13th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. P. J. Lynch) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– Is the Leader of the Government aware that the gluey and tasteless bananas, suffering from senile decay and exposed to view of honorable senators yesterday by Senator Sampson, were the product of New South Wales, and will he endeavour to prevail on Senators Greene and Cox to take the necessary steps to defend the fair name of the banana-growers of New South Wales so vehemently attacked yesterday by Senator Sampson?
– Order !
– Does the Leader of the Senate intend to take honorable senators into his confidence and inform them, before the Senate rises for the Christmas vacation, when the Prime Minister intends to leave Australia in order to relieve Mr. Bruce as Resident Minister in London?
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.The honorable senator canrest assured that the Government, which possesses the confidence of both Houses of the Parliament, will at all times take members into its confidence when it has any important announcement to make. At present it has nothing of importance to announce.
– I desire to ask the Leader of the Senate the following uncensored questions, without notice : -
– Order ! The honorable senator may not express an opinion when asking a question, and, therefore, I request him to withdraw the term “ anti-federal “.
– IfI am not permitted to use the term “ antifederal “ - the only term “which describes the attitude of the Commonwealth Railways Department - I have no desire to ask the question.
Later. Senator E. B. JOHNSTON. - I should like to know why I was not permitted to use the term” anti-federal “ in a question relating to an action which can only be described in that way. Is federation to be made such a “joss” in Canberra that no one is to be permitted to describe antifederal actions by the only name applicable to them?
– While I am in the chair, I am bound to abide by the Standing Orders of the Senate. Those Standing Orders set out distinctly that, in asking questions, honorable senators may not express opinions.
– I stated a fact, not an opinion.
– Honorable senators have ample opportunities to express their opinions at other times than when asking questions. As the person charged with the interpretation of the Standing Orders, I have no option but to rule that, in asking questions, honorable senators may not expressopinions on the subjects dealt with therein. That is also the longestablished practice of the Senate. In describing an action of the Government as anti-federal, the honorable senator expressed an opinion, and therefore he transgressed the Standing Orders.
The following papers were presented : -
Tariff Board - Report and Recommendation - Piece Goods, knitted or lock-stitched, in tubular form or otherwise, of any material except when wholly of wool.
Northern Territory Acceptance Act and Northern Territory (Administration) Act-
Crown Lands Ordinance - Reasons for resumption of Mineral and Goldmining Reserve at Pine Creek, Northern Territory, together with plan showing area resumed.
Has the Government instructed the Tariff Board that inall recommendations regarding tariffs against United Kingdom products the protective duties shall not exceed such a level as will give United Kingdom producers full opportunity of reasonable competition on the basis laid down in the Ottawa agreement? 2.If so, will a copy of such instructions, . and of all correspondence between the Government and the Tariff Board relating thereto, be made available to the Senate?
– The Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following answers: -
asked the Minister representing the Attorney-General, upon notice -
– The AttorneyGeneral has furnished the following replies : -
asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained.
asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate, upon notice-
– No decisionhas yet been reached on the question of the representation of Australia at this conference.
asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate, upon notice -
In view of the federal land tax remissions of over ?1,000,000, will the Government increase the payments to the invalid and old-age and sailor and soldier pensions; if not, why not?
– It is not yet known what the remissions of land tax will aggregate in excess of the one-third in the rate of tax which is estimated to be ?600,000. The Government has not made any reduction in the rate of invalid and old-age pensions in over80 per cent. of the cases, and none in regard to pensions of sailors and soldiers. Where therehas been a reduction of invalid and old-age pensions it is owing to the fact that the pensioner has some other means of support. The Government believes that in present circumstances every effort should be made to curb expenditure so that from the available resources of the country as much as possible may be conserved for the relief of the unemployed who in many cases are worse off than pensioners.
asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate, upon notice -
In view of the statement by the Prime Minister that the Australian taxpayers must at an early date bc prepared to share the burdens arising out of the international war obligations, will the Government introduce a resolution in both Houses of Parliament instructing Mr. Bruce to join with the British Government in urging the complete cancellation of all war debts?
– At present I have nothing to add to the answer I gave to the honorable senator on the same subject on the 23rd November.
Construction of Vessels
-asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate, upon notice -
In view of the often declared policy of the Government that it is at all times ready and willing to assist the States of the Commonwealth, will the Government provide the funds and give an order that three passenger and cargo steamers be built in Australian ship-building yards for the passenger and cargotrad:; between Tasmania and the mainland; if not, why not?
– The subject matter in this question raises considerations of policy, and as the honorable senator is aware, it is not the practice to make statements in regard to such matters in reply to questions.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce, upon notice -
Will the Minister give details concerning the shipment of oranges per SS. Stassfurt to London on the 14th September last, in particular as to -
Duty charged by the British customs and possibility of refund;
Whether the department can do any thing to obviate these . difficulties where the shipper is unable to secure through bills of lading;
Whether the shipment of citrus is likely to be seriously interfered with because of “citrus taint’’;.
What measures are being taken to overcome these difficulties associated with the export of citrus?
– The Minister for Commerce has received representations from persons concerned in the shipment of oranges to the United Kingdom via Rotterdam, on the 14th September, by. the SS. Stassfurt. The representations state that it wasnot possible to secure space on a British vessel owing to the fear of “citrus taint”; that itwas not possible to obtain a through billof lading for the shipment, which had to be consigned to Rotterdam, option London ; and that the British customs authorities charged duty on the oranges on their arrival in England. The Government is making inquiries into this matter, with a view to taking steps which will obviate difficulties associated with the shipment of citrus fruits to the United Kingdom, either by direct shipment, or via continental ports.
In view of the prevailing depression in the Northern Territory, what justification is there for the large increases - in one case up to 300 per cent. - that have been made in the fees for various classes of liquor licences in the territory, under Ordinance No. 20 of 19:12!?
Was there any special reason for the reduction of the salary of the matron in charge of the half-castes’ home at Darwin from £190 to £100, instead of by the usual 22-J per cent.?
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.The reduction was made because it was considered that £100 per annum was ample remuneration for the duties attaching to the position.
asked the Minister, representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.The Prime Minister has furnished the following replies: -
– I have received a communication from the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Barnes) tendering his resignation as a member of the Regulations and Ordinances Committee of the Senate. I have received similar letters from Senator O’Halloran, tendering his resignation as a member of the House Committee; from Senator Dooley, tendering his resignation as a member of the Library and Standing , Orders Committees; and from Senator Hoare tendering his resignation as a member of the Printing Committee.
Motion (‘by Senator Sir George Pearce) - .bv leave - agreed to -
That Senator Dooley bo discharged from the Standing Orders Committee, and Senator Brown be appointed in his stead; that Senator O’Halloran be discharged from the House Committee, and Senator Hoare be appointed in his stead; that Senator Dooley be discharged from the Library Committee, and Senator Collings be appointed in his stead; that Senator Hoare be discharged from the Printing Committee, and Senator McDonald be appointed in his stead; and that Senator Barnes be discharged from the Regulations and Ordinances Committee, and Senator O’Halloran be appointed in his stead.
– I move -
That the bill bc now read a second time.
This measure provides for the suspension of the Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act 1913-1921. The intention of the Government in this connexion was announced in the Governor-General’s speech delivered at the opening of this Parliament. The urgent necessity for a reduction of parliamentary expenditure influenced the Ministry in arriving at its decision to recommend to Parliament the suspension of this committee’s operations. In the past, this committee lias proved to be a useful institution. It was the means of saving a good deal of public morey, and was instrumental in preventing many unnecessary proposed works from being undertaken. But circumstances have changed. There is not a great deal of public work on foot at present, so that there is practically nothing for the committee to do. In fact, it has not functioned since the dissolution of the last Parliament. It is estimated that the savings through the suspension of the mittee will amount to approximately £3,000 per annum. The expenditure for 1930-31, the last complete financial year during which the committee was in operation, was £2,848, made up as follows: - Fees of members, £906 ; salaries of staff, £1,438; travelling expenses, £449; contingencies, £55. The expenditure has beena good deal heavier than in. some years when a considerable amount of travelling was necessary. Provision is made in the Bill for the lifting of the suspension of the act by a resolution of both Houses of Parliament. It may be mentioned that, if an inquiry is desired into any public work while the act is suspended, the Standing Orders of the Parliament provide for the constitution of a parliamentary select committee which could make the necessary investigation.
SenatorO’Halloran. - Is it to be inferred that, no important public works are to be proceeded with?
– A number of public works are to be embarked upon, and are to be financed out of the £100,000 which has been made available for relief works. The Government is anxious to proceed with those works at once, and there are various other works provided for in the Estimates which should not be held up. But it is obvious that, with the limited amount of £100,000 available, no works of an extensive character are possible. A number of works that are urgently necessary to provide relief for the unemployed are estimated to cost less than £25,000, and, therefore, they do not come within the ambit of the Public Works Committee Act. If occasion should arise, it will be within the power of the Parliament by resolution of both Houses, to bring the act again into operation.
– I have no desire to oppose the bill. I realize that it should be passed speedily to enable certain works to be proceeded with, in order to, provide immediate relief for a limited numberof the unemployed-. But I think that the
Minister was on rather uncertain ground when he said that the suspension ofthe operation of the act would result in the saving of approximately £3,000. He quoted figures to show the amount expended by the committee in the last financial year in which it operated. He mentioned fees for members of the committee amounting to £906, and travelling expenses totalling £449. As I understand the act, those fees were paid only when members were engaged on public inquiries, and, as the Minister has pointed out, that no important public work is likely to be proceeded with in the near future, owing to the present financial circumstances of the country, there is no necessity for inquiries by the committee. Therefore, the work of the committee would be virtually suspended without the passing of this measure. I recognize, of course, that the suspension of the act will enable the Government to make use of the staff which would otherwise have to be retained for committee work while the act was in operation. I claim that the greater part of the saving of £3,000 mentioned by the Minister is due to the fact that no inquiries by the committee are now necessary. In my opinion, the committee has rendered valuable service to the Commonwealth. When a fairly extensive works programme was in progress, it conducted a number of important inquiries, and when the financial position improves, and important works are again put in band, the Government should certainly again avail itself of the committee’s services.
