13th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. P. J. Lynch) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Report No. 3 brought up by Senator
– It will be within your recollection, Mr. President, that SenatorSampson last week exhibited in the Senate a sample of Queensland bananas. They did not truly represent the quality ofthe bananas produced in that State, and I now ask you as Chairman of the Joint House Committee whether I may be allowed the privilege of distributing fair samples to honorable senators and also placing them on the tables of the refreshment-rooms?
-As the honorable senator is aware, questions may he addressed only to Ministers in relation to public matters and to other honorable senators concerning business on the notice-paper. Unofficially, however, I may inform him that I offer no objection to his distribution among honorable senators of samples of what he considers a tropical fruit of superior quality that is produced in Queensland, or if he wishes to be generous, to his contributing to the menu in the refreshment-rooms.
Representation of Australia by Prime Minister.
– On the motion for the adjournment of the Senate early this morning I asked the Leader of the Government (Senator Pearce) a question concerning an announcement in the Castlemaine Mail regarding the probability of the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) representing Australia at the forthcoming World Economic Conference. I now ask therighthonorablegentlemanwhether he has noticed in the issue of that newspaper of the 3 0 th November, the statement that Mr. Lyons is to represent Australia at that conference?
– I have not seen the statement referred to.
The following papers were presented : -
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Deter minations by the Arbitrator, &c. -
No. 27 of 1932- Australian Postal Electricians’ Union.
No. 28 of 1932- Fourth Division Officers’ Association of the Trade and Customs Department.
No. 29 of 1932 - Common Rule re Compensation for Overtime, Sunday Duty, &c.
Audit Act - Finance - Treasurer’s Statement of Receipts and Expenditure for the year ended 30th June, 1932, accompanied by the Report of the Auditor-General.
Commonwealth Public Service Act - Ninth Report on the Commonwealth Public Service by the Board of Commissioners, dated 25th November, 1932.
Excise Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1932, No. 129.
New Guinea Act- Ordinances of 1932 -
No. 20 - Appropriation 1932-33.
No. 21 - Customs.
Northern Territory Acceptance Act and Northern Territory (Administration) Act - Ordinance No. 21 of 1932 - Brands.
Report of the Imperial Economic Conference, Ottawa, 1932, with Annexes I. to V.
Seat of Government (Administration) Act -
Notice of variation of the plan of lay-out of the City of Canberra and its environs, dated 21st November, 1932.
Trans-Australian and Central Australian Railways: Stores Provision - Copy of Balance-sheet.
War Precautions Act Repeal Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1932, No. 127.
– On the 25th November, Senator Dunn asked the following questions, upon notice: -
I am now able to furnish the honorable senator with the following information : -
Full information in reply to the honorable senator’s question is set out in detail in pages 576 to 583 of the annual statistics (Oversea Trade Bulletin No. 28) in relation to the years 1926-27 to 1930-31. It is considered too expensive to compile and publish this information in regard to the financial year 1931-32 in advance of its normal publication in the next annual statistics (Oversea Trade Bulletin No. 29) which is expected about March, 1933.
– On the 30th
November, Senator Collings asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice -
I have now been supplied by the Minister for Health with the following answers : -
I now desire to inform the honorable senator that a copy of the balance-sheet has this day been laid upon the table.
Employment of Half-castes.
Will the Minister reconsider the conditions imposed upon those engaged in the cattle industry in the Northern Territory in regard to the employment of half-castes, having particular regard to (a) the difficulties confronting the industry; and (b) the fact that the ordinance imposing these conditions was at no time subject to parliamentary approval?
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.The matter is being considered in connexion with the recommendations made by the late Minister for the Interior as a result of his recent visit to the Northern Territory.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow: - 1 and 2. The governments in the principal dried tree fruit producing States, viz., New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia, have already proclaimed dried prunes, peaches, apricots, pears, and nectarines as dried fruits under their respective State Dried Fruits Acts for the purpose of regulating the intra-State marketing of those dried tree fruits. These governments, as well as the Western Australian Government, have requested the Commonwealth Government to amend the Commonwealth Dried Fruits Act of 1928, with the object of extending the existing system of regulating interstate trade in dried vine fruits to the dried tree fruits referred to. The request of the State governments has been supported by the dried fruits boards in the four States, and by a number of other representatives of dried tree fruits interests.
.- I move-
That the bill be now road a second time.
The bill provides for the suspension of the operation of the Committee of Public Accounts Act. The Government has introduced the measure because it realizes -the urgent need for stringent economy in parliamentary and governmental expenditure. It is anticipated that the suspension of the operations of the Joint Committee of Public Accounts will result ( in the saving of approximately £3,000 per annum. That estimate is based upon the actual expenditure of the committee during a normal year. In 1930-31, the last complete year in which the committee operated, its expenditure amounted to £3,168.
The Joint Committee of Public Accounts was first constituted in 1913. Since that time, it has rendered valuable service to the Commonwealth, and has reported on many important subjects; but its continuance is not justified under existing conditions. As was pointed out in the speech of His Excellency the GovernorGeneral on the occasion of the opening of the Parliament early this year, should the necessity arise for . a parliamentary inquiry into any matter it would be possible, under the Standing Orders, for Parliament to constitute a select committee for the purpose; but such a committee would be a temporary, and not a permanent, body. This bill contains a provision to the effect that if the time should come when it is thought desirable to reconstitute the committee, it can be done by both Houses of the Parliament resolving to lift the suspension of the act; the introduction of another amending bill would not be necessary. As honorable senators know, the Public Accounts Committee has not been operating for some time; but it is considered advisable that this bill should be passed in order definitely to suspend the operation of the act, .because, if it remains in operation as at present, it might be necessary to make certain appointments. If the necessity arises for the reconstitution of the committee, the provision in this bill enabling that to be done could be brought into effect: The measure is a replica of the Public Works Committee Bill passed a few days ago without much discussion or opposition.
– I cannot agree with the contention of the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Senator McLachlan) who said that this is a replica of the Public Works Committee Bill passed in this chamber a few days ago without much_ discussion or opposition. I think that it was stated at that time that the Public Works Committee had ceased to function owing to the inability of the Government to raise the necessary finance to proceed with public works, but that cannot be said of this committee. I venture to say that the debate on the proposal put forward by the previous Government to reduce the number’ of members of the Public Accounts Committee showed a serious lack of knowledge of the functions of such a committee. The attitude of many honorable members in another place, may be pardonable to an extent in that many of them are new to parliamentary life. I realize that the Government has made up its mind to suspend this committee, but I regard it as my duty to place on record my objections to this measure, and to show why a committee of this description is more necessary _ now than under normal conditions. The first Public Accounts Committee was appointed as the result of very intensive propaganda conducted during the 1913 elections. Devastating criticism was levelled at the financial methods of the then Government. Sir John Forrest, who later became Lord Forrest, in introducing the first Public Accounts Committee Bill, made the following observations : -
All parties and every member are interested in having a careful scrutiny of the public expenditure. I think that in globo the House exercises supervision, but there is no such minute scrutiny that the committee will be capable of. Sometimes a very small amount is asked for at first for a work the ultimate cost of which runs into an immense amount of money which was notanticipated by the House at the time of agreeing to the first outlay. Parliament is often unable to look closely into many matters which it would like to investigate.
Parliament has not the time nor the machinery to undertake a careful investigation into public expenditure.
– The honorable senator will remember the storm I raised when I made a similar statement concerning the tariff.
– On that occasion, the honorable senator favoured a tariff board to advise Parliament on tariff matters, and that is a principle in* which I concur. I trust that the honorable senator will concur with me that if it is necessary to have a board to inquire into tariff matters it is just as essential to have a committee to advise Parliament on matters of finance. In 1913-14, when the first committee was appointed, the annual expenditure of the Commonwealth was £20,000,000; the expenditure is now in the neighbourhood of£70,000,000. In the same year, the public debt was £19,000,000, but it is now approximately £400,000,000. Surely if it was essential to have a public accounts committee in 1913-14, when our annual expenditure and public debt were so much lower than they are to-day, it must be indefinitely more essential to have such a committee at the present juncture. There appears to be a lackof realization on the part of Parliament generally of the work performed by a public accounts committee. The Minister who introduced the bill said that the suspension of the committee will effect a saving of approximately £3,000 per annum based on the cost of the committee during the last year of its operations. It is interesting to note that during that year the committee conducted two very important inquiries on behalf of the Government into the disabilities of South Australia and Tasmania. It was a task beyond the ordinary functions of the committee, as will be seen from the fact that the Government provided a special allowance to enable it to conduct thorough inquiries, thus increasing the expenditure of the committee in that period beyond the average. I venture to suggest that the report of the committee on those two subjects was satisfactory, not only to the Commonwealth Parliament, but also to the Parliaments and people of the States mentioned. I know that its report on the disabilities of South Australia was regarded as eminently satisfactory by the people of that State; and, although I had not the opportunity to ascertain personally how the people of Tasmania regarded the report on the disabilities of their State, I remember that the recommendations of the committee were favorably commented upon by the Premier of Tasmania, members of the State Parliament, and leading business men. Those two “ inquiries were conducted at a much lower cost to the Commonwealth than that involved in conducting similar inquiries by royal commissions- in previous years. Instead of an actual saving being effected as the Minister suggests, the possibilities are that the Commonwealth will be involved in greater expense in having to appoint royal commissions to conduct the work which ordinarily would have been undertaken by this committee. According to a return furnished to Parliament, the royal commissions appointed from the 1st July, 1923, to the 30th June, 1930, cost £107,755. During the same period the Public Accounts Committee conducted fifteen inquiries at a cost of £19,556, which includes salaries, contingencies, and travelling expenses. These figures clearly show that the committee has paid due regard to economy in conducting its investigations. The number of inquiries conducted by royal commissions during the period I have mentioned was 21, and the cost was £107,755, was an average cost of £5,132 for each inquiry. During the same period the Public Accounts Committee conducted sixteen inquiries at a cost, including the salaries of staff, contingencies, and travelling expenses, of £19,556, an average cost of £1,222 for each inquiry. In view of these figures, it is difficult to see how the economy suggested by the Minister can be effected.
I admit that the committee did not fulfil the purpose for which it was originally established, but that was not its fault. While Parliament conferred on it certain statutory powers to investigate Commonwealth accounts and items of departmental expenditure, and gave it power to initiate its own inquiries, it failed to provide the necessary machinery to enable it to function effectively. Furthermore, it was hampered, in doing the work for which it was appointed, by the number of inquiries which were referred to it by the Government from time to time, possibly with a view to preventing it from inquiring into certain phases of governmental expenditure. Those honorable senators who are acquainted with the work done by the committee will realize that it was responsible for saving a good deal of unnecessary expenditure. In 1930, when I became a member of the Public Accounts Committee it almost immediately determined that, as it had been created primarily to watch public expenditure on behalf of Parliament, that work would in future be its main concern, and in order, to place public accounts on a proper basis it began an exhaustive investigation into the following matters: - Parliamentary control and procedure in relation to the public finances of the Commonwealth ; the form in which the Estimates, budget papers and other financial statements are presented to and dealt with by Parliament; and the desirability of uniform methods of accounts for the Commonwealth and States. Those investigations were inaugurated with the approval of the Government of the day, and in its work the committee had the blessing of the then Treasurer, and the only exTreasurer then in the Parliament. Both gentlemen rendered the committee valuable assistance, and offered many helpful suggestions. The inquiries instituted by the committee revealed many weaknesses in some of the matters to which I have referred. The committee was confident that it could place before Parliament recommendations of a far-reaching character. If the committee is not reappointed how is Parliament to be informed of the full result of those exhaustive investigations ? During its investigations the committee took evidence from men of high standing in matters connected with public finance and large private undertakings. Among them were Professors Bland, Brigden, Copland, Giblin, Hytten, and Melville, the AuditorsGeneral of New South Wales and Victoria, Mr. Westhoven, the Public Service Arbitrator and Mr. Barton, a consulting accountant of Sydney. These gentlemen expressed the view that the inquiry being undertaken should be of great national value, and, that, indeed, it was long overdue. When giving evidence before the committee, Professor Bland quoted the wellknown authority Durell, who, in his work entitled Parliamentary Grants, said -
The modern tendency is undoubtedly to magnify the power of the Executive at the expense of individual members of “the House, and is one which, in the interests of parliamentary control, should be resisted, though the power of resistance is too often weakened by the necessities of public expediency and inconvenience.
The committee had practically completed its investigations and almost completed it’s report when the last election intervened. As honorable senators know, the appeal to the people changed the personnel of another place. A number of members of the committee were defeated, and, of course, could take no further part in the committee’s deliberations.- The present Government, recognizing the importance of the inquiry which the committee had undertaken, was good enough to constitute the six members of the committee who still remained members of this’ Parliament, a select committee, with the object of completing and presenting to Parliament the report to which I have referred. That work was completed without any cost to the taxpayer The members of the select committee give their services gratuitously, and honorable senators - whatever their views as to the committee’s recommendations may be - will, I think, admit that they did their work well. I suggest that all honorable senators should read the committee’s report, because it contains many valuable suggestions for the better control of the expenditure connected with Parliament, and for simpler and more orderly methods of keeping the public accounts, which all members are expected to scrutinize and understand if they are to participate intelligently in any discussion on the financial statements which are presented to Parliament from time to time. The committee made suggestions regarding the interdepartmental accountancymethods which would effect substantial savings to the taxpayers. TheGovernment has recognized the value of the work done by the commit te e. In his budget speech. The Treasurer stated that the Government hoped, when time and circumstances permitted, to incorporate many of the committee’s suggestions in the financial accounts of the Commonwealth. All these points are weighty arguments against the Minister’s contention that the abolition of the Public Accounts Committee represents a measure of real economy. The very existence of a Public Accounts Committee acts as a check on any tendency to extravagance on the part of the Government of the day or of heads of departments. However zealous Ministers may be in their attention to their duties, it is impossible for them to exercise a proper control of every department of the Public Service. But the knowledge that there is in existence a committee which at any time may institute an inquiry into the working of a department, in accordance with the statutory powers conferred on it, makes heads of departments, and other officers, careful to maintain a high standard of efficiency, coupled with the greatest possible economy. The proposal of the Government to suspend this committee is as foolish as would be the action of a big business undertaking which, in order to save a few pounds a year, abolished the continuous audit of its accounts. I am confident that if the Senate agrees to the proposal contained in this measure, it will regret its action. I hope that even if the Govern ment will not withdraw this bill,itw ill take early action to reappoint the committee. This is the only Parliament in the world, so far as I am aware, which proposes to take this retrograde step at this time. Other countries are affected by the depression, and have need to exercise economy but so far from abolishing their public accounts committees, they are extending the committee system, and tightening up methods of control so that members of Parliament may be assisted in the discharge of their duties and responsibilities as the custodians of the public purse. In this connexion I have examined the methods of the various Parliaments of the British Empire and find that in South Africa, Canada, New Zealand, the Irish Free State, and, indeed, in practically every portion of the British Empire where local autonomy exists, and in which the parliamentary system of government is working, public accounts committees have been set up, and that the tendency is to strengthen rather than suspend the operations of these committees. I desire to quote from the select committee’s report an extract relating to the British Public Accounts Committee -
The power and influence of the British Public Accounts Committee is well described in the great work of Durell on Parliamentary Grants. Appointed in 1862, the British Public Accounts Committee has exercised a most important function - the investigation of points of financial order and principle. The committee was designed to guarantee financial regularity, and financial regularity as distinct from audit can only be secured by a system of recognized principles.
Durell considers that there is a distinction between an investigation by an independent committee of this nature and the examination of the public accounts of a country by its Auditor-General.
– What does he mean by that?
– He means that it is the duty of the AuditorGeneral to see that items of public expenditure are properly authorized and, having been properly authorized, are expended in a proper manner. In Australia there has been a tendency, in recent years, for the Auditor-General to question the wisdom of certain phases of government policy. I submit that it is not the function of that official to do that in the way that would be expected of a committee of public accounts vested with the authority which I have indicated. In Great Britain it is the practice to co-ordinate the activities of the Audit Department with those of the Committee of Public Accounts. The gentleman who occupies the position of AuditorGeneral, and the Comptroller-General of the Treasury, whose status is similar to that of the Secretary t of the Commonwealth Treasury, are ex officio members of the Public Accounts Committee, and their services are co-opted in all important inquiries. Mr. Durell goes on to state -
Striking testimony to the value of the work of the committee was borne by the Assistant Comptroller and Auditor-General, who said that it “ had almost made the law, so to speak, upon financial matters under the Exchequer and Audit Act “. The decisions of the Public Accounts Committee form, in fact, a kind of com mon law which is binding on all departments in practice, if not in theory.
