12th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon., W. Kingsmill) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– Has the amendment to the covenant of the League of Nations been made available to honorable senators as promised by the Prime Minister?
– The Prime Minister advised yesterday that the only available copy of the amendment was being placed in the library.
Issue of Defence Department Equipment
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The Minister for Defence has supplied the following reply to the honorable senator’s questions: - 1 and 2. The Prime Minister announced on the 7th May that the Commonwealth Government was prepared to assist the State Governments in connexion with the relief of those in distressed circumstances by making available to the State authorities certain items of military equipment, such as blankets, clothing, boots, &c. Regarding tents, the Prime Minister set out that only a limited number was available, and it was considered that tents are not altogether suitable in winter time for the housing of unemployed, and, moreover, great damage may result to same, causing heavy expenditure to State Governments for replacements. Negotiations in regard to the distribution of these articles are being conducted through the State Governments, and all requests should be submitted to the respective State Premiers’ Departments.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
In view of the example set by the McKay expedition, and the great value of the information to be obtained, will consideration be given to the employment ofa portion of the Air Force organization on an aerial survey of North Australia and North-West Australia, as an alternative to any retrenchment in that service ?
– Inquiries will be made and a reply will be furnished to the honorable senator as soon as possible.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Works upon notice -
– The information, will be supplied as soon as possible.
asked the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
In view of the Government’s promise to provide on improved shipping service between Tasmania and the mainland, will the Minister make a statement to the Senate as to when this promise will be given effect to, or when an improved service may be expected?
– The information is being obtained and will be supplied as soon as possible.
Removal of Telegraphic Instruments
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The PostmasterGeneral has supplied the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions : -
The following paper was presented: -
– I move -
That leave of absence for one month be granted to Senator Lynch on the ground of urgent private business.
I regret to inform the Senate that Senator Lynch has a very serious case of illness in his home, and is unable to leave in order to attend to his parliamentary duties.
– In seconding the- motion, I desire to express the deep regret of the
Senate regarding the reason for the honorable senator’s absence. It may be some satisfaction to him to know that every honorable senator would be pleased to hear that the cause of his inability to attend had been removed by the restoration of his wife to health. honor able Senators. - Hear, hear!
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Clauses 2 to 4 agreed to.
Senator Sir GEORGEPEARCE (Western Australia) [11.9]. - I have already circulated a proposed amendment which, at first, I thought should follow clause 6, but on reconsideration I think that it should be inserted after clause 4. I therefore move -
That the following new clause be inserted - 4a. (1.) The total amount of bounty authorized to be paid under this act in any one financial year shall not exceed -
in respect of seed cotton, the sum of one hundred and twenty thousand pounds; and
) in respect of cotton yarn, the sum of sixty thousand pounds. (2.) When the maximum amount of bounty which may be paid in any year in respect of seed cotton or cotton yarn, as the case may be, has not been paid in that year, the unpaid balance, or any part thereof, may be paid in any subsequent year in respect of seed cotton or cotton yarn, as the case may be, in addition to the maximum amount for that year. (3.) Notwithstanding any other provisions in this act the total amount , of bounty payable under this act shall not exceed a total sura of eight, hundred thousand pounds.
Section 3 of the Cotton Bounty Act of 1926 provides that-
There shall be payable out of the Consolidated . Revenue Fund, which is hereby appropriated accordingly, the sum of nine hundred thousand pounds during the period of five years commencing on the 16th day of August,’ 1926, for the payment of bounties in accordance with this act.
Section 5 of that act reads - (1.) The total amount of bounty authorized to be paid under this act in any one financial year shall not exceed -
in respect of seed cotton - the sum of £120,000; and
b ) in respect of cotton yarn - the sum of
(2.) When the maximum amount of bounty which may be paid in any year in respect of seed cotton, or cotton yarn, as the case may be, has not been paid in that year, the unpaid balance, or any part thereof, may be paid in any subsequent year in respect of seed cotton or cotton yarn, as the case may be, in addition to the maximum amount for that year.
Those are the usual provisions in the bounty acts which have been passed by this Parliament. It is usual in such legislation to make provision not only for a bounty, but also to indicate the amount of the expenditure authorized. In the bill before us there is no such limitation. When introducing the bill the Leader of the Senate (Senator Daly) said that the total estimated expenditure under it was £800,000. I have incorporated that amount in my amendment, and have also put in the maximum amount payable each year as set out in the principal act. The proportions of the bounty set out in the amendment are the same as in the principal act, and should be sufficient to meet requirements, especially as from the commencement of the new act the bounties will be on a sliding scale. Indeed, it would appear that the amendment makes more than a generous provision. I suggest that an important principle is involved, namely, that in this bill Parliament is asked to appropriate an unknown sum. We have passed a clause to provide that all . the bounties payable are hereby appropriated. The sum involved may be some millions of pounds. Some limit should be provided in the bill as has been done in all other bounty acts. I do not know why that provision has been omitted from this bill, and shall listen with interest to the Minister’s explanation. I take it that he will not oppose an amendment to limit the liability of the Commonwealth.
– A limitation clause’ is not a sine qua non of bounty acts. For example, such a clause is not contained in the Wine Export Bounty Act recently passed by the Senate, for the simple reason that it would have defeated its purpose by stopping the export of sweet wine immediately the amount of bounty expressed was paid. From that standpoint this industry is in the same position as is the wine industry.
– No. It is not an export industry.
– That is not the point at all. A limitation of the bounty will defeat its purpose.
– The Tariff’ Board recommends a limitation.
– I aim dealing with the policy that was’ arrived at after the Government had consulted the Tariff Board and considered the matter.
– Did the Tariff Board alter its view?
– I am not in a position to say what the opinion of the Tariff Board was after the conference was held, but I ask honorable senators to consider whether the bounty will be of any value to the industry if a limitation is incorporated in the bill. The Senate has declared itself in favour of granting a bounty to the industry. I remind honorable senators that the imposition of a limitation of bounty will destroy the purpose of the measure.
– In what way?
– I emphasize the point that the incorporation of a limitation in the bill will destroy the bounty, and prejudice the chances of the success of the industry. The central features of the policy of the Government are, firstly, that the price of seed cotton will be stabilized at 5½d. a lb. until the 30th December, 1936, and, secondly, that a gradually diminishing bounty on seed cotton and cotton yarn shall be paid, to reach extinction point at- the 30th December, 1936. The Government is of opinion that, in order to bring the abolition of the bounty to a successful conclusion, there should not be a limit to the bounty expressed in the bill, as that would inevitably prevent the establishment of new spinning factories, and would reduce the average receipts of bounty by existing spinners below even the amount expressed in the bill. The amendment proposed by the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition. (Senator Pearce) seeks to limit the yearly payments; and also the maximum amount payable by the bounty. The right honorable senator, and even some of those who support the encouragement of the industry;candidly admitted the precarious position in which it is. I think honorable senators realize that if the industry is to be stabilised, it will be necessary to establish new spinning factories. To do that it is essential that there should be no reduction in the average receipt of the bounty by existing spinners. The Government suggests that such a reduction would preclude them from carrying out their present guarantee to buy Australian lint for the period of the bounty at prices that would give the cottongrowers a net return of 5½d. per lb. for seed cotton. The position would be somewhat different if the bill provided for fixed rates of bounty for each year, as is universal in other bounty acts, but as the essence of the measure is a reducing bounty with the object of eliminating it altogether, the existence of a limitation clause would prevent the stability that is vitally essential to the spinners to enable them to carry out the guarantee referred to. For example, Senator Pearce’s amendment provides for a maximum payment in any financial year of £60,000 on cotton yarn. The actual payments for the current financial year to the only two spinners now operating will be approximately £45,000. With the assured extra business made possible by recent customs duties, these two spinners will require more than £60,000 during 1930-31, and still more during 1931-32, although, admittedly, payments in succeeding years will diminish, as the reductions in the rate of bounty are expected to off-set the concurrent increases in output.
– Has the honorable senator figures showing exactly what the payment of £120,000 for seed cotton would connote ? I am wondering whether the two amounts are in keeping with each other.
– The Tariff Board said £100,000 would be sufficient.
– I shall see if the figures can be obtained. The successful establishment of the cotton industry depends absolutely on yarns being manufactured to meet the requirements of all the principal manufactured cotton products. It, is not economic, nor is it the practice in any country in the world, for one spinning factory to produce many types of yarn. In fact, in Great.
Britain most of the factories have found by long experience that it is the best practice for each factory to confine itself to not more than two or three different counts of yarn. The existing two spintiers in Australia are already spreading their manufacture of yarns over a wider range than is economic or. desirable. Hence it is absolutely essential if all the widely-used lines of cotton garments, &c, are to be made in Australia, to have established in the Commonwealth as early as possible three or four additional spinning factories, each one to specialize in the different types of yarn required.
Senator Pearce’s amendment, by limiting the yarn bounty to £60,000 per annum would absolutely preclude the establishment of one additional spinning factory in Australia, because the limit would be absorbed by existing factories. It would thus defeat what is practically the main purpose of the bill and of the Government’s cotton policy. Honorable senators were somewhat puzzled at the manner in which this industry is being carried on. I think that the Government’s contention as to the necessity for specializing in spinning is based on absolute fact. If the proposed amendment is carried it will simply create a monopoly in favour of the two existing spinners. No new company could secure the necessary capital to enter the market if it appeared certain that the two established factories would more than absorb the amount of bounty that Parliament is prepared to give. The very fact of any money limitation, even if a considerable amount were stated, would create uncertainty and doubt in the minds of intending manufacturers which would be resolved into a decision not to establish in Australia. The Tariff Board was evidently fully seised with this aspect as it recommended that the annual bounty for yarn be fixed at £160,000, or £100,000 per annum more than Senator Pearce’s proposal.
