12th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. W. Kingsmill) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– Has the Assistant Minister any information in reference to the matter I raised on the adjournment last night in regard to regulations under ordinances of North Australia?
SenatorBARNES. - I am informed that owing to an oversight the Aborigi nals Ordinance 1918 wasnot laid on the table of the Senate. The omission is regretted, and the ordinance will be tabled to-day. I am advised that its validity is not affected by the fact that the requirements with respect to tabling it have not been complied with. Under the Northern Australia Act the Northern Territory has been divided into North Australia and Central Australia, and the office of Administrator of the Northern Territory no longer exists. Power to make regulations conferred upon the Administrator is now exercised by the respective Government Residents whose offices replace the office of Administrator. Ordinances are not made by the Government Resident of North Australia, but are made by the Governor-General, with the advice of the Federal Executive Council pursuant to the power conferred by section 59 of the Northern Australia Act 1926. This section contains a requirement that ordinances so made shall be laid before both Houses of the Parliament. It if often necessary to insert in an ordinance a section giving power to make regulations, and in this respect I invite atten tion to sections 11 and 12 of the Interpretation Ordinance 1927 (No. 6 of 1927) of North Australia. Section 11 provides that where an ordinanceconfers power on the Government Resident to make regulations, the regulations shall be subject to disallowance by the Minister. Section 12 provides that, where an ordinance confers power on the Minister to make regulations, the regulations shall be subject to disallowance by either House of the Parliament. It will be seen that there is no difference in principle between these two sections. In both cases where an authority is given power to make regulations, the exercise of that power is subject to review by an immediately superior authority. As the honorable senator has stated, regulations made under an act are, by reason of the Acts Interpretation Act, required to be laid before Parliament. The regulations referred to by the honorable senator were not, however, made under an act, but were made by the Government Resident under an ordinance. Consequently they are subject to disallowance by the Minister, who will, I feel sure, give full consideration to any representations’ that may be made to him concerning ‘their incidence.
– I ask the Minister representing the AttorneyGeneral -
Is it a fact that a statutory omission has been made in not tabling in the Senate, the Bankruptcy Act by-laws?
If so, will a validating act be necessary in respect of business transacted under such bylaws?
In such case, will the Government afford an opportunity at that time of making some very desirable and necessary amendments of the principal act?
– It is a fact that by a regrettable oversight, due to changes of staff in the Attorney-General’s Department, the bankruptcy rules were not tabled within the time specified in the act. They are now being tabled) and the Senate will have full power to deal with them. There is no reason to believe that the validity of the rules is affected in any way. Steps have been taken which will prevent the possibility of this happening again.
– Is the Leader of the Government in the Senate yet in a position to supply the information for which I asked last week with reference to the proposal of the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs in connexion with a bounty on beef?
– I have been in touch with the Minister concerned and I hope to be able to supply the information to the honorable senator on the adjournment to-night.
– In the event of an arbitration court or other instrumentality of government fixing a working day of less than ten hours, I should like to know if the Government will endeavour to indemnify the wheat-growers of the Commonwealth, who have been requested by the Prime Minister to grow more wheat?
– As such a course is so highly improbable the Government has not given the matter consideration.
Has he noticed that in an election leaflet issued by the Honorable E. G. Theodore, M.P., as Campaign Director of theLabour party at the 1928 election, the statementis made that Mr. Bruce brought 8,000 Italians, Greeks and Jugo-Slavs into Australia?
Are we to understand that the 2,180 Europeans other than British who came into Australia during the quarter ended 31st December, 1929, were brought in by Mr. Scullin?
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow: -
Is it a fact that in the Melbourne Argus newspaper of 22nd March, 1930, under the heading of” Company News,” there is a report of the operations of Amalgamated Pictures Limited for the year ended 28th February, showing that the net profit for the year is £21,480 compared with £10,531 for 1928-29?
In view of the general depression in industry and of the increased profits from amusements which these figures disclose, will the Government reconsider their decision not to tax picture companies before imposing any further taxation on industry?
– The answer to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow: - 1.Yes.
Opposition Senators. - Hear, hear!
– The answers to the questions meet with the approval of the Opposition. This should secure the early passage of the bill.
asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate, upon notice -
Will he ascertain, and inform the Senate, what action is being taken by the Council for Scientific and Industrial’ Research in respect of demonstrating the economicvalue, to prospective users, of pulverized coal?
– No action has yet been taken.
asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate, upon notice -
Will he state whether the £50,000 reward offered for production of natural-flow oil commercially willalso be made available for the production of oil, commercially, by distillation from coal?
– The reward of £50,000 offered by a former Commonwealth Government for the discovery of a commercially payable oil-field in Australia was withdrawn some years ago. There are no other funds from which an amount could be made available for the purpose suggested.
asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate, upon notice -
In view of the enormous development of distillation of oil from coal in Germany and England, will he state what steps are being taken in this country, scientifically and financially, towards an eventual objective of utilizing in this way our colossal coal resources, and thus retaining in part, or wholly, the very large sum now being sent overseas for oil?
– The Government is in close touch with the position. An expert committee, known as the Low Temperature Coal Distillation Committee, recently reported that the economic practicability of the distillation of oil from coal has not yet been satisfactorily demon- , strated. In the course of their report the committee referred to the last annual report of His Majesty’s Fuel Research Board in which it was stated that “ it is still too early to say whether low temperature carbonization of coal will eventually prove an economic success on a really large scale.” The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research is maintaining continuous touch with the British Fuel Research Board. Dr. Rivett, who is at present visiting England,’ has been asked to investigate the matter and report fully to the Government.
asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate. upon notice -
Whether any representations have been made to the Victorian Government, following a published message to the Prime Minister from the Secretary of State, indicating that the British Government is greatly disturbed as to the position of certain land settlers in Victoria; if so, what has been the result of those representations ?
– Representations have been made to the Victorian Government, and conferences have been held between representatives of the Commonwealth and Victorian Governments in regard to the position of migrant settlers in Victoria, and negotiations are still proceeding.
asked the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The PostmasterGeneral has supplied the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions : -
asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow : - 1 and 2. No. The Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited was established under an agreement made between the Commonwealth and the Anglo-Persian Oil Company. The full text of the agreement is set out in the schedule to the Oil Agreement Act 1920, as amended by the acts of 1924 and 1926.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The information will hp obtained as far as possible.
asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate, upon notice -
Can the wheat-growers of the Commonwealth depend upon the payment of 4s. per bushel for wheat on rail sidings next year, apart from every consideration whatsoever, including that of the creation of a proposed compulsory wheat pool ?
– The Government will, in co-operation with the States, guarantee a payment to the wheat-growers of 4s. net per bushel on delivery of wheat at country sidings, provided that a compulsory wheat pool is formed.
SenatorFOLL asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate, upon notice -
Whatis the outcome of the representations made to Federal Ministers by representatives of the coal-miners relating to the re-opening of the New South Wales coal-mines?
– I would refer the honorable senator to the statements made by the Prime Minister in another place on the 25th March, in replying to questions without notice on this subject.
The following papers were presented :
Northern Territory Acceptance Act and Northern Territory (Administration) Act - Ordinance No. 9 of 1918 - Aboriginals.
Postmaster-General’s Department - Nineteenth annual report 1928-1929.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired at -
Newdegate, Western Australia - For Postal purposes.
Victoria Park, Western Australia - For Postal purposes. customstariff.
Senator DALY (South Australia -
Vice-President of the Executive Council) [3.15]. - i move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill is the outcome of certain action taken within the last few weeks by the timber importers of New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia for the purpose of upsetting a tariff classification which has been in operation for over a quarter of a century, and which had been accepted by the importers for that period without demur. The tariff items affected are: -
Item 291 (k) Timber, bent or cut into shape, on which the rate has been 30 per cent. ad valorem for many years.
Item 291 (l) Timber, dressed, n.e.i., the general tariff rate on which has been as under : -
Tongued and grooved baltic flooring and lining boards and weatherboards have always been charged duty under Item 291 (l) as “Timber dressed n.e.i.” In February, 1930, however, the timber importers set up a claim that it was properly classifiable under Item 291(k) and on the department declining to admit such claim, the importers paid the duty under Item 291 (l), under protest, and issued writs interms of section 167 of the Customs Act for the recovery of the difference between the sums payable under Item 291 (l) and Item 291 (k). About 40 writs were issued altogether, and the amount claimed by the importers totalled about £70,000. The average quantity of dressed timber imported from the Baltic during the past seven years was 75,000,000 superficial feet, averaging in value about 25s. per 100 superficial feet. Duty at 30 per cent. as claimed by the importers would amount to about 7s. 6d. per 100 superficial feet, whilst the rate claimed by the department was 20s. In view of the fact that the departmental classification had been in force for 28 years, that this had been accepted without protest until the present juncture, and that it was clearly the intention of Parliament that the timbers in question should be so classified, it was obvious that there was no equity in the claims of the importers. The Government decided that it was necessary by means of this bill to confirm Parliament’s intention and validate the collection of the duty under Item 29 (l).
The schedule to the bill recites exactly what is its purpose. It places the matter beyond all doubt. The item will now read, if this bill be passed - 291 (l) Timber, dressed, n.e.i.; Timber, tongued or grooved or tongued and grooved; weather boards -
Per 100 superficial feet, 12s. British, 14s. intermediate, 20s. general.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia [3.19]. - I understand that the timber importers have withdrawn their opposition to this amendment.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 4 agreed to.
– I have always understood that weatherboards are not imported into Australia, but that they are made of sawn Australian hardwood, usually 7 in. x 1¼ in. If that is so, what is the reason for this item?
– Weatherboards are not imported to any great extent, but it is thought advisable to include this item to cover any possible contingency.
Schedule agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without requests; report adopted.
Standing and sessional orders suspended, and bill read a third time.
.- I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill provides for the validation of the collection of certain duties of customs and is consequential upon the passage of the bill with which the Senate has just dealt. As I intimated in answer to a question by the honorable the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Sir George Pearce), the timber merchants met the Prime Minister, and a satisfactory arrangement was arrived at between them. But in order that the matter shall be finally determined and to prevent the possibility of any further disputes in respect of the proper classification of these timbers, it is deemed desirable to pass this validating measure, to which I am pleased to say the timber importers are raising no objection.
– In this bill we are asked to validate one item of the new tariff schedule, which was placed before Parliament last November. That schedule comprised 315 items. We are to-day dealing with only one of them; the other 314 have not yet been considered by Parliament. I should be glad to know when it is expected that the Senate will have an opportunity to consider them. It is undesirable to introduce a tariff schedule and collect duties in accordance with it for several months without giving Parliament an opportunity to consider any of the items.
– This bill relates to a classification, not to an amendment. I regret that I cannot answer the question raised by Senator E. B. Johnston, because the present state of the notice-paper does not enable me to say when the tariff schedule will be considered by the Senate. I assure the honorable senator, however, that the earliest opportunity will be given to both Houses to discuss it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without requests or debate.
Standing and sessional orders suspended, and bill read a third time.
.- I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill is introduced as a result of a recent Supreme Court action in New SouthWales, which disclosed a weakness in the law governing refunds of customs duties. The provision in the act relating to refunds reads as follows : - 163. - (1.) Whenever goods -
The manner is prescribed by regulation 126 which reads - (1.) Claims for refund, rebate or remission of duty shall be made in accordance with Form 47 or 48 as the case requires, to the Collector at the port where the duty has been paid or is payable. (2.) Claims shall be made not later than three days after the goods have passed from the control of the customs or the duty has been paid, or within such further time as the Comptroller, in writing, allows, and unless so made as aforesaid no claim shall be received or allowed. Provided that, when it is clear in the face of the invoice and entry that duty has been over-paid, a refund of the duty over-paid may be allowed, although the claim for refundhas not been made within the prescribed time.
Honorable senators will see that under the existing law claims for a refund must be made within a time specified, which is prescribed by regulation as three days, with certain elasticity in regard to applications which for some good reason may not have been made within the time specified by the regulation. In a case recently brought before the Supreme Court of New South Wales, in which an importer claimed refunds on imports dating back about two years, the court decided that clause 2 of the regulations was ultra vires, as the act gave no power to prescribe the time in which a claim may be made. The Commonwealth Parliament has power to prescribe the time; but the principal act, under which the regulation was made, does not authorize the insertion of the power which the regulation purported to confer. The present proposal is to make the clause intra vires. It has always been an axiom of customs practice that a time limit should be placed on the period in which claims for refunds may be made, and the necessary provision to that effect has been embodied in customs regulations since they were first framed. Honorable senators will appreciate the necessity for that when they consider the nature of the work which the Customs Department is called upon to perform. Goods arrive, and after they are taken out of the charge of the customs authorities, it is sometimes discovered that they have been damaged. Under existing circumstances there is aquick investigation and a speedy application to give the Customs Department an opportunity to check the actual damage. When that is done the customs representatives then decide whether the whole or any portion of the damage was caused prior to the goods leaving the customs control. This particular form of protection is not confined to the Customs Department. For instance, a motor car which is insured may meet with an accident. One of the terms of the policy under which it is insured is that a claim must be made’ within a specified period to enable the insurance company to make an immediate investigation, ascertain the facts, check the damage and assess the responsibility.
– That is not an analogous case.
– I should be very pleased if the honorable senator would explain why it is not. In the case which I was mentioning when goods arrive and pass through the customs, sometimes it is discovered that they have been damaged, perhaps by sea water or in some other way.
– That is a different proposition.
– The Minister is referring to only one item.
– The regulation relates only to goods which -
– That is the point.
– The honorable senator fails to realize that there is protection under the regulation for such cases. There is a proviso in the existing law which we do not propose to amend giving the Comptroller the right to allow a period beyond the three days; but in addition to that the proviso permits the payment of claims that may be over twelve months old. Under the customs regulations, an importer classifies his goods, makes his entry on a customs sheet, and hands the entry to the customs officer.
– That entry may not always be accepted.
– That is so, but that does not affect this particular question.
– It does.
– I fail to see where it does. If the entry is not accepted, and the payment is made, surely there is no hardship on the person who makes the payment. He can lodge a protest as was done by timber merchants in a casewhich I mentioned earlier in the day. It should be obvious to honorable senators that there must be some limit within which claims are to be made, and it is also necessary that they should be lodged expeditiously. Unless the department is to set up an elaborate classification of the various items in the period within which claims respecting which must be made, the best way is to leave the clause as it is, providing for three days in ordinary cases, leaving the proviso which at present exists to cover exceptional circumstances.
– Will the Minister read the section under which the regulation is made? It seems to me to be ample.
– The department also considered it sufficiently comprehensive.
– What court gave that decision?
– The decision was given by the Chief Justice in the Supreme Court of New South Wales who, in delivering his judgment, said in respect of regulation 126 (2)-
It is not a regulation giving effect to the rights conferred by section 163. It is a regulation restricting the time limit within which those rights may be asserted. No such limitation of time is imposed by the act, and the effect of the imposition of such a restriction by regulation is to make an addition to the law. This is outside the rule-making power. From the stand-point of administration it is, I have no doubt, looked upon as necessary, or, at all events, convenient, that some limit of time should be imposed.; but, if the act does not impose any restriction as to time, this cannot be done by regulation under the guise of giving effect to the provisions of the act.
– With that we must all agree unless we differ from him in our interpretation of section 163.
– Exactly. The Government is anxious that there should be no doubt in the matter and wishes to remove any possibility of litigation.
– Why take it back to 1901?
