8th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. T. Givens) took the choir at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Bill received from the House of Representatives, and (on motion by Senator Russell), read a first time.
SenatorRUSSELL (Victoria- VicePresident of the Executive Council) [3.4] . - I move -
That this Bill be now read a second . time.
Prior to Federation, the State authorities had control of both the Post Office and ‘ the railways, and consequently’ the cost of carrying the mails by train was only a book debit against the Post Office; but, when the States federated, the control of the Post Office became a Federal matter, while the State authorities continued to control the railways, and an arrangement was come to whereby the Commonwealth was to pay the States for the actual cost of the service they rendered to it in the carriage of mails. That arrangement continued for a number of years, the Commonwealth agreeing to several increases in the charges, which brought the total cost up to £276,000 a year, and then, although the ‘ authorities were in agreement about the conditions under which the mails should be carried, they could not agree as to a fair . price for the service. The matter was, therefore, referred to arbitration, and by a majority vote it was determined that the mails should be charged for at half the ordinary commercial parcel rates. Actually, however, that was equivalent to charging for them at the full parcel rates, because the transport of parcels devolves upon the railway staffs a good deal of clerical work, whereas there is no such work in connexion with the handling of the mails. That - arrangement terminated with last year, and a mere makeshift arrangement obtains at the present moment. Section 18 of the Post, and Telegraph Act 1901-1910, which . provides for payment for the carriage of mails by rail, is to be amended by the Bil] so that it. shall read -
The Postmaster-General shall pay to tbe principal railway official of each State, or to the owner controller or manager of any railway or tram-way in any State as the case may be such annual Bum for rendering any service required in pursuance of the last preceding sectionas may be agreed upon and in default of agreement as may be settled by arbitration Provided that no payment shall be made to any owner controller or manager of any - private railway or tramway who in accordance with the law of a State has agreed to carry His Majesty’s mails free of charge.
Under this Bill, no attempt is made to prevent an arrangement being arrived at, but rather are facilities offered to enable it to be brought about. Unfortunately, under the existing system there has been no clear-cut definition of the functions of the arbitrators, who have been at liberty to take almost anything as the basis of allotment. Generally, they have taken the parcels rates as that basis, and the alternative has been suggested of a per ton per mile rate. The practice has been to include in their calculation the whole of the goods trains running, irrespective of whether they carried mails or not. Upon the other hand, the Postal Department contends that it should pay for all mailscarried a reasonable rate, which would suffice to cover all the costs incurred by the States.
– Yes; but there is not a correct definition’ of what should be the subject-matter of arbitration proceedings. This Bill will tend to make the position’ clearer.
– Evidently there is a difficulty in deciding what are really the services rendered.
– Let me point out what has been the practice under the existingsystem. Prior to Federation, it appears that the fixing of the amount debited to the Post Office by the Railways for the carriage of mails was upon a purely arbitrary basis. The fact that both concerns were under the same Government control did not render the question of equitable payment by the one Department for services rendered by the other Department one of any moment. Both services belonged to the States.
– If they robbed Peter, they paid Paul.
– In 1900, the railways in New South ‘ Wales were credited with £79,894 per annum for the conveyance of mails; in Victoria, they were credited -with £57,834; in Queensland, with £50,000; in South Australia, with £18,181 ; in Western Australia, with £17,121; and in Tasmania with £10,981. The amounts of payment were npt computed upon a uniform basis- throughout the States. In New South Wales and Tasmania the payments were computed at so much per mile on lines upon which mail vans were provided, whilst upon other lines they were computed by weight. In Victoria and Western Australia the payments were based upon mileage, according to the number of trains run. In Queensland, a lump sum was paid; and in South Australia the payment was computed upon a per-mile ‘ basis, according to service. The total payments to the whole of the railways was £234,011 per annum. Between 1901 and 1907 the Railways pressed for increased payment for the carriage of mails, but their requests were not based upon any evidence of cost ‘ of Service, and the Postal Department strongly resisted their demands. In 1907, however, as the result of a conference between the parties, it was’ agreed that the Post Office should make payment of a lump sum of £275,000 per annum, for the conveyance of mails by railways.
The Railway authorities were empowered to devise a scale which would apportion this £275,000 between the States in about the proportion which each State had received of the original £234,000. The apportionment was upon a line-mileage basis. In 1908, an agreement was entered into for a period of eight years, under which payment was to be computed upon the scale to which I have referred.’ That agreement terminated in 1916. A conference was then held between the Kailway authorities and the PostmasterGeneral, with a view to the drawing up of a fresh agreement. Agreement was reached upon practically’ all the points at issue, except the rate of payment. In regard to that the railways insisted that in any negotiations the amount then paid should be taken as .a minimum basis. The Postal Department, however, contended that the then existing rate was excessive. Failing agreement, the matter was submitted to arbitration, under section 18 of the Post and Telegraph Act, and it was mutually agreed that the InterState Commission should act as arbitrator. The Department contended before the Commission that payment for the carriage of mails should be in relation to cost of service. The Commission, in a majority report, decided that the annual sum to be paid by the ,PostmasterGeneral to the principal railway official in each State should be 50 per cent, of the scheduled State railway rates for parcels, Intra and. Inter State, in force on 1st January, 1917. The Commission classified mails as parcels. In other words, it was decided that “the highest rate for the carriage of goods by the Railway Department should be adopted. The reason why 50 per cent, of the rate was fixed upon was that, in handling parcels, the railways were involved in services1 such as booking, &c, which did not apply to mails. This award was made binding for only one year. The principle upon which parcels rates were fixed was the ability of the consignor to pay, because the Railways Commissioners had a fixed parcels tariff which would enable the greatest revenue possible to be secured without diverting or discouraging traffic. The chairman of the Inter-State Commission, in a minority report, disagreed with this finding, contending that the payment to the railways should represent the amount incurred in -giving the services. Mr. Piddington concluded his finding as follows: -
– What was the cost to the Commonwealth of the carriage of mails by rail that year upon the basis of that award ?
– I cannot say offhand. In order to determine the amount of payment to be made to the Railway Department in accordance with the award, the weights of mails consigned by rail were taken in March, 1918. Upon these weights, payment was computed at the rate of £184,296 per annum. The State railways were paid a,t this rate from 1st January, 1917, to 31st December, 1920, plus £7,500 per annum for the conveyance of second-class overseas mail matter. In October, 1920, the mails were again weighed. The weights taken, computed at half the parcels rates’ operating on 1st January, 1917, would involve payment at the rate of £230,683 per annum, an increase of £46,387 per annum.
– For what year ?
– For the previous year. In 1920 the final adjustment was made.
– Did not the honorable gentleman tell us earlier that, at the inception of Federation in 1901, we were paying over £200,000 for the carriage of mails by rail?
– The State Post Offices were paying that sum to the State railways.
– The railways declined to accept payment, as from 1st January, 1921, on the basis of the parcels rates operating on the 1st January, 1917, demanding that it should be computed on the parcels rates operating on 1st January last. If payment were so made, on the weighings of October, 1920, an amount of £352,956 per annum would be involved. The Postal Department would thus have to pay £168,660 per annum more than the amount determined under the award - an- increase of, approximately, 91 per cent. That is a point that I desire to emphasize. If payments were made on the parcels rates operating on 1st January, 1921, instead of on the rates operating on 1st January, 1917, as provided for in the award, the increase would amount, approximately, to 91 per cent.
– But it costs the States more to operate their railway systems than it did in 1917.
– We do not object to pay for the carriage of our mails on the basis of the actual cost of the services rendered. We do object, however, to the State railways making a profit out of us iii this respect.
– What is the increase compared with the rate paid during the first year of Federation?
– The total payments made to the whole of the State Railway Departments in 1902 was £234,404 per annum, whereas they would sow have us pay £352,956 per annum.
– One of the claims made by the State Railway Departments is that payment should be made on the basis of 50 per cent, of the parcels rates prevailing to-day, instead of upon the basis of those which prevailed when the Commission gave its award.
– What does the Commonwealth Government claim it should pay?
– We make no claim. We simply propose to have the matter decided by arbitration. The point of difference between us is that whereas the States desire to charge us for this work as an ordinary commercial undertaking, and so to make a profit on the carriage of our mails just as they might do on the carriage of parcels for a Flinders-lane warehouseman, we say that payment should be on the basis of the cost of the services rendered.
– Can we compel them to- accept that basis?
– We are advised that we have the power.
– Would that cost include interest on railway construction expenditure?
– I take it that the arbitrators will deal . with the matter according to equity and good conscience, and will take into consideration all costs that are properly chargeable.
– Interest on cost of railway construction should be taken into account.
– The cost of the services rendered will . be determined by neither the Commonwealth nor the State Railway Department, but by the arbitrators to be mutually agreed upon under the Act.
– But the Commonwealth, under this amending’ Bill, is determining the basis of arbitration.
– We are defining it. The intention of Parliament undoubtedly was that payment should be on the basis of the cost of services rendered.
– Are the States agreeable to that basis?
– I’ do not know. Speaking quite plainly, their one desire seems to -be to get as much as possible Out of the Commonwealth.
– It should be possible to come to an arrangement.
– The parties have met, and have agreed on all points except the question of payment.
-rr-Have all the States failed to come to. an agreement with the Commonwealth, or are only one or two holding out? *
– Speaking generally, there is no hope of an agreement being arrived at without recourse to arbitration.
– I suppose the States think that the Commonwealth is asking too much of the Railway Departments.
– The figures I . have just given showing that the State Railway Departments are claiming an increase of 91 per cent, as compared with the payment made under the award shows that it is not the Commonwealth that is asking too much.
– But the weight of mails has increased since then.
– That point is met byus when we ask that payment shall be made on the basis of the cost of the services rendered. As the , cost of transport of the mails increases, so our payment must increase.
SenatorRUSSELL. - Quite so. The Bill now before the Senate does not determine what amount shall be paid; it merely provides that the arbitrators shall ascertain what is the cost of the services rendered, so that a reasonable payment may be made.
– But under this amending Bill the Government are proposing, to a certain extent, to tie the hands of the arbitrators.
SenatorRUSSELL.-We are defining the basis. On the occasion of the previous arbitration a question arose as to whether payment should be made on the parcels rates or tonnage basis.
– If the honorable senator could give us a little information as to the attitude of the State railway authorities, it might be helpful.
SenatorRUSSELL.- We have met them in conference and have tried to come to an agreement, but have failed. The Eailways are making a claim that we consider to be too high, and we propose that the matter shall be finally determined by arbitration.
– Is there not power to refer the matter to arbitration under the principal Act?
SenatorRUSSELL. - Yes; but the principal Act does not lay down any definite basis upon which the arbitrators are to proceed in determining the payment to be made.
– The words of the amending Bill are rather exacting.
– Some one has to cut the knot.
– The States should have confided in their representatives in the Senates - they should have told us what they want, but they have not done so.
SenatorRUSSELL. - At all events, I think that no objection can be taken to our proposal that the matter shall be determined by arbitration. We are not taking to ourselves any despotic power.
– Would the Government consent to an amendment of the Bill making -it clear that in estimating the cost of the services rendered the arbitrators shall take into account interest on the cost of railway construction?
SenatorRUSSELL. - No. I take it that the arbitrator- will have full power to allow any cost or charge which, is considered fair. If I were acting in his position, I should allow the interest charge for the month, and take a general view of the railway tonnage on all trans-, portation. All we are seeking is a fair method of arbitrating in order to settle the problem which is now holding up the Postal Department. I therefore ask the Senate to pass the Bill, so that we may reach finality.
.- If the Minister will agree, I shall move the adjournment of the debate for a week. Otherwise I shall have to oppose the Bill, for reasons which I- shall state.
– I do- not want to postpone the Bill too long. Will the honorable member move the adjournment of the debate?
Debate (on motion by Senator Earle) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Russell) proposed -
That the resumpton of the debate be made an Order of the Day for to-morrow.
– That is useless.
– If honorable senators want a further adjournment then, they can have it. The Government will not be unreasonable.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 21st July, vide page 10394) :
Clause 8 -
The Chairman shall receive, in addition to his salary as an officer of the Public Service, an allowance which, together with his salary, shall not exceed Fourteen hundred pounds a year, and each of the other members shall receive an allowance of Five guineas per sitting.
There shall be paid to each member, on account of - his expenses in travelling to discharge the duties of bis office, such sum’s as are considered reasonable by” the GovernorGeneral.
.- I move -
That- the words, “ an allowance of Five guineas per sitting “ be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ a salary of Twelve hundred and fifty pounds a year.”
I move this amendment, believing that, if the Board is to be created, it should be made as effective as possible.. On a previous occasion I voiced my disapproval of Boards generally, but if there is any question upon which a Board may be justified, it is the Tariff. Jocular reference has been made to the question of whether the Tariff before us is scientific or not. I submit, in view of the problems with which the Tariff is immediately and intimately bound up, that it would not be a great stretch of the imagination to say that the framing of a Tariff could almost be called an exact science.
– Does the honorable senator mean the present Tariff?
– No. I mean a desirable kind of Tariff. Honorable senators arc at a great disadvantage in discussing the Tariff, and it is necessary, in order to do justice to the subject, for them to be in possession of -all the information that can possibly be obtained about the hundreds of items that have to be considered. It is not to be expected that members of this or another place can make themselves familiar with all the facts relating to every item in the schedule. One of the moat important duties of the proposed Board will be to acquire. about all these matters, facts from which members of Parliament can draw their own deductions. There are only two ways of doing this thing - the right way and the wrong way, and I am sure all honorable senators want to do it the right way. It has been argued that the appointment of two business gentlemen, to assist the Chairman of the Board, would give greater confidence to the public. I do not know that that necessarily follows. I am credibly informed by those in a position to form an opinion, that a man may be an expert on hardware items in the Tariff schedule, but may not know anything about any other subject in it. Another business man may be an expert on groceries, but may know absolutely nothing about the’ .many other items with which we shall have to deal. It, therefore, does not follow that we shall receive any advantage from the appointment of two business men to the Board. Eather it might be argued that if a permanent Board were appointed, consisting of three men who had been accustomed to deal with Tariff questions in the Customs Department, there would be much more likelihood of the true facts being placed before honorable senators for their information. It has also been said that two business men, if appointed to the Board, would necessarily be more independent in framing their reports. I do not think that necessarily follows, either. It implies that three permanent officials on a Board under the control of the Minister would naturally be influenced by the Minister, and that the Minister’s opinion would have some influence on their reports. I think the chances are the other way round. In all human probability, the average man acting as. Minister would decide that three men who had devoted so much time and trouble to arriving at a certain conclusion must know a great deal more about the subject than he does, and I should say that, humanly speaking, the opinion of the Board would invariably receive the support of the Minister, except where matters of policy were concerned. A Board of three permanent officials would give greater confidence to the public, and would certainly furnish Parliament with better all-round information than would a Board consisting of one official and two business gentlemen. I have been simply flooded with correspondence from all kinds and classes of people and businesses, for or against duties in the Tariff schedule.
– Since it passed another place?
– It shows that the Tariff is not yet quite “scientific” !
– However, the result, so far as I am concerned, is that after wading through a great deal of 4he correspondence I find “ confusion worse confounded “ - I am worse off than before. I recognise, therefore, that it is necessary to have a Board which can put reliable information before Parliament in order to enable it to come to a decision in these matters. For that reason, I submit the amendment.
– I should like some further information as to what are the functions. * of this Board, and how these can be brought into action. I recognise that clause 15, which, deals with the reference of certain matters to the Board, is not now before the Committee; but the point I wish to raise has some bearing on clause 8. I wish to know, first, who may move the Minister. I take -it that, at any time, if the Minister’s own officials point out certain anomalies and advise that certain alterations ought to be made, he may at once refer a matter to the Board, and that it is open to him to take the same course on the application of manufacturers. But is it possible for the unfortunate and unhappy consumer to have the Board put into action in the same way ? In New South Wales some time ago there was a Profiteering Board, and any citizen who thought he was being charged too much for certain articles could demand inquiry. Under this Bill, could an ordinary citizen and taxpayer move the Board in the same way? If an ordinary citizen have that power, it is quite possible that the Board will have a good deal of work to do in the twelve months ; on the other hand, if the Minister is the only person who can refer questions, he may be quite satisfied with the “ scientific “ Tariff, and initiate no inquiries.
