4th Parliament · 1st Session
The President took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– In view of the fact that statements have been made in the Senate, and also in the Legislative Council of Western Australia by the Colonial Secretary in reply to questions concerning the dismissal of Warder Wise because he had refused to resign from the Military Forces, and the allegation that his attendance at drills and parades had interfered with his duties as prison warder, I desire to ask the Minister of Defence whether hisattention has been called to the following petition, signed by twenty-one warders of the Fremantle prison : -
Case of Warder Wise.
To whom it may concern,
We, the undersigned members of the prison staff enter our emphatic denial and protest against the statement made by the Colonial Secretary in reply to questions asked by Mr. Kirwin, M.L.C.
Signatures - Geo. Dymock, P.W., David McLaren, V. Hamer, J. P. Whyte, H. S. Wisdom, A. E. Bates, J. O’Connor, J. Cannavan, S. W. Fielding, T. Johnston, G. H. Prout, J. E. Gurney,J. Featherston, A. Loveday, B. Hodges, P.W., H. W. Smith, G.T. Leslie, J. A. Harders, T. Bolger, L. S. Bailow, J. Munro.
I also desire to know whether the Minister has received any reply to his further communication with the Premier of Western Australia regarding the wrongful dismissal of Warder Wise?
– A few hours ago the honorable senator brought under my notice the document which he has read to the Senate. That, of course, Vas the first I had seen of it. I have therefore noticed the statement to which he has referred. The reply to his second question is that I have not yet received from the Premier of Western Australia a reply to my letter.
– I .desire to ask, sir, whether, in view of standing order 278, it is competent for the Vice-President of the Executive Council to give notice of .motion to-day for a call of the. Senate for any less period than that set out therein?
– We can suspend the standing order.
– It is quite true that the Minister has given notice of his intention to move that the standing order be suspended ; but I suggest that the proper course would be to withhold the notice of motion until after the suspension of the rule, and then give notice of the motion. It is not right to assume that the standing order will be suspended. It would not delay business if the honorable senator were to withdraw the notice of motion to-day, and give notice of it to-morrow.
– If I make. the notice of motion contingent upon the suspension of standing order 278, will that meet with the wish of the Leader of the Opposition? I do not desire to .have any delay, and I wish to give as long notice as possible.
– That is a question for the President to decide. the PRESIDENT. - The contention urged by Senator Millen is correct. Until standing order 278 has been suspended it is not competent for the Vice-President of the Executive Council to give notice of the motion for a call of the Senate for the date to which reference has been made. I do not think, however, that there can be any objection to notice of motion being given, contingent upon the suspension of the standing order. Contingent notices of motion may be given in connexion with any business brought before the Senate.
– Then, I shall make the notice of motion contingent upon the suspension of the standing order.
MINISTERS laid upon the table the following papers : -
Immigration Restriction Act 1901-1910. - Provisional Regulations, 1910.
Papua. - Ordinance of 1910, No. 14. - Supplementary Appropriation 1910-11, No. 1.
Excise Act 1001. - Tobacco Regulations. - Cancellation’* of Regulation 8, and substitution of new Regulation (Provisional) in lieu thereof. - Statutory Rules, 1910, No. 107.
The Acting Clerk laid on the table : -
Return to Order of the Senate of 30th September, 1910 - Natives employed in Agriculture, Mining, Sc.
Bill received from the House of Representatives, and on motion (by Senator Pearce) read a first time.
Suspension of Standing Orders.
–1-! desire to take the somewhat unusual course of moving the suspension of the Standing Orders to permit of this Bill being dealt with forthwith. I do so because, owing to the fact that the progress made in the business by the Senate last week., was more rapid than we anticipated, unless the course I propose is followed, the only business we shall have to go on with will be the further consideration of the Navigation Bill. I understand that honorable senators would prefer to deal first of all with measures which it is intended shall be passed by both Houses of the Parliament before the close of the session. As it is not intended that the Navigation Bill shall.be passed in another place .this session, it will be sufficient if we occupy the time during which’ we shall be waiting for business from another place in dealing with that measure. Honorable senators are, I think, very well aware of the purpose of the Shale Oils Bounties Bill, but I give an undertaking that if after I have made my speech in submitting the motion for the second reading any honorable senator desires that the debate shall be adjourned, there will be no objection to the adoption of that course. I hope that honorable senators will not ask for that without good reason. I move -
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Bill being passed through its remaining stages without delay.
, - I have no objection to urge to the course proposed by the Minister of Defence in the very novel circumstances with which the Government are confronted. I suggest, however, . that having delivered his second-reading speech, he might consider whether it would not be reasonable then to follow the usual course and allow the continuation of the debate to stand over until to-morrow.
– I have said that if any honorable senator desires that there will be no objection.
– I am suggesting’ that that would be the better course to follow. The honorable senator has said that we are aware of the purpose of the
Bill, but while I know its purpose, I have not seen the measure, and know nothing of its details. It is not desirable that we should deal with such matters in a perfunctory way, and it would be better that honorable senators should be given time to inform themselves as to the details of the measure of which they are asked to express approval.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
I thought that copies of the Bill would have been distributed to honorable senators, but I find that that has not been done. I have sent to the other Chamber for copies ; and before I have concluded my remarks in moving the second reading of the Bill, they will be ‘ available. As I have said already, if any honorable senator objects to continue the debate on the second reading, we shall be prepared to agree to an adjournment of it. The Bill makes provision for a total expenditure of £50,000 for the encouragement of the production of kerosene the product of shale and refined paraffin wax. The expenditure is to be spread over a period of three years, one-fifth in the first twelve months, and two-fifths in each subsequent twelve months. Four-fifths of the total bounty is to be payable on kerosene, and one-fifth on paraffin wax.
– Is the kerosene to be up to any particular standard?
– Yes; a standard is laid down in the Bill, and it is the standard adopted by the Customs authorities under their regulations. As a fuel, I suppose that oil ranks only second to coal ; and its use in shipping and in connexion with machinery of all kinds, is very rapidly increasing. Fuel oil is found in a raw and natural state in very few places in the world, and the effect is to lead to its concentration in the hands of a very few owners. I suppose that the Standard Oil Monopoly is the greatest in the world. It is therefore important that we in Australia, having, as we are assured, great deposits of shale, should take early action to have “ these deposits developed so that we may be Independent of outside supplies of oil for fuel. One aspect of the matter in which we are particularly concerned is that many of the vessels we are ordering for our Fleet will require oil for fuel. We have been as sured that the oil we require can be successfully produced from the shale of which we have enormous quantities in Australia. It would be a calamity if, in time of war, or even in time of peace, we were dependent on outside supplies for the oil required for our ships. I might mention, further, that in connexion with the dairying industry, and many other industries, oil-engines are coming into more frequent use; and this is another reason why we should do all that is possible to develop our shale deposits.
– Motor car people also use oil.
– Yes, but not the particular kind of oil to which this Bill relates. At the present time Australia is a very big consumer of these products. I have here a statement showing our import and export of certain oils in bulk, and of paraffin wax, during the years 1905- 1909. Of benzine, benzoline, and gasolene we imported in 1909 1,626,483 gallons, valued ot £73,593. During the same year our importation of mineral oil, consisting of pentane, petrol, turpentine, substitutes, and all petroleum spirit under .790 gravity, was 116,673 gallons, valued at .£5,794. Of lubricating mineral oil, during the same period, we imported 2,611,845 gallons, valued at £123,321. Of residual and solar oils we imported 410972 gallons and 30,603 gallons respectively. The residual oil was valued at £6,607, and the solar at £664. During the same year, of kerosene and other refined petroleum oils, we imported 19,924,622 gallons, valued at £630,302. Our imports of paraffin wax during the same period totalled 6,110,137 lbs., valued at £74,410. I do not propose to read the figures relating to our export of these articles, because they are not very large, and, therefore, do not affect the question materially. The statistics which I have read show that, in the matter of kerosene and paraffin wax, Australia is *d very large consumer indeed. I hold in my hand a return which sets out the average prices of these articles based upon the imports of 1908-9. During 1908, the price of lubricating mineral oil was i2.o7d. per gallon; in 1909 it was 11.33d. per gallon. The price of residual oil was 3-78d. per gallon in 1908, and 3-85d. per gallon in 1909. In 1908 the price of kerosene was 6.77d. per gallon, and in 1909 it was 7-59d. per gallon. The price of paraffin wax in 1908 was 3-42d. per lb., and in 1909 2.92d. per lb. The reason why the Government have decided to grant a bounty, instead of imposing a duty upon kerosene, is that that article differs materially from many of the other items which are embraced in our Tariff. Not only do we not produce anythinglike sufficient kerosene to supply the local market, but that article also comes into competition with other illuminants, such as gas and electricity, upon which no duty is levied. Gas is the product of coal, and we all know that Australia possesses coal in abundance. As a matter of fact, we export coal. It will thus be seen that to impose a duty upon kerosene, which has to come into competition with gas, would be to penalize practically the whole of the community who use oil. Further, the industry would not derive such an immediate benefit from the imposition of a duty as it will from the payment of a bounty. By offering it a bounty, we shall be able to give the industry a certain amount of encouragement direct, without penalizing the persons who use it.
– What quantity of kerosene are we producing to-day?
-I shall give honorable senators that information presently. It may be asked why we propose to grant a bounty upon the refined product, and not upon the crude oil. The reason is that we desire to encourage the production of the largest quantity of oil, and the employment of the greatest amount of labour possible. If we granted a bounty upon the production of crude oil, we should have no guarantee that that oil would not be exported, and the finished product made up . elsewhere’. Again, we may be asked why we propose to pay a bounty on paraffin wax, and not upon other oil products. We have picked out of the schedule to the Tariff which I have read the two main articles of con sumption. Many of the oils mentioned in that schedule already bear a substantial duty. Moreover, in some of those residual oils our production more nearly approximates to our requirements than it does in the matter of kerosene and paraffin wax. If Parliament should decide that other oils need more encouragement, we shall be in a position to grant it to them when we revise the Tariff. The present Australian production of kerosene is about 300.000 gallons per annum. When we recollect that last year out imports under this heading totalled more than 19,000,000 gallons, and were valued at£630,000, it will be seen that our production represents only a small percentage of our requirements. The present Australian production of refined paraffin wax is 300 tons. This is produced from about 450 tons of crude wax. We are informed that within about twelve months the Commonwealth Oil Corporation expects to produce over 1,000 tons of refined wax per annum, and the Murrurundi Company anticipates having an output of 400 tons per annum. There are three places in Australia in which shale has been proved to exist, and in which companies have been organized and capital subscribed for the purpose of working the shale deposits. They are Newnes and Murrurundi, in New South Wales, and Tasmania. All these companies have excellent prospects of success, and of placing these industries on a sound footing. There te another feature in connexion with them which is well worthy of note. I recollect that when the Bounty Bill was under consideration in this Chamber many honorable senators objected to bounties being granted to certain industries in which wretched wages were paid and miserable conditions existed. But, in regard to this industry, I think I may safely say that the very highest wages are being paid. I confidently appeal to Senator de Largie, who has had considerable experience of it, to say whether my statement is not correct.
– Paragraph c of sub-clause 2 of clause 6 provides that the Minister “may” withhold the whole or any part of the bounty payable. Why is its payment made optional?
– So that the Minister may withhold the bounty if he finds that the rates of wages or the conditions of employment which obtain in the industry are not up to the standard.
– The word “ may “ in the provision is equal to “ shall.” It is pretty well mandatory.
– The object is to enable the Minister to enforce a penalty. The firm claiming the bounty may overstep the limits with regard to labour conditions to such an extent as to justify a penalty of say, £20, and the Minister, under such circumstances, would withhold the bounty to that extent. I think that the wages at present paid in the industry are good. We provide in the part of’ the Bill dealing with that matter, as we have provided in Bounty Acts previously passed, that certain wages and labour conditions shall be observed.
– Are the conditions provided for under this Bill similar to those which have been provided for in previous Bounty Bills?
– Yes, the conditions in this Bill are copied from the Iron Bonus Act. The bounty will be paid on oil manufactured from Australian shale and refined in Australia. We do not intend - and I do not think that Parliament desires - that the bounty shall be paid on crude oil brought into Australia from abroad. As honorable senators are aware, this Parliament has already sanctioned the payment of a bounty for (he production of iron. In order to show the necessity for the bounty now proposed, I intend to quote some figures, with the object of drawing a parallel between the capital invested in the oil industry and the concession to be granted to it, and the treatment extended to the Lithgow Iron Works. The total cost of the iron and steel furnaces at Lithgow is estimated at £250,000. The total cost of the shale works at Newnes, in the Blue Mountains, is estimated at about £1,000,000. About £250,000 more is required to complete the works. The number of employes at the Lithgow Iron Works is 600. The number of employes already engaged in connexion with the Commonwealth Oil Corporation, is over 1,000.
– The whole of the capital mentioned by the Minister has not. I think, been expended on the extraction of oil ?
– It has been expended on the erection of works and machinery for the production of oil and byproducts. Of course, a railway has been constructed in connexion with the works.
– A great amount of money has been spent on works for the production of coke ; all of it has not been spent on the production of -oil.
– I think that the money has mainly been spent on the’ production of oil.
– When the works of the Commonwealth Oil Corporation are in full swing 2,500 employes will be required. It has also to be remembered that the State Government of New South Wales has made concessions to the Lithgow Iron Works to the value of £20,000 per annum. But the State has made no concession to the Commonwealth Oil Corporation. In addition to that, the bounty voted for the benefit of the Lithgow Iron Works is £25,000 per annum, whereas the Commonwealth Oil
Corporation has received no bounty whatever. In other words, taking into account what has been received by way of State concession and bounty from the Commonwealth Government, the Lithgow people have received benefits amounting to £150,000 of public money, whereas the shale people have received nothing at all. The wages paid by the Commonwealth Oil Corporation amount to between £9,000 and £10,000 per fortnight, and the rates average 14s. 6d. per day. When the Tasmanian deposits and the deposits at Murrurundi are being worked, the number of employes will f course, be considerably augmented. I do not propose to go into details relating to the Bill more extensively than I have already done. I think that honorable senators will generally agree that we ought to encourage the oil industry. There are two ways of encouraging it. We can do so either by means of a Customs dury, or by the payment of a bounty. Tt seems to me that the payment of a bounty will remove any possibility of an increase in the price of the article produced to the consumer. The oil manufacturers have to face the competition of one of the great monopolies of the world, in the Standard Oil Company of the United States of America. When we remember the fierceness of the competition, the strength of the competitors, the capital invested, the number of men employed, and the wages conditions, we cannot reasonably expect the company to succeed in Australia, unless w.e do render them some assistance at this stage.