I could quote extensively from many other eminent authorities who. have considered the need for effective control of pub’ic finance, but I have no desire to weary the Senate. Following the report of the select committee, which I have mentioned, a rather striking article appeared in the Sydney Sun of the 3rd July last, written by Mr. F. A. Bland, who is recognized as one of the foremost authorities on accountancy in Australia. I. take from it the following comments : -
Parliamentary reports are not usually best sellers. The report of the Commonwealth Select Committee on public accounts ought to bo. . . .
Reforms proposed by the Public Accounts Committee demand urgent consideration. When the public has shown such generous willingness to assist the Government in its difficulties, it is at least entitled to expect that the Government shall also do its part in no niggardly spirit.
There is also a matter of supreme importance in the light of existing conditions. By the establishment of the Loan Council under the financial agreement, unity of action in financial matters has been imposed on all Australian Governments to a degree which was not formerly contemplated. There will be little surprise that the committee .recommended, as a matter of urgency, a conference to consider the principle of uniformity of the public accounts of the Commonwealth and the States.
This is a vital matter. All honorable senators who have attended the meetings of the Loan Council know that one of the greatest difficulties in the consideration of Commonwealth and State- financial matters is to get the figures relating to them in their proper perspective, because of the different methods of accountancy adopted by the several States.
I think I have said sufficient to show that this bill should not be passed. I suggest that, instead of suspending the operation of the Public Accounts Committee, the Government should amend the act by reducing its membership from ten to, say, seven, and by providing that the committee should discharge its functions in the same way that the Public Accounts Committee in Great Britain carries on its work. I am confident that, if these changes were made, instead of saving a miserable £3,000 a year by the suspension of the committee, we should have a body of financial advisers acting as a useful adjunct to the Parliament, and we should save the taxpayers of this country many thousands of pounds yearly. The Government’s intention is to appoint select committees to consider any special subjects that may require investigation. I need only refer to our unfortunate experiences in recent years in connexion with the appointment of special committee of inquiry to show that this course would not be wise. The latest example is the appointment of a special committee to investigate the wool industry. “We have in this chamber an authority in the person of Senator Guthrie, who was not appointed, but who should have been one of the first to be appointed. Possibly the Government did ask him to act. I do not know; but I believe that, if he had been consulted, despite the ill health from which, unfortunately, he has been suffering recently, he would have been patriotic enough to disregard personal considerations, and would have rendered valuable service to the wool industry and this country by taking part in that inquiry. We are more likely to get a wise selection when constituting committees of this nature if the appointments are made by the Parliament instead of by the Executive. I hope that the Government will reconsider the position, and, instead of suspending the Committee of Public Accounts, it will adopt the suggestion which I have made. If the desire is to effect real economies, I believe that there are in this Parliament sufficient members, with the necessary qualification’s, who would be prepared, for the present at all events, to serve on the committee without any reward in the way of sitting fees.
– As the bill has been introduced with the idea of reducing government expenditure, I shall not take the responsibility of opposing it, although I agree with the views so ably expressed by Senator O’Halloran. I endorse all that has been said about the valuable work done by the Public Accounts Committee. I served on that body for a number of years, and had ample evidence of its usefulness. We could not expect the same results from the appointment of occasional select committees to deal with special subjects. It is desirable that we should have a body such as the Public Accounts Committee, capable of making inquiries on its own initiative into any item of government expenditure. If, instead of suspending the committee, the Government took action to reduce the number of its members, I am quite sure that those appointed to the committee would, if necessary, do the work without recompense. Arrangements could be made for inquiries to be confined to the capital city of the Commonwealth, thus avoiding any expenditure by the Government at all. I invite honorable senators to study carefully the last report presented by the Public Accounts Committee, dealing with the supervision of the expenditure of public money. Every one agrees that it is absolutely necessary that we should have effective parliamentary control of public expenditure. If the Government appointed a committee of five or seven members, all the work could be done with very little expenditure from the public purse, and with beneficial results to the finances of this country.
– In my opinion, Senator O’Halloran has submitted an unanswerable case as to why the Public Accounts Committee should be kept in operation. Some time ago, a select committee was appointed by this Senate to inquire into the effect of the Central Reserve Bank Bill, and was empowered to travel from place to place and take evidence. The members of that committee paid practically the whole of their own expenses. In every part of the British Empire, in fact in almost every country of importance, a finance committee is looked upon as a necessary part of the parliamentary institution, and in view of the precarious condition of the national finances at the present time, it would be wise to have such a committee in operation. I believe that its members would be willing to give their services without fees, providing their outofpocket expenses were covered. In the past, the Public Works Committee has travelled all over Australia and the Mandated Territory of New Guinea in the prosecution of inquiries entrusted to it, and it has made recommendations which have resulted in considerable savings. Senator Dooley was a member of that committee, and he has acted as its vicechairman. Owing to his avocation in private life, his wide knowledge of the matters inquired into by the committee proved of great value. I merely men- - tion this fact to show that honorable senators of all parties give their services on bodies such as the Public Accounts Committee, and the Public Works Committee, and their special knowledge, in many cases, has proved of great value to the Parliament and the Government of the day. Nobody, I venture to say, could doubt the integrity and wide knowledge of Senator J. B. Hayes, who has served on the Public Accounts Committee. I contend that there is plenty of scope for useful inquiries by this body. Let us assume that £1,000,000 was proposed to be made available for the erection of new post offices and telephone exchanges.
– Inquiries regarding such works would be carried out by the Public Works Committee.
– Quite so; but inquiries by the Public Accounts Committee might curtail the money available for public works. I suggest to the Minister in charge of the bill that the debate should be adjourned.
Question - That the bill be now read a second time - put. The Senate divided. (President - Senator the Hon. P. J. Lynch.)
Majority . . . . 12
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The object of the measure is to amend the Jury Exemption Act in the direction of widening the scope of jury panels in the Territory for the Seat of Government and the Northern Territory. In 1905, the Commonwealth Parliament passed an act exempting certain persons from service as jurors. Those exemptions include the Governor-General, the members of the Federal Executive Council, justices of the High Court and other courts created by this Parliament, senators and members of the House of Representatives, members of the Inter-State Commission, the officers of the Commonwealth Public Service, and members of the Commonwealth Permanent Naval and Military Forces. In 1922, Commonwealth railway servants were also exempted. It is the law generally throughout the Commonwealth that officers of the Public Service are exempt from jury service. As a general rule, there is no difficulty in obtaining a jury without calling upon such persons. But in the Northern
Territory, and particularly in the Federal Capital Territory, where Commonwealth Public Servants form a very large proportion of the population, difficulties have arisen through this exemption, and the Government considers that it unduly limits the number of persons available in those territories for jury service. The bill, therefore, proposes to limit the exemption in order that it may be possible for officers of the Commonwealth Public Service in the Federal Capital Territory and in the Northern Territory to serve as jurors. Provision is made, however, for the continuance of the exemption of certain classes of public servants. For instance, I think it will be conceded that it is desirable that members of the Crown Law Departmentshould, in all cases, be exempt from serving on a jury because of their close connexion with the administration of justice. Again, there are certain public officials, such as heads of departments and others, who ought not to be called to serve on juries. If this legislation is approved, it is proposed that a regulation shall be issued specifying the exemptions that are to obtain in the territories. The other exemptions will remain as at present, but in the territories, public servants will notbe exempt as a matter of course from the obligation to serve as jurors.
.- This bill seems to me to be quite harmless.
– It is not; it is most harmful.
– I leave it to gentlemen who are more thoroughly’ acquainted with the law than I am to indicate flaws in it. Personally, I can see in it nothing except provision for service on juries by public servants in the territories of the Commonwealth, where that class of person represents the bulk of the population, and without whom it might be difficult to empanel a jury. In the Northern Territory, the population is small and widely scattered, but a jury could easily be obtained from the ranks of the public servants, whereas it would be almost impossible to secure a sufficient number of other persons. In the Federal Capital Territory, nine out of every ten persons are public servants.
– The objectionable feature of the bill is the provision to grant exemptions by regulation. That is a function that ought to be performed by a judge.
– Parliament makes regulations, but the Governor-General is the authority from whom they issue. I fail to see any danger in that provision.
– In the first place, I am not in favour of government by regulation. I notice a corrective look on the face of Senator Kingsmill.. He is probably thinking that I was a member of a ministry that governed by regulation. That, however, does not alter the principle. I take full responsibility for anything that I did as a Minister in the previous Government. Naturally, I can see less danger in government by regulation under an administration that I know, than under one that I do not. I put it to the Minister representing the Attorney-General, that sub-section 2 of proposed new section 3 constitutes a reflection upon the legal system of the Commonwealth. It proposes to give to the GovernorGeneral the power to make regulations exempting certain public servants from service on juries. Let us suppose, for the sake of argument, that the Secretary to the Defence Department is so exempted by regulation, and the regulation is placed on the table of the Senate. An honorable senator who may have a personal grievance against that gentleman may take the opportunity to attack him.
– As some of our distinguished friends occasionally use the right of challenge.
– In a law court, counsel is kept more strictly to the matters at issue than is a member of Parliament in the discussion of these subjects in the legislature. I suggest to the Minister that the proper procedure is to amend the act so that public servants may be obliged to serve on juries, and also to place in it a provision giving a judge the power to exempt from service any particular officer who he may feel should oe exempted.
– The bill provides for a general exemption.
– I am not very greatly concerned with whether it is a general or a particular exemption. I wish to remove from the political atmosphere the question that will have to be decided under the sub-section to which I have referred. I understand from the Minister that certain urgent reasons necessitate the passage of this measure; that there are cases which have to be tried in the Federal Capital Territory. If he will give an undertaking to consider the amendment of sub-section 2 of proposed new section 3 by subsequent legislation, in the direction of providing that the power of exemption shall lie in the hands .of judges and not take the form of a regulation, I shall not oppose the passage of the bill. But in the absence of that undertaking I cannot support it, and if the second reading is carried, I shall certainly move in committee an amendment providing that this discretion shall be exercised, not on the floor of the Senate, but in the judicial atmosphere of the court.
– I support the contention of Senator Daly, that the power of exemption should be left with the judiciary. If we say who shall and who shall not sit on a jury in the Federal Capital Territory, we assume the functions of a judge. Is it that some of the higher officials consider that, because of their social position and the society in which they move, they ought not to be asked to sit upon a jury? In the final analysis, jury service under this measure will apply only to the rank and file of the wage-earners who are on or a little above the basic wage. If the silvertails of Canberra’s social world are to be exempt from service, I shall not support the bill. The Vice-President of the Executive Council (Senator McLachlan) is a legal man - doubtless a good one. He must admit that the proper constitutional authority in this matter is the judge who presides over the court. Any citizen who might be called upon to serve on a jury could apply to him for exemption. I, for one, decline to rush this matter, or to assist any person to evade his responsibilities of citizenship. If the Vice-President of the Executive Council will give an undertaking on the lines suggested by Senator Daly, I shall not offer any further opposition. If he does not, I must oppose the bill.
– I, too, object to the Government having the power by regulation to exempt certain persons from serving on juries. It is possible that if a jury were required for a murder trial, a number of persons would seek exemption from service by appealing to the head of the department in which they were employed or to the Minister. No such facility should be available to any public servant. It should not be within the power of the Governor-General to promulgate regulations under which certain persons may be exempt from service. Perhaps the proposed new section could be amended by inserting the words, “ acting on . the recommendation of the judge hearing the case “.
– I take it that the position in which the Government finds itself in connexion with this matter is that, in the Federal Capital Territory, a large portion of the population consists of public servants, and that if they as a body were exempt from serving on juries, as they are under the existing law, it would be exceedingly difficult to get a. jury together to hear an ordinary case. In the circumstances, the Government thought it wise to limit the general exemption insofar as it applied to territories, but it also realized that instances might arise in which it would be very undesirable to remove the exemption of public servants in a wholesale manner. Certain public servants in the Federal Capital Territory, such as heads of departments or officers of the Crown Law Department, have access to all papers in connexion with preliminary proceedings in a criminal trial, and they certainly should be exempt. Accordingly, under the proposed new subsection it is intended that the present exemption with respect to public servants shall be dispensed with and that the Government, by regulation, and as a matter of public policy, shall be able to exempt certain public servants from service on juries. I hope it is not intended to use the proposed new sub-section in the manner suggested by one honorable senator opposite, of merely exempting persons because they do not want to serve. I am sure that that is not the intention. In any case it would be undesirable if certain sections of public servants who should serve as jurors should seek exemption.
– I am not opposed to the principle, but to the means proposed.
– I realize that the system may prove to be open to abuse. I understand, however, that the Minister has undertaken to watch the position and to amend the legislation if that should be necessary. Meanwhile, I think that we can trust the Government to use its power in the matter of regulations in the direction intended.
– I do not think that any one wishes to impute sinister motives in this connexion.
– The proposed new section was drafted as the result of a compromise in another place.
– My objection is not to what the intention of any government may be, but to the way in which the power conferred upon it may be used. It seems poor argument to use in support of a measure to say that if it does not work well it will be amended ; when the method by which it may fail to function has already been pointed out. We should not be told that if difficulties to which attention has been directed actually arise we must trust to future legislation. We should avoid them at once. There is too great a tendency for governments to govern by regulations, and the use of the power under regulations in this instance may be avoided by providing for some authority other than the Governor-General. If this measure is passed in its present form, it leaves the way open for the exemption from jury service of persons who, for personal or “snobbish” reasons, or because they occupy a. charmed position in certain social circles wish to be exempt. Others not so fortunately placed may not be so privileged. I realize that there are some public servants who should be exempt; but such exemptions should be made on the recommendation of a judge. It is useless to say that there is no abuse at the present time. I have known persons who have never been called upon to serve on juries, while others have done more than their fair share. We should avoid anything in the nature of class distinction, such as the exemption of persons earning £500 a year or more, while continually calling upon men who may be receiving £2 or £3 a week.
– Senator Daly mentioned certain points on which he desired some information. I mentioned, in moving the second reading of the bill, that at present all public servants are exempt by law from serving on juries; but we cannot make the judiciary system function, particularly in the Federal Capital Territory, without enlarging the ambit of the jury system. It, therefore, becomes necessary that certain public servants in the territories under the control of the Commonwealth shall no longer be exempt from service. In making provision for this exemption we are, however, on dangerous ground, because if public servants are no longer to be exempt, the Solicitor-General, the heads of departments, and officers of the Crown Law Department will be liable to be empanelled as jurors. The honorable senator will realize that in the event of a contest between the Crown and a subject, or in a case in which the rights of the Crown are concerned, it would obviously be wrong for those public officials to serve as jurors. That brings me to the principle involved. They cannot be brought in as a class, and it is undesirable that the Crown should have to resort to devious means in order to excuse these individual officers from service. Any regulations which may be made would not refer to individuals at all. An examination of proposed subsection 2 reveals that the regulation-making power is limited, by inference, to those officers or classes of officers which are specified in the regulations.
– The words are “ such persons or persons holding such offices or classes of offices “.
– By slightly amending the sub-section, it could be framed so as to conform to the honorable senator’s wishes while preserving the general principle. I have here the New South “Wales Jury Act of 1912, section 5 of which provides the classes of persons that shall be exempted from jury service. The list includes judges, and persons holding various other offices, and then it continues, “ such other persons holding offices or being in the Public Service as the Governor exempts from service on juries, either generally or for a limited period, of which exemption notice shall be given to the sheriff”. A similar provision is probably to be found in other jury acts.
– I do not want to see Parliament become the battleground to deal with the regulations which may be made.
– The Government of the State could exempt by an executive act.
– I do not object to that ; but under the present proposal every executive act in this regard comes before Parliament for disallowance or otherwise.
– Under this legislation the individual will not b« specified in the regulations.
– Then what do the words, “ such persons or persons “ mean !
– According to proposed new sub-section 1, every person is liable to serve unless he is specially exempted from service. Then follows subsection 2, which empowers the GovernorGeneral to make regulations exempting from serving as jurors “ such persons or persons holding such offices or classes of office as are specified in the regulations “. Obviously, officers of the Crown Law Department or of the Police Department should be exempted at all times ; and in certain cases, such as prosecutions under the Customs Act, it may be desirable to exempt officers of the Customs Department. The principle is right. The regulations, which must be submitted to Parliament, will not name any individual.
– But they may. I suggest that the Minister is punctuating the provision wrongly in his mind.
– I am prepared to give the undertaking sought; but I desire to preserve the distinction between judicial functions under the jury system and the parliamentary or executive functions.
