Radio sets have now become a luxury for old-age pensioners, for the small farmers and for those who want to listen to the broadcasts of the proceedings of the Parliament. The impost will not, of course, affect wealthy graziers and others who are represented by the “ hill-billies “ in the corner. Unless we encourage the radio industry, we shall not get television in Australia, and if we do not get television within a few years, it will not be possible to organize the construction of radar equipment for defence purposes. The raising of the sales tax by 200 per cent, on these items will cause a number of industries to curtail staffs. The Government proposes, in effect, to use this measure as a means of introducing industrial conscription. It hopes to force workers out of the radio factories into the brickyards, or to work for low wages for wealthy graziers. Honorable members opposite laugh and screech, but they will not have an opportunity for much longer to screech like cockatoos. This also deals . with such articles as pianolas, gramophones, radio receiving seta, records for gramophones and phonographs, drums, cymbals, chimes, triangles, and other musical instruments. Altogether, it covers about 150 different musical instruments, and the increased sales tax is estimated to return an extra £300,000. I should have thought that was too little for the Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) to worry about.
Mr. Gullett. - He is doing his best.
Mi-. CALWELL. - Yes, he is doing his best with his limited ability, and with the help of the limited ability of his supporters. The total estimated revenue to be raised under the third schedule to the bill is £1,500,000, as compared with £750,000 being raised at the present rates of tax. The Treasurer is mistaken if he thinks that his party will achieve any political advantage out of these increases. I do not usually take much notice of what the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) says, but I recall that he declared that £1,000.000 whs being saved to the people of’ Australia. Conversely, £10,000,000 is being filched from them, and the clause now under consideration provides for the filching of £1,500,000 of that £10,000,000.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 7 (Fourth schedule).
Mi: CALWELL (Melbourne) [12.25 a.m. j. - On most of the items in this schedule sales tax is to be increased from Si per cent, to 33$ per cent. Only on jewellery and imitation jewellery, and a few other items is the tax to be raised from 25 per cent, to 33$ per cent. Item 4 of the schedule covers toilet and beauty preparations. Sub-item (3) covers nail polishes and lacquers, lacquer and polish removers, hand creams and lotions, and similar preparations. Item 7 includes articles made wholly or principally of furskin. The other items in the schedule at present bear a tax of S$ per cent., and should never have been included in this classification. For instance, there are included such articles as the baskets made by blind persons and others for sale to harassed housewives for use when shopping. It also includes this miserable string bag that I hold in my hand. It is to bc taxed at the rate of 33$ per cent. I ought to decorate the Treasurer with it. He is going to tax it at the rate of 33$ per cent, in order to stop inflation. If it were practicable I should ask permission to have the string bag incorporated in Hansard. As someone has remarked, it is just a number of holes joined together by string, and the demon of inflation could easily escape from it. Sub-item (8) of item 1 includes such extraordinary examples of allegedly epiceuran taste and luxury living as tooth picks, which are to be taxed at the rate of 83 :V per cent. It also includes lighters for cigarettes, cigars or pipes and, of course, shopping and knitting bags. Indeed, anything that looks like a bag has been included.
Mr. Turnbull. - Including rat-bags?
Mr. CALWELL. - They are in the Australian Country party corner, and I am looking at them now. Fountain pens have now become a luxury. Practically every one in the community uses a fountain pen, even schoolboys and schoolgirls; but, under the terrible threat of inflation parents will have to pay sales tax at the rate of 33$ per cent, on the pens their children use. Other articles mentioned in the sub-item are serviette rings, book ends, book marks, collar boxes, gold and silver safety pins, and self-propelling pencils, all of which are to be taxed at the rate of 33$ per cent. The Treasurer has told us that the impost is necessary because the Government must meet additional defence expenditure. The Government has chosen to expend £50,000,000 this year on stock-piling defence materials. The expenditure could well have been spread over a number of years. There is no need for the savage imposts that the Government proposes. We have been told that the Government must find £67,000,000 with which to pay war gratuities, but £37,000,000 was collected for that purpose by the .previous Government.
Mr. Fadden. - It is non-existent.
Mr. CALWELL.- It does exist. The people paid the money in taxes.
Mr. Fadden. - They paid it, and the Labour Government used it.
Mr. CALWELL.- The Government is faking its budget figures in an attempt to justify what it is now proposing to do. We intend to put the Government on the spot, and to keep it there. We shall enjoy hearing honorable members who are supporting this proposal explaining to their electors why they slugged the children and took it out of the housewives and the poorer sections of the community. The Treasurer talks about communism, but that is now merely another matter like King Charles’s head. As an issue it is so dead that it is no longer of any value even as a political stalking horse. We shall make honorable members on the Government side answer for this bill, which will be one of the nails that Labour will drive into the Government’s political coffin.