Senator MILLEN (New South Wales) [3.35I. - When the Minister in charge of this Bill first intimated a desire that it should be proceeded with to-day, I thought, not having seen the measure, that it might be desirable that some reasonable interval should be afforded for the consideration of the various clauses in it.” But having since looked through the Bill and recognised that it is largely a reproduction ot Bounty Acts which have been previously passed by this Parliament, I am prepared, for my own part, to proceed with it at once. It seems to me that what we have now to consider is, not the details of this measure - which, as I have intimated, have been considered before in similar Bounty Bills - but merely whether it is desirable that the Commonwealth should pay a bounty for the production of the articles covered by it. I am unable to dissociate this Bill from the general policy of the country; a policy which has undoubtedly been expressed, not in one Bill, but in several. That policy is that we should take legislative action to stimulate desirable industries throughout. Australia. I quite agree with the Minister that, that being the policy of the country, the oil industry is one which may reasonably ask for such a measure of legislative assistance as Parliament is prepared to bestow. I missed from the Minister’s speech, however, any arguments or any facts to show that a bounty is necessary in this instance. He certainly pointed out the fierceness of the competition which the local manufacturers have to face, but such competition faces all manufacturers to-day, distance having become shortened or annihilated, and the products of manufacturers in other parts of the world having become readily available for sale in our markets.
– No competitor is so strong as the Standard Oil Company, and no competition is so fierce, as that which it is in a position to offer.
– That being so, I should have expected that the company immediately concerned would furnish ihe Minister with some information in order that he might show that it was necessary that the State should come to the assistance of those who are engaged in the business of producing oil. Parliament might surely have expected to have a case made out for the payment of a bounty in this particular instance before being asked to vote public money for the purpose. I therefore regret very much that the Minister has not furnished the Senate with facts to enable us to form a fair conclusion as to whether a bounty is necessary to stimulate the oil industry. I have no doubt, however, from what I have learned outside, that some such stimulant is necessary. In spite of the somewhat flamboyant prospectus issued some years ago by those who were promoting the Lithgow shale industry, I believe that there is a very reasonable prospect of the enterprise either coming to a stand-still, or proceeding in rather a crippled condition, unless some such assistance as this be forthcoming. As the Minister rightly stated, Parliament can only convey benefit to an industry in one of two ways - either by means of a duty or by means of a bounty. The few figures which the Minister has given as to the limited quantity of oil produced in Australia, and the very large quantity which we import, show that a duty is under present circumstances unthinkable. We import 19,000,000 gallons a year, and produce 300,000 gallons. To impose a Customs duty,’ and so raise the price of the article merely to assist an industry which is turning out 300,000 gallons a year would be almost a crime against the large body of people who have to use it. I think that Protectionists will agree that until the local product can supply the market, the effect of an import duty must be to raise the price of the commodity. That would be a very heavy burden to place upon its users to stimulate an industry which to-day is too small to make a substantial contribution to our needs. Therefore the Minister has, I think, very rightly chosen to propose a bounty. If we can help to set this industry on its feet by so small an expenditure as £50,000, I venture to say that no public money will have been better expended. But I doubt whether it will be found sufficient. I anticipate that when the Bill has run its course, a further application will be made. At the same time, in politics, as out of it, it is well to remember that “ sufficient for the day is the evil thereof.” At present, we are asked to appropriate an amount which, I think, is quite insignificant compared with the benefit to be conferred on the country if the Bill attains the object with which it is introduced. I am able to confirm the statements which have been made as to the excellent wages which are now being paid in the industry. Not long ago, the Newnes Works was the scene of a rather serious industrial trouble, but I believe that it has been adjusted with probably as much satisfaction as you can hope to secure, and that the industry is being carried on under conditions which leave little cause for complaint. In the circumstances, seeing that ample power is given to the Minister administering the Act to see that fair and reasonable wages are paid, that every safeguard which has been embodied in previous measures has been taken, and that the industry is one of immense promise, and the amount of the proposed bounty is so small, I intend to support the Bill through its various stages.
– I indorse nearly all that has 1 *en said by the previous speakers. I think that no fiscal controversy can be imported into the discussion, in view of the fact that it is generally “ recognised that the Commonwealth has adopted a certain fiscal policy, and that this measure is merely carrying out that principle. Indeed, so well established is the principle now, that it would be rather idle for any one to question it. The industry which we are called on to assist is as much a mining as an oil-producing industry, so far as surface work is concerned, and for that reason I gladly welcome this measure. Mining has had to pay the piper on almost every occasion when fiscal proposals have been laid before the Senate. There are so few things in mining to which the principle of Protection can be extended that we ought to gladly avail ourselves of an opportunity to assist the industry. As regards the wages paid, I can speak with an intimate knowledge of the principal company which is likely to produce oil in Australia for some years to come. The Commonwealth Oil Corporation is a very large private enterprise concern. Of the various companies whose operations I have become acquainted with in recent years not one of them can be said to carry on its business in a more creditable way than does the Commonwealth Oil Corporation. As a Labour man, I had a unique experience in connexion with the shale industry. I was called upon to arbitrate in a strike at part of its works, not at Newnes, but at Ayrlie, where mining of this kind has been carried on for a very large number of years. When the true state of affairs was explained, and it was shown that it was an industry which ought to pay a very reasonable rate of wages, the company accepted the award with, I dare say, better grace than any mining company of which I have had experience. The award undoubtedly provided for the payment of a high rate of wages. Not only was it accepted with the best possible grace, but, so far as I know, it has been carried out to the strict letter. I understand that there has been a strike at another part of the company’s works, but situate in another district, and that also, I believe, has been settled successfully. Tudging from the figures which I have seen published in connexion with the other district, I think it must be admitted that the wages paid in this oil industry, compared with the wages paid in mining in other parts of Australia, are very satisfactory indeed.
– Is not the employment less intermittent than in the case of ordinary coal-mining?
– Yes. It is not liable to the fluctuation which marks the coal trade. Its trade is fairly regular all the year round. In New South Wales, shale mining has been a rather neglected industry. For twenty-five years, to my knowledge, and for many years previously, they have been operating shale on the Blue Mountains. During my time, the industry has not been on as satisfactory a basis as it might have been. That has been due, perhaps, to the fiscal policy pursued in New South Wales, and to nothing else.
– There was an import duty of 3d. per gallon on kerosene.
– The industry had the benefit of that duty, but it did not seem to have the effect which Protectionists naturally anticipated. I think that, if instead of the Protectionist duty, which was imposed, strange to say, by a Free Trade Government, the bounty system had been adopted, the result would have been much more satisfactory.
– The duty put up the price of kerosene.
– The honorable senator’s interjection recalls the fact that during the late general election when a duty on kerosene in common with other necessarien of life was regarded as a possibility of the future, the idea was roundly condemned by most of the candidates sitting on this side of the Senate, andI think that the country supported the attitude taken up by the Labour party. Kerosene is consumed to such an extent that a duty would fall heavily on the poorer section of the community. It would be a tax on country residents as against city residents. In the country, people are obliged to use kerosene, whereas in cities they may use gas or electricity. Since a duty on kerosene would amount to a tax on a largesection of the people, it would be very unsatisfactory, I think. I am pleased that the Government kept that view in mind and decided to propose a bounty in aid of this industry. If it is to become a serious element in the industrial affairs of Australia, the oil industry must be placed on a. sound basis. Its competitors are, perhaps, the strongest which any companyin the world is called upon to face. I do not propose to enlarge upon the operations or tactics of the Standard Oil Company; these are so well known, and I need hardly say that few competitors can withstand its power. It is sufficient, I think, for me to mention that that company is one of the strong competitors which any Australian oil company is obliged to face. Another great competitor is the Borneo Oil Company, whose operations are carried on principally by black labour. Considering what we have done to put Australian workmen on a fair competitive footing with black labour, I think it will be agreed that a bounty is necessary if a fair and reasonable amount of encouragement is to be. given to the oil industry. In my opinion, it deserves every possible encouragement. I regret, however, that it is practically confined to New South Wales. I should like to see other States participating in the allocation of the bounty.
– It is in Australia, so that is all right.
– I agree with that view, but, nevertheless, I regret that the mineral is not more generally spread over the Commonwealth, and that other States are not to get a fair share of the bounty. I understand that recently some shale deposits have been tapped in Tasmania, so that it is possible that it may participate in the bounty. Although Western Australia is not to derive a benefit from this legislation, it has my cordial support, because I am here to encourage the develop.ment of Commonwealth industries, no matter in which State they may be established.
. - Senator Millen has said that good reasons were not shown by the Ministry for the introduction of this Bill. When I have been speaking of the necessity of encouraging shale-mining by a bounty or a duty - and a duty on kerosene is to me unthinkable at the present time - I have been asked why we should not be prepared to assist other mining industries in the same way. I think the answer to that is that shale-mining is almost unknown to the bulk of the people of Australia who are ready to embark their capital in mining enterprises.
– The money put into the industry at present is absentee money.
– It does not matter whether it is absentee money or not. Very little notice is taken of shale-mining by mining speculators in the ordinary sense of the term. It is because it is a new industry that it has special claims to encouragement in this form, which could not be urged in connexion with any other branch of the mining industry. The volume and value of the importations of oil supply another good reason for the assistance here proposed to the Australian industry. Senator de Largie has expressed his regret that there is only one State in the Commonwealth that is likely to benefit from the proposal to grant a bounty for the production of kerosene from Australian shale. But, as a good Federalist, he is quite prepared to support the proposal, though die State which he represents is not likely to share in the bounty. It is true that nearly all the money spent in the development of the industry in the Commonwealth has been spent in the State of New South Wales, but during the last couple of years, and especially during the last few months, a start has been made in shale-mining in Tasmania. Possibly Senator de Largie has not yet seen a report issued recently by the Government Geologist of that State on the shale deposits of Tasmania. I have not yet seen the report myself, but I have seen references to it in the newspapers which warrant me in saying that the Government Geologist of the State, who is eminently qualified to express a valuable opinion upon this matter, has stated that there are enormous deposits of shale in Tasmania containing a sufficiently high percentage of oil to justify him in believing that it might be profitably worked. Seven or eight years ago experts were brought, I think, from South Australia to test the deposits, and the tests showed high percentages of crude oils of splendid quality for lubricating purposes. No advance was, however, made in the establishment of a profitable industry owing chiefly to the fact I have already mentioned, that the mining investor has been slow to invest in shale-mining. During the last few months a large area of the Latrobe district, in the north-west portion of Tasmania, has been prospected, and it is found that there are deposits of shale there of considerable depth containing as high a percentage of oil as the shale to be found in other portions of Australia, and especially in New South Wales, where a considerable amount of money has been spent in the effort to develop the industry. As a representative of Tasmania, I am naturally pleased that the Government have introduced this measure to encourage the shale- mining industry. Without some such encouragement it would continue to languish as it has done for the past ten years, notwithstanding the fact that during the whole of that -time the -public have been aware of the existence of the deposits of shale in two of the States from which residual oils might be profitably extracted. I congratulate the Government upon the introduction of the Bill. I indorse the expression of regret that the total amount of bounty proposed should be so small, but I take it that it may be regarded as an earnest of the intention of the Government, if they continue in office, to support the industry. I have no doubt that they will propose an increase in the amount to be proposed by way of bounty if in the next few years it is shown to be necessary in order to place the industry on a satisfactory footing. It may be regarded as an .industrial rather than a mining industry, and if profitably developed it is sure to find employment for a large quantity of labour.
– Though taken at rather short notice, I wish to say a few words in support of this Bill. I congratulate the Government upon having introduced it. I feel satisfied that the oil-producing industry will become one of the largest industries in Australia. My only fear is that the opposition to the industry is so great that the amount of the bounty proposed will be found too small to be of much use, and we may be wasting our efforts. In view of the very large importation of mineral oil, there is no reason why this industry should not become one of the best in Australia. We have the raw material here, and already something over £1,000,000 has been invested in’ the industry. We must realize that the oil industry is to-day almost as complete a monopoly as any we have. I do not think that the granting of a bounty of £50,000, the payment of which is to be extended over three years, will seriously affect those who have a monopoly of our market for mineral oils to-day. Some honorable senators have spoken as if this was a proposal to stimulate a new industry.
– No, a languishing industry.
– It is not a new industry. In the early nineties a large quantity of oil produced in Australia was placed upon our market. The industry was crushed, not because we have not the raw material to enable us to carry it on profitably, but because of the superior organization and power of the Oil Trusts. The power of the Trusts has grown, until today they have an absolute control of our markets. While I congratulate the Government upon this first instalment of encourage ment for the Australian industry, if I felt that this was to be the end of it I should be inclined to the view that it would be better to leave the matter alone altogether, because the money would be entirely wasted. In my opinion, the industry can only be placed upon a satisfactory footing by the imposition of a protective duty on kerosene. It is said that the advantage of a bounty over a protective duty is that,’ by granting a bounty, we do not necessarily increase the price of the manufactured article to the consumer. But, although the Federal Parliament removed the duty which was previously imposed upon kerosene in some of the States, and it was supposed that this would be a great advantage to people in the country compelled to use it, the fact remains that the country consumer is not getting his kerosene one penny cheaper than before the duty was removed. The advantage has been gained by one of the Trusts that are so detrimental to the best interests of Australia.
– If we reimposed the duty to-morrow, would not the consumer have to pay it?
– It is hard to say what might take place, but it is fair to assume that if the removal of the duty in some of the States did not result in a reduction in the price of kerosene, the price would not be increased by the reimposition of the duty.
– It is not correct to say that the price was not reduced.
– Kerosene is to-day no cheaper than it was when the duty was in force. Unless we are prepared to take strong action we shall not be able to effectively establish this industry in Australia. The Standard Oil Trust, with’ its organization and power, can overcome the difficulties of the ordinary Tariff. The granting of the bounty may be of advantage in view of the fact that so many residual oils are extracted from shale that the industry may be established on a firmer basis than it is to-day. But I do not think that the proposed bounty of £50,000 will give the producer of mineral oils in the Commonwealth control of the local market. I trust that this will be one of the industries to which we shall give effective protection. I should like to refer briefly to the proposals made in connexion with labour conditions in the industry. Under clause 6 it is provided that no bounty shall be paid unless fair conditions of labour are given to the men employed in the industry. The clause reads -
If the Minister finds that the rates of wages and conditions of employment, or any of them -
are below the standard prescribed by any Commonwealth or State industrial authority ; or,
in the absence of any such standard applicable to the case are below the standard applicable in the same State for similar work ; or,
in the absence of any of such standards, are, on application by the Minister to the President of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, declared not to be fair or reasonable by him, or by a Judge of the Supreme Court of a State, or any person or persons who compose a State Industrial Authority, to whom he may refer the matter, the Minister may withhold the whole or any part of the bounty payable.
I do not like this clause ; I do not see why there should be any option. They are practically options.