– That goes without saying. The Government is now merely taking power to suspend the operations of the committee.
– I regret that it has become necessary to suspend the operations of this important committee, whose work has resulted in considerable saving. In the case of the Canberra baths, there was a proposal, originally, to spend £30,000 on the work, but as a result of the committee’s inquiries, baths which are a credit to Canberra, and have given satisfaction to everybody concerned, were built for about £11,000. Thus a saving of nearly £20,000 was effected. I could quote many other works in connexion with which the committee’s investigations resulted in the saving of large sums. I understand that tenders have been called for the construction of a new reservoir for Canberra, the cost of which is to be met out of the grant for the relief of the unemployed. I suggest that this work should be done by day labour, because it would be unfortunate if a relief work were carried om by contract, and private persons were allowed to make a lot of profit out of the job at the expense of those who are now -unemployed. I hope that the time will ;soon arrive when the resumption of the committee’s operations, by resolution of 3 oth Houses, will be justified.
– T question myself whether it is quite wise to do without the services of either the Public Works Committee or the Public Accounts Committee. Certainly, past experience gives us just cause to be thankful for the investigations carried out by the Public Works Committee. These have resulted in large savings to the Commonwealth, and private contractors have been prevented from obtaining undue profit. It is admitted that in the case of extensive works estimated to cost £25,000 or more, inquiries by the Public Works Committee are necessary, and the question is how long the committee’s operations should be suspended. I disapprove of a suspension for any lengthy period which would practically amount, to the disbanding of the committee. T am strongly in favour of retaining the services of both the Public Works Committee and the Public Accounts Committee.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time and reported from committee without amendment or debate.
Standing and sessional orders suspended; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
In committee: Consideration resumed from the 24th November (vide page 2772).
Clause 2 -
The provisions of the agreement entered into between His Majesty’s “Government in the United Kingdom and His Majesty’s Govern ment in the Commonwealth of Australia and arising out of the conference of representatives of the Governments of the British dominions held at Ottawa in July and August One thousand nine hundred and thirty-two (a copy of which provisions are set out in the schedule to this act) are hereby approved.
– Before proceeding with the discussion of clause 2 it is, I think, desirable that I should indicate to the committee, that, as the schedule to the bill is in the form of a complete document containing an agreement made between the Governments of the United Kingdom and of the Commonwealth of Australia, it is not competent for the committee to amend it, Parliament not being a party to the agreement. The bill is submitted for the approval by Parliament of the agreement. In my opinion, Parliament may do this, subject to certain conditions which may involve an alteration of the agreement, hut such conditions must be included in a clause of the bill by way of amendment of such clause. I make these observations in view of a statement made yesterday on the second reading of the bill by Senator Brennan, as to the competency of the Senate to amend tho agreement or any clause of the bill.
– Do I understand, Mr. Chairman, that your remarks apply not to the clauses of the bill but to the schedule?
– Will not the adoption of clause 2 mean also the adoption of the schedule ?
– Then if reference is made to any article in the agreement, I take it that it must be made in the discussion on clause 2.
– Although the schedule may be discussed in committee, if amendments are desired, they must be submitted to the clauses of the bill.
– If we were discussing a bill which gave power to make regulations and if the bill itself also contained the regulations, such regulations would apply as from the date of the passing of the measure. It seems to me that we shall be putting the cart before the horse if we proceed to discuss the enabling provisions of this bill before we consider what is being enabled. I suggest, for your consideration, that the proper procedure would be to discuss the agreement before we ratify it.
– It was discussed in the second-reading debate.
– I am not so much concerned about the procedure with regard to this bill as I am about the procedure which may be followed with regard to some subsequent bills.
– In view of the statement which you have just made, Mr. Chairman, I suggest that consideration of the clause be postponed until we have had an opportunity to consider the schedule, which contains all the vital provisions of the bill. Clause 2 simply implements the schedule, which contains 16 articles and a number of subsidiary schedules, all of which are definitely related to articles in the schedule. For example, article 1 refers to reservations and conditions set out in schedule A, and article 2 relates to conditions and implications to be found in schedule B. A number of other articles are, in the same ma n ner, related to other schedules in the agreement. We should not be asked to pass clause 2, which approves the whole of the conditions in the agreement and the schedules attached to it, before we are given the opportunity to consider in detail the respective articles. Senator Brennan has just said that we discussed these articles on the second reading. It is true that on the second reading we had a general discussion upon the main principles of the bill, but we have not yet had an opportunity to examine the effect of the various provisions upon our primary and secondary industries. The Government has acted in a very high-handed manner in submitting to Parliament an agreement which, whether we like it or not, must be accepted in its entirety. We are expected to pass it without detailed examination of the various articles; without altering it even to the extent of crossing a “t” or dotting an “i”. Already the agreement has been modified in some respects. For example, the provision relating to the British meat quota, which is covered by one of the schedules, was presumed to come into operation on the 1st January next, but we read in yesterday’s Canberra Times that the Government has issued a proclamation restricting the export of mutton and lamb from Australia during the months of November and December.
– That was done in conformity with the agreement itself.
– Nevertheless, it was a variation of terms as set out in the schedule. We learn also that action has been taken to restrict the export of butter, with, I venture to say, the possibility of serious consequences to the Australian dairying industry. I move -
That thu further consideration of the clause be postponed.
If that motion is carried the committee will be able to discuss the schedule before clause 2 is passed.
– The course which you, Mr. Chairman, have indicated, is the proper procedure. It does not limit the right of any honorable senator to discuss any portion of the schedule. It is obvious that the adoption of any amendments to the schedule would result in the rejection of the agreement. Clause 2 provides for the approval of the agreement, but if, for instance, an honorable senator objects to certain provisions in the schedule, and his objection is upheld by a majority of the committee, obviously the agreement would have to be rejected. If the committee decided to amend the schedule with respect, say, to meat, that would be as much a rejection of the agreement as if clause 2 were negatived.
– If such an amendment of the schedule were carried, the Minister in charge of the bill could report progress to consider the situation.
– There is no need for me to explain the position further, as it was clearly set out by Senator Brennan yesterday. It is not intended that honorable senators shall be deprived of the right to discuss any portion of the schedule. Clause 2 provides for the approval of the agreement, and in discussing that clause, an honorable senator is entitled to move an amendment to any portion of the schedule, and at the same time give his reasons for so doing. Senator O’Halloran has already moved that clause 2 be postponed, which clearly indicates that the rights of honorable senators are not affected by the direction of the Chair. The rights of honorable senators to amend the schedule should be exercised under clause 2.
– Why not discuss the schedule first?
– The schedule is covered by clause 2, any amendment of which is vital to the bill.
– There is more in the contention of Senator O’Halloran than appears on the surface. The Minister said any honorable senator may, if he so desires, move to amend the schedule under clause 2, but he also said that if such an amendment were adopted by a majority of the committee it would mean the rejection of the agreement. If the schedule is considered before clause 2, and the Government sees a possibility of Great Britain agreeing to an amendment adopted by a majority of the committee, the Minister in charge of the bill could report progress when clause 2 is under consideration, and confer with Great Britain. I do not desire to see the rights of honorable senators whittled away, and I certainly refuse to support a schedule which the committee has not had an opportunity to consider, and which, under the direction given by the Chair, we shall not be permitted to debate until clause 2 is passed. I am more concerned with the procedure that it is proposed to adopt than I am with the agreement itself. Honorable senators should realize that when a ruling such as that given by the Chair is upheld, it becomes a precedent which on some future occasion may be used in a way that is not desired.
– It could be applied to an agreement that this chamber could amend.
– Exactly. Legislation may be under consideration in this chamber embodying an enabling provision, and I contend that an agreement or regulations which form a part of a bill should first be considered before the clause in which such agreement or regulations are approvedis considered. The Minister said that, under clause 2, honorable senators are entitled to amend the schedule, but I challenge even the ingenuity of my learned colleague, Senator Brennan, to frame an amendment, covering, say, article 9 of the agreement, which would be in conformity with the Standing Orders. The Minister, with that versatility of mind which he undoubtedly possesses, must realize that an amendment of the schedule cannot be moved in the way he suggests. Apparently it is the intention of the Government to dispose of this measure by 4 o’clock this afternoon, but that can be done only by applying the obnoxious closure, as was done last night. I realize the futility of arguing when the numbers are against me; but I strongly protest against the procedure which it is proposed to follow in this instance, and I wish my protest to be placed on record.
– Honorable senators are free to discuss the schedule and to move amendments, if they so desire, while clause 2 is under consideration. They will not, however, be permitted to move an amendment to the schedule when clause 2 ha3 been passed.
– Then why bring the bill before the Senate at all?
SenatorBrennan.-So that the honorable senator cannot say that the agreement was entered into behind the back of Parliament.
– If clause 2 is carried the committee will bc powerless to move amendments to the schedule, some portions of which do not meet with the approval of honorable senators oh this side of the chamber.
– The honorable senator is entitled to discuss the schedule under this clause, and, if necessary, to move an amendment.
– Then I shall move an amendment.
- Senator O’Halloran has already moved that clause 2 be postponed.
– I shall support the motion which, if carried, will give honorable senators an opportunity to move amendments to the schedule, before clause 2 is disposed of.
– If we oppose clause 2 because we have not had an opportunity to discuss the agreement, we shall be told we are repudiationists and have no regard for the contract entered into between the Government of the United Kingdom and the Government of the Commonwealth. Honorable senators on this side of the chamber do notwish that charge tobe laid against them. We are not opposed to the whole of the schedule, but only to a portion of it, and naturally wish to move amendments in a proper way. If the motion moved by Senator O’Halloran is carried, we shall then be able to discuss the schedule before we approve of the agreement. If we pass clause 2 and later wish to move an amendment to the schedule, we shall be told that the agreement has already been approved. It appears to be unnecessary to bring the bill before the Senate if we are to be deprived of our rights in this way. At present it is not known whether a majority of the committee will support some of the amendments to be moved by honorable senators on this side of the chamber.
