23rd Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
Mr. ASTON presented a petition from certain citizens of Australia praying that the House will pass legislation to ease the means test and increase social service benefits payable to civilian widow pensioners and their dependent children.
Petition received and read.
A petition in similar terms was presented by Mr. FAILES from certain citizens of the Commonwealth.
Mr. WARD presented a petition from certain citizens of the Commonwealth of Australia praying that the House will (a) bring forward emergency legislation to grant an immediate £1 pension increase, provide free medical and pharmaceutical benefits and control prices, and (b) consider the granting of pensions at half the male basic wage.
Petition received and read.
Petitions in similar terms were presented as follows: -
By Sir EARLE PAGE from certain citizens of the Commonwealth.
By Mr. DEAN from certain citizens of the Commonwealth.
By Mr. O’CONNOR from certain citizens of the Commonwealth.
By Mr. JAMES from certain citizens of the Commonwealth.
– Has the Minister for Primary Industry been informed of a disturbing incident that occurred in the New Zealand Parliament yesterday, when a member of the Liberal Party accused the Australian dairying industry of pricing Australian butter off the home market and causing dumping in England? Will the Minister give this matter urgent attention in view of the fact that the same Liberal Party member threatened to retaliate by organizing the sale of New Zealand butter in Australia? The view has been expressed in the New Zealand Parliament that, under present arrangements, there is no bar to that proposal being put into effect.
– Mr. Speaker, as the question relates to a matter of international trade, my colleague, the Minister for Primary Industry, has suggested that it comes within my province, as indeed it does in the sense of ministerial responsibility. I think that the New Zealand Government has been made fully aware of the circumstances in which stability has been achieved for the Australian dairying industry. The dairying industry in Australia has been helped immensely by this Parliament. In the past ten years, this Parliament has voted more than £160,000,000 to support the price of butter and cheese in order to aid Australian consumers mostly but also to aid Australian dairy farmers. That is the assessment by this Parliament of the importance of these products and this industry. On every occasion, this support has been accorded by every one in both Houses of the Parliament.
Great as that support to the dairying industry has been, it has to be realized that it is infinitely less important to the stability of the industry than is something that the industry achieved for itself, tediously and in difficult circumstances, many years ago. I refer to a completely voluntary arrangement between all factories in Australia producing butter and cheese. They have agreed that there shall not be an internal fight for the local market, but that every factory in Australia shall commit itself to a voluntary arrangement. The arrangement must necessarily be voluntary because of inadequacies in the Australian Constitution. Agreement was not easy to achieve. The proposal was fought for and argued over for ten years. But since the 1930’s the situation has been that whether Australian butter is sold at the local price - it may be 4s. 6d., 4s. 8d. or 4s. 4d. per lb. at the factory door - or exported overseas for a return of perhaps 2s. 6d. per lb., the return to every factory in Australia and, in due course, to every dairy farmer in Australia, is the same.
No one in the Australian dairy industry or in the Australian Government has any doubt that should butter come into Australia from overseas to sell at lower than the ruling price it would wreck this scheme. I point out that under the Australian Constitution the present scheme is not replaceable by a legally enacted one. That is understood by the Government of New Zealand; it is understood by the dairy industry of New Zealand; and it is understood by other countries which are parties to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. Ours is not an arrangement which is designed to facilitate dumping because under it, as has been explained in international circles, there have been times when butter has been sold on the Australian market at prices lower than were being realized at export. That is the reverse of dumping. In very comparable circumstances the dairy industry of the United States of America found it necessary to approach the parties to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade and ask for approval of an arrangement similar to that operating in Australia. On that occasion the Australian Government, because of its knowledge of the circumstances, supported the United States Government.
That is the position. Notwithstanding what any individuals in New Zealand or other countries may say, I do not believe that there is any real likelihood of an attempt being made to wreck this classic and invaluable arrangement which, as I have said, has been established in Australia on a completely voluntary basis.
– I address my question to the Postmaster-General. In April last, in reply to a question which I asked relating to the basis on which the extended local service area zones were established, the Postmaster-General stated that in a scheme of such magnitude there would be some inequities in the original determination, and that his department would be prepared to correct them where necessary. I now ask the Postmaster-General whether he will investigate the question of whether there is a considerable difference between the relative areas embraced by the scheme from a starting point in Sydney as compared with a similar starting point in Melbourne. More particularly, will he request his officers to consider the anomalies which the scheme has created in the Richmond-Windsor-Hills district which is embraced in the electorate of Mitchell which I represent?
– I remember the reply that I gave to the honorable member for Mitchell on this question of possible anomalies in the Elsa scheme. In fact, when questioned about the commencing date and the operation of the scheme, I stated on several occasions that any alleged inequities would be considered. As I stated in reply to a question on Tuesday last, the department is proceeding with an investigation of alleged anomalies. On the figures I received this morning these number about 230. The undertaking that I gave to the honorable member for Mitchell and to other honorable members that the anomalies would be investigated is being adhered to. As a matter of fact, only yesterday afternoon I signed letters to six, eight or ten honorable members which stated that their requests for adjustments had been approved. The first adjustments will apply, I think, as from 5th September next. Others will be held up because of certain drafting difficulties but they will be made regularly over a period.
The honorable member for Mitchell asked me to give particular attention to the area covered by the extended local service area system in Sydney as compared with Melbourne. That is a matter that has already been referred to me. I am having comparative figures taken out and I hope to receive them shortly. I shall not go into that matter further except to say that it is being investigated. The honorable member asked, also, that particular areas in his electorate be given attention, and I shall see that that is done.
– I should like to ask the Attorney-General a question. In view of the tragic kidnapping case in New South Wales - the first of its kind in Australia - will the Minister investigate the possibility of introducing Commonwealth legislation to provide for suitable penalties in order that uniformity in dealing with such criminal acts may be achieved, thereby providing stronger protection for the people of Australia? Is it a fact that some States do not have any laws in relation to kidnapping? I suggest the introduction of a uniform Commonwealth law because” transportation across State boundaries is now so rapid, and 1 point out that the introduction of a Commonwealthlaw would bring Australia into line with the United States of America, where kidnapping cases are dealt with by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
– I do not know whether each State has a kidnapping law, if I may use that expression, but 1 know that New South Wales has. I can inform the honorable member and the House that the Commonwealth Parliament has no power to pass a criminal law with respect to kidnapping which takes place within a State. It may be that this Parliament could pass a law with respect to the movement of a kidnapped child across a State border, but I do not think that such a law would have very much utility in Australia having regard to the small number of States that we have in this country. In the United States of America, where the number of States is much greater, movement across State borders can have much more significance in this field. I shall consider what the honorable member has said, and if it appears that there is anything useful that can be done, I shall seek the opinion of my colleagues on the matter.
– I desire to ask the Minister for Trade a question. Has the right honorable gentleman had an opportunity to study the request of the Australian Citrus Growers Federation that action be taken to limit the importation of lemon and orange juices pending a tariff inquiry? 1 refer especially to the federation’s letters of 12th
July and 9th August.
– I am familiar with the request that has been made. Inquiries are being conducted, but they are at present incomplete. I assure the honorable member that I shall make it my business to become fully aware of the circumstances relating to the interests of this important Australian industry.
– I ask the Treasurer a question. The right honorable gentleman knows that for some years past banks have closed on Saturdays in Tasmania and that they will soon close on Saturdays in New South Wales and South Australia. Since this Parliament has power to pass laws with respect to banking, I ask the Minister whether the Government will take steps to ensure uniform banking hours throughout the Commonwealth.
– I have not had occasion previously to consider this matter of policy which the honorable gentleman has raised. I should need to be persuaded, first that this was a matter in which the Commonwealth Government should take a positive stand and, secondly, that there are powerful reasons why the inconvenience to which this proposal would subject the public should apply more generally than is thecase at present. I am not in a position to give a conclusive reply to the question now, but I shall examine it.
– I desire to ask the Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization a question on a subject that I have brought before this House on previous occasions.
– Skeleton weed.
– Exactly . There is a feeling in my electorate that, in spite of strong advocacy, the C.S.I.R.O. people are still inactive in endeavouring to find means of combating skeleton weed.
– As a matter of fact, Sir, this is not a joke.
– Order! The honorable member will ask his question and make no comment.
– I therefore ask the Minister in charge of the C.S.I.R.O. whether the appropriate scientists of that organization are currently engaged in intensive research in an endeavour to find means of combating and eradicating skeleton weed, which is menacing Victoria’s best wheat lands. If that is thought to be a joke, honorable members opposite may laugh about it if they like.
– I can assure the honorable gentleman that the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization is not uninterested in thismatter.
– Are the officers currently engaged on it? That is the question.
– As I think 1 replied to the honorable gentleman when he asked me a similar question some time ago, investigations into the chemical control of weeds are being carried on by the organization, and when certain questions have been answered as a result of these investigations the organization will be in a better position to advise on or to undertake further field work.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Trade. Has the National Export Convention, which recently sat in Canberra, evolved a practical method whereby Australian exports will be considerably increased? If it has, will the increase take place in primary products or in manufactured goods? Does the Minister believe, as does the economist of the Bank of New South Wales, that our trade deficit this year - which involves a balance of payments deficit of a considerably greater amount - will be £100,000,000, which means a balance of payments deficit of about £300,000,000 or £400,000,000?
– I am glad to say that all of those people in Australia who have the capacity to contribute to our export earnings, both in the primary and secondary field of production, are conscious of the needs of the country. There is every evidence of a broad attack upon this problem and I am confident that there will be a continuing endeavour. In the field of primary production, the Government is setting the scene by overseas negotiations and by contributions to the cost of overseas publicity. Primary industry itself is producing ever more economically. Today, the rural work force, which is no greater than the rural work force of twenty years ago, is producing 50 per cent. more than it did then. This is the greatest single factor contributing to increased overseas’ earnings. On the other hand, Australian manufacturing industries are constantly searching for outlets and, to their own surprise in many instances, are finding that Australian manufactures are competitive in overseas countries, even in countries like Japan, where a certain metal product of Australian secondary industry is quite an important contributor to the requirements of that generally lowcost country. I am confident that the Australian economy will continue to be sound.
– I desire to address a question to the Minister for Labour and National Service. Has the Government considered the proposal of the Australian Council of Trade Unions for a 35-hour week? If so, what has the Government decided?
– I think the Australian Council of Trade Unions, as well as the members of this House, should be aware of the traditional approach of the Commonwealth Government to the question of increased wages and reduced hours of work. Not only this Government but also former Labour governments have taken the view that these major questions should be left to the Commonwealth arbitration tribunals for decision. I hope that in this matter of such enormous importance to the economy of the country as a whole, particularly to the working man himself, no State government will take any action prior to an impartial and independent inquiry by the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission.
I should refer to certain facts, which ought to be known. The first is that, in the two major industrial States of New South Wales and Victoria, there are now more job vacancies than people applying for employment. Secondly, a reduction of hours of work to 35 a week would mean a reduction of normal working hours by one-seventh. In these circumstances, with virtually over-full employment and very few people available for jobs, T believe personally that the attitude of the A.C.T.U. at this time can only be classed as incomprehensible and quite irresponsible. 1 should also like to point out that the number of hours of overtime at present being worked is growing steadily over a large section of industry. It appears to me, therefore, that what is behind the move of the A.C.T.U. is not so much an attempt to reduce actual hours of work, although there would be a reduction of nominal hours of work, as an indirect attempt to have wages increased by this means rather than by an approach to the Arbitration Commission. Lastly, I think the A.C.T.U. should be well aware of the fact that two of the big problems that face this Government are the possible increase of costs and the difficulty that exporters, particularly of primary products, have in selling goods overseas in competition with the products of other countries. If there were a one-seventh increase in the price of goods we sell overseas, competition could become unbearable and export earnings would fall. If this should happen I think that the worker could find it extremely difficult to sustain his present standard of living. In the light of all these facts the attitude of the A.C.T.U. becomes all the more incomprehensible.
– Has the attention of the Minister tor Health been directed to a comparison made by Sir Macfarlane Burnet between the Salk poliomyelitis vaccine and the Sabin oral vaccine now being used widely in Russia? Is the Minister aware that another oral vaccine has been widely and successfully used in other countries with living standards similar to our own and with which we have strong links? Are not these tests more significant than tests carried out in Russia? If any oral vaccine is being considered for use in Australia, will the Minister give consideration to the fact that the makers of the Cox vaccine have been established in Australia for many years - in fact, in my electorate - and that they have played a big part in the development of the pharmaceutical industry here and in the introduction of new life-saving drugs?
– I am not quite sure what statement the honorable gentleman is referring to, but as I have said previously and recently in the House, we believe that the present Salk-type vaccine being used in Australia is so safe and so effective that there is no immediate intention to change to any other.
– My question, which is addressed to the Attorney-General, concerns the case of a deserted wife in New South Wales who has obtained a court order against her husband but is unable to have it enforced because he is in New Guinea. Is any legislation contemplated by the Government to rectify this state of affairs? Is there a difference between the operation of these laws in New Guinea and in Papua, and if so, as there is now an administrative union of the two Territories, can action be taken to make the one set of laws applicable to both areas?
– The honorable member is correct in saying that a maintenance order obtained in New South Wales cannot be enforced in the Territory of New Guinea, although it could be enforced in the Territory of Papua. The honorable member will realize that the enforcibility of these orders in a place other than that in which they are made depends upon reciprocal arrangements being made between the two places concerned, and in this respect arrangements have to be made between the Territories concerned and the State of New South Wales, as an example. Commonwealth legislation would permit of the enforcement of these orders in both the Territory of Papua and the Territory of New Guinea if the legislation in New South Wales were appropriate. New South Wales is the one State which so far has not made a suitable law to enable such orders made in that State to be enforced in New Guinea. The New South Wales legislation permits the enforcement if the reciprocating country or Territory is part of Her Majesty’s dominions, and that is the reason why an order obtained in New South Wales can be enforced in Papua, which is a dominion of Her Majesty, whereas it cannot be enforced in New Guinea, which is not within the Queen’s dominions. The officers of my colleague, the Minister for Territories, have been negotiating for some time with the State of New South Wales, to ask that State to amend its legislation so as to permit of full reciprocity not merely with Papua but also with New Guinea. A recent inquiry of mine elicited that no sufficient progress had at this point been made in those negotiations.
– My question is directed to the Minister for the Interio Can he take action to reverse a decision which has delayed the calling of tenders for the construction of the first section of the permanent Technical College in Canberra by, 1 understand, five months? In view of the concern which has been expressed, can the Minister give the House and the community any information on this matter?
– There is no foundation whatever for the story which became current in the Australian Capital Territory that these tenders were delayed for five months. Tenders will be called within the next few weeks, and I think the work will be begun within the normal period after the closing of the tenders. I cannot give any precise date, but the delay in calling tenders from the 2nd July, which was the date on the National Capital Development Commission’s original programme, was only a delay of a few weeks until the commission knew exactly where it stood in the following year’s programme.
– In view of the very considerable inconvenience caused to the travelling public and the lowering of Australia’s previous high reputation for efficient air travel as a result of repeated, flight delays of Electra aircraft, will the Minister for Civil Aviation investigate the possibility of re-equipping this aircraft with Rolls-Royce engines?
– I shall be pleased to convey the honorable member’s question to the Minister for Civil Aviation, but I point out that whenever new aircraft go on to the airlines there are teething troubles. They occur in this country and in other countries and very often result in the aircraft being grounded, although so far in this country no aircraft has had to be grounded, lt is interesting to note that the honorable member suggests that Rolls Royce engines should be fitted to the Electras. The only Rolls Royce engine that could possibly be fitted to the Electra is the Rolls Royce Tyne. This particular engine is ai present fitted to the Vickers Vanguard aircraft, which are grounded because of the unreliability of the Tyne engine.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether, at a public meeting in the federal electorate of Bendigo on 12th July last, he said that local Communists were guilty of most treasonable actions. If so, will he state the number of persons who have been indicted on charges of treason since the Liberal-Country Party Government took office in 1949? If no charges of treason have been preferred against any Australian residents in that period, is it because the Government lacks power to take action, or because it lacks evidence to justify proceedings? If neither of these reasons is the correct one, will the right honorable gentleman give an explanation of the Government’s failure to act?
– The question arises from some reference to my Bendigo speech. I am delighted to find that the honorable member for East Sydney is so interested in it. As a matter of fact, the speech was of such kind that if the honorable member had believed what I said in the speech, and had acted on it, the whole of his political life would have been revolutionized. As it happens, the speech was tape-recorded, and I shall have great pleasure in sending the honorable member a copy of the full text of the speech, so that he may add it to his collection of my speeches from which he will be able in future to make misquotations.
– I wish to ask the Minister for Trade a question. In view of the reported impending closure of several iron foundries in Ballarat because of an alleged shortage of scrap iron, can the Minister say whether there is, in fact, a shortage of scrap iron, and, if so, whether anything can be done to alleviate the position in order to obviate the necessity to close these foundries?
– I am sure there is nol an overall shortage of scrap iron in Australia. That does not mean that there may not be a shortage in some particular locality. From time to time the Department of Trade, which bears responsibility in this matter, reviews the position with regard to scrap iron in order to decide what quantity of this commodity should be authorized for export. The use of scrap iron in Australia is increasing, and I can assure the honorable member that the matter is under review.
– 1 ask you a question, Mr. Speaker. Will you tell me what has happened to the beautiful parquetry floor in the King’s Hall, which, I understand, is of Western Australian jarrah? It appears to have been dyed during the recess with some sort of jungle juice or betel nut juice, and it now looks like the inside of a small wine bar somewhere down in Woolloomooloo. Surely there is some one in this establishment who can give you technical advice regarding this matter. It is never good practice to take the patina off cedar or to gild fine gold. The beautiful jarrah floor in the King’s Hall should not have been touched by oil or unguent of any kind.
– The question raised by the honorable member for Parkes will receive the appropriate treatment.
– Is the Minister for Trade aware of the difficulty being experienced by many primary producers in obtaining Australian steel products, particularly fencing wire and fencing posts? Is he also aware that the shortage has occurred at a time when these goods are being exported from Australia, and that primary producers are being forced to buy imported products at much higher prices? Can the Minister say whether the Government is in a position to do anything to remedy the situation?
– I am aware of the situation. Some eighteen months or two years ago the supply of Australian steel products for rural industry was inadequate. However, when the price of wool fell in the season before last there was a very sharp diminution in the demand for those products. Very understandably, and as the Government hoped and expected, the Australian steel industry immediately set about discovering export markets in order to sustain employment and continuity of production and to help the economy. I understand that the industry was highly successful in finding export markets. Suddenly, there was a change in the internal scene and an immense local demand quickly developed again for Australian steel products. This is the explanation of the dilemma which has confronted the Australian producers. I have been assured that the industry, as quickly as it decently could, having regard to its contracts and its business connexions, has curtailed its export commitments and hastened its plans for increased production. I believe that it is again overtaking the internal demand.
– Mr. Speaker, now that all Government members of the Standing Orders Committee are, for the time being, resident in Australia, could you arrange for an early meeting of that committee to be held?
– I assure the Leader of the Opposition that I will give consideration to his request.
– I ask the Minister for Trade whether it is a fact that if butter were imported into Australia it would merely result in a similar amount being exported from Australia and that such exports would probably be to the United Kingdom market.
– The point that the honorable member has made, of course, is quite correct. If there were an addition, through imports, to the available supply of Australian butter and cheese, quite obviously there would be an exactly equivalent additional export of Australian butter and cheese to our historic and principal market, the United Kingdom, and whatever country had sent those products into Australia would be disadvantaged to that extent in that great free world market for butter and cheese. There would be no over-all advantage to the country concerned.
– I ask the Treasurer whether it is not a fact that most Australian wool purchased by overseas buyers is financed through London. Is it also a fact that the increase in interest rates by the United Kingdom has discouraged buying for stock piles, thus causing a fall in wool prices? As this fall is likely to continue at the opening of the new season, will the Government arrange with the Commonwealth Bank to provide the necessary short-term finance at a reasonable interest rate to overseas buyers in order to preserve the solvency of the wool industry of Australia?
– I am sure that the honorable gentleman realizes that that series of questions does not permit of a simple or direct answer. I shall examine the matter and see what information I can give him.
– Will the Minister for Immigration inform the House whether, during his recent visit to Western Australia, he was impressed with the expanding capacity of industry in that State to absorb migrants? What steps does the honorable gentleman propose to take to meet the encouraging request from the State Government to resume a regular intake of new settlers?
– As my friend from Swan knows, I had the pleasure of paying an official visit to Western Australia the week before last. During that time I had conversations with State Ministers, representatives of industry and the trade unions, and with other leaders of the community. As the result of my investigations I came away quite satisfied that the economy of Western Australia is developing to such an extent that there is a very real hope for the resumption of a worth-while flow of immigration to the honorable gentleman’s State. Already, Mr. Speaker, there has been some beginning towards that resumption of immigration. I have no doubt that, in accordance with the demands of industry as expressed and shown to me, we shall be able to arrange for a steady flow of new settlers to Western Australia and thereby achieve the result which not only Western Australians but all of us desire.
– I rise to order. I direct attention to the attitude of the Minister for Trade during question time, particularly this morning, and the lengthy replies that he gives. I ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether you could arrange with the Minister to issue special statements, by leave, on those matters which require long answers.
– The point of order is not upheld. The honorable member for Grayndler will resume his seat.
Motion (by Mr. Menzies) - by leave - agreed to -
That Mr. Fairbairn be appointed a member of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs, in the place of Mr. Joske, resigned.
That the foregoing resolution be communicated to the Senate by message.
– I present the following report of the Public Accounts Committee: -
Forty-seventh Report - Broadcasting and Television Services (underspending of Capital Works and Services Division No. 58 - Item 1).
This report, based upon public inquiries undertaken by the committee late in 1959, deals with the programme for new transmission buildings, equipment and so forth for the national broadcasting service and, in particular, examines the substantial underspending of the Budget appropriations for this programme in the three financial years 1956-57, 1957-58, and 1958-59. These appropriations are an element of the Commonwealth civil works programme.
The report reflects a state of affairs not infrequently disclosed by the committee’s regular and detailed investigations into the underspending of particular Budget appropriations. In this instance, we have concluded that the main reasons for the underspending in the three financial years in question were deficiencies in the preliminary planning of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board and the Postmaster-General’s Department, and the failure of these authorities to comply strictly with the forward planning and programming arrangements associated with the civil works programme. The committee is of the opinion, too, that strained relationships in these particular matters between the PostmasterGeneral’s Department and the Treasury have not assisted the situation.
However, we consider that, with better use of the forward planning arrangements and a greater degree of co-operation between all the parties concerned, a recurrence of the persistent and substantial underspending of this vote should be prevented.
I commend the report to honorable members and move -
That the paper be printed.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
.- In accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1913-1960, I bring up the report relating to the following work: -
Proposed construction of a new international terminal building at Perth airport, Western Australia. and move -
That the paper be printed.
In May, the House referred to the Public Works Committee for investigation and report a proposal to construct a new international terminal building at the Perth airport. With some appreciation of the importance to the western State of air transport facilities, the development of Perth as a point of entry and departure on international air routes and the growth of traffic, the committee gave close attention to the proposal, first, to establish the need for today, and secondly, to assess the prospect of future development and to make sure that future expansion could be provided economically. The committee examined a wide range of witnesses representing airline companies, air pilots, professional organizations, the State Government and local authorities and the Commonwealth departments concerned with the project.
The present facilities at Perth are clearly inadequate and unsatisfactory. The present terminal building, built in 1952, is a temporary structure of Army disposals black iron. Its life is limited, maintenance costs are high and the possibility of satisfactory extension is negligible. Amenities, now a necessity at international airports, are not acceptable. The buildings housing airport administration, the operations section and the meteorological service are quite definitely sub-standard.
It is interesting to note that the annual passenger movements at Perth have risen from 78,000 in 1953 to 127,000 in 1959, while a variety of circumstances associated with time-tables and the fact that arrivals and departures from Perth encourage the presence in the airport of a much bigger than normal friend-to-passenger ratio readily convinced the committee that, to overcome the congestion that was already in evidence and was likely to become more pronounced, and to provide suitable accommodation for staff concerned with all aspects of aircraft movement, there is a pressing need to construct a new terminal building of international standard at Perth.
The site is very largely fixed by existing runways and aprons. Space is planned for 1,200 people, together with suitable traffic offices for all airline operators and for the activities of customs, health and banking services essential to international traffic. Suitable areas have been provided for lounges, buffet, dining-room, cocktail lounge and other essential amenities. By design, the building is divided into two main components. The first is a passenger terminal with its associated facilities. The second component is the operations and administrative areas. Since the building is designed to cope with traffic only until 1970, the committee concerned itself with ways and means of expanding the accommodation, and it is satisfied that the buildings as proposed are capable of expansion outwards to provide for anticipated traffic for a considerable time ahead but at minimum cost.
Because of the exacting demands on operational staff, air conditioning is considered to be essential in the operations area. Air-conditioning is to be provided by the use of packaged units giving maximum flexibility and economy, as the areas will not be in constant use. The main public areas will be provided with mechanical exhaust ventilation because of the need to seal off the areas from aircraft noise and because of the high occupation density at peak periods.
The estimated cost of the building is £450,000, including building and internal engineering services costing £342,000, mechanical services costing £103,000, kitchen equipment costing £2,500, and a public address system costing £2,500. In addition, a considerable amount of engineering work will be required, at an estimated cost of £280,000. This work will comprise aircraft apron, roads, car parks, drainage, sewerage and water supply, so that the total cost attributable to the new terminal is estimated to be £730,000. The engineering works associated with the terminal construction, together with certain development on the runway facilities, will be the subject of a report which the committee will submit next week.
Although the buildings are required independently of the increased traffic which is anticipated for the Empire Games in November, 1962, it is hoped that the building will be ready in time for that event. In other words, the airport terminal is not being provided for the Empire Games. Tt must be provided anyhow, but it would be smart operation to have it ready for that particular occasion. With all these points in mind, the Public Works Committee has no hesitation in commending the proposal to the House.
Debate Con motion by Mr. Wentworth) adjourned.
.- I move -
That the gold-mining industry is of great importance to Australia’s economy and that the decline in gold production should be arrested.
First. I should like to speak of the importance of the gold-mining industry as it affects employment. Although the industry itself employs in the gold-fields of Western Australia several thousand men, there are towns and communities on the gold-fields which between them carry a population in excess of 30,000 people. I wish to make it quite clear that whether these people are miners, shopkeepers, public servants, tradesmen or railway employees does not matter. None of them would be there if the goldmining industry collapsed. In addition to the industry itself and the people who are employed by it or living on the gold-fields, there are many more people employed in Western Australia and in other States by manufacturers and suppliers of mining machinery, electrical equipment and so on. I have no way of assessing the amount nf revenue that those employees contribute by way of income tax, but on the most conservative estimate that I can make the amount is far in excess of the total subsidy paid to the gold-mining industry. Furthermore, it is not as though these people would step straight into other jobs if they could no longer find employment in the mining industry. Western Australia does not carry many large industries and they could not absorb any more than their present number of employees. In the tragic event of the mining industry ceasing operations, there also would be a loss of revenue in State instrumentalities such as the railways. I understand that the Kalgoorlie line is unique in that it really pays. If the industry closed down, however, the resultant loss would have lo be borne by the Commonwealth in the form of increased grants.
In addition to these factors which relate to the internal economy of the country, there, is the important aspect of export earnings. It has been shown to me that a fall in production of 100,000 ounces, or roughly 10 per cent, of our annual output of gold, would result in an annual servicing charge of nearly £3,000,000 which would have to be found externally to service loans which the nation would have to raise to supply an amount of capital equivalent to the export income which was lost by a fall in gold production. Thus, if the loss of 100,000 ounces of annual production costs £3,000,000, or £30 an ounce, Australia would still be better off by paying up to £12 7s. 6d. over the bank rate of £15 12s. 6d. for local production because it would be more advantageous to find funds internally than to have to seek them abroad. There would be other advantages also such as the continuing use of capital facilities which would result if gold mines were maintained in production.
This factor must be of special national importance having regard to the present need for increased export income. It is indisputable that gold production has fallen over the years. That it will continue to fall at a much greater rate is inevitable if the causes of the decline are not removed. The main cause is simply that the cost of producing gold continues to rise while the price of gold remains, constant. Sooner or later the two factors become incompatible and mines go out of business. .
In proposing this motion I appeal to the Parliament to recognize Australia’s position as a gold-producing nation - the fourth largest in the world - a country for which gold production has done a lot in the past and can do a lot mo:e in the future.I ask the Government to appreciate the fact that gold has been a traditional basis for toads and currency for thousands of years, and that Australia is privileged to be amongst the first four world producers of what is still the ultimate criterion of wealth - gold. The Government can assure the continuance of this most important industry in many ways. Already it has exempted the industry from taxation, thus encouraging capital investment in low grade ore-mining companies which make up the great majority of this country’s producers. The goldmining assistance tax provides valuable assistance to some mines, but the maximum rate subsidy could be raised. This is evidenced by the fact that the Western Consolidated mine at Bullfinch is in a most precarious position. Unless something drastic is done to help it, it could cease operations.
– It. cost more than £500,000.
– As I am reminded by my friend from Isaacs, the mine cost more than £500,000. It is a new mine, and its treatment plant is one of the most up to date in the State. It would be a tragedy if the mine were allowed to go out of business.
Apart from paying income tax and contributing to the revenue of the company, the people who are employed in the goldmining industry have a definite social problem. Unemployment is a tragedy wherever it occurs, but if it occurred on such a large scale as would be the case if circumstances allowed gold to be economic no longer, you would have the position of 30,000 people on the Western Australian gold-fields moving out of the towns and leaving their homes. Those people live in probably 6,000 houses, so that number of dwellings would be left to rot or sold for £10 or £50 each for scrap because no one would want a house in the middle of the desert. Although my motion is based on economic grounds, the unemployment and housing aspect presents a serious social problem which I commend to the Parliament for its consideration.