Mr. DUTHIE (Wilmot) [12.31 a.m.]. - I shall not speak on this measure at such a length as was taken by the. honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell). I merely want to mention one or two points. Among the items to be taxed at 33$ per cent, are cameras, photographic enlarging and reducing apparatus, photographic negatives produced for sale, transparencies and reversals, sensitized film, cards, board, linen and other sensitized materials. All those materials are used in the one industry, that is in the photography business. I regard the imposition of a heavy sales tax on all those articles as one of the most vicious attacks on one form of industry that is to be found in this iniquitous measure. The photographers, particularly those who conduct one-man businesses, will suffer severely through the increase of sales tax. Their photography businesses are their sole means of earning a livelihood yet this Government is placing a sales tax of 33$ per cent, on almost all the materials that they use. I feel that all the one-man photography businesses throughout Australia will suffer severely when this measure becomes law. Last Saturday a man who conducts such a business visited- me in Launceston and told me that the 33$ per cent, tax will be a terrible blow to him. The Government does not appear to be one scrap concerned about these men ; it is no more concerned about photographers than it is about wool-growers and others. I ask the Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) seriously why these men should be singled out for attack, and I should like him to answer seriously. Probably, as the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) says, if he does answer the answer will be in the negative. But this is a serious matter and I should like him to tell the committee why he has selected the photographer for this attack.
Mr. FADDEN (McPherson- Treasurer) [12.33 a.m.]. - It is unfortunate that the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) did not read the bill a little more carefully, because professional photographers will not have their eqUiPment taxed under it. The honorable member has my assurance that the cameras of professional photographers will not be taxed under this bill.
Mr. WARD (East Sydney) [12.34 a.m.]. - The criticism that I intend to offer on this clause could be offered on any clause of the bill. The Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) has said that he intends to increase sales tax so as to reduce the use of certain items by the community because they are luxury items. The fairest method of doing that, if it was really the intention of the Government to divert labour to what it regards as more essential industries, was to prohibit completely certain classes of manufacture. By increasing the tax as is contemplated by this measure the only people who will be penalized will be those on the lower incomes. People with substantial incomes will not be debarred from making purchases of the heavily taxed items. They will be able to buy such goods whatever the cost. If the use of heavily taxed articles decreases it will be because those on the lower incomes cannot afford to purchase them. Therefore, this legislation is aimed directly at the workers. If the Government believed that it was necessary to conserve man-power, the fairest way to do so would have been by a prohibition of the manufacture of what the Government considered to be luxury goods.
Mr. MoMahon. - Under what constitutional power can the Government prohibit the manufacture of any goods?
Mr. WARD. - Powers exist if the Government wants to use them. Certain powers were used by other governments in times of national crisis, and the manufacture of certain articles was prohibited.
Mr. Osborne. - The prohibition was made only under the defence power.
Mr. WARD. - I understood the honorable member to say that a state of cold war existed. No doubt Judge Berne was not sure of the exact position when he asked during recent court proceedings for a clear statement of our position with regard to the war in Korea.
Mr. McMahon, - That is not so.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr. Ryan). - Order! The honorable member for East Sydney is getting a little away from the clause under discussion. The honorable member should deal with the clause.
Mr. WARD. - With respect, I suggest that what I am saying is connected with the clause because the question of power is involved. If the Government’s earlier statement that a state of war now exists is correct, then the Government has power to ban the manufacture of certain goods. If no state of war exists, then many of the acts of the Government in recent times were completely unjustified.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN. - Order! The honorable member must address the committee on the clause under consideration.
Mr. WARD.– With all due respect to you, Mr. Deputy Chairman, I have not. taken up much time on this matter. In my opinion, the Government, in this measure, has introduced a piece of class legislation. Honorable members on this side of the committee are often accused of trying to maintain class antagonism, but I submit that this measure is a piece of classlegislation because it proposes to penalize only one section of the community. Surely it will not be argued .that all the items enumerated here by the Treasurer are luxury items.
Mr. Fadden. - Nobody used the word “ luxury “.
Mr. WARD. - That is the term that the Treasurer used in his second-reading speech, and at an appropriate time I shall refer him to the particular part. In the schedule of items to be taxed there is one upon which I fmd myself in complete agreement with the Government; that is, if the item refers to what I believe it refers to. The item is “ transparencies and reversals “. Surely, that could not refer to anything but Government policy.
Mr. TURNBULL (Mallee) [12.38 a.m.]. - I desire briefly to refer to the great play made by the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) on the string bag. Before Labour came to power in this country goods were delivered to the housewife and the string bag was unknown. After Labour assumed office the womenfolk throughout the country began to trudge along to the shopkeepers and carry loads of household requisites back to their homes. Then came the era of the string bag.