– Will the honorable senator agree to that?
– The Government is of the opinion that the imposition of any limitation would defeat the purpose of the bill.
– The absence of a limitation defeats the appropriation provisions of the Constitution.
– I do not think so. On that point we might become involved in a very difficult legal argument. It may be contended by Senator Colebatch that it defeats the spirit of the appropriation provisions. As a general rule that may be so, but we departed from the principle in the specific instance of the wine bounty, and the Government asks that the Senate should do so in this case. There is no distinction between the two cases.
– The wine bounty is obtained out of excise.
– The principle is just the same.
– The Government limited the area of vineyards from which wine may be produced.
– The object, here is to extend production.
– It is realized that Australia’s cotton production is not sufficient to meet our. requirements and the Senate has to approach the matter from the aspect that this is a. bounty to increase cotton production.
The foregoing statements are not based on supposition but on experience and also on definite inquiries and negotiations now proceeding for the establishment of two separate cotton spinning mills. One proposition relates to one of the principal manufacturers in Bradford and it has practically reached finality. The other proposition relates to one of the two greatest cotton manufacturing concerns in the United States, but is not yet in nearly as advanced a stage as the British company. It is quite definite that if the limitation clause were passer] by the Senate, the Bradford proposition would be immediately dropped, and that the consequent employment of 400 or 500 people, which is at present expected by the. enterprise to be carried into effect from early in 1931, would be frustrated. Whilst the Government expected that the sum of £800,000 would be the probable expenditure for the whole period, it had in mind that the yarn phase of the industry would develop largely somewhat later than now seems likely, and that the bounty on yarn could then be replaced by customs duties during the last two or three years of the bounty. However, subsequent and very recent inquiries by prospective manufacturers of yarns indicate that the bounty, combined with customs duties recently imposed on a number of manufactured cotton products, will cause an early expansion of the production of both seed cotton and cotton yarn to such an extent that the original £800,000 estimated may not be sufficient. It is almost impossible to estimate future requirements so long ahead for an industry such as this, and that is an added reason why the Government is not agreeable to accept Senator Pearce’s amendment. It is pointed out that the Tariff Board, after conducting an exceptionally exhaustive and prolonged investigation into the industry, recommended annual payments for four years of £100,000 for seed, cotton and £160,000 for cotton yarn making a total for four years of £1,040,000. The Tariff Board also recommended an increase of the bounty on cotton yarn from one-third of1d. per count per lb. to ½d. per lb. for both seed cotton and cotton yarn, over the full period of four years.
– The point raised by the Leader of the Senate will be met if my amendment is altered to provide for a bounty of £100,000 in respect of seed cotton and £160,000 in respect of cotton yarn.
– The Government, with a careful regard for the public finances, believed that something more economical and sound than the Tariff Board’s recommendations should be done. It has, therefore, provided for only onethird, of1d. bounty on yarn, which is 33 per cent, less than the Tariff Board’s recommendation. Moreover, the ‘ full rates for seed cotton and yarn only continue for slightly over two years, as against the four years recommended by the board. The Government has, there- fore, obviously endeavoured to protect the interests of taxpayers, and, in doing so, it has, for the first time in the experience of Commonwealth bounty acts, brought down a practical scheme for finally avoiding the necessity of paying a bounty to an industry.
Finally, the bounty limitation amendment has been suggested by honorable senators, who appear to be extremely pessimistic with regard to the future development of the cotton industry.
Therefore, if the industry progresses to as small an extent as they think likely, there will be so much less money spent by way of bounty, and a limitation clause will not be necessary. On the other hand, if the industry expands to such an extent that the estimated £800,000 will not be sufficient to cover the whole period, it will have justified itself, and would merit and secure the support of any government for the additional money necessary to continue paying the bounties until the expiry of the act.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia) [11.34]. - I ask leave to alter my motion.
Proposed new clause altered to read -
The total amount of bounty authorized to be paid under this act in any one financial year shall not exceed -
in respect of seed -cotton, the sura of One hundred thousand pounds; and
in respect of cotton yarn, the sum of One hundred and sixty thousand pounds.
When the maximum amount of bounty which may be paid in any year in respect of seed cotton or cotton yarn, as the case may be, has not been paid in that year, the unpaid balance, or any part thereof, may be paid in any subsequent year in respect of seed cotton or cotton yarn, as the case may be, in addition to the maximum amount for that year.
Notwithstanding any other provisions in this act the total amount of bounty payable under this act shall not exceed a total sum of eight hundred thousand pounds.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia) [11.35]. - The Leader of the Senate (Senator Daly) has just told us that the amount provided in the bill is 33 per cent, less than was recommended by the Tariff Board. If that is so, and if the Tariff Board considered that, on the higher rate of bounty, the total sum of £260,000 would be sufficient, my proposed new clause, as altered, should provide ample at the lower rate of bounty.
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH (Western Australia) [11.36]. - I suggest that Senator Sir George Pearce further alters his motion by omitting sub-clause 3. I am opposed to the bill, but, if it must be passed, I do not wish it to be said of the Senate that, by its amendments, it made the proposal impracticable. The bill should be passed in such a form as to give the cotton industry a chance, and so that we may get something for our money.
Personally, I do not think we shall. If sub-clause 3 stands, it is obvious that if the whole of the sum available is paid in three years, the stability of the industry for the full term of the act will not be ensured.
– The industry can always come again with a request to Parliament.
– But I am concerned about its stability, which I admit is an essential condition to its development.I direct the attention of the committee to the following paragraph, which appears on page 19 of the Tariff Board’s report : -
So far as the bounty on seed cotton is con- cerned it would appear desirable, in order to discourage the growing of cotton other than for use in Australia, to limit the amount authorized ‘by the act to an amount that would cover payment of bounty on the quantity of seed cotton necessary to produce the requirements of Australian cotton users.
It was with this object in view that the Tariff Board suggested that the limit of bounty payable in respect of seed cotton should be £100,000. In other portions of its report, the board stresses the inadvisability of encouraging the cottongrowing beyond the requirements of the Australian market. It refers to our experiences in other industries as having been disastrous and warns the Government not to encourage cotton-growing beyond Commonwealth requirements. If the Government provides for a bounty lower than that recommended by the Tariff Board, obviously the demands of the home market should be met by a total guarantee of less than £100,000. I object to an unlimited’ appropriation. It is all very well to say that Parliament accepted this provision in respect to the wine bounty. That is scarcely correct, because there is a definite limit to the quantityof wine which can be produced, and that has the same effect as a limitation in the amount of bounty provided. An unlimited appropriation is- entirely contrary to not merely the spirit, but also the letter of the Constitution. If we provide for an unlimited appropriation in this bill, we shall be expected to act similarly when other bills containing bounty provisions come before us for discussion. An unlimited appropriation extending over a period of five years is monstrous.
. - I appreciate the point raised by Senator Sir George Pearce. At the same time I consider there is not much difference between the provisions in this bill and those to be found in other bounty . acts. . In this measure the bounty is on a diminishing scale. This principle definitely places a limit upon the actual expenditure.
– Meantime vested interests will have been created and will clamour for a continuance of the bounty.
– I suppose we” must always expect that to happen. But as the bounty payable will be on a diminishing scale, in the natural course of events it will, disappear. Our objective is to encourage the cotton-growing industry. Even Senator Colebatch agrees that if this is the wish of the Senate, we should have “ something for our money,” as he put it.
– Does the honorable senator suggest that we develop the cotton-growing industry beyond the requirements of the Australian market?
– Then why object to a proposal to limit the total amount of bounty?
– Will this proposed bounty of £120,000 per annum be payable in respect of seed cotton ?
– Senator ‘ Pearce has suggested that the total bounty paid on seed cotton should be £100,000. . Does the right honorable senator know how many bales of ‘cotton that will provide for?
– It should be ample.
– It will provide for a bounty ‘ on about 13,000 bales.
– Roughly, it will provide for 12,500 bales.
– At the higher rate of bounty.
– At the ratel½d. per lb. of seed cotton. This year, if seasonal conditions are favorable, the crop should be 10,000 - bales. Much depends upon the weather during the next six weeks in the cotton-growing districts of Queensland. If there is a mild winter the crop will probably be heavy. The crop under existing conditions may be anything from 8,000 to 10,000 bales. The total of the bounty now suggested in respect of seed cotton will not provide for any increase in the crop. I come now to the point raised by Senator Colebatch, who urged that the industry should not be encouraged beyond the absorptive capacity of the home market. I agree, but the manufacturing industry in Australia requires this year 11,000 bales of Australian cotton, and cannot get it.
– What is the total requirement of the Australian market in pounds?
– The honorable senator can find, out for himself by multiplying the number of bales by the weight - 500 lb.
– The Tariff Board states the Australian requirements at 13,200,000 lb.
– The Tariff Board is not always right.
– I think it can be said of the Tariff Board that it has done a great work; but when it considers the future of an industry like that of cottongrowing, it cannot do more than make a guess at the requirements of the home market. When it presented its report,, it estimated that £100,000 would be sufficient to provide a bounty on the probable crop of seed cotton. If it were now asked to make an estimate, with the knowledge it now has of the progress of the manufacturing side of the industry, which, as I have stated, requires 11,000 bales this year, it would probably fix the maximum bounty payable at £200,000, instead of £100,000.
– According to evidence given before the Tariff Board, the total quantity of yarn required by the Australian knitting and cotton tweed industries was stated by one witness to be 4,000,000 lb., and by another at 6,000,000 lb. per annum.