– Honorable senators are entitled to discuss the schedule under clause 2, but if that clause is agreed to the schedule will be approved.
– If the motion moved by Senator O’Halloran is negatived the honorable senator can move an amendment to clause 2.
SenatorCollings. - If the procedure suggested is adopted it will necessitate another general debate on this clause. Honorable senators may be absolutely in agreement upon practically the whole of the articles, and desire to debate only one or two. Not knowing where objection may lie, time will be wasted by them in debating the whole of the proposals.
SenatorDooley. - According to the Chairman’s ruling, we are entitled to discuss any article in the agreement. I am opposed to article 9, which reads -
His Majesty’s Government in the Commonwealth of Australia undertake that protection by tariffs shall be afforded only to those industries which are reasonably assured of sound opportunities for success.
Who is to determine what possibilities for success an industry may have? Is that to be the concern of the Tariff Board, or of the Minister? Article 9 should be deleted, because, in my opinion, it is impracticable.
– Article 16 will probably help the honorable senator on that point.
– We must recognize that, in the case of infant industries, and those whose establishment may be projected, it is difficult to determine whether success will be achieved. Under the operation of article 9, the establishment of new industries will not be possible. In the event of clause 2 being passed, there will be no opportunity to amend any article in the agreement.
– On this clause the honorable senator may move an amendment relating to article 9.
– Order ! There is before the Chair a motion by Senator O’Halloran, which it would be well to dispose of before a general debate ensues on clause 2.
Question - That clause 2 be postponed - put. The committee divided. ( Chairman - Senator the Hon. Herbert Hays.)
Majority . . . . 12
Question so resolved in the negative.
[12.8]. - Senator Dooley has drawn attention to article 9, and has asked how it is to be expressed. If he reads articles 10 and 11, that will be made clear to him. Article 10 undertakes that the tariff shall be based on certain principles; and article 11 undertakes that a review of existing protective duties shall be made as soon as practicable by the Tariff Board, in accordance with the principles laid down in article 10. Article 12 deals with new protective duties. Therefore, the whole field is covered. Existing protective duties are to be reviewed by the Tariff Board, and no new duties will be imposed in excess of those recommended by the board.
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH (Western Australia) [12.10]. - I direct ‘ the attention of honorable senators, and particularly of Ministers, to article 16, not simply as an article, but in regard to its general bearing on the agreement. According to it, the agreement “is to be regarded as coming into effect as from the date hereof “-the 20th August, 1932 - “ subject to the necessary legislative or other action being taken as soon as may be practicable hereafter.” That is to say, the agreement is to operate as from the 20th August last; but if there is any portion of it that cannot be brought into operation without legislative action, that action must be taken as soon as possible. To-day, I asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs the following question
Has the Government instructed the Tariff Board that, ill all recommendations regarding tariffs against United Kingdom products, the protective duties shall not exceed such a level as will give United Kingdom producers full opportunity of reasonable competition on the basis laid down in the Ottawa agreement?
The reply that I received was -
No. The United Kingdom and Australia Trade . Agreement Bill has not yet become law.
I maintain that the giving of an instruction to the Tariff Board, as to the method to be adopted in making its inquiries, is not a matter for which legislative action is necessary. Although the Government says, “ Because legislative action is necessary, we cannot instruct the Tariff Board in a way that may ultimately lead to the reduction of duties “, it has not waited for legislative action to be concluded before calling in aid the Ottawa agreement as an excuse for raising tariffs. Tariffs against the foreigner have been raised in pursuance of the agreement, without a shadow of legislative authority. Where it is a question of imposing additional burdens On the people, by making the tariff still higher, there is apparently no need to await legislative authoritythe Ottawa agreement enables it to be done - but where it is a question of giving an instruction to the Tariff Board that may at some future date lead to the reduction of duties, the attitude adopted is “ Oh,no, we must not move until legislative sanction to the Ottawa agreement has been given by -Parliament.” Yet in the face of action of that character, the Government expects the people of Australia to believe that it intends to give an honest interpretation to this agreement! What will be the result? The work done by the Tariff Board during the last three months will be useless. From the 20th August to date, the board, we fondly hoped, was working in accordance with the terms of the Ottawa agreement. Now, however, we are told that no instruction has been given to it; consequently, in preparing its reports, it has not considered the agreement. Thus the whole of its work since the signing of the agreement will have to be done Over again. The Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Gullett) did not need parliamentary sanction to justify his instructing the hoard that it must not take into account primage and exchange; bill apparently, the formality of issuing instructions as to how the board shall conduct future inquiries cannot be given effect until this agreement is passed. I should like the Minister in charge of the bill to indicate what justification there is for the immediate raising of duties against foreigners, in pursuance of this agreement, thus imposing additional taxation on the people without legal sanction, and the withholding of instructionsuntil this bill has received the sanction of Parliament as to the manner in which the Tariff Board shall conduct its inquiries.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia -Minister for Defence) [12.13]. - I suggest that, in criticizing the Government, it is not necessary to level at it the charge of dishonesty. I venture to assert that the reputation for honesty of the members of the Government compares favorably with that of Senator Colebatch. He does himself no credit when he makes such a charge, which imputes something that is base in the actions of the Government. He may have used the term in the political sense, but even So, it is most offensive. In this matter, the Government is acting in conformity not only with the ordinary procedure under the customs law, but also with this agreement. Although the policy of the Tariff Board in the past has been in conformity with the principles laid down in this agreement, the Government cannot assume that the board will act strictly in conformity with the articles of this agreement until they have been ratified by Parliament. Senator Colebatch sees some inconsistency in the action of the Government in raising duties so asto give effect to the margin of preference to Britain as against foreign countries, which is set out in the agreement. There is no inconsistency there, but the question of the protection of the revenue arises, as the State Ministerial experience of the honorable senator would indicate to him. One can readily understand that as soon as the articles in this agreement became public, importers would know that certain action would have to be taken to give effect to those margins. They would know moreover, that that action could be taken along one or other of two lines. There would have to be either a lowering of the duties on goods imported from Britain, or a raising of the duties on goods from foreign countries. As soon as the terms of these articles became known a shrewd importer could say, “It will take some time for Parliament to ratify the agreement. I will gamble on the thing. Parliament will raise the duties against the foreigner “-
– He knows the Government.
– The Government gave a pledge that before it interfered with the tariff it would seek the advice of the Tariff Board. The only course open to it was to raise the duties against the foreignerbecause they would come under review by the Tariff Board. The importer would be betting on a certainty, because he would know that the Tariff Board would report in accordance with the terms of the articles of this agreement, and that it would be to his advantage to import large quantities of goods before the duties were raised so that when the higher duties came into force he could make greater profits. It was in order to protect the revenue that the Government took action as soon as the terms of these articles were made public.I suggest that it is a ques tion not of dishonest dealing, but of an honest difference of opinion as to whether it was wiser to raise the duties on foreign goods or to lower the duties on British goods. Were the honorable senator to advocate the latter course, the Government would not charge him with dishonesty ; and, I submit that it is only fair for him to attribute equally honest motives to the Government. Article 16 will come into force as soon as this bill becomes law, but action had to be taken before that time in order to safeguard the revenue. Any subsequent action will be taken by way of legislation. The Tariff Board will regard the passing of this legislation as an instruction as to the way in which it is to act in the future in dealing with the tariff.
.- I move-
That after the word “ provisions “. the words “‘other than, articles 9 to 13 inclusive” be inserted.
If the amendment is agreed to, it will be equivalent to instructing the Government to report progress on this clause in order to enable negotiations to be entered into with the Government of the United Kingdom, either for a variation of articles 9 to 13, or for their elimination from the agreement. In my opinion, these articles are charged with menace to many of the growing industries of Australia. I understood the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) to say, in reply to Senator Colebatch, that the passing of this agreement would be equivalent to instructing the Tariff Board to observe the principles contained in articles 9 to 13 in its revision of the tariff. Assuming that there are any clearly defined principles underlying those articles, let us consider what those principles are. Article 9 is as follows : -
His Majesty’s Government in the Commonwealth of Australia undertake that protection by tariffs shall he afforded only to those industries which are reasonably assured of sound opportunities for success.
Under that article, Parliament hands over to the Tariff Board the right to determine what industries in Australia are reasonably assured of sound opportunities for success. I remind the Senate of the humble beginnings of many of our industries, both primary and secondary. Every time I travel between Melbourne and Adelaide, I sec at Sunshine, Victoria, a hark hut., which is a replica of the original bark hut in which the present Sunshine Harvester and Implement Manufacturing Works began operations. In the Barossa Valley of South Australia at. Seppeltsfield, is one of the greatest wineries in the southern hemisphere. It was established many years ago by a Mr. Seppelt whose son, Mr. Oscar Seppelt, is the Chairman of the Australian Chamber of Manufactures. The present owner of Seppeltsfield is never tired of referring to its humble beginning. He takes especial pride in the original chimney stank which his father built with his own hands. I suggest that had the Tariff Board been called upon in the early days of those industries to report on the possibility of success, it would not have afforded them the protection the granting of which has enabled them to reach such huge dimensions. I see grave dangers in article 9, particularly as there is some doubt as to its interpretation. Article 30 reads -
His Majesty’s Government in the Commonwealth of Australia undertake that during the currency of this agreement the tariff shall be based on the principle that protective duties shall not exceed such a level as will give United Kingdom producers full opportunity of reasonable competition on the basis of the relative cost of economical and efficient production, provided that in the application of such principle special consideration may be given to the case of industries not fully established.