– This is not a “ scientific “ way of discussing clause 8 !
– I point out that clause 8 deals with the remuneration of members of the Board, and that if any person may, in the way I have suggested, bring the Board into operation, there will be a great deal more work than if the Minister may please himself in the matter.
– The Board may, on its own initiative, inquire into anything it chooses.
– Yes, the Board may.
– This has nothing to do with the question of the remuneration of the Board, which is now under consideration.
– With all respect, sir, I beg to differ from you. I am asked to say whether the members of the’ Board shall receive £5 5s. a sitting or £1,250 per annum.
– Sub-clause 2 of clause 15 provides that the Minister may refer to the Board for their inquiry and report certain matters, including “ any other matter in any way affecting the encouragement of primary or secondary industries in relation to the Tariff.”
– Yes, the Minister may do that.
– Clause 15 provides that the Minister “shall” refer certain matters, and that he “may” refer other matters, including “ any other matter “ under sub-clause 2.
– The Beard may deal with anything referred to it by a private citizen or anybody else.
– But is the Board compelled to deal with any such matter?
– It may, if it choose.
– Then it is optional with the Board, whereas in the case of the New South Wales Board any person may demand an inquiry.
– I remind Senator Thomas that he is not discussing clause 8. The honorable senator may bring forward his present argument on clause 9.
– By then the question of remuneration will have been settled.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Only the remuneration of the Board is under consideration.
– Surely, if I am asked whether the remuneration of the Board is to be £5 5s. per sitting, or £1,250 a year, I am entitled to know what work the Board will have to do. The work to be done has some relation to the question of remuneration.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The honorable senator may make an indirect reference to clause 15, but’ must not deal with it particularly..
– I have been speaking for not more than ‘three or four minutes, and, seeing that I have been “ pulled up “ two or three times, I have not had time to make more than an “ indirect reference “ to clause 15. I wish to know to what extent a private citizen can bring the . Board into action.
– It will be remembered that when this clause was last before the Committee I desired to move an amendment, in reference to the salary of the chairman, to substitute £1,500 for £1,400, and that progress was reported just at that moment,. I wish to know whether I must move that amendment before the amendment of Senator Bolton is decided, or. whether I shall be at liberty to do so afterwards.
– The honorable senator will remember that I ruled him out of order when he submitted the amendment to which he alludes. The Presiding Officer is bound as much as any other senator by the Standing Orders, and in this case the standing order states very definitely that no amendment can be proposed to any words which the Senate has resolved shall be left standing. It will be remembered that Senator Earle, when this clause was last before the Committee, moved to strike out the words “which, together with his salary, shall not exceed £1,400 a year.” The word that Senator Pratten desires to strike out is one of the words which the Senate has decided shall remain part of the clause, and, therefore, under the Standing Orders, the honorable senator’s amendment cannot be received. .
– I am sorry to disagree with your ruling -
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The honorable senator cannot do so now. There is an amendment before the Chair., and the only way to get over this difficulty is for the honorable senator to move the recommittal of the clause later on.
– At the end of the Bill ?
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Yes.
– When the. debate was adjournedI expressedmy disagreement with your decision, which very rigidly confined the discussion to the latter portion of the clause. If you will allow the matter to be discussed after Senator Bolton’s amendment has been disposed of, I shall be satisfied.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The standing order is very definite; the Committee cannot reconsider . the first portion of the clause after the amendment before the Chair has been dealt with.
-This clause deals with the Chairman of the Board and his duties.
– When I took the chair this afternoon I expected the honorable senator to dissent from my ruling; and, as he did not rise, I called on Senator Bolton, who rose to. speak, and who has now submitted an,amendment after the words which the honorable senator desires, to., amend.
-I am sorry that, you did not see me rise when the clausewas called from the Chair, and I trust, in the circumstances, you will allow me the latitude I desire.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.I cannot allow the honorable senator to move in the direction he desires, as the. standing order is definite.
– Then I dissentfrom your ruling, and shall move accordingly.
– It is too late now to dissent from my ruling, as there is already an amendment before the Chair.
– Then I shall waituntil Senator Bolton’s amendment hasbeen disposed of.
.- A private citizen may approach the Minister for Trade and Customs if heso desires, but the Government do not wish the Minister to be approached by all sorts of “ cranks “ who may have imaginary grievances. Any real complaint, would be submitted to the Board.
The Government have given furtherconsideration to the remuneration to bepaid to the outside members of the Board, and as I intend moving an amendment in that connexion, I ask the Committee to reject Senator Bolton’s amendment. The Government believe that if two business men are appointed to the Board it will have the confidence of the public, and in order to limit the annual cost I intend moving the following amendment at the end of the sub-clause: -
Provided that no member of the Board, other than the chairman, shall in any year receive an allowance exceeding £1,250 per annum.
– There is not much limitation about that.
– Honorable senators, must remember that the first year will, be an exceedingly busy one, and the Board will have to devote considerable time to the questions submitted to it for consideration.
– If they are to earn that amount they will be working at least, five days a week.
-Considering theheavy Work “to be performed, the salary is not excessive.. As the . proposed amendment fixes a. ‘definite amount,, I ask the
Committee to reject the amendment submitted by Senator Bolton.
– I rise to order. Standing order 144 reads -
No amendment shall be proposed to any part of a Question after a later part has been amended.
My disagreement with your ruling, Mr. Temporary Chairman, in regard to the amendment I moved last week, should first be dealt with, otherwise, under the standing order I have quoted, it cannot be considered. This is the proper time to deal with the question of relevancy, and not after the amendment has been disposed of.
– The proper time was before Senator Bolton had submitted his amendment, or immediately afterwards. I cannot allow the honorable senator to move an amendment to a portion of a clause which has -already been passed.
– I desire to move -
That the word “ Fourteen “ be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “Fifteen.”’
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.There is an amendment before the Chair which must be dealt with before any other amendment can be taken.
– Could I move that amendment, provided it is in order, after Senator Bolton’s amendment has been dealt with ?
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Not under the standing order. The honorable senator has lost his opportunity of moving that amendment, as the Committee has already decided that the words which he proposes to amend shall remain part, of the clause. The honorable senator will have an’ opportunity,, if he so desires, of moving that the Bill he recommitted foT the reconsideration- of clause 8.
– That is the point on which I wish to challenge your ruling. Surely I am entitled- at this juncture, before any other amendments are moved, to submit my amendment.
– will temporarily withdraw his amendment.
– I am’ prepared to do that.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
.- I move-
That the word “ Fourteen “ be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “ Fifteen.”
– I have already ruled the honorable senator’s amendment out of order, . and if he objects, he must dissent from my ruling.
– I dissent from your ruling, Mr. Temporary Chairman, and now submit my objection in writing in the usual way.
In the Senate :
– During the consideration of the Tariff Board Bill in Committee on Thursday last, Senator Earle moved -
That the words “ which, together with his salary, shall not exceed Fourteen hundred pounds a year “ be left out.
That amendment was rejected. Later, Senator Pratten desired to move that the word ‘ ‘ Fourteen” be left out for the purpose of inserting the word “ Fifteen.” I ruled the amendment out of order as a contravention of standing order 145, which provides -
No amendment shall be proposed to be made to any words which the Senate has resolved shall not be left out. . . .
Senator Pratten has dissented from my ruling in the following terms : -
That the Chairman’s ruling be disagreed with on the grounds that Senator Earle’s amendment dealt only with the sum of ?200, and that this was the only question before the Chair. Any other decision) would unduly restrict the Senate when dealing with the clause as printed.
I submit the matter for your decision, Mr. President.
– I must sustain the Acting Chairman’s ruling. The question put to the Committee on Thursday last must have been-, “That the words proposed to be left- out be left out.” The Senate, by negativing that question, decided that the words- should remain part of the clause. Therefore, it is not competent for the Committee to go back- upon its previous decision.
– Will you allow me to speak on this matter before finality is reached?
– It is within my discretion as to- whether or not I allow any discussion on the point of order,- and
I see no need for discussion if the Acting Chairman’s statement of the question was correct.
– I submit that the Acting Chairman’s statement was not correct, and the whole trouble has arisen through misapprehension on his part. Hansard, at page 10393,. shows that Senator Earle’s complete amendment on Thursday was -
That the words “which, together with his salary, shall not exceed Fourteen hundred pounds a year” be left out, with a view to inserting in lieu thereof the following words: - “of Two hundred pounds a year.” .
It will be obvious that the amendment was to leave out certain words with a view to inserting other words, and it was that double proposal which the Committee rejected. c
– That does not alter the position. The Committee decided that the words should remain, and they must remain.
– But here is the official report in Hansard. .
– That does not affect the point. If the honorable senator had desired the insertion of any words other than those proposed by Senator Earle it was open to him to move an amendment upon Senator Earle’s amendment. He omitted to do so, and upon the question being put to the Committee “ That the words proposed to be left out be left out,” the Committee decided that they should remain; therefore, those words must stand part of the clause unless the Senate agrees on motion at the report stage to recommit the clause. The Acting Chairman’s ruling is in conformity with the invariable practice of the Senate. The procedure would be interminable if, it having been decided that certain words in the clause of a Bill should remain, honorable senators could thereafter get up, one after another, and move fresh amendments to those words. The position is clear. If the honorable senator desires to move as he has indicated, the course open to him will be, at the report stage, to move that the clause be recommitted.
– This is the most, extraordinary thing I have ever heard of.
– It is merely following consistently upon twenty years’ practice.
– I am setting forth the invariable practice of the Senate and the common-sense reading of the Standing Orders. Standing order 145 states -
No amendment shall be proposed to be made to any words which the Senate has resolved shall not be left out. . . .
– But the purpose of Senator Earle’s amendment was to insert something.
– That has nothing to do with the question. The Committee came to a decision, and the question was put, “ That the words proposed to be left out be so left out.”
– The Committee would not insert what was proposed to be inserted.
– The position is perfectly clear, and it is of no use for the honorable senator to indulge in further argument. I uphold the ruling of the Acting Chairman.
Amendment (by Senator Bolton) again proposed -
That the words “ an allowance of Five guineas per sitting “ be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ a salary of Twelve hundred and fifty pounds a year.”
– I strongly support the amendment, although I hold that, if it is agreed to in the form submitted, the Government will not be bound to appoint Customs officials as members of the Board. It will still be open for them, having appointed a Customs official as chairman, to select whomsoever they may consider best fitted to fill the remaining positions, regardless of whether the persons concerned are within or outside of the Service. I am stoutly opposed to payment by sittings and to the appointment of persons who are actively engaged in business. If such appoint-, ments were made, it would almost necessarily follow that the two non-official members of the Board would be Melbourne business men. It is my view, rightly or wrongly held, that there is already too much Melbourne influence in Commonwealth government and administration. Obviously, it would not be possible for business men in any of the other capital cities to accept appointment to the Board, since their responsibilities would’ entail constant visits to Melbourne to- attend sittings. Melbourne men would, in all probability, be given the positions, and the outcome would be that their own business interests would frequently clash with their duties as members of the Board.’ Very often, no doubt, their attendance would be required ju6t at a time when their own business affairs were demanding close attention ; and I fear that these members would frequently attend sittings of the Board merely to Confirm whatever the chairman had already decided. I know of no Board created by the Commonwealth which will have had more important affairs to deal with. It will be necessary for its members to travel both to obtain the evidence of witnesses and to secure the evidence of their own observation. They will be called upon to examine the conditions under which industries are carried on in all the States before they may consider themselves qualified to make a fair and comprehensive recommendation. There are some industries which, although common to all the States, arc not carried on in precisely the same fashion and under exactly the same conditions’ in each; while there are other industries which exist in only one or two of the States. Thus it will be necessary for the Board to cover the whole field of industrial activity, which will entail the concentration of all their time and energies. Seeing that the Government have inserted in the Bill specific reference to a salary not exceeding £1,250-
– The proposal is there really with a desire to gather honorable senators’ views. The sum mentioned has been included really to provide a via media.
– The Minister’s interjection provides a telling argument for the acceptance of the amendment, since it indicates the possibility of the Board having to sit on nearly every business day of the year. I am convinced that a mistake will be made if the Committee retains the principle ©f payment per sitting.
– The objection which I raised has not been met. The Government have indicated willingness to accept an amendment to the effect that the members of the Board shall not receive more than £1,250 per annum. My objection to the Board is not a merely monetary one.. In my view, it will be an altogether useless body, and
I shall not hesitate to vote for the rejection of the Bill at the third-reading stage. But, if the Board is appointed, it will be far better to pay fixed salaries than a sum for each sitting. Senator Crawford has put the case well. It may be taken almost for granted that the two non-official members will be selected from among Melbourne’s business men.
– The adoption of the amendment would widen the field of selection.
– Yes. I do not think the right type of man could be obtained for £1,250 a year. A business man of ripe experience would not devote the whole of his time to this work for that remuneration.
– It has been suggested that the Government might secure the services of retired business men.
– Yes; men who are satisfied with what they have already made in business.
– Why give such jobs to men who do not require them ?
– We need the bestmen.
– Derelicts are not the best men.
– I have in mind a man who is not a derelict, the Honorable George Swinburne. He is one of the leading business men of Australia.
– I would not call him a retired man; he is a very active man.
– Yes ; but he retired from business to become an InterState Commissioner, not for the sake of the salary, but because he thought he would be of service to the community. As I have said,’ I am entirely opposed to the appointment of this Board ; but if it is to be appointed, I think it will be better to pay its members fixed salaries than to pay so much a sitting.
.- The Minister has told us that the proposal to appoint to the Board two business men, who would be remunerated with a fee of £5 5s. a sitting, was put forward by the Government as likely to give the public confidence in the Board; but I do not think that it would have that effect. He said that if the Board were constituted of permanent officers the public would regard it as a bureaucratic affair, the mysteries and secrets of whose administration could not be penetrated. I do not think that the public regard the branches of the Government Service in that way. On the contrary, they consider that they get good service from the Government officials. If the Board is to give the results expected of it, its members must devote the whole of their time to its business, and be responsible to the Government for the proper performance of their duty.
-i did not say anything against the Public Service; I said that there would be a prejudice on the part of the public against a Board all of whose members were departmental officials.
– It may be found, after a ‘few years, that the members of the Board have become so expert that, like the Board of Trade in England, they may be intrusted with many responsible duties, and the Board may thus become a very valuable institution. I hope that the amendment will be carried.
– I am in favour of paying a fixed salary to the members of the proposed Board. The Minister has interjected that one of the chief reasons for constituting the Board in the manner proposed- in the Bill is that the public may have more confidence in it than it would have in a purely departmental Board. But the Board is to be created chiefly for the protection of the public against protectedmanufacturers who seek to charge unreasonable prices for their goods. Thus the class from, which the public need protection is the business community, and yet it is from the business community that the Government proposes to select two members of- the Board;.
– There are many matters on which the Board will advise the Minister. That part of: its duties will be quite distinct from theobligation of protecting the public from the, exploitation of protected manufacturers.
– The reason for the appointment of theBoard is largely the need of protecting the public against local manufacturers;
– The Government is atlast beginning, to think of the poor consumer.
– Quite so. That is. the only reason, that: would actuate me in voting for the, appointment of- a Board. But if- the consumer is. to be protected, two members of the Board should not be chosen from those from whom -the consumers need protection. It would bebetter to have a purely, departmental Board, men possessed of ability and knowledge, such as many of the officers of the Department have. Such men would have no interest in business affairs, or’ organizations. But a business man who was a member of the Board might be affected, if not directly by some matter under consideration, at least indirectly, in that his friends and business associates,, those on whom he might be depending to bring some business deal to a successful conclusion, might be affected.