– I shall explain that in a minute. Honorable senators will realize that it is essential to make the provision retrospective in order to save further litigation in the matter. An objection was raised to the proposal by the Associated Chambers of Commerce of the Commonwealth of Australia, and I am indebted to the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Sir George Pearce) for drawing my attention to a letter written by that body, which reads -
My attention has been called to a paragraph in the” public press “, in which it is indicated that in the proposed amendment of section 163 of the Customs Act you propose to prescribe that the time limit in which any refund, rebate or remission of duty under the section may be made, he limited to three days, and on behalf of the commercial community of Australia I desire to enter a very emphatic protest against such an amendment.
We realize that the period of three days is included in the present regulations, but desire to point out that, if it is right for the department to be able to claim for any duty under-paid up to a period of twelve months,
We should also have that right. For that reason, we respectfully request you to treat the public the same as you expect your department to be treated.
I am, sir, yours faithfully,
Honorable senators will noticethat reference is made to a paragraph which appeared in the public press. I had a search made for that paragraph, and obviously the reference was to the following, which appeared in the Melbourne Argus on 13th March last: -
Mr. Forde then introduced a bill to amend the Customs Act to correct a weakness in the law relating to refunds of duty disclosed by a decision of the Supreme Court in New South Wales, in a case in which Messrs. Berk Ltd. claimed refunds on duties paid as long ago as two years. The court decided that a regulation prescribing the time within which rebate of duty could be allowed was ultra vires, and the proposed amendment of the law was designed to include in the net the time now set down by regulation. Section 163 of the act would be amended by adding the words, “ Providing that no refund, rebate or remission of duty under the section shall be made unless application is made within such time as is prescribed.” The time prescribed would be three days, as in the present regulation. Mr. Fordo added that the claims in the case under notice would be honoured in accordance with the decision of the court.
The President of the Chambers of Commerce has been communicated with, and his attention drawn to the fact that the paragraph did not properly state the intention of the Government.
– I have read the paragraph and the letter, and honorable senators will realize, even from a perusal of the letter, that the president of that organization believed that after the lapse of three days the right of appeal was to be closed. But this bill will not affect the regulation; it will still continue in force with its proviso. Its effect will be simply to make intra vires this particular regulation which, because of the present wording of the act, has been held by the court to be ultra vires.
– Why not prescribe the time in the bill, so that every one would know precisely what to expect ? Actually, we do not know what we are discussing so far as the terms are concerned.
– Senator Payne knows that no regulation can have the force of law until and unless it is placed on the table of Parliament. The regulation which is now in existence will therefore continue in existence until such time as a further regulation is brought down here. For the purpose of the present discussion, it can be assumed that no alteration will be made in the existing practice of the department, the alteration in the law being that the regulation is now clearly something within the powers prescribed.
– Ships come in to Port Alma, the deep-water port of Rockhampton, Queensland, which is some 35 miles distant, and customs entries are passed immediately on their arrival. Seven days might easily elapse before the goods reached Rockhampton. In the event of their being damaged and a rebate of duty being involved, would the Customs Department take the necessary extension of time into consideration ?
– The honorable senator is straining the Standing Orders very considerably.
– Such a condition of affairs would be covered by this regulation.I am instructed that it has been the practice of the department to meet such cases. If the Customs office is satisfied that the request is a reasonable one, it is not refused. The department has a discretionary power, which is exercised reasonably. This bill is merely to put the department in the position that in cases where a speedy investigation should be made, it will be made.On the other hand, in cases where the importer is not able to make his investigation within the prescribed period, the regulation makes ample provision for discretionary power to be exercised.
Senator Sir GEORGEPEARCE (Western Australia) [3.47]. - All honorable senators will agree that the judgment of the New South Wales Supreme Court calls for legislation to authorize the passing of the regulation, and I do not propose to elaborate that phase of the matter. The court has said that there is no power at present to pass a regulation fixing the time, and obviously that must be adjusted. That raises the point, and I submit that this is a convenient measure on which to consider it, as to whether the regulation itself is a reasonable one, and whether in passing this bill we should not give a direction as to the form’ which that regulation should take in future. I have received a letter, which I daresay has also been received by other honorable senators, from the Melbourne Chamber of Commerce, to which is attached a copy of a letter despatched by that body to the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Forde). That attached letter is dated the 14th March last, and reads -
The report in yesterday’s press to the effect that you had introduced a bill to amend Section 103 of the Customs Act with a view to limiting the time within which applications for refunds might be made’ is causing great concern in this chamber, and the commercial community in general.
Regulation 120 dealing with this matter has, of course, been in operation for a considerable time, but the administration of the regulation has, generally speaking, been reasonable and fair. Whether such treatment could be expected from or given to the department if the act itself is mandatory is open to question. In any case, might we point out that the department has the right to claim over a period of twelve months in connexion with any errors in the payment of duty, and it seems unreasonable that the general public should be restricted to such a short period as three days in making claims, particularly where such claims are the result of palpable over-payments of duty.
That body was then under the impression that a three-days’ provision was to be inserted in the act. The words used by the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Forde), in moving his second-reading speech, were liable to that construction, as he said, “ the time is not yet fixed, but will probably be three days as in the present regulation.” The letter continues -
As un illustration. In the absence of a (inn’s shipping clerk, a junior might make mistakes which might not be discovered for a week or even a month, too late to obtain a refund, if wo correctly understand the effect of the amendment.
I take it that the Minister’s answer will be that if that could be established, even though the prescribed period had elapsed, the department would take all the facts into consideration, and probably agree to the refund.
– I understand that has been the practice.
– The letter continues
We consider that it is not equitable for the Customs Department to retain duties which have been clearly wrongly collected owing to a misinterpretation of the law by the importer or Customs Department. We wish to point out that in cases where tariff classification has been altered by the department, and where there is a reasonable dispute as to classification of goods for duty purposes, the department is fully protected by sections 1GG and 107 of the Customs Act, but no such provision exists where duties have been wrongly collected in connexion with questions of value for duty and misinterpretation of the tariff. The press report seems to indicate that the object of the proposed amendment is to deprive merchants of the right to refund of duty collected in error. We suggest that the period should not lie three days, but at least twelve months and, having in mind the fact that the department is granted this period under the act, we feel sure that on rcconsideration you will recognize the justice of our claim.
The department replied as follows : -
In reply to your communication of the 14th instant, I desire to intimate that provisions of the bill introduced into Parliament by me for the purposes of amending section 132 of the Customs Act contain no stipulation as to the time within which claims for refunds of customs duty shall be lodged, but merely provide that a time limit may be prescribed.
The position will remain as it has been for many years past, the amendment being designed only for the purpose of validating Customs Regulation 120, which has been held by the courts to be ultra vires of section 103 of the Customs Act.
The position is fully set out in my secondreading speech in the House, copy pf which is attached for your information.
The Melbourne Chamber of Commerce then forwarded these letters to me under a covering letter to which I wish to draw particular attention. They Avro te as f follows : -
When writing to the Minister we wore fully aware of the fact that the bill itself did not proscribe any time limit. The fear has been expressed, however, that with the legal authority conferred by the amended act, conditions in regard to refunds might be made more difficult. This fear may, of course, be quite groundless.
The Minister in his letter states that the position will remain as it has been for many years past, and in his speech o’n the second reading, he states that provision is made for cases in which the imposition of a time limit would involve hardship. This, however, is not apparent from our reading of the amendment. While it is agreed that the department must be placed “ in a position to exercise a check’ upon claims for refunds in respect of goods pillaged or damaged, claims under subsection 2 of section 163 are in a very different category. My council will appreciate any action which you might consider could be taken in order to safeguard the interests of importers, more particularly in regard to sub-section 2 of the section in question.
Section 163 of the act reads as follows : -
. Whenever goods -
Whenever duty has been paid through manifest error of fact or patent misconception of the law - a refund, rebate or remission of the duty, as the case may require, shall be made in manner prescribed.
I take it that paragraphb relates to goods that have been taken out of the ship or are in process of being taken out of the ship and placed in bond. The Government has indicated that if this bill is passed it will re-cast the existing regulation which fixes the prescribed time at three days, except in special circumstances. The Minister has explained that if special circumstances can be set out by the importer, the arbitrary limit of three days will be waived and the circumstances taken into consideration. But I wish to point out a different class of cases which do not seem to be covered by the provision prescribing three days. The cases to which I shall refer occurred a considerable time ago, but they illustrate the point I am raising. In one instance the goods in question were under the control of a railway department, but what happened to them might happen to goods under the control of the Customs Department. In transit by rail a case of champagne was opened, the corks were removed from the bottles, the wine was removed, the corks were replaced in the bottles and the bottles were put back in the case. When the customer received the consignment it was apparently intact. He did not have occasion to open it for some little time, but when he did he found that it contained nothing but empty bottles. If that had happened to an importer, it would have been impossible for him to know that his goods had been pillaged before he passed his customs entry. I do not know whether the amendment made by this bill will meet a case like that. The other instance brought under my notice was, that while a crate of electro-plate ware was in transit, a hook was ingeniously inserted between the bars of the crate and all the articles near the outside were removed. The importer received the crate apparently in perfectly sound condition, and it was only when he opened it and compared its contents with his manifest that it was revealed to him that articles of considerable value had been extracted. He had already passed the customs entry and paid duty. I do not know that the amendment will meet a case like that. I do not know whether the Customs Department would recognize an importer’s claim after a considerable delay; but it seems to me that it might be a little more generous in the matter, and make the period seven days, at the same time giving the importers some assurance by making provision for this in the act itself. I cannot see how it would impose any hardship on the department, and I should like the Minister, in his reply, to say whether an extension of the period to seven days would create any danger from the revenue point of view - whether it would open the door to an evasion of the payment of duties any more than does the period of three days at present prescribed. It seems to me that my suggestion would meet all the objections that have been raised to section 163 and the regulations made under it. One can understand a firm doing a considerable business having a lot of customs work handled by juniors who are not fully trained to the work. I understand that the passing of customs entries needs a good deal of training and experience; but a firm that does a lot. of importing must train juniors in this work, and has, therefore, to entrust at least some part of its customs work to juniors. It is quite possible that these, through inexperience, may make errors, and it remains for their seniors to find out where they have been at fault. At present, however, the seniors are given only three days to do this. In the case of a big shipment three days is too short a period to enable senior employees to check the work done by juniors, and to see that the customs work is up to date in regard to the frequent changes that are made in the classification. As we are all aware, these changes are necessarily fairly frequent, and it is an intricate business to keep in touch with them. I am given to understand that a considerable number of members of the staffs of big importing firms are not well enough informed to keep in touch with all these changes. I submit that if the customs officers do not see any danger to the revenue in extending the period to seven days, I have made out a reasonable claim for altering the bill in the manner I have suggested, and giving the merchants an assurance by means of the act itself. In any case, in my opinion by doing so we shall allow the importer a little more opportunity to protect his interests.
.- I listened very attentively to the explanation of this bill given by the Leader of the Senate (Senator Daly), and I wish I could support him; but I find I cannot. I am as anxious as any one to see that the revenue of the country is protected; but I am equally anxious that no injustice shall be inflicted on the people from whom we are collecting revenue. I am given to understand by one who ought to be in a position to know that if this bill is passed as printed it will inflict a very great injustice on many people. For instance, the bill is retrospective; it dates back to 1901. But’ we find in the last clause the following provision : -
Provided that, notwithstanding anything contained in this section, the amendment made by this act shall not apply so as to affect proceedings No. 5,353 of 1929 commenced in the Supreme Court of New South Wales.
What are those proceedings, and. are there any other people who have an equally just claim to a refund from the Customs Department? I am assured that claims have been submitted by importers which, in equity, ought to be conceded; but Supreme Court proceedings have nol been started to establish them.
– This bill will not affect those claims.
– It certainly will. The claims must be submitted within three days.
– Tes, under the existing regulations.
– I presume that the claims to which I refer were submitted after the three days’ grace had expired.; but the claimants have not taken their cases to the Supreme Court except in the one instance referred to in the bill. ‘ The claim taken to the Supreme Court is to be conceded, but not the claims of those who have not instituted court proceedings.
– But they will be considered.
– Does the Minister suggest that the department has under review claims for the refund of duty which come within the provision -
Whenever duty had been paid through manifest error of fact or patent misconception of the law, a refund, rebate, or remission of the duty, as the case may require, shall be made in manner prescribed.
– I understood from the Minister that this bill would not affect that provision.
– It does affect it. It is prescribed that claims must be made within three days after the passing of the entry, and then it is optional with the Comptroller of Customs to consider any application made at a later date than the date prescribed. It has been stated, and I accept the statement as correct, that the Comptroller, in his wisdom and fairness, has conceded claims made after the prescribed time; but I arn now informed that there are many claims in abeyance that have not been conceded, and will not be because of the retrospective effect of this bill.
– Would they be conceded even if the period were extended to seven days, as suggested by Senator Pearce ?
– No, because clause 3 provides that the amendment effected by the last preceding section shall be deemed to have commenced on the date of the commencement of the Customs Act 1901. From this it would appear that all claimants, except those who have their claims established by the Supreme Court, would be shut out unless they lodged claims within three days of the passing of entities. This is not equitable. Even if revenue had to be refunded it would be revenue to which the Commonwealth was not entitled. An importer may not be in a very large way of business, and yet he may have hundreds of packages in a few cases of goods. Possibly he may be obliged to leave four out of five cases in a store, and may not find it convenient to open them for a week or two after passing the entries. If, upon opening these cases, he discovers that there has been a considerable pillage, he should not be prevented from lodging his claim against the department. If the bill passes in its present form he will not be able to do that. Mistakes may also be made owing to the absence on leave of the official who makes the usual entries. These may not be discovered until some time afterwards, and it will be impossible for the importer to obtain a refund of duty overpaid. I am anxious to see some action taken in the direction I have indicated. Provision should be made to enable importers with just claims to receive consideration, apart altogether from the particular claim referred to in the proviso to clause 3. The Commonwealth would be none the poorer as a Commonwealth, for while the department might have to forgo some of its revenue, the Government would have the satisfaction of knowing that it was not obtaining customs payments to which it was not entitled. I have no details of individual cases. I was assured yesterday in a letter which I received, and again to-day in a telegram, that if the bill is passed in its present form a very great injustice will be done to a number of legitimate claimants. I do not wish to be a party to this injustice. I suggest that the Leader of the Senate should give an undertaking that when the bill passes its second reading he will report progress and consider whether some provision cannot be made whereby genuine claimants, in respect of whose claims the department itself is satisfied, can have refunded to them the amount of duty overpaid.
– I can give the honorable senator an assurance that the department does not propose to alter its present practice. This bill is simply a measure to validate the law.
– But the practice hitherto has been for the Comptroller of Customs, in his discretion, to extend the period of three days.
– It has been extended up to two years. In one case the department paid a claim thirteen months after the entries had been passed.
– Will the Leader of the Senate say that there are no legiti mate claims outstanding within the last twelve months, apart from the one referred to ?
– No cases which would have been paid under the existing regulations will be barred by this provision. I remind the honorable senator that this measure is not a bill to amend existing legislation.
– But it goes further than existing legislation. It states that no refund, rebate, or remission of duty under section 163 shall be made unless application is made within such time as is prescribed, and that the amendment of the law effected by this provision shall be deemed to have commenced on the date of the commencement of the Customs Act 1901. I accept the Minister’s assurance that in special circumstances remissions have been made, but I should like to know whether in these special circumstances, the Comptroller of Customs has allowed a reasonable extension of the three days.
– Apparently the honorable senator is taking exception to a regulation that has been operative for 25 years, during which time Parliament has never been approached to alter it.