– But I am giving fact’s in relation to the industry.
– On the honorable senator’s own showing, the Australian requirements are about 5,600,000 lb. per annum.
– I am speaking of seed cotton but the honorable senator is referring to cotton lint. We have to divide the quantity of cotton lint by three to ascertain the quantity of cotton seed. If honorable senators had a knowledge of the industry they would not make such mistakes.
– The evidence to which I referred relates to cotton lint.
– I know that ; but I am speaking of seed cotton on which the bounty is to be paid.
– Is it possible to estimate Australia’s requirements of cotton yarn for some time ahead?
– This year the spinners are asking’ the Cotton Board for 11,000 bales of cotton lint, which is equivalent to three times that quantity of seed cotton. That quantity cannot be supplied. The limitation of £100,000 suggested by Senator Sir George Pearce will cover approximately 11,000 bales. We have been informed by the spinners that with the introduction of new machinery, quite apart from the new works for which I understand arrangements are in hand, they will require 14,000 bales next year. I do not know whether the Queensland industry can supply that quantity; but surely we should make provision which will enable the bounty to be paid on the quantity of cotton to be used. When dealing with the payment of a bounty to growers how is the Cotton Board to apportion the 1½d. on a basis lower than the actual production? According to the vote on the second reading of the bill yesterday, the Senate is of the opinion that this industry should be developed and givenevery opportunity to expand. We wish to give the cotton-growers sufficient encouragement to produce all the cotton that is required by the local manufacturers, who are being asked to develop their works and to increase the production of goods manufactured from locally grown cotton. As we are providing in this bill for a diminishing bounty which will ultimately disappear we should, in view of the vote recorded yesterday, be content with the appropriation provided. The Tariff Board correctly stated that it did not think the industry should be encouraged to produce more cotton than the local marketcan consume. This industry, as I endeavoured to show yesterday, is controlled under a compulsory co-operative system in which every cotton-grower is concerned. The cotton-growers fully realize that if they produced more than the local industry requires they would have to export the surplus on which they would lose 2d.a lb. The Cotton Board, which consists of growers, is in control of the industry and will take every care to see that the ultimate returns to individual growers are not reduced by having an exportable surplus which’ must be sold at a lower rate. Sufficient safeguards are provided to prevent overproduction. If the sugar-growers in Queensland organized on the same basis a few years ago - -
– And also the wine-growers.
– Yes, the position in both those industries -would not be as it is to-day. As the Cotton Board has absolute power to control production, then the committee is perfectly justified in adopting the bill in its present form. I appreciate what Senator Pearce has in mind ; but there is a limitation inasmuch as the bounty, which is on a diminishing scale, will ultimately disappear. The Senate has agreed to assist the development of this industry, and the committee should be prepared to give that measure of assistance which is now sought, particularly as it can rest assured that under the present method of control there is not likely to be over-production.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia) [11.52]. - I trust that the committee will not totally disregard the sworn evidence given by spinners and others interested in the business before the Tariff Board. On page 10 of the Tariff Board’s report of 1929, I find the following : -
In evidence tendered to the Tariff Board, Mr. McLean, representing Geo. A. Bond and Co. Ltd. (in liquidation), estimated the total quantity of yarn required in the Australian knitting and cotton tweed industries to be 4.000,000 lb. per annum. Mr. W. L. Hicks, Chairman of the Hosiery and Underwear Manufacturers Association of Victoria, estimated the total requirements of the hosiery and underwear manufacturers throughout Australia at 5,000,000 lb. per annum.
– Of cotton yarn?
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.Yes.
– That is not lint.
– The report continues
Mr. D. T. M. Davies, of Davies Coop, and Coy. Pty. Ltd., Melbourne, manufacturers of knitted goods, estimated the total Victorian (evidently intended for Australian) consumption of yarns at 6,000,000 lb. per annum.
It is difficult to arrive at anything like an accurate estimate of the requirements and even if a reliable figure could be arrived at it would not give an accurate indication as to the demand likely to exist for the yarns which the Australian manufacturers are in a position to supply and which comprise only some of the various classes of cotton yarns used.
In the opinion of the board the total annual requirements of the Australian industries in the yarns of the classes produced by local spinners would probably be somewhere between 3,500,000 and 4,000,000 lb.
It takes approximately 1.1 lb. of lint to produce 1 lb. of cotton yarn, so that if the local spinners were operating to their full capacity, they would be in a position to use nearly ‘5,500,000 lb. of lint yearly. The production of 5,500,000 lb. of. lint would require something like 10,500,000 lb. of seed cotton. It should be noted that the 5,500,000 lb. of lint does not represent the present needs of the spinning industry or what would be required to spin yarns sufficient to meet the estimated, present requirements of the underwear and hosiery trade.
Senator Greene suggested that the board did. not take into account the possible expansion of the industry, but it did. The report continues -
The quantity named is what the Australian spinners could consume if their, mills were operating at full capacity. As shown later in this report, to produce the 4,000,000 lb. of yarn estimated as the present annual requirement of the underwear and hosiery trade, about 13,000,000 lb. of seed cotton (approximately 4,400,000 lb. of lint) would be needed.
The maximum production of lint in Australia in any one year to date has been between 5,000,000 and 0,000,000 lb. (this occurred in 1925) so that if the production of yarn in Australia to the full capacity of the existing spinners could be brought about, there would be a sufficiently large local market to absorb the output of Australian cotton to the extent to which it has so far been produced. The use of the Australian cotton by spinners would, of course, depend upon whether or not conditions made it -more profitable for the spinners to purchase locally than to import.
As, in the opinion of the board, the key to the situation is really the creation of a local market for Australian cotton by the development of the spinning industry, the matter resolves itself into one of granting to that industry such assistance as may be deemed necessary to place it in the position of using the Australian production of cotton.
It goes on to point out that the amount recommended is a reduction of £20,000 on seed cotton as compared with that provided in the existing act.
– That is a deliberate recommendation.
– Yes; and after taking evidence from the spinners, who hope, under this proposal, to capture the whole of the Australian market, it has made a definite recommendation. Surely we are not going to ignore the recommendation of a board appointed by Parliament to make investigations of this nature and at the same time give the Government a blank- cheque? I intend to press for a limitation of the amount on the basis of the board’s recommendation. Senator Sir Hal Colebatch referred to a total limitation. The amount of appropriation should have been included when the bill was before another place. We cannot fix the amount, and the only way is to provide for a limitation of the total amount.
– We could provide a limit for each year.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.But that would be excessive, as over a period of five years at £260,000 a year the amount would be £1,300,000. If the amount recommended by the board was considered adequate, obviously, £800,000 will be ample.
– The committee can determine that the total amount shall not exceed a certain sum.
– I propose that in any one year the bounty on seed cotton shall not exceed £100,000, and on cotton yarn £160,000. The total amount for the whole period covered by the bill would then be about £800,000, which is the amount the Government estimates will be required.
– There is a good deal in what the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce) and Senator Sir Hal Colebatch have said with reference to the provision of some limitation. I have conferred with the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Forde) on the matter.
– With the idea of providing an aggregate limitation?
– Yes. If the Leader of the Opposition will agree to limit the amount to £260,000 per annum, without binding our hands as to how the amount shall be allocated, I will accept an amendment to that effect.
– The Minister will adopt the Tariff Board’s recommendation as to the total amount without allocating it?
– Yes. The recommendation of the board provided -
That the total amount of bounty authorized to be paid under the act in any one financial year be limited to -
in respect of seed cotton - the sum of £100.000, and
in respect of cotton yarn - the sum of £160.000.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia) [12.0]. - I would rather have had the total amount limited to £800,000, but it seems to be a fair compromise to accept a limitation of £260,000 per annum. In any case the bounty is on a declining scale and the arguments advanced by Senator Greene cover the question of the total amount. I again ask leave to alter my proposed new clause.
Leave granted; proposed new clause altered to read -
Proposed new clause agreed to.
Clauses 5 to8 agreed to.
Clause 9. (Restrictions on payment of bounty on cotton yarn).
– On the second reading Senator Herbert Hays suggested that there should be a method of policing the bounty payable on cotton yarn, and as we have- learned from the public press something of what has happened in the past in regard to the distribution of the cotton bounty, I should like to know what steps are to be taken in future to ensure compliance with the provisions of the act. The wine export bounty is policed by the Trade and Customs Department and experience indicates that some tightening up is necessary in regard to the control of the cotton bounty.
– In the past industries approached the Government asking for bounties and explaining that certain objectives were likely to be reached if they were given assistance in that way. But, having been given bounties, like a celebrated character in Dickens, they immediately proceeded to declare, “ That job is done”. The present Government, like the previous Government towards the end of its term of office, has recognized the need for greater vigilance in the case of industries to which bounties have been given. For that reason the Honorable John Gunn and Mr. R. McK. Gollan of the Customs Department are now giving the wine industry a “ turnover and I can assure the cottongrowers that, while they are getting this bounty, a vigilant eye will be kept on them to see that they play their part in reaching the objective they have said the bounty will enable them to reach.
– My remarks do not apply to the growers so much as to the spinners.
– Every one engaged in the industry will be policed by customs officials.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 10 . and 11 agreed to.
Clause 12 (Reduction of bounty on cotton yarn where profits exceed 10 per centum).
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia) [12.8]. - This is a provision in the bill which will need to be particularly carefully policed. It is, I know, the duty of customs officials to determine, in the words of the clause, “ whether the net profits of any person, firm or company claiming the bounty on cotton yarn exceed in any year 10 per centum of the capital employed, in the manufacture of cotton yarn “ ; but I should like to know how they will arrive at their determination. I have followed with some little interest the liquidation of the firm of George A. Bond and Company Limited,- and I remember reading with interest of the payment made to one of the directors of that company. It ran, I believe, to £20,000, and I am not sure that that particular director was not compelled to disgorge some of this money. I should like to know if, in coming to a determination, the customs officials will accept the statement of the company, or themselves determine the profit made after making a reasonable allowance for directors’ fees, and so on.