– Where would you get any man Who would not be affected by such influences ?
– The departmental officer, who had had years of training, could give the public the protectionthat it needs, and the public would have confidence in a Board constituted of public officials. I think that the fixing of annual salaries for members of the Board’ would lead to greater efficiency than thepayment of the members at so much a. sitting, which might mean a great deal ia the course of a year, or very little. The payment of salaries would permit of the appointment of permanent officials to the Board who could devote the whole of their time and abilities to the serviceof the public, without regard to particular interests.
– When I interjected during the speech; of Senator Thomas that the Government proposals were contained in the Bill, but that a suggestion had been made as indicating a via media, he tried to makeit appear that the Government believed: in the Bill, but that if- it did not suitit would be made- to. meet the wishes of honorable senators.. Now, the matter under discussion is not one of principle. The principle of the Bill, is: the establishment of a Tariff Board; the personnel and. payment of the members of the proposed Board are matters of detail, to be considered, in. Committee,- when Ministers and. other senators should, work together to arrive at a> reasonable arrangement. The Government believes that a Board, constituted as. proposed- in. the Bill gives the greatest promise of success; but there are senators who do not hold that view.
The matter, however, is not one whose discussion should occupy many hours. I indorse what has been said about the ability of public officials; but were the proposed Board constituted entirely of officials, the public would believe it to be under the control and influence of the Minister, and thus it would not command the respect which we desire for it. There are, of course, very few propositions which are without their reverse side, and there may be weaknesses in this proposal ; but I ask honorable senators, instead of concentrating their gaze on these weaknesses, to carefully balance the pros and the cons. It has been objected that, under the Government proposal, the unofficial members of the Board will probably be selected in Melbourne, and Senator Thomas drew some comfort in this matter from the hope that Parliament might remove to Canberra.
– If we were meeting in Canberra the unofficial members of the Board would probably be selected in Sydney.
– Or in Brisbane, perhaps. Let me give the argument against the alternative proposal. Laud public servants as you will, it is an accepted saying outside that they are bound by red-tape, and echo the Ministerial policy. Whether that be true or not, the fact that that belief is entertained of public servants would largely destroy the value of a purely departmental Board. Of late years the cry has been, “Why not take advantage of the. brains of the community; why employ only the services of paid and hide-bound officials?” The Government has sought -to establish a nexus between the proposed Board and the Department by placing at the head of it an official who would know where to lay his hands on all the information needed, and would understand the departmental routine, and, in addition to him, there would be on the Board two capable men, not in the Public Service, well versed in business, and having a general knowledge of trade matters throughout Australia. Honorable senators have, therefore, to make up their minds whether the advantages of one Board with its disadvantages would outweigh the benefits that would accrue from the creation of the other Board. The Government pub forward their proposal believing that a Board constituted in the manner provided for in the Bill, will do the most effective work and will command the largest degree of public confidence. I urge honorable senators to devote some thought to the view which I have endeavoured to express, and to -help us to arrive at a decision upon the matter.
– Will the Minister be good enough to set out the advantages of creating a Board two of whose members will receive fees at the rate of £5 5s. per sitting, as against the advantages of constituting a Board two of whose members will receive a stipulated salary?
– A certain line of criticism which was indulged in here by honorable senators appeared to indicate that their desire was to prevent too many fees of £5 5s. accumulating throughout the year. In the hope of meeting that objection, it was suggested that two of the members of the proposed Board should be paid a maximum sum. But I understand that Senator Thomas is not out on the economy “stunt” just now, and that the matter of the cost of the proposed Board is not being considered. In that case the suggestion made by the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Senator Russell) will fall to the ground. It was simply made with the object of preventing an unlimited expense being incurred.
– But a Board may be appointed. which, is not composed entirely of officials if its members are paid a salary of £1,250 per annum, instead of being granted fees at the rate of £5 5s. per sitting.
– If the Board is to consist of the same “personnel, and if the question under discussion is merely the amount which we are going to pay, I suggest that whether we pay so much per sitting up to a maximum amount, or whether we pay a. fixed salary to its members, is merely the difference between Tweedledum and Tweedledee. There are two lines of thought supporting the amendment. Senator Bolton evidently wants an official “Board.
– Not necessarily a Board consisting entirely of officers of the Customs Department.
– But its members would become officials if their whole time had to be devoted to the. duties of the Board. I understand, however, that Senator Thomas does not take that’ view.
– I do.
– Then I misunderstood the honorable senator. If the question of expenditure be not involved
– It is involved very much.
– Then we have two groups supporting the amendment for totally different reasons. I have been dealing with the question of whether the Board should be composedof permanent officials who shall be paid an annual salary, or whether it shall be created by the appointment of gentlemen who, like directors, will attend its meetings and draw their fees for so doing.
– Like directors, they may draw their fees for rendering very little service at times.
– The point which I have stressed is whether a. Board consisting of paid officials would be as effective as a Board constituted of independent persons who would not be so susceptible to Ministerial influence.
– We have had the statement from the Vice-President of the Executive Council that the Board will be required to meet only once a week.
– If its members are permanent officers, irrespective of whether they devote five hours or fifty hours weekly to their duties, they will be equally tied up. But with a Board constituted as the Government ‘propose, if it were found that very few meetings were necessary, very few fees would be paid to its members.
– Why have the Board?
– That question has been already answered by the vote of the Senate. Even to those honorable senators who are out for economy, the Government proposal is the safer one. Under it, if there be much work for the Board to do, its members will be paid for that work. But if the Committee is of opinion that a limit should be imposed upon the amount to be paid in fees to two of the members of the Board, there is no objection to that limit being specified. Upon the other hand, should it be found as the result of experience that members of the Board have to devote the whole, of their time to the discharge of their duties, permanent appointments could then be made. The principle involved in the clause is not a vital one to the Bill, and I suggest that too much time should not be consumed in discussing it.
– I regret that I cannot support the amendment of’ Senator Bolton. Under other provisions of the Bill quite a number of duties are prescribed as having to be discharged by the Board. I do ‘ not know whether those duties were put in as a sop to the gentlemen who wish to deal with the profiteer or whether they merely represent political “ eye-wash.” But I am quite sure that the law officers who advised the Government” upon this measure are well aware that many of the functions allocated to the Board cannot be performed by it, because they are entirely ultra vires of the Constitution, and have been so held by the Privy Council. I shall deal more fully with the clauses in which they are enumerated when we come to them. But because the facts are as I have stated, this Board will not have anything like one-third of the work which honorable senators think it will. Of that I am convinced. A good deal more than twothirds of the work which its members would have to perform if the Bill were effective cannot be undertaken if the measure proves to be defective from a constitutional stand-point. Consequently, I am of opinion that a salary of £1,250 per annum paid to permanent officials will be far more than adequate for the services which they will render. Payment for the actual work performed from time to time, at the rate of £5 5s. per sitting, would prove a much more satisfactory arrangement than would that proposed by Senator Bolton.
– But if the functions of the Board which the honorable senator thinks areultra vires of the Constitution should prove otherwise, its members will have plenty to do.
– In that case the Board will be fully occupied. But if those functions are held to be ultra vires of the Constitution, the Board will not be fully occupied. For that reason I oppose the amendment.
.- I desire to discuss the amendment from the stand-point of economy and efficiency. I listened very carefully to the arguments advanced in favour of the amendment from the point of view of efficiency, and I am not convinced that those arguments were sound ones. I believe that we should get more efficiency from a Board constituted in the manner proposed by the Bill than we should from a Board created upon the lines laid down in the amendment. I am strongly opposed to the suggestion that the Board should be purely a departmental Board. At the same time, there is very little ground for the suggestion that if the clause be carried in its present form, two Melbourne gentlemen may be appointed to act with the chairman, and that that circumstance would prove prejudicial to the efficiency of the Board. I hold no such opinion.. I hold no brief for Melbourne; but it is quite possible that this city is able to supply two of the best men who could be selected for the positions. From the point of view of economy, too, I am obliged to oppose the amendment, because I am sure that under its operation the work of the Board would prove much more costly than it would under the clause in its present form. I dp not anticipate that the Board will sit every day in the year or even half that time.
– Then it will not be of much use.
– I think so. Surely it is not suggested that to deal with the matters provided for in the Bill the Board will have to sit every day in the year !
-brockman. - It cannot deal with more than one-third of those matters.
– The honorable senator will be able to give an explanation of his contention in that respect later on.
– The more I look into the matter the more futile does the whole Bill become.
– I very much regret that I cannot support Senator Bolton’s amendment, because I know that he desires to make the proposed Board as effective as possible.
– If the Committee rejects Senator Bolton’s amendment, under a ruling which has previously been given we shall not subsequently be able to alter the amounts proposed to be paid to two of the members of the Board.
– We shall not be able to substitute £4 , 4s. for £5 5s. per sitting.
– Quite so. We shall not then be able to move any further amendments in respect of those fees. In other words, if the amendment be rejected, the allowance of £5 5s. per sitting to two of the members of the Board will have been definitely determined.
– But honorable senators may reject the whole clause.
-brockman. - And Senator Pratten may move an amendment upon Senator Bolton’s amendment.
– I know that Senator Wilson has an amendment to submit in relation to the total sum to be paid by way of fees.
– I would point out to Senator Pratten that the Committee cannot discuss his amendment to this clause, inasmuch as we are now considering later amendments.
– So far the Committee has dealt only with the clause down to the word “year.”
– We are now considering an amendment which relates wholly to the proposed allowance of £5 5s. per sitting to each of two of the members of the Board. Consequently, the honorable senator cannot move the amendment, a copy of which he has handed to me, unless the amendment of Senator Bolton be temporarily withdrawn.
– I am so appreciative of the courtesy which was extended to me a little time ago by Senator Bolton that I bow to your ruling, sir, and will take the opportunity of doing what I desire to do later on.
– I sincerely hope that honorable senators will give earnest consideration to Senator Bolton’s amendment before they proceed to a vote upon it. If the clause bc passed as it stands, the Board will be regarded as a Tribunal consisting of the chairman alone. If two business men are to be appointed to the Board, and are to be asked to attend only occasional meetings, for which they will be paid £5 5s. a sitting, they will not be able to give to the very important matters which it will have to consider the close attention that might be reasonably expected of them. In order to save a few hundred pounds a year it is proposed to set up a Board under conditions which will lead to its failing largely to achieve the object for which it is being constituted. I am not prepared te set my opinion on legal questions against that of Senator Drake Brockman, but it seems to me that thi subsequent clause to which, he referred provides chiefly for inquiry and. advice. I know of no constitutional difficulties in the way of a Commonwealth Tribunal making inquiry into any matter of public interest. There is, of course, a limitation as to the evidence which a witness may be compelled to give, but the members of the Board may inform themselves in many ways, apart from the taking of direct evidence. In many cases the whole of the evidence may be given quite voluntarily. I am aware that there is a constitutional difficulty in the . way of compelling a witness to give certain evidence, but it does not necessarily follow that, because of that, a Board- of this character must fail. I do not agree with the Minister (Senator Russell) that this Board, if constituted as proposed in the amendment, would be regarded by the public as a purely departmental Tribunal, and that they would not have in it the confidence they would repose in a Board constituted as proposed in the clause as it stands.
– Supposing we had a senior officer of the CustomsDepartment as chairman, and two junior officers of the Department as members of the Board, does not the honorable senator think that those two junior officers would largely follow the views of the “ boss “ ?
– I do not think the Government would make any such foolish appointments. The field of selection is so wide that I do not think they would select two junior Customs officers for appointment as members of the Board. May I ask the honorable senator how many junior officers of the Department of Trade and Customs are in receipt of a salary of £1,250 per year? Such a salary would be regarded as being among the plums of the Service, so that if the Government desired to make appointments from within the Public Service of the Commonwealth they would be able to draw upon all Departments.
– Or go outside the Public. Service altogether.
– Quite - so. For” such a salary, they would be able to obtain two very capable men from ‘outside” the Commonwealth Public Service. If men who are actively engaged in business are to be appointed to these two positions, their duties as members of the Board’ will so clash with their business that they will be performed in a very perfunctory manner, and the chairman, having far more information than either of them on the subject under consideration, will dominate them to a greater extent than he would dominate even two junior officers of his Department.
– He would do the work, and they would draw £5 5s.” per sittirig.
-That is so. Parliament and the public would soon discover this, and have very little confidence in the Board’s recommendations.
Question - That the words proposed to be left out be left out (Senator Bolton’s amendment) - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 13
Question so resolved in the negative.
– I move -
That the following new sub-clause be added : -
The total amount chargeable on and payable out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund for the establishment and maintenance of the Board, including the salary of the chairman and the fees to members, shall not during any financial year exceed Three thousand pounds.
The debate on this clause has been rather comprehensive, and I cannot get away from the view expressed by the Minister who was in charge of the Bill in another place, and also by the Minister (Senator Russell) in his second-reading speech, that it may be, necessary for the members of the Board to meet only once or twice a week.
– Does the honorable senator propose that the sum of £3,000 shall be allotted only to the payment of the members of the Board?
– No, it is ,to include salaries and all expenses. With many other honorable senators I am anxious that we should curtail the growth of Commonwealth Departments. I remind the Committee that this Board is to he of a purely advisory character. It is not to have any administrative duties; it is merely to advise the Minister. Much has been said about the desirableness of “keeping politics out df this proposal, and of refraining from appointing public servants as members of the Board, yet it is the politician who is to determine what action shall be taken concerning every matter on which the Board has made inquiry and has reported. The report of the Board in every case is to proceed through the medium of the Minister to the Parliament, which is to have the final determination of the matter. Yet some honorable senators are anxious under this Bill to build up another Department which will be a huge expense to the taxpayers. Many honorable senators have said that they are prepared to accept their share of the responsibility of making inquiries and discharging duties of a purely advisory character such as would fall to the lot of this Board. The Minister has stated that the Board will sit only when required, but clause 17 provides that it shall have the right to sit when it likes. In due course, I think the Committee will have something to say in favour of the Board being allowed to sit only when directed by the Minister so to do, in order that it may be directly answerable to Parliament, and that Parliament may keep control of expenditure in matters of this sort. _ Viewing the Board as an advisory one, it is the duty of honorable senators at this juncture to curtail and keep control of the expenditures of the Departments, and until we do this we shall not have fulfilled the functions for which we are sent here.
– I intend to support the amendment. We are justified in going almost to any length to prevent the reckless extravagance of which the Government are guilty in connexion with this measure. There is no doubt that .the Board is only an advisory body. All it has to do is to take evidence, and report to the Minister, yet the Government are forming it on de luxe lines - lines of luxurious extravagance. As Senator Payne suggests, it is to be a very luxurious Board. When the time arrives, I intend to move for the recommittal of clause 5, so that we may constitute the Board of members of Parliament, who will do the work for their £1,1300 a year, as they are quite willing to do. We know that there are members of this Parliament who are willing to- sit and exercise the functions of the proposed Board.
– If the other two members of the Board were lawyers, do you think £3,000 a year would satisfy them ?
– Lawyers are the most generous of people. If there is one section of the community who have to do more work for nothing than the legal profession, I do not know of it. Pending the amendment of clause 5 on recommittal in the way I suggest, the next best step to solve the difficulty created by the extravagance of the Government in proposing an expensive Board is to carry Senator Wilson’s amendment. I hope that, if carried, it will be some curb on the extravagance of the Government, and that later I shall have the support of the Senate in the recommittal of clause 5, so that we may, put the Board on a still better* footing.