Mr. CALWELL (Melbourne) [12.3!) a.m.]. - The Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) should withdraw this clause and briny: down an excise or a customs duty of say £10 or £20 a ton on newsprint used by the metropolitan dailies. That would bring him in a lot more money than he can get by this measure, and it would be a much fairer tax and would be borne by thu people who are best able to bear taxation.
Mr. THOMPSON (Port Adelaide) [12.40 a.m.]. - The items included in the fourth schedule include “decorative candles “. I should like to know whether the small candles that children have on their birthday cakes are included in that definition.
Mr. FADDEN (McPherson- Treasurer) [12.41 a.m.]. - I think that the candles to which the honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson) has referred would be included. Probably they are of the kind that was placed on pink icing before its use was prohibited at the instigation of the former honorable member for Corio, Mr. Dedman.
Mr. BRYSON (Wills) [12.42 a.m.].Included in the items to which the sales tax at the rate of 33$ per cent, is to apply are powders of various descriptions. I should like to know whether baby powders are included.
Mr. DUTHIE (Wilmot) [12.43 a.m.]. - One item that I am astonished to see made the subject of this vicious increase is “ lantern, screen, and camera slides “.
Lanterns are widely used by churches of all denominations to illustrate lectures on various subjects such as mission work, and I am wondering why they have been classed as a luxury item.
Mr. FADDEN (McPherson- Treasurer) [12.44 a.m.]. - It is a pity that the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) does not try to exert the same influence over members of his own party as he is endeavouring to exert over me. Hie item to which he has referred was subject to the sales tax when the Labour party was in office.
Amendments (by Mr. Fadden) agreed to-
That, in proposed item 3, sub-item (1) be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following sub-item: - “ (1) Travelling bags, brief bags, kit bags exceeding eighteen inches in length, gladstone bags, bookmakers’ bags, hat boxes, trunks, suitcases, dressing or toilet cases, attache cases exceeding eighteen inches in length, writing or letter cases, music cases, sporting cases and bags, regalia cases, lunch cases exceeding twelve inches in length, hat cases, satchels, grips, sewing bags and cases, sleeping valises and bags, but not including school bags or cases.”.
That, in proposed item 4, sub-item (12), be loft out.
Mr. BRYSON (Wills) [12.45 a.m.].I have asked the Treasurer a question about baby powders, and I should like it to be answered. I ask the right honorable gentleman again whether baby powders are to be subject to a tax of 33$ per cent.
Mr. FADDEN (McPherson-Treasurer) [12.46 a.m.]. - I have already informed the honorable member that, in accordance with the policy of the Government, such powders have been included in this classification.
Mr. BEAZLEY (Fremantle) [12.47 a.m.]. - The question asked by the honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryson) was whether the powders mentioned in this schedule include baby powders. That is not made clear in the schedule. I suggest that the Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) should answer that question.
Mr. FADDEN (McPherson - Treasurer) [12,48 a.m.]. - I have already answered that question adequately. I have said that baby powders are included in the 33$ per cent, classification. I cannot say any more than that.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments ; report -by leave - adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
(Nos. 1 to 9) 1950.
In Committee of Ways and Means: Consideration resumed from the 12th October (vide page 796), on motion by Mr. Fadden - (1.) That, on and after the thirteenth day of October, One thousand nine hundred and fifty, in lieu of the sales tax imposed . . . sales tax. be imposed at the following rates . . .. ( nida page 790 ) .
Questions resolved in the affirmative.
Standing Orders suspended ; resolutions adopted.
That Mr. Fadden and Mr. Spender do prepare and bring in bills to carry out the foregoing resolutions.
Motion (by Mr. Fadden) - by leave - agreed to -
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent questions in regard to the first and second readings, committee’s report stage and the third readings, being put in one motion covering several or all of the Sales Tax Bills Nos. 1 to 9, and the consideration of several or all of such bills together in a committee of the whole.
Bills (Nos. 1 to 9) presented by Mr. Fadden, and passed through all stages without amendment or debate.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Bill received from the Senate and (on motion by Mr. Fadden) read a first time.