– If the Minister is not prepared to leave it to the judge, will he introduce the New South Wales system, and so prevent Parliament from being the battleground; or will he let the GovernorGeneral do it himself, without doing it by regulation?
– I give the Senate an undertaking that the whole matter will be reviewed by the AttorneyGeneral. I understand that he desires to lay these regulations on the table before the forthcoming adjournment. As this legislation is urgently required, I ask honorable senators to allow the bill to pass, and I give an undertaking to bring their representations before the AttorneyGeneral without delay.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 -
After section two of the Jury Exemption Act 1905-1922 the following section is added: - “3. - (1.) Notwithstanding anything contained in the last preceding section, an officer of the Public Service of the Commonwealth shall not be exempt from serving as a juror in any territory forming part of the Commonwealth, when summoned so to serve under the law. of the Commonwealth or of such territory, unless he is a person exempted under this section from so serving. “ (2.) For the purposes of the last preceding sub-section, the Governor-General may make regulations exempting from serving as jurors such persons or persons holding such offices or classes of offices as are specified in the regulations.”.
– I move -
That the word “Governor-General,” subsection 2, of proposed new section 3, be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “ judge”.
If that amendment is agreed to, I shall then move to strike out the word “ regulations “ wherever occurring, with a view to substituting the word “exemptions.” In my opinion, a judge of the High Court should have the power to exempt persons from service as jurors. A public servant who, in the course of his official duties, became possessed of information which would render him unsuitable for service on a jury, could be challenged, and the judge would then be entitled to exempt him from service as a juror.
– I cannot accept the amendment. There is a difference between the judicial and the executive function. It is not the -function of a judge of the High Court to make regulations.
– I accept the undertaking given by the Minister, but the amendment fits in entirely with my conception of the right method to be adopted in making these exemptions. Therefore, I am in the unfortunate position that, while I accept the Minister’s assurance that he will consult with the Attorney-General, I must support the amendment. I know what may be done in the making of regulations. Under this bill regulations may be promulgated exempting the secretary of the Defence Department, the secretary of the Prime Minister’s Department, or, possibly, the Clerk or Clerk Assistant of the Senate. If such regulations were laid on the table of the Senate, a member of this chamber might make a personal attack on any one of the individuals filling these offices, and it would be distinctly relevant. I shall never subscribe to any principle under which Parliament is made the battle ground for settling the exemption of individuals from service as jurors.
– Senator Dunn’s proposed amendment is not complete; it leaves in the words “ in the regulations “.
– I understand that if it is carried the honorable senator intends to move a further amendment to meet the point raised by the honorable senator. The clause would then read -
For the purposes of the last preceding subsection a judge of the High Court will make exemptions exempting from serving as jurors such person or persons holding such offices or classes of offices as such judge may think fit.
– That would give the judge power of legislation.
– It would not give him greater power than he to-day possesses in making a rule of the High Court.
– One judge does not do that.
– It was along those lines that I was about to make a recommendation to the AttorneyGeneral.
– I appreciate the Minister’s position, and have no desire to stampede him into making a decision. At the same time I want him to understand my position also. The amendment is in accord with what I regard as the proper practice, and, for that reason, I intend to support it.
Question - That the word proposed to be left out (Senator Dunn’s amendment) be left out - put. The committee divided. (Chairman - Senator the Hon. Herbert Hays.)
Majority . . . . 14
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
It has recently come under the notice of the Government that a person who was convicted of an offence against a law of the Commonwealth, appealed to the Court of Criminal Appeal in New South Wales, which held that it had no jurisdiction to entertain the appeal. The convicted person then appealed to the High Court which upheld the judgment of the New South Wales Court. The High Court has no general right to entertain a criminal appeal ; but in special circumstances leave may be given to appeal in a criminal case. Section 68 of the Judiciary Act deals with the general subject of the applicability of the laws of the various States in proceedings in relation to Commonwealth laws and persons charged with offences under federal laws. Sub-sections 1 and 2 of this section provide - ( 1. ) The laws of each State respecting the arrest and custody of offenders or persons charged with offences, and the procedure for -
The effect of those sub-sections is that, when a person is charged with an offence against a federal law, for which he may be tried within a State, the law of the State applies with respect to summary proceedings, examination, and commitment for trial, and to trial and conviction on indictment. There is no provision, however, in the Commonwealth law that the law of the States giving the right of appeal in criminal matters shall apply in the case of a conviction for an offence against a federal statute.
When the Judiciary Act was passed in 1903, there were no courts of criminal appeal. There were. in the various State statutes provisions for reserving points of law and the like, and provisions for hearing what are called “ Crown cases reserved,” and under section 72 of the Judiciary Act, it is provided that questions of law may be reservedby the court before which a person is tried for the consideration of a full court of the High
Court, or of a full court of the Supreme Court of a State. The present position is that in the case of persons charged with an offence against a federal law, who are tried before the Supreme Court of a State in the ordinary course, there may be a reservation of a point of law; but there cannot be an appeal in the ordinary sense. All the States have instituted courts of criminal appeal. It appears only just that a person convicted under a federal law should have the same right of appeal as a person convicted under a State law. A long time elapsed before the principle of appeal in criminal cases was recognized at all. Provision in this regard was made in Great Britain in 1907, and since then, beginning in 1912, provision has been made in all the States for that purpose.
This bill is very simple in its terms. It provides that there shall be added to section 68 of the principal act the provision that the laws of each State, and the procedure thereunder, shall apply in relation to the hearing and determination of appeals arising out of a trial or conviction under” federal law or out of any proceedings connected with them, and the State courts are given jurisdiction in accordance with the provisions of the laws of the respective States. The bill, therefore, simply confers on a person convicted under federal law the same right of appeal as he would have if he were convicted under State law. As it seems proper and just “that such a person should have a right of appeal, I accordingly commend the bill to the Senate.
.- As the Minister in charge of the bill has remarked, this is a very simple measure. It merely gives to a person convicted under a Commonwealth law the same right of appeal as is possessed by a person convicted under a State law. Therefore, I support the bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
CRIMES BILL (No. 2) 1932. Second Beading.
.- I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This measure relates to the prosecution of offences under Part IIa. of the Crimes Act 1914-1932. As honorable senators are aware, the Crimes Act of the Commonwealth deals with many offences against Commonwealth law, including those relating to the administration of justice, coinage, forgery, offences by arid against public officers, breaches of official secrecy, and the like. Part IIa. of the act, which has a character quite its own, and is distinct -from the other portions of the measure, is headed, “ Protection of the Constitution and of public and other services,^’ and contains the provisions relating to unlawful associations and to certain interferences with interstate trade and commerce, and to the performance of duty by certain servants of the public. Under certain circumstances, there is the possibility, under this part of the act, of the deportation of convicted offenders. Section 13 provides that-
Unless the contrary intention appears in the act or regulation creating the offence, any person may -
institute proceedings for the commit ment for trial of any person in respect of any indictable offence against the law of the Commonwealth; or
institute proceedings for the summary conviction of any person in respect of any offence against the law of the Commonwealth punishable on summary conviction.
Speaking generally, therefore, an offence under the act can be prosecuted by any person, but there is room for doubt as to whether it is or is not open for a member of the public to prosecute for those offences relating to the Constitution, the Public Service, interstate trade and commerce, and the like. It is highly desirable, in the opinion of the Government, that this doubt should be removed, and that the Attorney-General only should be given the power to prosecute under these particular provisions. The object of this bill is to provide that offences under Part IIa. shall not be prosecuted summarily without the authority of the
Attorney-General, nor upon indictment except in the name of the AttorneyGeneral or of some person authorized by the Attorney-General.
There is also a special provision in this part of the act which permits action to be taken on averments made on behalf of the prosecutor. It was never intended that deportation could be ordered on prosecution by averment. Having regard, therefore, not only to the nature of the offence, but also to the possible consequences of deportation of the person in the case of some offences, the Government considers that it should be- placed beyond all doubt that only the Attorney-General shall have power to institute proceedings under this part of the act. So long as the averment provisions . remain in the act, with the possible consequence of deportation of a convicted person, which, after all, is at the will of the AttorneyGeneral of the day, the Government considers that it is proper that all such prosecutions should be instituted by the Attorney-General. As the offences are, in the most general sense, against law and order, and as the act, has been drafted to avoid anything in the nature of repression of opinions merely, and is directed towards special action in -the case of activities which are directed towards the overthrow of orderly government, it is submitted that the government of the day, which is in charge of the affairs of the country, should accept the sole responsibility of enforcing that portion of the law, and that it should not be open to a member of the public to institute such proceedings. In committee I propose to submit an amendment.
.- When the principal act was under consideration, the Opposition took strong exception to the manner in which certain persons could be prosecuted under it, and I consider that this bill will effect a highly desirable amendment. I am pleased to note that the Government has recognized the soundness of the arguments submitted by senators on this side when the original measure was before us.
– I should like to have more information from Senator McLachlan regarding this bill. Under the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act there is a provision relating to the pro secution of an employer who dismisses a man by reason of the fact that he is a member of a union, and the union secretary or the employee can institute a prosecution.
– I invite the honorable senator to glance at section 30a of the Crimes Act, which is headed “ Protection of the Constitution and of public and other services.” This amending bill applies only to those offences which can bc followed by deportation.
– I notice that the section relates to industrial disturbances. I should like to look more closely into section 30k, which covers a number of offences. This amendment will take away a certain right which the subject unquestionably possesses under the Crimes Act to institute proceedings under that act. It will give a discretion to the Attorney-General which can. be exercised as against the subject. I desire to be satisfied that this particular part of the act relates only to Commonwealth property or Commonwealth functions. I am not prepared to agree to place any limitation upon the right of a private subject to institute proceedings under the Crimes Act for a private wrong covered by that statute.
Furthermore, I certainly am not prepared to fetter the discretion of men who have to police Commonwealth awards.
– It does not touch them much.”
– Part Ha. also contains provisions in regard to industrial disturbances, lockouts, and strikes. It covers matters in which trade organizations are vitally affected. I decline to fetter the discretion of individuals, except in the case of prosecutions that should only be launched by the Commonwealth Government. Unless the Minister allows us time to go more fully into the matter than we have been able to do, I shall not vote for the second reading of the bill.
– I cannot understand the attitude of my learned friend, or that of his party. This matter was discussed in another place, and a good deal of attention was devoted to it. If, under a reversal of the present positions of parties, this proposal, which directly limits the wide operation of Part IIa., was brought down by my honorable and learned friend opposite, I could understand it being opposed by my honorable and learned friends on this side. This part was opposed tooth and nail when it was introduced in 1926. Now it is proposed to limit its operation to this extent, that under its wide powers no prosecution may be launched except with the consent of the person who holds the responsible office of Attorney-General. As the section says, “An offence against this part shall not be prosecuted “. “ This part “ is - Part IIa., which contains provisions in regard to unlawful assemblies, and also those drastic provisions beginning with section 30j. It would seem to me obvious that the right to prosecute under those provisions should be restricted, and I cannot understand why my honorable and learned friend should oppose the proposal. I do not expect him to lean on me; but I have looked into the matter, and from my reading of it know what is aimed at. I can see in it nothing except what I should fully expect would be entirely in accord with the views held by my honorable and learned friend. This is a check on anything in the nature of irresponsible prosecution. The proposal is to restrict to the Attorney-General the right of prosecution under this part of the Crimes Act, which deals mainly with what may be called political offences, or, at any rate, what are closely allied to political offences.
– I admit frankly that when I first read the bill I regarded it as something in the nature of an improvement on the act. It may be easily understood, however, that a layman may consider as most innocent, provisions that may have the most far-reaching effect, and in an entirely different direction from thatindicated by a cursory perusal. We who sit on this side are amply justified in entertaining suspicions concerning the motives of any legislation which deals with this subject. I have been informed by a lawyer of some eminence in Sydney, whose name I am not at liberty to give, that elsewhere in the whole range of legislation passed throughout the British
Empire, from its centre to its circumference, there does not appear such a reactionary enactment as this.
– It is rounding up the evil-doers.
– I am giving the opinion of a lawyer, who is not concerned with being rounded up. The most drastic, severe, and coercive act passed in connexion with Ireland during the period when that country was in a sea of trouble, was not so drastic as our Crimes Act. In a recent prosecution in Sydney, the charge, boiled down to plain English, was that J;he publisher of a newspaper had solicited contributions for the Communist party; but it contained 40,000 words, and consisted mainly of averments that were totally unconnected with the charge. The Crown would not even publish, the name of the person who had issued the summons, but it was afterwards given to counsel for the defence, and, strangely enough,- it was “Hush.” I believe that the Crown Law authorities were engaged for weeks in the preparation of the charge, the reading of which in court occupied the whole of one day. It appears that bulletins of a political character are issued by factory committees, committees of employees in docks such as Mort’s Dock and Cockatoo Island Dockyard, and others in tram depots. The averment was made in connexion with one case after another that such and such a bulletin had been issued by such and such a body, and they were all tacked on to the charge that this individual, as editor of a certain newspaper, had committed the offence of soliciting contributions for an unlawful association. Every offence conceivable was mentioned, and all were embodied in a charge relating to only one.
– Is such a case covered by this bill?
– It would come under this bill, because it was a prosecution under the Crimes Act. Furthermore, the magistrate convicted the man without a tittle of evidence, even evidence proving that the summons had been served on him, simply on averments which related to subjects with which he had not had the remotest connexion, and of which probably he had no- knowledge.
– Was he not charged with being the printer and publisher in every case?
– He was charged with being the printer and publisher of the Workers’ Weekly, the official organ of the Communist party, and also with having solicited, through its columns, contributions for a Communist body. Because he was the recognized editor of this particular journal, it was assumed that he must necessarily be responsible for whatever any one else published.
– The honorable senator is discussing the act, which the bill proposes to amend.
– Only so far as the amendment touches it.
– Is the honorable senator discussing a case that is under appeal at the moment?
– I think not. I believe that the appeal has been heard, and that the judge ha3 reserved his decision. If, however, it is considered that the matter is still sub judice, I shall not comment further upon it. What I want to point out is that there are such strange and drastic penalties throughout this legislation that it is natural for one to seek to learn what is intended by the proposed amendment. It may be to the advantage of accused persons if it prevents irresponsible individuals from launching prosecutions purely out of a spirit of personal malice or officiousness ; but, on the other hand, it may still further restrict the opportunities at present enjoyed by persons who are concerned in the matters mentioned by Senator Daly, in which employees may be wrongfully treated by their employers, to the extent to which the Crimes Act deals with any offence that may be committed.
– It does not apply to any of those cases, but only to Part 11a., which deals with public offences.
– Can the Minister give me that assurance?
– I do. This proposal was accepted in another place by the party of which the honorable senator is a member, and was opposed by some supporters of the Government who thought that their style might be cramped.
– That may be so; but in the interests of those I represent, I do not think that a measure of this importance should be passed too rapidly. Its origin, naturally, makes me suspicious.
Question - That the bill be now read a second time - put. The Senate divided. (President - Senator the Hon.
P. J. Lynch.) Ayes . . . . . . 25
Question so resolved in the affirmative. Bill read a second time. In committee: Clause 1 agreed to. Senator McLACHLAN” (South Australia - Vice-President of the Executive Council) [5.50]. - I move -
That the following new clause be inserted: - “1a. Section 25 of the principal act is amended -
Penalty: Five hundred pounds or imprisonment for two years.’.”
Section 25 reads as follows: - (1.) Any person who knowingly attempts - (a) to seduce any person serving in the King’s Forces from his duty and allegiance; or (b) to incite any person serving in the King’s Forces to commit an act of mutiny, or any traitorous or mutinous act; or (o) to incite any person serving in the King’s Forces to make or endeavour to make a mutinous assembly shall be guilty of an indictable offence. Penalty: Imprisonment for life. (2.) In this section the expression “person serving in the King’s Forces “ includes any person serving in any military or naval forces of the United Kingdom, the Commonwealth, or any British possession.