– In the letter which I read from the importers, they admitted it had been very fairly administered.
– Can the Minister give me an assurance that if there are any genuine cases of over-payment of duty, due to the causes mentioned in section 163, they will be met?
– I am instructed by the customs officer to answer the honorable senator’s question in the affirmative.
– I thank the Minister for his assurance. The only suggestion I now have to offer is that the recommendation made by the’ Leader of the Opposition (Senator Sir George Pearce) should be accepted. I would urge, however, that the time within which claims may be made should be extended to 30 days. I speak with some knowledge of the difficulties of business men, and consider this further extension necessary.
– The honorable senator is pitting his business knowledge against departmental experience in the working of the actfor over 25 years.
– I have had many years’ experience, and I know that the profits of a large number of business men are so small that they cannot afford to employ a large staff. For such men, the period of 30 days would not be too long. The department, under section 165, has the right, for a period of twelve months, to demand payment of any duty shortpaid. In view of this fact it seems to me reasonable that those who have overpaid should have at least 30 days within which to make their claims.
– It is as well to remember that under various acts this Parliament - I do not say this Government any more than preceding governments - has power to make regulations which materially and vitally affect the lives and interests of the people. As honorable senators are aware, several members of this chamber are at present conducting an inquiry as to how, and for what purpose, regulations are being promulgated. The Rules Publication Act, which gives validity to Commonwealth regulations, was passed in 1903. That measure, which remained in force, as originally enacted, until 1916, contained a very salutary proviso which gave citizens some security against governments and government officials. I do not infer that governments or government officials at any time seek to compass the destruction or to attack the interests of the citizens of the Commonwealth ; but I believe there comes a time when it is necessary to draw a line between the interests of private citizens and the interests of governments and government officials. In 1916, the Rules Publication Act was amended, and in the proviso the time limit within which notice of objection to regulations could be given was reduced from 60 to 15 days. This means that regulations laid on the table of either House of the Parliament have all the force of law if within 15 days objection is not taken to them. If the original provision had been retained, the Customs Department would have been obliged to give 60 days’ notice of its intention to issue new regulations. This period would have enabled the Associated Chambers of Commerce to confer and decide whether or not 3 days, 7 days, or 30 days, was a fair limit of time within which claims should be made. The point is the necessity for restoring that proviso which gave the citizens of this country 60 days within which to protest against the harshness of any regulation.
– Many regulations have not been placed on the table of the Senate.
– The Minister says that the law has worked satisfactorily for over 25 years. That may be so ; but at has done so only because of acts of grace on the part of the authorities. In the case of a man who has a just and clear claim no difficulty is likely to arise, even though his claim is not made within the stipulated time. But what about the man whose case, although equally just, is not equally clear? Would he not be at a disadvantage compared with the other? Three days is altogether too short a period. Thirty days would be better, for that would give a man time to make investigation and to lodge his claim. In these busy days a reasonable time should be allowed for the making of claims. I urge the Minister to allow a period of 30 days within which claims may be made. With a time limit of only three days, citizens of this country are at the mercy of an administration which may, at times, suffer from a bad liver.
– There has been no evidence of a bad liver for over 25 years.
– Instead of leaving so important a matter to be decided according to the temper of the Minister or the head of a department, we should set out in black and white the period within which claims may be made, and that period should be reasonable.
– The same thing applies to income tax; the Commissioner has power to extend the time for making payment.
– That may work satisfactorily where a man has a just and clear case; but where the evidence is not so clear the department might act differently.
– Might not 30 days lead to fictitious claims?
– If a short period has been prescribed in order to prevent fictitious claims, it is a sad commentary on the honesty of our commercial community. In my opinion, we should reenact the proviso which was contained originally in the Rules Publication Act, and allow 60 days in which to make claims. If the Minister is not. prepared to do that, I trust that he will raise no objection to ten days. This may be a small matter; but its effect might be serious.
– Clause 2 appears to be perfectly in keeping with the Customs Act, which it purports to amend. From an examination of section 163 of the principal act, I conclude that there was no power in that section to prescribe a time limit. The question that emerges is, therefore, whether Parliament originally intended to give the Minister power to prescribe a time limit by way of regulation. It appears to me that it did, and apparently the chambers of commerce have acquiesced in that view of the ministerial power to make such regulations. In this bill, wo are not called upon to discuss what the period should be. The authorizing power under sub-section 2 of section 163 of the* principal act is an authority to prescribe the time within which refunds may be applied for. That leads me to consider clause ?>. We have already in existence a regulation,, validly in a de so fur as conformity with the procedure is concerned, but a regulation which purports to have been made under the provisions of section 163 and which the court has declared to be ultra vires. I do not think that any amount of legislation in terms of clause 3 can overcome that difficulty. The only way in which it can be overcome is by making an entirely new regulation. The regulation already tabled, was made under a power which the court has held to be non-existent. It will, therefore, have to be re-made. Clause 3 which reads -
The amendment effected toy the last preceding section shall de deemed to have commenced on the date of the commencement of .the Customs Act 1001;
Provided that, notwithstanding anything contained in this section, the ‘amendment made by this act shall not apply so as to affect, proceedings, No. 53S3 of 1029 commenced in the Supreme Court of New South Wales, does not apply to anything which was in issue in the New South Wales case.
As I understand it, the issue, there was whether the regulation was, or was not, ultra vires. It may be that in the larger sense of the term, the amendment will affect that case,, but my view is that it is not of that nature. If it does, then there is something to be said for Senator Payne’s contention that these people, acting on what they believed to be the law, who made claims outside the period of time prescribed, should also be given consideration.
– Does the honorable senator refer to claims made to the Minister or to the court.
– It is only an accident that the matter was decided in the court. It was decided on a point of law. In this legislation we are certainly interfering with the rights of those who made claims which were refused by the Minister because they were too late. The Minister had no right to refuse them. If the Minister feels inclined to proceed with clause 3, I suggest that the following words be added to it “or in respect of claims already made “. That would meet, the point raised by Senator Payne. If the Minister then thinks that it will be necessary to make a fresh regulation, and to lay it on the table of the Senate, the regulation will be made pursuant to this power. I do not see how he can possibly escape doing so, because the making of regulations is the exercise of a power pursuant to a provision which was declared by the court to be not wide enough to enable that exercise of power. I am inclined to think that there will have to be a fresh exercise of the power. The Minister might then, meet the wishes of the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce) and Senators Payne and Lynch by indicating what the period will be. That seems to me to be the best way out of the difficulty, and one which, if the Minister will yield to my solicitations, will do justice to all. I understand that, a large amount is not involved, as those engaged in the importing business understand the practice. We have also to consider the position with respect to goods which have eventually to be transhipped from a vessel’s first port of call, in which case it seems rather rigid to have a limit of only three days.
– It seems to me that most of the discussion on this hill has been in relation to individual claims which might with advantage, I suggest, be postponed until the committee stage is reached.
– I trust that I have not erred more than usual in that regard.
– Not more than other honorable senators.
– If a new regulation is to be framed the discussion as to a time limit is beside the question. While I agree with what Senator Lynch has said as to the multiplicity of regulations, I cannot see why we should not pass clause 2 of this measure.
.- We should not overlook the fact that claims made by certain importers under this regulation, which has been in operation for some time, have been refused. Had it not been for the decision reached in a case now being heard in New South Wales the regulation now declared ultra vires might have remained in operation for many years, and other claims made under it would have been refused.
– The court has not given its judgment on the merits of the claim.
– No; it has declared the regulation ultra vires. Evidently the department is satisfied that a number of other claims are likely to be made, otherwise we would not be considering a validating provision to be retrospective to 1901.
– It will cover every claim made.
– Even supposing it covers every claim, there is no reason why importers who have been refused just claims for refunds under this regulation, which is now declared invalid, should not have an opportunity of re-submitting such claims.
– If they are bona fide claims.
– That is so. Those with bona fide claims should be able to re-submit them. An injustice may have been done to individuals under this regulation which is now declared to be ultra vires, and it is preposterous if an illegal refusal is now to be validated. When we reach the committee stage I trust the Minister will insert a provision which will exempt those per-: sons who made claims within the prescribed time, but have been denied refunds by reason of this regulation which is now declared to be ultra vires.
– In view of the explanation of the Minister (Senator Daly), the bill now before the Senate should be passed without the slightest hesitation. There ought to be a time limit with respect to claims based upon damage or pillage, the justice of which it would be impossible for the department to decide if the goods had been beyond the control of the Customs Department for a lengthy period. The 30 days suggested by some honorable senators is far too long.
– When the honorable senator was associated with the Department of Trade and Customs, did he find three days was too short ?
– Iwas associated with that department for two years, and, so far as I can recall, the question never arose. As it has now been decided that the provisions of the act and a regulation framed under it are in conflict, there is a desire on the part of some persons, including the secretary of the Chamber of Commerce, who has written to the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Sir George Pearce), to increase the period during which claims should be lodged. Senator Payne spoke about the errors which may be made by junior officials.
– Or by any one.
– I presume the honorable senator was referring to errors in documents which have to be prepared and presented when entries are passed. There is, I understand, no time limit in which claims have to be made for mistakes of that kind.
– The time limit applies to claims based upon damage or pillage. The Minister will be able to consult the representative of the department and ascertain whether my views are correct.
– The time limit, I understand, applies in all cases.
– In practice, repayments have been made five years after the entries have been passed.
– It takes a long time for the department to make a refund.
– Tha t is only reasonable, because many claims have to be investigated at different ports, and the work cannot be completed within 24 hours after the claims are received. The department is a very difficult one to administer, as there are about 1,100 different items on which customs duties are imposed. During my association with it, every effort was made to deal equitably with every claim made for a refund of duty. As this regulation has been in operation for over 25 years and no difficulty has arisen until recently, it would appear that the importers have not experienced much hardship as a result of its operation. In the letter read by the Leader of the Opposition, there was no charge of harshness on the part of the officers of the department.
– Duty paid goods are often more than three days under the customs control.
– While they are under the customs control the claim is not made; it is after they have left that control.
– Duty is paid and the entries passed when a vessel arrives.
– They do not leave the control of the Customs Department until the consignee takes delivery. The regulation has been in operation for over 25 years, and there has been no general complaint concerning it. A request has been made for an extension of the time in which claims should be lodged, bur there has been no suggestion that the regulation has been harshly administered.
– Does the honorable senator think that those importers who have been refused refunds should be shut out for all time?
– If the regulation is fair, why should those who have a claim five or perhaps ten years old be able to get a refund of duty which has already been paid by the persons who purchased the goods?
– No one suggests that.
– That seems to be the opinion of some honorable senators.
– The importer who has made a claim within the last six months will be very sore.
– If he has a fair and reasonable claim, I feel sure that the department will not deal unfairly with him. No hardship has arisen under this particular regulation, which is now found to be inconsistent with the act. It is merely desired to validate a practice which has been in operation practically ever since the Commonwealth took over the collection of customs duties.
– I repeat, it is not the intention of the department to alter its present practice after the passage of this bill. I appeal to honorable senators to view this legislation in its true perspective. After all, we are not a body of merchants or of customs officials. We are here as a body of legislators to deal with a subject of which we have had a very limited experience. Here is a 25-years- old practice, operating apparently with the full sanction of the whole of the Associated Chambers of Commerce of Australia. No doubt it was introduced originally after a complete investigation of all t”he circumstances, and after conference with the responsible parties concerned. Now it is suddenly discovered, not that the terms prescribed in the regulation are unreasonable, but that the authority who made the regulation had no power under the act to do so. We are not sitting in judgment upon whether we should validate the regulations or whether the time should or should not be prescribed by regulation, but we are debating the reasonableness or otherwise of the time prescribed by regulation. If that is the issue, I place the experience of 25 years against the hypothetical cases, which may or may not arise, which have been put forward by honorable senators. One hears a good deal of criticism about duties being imposed on certain items contained in tariffs, but one never hears a complaint that this regulation has inflicted any hardship on anybody. I suggest that as this bill purely and simply validates something that has been in existence for over 25 years, and there is no evidence of hardship as a result, honorable senators should accept it.
– Did not the Supreme Court of New SouthWales hold that a certain person had a just claim in this matter ?
– No. A dispute arose over the classification of an item. An amount of customs duty was paid, and a refund was claimed. The constitutional method was that the court should decide the dispute.
– Why was not the claim paid by the department?
– Because a dispute existed between it and the claimant on the question of duty assessed. The Senate passed another customs measure to-day relating to timber. The department contended that certain timber came under a specific item. The merchants thought differently, paid the duty under protest, and began proceedings before the court. If that legislation had not been passed, and that state of affairs had been perpetuated the same obstacle would, by demurrer, have been encountered again, and once more the court would have had to decide. But this bill does not alter any practice. It is simply a declaration by this Parliament that a practice which has been in operation for over 25 years is valid.
As to the suggestion made by Senator McLachlan, I remind honorable senators that when a dispute arises the court examines the statute concerned. In this instance the law would be as amended. If Parliament declares that this provision is deemed to have been inserted in the original legislation, the court must accept that it is in that legislation, and it proceeds on that assumption. It accepts the law and simply considers whether, under what was deemed to be the law by Parliament from a certain date, Parliament had the power to make this regulation. Undoubtedly it would hold that Parliament did have that power and consequently it would be considered intra vires.
– There is a good deal in that point, but what troubles me is that when the court sees that in the year 1930 Parliament passed this regulation, and that in the year 1906 a regula tion was made under another power it will consider that a validation of the first regulation was necessary.
– If a judge has to interpret the law and his attention is drawn to the fact that years ago a certain provision read so and so, and that this legislation says that this provision shall be deemed to have been in the principal act, he will conclude that its omission was akin to a clerical error, and will read it into that act as if it had been there from the beginning. Unquestionably, had it been there originally, there would have been power to make the regulation.
– But we have to consider -
– Order! I remind honorable senators that the proper place for this dialogue is in committee.
– I hope that the Senate will pass the second reading of the bill and debate these points in committee.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Section one hundred and sixty-three of the Principal Act is amended by adding at the end thereof the following proviso: - “ Provided that no refund rebate or remission of duty under this section shall be made unless application therefor is made within such time as is prescribed.”
Section proposed to be amended: 163. - (1.) Whenever goods - (a.) have received damage or have been pillaged during the voyage; or
have whilst under
Customs con trol been damaged, pillaged, lost or destroyed; or (2.) Whenever duty has been paid through manifest error of foot or patent misconception of thelaw - a refund, rebate or remission of the duty as the case may require shall be made in manner prescribed.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia) [4.58]. - I move -
That after the word “ prescribed “ the following words be added : - “ Provided that the period so prescribed shall not be less than seven days.”
I shall not traverse the arguments advanced by me during the secondreading debate. I submit that a reasonable case can be made out for the provision of seven days inwhich to lodge claims, particularly in connexion with ullage and pillage. I should like to hear what the Leader of the Government in the Senate (SenatorDaly) has to say in that regard. I am assuming that it is the intention of the Government to continue the existing regulation providing for a period of three days.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.The obstacle could be overcome by providing that after the operation of this act the period so prescribed shall not be less than seven days.
– After conference with the Assistant Comptroller of Customs I am in a position to inform honorable senators that if this provision is passed in its present form, the regulation will continue as it is, and if the Associated Chambers of Commerce of Australia make representations to the Customs Department, proving that there is a resultant business dislocation or inconvenience due to the time limit being three and not seven days, Parliament will be given an opportunity further to consider the matter. Even if there is no necessity for the Government to introduce a regulation, it will do so in order to allow Parliament to debate the subject.