– I intend also to support the amendment, although I am not sure that Senator Wilson has been quite liberal enough. He might have gone a little further. I am not like Senator Benny in this regard, because I do not desire to ‘ ‘ curb the extravagance of the Government,” since I believe the desire of the Government in these days is to be very economical. What I wish to do is to curb the possible extravagance of the Board itself, because clause 17 provides that the Board may meet when and as often as it likes. We shall be very wise to clip its wings in advance by limiting under this Bill, the amount that may be expended on it. The reasons I gave when dealing with Senator Bolton’s amendment are most applicable to this case. I then pointed out the constitutional limitations on the activities of the Board, which will very much reduce the amount of work that will be actually done by it. It oer.tainly will not be able to do as much as was evidently contemplated by the Government when they brought this proposal to Parliament. Consequently, I incline to the- opinion that probably £3,000 will be somewhere in the vicinity of what is required.
– I remember hearing it alleged ‘that there were more ways - of killing a dog than by choking him with butter. Some honorable senators seem to be looking around for other ways of killing a Bill which they do not like, in any circumstances. Those who are now putting forward these proposals, seeking to ‘ ‘ clip wings,” and “ apply curbs,” are the avowed opponents of the Bill itself.
– No; ‘I am not opposed to the Board if it is a. parliamentary Board.
– The honorable senator is objecting to the Bill, and therefore is doing what, if I were in his place and opposed to the Bill, I should probably do also - that is, seeking to kill the Bill by any means. I take no exception to that, but I want to, point it out. I address the remarks I have now to make to those who believe in the Bill.
– That is out of order.
– I can surely select those to whom I wish to address my remarks?
– I admire your discretion, because I do not think you will convert any of the opponents of the Bill.
– Looking at the honorable senator, I do not expect to do so. His proposal is to limit the expenditure of the Board to £3,000 a year. Following that, Senator Benny, who is also from South Australia, spoke ofthe Board as being constituted on a luxurious basis. I have heard honorable senators declare to-day that £5 5s. a sitting is not enough, and that we shall not get the right stamp of men for it. If that is true, this is not luxury, but parsimony.
Sena tor Wilson. - How many members of the Senate have received £5 5s. a day for sitting on a Board?
– Probably some are not worth it. The Committee has. approved of the payment of £55s. per sitting to two members of the Board. Although it is not possible to say whether the work will require their attendance one or three days a week, I ask the Committee to consider the extreme possibility of there being three meetings a week. That is £15 15s. per week per member, or £1,800 a year for the’ two, which, plus the £1,400 agreed to by the Committee for the chairman, will make a total of £3,200 for the year. Therefore, if the amendment is adopted, the Board will be bankrupt before it starts.
– The Minister’s statement in opening the debate was one meeting a week. You have gone up to three.
– No one can say now, but no Minister would tolerate the Board meeting unless there was work to do.
– The Minister could not help it. The Board could “flout the Minister.
– The Minister could and would help it,, and I decline to believe that the gentlemen appointed to the Board would meet merely to twiddle their thumbs and draw their fees. I am encouraged by Senator DrakeBrockman’s remark, that he thought the amount was a little on the low side, to emphasize this point. Three meetings . a week until the Board can find its feet is not an exaggeration. There is a probability of it, so that £3,200 a year would go in salaries and fees, leaving nothing for a typist, or postage, or other ordinary expenditure. If the Committee thinks that a limit should be placed on the expenditure, it should leave a margin, not on the wrong side as proposed by Senator Wilson, but on the right side.
– What would you suggest ?
– I would leave it to the. good sense of the Minister and the Board; but if the Committee is not prepared to do that, it should at least fix a limit which is reasonably sufficient for the purpose. If the Committee does not like the Board, let it kill it, but for goodness’ sake let us not starve it.
– Are you prepared to suggest an amount?
– No, but I have shown that £3,000 is insufficient. I hope the Committee agrees that at least it is cutting it unduly fine. For that reason, I shall vote against the amendment. I go further, and appeal to the
Committee not to impose any limitation on the amount of the yearly expenditure. There is another way in which . the possible tendency of Departments to grow can be curbed. It is a much better way than this proposal. It is to place a time limit on the operation of this measure. If that is done, Parliament can, at the end of . a reasonable time, when the Board has been allowed to go to work freely and untrammelled, see how things have shaped.
– Give it three years.
– The honorable senator wants to kill the Bill. It is reducing it to a farce to start a piece of machinery and deny the oil for lubricating purposes. If it is feared - that the Department will grow and become unduly extravagant the better proposal is to put a limit on the time for which the Bill shall operate.
– And on the amount that the Board will spend as well. They may spend a lot of money in eighteen months.
– I began by saying that I had no hope of bringing the honorable senator to a reasonable view..
– I do not think you should say that.
– Then I will say that I prefer my own view to his. We must have some measure of faith in any institution or Government. We must give them some latitude. We cannot tie them down by dotting every “ i” and crossing every “ t.” The question is whether the Committee, in view of the statements which have been made as to the purposes of the Board, is going to let it work effectively. If we limit unduly the amount to be spent on- it, we possibly curb it in some way or other. On the other hand, if we allowed it twelve months or two years, the amount it spent would not be likely to be very alarming, while the Minister would be given an opportunity to try the Board out thoroughly. Parliament would then know what work the Board had done, and what it was costing. When the Bill evaporated at the end of the time limit, and Parliament was approached to continue the existence of the Board or to substitute another method, Parliament would know exactly what the Board had done, and whether or not its work justified the continuance of the expenditure. The Government will be quite willing to accept a limit as to time, and I ask the Committee to be content with that.
– If you once create a Board it is not so easy to destroy it again. You have all the staff connected with it.
– If in two years’ time the Board had proved costly and inefficient, the consideration mentioned by the honorable senator would not restrain him or any other member of Parliament from agreeing to its abolition.
– Once you create a Department, it is very difficult to abolish it.
– I am afraid Senator Wilson is allowing those general phrases which have become current outside, and which float on every breeze, to sway his judgment.
– Coupled with experience.
– The honorable senator has had no experience of a Tariff Board yet. I do not wish to continue an interminable dialogue with the honorable senator. . It is impossible to lay down any limit of expenditure without running the risk of either providing insufficient funds or providing so large an amount as to leave a margin for that very extravagance against which honor-, able senators say they wish to guard.
– If we find it insufficient we can increase it next year.
– The effect of carrying the amendment would be to tell a Board, which should sit three days a week, that Parliament had voted only enough money to allow it to sit twice or even once a week, and that, if the Board wanted the assistance of a typist, it could not have it, because Parliament had not made sufficient money available. I submit that it is much better that Parliament should be informed from time to time as to what is being expended; and, with a time limit; the Board could not possibly get out of hand before the Senate had a further opportunity of considering its constitution, expenditure, and efficiency.
– I have listened to both Senator Wilson and the Minister for Repatriation (Senator E. D.. Millen), and I agree with both. I agree that there should be a limit to the expenditure, and also a time limit. We have to look for a precedent; and we find that in the conditions imposed on the Public Works Committee and the Public Accounts Committee, in regard to both of which Parliament has placed a limit on the expenditure. I say definitely that I am absolutely opposed to the proposed Board - :let there be no misunderstanding as to that-4-and if I had an opportunity I should kill it. If we do not place a limit to the expenditure we shall have an experience similar to that of the Inter-State Commission, which had all the functions of this Board, and which, £ am informed, cost about £100 a day to run. If we leave the matter perfectly open, so that the expenditure may be what the Board or the Minister desires, over a period of, say, two years, we shall have to face something that we shall not like. I think, in common with others, that there are far too many Boards for economy and for the good of this Parliament. We must shoulder our responsibilities as a Parliament, and the more Boards there are - many of which are beyond our control - the more responsibilities we shall have as the representatives of the electors. As I say, I am totally opposed to the Board, and I shall support the amendment.
– I feel that the psychology of the determined opposition to this Bill is, first of all, to be found in the necessity to bring up the Government with a “ round turn,” as it were, in connexion with the appointment of Boards which very largely function outside parliamentary control. A further opposition to the Bill has developed on the grounds of economy and of previous experience, which has shown us that the constitution of a Board or a new Department invariably brings in its train somewhat unnecessary expenditure. As an . illustration of what goes on, I have taken the trouble to ascertain some official figures in regard to the Quarantine Department, with which is now incorporated, or which is incorporated in, the new Health Board. It is obvious that the work of the Quarantine Department is somewhat spasmodic, and it cannot be said to be increasing, its work is entirely controlled by the incoming of certain diseases and the examination of all ships. In 1909-10, when this Department was first taken over by the Commonwealth, there was one permanent officer; in 1915- 16 the permanent officers had increased to sixty-nine; and in 1920-21 to 129. These, it must be remembered, constitute the permanent staff, and any extra work is done by calling in temporary assistance from outside.
– Does the honorable senator think that the Commonwealth should not control quarantine?
– Certainly not. I am merely pointing out, by way of illustration, how Departments grow, and how this particular Department has grown. In fairness, I ought to say that the growth of the permanent staff of this Department from sixty-nine in 1916 to 129- in 1920-21 is partly accounted for by the activities of the Commonwealth serum laboratories, which were established in 1916. Now, let us take the money side of this illustration. In 1909-10, when the Department was first established, the expenditure was £23,355, and the revenue was £4,724, showing a net expenditure of under £20,000, and I understand that in 1909-10 the Department had to examine every ship and every passenger, apparently, coming to Australia, just as it does now in 1920-21. Now, so as to° get a .fair comparison, let us take the period 1915-16, when the Commonwealth serum laboratories were established.
– You are not against the serum laboratories?
– No ; I am merely showing how the Department has grown, and I am taking these .periods so as to give a fair comparison. Li 1915-16 the expenditure by the Department was £103,112, and the revenue £19,242, showing a net expenditure of over £80,000, as compared with under £20,000 six years before. Now, take this year, when the necessity for economy is very much more vital, serious, and urgent than it was in either of the other periods. The estimated expenditure is £155,971, and the estimated revenue £35,000, showing an excess expenditure of £120,000.
– Was that not due to the influenza outbreak?
– My honorable friend will remember that the States were burdened with most of the expenditure on that account. In any case, the Quarantine Department, outside the laboratories, had the same work to do ten years ago as it has this year ; and yet there is nearly six’ times the excess expenditure. That illustrates the point to which I am coming. Whenever Boards or new Departments are created, expenditure goes on, and cannot be controlledby this Parliament, because- very often the money is spent before it is voted. We are told the Bureau of Commerce and Industry costs about £10,000 a year. I do not know what the Institute of Science and Industry will cost, though, perhaps, Senator Fairbairn may give us some idea of what we are committed to in that regard.
– It is impossible to estimate.
– I think that some control should be placed on the expenditure of this proposed new Board, if we are to have one, and I admit that there is something to be said with regard to the desirability of it, at least for a time. I am glad to hear, for the first time, from the Minister for Repatriation (Senator E. D. Millen) that the Government are now prepared to impose a time limit on the- operations of the Board. I believe it is as a result of the debates in this chamber last week that the Government now see the obvious, which is to consolidate all the varied activities under one strong Board of Trade, or, if honorable senators choose, one Trade and Tariff Board, and thus remove all those little “pin-pricks” now inflicted on the commercial community. Who knows, for instance, what is going on in connexion with the Coal Board? What money is expended on it? Who knows whether or not it is offering one section of coal consumers an advantage and placing a handicap on another? I confess I do not. I do see that some restriction should be placed on the expenditure of the proposed Board; andI shall support the amendment of Senator Wilson. But, so far as the arguments of the Minister for Repatriation are concerned, I see that there is something in the proposal for a little higher limitation; but some limitation, there should be.
As to the chairman of the Board, he ought to be adequately remunerated. I do not think I am telling tales out of (school - for it is common knowledgewhen I say that the gentleman whom the Government propose to appoint is Major Oakley.
– He is a good man !
- Major Oakley is deeply versed in all Tariff intricacies, and his experience during the last two years in connexion with the pros and cons of the present Tariff is absolutely unique in Australia. I agree with Senator Fairbairn that Major Oakley is a good man, and I like to see a good man properly remunerated. That is my reason for desiring the salary to be at least £1,500 a year. In the past, some of the high officials in the Commonwealth Service have been inadequately paid; their salaries have been miserable compared with tha responsibilities of their positions. Surely to Heaven, this is just as important a position as that of Mr. Stirling Taylor!
– And a great deal more important than that of the chairman of the Basic Wage Board.
– Quite so, and Mr. Atlee Hunt is paid £2,000 a year.
– The honorable senator may use these facts illustratively, but he must not indulge in extensive discussion regarding other officials.
– Surely I may be allowed to compare the salaries- paid at present in the Public Service with the salary proposed in this clause. I may, in this connexion, mention the Administrator of New Guinea, also . Mr. Percy Hunter-
– I point put that the remuneration of the chairman of the Board has been already fixed by the Committee within certain limits.
– Unless we add an addendum that the salary shall be higher.
– We cannot do that without destroying what we- have passed.
– We can add a special clause if we wish to add another £100 or £200 to the salary. I was speaking of- the Administrator of New Guinea, and going on to speak of Mr. Percy Hunter, Mr. H. S. Gullett, also the chairman of the Phosphate Commission, and the chairman of the Repatriation Commission, who are- all receiving bigger salaries than the salary proposed in the clause. If the amendment is carried, and the’expenditure is limited to £3,000 a year, I should like to see Major Oakley, as chairman, receive half of that amount, for it is certain that he will have to do fully half the work, of which he is quite capable.
As a result of the discussion of this Bill in this Chamber I hope that -I am right when I visualize that two years hence, when the Board will have expired by effluxion of time, the Government will bring down a broad, comprehensive measure to include under one head all the many partial governmental activities, with a strong Board’ that will have the confidence of the business community of Australia, and to which the producers and consumers may go if they feel that they are suffering any injustice. Instead of taking, as it were, so many bites out of one problem, the Government ought to take the responsibility of introducing such a measure.
.- I intend to support the amendment moved by Senator Wilson because this is the first opportunity we have had of definitely dealing with the expenditure of any Department. I believe the time has arrived when Parliament, if it has the opportunity, should say definitely how far it will go in the expenditure of any Depart- ‘ ment. I have given this matter very careful consideration, and I am not prepared to support a proposal which would affect efficiency or interfere with any effort to satisfactorily carry out important work. I remember the attitude adopted by the Minister (Senator Russell) and of the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene), in introducing the Bill, and in each case the members of each House were impressed with the statements made that the proposed Board would not be an expensive body, as the work would not be continuous. We were informed, that, in committing ourselves to a measure of this description we were not incurring the possible expenditure of a large sum of money. I intend to support the amendment because I think it preferable to” giving the Government an open cheque.
– I am strongly opposed to the limitation which this amendment places upon the expenditure to be incurred by the proposed Tariff Board. As I have previously stated, the industrial and commercial activities of the Commonwealth are not confined to the city of Melbourne, or even to the whole of the State of Victoria, and I do not think a thorough investigation couid be made by any Board sitting in this city. If the total expenditure is to be limited to £3,000 it will not be possible for the Board to conduct investigations outside what may be termed the inner circle of States. It would not be practicable, for it to visit the more remote States of Western Australia and Queensland, and investigations which did not include the activities of those States could not be regarded as complete or satisfactory. If this narrow limitation is imposed the Board will completely fail in the purpose for which it is to be created, and it will not be in a position to advise Parliament on the very many matters upon which information is desired.
– It it were to visit Perth the train fares of the members, a secretary and typist, would be £153 without any other expenditure.
– That is a point to which I directed attention the other day.
– If the Board does its work on the limited amount suggested, it will be very inexpensive. . I prefer the matter to be left in the hands of the Minister for Trade and Customs, who will have to administer the measure when it becomes law. If the Board fails in its purpose the responsibility must rest upon this Chamber for refusing to provide sufficient funds to enable it to effectively carry on its work.