During this debate, sneering references have been made to what has been termed our “backyard industries”. I understand a “backyard” industry to be one which has not been fully established. Senator Hoare mentioned the case of MacRobertson’s which had its origin in a humble boiling pot in a backyard. What is meant by the words “reasonable competition on the basis of the relative cost of economical and efficient production “? Senator Daly mentioned last night a principle which Australia adopted many years ago that the standard of wages and conditions of labour in Australian industries shall be taken into account by federal arbitration tribunals when making awards. That is a principle which has been sustained by successive governments and which, moreover, the present Government professes to accept, although its actions are not consistent with its profession. Will the Tariff Board give full consideration to this principle when considering the relative cost of economical and efficient production? Article 11 provides -
His Majesty’s Government in the Commonwealth of Australia undertake that a review shall bc made as soon as practicable by the Australian Tariff Board of existing protective duties in accordance with the principles laid down in article 10 hereof, and that after the receipt of the report and recommendation of the Tariff Board the Commonwealth Parliament shall be invited to vary, wherever necessary, the tariff on goods of United Kingdom origin in such manner as to give effect to such principles. ,
Does that mean that Parliament is bound to accept the recommendations of the Tariff Board, whatever they may be; or does it mean that Parliament may still exercise its Own discretion in dealing with the reports of the board? If we agree to article 12 -
His Majesty’s Government in the Commonwealth of Australia undertake that no new protective duty shall bo imposed and no existing duty shall bo increased on United Kingdom goods to an amount in excess of the recommendation of the tariff tribunal. we shall limit the power of this Parliament’ for a term of five years. I submit that the tariffs of other countries must have some bearing on the tariff of Australia. There is also considerable doubt whether any increased importations of goods from Great Britain resulting from this agreement will really benefit the British manufacturer. We have read statements in the press that foreign manufacturers, because of the Ottawa agreement, are already seeking opportunities to establish branches of their industries in Great Britain. I admit that their success in that direction would be beneficial to the British worker, because it would help to take him off the dole; but it might put the British manufacturer on the dole, through competition with foreigners, who may have adopted manufacturing methods with which he is unfamiliar. But it would be more likely to put the Australian worker on the dole, because there would be a dual blast of competition from old-established British and foreign industries. We might find industries that are domiciled in foreign countries, where very cheap labour is available, partly completing manufacturing processes in their own country, and sending their goods to branch factories in Great Britain for the final stages of manufacture. There is no machinery in this agreement to prevent such products being admitted into Australia under preferential rates determined by the Tariff Board, and this Parliament will not be allowed to increase those duties. There are other vital arguments which render it imperative that some attempt should be made to secure at least a limitation of article 12. Take the point that I raised a few nights ago - the possible necessity to impose duties for purely revenue purposes, or, alternatively, to impose prohibitions or duties for the purpose of protecting our trade balance. I submit that the trend of the trade balance at the moment shows a distinct possibility that action of that kind may be imperative in the not very distant future.
– The bank credits in London rather contradict that assumption.
-We have all obtained some satisfaction from the increase of bank credits in London; but I submit that that is entirely due to the action of the previous Government. It is only during the last two or three months that the full effect of the present Government’s policy has become evident. The trade balance during this period discloses the fact that very soon our bank balance in London must dwindle again, because imports into Australia are increasing, and because we pledge ourselves under the agreement to limit the export from Australia of certain commodities. A proclamation was issued last week limiting the export of butter, mutton, and lamb.
– The Dairy Export Control Board advised the limitation of butter exports.
– I am not quarrelling with that action at the moment.
-The honorable senator has exhausted his time.
– I give notice of a further amendment. I desire to move that, after the word “ act “, the following words be inserted : - “ other than the provision in Schedule G relating to bananas “.
[12.38] . - I shall strongly oppose the amendment submitted by Senator O’Halloran, because it involves an attempt to strike out articles which I regard as the only provisions which can be of any great value to Australia, and certainly the only ones of value to Great Britain. The meaning of the amendment is that we should take everything we can get, and give nothing. I spoke about the effect of these articles a few moments ago. I have no desire to indulge in personal reflections; but I maintain that I am entitled to express my opinion that the action of the Government does not amount to an honest interpretation of these provisions. I claim that the interpretation of these articles should already have been the subject of an instruction to the Tariff Board. Senator Pearce said that there was an obligation on the Government to protect the revenue, because everybody would anticipate that the agreement would result in the raising of duties. Why should people anticipate anything of the kind? Surely they would expect the result of the agreement to be a lowering of tariffs. There is not one Minister in this chamber who did not go from one end of his own State to the other, denouncing the tariff as too high, and as monstrous and absurd. It was so denounced even before it was buttressed by the additional primage and the additional exchange. Now we are told that to protect the revenue, because people would expect the Ottawa agreement to mean the raising of tariffs against the foreigner, and not the reduction of duties imposed against the Mother Country, it was necessary for the Government to rush in, and, without parliamentary sanction, impose additional burdens upon the people. Surely the whole spirit of Ottawa is a lowering, and not a raising of tariffs. It has been claimed by Great Britain that her object in imposing a tariff was to break down the tariff walls of other countries. The whole spirit of Ottawa was first to lower the tariff as between different parts of the Empire, and thus offer an example and an inducement to other countries to lower their tariffs. Yet the Leader of the Government in this chamber says that the Government may take the view that the right way to interpret the agreement is to raise the duties against the foreigner, and nOt to lower them against Great Britain. Let that he published in London as an honest attempt to interpret the agreement! Let those who participated in the forming of this agreement get into their minds that the opinion of this Government is that this agreement can be implemented by increased duties against foreigners, and not by reducing the duties against the Mother Country. If the British consumer were called upon to pay increased duties on imports from foreign countries, it would be obviously disadvantageous to the Old Country. Is the agreement to be interpreted only in such a way that it will give Australia no disadvantages, but advantages from every point of view ? I am entitled to my opinion that that is not an honest interpretation of the agreement. These articles mean that the British manufacturer shall be given an opportunity to compete in the Australian markets that he did not previously enjoy, and, therefore, they imply that the tariffs against him must be brought down. I repeat that we cannot give an honest interpretation of this agreement merely by increasing duties against foreigners and imposing duties on British manufacturers on a scale which was denounced by every member of the Government except those who have come over from the Government which was originally responsible for the introduction of this tariff.
– I oppose the amendment for reasons which I sufficiently covered, I think, in the remarks that I made yesterday. What is to be the effect of striking out these articles, which, as Senator Colebatch says, are really the only provisions in the agreement which give promise of any advantage whatever for the British people? We might as well take the short course, and have a division on the clause now before the committee, which provides that “ the provisions of the agreement are hereby approved “. If we approve of them, we approve of them with the schedule attached. If we do not approve of them, we reject the whole agreement. But why not reject it honestly, by saying that wc do not approve of it?
– Yesterday, I expressed the opinion that we have to decide whether or not we shall accept the agreement as it stands. If we approve it, we cannot suggest certain alterations, because that would imply that it was like the curate’s egg - good in parts, and not good in parts. To me it is so obvious that an agreement entered into between parties who cannot very well be brought together again, must be accepted as a whole, that I cannot understand how an attempt should now be made to alter >t. If we reject it,” the Government might have to consider its position, but I think it would still be bound to carry out the agreement. As has been pointed out by Senator Colebatch, the purpose of the amendment is to suggest the elimination of those articles which, it may be assumed, the British delegation considered necessary; but I am unable to understand how those who believe in the policy of protection can persuade themselves that that policy will be endangered by submitting tariff proposals to the review of a tribunal of experts instead of allowing Parliament to determine such matters. The amendment is merely an attempt to stave off the inevitable. The Senate having agreed to the second reading of the bill, will, I have no doubt, approve the details of the measure. I therefore ask my honorable friends Opposite, to consider whether it is worth while to delay the proceedings of the Senate by persisting with a series of amendments which, even if they are technically in order, can achieve no useful purpose. In view of the decision of the Senate last night, there can be only one result.
– I do not propose to recapitulate the arguments which I advanced when submitting the amendment; but I feel it is necessary to say something in reply to Senator Brennan, who, wittingly or unwittingly, misled the committee. The honorable senator accuses us of wasting time in a futile effort to amend an agreement which, he declares, cannot be varied without the consent of the parties, who conferred at Ottawa. I remind him that the agreement itself makes provision for the variation of any of its terms. The second paragraph of article 16 reads-
In the event of circumstances arising which, in the judgment of His Majesty’s Government inthe United Kingdom, or of His Majesty’s Government in the Common wealth of Australia, as the case may be, necessitate a variation in the terms of the agreement, the pro possal to vary those terms shall form the subject of consultation between the two governments.
That proviso places no limitation of time upon negotiations for the variation of the agreement; they may be made within one month or three years of the ratification of the document by the two governments named. We on this side of the chamber submit that circumstances have already arisen which necessitate, a reconsideration of the provisions contained in articles 9 to 13, and we believe that this amendment is the only means at our disposal for expressing our opinion. In view of the vital effect which those articles’ may have upon Australian industry, we ask that the provisions incorporated in the agreement for the variation of its terms be applied now. The Government should postpone further consideration of the bill until it has had an opportunity to confer with the British Government with a view to the removal of some of the obnoxious and onerous conditions which the agreement will impose upon Australian industries.