Motion (by Mr. Fadden) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I rise to correct any misapprehension that might have been aroused in the minds of honorable members as the result of a question that the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) asked relating to the formation in Sydney recently of a company known as Mainguard (Aust.) Limited. It is desirable that honorable members should know more about that company. It has a nominal capital of £5,000,000, of which £1,000,000 has been called up. Of the latter capital approximately £600,000 has been provided by purely Australian companies that have been in existence for many years and in which practically all the shareholders are Australians. In respect of the balance of shave capital of £400,000 that has been called up, the five directors have bought and now hold approximately 135,000 shares whilst the remaining shares are held by members of the public. Not one of the shareholders is a foreigner. An examination of the register of the company will show that only 100 shares arc held outside Australia and that they a re held by an investor who lives in New Zealand. The value of the shares has been fixed at 5s., in order that persons of small means may acquire shares in what will be a prosperous company and may add to the financial strength of the community. The average individual holding is 1,100 shares of a value of £275. Recently, the register of the company was compiled, and the honorable member for Melbourne may examine it and ascertain for himself who the shareholders are. I have explained these facts because the honorable member’s question may have given the impression that the company was formed to represent foreign interests. That is not correct. I also make it clear that no overseas funds whatsoever arc invested in the company. Consequently, it cannot he said that it is holding “ hot “ money that has been sent to Australia in the expectation that the Australia. £1 will be appreciated, in which event the money would be repatriated. The information on which the honorable member based his question is incorrect.
The company will fulfil a national function of great significance. In 1931, Lord Macmillan, one of England’s most distinguished commercial lawyers and a member of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, presided over a committee on finance and industry at the request of the British Parliament. That committee inquired into the British financial system and recommended unanimously that the outstanding need of British industry was the development of organizations like Mainguard (Aust.) Limited to act as intermediaries between industry and investors and to perform in the interests of British industry functions which up to that time had been performed by merchant banking and issuing houses, most of which, however, were owned and controlled by foreign interests. That committee recommended the formation by British interests of companies of the type of Mainguard (Aust.) Limited. Such companies were formed first in Lombardstreet, London, and later in the United States of America, and Mainguard (Aust.) Limited represents the first company of that type to be formed in Australia. The company will pei form a very useful function. First, it will operate as a financing house, tha+ is, as an intermediary between investors and industry. Any investors who wish te establish industries and who are in need of capital will be able to obtain the best advice possible from it. The -company will underwrite the capital of new undertakings which, it believes, will have a good chance of succeeding. On behalf of proposed new undertakings it will conduct investigations of potential local demands, advise with respect to the most suitable locations for new ventures and generally provide advice to enable new companies to get on their feet with the least possible delay and with the greatest possible chance of success.
– Why did it get rid of the journalists whom it sacked?
– I shall come to that. Activities of that type were discussed and strongly applauded by the
Royal Commission on Monetary and Banking Systems in 1934. The licence to publish Smith’s Weekly has been sold to another newspaper, and the newsprint and machinery have been disposed of, so that this company will, in no circumstances, compete in the newspaper world in Australia. It will be, as I have said, purely a financial corporation which will fill a gap in the Australian financial machinery. As the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley) said in his speech on the Commonwealth Bank Bill, Australia has never had a mature money market. In other words, the right honorable gentleman indicated that we have never had a short bill market or open market operations in Commonwealth bonds, notwithstanding that the whole paraphernalia for a mature money market exists in this country. The company will remedy one of these deficiencies. Ear from making this company the object of innuendo and suspicion and seeking to damn it at birth we should give it the greatest possible encouragement. The directors are men who have attained outstanding success in the Australian business and commercial world. They are men of integrity, and, what will not be understood by the honorable member for Melbourne, men of complete honesty.
– I ask for a withdrawal of that filthy observation.
– As the honorable member for Melbourne objects to that statement, it must be withdrawn.
– I withdraw it.
– And still defend this new collection of vultures.
– I believe that this company will fill a long-felt want during a period in which we can expect rapid industrial development. It will provide finance and technical assistance; it will place many businesses on a sound basis, contribute to future industrial development, help to maintain full employment, and add to the prosperity of this country.
– Last week I referred to the railway strike in Victoria and South Aus tralia. Since then the situation has altered and whilst the strike in South Australia has ended, unfortunately there seems to he a complete deadlock in Victoria. I understand that the Victorian Government has supported the chairman of the Victorian Railways Commissioners in insisting on the following courses of action : -
The Government and the chairman have insisted on the claims made by the two unions, the Australian Railways Union and the Australian Federated Union of Locomotive Enginemen, being treated as a whole instead of on a separate basis.
There may have been some justification for the insistence on those points at an earlier stage of the dispute. I understand that the Australian Federated Union of Locomotive Enginemen has now referred its claims to the court or to a conciliation commissioner, and that the Australian Railways Union has not done so. I ask the Government whether the Victorian Government and the chairman of the Victorian Railways Commissioners are within their rights under the provisions of the act in insisting that the separate claims shall be treated as an indivisible whole. T do so because I believe that that trifling point is one of the main obstacles which prevents a settlement of the strike.