– I have listened attentively to the discussion, and I am sure that the Committee do not want to hamper the inquiries by the Board. I do not agree with a great deal that has been said concerning the need for granting extra money, and I am not in favour of the appointment of three permanent men. I do not see why’ two business men, each receiving £1,250 a year, should be appointed when the Minister,’ who should be well-informed, said that the members of the Board would not be required to sit more than two or three times a week. The Minister for Repatriation (Senator E. D”. Millen) has said that the Board may be required to sit three times a week at the outset, when the work is being organized. That may be so, but I direct the attention of the Committee to the fact that the Tariff has been in operation for about eighteen months, and there have been no suggestions in this direction. Everything seems to be proceeding satisfactorily ^ without this extra expenditure.
– Honorable senators have been deluged with correspondence.
– In con’nexion with higher or lower duties only.
– Yes. I have not received any correspondence advocating the appointment of a Tariff Board. The commercial men of the community are not asking for the appointment of such a body, and I believe that they desire freedom of action as far as possible. I rose merely in response to the persuasive powers of the Minister for Repatriation who is, I believe, prepared to accept my amendment if the amount is increased to £4,000.
– Why not make it £5,000?
– If we are going to do that, we might as well wipe out the Beard altogether. I believe the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) said that the expenditure would not exceed £3,000; but to meet the wishes of the Minister, I am prepared to amend my amendment by substituting the word “Four” for “Three.”
– The honorable senator’s amendment does not express much confidence, in the Minister.
– If one wished to imply a want of confidence in the Minister, I should leave it to Senator Crawford, because I have not shown any lack of confidence in Ministers, but only a desire to curtail expenditure.
Amendment amended accordingly.
– The Vice-President of the Executive Council (Senator Russell) and I are prepared to accept the amendment as amended, but it must be understood that we cannot say- what the Board is to cost* within a pound or two one way or the other. The margin now allowed seems reasonably sufficient, and it cannot be said that by limiting the expenditure to £4,000 we will be paralyzing the Board before it commences. If it is found that the amount is exceeded, and that more money is required, say, for travelling expenses, the Government will have to con sider whether they will approach Parliament for a special travelling allowance, or compel the Board to stay at home. If it is the wish of the Committee, the Government will accept the amendment as amended.
.- I am sorry the Minister for Repatriation (Senator E. D. Millen) has compromised, as it is quite evident that the explanation given by the Minister in the first place was absolutely correct when he said that there were other ways of killing a dog instead -of choking it with melted butter. It is quite evident that it is the desire of some to cripple the activities of the Board.
– I do not think that £4,000 could be regarded in the same light as £3,000.
– No; but it is absolutely impossible for the Minister or any one else, at this period, to estimate the expenditure of the Board. It will have a great deal to do. Senator Wilson has said that he had not received any requests, from manufacturers or importers for such a Board; but the honorable senator must remember that the Board is to work in the interests of the people generally, and not only on behalf of one section of the community. The consumers of this country are clamouring for investigations concerning the prices charged for goods on which heavy duties have been imposed, and the object of the Board is to see that the people arc treated fairly. I can quite understand that the people to whom Senator Wilson refers do not want any investigations. “
– I resent that insinuation, because I have not received communications from anybody to that effect.
– The honorable senator said that he had not received any communications.
– Not advocating the appointment of a Board.
– No, because the manufacturers and importers desire to be left alone.
– I have not received correspondence from any one concerning a. Board.
– No, because the people with whom the honorable senator is associated do not want any interference. The Board is not being created for the benefit of manufacturers and importers; but to see that the prices charged are fair and in the interests of consumers. That is what we are up against, and for the first year we cannot say how extensive the operations of the Board will be. I have . sufficient confidence in the Government to believe that if the Board becomes reckless in the expenditure of money its operations will be curtailed.
– If it has the money it will spend it.
– What could the Board spend recklessly between now and the time when we shall have the opportunity of reviewing its work? I desire to give the Board a free hand in the important duties it has to perform, and I will hold the Government responsible for seeing that there is no extravagance in the expenditure. I do not want to be told later that the Board has not done anything because this Committee was too parsimonious to give it sufficient money to carry on. I am opposed to the amendment as amended. I hold the Ministry responsible for the proper care of. expenditure and they will be called upon to account for any extravagance of which the Board may be guilty. I am sorry that the Minister has accepted the amendment.
– The honorable senator will admit that £4,000 is better than £3,000.
– I do not know, and the Ministry do not know what expenditure will be necessary, and how far these investigations will require to be carried.
– The honorable senator desires us to give the Board a. blank cheque.
– I desire the Senate to show the confidence in the Ministrywhich we ought to show. If we desire an inquiry into the conduct of the different protected enterprises, and to protect the people against imposition, we should create a Board and hold the Government responsible for the expenditure in connexion with it. Honorable senators, ask the Government to accept responsibility for governing the country and then say that they shall not expend more than a certain amount.
– Surely we have the responsibility of legislation.
– Undoubtedly we have, and that function we are performing to-night. We are creating a Board.
– The honorable senator is arguing that to every Bill the Government bring before the Senate we must say “ Yes.”
– The honorable senator is perfectly wrong, as usual. The majority of senators have agreed to the principles contained in the Bill; they believe that a Board should be created to perform certain functions, and now the minority, who desired to defeat the Bill in the first place, are endeavouring to make theBoard useless by restricting the expenditure upon its work.-
– Did not a majority of senators vote in favour of the Bill only because they thought it could be amended into useful shape?
– I am not a thought reader. I know that a majority of the Senate voted in favour of the Bill, and I, personally, am- strongly in favour of it. Unless the benefits conferred by the Tariff can be properly controlled Protection will be no good to the people of Australia. In order that the Protectionist policy may be a success there must be some tribunal, such as the proposed Board, to see that the people are not imposed upon, and that tribunal muss be allowed sufficient money for the purposes of its work. However, as the Minister has agreed to accept the amendment, I suppose I am only beating the wind by opposing it.
Amendment, as amended, agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 9 to 11 agreed to.
Clause 12 -
.- The Board is to consist of three members, and if the chairman is given a casting vote as well as a deliberative vote he will be placed in a dominating position.: When there is a. full meeting of the Board the view of -two- out of the three members will prevail, and there’ will be no need for a casting vote, but this- clause provides that two members shall constitute a quorum, and in the event of disagreement the chairman may exercise a casting vote. If that provision is adhered to the second member df the Eoard might as well not attend the meeting, because it is certain that the view of the chairman will be carried. I therefore move -
That the words “ and in the event of an equality of voting a second or casting- vote” be left out:
If that amendment is agreed to, the effect will be that when at a meeting attended by only two members of the Board there is a difference of opinion the question will be decided in the negative, and can be revived at a full meeting of the Board.
-That will give the domination to the person who is voting in the -negative.
– The position will be much the same as that in the Full Court ; when two members disagree, the third, at a full meeting of the Board, will hold the balance. If the Board were larger, and the quorum consisted of four or six members, the chairman might very well be given a casting vote, but, according to this clau.se, the chairman himself will constitute half the quorum, and as he may exercise two votes he will absolutely dominate the meeting.
– In that event, the business member of the Board would carry no weight at all.
– He might be strenuously opposed to the chairman, but as the chairman has two votes his will must prevail, whilst if the second member should be in agreement with the chairman, his presence would not be necessary. The amendment will mean that the chairman shall have a deliberative vote, and that when the voting is equal, which can only be at a meeting of two members, the question should be resolved in the negative.
.- In the circumstances indicated by Senator Earle, tire chairman- would be supreme, but if the amendment- is accepted it may lead to a large duplication of the work of the Board. A lengthy discussion at a meeting of two members of the Board would, in the event of a disagreement, require to be repeated at a meeting of the full Board.
– Which might not occur for months if one member was ill.
– There is a great deal in what Senator Earle has said in regard to the inadvisability of allowing the chairman to dominate a meeting attended by only himself and another member. I do not know whether it would not be advisable to provide for only full meetings of the Board. If the clause did not make provision for two members to form a quorum, the Board could meet only when three members were available.
– I am entirely in agreement with Senator Earle’s amendment. I should like to see the clause amended . by the omission of sub-clause 3. The Board is to comprise three members who,no doubt, will be men enjoying the confidence of the Minister, the Parliament, and the country, and with such a Board the chairman should not be given a casting vote. According to the clause, he is to have a deliberative as well as a casting vote when only he and another member are present. I do not think that the vote of the chairman should dominate the other member in the absence of the third member. I see no necessity for giving a chairman of “ a Board of three’ a casting vote, and I shall vote for- the amendment in the hope that lie Government will see their way clear to strike out the whole of sub-clause 3.
– Many of the matters which the Board will be called upon to decide will be of a minor character, having to do, for example, with calculations over unimportant articles of import, which are now dealt with by the Minister alone. It would be absurd to require such trivialities to be re-investigated if there should be lack of unanimity between the two members of the Board who chanced, to be present at a meeting.
– Would, it not be absurd that -any member of the Board should see fit to debate such things ?
– I have known honorable senators -to display stubbornness of mind’ and force of extended argument over very little matters - subjects which persons -outside this Parliament would not . deem worth . five minutes’ talk. -Suppose that two members of the
Board were to proceed to a distant State, the third being unable to go; or suppose that, among the three, it was decided that only two need go. If the proposal now before this Committee were adopted, it would mean, that the two travelling members could not deal with any subject effectively; or, that if they did bring it to an effective head, and the member who had “ remained behind disagreed with their finding, the whole business would have to be hung up while all three went off to make a fresh investigation.
– Why appoint a member of the Board if he will not do his job? He gets his £5 5s. per sitting.
– Assurance of payment is no guarantee of a job being done.
– Will not the fact of the appointment be a guarantee of the job being done?
– Yes, so far as the Government can conceivably provide. Naturally, no man would be appointed who could not give satisfactory proof of his ability and assurance respecting his intention faithfully to perform his duties. The Board will be only advisory. A recommendation by the Board, whether unanimous’ or reached upon the casting vote of the chairman, will not of itself do anything. Moreover, I take it that the Minister, upon receipt of a report, would require to be informed whether the recommendation submitted by the Board carried the indorsement of the whole of its members. If he were informed that a decision had been arrived at upon the casting vote of the chairman in the absence of the third member, and if he considered the’ matter of great importance, he would surely require that it should be dealt with by the full Board.
– Very often the Minister would not be advised of the fact that a third member had been absent, or that the remaining member had resisted the recommendation and had been overborne by the casting vote of the chairman.
– I think that the Minister, for his own satisfaction and security, would require to be told whether important recommendations had been unanimously indorsed, or agreed to only upon the casting vote of the chairman. Having, perhaps, more faith than some honorable senators in the common sense of Ministers, I ask the Committee to agree to the clause as it stands.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 13 and 14 agreed to.
Clause 15 -
The Minister shall refer to the Board for inquiry and report the following matters : -
– I moveThat the word’ “ shall,” line 1, be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “may in his discretion”.
Much has been said and argued regarding how inquiries are to be initiated, conducted, and reported upon. This subclause, if amended as I desire, will provide .for much more elastic working. It will not be obligatory for the Minister to refer to the Board all the many minor matters coming within his purview.
– I had somewhat similar thoughts in mind when I discussed this measure with the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene). I would point out that this, the crucial clause of the Bill, has been divided, so far as concerns reference of matters by the Minister to the Board, into two portions; and that sub-clause 1 begins with the expression “ The Minister shall refer to the Board,” while sub-clause 2 begins “ The Minister may refer to the Board.” The difference - namely, the use of the word “ shall “ in one instance and of the word “ may “ in the other - is specifically provided at the desire of the Minister for Trade and Customs. The Minister is of opinion, so far as the matters dealt with in. sub-clause 1 are concerned, that the receipt of a report from the Board should precede Ministerial action. “With respect to those dealt with under subclause 2. however, the desire is that the Minister shall have discretion. Since the Minister knows the circumstances, and is familiar with the widely embracing and very technical work of his Department, I suggest that honorable senators defer in this instance to his expressed wishes.
– But may not the whole procedure of Parliament be held up by the word ing of the clause where I desire to amend it?
– Certainly not.
– The clause says, in effect, that the Minister shall not take any action in respect of all the matters covered by sub-clause 1 until he has received a report from the Board.
– Otherwise, why have “ a Board ? .
– Why have a Parliament?
– In ninety-nine cases out of one hundred the Minister does not take action to-day until he has re ceived a report and recommendation from officials of the Customs Department.
.- If it is not to be mandatory for the Minister to refer certain matters to the Board for inquiry, what is the necessity for this Bill ? I would not have supported it but that it embraced provision whereby the Minister should submit certain matters to the Board for inquiry and report. There is nothing in this clause which can take away from Parliament the right to move in any direction desired, either in regard to the operations of the Board or the actions of the Minister. Why should the Board be appointed and a specific range of matters set forth for reference by the Minister to it, if the Minister may act independently of the Board ? If the clause were to read, “ the Minister may, in his discretion, refer to the Board “ certain matters, the Bill would be Worthless.
– If the honorable senator were to place information before the Senate, on the strength of which it resolved to recommend a reduction of rates, or an increase of duty, the Government would not be able to do anything until that subject-matter had been referred to the Board. Under such procedure the Board would be higher than Parliament.
– I cannot see that. In this clause, there is distinct discrimination with respect to the subjects to be referred to the Board. The matters covered . by sub-clause 2 are of a totally different character from those provided for in sub-clause 1. On the introduction of the Tariff, a measure of this kind was promised, in the hope that the Tariff would thus be made more acceptable to the Parliament. We were- told definitely that certain matters would be referred to the Board for inquiry, and not at the discretion of the Minister. I am glad that so many matters are set out in the mandatory portion’ of the clause. In my opinion, the instruction should be direct to the Minister from Parliament to refer certain specified matters to the Board for inquiry and report.
– To certain of the paragraphs of sub-clause 1 I take no exception. I am prepared to agree that the Minister shall refer to the Board for inquiry and report the matters mentioned in paragraphs a, b, c, andh, but there are matters mentioned in the other paragraphs which it is also imperative that he shall refer to the Board which I think should not be so referred. Far instance, paragraph g compels the Minister to refer to the Board - any proposal for the application, of the British preferential Tariff or the “‘Intermediate Tariff to any part of the British Dominions or any foreign country.
That matter is, however, primarily the business, not of the Tariff Board, but of Parliament, it being, not a minor matter for Customs administration, but a question of policy for which the Government must be responsible, and for which parliamentary sanction must subsequently be obtained. It is, I think, a matter about which it would bet preferable to say that it may than that it shall be referred to the Board. The amendment proposes to give to the Minister a wider discretion than he has under the Bill.
– Ought not the honorable senator to move the omission of the paragraph which he is quoting ?
– No. The proposal to which it refers, and other matters, may legitimately, in oertain circumstances, be referred to the Board; but, on the other hand, it may not be advisable to refer them to it. A proposal for the application of the British preferential Tariff or the intermediate Tariff to any part of the British Dominions, or any foreign country, might be the subject of negotiation between the Commonwealth and another Government, and it might be inexpedient to refer it to the Board; yet, as the clause stands, it would have to be referred. I- think that the referring of that matter, and of some of the others mentioned in the clause, should be at the discretion of the Minister.
– I would point out to Senator Duncan that the arrangement sanctioned in the clause will relieve the Minister of an enormous amount of work in the making of inquiries, and_ that he will still have the ultimate voice in determining wEat shall be done.
– The amendment would not take from: him the right to refer any matter to the Board.
– The present Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene), as the result of his experience in the Department, wishes that these matters shall be referred to the Board.
– The effect of negativing my amendment, apparently, will be that Parliament could not sanction the application of the British preferential Tariff or the intermediate Tariff to any part of the British Dominions or any foreign country until the matter had been referred by the Minister to the Tariff Board for inquiry and report.
Sitting suspended from6.30 to 8 p.m.
.- I move. -
That after sub-paragraph (i) of paragraph (h)of sub-clause 1 the following new subparagraph be inserted : - “ (iA) failing to prevent unnecessarily high prices being charged to the consumer’ for goods manufactured by him; or”.
My object is to prevent the middleman making exorbitant profits upon goods which are Australian made. Of course, it may be argued that the manufacturer can- exercise no control over goods after they have left his factory.