The proposed new clause consists of two paragraphs, one of which provides for the amendment of the penalty at the foot of section 25, and the other proposes to insert a new sub-section after subsection 1 of section 25. The maximum penalty for offences relating to incitement to mutiny is imprisonment for life. But, as is provided by section 16 of the Crimes Act, the court before which the offender is convicted may impose a lighter penalty and, if it thinks a pecuniary penalty sufficient to meet the case, may impose a fine in lieu of imprisonment. Section 16 also provides that the maximum fine for an offence against the act shall, unless the contrary intention appears, be as follows: -
In proposed new sub-section 1a of section 25 the maximum penalty for offences against that sub-section is £500 or imprisonment for two years. As the offences contemplated in. existing sub-section 1 are at present punishable by imprisonment for life or, by virtue of section 16, a shorter period or a pecuniary penalty not exceeding £200, it is considered that the pecuniary penalty attaching to offences against that sub-section should be greater than that in the proposed new subsection where the maximum period of im prisonment is only two years. New subsection 1a proposes that it shall be an indictable offence for any person to publish any book, periodical, pamphlet, handbill, poster or newspaper containing any matter of such a nature as to, or as to be likely to -
seduce any person serving in the King’s Forces from his duty and allegiance; or
incite any person serving in the King’s Forces to make or endeavour to make a mutinous assembly.
Shortly, the effect of this sub-section is to make publishers responsible for statements of the nature, referred to which appear in their publications. It will not, therefore, be a defence in any future prosecution under section 25 that the publisher was unaware of the contents of any article in any publication under his control. Owing to the serious consequences which may ensue from the publication of matter likely to seduce members of the forces or to incite them to mutiny, it is not too much to ask publishers to see that their newspapers and other publications are free from such insidious propaganda.
I ask the committee to accept the pro- . posed new clause, the underlying principle of which has been adopted in some of the Australian States. But in order that honorable senators may have ample time to study the effect of the provision, I shall ask that progress be reported.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This is a short bill for the purpose of inserting in Division 2 of Part III. of the Bills of Exchange Act 1909-1912, a new section relating to cheques drawn by a bank on itself. Division 2 of Part ITI. of the principal- act deals with crossed cheques. As the matter is somewhat technical, I crave the indulgence of the Senate while I review briefly the existing provisions of the act and then explain the necessity for the proposed new section. A cheque is denned, in section 78, as a bill of exchange drawn on a banker payable on demand. It will beobserved that a cheque is a bill of exchange, and this expression is defined in section 8 as follows: -
A bill of exchange is an unconditional order in writing, addressed by one person to another, signed by the person giving it, requiring the person to whom it is addressed to pay on demand, or at a fixed or determinable future time, a certain sum in money to or to the order of a specified person, or to bearer.
Shortly, a bill of exchange is an order in writing addressed by one person to another. A cheque, being a particular kind of bill of exchange, must be an unconditional order in writing, addressed by one person to another, and in other respects must satisfy the definition. The point I desire particularly to stress is the requirement that the order must be addressed by one person to another. Bankers’ drafts are not always drawn by a bank upon another bank. Generally, they are drawn upon another branch, or the head office, of the bank of issue, and are thus, in law, not drawn upon another person, but upon the same person who draws them. Although payable at another place, they are not cheques. A draft drawn by, say, a Melbourne bank upon its head office in Sydney, or London, is not an order addressed by one person to another, but an order addressed by a corporation to itself, or by a person to himself, and, therefore, is not a cheque. In that case, the provisions of Division .2 of Part III. of the act relating to crossed cheques, and the special protection given to persons dealing in crossed cheques, do not apply to bankers’ drafts drawn upon the head office or another branch of the bank. The object of this measure is to make it possible to apply those provisions, and to give the community generally the convenience resulting from the application of those provisions to bankers’ drafts. Accordingly, the bill provides that, for the purpose of this division, a cheque includes a banker’s draft payable on demand, drawn by or on behalf of the bank upon itself, whether payable at the head office or at a branch of the bank. The Imperial Parliament recently passed a bill for the same purpose. The amend- ment is in accordance with the true intention and general policy of the main act, and will afford an added protection, and be an additional convenience, to the community. I commend the bill to the -Senate.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
In committee (Consideration resumed from the 5th May, vide page 374, volume 134).
Where, prior to the commencement of this act, the importation or exportation of any goods has been prohibited by proclamation, and the proclamation is in force immediately prior to such commencement, any such proclamation may be cancelled or varied by regulation, and until cancellation shall remain in force according to the terms in which it was issued, and if varied, shall have effect according to its terms as so varied.
Upon which Senator Sir Hal Colebatch had moved by way of amendment -
That after the word “ be “ the word “ reenacted “ be inserted.
– The committee should have an opportunity to consider the clause and the amendment of Senator Colebatch. It is some months since the bill was before the committee.
– I have not yet seen the bill.
– Every honorable senator is entitled to know what is involved in the amendment.
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH (Western Australia) [6.10]. - This clause deals with the. method of prohibiting the importation of goods. This is now done by proclamation, and is, therefore, not subject to review by Parliament. One of the purposes of the bill is that in future prohibitions shall be made by regulation, and thus be subject to review by Parliament. The clause refers to prohibitions already in existence, and it is provided that they may be cancelled or varied by regulation. The purpose of my amendment is to ensure that if existing prohibitions are to be, continued they shall, within a period of six mon:hs be re-enacted by regulation.
– Since we last discussed this matter, the Government has had ample opportunity to review both the existing law and the amendment, and I am now able to say that it has no objection to the amendment. The Government is prepared to re-enact all existing regulations within the period mentioned by Senator Colebatch.
– I hope that the Minister will accept the suggestion of Senator O’Halloran. Since only a few minutes remain before the usual time for the dinner adjournment, I suggest that the Chair be now vacated until 8 o’clock in order that, in the meantime, honorable senators may have an opportunity to study this matter.
– I can explain the situation in a few words. There are now a number of prohibitions of imports, some of them going back a number of years. These prohibitions have been made by proclamation under the Customs Act. This clause proposes that in future prohibitions, instead of being made by proclamation, shall be made by regulation. Parliament has no control over proclamations; but if a prohibition is made by regulation, Parliament automatically has control over it. It is proposed, therefore, to provide for prohibitions to be made by regulation. Senator Colebatch desired to have the clause altered to make it mandatory upon the Government to re-enact any existing prohibition by regulation within six months, in which case Parliament could, if it so desired, deal with it.
– I object to the amendment.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendment (by Senator Sir Hal Colebatch) agreed to -
That the following words be added: - “, and any such prohibition not reenacted by regulation within six months after the commencement of this act shall cease to have effect.
Clause, as amended, agreed to. Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments. Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Motion (by Senator Greene) proposed -
That the report be adopted.
Sitting suspended from 6.18 to 8 p.m.
.- I move -
That the bill be recommitted for the consideration of the/ insertion of a proposed new clause to follow clause 10.
The new clause which I desire to have inserted will provide that the duties leviable on the cargo of a ship on the date when it first reports at an Australian port of call shall be applicable to the whole of the cargo which may be landed at other ports in Australia.
Question put. The Senate divided. (President: - Senator the Hon.
P. J. Lynch.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative. In committee (Be-committal) : Senator PAYNE (Tasmania) [8.8].-
I moye -
That the following new clause be inserted: - 10a. Section 132 of the Principal Act is amended by adding at the end thereof the following proviso: - “Provided that goods imported on any vessel shall, upon entry for home consumption at any port after, the first port of call in Australia, be dutiable at all ports at the rates of duty in force on the date the vessel carrying the goods first reported at an Australian port of call.”
This is no new proposal. I have mentioned it on previous occasions, and as recently as May last, I discussed it fairly fully in this chamber. Four or five years ago the then Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) gave a” definite assurance that so-me such provision would be inserted in the Customs Act. Time after time, at annual conferences of chambers of commerce in Australia, resolutions have been passed requesting the Government to include in the act a provision requiring the duties to be imposed in the manner indicated in my amendment. When the then honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. Cameron) asked the Prime Minister (Mr. ‘ Bruce) if he intended to comply with the request of the associated chambers of commerce, he was informed that the matter had received consideration, and that an amendment had been drafted to give effect to the request. That amendment has never been submitted by the Government, but I am doing so to-night. Section 51 of the Constitution gives the Commonwealth power to impose taxation, but stipulates that there must be no discrimination between States or parts of States. I submit that the existing procedure under the Customs Act does discriminate unfairly between States or parts of States. For example, a vessel carrying merchandise might make Sydney its first port of call, and discharge there * one-third of its cargo, which would pay the rates of duty then in force. If, before it arrived at Melbourne, its second port of call, a new tariff schedule had been laid on the table of the House imposing higher duties on certain lines, all the goods subject to the altered duties discharged at Melbourne would be dutiable at the higher or altered rates. It is also conceivable that before the same vessel reached Hobart, which might be its third port of call, still further alterations of the duties might be made, with the result that the same class of goods carried in one vessel might be dutiable at three different rates. But the discrimination might be even more pronounced. It has happened that after a vessel has discharged portion of its cargo at Hobart, and has cleared for Launceston, higher rates of duties have been imposed on some items, with the result that Launceston merchants receiving the same goods as
Hobart merchants have been unfairly penalized. The circumstances which I have related present a strong case for uniformity in the levying of customs duties in respect of goods carried in one vessel. When last I discussed this matter in the Senate, I convinced at least one-half of those honorable senators present of the wisdom of the alteration which I am now proposing. I hope that the amendment will be carried.
– It is true, as Senator Payne has said, that the matter raised by Senator Payne has been thrashed out in this Parliament on many occasions. So far, the Parliament has declined to make the alteration, and I shall ask the committee to follow the course that it has always taken in the past, because I believe that the effect of such a change in the law would be to create worse anomalies than those the honorable senator proposes to remove. He spoke as though all the goods that arrive by a vessel are cleared on the one day, hut in many instances the goods pass into bond. Under the proposed alteration, goods arriving by a particular ship, no matter when they were cleared, even if six months afterwards, would have to be cleared at the rate of duty applying on the date of the arrival of that particular ship. That would create almost insurmountable difficulties.
– Mention one of them.
– I am giving the opinion of the trusted officers of the department, who at least understand these matters. They inform me that the difficulties that would be associated with the administration of the law, if this alteration were made, would be tremendously increased, and that even wrong duties might be charged. There would be the extraordinary anomaly that goods cleared on, the same day, but at a subsequent period,, might be cleared at different rates of duty. There would be not only the difficulty of administration, which might give rise towrong duties being charged, but, in addition, goods might be issued to tradersin the same town and on the same dayat different rates of duty. That would: create infinitely more hardship to- individual importers than the fact that goods might be delivered in Hobart on one day at one rate of duty, and similar goods in Launceston on another day at another rate of duty. Under the law as it stands, the duty on a given day at one port does not vary. Under the proposed new clause, goods would be dutiable according to the date on which a ship arrived, and not according to the date on which they were cleared. I do not consider it necessary to repeat the arguments that I presented to the committee when this matter was last before it. The difficulties are real.
– Were they considered when the Prims Minister made the promise to which I have referred ?
– They were considered after that promise had been made. When the honorable senator brought this matter under notice a few months ago, I promised to have it ‘further examined. The customs officers have gone into it, and they are just as satisfied now as they always have been that the proposal would create far more trouble than it would cure, and that if it were agreed to, very soon the Chambers of Commerce would probably pass further resolutions urging that the old law be re-enacted.
.- I support the amendment. Time after time, it has been said of practically every department, whether Commonwealth or State, that certain things cannot be done because they would upset departmental arrangements, but I do not attach much importance to that argument. If Parliament decided that a certain course of action should be taken the department would have little difficulty in giving effect to it. Perhaps a certain amount of trouble might be caused if the proposed alteration was made, but it would not be insurmountable. I point out to the Minister that even goods delivered from the same ship can carry different rates of duty, if a new duty is brought into operation while the vessel is being discharged. I understand that when a new duty is imposed it comes into operation at 9 a.m. on the day after it has been tabled in Parliament, and if duty has not already been paid the new rate applies on that day. Time and time again over a period of many years the alteration proposed by Senator’ Payne has been asked for by Tasmanians and the Associated Chambers of Commerce of Australia. Importers of seasonal goods in my State have often found that duties are raised about Christmas, and that they have had to pay higher duties than mainland importers on similar goods, with the result that traders on the mainland have been able to undercut the Tasmanian merchants in their own market in respect of goods which the latter had obtained direct from London. The customs officials have no right to say that because certain methods have been adopted for years they should not be altered. I have been told by officials that some times they have not had sufficient work to do to keep them warm. When the Scullin tariff was imposed, and imports decreased by 50 per cent, or more, I did not notice any reduction of the Customs staff. It would not do much harm if a little more work had to be done by the department.
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH (Western Australia) [8.25]. - I regret that I cannot support the amendment, for I sympathize with the position of my Tasmanian friends. I suggest that it is quite possible that Tasmanian ports, which are, generally speaking, the later ports of call, may benefit in future by the existing arrangement, because I hope that # the tendency will be in the direction of a lowering of tariffs. This matter was brought up before the Royal Commission on the Constitution, which dealt with it exhaustively. Every member of the commission, I believe, came to the conclusion that the proposal was impracticable. Suppose two ships leave the Old Country practically on the same day, one calling at Fremantle, and the other going direct to Sydney. The two boats arrive in Sydney -on the same day, but between the time when one vessel touches at Fremantle, and they arrive simultaneously at Sydney, the duties are raised. Under Senator Payne’s proposal, the duty charged on the goods landed from the boat that called at Fremantle would be lower than that on the goods discharged from the vessel whose first port of call was Sydney. This anomaly could be got rid of only by an arrangement which would give different boats arriving in the same port on the same day, different duties. Most of the evidence before the Commission was from chambers of commerce urging that the proposed alteration be made, but it was the considered opinion of every member of the commission that the latter alternative was the worse of the two.
.- -Like Senator Colebatch, I regret that I am unable to support the amendment. In my earlier years I had a good deal of customs work to do, and I know how difficult this problem is, but I realize that worse chaos would be created if the proposed alteration were made. This matter has been discussed in Brisbane at great length. Merchants have written to the press about it, and always the final appeal has been to the experts of the Customs Department, whose verdict has always been the same. It is undeniable that the customs officials who have this work to perform are much better acquainted with the intricacies of the situation than we can possibly be. Senator Grant says that customs officers have told him that they have not sufficient work to do. All that I can say is, that they ought to have realized that they were running a big risk in making such a statement to a member of this legislature.
– I was not a member of it at the time.
– The honorable senator did not say that. He led the committee to understand that he obtained the information in his senatorial capacity.
– On a point of order, I take objection to the statement of Senator Collings, that I led the committee te draw the inference that he has mentioned.
– I ask Senator Collings not to credit Senator Grant with statements that he denies having made.
– The honorable senator does not deny that he told the committee that a customs officer had informed him that he had - not sufficient work to do. The impression that that statement left on my mind was that he obtained that information as a senator.
– I am not concerned with what impression I left on the mind of the honorable senator.
– When I stated that I knew something of customs work, I did not suggest to the committee that that knowledge had come to me as a senator, but informed it that I had been associated with such work in my earlier years. During the last month honorable senators from Queensland have received correspondence from business men in Brisbane, complaining of the situation which has been stressed by Senator Payne. We discussed the matter with departmental officials, and the reply that we sent was that, while at times the present system operates to the detriment of these people, there is just as great a probability that at other times it operates to their advantage, and that the advantages cancel the disadvantages. But neither of those processes would outweigh the utter chaos and the greater anomalies that would arise under the law, if amended in the direction proposed by Senator Payne.
– I endorse the remarks of Senator Collings. This matter has been discussed time after time. Senator Payne ought to have told the committee in what part of the world the scheme that he proposes is in operation. Honorable senators would then be in a position to inquire as to the advantages derived from it. It seems that Tasmania has suffered in the past as the result of the imposition of higher customs duties between the arrival of an overseas vessel in Australian waters and its ultimate arrival at Hobart or Launceston. I point out, however, that, in* future, that State may gain as the result of the lowering of customs duties. If it is not a question of higher or lower duties, the honorable senator should prove to the committee in what particular his amendment will improve the situation.
– I should support the amendment if Senator Payne could proveto me that it would be in the interests, of Tasmania in the future. During thepast decade the tariff has been increased with remarkable celerity. Nearly every month within recent years, during sittingsof the Parliament, new schedules havebeen brought down, and, because Tasmanian ports are the last at which overseas vessels call, that State has suffered..
But the honorable senator is proposing to make the change at the wrong time. We- are on the eve of a reversal of the policy of increasing duties. To the best of my belief, the United Australia Party went to the country at the last elections on the policy of a lower tariff. That, at any rate, was the belief in my State. I have little doubt that, if that policy, and the Ottawa agreement, are given effect, the tariff will be reduced month after month. In those circumstances, I urge the honorable senator, in the interests of Tasmania, not to endeavour to alter the existing law, beca’use Tasmania would benefit should the tariff be reduced after a vessel has arrived in Australian waters, and before it reaches a Tasmanian port. But, if the honorable senator will not act on my advice, I shall endeavour to assist Tasmania with my vote.