– Apparently the responsibility for making the inquiry is thrown on the Tariff Board.
– That is the practice.
– The Tariff Board is a part of the Trade and Customs Department. Customs duties have been imposed that will give the spinners of cotton yarn an absolute monopoly of the Australian market, and this bill declares that, if their profits exceed 10 per cent., they are not to receive the bounty. I want to know if the Tariff Board will simply accept the companies’ balance-sheets, or institute any inquisition of its own.
– I am informed that a special staff of the Customs Department deals with this matter. It collects balancesheets, and these are checked by an expert, who can make a further examination if he is not satisfied with the information supplied to him. A matter such as that ‘ referred to by Senator Pearce would, no doubt, be investigated by this officer. No harm is done if, in debates of this description, the attention of the Government is drawn to the possibility of its being fleeced; and I am sure the Government will pay heed to the warning issued by the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition. If at all possible, even greater vigilance than ever will be exercised to prevent the payment of the bounty to persons not entitled to receive it. The department is not bound by the representations of the firms; it can query them, and make further investigations. I can assure honorable senators that the Government will not be lacking in its duty in that regard so far as this bounty is concerned.
– In addition to the need for vigilance, there is the difficulty of the application of this provision. As the result of business acumen, one firm may be able to make a reasonable profit, say, 15 per cent., whereas another firm may, as a result of a lack of business ability, make only 5 per cent. The question is how the department can discriminate in cases of that kind. The people of Queensland will not be affected in this regard, but, as a senator; I think that it is my duty to point out how difficult it will be to apply this provision.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 13 - (1.) The Minister may make application to the Chief Judge or a Judge of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, or to any Commonwealth authority established for the purpose . of determining wages and conditions of employment, for a declaration as to what wages and conditions of employment are fair and reasonable for labour employed lin the production of seed cotton or lint, or the manufacture of cotton yarn. (7.) If-
Provided that, if the representatives of employers and employees fail to make a joint nomination of a chairman within twenty days after being called upon by the Minister so to do, the Governor-General may appoint a person to act as chairman.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia) [12.13]. - I move -
That sub-clauses 7 and 8 be left out.
Sub-clauses 1 to 6, which relate to the regulation of wages paid in an industry for which a bounty is granted, are identical with provisions that are to be found in all bounty acts. They are to be found in section 10 of the Cotton Bounty Act 1926. . But sub-clauses 7 and 8 are an innovation. Under subclause 1 the Minister may make application to the Chief Judge or a judge of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration for a declaration as to what wages and conditions of employment are fair and reasonable for labour employed in the production of seed cotton or lint or the manufacture of cotton yarn. But if sub-clauses 7 and 8 are retained, the Minister may himself set up a tribunal to determine wages and conditions of labour in the industry. It is a power which is not given to a Minister under any other bounty act. He may not do more than make an application to the judge of the Arbitration Court as provided for in sub-clause 1 of this clause! I ask the committee not to agree to this innovation. Senator Colebatch is doubtful about the wisdom of the other provision -
– I am not at all doubtful about it; I am certain that we should not make it.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.In this clause we have another instrusion of a far-reaching character into a State sphere. It gives the Minister the right to set up an industrial tribunal in a State. This innovation would . apply, not only to Queensland, but also to other States, in which the cotton-growing industry is carried on. If we agree to the principle in this bill, we cannot consistently object to it in other bills.
– Does the right honorable senator object to it merely because it is an innovation?
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.No. I object to it, because it is a vicious innovation. It is an interference with the right of the States to regulate industrial conditions within their boundaries.
– Some of the- States have recently wiped out laws of that character.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.That is their responsibility. Our Constitution leaves to a State the control of industrial matters within its boundaries.
– As the Commonwealth will find the money, it should have some say in the manner in which it is expended.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.On those grounds, the Commonwenlth would be justified in prescribing the living conditions of people engaged in any industry which is assisted by the Commonwealth. It would mean that, wherever a bounty operated, the Commonwealth would set up a state within a state. That has not been done in connexion with the iron and steel bounty or the wine bounty.
– A special tribunal was established to deal with coalmining.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.Its results have not been highly satisfactory. I shall not, however, labour the point, for I feel confident that the committee will not agree to the innovation.
. -I desire to move an amendment, which should come before that moved by Senator Pearce, namely, to omit the words “ seed cotton or “.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia) [12.18]. - In order to enable the honorable senator to move his amendment, I ask leave to withdraw my amendment for the time being.
Leave granted; amendment withdrawn.
– I desire’ to move an earlier amendment, namely, that the words “ or to a State industrial authority “, be inserted after the word “ authority “ in sub-clause 1.
– I rise to a point of order, in order to make a suggestion. Senator Thompson desires that wages and conditions of labour shall be fixed by either a Commonwealth authority or a State court. If his amendment is agreed to, it would render unnecessary the amendment of Senator Pearce. If we disposed of the amendment by Senator Payne, and also that moved by Senator Pearce, the . bill could then be recommitted to enable Senator Thompson’s amendment to be dealt with.
.- I move-
That after the word “ authority ‘’, subclause 1, the words “ or to a State industrial authority “ be inserted.
I had proposed to ask Senator Pearce to alter his amendment to include these words, but as it, has been temporarily withdrawn, that cannot now be done.
– Can the amendment be reconciled with sub-clause 2?
– I suppose that there would be consequential amendments.
– I am prepared to accept the amendment.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia) [12.22]. - I ask Senator Thompson not to press his amendment, because I doubt whether the Minister can apply to a State industrial authority.
– The word “ may,” not “ shall” is used.
– Jurisdiction would be exercised as set out in subclause 2.
– I do not think that the amendment will have any effect; I accepted it in order to save time.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.We should not run the risk of a Minister being severely snubbed. He would have no standing with a State industrial authority, unless he appeared before it as a party to a plaint. Where there is a State industrial authority, that authority can act at the request of either of the parties to the dispute.
– I move -
That the words “ seed cotton or “, sub-clause I, be left out.
I do so because I am desirous of seeing the cotton industry permanently and economically established in Australia.
Although I criticized the bill in my second-reading speech my voting for it indicates that my opposition was not factious. I am as desirious as is any member of this Parliament to see the industry satisfactorily established, but I felt it incumbent on me to protest, against the introduction of artificial industrial conditions into the cotton-fields. Instead of assisting the industry, those conditions will tend to destroy it. This clause provides that the Minister may apply to the competent authority for a declaration as to what wages and conditions of employment are fair and reasonable for labour employed in the production of seed cotton or lint or the manufacture of cotton yarn. My amendment does not affect labour employed in the manufacture of cotton lint or cotton yarn. Those are practically secondary industries.
– We have passed a similar provision in connexion with the growing of grapes.
– The introduction of ordinary industrial conditions into the cotton-fields of Queensland would bring disaster to the cotton-growers. The more people that can be settled on the land, the better for Australia. Partly for that reason I have always advocated that cottongrowing should be undertaken by small farmers, rather than by big companies. The small farmer could grow cotton as an adjunct to other forms of agriculture. The members of his family would pick the cotton and he would not be troubled with labour disputes. The production of cotton along those lines would mean the permanent settlement of numbers of additional farmers on the land. But if cotton is grown on a plantation basis and ordinary conditions pf labour apply, the industry will be imperilled.
– Does the honorable senator refer only to the labour involved in the picking of the cotton ?
– No. I refer to every phase of the production of seed cotton, including the cultivation of the land and the picking of the crop. The committee will be ill-advised to pass the clause as printed. This morning I received from the chairman of the Queensland Cotton Board, a letter in which he points out that all the bounty bills previously passed have contained provisions similar to those in clause 13.
That may be so. But in this case we are dealing with an industry which is new to Australia - an industry, moreover, which is eminently suited to small farmers. He first of all draws my attention to the fact that bounty bills for the past 20 -years have contained provisions similar to that of clause 13 of this measure, and then says -
The Queensland Cotton Board is a board with statutory power which handles the whole of the Queensland cotton crop for the growers. It consists of cotton-growers elected by cotton-growers, with one representative of the Queensland Government, who does not in any way interfere with the policy of the board.
In these circumstances, it is hoped you will agree with the views taken by my board in the matter, and help to get the measure through for the industry by the acceptance of clause 13 of the bill.
– Would the honorable senator have the same objections if those provisions were restricted to picking?
– Yes. I consider that they should apply only to the production of lint and the manufacture of cotton yarn, and that the growing and picking of cotton should be exempt from the imposition of our industrial conditions. Small farmers should be encouraged to engage in the cotton-growing industry so that family labour might be used as much as possible. The cost of living in Australia has been forced up steadily over a period of years, and it is time that we called a halt, instead of continuing to increase costs.
– Yes, by reducing wages !
– I am not an advocate of the reduction of wages. I shall oppose the retention of those words in the sub-clause because I believe that instead of helping the industry they will prejudice it. I hope that my amendment will receive a fair measure of support.
– I hope that the Senate will not adopt the amendment moved by Senator Payne. Those who engage in cotton-growing on a family basis cannot be endangered by the provision to which the honorable senator takes exception. It is inserted principally to help those who are not members of such families. It is obvious that no court can fix wages and regulate, the conditions of labour of members of families engaged in working small farms. Even if a court, declared that each member of the family should be paid 10s. an hour its decision would not be carried into effect. The children would merely say “ It is all right father ; we will work according to our. own arrangements with you.” The wage fixed would not, in fact, be paid. The purpose of the provision is to- protect the workers who assist to build up our industries, and to allow them to enjoy some of the advantages.