– In view of the Minister’s assurance, I ask leave to withdraw my amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Clause agreed to.
The amendment effected by the last preceding section shall be deemed to have commenced on the date of the commencement of the Customs Act 1901 :
Provided that, notwithstanding anything contained in this section, the amendment made by this Act shall not apply so as to affect proceedings, No. 6353 of 1929, commenced in the Supreme Court of New South Wales.
– I consider that this clause should be negatived by the committee. Undoubtedly, just applications for refunds have been refused by the department, because they were not lodged within the prescribed time.
– Will the honorable senatorsupply specific instances.
SenatorFOLL. - I am unable to do so, but undoubtedly they have occurred.
– It is evident that they have not.
– Then there is no need for this retrospectivity.
– The honorable senator must remember that if this clause is not passed hundreds of people might suddenly imagine that they possess rights that they really have not got.
– I am referring to people whose applications have been rejected because they were not lodged within the time specified by the regulation, which has now been declared to be illegal. The Minister proposes to debar them from receiving justice.
– I have already given an undertaking that, so far as this provision is concerned, there will be no change in the attitude adopted by the department for the last 25 years.
– But the Minister seeks to validate every refusal made under a regulation which has been declared to be ultra vires.
– The department has never debarred requests on those grounds.
– I am confident that there have been just claims which have been rejected because they were not lodged within the prescribed time. I am prepared to give my vote in favour of the provision operating from now on, instead of from 1901.
– There is one matter that I may not have put quite clearly to the Minister, and that I should like him to consider. It is our duty in dealing with legislation in this chamber to. express any doubts we may have as to its validity. Notwithstanding what Senator Daly has said as to the effect of clause 3, I believe that this provision will give rise to a good deal of litigation unless something is done to validate the earlier regulation. The Supreme Court of New South Wales dealt with a regulating power which had been exercised as the law then stood. The Minister suggests, and there is a good deal of force in his suggestion, that the fact that this proposed law goes back to 1901 gives validity to the regulation. But I do not think the court would shut its eyes to the fact that that regulation was made at a time anterior to the passing of this legislation. It strikes me that this is likely to produce some considerable amount of fighting, and I suggest that before the bill reaches its third reading stage the Minister should have the matter looked into. British courts of justice do not look with a favorable eye on retrospective legislation.
– If there is any doubt in the mind of any honorable senator on the point raised by Senator McLachlan I shall get the opinion of the Crown law authorities on it, although I have no doubt on it myself.
Debate resumed from 26th March (vide page 474), on motion by Senator Daly -
That the billbe now read a second time.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia) [5.9]. - As there is a considerable amount of private members’ business to be transacted after8 p.m., and in order that my remarks on this bill may not be thus interrupted, I ask leave to continue them at a later date.
Leave granted ; debate adjourned.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
V arious people interested in solar physics and allied research have donated for the purpose of assisting the work of the Commonwealth Solar Observatory sums totalling £2,500. In addition, valuable telescopes have been presented to the Observatory. It is desirable that these gifts, together with donations which may be received in the future, should be placed under the control of trustees, and this bill provides for the creation of a Commonwealth Solar Observatory Foundation and Endowment Fund, the trustees of which will be the Director of the Observatory, the Secretary to the Treasury, and the Secretary of the Department of Home Affairs. The powers granted to the trustees are to invest moneys in the fund in securities of the Commonwealth or in the Commonwealth Bank, or in the Commonwealth Savings Bank, and to convert into money securities forming part of the fund. If any other generous citizen likes to make a presentation of property to this fund the trustees will have the right to convert it into cash and invest it as provided for in the bill. The trustees may expend, for the purposes of the Observatory, income arising out of the fund, and will be required to furnish an annual report on the financial transactions respecting it. The books of account kept by the trustees are to be subject to audit by the Auditor-General.
I think honorable senators will appreciate the generosity of those citizens who have made it possible to have the fund which necessitates the introduction of this bill. They are deserving of the thanks of the Senate and the nation, and I hope that in time to come others will be actuated by the same thought to do something for the good of their country.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia) [5.15]. - The establishment of this trust fund is really due to the activity and energy of Doctor Duffield, the late Director of the Solar Observatory, and very largely to the generosity of his family and relatives, and I think it would have been a graceful act, if possible, to appoint Mrs. Duffield one of the trustees of the fund. She is still resident in Canberra and I am sure she would make a very suitable trustee. I realize that it is desirable, as the bill provides, that the trustees should be officials, but if it were possible to do so I think it would be very fitting, at some later date perhaps, to ask the widow of the late Director of the Solar Observatory to act as a trustee. Although there have been gifts of valuable telescopes, the example of the donors that has led to the introduction of this bill has not, I am sorry to say, been followed by other wealthy citizens of Australia. I endorse what the Assistant Minister has said, that the existence of this fund will afford an opportunity to our wealthy citizens to assist science, especially at a time when the finances of the Government are straitened.
– I am under the impression that Mrs. Duffield declined to be a trustee ofthe fund but I agree with Senator Pearce that, to appoint her as one, would be a neat compliment to pay her. I do not know how it can be done under the bill as printed, but I can see no reason why at some future time steps should not be taken to carry out the honorable senator’s suggestion.
Question resolved in the affirmativeBill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 4 agreed to.
Clause 5 -
The Director, the Secretary to the Department of the Treasury and the Secretary to the Department of Home Affairs shall be the trustees of the fund.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia) [5.20]. - I move -
That after the word “ Affairs “ the words “ and such other person as the Minister may appoint “ be inserted.
– I am prepared to accept the amendment.
– I am in complete agreement with the desire of the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce) to have the clause amended to provide for the appointment of Mrs. Duffield as one of the trustees of the fund in recognition of the very magnificent work done by the late Dr. Duffield in Canberra.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 6 to 12 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Motion (by Senator Barnes) agreed to -
That clause 2 be reconsidered.
Clause 2 -
In this act unless the contrary intention appears - “ the trustees “ means the trustees appointed by this act.
Amendment (by Senator Barnes) agreed to -
That after the word “by” the words “or under “ be inserted.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments ; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from 21st March (vide page 381) on motion by Senator Daly -
That the paper be printed.
– I do not intend to speak at great length on this motion, and my remarks probably will be directed at it from an angle different from that of the previous speakers.
The ministerial statement makes mention of a number of important and also some comparatively trivial subjects. . The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce) took exception to the statement of the Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) that, fundamentally, Australia is suffering from the effect of world-wide depression accentuated by over-borrowing. While the Commonwealth may be suffering from the results of certain administrative acts, it is also true to say that Australia is feeling the effects of a world-wide depression. I do not suggest that this depression is the outcome of the late war, but I have no doubt that that catastrophe was a contributing factor. This Government is adopting various means to meet the present position, and necessarily its proposals are open to criticism. None of these legislative measures can be regarded as other than palliatives for the evils with which we are faced.
I am not one of those who believe that the ills of our present system can be cured by any legislative action whatsoever. All that we can hope to do is to knock off a few of the rough edges and afford temporary relief. The Government has submitted certain tariff proposals. I do not believe that any kind of fiscalism offers economic salvation to a people, because countries that claim to be freetrade are in a calamitous position, while others which have adopted the highest protective tariffs are also suffering from similar evils. All degrees and kinds of fiscalism have been tried by various countries, none of which has found it to be a panacea for its social and industrial ills. About 40 years ago, Victoria adopted a high protectionist policy. That colony led the way in imposing protective duties of such a character as to stimulate local industry. At that time i frequently journeyed between Melbourne and Sydney, and I noticed that in Victoria there were many industries which did not exist in New South Wales. To a large extent the industrial development of Melbourne was due to the high protective tariff imposed by Victoria. Later, when, under federation, protective duties became general throughout the Commonwealth, Sydney rapidly made headway, and has now passed Melbourne as a manufacturing centre. In the light of these facts, we can fairly say that industries can be established or stimulated by protective duties. But I do not find that in those countries where protection reigns there is any greater industrial or” economic security than in countries where revenue tariffs, or no tariffs at all, exist. At the very time that Victoria was enjoying high protective duties, which did not operate in New South Wales, it was noticeable that, whenever there was a big industrial conflict in New South Wales, non-union labour was imported wholesale from Victoria to break the strikes. Evidently, the working conditions in Victoria were not :good, or that would not have been possible.
– Victoria was a good /recruiting ground in those days.
– Yes, for “black-leg” Habour. For some generations, Great Britain has been accounted a freetrade country. It is true that that country has not adopted absolute freetrade; but its fiscal policy comes under that heading for most of its duties have been imposed for revenue purposes. We know that in the past there have been severe crises and considerable unemployment in Great Britain, and that to-day, even with a Labour Government in office there, unemployment is increasing instead of diminishing. The United States of America is the home of high protection, :a country par excellence for its individualistic outlook, for the much condemned socialism is entirely absent: a country with enormous resources and a huge home market, but its protective duties have not prevented a vast army of unemployed estimated at between 4,000,000 and 6,000,000 persons at the present time.
Undeniable facts show, clearly that no fiscal policy can, of itself, bring about prosperity. The idea that we can ensure prosperity by taxation is about as sensible as the belief that we can pull ourselves out of a bog by our bootlaces. The facts that I have given regarding the unemployment which exists in Great Britain and most European countries, as well as in the United States of America, show clearly that there is an economic dislocation which has its roots-
– In Moscow.
– Its roots go so deep that no fiscal system can materially affect them. My belief is that the present economic system, known as capitalism, is on the decline, and is producing a state of affairs which, until some new system has been established, must inevitably grow worse and worse. There may be fluctuations which will give us temporary periods of comparative prosperity; but, on the whole, the commercial crises which have affected every country in the world - not always at the same time - will in the future occur more frequently, be of longer duration, and be more intense in their effects.
The capitalistic system has passed its zenith, and is now on the wane. Consequently wars, industrial upheavals and civil commotion are bound to arise in the declining stages of the system. We find, for instance, that the markets of the world are becoming more and more restricted, and the competitors in those markets more in number and fiercer in their antagonisms. It is a fact almost beyond dispute that the last terrible war - the greatest cataclysm in history - arose from commercial rivalry, the ambition of one empire to capture the trade of others and to be the supreme arbiter of the world’s destiny. That ambition undoubtedly led to friction, which although allayed temporarily from time to time, finally resulted in the war from which we have all suffered. Of recent years there has grown up a feeling that the peoples of the world, by linking themselves together, oan prevent future wars
Many honorablesenators believe that there is some magic in the League of Nations which will insure the future peace of the world. I have no faith whatever in the League of Nations. I do not believe that it is so constituted as to be of anypermanent benefit to the world. Onthe contrary it is far more likely to delude people into a false sense of security and, ultimately, to lead to greater disasters. In my opinion the International Labour Conference, established under the aegis of the League of Nations, is an equally futile body which can do nothing to bring about industrial peace among the workers of the world.. There is scarcely an instance of the decisions of that body having been endorsed by the nations which are members of the League of Nations. I regard it as an absolute waste of money to send delegates ro the annual assemblies of the League of Nations. Recently, representatives of the five great naval powers have been meeting in conference, avowedly for the purpose of reducing naval armaments; but, so far as we can gather from the meagre information contained in the cables, they have, in fact, met in a spirit of rivalry in which each nation is trying to dodge the others, and to strengthen its own defences at the expense of the rest. Nothing can bring about disarmament, excepting the abolition of the system which has brought these gigantic armaments into existence, and the removal of trade and commercial rivalry.
– And protective tariffs as well.
– Protective tariffs certainly will not tend to bring about universal peace. Inherent in the capitalistic system is human greed, by which each person seeks to profit at the expense of others.
– It built up nations.
– Whatever it might have done in the past, it is true that the capitalistic system has permeated mankind with dishonesty, greed, and a callous disregard for those outside its own ambit. The world is shrinking, in the sense that more and more backward countries are becoming industrialized, and thus are supplying not only their own requirements, but are also joining in the competitive search for new markets. The result is that the available markets are becoming fewer and the competitors in them more numerous.
– The honorable senator is condemning the Labour party’s policy of protection.
– I am not now speaking in any narrow or local sense, but of the position in the world to-day as I see it. The commercial rivalry which exists to-day leads to competition for additional territory. Already almost all the available space in the world has been mopped up by so-called great powers. All the socially and industrially backward nations have become subject races under the control of the great European powers, the United States of America, and Japan. The subjugation of those races, whose lands, raw materials and labour are being exploited for the benefit of the conquering races, has intensified the rivalry between the great allegedly civilized powers. That rivalry must be more intense as the system develops. At the present time it is quite impossible for a small community to manufacture many articles profitably, because cheap manufacture is possible only where mass production methods obtain. Where there is only a small population, and consequently a small home market, mass production can succeed only if the surplus production can be exported. With every nation trying to send its surplus production away, each feels that it, is being more or less injured by the surplus goods of other countries being dumped on its shores. The result is that the world is rapidly becoming a series of watertight compartments; each country is restricting imports and trying to grow rich by exporting its goods to other countries. Modern developments have brought about the most chaotic conditions possible in the trade of the world. It is clear that some countries are more favourably situated for the production of certain commodities than are others. Undera perfect socialistic system, each country would produce those things for which it, was most adapted, and would exchange its surplus production for goods which could be produced better by other countries. Tariffs would be a thingof the past. No tariff can make a young country like Australia, which is sparsely settled and has no great home markets, compete successfully with other countries which have an abundance of cheap labour.
Honorable senators opposite become angry when accused of favouring low wages. We assert that the attitude they have taken up compels them to support this movement for lowering the standard of living, which involves working for longer hours and lower wages. What has been happening in Great Britain during recent years? British manufacturers have not been satisfied to derive huge profits from their extensive textile and other industries with British labour: but have invested millions of pounds sterling in establishing spinning, weaving, and other textile factories in India, where that work is now undertaken with the cheapest labour in the world, with the exception, perhaps, of that of China. Factories are also being established in China by British and continental manufacturers in order to utilize the cheap labour available in that country. Thus, even if we came down to the level of British and European wage conditions generally the competition of coolie labour in Asiatic countries could not be avoided. In these circumstances we shall have to come down to their standard unless the workers of this country stand out for shorter hours and increased wages.
– Does not the honorable senator think that the white worker is more proficient than the coolie labourer ?
– He may be ; but there are many industries in Asiatic countries in which two, three or even more of these coolie labourers could be employed at a wage lower than that paid to one white man. If their labour is less effective, it is not so largely due to our vaunted race superiority, as to the fact that our people are better fed, stronger, and have more stamina to stand the work, as well as the experience of generations in learning these skilled trades. With tuition Asiatic labour will become more efficient and, perhaps, equal to ourown, and therefore must be allowed for in the race for commercial supremacy. We are faced with the great menace - not the yellow peril that we once feared by the introduction of Chinese into this country - of the importation of commodities pro duced in Asiatic countries which it would be impossible for us to produce half as cheaply. These commodities are being produced, not in the humble surroundings of these people as a home industry, but in factories established by British and other European capitalists, who are utilizing cheap labour and the most effective machinery. This cheap labour, which is being exploited by the greed of Europeans, is leading to their own undoing, as thousands of weavers and spinners in Lancashire are now idle in consequence of the manufacturers investing their surplus wealth in similar undertakings’ in India and China. This is bringing about the ruination of many British textile manufacturing concerns. That sort of thing is going on all over the world, and the competition for the available markets has become more and more intense. Every war during the last 100 years has been trade war, in- cluding the last one, which some deluded persons were led to believe was something else. In these circumstances we are more than ever liable to be involved in war in thefuture.