There is no doubt that the maximum rate subsidy, which is the only means by which a continuance of the industry can be assured, can be raised economically. I have already indicated the part that gold plays in our export earnings. I commend the motion to the House.
– Is there a seconder for the motion?
– I second the motion and reserve my right to speak at a later stage.
– The honorable member for Kalgoorlie, (Mr. Browne) has proposed a motion relating to the gold-mining industry, and has asked that the Commonwealth Government provide additional assistance for it. That is a proposition with which Western Australians will agree. However, the case that he has made out for additional assistance will, I think, inevitably be questioned in some respects by the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) because the honorable member has represented the industry as being in a more parlous plight than it is. After all, the Treasurer has access to the addresses of shareholders of the western mining group and the financial statements of the Western Mining Corporation Limited which, in 1958, made a net profit of £308,444, an increase of £48,474 on the previous year’s profit.
– Was that profit made out of gold mining?
– No, not exclusively,, but the statistics of the industry are available to the Treasurer. A good many firms in Western Australia are making larger profits now than ever before. The WesternMining Corporation Limited report sets some of them out at page 11. The issue of “ Industrial and Mining Standard “ dated 28th July, 1960, refers to the amazing yields at Kalgoorlie. It contains also information relating to the profits of variouscompanies. I agree with what the honorable member for Kalgoorlie has said, but not for the reasons that he has advanced.
Last year, Western Australia gained from all its mineral production a grossreturnof £21,796,000, of which gold accounted for £13,541,929. The production of gold in Australia is somewhat more than 1,000,000 ounces a year, and Western Australia produces about 80 per cent, of it. The part played by gold in the total Australian economy is perhaps not great, but its part in the Western Australian economy is considerable.
What I feel is mistaken in much of the Government’s policy with respect to the gold industry is its attitude towards the exporting of gold. Let us come back to certain fundamental propositions. Gold is valuable because we say it is, or, more strictly correctly, gold is valuable because the United States of America will give real goods in exchange for it, and therefore it is a means of access to a hard-currency area. If the export of gold were geared to its use as an instrument by means of which we could at all times get capital equipment from areas of the world which from our point of view are hard-currency areas - that is to say, nations which do not want many goods from Australia but will take gold from us - that would in my view be an intelligent use of the gold industry. However, there has been a pursuit of what is called premium gold, and over the years there has been an ability in certain areas - it is confined almost entirely to Hong Kong - to get for gold more than the price that has been fixed by law in this country for many years and more than the price fixed in the United States. Since 1954, the price of gold at mints in Australia has been £15 12s. 6d. an ounce. Australian gold has been sold on overseas premium markets at £15 13s. Id. an ounce in 1955, £15 13s. 6d. in 1956, £15 13s. 2d. in 1957, £15 12s. lOd. in 1958 and £15 12s. lOd. in 1959. So for a premium ranging from a mere 4d. to ls. an ounce, there has been a considerable diversion to Hong Kong of Australian exports of gold, at least in refined form.
The overwhelming predominance of Hong Kong as the receiver of this gold is indicated by the statistical bulletin on the gold-mining industry in Australia for the month of April, 1960, published by the Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics on 22nd June last. Out of 128,550 fine ounces exported in 1958, 122,520 fine ounces went to Hong Kong. In 1959, 124,552 fine ounces out of a total of 128,256 fine ounces went to Hong Kong.
Apparently, so much went to Hong Kong because of the premium, which was only 4d. an ounce in those two years.
I question two things about all this. The gold goes from Hong Kong to Macao, and we are credibly informed that from there it goes to red China. If the Government says that there are politics in trade, that is the Government’s point of view. The point is that virtually no gold is going to areas from which we can get in exchange industrial equipment that is urgently needed in this country, Hong Kong does not export industrial equipment that is urgently needed in this country and neither does Macao or red China. Therefore, this means of access to hard-currency areas is not being directed towards hard-currency areas.
There could be circumstances in which it would be worthwhile for the Commonwealth - I am not saying that it is worthwhile - to pay for gold a considerable sum in excess of its actual value if that gold were its only means of gaining access to hard-currency areas. Of course, this Government’s philosophy has always been that its means of access to hard currency, whether Swiss or American, has been borrowing. But the case for the gold industry rests entirely on the fact that gold is accepted by all currency areas as a medium of exchange, even when the normal trade in commodities cannot take place because there is an unwillingness to exchange goods, that unwillingness being expressed in the imposition of tariffs against Australian goods or in some other fashion.
The continued existence of the gold industry as a means of getting foreign exchange is therefore in the interests of Australia, and if the Government can stimulate gold production without breaching the Articles of the International Monetary Fund, to which Australia is a party, by taking the subsidy on gold to a level that would violate the terms governing membership of the fund, a very important means of access to hard-currency areas will be preserved and made more effective.
At least one well-informed journalist has contended that one of the reasons for this attraction of gold to the Far East is that gold has provided a means by which the Peking authorities have been able to purchase foreign currencies of any kind for their propaganda purposes. The attraction towards Communist China, by the way, has abruptly stopped. In the last three months, there have been no exports of gold to Hong Kong. The United Kingdom, which bought only 205 fine ounces of refined gold from Australia in 1958 and none in 1959, took 239,778 fine ounces in February of this year.
We need to re-think our attitude towards the gold industry. As I said earlier, it provides a means of access to hard-currency areas, and so long as those areas will give real goods in exchange for gold we have an interest in stimulating its production. For that reason, I support the motion proposed by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie.
.- Mr. Deputy Speaker, I support the motion submitted to the House by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Browne). Only two weeks ago, I was privileged to be with him in Kalgoorlie, which, I suppose, could be described as the centre of his electorate. Although it may not be the geographic centre, it is the principal centre of population. My visit to the city was most interesting. I think that any one would find great interest in visiting the gold mines in the district and seeing how the gold is won from the earth and treated, and doubtless would have dispelled a lot of wrong ideas about the production of gold. The thing that would impress most honorable members if they could visit Kalgoorlie would probably be the fact that, although it has sprung from the desert, it is a city of green lawns, gardens and swimming pools, with a population of many thousands. We should realize that unless action is taken as suggested by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie, there is a considerable probability that all this will disappear and the area will return to desert, because there is nothing else but gold mining to support population there.
– The fate of Coolgardie, which is next door as it were, shows that.
– That is true. As a matter of fact, the ghost towns all round the area prove this. When you realize the number of people in employment there, as was pointed out by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie, directly and indirectly as the result of the existence of the mines, there comes a full realization that action by the Government is necessary to avert a tragedy that could occur in that part of Australia.
I was most interested to hear the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) devote most of his time to the subject of the sale of premium gold in Hong Kong and Macao. I think that the honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes) referred to that either last year or the year before, and I have an idea that the sale of gold in that area is not so great now as it was. It seemed to me, if I may comment on what he said, that he was putting forward the theory that you are playing into the hands of the Communists by the sale of this gold, because they would then have the hard currency necessary to finance their propaganda efforts abroad. I agree that if that is the case it is a dangerous situation. I have no time to go deeply into this, but I cannot see how the position can be as the honorable member says, because it is laid down, according to the Australian Year Book No. 45, that this premium gold can be sold only against payments in United States dollars. The year book then goes on to state the prices as quoted by the honorable member for Fremantle. Anybody who has United States dollars to-day does not, I think, have a great deal of difficulty in financing anything, and since the gold is saleable only against United States dollars I cannot see how the sale of that gold can make the situation any worse for anybody.
Let us look now at the situation in the gold-mining industry to-day. Of course it can be, and will be, pointed out by some members that because a gold-mining company, or a company which has an associated gold-mining section, makes a profit and returns a dividend to its shareholders, there is no need for any one to do anything about it. I should like to see the proposer of that argument go before an audience of miners in Kalgoorlie and see what kind of reception he would get, even if he started off by reading the balance-sheet of a gold-mining company. You have to realize that to-day gold mining is a scientific process, involving the winning of the gold from the rock, and can be undertaken only as a result of intensive capital development by a mining company. If you took a mine in the Kalgoorlie area as an example you would probably find that a capital investment of between £5,000,000 and £7,000,000 was necessary under present conditions. I am guessing at that figure. If a company finds that gold mining is not a profitable business and closes a mine down, it is certain that nobody else would open it up again, and so the industry would just die there.
The “West Australian” of 12th August carried a report regarding the Great Western Consolidated (N.L.) mine at Yilgarn. This showed that the . audited net loss for the year to 31st March, 1960, was £285,940, as against an audited net loss in the previous year of £119,520. The comment made in the annual report was that the major causes of the net loss were lower production - the weekly tonnage treated was about 5 per cent, below that treated each week for the previous year - the average lower grade, and an increase in costs. It said that disappointing development results, difficult mining conditions with returns below expectations, and continued increasing costs had made it necessary to limit development work mainly to opening up known blocks of ore for stoping That will clearly show the situation to-day in the gold-mining industry.
Anybody who studies the statistical record of gold prices will find that it is the only statistical record whose graph follows a straight line between 1945 and 1960. That could be said of the graph of no other commodity price in the world. If you take costs, wages, the average earnings of the Australian population - if you take anything at all - you find that the graph for these goes up at varying angles, but is always a rising graph. Let us look, however, at the comparative lack’ of upward movement in the price of gold. In 1938-39, the price was £9 2s. 9d. per fine oz.; in 1953-54, it was £15 10s. 4d.; in 1954-55, £15 12s. 6d.; in 1955-56, £15 12s. 6d.; in 1956-57, £15 12s. 6d.; and in 1957-58, £15 12s. 6d. So, the price has not changed since 1954-55. That shows that the gold-mining industry itself has met the challenge of rising costs by an increase of efficiency in the mines. This increase of efficiency, this attitude by the mining companies, and their efforts to maintain the industry and maintain in employment the workers engaged in it, have met with results; but I believe that to-day the industry has reached a situation where efficiency cannot further be increased. The maximum has been done in that field. Methods of production cannot be changed, and the only solution to the problem of the gold mines is an increase in the price of gold. Western Australia, of course, is vitally interested in this, because of the high percentage of Australia’s gold that it produces. I know that the former Federal Treasurer, Sir Arthur Fadden, and the present Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) made efforts to get America to agree to an increase. That seems to me an extremely hopeless task, since America is the main purchaser, and in granting an increase in price would obviously be penalizing itself. So, I think that in the meanwhile we have to consider the subsidy as a means of helping the industry. It has to be decided whether the Commonwealth Government can take action, by means of increased subsidy to the mining industry, in order to ensure employment in the industry in future, to ensure the future production of gold, and also to ensure the continued livelihood, not of an individual, but of a city in Western Australia.
I believe that most members of this House will agree that it is essential that some action be taken. During 1957, Western Australia produced 849,751 fine oz. of gold. This was an increase in production over 1956 of 36,000 fine oz. I think it will be found that about that time the industry was becoming increasingly efficient. There were better methods of handling production, so enabling an increase of production which offset a rise in costs at that time, when there was no increase in the price of gold. The main producers were, of course, the Murchison, Dundas, Yilgarn and Mount Margaret gold-fields, and a gold mine which is well known all over the world - the Lake View and Star, near Fimiston, which maintained its leading place in gold production.
Some things never change, even though lots of people consider that they should be changed. The gold produced from the Kalgoorlie gold-field, and I think all gold produced in Australia, eventually finds its way to the Perth Royal Mint. Before the mint will accept gold it has to be assayed at a certain level of silver content. I do not know what it is called technically, but in layman’s language that means that for every ounce of gold there has to be so much of silver. The gold being produced to-day at the Lake View and Star mine is as pure as can be got. It was assayed at the Perth Royal Mint, which found that it has not sufficient silver content, so the mint will not accept it. The producers, therefore, have to purchase silver to put into their gold so that it will be purchased by the mint. The mint buys the silver content of that amalgam for less than the price that the producers pay for the silver in the first place. I believe that this procedure goes back to the early days when there was some necessity for it; but technical experts say that there is no necessity for it to-day, and they cannot understand why the system is continued. Yet it is continued.
– Is that a State law?
– No. I am reminded by the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Bury) that it is the Royal Mint which sets this standard. I suggest that when the matter of assistance to the gold-mining industry raised by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie is being considered, this question of the silver content of gold could also be looked at. It seems to me that this is the sort of thing that makes efficient people in an industry extremely frustrated and annoyed, and there is no need for them to feel that way.
I commend this resolution to the House and ask for every support for the honorable member for Kalgoorlie. With all due respect to him, I think it is impossible for us, with our technical limitations, to speak about gold without giving a thought to Victor Johnson, who graced this chamber for so long. The present member for Kalgoorlie is continuing with the work he started. We often heard him present a case for the protection of an industry in which he was well loved and respected. I should imagine that honorable members opposite would, in their hearts, be yearning for Vic. Johnson rather than an increase in the price of gold.
Mr. NELSON (Northern Territory) ti 2.1]. - I address myself to this subject because I realize, as do other honorable members, the importance of the gold-mining industry to Australia, and particularly to the electorate that I represent. We all know the part that the gold-mining industry has played in the development of Australia.
This, development could have been very slow had not gold been discovered in New South Wales, Victoria and Western Australia. The economy of those States was largely built around the discoveries of gold, and their story would have been a very sorry one if gold had not been discovered.
I support the plea of the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Browne) for greater understanding of the industry and greater assistance for it. In the early years of this century and in the latter part of last century, the gold-mining industry supported a considerable number of miners. As a result of their activities, we produced some millions of pounds worth of gold, and they gave the initial boost to the settlement of the Territory. Initially, the discoveries were made and worked by the Chinese, and up to 10,000 of them were engaged in the industry. However, we find that the industry now has been virtually abandoned and we are back where we started. Various authorities estimated that 10,000 Chinese were working on the Pine Creek field alone. The amount of gold they produced is anybody’s guess, because official records were not kept in those days. However, we know that gold worth millions of pounds was discovered and found its way into the economy.
The original fields eventually shut down, and the settlements, as is inevitable with mining, became ghost towns. Now we find that mining is again giving a boost to the development and progress of the Northern Territory. If gold had not been discovered at Tennant Creek, there would not have been a town outside the three main towns of Darwin, Katherine and Alice Springs. Tennant Creek, through the discovery of this metal, has become a thriving community of 1,500 people and is still growing. Mining in this area has branched out to include such other metals as copper, and possibly the mining of this metal will provide Tennant Creek with its greatest strength. This shows that what may originally be a gold mine may find its true development in the mining of other metals.
In the north, we also have the mining of uranium at Rum Jungle, Alligator Creek and other centres. This contributes to the over-all wealth and development of the community. Uranium is a glamour metal and has attracted the attention of miners and investors from all over Australia. This type of mining is closely linked with the gold-mining industry, lt may well be that many of the uranium mines of to-day will be the gold mines of to-morrow, The indications are that gold-mining may become, if not one of the major developments, at least a very important sideline of uraniummining. If the time arrives when uranium prices fall below the economic level, goldmining may well provide the assistance needed to enable the industry to continue functioning.
Mr. Deputy Speaker, I would like to make a plea for practical assistance for the mining industry. The mining laws of the Northern Territory provide for assistance for mining after the metal has been discovered, but at present no assistance can be given to prospectors and others who are willing to go out and look for the metal and to bear the hardships involved, including the unproductive months or years that may be involved in the search. The Government should provide not only the plant for approved prospectors but also the finance to keep them in the field and to enable them to purchase rations, fuel, detonators and all the items that go to make up the miner’s kit. The rewards that would flow from the adoption of this suggestion would amply repay the Government. At present, the Government receives considerable sums from royalties on minerals, such as gold and copper, produced in the Northern Territory. It would be wise, I feel, to plough back into the industry the royalties earned from the mining and production of these metals. If this assistance were given to prospectors and to legitimate mining ventures, fantastic dividends would be paid into the economy and would further the development of the Northern Territory.
The prospector is faced with an arduous task. Mining fields seem to be situated in desert areas, and the prospector must be prepared to cope with heat and arid conditions. The profession is not a very pleasant one. In earlier times, when the more accessible fields were being worked, mining was not so expensive or so difficult. The miners could get together an inexpensive prospecting plant to do the work, but now we find that the accessible deposits have probably all been discovered and it takes a considerable degree of equipment, experience and plant to search for and locate new deposits, wherever they might be. It is in this direction that I feel the Government could be of assistance to prospectors and to the mining industry. We know that the Government makes provision and renders assistance in the form of scientific advice, geological information and, in some cases, the provision of government batteries on mining fields. I would like to say how pleased I was to see provision made for a new battery in the north of Australia in the very near future. Assistance of that sort by the Government will pay dividends.
I support the motion brought forward by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie. The Government would be wise to take notice of the remarks made by various speakers and recognize the part this industry has played in the development of Australia and its importance to future progress in this part of the world.
.- One must have great sympathy particularly with honorable members from Western Australia in the difficulties which undoubtedly confront the gold-mining industry. All who have visited Kalgoorlie must, if they have had anything to do with the mines, admire both the absolute and relative efficiency of the mines in Kalgoorlie compared with mines elsewhere. As the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) has just indicated, the Government does in fact provide very extensive assistance to the mining industry as a whole. I will refer to gold itself very shortly; but over the whole field, starting with generous taxation allowances, facilities of one form or another and all kinds of concessions, the Government has done a great deal for almost every branch of the Australian mining industry. Lately it has begun to take more energetic steps towards the discovery of oil. It would be a great disservice if these issues became clouded by too much clamour for further assistance and we thus obscured the fact that the Government is already providing assistance to the gold-mining industry on a very large relative scale.
The output of gold last year, which unfortunately was slightly down for 1959 as compared with 1958, was about 1,100,000 ounces, the sale price of which was £15 12s. 6d. an ounce, giving a total return of £17,000,000 or £1 8,000,000. Bearing those figures in mind, the subsidy payments made to the gold-mining industry have risen very considerably. In 1957, subsidy payments, which represented a considerable increase on those for the previous year, amounted to £588,000; and in 1959 net subsidy payments to the industry amounted to £788,000, whilst in the first quarter of this year they amounted to £215,000. It is therefore evident that we are already providing assistance to the gold-mining industry, particularly Western Australia, on a very large scale.
All is not well when an industry has to be subsidized even now on this scale, and when undoubtedly it would like further assistance. We have to ask ourselves how far we can go in this matter and what principles ought to govern assistance to this industry. Clearly communities must be kept in being. This is not a party matter and never has been such; all parties accept the fact that big and important settlements must not be allowed to disappear overnight and that part of our motive for paying subsidies therefore must be to keep in being and in a reasonably flourishing state the town of Kalgoorlie and the gold-mining communities generally. But do not let us exaggerate the extent to which the industry is declining. It has made remarkable strides in efficiency, and despite all the difficulties which have surrounded it for many years it still achieves a very remarkable performance. If we are going to subsidize the industry beyond the point at which we have already subsidized it, we have to bear in mind apart from the direct subsidy payments which we make the very considerable taxation concessions also involved. So, the gold-mining industry, relative to other Australian industries, already receives a ver.y large measure of governmental assistance.
If the outlook for an increase in the price of gold was extremely rosy we would say, “ Here is an industry which will shortly be of very great benefit to Australia and therefore we must keep it in being and make preparations for the future “. The first thing we should ask ourselves is: What is the future price of gold going to be? And when we ask that question, we must remember that over two-thirds of the world’s production of gold goes into official currency reserves. As is well known to this House, gold and the values of currencies are closely tied together, and the formal position is now sanctified in the provisions of the International Monetary Fund Agreement whereby all the leading currencies have a par value in gold and exchange against each other on the basis of their par value. The strongest currency in this picture is, of course, the United States dollar; and what in fact governs the world’s price of gold is the price the United States authorities are prepared to pay for it and for which they can obtain the agreement of other countries. If the United States authorities ceased to buy gold its price would fall to almost nothing, apart from its industrial uses. Therefore, we must first ask ourselves: What are the chances of securing an increased price for gold from the United States of America? American opinion has been pretty hard and fast in this matter for a number of years. Of course, everything changes’, and providing we keep producing gold a new set of circumstances may arise, but on the experience of the last few years, when there has been a far better case for increasing the price of gold for international trade reasons than there is now, the United States of America has consistently set its face against an increase.
No country wishes to pay an unnecessarily high price to other countries for the things which it wants and if the price of gold were increased the value of United States gold stocks would increase, but the price which the United States of America had to pay for imports, goods and services would also rise. At the moment, of course, the United States of America is tending to lose gold, to ship gold to make up its payments to the rest of the world.
In the United States there are gold producers, but unfortunately any moves that are made in that country to increase the price of gold are extremely weak. This is largely because the companies which mine gold in the United States are also interested, and to a far greater extent, in other minerals, gold being very largely a byproduct of other mining activities. The whole banking community in the United States is against an increase in the price of gold. The basic conviction in the minds of those involved in the United States - and it is a pretty sound one - is that an increase in the price of gold would be inflationary. One of their main concerns for many years has been to restrain inflation, and so the position does not look like changing for a considerable time to come. Therefore, when we consider the basic question - the chance of obtaining an increase in the price of gold - we must see, if we are realists, that the chance is pretty slim.
Apart from a general increase in the price of gold, the price to the Australian producer could, of course, rise as it did in 1949, because of a devaluation of the currency. When the sterling area generally decided on devaluation, the return to the Australian gold producer was correspondingly increased. But the outlook now appears to indicate that if Australia in fact decided to devalue, the resultant general inflationary forces might be such that costs in the gold-mining industry would be increased, and the net benefit, therefore, very small. As of now, however, the one real prospect that the Australian gold producer has of obtaining a higher return is through a possible devaluation of Australian currency.
The honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) referred to the usefulness of gold resulting from its penetrating power in hard currency areas. First, of course, we should now dismiss the dollar area from this consideration, because the United States dollar has, for some time past, been soft rather than hard. In any case we must always remember that we can buy gold in other markets. Provided our general export position is sound, we pan always buy gold from other countries and ship it in any direction we wish. If Communist China is, in fact, purchasing gold, then it must be providing goods and services in some form or other in order to acquire the currency to buy the gold. It may be particularly useful for Communist China to purchase gold in this way, if in fact it is using it in order to finance propaganda. It may be a useful way of achieving this purpose. But we should remember that it is not difficult for any government to acquire gold. The incentive that may at one time have existed, because of the acute dollar situation after the war, to encourage the production of gold for its use in penetrating hard currency areas has now, I think, almost entirely disappeared.
I suggest, therefore, that the outlook for any increase in the price of gold, on a realistic assessment of the situation, is pretty bleak. But no one can say that the Australian Government has not done its level best to bring to bear whatever influence it could to persuade the United States and the monetary authorities of the world to increase the price of gold. In this matter we have consistently joined with the South Africans to make a case for increasing the price of gold. From the producers’ angle, of course, it would be very nice if this could be achieved. But let us look at it once more from the United States point of view. The authorities in that country feel, quite apart from their own domestic considerations, that the main beneficiaries as a result of an increase in the price of gold might well turn out to be Soviet Russia and the Union of South Africa. The latter country is not particularly popular at the moment, and certainly the idea of benefiting Soviet Russia, by conferring upon it greater purchasing power in the world’s markets as a result of an increase in the price of gold, is not one which appeals in the United States.
So we have to ask ourselves this question: Since the outlook for an increase in the price of gold is pretty bleak, how far can we go in stimulating gold production in Australia? It is a fact, of course, that gold is an earner of overseas currency, but so are the products of any other Australian industries which can export their goods. If the gold-mining industry is to be subsidized because it brings in supplies of overseas currency, then there is an equally good case for subsidizing other export industries. The main reason, surely, why we should keep our gold-mining industry in as healthy a state as possible is to sustain the economy of Western Australia and to prevent a serious and steady decline in activity in Kalgoorlie. Another reason, which must, I suggest, be weaker, is that at some future time the world pattern may change and the demand for gold may increase. At the present time, however, gold must, from our point of view, be considered in the same way as any other export commodity. If we want gold for a particular purpose we can always buy it with the proceeds of our exports. Unfortunately, the forces of inflation in Australia are likely to confront the mining people in Kalgoorlie with ever-increasing problems. But they are extremely astute, keen and efficient people, and I have no doubt that they will take suitable steps to keep their activities at a fairly high level.
Let us always remember this: We are already assisting this industry on quite a large scale, and for this assistance Western Australia, no doubt feels a sense of gratitude. Even with the present subsidy arrangements, the cost of subsidizing the gold-mining industry of Western Australia is steadily continuing to rise. So whatever conclusion the House reaches now, we can be almost certain that even under our existing arrangements we shall, in fact, subsidize on an ascending scale the Western Australian gold-mining industry for some considerable time to come.
– We are debating a motion by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Browne) that the Government should do something to stimulate the gold-mining industry. The interesting point about it is that although the motion has come from a Government supporter, we have had no statement from the Government itself about what it proposes to do in response to the honorable member’s request.
The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Bury) seemed to be explaining that it was very difficult for the Government to do anything along the lines suggested. Well, at least the honorable member was frank about it, but this cannot be much consolation for the honorable member for Kalgoorlie. As the honorable member for Wentworth rightly pointed out, gold is almost a unique example of a commodity the price of which has not changed for many years. I think the current world price of 35 dollars an ounce has been the same since 1934 or thereabouts. Since that time, of course, the prices of practically all other commodities have trebled and quadrupled due to what we call inflation. The gold-mining industry is caught, of course, between the two millstones, the upper one being the fixed price of the product, the nether one the ever-grinding upward trend in costs of production. Apparently all that the Australian Government is able to do, having regard to its subscription to the conditions of the International Monetary Fund, is to give a limi ted amount of assistance to gold producers by way of a bounty, and to extend such other concessions as the exemption of goldmining enterprises from the payment of income tax, and the exemption from income tax of fossickers and others who find gold.
Recently we had a measure before this House that increased the amount of bounty payable on gold production by about 10s. an ounce.
Debate interrupted under Standing Order No. 108.
Debate resumed from 5th May (vide page 1407), on motion by Mr. Crean -
That’ the following paper: -
National .Library - Ministerial Statement - be printed.
. - The resumption of this debate at this juncture comes as somewhat of a surprise to me. It is true that I am listed to take up the debate on this motion but I gathered the impression from those who are supposed to be in charge of the House that I would be able to continue until a quarter to one on the interesting subject of gold, not the subject of the National Library. I have not been given any indication that I would have to make a speech on the library to-day. I suggest that it might be wise to suspend the sitting for luncheon at this stage.
– No. We cannot . do that.
– If that is the way in which the Government is to conduct its business, it is all right by me, but I think that a little more consideration than this should be given to an Opposition. We have assisted the Government this morning by facilitating the moving of a motion relating to the gold-mining industry. I understood that action would be taken to permit me to continue my remarks on that subject until a quarter to one. It is sheer coincidence that the next item on the notice-paper is a motion held over from the last session on which I formally moved the adjournment of the debate. I am not ready to talk to it and I do not propose to go through the farce of talking on that subject until a quarter to one in order to keep the debate going. I suggest, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that you either call on another item of business or suspend the sitting until a quarter-past two.
Mr. DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr. Clark).The question is -
That the paper be printed.
– I suggest that we adjourn this debate and that the Government should choose the next item of business with which it wishes to deal.
– Has the honorable member concluded his speech?
– No. I have not started on the subject of the National Library. I have merely raised my objections to having to speak on that matter to-day. Since I have had no notice of this debate, the Government should be fair and have its next item of business called on. Therefore, I ask for leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– Is it now in order for me to move that the debate on the gold-mining industry be continued?
– No. The motion to extend the time should have been moved when the debate was interrupted. The matter cannot again be brought up now. We shall proceed with the next order of the day.
Debate resumed from 12th May (vide page 1 665), on motion by Mr. Wentworth -
That, in the opinion of this House, the truth about certain recent incidents-in the Latrobe Valley should be ascertained and made public.
. -I suggest, in view of the absence from the House of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) who had secured the adjournment of this debate, that it should be treated in the same way as the debate on the National Library and adjourned until the next day of sitting. Again I suggest a suspension of the sitting. Indeed, I shall have to intervene in only one more item of business and it will be a quarter to one. I understood the original intention to be to continue the debate on gold until that hour, and I thought that I had taken the steps necessary to secure that. Apparently, because the procedure of the House precludes a revival of that debate, we have had to go on to other matters. I do not think that this is a very good way to do business. It is not fair to the Leader of the Opposition, who secured the adjournment of the debate on the incidents in the Latrobe Valley and who should be given the opportunity to resume it. Surely it is incumbent upon you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to say that this is an appropriate time to go to lunch.
– We cannot do that.
– You can say at five to six or at a quarter to six that it is an appropriate time to go to dinner, so why can you not say at twenty to one that it is an appropriate time to go to lunch?
– Order! Is the honorable gentleman speaking to the motion?
– I see the Leader of the House coming into the chamber. Somehow, his cohorts have mucked up the order of business.
– No, they have not.
– Order! The honorable member for Melbourne Ports has the floor on the subject before the House - the Latrobe Valley incidents.
– I repeat that I was given to understand that discussion on the goldmining industry would be allowed to continue until a quarter to one. I was speaking at 12.30 when the debate was interrupted under the appropriate standing order. Apparently, at that point, some one was supposed to have moved that the debate be continued. In the midst of my fine oration I was cut short. By sheer coincidence, the next order of the day, of which I had no awareness, was a motion on which I had secured the adjournment some three months ago. I suggested that it was most unfair that I should be asked to speak on that measure.
– The position was that the debate on the motion before the House concerning gold expired two hours after the meeting time. At the time of expiry the Minister in charge of the House would have been entitled to move that the debate be continued. As he did not do that, the debate was concluded. I then called on the next business of the day and the first item was a motion for the printing of a paper concerning the National Library. Debate on that matter was adjourned. The next matter called was the Latrobe Valley incidents. That is now before the House and the honorable member for Melbourne Ports has the floor.