– Neither can he.
– I think that he can. If the dealings of a manufacturer . with his agents were open to inquiry by the Board, he would necessarily include in his contract of sale a provision that the goods purchased from him should be sold by the middleman at a reasonable profit upon the price which the latter had paid for them. We can just as easily insure that result as we can insist upon the manufacturer selling at a reasonable profit in the first instance. In the absence of such a provision, the entire object of the Bill will be defeated. Laws are passed for the purpose of controlling the dishonest citizen, not for the purpose of controlling, the honest one. If everybody would do the right thing, there would be no need for Acts of Parliament. The latter are intended to act as a deterrent to people who are prone to wrongdoing. If the manufacturers’ responsibility is to cease the moment his goods leave his own factory,’ what virtue is there in the Bill ?
– Does the honorable senator propose to make the manufacturer responsible for the acts of his agents ?
– I propose to insure that goods produced by Australian manufacturers shall be sold to the consumer at reasonable prices. ‘
– The honorable senator wishes to provide that goods manufactured in Melbourne shall be sold at a reasonable price in the Northern Territory.
– I do not suggest that it will be possible to give effect to my amendment in cases in which only small quantities of goods are sold by the manufacturer. But merchants usually purchase in large quantities, and it will be quite easy for the manufacturer to insist that, in their distribution, the retailers shall be content with a reasonable profit. In. the absence of some such provision, what would be easier than for a manufacturer to sell his goods to a merchant at, say, a. profit of 10 per cent, upon the cost of production, and to agree to permit the merchant to make a profit of 50 per cent, or 100 per cent., which they should share between them?
– If the manufacturer does that there is power in the Customs Tariff Bill under which the Minister may reduce the duty upon any article.
– But would the manufacturer be likely to come to the Minister and tell him of such a conspiracy? The Board can only prevent the result which I fear by carefully watching the prices charged by retailers for any particular class of goods. .
– The honorable senator’s amendment would make the manufacturer police the retailer.
– Very largely. The Minister has power to instruct the Board to inquire into the question of whether a manufacturer is charging unnecessarily high prices for his goods. That presupposes that the purpose of the Bill is to prevent the public being exploited by the manufacturer, who- has been protected by the Tariff. In the absence of some such safeguard as that which I propose, the manufacturer would be able to charge exorbitant prices for his goods. I am aware that under our Constitution we cannot directly control the middleman.
– There- is provision in the Bill that the manufacturer must sell his goods to anybody who is prepared to purchase them.
– The provision in the Bill is that the Board may be empowered to inquire into any instance in which a manufacturer refuses to sell to a particular individual. If my amendment be adopted, the manufacturer will not be : compelled to supply even £50 worth of goods to a retailer or merchant unless he has their assurance that they, in their turn, will sell those goods at a reasonable profit. I believe that tradespeople should be allowed to make a reasonable profit. But whilst affording every protection tothe manufacturer against the competition of cheaper goods from the outside world, it is the duty of this Parliament to see that the general public are not robbed.
– Will the honorable senator be good enough to define what is meant by “ unnecessarily high prices “ ?
– I cannot lay down any hard-and-fast rule. Considerable elasticity must be allowed. This Parliament cannot say what would be a reasonable price to charge for any article. -The question of the capital employed in the industry’, the cost of the raw materials, and other factors, would require to be taken into consideration. Consequently the Board, in making its report, would have to exercise the widest discretion. I regard my amendment as a very important one, because if some effort be not made to. prevent the exploitation of the people, the Bill will prove ineffective. I recognise that if I were speaking in opposition to the amendment I could raise many objections to it. I could urge that it would be impossible to follow the goods into general consumption, inasmuch as they might change hands several times before they left Flinders-lane. Nevertheless, if protection is to be granted to the manufacturer, some endeavour should be made to protect the interests of the general consumer.
– I understand that another honorable senator has a prior and more- comprehensive amendment to move.
Amendment temporarily withdrawn.
– I desire to move that the whole of paragraph h of sub-clause 1 be left out, but I realize that if I were to move that amendment now the most objectionable portion of the paragraph, namely, sub-paragraph iv., could not be dealt with subsequently if my original amendment were defeated. I therefore propose to deal with the paragraph piecemeal.
– I should lite to make a suggestion. I am certain that every honorable senator, whilst claiming his full, right to have considered the amendment that he desires to move, has no wish to shut out any one else from exercising a similar right.
-brockman. - Not at all.
– Then I suggest that the honorable senator should merely move to omit the words “ any complaint that a manufacturer is taking undue advantage of the ‘protection afforded to him by the Tariff and in’ particular “. If the Committee decided that those words should stand, it would still be free for an honorable senator to move amendments in the sub-paragraphs. On the other hand, if the amendment were agreed to, it would then be competent for the honorable senator taking the . passing of his amendment as an indication that the Committee wished to strike out the whole of the paragraph to move to that effect.
– I think the suggestion made by the Minister (Senator E. D. Millen) is a good one. I therefore move -
That in paragraph h of sub-clause 1 the words, “ any complaint that a manufacturer is taking undue advantage of the protection afforded him by the Tariff, and in particular “ be left out.
I have no desire to limit the discussion by dealing at once with the whole ques-; tion, but, as a matter of fact, I desire to secure the elimination of the whole of paragraph h of sub-clause 1. My reasons are twofold. In the first place, I think the retention of such a provision is of no use from a legal point of view, and that whatever pious hopes we may have that we shall be able to deal with the profiteer, we shall never really catchhim; My second reason is that I object to the harassing of manufacturers and others by these methods. The best way to deal with the profiteer is to encourage competition. Where there is sufficient competition there is no profiteering. If the Tariff is so shaped that it will create a monopoly, and, therefore, profiteers-
– Which it must do.
– As it may do; let us alter the Tariff and deal with the profiteer in that way. If it is desired to deal with the profiteer-
– We all said on the hustings at the last general election that we would kill, the profiteer.
– We all told the electors that we had not the power to deal with him, and yet with the object of destroying the profiteer we are proceeding in paragraph h to set up machinery which must be entirely ineffective. We asked the electors to agree to an amendment of the Constitution giving us the necessary power to deal with the profiteer. We said that this foul fiend was rampaging over Australia, and that we desired to destroy him ; but that, in order that we might do so, the electors -themselves must agree to give us the necessary power. That is what the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) told the electors, and what we repeated all over Australia. Many people became very eloquent as they held up this bogy, which they then proceeded to knock down, and I think that in that way they got a lot of votes. The electors, in their wisdom, decided not to give the Parliament the power to deal with the profiteer, and we have not the power to-day to deal with him. In 1911, under the Royal Commissions Act, letters patent were issued to a Commission to inquire into the sugar industry. The Commission, acting under the powers conferred on it, called before it certain witnesses - directors and other officials of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. These officials refused to give the information that was demanded of them. It was in 1912 that the issue arose, and, after several appeals, the case went to the Privy Council, which decided that the Federal Parliament had not the authority to vest a Royal Commission with the powers of inquiry claimed in this case. We are now endeavouring to establish the same machinery for the same purpose, although the highest legal authority has already decided that no such power exists under the Constitution of Australia. The original Royal Commissions Act, which, I think, was passed in 1902, purported to give certain powers of inquiry to Royal Commissions to whom letters patent were issued.’ That original Act was not as wide in its terms as the Constitution permitted, and finally, in 1912, in order to get over the difficulty ;hat had arisen with the Colonial Sugar Defining Company, Parliament passed an amending Bill enabling Royal Commissions to make inquiry into and report upon matters specified in the letters patent, and which related to or were connected with “ the peace, order, and good government of the Commonwealth,” or any public purpose, or any power of the Commonwealth. There the exact wording of section 51 of the Constitution was followed. The powers vested in Royal Commissions under that Act were as wide as could possibly be granted under the Constitution, but the Privy Council decided that there was not the necessary authority under the Constitution to grant those powers of inquiry. In this case we are either proposing to give to this Board the whole power to make inquiries that is granted us under the Constitution or something less. We can grant no greater power than the Constitution itself gives.
– Does the honorable senator say that the Constitution does not give lis the power of inquiry 1
– I say deliberately that the power to inquire into profiteering still .remains with the States, and not with the Commonwealth. We must not forget that this is a Federation of sovereign States. Sovereign powers were vested in all the States, and they in turn surrendered a portion of their powers to the Commonwealth. Any power that is not set out in the Commonwealth Constitution is still retained by the States. The Commonwealth Constitution, as I understand it, does not give to the Federal Parliament the power to deal with profiteering. That position seemed to be clearly understood on the occasion of the last general election. If we had this power why did we ask the electors to amend the Constitution ?
– In order that we might have more ample powers.
– And the people of the Commonwealth turned down the proposed amendments of the
Constitution. Senator Guthrie, who is a very conscientious man, promised the electors, as he has so often told us, that he would do his utmost to destroy the profiteer. That being so,- he naturally desires to support any proposition purporting to deal with profiteering. Ministers may be honestly desirous of doing the same thing, but I do not believe in political “ eyewash.” Since” I do not consider that these powers will be effective, I do not believe in putting them in the Bill. There are many directions in which the Board within the limits imposed by this Committee can carry out very useful work.
– Does the honorable senator think that the deletion of the paragraph providing for the exercise of these powers would make any difference?
– BROCKMAN. - Under paragraph h of sub-clause 1 as it stands, we have the Board armed with a big stick. It will shake it in the face of the little man who dare not fight it; but the moment it runs up against the big man - the man whom we want to get at - he will tell it to go elsewhere. If they endeavour to compel him, he will take them to the Court, and still refuse to answer, and fight them right up to the Privy Council. The clause will have the effect of harassing the little man and will be harmless to the big man. It will not effect the purpose for which it is designed. It will not enable effective inquiries to be made in order to ascertain if the big man is a profiteer or not. Let us therefore take it out of the Bill. Even if it were constitutional, I should still like to see it taken out, because I believe the best way to deal with the profiteer is by competition.
– We might have Combines instead of competition.
– If they form Combines, we must cut out the protection for that particular industry.
– That is exactly what the Bill proposes to do.
– But that is the function of Parliament. It is one of the things which the Constitution allows; but the Constitution does not allow ‘us to examine the manufacturer’s books or compel him” to answer questions about his business.
– What conclusion would the honorable senator come to if the man refused to answer?
– I would conclude thathe did not desire me to know what his business was. If he was theonly manufacturer in the whole of Australia in that particular line, we could say “ We will deal Avith you by cutting out the duty.” But if he were only one of a hundred all over Australia-
– And they all refused to answer?
-And if they all refused to answer; as they might very well do, we could treat them as one man, ifwe had gone to them all ; but that would be a tremendous inquiry, and we have allowed the Board a maximum of only £4,000 a year. We have limited the scope of their inquiry by the amount of money Ave have allowed them.
– The honorable senator’s time has expired.
.- I do not propose to set up my opinion as a layman against that of Senator DrakeBrockman, Avho has Avide legal knowledge, but I should like it to be made clear whether the powers enumerated, in this clause can be in any way compared Avith the powers whichwere sought some time ago in the proposed amendments of the Constitution.
-brockman. - Those powers were much wider.
– The powers asked for at the referendum bad no limitation as regards trade and commerce. The clause provides that the Minister shall refer certain specified matters to the Board for inquiry and report. We are not asked to consent to that proposal in order that we may curtail trade or fix prices. We are asked to give power to the Minister to refer those matters to the Board so that the Minister may be informed, from the inquiries made by the Board, whether the protection afforded by the Tariff has been abused ot respected by the manufacturers. That is the point on which I stand. The four inquiries that may be made under the clause are as follow : -
That means unnecessarily high prices for his goods, taking into consideration the Tariff which protects him.
That would mean the storing up of goods so as to limit the output to the consuming public in order’ to keep the price up, at the same time having the advantage of the high Protective duty given by Parliament.
All these points have an intimate connexion with the protection which is afforded to the manufacturer under the Tariff.
I have given notice of -an amendment to the fourth sub-paragraph, which I want to modify and make applicable to the class of people that it Avas intended to cover when drafted. With all respect to the draftsman, I must say it Avas drafted very faultily indeed. With these ideas in my mind, I cannot agreewith Senator Drake-Brockman that we can treat the clause in the way that he suggests on the ground that it has been ruled by the Privy Council that Ave have no power to interfere with trade or commerce in the States. The Minister is not asking for power to ‘ interfere with trade or commerce. He asks for power to refer to the Board for inquiry and report anything which is happening under the protection afforded by Parliament in the Tariff to certain industries - anything unfair to the community in whose interests that Protective Tariff Avas imposed.
-brockman.- That is quite true, but you do not get over the constitutional difficulty.
– I cannot see where any constitutional difficulty can be involved. The constitutional difficulty to which the honorable senator referredwas in connexion with the interference with trade- within the States.
-brockman. - It was nob. It was the endeavour to inquire into the undertakings of an Australian company.
– For what purpose?
-brockman. - That does not matter.
– Any Court would take into consideration the purpose for which an inquiry was instituted.
– It was a question of the power of a Royal Commission to compel a witness to give certain evidence.
– In dealing with the Bill at this juncture, we are the highest Court in the land. If we feel that it will not be fair to the people of Australia to impose Protective duties without having legislative provision to insure that undue advantage will not be taken of the Tariff, we are entitled to pass a clause of this kind, and to leave the High Court to settle any disputes that may arise.
-brockman. - Apart from the desire to deal with the profiteer, is it possible to do so?
– I believe there is a possibility of doing a great deal in that direction. Surely there is a possibility of making inquiry to ascertain whether, through the protection that the Tariff affords, any manufacturer is charging unnecessarily high prices to the consumer for the goods he makes.
– Which they are doing every day, and we all know it.
– I do not say that all are doing it, but some have been doing it for a long time. I shall produce, later, a piece of evidence which will prove what I say in regard to some of them, at all events. If the Tariff Board finds, from evidence obtained-
– How are they going to compel that evidence to be given ?
– There may be no power to compel the manufacturer to give evidence ; but I take it that the Board will have no difficulty in obtaining all the evidence necessary to prove such a case if it exists. If it is found that unnecessarily high prices are being charged, simply because we, in our liberality, have highly protected the particular industry concerned, all that the Tariff Board can do is to report to the Minister. If theMinister recommends to Parliament an amendment of the Tariff so as to take away a portion of the protection which has been afforded to that industry, surely that is a reasonable, and, in fact, the only, course to pursue ? As regards action in restraint of trade, it may be possible for people who have, no scruples - probably they form a very small minority - so to act in restraint of trade as to prevent the necessary quantity of a particular commodity being distributed amongst the people in order to keep the price at a high level.
– What if a man held his crop of apples for a profit?
– The honorable senator should know that no man would hold a perishable crop for any length of time.
– What if he held his crop of wheat?
– Is there a high Protective duty on wheat ? There may be many ways in which a manufacturer can operate to cause unnecessarily high prices to be charged to the consumer for his goods. The last sub-paragraph, regarding refusal to sell to any person goods to the value of £50 at current market rates, is most important. . It was included, I take it, with the object of insuring that the consumer should be able to obtain his goods at reasonable prices; that is, reasonable compared with the cost of manufacture. It is a wise provision; but I cannot agree to its present wording. Its only object must be to enable any person bonâ fide engaged in business to obtain his supplies direct from the manufacturer. In the majority of cases retailers are obtaining their supplies direct from the manufacturer in Australia to-day. In fact, in the great majority of cases any bonâ fide retailer can obtain from the majority of manufacturers the goods he requires if he will take them in wholesale quantities, but, unfortunately, there is a section of manufacturers who have barred and locked the door.
– Is not the honorable senator anticipating his own amendment?
– No. I am speaking in support of the retention of the four sub-paragraphs I have enumerated. The amendment would cut them all out.
– Not necessarily.