I now wish to comment upon a statement made by Senator Lynch some days ago, when he attempted to compare conditions in Russia with those in other countries. The honorable senator said that in Russia the workers were receiving wages in the vicinity of 2s. and 3s. a day, and that the conditions there were most deplorable. I am not going to argue about the conditions in Russia beyond the point that they have a bearing on the conditions in other countries. According to information at my disposal - I am not depending upon Soviet information, but on reports that have been made by investigators who have gone through that country on their own account, and who are hostile to Soviet conditions, and the communistic policy - a scheme in that country known as the five years plan under which the authorities have set out to industrialize to a large extent the principal portions of that vast country by introducing electrification systems, farming on modern scientific lines, and in other ways in seeking to increase productivity, is full of promise. In the first year of its operation it has far exceeded expectations, and it is now expected that in four years the Russian people will be able to accomplish what it was thought would be almost a miracle if completed in five years.
– Does the honorable senator approve of shock battalions in industry?
– I do not know exactly what the honorable senator means.
– They are sending out shock battalions for the purpose of speeding up.
– The speeding up system in Russia does not demoralize the individual as it does here. Under that system the working week has been reduced to five days, and in every unit of five persons one has a week off. I do not, however, propose to go into that in detail.
– That, does not mean that they work only five days out of seven. They have cut out Sunday.
– They have dispensed with the day of worship, perhaps, but not as a day of rest.
– Their week consists of only five days.
– They work only four days out of five. I do not wish to elaborate this point; to do so would be to lead to endless discussion. The Russian people are erecting factories for the manufacture of farm tractors, of which they are going to produce in the first two or three years no fewer than 20,000 annually, and they will increase that number to 40,000 at the end of a five-year period.
– Is not Henry Ford doing that for them ?
– He entered into a contract with the Soviet.
– What I have stated is being done by the people themselves, irrespective of the activities of Mr. Ford. Other concessions have been made to various manufacturers and producers. In addition they have a huge scheme in course of fulfilment for the industrial development of the country, and to an extent which would not have been possible under normal conditions for a century. The effect of this activity will be to intensify the competition in the world’s markets to which I have already referred. 1 noticed in the press the other day that a contract had been entered into to supply Canada with a large quantity of Russian coal annually, showing that determined efforts are being made to engage in export trade. There will also be an enormous increase in the production of wheat from the millions of acres of land which are available, and which hitherto, owing to the slow and primitive methods of cultivation and garnering, have not been effectively developed. Russia is the only country of any importance in which the position of the workers has advanced while those in other so-called civilized countries have gone back. The workers in other countries have been fighting vigorously and continuously to retain a modicum of the conditious they have won for themselves during the last generation.
– Why are the farm labourers fleeing from Russia?
– In Russia they have made the farmers flee.
– Only the Kulaks or the more prosperous farmers because they refused to abide by the laws of the country. We would also have to fly or go to Long Bay gaol ifwe did not respect the law. The peasantry are largely becoming joint owners of collective farms on which they are employing the latest machinery.
– They were forced to do so at the point of the bayonet.
– I am not dealing with the moral side of this matter. The assertions of some bigots are so wild that it. would be futile to argue with those infected with these ideas.
– What of the bigots of Russia ?
– I am not one ; I am strongly of the opinion that facts prove that the world to-day is in a state from which only the most heroic and extreme measures can rescue it.
– At the point of the bayonet.
– The honorable senator is a great advocate of the bayonet. I do not know what advantage there is in having military men continually advising us to arm and be ready, and preaching the doctrine of preparedness, if they sneer at the use of the bayonet whichthey are so fond of putting into the hands of the people.
– Does the honorable senator think that the Russian workers enjoy better conditions than the Australian workers?
– I do not say that; but the conditions of the workers in Russia are improving while those of other countries are not. In order to illustrate the point I may say that a fat bullock which has been starved for a few days loses its condition, and, when slaughtered, its flesh is not so tasty as theflesh of one which was poor but improving.
– There is a lot of room for improvement in Russia.
– In the case I have mentioned one is going up and the other is going down. I challenge any honorable senator to deny that the conditions of the working class in every other country, apart from Russia, are not worse off than they were, say 2, 5 or 10 years ago. Since the war it has become increasingly difficult for organized workers in any country to maintain their old conditions let alone to win any improvement.
– They are steadily improving.
– Steadily going clown.
– The honorable senator is pessimistic.
– I am not; I am merely stating facts. I challenge any one to refute my statement that it is becoming increasingly difficult for the workers to maintain the conditions which they have enjoyed in the past, quite apart from seeking an improvement.
– Does the honorable senator assert that the conditions in Sweden have not improved?
– The honorable senator attempts to refute my statement by quoting a country in which there is a mere handful of people compared with other important countries. I do not belittle the people of Sweden.
– What about the workers in France? There is no unemployment there.
– Honorable senators know that the population of France has decreased in recent years.
– It is now increasing:
– Yes, by the importation of Italians.
-No, by natural increase.
– Then that increase has taken place since last week. Thelatest statistical information that I have read indicates that the population of France is still decreasing. However, the population of that country is so nearly stationary that it is not worth quarreling about whether there has been an infinitesimal increase or not. Senator Sir George Pearce knows that France has great natural resources, and any prosperity that it may now be enjoying is the result of its dodging to a large extent the payment of its just war debts by writing them down.
– Did not Russia repudiate all its obligations?
– Russia has repudiated its debts. Other European countries have inflicted upon it some of the most, infamous conditions that any allegedly civilized race has imposed upon a nation. If it comes to a matter of owing money to others and a deliberate breach of international relationship, not one of the principal powers of Europe, including Great Britain, dare cast accusations at Russia.
– When has Great Britain repudiated its debts?
– I refer particularly to breaches of international relationship.
– In what way has Britain erred?
– Great Britain, France, Germany, Japan, and even the United States of America despatched troops to Russia, blockaded its ports, fought against that country and killed thonsands of Russians without even declaring war. They destroyed Russia’s railways and ravaged Russian territory, all in the name of civilization.
– That cannot be proved.
– I challenge the honorable senator to disprove it. If there is any merit in not keeping an immoral contract, merit may be ascribed to the various European countries in failing to honour many of their pre-war immoral treaties. Russia was promised Constantinople if it became a party to the machinations of the Triple Entente, a contract that was repudiated by Great Britain and her allies.
– Russia fell down on its job.
– Only after she had lost more of her people than any other nation involved in the war.It was about time that it did cry enough. Russia would have shown better sense had it not engaged in the war. However, I do not wish to argue about the merits or demerits of Russia or of any other country. Whether we agree or disagree with Russia’s policy or politics we must admit that that country is on the upgrade.
– We do not admit that.
– It is decreasing the hours of labour and increasing wages, and conferring all kinds of benefits, educational and otherwise, on its people, while every other civilized country is practically at its wits end to maintain the position it once held.
– Russia sank to a lower level in regard to the necessities of life than did any other civilized country.
– Only because it was blockaded by the allied countries for two to three years after the cessation of hostilities. They would not even permit the entrance into Russia of anaesthetics, lint, bandages, and other essentials needed for use in its hospitals. What barbarous tactics for allegedly civilized nations to employ. The allies destroyed thousands of miles of Russian railways, and tore up and burned millions of Russian sleepers. They destroyed hundreds of bridges in that country, and their troops marched through many of its provinces three or four times, raiding, iooting, and massacring. No wonder Russia sank to the lowest depths. But it is all the more to its credit that it has climbed out of those depths within a comparatively few years. Whether Russia is good or bad, it is recovering its old position, and becoming a serious competitor in the world’s trade struggle.
While Australia may temporarily recover its solvency by abstaining from borrowing, by importing fewer luxuries and so forth, those measures will bring about only a temporary recovery of its equilibrium. It is a fantastic and falla cious idea to believe that they will entirely rehabilitate our morale and our credit.
– We shall have to inaugurate a Soviet!
– We could not do much worse than, continue under existing conditions. The present proposals are only temporary palliatives which may for a time remove the worst of the evils confronting Australia, but those evils will recur with even greater intensity, and these crises will occur more frequently in the future than they have in the past, because there is no stability in the system itself.
– The honorable senator is getting pessimistic in his old age.
– I am not, because I am philosophic enough either to kill or to be killed as the circumstances dictate. . 1 recollect that, when I was a member of the New South Wales State Parliament 38 years ago, I criticized the then existing borrowing mania, and pointed out that it would eventually lead Australia into a catastrophe. The State was then borrowing at from31/2 per cent, to 4 per cent., and I indicated that if it continued to borrow to the full extent of its resources in times of prosperity, it would be compelled to borrow at any exorbitant rate that investors cared to demand if a sudden calamity overtook the country, already mortgaged to the hilt. My prediction has been fulfilled. At that time, the public debt of New South Wales was only £51,000,000.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
Primatebusiness taking precedence after 8 p.m.,
I move - 1.. That, in view of the surplus production of coal and sugar cane in Australia, a select committee of the Senate be appointed to inquire into the desirability of enforcing in the Commonwealth the use of power spirit manufactured from coal, and /or power alcohol manufactured from sugar cane and other primary products, as an admixture with imported petrol, or in substitution therefor.
Senators Cooper, Dooley, H. E. Elliott. E. B. Johnston, Ogden.Rae, and the mover.
I t has become apparent to every one that Australia, in common with the rest of the world, must set about finding some substitute for flow of oil for use in internal combustion engines which are the most modern and most successful form of transport we have to-day. Australia also, in common with the rest of the world, is building roads not only for the purpose of opening fresh country, but to provide easier means of transport by means of these internal combustion engines. The tremendous losses that the railways of the States, with one exception, are sustaining are due to the competition brought about by the ever increasing use of this more modern means of transport, and it is, therefore, our bounden duty to see if we cannot find in our own country a fuel suitable for use in internal combustion engines. Considerable sums of money have been spent in Australia in investigating the possibility of finding flow oil - a good deal of money has been spent at Soma, Longreach and other centres in Queensland - and we are all hopeful that eventually it will, be found; but, unfortunately, geological reports by Dr. Wade and others are not favorable. Some geologists say that there is no doubt certain parts of Australia contain oil-bearing strata, but other eminent geologists do not give us much encouragement in that direction. We have, therefore, to turn our attention to finding some substitute for flow oil.
– Petrol from coal should be our main objective.
– It has been demonstrated by the recent coal, trouble in New South Wales that Australia, like all other parts of the world, is producing far more coal than is needed for fuel purposes, and a thorough investigation should therefore be made with a view to ascertaining the possibility of utilizing our coal for the purpose of producing a motor spirit. Some years ago I visited the Broken Hill Proprietary Works at Newcastle and saw a small and fairly crude plant producing a petrol substitute known as benzol. I think it is generally admitted that benzol mixed with petrol provides a very efficient fuel for internal combustion engines. We are all pleased that the end of the coal trouble, is in sight, but at the same time we must realize that if the miners of Cessnock and Newcastle return to work thousands of coal-miners in other parts of Australia will be thrown out of employment, owing, partly to the high price of coal, but mainly because oil as a fuel is looked upon as far easier to handle and more economical to use. The use of coal is decreasing in comparison with oil fuel, not only for ships, but also for land industries.
– Do not forget that pulverization of coal has a great future.
– That is quite possible, and it is an asnect of thequestion that might be investigated by the select committee I am proposing. We have reached the stage in Australia at which we must find some method of utilizing our surplus coal. It has been clearly demonstrated that it is possible to obtain a motor spirit from coal. In fact, some industrial chemists say that it is an economic waste to burn coal for fuel, and that it should be used only for the production of what are. now regarded as by-products. Anyone who has been down the South Coast of New South Wales and seen the hundreds of thousands of tons of coal being burnt to make coke must regret the frightful waste that goes on. with all the valuable by-products vanishing into the atmosphere. To my mind we shall never get over the difficulty until the Commonwealth Government makes compulsory the use of a certain percentage of substitute fuel manufactured in Australia with every gallon of petrol used by a motor car in Australia. Some honorable senators belonging to my own party do not care for the reference in my motion to the compulsory enforcement of the use of a certain percentage of fuel manufactured in Australia with every gallon of imported oil, but in my opinion, while it is still an easy matter to import flow oil the production of a substitute for petrol will never be advanced.
– Why not compel everyone to drink a certain percentage of Australian whisky?
– The price of imported whisky is so prohibitive that there is evidently some attempt being made to compel people to drink a certain percentage of Australian whisky. The Standards Association, a body which is subsidized by the Federal Government, has investigated the question of producing in Australia a substitute for petrol, and its recommendation is that it should be made compulsory for fuel consumed by internal combustion engines in Australia to contain a percentage of power alcohol, benzol or some other substitute manufactured in Australia. There is no need for me to stress the point that if we want the coal industry to live we must find some additional means of utilizing the coal. It may be that success will follow its pulverization, but if that does not prove a success we must find some other outlet for our surplus production, or give up the industry altogether. Our coal deposits are too valuable to allow them to lie idle, and, in my opinion, the whole subject should be thoroughly investigated by the most eminent industrial chemists Australia can procure. Money spent in that direction would be well spent.
Now I turn to an industry of great importance to Queensland. In that State we are producing more sugar than Australia can consume. Unfortunately we have to export’ our surplus at a considerable loss. The British market, because of the operation of the preferential tariff, absorbs a good deal of our surplus, but Australian sugar cannot be placed on the British market except at a loss. Queensland has hundreds of thousands of acres of. the most fertile country in the world capable of growing sugar cane and affording employment to hundreds of thousands of white men, but to-day by the law of the land no one can take up fresh country for growing sugar cane, because there is already an over production of sugar.
– Will not the land grow anything else?
– Undoubtedly it would grow other forms of tropical produce, but it is generally admitted that the coastal belt of Northern Queensland is particularly suitable for growing sugar cane.
– Is it not the position that the people want to grow sugar because they get an enormous subsidy on it?
– As a matter of fact no subsidy is paid to the sugar industry. Unlike most of the other primary industries, it receives adequate protection to enable if to carry on. But I think we can well leave that aspect of the case aside for the moment. My one desire is to see the area under sugar’ cane cultivation in Northern Queensland largely extended.
– All that country will grow cassava, which is suitable for the production of power alcohol.
– Unfortunately our experience in the cultivation of cassava in North Queensland has not been as successful as it might have been. But we do know that the by-product of sugar cane is suitable and that the experiments have long since passed the elementary stage. For some considerable time the Distilleries Company Limited at Sarina has been manufacturing a mixture of petrol and power alcohol known as she.col, which is being largely used throughout the northern districts of that State. It has proved itself to be a thoroughly efficient fuel for internal combustion engines. Those who have used it claim that it is about the only spirit that docs not carbonize, and, in addition, it keeps the moving parts of a motor engine cleaner than is possible with the use of the ordinary motor fuel. A good deal of pioneering work in the production of shelcol has been done by the Distilleries Company Limited, but it is to be regretted that this product is not being used in anything like the quantities that one would expect. To ensure the development of the power alcohol industry in Australia, it will be necessary to pass legislation requiring owners of internal combustion engines to use a certain percentage of this or some other substitute fuel.