– I have it only on a matter of protest.
– I understood that the honorable member was speaking on this matter in the absence of the Leader of the Opposition.
– Has the honorable member for Melbourne Ports received the call?
– Yes, he has.
– I rise to a point of order. We on this side of the House are completely confused on this matter, and I hope that the Leader of the House, with his usual charm and courtesy, will help us to overcome our confusion. I entered the chamber to-day especially to hear my colleague speak on gold-mining development. He was speaking at 12.30, but, to my surprise, the debate was said to have concluded by the effluxion of time.
– Order! The position is as I have explained. The debate on gold-mining has been disposed of under the Standing Orders. A further matter was brought on under an order of the day, and that has been disposed of also. A third matter is now before the House, and there can be no further action unless the matter is concluded or the debate adjourned. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports has the call and no point of order is involved.
– I rise to a point of order. The business before the Chair now is the question of the Latrobe Valley incidents. The Leader of the Opposition secured the adjournment of the debate and has the right to be called to continue the debate.
– Order! When the matter came forward, the Leader of the Opposition was not in the House. The honorable member for McMillan (Mr. Buchanan) rose in his place to speak when the matter was called, lt was definitely called on by the Chair and it is before the House. There can be no argument about that. Under the Standing Orders, the matter of the Latrobe Valley incidents is before the House now. The honorable member for McMillan rose to speak on it, but the Leader of the Opposition had the adjournment of the debate. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports was at the table and rose in his place, so I assumed that he was to speak on behalf of the Leader of the Opposition. The Leader of the Opposition is entitled to have the call at a later time. The call now is actually with the honorable member for Melbourne Ports and he may continue with the debate if he wishes to do so. [Quorum formed.]
– 1 wish to make a personal explanation.
– I rise to a point of order. This is deliberate time-wasting, intended to prevent a discussion on something that the Opposition does not wish to discuss.
– Order! The honorable member for Mackellar is trying to assist with the time-wasting. There is no substance in the point of order. The time allotted for precedence to general business has expired.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Audit Act 1901-1959, as amended by the Salaries (Statutory Offices) Adjustment Act 1960.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The principal purpose of this bill is to delete the requirements from the Audit Act for the preparation of statements of sundry creditors of the Consolidated Revenue Fund and the inclusion of those statements in the annual report of the Auditor-General. The Auditor-General has, in the past, drawn attention to deficiencies in these statements and as the need for the information appeared to be doubtful, the Public Accounts Committee was invited to consider the matter. The committee, on which, of course, both sides of the House are represented, in its forty-sixth report, presented to both Houses of this Parliament on 10th March, 1960, recommended the repeal of the relevant provisions of the act.
In view of the committee’s recommendation, the Government was not disposed to undertake the not insubstantial amount of work involved in compiling and presenting the lists at 30th June, 1960.We knew that we would be presenting a bill to Parliament to give effect to this, and we did not feel justified in having the departments go to the unnecessary trouble and undertake the work involved in complying strictly with the law as it applied at that time. But even though I shall have other amendments of the Audit Act to bring forward before we debate this matter, we felt it desirable to have expressed before the Parliament - in a formal sense, anyhow - the Government’s intention to give the matter retrospective effect to the end of June of this year.
The bill has therefore been expressed to give effect to the recommendations of the Public Accounts Committee, with effect from 30th June, 1960.
Debate (on motion by Mr. E. James Harrison) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 17th August (vide page 161), on motion by Mr. McEwen -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The alleged object of the legislation before us is to enable the quick provision of protection for Australian industries. But is this the real object? Can the legislation successfully ensure the development of Australian industries and safeguard the employment of Australian workers? The honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Ian Allan) gave a resume of our economic conditions. He was emphatic that our economy was such that tariff measures would not prevent serious difficulties from confronting both primary and secondary industries in the near future.
I believe that Australia’s trade operations reveal the ineffectiveness of the legislation. The real reason for its introduction is not to protect Australian industries. It is an ineffectual attempt to safeguard our overseas solvency. Australia was on the verge of international insolvency in 1952. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) said so. On 30th June, 1951, our overseas funds amounted to £843,000,000. By 30th June, 1952, they had been reduced to £362,000,000. They were dangerously low. This was the result of the Government’s encouragement of imports. In 1951-52 Australia had an adverse balance of payments of £575,000,000. In other words, in one year we paid out £575,000,000 more than we received. Savage import restrictions were imposed, and by 30th June, 1953, our overseas funds had been built up to £561,000,000. Since 1953, we have had a series of adverse trade balances averaging £144,000,000 annually -a total of over £1,000,000,000 to this year. Yet on 30th June, 1960, our overseas funds stood at £512,000,000! If you commence operations with £561,000,000 and over a periodlose £1,000,000,000, how can you finish with a balance of £512,000,000? You can do it by adopting the means which have been adopted in business. You borrow money, you sell your assets, or you do a combination of both. Since 1953, Australia has borrowed overseas and has sold its assets overseas.
Our overseas debt to-day amounts to £600,000,000. Overseas investment in this country now totals approximately £1,000,000,000, but when this Government came to office it was only £100,000,000. This Government has sold our assets, our industries and our land piece by piece to overseas investors until to-day our overseas obligations amount to £116,000,000 annually.
It is most undesirable that we should accumulate obligations to external interests which must be met out of our export earnings. These obligations, too, are increasing annually by tens of millions of pounds.
On 30th June, 1960, we had an adverse balance of payments of £243,000,000. Our obligation in this regard was met by raising loans overseas and by allowing overseas investment in Australia to the extent of £239,000,000. Furthermore, our overseas funds fell by £4,000,000. If our exports do not increase, our overseas obligations will increase by more than £200,000,000 a year.
That is not the whole of the story, however. The full story is much worse than that. Recently, the Government practically removed import restrictions, and imports have since been flooding into Australia at a rate which increases every month. The increasing rate represents approximately £250,000,000 per annum. On 5th August, 1960, John Eddy, economist for the Melbourne “ Herald “, had this to say about the position -
With imports continuing at the new rate of about £90 million a month, compared with £66 million a year ago, the need for more exports is underlined.
The plain arithmetic of the situation is that our adverse balance of payments will increase by about £25,000,000 a month. At the end of 1959, our adverse balance of payments was £187,000,000. In a year, that will have increased by about £250,000,000 and the total adverse balance will be some £430,000,000. We shall have to raise that amount by overseas loans or by selling the industries of this country bit by bit and paying overseas investors annually increasing amounts in interest.
To say that in five years’ time our overseas obligations will have doubled is to understate the gravity of the position. The burden of overseas interest that we shall have to meet will be more than £232,000,000 per annum instead of £116,000,000 per annum. That means that £232,000,000 of our export earnings will be used for the payment of interest overseas, invisibles and the like, before we buy any cotton, rubber, oil or any of the other commodities that are required by the expanding industries of this country. That will be an intolerable situation, and it will get worse each year.
I know that Government supporters will not take my word for these things; so I shall ‘read to them a statement which appeared in the press this morning, under the heading “Economist forecasts £100m. trade deficit “. It is in these terms -
Australia was likely to have a trade deficit of £100 million or more, this financial year, Mr: R. F. Holder said yesterday.
Mr. Holder, a Bank of New South Wales economist, was speaking at the Australian Society of Accountants luncheon.
He spoke on the Budget . . .
A trade deficit of £100,000,000 a year will mean that annually we shall lose £100,000,000 on our trading operations. We shall lose in addition the cost of invisibles, which include interest on overseas money invested in Australia and interest on overseas loans amounting to more than £200,000,000. According to this economist our balance of payments position will deteriorate by £300,000,000 at least in this financial year, and the deficit will increase.
Mr. Holder is supported by the National Bank of Australasia, which has stated that our overseas reserves may drop by £150.000.000. What does that mean? It means that our overseas funds, which at present total £512,000,000, will fall by £150,000,000, even though we borrow more overseas and we raise £200,000,000 next year in investments by overseas investors. That bears out the statement by the economist of the Bank of New South Wales that our balance of payments position will deteriorate by at least £300,000,000 a year. If we try to make that good by selling our assets one by one or by raising additional overseas loans on which we shall have to pay interest - as the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) pointed out, last year we raised an overseas loan of £42.000,000, the biggest since 1928 - we shall be unable to export sufficient to enable us to meet our interest commitments overseas and to buy the goods that are essential to the smooth working of our industries.
I point out to the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) that a person who sells to another country information that is detrimental to the security of the nation to which he belongs is stood against a wall and shot. Such conduct is the most reprehensible that that we can imagine. Yet a government may encourage the sale to overseas interests, not of information, but of our factories, our land and other assets that make us economically strong, thereby giving to overseas interests power not only over our industries, but also over the level of employment, conditions of employment and the lives of the workers of this country. Even worse, a government may pretend that when it does that it does something worthy and patriotic.
As I have indicated, the inevitable consequence of the trading policy of this Government is that we shall have to borrow more and more overseas or else induce more and more overseas interests to invest in Australian industries. If we do not do either of these things, we shall be in serious difficulties. What has encouraged overseas interests to invest in Australia?
– Mr. Jensen, the Lord Mayor of Sydney.
– I do not care whether the honorable member names the lord mayor of Sydney or of any other city. The desire for profits has been responsible for overseas investment in this country. When overseas interests saw that they could not exploit the people of Australia and our markets by sending products here, because they were prevented by import restrictions from doing so, they had to send capital here, and they utilized that capital to make profits. But immediately import restrictions are removed and goods are allowed to come in freely, the incentive to invest capital diminishes or disappears. We shall be unable to get overseas capital in the absence of import restrictions which prevent the inflow of overseas goods.
Proof of this was becoming clear to the more intelligent people in government departments who assist the Minister, even if it was not becoming clear to the Minister himself. The officials said, “ We must preserve conditions which will encourage overseas funds to come to this country, or we shall be in difficulties “. The Government, having removed import restrictions solely in order to bring a flood of goods into Australia and thereby reduce commodity prices and combat inflation, has introduced a series of measures designed to restrict the inflow of imports. The first one is the credit squeeze. More than £1,050,000,000 in overdrafts has been made available, mainly to importers. The credit squeeze has to be applied to importers so that they can no longer take advantage of the lifting of import restrictions and bring goods freely into the country. They will be impeded in their importing activities so that we may continue to attract capital from overseas. Does any body mean to tell me that a LiberalCountry Party combination would want to protect Australian industry? Not at all! But it is forced to protect Australian industry in order to encourage the flow of international capital into Australia. That is what the Government has to do, and of course it is on the horns of a dilemma. If it induces foreign capital to come to Australia to the same extent as it has been coming here since 1953 - that is, at the rate of over £100,000,000 annually, a rate that has now increased to more than £200,000,000 annually - then so astronomically will our commitments overseas mount that the income from our exports cannot possibly meet them. But if the flow of capital ceases, what will happen? There will be a contraction of industrial activity. To keep industrial activity as it is at present we have to bring in overseas capital to the extent of hundreds of millions of pounds a year.
So the Government is on the horns of a dilemma. Its attitude is, “Well, when on the horns of a dilemma, have a convention”. When it was in a dilemma over inflation it called a meeting of bankers and hire-purchase interests, and the result was that hire-purchase operations increased. So it called a convention of exporters with the object of increasing exports to the tune of £250,000,000 a year. If we are not to increase our indebtedness rapidly, we have to increase our exports by the stupendous amount of £250,000,000 annually - that is, if our imports remain as they are at present - in order that we shall get into debt only to the extent of £200,000,000 annually. That is what we have to do, but can we do it? Of course we cannot! A review issued by the Institute of Public Affairs recently dealt with the prospects of increasing our export earnings. It says that over the years we have endeavoured to increase our export earnings from secondary industry and have not achieved any appreciable increase along those lines in ten years. We cannot increase our earnings from secondary products stupendously.
Then we come to primary production. Can we, who have seen our earnings from primary exports increase gradually down the years to the record level they have reached in recent years, hope to increase them beyond that record level? In 1939, our exports were valued at £938,000,000. That was the third highest amount earned overseas in one year in our history. Can we increase that third highest amount by £250,000,000 a year? In reality, if we increase that stupendous amount by £50,000,000 a year, if we reduce our imports by £50,000,000 a year on last year’s figures, our annual adverse balance of payments would average £300,000,000. 1 ask honorable members opposite: Is that the road to prosperity?
The honorable member for Gwydir pointed out that this so-called prosperity in this country was not real. He said that we had not increased our production to the same extent as other nations had increased theirs. And, of course, we cannot do it under the imports system that has been operated by the Minister for Trade, who is now sitting at the table - the man who sold our heritage in a trade treaty with Japan. Honorable members opposite may laugh at that statement, and I heard one of them call out, “ Utter rubbish “. It is all right for the honorable member to describe my statement as utter rubbish but, according to the Minister’s argument, because we were selling £100,000,000 worth of goods a year to Japan, and buying only £13,000,000 worth of goods from that country we had to buy from Japan something equal to what Japan was buying from us.
– That is a fair proposition.
– The honorable member Says that that is a fair proposition; but before we can do what the Minister believes in we have to reduce our imports from other countries with which we have already a markedly unfavorable balance of trade in that our imports from them are greatly above our exports to them. Our system of trading overseas must not be regarded as trading with one particular country, but with all countries, and we have to balance our commitments in the countries with which we deal. But this Government has not done that. This Government knows that we are toboganning down to the conditions which inevitably bring about recession. As I have said before, there are no virtues in giving dominance to overseas investors over the industries and the employment of our people. While
I do not agree with the Castro Government in Cuba, while I do not agree with Nasser in Egypt, while I do not agree with the operations of kings and governments in the Middle East, while 1 do not believe in the ideas that have animated Soekarno, I do say that the fact that alien countries dominated the industries of those countries, that alien countries determined the conditions of employment of their people, that alien countries, in fact, determined the manner in which the wealth of those communities was spent - was in some way responsible for the attitude of the people of these dominated countries and for the troubles that have been created in this world in recent years. There is no doubt about that.
I have used figures in my remarks, but they are not my figures. I have told a story, but it is not my story. It is the story told by the Commonwealth Statistician. Every figure that I have given has been taken from the official records, and every figure so given supports the forecast of the economist whom I have mentioned, that we will have deficits of £300,000,000 a year in our trading balances. I have pointed out that the expert of the National Bank of Australasia Limited estimated that our overseas funds would drop by £150,000,000. In March, 1952, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), in most extravagant language, warned the people that Australia was in danger of national bankruptcy because its overseas funds had been reduced to £362,000,000. If £150,000.000 is taken from our reserves of £512,000,000, will he once more announce that we face national insolvency?
The position briefly is this: Our overseas loans amount to £500,000,000 and £1,000,000,000 of overseas capital had been invested in Australia up to 30th June, 1959. Dividends and interest must be paid overseas on that £1,500,000,000 and within five years the total of overseas capital invested here must become at least £3,000,000,000. Instead of paying £116,000,000 as interest, we will then be paying more than £230,000,000 and the value of our exports will be reduced by that amount. The balance of our overseas funds and our export earnings will not be sufficient to pay for the rubber, petrol and other essential items that we must import to meet the demands of our expanding secondary industries. We will then be compelled to restrict our expansion and will not be able to continue our present rate of development. Who will suffer? The workers, of course! Banking authorities returning from overseas always say that we must lower our costs and reduce our wage level. No one ever suggests that we should reduce the profits received by industry. Instead, all these authorities want to recover from the workers and the pensioners the money that went on a spending spree that did not bring about real prosperity.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay).Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The people of this country, and indeed of all other countries, as a result of the speech of the honorable member for Scullin (Mr. Peters), will now know, if they did not know before, what is likely to happen to overseas investments should the Australian Labour Party ever regain office. He expressed his admiration of the approach to overseas investments of such people as Castro in Cuba and Nasser in Egypt.
– I rise on a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I have been misrepresented.
– Order! The honorable member will have an opportunity to deal with that at the conclusion of the speech of the honorable member for Barker.
– He is completely misrepresenting the honorable member for Scullin.
– I listened to what the honorable member for Scullin had to say and I believe that the text of his speech will show that he at least understands the feelings that led to the expropriation of overseas investments in the countries that I have mentioned.
The honorable member for Scullin used half an hour of the time of the House talking about the dreadful situation in which we would be placed should we fail to bridge the gap between our exports and imports in this current year. He painted a fearful picture. By implication, he suggested that if in any one year there is a deficiency in our trade balance, the Government has neglected its duty. The honorable member was trying to suggest that we should so arrange trade in every year that the value of our imports would correspond with the value of our exports. It is exactly that mentality, translated into policy, which created the situation that existed when Labour was in office. That was the reason for the shortages and the frustration people felt when they were not able to obtain the goods they needed. It was also the reason for the imposition of controls. Why do we have international reserves? Why have we gone to such great lengths to encourage our export industries and to create substantial reserves in London and New York? We have done this so that we can meet the situation which arises when, because of varying prices or other factors, we are not able to cover the gap between imports and exports in any one year. This enables us to prevent the complete dislocation and stagnation of our economy. This Government has planned to meet such a situation. The people who would suffer most if the overseas reserves were not available would be the workers, whom the honorable member for Scullin claims to represent. The vast majority of them depend for their employment upon the import of raw materials and producer goods to keep the wheels of industry turning.
I welcome this bill because it brings the orderly and expert procedures of the Tariff Board to bear in all instances in which we want to restrict or cut off the flow of imports. It is vitally important that this is done because tariffs, besides bringing manifest advantages to the economy, impose burdens on it. And it is precisely that which honorable gentlemen opposite fail to recognize. They will not admit that the tariff imposes burdens as well as confers advantages on the Australian economy. It is precisely for that reason that we have the Tariff Board - so that decisions as to restrictions on imports into this country shall be arrived at by orderly methods and orderly procedures and on a basis of criteria which do not impose too great a cost on the economy of this country. It is worth remembering in this respect that the Brigden committee, which was the last committee to report on the economic effect of the Australian tariff, found that, even allowing for Government assistance to compensate the export industries for the costs imposed on them by the tariff, the cost of production in the export industries is raised by 9 per cent, by protection. That was in 1928-29. Since then there has been an enormous increase in industrial growth in this country, and I think that the cost to the export industries would be very much greater now than it was then.
As the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) pointed out when he introduced this bill, it can be manifestly demonstrated that not all protection imposes additional costs. This appears to me to emphasize the vital importance of protecting industries by orderly and regular procedures which take into account the cost of protection, the efficiency of the industry, and so on, and of getting away from procedures which are based on political and other expediencies and on arbitrary decisions by officials, such as the import licensing that of necessity we have had to endure in the last eight or nine years has been. For that reason I support this legislation. As the result of the abandonment of import licensing we were left in a situation in which we could not impose a quick restriction on the importation of goods into this country in circumstances which justified it; and this bill, as 1 understand it, does no more and no less than remedy that deficiency. 1 cannot understand the Opposition’s opposition to this bill. In my experience in the four years I have been in this House members of the Opposition squeal like stuck pigs every time it looks as though an Australian industry is being injured, whatever the merits of the case and whatever the circumstances; and yet when we take measures to ensure that, if that happens, we can act quickly, the Opposition opposes such legislation.
When I say that I support this legislation, I have to add one qualification. I believe the bill will increase the burden of work placed on the Tariff Board, despite the provision for an additional deputy chairman of the board. I cannot see how the measure can fail to increase the already heavy burden of work which the Tariff Board has; and this is happening at a time when, in my view, the board is just not able to cope with the work it should be doing, despite the excellent reform and the streamlining of the board which was carried out by the Minister a year or two ago. The inability of the Tariff Board to cope with the tasks it should be doing has two very important consequences, and I want to say a word or two about them. The first of these consequences is that the Tariff Board is so snowed under by demands for new determinations for new and higher tariffs that it has no time to look at determinations it has made in the past. This is an extremely serious matter.
I have already stated that the costs of the tariff are high so far as our export industries are concerned. We cannot lightly accept a situation where the costs imposed on the export industries are any higher than they need to be, given the general requirements of the Australian economic situation. Yet we manifestly have a situation in which the Tariff Board, because it is overworked, never has an opportunity to review the protection which it has provided to many industries, ten, fifteen, twenty or even 30 years ago. Often this protection is asked for on the “ infant industry “ argument - the argument that as a new industry starting off, it would like tariff protection to cover its losses while it becomes established. That is an excellent idea, and has played a great part in helping Australian industry to become established, but one of the difficulties in the present situation of the Tariff Board is that these industries remain infant forever; they never grow up. Long after the original five, six or seven years for which they asked protection have passed, they continue to enjoy the protection because the board never gets round to reviewing that protection.
We have to remember, Sir, that to some extent any tariff system - certainly ours - creates certain degrees of monopoly and gives an advantageous position to particular industries. Although it creates monopolies, or a semi-monopolistic situation for certain industries, in this respect the Tariff Board does not, so far as I can see, ever accept any responsibility for controlling the operations of such monopolies. You do not often find the Tariff Board looking at the profits an industry has made or attempting to determine whether an industry is in any way abusing the monopolistic position which has been given to it under the tariff. I would like to see the Tariff Board very much strengthened to enable it to perform this vital function of reducing the cost to the export industries which comes from its present inability to review the tariff structure. The other reason why I feel alarmed about the present inability of the board to cope with the demands that are made on it is that the pressure on the board is so great that it never has time to sit back and have an objective look at its procedures and where they are taking the Australian economy. 1 and other members of this House - the honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Ian Allan) expressed the same view in his speech last night - have grave doubts as to some of the criteria and procedures adopted and developed by the Tariff Board in the performance of its functions.
Let me give a few examples of what I mean. One of the things which the board does is to look at comparative costs, the costs in Australia and the costs in overseas countries which are likely to compete with the Australian product. Let us suppose that a product is produced in Australia at a cost higher than the price of the imported product, and that cost includes a reasonable rate of profit and a return on capital. In those circumstances the higher Australian price might be due to any one of four different factors, or a combination of any two or more of them. It might be due, first, to a higher general cost level in Australia. It might be due, secondly, to higher particular costs in a particular industry. For example, the labour employed might be more expensive or less efficient, or raw materials might be dearer. Thirdly, it might be due to an inability, because of the nature of the industry, to benefit from economies of large-scale production. Fourthly, the higher price might be due to the relative inefficiency of Australian management. As I say, the higher Australian price might be due to any one, or a combination of any two or more, of those factors.
The cost comparisons that the Tariff Board makes between Australian and overseas firms seem to aim at isolating only the last of those- four factors, the relative inefficiency of Australian management. The Tariff Board isolates that factor in its inquiries so that the tariff can then offset the other three factors. The tariff offsets not only the higher cost level, but also the particular costs in the industry concerned and the inability of the industry to benefit from economies of large scale production. I believe, however, that in the economic circumstances of Australia to-day the correct approach is to offset only the first factor, the higher general cost level in Australia. The tariff should not be fixed at a level designed to offset the other three factors I have mentioned.
I should now like to pose the following question: To what extent has the Tariff Board considered what should be the desirable pattern of Australian manufacturing industry? From its existing procedures, as I understand them, and from a perusal of its reports, it would appear that the board does not consider this broad question at all. If an industry is efficient by Australian standards in the Australian environment, then it gets protection almost irrespective of the cost consequences. I believe that in’ a country with our wage standards we should be considering the building up, by means of the tariff and by other means, of what I might describe as capital intensive industries, such as the motor vehicle and the steel industry, and exporting the products of those industries to Asia, particularly SouthEast Asia. We have a much greater opportunity of operating efficiently, and at a cost level comparable with that obtaining in other countries, in capital intensive industries than in what might be described as labour intensive industries. My suggestion involves the proposition that we should import the products of labour intensive industries, such as textiles and fancy goods.
It seems to me that this would give better balance and a more desirable pattern of development in manufacturing industry in a country with very high standards of living and very high wage standards. Such a policy would appear to achieve all the desirable objectives of protection while, at the same time, guiding our manufacturing efforts into channels in which there is a possibility of exporting on equal terms with our competitors. At the same time it would remove part of the very great burden which falls on our existing export industries.
But I repeat that there is nothing in the existing procedures of the board, as I understand them, to lead us to believe that this objective will ever be achieved. This may well be because the board has too much work to do and is not able to stand back occasionally from its work, as it should, and see where its procedures and determinations are taking us. It may well be that this is not a job for the Tariff Board itself. Probably the most suitable body to undertake a review of this kind would be an independent committee of inquiry set up in the way that the Brigden Committee was established, as was suggested by the honorable member for Gwydir last night.
Such a committee could stand back and, considering all the circumstances of the Australian economy in the early 1960’s, take another look at the procedures of the Tariff Board. I cannot imagine anything which would be of more value and give greater confidence to us in our attempt to go forward with our development at a pace as fast as, or even faster than, that at which we have been proceeding in recent years. Above all, it would assist, I believe, in enabling us to adjust our tariff procedures according to the necessity to protect Australian industries and employment, while at the same time easing the almost intolerable burden that such procedures sometimes place on our export industries.
.- At the outset I desire to enter a protest against the manner in which this bill has been brought down at very short notice. As everybody is aware, it is a most important bill, and may well affect the livelihood and fortunes of a very large number of persons. We believe that it is of such great importance that the House was entitled to much earlier notice of it. Accordingly I, together with many other honorable members on this side of the House, wish to enter a protest at the short time allowed for consideration of the very important provisions of the measure.
Some time ago, I suggested in this Parliament that the time had arrived when we should provide for a number of tariff boards, each presided over by a deputy chairman, and each having special skills and special knowledge of particular groups of industries. This could be arranged in the same way as individual conciliation commissioners are appointed under our arbitration legislation to preside over specific groups of industries. I still believe that a system providing for a number of such tariff boards would offer a greater hope of justice and security to the industries of Australia.
The bill before us goes a certain distance, but not, in my view, quite far enough, towards the correction of the dangerous situation created by the almost total removal of import restrictions and import licensing. We can all recall what happened in 1951 and 1952. During that period a great deal of unemployment occurred as a result of a disastrous flood of imports into this country. I see the possibility of something like that being repeated as a result of the Government’s policy. I forecast that import controls will be reimposed within twelve months. I trust, therefore, that the Government will take the precautionary step of retaining ready access to the services of those public servants who have the experience necessary to deal with the crisis which may arise despite the steps to be taken under this bill.
There are many manufacturers and trade unionists who feel that in this rapidly changing world in which the accent is on speed, great harm could be done to Australian industry before action could be taken. For example, a message can be transmitted from one part of the world to another in a fraction of a second and, as a result, goods could be moved from a factory or warehouse in another country to a ship bound for this country in a matter of hours, where previously it would have taken days to arrange this. Ships to-day can be loaded much more rapidly than they used to be. There are ships on the drawing boards which will be able to move at speeds which will rival those of the freight aeroplanes of to-day. But even without the transport marvels of to-morrow, the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) may find that the existing speeds are such that he would be wise to retain the services of public servants who are possessed of the necessary know-how.
Quite recently, we had an example of the need for high speed in the tariff problem facing the rayon weavers of Australia. Ministerial intervention became necessary in order to facilitate an early and rapid Tariff Board inquiry. This resulted in the presentation of a report to this Parliament in record time. As a consequence, the looms in Australia’s rayon weaving mills are working at full speed and full capacity, supplying Australia’s needs. These mills are owned by. Australians and managed by Australians and the machines therein are operated by Australians. The profits from the mills are reinvested in Australia. This is in sharp contrast to the practice followed in another industry in which as we all know one company exported £8,000,000 of its revealed £15,000,000 profit in its most recent financial year. The Government, no doubt, bore the value of the Australian rayon industry in mind when it moved so rapidly to give protection where it was needed. I take this opportunity to give due praise to the Minister for his action in regard to the rayon weavers. I also give praise to the Tariff Board for the manner in which it treated a most perilous situation for several thousand highly skilled operatives and executives, not forgetting the investors whose capital was at stake.
The bill now before the House sets out to accelerate action by the Tariff Board whenever such action is sought and is deemed to be necessary, and I have no quarrel with that intention. The Australian Labour Party has always stood four-square upon its policy of protection for Australian industries but, at the same time, we proclaim and re-affirm our belief that the powers of the Parliament should in no way be whittled down.
The parliamentary institution is one of which the English-speaking peoples of the world are very proud. When Sir Winston Churchill, as Prime Minister of England, was asked his opinion of parliamentary government he said that it was the worst form of government except for every other form of government that had ever been tried. Yet I see provisions in this bill which reveal a lack of confidence in the parliamentary institution. This is our point of difference with the Government.
Under this bill a public servant has a great and grave responsibility thrust upon him. A deputy chairman of the Tariff Board must make a decision which, for good or ill, will affect the livelihood and fortunes of many thousands of Australians. The Minister for Trade said quite plainly in his second-reading speech that as industries in Australia developed and consolidated they would require less protection. I do not know whether that means that the Tariff Board will receive a ministerial hint that, where required by this Government, there should be a substantial reduction of protection to small industries.
I have little doubt that the big and powerful industries of Australia are not particularly afraid of what the Government can do but I am bearing in mind the existence of a number of small industries. I doubt whether they could obtain ministerial intervention if they needed it. I know that some of them have not been able to obtain such intervention when they have badly needed -it in the past. I refer once again to the cane furniture manufacturers of Australia. The Government is abrogating its powers and delegating them to an individual who is not responsible to the people.
In defence of this action, it is not good enough to plead that this provision of the bill is necessary because the House is sometimes in recess when speedy action is required. The nations which signed the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade conceded a power to the Government which it now seeks to abrogate and delegate. On this side of the House, we deprecate and condemn this particular provision of the bill. The General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade concedes the right to the Government, if it feels that an Australian industry is in danger, to impose forthwith quantitative restrictions or even a prohibition, on imports, pending a Tariff Board inquiry. This quite plainly means that even if the House is in recess, provided that the Minister has the courage to act, no Australian industry of merit need fear for its safety when faced by unfair overseas competition.