– I have every sympathy with the amendment, but do not quite see how it could be operated. Let us assume the arrival of an overseas vessel in Australia, with goods for different Australian ports. The great bulk of those goods would not be sent to warehouses, but would be placed in bond. If some goods were put in bond when the duty was, say, 15 per cent., and a similar class of goods was put in bond at a later date when the duty was 20 per cent., how could the bonds be separated ? At present, the duty is levied at the rate operating on the day on which the goods come out of bond, and no difficulty is experienced. For this reason I am sorry that I cannot support the amendment.
– In common with other honorable senators, I have received a letter from a certain firm, whose name I need not mention, complaining bitterly about the present conditions, and suggesting action along the lines adopted by Senator Payne in his amendment. I put the case before my party, although I had not such full information as Senator Payne has given, and received the reply that the position, as put by Senator Greene, is the sound one, in the light of the experience of a Labour ex-Minister for Trade and Customs. At first blush the proposal of the honorable senator seemed admirable. What we wanted to know, however, was whether it had been in operation in any other coun try, and what results had been obtained under it. The admission that it had not operated elsewhere rather dampened whatever enthusiasm I had for it. Within recent years it has appeared that Brisbane was not being treated on an equality with Sydney and Melbourne, but an investigation of the position shows that worse anomalies would be possible under Senator Payne’s proposal. Consequently I intend to vote against it.
.- I have been asked to show that any injustice has been caused by the existing law. I know of a case in which portion of a valuable cargo was consigned to merchants in Melbourne, and discharged at that port, the balance being carried on to Hobart, where the duty levied was 10 per cent, higher. Thus the Melbourne merchants were enabled to sell the goods in Tasmania at 10 per cent, below the price which had to be asked by the Tasmanian merchants. The” same thing applies to Queensland. I distinctly remember a case being mentioned in this chamber by Senator Crawford, who said that the injustice was felt very materially, and supported my effort to have the act amended. I was relying on the support of Senator Johnston, in view of the -attitude that he previously adopted. He now says, however, that as there is likely to be a reduction of duties he cannot support me. I point out to him that reductions of duties will not remove the injustice. I am contending for equal treatment for the whole of the people of Australia. In supporting me- last year, Senator Millen said that he could not see any justification for the imposition of a different rate” of duty when goods were landed at Fremantle, and railed to Adelaide, and when similar goods were landed in Melbourne or Hobart. That is a very sound argument, and carries out the idea that I have in mind. The object underlying the relevant section of the Constitution is that there shall be no discrimination in taxation as between States or parts of States; but under the Customs Act there is wide discrimination, because one rate is imposed in one State and a different rate in another State, on similar goods consigned in the same vessel.
The Minister (Senator Greene) has referred to administrative difficulties. I contend that no difficulties would be encountered, because the department would have a record of the date of the arrival of the goods. If they were put in bond, those who took that action would have to pay the bond charges, I protest against the objection that is invariably raised when an amendment of the act is suggested, that departmental administration will be rendered more difficult. That should not constitute an insuperable barrier. Let the administration get down to bedrock, and surmount any difficulty that may present itself, if the amendment of the act is in the interest of fair play. There are anomalies not only in this, but in many other laws, which should have been removed long ago - anomalies that have meant the imposition of inequitable charges.
– la such a system in operation in any other part of the worM ?
– I do not know, but the present arrangement is decidely unfair to business people and to consumers. I have endeavoured to place the position clearly before the committee, and I trust that the amendment will be carried.
.- When a similar amendment was moved some time ago, I got into a good deal of trouble, as did, I think, other honorable senators representing Queensland, by voting against the proposal. I have since discussed the matter with the Queensland Chamber of Commerce, and undertook to urge the Customs Department to investigate the matter further. I am now, however, satisfied with the explanation that has been given, and, in view of the fact that customs duties are more likely to be reduced than increased and that the Queensland business people will receive some advantage from the existing practice, I intend to oppose the amendment.
Question - That the proposed new clause be inserted (Senator Payne’s amendment ) - put.
The committee divided. (Chairman - Senator the Hon.
Herbert Hays.) Ayes . . . . . . 12
Noes . . . . . . 19
Majority . . 7
Question so resolved in the negative.
Bill reported without further amendment; reports adopted.
Motion (by Senator Greene) proposed -
That the bill be now read a third time.
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH (Westem Australia) [8.49].- When an amending Customs Bill was before the Senate in March, 1930, for the purpose of amending section 163 of the Customs Act, a restriction was imposed upon importers as to the time within which they could claim a rebate of duty on goods ullaged, stolen, or destroyed. I ask the Minister to look into the matter to see if the time prescribed is not too short to permit of justice being done to importers.
– I shall see that the request of the honorable senator is brought under the notice of the Minister for Trade and Customs, and shall advise the honorable senator later in regard to it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended, and bill (on motion by Senator Greene) read a first time.
– I move -
That the hill be now read a second time.
It has not been possible to secure requests from the departments in order to. absorb the whole of the £100,000 on capital works which it is the desire of the Government to put in hand as early as possible. The departments were not in a position to suggest capital’ works which would have enabled men to be employed quickly. At the same time, owing to the desire of the Government to economize, a good deal of repairs and maintenance work has been held up. Advantage has been taken of this additional sum of money to undertake that work, the effect of which will be to preserve Commonwealth property in various parts of the Commonwealth. There are two sets of estimates - one for new works and additions, totalling £45,920, and the other for ordinary services covering maintenance works, the amount provided being £54,080. These make a grand total of £100,000. Summarized, the proposed expenditure is as follows: -
Arrangements are being made for these works to be put into operation quickly. The money to be spent in the various States will be approximately as follows : -
Provision has also been made in the additional estimates for ordinary ser vices to enable a refund of estate duty to be made in very special circumstances. The amount which it is proposed to refund is £16,977, being portion of the estate duty paid upon the estate of the late Thomas Baker, who left the residue of his estate as a charitable fund, the income of which was to be applied to medical and charitable purposes. The will gave a very wide discretion to the persons administering the fund as to the objects to which the income of the fund was from year to year to be applied. The charitable purposes for which the income could be used were not confined to Australia, nor were they limited to the classes of charitable institutions and funds set out in the exemption clauses of the act. The Commissioner of Taxation was, therefore, required by the law to charge duty upon the whole of the estate. In an appeal to the High Court, the trustees claimed that the portion of the estate subject to these trusts should be exempted from duty under the act, but . the court decided that the assessment was in accordance with the law. There are, however, special circumstances connected with the case which have convinced the Government of the propriety of relieving the estate of payment of the duty charged upon this portion of the estate. It has been demonstrated that the income of the fund is such as to enable the trustees to comply only with that part of the trust which relates to the Thomas Baker, Alice Baker, and Eleanor Shaw Medical Research Institute. This institute is conducted in conjunction with the Alfred Hospital, Melbourne, and is, in substance, the medical research department of that hospital. The effect of charging duty upon the residuary estate is to reduce the amount of the charitable fund, and, consequently, the annual income available for the purpose of this institute, which is sorely in need of funds in order that it may continue its activities, which have already had to be limited. The trustees have definitely decided that the future income of the fund will be devoted exclusively to the purposes of this institute, and the whole income from the fund has, in fact, been so used since the death of Mr. Baker. If the will had limited the income of the fund to the purposes of this Medical Research Institute, the part of the estate representing the fund would have been exempt from duty under the act. Since, in fact, the income is to be devoted exclusively to the purposes of the institute, and insistence upon payment of duty would greatly hamper its operations, it has been decided that special provision be made to enable the duty paid to be refunded to the trustees. The income available for the use of the institute will thereby be increased to the extent of the interest earned upon the investment of the amount of duty refunded. It is intended that the refund of duty will be subject to an undertaking by the trustees that the future income of the fund will be applied exclusively to the purposes of the Baker Medical Research Institute. Honorable senators who have any knowledge of the wonderful work of the Baker Medical Research Institute, and of the high calibre of the medical men associated with it in the work of the Alfred Hospital, will agree that anything this Parliament can do to assist this institution ought to be done. Had the will been drawn in such a way as to fall within the provisions of the law, the funds would not have been subject to duty ; but it was not so drawn, and consequently these difficulties have arisen. The funds are, bowever, being devoted solely to the institute, which is seriously cramped for want of money. The Research Institute is doing wonderful work in Melbourne, and the Government feels that the trustees ought to be relieved of the payment of this duty.
– Has the duty actually been paid?
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 (Issue and Application of £71,057).
.- The sum of £1,150 is set down under Part III. - Territories of the Commonwealth, for expenditure within the Federal Capital Territory. I should like to know whether that amount includes a sum for the construction of a new reservoir to supply water to Canberra. We were told some time ago that this work was to be put in hand at an early date.
Senator GREENE (New South’ Wales no provision in this bill for the work mentioned by Senator Rae, but in the Estimates already agreed to £60,000 was provided for that purpose.
– I have no desire to delay the passage of this measure, which will afford some measure of relief to the unemployed; but I understood the Minister to say that there was some lack of detail in the schedule, due to the absence of complete information from some of the departments as to where the money could be spent.
– If the Minister has any doubt where the money ought to be spent, I can direct his attention to some works’ in South Australia which ought to be proceeded with. Included among them are some ordinary maintenance jobs which, owing to the need for economy, have got behind, and are now urgently necessary. Most of the relief work which has been provided hitherto has been of an unskilled nature. In South Australia there are numbers of skilled artisans, such as painters and masons, who have been out of work for from three to five years, and have suffered severely. I make an appeal to the Minister on their behalf.
– Most of this maintenance work will require skilled men.
– I merely wish to impress on the Minister the need for doing something for these workers.
– I should like some information from the Minister with reference to proposed expenditure on Cockatoo Island Dockyard and “Garden Island. I notice that there is provision for an expenditure of only £4,000 on repairs and maintenance at Cockatoo Island. I understood that’ £45,000 had been provided out of the Consolidated Revenue for expenditure there. What has become of the other £41,000?
– These are not the main estimates.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 3 agreed to.
Schedule agreed to.
Preamble and title agreed to.
Bill reported without requests; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended, and bill (on motion by Senator Greene) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This measure provides for the expenditure of £45,920 out of the £100,000 set aside for new works, buildings, &c. As I explained fully the-provisions of this bill in my speech on the earlier measure it is not necessary that I should detain the Senate longer.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Bill received from the House of Repre.sentatives
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended, and bill (on motion by Senator Greene) read a first time.
– I move - That the bill be now read a second time. I do not propose to speak at any length at this stage in the consideration of this measure. As honorable senators will see, the bill is divided into eight parts, the first of which deals with purely preliminary matter. Part II. provides for the remission of one-third of the land tax, and also for an extension of the functions of the Hardship Board to permit it to take into consideration the losses caused to primary producers through the fall of prices for their products. Up to the present time the board has not been able to take cognizance of that factor when determining grants for relief purposes. Part III. deals with the remission of a small portion of the 10 per cent, tax on property income, by instituting a flat rate exemption of £250, which will afford very welcome relief to a large number of property-owners with small property incomes.
– Will that provision apply to all persons in receipt of income from property?
– To all Australian citizens not being, absentees or companies. Experience of this form of tax nas shown that it presses very heavily indeed on property-owners; but perhaps on nobody so much as those who, in their earlier years, made provision for their old age, and are now living on what is really a little more than a small competence. While the Government would like to be able to remove the tax altogether for reasons which I shall give at greater length, if necessary, when we are considering that part of the bill, the government feels that, at a time like this, it can do no more than is proposed, and, as I have said, this remission will give very welcome relief in quarters where it is most needed. Part IV. of the bill deals with certain remissions of sales tax, which relate in the main to food for the body and food for the mind.
– Under which heading do “ blowfly traps “ fall ?
– They were pre;viously exempted, and we have now included books. Part V. deals with certain anomalies in connexion with invalid and old-age pensions. It will be found that these clauses provide for further relief to various pensioners. Part VI. affords relief to the wheat-growers. Here again, the Government has not been able to do so much as it would have liked to do, but within the financial capacity of the Commonwealth it is doing what it can to help this great primary industry. Part VII. provides for an attempt, at all events, to reduce the cost of production of other classes of primary producers than wheat-growers by giving a subvention in the purchase of fertilizers. It is not much to offer, but any assistance that can be granted in the direction of keeping down the cost of production will be of considerable value. The last part of the bill is of a general character, and completes all that is necessary to implement the measure. I suggest that this bill can be dealt with most conveniently in committee, and I ask for the co-operation of honorable senators, as far as possible, in passing the second reading expeditiously, so that We may proceed to the discussion of the details during the committee stage. On the consideration of the clauses
I believe that honorable senators will have ample opportunity to say all that they may desire to submit with respect to the various subjects with which the bill deals. Of course, every honorable senator is entitled to speak for the full time available to him on the second reading; but I ask honorable senators to assist me in passing the bill through the second-reading stage in as short a time as possible.
Senator O’HALLORAN (South Australia [9.36]. - As the Minister has remarked, this is a composite measure which covers many subjects. In another place it has been described as an omnibus bill, and as a “ missed the bus “ bill, and other terms have been applied to it. At one stage there was some doubt, after a certain decision had been reached on a vital clause, whether the Government would be in the bus or out of it. It appears to me that the bill answers to the description applied to a particular train on one of the State railway systems. On a fairly busy line, a train that used to pick up goods that had been left behind was styled “ the sweeper.” It seems to me that the Government under this measure has endeavoured to group a number of things that the Parliament should do and . a number of others that it would be undesirable for it to sanction. While some of the proposals may appear to be just, the manner in which the Government seeks to carry them out makes them unpalatable to me. I trust that, in committee, my dissatisfaction will be shared by other honorable senators, and that substantial amendments will be made. This measure is really a supplementary budget, and as such, is entitled to the most serious consideration of honorable senators. Remembering the nature of the budget recently passed, we can recall some of the circumstances that have made certain features of this bill possible. I shall not discuss the appropriateness or otherwise of the reduction of invalid and oldage pensions, and of the salaries and wages of public servants. I said when speaking on the budget that the figures produced by the Assistant Treasurer did not represent what the revenue figures were likely to be, and this bill abundantly proves that what I then said was no exaggeration of the position. The Government, in preparing the budget, deliberately reduced, the revenue Estimates and inflated the prospective deficit; thereby trying to justify the callous reductions to which I have referred. With the principle of reducing the burdens of the people all honorable senators must agree, but in determining how that principle shall be applied, all the circumstances should be taken into consideration.
What has made these proposals possible, and what are they? They are grouped under the several headings in clause 2, and they relate to concessions in regard to land tax and income tax, sales tax, and invalid and old-age pensions, and to relief for the wheat-growers and other primary producers. But we have to consider whether, having regard to all the circumstances, the proposed concessions are fair and just. I strongly question the justice of the proposal to reduce the land tax by approximately one-third at the expense of the aged and infirm, the public servants and the daily paid employees of the Commonwealth. Honorable senators will recollect that the amount saved by the Government under its recent budget proposals is about the same as the concession now proposed to be granted in the way of remission of taxation, the bulk of which will benefit^ the land-owners of Australia. I have referred to the position of the aged and infirm, and I am pleased that the G<yvernment has relented, to some extent, in that it proposes to make some slight concession in regard to recent legislation affecting those people; but I suggest that it would be more just if, instead of remitting taxation to big land-owners, the Government restored the pension to the level at which it previously stood. The present position of many Commonwealth public servants and the daily paid employees is, indeed, desperate. Under the financial emergency legislation that was passed recently, supplementary to the budget, certain alterations of the financial emergency legislation passed by the Scullin Government were made. With all its defects and fault’s, the legislation . of the Scullin Government at least provided for something like equality of sacrifice. But in this Government’s financial emergency legislation, the question of equality of sacrifice was entirely lost sight of. For instance, it removed the protection of the basic wage provided for by the previous legislation, under which that wage was stabilized at £182 a year, less the amount of the reduction stipulated by the Arbitration Court as the workers’ contribution towards national rehabilitation. One of the effects of that amendment, which operates against a large number of daily paid employees in the Commonwealth railways, the majority of whom are domiciled in South Australia, was an application by the Commissioner of Railways to the Arbitration Court, and an award which has reduced the basic wage ‘by ls. 3d. a day. Honorable senators will agree, I think, that that is a most serious reduction. How in the name of all that is holy are married men who have wives and families dependent upon them to live in the districts where these men have to work on a wage of £2 19s. 6d. a week ? Was it not possible for the Government to grant some amelioration to those people, instead of coming down with proposals for the remission of land tax ?