In a bulletin issued by the Department of Markets and Transport on 15th February last, there appears an important reference to the use of alcohol as a motor fuel. I take the following extract from it :–
In an address given before the Engineers’ Club, Philadelphia, last year, Dr. Henry Arnstein, well-known American scientist, said that he expected alcohol to supplant gasoline as the crude oil supplies of the United States of -America dwindled. Tn his opinion, the crude oil supply oi America was rapidly diminishing and there is a growing need for ii, substitute. He claims that alcohol of the fuel type contemplated can be scientifically produced more cheaply than gasoline. During the production of alcohol, depending on raw material employed, various valuable byproducts are obtainable and if they are recovered they will reduce the production cost of alcohol to such an extent as to enable America to produce alcohol even in the midst of oil-fields at a price which will favorably compare with the production cost of gasoline.
Continuing Dr. Arnstein stated, that “ alcohol is prepared from vegetable matter, Of which nature supplies crops recurring annually and as long as the sun shines we are assured of plant life, and all plant life, without exception, can be used for the manufacture of alcohol.” t understand also that experiments, made recently in Victoria in the manufacture of power alcohol from straw, were very satisfactory. It stands to reason that if we can develop this industry in Australia we shall do much to put this country in a better and safer position. The manufacture of power alcohol from primary products would mean a considerable increase in employment and extension of land settlement. Dr. Arnstein stated further -
That these fuels can compete with gasoline even now is being demonstrated by the United States Post Office Department in its airplane mail service. Its tests show a great increase in the number of miles per gallon, ah increase in power, and a very marked saving in the quantity of lubricating oil used.
During the war, the acetate of lime factory on the Brisbane River manufactured a considerable quantity of power alcohol, which was used extensively in motor cars owned by the Federal Government with most satisfactory results. The report goes on to state -
The following is an analysis of the consumption of alcohol fuel at various speeds, the tests covering 31 non-stop flights between Vew York and Washington: -
To-day alcoholic motor fuels are quite generally used in Cuba, Brazil, Panama, Sweden, Hungary, Italy and Czecho-Slovakia. It is generally known that Germany is an industrial country and not an agricultural country. Notwithstanding the fact that Germany imports annually 5,000,000 tons of foodstuffs, Germany has now in operation over 40,000 industrial alcohol plants.
These figures are most striking. It is evident that Germany, which has given so much attention to industrial chemistry in recent years, is fully seised of the importance of this industry. If the United States of America, which produces so much of the world’s petrol, also deems it advisable to give serious attention to the production of substitute fuels, surely there is urgent need for Australia to do likewise, because the Commonwealth is at a much greater distance from the world’s supplies of flow oil, and to date we have not discovered flow oil in this country. Dr. Arnstein stated further -
It is also a well-known fact that the lowtemperature carbonization of coal, and thu manufacture of liquid fuels by synthetic methods has been developed in Germany to a greater extent than in the rest of the world combined. Notwithstanding these facts Germany is mixing her benzol and “ synthol “ with alcohol to such an extent that the alcohol consumption for fuel purposes increased in Germany last year by 425 per cent, over the preceding year.
– That was because it paid.
– I should also like to see it pay in Australia. Up to date there has been no really expert investigation into the possibilities of manufacturing substitute fuels in the Commonwealth.
– Does the honorable senator suggest that a select committee of the Senate will comprise experts?
– No ; but it will be able to seek the advice of experts. If the honorable senator can suggest a better method of obtaining the information I am seeking, I shall be glad to hear what he has to say.
– Why not ask the Government to get a report from the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research ?
– That also may be done. My chief concern is to awaken public interest in this important matter, so that Australia may not lag too far behind other nations, which have already realized the possibilities of developing the power alcohol industry. Dr. Arnstein stated further -
In the United States of America we have sufficient agricultural fruit and forest waste available from which more than 50 per cent, of the country’s fuel consumption could be obtained; and if the necessity arose, we could produce in this country sufficient cereals ‘from which the country’s total motor fuel requirements could be satisfied. This may be proven by the fact that in the year 1920 agricultural United States of America produced an average of only 117 bushels of potatoes per square mile; while industrial Germany grows (!,097 bushels per square mile.
It is clear that important developments are taking place in other parts of the world. The time has arrived when Australia should bestir itself. I did not proceed with this motion last session because the Leader of the Senate (Senator Daly) gave me an assurance that investigation? w.ere being made, and I understand that Dr. Rivett, of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, will make inquiries in Germany during his visit to that country. If the Senate is’ of the opinion that the appointment of a select committee should be delayed until Dr. Rivett furnishes his report to the Government I shall not offer the slightest objection. I have submitted the motion tonight in order that publicity may be given to this important matter, and that the people of Australia may understand what the development of this great industry in the Commonwealth would mean. I hope that it will lead to discussion. I am firmly convinced that internal combustion engines will play an important part in all future forms of transport. Senator McLachlan told us the other day that but for an objection raised by one member of the Fisher Government, the traffic on the East-West Railway would have been handled by internal combustion engines instead of steam locomotives.
Whether by air, sea, or land, transport in the future will be by means of the internal combustion engine. Australia should not for ever be dependent on other countries for her fuel requirements. The exhaust pipe of every motor vehicle that travels along our roads, and of every aeroplane that flies over our heads, is discharging gases generated from imported fuel, for which large sums of money are sent out of Australia annually. Indeed, a large proportion of our adverse trade balance is represented by importations of petrol.
– Why do not the sugar barons of Queensland do their part towards providing power alcohol?
– There are no barons in the sugar industry. Probably the honorable senator refers to the fact thai those engaged in the industry are, for the most part, barren of cash.
– Has the honorable senator seen the last balancesheet of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company?
– Even if that company is making huge profits, it does not necessarily follow that they are made in Australia, for the ramifications and activities of that company are many and varied; nor does it prove that the sugar-growers of Queensland are making big profits. In spite of the assurance of the various oil companies that there is no danger of a shortage of oil fuel, there is evidence that, unless fresh fields are found, the petrol supplies of the world will not last more than another 50 or 60 years. For that reason Germany and other countries are developing their sources of power alcohol. So long as ample fuel’ supplies are ensured, I do not care whether that, result is achieved by a select committee or by other means. I hope that the discussion on this motion will direct attention to the possibility of manufacturing our own fuel requirements, so that it will not always be necessary for us to purchase them from other countries.
Debate (on motion by Senator Daly) adjourned.
Penny-a-Word Messages: Report of Select Committee.
.- I move-
That the report from the select committee appointed to inquire into and report upon the desirability and commercial possibility of sending messages from Australia to England over the Beam Wireless at a penny a word, presented to the Senate on 14th August, 1929, be adopted.
In September last I moved a similar motion but for reasons well known to honorable senators the debate on it was not continued. On this occasion I shall not make a long speech, for I should only repeat what I said a few months ago. Ex-Senator Thomas, who was responsible for the motion which resulted in the appointment of a select committee to inquire into and report upon the desirability and commercial possibilities of sending messages from Australia to England over the Beam wireless at a penny a word, took a very keen interest in this question. Unfortunately he is not with us to-day. There is no difference of opinion regarding the desirability of having adequate and cheap communication, not only within the Commonwealth, but also with the outside world, particularly other portions of the Empire. Evidence given before the Select Committee by men in a position to express an opinion shows that the sending of messages between Australia and Great Britain for a penny a word is not merely a dream or a fad of ex-Senator Thomas; it is something capable of accomplishment. Between Canada and Great Britain messages are already being sent for 1-Jd. a word, excluding terminal charges. That, too, was the idea of ex-Senator Thomas; terminal charges were not intended to be included in the charge of a penny a word. Having heard a good deal of evidence the Select Committee made the following recommendations: -
The committee also added a fourth recommendation -
That as the committee was limited in the scope of its inquiry with respect to the proposed merger of the wireless and cable companies, Parliament should (have an opportunity of discussing the whole question of oversea telegraphic communication before the Government becomes a party to any such merger.
A perusal of the report makes it clear that wireless has not been allowed to develop fully because it would compete with the cables. The committee recog nized the services rendered to the Empire by the cable companies and stated in its report that if wireless were developed to its full capacity, the cable companies would probably cease to operate.
– Would the honorable senator be willing for them to go out of existence?
– I am not suggesting that. The chief argument advanced against the proposals of exSenator Thomas was the necessity for retaining the cable services, chiefly because of their greater secrecy in times of war. Admiral Napier was emphatic on the need to retain the cables. It might therefore be regarded as presumption on my part to offer a contrary view. It is well-known that although, early in the war, the ..cables upon which Germany had previously depended were severed, that nation was not without means of communication with the rest of the world. The committee gave careful consideration to the importance of the cable service as a means of communication, but the evidence disclosed that its importance had, in some cases, been overstated. The committee also gave the fullest consideration to the possibility of transmitting wireless messages at Id. a word as suggested in the motion, and recommended that the rate be reduced to l£d. a word for lettergrams such as are used in connexion with our telegraphic service. The late Mr. Haldane, in giving evidence before the committee, said that if the Telegraph Department received Id. a word for all the messages transmitted throughout Australia the telegraph service would be profitable to the department. That result could be achieved although the capital expenditure involved in connexion with our telegraphic and telephonic system amounts to approximately £8,000,000 as compared with about £300,000 or £400,000 to provide the necessary wireless equipment to transmit messages between Australia and Great Britain. As honorable senators are aware, Parliament decided some years ago that a very substantial reduction should be made in the case of press messages in order to facilitate the dissemination of news throughout Australia; but this reduction has resulted in a loss to the department of approximately £300,000 a year. If that concession had not been granted, we were informed, the telegraphic section of the Postal Department would show a profit. In these circumstances,- it is fair to assume that overseas wireless messages could be profitably despatched at approximately Id. a word. Mr. Fiske, Managing Director of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, said, in evidence, that he did not believe that Id. a word was a commercial proposition at present, but that there was no reason why that should not be the objective of the company.
– .Did he say that the present rates could be reduced?
– He did not regard it as a commercial proposition at the moment. If wireless messages were transmitted at actual cost it would result in the business of the cable companies being practically destroyed; this, some contend, should not be permitted. As wireless communication will undoubtedly develop to a. remarkable degree, it is the duty of the Government to facilitate wireless overseas communication to the fullestextent. It would be better to subsidize the cable companies and allow wireless, as a means of communication, to develop, as by doing so we would be rendering a service not only to the people of Australia but also to the whole Empire. The recommendations of the committee can be regarded as somewhat conservative in view of the nature of the evidence tendered, but in view of all the circumstances the committee has recommended that a rate of 1-Jd. per word be charged for lettergrams as is now charged for such messages between Canada, and Great Britain. The committee fully appreciates the very valuable assistance it received from Mr- Fiske, the Managing Director of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, whose extensive knowledge of wireless telegraphy in all its ramifications was of great help in conducting the inquiry. In efficiently controlling this important organization Mr. Fiske is performing a very useful service to the community. I trust that the Government will closely study the committee’s report, and that it will not offer any objection to its adoption.
Debate (on motion by Senator Barnes) adjourned.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Before dealing with, the provisions of the measure I desire to express my appreciation, and, I think, that of the majority of honorable senators, of the courtesy and good sense displayed by the Government in allowing it to be proceeded with. Unless I had been given the opportunity to introduce it, as -a private member, while the facts were still fresh in my memory, the volume of work involved in its preparation would have been wasted, and an important branch of the legislature which is competent to deal with such a measure would have been deprived of that right, because of the impracticability of a government which has just assumed office giving the subject the attention which it deserves.
I do not propose to detain the Senate al any length in moving the second reading, because on the 26th August last, as a member of the late Government, I introduced a measure which was. practically on all fours with this bill. The measure has been through the crucial test of examination by governmental experts, and also experts representing the various institutions vitally interested in it. Compared with the bill previously introduced it does not embody any new principles. It contains a number of minor amendments, which do not involve matters of principle, but which will make it more workable. by the department to be established and more acceptable to the companies interested. These amendments have been agreed upon to some extent; but I do not suggest that the bill will pass in its present form, as I may, at the committee stage, seek to further amend it in minor details.. Such amendments will not affect the principles of the bill, but will, I hope, result in its harmonious working, and in some cases prevent injustices.
As to the importance of this measure; when I previously addressed the Senate on the subject I pointed out that the funds under the control of the insurance companies of Australia aggregated some £120,000,000 sterling. That, in itself, is sufficient to indicate “the importance of the subject. But it becomes ever so much more important that the law should be well arid clearly settled, and that proper control should be exercised over insurance companies, when, we bear in mind the nature of the funds over which these companies hold control. I also indicated to the Senate that this measure wa3 modelled to some extent on similar British legislation, on the lines of the British Industrial Act of 1923, on the Board of Trade Report for 1927, and also on the findings of our own royal commission on insurance dating back to 1910. Honorable senators will probably recollect, from the discussion that took place on the subject last August, that the basis of all Australian State life insurance legislation is the act which is a land-mark in the history of life assurance. I refer to the British Act of 1S70, which was modified by the measure of 1909. Throughout this measure there have been preserved the two great principles which were recognized in that British legislation and also in the report of Lord Parmoor’s Commission later on - the principles of freedom and publicity.
Honorable senators will find that the changes in the draft before them are not of any great moment. During the secondreading debate on the bill that was introduced last August several points were raised by honorable senators, and I shall deal with them as I go along in order to save fi great deal of time in discussion, and to enable us to get this bill to the place where we want to have it as speedily as possible, in order. that it may he passed by Parliament this year.
Senator Colebatch mentioned the clauses dealing with the recognition of age, and I think he was supported by Senators Johnston and Duncan. That matter is dealt with by clauses 77 and 78 of the bill. Modifications of the original proposals were agreed upon, and what is now embodied in this bill appears to give general satisfaction to the parties concerned. The official committee and the insurance companies’ representatives inquired into alterations in practice with regard to surrender values, and I understand that a satisfactory solution of the problem was reached.
– I do not find the policy-holders coming into discussion.
– if the honorable senator will possess his soul in patience I shall specifically and specially deal with policy-holders, a matter which very rightly exercises his mind.
One criticism of the original measure levelled by almost every honorable senator was that there was a risk of building up a large department. I dealt with that matter when I replied to the secondreading speeches. Whatever is necessary to he done ought to be done in the interests of the public, the policyholders and the commercial welfare of Australia generally. I feel that we can look to the gentleman who will be appointed registrar for a much higher ideal than mere desire to extend his department, as was suggested by some honorable senators. We should be ill advised to carp at control, having regard to the fact that where control has been absent in the insurance world a great many things have happened which ought not to have happened.
There was a suggestion by Senator Lawson that the bill contained a number of irritating provisions, and he, too, dealt with the matter of age. I do not think that honorable senators will have any real cause of complaint in that respect. I feel sure that if there is any room for ‘complaint the Senate will pass such amendments as will alleviate the- conditions to which objection is taken, provided those concerned are able to substantiate their case. I have given the measure very careful consideration and I think that every reasonable -complaint previously raised has been fairly and reasonably met by the committee engaged in its preparation. Some suggestions were made by Senators Duncan and Dunn with regard to differentiating between deposits of foreign and Australian companies. If those honorable senators still have any doubts on the subject, I point out that the deposit is not the thing that counts. After all, it is a small ‘matter compared with the liabilities of these huge concerns. The £20,000 that a company has to put up does not count at all. The thing that does count is the statutory fund, and it is proposed to allow the registrar to deal with companies that are not maintaining their statutory fund in such a condition that there will be ample security for the policy-holders. Here let me point out to
Senator Thompson that the provisions in relation to statutory funds are to be found in clauses 37 to 42 of the bill. I think that the honorable senator will agree that they are sufficiently stringent. In fact, the suggestion is that they err rather on the side of harshness to the insurance companies. In my opinion they are reasonable provisions. I believe that the first duty of this Parliament is to give effect to protection of policy-holders. If honorable senators will examine the British Board of Trade reports they will find that the matter of foreign companies was specifically taken into consideration. After careful deliberation and examination it was considered that it would be unwise to discriminate against foreign companies operating in England, as such treatment would bring about a re-action that might not be beneficial to insurance. I have forgotten exactly how the report reads, but the point made was that so long as the conditions regarding the statutory funds of any insurance company carrying on in Great Britain were safeguarded - and that is what we have endeavoured to do here - there was no reason why a foreign company should be penalized. After all, it is bringing a certain amount of capital into the country.