It may be necessary for me to remind the House that there are countries which are highly industrialized and not very far away from Australia in which wages are only one-sixth of those paid in Australia. As a consequence, it is fundamentally necessary that Australian industry should have the right to secure rapid and proper protection from the goods produced in those countries. Accordingly, we of the Australian Labour Party say that we oppose bitterly the clause in which the Government sheds responsibility like an unwanted garment and throws it upon the willing but perhaps narrow shoulders of one of our loyal public servants.
We oppose this clause because, as students of parliamentary history, we recall the struggle of the English people to wrest despotic powers from the hands of monarchs, many of whom they otherwise loved and revered. It is not quite 300 years since the English Parliament achieved victory in this struggle.
We are informed by the Minister that the Parliament of the United Kingdom has taken this step which he now proposes. He does not tell us why. He gives no account of the reasons which prompted this step. We do not know the circumstances and, until we do, we cannot weigh the factors which were involved.
Mr. Deputy Speaker, we are painfully aware that the Government is made up of a pot-pourri of free traders and semiprotectionists. In fact, it is not long since one of its members proclaimed in this House that they were all free traders. Like the wise counsellor within the walls of Troy when it was beseiged by the Greeks, and when I contemplate the Government’s proposal, I say that I fear the Greeks most when they bring gifts.
.- The bills under consideration clearly have arisen from the problems that have occurred in connexion with the wo_k of the Tariff Board over recent years including the inability of the board, because of circumstances, to deal expeditiously with applications that have been made to it. The evidence of these delays and of the inability of the Tariff Board to deal adequately with the situation goes back over quite a number of years. Certainly, we saw evidence of it in 1954 and 1955. The Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) and the Government must have been fully aware at that time that some very significant changes in the Tariff Board structure were necessary, so that these delays and problems could be eliminated. Since then, we have had a number of amending bills before the House but in no case have they really come to grips with the situation. They have left the problem of delays and inefficiency inside the Tariff Board as significantly present to-day as it was at any time in the past. The Government has amended the relevant acts on a number of occasions, but apparently the problem is still a significant one and ob vious to all concerned. The Government is still anxious, presumably, to amend the legislation in an attempt to get rid of this inefficiency and delay. Numerous complaints were made public in 1955. The Melbourne “ Herald “ contained several articles in October and November, 1955, referring to the problems that had arisen in the Tariff Board. The Victorian Chamber of Manufactures and, I believe, similar organizations in o:her Stales also made protests and advanced proposals on this matter.
One member of the Tariff Board who has passed on his way since then - Mr. Albert Date - made proposals which, I understand, were almost identical with those that are contained in this legislation. That was done as long ago as 1954 or 1955. That leads me to ask this question: If this problem of inefficiency and delay in the Tariff Board has been recognized for so long, how is it that the Minister for Trade and the Government have taken such a long time to deal with it? Can we have any confidence that, after such a record of inability to deal with this situation, the legislation before the House is really going to get us anywhere?
Parliament cannot be satisfied that the proposals contained in this legislation will work. Indeed, the evidence supports all predictions that they will not wo.k. I suggest that the delays and problems concerning the board are not due to its lack of emergency powers or to its size, but are due significantly to the relations inside the board and the relations between the board and the Department of Trade. The evidence shows that the board is not independent and that it has no internal confidence in its own powers to make decisions and to operate. The evidence suggests that the board is very significantly an instrument of the Department of Trade and that it is not working well or efficiently.
I do not intend to make too much of the statements or the evidence of any one individual, but recently the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Bland) deemed it necessary to warn the Austraiian people that bureaucracy was triumphant. The Melbourne “ Age “ on 21st April, 1960, gave great prominence to the warning of the honorable member for Warringah. Was the honorable member referring in any way to the Tariff Board? It seems to me that the Tariff Board and its relationship with the Department of Trade must have been included in that area where the honorable member felt that bureaucracy was triumphant; because I understand that when Mr. Albert Date, as a member of the board, was in difficulties and referred among others to the honorable member for Warringah, he was advised that you cannot buck the machine. It was the machine that Mr. Date was trying to buck.
I do not intend to make too much of that particular issue, but it seems to me that it is part of the evidence that the real problems inside the Tariff Board do not arise from the size of the board or the number of deputy chairmen and members who comprise it. The problems do not arise entirely or even significantly from that, but from the internal relations of the board, the efficiency of the gentlemen who are on it and their relations with the Department of Trade. When we realize that this problem has existed in the Tariff Board for six or seven years and that there have been continuing attempts to deal with it, we can have little confidence that the present legislation will make any appreciable difference. I want to refer again briefly to the position of Mr. Date, a former member of the board.
– The honorable member is basing his whole speech on that subject.
– One has to make speeches several times to be confident that the honorable member for Mallee can understand them. The Minister for Trade will have an opportunity to refute my arguments if he wants to try to do so. I understand that proposals to give the Tariff Board emergency powers were submitted by Mr. Date in 1954 or 1955. I understand that there is an official record of this; but nothing was done at the time, and the inefficiency and delays were allowed to continue. The appointment of Mr. Date, however, was not renewed and no reason was given for that decision not to renew the appointment. In reply to the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), the Minister stated on 20th May, 1960, as recorded at page 2035 of “ Hansard “ -
On 1st October, 19S8, in reply to a question by the honorable member for Yarra, I stated that the Government had decided not to reappoint Mr. A. Date as a member of the Tariff Board after the expiration of his present term of office. The act provides that members are eligible for re-appointment, but the question of reappointment, like that of the original appointment, must be, and is, determined by the Government. It is neither usual nor desirable foi reasons to be given in relation to individual appointments.
Of course, no reason was given. It was suggested later in the answer that the decision had something to do with 260 letters and telegrams of complaint and protest addressed by Mr. Date to the GovernorGeneral, the Prime Minister, Mr. Speaker, Ministers, members of Parliament, permanent heads and officers of various departments. Despite all these letters of protest, the situation which gave rise to them was never, in my opinion, investigated or determined by the Minister or the Government, because that situation is precisely the situation which this legislation is trying to cure.
Relying as it does upon re-organization and emergency powers to cure a situation which is the product of something else, the legislation, I believe, will not achieve its purpose. The evidence supports my belief. The board has not worked expeditiously and delays have been occurring for six or seven years. The board will not work any better now because the problems do not rest only in the number of men who constitute the board or upon the emergency powers of the board. The problems arise because of the relations between the board members themselves and their relations with the department. The evidence suggests that the board has lost the independence which was supposed to be its main justification for existence. This being the case, some independent inquiry similar to the Brigden inquiry of 1927 is long overdue. One of the main reasons why the Government is not interested in such an inquiry is because it is somewhat apprehensive at what might be revealed.
These problems arise out of our balance of payments difficulties. As pointed out by the honorable member for Scullin (Mr. Peters) this afternoon, the position is such that no change in the nature or structure of the Tariff Board is likely to make much difference to our balance of payments position. Last night the honorable member for
Lalor (Mr. Pollard) stated that the Government is concerned, not with affording adequate protection to Australian industry but with moving the tariff in the opposite direction. To support his proposition, the honorable member for Lalor cited passages from the Minister’s speech.
The Government has recognized the existence of a significant balance of payments problem. It is not a passing or a temporary problem. It has been more or less permanent for many years. In 1953-54 our deficit on current account was £17,000,000. In 1954-55 it rose to £259,000,000 and in 1955-56 it dropped to £231,000,000. The following year, 1956-57, we had a surplus of £99,000,000, but in 1957-58 the deficit was £174,000,000. By the following year it had risen to £207,000,000, and by 1959-60 to £243,000,000, the second highest deficit in that period of seven years. In other words, with the exception of one year we spent a great deal more than we earned.
In an endeavour to meet that situation the Government has taken certain action, but it has failed because its action has been superficial and ineffective. The export boom in 1950-51 led to a flood of imports amounting to, I think, £1,050,000,000 in the following year. Then, to protect our overseas funds which had been reduced by more than half, the Government introduced import controls which have been described by some Government supporters as the worst possible form of control that ever could be introduced. Until last year the Government relied substantially upon import controls. The Government then decided to abolish import controls and to turn to another expediency, another superficial and inadequate method of trying to deal with the situation, namely, overseas borrowing. Only by borrowing have we been able to keep up with our excessive importing. Our overseas debt has been increasing significantly every year. It is no better to rely upon an increasing overseas debt to deal with our balance of payments problem than it is to rely alone or mainly on import controls.
The Government has more or less admitted that the Australian tariff structure has been slow and ineffective all along the line. Having passed through the period of free imports, which devastated many sectors of the Australian economy and caused the electoral prospects of the Government to drop to bed-rock, the Government then turned to the import controls which, as I have said, have been described by its supporters as the worst possible form of control. Following that, the Government began to borrow overseas from every country and every kind of government and organization from which money could be obtained. But all the way through the Australian tariff structure has been slow and ineffective in operation. Whatever is done with the Australian tariff structure - I suggest seriously that this legislation will make no real difference to it but will leave it substantially as it was before - how can we come to any other conclusion but that the Government has failed? The problem has been with us for six or seven years. The Minister on several occasions has introduced legislation which had great promise, but the problem has remained and the evidence supports the prediction that it will remain after this legislation becomes law.
Whatever is done, it seems pretty clear that as long as the Government allows our economy to move in the way that free enterprise determines it shall move; as long as the Government does nothing serious to attempt to achieve the aims and objectives of national policy on which we all are supposed to agree; as long as it leaves everything to free enterprise and the harsh uncontrolled forces of the market, this problem will remain. The Government has failed to deal with inflation during the last ten years. It is that uncontrolled inflation which has caused the excessive flow of imports and the cost problem in primary industry which has made it increasingly difficult for Australia to sell her primary produce overseas. It is that basic economic problem which has caused our unsatisfactory balance of payments situation. So, being unwilling and refusing to deal with that situation, the Government has turned to one expedient after another in an attempt to solve a problem with which it will not deal basically. Until the Government deals with inflation - a free enterprise inflation which is the result of prices determined by large industrial corporations which have the capacity to determine prices; an inflation which is the result of the capacity of our financial institutions to create money and to lend it at high rates of interest - this problem will remain, and nothing that is done in relation to tariffs, import controls or foreign lending will make any significant contribution towards its solution.
One would expect that a Country Party Minister for Trade would become quickly aware of the serious plight of the primary industry sector of the economy and would do all in his power to compel the Government to wake up to itself. How members of the Australian Country Party can imagine that they will be returned to this Parliament for ever with rural incomes moving as they are, I fail to understand.
With the national income in 1953-54 at £3,871,000,000, farm income was listed at £499,000,000, or 13 per cent, of the national income. Farm income had been higher than that in previous years. In 1957-58, it was £347,000,000 out of a national income of £4,708,000,000, or 7.4 per cent. Members of the Australian Country Party appear to be satisfied although farm income had fallen from £499,000,000 to £347,000,000 a year, and from 13 per cent, to 7.4 per cent, of the national income. There has been a slight improvement in the last couple of years. In 1959-60, farm income was £466,000,000 out of a national income of £5,489,000,000, or 8.5 per cent, of the national income.
So we have a distortion between country and city. We have an enormous structure of offices and flats and expensive bank and insurance buildings rising above the horizon in the cities. We have land speculation which makes intending home-owners unable to enter into contracts that they will ever be able to fulfil. In the country, on the other hand, people are daily leaving for the city and farm incomes are falling significantly. A large section of the supporters of this Government are supposed to represent country interests, yet they appear content to allow this basic distortion to exist. I suggest, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that this distortion is the real cause of our balance-of-payments problems, and until this Government is prepared to deal with it those problems will continue to increase. Nothing that can be done by this kind of legislation, which is completely superficial and trivial in its nature, and which will be superficial and trivial in its effects, will change the position.
In conclusion, 1 suggest that if we are to consider this bill simply in terms of a reorganization of the Tariff Board, we shall completely miss its point. The evidence indicates that the expeditious working of the board does not depend on increasing or reducing by one or two the number of its members or on any kind of emergency powers. It depends on the kind of men we have on the board and their relations with one another and with the Department of Trade. It depends on the atmosphere of confidence that those men induce in performing their work. That atmosphere, I suggest, is very seriously undermined by the rise of bureaucracy about which the honorable member for Warringah has spoken in the last few years.
This being the situation, it seems to me that effective criticisms of the wrong things that are done should be made if we are to improve the circumstances of this country. If the wrong things that are done are ignored, even the complacency of the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson) will be shaken before many years have passed. I suggest that this problem will not be solved merely by re-organizing the Tariff Board. Something has to be done about relations between the board and the Department of Trade.
Finally, I suggest that the really important problem is not just one of expediting tariff determinations. It is a vastly more fundamental problem which depends on the conditions of inflation and distortion in the Australian economy, over which this Government has presided with increasing negligence over the last six or seven years. The conditions that have been developing in this period have caused rural prices and costs to rise while the farmers’ share of the national income has been falling significantly. Members of the Australian Country Party seem to be satisfied with that, but I cannot understand how they can accept it. Furthermore, the demand for imports has been artificially inflated by the distortion of demand which this Government’s policy has permitted to continue. It seems to me that until those conditions are corrected, this legislation can do nothing to alter the situation. Indeed, the bills are not worth the paper on which they are printed.
– in reply- Mr. Deputy
Speaker, having listened to the speeches from the Opposition, culminating in that made by the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns), I cannot help observing that it would be a bad thing for any business enterprise if there were so little confidence in it on the part of those managing it as there is in the Australian nation on the part of the Labour members in this House. We have heard nothing but despair from them. They say that we are going into national bankruptcy and that it is terribly wrong that industries established here are owned partly or wholly by overseas interests -industries that employ countless thousands of Austraiian people at good award wages or better, with plenty of overtime. Opposition members say that all this is completely wrong. They suggest that something should be done to quench the demand for imports which seems to trouble them so much. New motor cars have been registered in this country at the rate of 1,000 a day in recent years. Here is an example of something that has an import component. Opposition members say that there is something terribly wrong about this and that something should be done about it. What do they suggest should be done? Do they suggest that the wage-earners who are buying 1,000 new motor cars a day should be put out of work? That is the only conclusion that follows from the analysis made by the honorable member for Yarra.
What has the Australian Labour Party come to when its members who sit in this place as representatives of the people denounce the Government’s proposals to safeguard labour and industry in this country and to preserve the well-being of the nation, and say that something ought to be done to reduce the capacity of the Australian people to obtain the good things of life? I am astonished to hear this sort of thing from members of the Australian Labour Party, and I think that the party will live to regret the attitude that its members have taken here to-day.
The honorable member for Yarra said that some one was told that he could not buck the machine. Why is the honorable member in this Parliament now? He is here because his predecessor could not buck the Labour machine. Yet he talks about bucking : a machine.
– Will you tell us something about your machine?
– The honorable member ought to deal with his own problems. Where are ‘the members of the Australian Labour Party who sought to buck the Labour machine? Where are Vic Johnson and Cyril Chambers? They are not ad-j herents of the Australian Democratic Labour Party, but they had only to say one word against the leader of the Labour machine and out they went. Yet people who support that machine tell us here; that somebody could not buckra machine. What wonderful logic is brought to this place , by Opposition members.
Members of the two Government parties have made speeches which have exhibited confidence in Australia and belief in the growth of the nation - speeches which show that we recognize that growth causes problems and that we are willing to meet new circumstances that have to be dealt with administratively or legislatively as growth proceeds, even though some of the things that have to be done might have been challengeable in earlier days. This is a growing nation, and we on this side of the House have confidence in it and propose to deal with the problems that are created by the very pace of the nation’s growth. Indeed, I am proud to say that the growth of this country in recent years has brought with it the problems that rapid growth always brings, whether the growth be that of a nation or of a business. Constructive suggestions have been made by a number of Government supporters, including the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Bury), the honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Swartz), who is my aide in the administration of the Department of Trade, my colleague, the honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Ian Allan), and the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Forbes). All have spoken with confidence and with constructive capacity on this.
But from the Opposition side of the House, apart from the oddities of logic which I have already mentioned, we have heard what seem to be two points of principle. One was enunciated by the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard), who led for the Opposition in this debate, and his line has been followed, by and large, ‘ by Labour Party speakers who have supported him. His criticism seems to be in two parts. The first is that this is a proposal which, he alleges, will deprive the Parliament of some of its powers, which will place the power to impose what he describes as taxation - and I do not challenge the word - temporarily in the hands of somebody outside the Parliament. He objects to that, and will not have it. He says that it is not necessary. He says that the thing to do, if it is necessary to use a power, is to continue to employ import licensing. I think that that is a fair statement of his views.
I will deal with the two points, but first I remind the House that the honorable member for Scullin (Mr. Peters) takes a completely different line. He makes a broad attack on the Government for pursuing policies which permit the entry to this country of investment from overseas. He resists and denounces policies which involve some overseas borrowings by the Government and some inflow of capital from overseas.
Let me not take too much time to deal with the two things. The basic questions are: Do we want this country to grow fast and strong? Do we want it to have a great industrial base? Do we want to have diversified industries? If we want this country to have a great base to provide work for both our own natural increase and the increase from whatever level of immigration the government of the day may decide on, we have to have factories here. Can they all come from Australian capita] and Australian know-how? I just say to members of this Parliament that I do not believe that the pace at which we want to expand can, be generated entirely from Australian resources. I do not believe that this country has had the capital, the technical know-how and the marketing connexions that would have enabled us. of our own resources, to spend more than £100,000,000 in a few years in the establishment of oil refineries and all the things that flow therefrom - the petro-chemical industries, oil lubricants, the synthetic rubber industry which will grow, and the plastics industry. These are all off-shoots of oil refining as are many more activities which do not come readily to my tongue. They all come from this enormous new enterprise on the Australian scene. We have not, indigenously, the know-how or the resources of capital for these things, and I stand here for the Government and say that we are delighted to have overseas capital and knowledge come into partnership with us here and provide for this country this broadening of the industrial base, this added capacity to provide employment.
The problem of balance of payments has been mentioned at length. The establishment of oil refineries here is important in this respect, because they make a tremendous contribution to our ability to avoid the need to import refined petrol, aviation petrol, lubricating oils, synthetic rubber, plastics, resins and other resources that run like a thread through industry to-day. Who can say how much of our overseas funds is being saved to-day by the fact that we have these great industries, and above all the automotive industry, established in this country. If we had not here the General Motors, Chrysler, Ford and British Motor Corporation interests, does any one think that we would have had an Australian automotive industry of the dimensions we have to-day? Nobody in his right senses would claim that we would have. And, without that great automotive industry, where would be the employment avenues now provided by it? What is the alternative? Is the Labour Party saying that we should do without motor cars made in Australia if they have to be made here by a company whose principal capital, or part of whose capital, comes from overseas? Is that what is suggested, because that is the logical end of what is being argued here by the Opposition? I am sure that no nation, no company and no farmer can expand activities rapidly without reliance on borrowed money.
The honorable member for Scullin (Mr. Peters) spoke vehemently, lucidly, clearly and forcibly on the subject, but I completely dissociate myself and the Government from the thesis he submitted.
Now let us look at the proposition put to us by the honorable member for Lalor, and the criticisms that he levelled. What he says, in short, is this: Here is a problem that probably arises from the slowness and deficiencies of the Tariff Board. To correct that slowness and the deficiencies that he alleges, we are proposing the novel device of authorizing a member of the board to make a report on whether a temporary duty is necessary to hold the line for Australian industry - and in this sense industry means employment. Not only to hold the line but, if necessary, if the Parliament is not in session, to put into operation a holding duty. The honorable member for Lalor makes it clear that the Labour Party would not support that proposal, and the ground stated by him for the Labour Party’s opposition to it is that this is an impairment of the prerogatives of the Parliament. It is not, I say to honorable members, any greater an impairment of the prerogatives of the Parliament than has been established by the Parliament many times before. The last occasion on which I spoke in this Parliament on a matter relating to emergency duties was when I proposed, before the negotiations for the Japanese Trade Treaty - and I explained at the time quite clearly why I was doing so - an amendment of the Customs Tariff (Industries Preservation) Act. The section being amended was section 11a. The proposal I brought to the Parliament was that in certain circumstances which would threaten an Australian industry there should be an arbitrary authority on the part of the Executive, which would be exercised through the Department of Customs, to increase the rate of duty.
The Parliament passed the measure. The Labour Party supported it. Why the turnabout now? That happened only three years ago. This is just a proposal completely comparable to that which the Labour Party supported three years ago. There is no novelty in it. For as long as this country has had a Department of Customs there has been power in the hands of the Executive, exercised undoubtedly on the advice of experienced officials in the Department of Customs, to impose an antidumping duty, to revoke a by-law admission or to impose, often, a higher rate of duty, in a procedure which not only can be followed without special sanction by the Parliament, but in relation to which there is no necessity for parliamentary ratification or confirmation of the action taken. There has been for years a complete power given by the Parliament to the Department of Customs which provides that where, in the judgment of an officer of the department, an imported item can be substituted for some other item upon which there is a specific rate of duty or an ad valorem rate of duty, that duty, although not provided in the schedule, may be imposed in full upon the substitute, upon the advice of the officer. That system is known, in the Customs jargon, as gazettal of substitute notices.
There is nothing completely novel in the new procedure. I suppose that the greatest power deputed by Parliament to a person outside the Parliament was the decision of Labour when in office, since supported by this Government, that some one within the central bank could require the trading banks to deposit over £300,000,000 of their money at a nominal rate of interest. That is not done on the decision of the Parliament and it is not brought before the Parliament for ratification. I recall that in the ‘thirties we passed a Flour Tax Act for the stabilization of the wheat industry. It authorized the excise on flour to be varied at any time. It was intended to, and in fact did, result in there being an alteration in the rate of excise on flour almost weekly. That was done by a person outside the Parliament and the decision was never subsequently brought before the Parliament. The honorable member for Lalor was assistant to the former Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, Mr. Scully, and later was Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. While he was assistant, the Wool (Contributory Charge) Bill was introduced. It said in most stark language that there would be a percentage levy on the value of wool, as determined by the Minister on the recommendation of the appropriate body.
I do not say that I think it completely proper and desirable that the Parliament should recklessly depute to people outside the Parliament the right to impose obligations on citizens. It has been done rarely but it has been done by both sides of politics for good, explainable and defensible reasons. If we are to take violent objection to some one outside the Parliament placing a duty of 3d., ls. or 2s. a yard upon some textile, are we to take no exception at all to the same Minister or official outside the Parliament having an unrestrained right to forbid the entry of an item? If the principle is that no one outside the Parliament should be able to interfere with the rights of a citizen in a commercial ^transaction, surely it is a vastly greater violation of a citizen’s right to tell him that he. can not land in Australia goods that the may already have on a ship on the way to Australia. Yet the Labour Party proposes this as the alternative to the procedure put forward by the Government.
We have examined the alternative, and We say that it is not fair, adequate or practicable of application, nor would it effectively protect Australian industry. We propose that the whole apparatus of the Tariff Board should continue to operate, with some delay - I will say with considered and deliberate delay - as it has operated with great success for many years. It has won admiration in many countries. As honorable members know, it has been my fate <to go around a good deal, talking to Ministers and commercial interests in other countries. Time and again I have been told of the admiration that other countries have for our Tariff Board system. It is a system which in its very construction envisages delay, just as the operation of the Parliament envisages delay, so that there shall be consideration before there is a decision. Our trade treaty with the United Kingdom, which has stood since 1931, provides that the Tariff Board cannot go into operation until three months after the matter has been referred to it. That was the case while Labour was in office for eight years. Labour never sought to alter it, and we have not sought to alter it. We have re-negotiated the trade treaty and brought it before the Parliament, but Labour has never said that that deliberate delay of three months before the board starts operations is wrong.
The honorable member for St. George (Mr. Clay) referred in complimentary terms to the protection of the rayon industry. I assure him that I did not, as Minister, ask the Tariff Board to hurry up consideration of the rayon industry. I was asked to do so. but I said that I had such a respect for the independence of the Tariff Board that it would be wrong for me to ask it to give priority of consideration to one issue, although obviously urgent, over another. Various industries have their views as to which is the most urgent matter, and it would be wrong for the politician who happened to hold my portfolio to set himself up as a judge of the most urgent issue. The Tariff Board itself decided that the matter of the rayon industry was urgent and commenced to hurry up the procedures. What was the result? The rayon industry asked the Tariff Board not to hurry too much. Industries, with scores of millions of pounds of investment, that are to have their fate decided must prepare their cases in great detail, and ‘ they are amongst the first to ask that the procedures of the Tariff Board be not hurried too much.
During my second-reading speech I said that we have now achieved sufficient streamlining in the Tariff Board for me to have confidence that for the future the normal period between the reference of an item and the recommendation of the board will be seven or eight months. I do not think that industry takes exception to that. That is the normal period, but in an emergency when an industry is suddenly threatened by something quite unexpected and devastating, not only is six, seven or eight months too long, but six, seven or eight weeks may be too long. In this situation, we have thought that the right procedure, while preserving the structure of the Tariff Board system, is to refer the matter to a single member of the board, a deputy chairman. He will have the wealth of 40 years’ experience of Tariff Board hearings behind him and all the machinery of the Tariff Board to aid him in his investigations. He will be asked to report quickly - in not more than 30 days - whether in his opinion some action ought to be taken. If he decides that action should be taken, the bill requires that, before the Minister shall have power to act, he must refer the matter to the Tariff Board for normal consideration. So it has to get into the machine for normal consideration before the temporary duty can be applied; and then, if the Parliament is not in session, Opposition members say that you should not be allowed to protect an industry. The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) faces this quite clearly and says, “ Why cannot you call the Parliament into session? “ Let me deal reasonably with that. I had a question from a Labour member a couple of days ago about frozen peas, an industry which gives employment to farmers and factory hands and in which money is invested, and there is a demand. Then it suddenly appears that peas are being imported from New Zealand o” the United States of America or somewhere else. I do not know whether it is necessary to take special action on that, but that could well be. I put this fairly to the Parliament: Does the Parliament want to be called into session so that the Minister might make a proposal to it that an emergency duty be imposed on frozen peas? Is that seriously put to me? 1 do not think that can be seriously proposed by any one in this Parliament.
So, if the Parliament is not to be called together, at great expense, to take this kind of action, is no action to be taken until the Parliament normally comes into session? Is that what the Labour Party is saying to Australian industry? If it is saying that, J have enough regard for it to say I do not believe it is doing so with sufficient knowledge; and I believe the Labour Party will realize it is making a mistake in that respect. So, the bill provides that it shallbe possible for the Government to impose a holding duty. Then the bill requires that a matter having first been referred to the Tariff Board, if the Parliament is in session the Minister must table the board’s report within seven days, and from that moment the Parliament is completely in control; or, if the Parliament does not happen to be in session, the bill proposes that within seven days of its coming into session such a report must be tabled, and then the Parliament is in full charge.
Let me remind the House how tariffs are normally made to-day. This is the procedure: When the Tariff Board has made a recommendation and the Government has decided to act on it, when the House is in session the appropriate Minister in this House, my colleague the Minister for Air (Mr. Osborne) who represents the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Henty), tables a paper, utters a few words and sits down. And from that moment, without a word of debate, the duty is leviable. In all the history of the Parliament the duty has been leviable for many months after that simple action has been taken. 1 have been here for 26 years and have not once seen action taken in the Parliament to initiate debate on the tabling of a tariff measure until the Government of the day listed it for consideration. And I am told that in 60 years there has not been an instance in which the Parliamenthas sought to produce on its own initiative a debate on a tariff issue.
What I am now proposing is a complete safeguard of the prerogatives of Parliament in tariff-making, a preservation which is far in excess of what exists in the United Kingdom, the United States of America or New Zealand but preserving what we believe is best. It has produced around the world admiration of our system of tariff-making.
– But the tariff system is different in the United States of America.
– That is true. In the time left to me I will deal with import licensing. Take rayon, for instance. What was done before was done by asking the Japanese Government to act - and it did - in the terms of its treaty; but if rayon from any other country was threatening Australian industry and import licensing had to be resorted to - there are thousands of importers of piece goods into Australia - how would any government know to whom to give licences except on a known structure of import licensing with attendant records and experience? One cannot get the necessary knowledge and experience except out of circumstances of restriction; you cannot get it when there are no restrictions at all. Does the Labour Party propose that import licensing should be used to protect Australian industry on the basis of “ first in, best served “ - that whoever first lands 8,000,000 yards of rayon in this country gets priority whilst the unfortunate who has his consignment at sea, paid for and perhaps has even contracted to sell his rayon before the axe falls, is to be shut out and not even allowed a chance to sell and recover his investment? That is what the Labour Party is proposing; and I am sure it does not know that that is the essence of what it is proposing. What is best to protect industry and employment in this country, and what will bring us most respect overseas and be most orderly at home, is that which the Government is proposing to do.
Question put -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. John McLeay.)
Majority . . 27
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses1 to 4 - by leave - taken together, and agreed to.
Clause 5 (Appointment of Chairman, Deputy Chairman and Acting Chairman).
.- I wish to address myself briefly to this clause. I think the Minister indicated in his second-reading speech that he would explain some of the clauses in more detail when we came to the committee stage.
Clause 5 highlights some of the difficulties of tariff-making in Australia. Before 1953, the Tariff Board sat as a single body only. Amendments were introduced in that year, with a view, it was said, to streamlining the procedure and facilitating the disposal of the board’s business. These amendments provided that the chairman could divide the board into two parts, so that each part could consider separate problems. Each part, however, could operate only under the chairmanship of the chairman himself. It was suggested at the time that, physically speaking, the same amount of work would have to be done by the chairman as had previously been the case, and that perhaps provision should have been made for a number of boards, each with its own autonomy. To some extent this seems to be the intention of the clause now before the committee. In the event of certain emergencies, such as the illness, suspension or absence of the chairman, or during any vacancy in the office of the chairman, apparently a deputy chairman may operate with the full authority that is exercised by the chairman himself. If it is felt that a deputy chairman is competent to act in this way in an emergency, why is he not given authority to operate in this way at other times?