– I wish to make one or two observations in regard to the strike in order that the public and the members of this House may view the facts in proper perspective. The Australian Federated Union of Locomotive Enginemen regrets very deeply the inconvenience that has been caused to the public as a consequence of the strike. It is concerned particularly with the grievous damage that has been done to what should be a flourishing State. The press has published all sorts of statements in an attempt to fix the responsibility for this dispute. All I wish to say on that aspect of the dispute is that as a consequence of an incident that occurred in Victoria an effort was made by the Victorian Railways Commissioners to settle a dispute which had arisen in regard to overtime, and which has assumed great proportions. The overtime worked by train crews, including engine-drivers and firemen, is greater to-day than it was in war-time. The Australian Federated Union of Locomotive Enginemen endeavoured to overcome the problem of overtime by encouraging men to enter the service. A considerable time ago it lodged applications for increased pay for those on the lower grades in an attempt to attract more men to the railways service in those grades. The commissioners opposed the application and it was rejected. Early in September both unions “were concerned about the subject of overtime. Early in September the Australian Federated Union of Locomotive Enginemen held a State conference, following a similar conference by the Australian Railways Union, and thereupon, submitted to the Railways Commissioners that the time had arrived when something had to be done to meet the overtime problem. The .commissioners agreed that something should be done and arrived at a formula under which .all overtime was to be paid for. They agreed that passive time, as distinct from operative time, should be taken into account for the purpose of calculating overtime payments. They insisted that both unions should confirm in writing the terms of settlement. On the 14th September, after consultation with rank and file members, the general secretary of the Victorian division of the Australian Federated Union of Locomotive Enginemen sent to the commissioners the following letter : -
The union, through its annual conference, directs mc to indicate that the present dispute is to be settled on the basis discussed between us, i.e., that the necessary variation of Federal Award No. 2GS of 1945 be agreed to between the parties providing for the abolition of passive time and the payment of overtime at the rate of time and one half for all time on duty in excess of eight hours up to and including eleven hours on duty and double time thereafter on any shift.
That was a complete settlement of the dispute as far as the Australian Federated Union of Locomotive Enginemen was concerned, but the commissioners insisted upon both matters being referred to the court simultaneously. The Conciliation Commissioner, Mr. Hall, in the first line of his judgment in which he referred to what had been agreed upon by the parties, said -
The application is consented to by the Victorian Railways Commissioners.
However, after dealing -with the case extensively in 24 pages of typescript he then said -
Insofar as the application seeks the payment of overtime rates after eight hours’ work on any shift, it is refused because the existing margins include consideration therefor, and for the additional reasons stated in the foregoing review.
He did not review the existing margins. No marginal case was before him. The commissioners did not raise the subject of margins. They said that they wanted the matter to be settled in the public interest. At that point, however, Mr. Hall made no reference to the public interest. Instead, he found ways and means of rejecting an agreement which had been reached between the commissioners and the unions. And on that part, neither of the two unions was on strike. But, as a consequence of Hall’s attitude, a strike occurred immediately. The Australian Federated Union of Locomotive Enginemen referred the matter to its members, and at a stop-work meeting, only 83 out of 2,800 men voted for a return to work. That was the position. The matter was referred again to Hall, not by the unions concerned but by the Railways Commissioners, with an appeal that their request be acceded to in the public interest, and that the award be varied in accordance with the original claim.
Government supporters interjecting,
– It is all very well to blame the Australian
Railways Union and the Australian Federated Union of Locomotive Enginemen for the strike. I refer Government supporters to the transcript of the proceedings ‘before the conciliation commissioner, Hall, on the 17th October last. The men were on strike, and Hall was asked this question -
Would it not have been better to accept our interpretation of public interest?
He replied -
No, I felt convinced you would do what you have done. I am not surprised at what has happened.
Hall was convinced, when he made his decision, that the men would go on strike as a result of it. That was the second time of review. The next step in the dispute was taken by the Railways Commissioners on an application to have the agreement filed under section 37 of the act. Hall said, in the first instance, that he did not have jurisdiction in the matter, and would refer it to the court. He did not do so. Later, he was convinced that he had jurisdiction, but he said, “If I had the jurisdiction I still would not do it “. The commissioners then conferred with the unions concerned, and the two parties signed an agreement, which was filed with the court. However, that tribunal declared that it had no jurisdiction, because the matter was one for the conciliation commissioner to determine. On the third occasion on which Hall dealt with the matter, he said that it was the la9t time he would do so. During the hearing, two points became apparent that staggered the trade unions in this country.
– When will the “ choochoos “ run again?
– When some common sense is brought to bear on our problem.
– Leave it to Brown of the Australian Railways Union.
– It is all very well to try to associate me with Brown, but I am dealing with a purely industrial problem. If Government supporters cannot separate such an industrial problem from their party political out look, they are heading for a good deal of trouble. I shall now deal with a matter that is agitating the minds of railway employees. Hall said, in reply to me on the 17th October-
We had a conference of Conciliation Commissioners on Monday morning in Sydney over this matter of endorsing consent agreements. There has been a number of matters before Conciliation Commissioners consented to by parties, which the Commissioners have refused to endorse or embody in awards. They have not been given publicity because the .parties have been told there that they can pay if they like but it will not be put in an award.