Something was also said concerning the methods adopted in recent years. All these things induced the committee to take a particular interest in the matter of insurance to see whether some measures cannot be adopted to bring about a uniform insurance law from Cape York to the Leeuwin. There may be a number of insurance companies operating in, say, Victoria, Western Australia or South Australia. Under the acts of those States, based on the British act of 1870, those companies would be carrying out similar obligations to the different States. They might make the same or a similar deposit, but they would be governed entirely by the same principle. Two of them come to the conclusion that they will amalgamate. The Supreme Court in each of the States concerned has to be moved to sanction the amalgamation. Under this bill we have accepted the very excellent provisions that are contained in some of the State acts, in order still further to guard the policyholders, so that their position cannot be impaired by any such amalgamation.
A safeguard has also been introduced to deal with the matter of insurance companies acquiring each other’s shares. From the time the deposit is lodged right through to the provision of the statutory fund, its control and investment, the liability of the board and the officers of the company, the returns to be furnished, the supervision by the registrar, and the rigid administration of the act, the dominant note of the bill is the safeguarding of the interests of policy-holders.
Last August I dealt somewhat elaborately with the history of insurance law and its gradual development. I can now assure honorable senators that the present bill is based on the best practice obtaining in Great Britain and Australia. We have adopted the provisions of our own acts relating to child insurance, and the provisions of various acts regarding the protection of policies, and having regard to the attitude of the Leader of the Government (Senator Daly), when he was in opposition, I feel content to say no more in connexion with the matter. Although the bill may not be in keeping with the political principles for which my friends on the government benches stand, I know that they are sufficiently practical to recognize that something should be done to remedy the present state of affairs as regards insurance. As a matter of fact, when the present Leader of the Senate was Leader of the Opposition, he indicated as much. When the late Government was in office before the dark political night overtook it, I ascertained that an Institute of Actuaries had been established in Australia with Mr. Wickens, the Commonwealth Statistician, as its first president. A more worthy selection could not have been made. I was therefore in a position to alter the definition’ of the word “ actuaries “ in accordance with a suggestion made by Senator Daly, and I think that the alteration will conform to his wishes.
I understand that in committee Senator Daly will move some amendments to the bill to which I can see no objection, although they may prove a little troublesome to some of the companies - and may meet with a storm of opposition here. The bill may need some little modification, but I ask honorable) senators to help its speedy passage so that it may be dealt with during the present session. The second session is generally a little more strenuous than the first, and if we get this bill through the Senate this session, it will stand some chance of being on the statute-book before the end of the year. The Treasurer has been good enough to indicate that if it reaches another place during the present sittings, under the Standing Orders, it may be taken up next session at the stage it has reached this session.
I do not propose to make any lengthy statement of principles this evening. I did that when I moved the second reading of the bill as Honorary Minister in the late Government, and I should only weary honorable senators by their repetition, I need do no more than commend the measure to the Senate as one that should be dealt with in committee. The bill is divided into parts, and although some of them may be inter-related and require amendment, most of the debatable questions can be discussed with greater elasticity and at greater length and more to the point, in committee.
– In the bill, has this phase of the matter which is of great interest to policy-holders been given attention: That it is claimed that in the last 30 years the expectation of life has increased by twelve years?
– That is a matter which might be regulated by the registrar. “We can lay down no hard and fast lines. In the life insurance business voluminous statistics are kept. I understand that the same contention was raised many years ago in an attempt to secure a reduction of premiums, but an examination showed that while during one period the expectation of life had increased, there was another period during which it had decreased.
– I understand that the expectation of life is permanently greater than it was.
– The companies seem to admit it, and as I understand the mutual companies will very soon give effect to their admission, the proprietary companies must also do so in their own interests. But it is scarcely a matter in which we can interfere unless we intend to regulate the matter of premiums. Like other commercial organizations, the companies have cover to sell and a man goes to the company that suits him best and gets the cover he wants. It is a matter of contract between him and the company. It will soon be found that the competition between the companies will bring about the result desired by the honorable senator.
– The matter needs ventilating.
– I agree with the honorable senator. There is nothing further I can usefully say at this stage, except that I ask honorable senators to forgo discussion on the second reading.
– The Government has considered the bill presented by Senator McLachlan and, in the main, supports it. Certain matters have been mentioned to the honorable senator, and when the bill is in committee we shall attempt to have amendments incorporated. The insurance companies of Australia are performing most important functions, and it is urgently necessary that we should have some consolidation of the law relating to them. Therefore, not only will the Government support the second reading of the bill, it will also facilitate its passage through its remaining stages.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
.- I move-
That in the opinion of the Senate a committee of experts should be appointed to consider and report upon the advisibility and economic soundness of paying a bounty on the production of gold to be employed exclusively in meeting obligations in respect of Australia’s overseas indebtedness.
Lest the terms of this motion should give rise to any misunderstanding as to my political or economic beliefs, I may say that I am opposed in principle to the payment of bounties except to assist infant industries temporarily or as a salvage measure. I subscribe to the findings of the Inchcape Commission as applied to internal economics. Authorities condemn the subsidization of gold, but the soundness of the principle, I submit, depends entirely on the purpose for which the metal is produced. The object I have in view is the liquidation of the national external debt, or so much of it as it may be prudent to liquidate, and I shall submit for the consideration of the Senate the proposition that no other means are available for dealing with that external indebtedness.
I shall ash honorable senators to bear with me while I expound the unique position that hitherto, so far as I can ascertain, has never arisen in any country except here, and I can find no authority on the subject to aid me in coming to a conclusion upon it. The findings of the commission I have mentioned and the doctrines of all economists whose works I have read on this subject, deal exclusively with gold as a means of controlling the internal economics of a nation, and the payment of a bounty for that purpose is condemned, as very obviously it should be, for the simple reason that the country that gives £4 10s. for gold worth £4 an ounce for its internal purposes is heading towards disaster. When first the suggestion for the payment of a bounty on gold production was made by an exmember of this Senate, I roundly condemned the proposal, but it has subsequently occurred to me, and has been the subject of a great deal of thought on my part, that it might be economic to pay a bounty on gold to be used in respect of a country’s external indebtedness. When I drafted this motion I had not the foresight to anticipate the very cordial invitation extended by the Prime Minister to all members of both Houses to co-operate as an economic conference to. deal with Australia’s difficulties. Before this invitation was extended a set at Australian securities had been made abroad, and when the first citizen of this country, the Prime Minister, and one of his colleagues, the Treasurer, found it necessary to cable overseas that Australia was not going to repudiate, and when they had on one or two other occasions to strike a similar note, I felt that what our responsible Ministers did was not lightly done and would not have been done without cause. It made me pause and ask to what pass was this country coming. For some considerable time I have had my mind centred upon this particular problem. I felt that at last Australia had been caught so tightly in a trap of its own making as to compel governments and leaders of public thought to consider the method by which it could be extricated from its difficult position. I should like to say at the outset that I have no State interest to serve in this matter. I am simply moved by a desire to submit a proposal in the hope that it will be examined and discussed.
In my opinion the external debt of Australia is practically the only cause for financial uneasiness. As I have indicated on other occasions, I believe we. can manage our internal indebtedness quite well, but we are finding it difficult to handle’ our external liabilities. At present our trade balance is adverse. But trade balances have been adverse in other years, and I have no doubt also that they will be adverse in future years. So far as overseas credits are concerned, Australiadepends upon the export of two commodities, the volume of which, as we all know, depends largely upon seasonal conditions. In addition to seasonal fluctuations, a decline in the prices of our two principal primary products - and these are conditions over which no one in Australia has control - is also a cause of uneasiness. What has been the specific adopted in the past when trade balances have been adverse and when mother nature, as Senator Lynch would put it, withholds her bounty and refuses to help us with the production of our great exporting surpluses? To provide for any deficiency in our trade balance we have resorted to borrowing overseas. This is a most dangerous doctrine to preach and practice. By borrowing to pay interest on our loans we have simply been pursuing the policy of the “spendthrift. This specious financial quackery has, to a large extent, been responsible for the position in which we find ourselves to-day. The prosperity which follows such a course is not real or lasting. For some years we. have been living on this borrowed money. While on this point T should like to quote briefly the following statement by one who shall be nameless : -
J.f any one thinks that 50 years is a long time to look ahead, I will ask him to remember, as plenty of active people can, that 50 years ago when they were boys, the policy of borrowing was justified on the ground that posterity would get the assets - all reproductive - for which the loans were obtained, and that it would be easy for posterity, with the wealth created by the national works paid for bv the borrowings, to repay the loans. We lire the posterity of those who borrowed 50 years ago, and we have not repaid those loans. On the contrary, we are borrowing and spending more lavishly than ever, and we are still saying that posterity will be able to re-pay. The children of the infant sons and daughters of this generation will be only middle-aged 100 years hence, and the figures already given would be- those to be faced by them if the crash did not come sooner as it obviously must.
That is a frank and, perhaps, a too forceful statement of the position, but we have to bear in mind that ultimately we shall have to discharge these obligations, and it is a pernicious practice to continue compounding the interest.
– We have our sinking fund for the redemption of those debts.
– If my friend will bear with me for a moment 1 shall show him that as an instrument to deal with our overseas indebtedness the sinking fund is about as useful as a plaster would be on a wooden leg. It ‘is idle to say (hat optimism will see us through. Optimism will not provide work for our unemployed and this is one of the subjects to which we must give our most earnest attention. It is of no use to say Australia is this or that. No one has a higher opinion of! this country than I have, for I have travelled somewhat extensively, and I know its worth. Let us look at the facts and face them honestly. An optimistic viewpoint will not, of itself, achieve anything of practical value. We must examine closely our economic position and especially scrutinize carefully our overseas indebtedness to find out how we can avert disaster.
Unemployment in Australia is, to a large extent, due to our adverse trade balance. The suggested wheat bounty and the constitutional amendments - T say this not with the idea of imparting political sting, but because it is the honest expression of my personal views - are only* political specifics. They will not achieve the desired end. Our urgent need is to devise some practical method to deal with our external debt. Our internal debt, as 1. have already indicated is, I believe, thoroughly sound. Our banking position has never been sounder. Bank authorities for some years now have been issuing notes of warning from time to time. Happily they are in a position to avert any of those disastrous happenings which some of us remember in 1S93. Nevertheless the governments, Federal and State, and the Loan Council, must feel greatly embarrassed at the moment.
I deplore very much that it was even necessary for the Prime Minister to intimate that Australia intended to meet its overseas obligations, but I feel sure that he was constrained to make that declaration because of criticism that was being indulged in overseas. It would be little short of insanity, in fact it would be insanity, for this country to talk of making default. That is not the British habit, nor is it. the Australian habit. Our clear duty is to bend the whole of our energies to the task of devising some means, even if it is only a temporary expedient, to meet the position. I believe that the proposals which I have in mind will, if adopted, lead to a permanent solution of our present problem. I know that there are some who think it is utterly beyond the ability of the Commonwealth to discharge its overseas and internal indebtedness of £1,200,000,000 or thereabouts. Certain gentlemen, who are accustomed to sit in saloons with’ cigarettes hanging from the corners of their mouths, and with cocktails on the tables before them, may smile blandly and declare that we are never going to pay our debts. I do not subscribe to that doctrine. I say “ Out upon it.” We must assure our creditors in Great Britain and in the United States’ of America that we intend to meet our obligations to the last penny.
Having said this much I propose to submit my proposition to the Senate. I do not intend to weary honorable senators with a confusing array of figures. There will be another time and another place for that. I am aware that there exist two schools of thought as to the manner in which we should handle our external and internal loan liabilities. I take the view that having regard to our economic position, our external indebtedness is out of poise with our entire indebtedness. In other words, our external indebtedness constitutes too great a proportion of our entire indebtedness for Australia to be in a safe financial position. I am fully aware that some people preach the doctrine that public borrowing in the local market deprives industry of capital for investment, prevents employment, and works harm to the body politic. There may be something in this contention, but I feel that the scheme, which I ha ve at the back of my mind and which I shall develop in greater detail presently, will safeguard the local position. We have to provide annually about £30,000,000 to meet interest charges on our external debt. This is a considerable sum. At the 30th June, 1928, the Commonwealth and State debts in Australia totalled £524,806,000; the debt owing in London was £521,886,000; the debt owing in New York was £48,281,000, and the total indebtedness was £1,094,973,000.
-It is nearer £1,200,000,000 now.
– It is much larger now I know, but for the purposes of my argument I wish honorable senators to keep in mind the proportions as I have stated them. Senator Thompson said, by way of interjection a few minutes ago, that we have a safeguard in our sinking fund. I take a great deal of pride in the fact that I assisted to draw up the agreement under which, by means of our sinking fund, we put the Commonwealth public debt on a stable basis. I happened to be in England in 1928 when a Commonwealth conversion loan was successfully floated here. I took steps to get publicity in respect of the success of that loan ; but at a certain stage I thought that it would be better for me to stop and say no more. I had been dealing with the financial agreement, and had, I thought, got along very well, when it suddenly struck me that if some gentleman in Britain with financial experience had asked what was the benefit of a sinking fund in respect of our overseas indebtedness, I should have found it difficult to explain how we were tq get the money.
– Does the honorable senator think that the London people did not recognize that?
– I was shortly to know that they recognized it only too fully. But out of consideration for Australia they did not point out the utter uselessness of this fund for the purpose of liquidating our external debt. Although in the reports of the National Debt Commissioners concerning the sinking fund there is from time to time reference to some small amounts of money liquidated in New York or London, we deceive ourselves if we think that they will help matters much. The problem I set myself to determine was the value to Australia of the conversion of the whole, or part, of our external indebtedness into an internal debt. That is a question for economists who, perhaps, could give us some helpful suggestions. I appeal to honorable senators, as practical men, to view the question in the light of history.
The practical value to Australia of converting an external indebtedness into an internal debt must be immense. First of all, it removes the great danger of the suggestion that there, is a doubt as to our ability to meet, that indebtedness. Secondly, it keeps the money in circulation in Australia. After the Franco-Prussian war, when all Europe thought that France was bankrupt, the people of France came to the rescue of their country, which soon entered upon an era of great prosperity. The position in England was much the same after the Napoleonic wars. But the mOst striking illustration is that of the United States of America. In. a publication, entitled Our Public Debt, under the heading “ Funding the Revolutionary Debt,” the following appears: -
In his great report on the public credit, Hamilton recommended that the debt due abroad should be immediately ‘put on an active basis, by the payment of the principal and interest which was in arrears and the making of arrangements by which the remainder of the debt would be liquidated at an early date. There was no other opinion held in regard to the treatment of the foreign debt.
I could quote from other authorities to show that leaders of public thought have always endeavoured, first, to discharge their external indebtedness. Australia’s only hope is in the export of her primary products. Until the standard of living in countries with which we are in competition is raised to our standard, we cannot hope to export the products of our secondary industries to any extent. I have already pointed out that our primary industries are subject to seasonal and price fluctuations. The position of both our staple primary industries - wool and wheat - is indeed serious. The wheat outlook has never been so bad as it is to-day. There is a falling world market.