– They are not.
– Even if the President of an industrial tribunal declares that the conditions of employment which obtain in the industry are unfair and unreasonable, it will still be within the power of the Minister, under subclause 2 of clause 6, to pay the “ whole or any partof the bounty.” I do not fear any evil results from the granting of an adequate measure of protection to this industry. If we are going to fight a trust we ought to extend to the particular industry affected an extremely high protection. But the first essential is that good conditions of labour shall obtain in it. All other industries have to provide those conditions, and in all other industries the decision of the President of the Conciliation and Arbitration Court is final.
– Does not the honorable senator think it will be final in this industry ?
– The Bill leaves the payment of the bounty to the discretion of the Minister. I do not care about supporting the payment of a bounty to employers who may sweat their employes. I would like to see the words, “ the whole or any part of,” eliminated from sub-clause 2 of clause 6, and the word “ shall “ substituted for the word “may.”
-The honorable senator is discussing the details of clause 6. I would remind him that the question under consideration is whether the Senate shall affirm the principle of granting a bounty to this industry.
– I recognise that I was transgressing. I congratulate the Government upon havingtaken this first step towards the establishment of the oil industry in Australia. Should it prove insufficient. I trust that Parliament will declare its intention to establish that industry upon a sound basis, no matter what may be the cost involved. I am satisfied that the people of the Commonwealth do not fear the imposition of an effective protective impost upon kerosene, with that end in view.
– This Bill represents a very feeble and timid attempt to deal with a very important matter. The question which we have to settle is whether it is worth while making an effort to establish the oil industry in Australia - whether it is in the interests of the community that we should establish the manufacture of kerosene within our territory. If that object be a desirable one, the measure before us represents only an infinitesimal portion of what it is necessary for us to do. I would like honorable senators to recollect that in dealing with this industry we shall have to face one of the most powerful trusts in the world - I refer to the Standard Oil Trust. The policy of that corporation has always been to beat down opposition, wherever it shows its head, by the exercise of superior force. 1 have not the slightest doubt that it will still continue that policy in Australia. Its object will be to beat down this attempt to deprive it of the Australian . market. Some persons may say, “ It does not matter much to the Standard Oil Trust whether it loses the Australian market.” From a monetary point of view that statement may be perfectly correct. But the Standard Oil Trust is like many other trusts in that it cannot brook successful opposition anywhere. No matter how small may be the market which is available, it will wish to force an entrance. Under this Bill, what assistance is it proposed to offer to the only company which has hitherto engaged in the kerosene industry in New South Wales? It is proposed to grant it a bounty of 2d. per gallon upon its production of kerosene during the first year that the measure becomes operative. In other words, during that period the company will receive bounty upon only 960,000 gallons of oil.
– That is more than three times the quantity which it is now turning out.
– I quite believe that. But we do not wish any company which may be engaged in the industry merely to produce 1,000,000 gallons per annum. Our desire is that it shall produce sufficient to supply the Australian demand. During the year 1908 we imported nearly 17,000,000 gallons of kerosene, and during the current year, I suppose that the quantity imported will aggregate 20,000,000 gallons.
– Last year we imported 19,000,000 gallons.
– In these circumstances it must be evident to everybody that the proposed bounty will be of very little assistance to the’ Commonwealth Oil Corporation.
– If we offered it a bounty of is. per gallon, it could not im- 0 mediately produce the quantity that we require.
– Probably not. But unless we- are prepared to go forward, -at is idle for us to endeavour to establish the’ industry in this way, because as soon as we do so the Standard Oil Trust will begin to1 undersell the Commonwealth Oil Corporation so as to make it impossible for that corporation to carry on operations. Are honorable senators prepared to fight the Standard Oil Trust ? If they are not, it is much better that we should leave this industry alone. It may cost the Commonwealth, not £50,000, but ,£100,000, or even £200,000, to place it upon a firm footing. We have sufficient shale to enable us to produce all the kerosene that we require for generations, and we ought to “be independent of foreign countries for our supplies of that commodity. We all “know that kerosene is becoming a more and more necessary article of human consumption, and is used, not merely for lighting, “but also for cooking and heating purposes, and even for the production of power. In fact, its use is being widened every year. Probably in the near future it will be a much greater national necessity than it is now. For that reason I am willing to pay the price that may be required to establish the industry. But I 110 not think that the proposals which are embodied in this Bill will prove sufficient. The Leader of the Opposition has stated, by way of interjection, that, even if the Commonwealth Oil Corporation received a bounty of is. per gallon it could not supply the requirements of Australia within the next few years. But if that Corporation be driven out of the market by reason of the Standard Oil Trust supplying the public with oil at 2d. or 3d. per gallon less-
– It will be a jolly good thing for the consumers.
– Where is the Commonwealth Oil Corporation now selling its annual output of 300,000 gallons? It can sell all that it produces.
– It is a matter of common knowledge that large trusts frequently allow small concerns to live, in order that they may be able to say they do not enjoy a monopoly. Probably that is why the Standard Oil Trust and the Borneo Oil Company have allowed the Commonwealth Oil Corporation to sell its annual output of 300,000 gallons. But the moment they realize that a serious attempt is about lo be made to establish the industry in Australia, they will declare war, and the extinction of the Commonwealth Oil Corporation will become their definite policy. That is the position that we shall have to face sooner or later. So long as they think that the Commonwealth is merely playing with the kerosene industry they will not worry themselves. But the moment they see that ari. earnest effort is to be made to put the Commonwealth Oil Corporation upon its feet, they will deal it a staggering blow. Will it throw down the gauntlet to the importing companies, or will it allow the manufacture of kerosene from Australian shale to be abandoned? As far as I am concerned, I am in favour of the establishment of the industry in Australia on sound lines. I know that it will cost something, but the people of Australia ought to be prepared to pay the cost. It is. not a mere question of getting kerosene cheap. A thing may be cheap and very nasty.
– What will be the cost ?
– I have not the slightest idea. It depends altogether on whether the companies concerned are willing to enter into a war of competition with any companies that may be established in Australia.
– How long will it take Australia to produce 20,000,000 gallons of kerosene per annum?
– Why should it take very long?
– The company have been a good while at die work now.
– But they have had no encouragement.
– There must be something attractive in the industry when an English syndicate put up £1,250,000 to start it without a bounty. This bounty will put them in a better position.
– The company carrying on business in New South Wales has had to reconstruct, and has been in deep water for a considerable time.
– The company has been getting more capital.
– If it had not been in the hands of men of substance - some of them men of very large fortunes - it would have been brought down years ago. A large amount of money has been invested in developing the industry.
– A good- deal of the money has been very unwisely spent.
– Very probably. I was astonished at the kind of the country through which the railway has been carried. I am not prepared to pass any opinion as to whether a good deal of. the work has been unwisely undertaken. Very likely it has been. But the company was promoted by English capitalists who knew little or nothing of Australian conditions ; and we all know what happens when an’ English company puts its affairs into the hands of people in Australia, and gives them carte blanche. The money flows like water, and useless expenditure is very often incurred, with the result that the company frequently goes to the wall. But the question with me is whether Australia is going to establish the oil industry or not.
– Can the honorable senator say whether the amount proposed to be granted will place the company on its feet?
– I have had no communication with any official of the company for a very long time. I remember once being told by an agent of the company that in three years it would be able to supply the Australian market with kerosene.
– It is a question of putting money into the concern.
– Will this bounty give sufficient encouragement to enable the Australia company to supply the Australian market in three years. That cannot be done if the Standard Oil Company and the Borneo Oil Company choose to fight the Australian company ; because there is nothing in this bounty of 2d. per gallon which of itself can lead to success. As I have pointed out, if the importing companies choose to reduce their selling price by the amount of the bounty, they will immediately handicap any company that engages in the industry in Australia, and prevent the expansion of its business. I do not say that that will be done, but it may be done. We all know that that happens frequently in the war of commerce, and it may happen in this case. I shall vote for the second reading of this Bill, and am glad to see that something is being done towards the establishment of the oil industry in this country. What is proposed may not be all that I should like, but still it is a step in the right direction, and even if failure should appear to be the immediate result, I hope that the people of Australia will determine that ultimately this industry shall be established within their borders.
– I gladly support the second reading of this Bill. I am, however, somewhat surprised that the company carrying on business in Australia has not made more headway. I quite realize that it has very powerful opposition to meet. I presume that if the bounty now proposed will not help the company to get out of its difficulties, the Parliament of this country will come to its rescue at some future time, either by imposing a Customs duty, or by granting a bounty. I am rather afraid that this is not a very opportune time for extending operations. At present, it is almost impossible - and I speak with knowledge - to obtain labour for the ordinary industries of the country. I have been in Australia nearly sixty years, engaged in pursuits of all kinds, and I can honestly say that I never knew of such a dearth of suitable labour as there is at present.
– There is a good stream of labour flowing in.
– There is, and I think that it will increase. There is plenty of scope for deserving persons, in pretty well all fields of occupation.
– Mr. Batchelor’s pamphlet is having its effect.
– I hope so. It will be all the more difficult for the Commonwealth Oil Corporation to fight against powerful opposition when labour is so hard to get. I am sorry to hear that; no information has been furnished concerning the prospects of the company. Before proposing to spend £50,000, it was surely the duty of the Government to ascertain what the prospects were, so that Parliament and the country might be able to judge whether this money is likely to be wisely spent. If it is going to be wasted, I can only say that we have many other ways of spending money profitably. However, acting upon the information that we already have, I shall gladly support the second reading of the Bill.
-34J- - 1 notice,, from the schedule to this Bill, that the bounty is to be given for the production of kerosene and refined paraffin wax. While 1 am in entire accord with the proposal as far as it goes, nevertheless, I cannot forget, being a representative of Tasmania, that for the first time we are able to have a very important industry established in that State. It appears to me that the presentation of the measure in this form shows that the Government were not fully alive to the necessity of promoting and encouraging a great Australian industry elsewhere than in New South Wales. I should have liked to see provision made for granting a bounty for the production of burning oils. I understand that it will not be possible to produce refined kerosene at the shale works in Tasmania. The cost of establishing refining works would run into a very large sum indeed. Consequently, this Bill - though I approve of its principle - will not help the industry in Tasmania very much. I should like to suggest to the Government that some small amount should be included for the byproducts of shale, in order to encourage those companies that cannot afford to produce refined products at present. This aspect of the matter has been overlooked by the Government, and by those honorable senators who have preceded me in the debate.
I am not in accord with Senator Stewart in taking a rather gloomy view of the situation; because if, after this Bill has been in operation for about twelve months, it be found that the amount is not sufficient, there will be nothing to prevent Parliament from increasing it. Senator Stewart will agree that it is possible for us to encourage the industry to a far greater degree than is at present proposed.
I may point out that the north-west coast of Tasmania is at present one of the most flourishing parts of that State; and, as
I happen to have been bom at Latrobe, where the shale works are situated, I naturally take more than an ordinary amount of interest in the matter. The shale industry has been taken up there with great enthusiasm, and the capital has been subscribed largely by people resident in Tasmania, who believe that the works will become very important and flourishing. I feel, therefore, that there will be a certain measure of disappointment at the fact that the industry as conducted in Tasmania would receive very little encouragement from this Bill. Even now, I trust that the Government will consent to an alteration so that the Tasmanian company may receive some benefit, and in order that inducement may be offered for the formation of other companies for the purpose of producing oils and by-products from shale.
I trust that the Government will continue to keep in mind the desirableness of encouraging all our native industries. Where the policy of Protection is not sufficient to afford the necessary measure pf assistance I hope that bounties will be voted. Although we have not had any great success with bounties in the past, notwithstanding that a considerable sum of money has been appropriated for the purpose, I think that the tendency in future will be for increasing amounts to be claimed by producers. The consequences will be, of course, that the people of Australia will receive larger benefits, and that we shall have important industries rapidly growing up in our midst.
– I realize that it is almost useless, at this stage, to start anything like an effective opposition to a measure of this description ; but, if there is anything that could make honorable senators doubtful about the step now being taken in granting a bounty to the oil industry, it is to be found in the speeches of the honorable senator who has just resumed his seat, and of Senator Stewart, who .preceded him. Each of them has indicated that if the expenditure of £50,000 in three years is not found sufficient to attain the object the Government have in view, they will be prepared to vote a larger sum.- If, however, this is to be only the beginning, what will the end be? I takethe view that, in dealing with these large companies, we should proceed in the same shrewd business-like way as the companiesthemselves proceed in dealing with those.- with whom they have relations. If we are going to vote them £50,000 to enable them to tide over their initial difficulties, we should make provision to receive a portion of their profits when the day comes that they will be making a substantial return on their investment. It has also to be remembered that, as soon as the Commonwealth undertakes to encourage the company that is engaged in the shale oil business in New South Wales, it will stimulate opposition from the Standard Oil Company and other companies engaged in the same business. Once we have started to help the local company, they will have a legitimate call upon us, and the call will be for more and more help, and the money will come from the men who are toiling in railway tunnels, shearing sheep, and working in industries for barely enough to subsist on. From one end of Australia to another we are at the high- water mark of prosperity ; but in the homes of the toilers there 5s no high-water mark. They have to deny themselves many of the necessaries which persons, living in better circumstances, consider to be luxuries on their part. I am disinclined to give even a passive support to a measure which is to hand over to the Commonwealth Oil Corporation the people’s money, but which contains no provision that the company, when it becomes more wealthy, shall share the profitspro ratâ with the Commonwealth. I remember a deputation of mine-owners waiting upon the late Richard Seddon, Premier of New Zealand, and asking him to pledge the Government to contribute £3 for every £1 which they expended on a scheme for exploiting the Thames deep leads, which, it was anticipated, would be found to carry rich gold. The companies had not sufficient cash to carry out the test, so the deputation from one company asked Mr. Seddon to do what I have stated, and I remember his answer quite vividly. He had nohesitation in saying, “ Yes; but when you have reached the profitmaking stage the Government will take £2 for every £1 earned by the company.” Not only was that a sensible, practicable, and common-sense way of dealing with the company which wanted to test the deep leads, but to my mind it would be anexcellent plan of dealing with oil production, sugar production, tobacco production, or any other form of production which you want to help or foster. Surely it would not be unfair to say to the Commonwealth Oil Corporation : “If the £50,000 of public money should enable you to become a profit-declaring company, the profits shall be divided in proportion to the money paid in, whether it was contributed by rich shareholders in England, investors in Sydney, business men in Melbourne, or by the Commonwealth on behalf of the people!” I hold that we should be as careful in spending public money as we are in spending our own. We ought not to pay over any sum belonging to the people for the use of a company unless we are assured of getting a definite return. I recognise in this case that there will be an indefinite return to the Commonwealth, and that it must look for the development of resources which will tend to bring population in this direction. But we should remember that the great bulk of our revenue is contributed by those who have little beyond that on which they can exist. I could not pass a gang of men working on the roads, or a gang of navvies toiling under the broiling sun in the interior, without thinking that their money should not be taken to help to develop the Commonwealth without a provision that it shall share pro rata in the profits which may accrue. I do not suppose that the Ministry will accept a suggestion at this stage, but I hope they will realize that if we commence in this way there will be initiated an endless system of benefits to be conferred. A bounty of £50,000 to a wealthy company does not sound very much, but already we have heard a voice raised on behalf of Tasmania indicating that in that State there is a company which needs Federal assistance, but which is not getting any help.