– Cotton-pickers are paid award rates in Queensland.
– I have a personal knowledge of these matters, and I know that members of my union working in the fruit industry are denied reasonable rates of wages. I know that, in industries which are assisted by bounties, .members of my union are refused employment, preference being given to newcomers from overseas, who are prepared. to work for anything. This Parliament is prepared to assist various agricultural industries, and it should impress upon those engaged in such industries that it will not allow them to engage workers under sweating conditions and low. rates of pay. This country does not stand for that. I can. quite understand Senator Payne desiring that sort of thing. He is everlastingly crying about conditions of labour improving, improving, improving, and rates of wages rising,, rising, rising, and ruining industry.. Heavens above, cannot the honorable senator cheer up sometime?, and give somebody a chance’ to smile. He has always been a “ Calamity Jane,” casting a shadow of gloom wherever he goes. If the country desires to help the man who owns the land and is endeavouring to grow the crop surely italso desires to help its citizens who sell their labour to develop the land. I cannot imagine how any honorable senator could object to the purpose of clause 13.
– I am amazed at the attitude adopted by Senator Payne. Yesterday, when the division was taken on the second reading the honorable senator supported the Government-
-I did not support the Government, I supported the bill.
– The honorable senator supported the bill,- which was brought down by the Government, so that the natural inference is that . he supported the Government. Now that we are in committee he makes a complete somersault and opposes the measure. The honorable senator has received a letter from some gentleman in Queensland, who evidently anticipated Senator Payne’s attitude in relation to clause 13. This chairman of the Queensland Cotton Board must have gone down some by-lane in Brisbane, consulted a clairvoyant, gazed into the crystal and forecast the future action of the political giant for Tasmania. The honorable senator is the only man to receive such & letter. Curiously enough nothing is said about the manufacture of cotton yarn. Everything relates to seed cotton. Just let me examine the position. Our cotton yarn will be manufactured into cloth under reasonable trade union conditions, but the preliminary stages of cotton-growing and cotton-picking arc to be alienated from trade union conditions. Does Senator Payne expect Senator Hoare, Senator Barnes, Senator O’Halloran, Senator Dooley, Senator Rae and myself to forsake our principles? Would he have us support the blackfellow conditions under which the cotton is harvested abroad, and appear in the streets of Canberra in lavalavas ?
– I for one should like to see the honorable gentlemen so attired
– The Queensland cotton industry is at present working amicably ‘ its labour being supplied by members of the Australian Workers Union. I am sorry to say that certain other Australian farmers frequently give preference to Italians rather than to Australians ‘ and Britishers.
– Those Italians are members of the Australian Workers Union.
– I do not know anything about that. I remind the honorable senator that interjections are dia. orderly. I endorse the remarks of Senator Barnes that we make no complaint about family conditions applying to the growing of cotton. At the same time, when father dies and leaves £18,000 to the members of his family-
– That sort of father is obviously not a cotton-grower.
– He may . be a squatter. I notice that that sort of thing is happening every day. Unfortunately the man that father hires to assist him to harvest his crop has no say in the disposition of the fortune. Senator Payne is endeavouring to introduce into the cotton-fields of Queensland the slave conditions that exist in the southern States of America. He would delight to have a white overseer cracking his whip over the backs of the field-workers. He recalls to my mind poor Eliza, leaping from ice-floe to ice-floe, to escape from the hellish brutality of Simon Legree. I remind the honorable senator that while the Government is prepared to assist the Australian cotton industry it will not countenance such practices in this enlightened country of ours. This provision is designed essentially to protect the workers of the country from sweated labour conditions.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m..
– The Australian Workers Union realizes that, in the general development of farms in Queensland, the labour of its members may be utilized for the growing of maize or other crops, and all it asks is that awards in relation to cotton-growing shall be applicable to the picking of cotton.
– The term has a definite meaning in industrial law; it would not include the clearing of land.
– Honorable senators opposite appear to fear the consequences of an award in connexion with the picking of cotton. If the Commonwealth pays a bounty on cotton-growing, the Government, irrespective of the party it represented, would be justified in policing awards in areas where rural jurisdictions did not operate.
Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW (Queensland) [2.17]. - I intend to oppose the amendment, on the ground, mainly, that I believe the benefits accruing from the payment of a bounty to the cotton industry should not be enjoyed by one section only. The growers should share with their employees the benefits of a bounty. 11 any industrial organization imposed difficult conditions on employers, its action would have the effect of preventing the expansion of the industry. I have always supported the bounty principle in relation to rural industries, because I desire that those who have invested capital in them should have an opportunity to see if it is not possible to place them on a permanentbasis. If onerous conditions are imposed on the growers, cotton-growing will remain -a strictly family industry,, as it is to-day.
-What about the employees in other industries that are not helped by bounties?
-All established protected industries are subject to awards of some industrial tribunal, and those engaged in them are expected to abide by its determinations.
– The honorable senator knows ‘ very well that rural industries could not survive if the employers were obliged to observe Arbitration Court awards and conditions of employment.
– I am aware of that; but if this Parliament assists an industry by means of a bounty, the benefits accruing from such a policy should be shared by employers and employees. It would be unfair to pay a bounty to the grower of cotton and the manufacturer of cotton yarn, and give protection to employers in the textile industry, without at the same time expecting them to give their employees a share of the benefit.For the reasons stated I shall oppose the amendment.
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH (Western Australia) [2.20]. - The speech to which we have just listened from Senator Glasgow is extraordinary evidence of the demoralizing effect of legislation of this kind. Senator Glasgow has deliberately stated that an industry which is to receive a bounty at the expense of the general community should give better conditions of labour for those employed in it than an industry which has to fight its own battles without government assistance and make its contribution to the bounty. The agricultural industry could not live for five minutes’ if the employers in it were obliged to pay the wages and observe the conditions of employment that obtain in our protected secondary industries. All employed in agricultural occupations have to work longer hours in order to make their contribution to bonuses of this kind. I object to the clause and I support the amendment on exactly opposite grounds to those advanced by those honorable senators who favour it. If they believe that the class of legislation which has been passed in recent years will maintain the present high standard of living for the worker, they are welcome to that opinion. The fact is that this legislation is steadily destroying the standard of living of the worker and is driving more and more of them into unemployment and poverty. The further we go along this legislative path the more disastrous will be the results from that point of view. I protest against this clause for two reasons: In the first place I regard it as a distinct breach of the Constitution which limits the industrial powers of this Parliament to providing machinery for arbitration and conciliation for the settlement of disputes extending beyond the limits of one State. Although the cotton industry is confined almost exclusively to one State, and it cannot possibly extend to any other State; the Government proposes to establish a Commonwealth industrial tribunal to prescribe wages and conditions of labour in it. Clearly this is an invasion of the right preserved to the States under the Constitution that they alone should legislate in respect of industrial matters, except where disputes extend beyond the limits of one State. I object to it also for reasons which I gave earlier in my remarks. It seems to me to be monstrous and unjust ‘ that bonused industries should, so far as the workers are concerned, have better conditions of err.ployment than can be enjoyed by those employed in industries which have to contribute to the payment of these bonuses. The strength of industrial organizations, together with the legislation passed by the various State Parliaments, should be sufficient to prevent sweating or unfair conditions of employment. Reference has been made to the fact that cotton growing in Queensland is a family industry. What will happen if groups of families engage in it and employ members of their respective families to pick the crop? Senator Barnes has already indicated that awards of any authority appointed by the Minister may be avoided by groups of employers pretending to pay award rates to their children, thereby securing payment of the bounty by misrepresentation and fraud. Has Senator Barnes told us the whole secret of how the provisions of the act may be evaded and the bonus made available to people who may grow cotton on a family basis? I raised this question in my second-reading speech. Up to the present the only explanation received has come from Senator Barnes who has told us how industrial awards may be evaded.
– There is a somewhat similar provision in the original act, but it applies only to the spinning of yarn and not to the production of seed cotton. If I were opposed to this provision I should find it difficult to make out a case why it should apply to only one branch of the industry. I understand an assurance was given in another place by the Minister in charge of the bill that this provision would apply only to cottonpicking.
– That is so; and I can give the same assurance here. As a matter of fact it is a decision based on the present State industrial law. The Minister in another place merely explained what the law provides.
– If this is a family industry, as I believe it is, and hope it always will be, this provision will not apply. I have never known an award of any court to apply to members of an employer’s family. It is a mistake to assume that it will over-ride awards of the State court. Sub-clause 7 provides -
– That provision merely prevents a State Government from appointing a new authority.
– No. In the event of there being a State award or a registered agreement either with the Commonwealth or State Arbitration Court, the remainder of the clause will not become operative, I understand that there is in existence an agreement between the growers of cotton and the Australian Workers Union fixing the price for picking cotton.
– It is at piece-work rates.
– Yes. If this clause is passed as it stands there will be no interference with existing conditions in the industry. I regard the provision as quite innocuous. If I were opposed to it I should find it extremely difficult to justify voting . in such a way as to jeopardize the passage of this bill. I do not know whether . the Government regards this clause as vital.
– Certainly it is vital. The Government would not pass a bill with provisions inconsistent with other legislation of a similar nature.
– I do not think this provision will be harmful, and I suppose I have had as much experience in industrial matters as any other honorable senator. In my early days I was first the secretary and later president of a trade union. For twenty-two years I have been president of a large organization of employers, and I should find it difficult to advance a Valid reason for opposing this provision in the bill.