– In the course of this debate we have heard a great deal about ourobligations to the Mother Country. Over and over again we havebeen enjoined to he not unmindful of what we owe to Britain. In order to attract outside capital for in vestment in Australian industries, special tariff protection was given by the Scullin Administration. As the direct consequence of that policy, 34 branches of British manufacturing firms were established in Australia with a capital investment of not less than £3,000,000. Now according to the terms of this agreement, United Kingdom producers are to have a full opportunity of reasonable competition with those British firms which established branches in this country and are observing Australian wage standards and conditions. Apparently some people who, in the past, encouraged outside firms to come to Aus tralia, are not now concerned about what may happen to them under this agreement. Instead of improving industrial and trading relations between different parts of the Empire, the agreement will, I contend, cause friction and trouble. Senator Brennan has admitted that certain of the articles are capable of different interpretations. We on this side of the chamber desire Empire unity, but we honestly believe that this agreement will cause disunity. The Manchester Guardian of the 14th of October, declared that whatever benefits British industry might gain as a result of the agreement, in the future it would have to fight its case with the Tariff Board. Are we to allow representatives of British manufacturers to appear before our Tariff Board when thatbody is considering items referred to it? If so, it is easy to visualize the constant friction that will be caused between rival sections in industry. Will Australian industries have an equal opportunity to place their claims before the British Tariff board, or any other tribunal which may be set up to consider tariff requests?
– That will not be necessary, because our products are admitted free to the British market.
– Even if they are admitted free, action may be necessary to safeguard our interests, because foreign countries flood the British market with cheap-labour products. For example, Czechoslovakian manufacturers of boots and shoes can. produce at a price which defies competition in all countries which pay a reasonable standard of wages. Australian boot and shoe manufacturers, it is said, are at present over-capitalized, so manufacture for export is not possible, but it is conceivable that, in the future, they will be in a position to look to outside markets for the disposal of their surplus products ; so it should be possible for them to have representation before a British tribunal which will deal with any matters that might arise out of the British tariff.
I see in this agreement a conspiracy on the part of those who, while they proclaim their desire to see the Empire completely unified, are prepared to go to the extent of destroying Australia’s independence as an economic unit. Those who are carrying out this propaganda for the development of Empire production do not realize the sacrifices involved. Honorable senators opposite do not tell the people about these sacrifices; they simply say that, when it is ratified, the people will be better off. According to the propaganda which has appeared in British newspapers, certain interests in Great Britain are contending that, all-round sacrifices are involved. The people of Great Britain wish us to provide them with raw materials, to enable them to unload their manufactured products on Australia, and that will have a serious effect upon the development of our secondary industries. I. think that it will be found before long that the attitude of honorable senators opposed to this measure is right. As stated by Senator Daly, this is not an agreement, but a document which will lead to disagreement between Australia and the Old Country. If, will eventually cause considerable disagreement and engender political bitterness between the two countries.
– I do not wish to be accused of unduly delaying the passage of this bill ; but., seeing that we are breaking new ground by entering into a reciprocal trade agreement between the United Kingdom and Australia, we are entitled to exercise our rights to the fullest extent, in order to show the people of Australia the disabilities with which they will be faced when this measure becomes operative. Apparently, we are not to be given the opportunity to discuss the schedule of the bill in detail, and consequently cannot be held responsible if the agreement is found to be unworkable. I have a recollection of a tariff schedule introduced into this Parliament by the late Sir William Lyne in 1908, and have painful memories of the time occupied in discussing it in every detail. The letters “ n.e.i “ - not elsewhere included - were so frequently referred to that they became almost n nightmare to me. That schedule was debated in every detail, not only in this chamber, hut also in another place, before Parliament finally decided the customs duties to be imposed on goods imported into this country. Why should we not be given similar opportunities in connexion with this schedule? I regret that Senator Brennan is temporarily absent from the chamber, because he asked yesterday what objection I had to the bill. Had the honorable senator listened to my secondreading speech, in which I clearly set out my main objection, he would know why I am opposed to it. I am not opposed to reciprocal Empire trade; but I intend to vote against certain articles in the agreement which deprive this Parliament of the right to determine what duties shall be imposed on imported goods. Article 12 reads -
His Majesty’s Government in the Commonwealth of Australia undertake that no new protective duty shall be imposed and no existing duty shall bc increased on United Kingdom goods to an amount in excess of the recommendation of the tariff tribunal.
Apparently, that article has been inserted in order to safeguard the interests of British manufacturers. Every care has been taken to destroy the authority of Parliament in this respect, and, if legislation of this type is to be introduced in the future, it; will ‘be just as well to close up Parliament altogether. The recommendations of the Tariff Board are to be accepted, and eventually those recommendations will have the force of law. I am opposing the bill, because we, as elected representatives of the people, are being compelled to entrust the Tariff Board with power which this Parliament should possess. I do not wish to impute motives; but I know from experience extending over a period of from 25 to 27 years the influence and intrigue which are used to achieve certain ends. That Ls why tariff matters should be under the sole control of Parliament.
– For two years Parliament was not consulted on tariff matters.
– The people were consulted before the tariff was introduced, and the tariff matters referred to were dealt with by the Government, the elected representatives of the people. Was Parliament consulted concerning the two political agents who represented Austra’ia at Ottawa? Article 13 provides that -
His Majesty’s Government in the Commonwealth of Australia undertake that United
Kingdom producers shall be entitled to full rights of audience before the Tariff Board when ithas under consideration- matters arising under articles 11 and 12 hereof.
Representatives of the Commonwealth have not the right to appear before a similar tribunal in Great Britain, and be heard in regard to our exports to that country. Senator Colebatch said that many of our exports are admitted into Great Britain free of duty, but he should remember that these products come into competition with similar products from British colonies in which black and brindle labour is employed, and where the standard of living is not anything approaching the Australian standard, and the wages paid, if any, are very much lower. It is impossible for Australian sugar to enter into fair competition with sugar grown in colouredlabour countries. It is not my desire to delay the committee, but I feel that I am justified in taking up the time of honorable senators when an attempt is ‘being made to compel this Parliament to surrender its fiscal rights. Apparently the acting Whip is ready to move the closure at, any time-
-I ask the honorable senator to confine his remarks to the amendment.
– I am thoroughly justified in expressing my strong . condemnation of the attitude of the Government in compelling the members of this chamber to surrender their fiscal powers to the government of another country.
– I feel exceedingly sorry for the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Pearce) who appears to be tired and generally experiencing a most harassing time. I think that we all sympathize with the right honorable gentleman who recently had to undergo a cruel legal lashing in Melbourne in connexion with a case in which disaffection in the Navy was alleged.
– The honorable senator must confine his remarks to the bill.
– Unfortunately, the Navy is not mentioned in the schedules, but in the absence of a navy, this agreement would be of little use, and, there fore, the reference should be relevant. How could our trade routes be kept open without the protection of the Navy? We have heard a good deal about the British Empire, the waving of flags, the thin red line, and all that political “ mush “ which is trotted out at various times. This schedule reminds me of a Scottish haggis, which, as we all know is a mixture of heart lungs and liver of a sheep, boiled with maw, suet and oatmeal. It is packed full of political livers and lights. The Empire statesmen were rushed together, and as a result an agreement was signed in a palatial hotel at Ottawa. It is true that they found time to present one another with large pieces of silver plate, and to indulge in a good deal of “ back-scratching.”
– The honorable senator must discuss the amendment.
– Senator Badman, in his maiden speech yesterday, said that he favoured only portions of the agreement, and that he was opposed to other portions. Senator Hardy, who spoke for about ten minutes, quoted something of interest to him from the pamphlet issued by the general manager of the Bank of New South Wales. “Comrade” Davidson, in referring to the Ottawa agreement, said that he believed that as the result of its adoption the people of New South Wales will have to go on the dole. Senator Elliott, a young man from Victoria, who, on more than one occasion, has visited England in the interests of Victorian primary producers, with a view to finding out what is in the minds of British statesmen, attended this week the annual conference of the Victorian Country Press Association in Collins House, Melbourne, at which he expressed certain opinions concerning this matter. I make the following quotations from the Melbourne Herald: -
Ottawa chances not realized.
A warning that foreign countries were making insidious efforts to undermine the benefits conferred by the Ottawa Conference, and advice to Australian producers and manufacturers to go to England to fight for their markets, without relying on governmental help, were given by Senator R. D. Elliott.
Why should Australian manufacturers go to England to fight for their markets? By means of the tariff, which is one of the principal planks in the platform of the Australian Labour Party, local manufacturers have been given the right to exploit the natural home market. I realize, of course, that tariffs are only a palliative in any scheme for the reconstruction of society, and that until a better method is found of improving the conditions of the rank and file of Australian workers, we must do what we can in this direction. Senator Elliott went on to say -
England is the greatest market in the world to-day for Australia’s products. If we do not realize the chances, they will be taken from us, because foreign countries are watching and waiting to get in. If they do get in, it will bo very difficult to get them out.
That is in conformity with the amendment to be moved by Senator Johnston, which, -no doubt, has received the endorsement of Senator Colebatch. Senator Elliott also said -
Denmark, for example, is flooding England with advertising. She is putting up her- butter in cartons, with an attractive picture of a Danish girl on them. Denmark is out to establish her roots so that we shall not have the opportunity that Ottawa intended for us.
We have heard a good deal about the people of different parts of the Empire being of the same kith and kin. If British statesmen are true to their conscience, their Empire, their flag, and the rights of the dominions, surely they will not expect Australia to make greater sacrifices than it made during the five years of the war ! England to-day, under a freetrade policy, buys in the cheapest market; yet, if we took the advice of this supporter of the Government, who thinks nothing of rushing overseas and damaging our credit, the Australian market would be prostituted and thrown, on one side ! He went on to say -
Australia’s delegates to Ottawa were “ defeated “ on the moat question by the cleverness of their opponents.
Yet he has given the agreement hi3 blessing, and has urged us to believe that everything in the garden is lovely ! In the following statement, he makes an amazing admission : -
The meat quota with which the Australian delegates returned will get Australia nowhere. The Argentine could more than make up its loss in frozen meat trade, by its chilled meat.
Before the amendment is disposed of, I should like oral torrents of admiration once again to flow from Senator Crawford, who in the Bruce-Page Government was Assistant Minister for Trade and Customs. He now has an opportunity to justify the statements that he made on the motion for the second reading of the bill. I feel sure that he will give us an exemplification of the spirit that lies behind the words that are to be found printed on the labels of the Colonial Sugar Refineries’ syrup tins : “ Out of the strong comes forth sweetness”.