A striking illustration of the effect of the reduction of salaries is supplied by public servants in the Federal Capital Territory. In the Canberra Times yesterday, the statement appeared that the amount standing to the credit of savings bank depositors in Canberra was reduced by 15.2 per cent, during the twelve months ended the 31st October last. That proves conclusively that that loyal and efficient body of workers in the employ of this Government, who have given of their best in the service of the nation, have been forced to live on their savings during the period to which I have referred. How long can they continue to do that, and survive?
It has been stated by supporters of the Government and of this proposal to reduce the land tax, that special benefits will accrue from it. There is a feeling that every landholder in Australia will benefit.
– So he will.
– That is not so. ‘ Every honorable senator knows that, for federal land tax purposes, there is an exemption of £5;000 on the unimproved land value, and that the value of im provements is allowable as a deduction in assessing the value for taxation purposes. Take the case of my own State. At prevailing values, a farmer in South Australia would need to hold approximately 1,200 acres ‘before he would be liable for federal land tax. Up to the first £10,000 or £12,000 of unimproved value the advantage derivable from this bill is small indeed. Therefore we can say truthfully that, so far as the great bulk of small landholders in the town or country districts of Australia are concerned, no benefit is to be conferred by this measure. It has been said that the bill is designed to benefit the pastoral industry, and one must admit that pastoralists with large holdings will obtain some benefit from it. But a perusal of the figures relating to the land values of Australia, the assessed value of those lands, and the tax collected upon them, will show that the bulk of the benefit accruing from this remission of taxation will go, not to the pastoralists, not to the country districts of Australia, but to the cities and towns with their inflated land values. I have here the latest figures that I have been able to secure; they are taken from the 14th annual report of the Commissioner of Taxation, and show that the improved value of town lands in Australia is £259,022,837, and the unimproved value £156,946,975; and that the improved value of country lands is £254,600,816, and the unimproved value £149,700,667. The respective values are almost the same in both classes of land. But when we look at the assessments, we find that the aggregation of values and high assessments preponderate in the towns. The taxation for which those lands were liable upon assessment this year was, for town lands £1,950,000, and. for country lands £920,000. So that approximately only onethird of the total amount of federal land tax is payable upon country lands; and, conversely, approximately two-thirds of the benefit of this reduction of taxation will go, not to the country people, who are being used by the Government as the stalking horse with which to sneak this legislation through Parliament, but to the towns and cities of Australia. It is to make possible this remission of taxation that the Government has reduced the already inadequate allowance which the nation makes to its infirm and aged.
I do not agree that the proposal of the Government in regard to income tax relief is quite as desirable as the Minister would have us believe. I am somewhat concerned at the evident desire of the Government to protect the inanimate as against the animate. It appears to be more concerned about land and property values than about the people who are working and living in this country; yet it is those people who create these values. Those are two sections of this legislation that I shall vigorously oppose at the committee stage.
I come now to the relief proposed for the wheat-growers. I have endeavoured to ascertain the reason for the form in which the Government brought forward its proposal. I have tried to visualize what motives, what reasons, what knowledge or lack of knowledge has caused it to make the bungling’ attempts that have characterized its policy. A few weeks ago, the announce- .ment was made that there was to be a bounty on superphosphates, and nothing else. On this subject, however, as on every question of importance which this Government has attempted to deal with since it assumed control of the destinies of this country, it changed its mind after it had faced its supporters in the party room, and even then produced a proposal almost as undesirable as the original one. The only reason that I can find for the widespread dissatisfaction that is evident throughout the length and breadth of Australia among those whom the Government professes to benefit, is its desire to do something different from what was done by the previous Government for the benefit of the wheat industry. Let us examine the proposals of that Government. When the financial position of Australia was infinitely worse than it is to-day, when the Government was faced with unprecedented difficulties, not in balancing its ‘budget, nor in determining who should be given remissions of taxation, but in collecting sufficient revenue or in securing from the banks sufficient financial accommodation to enable the ordinary services of the nation to be maintained, the muchmaligned Labour party made available the sum of over £3,000,000 for a cash payment by way of a bounty of 4£d. a bushel on wheat sold off Australian farms. That bounty proposal worked smoothly, quickly, and satisfactorily. Throughout South Australia, where something like 12,000 farmers were recipients of bounty payments, and the sum of £860,000 was disbursed, I heard of only one genuine complaint as to the way in which the money was distributed. That bounty provided cash, which was what the farmers needed when the payments were made.
– There were a few complaints because the Scullin Government did not live up to its election promises.
– The Scullin Government failed in that respect, not because it did not desire to succeed, but because there was in this chamber, a majority of honorable senators who would not permit it to do anything. The bounty proposal to which I have referred was, I think, the sixth of that Government’s efforts to do something for the benefit and the relief of the primary producers of Australia. I have received a sheaf of communications from responsible farmers’ organizations throughout South Australia conveying to me resolutions condemning the action: of the Government, because the amount of assistance proposed to be given is inadequate, and because the basis of distribution is unsound, I submit that there are two points to be considered in determining this matter. We have to consider the position of the nation’s finances, and the necessity of the farmers. As I have already pointed out, our finances are in an infinitely better position than when the Scullin Government made provision for the payment of a bounty. On the other hand, if we are to take the price of wheat as a guide, farmers are in a much worse position than they were last year. This time last year wheat was sold on the basis of 3s. 3d. a bushel f.o.b. principal shipping ports in South Australia. The average difference between the cost on the farm and at shipping ports in that State is 5d. a bushel, so that the average value of wheat at country sidings last year was 2s. lOd. a bushel. At the moment, and for some days past, wheat has been sold at from 2s. 8£d. to 2s. 9d. a bushel f.o.b. principal shipping ports, so that wheat which was worth 2s. 10d. a bushel this time last year is now worth only 2s. 4$d. The need of the farmer is thus greater to-day than it was then.
– The export figures show a decline of 5. Id. a bushel.
– I am glad that the honorable senator can confirm my figures. In discussing this matter in another place the Government apparently had the idea that whatever money was to be made available should be distributed amongst necessitous farmers instead of adopting the sensible scheme of the Scullin Government and paying a straight-out bounty to the farmers. Moreover, although this Government proposes to make a sum of money available to the States, it is not prepared to trust the States to distribute it in the way they desire. From the viewpoint of national finance, the payment of a straight-out bounty is fully justified. In the interests of the nation we should render whatever financial assistance we can to the wheatgrowing industry, which is in danger of collapse. Every wheat-farmer in Australia is in necessitous circumstances. Every man producing wheat is receiving less than it costs to produce it. I have a few figures compiled by the AuditorGeneral of South Australia from official records, which show that on 43 farms in four typical wheat-growing’ districts in that State the cost of producing a bushel of wheat’ is 36.45d.
– Is that at country sidings or f.o.b. ?
– That is the price delivered at country sidings, and is made up as follows : - working expenses, 13.7d. ; depreciation, 4.35d. ; interest, 16d.; taxes, 2.45d., or a total of 36.45d. That is the cost of producing wheat in South Australia, which has to be sold at country sidings at 2s. 4d. a bushel, or a loss of approximately 8¾d. a bushel.
– At the Bathurst conference last year the average cost of producing wheat in New South Wales was stated at 4s. 6d. a bushel.
– I am not as familiar with the position in New South Wales as I am with conditions in South Australia. The figures I have quoted are conservative, but they prove conclusively that every wheat-farmer in that State is in necessitous circumstances. Why argue whether the money will go to the man who produces 6,000 bushels or to the one who produces 2,000 bushels? Why talk about whether it should be used to provide a bounty on super or be applied in reducing railway freights or wharfage dues in those States where such rates would apply to export commodities? The farmer needs the cash and the nation is in a position to provide him with it. He needs it and the nation should be prepared to spend the money in its own interest and in the interests of the industry. The farmers would know how to spend the money. Some would use it in purchasing increased supplies of superphosphate to improve production, and others in replacing worn-out equipment, which is becoming a very important question. This is the third season in which the price obtained for wheat has been below the cost of production, and on many farms worn-out implements have not been replaced: The industry is becoming inefficient, arid the volume of production will soon be seriously retarded if plant cannot be replaced. We have to consider the position of the farmers, who are relinquishing power farming, and are now using horses. During good seasons horses were disposed of and tractors purchased; but to-day, in nearly every instance, farmers are prevented from using tractors, because they are unable to purchase fuel, or because their tractors have become worn out, and cannot be replaced. On many farms efficient production is being retarded owing to the lack of the necessary machinery. Men and horses are working long hours, and on every farm one can see tired and desperate men. A cash payment is the only way in which to alleviate their conditions. I hope that I have said sufficient to awaken honorable senators to the vital necessity of using every effort to amend the Government’s proposal in this regard. If they permit the measure to pass the second reading in its present form, they should insist upon it being amended in committee, so that some measure of justice may be meted out to those deserving primary producers who have been so severely hit during the past three seasons.
– Senator O’Halloran stated that, in remitting one-third of the present tax on unimproved land values, only a few large land-holders will benefit. That is ridiculous, because not only large land-holders, but also the owners of all land will benefit. This will have an indirect effect upon the cost of living of the people in the cities. This tax, which I regard as undemocratic, unsound and un-British, is a charge against the freehold title, and attacks the asset of every property-owner. There are 24,000 persons who actually pay this tax; but when a property is assessed and taxation imposed, its value is naturally reduced, which has the effect of reducing the value of other land in the same locality. In order to show the effect which this tax has upon such properties, I may cite the case of a building in Melbourne which contains many small offices. When the tenants complained of the rentals charged, the owner of the property said that he would give them a written guarantee that, if this graduated federal land tax was removed, he would immediately reduce the rent of his tenants by 5s. a week. As this tax is reflected in the rents charged to butchers, bakers, and other retail traders, it has a direct bearing on the cost of living. When retailers are asked why the prices they charge are so high, they usually reply that they have to pay high rentals, because of the heavy federal land tax. It attacks the freehold title of all lands. When land is disposed of under freehold the Crown is supposed to give an indefeasible title tothe purchaser. This tax is a capital tax which is most unjust in its incidence. Capital is regarded as the excess of assets over liabilities, but the tax does not take liabilities into consideration. In many cases, the tax exceeds the taxpayer’s equity in his property. It would be just as fair to put a tax on any other property as on land. The land of a primary producer represents on the average five-sixths of his capital. It would be just as unfair to tax all property - stock-in-trade, bank deposits, buildings, plant, machinery, furniture, and other things. Those who suggest that it is unfair to relieve the primary producers of taxation appear to forget that they pay their full share of customs’ taxation and other taxes which are paid by city dwellers and those in sheltered industries. The man in the country, who is taxed so unjustly, is paying all other forms of taxation. At present, he may not pay much, if anything, by way of income tax; but if he had a taxable income he would be forced to pay tax on it. The high tariff of this country makes his tools of trade very costly. It is true that the federal land tax is paid by only 24,419 people, but they are not the only persons concerned with the tax. I pay my tribute to this Government for the marvellous work it has done during the last twelve months in balancing its budget, and in removing the burden of sales tax on many articles ; also for this reduction of the graduated federal land tax; but as chairman of a committee representing 54 organizations which unanimously demanded the abolition of the land tax, I enter my emphatic protest against the continuation of the tax in any form. The Government may say that it cannot afford to abolish it, but let us for a moment consider what is received from this form of taxation. In 1926-27, the revenue from the federal land tax was £2,615,900. In the following year, it was £3,027,206. In 1928-29, the tax represented £2,988,885. In the following two years, it was £2,840,079 and £2,758,078 respectively, while the estimate for 1931-32 was £1,800,000. During the boom years, there was a substantial increase in the amount collected from country properties. Since that time, prices have collapsed, and the Government has reduced the rate of tax by 10 per cent., but the valuations of properties have been increased, so that instead of the amount of tax being -reduced as was the intention of the Government, it has actually increased - an awful and a cruel anomaly. This year the estimate of the Government of the revenue from this source is less than £2,000,000. It is unfair that 24,419 people should have to pay over £2,000,000 per annum by way of extra class taxation when the whole of the people of Australia pay only £316,000 per annum as amusement tax.
– If this bill becomes law the amount of the land tax will be only £1,200,000.
– I appreciate what the Government has done, and I regard it as a step in the right direction. My complaint is against continuing this most unjust tax at all. Why should one section of the community be singled out for special taxation? It would be fairer to obtain the required revenue from an increase of the income and amusements taxes. It is not- compulsory to attend a race meeting or a picture show, but it is compulsory to occupy the land. Without land occupation and development, Australia would soon become bankrupt, and the people in the cities would starve. Under existing conditions in Australia, the only source of wealth is the productivity of the land. When this tax was introduced in 1910 by the Fisher Government, the then Prime Minister, in introducing the bill, laid it down clearly, as did other supporters of the measure, that it would not be a taxation measure at all. The object of the tax was to break up large estates. But immediately the act was put into operation, certain lands were taxed at so much per foot. That shows the inequity of the tax, because a foot of land cannot very well be cut up and made smaller. I have always been, and always will be, a believer in closer settlement, so long as the land to be cut up is suitable for the purpose. I am prepared to put my personal position aside and advocate closer settlement in the interests of increased production, more employment, and greater wealth, but I shall show that the effect of this tax in forcing some estates to be subdivided has had the opposite effect, and has conferred no benefit on any individual, or on the nation. Both in Parliament and elsewhere a lot of nonsense is talked about sheep walks. The way some people speak would give one the impression that they regard sheep as of no great value. Almost from the beginning of the settlement’ of Australia, this country has ridden on the backs of the sheep, and now, at long last, the people are beginning to have some conception of the value of the sheep and wool industry. Over a period of many years, sheep products have been responsible for 50 per cent, of Australia’s exports. While there may be some justi fication for a land tax whose effect is to put land to better use, I shall show that closer settlement can be more economically and effectively brought about by private individuals than by governments. Under this legislation many valuable sheep properties have been cut up and valuable studs dispersed, which never ought to have been so treated. Fine properties and valuable studs have disappeared, and in their places are now to be seen a few struggling settlers, with an insufficient area of land to enable them to make a decent living. One of the great causes of the failure of closer settlement in Australia, whether under the Closer Settlement Board or the Soldiers Settlers’ Board, is that the area of the land provided for settlers has not always been large enough, and, in many instances, was too highly capitalized. There is still a great deal of misconception in relation to the sheep and wool industry, which for a number of years has been responsible for at least 50 per cent, of Australia’s total exports. Some people think that the wealth derived from this, our greatest, industry, goes into a few pockets. That is not so. There are no fewer than 89,000 families growing wool in Australia, compared with 64,000 wheat-growers and 8,000 sugargrowers. We heard last night how necessary it is that this country should subsidize the 8,000 sugarcane-growers; but nothing was said of the tax that that payment represents to the other sections of the community. The sugar tax represents about £5,000,000 per annum on the community.
– How does the honorable senator classify those persons who are both wheat-growers and woolgrowers ?
– I was dealing particularly with the sheep and wool industry. Other honorable senators intend to deal specially with the wheat industry. In order to assist the 8,000 sugar-growers, the rest of the people of Australia .pay £5,000,000 per annum. If we were to act fairly towards all primary producers we should, on the same basis, have to pay more than £40,000,000 per annum to the 64,000 wheat-growers and £55,000,000 per annum to the 89,000 wool-growers. I know that that is impossible; but I shall be content if the Government will support Senator Johnston’s proposal for a bounty of 4½d. a bushel on wheat, which would be worth only about £4,000,000 of the £40,000,000 to which the wheatgrowers of Australia are entitled if they are treated as the sugar-growers are treated. All of our secondary industries are spoon-fed, as are also some of our primary industries. We had a most glaring example this morning when a vast sum of money was granted to the sugar-growers.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - Order !
– Some people think that we should not assist the wool and wheat industries, notwithstanding their very difficult position. I have never known the wool industry to be in such a bad state as it is to-day.
– Is not that due to some extent to ‘the change in the habits of the people who are not now wearing so much woollen materials?
– No ; I consider it is due to the distressful economic position of the world, widespread unemployment, and the reduced purchasing power of the people in all countries. Commodity prices everywhere have fallen to a disastrously low level. But wool is one of the few commodities that has not banked up in these bad times. It is probable that we have reached zero as regards the capacity of the people to purchase and wear woollen goods, and it must be some satisfaction to all Australians to know that there has been no appreciable banking up of stocks, as has happened in a number of other primary products. Consequently, when employment again becomes more general, people who were good customers of Australian wool will again be able to resume their purchases, and the industry should once more be on the up grade. I would, however, warn wool growers not to expect or to wish for a boom in prices. They must be content with a reasonable recovery of prices to a little over the cost of production, so as to ensure stability.