– It will get a bounty on paraffin wax, I presume.
– I suppose so. No sooner have we started on this particular system of helping a company than a voice is raised that further help is necessary. I cannot see any ending to the system unless we adopt the practical businesslike method of providing that the Commonwealth shall sharepro ratâ in the profits. I think that the days of assisting companies have gone by. Suppose that during the next three years this bounty of £50,000 should help to make the Commonwealth Oil Corporation such a dangerous competitor that the Standard Oil Company may think it worth while to buy it out, what will become of the £50,000 of the people’s money? Will it be thrown, as it were, into the company’s treasury to help it to exercise its extended power for the purpose of taking extra pennies from the people who use kerosene? I do not know whether these matters have been looked into by the Ministry or not, but I think that when we come to deal with big companies, and, what is more important, the people’s cash, we should satisfy ourselves that the interests of the people have been looked after, and that if the future should bring profits to the shareholders they should be divided pro rata with the people of the Commonwealth, whose money has helped to bring about that result.
– I do not intend to oppose the Bill. I have seen a little of the operations of the company which the Bill seems to be principally designed to assist. I know that it has expended a very large sum. I am told on very good authority that some of it has been expended, not in developmental work in the best interests of the future of the company, but rather unwisely. But, be that as it may, there is no reasonable doubt in the minds of experts that there are enormous deposits of shale in New South Wales, and that a big business could be built up, in fact is being built up by degrees. I do not agree with Senator Stewart that if the bounty were very much larger the company could in anything like the immediate future supply the needs of the Commonwealth. Even though they may have boundless stores of shale, I think that the developmental work which would be required to open up the deposits would be so large that it would occupy a considerable period, and that if this is a good principle, possibly there will be an ample opportunity of extending it before the expiration of the Bill.
– I think that they told me that in three years-
– What they tell people has, like the prospectuses of many companies, to be taken with a very large lump of salt. Long ago this company had visions of doing big things. Yet it found its hands tied by want of capital, and had to send its manager to the Old Country to raise more. I do not believe that very much good is going to be done by this application of the bounty system. In the case of an article which is generally used, it is, I think, better to give a bounty than to impose a duty. There is no doubt that the time which it would take to supply the whole Commonwealth with oil, if that could ever be done under the duty system, would be so great that the consumers would have to pay through the nose for years. But with a bounty we shall know what is being paid, and it will not be felt as a heavy tax when it is distributed over the whole community. Nevertheless, I do not think that by this method we are going to bring about an industrial paradise. I consider that this is only a tinkering with industrial matters. Senator Gardiner quite incidentally asked what would happen in the event of the Standard Oil Trust buying out the Commonwealth Oil Corporation. What would become of the nurture given to the industry by the expenditure of public money if such a result did occur? Whether the Minister has an adequate answer to that hypothetical position or not I do not know, but I have heard a rumour that the Standard Oil Trust has cash invested in the company.
– There is no objection so long as they develop the property.
– The object of this measure is to build up a local industry, believing that, if the foreign industry squelches our own, it will only do so for the purpose of raising the price of the article once it has secured a monopoly. Any attempt to prevent that result is good in intention, but the means taken may be faulty. I do not know whether there is any means of preventing the Standard Oil Trust from investing money in the Commonwealth Oil Corporation, instead of wiping it out by competition, nor do I know whether there is any method of finding out whether or not such is the case. We cannot compel the production of the share list. I consider that in a way this is experimental legislation. We find that the same course has been taken in regard to other matters, but I am not aware of any considerable industries having been built up by that means. But be that as it may, I think that the Commonwealth Oil Corporation is very well satisfied with this bounty as the first instalment of what they look forward to getting. I think that there is a great deal to be said for the proposition put forward by Senator Gardiner that, with a view to ultimately nationalizing the industry, it would be better to invest our cash in the company than to resort to the bounty system. The Commonwealth Oil Corporation has., I believe, expended over ,£1,000,000 in the construction of works, a railway, and developmental work generally, and I do not think the £50,000 proposed as a bounty to be given under this Bill will either make or break the company. It may be taken as an indication of the sympathy of the Government, and, in the notdistant future, the company will probably put in a demand for very much greater assistance. The difficulty is that the Commonwealth hasno guarantee that what Senator Gardiner has foreshadowed may not occur. Even now the Standard Oil Trust may have some secret grip of the industry we are being called upon to assist by this subsidy.
– Surely any one may examine the list of shareholders of the company ?
– Senator Vardon, innocent as I believe him to be, must be aware that it is possible for a man to invest his cash in an undertaking without having his name disclosed. The business astuteness of the people who control the Standard Oil Trust is quite sufficient to overcome a little difficulty of that kind. Though strict provision has been made in the past to prevent people in Australia obtaining more than a certain area of land by means of dummying, millions of acres have been obtained by those who had no legal right to them. In just the same way it is quite possible for a man to invest his cash in a business without his name appearing as one owning an interest in the business. That is a danger which requires to be guarded against. If this industry is to be of benefit to the Commonwealth in supplying a commodity used all over Australia, it is one to the nationalization of which we may reasonably look forward. Although honorable members opposite will raise the bogy of Socialism, I may inform them that a good many years ago a Conservative administrator like Lord Beaconsfield thought it well to invest British capital in the purchase of Suez Canal shares. If that could be done by a Conservative Administration twenty or thirty years ago, it can hardly be considered strange that we should suggest the nationalization of a business by proposing that the Government should invest money in the purchase of shares in that business.
– Does the honorable senator think that the purchase of the Suez Canal shares by Lord Beaconsfield was an experiment in Socialism?
-I do not say so. What I said was that honorable senators opposite, in dealing with a proposal of this kind, are apt to raise the bogy of Socialism. To show that there is no occasion to do so, I referred to what was done by a man whose views on Socialism were as wide apart as the poles from the views held by honorable senators on this side.
– The only objection raised to the Bill, so far, has been from honorable senators opposite.
– I am not raising any objection to it. I merely point out that the investment of money in this way, with the best intentions, might bring about very objectionable results. To swallow legislation merely because it is presented in a pleasant guise, and the intentions of those promoting it are strictly honorable, is not always political wisdom.
– Would the honorable senator make the repayment of the bounty a first charge on the profits of the company ?
– I am not now going into details as to the repayment of the bounty. I think we need to be assured that in this proposal we shall be giving help to an industry, the benefits of which will be shared in by the whole of the people, and not building up a monopoly, and it may possibly be the very monopoly we are seeking to fight?
– In South Australia, money has been advanced for the development of mines ; but it has always been made a first charge on the mines when they have become profitable.
– I should not object to that. I think it is only fair that if a business is lifted into prosperity by means of a Commonwealth subsidy, the subsidy should be repaid. While I am not opposing this proposal, I utter a word of warning. In any case, I do not think we shall accomplish very much under the bounty system ; and the dangers to which reference has been made should not be overlooked.
– I do not intend to offer any opposition to this Bill. So far as we can gather, it is the will of the people that what may be termed Australian industries shall be assisted by more or less effective protective duties, or, in the circumstances outlined by the Minister on this occasion, by bounties. I am not, as is well known, an ardent admirer of the practice of appealing to the State as a first and last resource for the encouragement of the industries of the country. I recognise that, in a new country, industries require some assistance to enable them to compete with the industries of older- settled countries.
– The State the honorable senator represents is a marked instance of that.
– I do not intend to allow the interests of any particular State to influence my consideration of this Bill.
– The honorable senator is living in a glass house.
– The honorable senator is, no doubt, a little sore because he recognises the weakness of his position. I am not throwing a single stone in exercising my right to comment upon this proposal. It does not strike me as a very effective business proposition. We have had a good deal of faith and hope in Australian industries, and we may hope that this industry will turn out as well as we anticipate. The business aspect of the proposal cannot be overlooked, because it is the people who will have to pay. If the proposal leads to the establishment of a staple industry, it will, no doubt, be good business in the future; but we ought to have some regard to the business aspect of the matter in the present. The Minister referred to the establishment of a powerful and influential company, but he did not mention that it is largely financed by absentees. I have no particular prejudice against them or love for them. If there is a good business proposition which we can carry out with Australian capital, well and good;if outside capital is required, and we can secure it, well and good also. The Commonwealth Oil Corporation has invested £1,000,000 in the development ofthis industry ; and the Minister has informed us that they are willing to invest a further sum of £250,000 if they are given this encouragement of a bounty. We are asked to offer a bounty of £50,000 to induce the company to complete their operations. I find myself striking in this matter a note which is almost identical with that struck by Senator Rae in his criticism of this measure. If the company in question have not been able to profitably develop the industry by the expenditure of £1,000,000, can we expect that the success of the industry will be in view if the Commonwealth affords the company assistance to the extent of £50,000, the expenditure of which is to be spread over three years?
– Does the honorable senator think that the amount proposed is not enough?
– In the circumstances, I think that the amount proposed is either too much or too little. It is evident that, even in its initiatory stages, the industry is likely to be a monopoly in the ordinary sense of the term. If the Minister would agree to side-track himself a little, though I suppose he will not do so, he might explain how it is that we have such evidence of a mortal antipathy to monopolies as is expressed in certain legislation with which we have recently dealt; and at the same time, the Government propose that the taxpayer shall be called upon to give assistance to support an industry which is a monopoly.
– Is the honorable senator’s knowledge of Australia so limited that he thinks shale is only to be found in New South Wales?
– Not so; but I think that the only company at present in Australia which is in a position to develop the industry, is the company operating in New South Wales. No sensible man will argue that within the next two years the company will not absorb three-fourths of the proposed bounty.
– How can it become a dangerous monopoly, seeing that it has the strongest competitor in the world arrayed against it?
– I am not concerned with monopolies which exist outside of Australia. By means of the payment of a bounty it is proposed that this Parliament shall assist a particular company practically to become a monopoly. The policy of encouraging industries by a system of bounties has proved anything but a success in Canada. Particularly is that remark applicable to the production of iron and steel. When the Dominion Parliament approved of the payment of bounties in that connexion, it provided that they should annually diminish, and that finally they should disappear. But what hap.pened? The moment the bounties were withdrawn the production of iron and steel declined to such an extent that indications point to the industry reverting to its original position. Similarly, I do not think that the results which have flowed from the legislation which has been enacted by the Commonwealth Parliament in regard to the payment of bounties upon other products encourage us to persevere in this direction. Except in the case of wool tops, those results have been almost of a negative character. In this connexion it is well that we should sound a warning note to the Ministry.
– Is it not a fact that twothirds of the amount voted by Parliament for bounties remains unclaimed ?
– t think that more than that proportion remains unclaimed. In answer to the interjection made by Senator de Largie some time ago, I wish to point out that the sugar industry is the only industry in the world which has been ‘satisfactorily developed by means of what has been miscalled a bounty, but what, for all economic purposes, is in reality a rebate. I need scarcely point out that the sugar growers contribute more to the revenue by way of Excise than they receive from it by way of bounty. That is my reply to the taunt of the honorable senator.
– I hope that the honorable senator will refrain from discussing the sugar industry.
– I have always regarded the industries of Australia as enterprises to which the State can well afford to extend some assistance. I shall support the Bill upon the general ground that we must deal with conditions as they exist. If, by means of this legislation, we can establish a single industry which will provide employment for the people, we are amply justified in enacting it. But we must act with prudence and caution and not flagrantly disregard economic laws. I hope that the proposed bounty will be justified by results. But I wish honorable senators to understand that I make these remarks without prejudice. Because I have spoken to some extent favorably of the Bill 1 do not feel myself committed indefinitely to the policy of encouraging industries by the payment of bounties. If the Commonwealth Oil Corporation cannot successfully carry on operations after the next three years, it will have no right to approach this Parliament for a renewal of this form of assistance for a further term. There ought to be some finality in the matter.
– The Bill limits the operation of the bounty to a period of three years.
– But we have to consider what may be the effect of this policy at the expiration of that term. There are very few protected industries which have not urged the fact that they have been assisted by the State as a reason why still further encouragement should be accorded to them. The strongest arguments will have to be advanced by the Commonwealth Oil Corporation to induce me to vote for the granting of any further assistance to it.
– - Upon the face of it, this seems rather a tin-pot piece of legislation. I do not object to the payment of a bounty in order to secure the establishment of an industry upon a sound basis. If we could establish the oil industry in Australia so thoroughly as to enable it to supply all our needs, that result would not be dear even if we had to pay £[250,000 or £500,000 to bring it about. But the whole of this discussion seems to have centred round the operations of one company. We have not been told whether it requires the bounty or whether, if it secures it for three years, it will afterwards be in a position to supply the Commonwealth with oil at a reasonable price. We have been informed that it has already expended ,£1,000,000, and that it contemplates the further expenditure of £250,000 before it will be in a position to manufacture the articles to which the Bill refers. To my mind, it is absurd to offer to a company which can afford to expend £1,250,000 in endeavouring to establish an industry, a bounty of £50,000. Moreover, we have no guarantee that when that bounty has been exhausted, the industry will be satisfactorily established. I agree with the principle underlying the payment of a bounty to industries of this character, because I know that shale deposits exist in four of the States. But for that reason I hold that the bounty should not be confined to one company or to one State. That is the question.
– This Bill does not confine the bounty to any one State.
– The amount is set down at £50,000, and the period over which the. payment is extended is three years. How long has the New South Wales Company been in existence, and how long has it taken to get its works up to the present pitch? Would it be possible to establish’ other companies in Australia within three years? I do not believe that is at all likely. Therefore we are proposing to pay this bounty practically to one company only, and to a company that has been able to spend over £1,000,000 already. Surely £50,000 to such a company can hardly be worth considering. If I could be assured that the payment of this sum would be of advan- tape to the Commonwealth, and that it would do any good whatever, I should be the more inclined to favour the Bill.
– The bounty will not do everything we should like, but it will do some good.
– If the payment of this bounty would have the result of establishing the oil industry on a sound basis, the proposition should have the support of every member in the Senate. But it does not appear to me that the payment, of so small a sum as £50,000 will be of any advantage to a company that has had command of a capital of over £1,000,000. I wish to be quite sure that our legislation is going to do what we wish it to do ; that the. money we propose to expend will be Sufficient for the purpose, and that the industry when established will be able to Supply the wants of Australia, and so render us independent of outside supplies.