That statement affects all railway employees. A point was reached when Hall was under fire from the railways commissioners, not the unions concerned, and he said to the representative of the commissioners -
How did you get into a position of letting yourselves make up your mind in regard to this matter, when, as late as May, 1949, you agreed with all your brother commissioners in New South Wales, Tasmania and South Australia that, in regard to these matters of general principle, you would stand shoulder to shoulder together ?
Therefore, railwaymen are confronted with the position that, before they may expect any improvement of their conditions by agreement in future, the railways commissioners of several States must be in agreement on the matter. But even then, a conciliation commissioner may decide that the employees shall not receive an increase of salary or be granted improved conditions. Finally, the stage was reached in the dispute when the door was slammed on the Australian Railways Union by Hall.
– Should not the honorable member refer to him as “ Mr. Hall “ ?
– Yes, I suppose I should.
– Socialism breaking down.
– No. The Australian Federated Union of Locomotive Enginemen recognized that the door of conciliation and arbitration had been closed to the Australian Railways Union. We attempted to have the matter placed on a proper basis, so that a settlement could be reached. I made an attempt, on behalf of the Australian Federated Union of Locomotive Enginemen, to achieve a settlement by conciliation and arbitration. [Extension of time granted]. I was astounded to find that the Railways Commissioners of Victoria were not prepared to approach the matter on that basis. I hope, even at this late hour, that common sense will prevail. The Australian Federated Union of Locomotive Enginemen is prepared to follow the trail of conciliation and arbitration in order that the dispute may be settled ; but, to date, it has not been allowed to proceed in that manner. It is prepared, if the conciliatory approach is made, to do the utmost in its power to start the wheels rolling in Victoria at the earliest possible moment.
Government supporters interjecting,
– I shall remind Government supporters of a saying that I heard at my mother’s knee, which I hope will convey a lesson to them. It went -
Give a thing, take a thing,
It becomes the devil’s own plaything.
That has happened in this dispute. The members of the Australian Federated Union of Locomotive Enginemen were not on strike against an agreement that had been reached with the railways commissioners. However, they say that they will not pay the additional money unless they have some authority to give it the official imprimatur. We are prepared to reach a settlement under Part VII. of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act, or in any other way that is acceptable to the commissioners. We ask for a settlement, on the basis of the policy enunciated by the Australian Council of Trades Unions, to adjust the difficulty in a proper and orderly way. The only obstacle now is the failure of the conciliation commissioner to give the union the opportunity to reach a settlement in the way in which everybody considers it should be reached, and that is by conciliation and arbitration.
– What about the general public, including the farmer ?
– I am just as much appreciative of the needs of the general community, including the farmer, as is the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Charles Anderson). But I emphasize that the railwaymen themselves made those conditions possible for the community, and it will be the railwaymen themselves who, at the moment they are granted the treatment which they were promised, will give all the services to the community that they have given in the past. But it is not possible to convince the employees, even at this stage of the dispute, that they have not been tricked. They will not be convinced that they are not entitled to receive the benefits which have been promised to them. We shall strive to the best of our ability, within the laws of conciliation and arbitration, to obtain for them the benefits that they have been promised.
– The unions concerned are outside the law now.
– They are not. I challenge that statement. The court and the conciliation commissioners have examined the dispute, and it has not been suggested that the employees should be ordered to return to work. This is a two-way traffic. The Australian Federated Union of Locomotive Enginemen will accept whatever decision is reached. The railways commissioners can settle the dispute in a moment by saying, “Very well, until this thing is determined by conciliation and arbitration we will pay you the money we promised you”. It is just as incumbent upon the commissioners to do that as it is upon the union to say to the men, “ Go back to work without receiving the conditions that you were promised “.
– Order ! The honorable member’s extended time has expired.
– It seems a very strange thing that a member of the Australian Labour party should speak as we have just heard the honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison) speak. Honorable members will recall that when the Labour Government introduced legislation for the appointment of conciliation commissioners, the Opposition contended that there should be contained in the bill some means by which appeals could be made against decisions made by conciliation commissioners. The then Prime Minister, Mr. Chifley, declined to agree to such provision, and no appeals whatever were allowed. A member of the Australian Labour party, who at the same time is the leader of a union, now says in this House that the laws of the country should be upheld, but at the same time he is inciting, without the slightest doubt, the members of his union to continue this strike. Like a dictator, he makes definite statements to the effect that “We will do this” and “ We will do that “, and he speaks of “ My union “, which shows that he is the man who, when he desires, can get the men back to work in Victoria.