– Is not the absence of a carry-over in wool due to the excellent organization for its disposal?
– The organization, I admit, has been good, but I regret that the growers themselves are not better organized. If the 89,000 woolgrowers of Australia had been as effectively organized as are the 8,000 sugar cane growers of Queensland, it is certain that they would have had more liberal treatment from governments as regards taxation. We have good reason to be proud of the industry. It is the only one in Australia which has never gone to the Government for financial assistance, and it is not suggested that it will do so now.
It is a mistake to suppose that our wool is produced by a comparatively few squatters working large areas with huge flocks. As a matter of fact, while we are the greatest wool-producing country in the world - our clip for some years has exceeded 3,000,000 bales, or nearly 1,000,000,000 lb.- there are only 3,700 flocks of more than 5,000 head in the Commonwealth, and the average flock consists of 1,300 sheep. As these figures show conclusively that the industry is in the hands of comparatively small growers, there is no need for an unimproved land tax to “ burst up “ large estates.
– Nevertheless they are “ bursting up “ now.
– That is true, but the principal causes are economic. I repeat that there never was any need for a federal land tax to ensure the subdivision of large estates in this country. If, at any time, closer settlement is an economically sound proposition, we can depend upon it that the owner will lose no time in cutting up his property and making it available to the right class of settlers. If the owner of a 20,000- acre property believed that its subdivision into 40 farms of 500 acres each would give him a better return, as a business man he would make it available for occupation in that way instead of continuing to work it as a single property. Closer settlement schemes organized by private land-owners have always proved more successful than those launched by governments.
The risk which I see through the enforced subdivision of large estates by means of the land tax is that many valuable merino studs, which have taken nearly a century of careful and scientific work to bring to their present high state of perfection, will gradually be dispersed with consequent loss to the Commonwealth. Comparatively large areas of suitable country are essential for the production of stud merino sheep. The best country for this purpose is in the semicoastal belt of Australia. I may explain that Australia is divided into three areas. There are approximately 1,000,000 square miles in the coastal belt with a rainfall of twenty inches or over per annum. There is another 1,000,000 square miles inside this belt with a rainfall of from ten to twenty inches, and as I have stated, it is the most suitable country -for the breeding of stud sheep. Inside this area again there is what is known as the dead heart of Australia, where the rainfall is below ten inches. In view of the encouraging success which has attended pioneer pastoralist development in other portions of the Commonwealth it is not too much to expect that eventually a certain area of the inside country with this low rainfall will be occupied and worked profitably by courageous and efficient pioneer wool-growers; but the risks are very great.
I have carefully studied the report of the Wool Committee presented to this Parliament a week or two ago, and I cannot help thinking that the members of it missed some very important features. They have, I think, stressed the point that, as the land tax is a first charge on the freehold title, it is difficult for landowners, in these times, to obtain satisfactory financial assistance from banks and Other institutions. Because of the allround decline of price levels their equity in their estates has in many instances almost disappeared. The committee has quite properly emphasized the danger to the wool industry if owners are unable, because of depleted incomes, to maintain efficiently their buildings and improvements; including fencing, windmills, &c., or if they find it impossible to take adequate measures to destroy noxious weeds and vermin. Babbits and noxious weeds are spreading at a most alarming rate over our inland areas. I suppose we are experiencing, at the present time, one of the greatest waves of rabbit invasion in central Australia that that part of the country has ever known. The rabbits are in millions and they will spread towards the coast.- But bad as the condition is in that respect, a greater danger to the industry is that many land-owners are now in such a serious plight that they are unable to maintain the standard of their flocks. It may be argued that, as regards the deterioration of improvements, and the failure to destroy rabbits and noxious weeds, when good times come again and prices for wool and wheat rise it will be possible for our wool-growers to rebuild their houses and woolsheds and erect new windmills, put down new bores and excavate new dams as- well as do aU other necessary work out of the proceeds of possibly a few year’s operations. But it will not be <so easy to build up the standard of flocks and herds again. If by the dispersal of well known stud flocks it becomes impossible for our smaller wool-growers to maintain the high standard of their flocks, the industry will slip badly and the intrinsic value of the output will decline appreciably. If the standard of our flocks is allowed seriously to deteriorate, it must take ten, twenty or thirty years for our flock masters to get back to their present high standard of production. Are we going to allow this great national asset to be destroyed -through the inability of owners to maintain their properties in an efficient condition and to keep up the high standard of their flocks and herds?
I have already explained that closer settlement, in the hands of private enterprise, is” much more effective than when under government control.- A private owner of land is in a better position than any government official can be to know whether his land could be put to better use in farms of from 50 to 500 acres, and he will know the kind of men who are most likely to make a success of farming on it. Consequently, if he cuts up his property he will make it available on easy terms to suitable men, and, by maintaining a fatherly interest in their welfare, he will ensure the success of his closer settlement scheme.
– Many government closer settlement schemes have also been successful.
– The honorable senator knows, as well as I do, that there have been a few successes, but that most government schemes have been distressful failures. He has only to read the reports and balance-sheets of the closer settlement or soldier settlement boards in any State to realize how disastrous they have been. Very often the settlers were placed on unsuitable land, for which too high a price was paid, and there was the usual loading up of government departments; to-day millions are owing upon it to the governments in practically all the States in which that form of subdivision lias been tried. Unfortunate ex-soldiers and others are still unable to make the basic wage, and their hours of work are, of course, very much longer than those of the city workers. The land tax has failed in its objective, which was the bursting up of suitable large estates, and it has proved a burden and a serious menace to our greatest national industry. It is an annual class-tax on capital, and it has to be paid irrespective of heavy losses. I do not object to fair taxation. Our great public services have to be paid for, and I do not claim that the public servants are overpaid. In my opinion, nobody should object to paying income tax, because it is only charged when one has an income to be taxed, but the land tax is un-British, undemocratic and uneconomic. Five-sixths of the capital of the man on the land is represented by the value of his land. I desire the Government to abolish the land tax, but under this bill it is merely proposed to reduce it by one-third. I am not opposed to sport or amusement, but considering that 6,500,000 people in Australia pay only £316,000 a year in amusement tax, I consider it most unfair to ask 24,000 persons to pay even the reduced amount of £1,250,000 a year in federal land tax. This cruel and stupid tax is imposed on a struggling industry, and one of its worst effects is that it is largely responsible for unemployment.
– How many men does the wool industry employ, compared with other industries?
– I am a small pastoralist, yet on one farm I have kept over nine families, and the total population on that farm would be about 40 all the year round; but on stations that I have managed there have been 46 white men employed throughout the year. As a matter of fact, the sheep and wool industry employs more labour than any other industry. Some persons imagine that a sheep property needs only a ring fence and a dam. It was stated in another place that the reduction of the land tax by one-third would merely result in the squatters having more Rolls Royce motor cars and more champagne suppers. That is a cruel gibe, seeing that for the fourth year in succession they are being forced to sell their products in the world’s markets at a price much below the cost of production. Ninety per cent, of our wool clip is sold every year in open competition with countries in which the cost of labour is much lower than in Australia. In South Africa, our biggest competitor in merino wool, where black labour is employed, and where good station employees are paid as little as 10s. a month, shearing is well done at 8s. a hundred. The wool industry is asking, not for a dole or for a bounty, but for common justice - for relief from special class taxation. It is willing to pay income tax cheerfully, but the land tax is most unfair, particularly to the primary producers and to the great sheep and wool industry which has done so much for this country and which should not be singled out for an annual class-tax upon its capital. It has been asked why was a strong protest not made long ago against the imposition of this tax.
During the war years practically every son of a pastoralist was fighting for his country. It was rather an exception to see the son of a woolgrower who was not at the war. Then came the post-war boom, when the industry was profitable, but this period culminated in the 1924-1925 season when the price of wool rose to unprecedented and unfortunately high figures. The industry was profitable until four years ago, and, unfortunately, did not make any concerted efforts to secure the abolition of the land tax. That is where it made a great mistake. From 1910, when the Fisher Government introduced this unjust tax, the industry should have put up a big fight for its abolition. I am glad to notice that the Prime Minister has intimated that the Government intends to wipe out the tax as soon as possible. There has been a debacle in regard to the price of our greatest primary product, and we seem helpless to check it. We have practically no home market for wool. If we put a total embargo on the importation into Australia of woollen goods, and passed a law that every man, woman, and child in this country should wear woollen goods made from Australian wool, we should sti’l have to export 85 per cent, of pur clip year after year for open sale in the unsheltered markets of the world. Therefore, the wool industry is in a totally different position from that of other industries that benefit through bounties, embargoes, or high protective tariffs, and whose employees enjoy court awards, &c. The wool industry is an entirely unsheltered and unassisted but persecuted industry.
From 1920 to 1930, the average price of the Australian wool clip was 17.1d. per lb., but, of recent years, there has been a total collapse of the market. In 1927-28 the price was 20.4d. per lb., but in 1929-30, it fell below the actual cost of production, being only 10. 5d. per lb. For the last three years the average price has been only 8£d. per lb. gross, or 7 id. per lb. at country railway sidings. The average cost of railage and brokers’ selling charges is Id, per lb., so that, for the last four years, producers have been getting much below production cost. Chief Judge Dethridge declared in the Arbitration Court that the cost of producing a pound of wool in Australia, without allowing for managerial expenses or any interest on capital, was lid. per lb. The Wool Committee’s report has reduced that figure to 94d. per lb., without making allowance for managerial costs, depreciation of building plant and stock or interest on capital. The wool-growers are benefiting in some degree from the exchange and the difference in value between sterling and gold. The Wool Committee’s report stated that these factors are responsible for 4d. per lb of the price.
– Who pays the exchange?
– I do not believe that the primary producers are receiving the full 25 per cent. Nearly one half of the gold price of wool is due to exchange. As the growers only receive 7£d. per lb. at country railway sidings, if we returned to the gold standard, we should receive to-day only from 3½d. to 4d. per lb. for Australian wool, although it is by far the best in the world. The Wool Committee’s report states that the cost of producing wool, without allowing for managerial or interest charges, is 9£d. per lb. Why the committee did not make provision for these charges, and also for depreciation, I do not know. It certainly should have done so. In this respect, the report is distinctly faulty. The report also states that, allowing for 5 per cent, on the capital invested in the industry - and that is a reasonable charge - the cost of producing the wool would be 14d. per lb. Yet in the last three years, the woolgrowers have received, on the average, only 8£d. per lb. gross ex seaboard warehouse, or 7£d. per lb. at local railway stations, for their wool. The Bradford wool index-figures show that taking 100 for July, 1914, the highest post-war year was 368. But by December, 1931, the figure had slumped to 59, and by June, 1932, it had fallen still further to 49. There has since been a slight recovery, for the figure is now only 55. It is clear that there has been a debacle in regard to the price for wool.
It is said in the report of the Wool Committee and elsewhere that costs must be reduced, because the overseas market price cannot be controlled. As I have pointed out, about 90 per cent, of Australia’s wool must be sold on the world’s market in competition with the product of the Argentine, South Africa, New Zealand, and other countries. Of course, the wool-growers would like to reduce costs, but how can they do so? A very definite reduction would be achieved if the land tax were completely abolished. This paltry reduction of onethird will not have very much effect.
Senator Collings had something to say about staffs. Everybody associated with this industry knows that the woolgrowers, like the wheat-farmers and other primary producers, have had to reduce staffs almost to vanishing point. This has put many men on the unemployed market. Although hating to do it, employers have had to dispense with the services of men who have worked with them for a lifetime; but as there was no money with which to pay them, no other course was open to them. Many first-class men who could he employed by graziers are now walking the roads, or living on the dole in country towns.
– The squatters are not on the dole.
– Many of them are. I could tell some pitiful stories of some of these men; but I do not desire to say anything that would add to their humiliation. They are too brave to air their troubles.
– Will the remission of this land taxation take the squatters off the dole?
– No, but if the taxation had been remitted years ago, it would have enabled them to maintain their properties. The fact that this tax is a first charge on property has been a serious handicap to this industry.
– It is the- interest burden that is crippling the industry.
– I agree with the honorable senator that the interest burden has had a crushing effect. I shall fight for a reduction of interest with just as much enthusiasm as for a reduction of land taxation. Under existing conditions, land-owners are unable to keep their improvements in repair. The average rate of land tax paid in 1910 was 3$d. in the £1. In 1914-15 it was 5d. in the £1. There was an increase of 20 per cent, in 1918-19. It has been said that there was a reduction of 10 per cent, in 1927-28, but actually, by reason of the very heavy increase in the assessed values of properties following the boom of 1924-25, the amount of taxation imposed was increased in some instances by no less than 400 per cent.
– Are the honorable senator’s figures consistent with those given in the report of the Wool Inquiry Committee ?
– That report is complicated, badly arranged, badly printed, and hard to digest.
– Does not the report say that interest charges are more than equivalent to the charge for shearing 100 sheep?
– There is no doubt that the interest charge is a crushing burden. Land tax and interest charges are a greater burden than wages.
It is of no use for us to sit down and expect the world price of wool to rise. We should try to reduce production costs. But how can that be done? Most properties are being worked at present on skeleton staffs, and this means that they are falling into disrepair, and that noxious weeds and rabbits are increasing. A great deal could be done to control production costs by removing the tariff embargoes, reducing duties, abolishing land taxation, and suspending arbitration court awards. It is said in some places that we should increase the efficiency of this industry, but the fact is that the industry is now so efficient that Australia has every reason to be proud of it. We depasture 16 per cent, -of the world’s sheep, produce 26 per cent, of its wool, and account for 32 per cent, of the value of the world’s wool. This is an extraordinary tribute to the efficiency of this great industry. It is a fact that the average value of an Australian fleece is double the average value of the fleece’s of any other country in the world.
Parliament has never been asked to assist the sheep and wool industry, although, directly and indirectly, it employs more people than does any other industry in the Commonwealth. The wheat industry has been assisted, and so have various other primary industries. If the Government would abolish land taxation, it would make possible the re-employment of people in the industry, and this would lead to the maintenance of improvements and the replenishing of stud flocks and herds. Although the prices of wool, wheat, and meat are now well below the prices that prevailed in 1914, the prices of non-rural commodities have increased. The index figure now is 178 for non-rural commodities, as against 100 in 1914. The cost of all the equipment necessary for the maintenance and improvement of farms has increased. Something was said last night about the increased price of fencing wire to the sugar-growers. But they are not the only primary producers who are suffering on this account. Galvanized iron has increased in price by 38 per cent., and fencing wire by 108 per cent, since 1914. Bail and sea freights are to-day almost double what they were in pre-war years. When the railway authorities are asked to account for this they say that it is due to the increased cost of commodities owing to the tariff and to arbitration court awards. “When the steamship-owners are asked to account for it they say that it is due to the fact that the Scullin tariff has made it necessary for the ships which come to Australia to carry away our produce to travel empty or only partly loaded one way.
– The honorable senator’s time has expired.
.-^1 listened with considerable interest to the brief address of the Minister who introduced this important bill. The honorable gentleman asked that we should quickly take the measure to the committee stage, but if the precedents set by this chamber in. connexion with wheat legislation during the past three years are followed, the bill will never reach the committee stage. A number of measures dealing with the wheat industry have been submitted to the Senate for its consideration in recent years, but only two have been acceptable. The Wheat Advances Bill of 1930, which was agreed to, provided for the payment of £6,000,000, or 8d. a bushel to the wheat-growers of Australia. That figure is calculated on the proposed price of 3s. a bushel f.o.b. It was not the fault of this Parliament that effect was not given to that measure. Last year, when wheat was 5-Jd. a bushel higher in price than it is to-day, a Labour government which did not include among its supporters many representatives of farming areas, made provision for a bounty of 4½d. a bushel to our farmers. Up to date, £3,409,000 has been paid in prompt cash on the delivery of the wheat under that act. The proposal of this Government for the assistance of the wheat-growers is inadequate and impracticable, and the total amount intended to be made available is only £2,000,000. The conditions under which this money is being offered have been altered from day to day. It seems that every couple of days the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) has been making a different statement of policy on the subject. The wheat measures, which the Senate has rejected in recent years, have all been regarded as inadequate, but it could be said of all of them that they offered more financial assistance to the farmers than does this inadequate and unsatisfactory proposal. The Senate has rejected most of the wheat bills submitted to it within the last few years, because certain unsatisfactory conditions were attached to them. One measure was rejected on a motion by the honorable senator who introduced this bill, and I intend to move an amendment to this bill, which will be based largely on the grounds which he advanced only last year for the rejection of a bill submitted to. us by the previous Government. While that measure had demerits, inasmuch as it provided for a compulsory pool, and did not discriminate between different sections of the farmers, it, and its successor, the Wheat Bounty Bill, afforded the farmers a great deal more assistance than does this bill although wheat was 5£d. a. bushel higher in price when the latter measure became law than it is new.. Of course, the Government is heartily ashamed of this bill. This is shown by the form in which it is introduced. Every other measure providing for a bounty to an industry has, since the inception of federation, been brought before Parliament in the form of a bill relating to that industry alone. On this occasion, when the Government is sacrificing the interests of the wheat-growers by proposing to give them only half the assistance provided last year by a Labour Government, andgiving that assistance subject to impracticable conditions, it is smothering its proposals in . a measure which includes other proposals known to be acceptable to the members of the Senate. The Government says, in effect, that it knows that honorable senators are in favour of the reduction of the federal land tax, and that, if they desire the tax to be reduced, they must be prepared to accept this bill for reduced assistance to the wheat-growers. The federal land tax presses heavily upon both rural and city land-holders, and, if any relief is desired in that direction by cutting the tax by one-third, the wheat-growers must be granted reduced assistance in the same measure. The people have been seriously inconvenienced by the payment of super tax on property, and it is proposed to raise the exemption to £250. This is a wise provision; but it is offset by the fact that the wheat-growers are asked to accept less assistance than they received from the Scullin Government when the price of wheat was 5d. a bushel higher than it is to-day. I do, however, support the proposals for reduction of taxation.