– If the company shows reasonable signs of expansion, we can give it the assistance of a protective duty.’
– We have first to establish the industry, and to show that it is able to supply the Australian market, and then we can, if we like, give it the advantage of a duty which will prevent it from suffering from unfair competition. I think that the Government might have gone further in this direction than they have proposed. I do not object to the spending of a large amount of money providing that it leads to permanent results. But I confess, after the discussion that we have had this afternoon, and from the references that have been made to the company at present carrying on operations, that it does not seem to me that the bounty will conduce to. the thorough establishment of the oil industry. The Minister in his reply may be able to tell us whether the company have asked for this sum, and whether they think it will be effective. I shall be glad to receive that information. I wish to see established in this country an oil industry that will be able to produce the requisite commodity for the supply of all our needs, and render us independent of outside supplies. I should not mind going to any decent length if that end could be accomplished. But this proposal seems to me to be a paltry thing, which is not likely to accomplish the end in view.
– - The experience that we have had of bounties in Australia so far need not scare Senator St. Ledger with the idea that we are about to spend a large amount of money. Hitherto we have not spent anything like the sum that Parliament has appropriated for the payment of bounties. Were it not that 1 feel that probably a similar result will accrue in this instance, I should be inclined to join with Senator Vardon in saying that we should vote something like half-a-million of money in order that the expenditure might have a better chance of being effective. One objection to this Bill is that it is limited to shale oil. Why insert the word “ shale “? It appears to me to be perfectly unnecessary. The object in view is to produce oil. There is no reason to suppose that we shall not before long, as the result of the boring operations which are taking place at Roma, in Queensland, discover natural oils. I take it that the Minister of Defence has, at the back of his mind, the idea of developing the oil industry for the purpose of enabling oil to be used as a fuel on the vessels of the Australian Navy. Kerosene for lighting purposes is cheaper now than it has ever been in Australia-, and is not likely to rise in price. What we want is to have Australia self-contained in respect of oil fuel for the furnaces in our war-ships. For that reason, I think that the Bill should have been drafted so as to apply equally to natural and shale oils. When I said just now that I should be inclined to vote for a larger amount of money, I meant that I was very much of Senator Vardon’s opinion in thinking that the sum proposed is too small. There are deposits of shale in Tasmania and Queensland, as well as in New South Wales-, and the division of £50,000 spread over three years amongst the three or four concerns in different parts of Australia does not offer a great prospect of advantage to companies which may require assistance. As far as relates to the point raised by Senator Gardiner - that the Standard Oil Company might buy out the Newnes Company - all that I have to say is that the greater part of the property being worked by that company is leasehold. Under the mining laws of New South Wales, it has to be worked and developed, and it does not matter to Australia whether it is worked by the Newnes Company or the Standard Oil Company. If the Standard Oil Company buy out the present proprietors, and close down the works, then under the mining laws of the State the property will be resumed, and the purchasing company would have no further interest in it.
– That would mean granting a fresh bonus to start a fresh company.
– Is that the way the honorable senator would treat a company of capitalists who have spent an enormous sum of money in Australia? Would he allow the company to perish?
– If a person buys Senator de Largie’s horse, the honorable senator does not perish. Neither would the Commonwealth Oil Corporation perish in the ordinary sense of the term if the Standard Oil Company chose to buy out its rights. Are industries which are to be taken over by the Commonwealth to be regarded as “ perishing “?
– The Commonwealth will pay for any industries that it takes over.
– All that I am saying is that if any company - it may not be the Standard Oil Company ; it may be some competing firm in Tasmania or New Zealand - chooses to buy out the Commonwealth Oil Corporation, it cannot hold the property without developing it, and our object is to see the property developed, whether by the company at present carrying on operations or by some other group of people. Consequently, I cannot see any force in the argument of Senator Gardiner. In the interest of defence alone, it is desirable that we should promote the production of oil in Australia, either from shale or from natural oil deposits. We are about to have a fleet of war-ships in this country, and if we can develop our oil deposits we shall be able to establish depots round the continent supplied from our own resources. Any other method of supply does not seem to me to be either safe or economical. Therefore, though I shall not vote against the Bill, I fear that the inducement offered is not large enough to promote the establishment of an industry which in my belief is necessary to Australia.
– I thank honorable senators for allowing the debate on this Bill to proceed this afternoon, and thereby facilitating the passage of the measure. A few points call for a word or two in reply. It has been said, on the one hand, that we are proposing to pay too much by way of bounty for the production of oil. Another section of our critics seems to think that we are not ‘ proposing to pay enough. Those conflicting views may be taken to indicate that the Government have struck a happy medium. Senator Stewart was the first to voice the complaint that we are not proposing to pay enough. I would point out, in reply to him, that there are two things to be taken into consideration in deciding on the amount to be paid. One is : How does the amount of the bounty compare with the economic value of the article that we are proposing to feed by the bounty? The figures at my disposal relating to the import value of kerosene show that the value is somewhere about 7d. or 8d. per gallon. The bounty which we propose to pay is 2d. per gallon. Taking the value at the highest figure - 8d. per gallon - it will be seen that the bounty is equal to one-fourth of the import value of the article. If we look at the matter from that point of view, it cannot be said that the bounty is not sufficient. If, next, we take the total quantity of kerosene imported, we may ask ourselves to what extent we can reasonably anticipate that the bounty is likely to be availed of? We have one bounty in operation in Australia to-day, and the particulars with regard to it afford a remarkable illustration of my point. Under the Bounties Act, about £250,000 has been allocated by Parliament for various purposes. I venture to say that by the time that Act expires not one-fourth of the sum will have been spent, because the production of the various articles enumerated has not proceeded sufficiently to enable those producing the goods to take up the bounties provided by Parliament. Let us look at this proposal from that point of view. The total product of kerosene oil from all sources in Australia is 300,000 gallons. In this year - 1910-11 - we are providing bounties ‘sufficient for 960,000 gallons, or more than three times the total present product of last year. I think that when honorable senators take those two factors into consideration, they will not say that the bounty is not sufficient in amount, or that the total quantity provided for is not adequate. Senator E. J. Russell has raised a point with regard lo the wages conditions and the power of the Minister with regard to them. I draw attention to the fact that we have some experience in connexion with the sugar bounty as to how these provisions will work out. What takes place is this : The Min- ister has not to wait until the bounty has been paid for any given period before inquiring whether the wages paid in the industry are fair and reasonable. What happens is that those who intend to claim the bounty during the next year come to the Minister, and, in order to make sure that they are on perfectly sound ground, submit their schedules of wages to him. Then the Minister says whether the wages are fair and reasonable. If they are, the bounty will in due course be paid when, at the end of the period, it is claimed. When the claim is made, if the employes in the industry say that the company has not fulfilled its undertakings in certain respects, the matter will be considered by the Minister, lt may be proved that in some respects - perhaps, through a misunderstanding - the wages conditions have been varied. The Minister, in the exercise of his judgment may say that, although the company have varied the conditions somewhat, it would not be a fair thing to refuse to give them any of the bounty voted by Parliament. He might say that the case would be met by imposing a penalty for the infraction of the labour conditions. That is how these conditions work out in actual practice, as we have seen in the Lithgow incident and the sugar case.
– When a private employer 1 Teaks wages conditions he is dragged before the Court. In this case, however, the employer can break the conditions and still get some part of the bounty.
– The other employer gets the value of his work. But we have no power to fine an employer. We attempted to do that in the case of the manufacturers of agricultural machinery by means of Excise duty, and the High Court ruled that we could not. So that we have to proceed in this way. We cannot penalize an employer in the ordinary way as can a State. But it is within our power to impose these labour conditions.
– An unsympathetic Minister could pay the whole of the bounty even where the labour conditions’ were not fulfilled.
– The honorable senator is surely contemplating a state of affairs which may exist in the dim and distant future. Senator Ready regretted that no bounty is proposed in respect of other oils. If he will turn his attention to the Tariff of 1908 he will find that lubricating mineral oil bears duties of 3id. and 3d. per gallon, mineral oils such as naphtha, benzine, benzoline, petrol and turpentine substitutes, duties of fd. and Jd. per gallon, solar and residual oils, which are the cheapest kind of oils, a duty of Jd. and id. per gallon respectively. There is, however, no duty on kerosene. It will be seen that the cases which the honorable senator mentioned are met under the ordinary Tariff. What I said in my opening speech was that, if the Government were convinced that the articles were not properly protected, we should be prepared to reconsider the duties when the time came to revise the Tariff. Senator Gardiner raised a very interesting point when he said that we should deal with the people’s money as if we were handling our own. ‘ At the same time, he practically admitted that, in dealing with the affairs of government we cannot draw exactly the same parallel as we can do if dealing with our own. While an Individual is only bent on earning a profit, a Government is fulfilling its highest function when it is enabling individuals to gain a profit. It is also carrying out its duty when it provides work for the people of the community, and sees that adequate payment is made. This bounty is thought to be a means to that end. Senator Gardiner has said, and Senator Rae has confirmed the statement, that we ought to provide that, when the companies reach the profit-making stage, the Commonwealth shall get -back its money, or a share in the profits. There is nothing to prevent a State or Federal Government imposing a dividend tax. In its early days Western Australia made huge grants for the development of mining, but to-day it levies a dividend tax on mining companies. There is nothing to prevent the Commonwealth from resorting to that course whenever it thinks fit. Of course, the tax could be confined, if necessary, to the companies which had been stimulated by means of the bounty. At any rate, the people will always have it in their power to take a share of the profits earned whenever they wish. Senator St. Ledger wants a guarantee - he is strong on guarantees - and wishes to inculcate the prophetic spirit in the occupants of the Ministerial bench - he wants a guarantee that if the bounty is paid success will be insured.
– That is not quite fair.
– The honorable senator is so eloquent that, at times, he does not quite realize what he says, but I have given his words according to my note.
– Well, let it go - we want a guarantee.
– I am sure, now that the honorable senator has got into a calmer mood, he will not ask me to give that guarantee. He knows that I am not a prophet, and I do not know that there is a prophet on this side, unless it be Senator Findley. My honorable and learned friend spoke as if we were giving this bounty as a sort of ticket in Tattersail’s sweep.
– I think it is.
– I would point out that these companies are in active operation. Some honorable senator’s spoke as if only one company was at work. There is a company in Tasmania which has got beyond the experimental stage. It is mining, and week by week one can read the report of the development which is taking place.
– And Tasmania has several other companies in the experimental stage.
– That company fears that it cannot get the benefit of the bounty.
– It will get a bounty on the paraffin wax which it produces. I understand that it is not producing any kerosene. Senator St. Ledger was very sceptical about this proposal, stating that, so far, only one industry had been establishedby means of a bounty in Australia, and that is the sugar industry. But in Victoria the butter industry was made a success by the bounty system. I venture to say that it is one of her leading industries.
– A bounty on export?
– It did not prevail very long.
– It did. The honorable senator was also very anxious about what was going to happen in three years time. This is, of course, a painful subject for us to pursue, but one can well understand the honorable senator’s appre-‘ hension in that regard. Senator Vardon has obtained a reputation for hurling invectives at this side. The other day we had his string of invectives against the Land Tax Bill, and now he refers to this as “ tin-pot “ legislation, and says that a bounty of £50,000 is absurd. Let us assume for the moment, as he has stated, that it will be paid to one company with a capital of £1,000,000. That will work out at £16,600 a year, and we shall give to the company1½ per cent. on its invested capital. In other words, it will only have to make up by its own exertions 3 or 4 per cent., when it will be able to pay dividends. That will not be a bad investment. I venture to say that if, as Senator Vardon says, the directors are sure that a sum of £16,600 will go into theircoffers every year, they will not look upon it as a “ tinpot “ proposition.
– It looks rather like greasing the fat pig.
– It is assumed that the Commonwealth Oil Corporation is the only company which can get any portion of the bounty, because of its enormous capital. But let me point out that because it has spent £1,000,000 to get to the productive stage, that does not indicate that another company must spend a similar sum to reach that point. If you go to the company’s works you will find that it has had to build a very costly railway, and I dare say that a. large proportion of the £1,000,000 is sunk in that work I understand that in Tasmania the deposits of shale are either alongside a railway or near a good harbor. It does not follow by any means that there a company will have to spend anything like £1,000,000 before it reaches the productive stage.
– In one case the deposits are five miles from the sea and the company are talking of laying pipes down to the water’s edge. A fourth or a fifth of the expenditure will put that company in the same position as the other.
– There has been a desire expressed for information as to how this proposal originated. It has been mooted time after time by other Governments; even in Governor-General’s speeches they have hinted at what they were likely to do. Deputation after deputation, composed of members of Parliament, has waited on other. Governments, and received all sorts of promises. But the present Government has the faculty of doing things where other Governments merely talked about doing them. We received a deputation, representative not of one party, but of all parties, and several States, who strongly impressed upon the Government the desirability of providing for a bounty. Representations have also been made by the companies interested about the fierceness of the competition, and the stress put upon them in the pioneer years of the industry. We are all aware that in industrial enterprises it is the first few years which are the most trying, and that once they are tided over those engaged in them are very often able to achieve success.
– Why did not the Government provide a bounty upon the production of natural oils?
– If natural oil were tapped anywhere in Australia to-morrow a bounty would not be needed. You would have to build a fort round the Stock. Exchange to keep the investors away. The well-known fact that the Standard Oil Trust is prospecting at very great cost in several parts of the world to find natural oil is proof enough of that. I am sure that no one who has a knowledge of the subject will say that we ought to offer a bounty.
– Then you ought to give a bounty for boring.
– That may be so. Several State Governments have assisted, but not by way of bounty. In Western Australia the Government have assisted companies by lending a diamond drill and parties of men for a year or more. I have here a number of records showing what has been done in several States. In Queensland, for instance, the Government have lent diamond drills or given assistance to bore for oil, and that work is being continued.
– In Tasmania the Government lend diamond drills to bore for coal, oil, or anything else.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 (Appropriation for payment of bounties).
– - I should like the Minister to explain why the bounty is to apply as from the 1st July of this year. I do not know whether there has been any understanding come to between the Government and prospective companies, but I think the measure ought not to be retrospective, because the bounty would then be in part a sort of gratuity for work done in the past. I do not think that Parliament ought to assent to that principle. I would remind honorable senators that if the Commonwealth Oil Corporation has made any shale oil in the past it has received something for it. This Bill is intended to encourage the company in their future operations. I should be inclined, in the absence of any explanation, to move that the bounty should be applicable as from 1st January next. As it stands, it will have a retrospective effect.
– The Commonwealth Oil Corporation may have been storing kerosene at their works for months past.