Only recently in the newspapers there were photographs of the Communist leader, Brown, and of the honorable member for Blaxland. The statements concerning the strike made by the honorable member for Blaxland were far more extreme than those made by the Communist leader. A mass meeting was held in Melbourne to-day, and a resolution was carried without one dissentient vote to the effect that the members of the union are dissatisfied with their executive and intend to remove them from office. Throughout Victoria some men have returned to work, What has this unfortunate strike already cost the railway men? One has only to look at the newspapers to see that it has cost them between £40 and £50 each in loss of wages and that they will receive only an additional £16 a year if they obtain all that they are fighting for. I remind honorable members that there are thousands of other railway men who, even if this strike is successful, will receive nothing extra. Those employees have lost over £1,000,000. No wonder they are now saying that they must get rid of their executive. They are saying, “ We must break Brown before he breaks us “. As far as I can see, that statement also applies to the honorable member for Blaxland, and if the members of the union do not get him out before he drags them down they will regret it. Those who attended the mass meeting in Melbourne to-day knew that they must get rid of Brown and their leaders; the employees throughout the country know it, and the primary producers who wish to get their wool and wheat transported also know it. It is of national importance that the law should be obeyed. A responsible federal government, of which the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) was a member, appointed the original conciliation commissioners, and honorable members of this Parliament who supported that Government should not now countenance a member of the Australian Labour party, who also ‘speaks as a member of a union, saying, “ We will not obey the finding of a conciliation commissioner “. I believe that the time has gone when the railway employees in Victoria will accept directions from such men. I also believe that common sense will prevail within the next few days, that there will be new leaders, and that the wheels will be turning again in Victoria.
The honorable member for Blaxland has stated that Mr. Conciliation Commissioner Hall should have accepted what the Railway Commissioners and the union had agreed to. That would have meant that the strike would have spread throughout Australia, and it is possible that in other States agreements would not have been reached between the railway commissioners concerned and the unions. In the interests of the people, Mr. Conciliation Commissioner Hall did not ratify the agreement, and in refusing to do so he performed a great service to the people, not only of Victoria but also of Australia. The strike was engineered by the executive of the union, and if it had won the day there would have been another strike before very long. Mr. Conciliation Commissioner Hall is to be complimented by the people of Australia. I cannot speak for this Government, but I should like it to stand firm, and to ensure that when peace in industry comes to Victoria and to Australia it will be of a permanent nature.
.I would not detain the House at this hour if it were not for the remarkable statements that have been made by the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull). Statements such as he has made are not likely to assist in the settlement of the dispute, because he has displayed an entire disregard of the facts and a very grave misconception of the actual position of the men who are involved in the dispute. It should bc clearly understood that there is no law in Australia, as far as the Commonwealth is concerned, that makes it an offence for men to go on strike. In going on strike men do not break the law. Another matter that must be understood is that those who have had any experience <> negotiations between bodies of men an<i employers will appreciate the importance of the fact that when an agreement is reached between employers and employees those who are affected by the agreement expect that it will be implemented and properly expressed. In the Victorian railways case two agreements were made. One was an agreement made between the Australian Railways Union and the Victorian Railways Commissioners, which I understand the conciliation commissioner afterwards stated was made under duress, and the other was an agreement made between the Australian Federated Union of Locomotive Enginemen and the commissioners, which was not made under duress, but which was the result of an amicable conference between the parties. In both cases the commissioners were satisfied, in the interests of the railways and of the men, that it was desirable that a principle that is in operation in every sphere of industry to-day - that overtime rates should be paid after eight hours work - should operate as far as the railways system is concerned. That is no departure from the principles observed by the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. Neither is it a departure from decisions which are being made by conciliation commissioners every day of the week. It is the usual thing in respect of all awards. It is incomprehensible that it could be said at this time that it is against the public interests to apply to railway men a principle that is being applied to workers in every other industry in Australia. That is an essential point. It is entirely undemocratic and out of accordance with the methods of conciliation as practised by the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration and by the State arbitration tribunals, to sa-, that one section of employees in Australia is a class apart and that it should have inferior conditions in respect of overtime. For years the railwaymen had been endeavouring to have themselves placed in the same position as other employees in industry. Finally, an agreement was reached between the organization and their employers, without the slightest semblance of duress, at least as far as the locomotive enginemen were concerned. However, when an application was made to the court for ratification of the agreement, the conciliation commissioner, who in other spheres grants such applications by employees, adopted the remarkable attitude, which cannot be justified either by precedent or by logic, that the railwaymen were not entitled to enjoy that benefit.