There have been two main matters dealt with during the debate on this bill. The first had regard to the fact that the volume of work which will come before the Tariff Board is now increasing, because the board is asked to act as the adjudicator or the assessor of the effects of relaxing the import controls which previously applied over the whole structure of the Australian economy. This is a large task, because Australia has a higher proportion of external trade to total national income than most other countries do. When we consider that with a gross national product of some £6,000,000,000 we have imports every year of the order of £1,000,000,000, we can realize the size of the board’s task.
Part of the difficulty now confronting us arises from the fact that it is realized that some pressing problems will present themselves during times when the Parliament is not in session. The Government evidently feels that some emergency powers should be granted to cover such periods. I am not debating that aspect of the matter at the moment, but I am saying that it seems that at all times there is far more work coming to the Tariff Board than the existing machinery of the board can cope with efficiently. In order to ensure greater efficiency the Government has felt impelled to remove one of the normal protections of parliamentary government, which is embodied in the principle that no duty or tax shall be imposed without the consent of Parliament. The Government apparently takes the view that the gains to be derived from this departure outweigh the disadvantages. This is, to say the least, a debatable point, but what is not in dispute is the fact that a great volume of work has to be done by the Tariff Board.
All that the Government seeks to do by this legislation is to alter the machinery with relation only to abnormal conditions. No alteration is made so far as the normal workings of tariff machinery are concerned. This is one reason why we feel we are entitled to chide the Government. It has been pointed out, particularly in the last two annual reports of the Tariff Board, that the existing machinery is creaking and in need of overhaul. It seems to me that the overhaul now being contemplated does not reach down to the root of the problem, which is a physical one, involving the question whether we should ask six, seven, eight or ten men to do the work. It is a difficult problem in any event, and it is made more difficult by the fact that the final authority, except in future in certain emergencies, must be exercised by the board sitting as one body under one chairman.
In clause 5 the Government concedes that in certain circumstances a gentleman designated as deputy chairman is just as competent as the chairman himself to exercise full power. Ought not the chance have been taken of, perhaps, dividing the functions of the board so that the chairman would not have to adjudicate upon every major issue as he now does? I should like the Minister to say whether he thinks that the existing machinery except for these abnormalities is satisfactory or whether, perhaps, in future, he will consider further amendments of the normal operations of the Tariff Board.
– The Government felt some time ago that the sheer volume of the work of the Tariff Board produced delays which were aggravated partly by the limited membership of the board and partly by the secretariat behind the board which, as in any organization of this kind, is very important. Any one who has been a Minister will know the importance of a secretariat.
In order to meet that situation, the Government, some time ago, enlarged the membership of the board and made it possible for the board to sit in committees, each committee having all the authority of the board. The Government, at that time, had an opportunity to decide whether to have two or perhaps three tariff boards or to have one board with a capacity to operate as two or three entities. For a variety of reasons which were explained to the Parliament, it was thought best to retain one tariff board to make it capable of operating as several boards. There would then be the one secretariat behind it, and a uniformity of practice, because the whole board membership could meet together, and decide upon procedures and the criteria to which regard should be paid.
I do not think that the Tariff Board has been instructed by any government. Certainly it has not been deliberately or consciously instructed by our Government. It is desirable that there should be a constancy of policy and the maintenance of one structural unit contributes towards that objective. To facilitate that, it was decided that one of the members of the Tariff Board, not being the chairman, should be the deputy chairman. He was obviously the man who would sit on a second committee of the board. I think I can say with conviction that the Tariff Board, in its normal functional hearings, is now sufficiently streamlined - if that is an appropriate word - to get through its hearings without what we regard as undue delay, that is, within six, seven or eight months. I mentioned the reasons for this a few moments ago. But it is the provision in this legislation that a deputy chairman of the board may be required to undertake a special function that brings the Government to propose to the Parliament that there now ought to be two deputy chairmen. That proposal is not related to the expediting of normal work. It is related to the withdrawal of one deputy chairman for a special purpose. There will still be the chairman and one deputy chairman left for the normal work of the board. That is the explanation.
There is a provision in this clause to nominate who shall be the senior of the two deputy chairmen because he would be the man to whom the chairman would delegate his powers. In the existing legislation there is no provision for the appointment of an acting chairman when the office of chairman is vacant.. .Clearly, that is not a very desirable situation. In this clause the Government proposes to correct that deficiency and make it possible for an acting chairman to be appointed and clearly this would be the senior deputy chairman of the board should he be available.
– But is not the other point that, for the normal procedure, even if you divide the one board into virtually two boards, the chairman must finally adjudicate on the decisions of both?
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 6 to 8 - by leave - taken together, and agreed to.
Clause 9 agreed to.
Clause 10 (Action pending Tariff Board report).
.- This is the vital clause. It enables the Minister, on receipt of a report by a deputy chairman of the Tariff Board appointed for ‘the purpose, to impose, behind the back of the Parliament, duty on goods imported into this country.
– Temporarily! Human beings do many things of a temporary nature, but that does not justify a parliament delegating to a Minister, even temporarily, the right to impose taxation on people by placing a duty on imported goods. 1 notice that, whether by design or not, the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Bland), a distinguished member of the Parliament, is absent from the chamber. He voted for the second reading of the bill but he is not now present. He was. until early this year, chairman of the Public Accounts Committee and only recently I read his caustic criticism of the tendency of the Parliament to submit to being robbed of its rights and responsibilities, and his even more caustic reference to the willingness of ministers to delegate their responsibilities to officials of government departments. I hope that the honorable member for Warringah will return to this chamber when a division is taken on this clause and make his strictures effective by opposing it.
I would strongly advise honorable members who support this bill, particularly this clause which is the key to the whole measure, to read in “ Hansard “ and in the press of this country the strictures of the honorable member for Warringah on the very kind of thing to which the majority of members of this chamber are about to give their consent. I leave it at that, Mr. Chairman. I hope that the vote at least will show some adherence to the principle that Parliament, and Parliament alone, shall impose taxation.
.- The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) has indicated opposition to this clause. As he correctly said this clause is the essence of the measure. This is the clause which will enable the minister, on the advice of a deputy chairman of the Tariff Board, to impose a temporary duty. I put it to the committee that to defeat this provision - leaving the bill otherwise intact, of course - would be to leave Australian industry without any means of quick protection in an emergency-
– That does not happen to be true. It will take this man up to thirty days to make his report, but a quantitative import restriction can be imposed within a few hours. Is that true or not?
– If the honorable member will allow me to finish my sentence
– I wanted to say that at the appropriate moment.
– I take up the sentence at the point where I was interrupted. To extract this provision would be to leave the Government without adequate capacity to impose a temporary duty for the protection of Australian industry and with no power except to impose import restrictions.
– That is better.
– I said that in my second-reading speech. 1 am not seeking 10 misrepresent the honorable member for Lalor. He is entitled to his point of view. The Australian Labour Party, in following a tactical line and opposing the Government automatically, does not comprehend that it is not practicable to apply quantitative import restrictions effectively or equitably unless you have information about those who have been importing, how much they have been importing and what they have been importing. If you have that knowledge, then you can, with a kind of rough justice - I have used that term in the Parliament before to-day - decide what quantitative restrictions will be put on a particular item. You can, with rough justice, say what people will be allowed to import. You can say, “This is how much they will be allowed to import, and here are the licences that will permit them to do so “. The granting of licences means that the importation must be authorized before the goods can be purchased, or before there is any safety in importers making purchases.
What we are talking about is the state of affairs in which goods have been purchased are flowing into the country, are on the water, or are on the wharfs overseas awaiting shipment to Australia. At some point of time it is realized that there is grave danger to an Australian industry. When that is known, at a late pointof time, you cannot really impose with any equity import restrictions on an item, except in the rare cases that I described in my second-reading speech. I said then that in a case where there are only two or three purchasers in Australia, as in the case of certain raw materials, we can call the handful of importers into a room, as we have done more than once, and say: “ We cannot allow so much of this item to come in. Let us discuss what we can do with equity to protect the Australian producer and. with fairness to all the Australian importers, make an arrangement.” We have done that on a number of occasions. I said that if that could be done and done fairly, especially in relation to a raw material, then it is the best thing to do in the interests of the general public, because the economy is not. then loaded with a duty..
In my second-reading speech I stated that this course would still be followed when action could be taken in time and with equity, but I added that it would be only in rare cases that it could be done. Textiles provide an example. I can think of a multitude of other items in respect of which there is an almost infinite number, an unknown number, of importers. One cannot suddenly draw down the blind of quantitative restriction with any degree of fairness at all. . When I first considered this matter; it seemed to me that if: we preserved the structure of import; licensing so that, without restriction, everyone would have . to get a licence before he could import, we wouldhave a; structure of knowledge that would enable us to useimport licensing for this purpose. It was pointed out to me -andI clearly comprehend it now - that licenceswithout restriction do not really give us a basis. There was a time in the history of this country when people who obtained licences to import, during a period when there were no restrictions, found that, by filling theirdrawers with licences, they put themselves into a position where they could get a bigger quota when restrictions finally were imposed. If we had a system of licensing without restriction, who could read the mind of a man when he said, “ I want a licence to import this item “ ? You cannot read a man’s mind. He would get a licence. The very fact that he gets an excessive quantity of licences will produce a fear in the minds of those engaged in an Australian industry - an unwarranted fear - that it is going to be overwhelmed by imports, and perhaps action will be taken when it is not needed.
So, it is not practicable to operate import restrictions as a normal device to protect Australian industry. I am not misrepresenting the honorable member for Lalor by saying that he suggests that procedure as the normal, regular replacement of customs tariff. “ I know he does not suggest that. He was a member of the Government which entered into the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade in 1947. That Government pledged, and we have adopted the pledge, that import licensing would not be used as the normal means of protecting Australian industry, and it has not been so used, except, under Article XIX., in temporary and exceptional circumstances.. It is not an appropriate substitute. I assure the honorable member for Lalor and his colleagues that it is not a manageable substitute, nor could it be a fair substitute, for what is proposed.
.- The Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) is very naive in his explanation. He makes the excuse that quantitative restrictions and import licensing would not be adequate to meet circumstances which, as he has admitted in his second-reading speech, will probably arise very rarely. He has said that he will protect himself and that administrative provisions will be made so that, before anybody may get the protection afforded by this particular procedure provided for in the bill, he will have to furnish to the administration the most elaborate information regarding purchases. The Minister went on to say, if not in words, then in effect, that all the information at present in the possession of the administration, collected and collated during the operation of import licensing and the power to impose total prohibition on exports, would be available for consultation and utilization. He has further elaborated to show that the circumstances in which the procedure will operate will be rare and that when such circumstances do arise, very careful consideration will be given to them. That is his alibi by means of which he hopes to obtain our consent to this iniquitous proposition.
The Minister has gone so far as to say that the Bureau of Census and Statistics will, in effect, at once be required to supply to the department each week - the Minister will correct me if I am wrong - full details of imports during the previous fortnight; that manufacturers will come along and give voluminous statements of their position; and that the panels that he has set up will be consulted and will have available to them all the details. He will require to be in possession of all that detailed information. If that is so, it means that almost all the information on which he has operated import licensing and total prohibition in the past will be available.
– Yes. He has required the furnishing of details of the industries which, either at his request or their request, are to be subject to quantitative import restrictions or import prohibition. I do not think that honorable members opposite deny that is so. In addition, the Minister for Trade and his department have been receiving certain information from the Bureau of Census and Statistics. That will continue. He has assured the committee that it will not be easy to administer these tariff provisions, nor will it be easy for the deputy chairman of the Tariff Board to determine appropriate rates.
Then the Minister referred to the difficulty of import licensing. There is no doubt that it is difficult. Some injustices have occurred in the past; they occur in all branches of human administration. The Minister did not remind the committee, however, that injustices are inevitable also in the operation of this proposal. He proposes to give the deputy chairman of the Tariff Board a month to compile and collect the information necessary for the Minister to act upon. Normally, in similar cases, the Tariff Board has required three, five or six months to deal with applications. It is quite obvious that in an emergency a man with only one month available to him will be placed in the position where, quite humanly, he will make a recommendation, but it will be made on what is normally inadequate information. He will not have sufficient time to give full and serious consideration to the subject matter. One would think, on listening to the Minister for Trade, that these new proposals will be completely devoid of the weaknesses, difficulties and, no doubt, the injustices that surround quantitative import restrictions and prohibitions, whereas actually the new procedure will be fully as liable to faults, weaknesses and injustices as has been every protectionist weapon used by this Administration.
I ask those honorable members who are inclined to give effect to this proposal to think twice before they depart from the time-honoured tradition of this Parliament and give the Minister and the Executive the right to impose a tax which will affect - -indirectly and minutely in some cases but to a major extent in others - a very large section of this community. This is panic legislation. As I said earlier, it is a desire to get away from the irksome duty that is imposed on the Government in the present situation by the adverse trade balance and the absence of any effective machinery to protect the wool-growers in a highly organized world. Despite this legislation, those conditions will require the urgent imposition of very severe import quotas and prohibitions in the very near future. I have no doubt that the Government will keep available within its departments complete and up-to-date knowledge of the dangerous balance of trade situation. 1 have no doubt that the information will be almost as complete as it was when the Minister needed to have it at hand and the Government used other weapons to rectify the adverse balance of trade in recent years.
So long as this country adheres to a policy of full employment and is subject to the vagaries of world prices, any government will necessarily have to keep import licensing administration up-to-date and at its disposal. At least, it will have to maintain the core of the weapon that has been used in the past to protect its industries and its over-all financial situation. It is useless for the Minister to put this proposal before the Parliament as the only escape from an irksome and arduous duty during a crisis that may arise at any time. In future, this Government will dodge its responsibility and even extend the period of the parliamentary recess. I ask honorable members to use their judgment and decide who is right and who is wrong. It is not a question of the Australian Labour Party being opposed to the protection of Australian industry. The history of Australia shows how the Labour Party has supported protection of Australian industries. This party has never deviated from the path of fostering, sponsoring and aiding industries that are necessary to our development. We are not opposed to protection.
– The records of this country will show that this is the first time the Australian Labour Party has opposed protection for Australian manufacturing industries. I am familiar with occasions when the Labour Party opposed protection for Australian rural industries. I recall that when the first wheat stabilization schemes of the 1930’s were proposed the Australian Labour Party voted wholly against them.
– That is nonsense! We were the pioneers of the existing wheat stabilization scheme. We enacted it times without number. We were the pioneers of protection of the dairying industry.
– The records will show from to-day onwards that the Australian Labour Party has broken with tradition in respect of Australian manufacturing industry and the employment it gives. For the first time, for the sake of party political advantage in the Parliament, the Labour Party has set itself upon the course of opposing protection to Australian industry. Nothing will expunge that from the record.
The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) is, at the best, confused. He has been talking about import licensing as though in the past it was the same kind of protection of Australian industry as we are now discussing. Import licensing in the past has been used to protect our overseas balances. The honorable member conceded that across the table three minutes ago. In the course of protecting overseas balances, you decide who shall be allowed to import. To decide fairly who shall be allowed to import, you need records that go back, in the case of current licensing, to 1952 and earlier so that you can get a base year of entitlement to determine who shall get the licence to import. You are delving into the past all the time in dealing fairly with the protection of overseas balances.
But that is not what we are now talking about; the confused honorable gentleman opposite does not understand this proposal. What we are talking about is the protection of Australian manufacturing industry to-morrow, not the protection of overseas balances. To protect Australian manufacturing industry to-morrow you do not need records of the past but knowledge of to-day - how much is being produced, the orders that are being placed and how much is coming in. It is the knowledge of to-day that matters. We have a complete experience of that as, I think, the honorable member will realize. I refer to the experience of putting the former chairman of the Tariff Board, Mr. M. E. McCarthy, to the task of estimating the degree to which Australian industry would be damaged by the Japanese Trade Agreement. He has been investigating exactly this question for the past three years. He has been reporting to the Minister for Trade, and the Minister for Trade where necessary has been using import restrictions to protect Australian industry in that one simple respect. What is proposed in this legislation is no novelty. If it is outrageous to ask an outside adviser to the Government to take evidence within 30 days, if it is thought to be impossible for him to accumulate sufficient evidence within 30 days, or if it is suggested that his decisions are likely to be wrong, why has the Labour Party been so silent for the three years during which this practice has been going on? In the press and in the Parliament I have stated that it has been going on. On one occasion Mr. McCarthy made a report and I said that no more than so many pairs of footwear would be allowed into Australia.
– At existing rates of duty. There was no increased import.
– At existing rates of duty, but there was a complete prohibition of imports beyond a certain level. We are considering the same kind of mechanism to-day. Our friends opposite are prepared to expose the whole of Australian industry to devastating damage from imports rather than to allow a temporary duty to be applied when the Parliament does not happen to be in session. I cannot believe for one moment that that view represents a proper consideration of the needs of Australian industry, and I cannot believe for one moment that it will find approval at the trades halls.
– As if you wanted anything approved at the trades halls!
– It may surprise the honorable member to know that when members of the Australian Council of Trade Unions - after talking about it publicly for six months but not coming near me - came in force to interview me about protection under the Japanese Trade Treaty, I promised to supply them, if they so desired, with all the factual information on imports that the Government was supplying to the Chamber of Manufactures and the Chamber of Commerce. In my opinion, the Australian
Council of Trade Unions is just as entitled to that information as are those other bodies, and I gave its representatives my answer across the table. So far as this proposal to perpetuate the panel system is concerned, the Government will continue to consult with and hear the point of view of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and the Australian Chamber of Manufactures, and I say now across the table that the Government is prepared to continue to give to the Australian Council of Trade Unions the factual statistical information that is available. I am sure that the council would wish that there should be in existence an apparatus that would enable the Australian Government to give temporary protection quickly to threatened Australian industries, even by means of a temporary duty imposed at a time when Parliament was not in session.
.- I think the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) is attempting to put the Labour Party’s argument on a footing altogether different from that on which it stands. The Minister treats more lightly the importance of protecting the rights of Parliament, which represents the whole of the people, than that of the right of protection of limited sections of industry. I do not. What the Labour Party takes objection to is the provision in the latter part of the clause which will allow the Minister to impose a duty when the Parliament is not sitting. The length of time during which Parliament does not sit is never more than two to three months, and an investigation of the kind we are considering would take a month or six weeks. Our view is that it would be better, in the overall interest, if the duty finally recommended by this temporary board had to be considered by the Parliament before it could become operative.
The Minister has attempted to twist our argument and he says that we are opposed to the protection of Australian industry. He has introduced an irrelevant argument about the operations of import licensing. I should like to say two things about import licensing. The first is that, despite the confidence of the Government at the moment, I do not believe that Australia has seen the last of import licensing. I do not mean to imply that I hope that import licensing will have to be reintroduced; I am suggesting that it may have to be reintroduced. After all, we are dealing with a government which thought it wise, twelve months ago, to reduce income tax by 5 per cent, and which now thinks it wise to raise the tax to the former level. The fact that import licensing does not exist to-day does not mean that it will not exist to-morrow or in six or twelve months’ time.
The second thing I should like to say about import licensing - I do not quibble with the theoretical assertion that import licences axe imposed not to protect industry but to protect the balance of payments position - is that, whether the Government likes it or not, once licensing is imposed it inevitably has the effect of giving protection to certain Australian industries, and if it is abandoned those industries become vulnerable. That is why this measure is before us at the moment. It is wrong for the Minister to twist our argument and to say that we are opposed to the protection of Australian industries. We are not opposed to that protection. All that we want to do is to safeguard the longestablished principle that only the Parliament shall impose a duty or a charge upon the people. That is what this legislation abrogates. It takes away from the Parliament the right to do that and vests it in a Minister.
The Government says that it is taking this course in the name of haste. If the argument based on the necessity for haste is examined, it will be found that it is not a very honest one, because the periods when this Parliament is not sitting are not very long. The maximum recess is three months. The Minister brushes our argument off by saying, “Would you call the House together to put through a temporary duty on green peas? “ If he cares to put the matter on that plane, he can make our argument sound absurd. But what if it were a question of calling the House together to protect the motor industry?
I suggest that what needs to be done is to delete that portion of the clause that would allow the decision of this board to become operative without the consent of the Parliament. We feel that we should stand up in this Parliament and restate the principle to which I have referred, because apparently it needs to be restated and reasserted. We believe that the rights of
Parliament as against those of the Government should be reasserted, particularly when we feel that the Government may be sheltering behind a hasty and incompetent decision by a body which is not responsible to the Parliament at all.
.- If we believe in the protection of Australian industry, then, under the circumstances we all envisage, we must agree that it is necessary to do one of two things. It is necessary either to prohibit or restrict imports of the goods concerned or to impose a duty upon them. The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) made great play on what the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Bland) had said about the increase in the province of the official at the expense of the Parliament, which the honorable member for Lalor said was progressively forgoing its responsibility. Surely, that is an entirely misleading argument in these circumstances.
The alternative to the imposition of a duty is a direct restriction of imports, imposed quite arbitrarily by an official. That certainly would not be required to be approved by the Parliament. Surely, the imposition of a duty would be a far slighter exercise of official discretion, outside the authority of the Parliament, than is required by the system under which we operate to-day. Although this duty may be regarded from one point of view as a tax, it is also an essential element of protection for industry. Within seven days of the next day of sitting it must come before Parliament for confirmation. If there is a sudden rush of imports, surely it is better to give an official the power to impose a higher duty than otherwise would apply, rather than allow an official, at the stroke of a pen, to impose a complete ban on the imports. For a blunt instrument we substitute a means whereby the importer has some option, and a far greater freedom of operation than he would have in the other case. Surely, far from abrogating parliamentary control, in the real sense and over the whole field that procedure would increase it.
It is all very well to make a play on this point that taxation would be imposed without the consent of Parliament, which would be sought some time after the event. As the Minister and other honorable members have pointed out, this device has been found to be essential by almost every country which relies on tariffs to protect its industries. Certainly, in the United Kingdom, and even more so in the United States of America, where congressmen are fully alive to this issue of officials encroaching upon the rights of the elected representatives of the people, a procedure similar to that which is proposed by this legislation has been found to be necessary. In fact, in the practical world in which we live it is essential. In the United Kingdom these duties are imposed by order-in-council, and are subject to alteration later by the Parliament. The procedure which this bill proposes will be much tighter in its operation than are those in the United Kingdom and the United States.
If you want to impose restrictions and complete bans on imports, you maintain the existing system. But any theory can be pushed to nonsensical lengths. The theory that no taxation should be imposed without the consent of Parliament is a theory which, in circumstances such as those which confront us, clearly must yield to common sense. The greater freedom will come from a measure of this kind, not from the imposition of prohibitive restrictions at the stroke of a pen, as has been the practice.
.- I should have thought that our experience of import licensing would have been sufficient to lead us to say that, except as a last resort, we would not touch it with a 40-ft. pole. Yet we have heard honorable members opposite lauding import licensing as if it were exceedingly good and something that we should take to bed with. us. Import licensing is, and has been proved to be, an evil, although, as a last resort, a necessary evil. During the few short years in which it has been in operation in Australia it has led to all kinds of troubles and ramps.
Let me cite a couple of instances of this. About twelve months ago the importation of whisky was restricted. As a result, a tamp developed. If a man wanted to buy Scotch he had to buy also a considerable quantity of other liquors, some of which he might not want. In order to obtain, say, six bottles of Scotch for genuine trading purposes, he might have to pay up to £150 for other goods. When the attention of the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) was directed to this ramp he lifted the restrictions on the importation of whisky. The day after, a certain person of my acquaintance was offered five dozen bottles of imported whisky, although previously he had found it almost impossible to obtain. Another man of my acquaintance was also offered five dozen bottles of imported whisky the day after licensing was lifted. 1 shall cite another case, if that is necessary to support my statement. 1 know a man who could have imported tiles from Japan for about £2 a square yard but, because he could not obtain an import licence, he had to buy the tiles from an importer for £3 a square yard. That importer virtually had a monopoly of those tiles because he possessed an import licence. He was able to make a very good profit on his deals.
Those are only two examples of what happens when you have import licensing. All honorable members know what happens. They know the pressures that were applied to them by people who did not have import licences. Yet some honorable members advocate import licensing as if it were a fine thing and an exercise of the privileges of Parliament.
The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) said that a great fight in relation to taxation occurred early in the history of the British parliamentary institution. It was a fight between Parliament and the King. The honorable member understated the position when he said that the fight was concerned only with taxation. He admitted that the United Kingdom Parliament, with all its traditions, its knowledge of the parliamentary institution and its great skill in democratic government, has voluntarily handed to an official holding an important position the right to impose a temporary duty of the nature of that proposed in this bill. In effect, the United Kingdom Parliament has done something which this legislation proposes to do in Australia. But the honorable member for Lalor still is afraid. He prefers import licensing, with all its vicious attributes, to the temporary imposition of a duty which can be supervised and regulated by this Parliament within a short time of its assembly.
He has gone further than that. He has implied that the Australian Country Party, of which I have the honour to be a member, has done something sinister in relation to this bill. He has said that in return for the plums of office as members of the Liberal-Country Party Government, the principles of the Country Party have gone overboard to some extent. I resent those remarks. The Country Party does not have to trade principles with any one. The Country Party is concerned with the welfare of the people of Australia. Over 2,000,000 people have been added to our population in ten years, and we are concerned with the interests of all of them; not merely with a section of them. We are concerned with the people on fixed incomes, and with the primary producers who produce four-fifths of our export earnings. We are concerned with the welfare of all the people of this country. It is sheer nonsense for any member of this Parliament to say that, just because some measure is introduced, the principles of a party go overboard. I do not know what principles motivate the honorable member for Lalor. I will leave it to him to decide whether the principles that activate him in this Parliament are high principles or low principles. But I can assure the honorable member that as far as I and other members of the Australian Country Party are concerned only one set of principles governs us in the furtherance of our duties, and that is a set of high principles. If the honorable member for Lalor suggests for a moment that you needlow principles in order to do something in the interests of Australia, he has the wrong slant.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Bowden).Order! I think the honorable member is wandering a little away from the bill.
– I am answering the honorable member for Lalor, Mr. Chairman, but I bow to your ruling.
This is a simple principle. Despite that it is possible that the honorable member for Lalor has not been able to understand it. It is simply a question of what we should do. Import licensing is no good except as a last resort. The principle that is adopted in this provision is a good one. It is one that will work and one that this Parliament will adopt.
.- It is fair to say that a lot of the trouble in which the Government finds itself at this stage, when it is trying to plug the hole, stems from the sudden and impetuous decision to wipe out import restrictions almost overnight. In the opinion of many people in the community, including myself, if the Government had gradually relaxed import restrictions over a period of time it would have been able to judge whether it was necessary to introduce some alternative form of protection such as is envisaged by this bill.
The Government has spoken of the problems associated with the sudden imposition of import restrictions and insofar as they concern people who have already placed orders with firms overseas. I wonder whether it has occurred to the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) and other members of the Australian Country Party that the sudden imposition of tariff duties will be a crippling blow to people who are importing goods into Australia at present. The tariff duties that are imposed under this bill will affect people who have placed orders and whose orders are on the high seas. It cannot be said that the introduction of import restrictions will be any worse than the levying of duties on goods that are already on order or in many cases on the way to importers in this country. Those duties will be just as devastating to the people in commercial life who are importing goods as the introduction of import restrictions.
A great many people in this country to-day are engaged in importing goods and in the wholesaling and retailing of those goods. Any sudden re-introduction of import restrictions or the imposition of tariff duties will be a great embarrassment to business people and their employees. The Government has said that it is dealing principally with an emergency situation. But even though we may deal with an emergency situation, there is no guarantee that the imposition of tariff duties will be effective. It is rather a hit-and-miss affair. There is no guarantee that the imposition of duties will be as effective as it should be if Australian industry is to be protected.
Another point that I bring to the notice of the Government, of which it is probably already aware, is that many business people to-day are stock-piling against the day when import controls are re-introduced. That stock-piling could very well stimulate a situation where the Government will be forced to re-introduce import controls. Only yesterday a highly placed businessman in the community told me that many firms are stock-piling against the day when import restrictions will be re-introduced. You can hardly blame them for doing so. After all, who would have thought that the Government would remove a tax concession that it had granted only twelve months previously?
– Is the honorable member dealing with clause 10? . - .
-What I am saying is very relevant to clause 10 and to the Government’s. hasty action in removing import controls without carefully studying the position of industries in this country. If import controls had been lifted in a systematic way and with less haste the Government would not now be asking Parliament to give to the Executive authority, powers and responsibilities that properly belong to Parliament. People in commercial life, knowing of the fits and starts that have been highlights of the Government’s trade and economic policies in the past, are fearful that in twelve months’ time it will indulge in more fits and starts and reintroduce some form of import controls. The lack of consistency in policy over the years has caused business people to mistrust the Government, and they are stock-piling against the day when import control will be re-introduced. People in business in a small way are resentful because stock-piling against the contingency of import controls seems to be the prerogative of big business - of people who have access to credit or who have funds available in order to engage in this practice. They are also resentful because credit restrictions imposed by the banking institutions have made it impossible for them to compete on an equitable basis with larger industries and businesses.
It is right and proper that the Opposition should protest at the abrogation of the responsibilities and authority of Parliament. The Opposition has every right to protest against the Government’s action in abolishing import restrictions and then trying to plug the hole in this rather inefficient and indecent manner that disregards parliamentary authority and parliamentary responsibilities.
Question put -
That the clause be agreed to.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. G. J. Bowden.)
Majority . . . . 25
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 16th August (vide page 18), on motion by Mr. McEwen -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 3 - by leave - taken together, and agreed to.
Clause 4 (Notification of proposals when House of Representatives not sitting).
.- Mr. Chairman, I wish to point out to the committee briefly that, as I interpret it, this clause will permit certain things to be done in consequence of a report by the Tariff Board after the Parliament has been prorogued and, I emphasize, even after the Parliament has actually been dissolved. AmI right?