– Under the clause, what is really proposed is that that company shall be given a free gift of 2d. on every gallon of kerosene they have produced during the last four months. Ordinarily, the payment of a bounty is made prospective to encourage the production of the subsidized article. But here the proposal is to give this company a gratuity upon their operations during the last four months. I am aware that it is necessary that they should have complied with certain labour conditions, but I do not know of anything to justify this proposal.
– One reason why the 1st July is fixed is because that is the commencement of the financial year. In all our legislation we make a practice of conforming as far as possible to the financial arrangements of the Commonwealth. Tt would be extremely inconvenient if the term of three years took us three or four months into a new financial year. In such a case, the Treasurer, not knowing whether Parliament would continue the payment, would be unable to estimate the expenditure for the year.
– But does the honorable senator not think that there is something in the objection urged by Senator St. Ledger ?
– There is no doubt something in the statement which the honorable senator made, but why should it be regarded as an objection ? If the company have manufactured oil during the last month under the conditions prescribed, why should they not be paid the bounty upon that oil? Honorable senators should remember that this will not give the producers of oil an unchallengeable claim to the bounty. If the Minister is not satisfied that the prescribed conditions have been complied with, he need not pay the bounty. If he is satisfied that they have been complied with, and that the oil has bond fide been produced in Australia from Australian shale since 1st July last, why should he not pay the bounty ?
– If we were to carry the Minister’s last argument further, we might ask why he should not pay the bounty on oil produced during the previous twelve months, if, during that period, the prescribed conditions were complied with?
– Because that would not be within the financial year.
– If no better reason than the advantage to be gained from the keeping of Commonwealth accounts can be advanced for the proposal, I suppose the Committee must accept it, but I do not think that any such proposal has previously been made. The Minister cannot escape the fact that the Bill will be retrospective, and I wish it to be clearly understood that, under it, it is proposed to give assistance by way of bounty to a company that has a monopoly in the industry. I should like to know what special virtue there is in debiting our accounts with the bounty paid during twelve months, rather than with the amount paid during nine months. We are dealing with a fairly wealthy company, with a capital of £1,250,000. I say all honour to their enterprise, but they are scarcely subjects for a gratuity of this kind. It may be of advantage to us to be generous in this matter, but we should not forget that we are dealing with the money of the taxpayers, and ought to be strictly just.
– We are only following here what was done in the Bounties Act. It was passed on 28th November, and dated back to 1st July of the same year.
– I was going to ask the Minister what course was followed in the Bounties Act. If it was made retrospective in the same way there is no reason why we should make an exception in this case.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 3 to 5 agreed to.
Clause 6 - (1.) The person claiming any bounty under this Act shall in making his claim certify to the Minister the conditions of employment obtaining, and the rates of wages paid by him to employees, in connexion with the production and manufacture of the goods on which the bounty is claimed. (2.) If the Minister finds that the rates of wages and conditions of employment, or any of them -
– I trust that the Minister will not object to a slight amendment of this clause. The objection to it urged by Senator Russell on the second reading of the Bill must be obvious. It provides various ways in which the Minister may ascertain that the wages and conditions of employment in the industry are fair and just, but after enumerating them it states that the Minister “ may “ withhold the wholeor any part of the bounty payable. It seems to me that as the clause covers every possible way in which the rates and conditions may be ascertained to be fair and just, if it is shown that they are not it should not be left to the Minister to say whether he will pay the whole or any part of the bounty. Whilst I believe that the members of the present Government would in such circumstances withhold the bounty, we have no guarantee that there may not come a time when another Government-
– In three years?
– One never knows ; and if Ministers intend to strictly observe the conditions laid down in this Bill, they can have no objection to making this provision positive instead of permissive. If they do not intend to pay the bounty unless the conditions are fair and just, they can have no possible objection to say so in plain language.
– There is a reason for the permissive power. Very great hardship might be inflicted if it were not permissive. Suppose there were 2,000 employés, that of these 1,999 werepaid a proper rate of wages, and one 3d. per day under that rate. According to the honorable senator, the Minister should have no option but to withhold the whole of the bounty.
– I do not say that at all, and with all respect to the Minister I think that his illustration is very far-fetched.
– Will the honorable senator permit me to direct his attention to the fact that provision is made that the Minister may withhold “the whole or any part “ of the bounty?
– The honorable senator desires that the Minister should withhold the whole of the bounty.
– -Yes ; I should like the Minister to be compelled to withhold the whole of the bounty if the conditions prescribed are not complied with.
– The honorable senator might permit me to explain the matter. We have had a case in point in connexion with the Excise (Agricultural Machinery) Act, and we are proposing to do here by another method exactly what we tried to do under that Act, though it was proved to be unconstitutional. In that- Act we said that unless the rates of wages and conditions of employment were fair and just the manufacturers should pay Excise. When an application for exemption from Excise was made, the Minister referred the matter to the Arbitration Court, and asked whether the rates paid were fair and reasonable. The Court held an inquiry into the wages paid ‘fo every individual employed by the company. It was found in that case that scarcely any one employed by the company was receiving fair wages, but it is quite possible that in other cases a number of the employes might be properly paid. If, under this Bill, the Commonwealth Oil Corporation made a claim for bounty, on the production of the last three months, and showed that the whole of their employes were working under a State award, the Minister would probably accept that as a compliance with the conditions. But what would happen if it were shown that a small section of the employes were not working under a State award?
– Say the night watchmen.
– Just so. The Minister would have to inquire whether the wages paid to the watchmen were fair and reasonable, and if it were found that half-a-dozen watchmen were paid 3d. a day less than the State award, according to Senator Rae, the Minister should be debarred from paying ‘any bounty at all. That, I think, would be neither reasonable nor right. If we find that the great bulk of the employes are paid fair wages and are working under fair conditions, and that the wages and conditions of a small section are not what they ought to be,” I think the Minister ‘should be in a position to say to the company, “ You have not paid this section of your employes fairly, and T shall therefore retain a certain amount of the bounty.” That seems to me to be perfectly fair. It is equivalent to the power given an industrial court to fine an employer who. has engaged a man at less than the ruling rate of wages. Senator Rae seems to think that this claim for bounty will only be made where the industry is carried on under a statutory award as to rates of wages, but I remind him that in Tasmania there is no statutory award fixing the rates of wages. In the case of a claim for the bounty made in that - State, the company making the claim would submit their schedule of wages, and it would be for the Minister to say whether they were fair and reasonable. If he approved of them, he could pay the bounty, but, under the clause, he would be in a position to say, “ Although, on the whole, your schedule is a fair one, you are paying one section of your employes a little less than they ought to receive, and I shall, therefore, withhold a certain portion of the bounty.” That is what this clause means, and I hope the honorable senator will not move any amendment.
– I have listened very attentively to the explanation which has been given by the Minister of Defence. His argument, to my mind, is exactly the argument that one would expect to hear from the managing director of the Commonwealth Oil Corporation. My honest opinion is that, if a night-watchman, of whom he appeared to speak rather contemptuously-
– It is grossly unfair to say that.
– I must say what I think.
– I am as much concerned about the welfare of nightwatchmen as is the honorable senator.
– Without wishing to be personally offensive to the Minister, or to suggest that he would wittingly do an injustice to a night-watchman-
– The honorable senator said that I would do so.
– 1 said that the Minister spoke as if a night-watchman were of no account. But I do not wish to quibble over the matter.
– The honorable senator is quibbling all the same.
– I say that the humblest employe of the Commonwealth Oil Corporation is as much entitled to consideration as is the corporation itself.
– And he will get it under the Bill.
– I do not think so. The Minister’s contention that the withholding of a portion of the bounty would be equivalent to the fining of an employer for breach of an industrial award is scarcely a fair one. The bounty will be the gift of the nation. It will be something to which the employer has no inherent right ; and if the Commonwealth Oil Corporation does not treat every one of its employes fairly, it will deserve to forfeit that bounty. The Minister has stated that no statutory rate of wages is operative in Tasmania. But I would point out that we are compelled to establish industrial courts and wages boards only because some employers, who are actuated by motives of greed, refuse to pay fair wages. Any company which is not paying reasonable wages to its employes must be quite aware of the fact. It is absolutely wrong that the proposed bounty should be paid to any company which is sweating a single employe, no matter how humble may be the capacity in which he is employed. I move -
That the word “ may,” line 28, be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “ shall.”
If the amendment be carried, I shall afterwards move for the omission of the words “ whole or anypart of.”
– From the laborious way in which Senator Rae has handled this question, it is quite evident that he is very much of a tyro, so far as his knowledge of the wages paid in this industry is concerned. He talks as if it were the easiest thing in the world for an employer in it to know whether or not he is paying his employes fair wages. I may tell him that it is a very difficult question to determine. As one who has been called upon to arbitrate in a case connected with the industry, I may add that there is no other mining occupation, in which one can meet with greater difficulties. In ‘the first place, the shale has to be mined, and quite a : number of workmen in different capacities participate in that mining. Then, it has to be put through several processes. Several kinds of furnaces have to be used - -
– And several kinds of workmen employed?
– Some of whom are not entitled to a reasonable wage.
– They are all entitled to a reasonable wage. I have been as closely concerned with securing the payment of fair wages to workmen as has the honorable senator. My interjection in reference to the night-watchman was made because I considered that it furnished a good illustration of a solitary individual who might not be receiving a fair wage.
– But even he would not continue to receive an unfair wage.
– If 999 men employed in the production of kerosene by the Commonwealth Oil Corporation are receiving a reasonable wage, but one man is not, would it notbe ridiculous to withhold the payment of the bounty from that corporation ? To hear. Senator Rae talking, one would imagine that he is the only man in the chamber who has the welfare of the workers at heart. But I think that I have done quite as much for the workers as he has. Consequently, it was quite uncalled for for him. to suggest that I was not concerned with seeing that a night-watchman received a fair wage.
– I was somewhat astonished to hear the arguments advanced by Senator Rae, whom I have always regarded as being fairly logical. Personally, I think that this clause is a wise one, because it will vest in the Minister the powers of a Justice of the High Court so far as his control over the payment of the bounty is concerned. Senator Rae has suggested that at some time a Government may be in office whose members will be unsympathetic with the provisions of the measure. But when that time comes they will have the power to do what they please with our Bounties Acts. I would further point out to the honorable senator that this Bill will con tinue operative for only three years. At the end of that period the Commonwealth Parliament may be called upon to recast its legislation upon this question. The probability is that at the termination of three years we shall perceive the necessity for increasing the bounty. Consequently, the Government are wise in stipulating that the Minister shall have power to withhold the whole or any part of the bounty from any company which refuses to strictly observe the provisions of the Bill. Surely that is as much as we can conscientiously expect.
– We should not bother about the odd man, I suppose?
– I amnot talking about the odd man, and I feel sure that the honorable senator would not throw that taunt at one personally. He knows positively that the whole of my lifetime has been devoted to fighting for the interests of the worker.
– I was alluding to ihe effect of the clause.
– If one individual in the whole industry is being unjustly treated, the Minister may withhold a certain portion of the bounty that would otherwise be paid to the manufacturing company. Surely that is fair and reasonable, and affords proper statutory protection to the workmen. Therefore, I hope that the Committee will agree to the provision as it stands. In saying so I wish it to be understood that I am quite as sympathetic to the watchmen to whom Senator Rae has referred as any man can be. I believe that every individual working in an industry should have a just and fair deal. I believe that reasonable wages and conditions should apply throughout an industry. But I believe that the Bill as drafted makes sufficient provision for carrying out the object that I have in view.
– It seems to me that the reluctance of the Minister in charge of the Bill to accept Senator Rae’s amendment prevents the happy medium being attained. If we are going to vote this money to add to the profits of the Commonwealth Oil Corporation, it is just as well that we should not quibble about the conditions we impose. We have to bear in mind that the company, no matter what conditions we impose, will have full control over their men. I believe that the Minister who will administer ‘this measure when it becomes an Act would certainly, if grave complaints were made about the wages, withhold the bounty until the grievances were rectified. But, in my opinion, we should make provision that, if there are some people engaged in the industry to whom an injustice is being done through the payment of a small wage, the Minister shall say : “ Pay a good wage to these men or there shall be no bounty.”
– If the honorable senator has any doubt as to my probity in the matter I may reassure him by telling him that I shall not have the administration of the measure.
– If the Minister thinks that I am doubting him I can only say that I must judge him by his actions ; and I’ must admit that he does not seem to be inclined to consider this matter in a reasonable frame of mind.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 8 -p.m.
– The extreme attitude of the Minister in charge of the Bill in refusing to give that consideration to the details of the clause and to Senator Rae’s amendment, to which matters of such’ importance are entitled, is inclined to make some honorable senators lose sight of something that may be of great consequence in the working of the measure.
– Is the honorable senator justified in saying that I have refused to give consideration to the amendment? I do not think that he ought to say that.
– Perhaps I ought to touch my forelock when I say anything of which the Minister may disapprove. I do not think that he is justified in displaying temper about the matter. The Senate will lose its character as a deliberative aSsembly - as was said last week - if we are to go on like this. I have not said anything that was a reflection upon the Minister.
– - It was a reflection.
– The Minister ought not to be so thin-skinned. The extreme reluctance with which he will even bend his great intellect to the consideration of any amendment -may prevent us from attaining that happy medium which would be of benefit in this Bill. I venture to say that if it fell to the lot of the Minister in charge of the Bill to have to pay out the bounty to shale companies working in Tasmania and in New South Wales, he would, have extreme difficulty in determining what were fair and reasonable wages in the former State. Evidence taken before a Royal Commission in Tasmania some time ago showed, if I remember rightly, that there are municipal employes in that State who are in receipt of as small a wage as 4s. 6d. per day. There is no wages board affecting such employes in Tasmania. A shale company working there might therefore contend that as municipal employes were paid as little as 4s. 6d. per day they were justified in paying their men no more than 4s. 6d. or 5s., although a company carrying on operations in New South Wales might pay its men 8s. or ps. a day.
– I have solved a problem of that kind in connexion with my, own Department, and it did not require much consideration to enable me to do so.
– A company carrying on business in Tasmania might reasonably contend that it should not be called upon to pay a wage very much in excess of the ordinary wages paid in that State.
– I will tell the honorable senator what 1 have done in connexion with defence contracts. I have said that contractors are to pay the wages laid down by the Wages Boards in Victoria.
-I’ am glad to have that assurance. But if we had a Minister in charge who did not adopt that easy method of determining what wages should be paid in Tasmania, a company there might reasonably contend that it was not called upon to pay wages in excess of the rates paid to men doing similar work in the same State.
– I think the companies would be entitled to take up that attitude, in view of paragraph b.