Another fact that arises from this situation must be stressed. It is that conciliation has always been regarded by most unions, if . not by all of them, as well as by many employers, as a more satisfactory way of settling disputes than arbitration. _ Conciliation enables both parties to a dispute to come together and reach an agreement to their mutual satisfaction. Consequently, when agreements are made by conciliation, there is greater contentment in industry than there is when matters in dispute are subjected to arbitration and one party or the other loses.
– But in a monopoly industry, it might be against the public interests to settle disputes by agreement.
– I appreciate the point that has been raised by the honorable member for Chisholm (Mr. Kent Hughes) but, as I have already pointed out, the agreement was reached in accordance with practices and principles that had been laid down by the court, and that have been approved ever since the days of the late Mr. Justice Higgins. Had the arrangement made by the unions and the commissioners been novel and startling, and had it introduced some new principle in respect of the relations between employers and employees, the objection raised by the honorable gentleman would have had some force and I could appreciate the attitude of the conciliation commissioner. However, nothing new was introduced. A principle as old as the court itself was involved but when the agreement was reached and efforts were made to secure its endorsement by the court, that body, for reasons which I frankly confess that I cannot understand, decided that it should not be put into effect. The unions and the Railways Commissioners have done their best to settle the matter, and the commissioners have declared that the agreement ought to be sanctified by the court. Therefore, I suggest that the parties should now take the stand that, having done all that they can to have the agreement ratified, but having been frustrated through no fault of their own, they should put it into operation. By that means the understanding that was reached in conference could be implemented with honour and decency and the whole dispute could be quickly ended.
Mr.FADDEN (McPherson- Treasurer) [1.34 a.m.]. - in reply - I assure the honorable member for Chisholm (Mr. Kent Hughes) that I shall bring his remarks to the attention of the appropriate Minister.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determinations - 1 950 -
Nos. 62, 63 and 64 - Commonwealth Public Service Artisans’ Association; and others. ,
Commonwealth Public Service Act - Appointments - Department of Civil Aviation - E. B. Mulholland, J. S. O’Rourke
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for -
Defence purposes - Beverley, Western Australia.
Postal purposes -
Horseshoe Creek, New South Wales. Young, New South Wales.
House adjourned at 1.34 a.m. (Wednesday).
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
Colonel A. G. Oldham has been lent by his firm, Sisalkraft Distributors Company Proprietary Limited, and is acting in an honorary capacity.
Tasmania - Administered from Victoria.
Commonwealth Office, Melbourne. - Two publicity officers on loan from Melbourne newspapers: salaries (a) £24 10s. plus £2 expenses per week; (b) £23 6s. plus £2 expenses per week.
New South Wales. - Two publicity officers on loan from Sydney newspapers, salaries (a) £18 plus £2 expenses per week; (b) £16 18 plus £2 expenses per week. Two supervisory officers for combined recruiting information bureau, working in shifts, salary each £626 per annum. One outdoor representative for organizing of districts committees £647. Two typists (one part-time), salary each £301 per annum.
Victoria. - Publicity officer on loan from Melbourne newspaper, salary £19 4s. plus £2 expenses per week. Two supervisory officers for combined recruiting information bureau, working on shifts, salary each £624 per annum. One temporary clerk, £330.
Queensland.- One publicity officer on loan from Brisbane newspaper, salary £17 4s. plus £2 expenses per week. Two supervisory officers for combined recruiting bureau, working on shifts, salary each £624 per annum. One typist, salary £373 per annum. Two switchboard attendants for combined recruiting bureau, salary each £279 per annum.
South Australia. - One publicity officer on loan from Adelaide newspaper, salary £17 10s. plus £2 expenses per week. Assistant Deputy Director, £742 and one typist £373 per annum (these two officers on loan from other departments). Two supervisory officers for combined recruiting bureau, working on shifts, salary each £624 per annum.
Western Australia. - One publicity officer on loan from Perth newspaper, salary £17 10s., plus £2 per week expenses. Two supervisory officers for combined recruiting information bureau, salary each £624 per annum. One typist, £301 per annum. One switchboard attendant for combined recruiting bureau, £283 per annum.
Tasmania. - Nil. Administered from Victoria.
General, upon notice - 1.How many applications for telephones were outstanding at the end of each year from 1945 to 1949, inclusive?
Mr.Anthony. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
On the 1st November, Mr. Trygve Lie was re-appointed by. the General Assembly for three years from the 1st February, 1951. Australia abstained from voting because it was felt that the action which the Assembly had taken might create a precedent both as regards Article 97 and certain other articles with which Australia wouldfind it hard to agree. Article 97 reads, inter alia: “That the Secretary-General shall be appointed by the General Assembly upon the recommendation of the Security Council”. The honorable member will be await that the Security Council was unable to agree on a candidate. The Government is quite satisfied with the appointment of Mr. Lie as Secretary-General for a further term.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 21 November 1950, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1950/19501121_reps_19_210/>.