– Would that be possible in the case of gold?
– Gold is free from all these disabilities, such as tariff walls and falling prices. Our chief primary products are in the gravest possible danger. We all hope that prices will recover; but there is no certainty that they will ever do so. There is no steady level of prices for either wheat or wool. But graphs which have been prepared from time to time show that the variations in the price of gold have been infinitesimal. When I placed my proposal before a friend, who is a sound economist, he asked me why I did not propose a subsidy on wool or wheat. I ask honorable senators to contemplate the position of a country which gave a subsidy on wool in 1927 or 1928, and had to face the market of to-day. Wool and wheat and other primary products are not staple credits. Gold, however, is not subject either to fluctuations in price or to a tariff war between various countries. Tariff walls are erected against almost everything, including wheat and wool; but I have yet to learn that any country has erected a barrier against the importation of gold.
– What about the suggestion that gold is a wasting asset?
– My proposal is to convert or transfer a portion of our external indebtedness to an internal debt. I do not know that it would be wise to pay off the whole of our external indebtedness, even if it were possible to do so. My proposal is to subsidize gold production, the Commonwealth to acquire the gold at ordinary prices, plus the subsidy ; to issue notes in exchange; to accumulate sufficient gold to repay loans falling due overseas; and simultaneously to borrow a similar amount in Australia.
– That is note inflation.
– I hope to show presently that there is no suggestion of note inflation in my proposal. The notes issued for the gold would be received back and cancelled in exchange for bonds. That would effect a conversion from an external to an internal debt. If Australia wants money in London we actually pay a bounty on the production of gold to the extent of £6 5s. for every £100 borrowed. Look at it how we like, we shall find that if we want money in London to-day, we have to pay £106 5s. for every £100 received.
– We actually pay an equal bounty on the wheat and wool we export.
– For the moment I am not concerned with wheat or wool, although that increase is reflected in the price of both. Suppose we have 25 oz. of gold valued at £4 an ounce, or a total of £100. If that gold is sent to London we get £106 5s. for it.
– The position is the same in respect of wool.
– Yes; but the price of wool is not such as to encourage or stimulate its production. A man may put wool to the value of £100 on shipboard to-day; but by the time it reaches London the price of wool might have fallen. That does not happen with gold. America might erect a tariff wall against our wheat, or France a tariff wall against our wine; but neither country, nor, indeed, any country, will place a. barrier against our gold.
Regarding the charge that my proposals mean note inflation, let me say definitely that that is not so. Let us suppose that a man obtains 25 oz. of gold valued at. £4 an oz., or a total of £100. Let us further assume that the bounty is 10s. an oz. - although at this stage I am not suggesting that that should be the amount of bounty. That is a matter that depends on the quantity of gold available. I have evidence that there is a large quantity of gold available in this country.
If we paid 10s. an. oz., or £112 10s. to the man who produced 25 oz. of gold, we would have £100 in sovereigns or bullion to hold as against £112 10s. of note issue. That, I contend, is a safe issue and quite a safe reserve. Still adhering to our £100 worth of gold as a basis, for the sake of simplicity, assume that we owe £100 which is maturingon bonds held in London. We immediately call for a loan of £100 here, or to be quite accurate. £112 10s., and convert what is an overdraft, payable at call, in the form of notes issued in Australia - that is all they are. It would be converted into a loan, ona mortgage - on bonds, inscribed stock, or whatever the form of security may be, for a period of five or seven years at 51/2 per cent., or whatever the current rate of interest might be. The question involved is this : Is it worth while paying £12 10s. or any other figure per centum for the purpose of bringing about that transaction with perfect safety to the credit of this country? I will show, if the Senate needs any showing, that inflation takes place here every year, and to a far greater extent than any inflation that would be necessary under this system. What I put is this: What is the value to Australia? If we paid £12 10s. for every £100, if would be one-eighth of our overseas indebtedness of, say, £561,000,000 in London or New York. In other words, the cost would be £70,000,000. We need to take a big view of this matter. In my opinion it would be infinitely better for us to owe another one-eighth of the debt and owe it to the people of the Commonwealth where the money would be in constant circulation to help industry. We should not have these dangerous periods of exchange at almost prohibitive rates. I have been informed that before the present period passes exchange rates between Australia and Great Britain will be even higher than they are to-day.
– Where are we to get the £561,000,000 worth of gold?
-That is what is worrying me.
SenatorO’H alloran. - Why bring that up?
– I shall deal with that presently. In connexion with the reserve of gold let me quote one of the world’s greatest authorities on gold production, Mr. Frecheville, who, in giving evidence before the Inchcape Commission, expressed the views of some economists in this regard. I think he supplied a report to the commission at the request of the chairman, and that he was referred to as one of the best exponents and most knowledgeable men on the subject of gold supply. In that report he gave the commission the value of his lifelong experience in connexion with gold production. On page 54 of the report Mr.Frecheville states -
Against this must be set the possibility of unexpected increases and of new discoveries - two factors of such uncertain nature that it would be idle to attempt to appraise them accurately. There is so muchunprotected territory in the Empire that, personally,I look forward to further discoveries sooner or later with a good deal of confidence.
That is the opinion of a gentleman who. I understand, takesa very conservative view.
– What is the production of gold in Australia?
– The story of the dwindling of gold production in Australia is an amazing one. According to the figures available the gold export from Australia in 1926-27 totalled 156,688 oz., valued at £610,529. Of that quantity, 156,330 oz. was bar, dust, etc. of which India took practically the whole. The following table shows the value of the total gold produced in Australia and its percentage of the world’s production : -
As honorable senators are aware, the gold-mining industry in Australia has for some years been declining. An exhaustive investigation was conducted in Western Australia some time ago when evidence was given by Mr. Hamilton, of the Great Boulder Mine, before the Western Australian commission, of which Mr. Higgs was the chairman. In the report of that commission there is a considerable amount of evidence on this question. I am sufficiently sanguine to think that there is a great deal more gold in the country than has been taken out of it. It, is well known that in Western Australia there are large dumps of tailings, containing a great deal of gold, awaiting treatment, but the cost of recovery at present is too great.
I have invited criticism of these proposals from various authorities who might have punctured my bounty tyre so to speak, or blown out this scheme in its entirety, and even in the face of these criticismsI have the effrontery, believing it is right, to make this proposal to-night. Some of these authorities have been good enough to approve of this scheme as applied to what they speak of as our deadweight debt - our war debt. I do not know what distinction there can be between our dead- weight or war debt and any other debt. Australia’s indebtedness with respect to its railways is just as much a dead-weight debt as any other debt. And when we cannot get money overseas to meet it, when we have an adverse trade balance, the amount of our capital debt and the interest which we cannot pay or collect in that way represents our dead-weight debt. All debt is a dead-weight debt unless we have produce or cash to send overseas to meet it.
I should like to deal with some of the criticisms which have been levelled at my proposal. One is that the war debt to which I have just referred could be distinguished from an ordinary debt; that a new country, like a new business, cannot equip itself from its own resources; that we do not wish to discourage the introduction of capital for industrial purposes, and that there is no essential difference between the interest on a public account and that on a private account. I agree; but the private individual can look after himself, whereas a government cannot. A national debt cannot be handled in the same way as an individual debt. The argument as to a new country requiring money is one that I have already dealt with in relation to internal and external borrowing. One gentleman to whom I submitted my scheme’ took this view -
We might, however, transfer our unproductive debt here. The interest payments on this debt arc a heavy burden. To pay this debt abroadwe would have to use our own savings, which would then not be available for private investment at home. It would not alter the burden on Australia if we had to go abroad for private capital. The same amount of interest would still be paid abroad, and the unproductive debt would remain with us.
– Surely that is unanswerable.
– Why ? We should simply be creating a new, real wealth by subsidizing the production of gold. We should not be interfering with the money at, present in circulation for the purpose of trade warrants or interfering with the money available for governmental activities. All we should be doing would be the creating of a certain asset here which is valuable in any part of the world. It is the only asset we have of which that can be said.
– And we should be paying more for it than it was worth.
SenatorO’halloran. - £6 10s. per £100.
– No, £12 10s. That, is a question which I want the economists to solve. No one will deny that the conversion of an external indebtedness into an internal indebtedness would have a wonderful effect. I have to make out a case for inquiry, and that is what I propose to do. Another authority whom I consulted suggested that gold had no special merit as an export except that it has a stable market; that that merit would disappear if we sold at a loss, and that our debt repayments would cost us so much more.
– Consider the enormous difference in the price of our wool and wheat. We have reaped an enormous advantage from both those products.
– We have reaped the whirlwind, and have to provide for our overseas indebtedness. Whichever way we look at it, we are up against trouble. Australia is caught in a trap of its own making to some extent, and we have to get out of it. I cannot see what wheat and wool can do for us at the moment. The only thing to help us is gold, and it is here. We do not wish to land the country in early ruin.
– The honorable senator will certainly support a wheat guarantee after what he has said.
– A wheat guarantee, but not a wheat pool. The authority to whom I submitted this suggestion objected that the issue of notes and their subsequent cancellation would cause a great disturbance to industry. I have already dealt with that aspect of the matter. At page 190 of the budget papers for 1929-30 there appears a statement showing the weekly fluctuation of the Australian note issue. In July of 1928, the Australian banks held £19,521,941, and the public £24,931,285 worth of notes, the total value being £44,453,226. On the 14th January, 1929, the banks and the public held between them £48,658,226 worth of notes, an increase in the total holding of over £4,000,000.
– That was not a case of inflation ; it was only a fluctuationbrought about by the requirements of trade.
– My contention is that our position will improve with every ounce of gold that is produced in Australia.
– Yours is an arbitrary inflation.
– But the arbitrary factor is gold, a commodity worth more than wool or wheat, and one that cannot be dissipated.
– The honorable senator’s remarks remind me that the Savings Bank kept £250,000 for ten years without earning any interest on it.
– My contention is that the money should have been sent abroad to pay our overseas indebtedness.
– You cannot glut the gold market.
– That is so. I have already indicated that I subscribe to all the things laid down by the economists, and to the suggestion made by the Inchcape Commission at page 44 of its report, in regard to the imposition of a bounty for internal services. A vast amount of information is available on the subject, representing the opinions of the Western Australian Committee and of a number of other authorities; but I shall not delay the Senate by dwelling at greater length on the matter. If the gold is not here no harm is done.
– The honorable senator would pay 10s. an ounce for the gold now produced?
– If that amount were paid, it would only be an act of justice.
– Then why not suggest it?
– It is unsound to pay 10s. more than a thing is worth, if there is no specific use to which it can be put. But I suggest that the course I propose would rescue the nation from the pit into which it has fallen. The production of gold creates real national wealth. Our shipments of gold to London would have a dual effect. They would stabilize our position overseas, and would improve our credit there. Nothing would have a quicker beneficial effect on Australia than the greater production of gold in this country. The scheme propounded is a practical one, and not at all dangerous. Gold prices vary very little, and there would be value for all the notes issued.
The problem which we are considering is not confined to Australia. Last year Professor Copland of the Melbourne University made a statement in which he dwelt on the difficulties experienced with regard to gold production. He indicated that it was a matter that was engaging the attention of the greatest bankers in the world. There is close co-operation among the national banks of Great Britain, France, Germany, and the United States of America, in an endeavour to arrive at some solution of this problem caused by the scarcity of gold. The Bank of England, of course, has its own method of dealing with the problem. Gustav Cassel, an authority on the subject of gold, banking, and international currency, also directs attention to the ever diminishing supply of gold.
I believe that there are large quantities of gold in Australia that cannot be treated economically under present conditions. I do not speak as Sir Oracle on this subject; I want a discussion of it. I visualize an era of great prosperity in Australia if we could return to the halcyon days of the 50’s. The study of the statistics of gold production indicates how the industry has saved the country on many an occasion, and brought it to a fine pass of prosperity. But the gold-mining industry has dwindled and decayed, until to-day Australia is producing only 2.7 per cent, of the world’s gold output. If gold were again produced in quantity in Australia our industries would flourish and employment would be found for many more men. I am open to conviction on this question, but I am confident that the production of gold in quantity would stabilize our position overseas, and enable us to convert loans, if they had to be converted, at a greater’ advantage than is now possible. An Honorable senator stated that the United States of America would put a duty on gold. It could not do so, as the bonds of that country contain a provision that they will be repaid in New York in “ gold dollars.” What I visualize would assist our internal prosperity, and would have a very valuable effect on our sinking fund position. The people would see that there was a real sinking fund. Extevr sion of time granted.]
This country is in a state of greater peril than some people imagine. I may be utterly wrong, but I believe that the adoption of the expedient which I suggest would extricate Australia from the quagmire in which it now finds itself. I have made out a case for an inquiry. That inquiry would not require an extensive perambulation of Australia. Economists and bankers have studied and reported upon the problem. I suggest that if the resolution is carried. Mr. Dyason, Professor Copland, Professor Brigden, Professor Giblin, a representative of the Commonwealth Bank, and of the banks generally, should be appointed to carry out the inquiry. I am prepared to go before the committee when the time comes.
– ‘Who is Mr. Dyason?
– A Melbourne authority, who has written a good deal on the subject. I do not know Mm personally.
– Has he advocated this scheme?
– I do not know. Professor Brigden is the only one of these gentlemen to whom I have spoken on the matter. He is not in sympathy with me, but I am prepared to support my case before a committee.
I feel that I owe the Senate, and in particular, Senator Lynch, who has a motion on the notice-paper, an apology for the inordinate length of time that 1 have taken in dealing with my subject, but I have done what I could to bring about an investigation. If I have made out a case that warrants the passing of the motion, I suggest that the committee should be appointed and set to work. I know that 1 am not merely a voice “ crying in the wilderness.” There are a great number of economists in Australia, particularly persons belonging to the banking fraternity, who think that such a scheme would bring a measure of relief to Australia.
Debate (on motion by Senator Daly) adjourned.
Message received from House of Representatives intimating that it had agreed to the amendments made by the Senate in this bill.
Business ot Senate.
Motion (by Senator Daly.) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– It is the hope of the Government to clean up all the business on the Senate notice-paper by to-morrow, with the exception, perhaps, of the Development and Migration - Bill and the motion for the printing- of the Ministerial Statement. I have informed the Leader of the Opposition that, so far as I oan see, no other business will come to us next week from another place, but the Government is extremely anxious to have the Development and Migration Bill passed. Now that the contracts have been signed by the various commissioners, if Parliament, agrees to the bill, the sooner we can have the portion of the commission’s staff that is to be transferred to Canberra brought here, and the portion that is to be transferred to the Department of Markets placed in its new location, the sooner we can effect the economies we are anxious to effect. I propose, therefore, to ask the Senate not to adjourn to-morrow at 4 o’clock, but to sit until the dinner hour in the hope that we can get the bill through. If that is done there will be no need to bring honorable senators back next week. As a matter of fact, there may not be anything for the following week, but I understand that the Wine Export Bounty Bill may bo completed by the House of Representatives next week and there is a probability of another Land Tax Assessment Bill being ready, which will mean one day’s work in the following week. I know that it is the intention of the Government, if it possibly can, to adjourn the present sittings at the conclusion of that week. I have do desire to bring honorable senators back to Canberra for one or two hours’ work next week, so that if the Senate is prepared to sit after 4 o’clock to-morrow to dispose of the Development and Migration Bill we can adjourn until next Wednesday week.
Question resolved -in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 10.33 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 27 March 1930, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1930/19300327_SENATE_12_123/>.