– I think that paragraph b settles the question. Inasmuch as in the State where there are no wages boards, and where there are no industrial organizations to drive capital out of the country, workmen are more poorly paid than in any other State in the Commonwealth, it seems to me that if we leave this clause as it stands, the Minister may be impelled to pay out the bounty granted by the Commonwealth to companies paying their employes no more than 5s. or 6s. a day, notwithstanding that wages of 8s. or 9s. a day are paid in a similar industry in a State where there are wages boards. I regret very much that the Minister will not see that there is some reasonable justification for debating the clause at this stage.
– The honorable semitor has no reason for saying that. I object to the honorable senator’s reflections on my sense of justice. He can talk all night about the clause if he wants to.
– I am pleased that I have the Minister’s kind permission to talk all night. His concession will prevent my doing so. The clause strikes me as being one which the most fair-minded Minister might experience difficulty in administering. While the Bill was at its second-reading stage, I indicated a dislike to handing over public money to companies for the augmentation of their own profits ; and I say now that we should make the clause so fast - “ fast bind, fast find “ is a safe axiom - that the people employed in the oil industry wilt be able to obtain wages at least sufficient to maintain themselves and their families in decent comfort. 1 am sure that the Minister in charge of the Bill has the same object. But he must remember that the Bill will probably form the basis of measures which other Governments will introduce in the future. 1 hope, therefore, that he will consent to make the clause more definite in the direction of securing fair wages to workmen.
– It certainly comes as a surprise to me that, in connexion with a clause of this kind, an honorable senator should take the opportunity of making imputations that I distinctly resent - imputations of a want of sympathy with a desire to provide that the wages paid in the oil industry shall be just and sufficient. I am not going to defend myself against that charge. I am quite content to be judged by those who have sent me here as to whether I have in the past shown any indication of a disposition to take the course that two honorable senators seem to think that I am capable of taking. I also resent the statement of Senator Gardiner that I have in any way sought to limit discussion on the clause. What I did object to was the statement made by Senator Rae - an altogether incorrect statement - as to what the clause meant. Senator Gardiner has raised a different point - as to whether paragraph b would not enable the Minister to pay the bounty in case very low wages were paid in the industry in any particular State. But paragraph b has to be read in conjunction with the whole clause, “which refers in paragraph a to “ the standard prescribed by any Commonwealth or State industrial authority.” Whenever the standard is afterwards referred to, that is the standard which is meant.
– Will the standard established in any State have application to another State?
– Where there is a Commonwealth standard that will override the State authority everywhere. But in the absence of such standard the standard will be that of the State industrial authority, which may be a wages board or arbitration court. Take, for instance, Tasmania. If the Commonwealth Arbitration Court has laid down a standard for the employes in the oil industry, or for any portion of them, it will apply in Tasmania to those who claim the bounty. If there is no Commonwealth standard, and there is a wages board, then the Stale industrial authority will apply. But if there should be neither State -nor Commonwealth industrial authority it does not follow that because the Minister finds that municipal labourers at Hobart get 4s. 6d. a day, therefore, he would rule that that should be the standard applicable to men employed in the oil industry.
– That is what the clause says.
– The question will be, “ Is there a Commonwealth standard applicable to labourers employed at similar work?” If, for instance, there is a standard for men employed at mining, then die labourers employed in shale mining will get that rate. If there is no such standard the Minister will have to fall back on paragraph c. Senator Gardiner read that provision as if the Minister will have to take the standard existing in the district, and Senator Millen encouraged him in that belief. If they hold that view an amendment can be moved to make the standard fixed by the Commonwealth or State industrial authority applicable, but I assure the Committee that it is entirely unnecessary. This is similar to the provision in other Bounty Acts, and it is interpreted by the Department and the Court to mean the standard set up by the Commonwealth or State industrial authority. If Senator Gardiner or the Committee has any misgiving, I shall not resist an amendment, but 1 consider that it will be mere verbiage. I still hold that Senator Rae’s amendment would in many cases be unjust in its operation. It is not necessary in the interests of the workers. The only time when it can apply is when an applicant applies for a bounty under the Bill on articles produced during the period which has elapsed since the 1st July, and then he will have to satisfy the Minister, not a future Minister, but the present Minister. If the honorable senator has to impeach anybody it will be the present Minister.
– But the applicant will have to satisfy the Minister’ that he has complied with the terms of the provision.
– He will have to satisfy the Minister that the wages he has paid are fair and reasonable, and the Minister can, if he likes, refer that question to a Judge of the High Court. He can apply to the State industrial authority, and afterwards he can take the standard for similar work set up by the State or Commonwealth industrial authority. The honorable senator cannot escape from that position. In the future the conditions prescribed under the Excise Procedure Act will have to be complied with. The applicant for a bounty will have to register an application, and he will know the conditions under which it will be payable. This paragraph only applies to those who have produced shale since the 1st July last, and they will have to satisfy the Minister, who can be relied upon to see that the workers get justice.
– I take some exception to the class of arguments which have ‘been addressed to the Committee this evening. I refer to those which raise the supposition that we may pass a clause in a certain way given a certain Ministry, but that if another Ministry were in office we ought to have a different provision. It ought to be incumbent upon the Committee to give its directions so clearly and definitely that any Ministry imbued with common honesty could see at once what provisions it had to carry out.
– I do not suggest that.
– I did. Some horses I would ride with a curb and a bridle, but others with only a bridle.
– It would be very improper to countenance the theory that a clause might be passed if you had one particular Minister to administer it, but that with another Minister it would be so open to abuse that you would need a different provision. I hardly think that any honorable senators can urge seriously, that we ought to proceed in that way. We ought to shape the clauses without thinking of who is to administer them. I am not at all satisfied with the interpretation which the Minister has placed on paragraph b. If we are going to pay away public money we ought to do so under conditions as nearly equal as possible. As I read the clause, a company in, say, New South Wales might be paying, under a wages board decision, 10s. a day for a certain class of labour, but in Tasmania a company might be paying for similar work 8s. a day, not under a wages board decision, but by the rule of the market.
– Under this Act?
– Let us assume that it is under the rule of a State authority.
– There is no State or Commonwealth authority in Tasmania, I understand, therefore we can dispense with paragraph a.
– That is not the condition of affairs created by the Bill.
– No; but the honorable senator must see that the Bill has to operate under the conditions as they exist, and not the ideal conditions which he has in his mind. .
– This provision applies to the time which has elapsed since ist July.
– Yes; and during the currency of the measure.
– So far as Tasmania is concerned, paragraph a might as well be blotted out of the Bill, as there is neither State nor Commonwealth authority fixing the rate of wages. Consequently we have to pass on to paragraph b,. which provides that in such a case as Tasmania, where there is an absence of any standard, you shall adopt-
– No; you are not right there.
– I am not finished with paragraph b.
– Your present statement is incorrect. It is not in the absence of any standard, but in the absence of a standard in that particular locality. But presuming that there are standards in other parts of the States and there are none in Tasmania ?
– What I was trying to convey was that where in a particular industry the State or Commonwealth tribunal has not set up a standard, the administrators of the Act would look for a standard set up by such a . tribunal in a similar industry, in some other form of mining. But so far as Tasmania is concerned that alternative goes.
– Therefore, paragraph b will not apply to Tasmania either.
– It does not apply to Tasmania, and consequently it does not apply to any State in the Union.
– Yes, it does.
– To what State?
– In some cases the State industrial awards are limited in their application. In Victoria, for instance, the Wages Boards decisions apply to only the metropolitan area, and in Western Australia the arbitration awards invariably apply to only the area in which the union has made a citation.
– I want to get at what I take is in the Minister’s mind. 1 strongly object, as I think the Committee will object, to paying public money to two competitors, one of whom is paying a higher rate than the other. It does not appeal to me that that would be fair. If the Minister takes that view I agree with him that paragraph b is harmless.
– It would be infinitely better if, instead of the words “ in the same State,” you used the words “ in other States.”
– You want to recognise the industrial authority in a State.
– The Minister and I agree that paragraph b does not apply to Tasmania in any case. I was going to suggest that if . any amendment is to be made that paragraph might be struck out. But the Minister has reminded me of a set of cases which I admit I had overlooked, and that is that in some States the Wages Boards’ decisions are partial in their operation. Therefore, it may be necessary, not for Tasmania, but for other States, to maintain paragraph b. But as I read; the clause, Tasmanian cases will have to be met entirely by paragraph c, and in that case I think that the possibility of the inequality to which I have referred - thepayment of the bounty to two competing firms paying different rates - would be entirely obliterated.
. - We have drifted on to another point.
– Has not the honorable senator withdrawn his amendment?
– No; because I am not convinced that it would be right to do soAs the Minister has chided Senator Gardiner and myself for casting a reflection’ upon him, I wish to repeat what I said at the outset. I meant no personal offence. What I was speaking of was the tendency of the clause. I agree with Senator Millen that we should not consider any clauseof a Bill in the light of how it may be administered by this or that Minister, but how it should be administered. BothSenators de Largie and Henderson got upto protest that they were as good Labour men as I ams and had an equal concern and interest in the position of the workers - This is only a sort of gratuitous twaddle. In any criticism I make, what I consider is the effect of the measure, not the intention of its sponsors.
– You started looking; into the mirror.
– I deny that. I did noi get up and talk of what I had done for Labour. No one has ever heard me boast of what I have done in its interests.
– We should have a phonograph to reproduce what you said before dinner.
– I am prepared to trust Hansard, which is tolerably correct. No matter what criticism a senator on this side may make on the merest detail of a measure, it is brushed aside as being of no importance, and very much more consideration - and that is little enough, according to their view - is given to representations made from the Opposition. It is of no use for us to protest. There is not a Minister here who does not refuse to amend a single word of a measure when the suggestion is admittedly made by its friends. I could understand the Minister resisting amendments designed by the enemy to weaken the effect of the clause ; but it is difficult to understand why friends of the measure should be treated with more or less of contempt when they submit a proposal to improve the measure. I say there is a tendency, which has been shown in some of the speeches which have been made, not to consider the interests of an :odd man who may not be receiving the standard rate of wages. Where there is a large body of men engaged in an industry, they can generally secure justice by means of organization, and it is always the odd one or two men engaged in a particular calling who are liable to suffer injustice. The Minister’s observations seemed to me to convey the idea that, in his opinion, it would not be fair to penalize applicants for this bounty if it were shown that they had done an injustice to only an odd man here and there. That is the only construction I could place upon what the honorable senator said, and if he takes that as a. personal reflection, I cannot help it. I should like to know how il can be shown that the principle of the new Protection is embodied in this measure. We did not say when on the platform that the new Protection would secure fair wages to the bulk of the persons employed in any particular industry.
– Nor is that said here.
– We said that the intention was to secure fair wages and just conditions for every person employed in an industry. This is a proposal to make an absolute presentation of public money to firms engaged in a particular industry, and they should not get a single penny of this bounty unless they can prove that they have given complete justice to every one in their employ. Senator de Largie rose to give me a lot of instruction on the shale industry, but I did not pretend to have any knowledge of it. My argument is applicable to any industry. I hold that this bounty should not be paid if it is shown that a company engaged in this industry has inflicted an injustice upon a caretaker, a rouseabout, or any employe who has not a body behind him to . see that he receives justice. We have to consider how this provision would operate in practice. No matter what Ministry is in power, the greater part of all administrative work must be left to the permanent heads of Departments. Under our bureaucratic system of Government, that is the course which is usually followed.
– This is an echo of King O’Malley.
– I do not know that it is, but the honorable senator will admit that even King O’Malley may tell the truth. Suppose a company makes a claim for this bounty, and a solitary employe, or one or two engaged in particular work, complain that they have not received the standard rate of wages. Under our system in 999 out of 1,000 cases, the Ministerial decree would be that as it was only a trivial affair, it would not be reasonable to withhold the bounty. I hold that if a company is not shown to have done justice to every one of its employes, it is not entitled to a penny of this bounty. If it were withheld in those circumstances, we should be doing the company no injustice in denying them something to which they have no right, and which they are given only as an act of grace upon compliance with certain conditions. If thf Minister presses his objection to my amend ment, perhaps he will suggest one under which it would be possible to discriminate in a case where there was an accidental or inadvertent under-payment of wages which was afterwards remedied. If that is not done, I must press my amendment.
– I understood the Minister to say that, under the Excise Procedure Act, when a manufacturer claims exemption from Excise, he registers himself, and submits to the Department a schedule of the wages he pays.
– No; that is the procedure adopted by the Department. Where the Minister refers a matter to the Court, the Excise Procedure Act applies..
– Am I to understand that when a person makes an application for this bounty, he is expected to lodge with his claim a schedule of the wages he pays ?
– If that be so, I suggest to Senator Rae that his amendment becomes not only unnecessary, but, it might be, really injurious. An employer with every desire in the world to conform to the standard rate of wages might have amongst his employe’s a limited number who, without his knowledge of the facts, are receiving less than the standard rate. This would appear from his schedule, and if, when the Department had directed his attention to the fact, he at once remedied the wrong, does Senator Rae consider that it would be right that he should lose the whole of the bounty?
– I think it is right that he should lose the bounty if it is proved that he has not paid fair wages to his employes.
– I am taking a case in which it appears to me that the exercise of Ministerial discretion would be necessary. If the Department direct the attention of an employer to the fact that his schedule shows that he has been paying less than the standard wages to one or two employes, and he says, “ Very well, I have remedied that,” would Senator Rae say that he should lose all claim to the bounty even during the few weeks in which the conditions were not completely complied with? Surely the honorable senator would agree that in such a case it would be sufficient for the Minister to retain a proportionate amount of the bounty, and not the whole of it?
– - I should not object’ if an amendment were proposed, and I am not particular about the wording of it, under which, in such a case as the honorable senator referred to, the person who was underpaid should receive not merely the wages to which he is entitled in the future, but the arrears of wages due to him for the time covered by the application for the bounty.
– The employer could not pay the money if the man had left his service.
– That difficulty might easily be overcome. It appears to me that an employer might under the clause as it stands, and as a subterfuge, express his re gret to the Minister that he had inadvertently paid certain df his employes less than they were entitled to, and the Minister might accept the statement and pay the whole of the bounty. I wish to avoid anything of that kind.
– In this matter a pound of experience is worth a ton of theory. During the dinner hour I took advantage of an opportunity to ask the Minister of Trade and Customs how the Department administered this provision in connexion with the payment of the sugar bounty. The honorable gentleman informed me that the invariable practice, not only of himself, but of other Ministers, has been that where a grower registers for bounty he sends a schedule of the wages he pays. If it is shown that generally he is paying fair wages and complying with the conditions, but that in the case of one man, for instance, he pays less, than the standard wage, one of two courses is followed. The employer makes up the arrears of wages due to the man who has been underpaid and receives the full bounty, or if the man has left, and he is not in a position to do that, he is paid the bounty less the amount he has gained by paying the lower wages. That is the course which will be followed under this Bill.