– Here we have a proposal that after a Parliament has expired new rates of customs tariff may be fixed and collected until the people have elected a new Parliament and it has met. Our oposition to this proposal is on exactly the same grounds as our opposition to the Tariff Board Bill, which has just been dealt with.
I point out to the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Bandidt) that what he suggested happened to whisky under import licensing could also happen under the proposals in the Tariff Board Bill or this bill to the same, or even greater extent. It must be obvious to the’ honorable member that immediately the Minister makes known that an application has been made to him to invoke the powers granted in this bill to collect custom duties at the rate recommended in the report of the Tariff Board after the dissolution of the Parliament, those who are already holding stocks of the product concerned will anticipate the Minister’s decision. They will know that the board has been deliberating, and they will be able to do exactly as they did before. Exercising their judgment that an increased tariff may be imposed, they will start to accumulate stocks. The honorable gentle man knows that if they anticipate correctly they will be able to sell the stocks they have put to one side at a higher rate after protection has been granted. The Labour Party opposes this clause just as vigorously as it opposed the obnoxious provision of the Tariff Board Bill.
Question put -
That the clause be agreed to.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. G. J. Bowden.)
Majority . . . . 28
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 16th August (vide page 1 8), on motion by Mr. McEwen -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Sitting suspended from 5.57 to 8 p.m.
Debate resumed from 17th August (vide page 135), on motion by Sir Garfield Barwick -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- This is a bill for an act relating to marriages, which purports to regulate certain aspects of marriage on a uniform basis for Australian nationals not only within Australia but also, in some respects, Australians overseas. It has been declared a non-party measure so that all may speak to it according to their consciences and according to their concepts of marriage and what the regulations relating to marriage ought to be. It has been said - quite properly too, I think - that the reason for that is that it is generally conceded that marriage is an important, perhaps the most important institution, and is in fact the basis of our social order.
To some extent this measure is complementary to the Matrimonial Causes Act, and it is difficult to discuss it without making some reference to that act. Indeed, considerable reference has already been made to the Matrimonial Causes Act. Strangely enough, by a process of reasoning that I do not understand, this bill dealing with the tying of the marriage knot is submitted to us after the enactment of a measure relating to the untying of the marriage knot. The reason for that isobscure. It has been suggested to me as a probable reason that the law is based on precedent, and so lawyers always think backwards. But lawyers have not always thought backwards. For instance, some 60 years ago, the framers of the Constitution did think forward to the extent that they incorporated in the Constitution provision enabling us to bring down a uniform bill relating to marriage. They are to be complimented upon at least that one instance in which they did not think backwards.
The further this debate proceeds the happier the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) appears to be. I do not altogether approve of that state of affairs, although I can well understand it, because all through the debate it has been obvious that there is no great objection to the measure. Some honorable members have suggested ways by which, they feel, the bill could be improved, but there have been no great objections to it. However, I propose to add to the suggestions already made by these honorable members.
The Attorney-General has received many compliments for this bill. He has been complimented by a number of honorable members who are members of the legal profession. They have gone into great detail to point out the advantages that will accrue from the bill. As professional men themselves, they have not been very critical of it, and 1 have been rather more intrigued about that aspect than anything else.
I have said that this measure is really complementary to the Matrimonial Causes Act and that some reference might have to be made to that act if we were to deal thoroughly with all phases of the bill. I am greatly intrigued by the fact that although the Matrimonial Causes Act gave rise to a great deal of controversy throughout the community, which has not ended yet, because some sections of the community still propose to contest the measure bitterly, those same sections of the community seem to offer little resistance to the bill under discussion. To my way of thinking the reason for this lack of opposition to the measure has been the change of approach by the Attorney-General in drafting and presenting it. It would seem that, when drafting the Matrimonial Causes Bill, provisions were taken from the various State measures covering divorce and simply lumped together in a bill which was presented to us for consideration. It would seem that those whom one might expect to be most expressive in their opinions relating to the measure - the social workers and the clergy - were not consulted by the Government before the Matrimonial Causes Bill was drafted. If they were, then it would seem that, their opinions were given little or no weight, if we are to judge from the consternation they expressed when that legislation was enacted. But in this case it is evident that a different approach was made. In this instance it is evident that those who would be most likely to express their opinions vociferously - the social workers and the clergy - were fully consulted. It is evident from their present conduct that the opinions expressed by those people were taken deeply into account when the bill before us was being drafted. That is the proper way in which to approach these matters. I feel that it is because of this approach by the AttorneyGeneral that this measure is receiving such an easy passage. It is probable that it will receive unanimous support.
I have already said that in my opinion the reason for that is that the people most concerned were fully consulted. In short, the provisions of the previous bill were arrived at arbitrarily. I believe that on this occasion the Attorney-General is enjoying the benefits of what may well be his first attempt at collective bargaining. A little more of that kind of thing would be very helpful in our legislation. I would welcome the promotion of more discussion with parties such as trade unions, before legislation affecting them is brought down. Be that as it may, I think I am on safe ground in saying that the reason for the support this bill has received is that the right thing was done at the outset. As I did with the Matrimonial Causes Bill on receipt of this bill I went to the various bodies which I thought might be concerned with it and, in the main, they were appreciative of the measure. I gave them copies of the bill and also copies of the introductory speech by the Attorney-General. I believe they are well satisfied with the measure and consider it to be a step forward.
I notice that the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) is not present at the moment to hear me say that in the course of this debate one clergyman and an ex-clergyman have expressed satisfaction with the measure. So also have members of the legal fraternity. The bill is very satisfactory to me as a layman because it contains what I consider to be the most important ingredient of uniformity. I should like to see much more uniform legislation introduced. I know the difficulties that exist. The fathers of the Constitution possibly did not have enough vision with respect to certain matters, but in this particular instance they did and we are now reaping the benefit of it. I regret that although the matter of uniformity was pressed very hard in connexion with the Matrimonial Causes Bill the Attorney-General is somewhat apologetic about the uniformity on this occasion, for he said -
Mr. Speaker, I do not believe that there is any necessary virtue in uniformity. Indeed, in many areas of human endeavour variety may bring strength.
I have contemplated this question and have been unable to see any area of legislation or human endeavour where uniformity would really be a bad thing or would be bad for the Australian people. I believe that we must think on a national basis. I make my stand clear in regard to uniformity. The bill is to be commended on its ingredient of uniformity and the people who are mainly concerned with it are supporting the measure for that reason. The honorable member for Wilmot, an ex-clergyman, said that this measure was 60 years overdue and I hope that the talk about uniformity on this occasion will bring some members to the point where they will give consideration to the reforms recommended by the all-party committee on constitutional reform. I repeat that the bill has been carefully and favorably analysed in this chamber by many members of the legal fraternity and I know that it is pleasing to members of the religious fraternity, although they do express some reservations in regard to it.
The clergymen with whom I have discussed the bill were satisfied that it did impose upon them some obligations that were probably not imposed on them previously, but they feel that it is worth the imposition of those obligations which are not very tedious for them. The main objection raised to the measure relates to the Government’s proposal to set the age of consent for marriage at sixteen years for a girl and eighteen years for a boy. Perhaps I should refer to them as a woman and a man because quite often at sixteen years of age a girl is a woman and at eighteen years of age a boy is a man. I know that the bill contains provisions whereby this limitation may be overcome, but apart from that it forbids the marriage of men and women under the ages that I have mentioned. I feel that the provisions of the bill are not quite satisfactory, but it deals with a very difficult matter. Under the measure, parents have not many rights because the bill forbids marriage, except under certain conditions, if the parties are below the ages mentioned and the parents have not the right to consent to the marriage where the parties are under those ages, even if they want to. The AttorneyGeneral said -
Mr. Speaker, by dint of the provisions of the Matrimonial Causes Act a marriage under these ages is void. The bill adopts the view that a marriage of immature people solely to ensure that an expectant child is born within wedlock is not in the real interests of the child or of the parents or, for that matter, of the community. Consequently, it has been felt that to render a marriage under the marriageable age invalid would remove what might be an instrument of pressure to enter what is commonly called a forced marriage, which, on what I have been able to glean, the social workers would say is unlikely to be permanent and more likely to cause misery and to wreck more lives than one.
You will notice, Sir, that the AttorneyGeneral says “ On what I have been able to glean “. I would be more satisfied if he were to tell us what he has been able to glean and put it forward in such a manner that it would carry some weight. I do not know whether it is the right and proper thing to forbid the marriage of a girl who is an. expectant mother. You will recollect, Sir, that during the debate on the contentious Matrimonial Causes Bill it was pointed out to us that one of the best features of clause 28 (m), as it was then numbered, was that a guilty person in the case of a broken marriage would be able to contract another marriage in order to legitimatize a child, although the innocent party to the marriage may not want that to happen. That provision related to a guilty person. I suggest that the child of such a union as that is of no more importance than the child of a girl who may be only one day under 16 years of age. Let me make clear that both children are important, but I say that one child is no more important than the other. I should imagine also that in those circumstances one mother is no more important than another. I think that the mother who is a day under 16 years of age should have some say as to whether her child should or should not be a legitimate child, provided, of course, that the father of the child is willing to marry her.
I therefore have very grave misgivings regarding that provision. I think that it should not be left entirely, to a magistrate to decide these matters. I cite a comment of the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Bandidt) to support my view in that regard. He was speaking about the forms of marriage and the accompanying ceremony. Incidentally, many church folk are not quite happy about one form that is contained in the bill, though I have no objection to it. The honorable member for Wide Bay drew attention to the fact that some judges and magistrates are grouchy; that was his term. I thoroughly agree with him. I hope that I never come before a grouchy judge or magistrate, although I have appeared before many of them in the Commonwealth Arbitration Court.
It could so happen that the question of consent as to whether a child should be legitimatized or otherwise would come before a magistrate who was grouchy. The matter would be left to his discretion entirely. He might have a daughter of his own and, lo and behold, because he has particular views on the matter, the child who is to be born has to be illegitimate. I say that he has no right to make that decision. In my view, the parents - not only the unmarried parents, but also the parents of the boy and the girl - have some rights in regard to the matter. Let the adult parents get together with the children and thrash it .out. If they can come to an arrangement, let the young people get married. That course is to be preferred to leaving the matter to a grouchy old magistrate. I do not say that all magistrates are grouchy. Sometimes I go before one, and I would not like him to think that I thought they were all grouchy.
Before going to a magistrate, the parents - both the adult parents and the child parents - are entitled to see whether they can straighten the matter out. If they can do so, it is not right, in my view, for a magistrate, because of some little whim, to be able to say, “ I will not allow it to happen “. I know that there are not very many of these cases, but nature being what it is, moonlight nights - warm summer nights at that - will produce more of these cases in the future. Whether the AttorneyGeneral likes it or not, they will occur. The best rule is that which we adopt when dealing with apprentices. Those honorable members who are or have been on apprenticeship boards will agree that the best rule to adopt is one that is best for the apprentice. Likewise, in relation to the matter before us, what is best for the two children who are the parents - for after all the parents are only children - is the best rule to adopt. I think that the parents would have more persuasive powers in this matter than magistrates.
The bill contains another good provision in that it does permit the legitimization of children. That is all to the good. I hope that the Attorney-General has realized from experience with the Matrimonial Causes Act that consultation with those who should be most experienced in these matters is to be preferred before bringing down a bill. If we get some more of that approach to legislation, other legislation will probably go through in the same amicable manner as that in which this bill is being considered.
.- lt was not my intention to speak on this bill and I would not do so but for the fact that the honorable member for Darebin (Mr. Courtnay) is, it seems to me, under seme misapprehension which I think it is necessary for me to correct. I do this in no spirit of hostility towards him at all. This is a non-party bill and I feel that any member who can contribute something of value to the House should do so.
In the first place, he castigated the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) for saying that he had gleaned certain information from social workers, and he asked that the Attorney-General should tell the House what this information was. 1 think it is quite fitting that any member wishing for information from those who are in contract with these problems should seek that information for himself. There is nothing to prevent the honorable member for Darebin, or any other member, from going to social workers and finding out their views.
– I did that.
– Then there is no reason why the Attorney-General should do other than what the honorable member for Darebin or any of the rest of us could do. Quite obviously, Sir, this is not a matter that may be within the knowledge of honorable members themselves. In circumstances of that kind, it is usual for any member to go to those who have a special knowledge or who are expert in a matter with which the member is not familiar. So it is quite proper and sensible that the opinion of social workers should be taken in a matter of this kind.
The honorable gentleman has questioned whether the age fixed for marriage, that is, eighteen for boys and sixteen for gi.ls, is not too high. As he said, if parties purport to marry under that age the marriage is invalid or, rather, there is no marriage at all. The question is whether it is wise to fix the age so high. Let us be quite frank about the fact that the circumstances in which very young people are apt to marry almost invariably are that the girl is pregnant and it is desired that the child of this illicit union should be legitimatized. These are what I think the AttorneyGeneral in his speech referred to as forced marriages. When we speak of marriages of very young people it is this kind of marriage that we have principally in mind. I think the honorable member will agree with me on that point.
Then he asks us to consider the case of a girl who is under sixteen years of age, unmarried and about to have a child. He says, “ Should she not have the right to marry, without being forbidden by law to do so, in order that the child may be legitimatized? “ That, I think, is the question posed by the honorable member. I, too, have sought the advice of social workers on this matter, and the information I have received - I have no doubt other honorable members have received similar information - is that in practically all such cases the parties are quite immature and never contemplated marriage at the time when theconception took place. For these reasons- marriages that may take place between such persons usually break up within a very short time, with great suffering to the girl and the boy, and, of course, to the child, who is then left in the care of an immature girl. Three persons endure great suffering as a result of this attempt to put matters right by a forced marriage. That is one thing that can happen in such cases.
Then there is another thing that can happen. In some cases the girl does not marry, but goes to one of the hospitals where almoners are accustomed to deal with such matters. It so happens that there are far more people eager to adopt babies than there are babies to be adopted, and the almoners in such cases, generally through the instrumentality of the Child Welfare Department - in New South Wales, at any rate - arrange for the adoption of the child at birth. Great pains are taken in these matters of adoption. There are so many prospective parents from whom to choose that it is possible to match a child with its parents very well, according to the probable innate qualities of the child and the known qualities of those who would adopt it. A great deal of trouble is taken in these matters, and when this course is followed and the child is adopted at birth, there is every prospect that the child at least, being much wanted by the adopting parents, will have a happy life. The girl and the young man concerned, being immature and not having been forced into marriage, are also likely, despite the fact that they will endure great mental suffering, to live happier lives and, one may hope, profit from their experience. Those are the two courses open in such cases - either the course of a forced immature marriage or the course of facilitating the adoption of the child at birth.
The honorable member says - and I go back to his original argument - that the mother ought to be able to decide whether the child is to be legitimate or not. Of course, in cases in which the child is adopted this question does not arise. Having been adopted at birth, the child enjoys in all respects the same conditions and status as the natural children of the adopting parents. The stigma of illegitimacy does not attach to the child in any way. For these reasons - and this, I think, would be the view of most social workers - the wise mother would follow the second of the two courses I have mentioned.
For the reasons I have given, I think the argument of the honorable member does not hold water. I do not say this by way of arguing against him simply because he happens to sit on the other side of the House, but because I think any misapprehensions in this matter ought to be removed. I am in close contact, fortunately, with social workers, through my own family, and I can assure the House that these are the circumstances in which this kind of situation arises; that there are the two courses open, and that it is the latter course which is regarded as being the better in the interests of all concerned. Such a course also does not have the disadvantages that I think the honorable member for Darebin envisaged - in all good faith, I am sure, and with a desire to ensure that the least possible unhappiness should result from these unfortunate unions.
It is for these reasons that I support the provisions fixing the minimum marriageable age at sixteen years for girls and eighteen years for boys. A marriage between persons of younger ages is likely to break up, with consequent great sorrow not only to the couple who marry but, more importantly, to the unfortunate child.
The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Chaney) suggests by way of interjection that it is possible for a judge to approve a marriage of persons under the ages of sixteen and eighteen years, but I do not think one should read into that provision all that I think the honorable member reads into it. It is provided that in very exceptional circumstances a judge may approve a marriage where one of the parties or both of them are under the specified ages. But it has been pointed out by the AttorneyGeneral that the mere fact that the girl is pregnant will not be regarded as an exceptional circumstance. The exceptional circumstances will have to be something other than the pregnant condition of the girl. I personally find it difficult or even impossible to imagine what exceptional circumstances other than the pregnancy of the girl could exist, but I have no doubt that such exceptional circumstances would be possible, and I think the Attorney-General has promised to give the House, before this matter is ultimately decided, some examples of what he has in mind. It would be wrong, I think, for the honorable member for Perth to suggest that there would be any substantial number of marriages of young people under the specified ages. They may be approved in exceptional circumstances, and the pregnancy of the girl is not an exceptional circumstance. In fact in these marriages of very young people the pregnancy of the girl would, I suggest, be almost a normal circumstance.
I rose merely to correct what I think was a misapprehension on the part of the honorable member for Darebin, and I have done so, I repeat, in no spirit of hostility, but merely so that he may ‘be better informed on a matter about which I have made some inquiries and upon which my own mind is satisfied.
.- I have listened to the debate to-day with very great interest, because it has conveyed to me the impression that a challenge is being made in this House that we are not, perhaps, capable of sustaining. I remember our long and discursive attack upon the uniform divorce law last year, and I wonder whether we are not trying to seek a legal formula for something that is outside any legal formulary in any case. I pay the greatest tribute to the intelligence and the audacity of the AttorneyGeneral (Sir Garfield Barwick), but I must say he reminds me of Alphonsus the Learned, who flourished in about 1512. It was said that he once remarked, “ Had I been present at the creation I would have given some useful hints for the better ordering of the universe “. The Attorney-General is present now at a virtual creation, and I ask him to walk very warily indeed.
This bill has to do with marriage, but marriage is not denned in the bill. The Attorney-General has a habit of omitting these definitions. It was a habit also of my revered former leader, now Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of New South Wales, who, after having found a formula, did not care where it applied so long as it was a formula. I think this is a defect shared by the Attorney-General. Having found the formula he does not define marriage. In this connexion I visited the library, and, being something of a poet and a writer, I read a lot of lyrical things about marriage, and I found that many of those things applied to my own marriage. However. I do not think the House would like me to send a cheerio call to my family. I found from my reading that there is a beauty in marriage transcending this cold-blooded, analytical approach to it.
Because of the difficulties in getting uniformity in marriage I think we must apply the test which the Attorney-General applied. But never, as long as I live, will anybody sell me on uniformity, least of all a LiberalCountry Party Government which hates the very word “ uniformity “. Government supporters charge us, year after year, with being numbers on a plaque, with being a unit and! being dumb, driven cattle. Yet, in every plea they make to us on this vast social’ problem of marriage they say, “ Let us haveuniformity “. To be temporarily vulgar, if you have a pain in the neck at Cooktown and a pain in the neck at Hobart, you have uniformity. What good is it to you?
The uniformity of legislation and law isonly a figment. We need to give some sortof value to the marriage laws and the divorcelaws of this country. I do not think that you create a marriage law by saying what you cannot do, because, straight away, the people will do what they think right or they will do what they do, whether it is right or wrong in relation to marriage or divorce. There are a lot of warnings that should be issued to the Minister and I issue a few of them in great humility because of hiseminence as a lawyer. I am not concerned so much about the question of legitimation because I have never believed that there areillegitimate children, but only illegitimate parents. The Attorney-General has cleverly contrived to make it possible in all States and under all circumstances to legitimatize the children whom illegal unions - or illicitunions, to use the funny old legal term - create. There are young pulsating humanbeings in the country who might bear the scar of illegitimacy and anything that the Government can do to help in this matter has my full and heartfelt support. But when you divide the world into three areas, asCaesar divided Gaul, into good, bad and suspect, you will have a great deal of trouble.
The thing that worries me about this bill’ is the age limit for marriage. As the Minister said, there have been conferences with Church and other organizations. They consider that the minimum age at which a-, young man should marry is eighteen yearsand the minimum age for the marriage of a girl is sixteen years. All the evidence is against that being a useful proposition to apply to the Australian people. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) made this point clearly in his speech when he said that, in 1959, when this idea was mooted, there were 283 girls and 220 boys who would have breached that provision in all the mainland States for which we have statistics, or would have to go to a magistrate and ask for permission to marry.
Take Mary and Jack, living in Hillcreststreet in some Sydney suburb as an instance. Normally, if they have some domestic or marital problem it is resolved within the family. They go to the church and are married. There is legitimation and the young baby is cared for in due course. Under this bill such a case becomes a case for the court. The most drastic and fantastic suggestion is that the very reason they want the marriage becomes the reason why they should not marry - that pregnancy should not in itself be the reason why the judge or magistrate should make an order allowing them to marry. How will that work out in practice? Is it not a piece of legal nonsense? Is it not a piece of high falutin’ jiggery-pook that does not mean anything? You have to apply this thing to human beings in certain circumstances, and you have to abide by the result as every welfare worker knows. The honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie), the revered Whip of this party and a former clergyman, told me that in Tasmania, years ago, they instituted a minimum age of eighteen years for the marriage of males and of sixteen years for girls, but the magistrates in that State have come down to a common denominator and if a young male goes along to a magistrate and says, “ My girl is pregnant”, permission to many is given almost automatically. So, why hang this silly provision on our marriage laws?
Of course, we are exploring this problem. I have no fixed ideas on the matter, “but I have some rather worried feelings about it. Devoted women connected with the Commission on the Status of Women, year in and year out, have ploughed through statistics in all parts of the world in relation to young people, delinquents, early marriages, and the problems of life generally. In Peru, Bolivia, the States of North America, Britain, France, Greenland, Den mark and in other countries these women have i come to a- unanimous decision that fifteen years seems to be an agreeable minimum age for marriage in the colder countries of Europe. They suggested that would be reasonable and would make for a minimum of interference; and their various laws indicate how they look at this problem. The Commission on the Status of Women has been most earnest in considering this question of child marriage. They do not like it, and neither do we.
The Minister is disturbed that boys of eighteen and girls of sixteen years of age should marry; but it is not true to say that these marriages do not stick. The honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Turner) spoke of an illicit union. He lives in a vastly different electorate to mine if, in using that term, he means that these unions break up. In the working class districts they stick. I do not want to go into that to provide headlines for the newspapers, but if such unions break up at Gordon they certainly do not at Burwood.
The honorable member for Ryan (Mr. Drury) said, in effect, that migrants are likely to have forced marriages because of the existing permissible age for marriage in some States being fourteen years for males and twelve years for females. I thought that we brought migrants to this country to assimilate them and teach them our way of life. If they wish to run willynilly and refuse to be naturalized and if they want their child marriages they have to be dealt with. But I do not think that marriage among the children of migrants at fourteen and twelve years exists as an important factor. We have to see whether we are doing a good or bad thing in relation to the Australian in setting a minimum marriage age of eighteen years for males and sixteen years for females. I feel, as we have pointed out, that there is a lot to be said for leaving the case alone.
I do not believe that you can make everything conform. I do not think that in anything, least of all in the difficulties of marriage and sex, you can get an absolute formula which works in every way. If there are cases of young fellows marrying very early and if there are cases of aged men marrying very late, those are vagaries away from the normal and we should not get agitated about them. Certainly we should not make a law rigidly providing that a man of eighteen and a young woman of sixteen who are in love may not marry except by approach to a court. I think that is fair enough. In this terrible search for uniformity we do not want to be like ants. Do not the Communists complain that everybody marches side by side into the Ark? If we need some individuality of mind we leave it to the average normal Australian - or sometimes to the abnormal Australian - to work something out roughly which we can adjust afterwards. If we apply the rule of law to them we will make more chaos than already exists. Every church worker and welfare worker in our electorates will tell us of the extreme difficulties, the multiplicity of problems that exist and the devious ways in which the problem can be twisted one way and another. We should not come down on young people in the interests of conformity and cause a great deal of chaos where none previously existed. The statistics show that, because of the economic situation, not many young fellows get married at eighteen. So far as we have been able to ascertain from the research that our department has undertaken, those who do marry at that age make a fairly good do of it. The statistics for the whole of the country indicate that this matter is not terribly important. Apparently, somebody wants to organize somebody else; somebody wants to make it a sin to do such and such a thing. We have had an experience of that in another direction, to which I also object.
May I say, before concluding, that the whole basis of this Marriage Bill is a good one if it correlates marriage laws. It does not move my withers in any way. They are completely unwrung on all these aspects of how to be happy though married. I do not think that they have a great relevance in this House, but I do think that you start to get into deep water when you interfere with human relations at the level of the adolescent. You get into trouble, and I do not think that this Parliament is sufficiently experienced, either on this side or the other, to handle that matter properly and to keep it in its true perspective. So, in the circumstances, I think we could leave well alone.
Let me present a dramatized picture of what can happen. Suppose that a youngster of eighteen and a girl of sixteen who are associated find that the girl is about to have a child. The procedure to-day is to go to the families and have a conference, then go to the church and be married and have a party. In the process of time a baby is born and is assimilated into the community. There is no scandal and there is no harm done. But if you are going to make it a public scandal that in some suburb, in Palm-street or Hillcrest-avenue, Mary and John have had a liaison, that the magistrate will not agree to their marrying, that the Attorney-General in Canberra is wrath about it, and that everybody is stirred up about this completely normal action, you will get a reaction which is bad not only for the community, but also for the Parliament and for Australians generally.
I say to the Attorney-General that the legitimation provision is a fine thing. I congratulate him upon it. But I beg him to look at the surveys that have been made by the United Nations, to consider the general investigations made by devoted women serving on the United Nations Status of Women Committee. If he does so, he will see why they came down heavily on the side of a lower age than he has selected. They realized that there is a solution to be found for this problem, but that it is not to be found in strictures or in using the legalisms of a parliament or of a community to do the very thing that the Minister is doing in this House. Beyond that, I think that this measure is unexceptionable. It is very rare that the Labour Party discusses a matter in respect of which it has not been decided which way we should vote. Everybody in this House is free to express an opinion on this bill. I conclude by expressing my opinion. I feel that conformity is a joke. You will not get conformity, Sir. Because of that wonderful individuality that people possess, they do not conform - and thank God for that. So you cannot get a law to which everybody will conform, but you can attempt to get a law that does not harm anybody and which will ensure that if it is wrong to do a certain thing in a certain situation in one State, it also will be wrong in other States.
I congratulate the Attorney-General on his devotion to this matter, but when we get down to moving human pawns on the chessboard of politics and saying, “At eighteen you may not marry, and at sixteen you may not marry “, we must ask ourselves - and this is the serious point - “ Are we right in doing this? Are we right in interfering? Have we enough knowledge? “ I again refer to what the honorable member for Wilmot said in regard to the legislation which has existed in his State of Tasmania for fifteen or twenty years. They have found that it has not worked and that eventually it has been left to the good sense of the magistrates to do the right thing. People who are under age or who are subject to the law in relation to early marriage, but who wish to marry, go to a magistrate, and in most cases a benevolent, beneficent and common-sense magistrate says, “ It is all right with me “. The reason he says that is because there is a child on the way. That is the essence of it. But we have approached the matter in the other way, in the cold-blooded, materialistic way that says, “ It cannot be done. You should not do these things. They are crimes”.
I can understand why the authorities, the welfare workers and the churches have said that they are shocked by child marriages and by marriages of people who have no jobs, usually young people; but in the main, I should say that, on investigation, a high percentage of such marriages would be found to have turned out all right. The horror is only where men marry too young and do not seem to be balanced enough to care for their families or provide for their wives. We in this House should try to approach this matter from the human angle, and that is the point that I rose to make.
So far as the rest of the legislation is concerned, it seems to be carefully thought out, as always, and to be useful for the community, but I cannot see that there is any warrant for the Minister’s interference in regard to the marriageable age in the mainland States of Australia and the substitution of the ages of eighteen years for a male and sixteen years for a female. AH things considered, and having regard to the opportunities provided, I think there is very little reason for alarm or for cavilling at the -legislation. It seems, however, that because the -Attorney-General has thought it necessary to impose a degree of conformity the provisions relating to marriageable age also must go into the melting pot. I think that that is a mistake. I support the rest of the bill and marvel at the Minister’s dedication to the question of divorce and marriage. I know that his name will stand high in the annals of this country for having made marriage safe and divorce stink. But I want him to be sure that he does not make it possible for human relations to be denied their proper place in the considerations of the Parliaments of this country. Therefore, at the committee stage, I shall oppose Part II. and clauses 10, 11 and 12, which relate to the marriage of minors and which seek to substitute in all States the ages of eighteen years for males and sixteen years for females.
.- It is true that many of the points in which other honorable members and I are interested could best be dealt with at the committee stage of this bill, but before the second-reading debate is concluded I take this opportunity very gladly to bring forward some observations on the proposed legislation. At the very outset, let me say that I for one do not appreciate the levity which the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) brought into his speech. We are dealing, as we were, with the uniform divorce legislation, with proposed legislation which, because of its content and purpose, should be discussed on the very highest level. I want to pay a tribute to the outstanding work of the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick). Some months ago we had the experience in this chamber of listening to a magnificent presentation of that previous legislation dealing with our social life, namely, the Matrimonial Causes Bill. We paid our tributes to him then, and those of us who did so expected that when this complementary legislation was presented, the Attorney-General would, in like manner, have something to put before us that would be well worth our consideration. That expectation was confirmed when we listened to his second-reading speech. In his speech on the bill now before the House, we have material which is well worth world-wide study.
Unlike the honorable member for Parkes, I believe that in all these matters there must, of necessity, be a uniform approach. Apparently the honorable member does not believe in the rule of law, but of course, in certain respects there must be a uniform law. We have in Australia different marriage laws in virtually every State. Ministers of religion who are transferred from one State to another find to their amazement that they must comply with a local law which is altogether different from that to which they were accustomed for so many years in the State from which they came. They find that the age limits are different, that the form of registration is different, and that there are also differences in other respects. If the bill before us sought to do no more than to remove those anomalies it would be an excellent piece of legislation which ministers of religion throughout Australia would accept with gratitude.