A good deal has been said concerning the Tariff Board. Who, and what, are the members of that body? Is the Cabinet in such a state of political hysteria that the brains of its members will not function, and the deficiency must be made good by the Tariff Board? I know that what I say carries no weight with Senator Pearce, therefore I appeal to Senator Greene. I am confident that he is actuated by humanitarian feelings towards the manufacturers of New South Wales, who, at the last elections, threw their weight behind not only him but also Senators Cox and Hardy. I believe that if the Leader of the Government (Senator Pearce) were to leave the chamber for about ten minutes I could induce Senator Greene to support the amendment. I have no hope of converting some other honorable senators opposite, especially those who come from Western Australia, although it appears that even in their ranks there is evidence of secession because of the anti-Australian attitude adopted by the Federal Government in this matter. I should like Senator Elliott to be present, so that I might point out to him that prosperity still seems to be a long way off.
– The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– The speech delivered by the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Gullett), in moving the second reading of this bill in another place, contains the following passage: -
If we take the six years 1925-26 to 1930-31, we find that on the average the dominions as a whole made an annual export of 330,000,000 bushels, while in the same years the average import into the United Kingdom was 198,000,000 bushels. So that, if the United Kingdom had imported only Empire wheat, there would still have been an annual surplus of 132,000,000 bushels.
That being the case, how is Australia likely to fare? Will a quota be fixed in the case of each of the wheatproducing dominions?
– There is no quota in regard to wheat.
– How is the matter to be arranged? If Australia reaches the market first, will the whole of its crop be taken ?
– There will be no change in regard to the present arrangements concerning export, but there will be a duty of 2s. a cental on foreign wheat which will not have to be borne by Australian or Canadian wheat.
– I take it that there is no guarantee that Britain will take the whole of her wheat requirements from the dominions.
– I should like to know also whether there is anything in the agreement to prevent foreign capital from say, Belgium, China, or Japan, being invested in manufacturing concerns in England, and the product exported to Australia branded “Made in England”, although really of foreign origin.
Question - That the words proposed to be inserted be so inserted (Senator O’Halloran’s amendment) - put. The committee divided. (Chairman - Senator the Hon. Herbert Hays.)
Majority . 15
Question so resolved in the negative.
– I move -
That after the word “act” the following words he inserted: - “other than the provision in schedule G relating to bananas.”
I assure honorable senators opposite that it is in no spirit of levity, or with any desire to delay the proceedings, that I have moved this motion. I have been asked by specific resolutions of a meeting of banana-growers at Ooorau and Kin Kin in northern ‘Queensland, at which 320 members of the association, as well as members of the general public, were present, to inform the Senate -
That this meeting of banana-growers of Cooran and Kin Kin, representing 320 members and the general public, views with grave alarm the proposal to admit Fiji bananas at a reduced duty inasmuch as Australia already produces the full requirements of the community, and is at present carryingon under great disability owing to the industrial depression limiting the purchasing power of the public. We emphatically protest against, any alteration whatever to the present tariff.
I have also received a letter from the manager of the Committee of Direction of Fruit Marketing in Brisbane - an organization which controls the whole of the marketing of the banana crop - stating -
A storm of indignation has passed over the whole of the fruit-growers of Queensland as a result of the cold-blooded action of the Federal Government in bartering Queensland’s interests for problematical gains from Fiji and the Straits Settlements.
The laughter of honorable gentlemen opposite shows a lack of understanding of the situation, and of sympathy with the growers that is unworthy of them. The letter continues -
The excuses offered are aggravating the growers still further, and on behalf of the growers of this State, I am directed to seek your assistance in overcoming the present position. We confidently rely upon you to protect Queensland’s interests.”
I have received other communications, but shall not weary the Senate by reading them. A remarkable situation has been created, in that the Government proposes to make a complete change in the national policy of Australia. It now proposes that Australian workmen shall be faced with competition from the blackgrown products of other countries. Honorable senators will scarcely need to be reminded that our Australian arbitration laws protect Australian white workers against even the possibility of competition from our own Australian aborigines. It is equally well known to honorable senators that every State has its factory laws to protect the white workers of Australia against the products of Chinese residents within the Commonwealth. Yet, in spite of these measures of protection, we are asked to enact legislation which will have entirely the opposite effect and intent. We are now asked to subject the white banana-growers of Queensland and New South Wales to competition from blackgrown bananas from other countries. It is in no anti-British or unpatriotic sense that I say that it does not matter to the white workers of Australia whether the menace of coloured-labour competition comes from within or without the Empire. Some honorable senators opposite have not always viewed this situation from the angle from which they obviously view it now. But before I deal with that aspect of the question, I want to -remind the Senate that Professor Goddard, of the Queeusland University, a highly-trained scientist, and one who, if he knows any politics at all, has never yet declared them, some time ago inquired into the serious menace of “ bunchy top “ disease in Queensland banana plantations. After spending much time and energy in research work, Professor Goddard came to certain conclusions, which he submitted to the banana-growers. At first, they were almost unanimously opposed to his views, but eventually, by demonstrations on their own farms, he convinced them that he had not only located the cause of the disease, but had also discovered a remedy for it. As the result of his research, and the united action of the banana-growers, the disease of “ bunchy top “ has been eradicated from the banana plantations of Queensland and northern New South Wales. Speaking at an immense meeting of banana-growers held in the City Hall, Brisbane, on the 13th October last - a meeting attended by Senators Brown, MacDonald and myself, as well as Senator Crawford, but in which we did not participate, for fear that the meeting might be given a political significance - Professor Goddard said -
Many growers have been fearing for some time past that there will be over-production, and if their fears are realized then the problem will become a most serious one, with the admission of Fiji bananas on terms that will enable that product, grown under native-labour conditions, to compete with the Australian product on terms disadvantageous to the latter.’
It is well to bear in mind that the present Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Gullett) has stated that the Ottawa agreement “ has been drawn in aid of the man on the land “. I shall submit a few figures in order to enable honorable senators to judge the correctness or otherwise of that statement. The average consumption of bananas in Australia is from 900,000 to 1,000,000 cases per annum. It is estimated that the crop this year will total 1,400,000 cases, or from 400,000 to 500,000 cases in excess of the average consumption. In that case, what possible justification can there be for the importation of further quantities of this fruit? The dumping of Fiji bananas to the extent of probably 100 eases a month - the quantity will vary according to the shipping service available - will have the effect of forcing down prices. Senator Greene will not accuse me of any disrespect in confronting him with his own words on a previous occasion when he was Minister for Trade and Customs. In Hansard of the 13th October, 1921, the honorable senator is reported to have said -
The obstacle with which they have to contend is not the number of bananas imported in the course of a year, but the fact that large shipments come to Australia at a given time, temporarily destroying entirely the market for the local article. Australian growers who send their bananas to the market at such a period - and bananas must be marketed when they are ready - strike an overloaded market, and get practically nothing for their fruit. If that were allowed to continue, it would not be long before the number of banana plantations would be reduced, and many men would bc driven off the’ soil.
That statement was made by Senator Greene in his official capacity at a stage of the development of the industry in Queensland when the quantity of bananas grown was nothing like the present production. He also said -
I do not know of any industry more entitled to a full measure of protection.
A’ large proportion of the banana-growers are returned soldiers. If we have a particular obligation to soldier settlers, it is in regard to those who have embarked in banana cultivation.
The increased duties were not required to (bring these plantations into bearing; but the fact that we have a flourishing and extending Industry shows the necessity for preventing its extinction by the importation of blackgrown bananas.
We think the industry is so important to the country, employing in the best possible way a large number of people, and bringing about that intense closer settlement which is thi: most valuable form of settlement that Australia can have, that the Senate’s request (for a. lower rate of duty) should not be acceded to.
Eleven years ago the honorable senator so completely stated the case for the growers that no words of mine need be added to justify my amendment. The object is not to delay the consideration of the bill; we regard it as our duty to take this action. I hope that Senators Crawford, Reid, and Foll will support us, and pay no heed to party consideration in this matter. We are merely asking that justice be done to the struggling growers, with hundreds of whom I am personally acquainted. They are putting up a battle against terrific odds, and they will win through if this dastardly blow does not fall upon them.
[3.19]. - The Government cannot accept the amendment. If it were agreed to, the effect would be to destroy the agreement. I do not believe that the admission into Australian of 40,000 centals of bananas annually - a mere 2 per cent, of the Australian consumption, I understand - would inflict such injury on the banana industry that we should wreck an agreement which, as I have already pointed out, will result in a direct monetary benefit to Queensland of over £1,000,000 a year.
– The sacrifice of banana-growers is too big a price to pay for the agreement.
– They will not be sacrificed. The honorable senator has used extravagantlanguage.
Senator BROWN (Queensland) [3.21 j. - It is a reflection upon the British Government to suggest that the whole of the agreement will be jeopardized if we object to the entry into Australia of 40,000 centals of black-grown bananas. Canada has reserved to itself the right to vary the agreement, and why should not Australia have a similar privilege? On the one hand, wo are told that the quantity of bananas proposed to be admitted is so small in comparison with the total consumption that the matter can be dismissed from consideration ; but, on the other hand, we are asked to believe that if the amendment were insisted upon the whole agreement would be wrecked. If our representatives at Ottawa had done the right thing, they would have reserved to the Government the right to make slight alterations in the agreement. According to the Manchester Guardian, the Premier of Canada, Mr. Bennett, speaking on the ratification of the agreement, said -
He did not in its terms see any general measure for reducing tariffs in the world, but, on the contrary, hailed the agreement as a realization of a 50-ycars’ effort by conservatives to unite the Empire behind tariff walls. . . The Canadian Government was retaining complete power to accept or reject the findings of the Canadian Tariff Commission, which will be charged with the task of findin the difference in production costs between the two countries.