– If I withdraw my amendment will the Minister be prepared to propose an amendment on the lines I have suggested?
– No. This clause is the same as a provision in the Bounties Act which has been proved to work all right.
– I should like to see the clause so amended as to provide that where a claimant for bounty has paid wages lower than the standard rate, the Minister should withhold a proportion of the bounty not less than the amount due to employes who were underpaid during the period covered by the claim.
– It might be necessary to withhold more.
– I am saying that it should not be less.
– The honorable senator has the assurance that a similar Act has been administered by both parties in the same way.
– We have no guarantee that that course Mill always be followed. These wealthy companies can well afford to look after themselves. It is their work- men who need looking after, and if the Minister will not agree to such an amendment as I have suggested I shall be bound to adhere to the amendment I have moved.
– In view of the decision just arrived at by the Committee, I should like to know whether it is competent for us still to amend the clause. If so, I desire to have paragraph b of sub-clause 2 struck out altogether.
– It is quite competent for the honorable senator to move that paragraph b be struck out, as, so far, no amendment has been made in the clause.
– I have always understood that an amendment having been moved upon a certain part of a clause it is not competent for the Committee to entertain an amendment earlier in the clause. I have no wish to frustrate the desire of Senator Long, and I might suggest another way of achieving it, but I think we should follow the same procedure on every occasion. Hitherto the practice has been laid down that having reached a certain point in a Bill we could not go back.
– The amendment which was moved by Senator Rae was not carried, and therefore the question which is now under consideration is “ That the clause be agreed to.” In the absence of any rule to the contrary it is quite competent for Senator Long to submit an amendment to the clause.
– I would suggest that there is a way in which Senator Long can test the feeling of the Committee without contravening the Standing Orders. He may move the omission of all the words after “ standard ‘ ‘ in paragraph b of subclause 2.
– How can he do that? We should then be going back.
– I had overlooked the fact that Senator Rae’s amendment dealt with the last line’ of paragraph c of subclause 2. It is true that we cannot go back.
– As no preceding portion of the clause has been disposed of, I presume that it is still competent for me to discuss the provision as a whole.
– Standing order 140 reads -
No amendment shall be proposed to any part of a question after a later part has been amended.
But I would point out that no amendment has been made in the clause. Then standing order 141 reads -
No amendment shall be proposed to be made to any words which the Senate has resolved shall not be left out, or which have been inserted in or added to a question, except it be the addition of other words thereto.
– I can achieve my purpose by opposing the whole clause.
– As there is nothing either in our Standing Orders or in previous decisions to guide me in a matter of this kind, I would suggest to the honorable senator that he can achieve his purpose by moving at a subsequent stage for the reconsideration of the clause.
– I shall adopt that suggestion.
Clause agreed to:
Clauses 7 and 8 agreed to.
– I would suggest to the Minister of Defence the desirableness of inserting in the Bill at this stage a similar provision to that which appears in the Manufactures Encouragement Act of 1908. Section 14 of that measure provides for the tabling of a return, setting forth the names of those to whom bounty has been paid, the amounts of such bounty, and other particulars. In other words, provision is made for acquainting Parliament with the effect of the operation of the Statute. In the ordinary course the Department would, doubtless, submit this information to Parliament, but by inserting such a provision in the Bill, we make that duty mandatory, and we fix the date upon which the return shall be submitted. I therefore move -
That the following new clause be inserted : - “ 8a. A return setting forth -
The names of all persons to whom bounties were paid during the preceding financial year ;
the amounts of all such bounties ;
the goods in respect of which the bounties were paid ;
the names of the places and States in which the goods were manufactured;
the number of persons employed in each of the works, wages paid, and hours observed in the production of the goods, shall be prepared in the month of July in each year, and shall be laid before both Houses of the Parliament within thirty days after its preparation if the Parliament is then sitting, and, if not, then within thirty days after the next meeting thereof.”
– I have no objection to the amendment; and I am rather surprised that it was not included’ in the Bill by the draftsman.
– I have no objection to the insertion of the clause, but I should like to see a copy of the Bill. It is about time that honorable senators were supplied with copies of it. I have been unable to obtain a copy, and I say that in the circumstances it is unfair to call upon us to deal with a measure of so much importance. It is the duty of the Government, before asking honorable senators to proceed with the consideration of any measure, to see that copies of it are placed in their possession.
– This is the first time the fact has been brought under my notice that sufficient copies of the Bill are not available.
– I could not get one at 5 o’clock this afternoon.
-I wish that the honorable senator had informed me of the fact, because there was then ample time to send to the Government Printer for more copies.
– It is the duty of the officers of the House to have copies here, not of honorable senators to ask for them.
Proposed new clause agreed to.
Clause 9 agreed to.
– I do not regard the reply of the Minister to the criticism which has emanated from the Opposition as of a satisfactory character. I wish to point out some of the peculiarities of the present position. I understand that some 300,000 gallons of kerosene are annually produced in Australia. Assuming that the production next year be increased by one-third, the Commonwealth Oil Corporation will receive £3,500 by way of bounty, or . 28 per cent. upon its capital of £1,250,000. If, during the following year, its production increases in the same ratio, the amount of bounty whichit will receive will represent . 33 per cent. upon its capital ; and if the same rate of increase be preserved during the third year, it will receive, in the form of bounty, . 4 per cent upon its capital. In other words, during the three years in which the Bill will be operative, it will receive an additional 1 per cent. upon its capital of £1,250,000. In these circumstances, it is trespassing too much upon our credulity to argue that the bounty will offer an encouragement to its business enterprise.Only one company will be affected by the measure; and clearly that company is not after the bounty.
– Does not the honorable senator think that the measure wilt have some result?
– The result will be so small that it is not worth considering. As a business proposition, the bounty will be a negligible quantity. When I asserted this afternoon that only oneindustry in Australia had been established as the result of what was miscalled a bounty system, but what was in reality a system of rebate - I refer to the sugar industry - the Minister at once retorted that I must have forgotten the butter bonus. Surely he must know that, so far as Victoria is concerned, the butter bonus ended in a blazing scandal, and was swept off the statute-book. The analogy which he sought to institute was absolutely absurd. We might as well talk abouc a bounty on the export of wool. A moment’s consideration will show that the export - nay, even the production of, butter - must depend upon the co-operation of the farmers themselves. That is what built up the butter industry.
– The bounty established it.
– I pity the credulity of any deliberative assembly which will stand by the assertion that the bounty offered by the State Governmentsbuilt up the butter industry.
– I say that it did.
– In New South Wales the industry was built up without any bounty.
– The same is the case in my own State. But in the State in which a bounty was given in the butter industry, the system ended in a blazing scandal.
– Queensland cannot build up even the banana industry without a bounty.
– The last shot in Senator Findley ‘s locker when we are talking about bounties is the banana industry.
– I rise to order. I submit that the honorable senator is making a second-reading speech on the schedule. He is going over the whole policy of the Bill. Indeed, he is discussing the butter industry in connexion with a proposal to grant a bounty to the oil industry.
– The honorable senator is not in order in making a secondreading speech at this stage.
– I shall sit down if that isthe case, but surely I am entitled to give reasons for thinking that the bounty proposed to be given in this case is regarded with considerable misgivings by some of us. When we are granting so large a sum of money, surely I am entitled to point out some of the dangers that may accrue. I shall now give a reason why I shall vote for the schedule with diffidence and reluctance. My criticism was intended to elicit a reason which might justify me in voting for it without such reluctance. I take it that tfhe big company in New South Wales, which will be principally benefited by the bounty, desires during the next three years to have a continuity of labour. Under the conditions imposed by this Bill the company will probably be called upon - and properly so - to guarantee a certain rate ofwage. The bounty, therefore, will enable the company during the next three years to have security and continuity in respect of labour whilst exploiting its proposition; and the amount of the bounty will enable it to pay the superfluity of wage that is demanded by the Bill. In other words, the bounty will enable the company to work economically its valuable shale deposits, whilst at the same time paying a higher rate of wage than it would otherwise be disposed to pay.
– The honorable senator has no objection to higher wages if the country pays them?
– I have no objection to high wages, because I know that good wages bring good workmen. When I ask whether there is any other reason for the bounty than that which I have assigned, I receive no assurance from the Minister, but instead am met with a gibe. On that account, I shall assent to the passage of the schedule, thoughI cannot say that I do so with pleasure.
Schedule agreed to.
Preamble and Title agreed to.
Motion (by Senator Long) agreed to -
That clause 6 be reconsidered.
Clause 6 - (2.) If the Minister finds that the rates of wages and conditions of employment, or any of them -
.- My object in asking for the reconsideration of clause 6 is for the purpose of moving that paragraph b of sub-clause 2 be struck out. I submit in the first instance that the cost of producing oil from shale is likely to be very much the same in every part of Australia. Consequently, I am anxious that the wages in the shale industry shall not be regulated by the standard in a particular locality in my own State. I have a very intimate knowledge of industrial conditions in Tasmania, and should be sorry indeed if the wages in this industry were regulated bythe standard recognised for similar work in that State.
– Paragraph b would not apply to Tasmania.
– The oil industry of Tasmania will be located at Latrobe, in the north-western mining division.
– But paragraph b would not apply in that case, because there is no prescribed standard, State or Federal, applying there.
– If that be so, I have misread the intention of the paragraph ; because I gather from it that wages would be regulated by those paid in other branches of mining in the part of the State where the shale is found. Honorable senators may know that the Mount Bischoff mine, in the north-western division of Tasmania, is the wealthiest mine in the State. It has paid quite £200 per share in dividends. Yet the wages paid there are the lowest in the mining industry in Australia. Senator St. Ledger said just now that good wages always produce good workmen. I should rather say, “ A good union always commands good wages.” There has never been a union in the locality to which I refer. As a consequence, the Mount Bischoff Company has been in the unenviable position of paying the worst wages in the Australian mining industry. I am particularly anxious, therefore, that the wages in the shale industry shall not be regulated by those paid for similar work in the locality.
– They will not be.
– How many men are employed at Mount Bischoff?
– About 400.
– Yet they have never formed a union.
– It would be a case of “ May the Lord have mercy on their souls” if they had tried; and they would be punished, too, by those very gentlemen who talk most about freedom of contract ! I am anxious to leave it entirely in the hands of an authority constituted by the Commonwealth - that is, a Judge of the High Court - to declare what are fair and reasonable wages in the Tasmanian shale industry.
– That is exactly what will take place under paragraphs a, b, and c.
– I shall be glad if the Minister will explain how that is so.
– I do not think that Senator Long was in the chamber when we discussed clause 6 a little while ago, but I will go over the ground again to show him and other honorable senators what has been the experience of the Commonwealth Government under a similar provision in the existing Bounties Act. Sub-clause 2 provides that if the Minister finds that the rates of wages and conditions of employment - are below the standard prescribed by any Commonwealth or State industrial authority.
The honorable senator is satisfied with that ? Senator Long. - Perfectly.
– Before I deal with paragraph b I may explain that in Western Australia we have an Arbitration Court which prescribes wages ; but that Court gives its awards only for the particular district in the State where a citation has been made. For instance, if the miners’ union in Kalgoorlie cites the employers before the Court, the Court, when it gives its award, only gives it for the Kalgoorlie district. If no other union in the State has cited a case before the Court, the award does not apply in any other district.
– That is to say, the common rule will not apply to the whole State?
– That is so. In Victoria the awards of the local industrial authorities, the Wages Boards, also have a limited application to certain localities.
The same is the case in New South Wales. The honorable senator will see, therefore, that shale-mining might be carried on in that portion of a State where no award applied, although there were in that State Wages Boards or an Arbitration Court which had made awards applicable in other districts. Then paragraph b comes in and says -
In the absence of any such standard applicable to the case, are below the standard applicable in the same State for similar wo.rk; that is to say, applicable to mines where are produced materials for the manufacture of the oils. In that event, the standards applicable to coal-mining or similar work in the State would apply. Consequently, paragraph b could not apply to Tasmania under existing conditions, because in that State there are no standards applicable to shale-mining or to men employed in oil works. Neither is there in that State a standard set up by an industrial authority, State or Federal, applicable to such a case. The honorable senator will therefore see that paragraph b cannot affect his State. It can only affect States in which there is a State or Federal award, but where the shale works or the oil works are situated in a district not affected by the award, it provides that the award which has been applied to another State under similar conditions shall also apply to that district. The honorable senator would find that, if paragraph b were struck out, paragraph c would have to apply.
– That is what I want.
– What is the object in doing that when you have an award which is already applicable, and all you have to do is to extend an award which was only given in respect to a radius of 20 miles. Surely there is no objection to that? If, in a State, there is no award of a similar kind, you will have to fall back on paragraph c. In the existing set of circumstances in Tasmania, the wages will be fixed under that paragraph in every case. The Mount Bischoff arrangement will not affect the question one iota.
– Then paragraph b is entirely governed by paragraph al
– Yes. The only thing is that paragraph a is not complete, because it merely recognises the State awards, and they do not cover the whole State.
– That is to say, the Commonwealth or State industrial authority goes right through the whole?
– The object of paragraph b is to extend the area of the State awards where no Federal award exists.
Bill reported with an amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
asked the VicePresident of the Executive Council, upon notice -
Does tbe Government propose to take any action during this session with regard to (1) payment for transferred properties; (2) transfer of State debts, either separately or as part of a joint proposition?
– The answer to each question is “ No.”
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The following information has been furnished by the Public Service Commissioner : -
Bill read a third time.
– I wish to bring in a Bill dealing with the administration of the Northern Territory, and in order to advance it to the second-reading stage to-night, I move -
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as. would prevent the introduction and passage through all its stages without delay, ‘ of a Bill for an Act to provide forthe Provisional Government of the Northern Territory.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill presented and read a first time.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
I have no desire this evening to do more than move the second reading, unless an honorable senator is prepared to continue the debate. No doubt every honorable senator has a vivid recollection of the passage of the Bill out of which this measure has arisen.
– We have.
– We all recollect, how high the temperature rose on some occasions, and how thoroughly the whole question was gone into. Consequently, there is no occasion to refer to the taking over of the Northern Territory by the Commonwealth. We have passed the legislation requisite to that end, but before the issue of the proclamation it is necessary to provide for the administration of the Territory under the Commonwealth, and consequently this Bill is introduced. Ultimately a Constitution will have to be granted to the Territory. It is impossible to do so this session, and very probably during next session the time may be so profitably occupied that nothing of the kind can be attempted. In the meantime we musthave some kind of government, and, therefore, , we have brought forward this measure providing for the temporary administration of tbe Territory. It was merely for the purpose of advancing it a stage that I asked for leave to move its second reading tonight.
Debate (on motion by Senator Millen) adjourned.
Senate adjourned at 9.23 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 8 November 1910, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1910/19101108_senate_4_59/>.