Senator E. B. JOHNSTON (Western Australia [2.29]. - I support the amendment. When the Tariff Board made its recommendation for the payment of a bounty to cotton-growers, it particularly stipulated that the Queensland Govern ment should not have any power to interfere with the industrial conditions in the industry.
– When did the Tariff Board say that?
– I am about to tell the Minister. It is clear from the general tenor of the board’s recommendation that it did not believe the Commonwealth would interfere on the industrial side. It properly thought that the Commonwealth Government would mind its own business. Although the rural workers’ award of Queensland has been abolished, the Commonwealth Government now proposes to interfere in that domain, and acting contrary to the Tariff Board’s recommendations.
– The board did not report to that effect in 1929.
– It did in 1926, and, according to the report of 1929, it did not in any way modify the recommendation it made in 1926. In the 1929 report it is clearly laid down that in the event of a subsidy or a bonus being granted, there should be no interference with respect’ to industrial conditions. In the 1926 report the board states -
In its consideration of this matter, the board was seized with the importance of making the payment of any bounty subject to such conditions as would ensure that any money paid by the Commonwealth Government in that direction shall actually be received by the growers of the seed cotton.
The bounty on seed cotton is desired, not only by cotton-growers and the ginners, but by the Government of Queensland, which Government chiefly desires to avoid the present cost to it of the system of guaranteed prices, the expenditure in connexion with which has gradually increased from £5,317 in 1920-21 to £55,000 in 1924-25. The cottongrowing industry is at present practically exclusive to Queensland, and the probability is that the State named will always produce from 80 to 90 per cent, of the cotton grown in Australia. This, of course, means that the whole of the people of the States, if the bounty system is adopted, will be called upon to pay from £130,000 upwards each year to assist the industry of one particular State. In the State of Queensland there are certain conditions operating which in the opinion of the Tariff Board make the qualifications which it has suggested very necessary.
The board, in referring to what occurred in connexion with the sugar industry, expressed the opinion that it did not wish similar conditions to prevail in the cotton industry. Its report continues -
The Tariff Board can foresee -that in the event of the bounty being granted, it is almost inevitable that the Queensland Government, if in its present mind, will bring the cotton industry under the Arbitration Act with a view to fixing increased wages.
Since that time rural awards in Queensland have been abolished, but the Commonwealth Government now proposes to provide for Commonwealth industrial control, contrary to the recommendation of the board. The report continues -
For example, judging by its past action, the Queensland Board of Trade and Arbitration would almost certainly fix 2d. per lb. as the minimum rate for picking seed cotton; seeing that the rate was first adopted and is strongly desired by the Australian Workers Union. At present in many districts cotton-pickers will accept lid. per lb., and at that rate earn up to 18s. per day. Further, cotton-growers would probably be subjected to a variety of expensive restrictions such as are found in other .Queensland awards.
The effect of this obviously .would be to increase the costs of production, with .the result that the money paid as bounty by the Commonwealth Government, and which was intended to assist the growers, would go to meet the increased wages, and thus the object which the bounty was designed to achieve would be defeated.
Notwithstanding that, the Commonwealth Government is introducing legislation contrary to the board’s recommendation. The report further states -
For the reasons given, the Tariff Board is of opinion that there should be attached to the payment of any bounty such a condition as will effectively prevent State interference with the cotton industry -
I suggest that federal interference is even more objectionable, because the Commonwealth has no right to interfere in State matters. It is further stated that - either in the form of increased wages or railway freights, &c. (except any increase as may be the result of an alteration in the basic wage) during such period as the Commonwealth Government may be supplying funds, through the bounty system, to assist the industry to carry on and develop. In the opinion of the Tariff Board, any such interference might vitally prejudice the successful operation of the bounty.
I trust that the committee will accept the amendment moved by Senator Payne, because the proposals of the Government embodied in this clause may vitally prejudice the successful operations of the bounty system in connexion with this industry. The report further states -
If provision for the suggested condition can not by reason of legal difficulties be made in the Bounty Act or Regulations, the Tariff Board suggests that it be arranged by agreement between the Commonwealth Government and each State Government concerned, as has been done in the case of the sugar agreement. In view of the recommendations by the Tariff Board the committee should give the most careful consideration to the clause now under consideration. We should not ignore the recommendation of the board, particularly as a good deal of the work in connexion with the production of cotton is conducted under what is known as the family system. If this provision is adopted we do not know how far its operation will extend. For instance, the Government, in .rendering Certain, financial assistance to those engaged in the wheat-growing industry, might insist on certain industrial conditions being observed in that industry. Although a Labour Government was in office in Wes. tern Australia for six years, it never provided that an industrial award should be made to cover the agricultural industry in that State. Notwithstanding . the decision of the Queensland Government to abolish industrial awards in the agricultural industry and some of the rural awards, this Government now proposes to interfere in an industry which is carried on largely by the cottager and family man. I trust that the amendment moved by Senator Payne will be adopted.
– A good deal depends upon the interpretation of the words “ in the production of seed cotton or lint “. I should like to have an expression of opinion from the Minister in charge of the bill as to what those words mean. If they are not to apply to the opening up and the preparation of land for the production of cotton there should not be any harm in including them. Of course, they must apply to the picking of cotton.
– The Acting Minister for Trade and Customs in another place said that they applied only to the picking of cotton.
– That may be so, but I should like to have a similar pronouncement from the Minister ‘iri charge of the bill.
– Does the honorable senator suggest the substitution of the word “ picking “ for the word “ production “.
– No. The Minister should give an assurance- that the industrial tribunal which may be appointed will have the right to control conditions only with respect to the picking of cotton, and if he does his assurance should, I think, be accepted by the committee. I am not in favour of all the provisions but it is necessary to pass this bill with as little delay as possible. Recognized industrial conditions cannot be applied generally to this industry which is carried on largely by families. There are other directions in which labour will be required apart from picking, but not to any great extent. Rather than delay the passage of the bill and cause inconvenience and uncertainty in the minds of those concerned I shall be satisfied if the Minister will give an assurance in the direction [ have indicated.
. - As already mentioned an undertaking similar to that required by Senator Thompson was given by the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs . (Mr. Forde) in another place concerning the interpretation which an Arbitration Court judge will place upon the wording of this clause. I have been directed by the Government to repeat the assurance given by the Acting ‘Minister, for Trade and Customs. ,
.- The debate on this clause has strengthened my opposition to it. Ihave not heard a word in support of its retention in its present form. It has been suggested that the words to which I object relate only- to the picking of cotton, and the Minister has given an assurance that they will apply only to that branch of the industry. But as no Minister has power to give an assurance contrary to the wording of a Statute, I decline to accept his assurance. The clause specifically provides that the Minister may make application to the Chief Judge or a judge of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration for a declaration as to what wages and conditions of employment are fair and reasonable for labour employed in the production of seed cotton or lint. If it is suggested that in the production of- cotton the only labour employed is in connexion with picking, it would be just as reasonable to say that the only labour employed in the production of wheat is in harvesting the crop. No one suggests that the picking of cotton bolls is the only labour associated with its production, and consequently the assurance of the Minister is of little value.
– If the word “ picking “ were substituted for the word “ production,” would the honorable senator be satisfied?
– No. Senator E. B. Johnston has made a valuable contribution to the debate by quoting the exhaustive recommendations of the Tariff Board. I have read that report, and also subsequent reports on the subject of cotton production, and am firmly of the opinion that the permanence of the cotton-growing industry will be seriously jeopardized if artificial industrial conditions are’to be imposed.
– The Tariff Board’s recommendation was disregarded by the late Government.
– I am - not responsible for the omissions of the late Government, and goodness knows it had enough of them to carry. My point is- that the fact that the Tariff Board made no recommendation on the matter in its 1929 report is tantamount to saying that its recommendation of 1926 still holds good. If a judge who made an award in 1926 makes no further award on a re-hearing in 1929, his 1926 award holds good. Similarly the 1926 recommendation of the Tariff Board not having been modified or referred to in any way in the later report, still stands ‘ as the opinion of the board to-day. In the circumstances I feel justified in pushing my amendment to a division, because I regard it as essential to the permanent success of the cotton-growing industry that any possibility of industrial disturbance should be eliminated. If it is not, then as sure as the stars are above us, there will be a crash.
Question - That the words proposed to be left out be left out (Senator Payne’s amendment) - put. The committee divided. (Chairman - Senator W. Plain.)
Majority . . 9
Question so resolved in the negative.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (West ern Australia) [2.51]. - I move -
That sub-clauses 7 and 8 be left out.
Honorable senators will recollect that earlier I asked leave to withdraw this amendment to enable other amendments to be moved. Since doing so I have received the following letter: - 20th June, 1930.
Now that the Cotton Industries Bounty Bill has passed the second-reading stage in the Senate, I am taking the liberty of writing to you in connexion with clause 13 of this measure, which briefly stated, amongst other things, gives the Commonwealth the power to appoint a tribunal to fix the rates of cottonpicking in the industry. In principle, no doubt, a number of senators will take exception to this clause. It is understood, however, that the Government regards the clause as a vital part of the bill on the following grounds : - (2.) That all bounty bills for the past twenty years have contained provisions not necessarily identical, but similar to clause 13 of this measure (see clause 10 of Cotton Bounty Bill placed on statute-books by Bruee-Page Government.)
R. J. Webster,
Queensland Cotton Board.