I did not rise with any thought that I could contribute to the debate as an expert in this field. I am merely a layman, but during the winter recess I took the precaution of saying to a cross-section of ministers of religion, “ Here is a copy of the Marriage Bill and here is a copy of the Attorney-General’s second-reading speech. I would value your comments, so that any contribution I make during the debate in the House may be related to your observations from your vast experience.” A number of those ministers evidently appreciated that invitation. What I shall say now is not my original thinking; I am conveying points which are well worthy of consideration and are taken from this cross-section of opinion. While I have conveyed these points to the Attorney-General, I propose to make them public now in the hope that, at the committee stage of this debate, we may have them amplified.
One particular group of ministers, meeting in fraternal, gave this measure detailed study. Might I point out at this stage that they said they noted with satisfaction this proposal for a uniform law for the Commonwealth, and commended the measure. They also commend the high level on which the subject is approached. They recognize it as a social advance which should assist in promoting the stability of marriage, on which the well-being of the community so largely depends.
The ministers say that they particularly desire to commend the provisions dealing with the legitimating of children born out of wedlock. These are ministers of religion. Some of them are marriage counsellors. They are men whose very calling enables them to be advisors in this field of social life, and out of their wealth of experience they see advantages in a uniform law and in the high level on which the legislation has been designed by the AttorneyGeneral. However, the members of this group, despite that spirit of favorable reaction to the proposals, have found several points that give them concern; but obviously, it would be an amazing piece of legislation that pleased everybody.
It was delightful to witness the flexibility of our eminent Attorney-General when the Matrimonial Causes Bill was discussed in this chamber. Many sound points were raised during that debate. Not only were many of them considered sympathetically and thoughtfully, but many of them also were taken up and adopted by the AttorneyGeneral as amendments. In like manner, it is highly probable that during the discussion on this bill at the committee stage amendments to this bill will be accepted. Some of them may come from the Minister himself after further consideration; others may be suggested by honorable members.
The group of ministers of religion to whom I have referred questioned, first, whether consideration had been given to the practice that is followed in Europe, where the marriage is celebrated before a civil official and the church ceremony or blessing follows only when that is sought. I think we are clear on that point. Here we have a uniform law. We are dealing with this matter on the basis that a marriage must be in line with the civil law.
There are many ministers of religion who quite justly view with concern the convenience that is made of the church only because of the social aspect of marriage. There are parties to marriages who, unfortunately, go into the church to-day with little thought and little preparation. Their conduct before, during and after the marriage ceremony lends nothing at all to the solemnity with which we would expect them to approach the church for God’s blessing on the matrimonial union. So one can sympathize with many ministers of religion who ask, “ Why should this not be a civil ceremony of necessity, with a certificate supplied by the civil authority to the minister, freeing him from so much of the clerical duty? “ People who desire the blessing of the church on the marriage could have it, and then the contract would be complete. The churches and ministers of religion would be free of the embarrassment of people who go to the church with no feeling for the religious element of union in matrimony.
It is also felt that ministers of religion should be freed as much as possible from the clerical and legal obligations that are laid down in the proposed legislation, for this calls upon them virtually to act as assistants to the registrar. That would enable ministers of religion who perform marriages to give their undivided attention to what is distinctly their duty according to their vocation - the religious guidance and the counselling for marriage.
Here, as an aside, let me associate myself with my colleague, the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen) who, speaking in this debate several days ago, said he felt that the solemnity of the marriage ceremony in the registrar’s office could well be lifted to a higher level. I agree with him. I listened intently to his recitation of the wording which a registrar in the United Kingdom is called upon to use before a couple who are to be married. I believe there could well be an amendment along the lines that were recommended by the honorable member.
In connexion with relieving ministers of religion of legal responsibility, it is suggested that the registrar’s staff should attend to the preparation of all the necessary documents, including the sighting of consents and birth certificates, and the issue of a certificate or other authority for a marriage to take place. It is suggested that these formalities should be dealt with according to the practice followed in Scotland. Of course, it is realized that in remote parts of the country this procedure might involve some difficulty. The parties to a marriage could have difficulty in preparing for their marriage by the date they had in mind. In such cases, perhaps a limited number of persons such as ministers or public officials could be enlisted as representatives of the official registrar.
Several other points have been mentioned to me.One criticism is this: It is contended that, if both parents consent to the marriage, surely any person on the electoral roll should suffice as a witness. Further, it is proposed that, as it stands, clause 28 gives a civil servant - the registrar - the right to determine for a church the number of ministers that it may have for the celebration of marriages. It is suggested to me that that is undesirable. Surely the church should have the right to indicate whom it would recommend, and the number of persons who would be so designated. It is suggested that any limitation could well affect or embarrass a minister with his own congregation.
The requirement in the legislation to produce a birth certificate has been questioned by some of these reverend gentlemen. Their thought is this: While there are administrative advantages in establishing the identity a nd age of persons in doubtful cases, does the provision as to identity place a serious obstacle in the path of a person who is set on obscuring his identity? How easily can copies of birth certificates be obtained? Would not a person who wants to obscure his identity simply say that a certificate was not obtainable?
It has also been suggested to me that it seems a little absurd to have to establish the age of a person by means of a certificate when the person is obviously well over the age of, say, 30 years. Moreover, if the certificate should reveal a person’s illegitimacy, would not that be a cause of unnecessary suffering? The proposal, therefore, is this: Why not require a birth certificate only in such cases where there is any doubt in the mind of the celebrant that one of the parties is under 21?
– What States require certificates to show illegitimacy? It is not necessary in Queensland.
– We will leave that to the Attorney-General to answer. I think, Mr. Speaker, that with this contribution I can conclude by saying, again very genuinely, that the uniformity in so many aspects to be achieved by this legislation is well overdue. Here is another piece of legislation drafted on a very high level. There was no levity in the AttorneyGeneral’s second-reading speech. We are dealing with something which can stand to the credit of this Parliament as a piece of social service legislation of the finest quality and with the best intent. I hope that in the spirit displayed by the AttorneyGeneral, and the spirit in which I speak now in supporting the measure, we shall come to the committee stages and consider this piece of legislation before us in detail. As we deal with it clause by clause may we be under the guidance of Divine Power because we are considering something here that deals with men and women, and so often young men and women. Let this be a piece of social legislation which will stand to the credit of this Parliament, having been dealt with in this sensible way as a nonparty measure.
in the course of his statement, and the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam) when leading for the Opposition, made the comment that there was no definition of marriage in this measure. I do not think it is necessary to have such a definition, and the fact that it is not necessary is also an indication that the marriage customs of the people of this country are not going to be radically changed by transferring the authority which makes the legislation with regard to marriage from the State to the Commonwealth. The marriage customs of the community are, in fact, customs and they have not been framed around law. Perhaps to a considerable extent they have been framed around religion.
The really significant point about this legislation, apart from the fact that it introduces uniformity, is the change to be made, under clause 10, in the age at which marriage may be permitted. The honorable member for Werriwa pointed out that the minimum ages for marriage in the most populous States of the Commonwealth were considerably below the norm that is laid down in this bill, namely, that a male must have attained the age of eighteen years, and a female must have attained the age of sixteen years. There are some social differences in strata of society as to what constitutes a man. Recently I read a book on the midshipmen of the British Navy, and it commented that in middle-class and upper-class England, where there was a public schools system, it was acceptable to a boy of eighteen to submit to corporal punishment. The book stated that as recently as 1939 midshipmen on a British warship had to proceed in pyjamas to receive corporal punishment from their officers. The book disclosed also that the midshipmen experienced the humiliation of going past young marines of working-class origin to whom nobody would have dared suggest that they should submit to corporal punishment in the British Navy. The young marines looked with amazement at those who were their social superiors going to be punished. I think that, very often, we do have a concept of what constitutes an adult which belongs to one stratum of society and not to another.
A boy who has to earn his living at the age of fourteen is in many respects more mature than many boys who stay in schools to sit for the Leaving Certificate examination. Here I sound a note of warning. While in marriage reform societies, which are very largely middle-class in origin, the Minister will be applauded for raising the minimum ages of marriage, I do feel that in many other strata of society customs are different. The change in the law concerning the minimum age of marriage is important because it is happening at a time when two changes are taking place. The first is that young people, when they marry, have greater financial and economic burdens in getting a home and so on, and that tends to delay marriage. On the other hand, in this community where standards of nutrition have been rising, and in fact in most of the Western countries where that is so, the age of puberty is coming earlier and earlier. People mature earlier than they did 50 years ago. Obviously there are many qualifications to that statement. It does not apply to all individuals, but there has been a considerable amount of comment on the fact.
A few years ago I saw at a swimming carnival junior swimming champions under fourteen years of age whom honestly I would have taken to be men of 21. Their superiority as swimmers was due to the fact that some of them at thirteen had the physique of a fully adult man, yet others of thirteen were mere boys. It is a fact that some people at the age of thirteen have the physique of a nine-year-old and others at thirteen are fully past puberty and look like men. The difference can be even greater at the age of sixteen. The point I make is that the ages at which young people mature vary greatly. I am inclined to think that the Minister would have been wise to leave in the legislation the ages that are most commonly accepted in the most populous States of Australia because I do fear one thing. I fear that in circumstances where young people now marry because there may be a pregnancy, and their families feel that they should marry, this legislation will tend to make the position more difficult in future.
The question of marriageable age has not been given the mature consideration in this Parliament that it has been given over centuries and centuries in canon law. Over many centuries the canon laws and the Church, from immense experience in many countries, have settled on younger ages than are provided for in this legislation. I am afraid that there is a danger here. Under existing circumstances, a girl who has become pregnant may be pressed into marriage with the consent of both families, and be absorbed into the community. In a few years the mistakes of the couple, if they are mistakes, are forgotten. When this bill becomes law, a girl who becomes pregnant may tend, because of the difficulties in the way of marriage, to resort to abortion. I wonder whether there is the wisdom and mature consideration in this reform that some of its sponsors have applauded.
As I have said I believe that young people are maturing earlier. The star-crossed lovers in Shakespeare’s “ Romeo and Juliet “ were sixteen and fourteen years of age respectively. Under this legislation they probably would be classed as delinquents, although in the play perhaps the real delinquents were in the princely houses of Montague and Capulet. In mediaeval days those were normal marriage ages. Our economic circumstances have caused marriage to take place later, but in a few instances - the actual figures were given by my colleague the honorable member for Werriwa - we do have what under this legislation will be called child marriages.
– Many of the Plantagenet queens would have had their marriages voided.
– We need not go into the mediaeval arrangements of mediaeval monarchs. We know that many of them were pledged in infancy. But I do feel that the ages at which young men below the age of eighteen years and young women below the age of sixteen years mature vary greatly. The Attorney-General has recognized that those difficulties could arise and he has provided this somewhat elaborate procedure of obtaining permission to marry from a judge of the Supreme Court. But I wonder whether it would not have been wiser to have left the ages as they are set out in State legislation. No social disasters have arisen in the States and to-day, with young people reaching maturity earlier than they did previously, there might be less need to reduce the age than there has been in the past.
– in reply - The House has given a sufficient indication of general approval of the principle of this bill, that it does not seem that I need to take up its time for very long at this second-reading stage. However, I should like to make one comment about the question of a minimum marriageable age. Those who have addressed their minds to this question appear to have done so without having fully recognized the terms of the existing law. According to the Matrimonial Causes Act, a marriage under the marriageable age is void. This means that a boy and a girl who marry under the respective ages of eighteen and sixteen years, in what I shall call the western States are not married, but those in the eastern States whose ages go down as low as fourteen and twelve years are married. That is an intolerable situation and it is necessary, therefore, that some uniform age be chosen. I do not fail for one moment to see the difficulties which surround the choice. I know that there are pros and cons. This is a matter upon which the experience of individuals will differ, their social theories will differ and their philosophies will differ.
I included in my second-reading speech reasons why it seemed to me that the ages chosen in the western States - Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania - were the ages which ought to be chosen by this House and made uniform throughout Australia. The poet and the writer, who has stumbled into this House by some chance, or mischance, took some time to say that this was very wrong and that we should not insist on conformity but, like poets, we should prefer disconformity. He said, in effect, that we should leave things alone, but he did not bother at any stage to condescend to particularity. In his view, if a lad of ten years went sporting with Amaryllis in the shade, if the lad was big enough it was good enough. That attitude condemns itself in the world of practicality. Various reasons, which I do not propose to give in detail, have been advanced for choosing the ages which have been set down. 1 am sure that honorable members who have not spoken during the secondreading debate will wish to speak on that point at the committee stage, and I shall deal with the ages in detail then.
The statement has been made that there has been no attempt to define marriage in this bill. It is not defined in the Constitution, either. That is because we in this community recognize a marriage as monogamous and a voluntary union for life of two people to the exclusion of all others, as the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen) has said. In this bill, I have sought to ensure that our conception of marriage is maintained by providing for the recognition of religious bodies. In the course of that process of recognition, they will need to present their marriage services and their marriage ritual so that we can ensure that they are performing the marriage ceremony with the consequences which we recognize as marriage. I have found already that it will be necessary to depart from that procedure with some religious bodies because, for the purposes of the bill, I could not recognize them as such. I shall have to take a slightly different form of recognition. I shall mention this aspect later at the committee stage.
I am attracted - and, indeed I considered this aspect before the debate began - by the suggestion of the honorable member for Moreton that in a civil service - a service before a registrar - there should be some mark of solemnity and something said which called the attention of the parties to the nature of the relationship into which they were moving. Already I have paid so much attention to this aspect as to have drafted a form of words. I shall show them later to the honorable member for Moreton - perhaps they will find acceptance with him.
Some mention was made of the insistence in this bill on formality and the responsibility of the celebrant. The policy behind the bill was decided quite deliberately, lt is to make marriage a solemn occasion and, as far as possible, to make sure e that people marry before celebrants to whom they are known. I have not felt that it is an undue burden on the clergyman to require that he be satisfied that those who stand before him are the people mentioned in the documents which he will have. If he cannot be satisfied on that score, it would be better for the parties to go to a clergyman who knows them or to whom they are sufficiently vouched. I do not feel - and I am sure that in the long run honorable members will not feel - that that is an undue burden.
The honorable member for Darebin (Mr. Courtnay) said that this bill was having a a smoother passage than the matrimonial causes legislation had because I had changed my tactics and had consulted the churches before I introduced it, whereas on the former occasion which, in the honorable member’s mind, was a sad one, I had not done so. Truth to tell, I cannot flatter him by saying that he had good prescience because, in fact, I did not consult the churches before this bill was introduced. However, since its introduction I have done so. I have seen representatives of a number of churches and I have received many letters from others. I want to say, particularly for the information of the poet and the writer, that I have not heard a single dissenting voice from any church, from any body of women or from any Social worker as to the choice of the minimum age. On the contrary, every person or body who has chosen to write to me - and there have been very many - has been in full agreement with the choice and has had a great deal of commendation for it.
In the interim, I have seen also State officials with a view to accommodating these provisions to the various State systems. Honorable members will recall that this bill does not provide for the registration of marriages. That is left with the States. In addition, it gives certain functions to judges and magistrates. One honorable member mentioned that I could force these functions upon the State bodies and perhaps vary them from the form now in the bill. That is not so. The Commonwealth cannot force on the State courts duties that are not judicial duties - duties of giving consent and of deciding whether a marriageable age should be lowered in a particular case. These matters must be. arranged with the States and I have taken time in the interim to effect those arrangements. As a result of my meetings with representatives of the churches, judges, social workers and representatives of the States, I will seek certain changes in the bill at the committee stage. I will not go into these changes in detail now but I will indicate broadly to the House the kind of changes that I will propose. The details will be circulated in sufficient time for honorable members to see why the changes are being proposed and the actual expressions in which they will be made.
Some States have felt that judges of the Supreme Court should not be burdened with the functions I have mentioned - that it would be better for County Court judges or magistrates to do this work. I propose to make the provision flexible to enable the Attorney-General of the time to provide that in Western Australia, for example, if required, a County Court judge could act but a Supreme Court judge in another State.
– They will have to appoint one in Western Australia.
– The honorable member is quite right. There is no County Court in Western Australia. It may have to be done there by a magistrate.
The honorable member for Moreton directed attention to the fact that under this bill there was no reciprocal right of appeal - if I may use that expression - where consent is given to a marriage by a magistrate against the wish of a parent. The bill does provide for an appeal by an infant if consent is withheld by a magistrate, but makes no provision for an appeal by a parent should consent be granted. I must confess that in my first consideration of this point it seemed to me that if a magistrate, having heard the facts of a case, decided that a marriage should proceed, it would be rather difficult to delay the marriage while an appeal was being made, particularly as time would have to be allowed to the parents to decide whether there should be an appeal. On reflection, however, I am content to provide for an appeal by a parent but the time in which the parent must make up his or her mind whether to appeal will have to be short.
It is proposed to make some change in connexion with the production of a birth certificate to the celebrant of a marriage. The point raised by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Cleaver) has been brought to my attention. It has been pointed out by child welfare authorities and by some ministers of religion that it may be hurtful to some young people who are being married to learn for the first time that they are illegitimate or adopted. The view has been expressed that it would be preferable not to force this knowledge upon them. I am not sure that this is a valid point but there is no need to take a risk in respect of it. Therefore, instead of insisting on all the particulars on the birth certificate being produced to the celebrant, I am prepared to provide that an extract only be produced, stating the date of birth and giving some indication of identity. That may remove the possibility of hurt to some individual.
Two other provisions of a substantial nature must be considered. Honorable members will know that the prohibited degrees of consanguinity and affinity that are to be found in the schedule to the Matrimonial Causes Act make no provision with respect to adopted children. There is a great need to consider how to integrate into the ordinary conception of consanguinity and affinity the case of adopted children. I find, on a little research, that there is quite a variation in the treatment of this subject in different countries. I will be proposing a provision that, for example, an adopted girl cannot marry the adoptive father and that an adopted female child cannot marry the natural son. These things need a little consideration and I have given a good deal of thought to them. At the committee stage I will have specific proposals available for honorable members.
Although the poet and the writer on the Opposition side may think that I have been emulating the Lord, the fact is that in this field some proposal has to be made to the House and it must be a proposal which to the best of one’s ability has good sense and is not idyllic or too poetic.
The last thing that I want to say about the changes that may be coming is that there will be need to be provision for cases in which there is a second ceremony of marriage. I have found in my discussions since the bill was introduced that on some occasions there may be serious doubt as to the validity of a first marriage ceremony. The proxy marriages which migrants enter into are a case in point. It will be necessary to provide that a second ceremony of marriage may be gone through but there will have to be safeguards to see that there is some particularity of the former ceremony in case it was good, because that may have legal consequences in another day. Also, we have in the community Buddhists and Muslims who, of course, by their beliefs may not be bound to monogamous marriage.
– And Mormons.
– Yes. Polygamy is too expensive to practise in most cases. However, it seemed to me right to provide for a ceremony under our act which ensured monogamy, and then say to the parties, “ If you want to go through a ceremony in your own faith, which we cannot recognize for the purposes of the act, you may but you cannot issue a certificate of marriage in respect of the second ceremony and you must recite the first marriage and regard it as the valid one “.
This matter has a deal of complication in it but it will be before honorable members with particularity by the time the committee stage is reached.
I am content at this point to leave the measure in the hands of the House, feeling as I do that all honorable members who have spoken on it have recognized the need for onelaw of marriage for Australians. That is what the bill provides in clear terms.
Question’ resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and committed pro forma; progress reported.
.- I move -
That, in the opinion of this House, that section of the repatriation law relating to the onus of proof is not being administered in a proper way.
The provision referred to is section 47 of the Repatriation Act, which is commonly described as the onus of proof section. The Opposition has placed this motion on the notice-paper on two occasions and it remained there throughout the last sessional period and for most of the one which preceded it. We believe that this motion is of extreme importance to ex-servicemen generally. I do not hesitate to suggest that there are members on the Government side of the House, as there are members on this side of the House, who have felt for some considerable time that section 47 of the Repatriation Act is not being administered in the way that this Parliament originally intended.
I regret, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that the motion has been brought on at so late an hour and that Opposition members will not have an opportunity to debate the subject fully. In the limited time at my disposal, I intend to bring to the notice of the Parliament what I regard as anomalies that now exist in respect of the administration of section 47 of the act. First, I should like to deal with the procedure that leads to the consideration of an appeal by a war pensions entitlement appeal tribunal. An ex-serviceman who believes that a disability from which he suffers is due to his war service may apply to the Repatriation Commission through the normal channels for a war pension. I say at once that the medical examinations which are conducted by the panel of Repatriation Commission doctors afford the ex-serviceman every possible opportunity to submit his evidence fairly to the commission. If the applicant served in the First World War, a considerable period will have elapsed since the war service to which the disability is attributed, and the ex-serviceman is put in the rather invidious position of finding evidence dating from the First World War. In such cases, it is extremely difficult for the exserviceman to obtain sufficient medical records to substantiate his case. It is generally acknowledged that the medical records of servicemen of the Second World War are quite good, but unfortunately such good records were not kept in respect of men who served in the First World War. I make this point because I believe that it is extremely important to the exserviceman who asserts before an entitlement appeal tribunal that his disability is due to war service.
If an ex-serviceman’s application is rejected after due consideration by the doctors, he has the right to appeal to a repatriation board. I hold the opinion - and I believe that it can be substantiated by figures given in the annual reports of the Repatriation Commission - that it is most unusual for a repatriation board to vary a decision given by the commission. If the application is rejected by a repatriation board, the ex-serviceman has the right to appeal to a war pensions entitlement appeal tribunal, and to put further evidence before it, if possible, and he may appear before the tribunal with his legal adviser.
I believe that the great problem in appeals to these tribunals is to ensure that the onus of proof section is administered in the way that was originally intended by the Parliament. I have said before in this House, and I do not hesitate to say again, that the persons who constitute the various entitlement appeal tribunals are most sympathetic. They are ex-servicemen and I believe that they afford appellants every possible opportunity to present their cases fairly and reasonably. But this does not alter the fact that in many instances the ex-serviceman cannot obtain the evidence that he needs, because the medical records are not adequate, and I suggest that when that is the position section 47 of the Repatriation Act is not always administered as it should be.
This section of the act has been discussed in this Parliament for approximately 40 years. I suggest that it has been raised so frequently because there have been on both sides of the Parliament members who have had reason to doubt that the section was being administered in the way that the Parliament originally intended. As far back as 1920, an all-party committee of this House met to consider ways and means by which the doubt that had arisen in respect of the onus of proof section could be removed. In recent years, the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Sir Walter Cooper) has given an interpretation of the section to an annual conference of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia. An interpretation of the section was given also by a former Attorney-General, who was then Senator Spicer and who is now Mr. Justice Spicer of the Commonwealth Industrial Court. Both interpretations of section 47 of the act laid down quite clearly that the onus of proof - that is, the onus of proving that the applicant’s disability was not due to war service - rests on the Repatriation Commission. This means that unless it can be fairly shown that the disability is not due to war service, the ex-serviceman should have the benefit of the doubt. I suggest that either the tribunals are not in a position to discharge that onus of proof or, if they are, as they should be, the section is not correctly applied and the benefit is not given to the applicant.
In a few moments I shall quote from the 1956 annual report of the No. 2 War Pensions Entitlement Appeal Tribunal in order to indicate that the decisions of that tribunal at least are at variance with the interpretations of section 47 given by Mr. Justice Spicer and the present Minister for Repatriation. There is no doubt in my mind that the section means that the onus of proof should always rest on the commission and that the ex-serviceman should always receive the benefit of the doubt.
– Who was responsible for the present form of that section?
– A new section was substituted by the Curtin Government in 1943, and I think that at that time what is possibly the clearest interpretation of the section was given to the Parliament. The section makes it perfectly clear that the onus of proof is placed on the Repatriation Commission in every respect. The section states in part -
The Commission, a Board, an Appeal Tribunal and an Assessment Appeal Tribunal, in hearing, determining or deciding a claim, application or appeal, shall act according to substantial justice and the merits of the case, shall not be bound by technicalities or legal forms or rules of evidence and shall give to the claimant, applicant or appellant, the benefit of any doubt . . .
I think that clearly means that if there is any doubt, the benefit of it must always be given to the ex-serviceman.
Because of the controversy raised in the Parliament by members on both sides as to the interpretation of section 47, both Senator Spicer and the Minister for Repatriation were moved to give what they believed to be a correct interpretation that should be followed by the entitlement appeals tribunals. The Minister gave his interpretation at the 40th annual conference of the R.S.S.A.I.L.A. On that occasion, he said -
It is not for the claimant to prove his claim, but, throughout the whole proceedings, the onus remains on the opposing person or authority to prove that he is not entitled.
That is the position as interpreted by the Minister for Repatriation. He went on to say -
In April, 1953, the Attorney-General prepared a short statement explanatory of the provisions contained in Section 47.
In the recent parliamentary debate on the Repatriation Bill the Leader of the Opposition (and former Attorney-General), Dr. Evatt, agreed that this was a clear exposition of the law.
The Minister continued -
This statement has been furnished to the officers in the Repatriation Department dealing with pension claims; the commission has made it available to the members of the Repatriation Boards and I have forwarded copies to the members of the Entitlement and Assessment Appeal Tribunals.
The Minister was clear that, where a doubt existed, the benefit of the doubt should be given to the ex-serviceman. To complete the very important interpretation of the provision given by Senator Spicer when he was Attorney-General, I think that I should, for the sake of the record, quote the statement that he made. He said -
Ordinarily, the onus lies on the party who makes a claim to prove the facts necessary to support it. Thus, unless otherwise prescribed by Parliament, the onus would be upon the claimant for a pension under the Repatriation Act to establish that the necessary conditions are fulfilled.
In the Repatriation Act, Parliament has completely reversed the normal process. It has expressly declared in section 47: -
that it shall not be necessary for the claimant, applicant or appellant to furnish proof to support his claim, application or appeal; and
that in all cases whatsoever the onus of proof shall lie on the person or authority opposing the claim, application or appeal.
The effect of this is that it is not for the claimant to prove that he is entitled to a pension, but it is for any opposing person or authority to prove that he is not entitled. In every case the question is not: Has the claimant satisfied the tribunal that he is right? but Has the opposing person or authority satisfied the tribunal that the claimant is wrong?
Of course, the claimant may find himself in a position in which it is greatly in his own interest to supply evidence in support of his claim.
I believe that every ex-serviceman appreciates that situation. Whatever evidence is available is submitted to the commission and ultimately to the entitlement tribunal, if necessary. The Attorney-General then gave examples, and continued -
The onus remains with the opposing person or authoritythroughout the proceedings. The claimant need not, but he may, if he so desires, furnish proof in support of his claim. But, whether he furnishes proof or not, the onus will, at the end of the proceedings, still be upon the opposing person or authority to satisfy the determining authority that the claimant is not entitled.
I have not known of any case brought before an entitlement appeal tribunal in which the applicant has not been requested to supply information to the tribunal, and I have not known of any case in which the appeal tribunal has furnished any reason which would indicate that the appeal should have been rejected. 1 say at once that every ex-serviceman who appeals is obliged to supply the information bearing upon his claim. Unless he can submit a case, as far as the tribunals are concerned, there is no case to answer. The applicant appeals to the tribunal, the tribunal hears his case and that is the end of it. No indication is given at any stage that the onus of proof has been applied in his favour. I have no doubt that the experience of other honorable members is similar to mine. If a case before an entitlement tribunal is deferred, it is always the applicant who is required to secure the additional evidence, not the tribunal. The tribunal merely says that it will allow the applicant to defer the case so that he may secure additional evidence, if he wishes to do so. A tribunal, as far as I know, has never made any attempt to secure additional evidence. In those circumstances, the ex-serviceman who appears before an entitlement tribunal is obviously obliged to secure evidence. If the evidence is not satisfactory to the tribunal - if there is some doubt - the benefit of the doubt is not always given to the ex-serviceman. I have submitted cases to tribunals and have been requested to secure additional medical evidence; but the tribunal has made no attempt to assist me to do so.
Because the former Attorney-General and other members of this Parliament had spoken about this controversial section 47, the No. 2 War Pensions Entitlement Appeals Tribunal dealt almost solely in its 1956 report with this provision. I thought its interpretation of section 47 was completely ai variance with that of the former AttorneyGeneral, Senator Spicer, and of the present Minister for Repatriation. On 18th September, 1956, the No. 2 War Pensions Entitlement Appeals Tribunal submitted its report to the Minister, and in it, referring to critics of the way in which the onus of proof provision had been applied, said this -
As they read the Act, all that an ex-serviceman need do is claim that his incapacity is a Repatriation responsibility without alleging when, where or how it had its origin, or in what manner it was caused, or contributed to, or aggravated by, or during, his service. Then the onus of proof is on the commission to disprove the claim.
The report went on to say -
If the critics’ idea of ‘“onus of proof ‘ were correct, the ex-serviceman would win his case without putting forward one word of evidence or explanation to support it.
The Attorney-General’s interpretation held that it was not necessary for the exserviceman to submit evidence in support of his case, and so in that respect the No. 2 War Pensions Entitlement Appeals Tribunal is at variance with the former Attorney-General. The report continued -
It is not a reasonable inference that a claimant has a good case when he does not put that case up. Until he puts up some sort of case to answer - some fact, or theory, or suggestion, from which a reasonable inference in his favour might be drawn - there surely can be no onus on the Commission to disprove his case.
That is in complete disagreement with what we have been told is the correct interpretation of section 47 of the Repatriation Act.