Canada empowered her representatives to obtain certain conditions in the interests of that country, but we in Australia are so super-loyal to the Old Country that we are not a match for the astute British political leaders. The latter showed that they knew how to “ put it over “ our representatives. We on this side have demonstrated that imported bananas will be placed on the market at certain periods and in such a way as to have the effect of reducing the price to such an extent that the industry will become unprofitable to the Australian growers. The growers in Queensland know well enough how the agreement will affect them. A huge public meeting held in Brisbane was attended by thousands, of growers, many of whom travelled long distances without food in order to protest against the admission of black-grown fruit. Yet we have had the spectacle of Senator Sampson producing a couple of bananas which had been lying in his drawer for several days, in order to justify the admission of bananas from Fiji. If these puerile exhibitions are to be continued, we will probably see Senator Greene bringing into this chamber a case of corrugated iron, Senator Guthrie a stud ram, or Senator Collings sticks of sugar cane, to bolster up their arguments. It is to be deplored that such childish methods should be adopted by honorable senators.
The Brisbane Courier, which supports the present Government,, in an article published in its issue of Saturday, the 12th November, and headed, “ Not sought by Fiji,” tells us what it thinks of the proposal to admit 40,000 centals of bananas per annum into Australia -
Thu reduced duty concession was not asked for by Fiji, but was forced upon the colony by the Ottawa Conference; as a matter of fact, the people are not at all satisfied with the bargain, as it means that Fiji has to increase her fiscal tariff by 10 per cent, on many imports from foreign ports used daily by the people of all classes. Products such as hams and bacon, biscuits and fish, and fresh fruit and vegetables, now imported free, must pay a 10 per cent. duty. In a word, Fiji residents will be greatly the losers by the Ottawa agreement.
Why do we indulge in sentimental talk about the ties of Empire, if 40,000 centals of bananas are sufficient to destroy an agreement and if the growers in Fiji themselves do not desire this concession? Yet the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Pearce) insists that the agreement must not be altered, because we have given our word to the representatives of Great Britain that it will be adhered to. If bananas were grown in Tasmania, Western Australia, or some other State, honorable senators from those States would have been found fighting for the alteration of the agreement. There is not the slightest doubt about it. Personally I enter my emphatic protest against the way in which the banana industry of Queensland has been treated.
– This matter is of so much importance to Queensland that I feel it necessary to register my strongest protest. Quite recently I attended a meeting of banana-growers in the City Hall, Brisbane, and I was very much impressed, not only by the enthusiasm of the speakers, but also by the strength of the arguments which they advanced. The speakers were nearly as numerous as are the letters in the alphabet, and almost without exception they fiercely denounced the Government for its action in sacrificing their interests to the banana-growers of Fiji. I feel sure that, if Senator Pearce had been in attendance, he would have been obliged, from considerations of personal safety, to accede to their request to excise that portion of the agreement relating to the banana industry. I can assure honorable senators that we arc not now speaking in defence of the industry merely for the purpose of delaying the passage of this measure, but because we are convinced that, in its present form, the agreement will work serious harm to banana-growers, of Queensland and northern New South Wales. Yesterday the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) had a good deal to say about the advantages which, he declared, Queensland would enjoy under the agreement. The honorable gentleman emphasized particularly the benefits that would accrue, so he said, to the meat, industry in which Queensland is so largely interested^ and he invited us to “ count our blessings one by one.” I direct the attention of honorable senators to the following statement which appeared in the Queensland Producer, the official organ of the primary producers of Queensland, in its issue of the 36th November, 1932:-
This further serves to emphasize the truth of our claim that preferential trade agreements are of precious little value while their purpose can be so easily defeated by the market rigging and wholesale gambling on the commodity exchanges. Is it not rather a significant coincidence that ever since the Ottawa Conference the prices of wheat, butter, cheese, bacon, mutton, lamb, sugar, fruit, in fact, practically all primary products, with the exception of wool and cotton, whether in the form of raw materials or processed, have seen a decline in value equal to and sometimes exceeding the rate of preference V Take butter for example. Since the Ottawa Conference the” price has declined by more than 15s. per cwt., or 1 -Jd. per lb. How in the face of this recession in prices in- the British market can any one honestly maintain that the preferences have proved or are likely to prove of material benefit to the primary producers of Australia!
The same journal refers at great length to what it terms “ the meat muddle “ of the Ottawa agreement, and denies that Queensland will get any advantages from the meat arrangements. Because certain Queensland industries are supposed to benefit under the Ottawa agreement, we are asked to sacrifice the Queensland banana trade in favour of the black-grown commodity from Fiji. I am putting the case from the view-point of the people who are responsible for the presence in this chamber of Senators Reid, Crawford and Foll. I warn them that, if the primary producers of Queensland join hands with the workers and artisans, it will be useless for supporters of this Government to appeal to the people with any hope of success. Wehave every right to complain of the treatment meted out to Queensland primary producers, and particularly the banana growers. Senator Elliott, a few days ago, supported the agreement in every detail. The honorable senator has good reason to be satisfied, because he is interested in a newspaper published in. Mildura, the centre of the dried fruits industry. As Britain takes 95 per cent. of our exports of dried fruits, naturally Senator Elliott is satisfied with the agreement. But if he were a representative of Queensland, and if he realized the extent to which the banana industry is threatened by this agreement, he would have been as vehement in his protestations as any of those who spoke at the meeting in the City Hall, Brisbane a few nights ago, and would be as eager as any of them to bring about the defeat of this Government. Much has been said about the British preferences with regard to sugar, but I submit that we have not got all that we are entitled to. Senator Kingsmill, the other night, stated that Great Britain imported annually about 2,100,000 tons of sugar.
– The honorable senator is not entitled to discuss the sugar preference under this proposed amendment.
– I intend only to make passing reference to the subject. Senator Kingsmill pointed out that Great Britain imported approximately 2,100,000 tons per annum, of which quantity only one-third comes from British dominions, including those countries in which sugar is grown by black labour. We do not enjoy one-quarter of that Empire trade, or one-twelfth of the British importations of sugar, but if we had reasonable encouragement we could obtain a larger share of it, because in Queensland, New South Wales, and other northern, areas of the continent we could produce much larger quantities of sugar. I consider that our primary producers have been treated most disgracefully, and 1 sympathize deeply with the bananagrowers of Queensland and northern New South Wales, whose interests will be injured by the introduction of bananas from Fiji. I am, of course, aware that as the numbers are against us, we shall not be able to carry the amendment.
– This Parliament is tied up by the work of two men.
– That is so. Our representatives at Ottawa were, in effect, but political agents of importers, and from thatwe may deduce that they were the political agents of British manufacturers. We regret that the White Australia policy-
– The honorable senator has exhausted his time.
Question - That the words proposed to be added be so added (SenatorCollings’s amendment) - put. The committee divided. (Chairman - Senator the Hon. Herbert Hays.)
Majority . . . . 14
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Motion (by Senator Sir George
Pearce) agreed to -
That the Senate at its rising adjourn until Tuesday next at 3 p.m.
Alteration ov Question - Railway Freights - Parliamentary Housekeeper: Retirement of Mr. F. Sparkes.
Motion (by Senator Sir George Pearce) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– This morning, I endeavoured to ask a series of questions concerning a most important motion carried by the Federated Chambers of Commerce of Western Australia. I was not permitted to ask the questions in the form in which they were submitted and, as the President pointed out that there were other occasions on which I could bring them forward, I propose to avail myself of this opportunity to do so. The first question I desired to ask the Government was: -
That is a very important resolution, which I endorse entirely. Although I wished to ask if the resolution had been brought under the notice of the Prime Minister, I knew that it had, because I had done so myself. The second question which was disallowed, and which I presume I may now ask in the form I desire, read -
My next question was -
There is no body more representative of the commercial interests of any States than the Federated Chambers of Commerce. I submitted my second question in the form in which I have just given it, because I regarded the action of the Government as anti-federal. I can make now a statement of the truth, which I was not permitted to make in a question, upon notice - that it is the most anti-federal action of which either this or any other Federal Government is capable. It can be described in no other way than as anti-federal, and I protest against it. It is contrary to the Constitution, and nothing could be more anti-federal than action which violates that instrument.
There is established in Canberra a peculiar cult, which worships two josses, named respectively “ Canberra “ and “ Federation.” It is a sort of millions club. Its number is 13 ; and 13 has certainly been an unlucky number for the taxpayers of Australia, so far as Canberra is concerned, because £13,000,000 of their good money has, in large measure, been wasted here. This cult apparently exists for the purpose of securing the expenditure here of thirteen times £13,000,000. Its objects are, to ensure the continuance of the present waste and extravagance in Canberra, and the taxation of the rest of Australia to keep this city going on a basis of unification. The qualifications for membership of the cult are twofold, and they have reference to its two josses- - an applicant for membership must live in Canberra, and he must make a good thing out of federation. I do not know the identity of the members of the cult, but I believe that all the time influential recruits are being sought, and when they are obtained, they are generally squeezed for as much as can be got out of them. Members of the cult are recognized by the fact that in their temples the use of the word “ anti-federal “ is barred, except when applied by them to their opponents or to opponents of federal taxation and expenditure in Canberra. Any nonmember who, in their temple, uses that expression is liable to lose his head.
All sorts of reasons are bandied about for the wonderful concessions that are given to wealthy eastern breweries, but are refused to Western Australian industries, including breweries, in connexion with the carriage of their products and their manufacturing requisites, as well as to the mining and pastoral industries. Surely, if any industries should be assisted by being given cheap freights over the trans-Australian railway, they are the mining and pastoral industries. The Commissioner for Commonwealth Railways sits in his department like a little czar, distributing largesse in the form of freight concessions as he thinks fit, and presenting remissions of freight charges amounting to tens of thousands of pounds to wealthy brewery companies with head-quarters in the eastern States.
– Be fair to a man who cannot defend himself!
– I have brought this matter up repeatedly.