– I apologize if I have transgressed. I have said enough to show that I am not convinced of the wisdom of the amendment, I shall be only too happy to listen to anything further that can be said in favour of it, but at present I cannot support it.
– Senator Drake-Brockman has raised a question as to the constitutional power professed to be conferred by the Bill. I always hesitate to undertake what may be considered the presumptuous task of expressing an opinion at variance with that of legal gentlemen on a point of law ; but I venture to do so now if only for the purpose of pressing further the inquiry the honorable senator has originated. I understand the honorable senator to say that we have not the constitutional power to conduct the inquiries which are authorized by the Bill.
– No; I say that we have not the constitutional power to compel answers to the inquiries.
– I draw attention to the fact that that is all the clause does; it does not follow that inquiries themselves will be ‘followed by any action. All that is sought is authority to compel answers to questions put by the Board. Apart from his interpretation of the Constitution, I take it that the honorable senator is relying on the Privy Council decision in the case against the Colonial Sugar Refining Company.
– May I suggest that the honorable senator mainly relies on that decision 1
– It seemed to me, in following the honorable senator in his references to the case, that he did make that decision his sheet anchor.
– I was stopped after having spoken for a quarter of an hour.
– I have no doubt that the honorable senator would have said much more but for the time limit. I desire to point out what appears to me to be the effect of the decision. As I read the decision, it does not say that all the inquiries were wrong ; but that the inquiry was wrong. It may be that out of a dozen questions, eleven may be within the competence of the person putting them, and the other one not. There are questions authorized in the Bill to which answers are required/ and which, I think, are undoubtedly within our constitutional rights. I do not suggest that there may not be hidden in the questions, here and there, some which might be held to be outside our power, and I am relying for support in that opinion .on the decision of our own High Court. Section 15b of the Australian Industries Preservation Act 1906-1910, which I shall quote presently, seems to me to raise the whole point: Have we the power to press an inquiry to the extent of compelling an answer? The part of the Act which the section covers deals with monopolies, and the action taken, first, by inquiry, and ultimately by prosecution. It reads - 15b (1) If (l>) the Comptroller-General believes that an offence lias been committed, against this part of this Act, or if a complaint has been made in writing to the ComptrollerGeneral that an offence has been committed against this part of this Act, and the ComptrollerGeneral believes that the offence lias been committed, he may, by writing under his hand, require any person (c) whom he believes to bo capable of giving any information in relation to the alleged offence to answer questions and to produce documents to Hum or to some person named by him in relation to the alleged offence.
That, I submit, is entirely parallel to the case presented in the Bill.
– But that was tested before the Privy Council, also in the Adelaide Steam-ship Company’s case, and it was held to be ultra vires.
– The honorable senator says so; but I wish to continue the quotation. Appended to that section in the Commonwealth Consolidated Acts is a note -
Act, the, power as well as the purpose of the section is exhausted, so . far as regards the persons whom the Attorney-General alleges to have committed the offence for which he prosecutes, whether they are parties to the “suit or not, and the section does not empower thi Comptroller-General to put questions for the purpose of collecting evidence in a pending suit. Melbourne Steamship Co. Ltd.v. Moorehead (1912), 18 A.L.R., 533.
– What was the date of that decision ?
– It was given in 1912.
– It was in 1912 that, on an appeal in the Adelaide Steam-ship Company’s case, the Privy Council upset that decision.
– In spite of the conflict between our own High Court and the Privy Council our Crown Law officers still regard the decision of our own High Court as sound law, and elect to stand by it. Putting that on one side, and recognising that the Privy Council is the highest authority, I still say there are certain questions which the Privy Council has not said we cannot ask. The Privy Council has said there are some questions we cannot ask, but there is still a wide field of questions on which neitherthePrivy Council nor any other Court has given any authoritative decision. We are giving a large . measure of Protection; and surely Parliament ought to have the right by inquiry to find out the effect of the operation of the Tariff? Parliament ought to be in a position to ascertain how far the purposes for which it imposed the Tariff are being achieved, or the contrary. To me it would seem a. violation of common sense to say that Parliament, having passed this Tariff, cannot collect the information necessary to enable it to ascertain whether or not it is achieving its purpose. Senator Drake-Brockman will admit that, at least, common sense is required. The honorable senator would be the last to say that Parliament should legislate, and, having legislated, should refrain from taking every opportunity to acquaint itself with the results of its action. Our own Law officers advise us definitely and clearly on the point. It may bo that some day a lawyer may arise and question the constitutionality of some Act, but in the meantime we have the assurance of our own Law officers; and, in view of the common-sense aspect I have presented, I trust honorable senators will retain in the Bill the provision which Senator DrakeBrockman seeks to leave out.
– I think’ there is a good deal in the aspect of the case which the Minister (Senator E. D. Millen) has put beforeus. Rightly or wrongly, constitutionally and legally or otherwise, some of the provisions in this Bill, even if they are only pious aspirations, should remain in connexion with attempted inquiries, at all - events, into the incidence of very high duties when they operate harshly against the consumer through the manufacturer, who thereby, perhaps, obtains a monopoly.
– Does not paragraph d of sub-clause 1 give all the power necessary ?
– Probably it does. If carried out rightly it would probably give all the power which the words the honorable senator seeks to strike out gives; to that extent it is a repetition.
– Just so.
– But I do not see very much to object to in paragraph h, and sub-paragraphs i, ii, and iii. While referring to these, I should like to say a word or two on the amendment moved by Senator Earle, an amendment which raises the whole question of how far it is desirable for this Parliament to go in the direction of grandmotherly legislation, which tries to follow everything from the manufacturer to the man, woman, or child who eats, wears, or uses the manufactured article.
– Protection is grandmotherly legislation !
– I disagree with that interjection; Protection is for the purpose, primarily, of giving work to our own people by taking it out of the hands of foreigners. But I am not going to support or approve of any legislation in the direction of further price-fixing. The amendment of Senator Earle, in effect, seeks to follow the goods from the manufacturer to the wholesaler or distributer, and to do so from Cape York to the Leeuwin. I think the manufacturer may fairly say, if he is treating distributers in a reasonable way, “ I am not my brother’s keeper.” Neither do I think it legal or constitutional in any shape or form for this Parliament to interfere with the retail trade of the Commonwealth. It may be of interest to honorable senators to have an illustration of what may go on if we’ approve of any grandmotherly legislation by means of this clause.
– Can the honorable senator tell us what goes on now?
– Yes ; I can give an illustration of what went on quite recently in the much-lauded but very ineffective State Profiteering Court of New South “Wales.. A little while ago that Court met, not for the first time, in nil the regalia at its disposal, Avith Judge, counsel, attendants, and so forth. On that particular morning the first case was one in which a firm was charged with having bought boots at 3s. 6d. a pair and resold them at 5s. lid., thereby allegedly making Sd. more profit that it was entitled to. These were children’s boots, with white uppers, apparently, a fancy line. There was a solicitor and a leading barrister of the junior Bar retained for the defence, while the departmental officers, or so-called “Profiteering Inspectors,” with another leading barrister of the junior Bar, appeared for the Crown - and all about boots which were alleged to have been sold at an extra profit of 8d. Toward? the end of the hearing a witness, who had been hurried over from Melbourne at the la3t minute, was called, and deposed that he sold these particular boots to the Sydney firm at 3s. 6d. a pair. In cross-examination, however, he went on to say that the boots formed part of an assigned estate, and that their value to the manufacturers at the time was 4s. 7d. On that evidence it immediately became apparent to the Court, and the learned counsel on both sides, that the Sydney firm had sold the boots at 5d. a pair under, instead of 8d. over the market price. The President of the Court, in the circumstances, decided that justice would be met by adjourning the case sine die, and the Department might, in view of the evidence disclosed, institute an inquiry into what was a fair profit for boot retailers to make. The result was that two barristers were engaged for two days, probably at £20 per day- that is £80 - and the solicitors’ and other legal costs, which are usually approximate to those of the barristers, would be another £80, so that it cost £160 to obtain the information that a retailer had sold boots at 5d. per pair below, instead of Sd. above, the proper price as was alleged. I may quote another illustration of what is going on in this much-boosted Labour Government Profiteering Court to show tha ludicrous position which legislation that some honorable senators support would lead to. An inquiry was held into a trade association which had already been twice inquired into, and in connexion with which no action had hitherto been taken. The President of the Court expressed the opinion that there was no charge against the trade association, but that the inquiry _ was merely to ascertain whether ils activities were contrary to the public interest. The association was originally represented by its honorary secretary, who was a business man engaged in the trade. The ‘ New South Wales Government secured the services of the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan), with a junior barrister to assist him, and when the secretary of the trade association saw these legal luminaries arrayed against him he asked for an adjournment to obtain legal assistance, as he felt overawed by the talent confronting him. The case lasted three days, and the President of the Court then said that he would submit bis report to the New South Wales Government. Although the inquiry was held several months ago, the report has not yet been made public, as presumably the President of the Court found that the operations of the association were quite legitimate. But this decision was arrived at only after three inquiries had been made into the operations of this organization. The cost to the Crown may be summarized approximately in this way : One King’s Counsel, £50 for the first day, with two refreshers each at £30, making £110, and the juniors, who would receive, say, a total of £50.
– They would get two-thirds of the amount received by the seniors.
– I am glad to have the correction. In addition to the expenses incurred by the Crown, the apparent harmless association was mulct to the extent of £60 in barristers’ fees, and probably a similar amount for solicitors’ expenses.
-brockman. - Notwithstanding that, the honorable senator is opposing my amendment.
– If a similar inquiry were conducted under this provision, say, into the boot trade,’ it would probably cost £1,000, and the resultswould be about as valuable as those I have mentioned.
– We are endeavouring to create more difficulties by passing this provision.
– I can agree with the honorable senator to some extent; but this Parliament has the power to conduct Tariff investigations, irrespective of decisions of the Privy Council and the High Court, or of the provisions of the Constitution. We can deal with Tariff duties up or down at our discretion, and Parliament should be informed if unfair advantage is being taken by those whom it is framed to protect. The clause may, as Senator Drake-Brockman suggests, be merely a pious aspiration; but we have the power to constitute a Board, or a Court of Inquiry, which will be effective. If the Board commenced an inquiry in connexion with the incidence of high Tariff rates, and those who are protected refused to answer questions submitted, they would incur the risk of Parliament reducing the duties, and thus effectively controlling their profits within Australia. That would, at all events, have a moral effect, and would assist in carrying out the intentions of the clause.
– I agree with the legal position (submitted by Senator Drake-Brockman concerning our powers, or lack of powers, to compel witnesses to produce documents, or to give evidence before a Court of Inquiry. That was clearly proved in the case of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. I also agree with the Minister for Repatriation (Senator E. D. Millen), who said that we should take a commonsense view, and for that reason I intend to vote against Senator DrakeBrockman’s amendment. Perhaps I may be able to submit a little additional information on the’ matter by saying that, in the Sugar case, decided by the Privy Council, the whole industry was being inquired into, including the question of price-fixing. According to sub-paragraph i of paragraph h of sub-cla.use 1, the Minister shall refer to the Board for inquiry and report questions relating to the charging of unnecessarily high prices for goods. The object of that provision is not to punish the manufacturer for fixing unduly high _ prices, but to regulate the incidence of the Tariff, and if a manufacturer is guilty of charging unnecessarily high prices. Parliament can punish him by reducing the duties. That power is reserved to-‘ Parliament, because we can increase, re-. ellice, or repeal duties, and that is the chief intention in appointing a Tariff Board. We desire to give the Board power to see if injustice is being done to the consumers, and the duty then devolves upon Parliament of altering the* Tariff.
Senator Earle proposes to move tor amend the sub-paragraph by adding the words “ failing to prevent unnecessarily bigh prices being charged to the consumer.”
– The honorable senator will be in order in making a brief reference to a proposed amendment; but he cannot discuss it at length at this juncture.
– I was merely going to suggest, Mr. Chairman, that if Senator Earle wishes to carry his amendment - I intend to oppose it - he should add the words “or the seller of goods” after “ manufacturer.” The object is to obviate the. necessity of compelling a manufacturer to police the middleman.
– How would an amendment of the Tariff affect the seller of goods?
– It would not; bub an inquiry could then be made concerning the manufacturer or seller of goods. If the manufacturer or seller were charge ing unnecessarily high prices, the Minister could take action accordingly. If the honorable senator amends his amendment by adding those words, I shall support it; but I object to the manufacturer policing the middleman. For the reasons given, I intend to oppose Senator Drake- Brockman ‘s amendment.
– I am quite indifferent as to whether Senator Drake-Brockman’s amendment is carried or not, because I believe that if the clause is amended as desired, it will have no practical effect. Paragraph d of sub-clause 1 provides that the Minister shall refer to. the Board for inquiry and report matters relating to the necessity for new, ‘ increased, or reduced duties, and the deferment of existing or proposed deferred duties. We have already sufficient power in the preceding paragraph. Senator Drake-Brockman contends that, although Parliament may find that the Tariff is being used for aiding and abetting the exploitation of consumers, we shall have no power to take, action.
– I did riot say anything of the sort, because Parliament has the power.
– Parliament will have the power, and duties can be amended, if desired. Parliament has the power to tenable the necessary information to be obtained upon which to come to a right decision. Quite a number of inquiries have been held in connexion with Tariff matters, and I know of only one instance in which there was a complete refusal to answer certain questions, or to pursue a certain course of action, and that was in connexion with the Colonial Sugar Refining Company’s case. What action did the Sugar Commission propose to take in that case? The company took exception to the proposal of the Commission to send an accountant - who, by the way, was a German - to the company’s office with authority to go through the whole of the books and accounts, to make investigations, not only in connexion with its Australian trade, bub in regard to its operations outside Australia. The company, I think, very properly resisted. But in investigations such as this Board will be called upon to make, questions of that sort will not’ be likely to Arise. It is my intention to vote against the amendment, although I hope that, later, the Committee will agree to strike out sub-paragraph” iv. of paragraph h, sub-clause 1.
– I have already intimated that I shall move to that effect.
– It would be impossible to follow goods all over the Commonwealth to insure that in all parts, near and remote, only certain prices were charged, especially as the expenditure of :the Board has been limited to £4,000 per -.annum.
.- I support the amendment for reasons apart from the constitutional one which has been so ably put forward by Senator Drake-Brockman. The Minister for Repatriation (Senator E. D. Millen) has admitted that certain parts of this proposed legislation may be declared ultra vires. That being the case, we are, by this measure, deliberately plunging the manufacturing community into a sea of litigation.
– The honorable senator should not object to that.
– After listening to what Senator Pratten has said, I, as a lawyer, should welcome legislation of this kind; but I speak in this Chamber, not as a” lawyer, but as a senator, and in that capacity it is my duty to endeavour to protect the public, and not seek to profiteer at their expense. The Government appear to be attempting in this measure to deal with Combines. We were twitted by the Minister for Repatriation with the fact that we had supported a platform one plank in which was the protection of the consumer against exploitation, but I remind the Minister that the Constitution Alteration (Legislative Powers) Act of 1919, by which Ave sought power to effect that reform, Avas decisively rejected at a referendum of the people. Although it was provided that that Act should remain in force for only three years, the electors absolutely refused .to intrust to us the powers wc sought. I take their decision as a mandate to leave such matters strictly alone. This Bill is, in my opinion, an attempt to twist the power to im pose Customs duties into a power to deal Avith Combines in an underhand way. The electors having deliberately refused us permission to touch . such matters directly, Ave are now asked to flout their decision and carry out that portion of our platform in defiance of the people’s wish. Having been refused by the people the enlarged” powers Ave sought, the Government now seek to establish control over the people who invest their capital in establishing manufactories while disregarding altogether the people who draw their business supplies from outside Australia. Had the proposed alterations of the Constitution been sanctioned by the people, Ave should have had power to treat every trader in the community on the same footing. Having been denied those powers, we can now deal only with the Australian manufacturers.
– No such control is suggested by this clause.