I join with honorable members from both sides of the House, who have given a great deal of consideration to this important section, in suggesting that it is time the Parliament, and particularly the Minister for Repatriation, demanded that section 47 be administered in the way that was originally intended, and be interpreted in the generous way in which it has been interpreted under a former Attorney-General in this Government and under a former Attorney-General in the Labour Government.
We believe that an ex-serviceman who has a case to submit to a war pensions entitlement appeal tribunal should not be placed in the position of having to prove his case before that tribunal. The act quite clearly provides that the onus rests upon the entitlement appeal tribunal to disprove his case. I reiterate that I have never known of an instance in which an ex-serviceman has been informed why his case has been rejected. I think all honorable members are familiar with the form that is sent to an exserviceman at the conclusion of the consideration of his case, which merely states that his appeal has been disallowed. It has never been possible for any member of parliament or any advocate to obtain from an entitlement appeal tribunal the reason for the rejection of an application.
A great responsibility rests upon this Parliament to ensure that persons who have disabilities which they believe are warcaused have every opportunity to have their cases considered in accordance with the provisions of the Repatriation Act, particularly section 47. For that reason, the Opposition has suggested on numerous occasions that a further opportunity to appeal ought to be accorded to every ex-servicemen. In fact, we have moved amendments to provide that an exserviceman should have a further right of appeal to a judge of the High Court of Australia or of a Supreme Court of a State or Territory. The report of the No. 2 War Pensions Entitlement Appeal Tribunal seems to indicate that the tribunal is not in a position to interpret section 47 of the act in the manner I have suggested. I believe, therefore, that it should be possible for a judge of the High Court or of a Supreme Court of a State to examine a case and state whether, in his opinion, the onus of proof provided for in section 47 has been properly discharged.
It has been suggested by supporters of the Government that that would involve the applicant in considerable expense. We do not envisage any expense being incurred by an applicant. We believe that an applicant should have the right to submit his case to a judge at no expense to himself. If provision were made in the Repatriation Act for that further right of appeal, it would be a generous extension which should be made of the provisions of the act.
The motion now before the House ought to be given every consideration by the Government. As I have already indicated, this important matter, which affects a great number of ex-servicemen, has been dealt with in the past by honorable members on both sides of the House who have taken a great deal of interest in it. I think the motion ought to be agreed to by Government members generally. The onus of proof provision has been criticized not only by members of this House. I have no doubt that honorable members who have a close association with responsible exservicemen’s organizations will agree that section 47 is generally discussed at conferences of those organizations because they, too, are of the opinion that it is not being administered properly. 1 suggest, therefore, that this matter should be debated at length. I believe there are many honorable members who could cite cases which would indicate immediately that the onus of proof provision is not being given effect to. I could cite cases, too, but I do not think it is necessary to do so at this stage. The honorable member for Shortland (Mr. Griffiths) has dealt at length in this chamber with cases in which the benefit of the doubt had not been given to exservicemen. Doubtless there are honorable members opposite who could cite similar cases. We of the Opposition believe, therelore, that the motion ought to be agreed to. When legislation designed to amend the Repatriation Act is before the Parliament we shall again advance the view that an ex-serviceman should have the right to have his case considered by a judge of the High Court or of a Supreme Court of a State or Territory.
– An ex-serviceman may have his case considered at the present time by way of mandamus.
– I hope the honorable member for Bruce, who, I believe, is interested in this matter, will speak during this debate. I am sure he would have a useful contribution to make. If he disagrees with my contention, he has every right to say so. I know the honorable member will agree that a former very illustrious member of the party to which he belongs - I refer to the former member for Balaclava, now Mr. Justice Joske - often said in this chamber that the onus of proof provision was not being administered in the way that was originally intended. I believe that there are other members of the Government parties who will take advantage of this opportunity to state their opinions, and who will agree with the terms of the motion that has been submitted by the Opposition. I hope the Minister for Health (Dr. Donald Cameron) will give his interpretation of the onus of proof provision and state whether he thinks it is. being administered as was originally intended by the Parliament The motion ought to be agreed to by the Government. I submit it on behalf of the Opposition in the hope that it will now be further considered.
– I second the motion, and; reserve my right to speak at a later date.
– We are debating, not the manner in which section 47 of the Repatriation Act should be interpreted, but whether, in fact, it is being properly interpreted. I think there would be very little difference of opinion between the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) and myself, or between honorable members on his side of the chamber and those on my side, about the meaning of section 47 and about the way in which it should be interpreted. But, after all, that is not what the motion is about. I say this, Mr. Deputy Speaker, because the honorable member for Bass spent quite some time in giving his views and the views of others as to how this section should be interpreted. I repeat that, however, the motion refers, not to the manner in which the section should be interpreted, but to whether it is, in fact, being properly interpreted. If the honorable member wants to establish the fact that the meaning and intention of the act are not being carired out, he must establish to the satisfaction of the House his reasons for saying so. Let me put it this way. When a claim is made, it is considered in the first instance by the Repatriation Board. If it is rejected by the board, it goes to the commission. If it is rejected by the commission, it goes to a tribunal. So there are three bodies which consider whether section 47 entitles the ex-serviceman making the claim to have his claim recognized. If the motion asserts, as it does, that the intention of the act is not being carried out, that is tantamount to saying that the Repatriation Board, the Repatriation Commission and the War Pensions Entitlement Appeal Tribunal are not doing their jobs. That is a very considerable statement for the honorable gentleman to make, and it would require a good deal of substantiation, I think, before it could be accepted.
In other words, there is, by the mere structure of the apparatus which deals with these cases, very strong prima facie evidence that the intention of the act will, in fact, be carried out. If the honorable gentleman is going to make a claim that the intention is not being carired out, then I submit that there is only one way in which he can do so. That is by examining in detail the results of the decision - perhaps not in every case that is rejected, but in a statistically significant number - and establishing in each of these, beyond all reasonable doubt, that the board, the commission and the appeal tribunal did not act in a reasonable way. Can the honorable gentleman really substantiate, to the satisfaction of any one, such a claim?
– How can an appellant soldier get the detailed decision of the tribunal?
– If you let me develop the argument, I will come to that. If the honorable member for Bass is going to establish the claim he has made and show that the whole apparatus which administers this section of the act is not doing its job, he must, in particular and in detail, convince the House that in fact these bodies are not doing so. He has not done that. He has not, really, in this debate, made any attempt to do that.
It is quite true that the onus is not on the appellant to prove that his disability is a war-caused disability; but what the claimant has to do is to particularize sufficiently for the tribunal, or the commission, or the board, as the case may be, to make a judgment. He must, in other words, submit some evidence; otherwise, of course, no judgment could be arrived at. He must do that. What he has to do, I suggest, is to satisfy the tribunal, first, that he has a disability, and secondly, that he has had war service. That is not very much, but he has, at least, to do that. Then it is incumbent on the tribunal to relate the one to the other, or to decide, having heard the evidence that it is not possible to relate the one to the other. The honorable gentleman says the tribunal does not do it, but he did not really produce any evidence that it does not do it.
If it were a fact that the tribunal was not doing it, then it is rather remarkable that such large numbers are in fact accepted. In 1958-59, there were 21,900 new disabilities accepted, including 5,018 from World War I., in respect of which it is not easy at this stage to make judgments.
I said the onus was not on the claimant, but at the same time let us look at the question of doubt. The doubt must be a doubt in the mind of the tribunal. It is perfectly natural, and quite understandable, that when a claimant makes a claim and it is rejected, he, or his friends andrelatives, or all of them, will be disappointed. That is perfectly natural. It is perfectly natural when, in many instances people have appealed, they should feel that when they made the claim there was not any reasonable doubt. But the doubt does not have to be in their minds. It is not a doubt in the mind of the appellant; it is not a doubt floating about somewhere in the air; it is not a doubt in the mind of the honorable gentleman; it is a doubt in the mind of the tribunal which listens to the evidence.
If the honorable gentleman says that the tribunal is not doing its job, then he needs to show that it did not have the doubt in its mind. It is no good telling us that the doubt was still in his mind; it is no good telling us the applicant was disappointed; it isno good telling us the applicant’s friends and relations still had doubts. That is not the point. The point is whether the tribunal has the doubt. Unless the honorable gentleman can show that the tribunal does not have the doubt, then he has not established his case because what he says is that the tribunal is not doing the job. That presupposes that he knows, or can show, whether or not the tribunal has a doubt in its mind, and thatis the only place where the doubt is relevant. That appears to me to be the crux of the whole situation.
– Tell us how to do it!
– It is not for me to tell you how to do that. The motion put on behalf of the Opposition makes the claim that the job is not being done. What I am saying is that if we are to have it made plain that the job is not being done then we must have evidence that the tribunal has not the doubt in its mind because that is the only place where the doubt has any significance at all. I go further and say that the honorable gentleman who submitted the motion did not produce one shred of evidence about doubt in the tribunal’s mind. As I say, that is the only place where the doubt has any significance. If he feels that the Repatriation Board is failing, if he feels that the Repatriation Commission is failing, if he feels that the War Pensions Entitlement Appeal Tribunal is failing, then, if he is really going to convince people, he must produce much more solid evidence than he produced to-night.
– Howabout the tribunal p oducing some evidence
– It is not the function ofthe tribunal to give evidence. The tribunal listens to evidence. The tribunal not only listens to evidence, but, in fact, if the applicant, having been rejected, can produce further material evidence, the tribunal will listen to him again. But if the tribunal decides to reject the claim, then, quite obviously, the tribunal has no doubt. The tribunal has no doubt in those circumstances, so it is really of no value to say thetribunal ought to be making submissions. That is not the function of the tribunal. The function of the tribunal is to make an assessment, and, if it has any doubt, to decide in favour of the applicant. If it decides against the applicant, then, of course, that means that, in the mind of the tribunal, there is no doubt at all. And even in those circumstances the tribunal will and can and does examine the case again if further material evidence is submitted to it. That is all that the honorable gentleman’s motion really covers. All it says is that the tribunals are not doing their jobs. As I pointed out previously, it says that the whole apparatus of the Repatriation Commission - the board and the tribunal - is not doing its job; but do we really believe that? Those who are disappointed may think it. They think the doubt has not been resolved, but I do not believe that a great majority of people regard the Repatriation Board, the Repatriation Commission and the Repatriation Tribunal as being in error - because that is what this motion means. Another factor which makes this unlikely is that the chairman and one member of the appeal tribunal must be exservicemen; in fact, at the present time every member of the tribunal; every mem ber of the Repatriation Board and every member of the Repatriation Commission is an ex-serviceman, so that by inclination I would think they would naturally take a favorable view of a case submitted by a fellow ex-serviceman. I do not think there is much more to be said about this motion, but I repeat that if the claim is going to be made that the job is not being done, those who make that claim must substantiate it with much firmer evidence than we have had submitted to us to-night.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Bryant) adjourned.
Motion (by Dr. Donald Cameron) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I would like, Sir, to raise one matter fairly briefly as the result of the comparative inactivity on the part of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) in respect of a very important consideration - the great problems of local government. I was interested not very long ago - but long enough ago; in fact, last March - to receive a letter from the secretary of the Australian Council of Local Government Associations. In that letter he informed me - I think he probably informed a number of other members of this House, including members opposite - of the financial dilemma being experienced by local government and the fact that last November the Australian Council of Local Government Associations had made submissions to the Prime Minister, in printed form, on the occasion of its attendance, I believe, in the House.
The nature of the submissions was most comprehensive and extremely factual. In fact, the submissions were accumulated as a consequence of the very elaborate investigation conducted by none other than a former Premier of New South Wales, Sir Bertram Stevens, in his capacity of a chartered accountant. He acted on behalf of the New South Wales Local Government Association and the Shires Association of New South Wales, and subsequently the policy, or the problems which he enunciated were incorporated in a general statement issued by the Australian Council of Local
Government Associations. This council cannot be described as an irresponsible body. I have noticed that its activities have had the support of a number of Government members in previous years, but since the council crystallized its objections and came to this Government with precise proposals, Government members have been conspicuous in the inadequacy or complete absence of their support of the proposals.
I notice, for example, that a conference of the Australian Council of Local Government Associations was supported in 1957 by none other than the Speaker of this House, by Senator Wood of Queensland, Senator Seddon Vincent of Western Australia, the Minister for the Army (Mr. Cramer), Senator Gorton of Victoria and by Senator Wright. These are the names as they appear in the 1957 report of that association. I was astounded to find out, a short time ago, that something like ten months had elapsed from the time when the Australian Council of Local Government Associations had put its points of view to the Prime Minister, and that he had failed to give a reply in that period which, to my way of thinking, is an irresponsible attitude. I will mention briefly the associations and instrumentalities which are concerned with the Australian Council of Local Government Associations, to indicate that it is a bona fide organization deserving of the respect of this Parliament. It has, as its constituent bodies, the Municipal Association of Tasmania, the Local Government Association of Western Australia, the Road Board Association of Western Australia, the Municipal Association of Victoria, the Local Government Association of Queensland, the Municipal Association of South Australia, the Local Government Association of South Australia, the Local Government Association of New South Wales and the Shires Association of New South Wales.
The general nature of the submissions made to the Prime Minister last November was as follows: - That the Commonwealth take the initiative in arranging a conference between the Commonwealth, the States and local government for the purpose of defining the responsibilities of local government and ensuring to it sufficient finance to discharge them. This is a fairly clear-cut sort of proposal and it was substantiated and supported by the submissions derived from Sir Bertram Stevens’ investigation. The general effect of it is that local government throughout Australia is experiencing a great financial dilemma. It is not a matter of party politics, because in the Liberal State of Victoria the same problem prevails as exists in the Labour State of New South Wales.
There is a real problem in evidence, and the fundamental reason for it is that the local government system of finance which originated many years ago was associated with the simple need to provide roads to service properties, and because it was believed that properties would be improved as the result of the roads the property owners were charged a rate. But in these days local government services throughout Australia have developed enormously and have extended to town planning problems, baby health centres, rest rooms and a thousand and one things for which no additional provision has been made.
– And naturalization ceremonies.
– Yes, and for that matter, a considerable number of things as a consequence of Commonwealth policy. There is the great problem of migration, for example, with people arriving in a community without having made any contribution to its development prior to their arrival naturally enough. They have to be accommodated from the stand-point of local government obligations, and so the system has changed completely. We might like this three-armed system of government but unless we ensure in a responsible way that each system has the wherewithal to do the job, the people will suffer tremendous inconvenience. Throughout the length and breadth of Australia to-day, we find inadequacies in respect of roads, sewerage and other things concerning the health of the Australian people. What happens in Australia to-day is that the ratepayer is required to carry a far greater share of the local government burden than does his counterpart in most other countries of the world.
We find that in the United Kingdom and in Canada there is a far smaller proportion of local government finance accounted for by the ratepayer than is the case in Australia and so we should have a good look at this problem, because the present system is not working out very satisfactorily. We have only to look at the rates position to find that throughout New South Wales, which is typical of the situation in the other States, the average local government rates went up by 313 per cent, in ten years. In the same period, Commonwealth taxation went up by only 185 per cent., State taxation by 291 per cent., and prices by 145 per cent. Local government rates went up out of all proportion to every other consideration, and in many of the shires and municipalities rates increased by as much as 800 or 900 per cent. So there is a need to have a look at this problem and every important and responsible local government organization in this country has so contended to the Prime Minister. I am rather inclined to believe that it would be encouraging for the people who give voluntary service to local government to recognize that there is some sympathy for them on the part of the Government. Of course, the States are unable to provide any assistance. They have developed through the years to the point where they have now become not much more than mere spending agencies of the Commonwealth. Let us face that as a fact. They are unable to sustain local government to the extent needed. The Prime Minister, having himself received a deputation last November, replied through the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr. McEwen). Why he did not reply on his own account, I cannot possibly imagine. The reply was to the effect that local government was the creation of the States and, as such, it was their responsibility to make the approach. I do not understand such an attitude. Is there anything wrong with the Prime Minister sounding the States out on this matter? Will he not give some encouragement?
It was a most unsatisfactory situation that so much time transpired before a reply was given to the submissions of the Australian Council of Local Government Associations and the reply was most unsatisfactory. I suggest that those Government supporters who have had a look at local government matters in the past - many have come into this Parliament from local government - should accept some responsibility, recognizing that right throughout this country local government is languishing for want of the wherewithal to get on with the job. People who are very close to the electors, in circumstances where a very democratic situation prevails, are finding themselves frustrated as a consequence of these conditions. A campaign is developing throughout Australia, sponsored by the Australian Council of Local Government Associations, and I hope that this Parliament will not act as a deterrent to the good intentions of these people who give of their services voluntarily and so enthusiastically to ensure that local government can function in a very practical way. I hope that we shall start to recognize that the ratepayer is incapable of sustaining the great responsibilities of local government. There are many examples, about which so many of us know. A neighbour of mine is a ratepayer on an ordinary wage. Five or six adults are living in his home and only one of those persons contributes to local government services.
-Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I wish to raise very briefly the question of the delays that are occurring in the provision and transfer of telephone services in my electorate. I received a letter under date 30th June, 1960, from a constituent, who stated -
I am hoping you can help me in this matter. I work and my husband is an invalid who has severe heart attacks and then requires immediate attention. We moved from …. to the above address on 10th June, 1960. I informed the P.M.G. of our extreme need of a quick transfer of the telephone, as it is the only means my husband has of contacting his doctor or myself. I enclose their reply. I immediately forwarded the £10 required but they have done nothing further.
The enclosed reply from the PostmasterGeneral stated -
Owing to the large amount of prior work outstanding in the area, it is not possible to indicate precisely when the installation can be effected, but the facility should be provided within the next three months. A service connexion fee of £10 will apply and before arrangements can be made for the work to be put in hand it will be necessary for the sum of £10 to be forwarded to this branch.
As honorable members can see, that was some time ago. I received another letter from the lady, dated 25th July, 1960, in which she stated -
I wish to acknowledge receipt of letters from yourself and the P.M.G. Department regarding the transfer of my phone. Six weeks have elapsed since it was disconnected and no move has been made to reconnect it. There has been a great deal of publicity regarding a Russian woman who wished to visit her son in Australia obtaining a visa from Mr. Krushchev. In Australia to whom should one apply for an urgently needed phone for a very sick man?
Subsequently I wrote to the department and received a reply dated 29th July, 1960. The letter acknowledged my representations and continued -
The appropriate medical priority has been allotted to this application and instructions have been issued for the work to be undertaken. Owing to the large number of similar installations awaiting completion in this area, it is not expected that the service can be established for approximately four weeks. However, if at all possible the service will be provided at an earlier date.
Subsequently, I received another letter dated 6th August from this lady. In it she stated -
Mr. Hutchison’s letter dated 29th July, 1960, states that I can expect a reconnection of telephone in another four weeks. Three months to transfer an urgent phone a distance of 500 yards seems inefficiency. I should think Mr. Hutchison is in the age group subject to heart complaints. How fortunate for him that he would be able to summon a doctor in an emergency. If, while I am at work, my husband has a heart attack and is unable to contact his doctor, I shall protest very very loudly by every possible means - press, radio and television. I am sorry to subject you to this vehement outburst, but the treatment meted out to ordinary little people is nauseating.
I must say that I am in complete agreement with her. In this nuclear age, when funds are almost unlimited and extensive profits are being made by the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, to take over 90 days to shift a telephone 500 yards seems altogether out of proportion. I think the department could well provide a service in such an extreme case and I ask the Minister at the table to convey to the PostmasterGeneral my request that this matter be re-opened in order that this lady will be able to be provided with the service for which she has paid £10 and which is urgently needed. I shall give him the name and address of the person concerned later. There is no reason at all why the service should not be provided in the almost immediate future. Telephone services should be available everywhere to-day almost on demand. Unlimited labour and money are available and the demand is there. It is now fifteen years since the end of the war and there can be no excuse whatever for failure to provide telephone services in cases such as that which I have mentioned, particularly where only transfers are involved. Something ought to be done so that these people will not be inconvenienced.
I have also another case on somewhat similar lines. Last November a constituent of mine moved to a certain address in Marrickville, about one-and-a-half miles distant from his previous address. He applied for a telephone service and he is still waiting for it. Under date 10th August, the department advised that the service could not be provided for another nine months. All that was involved was a transfer over oneandahalf miles in a heavily industrialized residential area in my constituency, yet the transfer is taking roughly eighteen months! The department stated -
Plans have been prepared to provide additional cables in the year, but owing to the large number of similar commitments on hand completion is not expected for approximately nine months. It is noted from your representations that … is ill.
How are people in country districts getting on if it takes eighteen months to shift a telephone one-and-a-half miles in the city? Some people in country districts will have to wait till the year 2000 before they have new services provided, let alone services transferred. It is nothing short of scandalous in the extreme that people are being inconvenienced and made to wait eighteen months for transfers of services that should be arranged almost immediately. Undoubtedly many people are awaiting installation of telephone services. Through the Minister at the table I urge the PostmasterGeneral to give proper and immediate consideration to these matters, because the situation is not satisfactory in any way at all for the people concerned. It does not do the Government much good, with all its talk of efficiency and the provision of all that is good in this day and age.
There are other things in connexion with the Postmaster-General’s Department for which I do not blame the staff so much as the Government’s administration. People apply for telephones. They are notified that they can get the service and they are asked for a deposit of £10. Upon paying it, they sit and look into space for three or four months before the service is provided, even though they gain the impression from the letter sent to them that the service is to be provided almost immediately. This matter may not seem of much importance to you people who already have telephones, but telephones are a necessity. They are essential in cases such as those that I mentioned where sickness is involved and it is necessary to be able to summon a doctor urgently.
I ask the Minister at the table to do everything possible to impress upon the Postmaster-General the fact that in my constituency people are suffering grave inconvenience because of the failure of the Government to provide these services. I ask that work be speeded up in the two cases that I have mentioned and that the services be provided forthwith instead of the applicants having to wait, as in one case, another nine or ten months. The PostmasterGeneral should make a general review of the services of his department to see whether these anomalies and inconveniences cannot be overcome.
.- The honorable member for Hughes (Mr. L. R. Johnson) spoke a few moments ago about local government. He said that local governing authorities at the moment are experiencing a financial dilemma. He based the whole of his case upon a letter from the Australian Council of Local Government Associations. I fear the honorable member did not bother to investigate the situation for his own information, because his facts are quite wrong.
It is true that a group of people went to see the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) in November last. They went as a deputation. The honorable member for Hughes says that he has now learned that ten months have gone by without a reply having been given. He subsequently told the House that he did not really mean this; he said that the reply that was received came from the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr. McEwen) and not from the Prime Minister. He said he could not understand why this was so. There is a perfectly obvious explanation. The Prime Minister was, no doubt, out of the country at the time the letter was sent. But the important thing is that at the time the deputation went to see the Prime Minister, the views of the Prime Minister on such matters were perfectly clear, and, indeed, the view of the Government was perfectly clear. Local government is a matter that falls within the field of State authority. There can be no doubt about that. The honorable member for Hughes suggests that the Prime Minister should ascertain from the State governments their views on local government and Commonwealth interference in that field. I can assure the honorable member that there is no need to go to the State governments to ascertain their views. They have made them perfectly obvious over a great number of years, and they have never retreated a single inch from the proposition that local government falls within the State field. In this matter I agree with the State governments. Local government does fall firmly within the State sphere.
The honorable member went on to say that local government rates have increased in New South Wales by 313 per cent., and he says that this is the highest rate of increase in taxes, State and Commonwealth. He says that the local government authorities are in a dilemma, that they should approach the Federal Government and that the Federal Government should give them a guarantee of adequate finance. What he completely overlooked is this: The local governing bodies are their own instruments for raising, by rates, the amounts of money they require for their spending programmes. Having raised money by means of rates they can go along, through the agency of the State governments, to the Australian Loan Council and there seek the allocation of loan funds. The State governments allocate to the local government bodies the amount of loan funds made available by the Loan Council for the use of the individual local governing bodies. The local government authorities do not go direct to the Loan Council. They cannot do so, because the very constitution of the Loan Council provides for representation of the six States and of the Commonwealth. There can be no intrusion directly by local government bodies, which must act through the State governments.
The honorable member says that the local government authorities are in a financial dilemma. I wonder if he has given any real thought to this question and taken the trouble to investigate the situation. I have approached all the local councils in my electorate to ascertain whether they are in a financial dilemma, and honorable members may be amazed to know that they do not have any financial dilemma at all. In fact, many of the councils cannot spend all the loan moneys made available to them by the State Government. If there is anything that the local government authorities really want - and this is undoubtedly too technical for the honorable member for Kingsford Smith (Mr. Curtin), who is seeking to interject, to understand - it is a change from the debenture form of finance for loan moneys to an overdraft form of finance for loan moneys. I say that for this reason: When local government bodies borrow money on debenture for a fixed period of, say, fifteen years, for such items as the building of private streets, they are committed to pay an interest rate of, perhaps, 5 per cent, on those debentures for fifteen years. It may then transpire, because of the prosperity of the country, that the people who are charged for the street construction pay the money back over five years. The money comes back to the local government authority in five years instead of fifteen, but the authority still has to pay the interest on the debenture for fifteen years. The only thing they can do with the money is put it into fixed deposits, because they are not author.rized under State legislation to use it for any other purpose. They can then get interest on the money at perhaps 3 per cent. There is a difference between this rate and the rate at which they have to pay interest of 2 per cent., and they have to find the money represented by this difference. That is their problem, and it is not a problem that the Commonwealth
Government is able to solve, except, perhaps, by encouraging some form of bank credit policy, so that the local government bodies can get their money on overdraft instead of on debenture.
It is true that there has been a good deal of development along these lines, and councils in Victoria - certainly those in my electorate - are finding that the banks, both the private trading banks and the Commonwealth bank, are making more money available to the local government bodies on overdraft. I hope that this credit policy will be extended to the stage at which the local government authorities will be able to get as much money as they need for their developmental purposes by overdraft finance instead of by debenture finance. The statement of the honorable member for Hughes that local government bodies throughout Australia are in a financial dilemma is quite untrue. He has obviously not taken the trouble to investigate the situation. He has merely relied upon representations made to him, and the purpose of those representations was to urge the Commonwealth to enter a field which the Constitution debars it from entering. It is suggested that the Commonwealth should make finance available direct to the local government bodies, but this suggestion completely overlooks the whole concept of the relationship between local government bodies and State Parliaments throughout Australia. For these reasons, Mr. Speaker, all the remarks of the honorable member for Hughes should be completely disregarded.
.- I wish to refer briefly to a matter that I raised during question time this afternoon. A frightening criminal act, which is new in Australia, has reared its head for the first time. I refer to the crime of kidnapping. The whole nation has been appalled at the kidnapping and murder of Graeme Thorne. In America, kidnapping is a federal offence and is regarded as a major crime. In fact it is so high on the list of crimes in that country that it is dealt with exclusively by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. I want to ask this question: Are the laws governing kidnapping in Australia, if there are any, strong enough to cope with the situation?
I asked the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) this morning whether in view of this recent crime he would investigate the possibility of Commonwealth legislation, with the provision of suitable penalties, in order to establish uniformity on a national level, regarding this important matter, and also to give the people of Australia greater protection than is available at present. 1 pointed out that movement between States is now so rapid, and the matter is so serious, that the crime of kidnapping should be dealt with on a federal level. The AttorneyGeneral said that there were constitutional difficulties. Here again we are confronted with difficulties resulting from our Constitution similar to those which have, time and time again, tied the hands of the particular Government in office and prevented it from taking action on matters that could never have been thought of by the founding fathers*. Many matters that have become important in recent years could not possibly have been thought of 60 years ago. So, our hands are tied year by year when we should be free to act on important matters as they arise. This is one of those important matters.
The Attorney-General said he would look at the matter to see whether the Commonwealth could assist the States, having regard to the constitutional law as it stands at present. But I feel that that is not good enough. I believe that we need a massive deterrent, and that can only be provided by specifying adequate punishment in legislation passed by the Federal Parliament - legislation that would enable action to be taken on a federal level at any moment at any place.
– Would you agree to capital punishment?
– That does not come into it. I am asking the Government to decide the maximum penalty it considers necessary. With a federal act, there would be a uniform law on this subject. As I said this afternoon, I doubt very much whether some of the States even have a law regarding kidnapping. New South Wales for instance, has to pass special legislation at this moment.
I ask whether it would be possible for the States collaborating as they do at Australian Loan Council meetings and other special meetings, to agree to transfer to the Commonwealth any powers in relation to this matter that they have at the moment, so that kidnapping could be dealt with on a national, uniform level. Similar action has been taken before on special occasions. I feel that the recent kidnapping case has shocked the people of Australia so deeply that the Commonwealth Government should approach the States and invite them to meet in conference to deal specifically with this matter and to agree, for the sake of the security and safety of children throughout this country, to hand their powers in the matter to the Commonwealth. Then the Commonwealth would be free to bring down the necessary legislation. I put that forward as a sincere suggestion which I hope the Attorney-General will take further.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.52 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
d asked the Minister for Territories, upon notice -
Mr.Hasluck. - The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows: -
From time to time there have been allegations concerning individual cases of racial discrimination in the Territory. Each of these has been investigated. In some cases it was found that the allegation was unfounded and in some cases that an individual had acted in a way which would not be approved by the Government or by the majority of the Territory community. There has been no general inquiry into this matter, but the Government and the Administration are well aware of the necessity for eliminating discrimination wherever it exists while respecting the privacy of all persons no matter of what race they are. A full-scale survey of Territory legislation has been going on for some time to determine where discriminatory provisions exist in the laws and to remove them. The core of the problem is not to be found in policy or in the laws, but in the attitudes of residents, and if “ discrimination “ exists its ultimate removal can only be the result of patient education and attempts to modify social attitudes and personal prejudices.
d asked the Attorney-General, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows: - 1 and 2. Proceedings under the Crimes Act may be instituted by any person, although they are usually instituted by a Commonwealth or State officer. As my department does not keep statistics of proceedings and convictions under the act, I am unable to give the information sought.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 18 August 1960, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1960/19600818_reps_23_hor28/>.