The statement contained in that letter is entirely inaccurate. Sub-clauses 7 and8 of clause 13 are not even similar to section 10 of the Cotton Bounty Act 1920. Furthermore, it is rather peculiar that the general manager of the Queensland Cotton Board should inform me that the Government regards clause 13 as a vital part of the bill. I should imagine that it is for the Government to make that declaration. There is, however, a little history attached to this particular clause. I have with me a letter written to the Premier of Queensland by Mr. Walker, Minister for Agriculture and Stock. It is dated Brisbane, 11th June, 1930, and reads as follows: -
Dear Mr. Moore,
Relative to the Cotton Industries Bounty Bill recently introduced into the House of Representatives by Mr. Forde, Acting Minister for Trade and Customs.
I have followed closely the debate on the bill in the House of Representatives and find that the reference made by the Minister in charge of the measure gives cause for strong resentment by me.In the Federal Hansard, dated the 23rd May, 1930, page 2120, Mr. Forde is reported to have stated as follows: - “When Mr. Walker, the Queensland Minister for Agriculture, was in Canberra this week in connexion with the wheat pool, he informed me that the Premier (Mr. Moore) was of opinion that the best tribunal would be one composed of a judge of the Federal Arbitration Court, a judge of the State Arbitration Court, and a member of the Cotton Board. I discussed the matter frankly with Mr. Walker, and told him that such a tribunal would be too expensive and cumbersome, would result in serious delay, and that^ the workers would object if they were given no representation. Moreover, even if all interests were represented, it would be unnecessary to requisition the services of two arbitration judges, a representative of the Cotton Board, and a representative of the union, to decide a comparatively small matter that might be expeditiously and inexpensively settled by a simple local tribunal, which could visit the cotton areas and inquire into the conditions of the industry in a way that would not be possible for a more influential and unwieldy tribunal.”
I wish to give an emphatic denial of the above statement. When at Canberra I distinctly told Mr. Theodore and Mr. Forde (in the case of Mr. Forde in the presence of Mr. Townsend and Mr. Macgregor, when we were all at lunch) that the Queensland Government wanted no tribunal to fix conditions for the cotton-growing industry;
Secretary for Agriculture and Stock.
I’ have also a copy of the letter sent to the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Forde) by the Premier of Queensland. It is as follows : - 16th June, 1930.
I enclose for your information a letter I have received from Mr. Walker (Minister for Agriculture and Stock of this State) and copies of certain relevant telegrams dealing with the Cotton Industries Bounty Bill.
A statement made by you in the course of a speech in the Federal House on the 2 3 id May last (quoted in Mr. Walker’s letter), leaves the inference that the Queensland Government favoured the appointment of an authority to determine wages and conditions for labour employed in the cotton-growing industry.
I desire to make it perfectly clear that the Queensland Government was entirely opposed to .the constitution of any such authority.
A. E. Moore, Premier.
said that the proposal is repugnant and vicious. I remind him that it embodies the principle of conciliation for which the Nationalist Government was supposed to stand. Where we cannot get wages determined by the arbitration tribunal, which the law of this country says shall be the first tribunal to fix wages, the Government asks that it be given power to set up a conciliatory tribunal. The Government knows that it cannot set up a conciliation committee which could make wages effective as against an award made by the Commowealth Court or a State industrial authority. Recognizing that fact,- the Government says that where arbitration authorities cannot fix wages and’ conditions, a conciliation committee, selected on the most representative basis that any advocate of conciliation could suggest, should do so.
– This bill gives such bodies the power of determination..
– Does the right honorable gentleman suggest that a conciliation committee would be called together only in order that its members might kick one another on the shins under the table? It would meet with the object of coming to a determination.
– Does the right honorable senator suggest that if a conciliation committee were called together to fix wages in other industries-
– They would be fixed by agreement.
– Is not that a determination? In the industrial judicial sense a determination means that something is decided on. The conciliation committee would meet for the purpose of deciding the point at issue between the parties that called it together. Would not its decision be a determination? The clause provides that if the judge has not declared what wages and conditions are fair and reasonable, and there are not’ in force in the locality any standard rates and conditions, the 1 Minister may appoint ‘ an authority for the purpose of determining wages. It further provides that that authority shall comprise a representative respectively of the employers and the employees engaged in the production of seed cotton, and also a person who shall act as chairman, such person to be appointed by the Minister on the joint nomination of the representatives of the employers and employees-
– Will the honorable senator continue?
– Yes. I, stopped because the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce) said that this clause makes the Minister an industrial autocrat. The system which he describes as vicious and repugnant is that which both he and
Senator Colebatch have so often advocated^namely, the wages board system which is in operation in the States. Under that system the parties meet and, if possible,, agree on the appointment of a chairman. If they cannot agree> the Minister appoints the chairman.
– Conciliation stops there.
– That is a most extraordinary statement. Does the honorable senator seriously suggest that a person so appointed cannot be a conciliation commissioner ?
– He would not be.
– Then Queensland must be different from the other States.
– Must the chairman be a judge of a court?
– That is a suggestion to’ which consideration might well be given. The Government is not wedded to the precise wording of this clause; but it does say that if tribunals are to be set up to determine wages and conditions of labour the system should be complete.
– All that is necessary is that the Minister shall seek a declaration.
– We must deal with this matter in a practical way. We all know that for some time this industry will be confined to Queensland. Chief Judge Dethridge is now dealing with a case which will occupy him for a furthersix months. Judge Drake-Brockman hasbeen on the Locomotive - Engine-drivers’ case for two years and three months. I am not conversant with the work being undertaken by the other judges. - The Government recognizes that under the present arbitration system it frequently happens that the parties cannot be heardas soon as is desirable, and that before the case can be heard, the fire, as it were, has grown to considerable dimensions. This clause gives the Minister power to call the parties together expeditiously in such cases, and to appoint a chairman. I challenge honorable senators to point to one- case in which a minister has attempted to make any person acting in a judicial capacity carry out the policy of the -party or- government to which the minister belonged. “It is a serious matter to tamper with the stream of justice. I do not think that the Senate will reject this proposal merely because of a fear that at some future time there will be in office a minister who will be so unmindful’ of his oath of office as to use his position and appoint a judge deliberately to increase or decrease wages.
– I do not suggest that ; but I do say that we should not give any minister the power to appoint such tribunals.
– In effect the right honorable gentleman says “ I believe that under the bounty system standard wages should be fixed ; I believe that if the Commonwealth court can fix those wages, it should do so; I believe that if the State court has the authority to fix wages, it should fix them. But if neither authority has the power to fix wages, my belief ends there; I no longer believe in standard wages and hours of labour being observed “. Honorable senators must recognize that included in the cost of pro-‘ duction is the wage cost of production. That wage cost is now fixed by arbitration courts ; and bounties are given by this Parliament on the assumption that standard wages and conditions of labour apply in the industry concerned. I deny that the proposal is vicious or repugnant. I shall be candid with the right honorable gentleman, and say that it is a proposal which, in appropriate circumstances, will be sought in connexion with other bounties. It is a proposal which should have been inserted in the Wine Export Bounty Bill. Indeed, it would have been inserted in that bill if. this hiatus had been discovered before that bill passed through this chamber.
– It would mean more duplication.
– On the contrary, it would tend to the fulfilment of that plank of the Labour party’s platform which provides for the settlement of disputes by conciliation. I feel certain that the tribunal which would be appointed under this system to fix conditions would be a local tribunal, consisting of employers and employees engaged in the industries concerned and presided over by a chairman nominated by the Minister. In my opinion, the occasions will be rare when the aid of either a State or a Common wealth authority will be invoked to settle disputes. There is nothing vicious or repugnant in this clause, and I hope that honorable senators will accept it. Although the wording may be different, the principle is not different from that which impelled Parliament to insert provisions of this kind in other bounty acts.
– I am afraid that the Minister has not clarified the position. Sub-clause 2 seems to strike at sub-clauses 7 and 8. Sub-clause 1 provides that the Minister may make application to the competent authority for a declaration as to what wages and conditions of employment are fair and reasonable in the industry. To that provision the Senate has taken no exception. If the declaration is adverse, the position is then as set out in sub-clauses 4, 5 and 6.
Every person who claims a bounty on seed cotton, lint, or cotton yarn, must satisfy the Minister that he has paid the wages to qualify him to receive the bounty. Sub-clause 6 reads -
If the Minister finds that the conditions of employment or rates of wages, or any of them, paid by any claimant for bounty under this act -
are below the rates and conditions declared, as in the first sub-section of this section mentioned, to be fair and reasonable: or
are below the standard rates and conditions of employment prescribed by the Commonwealth Board of Conciliation and Arbitration, or by any other industrial authority of the Commonwealth or a State.
The Minister may withhold the whole or any part of the bounty payable.
That is complete machinery within itself.
– Can the honorable senator tell us where machinery exists for the appointment of an industrial authority if we strike out from the clause that portion to which Senator Pearce has taken exception?
– I understand that in another bill provision is made to fill any gap that may exist. I ask the Minister what Commonwealth authority has been established for the purpose, and whether the Government contemplates setting up , such authorities. One of the Arbitration Court judges has been relieved of his duties and transferred to the Bankruptcy Court, because there was not sufficient work to keep him employed on arbitration matters. The position can be met by the appointment of judges to the Arbitration Court.
– And if conciliation is needed, conciliation commissioners may be appointed.
– I am obliged to the right honorable senator. Under the present Arbitration Act, provision is made for the appointment of conciliation commissioners.
– But you cannot induce employers to act on those committees.