– The honorable senator knows that what he says is not correct.
– It is absolutely correct, and can be verified. If the Government will investigate the matter, it will find that the facts are as [ have stated - that while very heavy freights are charged for the carriage of the requirements of the pastoral industry and the great mining industry in the gold-fields districts, as well as the everyday requirements of the people who live in Kalgoorlie and Boulder, such as clothing and groceries, low freights are annually granted on a varying basis, and contrary to the Constitution, for the carriage from the eastern States of beer, which is a competitor of beer produced in Western Australia.
The hour being J/, p.m..
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. P. J. Lynch). - Under the sessional orders, I put the question -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the negative.
– I thank the Senate for its indulgence, which I did not expect. I say that the Commonwealth railway transports this one product at a freight which pays for little more than axle grease, and which certainly is not remunerative. Is it any wonder, then, that the trans-Australian railway loses tens of thousands of pounds ? It is not right that breweries in the eastern States should be permitted to make big profits and to distribute big dividends at the expense of the taxpayers of the Commonwealth, by having their product carried from Melbourne to Kalgoorlie, a distance of 1,794 miles, for £7 10s. a ton, and from Adelaide to Kalgoorlie, a distance of 1,311 miles, for £6 15s. a ton. The cut freight from Perth to Kalgoorlie, a distance of 375 miles, is £5 8s. 9d. a ton, on the Western Australian railways. The South Australian industry is not being treated justly, because it is being charged by the Commonwealth railways, a higher freight per mile than its competitor in Victoria. That is a distinctly anti-federal action, because the Constitution provides that there shall be no discrimination between the States. The Railways Commissioner discriminates by charging one rate per mile over the trans-Australian railway for beer manufactured in Melbourne, namely, £4 10s. Id. a ton for 1,051 miles, a higher rate per mile over that railway for beer manufactured in South Australia, namely, £5 10s. 9d. a ton for the same 1,051 miles, and a much higher rate over the same railway for the sugar and other raw material required for the manufacture of beer in Kalgoorlie. This practice is entirely wrong and, I believe, unconstitutional.
I should not have made this speech today had I been permitted to draw attention to the matter by way of a question. The view that this action is anti-federal is not mine alone; it is expressed in the resolutions that I have read of the Federated Chambers of Commerce of Western Australia. They made their protest to the Government only after protests had been made in the other House by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green), and questions on the subject which I placed on the notice-paper of the
Senate, and articles in Western Australian newspapers had repeatedly proved ineffective in securing any alteration. I remind honorable senators of the Opposition that Mr. A. Green, who is a valiant defender of the interests of the gold-fields of Western Australia, and of the people of Kalgoorlie, has taken the very action that 1 endeavoured to take this morning to bring the matter under the notice of the Government. Protests have been made by the Commissioner of Railways in Western Australia, but without effect. In many quarters it is considered that there is a nasty odour about the whole thing. It is wrong that Commonwealth utilities should be used to destroy Western Australian industries. These industries find it sufficiently difficult to meet severe, but open competition from the eastern States, but when Commonwealth utilities are used to discriminate unfairly against them, they naturally protest. Beer from the eastern States is carried by passenger trains at lower freight rates than are charged for the requirements of the mining and pastoral industries forwarded by goods trains. While I have instanced beer, the protest of the Chambers of Commerce is a general one, covering products of both primary and secondary industries, to which my remarks also refer. I had hoped to bring forward in another way this protest from an influential body in Western Australia; but, as that was not possible, I now ask the Minister the following question, which I was prevented from asking this morning: -
Does the Government intend -to permit the present anti-federal competition, which is condemned in the resolution of the Federated Chambers of Commerce of Western Australia, to continue?
– I have no desire to delay the Senate, and I should not have risen but for the veiled attack upon Mr. Gahan, a gentleman whom I know personally.
– I do not know him.
– That is the reason why the honorable senator attacks him. Had the honorable senator, before setting out to get a little cheap publicity in the Western Australian newspapers, taken the trouble to write to Mr. Gahan, he would have ascertained the facts. Mr.
Gahan, who is admitted to be one of Australia’s most capable railway officers, is also one of the most honorable public servants in the Commonwealth. I deprecate attacks made in this chamber on men who have no opportunity to defend themselves. Senator Johnston said there was a nasty odour about this business. I, therefore, sincerely hope that the Minister will make the inquiry suggested by him, because I feel confident that, in that case, his unwarranted charges will be disproved.
– The. Commissioner is merely doing his best for the railways.
– Senator Johnston makes this complaint probably because some Western Australian brewing firm has asked him to do so.
– Mr. A. Green made a similar complaint in another place.
– Mr. A. Green, like the honorable senator, is the victim of his environment. It is ridiculous for Senator Johnston, who is a secessionist, to complain of any anti-federal action on the part of the Government. The honorable senator would like to see all federal utilities made the object of ridicule and contempt in order to strengthen the case for secession. I am not concerned about the honorable senator’s opinion, or that of Mr. A. Green; but I do emphatically protest against charges being made in this chamber against the character of the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner when that gentleman has no opportunity to defend himself.
– I also object to the remarks of Senator Johnston, because they are a reflection not only on the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner, Mr. Gahan, but also on the South Australian Railways Commissioner, Mr. Anderson. If Senator Johnston were familiar with the practice on interstate railway systems he would know that all through rates, including the through rate on Melbourne beer consigned to Western Australia over the trans-Australian railway, are fixed by agreement between the railways commissioners of Victoria, South Australia, and the Commonwealth who are jointly responsible. It is pleasing to note that in the report of the CommonwealthRailways Commissioner, just to band, it is stated that during the lost twelve months there has been an increase of traffic over the trans- Australian railway. The report states -
The through goods trafficcarried over the line during the year shows an increase of 18.16 per cent. over the tonnage carried during the previous year. This traffic was augmented considerably by goods forwarded at special rates, as agreed upon by the commissioners of the various systems concerned.
That paragraph obviously had reference to the consignments of beer to which Senator Johnston has referred. The report continues-
Further efforts weremade during theyear toincrease the quantity of overland goods traffic, andthe successful results in this direction have parti ally compensated for the decline in the passenger traffic.
Probably Senator Johnston is concerned because the receipts from the Commonwealth railways are improving,
SenatorE.B.Johnston. - TheWestern Australian Railways Commissioner has objected repeatedly.
– A further paragraphin the report reads -
As in the past years, large quantities of perishablesand other through goods traffic were conveyed in bulk mail vans and other covered vehicles attached to the through passenger trains.
From the honorable senator’s remarks this afternoon one would be justifiedin concluding that this was a recent innovation, and that something sinister attached to it. He made veiled insinuations against both the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner and the South Australian Railways Commissioner. I know Mr. Anderson well; I have as high an opinion of his honesty and ability as i” have for the honesty and ability ofMr. Gahan, and I am not prepared to allow these insinuations to pass without entering my emphatic protest against them.
[4.12]. - I was glad to hear the testimony of Senators Daly andO’Halloran to the ability and integrity of Mr.Gahan, the
Commonwealth Railways Commissioner, and 1 associate myself with what they have said. The policy of the Commonwealth Government is to refrain from political interference with the management of the Commonwealth Railways. One of the curses of the railway systems of Australia has been political interference with the management. Of course, if it were shown, that the management had done something’ unjust or dishonest, the charge wouldhave to be investigated; in that case, the Commonwealth Government could not stand passively by. But I do not believe that Mr. Gahan would countenance anything of the kind suggested by Senator Johnston. It is well known that every railway system in the world gives differential rates to different customers. I have followed the questions which Senator Johnston has addressed to the Minister of Railways through me, and the gravamen of his charge appears to be that concession rates are granted in the case , of beer carried over long distances.
– The agreement which gives those concession rates requires the consignors to send all their traffic over the Commonwealth railways.
– The honorable senator strains his case when he says that the Western Australian breweries do not share in these concessions. Of course, they donot. That is because they send their beer not over the Commonwealth railways, but over the Western Australian railways. I see no reason why they should not be able to compete with Victorian beer,since they have to consign their product over only 400 miles of railway whereas the product of their eastern competitors travels much farther.
– Is there not some reason for the resolution of the Western Australia Chamber of Commerce ?
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.The reason may be that brewing interests in Western Australia object to competition. I promise the honorable senator to bring his remarks under the notice of the Minister for the Interior.
When moving the motion for the adjournment of the Senate, I overlooked one important matter. I think that I can speak on behalf of honorable senators opposite as well as supporters of the Government in referring with regret to the pending retirement of the. parliamentary housekeeper, Mr.F. Sparkes, whose services date back to the beginning of federation. I am sureI am voicing the opinion of every honorable senator who knows him, when I say that he has proved a most, capable and conscientious officer in the discharge of his duties. He has earned the respect. of us all, and we regret that inexorable time has brought about his retirement. We appreciate the loyal service that he has rendered, the courtesy that he has always extended to us, and the way in which he has attended to our needs.
– We all endorse that.
– I trust, that he will live long to enjoy his well-earned retirement.
-I desire to add a word to the remarks of the Leader of the Government regarding the retirement of Mr. Sparkes. Meetings and partings are a common feature of everyday life, but it is always unpleasant to be culled upon to part with a conscientious and faithful officer such as Mr. Sparkes has proved himself to be. I have known him ever since I entered this Senate. He has been in public employment for 43 years.For 10 years he was in the service of the Victorian Government, and he has been a Commonwealth public servant for 31 years. He entered the Commonwealth service at the inception of federation, and, therefore, there could not be an older Commonwealth public servant. Although Mr. Sparkes has been called upon to sever his connexion with the Service,because he has reacheda certain age, he possesses a vastamount of unexpended energy, and if he decides to follow another occupation, his future employers will be fortunate in having the services of such a trustworthy and faithful officer. I hope that he will enjoy many more years of life, and I wish him well.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjournedat 4.20 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 25 November 1932, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1932/19321125_senate_13_137/>.