– It is proposed to give the Board power to ascertain if a manufacturer is charging unnecessarily high prices.
– And it is proposed that if such is found to be the case, the duties which protect him may be reduced.
– The Board is to deal with the unfortunate person who manufactures locally, but the importer, against whom Senator Guthrie has been fulminating for years past, is to be allowed to go absolutely free.
– We cannot touch him.
– Yes; the Board could report in favour of higher duties, even to the extent of prohibition.
– There may be power in another part of the clause to do that, but it cannot be done under paragraph h of sub-clause 1. I do not know whether it is proposed under this Bill to have the Board question importers as to their business overseas, and the prices they pay for their goods in England. It seems to me that if that is so, then inasmuch as it has been held to be unconstitutional to question our own manufacturers, it must be even more unconstitutional to attempt to deal with outside Combines. The speeches of Senators Earle and Payne have indicated precisely the sort of difficulties into which we shall be forcing the manufacturers. Imagine compelling an unfortunate manufacturer, as soon as he starts in business, to make some special contract by which the purchaser shall not sell the goods, bought by him at more than a certain price.
– I did not suggest that.
- Senator Earle made that suggestion, and this clause can be of no use unless some such power is tacked on to it, because the manufacturer can dispose of his goods to a middleman and arrange to receive some sort of secret commission.
– We” cannot legislate against thieves or collusion of that kind.
- Senator Earle felt obliged to move an amendment to that effect, in order to make this clause effective. It is as full of holes as is a sieve, and in seeking to stop one of them the honorable senator would lead us into still greater difficulties. We should ir* no time be floundering in what Mr. Justice Higgins calls a “Serbonian bog.” “ I protest against this hatred of any man! ‘ who attempts to set up a manufacturing business in this country. As soon as a man starts to manufacture, he is subjected to all sorts of petty persecutions-
– He- is harassed all the time.
– We desire to give the public a little of the protection that is being given by the barrowload to the manufacturer.
– In making provision to deal with the manufacturers, why are the growers exempted? Suppose the growers combined to keep the price of wheat at 10s. per bushel.
– Is a duty imposed tokeep out imported wheat?
– Well, remove it.
– When it wasrumoured that onions were being imported from Japan, there was a general howl for protection for the local growers; yet the Board is not to inquire into his transactions, because this clause applies only to the manufacturer.
– He would be protected under paragraph d.
– If paragraph d is sufficient, there should be no objection) to the elimination of paragraph h. It is not right that one class should be treated as pariahs. Senator Pratten gave some illustrations of the difficulties that .arelikely .to arise in connexion with legislation of this sort.
– He was dealing with retailers
– The same sort of difficulties must arise in connexion with> manufacturers. I remind honorable senators that when an attempt was made to regulate the milk supply of Sydney by fixing prices, the supply ceased, and that is exactly what will happen to our manufacturer:* if those who invest their capital are. harassed in the manner proposed. Tha -manufacturers will be all right if they -can convince the Board that their prices are fair, but if they are unable to do that, ^Parliament may, following the recommendation of the Board, remove the duty which protects their industry.’ Then there will be an outcry that we have ruined the industry. If the decision of the Board should run counter to the interests of a manufacturer he would probably vent his displeasure by criticising its personnel. The interpretation of phrases contained in thi? clause may lead to interminable legal actions over such expressions, for example, as “ unreasonable prices,” and “acting in restraint of trade.”
– Who would be proceeded against - the Parliament?
– If the Board should decide that a particular action of a certain person is in restraint of trade,, the High Court might well call upon it to state a case for review in order to protect the public from unreasonable decisions.
– Order ! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
.- I am surprised at the tone of the debate. The merits of the measure appear to have been submerged in an academic and constitutional wrangle. Honorable senators have lost sight of the actual intention of the Bill. It does not propose to set up a Court for the prosecution of certain individuals.
– It does.
– No; it proposes to institute a Court of inquiry to advise the Government- .
– Brockman. - Whether punishment shall be inflicted upon certain persons by increasing, or reducing, or wiping out duties.
– If it is reported by the Board that the duties, as imposed, are inimical to the best interests of the people, it becomes the duty of the Government to consider whether the existing rates shall be retained or removed. Senator Drake-Brockman also dealt with the power of the Board to enforce answers in the course of inquiries. If the Board were investigating a report that a manufacturer had taken’ certain action which *ras considered to be prejudicial to the interests of the public, and if the manufacturer was asked what he had to say in rebuttal of the charge, and the latter said, “ I refuse to give evidence,” what would be the conclusion both of the Board and of the public? It could be no other than that the charge was justified. It would be in his own interest that a person undergoing examination should tender evidence, and he would do so.
– Naturally, unless he was guilty.
– That is so. Any one would presume a man guilty if he refused to attempt to assert his innocence.
– If no evidence were tendered, the High Court would probably restrain the Board from making a report, on the .ground of lack of evidence.
– The public would judge the individual, anyway.
– It is absurd to suggest that Parliament, which is dealing with the Tariff, should not have the power to set up a tribunal to inquire into the operations of the Tariff. And, if a person refused to give evidence in the course of an inquiry, it would be his own responsibility.
.- Senator Elliott is responsible for causing me to speak for the second time upon the amendment, in that he included Senator Earle and myself as enemies of the manufacturers. I admit that he perceived his mistake in having said so, and that he partially withdrew the accusation. I am no enemy of the manufacturers. I have always been associated with the business section of the community, and I have always wished our manufacturing interests well. At the same time I recognise my public duty, not only to the manufacturing section, but also to the consumers. The honorable senator has evidently neglected to read the clause. He suggested that, immediately upon the passage of the Bill, a system of persecution would be launched against manufacturers by the Government, at the instigation of certain parties. This clause provides that the Minister shall refer to the Board for inquiry and report any complaint that a manufacturer is taking undue advantage-of the protection afforded ‘ him by the duties which Parliament has imposed. Before the Minister can act, complaint must be lodged. The Minister would not refer to the Board every paltry complaint. He must first be satisfied that the allegation is reasonable.
– The Minister “ shall report.”
– A complaint must be lodged before any inquiry can be held.
– Lodged by any one - by a manufacturer’s business rival.
– Will not this Bill encourage blackmail?
– And Bolshevism, and every other kind of extremism ?
– When the Bill becomes operative it will insure to consumers a fair deal. There will be no need to investigate the operations of a great majority of manufacturers. Parliament does not legislate for the majority. Laws are not passed to keep the majority of the people within bounds, but to cope with a minority which is not prepared to obey the law. Whether men are manufacturers or consumers, there are always those in the community who are prepared to take down their neighbours. Parliament must deal with persons of that class. If a manufacturer is taking undue advantage of the protection which has been given to him by the Tariff, it is right that the Minister should possess the power to institute inquiries about his conduct. The Tariff cannot be what we want it to be unless machinery is provided to make it beneficial to every section in the community. I hope that the amendment will be defeated.
– I support the amendment because I believe that all that is required is provided in paragraph d of sub-clause 1. I have listened with interest to the remarks of honorable senators about the constitutional aspect of the provision. Apart from that, however, the Bill would be more workable if paragraph h were deleted. No one need be afraid of the loss of any power, seeing that paragraph d is inclusive of all that is necessary. I do not think that any section of the community should be held up as more sinful than another, and I cannot believe that the manufacturers are the only sinners in Australia. Therefore I shall support the elimination of this provision, by which we shall lose nothing and gain much.
– I am against the amendment and in favour of the proposal of the Government, because I wish to give effect to my election pledge, and to prevent the consumers of Australia from having to pay unnecessarily high prices.I therefore move -
That the Committee do now divide.
Question put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 5
There not being thirteen affirmative votes, question resolved in the negative.
.- The Committee is indebted to its legal members for their speeches on this clause, though they have not done much to help us to protect the public. I shall vote against the amendment. Within the last few days it has come to my knowledge that an article which is sold by the manufacturer for 10s. 6d. is. retailed in the shops at 22s. 6d., an increase of 125 per cent, in price. I said to the manufacturer, “Why do you not sell your goods direct to the retail shops, so that the public may benefit by getting them more cheaply?” His reply was that he dared not do that, because a traveller from a wholesale house,on calling for orders at a shop, would be sure, on seeing his goods there, to ask where the retailer had bought them.. If the retailer said that he had got them straight from the manufacturer, the traveller would inform the wholesale house of the fact. Thereupon the wholesale merchant would tell the manufacturer that be need not send any more of his ‘goods to him for sale at 10s. 6d., and wouldalso tellthe . retailer that he need not expect to -be supplied by the wholesaler, if he intended to continue buying direct from, the manufacturer. In this case there is practically a conspiracy against the manufacturer.
– And of what use in preventing it is the provision to which I object?
– Any provision that would help us to find out the facts-
– This provision will not help you to find out anything.
– -Personally, I shall welcome any machinery which is calculated to assist us in finding out the facts.
Question - That the words proposed to be left out be left out (Senator DrakeBrockman’s amendment) - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 6
Question so resolved in the negative.
. -As I am quite sure that honorable senators have made up their minds how they will vote upon the amendment of which’ I have already given notice, I shall content myself with moving
That after sub-paragraph (i) of paragraph (h), sub-clause (1), the following new . subparagraph be inserted : - “ (iA) failing to prevent unnecessarily high prices being charged to the consumer for goods manufactured by him: or.”
.- I move-
That the word, “or” in sub-paragraph (iii) of paragraph (h), sub-clause (1), and the words “ refusing to sell to any person “ in subparagraph (iv) of the same paragraph be left out.
I have previously promised that I would move for the repeal of the whole of sub-paragraph iv, which was inserted in another place against the wish of the Government, and which we have no desire to perpetuate. But to meet the convenience of Senator Payne, who has given notice of another amendment, I have limited my amendment to the omission of the word “ or “ in the previous subparagraph and of all the words down to the word “person” in sub-paragraph iv.
– I understand that the object of the amendment is to eliminate the whole of sub-paragraph iv, which was inserted by another place for a certain object. I could not support the retention of the sub-paragraph as printed, and for that reason I gave you notice, Mr. Chairman, that I intended to move an amendment. I recognise, however, that it is essential that some provision should . be made whereby a bonâ fide . retail trader -may have the right to purchase in wholesale quantities direct from the manufacturer the goods he requires for his business. In some cases he can do so. I know ‘.of many manufacturers from whom shopkeepers - some of them in a . small way of business - obtain their supplies direct in wholesale quantities. But there has grown up in Australia quite recently a practice under which manufacturers abso- ‘ lutely refuse to trade directly with the retail distributers - the men to whom the general public have to go for their sup-‘ plies. The result, I am afraid, is that the consuming portion of the community have to pay higher prices than they would be called upon to pay if. the retail trader were able to buy direct from the manufacturer. That is the position in a nutshell. The sub-paragraph as it stands, however, would give any individual the right to -demand that a manufacturer should supply to him in -less than wholesale quantities the goods he wants. That would -be a foolish provision. We could not expect amanufacturer to supply to all and sundrythe goods he manufactures in. the quantities required by individual consumers. Under such a provision a man might, require a manufacturer to sell him a half-dozen pounds of wire nailsora yard’- of flannel,
– But in. this case a minimum value of £50 is fixed.
– Exactly, so. My desire, is- to so amend the sub-paragraph that it would read that, tha Minister should have power to refer to the Board for inquiry and report any complaint that a manufacturer was “ refusing to sell to any person who is carrying on a bonâ fide retail business-, goods, in not less quantities than are generally required in wholesale trading at current; market rates.”
– That is very ambiguous. Everything would depend upon the definition of wholesale rates..
– It is a well knows term in all trades. The case is not- met by fixing. a minimum value- of. £50. A retail trader might desire- to- purchase, half a ton of wire nails direct from- the manufacturer. Why should - he not be able to do so?
– Who. is to determine what is “ wholesale quantity “?
– Wholesale quantities are unbroken- quantities. A: man, for instance, could not buy direct from a manufacturer . half-a-dozen yards of textile fabric. He must buy the whole piece. My desire is to give the bonâ fide retailer the right to purchase direct from the manufacturer, ‘ so that- he maybe enabled, to distribute at reasonable rates, to the consumer,. I can- remember when, the merchants- of Melbourne- were quite fairly classed as importers, because- in those days they - particularly the softgoods merchants- dealt principally with imports. But the woollen mills of Australia now put all their, goods through, the wholesale warehouses. Tha consuming community must, necessarily.,- under such a process, pay higher, prices than would otherwise rule. I intend to oppose the amendment moved’ by tha Minister since,, if it were- agreed, to, I should not have an- opportunity to move my amendment. .
SenatorPRATTEN (New South Wales) [10.12] -I have much, pleasure, in giving my whole-hearted support, to the amend-, meat, moved, by the- Minister (Senator Russell). There is a . good deal of misconception m regard to the distributing, business of Australia from the manufacturer. to the retailer. I shall -try; to give some- information. on the- subject that ia within . my own personal knowledge.. Those much-talkedof business ceatresYorkstreet, Sydney, and Flinders-lane,, Melbourne- deal principally with imported goods, and,, consequently, axe. largely outside, the ambit of the. manufacturer. Taking the whole of the manufacturing, trades of Australia,, most of their distributing is done direct as between the. manufacturer or. retailer, or through tha established State agencies of the manufacturer. When a manufacturer distributes through a wholesale house it is for one of several reasons. He is, perhaps, short of capital, and cannot send out travellers, who can give the necessary credit “to the retailer, as is- done by the wholesale houses. - Another reason- may be that he gets a better net return bydealing with the wholesale houses; his working and’ travelling expenses are less, and be can finance his- business on very much less capital than if he were doing adirect distributing business,
– He trades through their avenues of finance.
– Yes; in other words, a struggling manufacturer’- is often helped by the wholesale distributing.houses;, but, generally speaking,, in thecase of dozens of commodities I could mention, the manufacturer distributes’ direct to the retailer.
– It was done twenty years age, when I bought from you.
-Yes, Ihad. much pleasure, as: a manufacturer, in. doing a satisfactory and friendly business with Senator Wilson as a retailer twenty’ years ago. There- has not been- the liaison between the merchant ‘and the manufacturer so far as Australian- goods are concerned that tbe man in the street thinks there has been, because the wholesale merohantup to quite recently was primarily interested in imported goods, and the manufacturer was- struggling to displace them. Another feature of the incidence of the- sub-paragraph is- this-: Most manufacturers now, to be successful; must do an Inter-State business. ‘ A manufacturer in New South Wales will have his agents in Victoria, Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia, and, possibly; Tasmania. The same thing will occut with a manufacturer here; or in South Australia, and that Inter-State business as a Tula is carried on through accredited agents, who are given a small overriding commission on all the business; done through their States. In some cases they guarantee accounts, and inall cases they care for the business done within tbe State for the firm. The sub-paragraph is absolutely unworkable, and unfair to’ the manufacturer, and suggests what I most strongly resent - that ‘ the Australian manufacturer is not giving a fair deal to the retailer. As a matter of fact, he lives by the retailer.
– The majority give a fair deal, but it is the minority that I complain of .
– Why make laws for the minority? Why not realize the exact position? There is no case within the ambit of my knowledge where this provision, if allowed to remain, would be of any practical benefit. If Jones’ something is stocked in Flinders-lane, and the retailer cannot get it there at less than a high price, he can get the article direct from Brown, another manufacturer. We had an illustration of that in connexion with Mr. Jowett’s celebrated £5. suit, I entirely approve of the elimination of this sub-paragraph, because it is another attempt in the direction of impracticable grandmotherly legislation, which isinfra dig. for a Parliament of this sort to pass.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendment (by Senator Russell) agreed to -
That the words’ “goods to the value of Fifty pounds at current market rates “ be left out.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 16 agreed to.
The following paper was presented : -
Return regarding completion and occupation of homes under tbe War Service Homes Act.
Senate adjourned at10.21 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 26 July 1921, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1921/19210726_senate_8_96/>.