– That is a matter of administration under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. Subclause 1 of clause 13 covers the whole ground, and provides ample machinery for the purposes of the Government. On top of that, sub-clauses 7 and 8 open up a vista of a new tribunal; and something to which the suggestion of Senator Colebatch might apply with some force. I do not agree with the honorable senator as to the unconstitutionality of sub-clause 1, because I think there you use the judges individually, in what we know as a persona designata sense. The words, “ Chief Judge or a judge of the Commonwealth. Court of Conciliation and Arbitration “ are used, but you are not employing the machinery of the court in the true sense of the term. I may be wrong in what I am about to say, and I hope that the Minister will correct me if I am, but it appears to me that something is left out of a certain portion of clause 7. It says -
If the Chief Judge or a Judge of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration has not declared in accordance with subsection (1) of this section . . .
Two people are competent to declare in accordance with sub-section 1, under their names. They are Commonwealth authorities established for the purposes of determining wages and conditions of employment. But paragraph a of clause 7 also deals with a contingency wherein those judges have failed to declare, in accordance with sub-clause 1, what wages and conditions of employment are fair and reasonable. It is a little puzzling to me to realize why the further complementary words were not embodied in sub-clause 1.
– The method may be wrong, but it was intended to read in the words “ established under this act.”
– Does Senator McLachlan suggest that this provision is intended to serve some sinister purpose?
– I do not know what purpose it is intended to serve, but the machinery provided up to subclause 7 seems to have worked effectively enough in the past. I certainly have never heard of any difficulties with regard to it. It appears to me that we are superimposing one tribunal upon another. The Minister already has the power to refuse this bounty, and, while I voted for the maintenance of those conditions under a previous clause, I cannot see why we require all this machinery provided in sub-clauses 7 and 8.
– Does not the honorable senator think that the growers should know beforehand what conditions of employment the Minister will approve ?
– This is not something that we are starting off afresh. The principle has been in operation -for five or six years. I take it that the Minister does not intend to make any revolutionary departures from the wages and conditions now operating. I believe that these provisions are almost word for word with those embodied under a previous act as far as sub-clause 6, and I cannot see the need for the additional machinery provided under paragraph? a andb of clause 7.
– It appears to me. as though the Minister can deliberately go past the judge.
– Paragraph a reads - 7.If-
What is it that prevents that judge functioning? It is the power of the Minister under sub-clause 1 to make an application to the Chief Judge or a judge of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and
Arbitration, or to any other tribunal that is attached to that court. It appears tome that paragraph a of sub-clause 7 has not been properly thought out. I venture to suggest to the Minister that all the machinery that he requires is contained in sub-clause 1 of clause 13.
– Does the honorable senator mean, to say that the Minister could ignore those two authorities and proceed to form his own tribunal? It would be too ridiculous.
– Paragraph a of sub-clause 7 connotes that the Minister does not ask the Chief Judge or a judge of the court, or an arbitration tribunal to function under sub-clause 1. All that is asked for in paragraph a of clause 7 is that there shall be no declaration, as is provided in sub-clause 1 as to wages and conditions of employment. Paragraphb of clause 7 provides that if -
Sub-clause8 does not concern me so much. The points upon which I base my argument are that the machinery under sub-clause 1 is absolutely complete. There I think the Minister is on safe ground. . But when he comes to constitute an authority under sub-clause 7 he- ap points an authority or authorities for determining for the purposes of the clause - the Minister may obtain some comfort from that - what wages and conditions of . employment are fair and reasonable for labour employed in the production of seed cotton or lint or the manufacture of cotton yarn. I think that there is an invasion of the industrial powers of the States. I do not know whether the Minister has had an opportunity to consider that phase. It has occurred to me only during the discussion. I suggest to the honorable senator that, in the circumstances, he should withdraw sub-clauses 7 and 8, as they serve no good purpose. I understand that the Minister suggests that they would have application to Queensland conditions.
– I said that they would in the immediate future.
– -Of course when the necessity arises to extend them beyond Queensland, the Government can make provision to that effect.
The CHAIRMAN (Senator Plain).The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– It is very difficult for me to follow the reasoning of honorable senators who oppose this provision. Senator McLachlan suggests that it may superimpose something that we do not wish to superimpose. The Government desires this industry to work along smooth lines. Senator McLachlan contended . that the Government could appoint a judge of the. Arbitration Court or a conciliation commissioner, while in the next breath he told us that we cannot confer the jurisdiction of the courts on either of those people, but can only make an application to them, without being able to compel them to sit on the tribunal. Those judges are appointed by the Government under the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act. The Government would have no more jurisdiction over Chief Judge Dethridge for the purposes of the Cotton Industries Bounty Act than it would have in asking him to sit on the royal commission over which he presided recently in Canberra.
– He has sworn to, obey the law of the Commonwealth.
– He would not be disobeying the law of the Commonwealth if he were not able to hear a case under this measure.
– The judge would have to take the cases in their order.
– Cases under this measure would not become part of the ordinary court list of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration.
– Does the honorable senator not think that the judge would very likely refuse to hear such cases?
– No judge would refuse to hear them if he had the time to do so, but any judge could refuse to give preference to this industry over other industries when deciding wages and conditions of employment. The chief difficulty that I foresee in administration is this: The judge, would have to go to Queensland for the specific purpose of fixing an award for the cotton industry. Generally judges act so that they will not only be understood, but so that they will not be misunderstood. Misunderstandings must arise if the Commonwealth court is the justiciable authority. I have great hopes that if this provision is allowed to remain we shall have a proper tribunal to control the wages and conditions of employment in the cotton industry.
– I consider that it is a concession to the industry.
– Exactly. I should say that, from the growers’ standpoint the authority proposed is the best of the four available for the purpose. Senator Pearce says that because this is an innovation those people who believe that a bounty should be paid to the industry and that a system of wage fixation should be prescribed in the bill, should reject one of the most beneficial portions of the measure and adhere to the provisions contained in other legislation.
– Has there ever been any difficulty in connexion with the other bounty acts that are in operation ?
– I have heard a considerable number of complaints from honorable senators opposite about arbitration courts throwing men on to the unem ployed market. ‘ I can understand the opposition of Senator Colebatch in the matter, as he is opposed to the system on principle. I cannot understand any honorable senator who is not opposed to the principle of the fixation of wages objecting to the provisions in this clause which more nearly than any other approaches the ideal system for the fixation of wages, hours and conditions of work in industry. When a judge of the Arbitration Court hears a claim he sits by himself, listens to the evidence, and comes to a decision. Under the system proposed in this clause, representatives of the employers and employees, sitting together, with an impartial chairman, will hear all the points of the dispute and arrive at an agreement. If honorable senators vote against this clause they will indicate clearly that the Senate does not wish to take any step which will bring this particular system of wage fixation nearer to the people.
– Nothing of the kind.
– Surely honorable senators opposite realize the need for an improvement in the relationship between employers and employees. I cannot understand why objection has been raised to the principle contained in these subclauses. On the constitutional- side nothing can be said against it. The Leader of the Opposition must have been driven to the last extremity when he raised thai issue. The authority or authorities to be constituted will simply report to the Minister, who will make a declaration. Payment of the wages fixed and the observance of the conditions agreed upon in the industry will be a condition precedent to the payment of the bounty. I see no constitutional difficulties, and certainly no practical difficulties in the way of the appointment, of such an authority. This industry will present an ideal opportunity to experiment in this class of industrial legislation. H the clause is passed as it stands, it will be possible to get the parties together and agree to the wages to be paid and the conditions to be observed. Possibly this innovation will lead to the solution of one of the most vexed questions that affect industry in Australia.
If the Senate rejects this provision cotton-growers and their employees will be driven into the atmosphere of the Arbitration Court, to which somehonorable senators,- at all events, take strong exception. I do not know how the Minister in another place will regard the carrying of this amendment.
– How many persons will be affected by it?
– I understand that about 3,000 persons are employed in’ cotton-picking. If this amendment is carried the decision of the committee will indicate that the Senate isagainst an extension of the conciliation system, and opposed to any proposal to break down the litigious atmosphere of arbitration court proceedings.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia) [3.37].- The concluding statement of the Leader of the Senate is quite inaccurate. Under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act the Minister may appoint a commissioner for any term he pleases to fix wages and hours of labour in any industry. The person appointed may visit Queensland, inquire into the industry, get an agreement, and bring it; down to the Minister, who may then make a declaration. ‘ That is all that is necessary under the arbitration power. The Minister knows that he need not send an Arbitration Court judge to Queensland to handle the matter. Deputy President Quick for a time acted as a commissioner. This Ministry could appoint a suitable person for three months to do the work, it prefers, however, that the Minister himself should become an industrial authority. That is the trouble.
– Even at the risk of being charged with stone-walling the clause, I cannot allow the concluding remarks of the Leader of the Opposition to pass unchallenged. The right honorable gentleman knows very well that what he has just said is not his considered opinion concerning the working of our arbitration system. Sir John Quick was a retired lawyer who had time on his hands, and was prepared to. accept a government position. But how’ many Sir John Quicks arc available?
– The Government could get a retired police magistrate to do the work.
– That kind of procedure has been the cause of much trouble in connexion with the administration of our system of arbitration. Apparently, the Leader of the Senate thinks that anybody could be appointed to do this work. Let us get away from that idea. It would be possible, of course, to appoint a briefless barrister or a . retired police magistrate to inquire into the cotton industry, but his finding might cripple the industry, whereas if employers and employees could get together they could checkmate any adverse move, because both sides would be interested in the fixation of such wages and conditions as would enable the industry to carry on satisfactorily. I trust that the committee will not accept the amendment.
Question - That. the. sub-clauses proposed to be left out be left out (Senator Pearce’s amendment) - put. The committee divided. (Chairman - Senator Plain.)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses l4 to 17 agreed to.
Schedules agreed to.
Preamble and title agreed to.
Bill reported with an amendment.
Senate adjournedat 3.50 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 20 June 1930, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1930/19300620_senate_12_125/>.