– The Scullin Government borrowed the money with which it paid the bounty ; this Government is providing the assistance out of revenue.
– For that matter, all the governments of Australia are to-day being financed with borrowed money. However, if the Government’s only objection to the proposal that a bounty of 4£d. a bushel should be paid is that it would be necessary to borrow the money with which to pay it, let it agree to financing the bounty out of the proceeds of a sales tax on flour, as was suggested last year by Senator Greene. Before ihe elections, those who now constitute the Government told the wheat-growers that they should be assisted to a much greater extent than it is now proposed to assist them. It was proposed that this assistance should be provided by a substantial bounty financed by a sales tax on flour. I object to the action of the Government in not allowing Parliament to deal separately with the various mattery covered by the bill. If it had introduced its proposals for the assistance of the wheat-growers in a separate measure, its proposal would have been rejected by a large majority if the Senate had adhered to its wheat policy of the last three years. Many honorable senators will be afraid that, if they vote for a proper wheat bounty, or if they do not support the whole bill as it stands, they may lose the advantages promised by a remission of federal land tax, super tax on property, and relief to pensioners. I approve of the various reductions which are to be effected, but I do not approve of the method of bringing them about at the expense of the wheat-growers. It is made to appear that, if the Government gave the same measure of assistance to the wheatgrowers as was provided last year, it. would not be able to grant the other forms of relief provided for in this bill, and so the wheat-grower is to be sacrificed.
The Government proposals show no realization of the unfortunate position of the wheat-growers to-day. It is not too much to say that the inadequate proposals for the relief of the wheat-growers have aroused a storm of protest throughout the length and breadth of the four wheat-growing States of the Commonwealth. It is not the fault of the wheat industry that it is in its present precarious position, and it is not receiving the assistance to which it is entitled as one of the greatest exporting industries in the Commonwealth, and the one which, directly and indirectly, provides more employment than any other Australian industry. Every other industry which has been assisted by federal action has been assisted as an industry. To the wheat-growers alone it is proposed to give a form of belated assistance on a persona] basis in the nature, apparently, of a new kind of dole. Because of the growth of unemployment, the number of those receiving the dole in Australia has grown alarmingly, and now we are to have a wheat dole, meted out to farmers who plead that they are necessitous. We are now told that the Government does not propose to assist the wheat industry as such, but to assist only some of those engaged in it. Just what section of those engaged in the industry it is proposed to assist, I do not know. If this bill was amended in the other chamber to-day, we have not had an opportunity to learn of it. As soon as the Government’s proposals for assisting the wheat-growers were announced, an influential deputation, directly representing the Wheat-growers Association, waited on the Prime Minister in Canberra. It included the leaders of wheat-growers’ organizations in every State, except Western Australia. Owing to the distance of Western Australia from Canberra, time did not permit the Primary Producers Association or the Wheat-growers Union in that State to send “delegates, and the former association was represented by Mr. Prowse, a member of another place, and myself. The case put up by the deputation seemed to me to be unanswerable. The deputation asked that £500,000, in addition to the £2,000,000 which the Government proposed to provide, should be appropriated for assisting the wheat-growers. They produced figures to show that £2,500,000 would be sufficient to pay a bounty of 4d. a bushel on all wheat exported this year. If it had been announced at that time that a bounty of 4d. a bushel on export would be paid> it would have increased by 4d. a bushel the price of all wheat produced in Australia.
The Prime Minister did not comply with the request, but he altered the Government’s policy of providing for assistance to growers by a subsidy on superphosphates. The growers asked for one thing, but were given another. The Government missed .a golden opportunity in not then deciding to grant an export bounty of 4d. a bushel. It is now too late to grant an export bounty, because much of the wheat has been already delivered, and has passed out of the hands of the growers. If an export bounty were granted now the benefit would be derived by the purchasers of the wheat, and not by the growers.
There is still time, however, to grant a bounty on production, as was done by the Scullin Government last year at the instigation of the Senate under the “Wheat Bounty Act. At the hearing of the deputation Mr. Prowse and I made it clear that the payment of such a bounty was the least that the wheat-growers of Western Australia expected, and the least that would be acceptable to members of the County party from that State. That is the measure of assistance which I propose to ask the Senate to support.
In asking the . Commonwealth Parliament to give special assistance to the growers, I wish firmly to fix on successive Federal Governments the whole blame for the present desperate position in which the industry is placed. I am not a supporter of high protection, of bounties or of tariffs. If they could all be abolished it would remove the burden which has been laid on the wheat industry. During the years of prosperity, the wheat-farmers bore the burden of the tariff, and other protective legislation, such as arbitration and the Navigation Act, not without complaining, but certainly without receiving relief. The burden was not the less oppressive because one of its heaviestinstalments, in the form of the Pratten tariff, was imposed by a Government in which the primary producers had considerable representation.
Further proof of the Federal Government’s culpability in regard to the present unenviable position of the wheatgrowers lies in the great wheat tragedy of 1930-31, which commenced early in 1930 with the “ Grow more wheat “ campaign. The Prime Minister of the day urged the farmers of Australia, as a patriotic duty, to grow more wheat and thus enable the Government to establish further credits overseas for the preservation of the credit of the nation. How well they responded to that appeal is shown by the following figures of the production for the season 1930-31 :-
The Federal Government had promised the wheat-growers 4s. a bushel for their wheat at country sidings; but not a penny of that amount was paid. At this stage I do not propose to embark upon the reasons for the failure to make good that promise. The government of the day certainly made an attempt to give the wheat-growers something. It passed another measure guaranteeing for that record crop a price equivalent to 3s. a bushel f.o.b. Referring to that crop, Professor Giblin said -
The amount that would be required to pay a minimum price f.o.b. of 3s. per bushel can be approximated at 8d. per bushel, or a sum of £0,221,000.
That amount would have been distributed as follows: -
The National Parliament gave approval to that payment, but the wheat-farmers have not yet received one penny of it. Consequently, that act of Parliament has been repudiated by the nation. The measure was passed while Mr. Scullin was in England, but upon his return he was unable to make the financial arrangements necessary for the payment. This failure to meet a national obligation has been largely responsible for the present plight of the wheat industry. “Whoever was responsible for the default, it was not the wheat-growers.
In the following year the Scullin Government brought forward Wheat Marketing Bill No. 2, which provided for a compulsory wheat pool and for a local price for wheat. It was considered in the Senate on the 30th July, 1931. The motion “ That the bill be now read a second time “ was proposed, and Senator Greene moved the following amendment to it: -
That all the words after “That” be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words : - “the Senate is of opinion -
That as the bill provides, with the ostensible intention of helping wheat- farmers -
for wheat pools; ( fi ) for local prices for wheat for local consumption; it would necessarily raise the price of wheat for local consumption
That as this result can be obtained more expeditiously, and with greater certainty, by a tax on wheat and flour used for local consumption, thus providing a more certain means for assisting the wheat-farmers of Australia, the Senate requests that the bill be temporarily withdrawn with a view to its re-introduction in a form giving effect to the above proposal “.
Thi* honorable senator went on to say -
If the Senate agrees to my amendment, it will have declared once more that it believes that the farmers of Australia are entitled to this assistance.
He did not then suggest a paltry £2,000,000 a year; although, as I have mentioned previously, the price of wheat at that time was. 5-Jd. a bushel more than it is to-day. He continued -
It will also have declared emphatically that it is not going to give such assistance through the medium of this socialistic scheme, which is simply a step in the direction of the complete socialization of industry, but that it prefers a straight-out tax on wheat and flour, which would have exactly the same effect in assisting the farmers without involving them in the risks associated with the Government’s plan.
At that time Senator Greene and those who supported him desired that straight- out assistance should be given to the farmer, and were willing to provide it by means of a sales tax on wheat and flour. In the course of the debate it was indicated that the sales tax on flour would be £7 4s. a ton - an amount that was suggested by Professor Perkins. To-day the position is entirely different. I have carefully-checked figures, which show that the Government, which has £2,000,000 in hand, could provide a bounty of 4£d. a bushel by the imposition of a sales tax on flour of only £2 6s. or £2 7s. a ton. I make that suggestion to the Minister, because at .the time to which I refer that was his policy. The responsibility is on the Government to find from whatever source it thinks fit the money for at least the same measure of assistance as was given to the wheat-farmers a year ago, when the position of the indus try was not nearly so parlous as it is to-day, and the price of wheat was higher. I wish to remind honorable senators of the way in which they- voted on that occasion. Senator Greene’s amendment was carried by 21 votes to 8. Those who voted for it were: - Senators Brennan, Carroll, Duncan, Elliott, Glasgow, Greene, Guthrie, J. B. Hayes, H. Hays, Kingsmill, Lawson, Lynch, McLachlan, Newlands, Ogden, Payne, < Pearce, Reid. Sampson, Thompson and Poll. Those who voted against it were : - Senators Barnes, Dooley, Johnston, Kneebone, O’Halloran, Plain, Bae, and Hoare.
– Then the honorable senator is not in favour of a sales tax on flour?
– I preferred the Labour £1 in hand to the Nationalist £2 in the bush. The fact that the assistance offered by the present Government is little more than half what was granted a year ago by the Scullin Government, proves that that hard-headed Scotch wheat-grower, Senator Plain, and I, had a very good appreciation of the position.
– The honorable senator is now in favour of a sales tax on flour.
– Of course I am, so long as the proceeds go to the wheat-growers. I was then, but not at the expense of the conditions that were secured to the wheat-grower under the bill submitted by the Government of the day.
– rOn that occasion, did the wheat-growers get the bird in the hand or the birds in the bush ?
– They got nothing.
– The honorable senator is quite wrong. The Scullin Government introduced another bill providing for the payment of 4½d. a bushel, under which the total payment made was £3,400,000, nearly double what the present Government is offering to the industry at a time - I cannot emphasize this too often - when the price of wheat is 5-Jd. a bushel less, the industry is in a more parlous condition, the machinery of the fanners is worn out, and cash is urgently needed. The present proposal has tacked on to it nasty conditions that will take a long while to. put into effect; whereas the £3,400,000 made available last year, was paid promptly in cash. If a wheat-farmer so required it; he could receive it monthly, upon delivery of his wheat. By the time that the States or some other bodies have received authority to make the payment of the £2,000,000, and have worked out who is entitled to assistance, months will have elapsed. How on earth they are to set about this task, I do not know. It appears to me that they will have to wait months before they will be able to fix upon a basis that will enable the money to be distributed fairly among all the necessitous claimants. If we adopted the course that this Senate has always advocated by resolution whenever any other proposal has been brought forward - that of a direct bounty to the industry - the payments could be made before Christmas, and month by month as the wheat was delivered. That is the proposal which I intend to submit in committee. Honorable senators, including three Ministers of this Government, promised a great deal last year. The time has now arrived for the delivery of the goods - for .the wheat industry to be given that measure of assistance which has been so generously afforded to the sugar industry, and to the sheltered protected- secondary industries of Australia.
Sitting suspended from ll.J/S p.m. to
Friday, 2 December 1932
– During the adjournment I was reminded of the vote on the Wheat Marketing Bill (No. 2) to which I have referred, and of the fact that Senator Plain and I were not left isolated, because when, on the following day, Senator Barnes moved to restore the bill to the notice-paper, Senators Cooper, Carroll, Crawford, Duncan, Elliott, and Guthrie joined us. The members of the Labour party, either by pair or by actual vote, also supported the motion, but it was defeated.
I now wish to take honorable senators back to the atmosphere of the last election campaign when wheat was a burning question. The three Senate Ministers all represent wheat-growing States, and were all candidates at that election, so that they know the feeling that existed throughout Australia at that time. At that election the wheat-growers of Australia had no reason to expect that this Government or the members of the United Australia Party would be less sympathetic or would render less assistance to them than did their predecessors in office. I was very active at that general emotion and throughout the campaign I was not asked whether the supporters of the present Government would render similar assistance to that granted by their predecessors in office. Had I been asked that question, I should certainly have replied in the affirmative. In the Senate the members of the United Australia Party and the Country party had said that they favoured giving direct assistance to the wheat .industry and not through any intermediate channel, and not on any reduced basis. The payment of a bounty of 4½d. a bushel had been accepted without division in another place, and on the main principle of giving assistance by means of a bounty the Senate was unanimous when at last the Labour Government was forced to adopt that course. With these facts before me, I was justified in anticipating that at least as much should be expected from this Government as from its predecessors. I have not had time to analyse the speeches made in another place on the Wheat Bounty Bill 1931, but I notice that the present Attorney-General (Mr.
Latham) said, “I recognize that assistance is necessary for the farmers on the basis of the present price of wheat “. That being so, surely we are justified in believing, as I did, that Mr. Latham would be even more in favour of giving direct assistance to the farmers now that wheat has fallen practically 6d. a bushel. To-day influential sections of the country press are saying that Mr. Latham has told his colleagues that he would leave the Ministry if all the wheat-growers were to participate in a Commonwealth bounty, even on the reduced and inadequate scale that the bill would permit. Personally, I cannot reconcile that statement with the utterance which I have quoted of the Attorney-General, for whom I have the. highest possible regard. I assume that the three Ministers in the Senate are just as desirous of giving direct and adequate assistance to the wheat industry as they were when they cast their votes in favour of assistance only last year. But these press articles suggest that conditions are unsettled, and that there is opposition in the Cabinet to direct assistance being given to the wheat-growers. The sooner these discordant elements are out of the Ministry the better it will be for the whole of Australia. In the meantime, the Government stands condemned for having broken its election pledges to the wheat-growers of Australia.
I suggest that a sales tax on flour contemplated at that time, with the £2,000,000 appropriated by this bill, would provide the whole of the money required for the payment of a bounty of 4id. a bushel on wheat; but it is the Government’s responsibility to find the money in whatever way it thinks fit. The estimated production of wheat this year in the various States is as under: -
The total is about 213,070,000 bushels. Professor Giblin, from whom I received those figures, said in an accompanying letter that, since the estimates were prepared, there were indications to suggest that the figures were over-estimated. He stated that the total production may be taken as approximately 200,000,000 bushels. I believe that Western Australia will produce 4,500,000 bushels more than is shown in the estimate I have quoted. The total bounty paid last year amounted to £3,409,000, and the estimated amount required to pay a bounty of 4½d. a bushel on the 1932-33 harvest, estimated at 200,000,000 bushels and under the same conditions as those operating for the previous season, would be approximately £3,595,650. The Government with £2,000,000 in hand from revenue should consider levying a sales tax on flour to provide the balance. I would be the last to suggest that this Government has less financial resources or financial ability than the Government which had the task of providing the money for the last two seasons’ bounties. My faith in the Assistant Treasurer is such that I feel that if my amendment were carried, the problem would be a simple one for him to solve. The wheatgrowers expect at least the same measure of financial assistance from this Government as they received from the previous administration. By the acceptance of the amendment which I intend to move, the Government, even at this late hour, will have an opportunity to retrieve its position and give the wheat-growers similar assistance to that granted to them last year when the price of wheat was 5£d. a bushel higher than it is to-day. I will, no doubt, be told by Ministers that the wheat-growing industry has the complete sympathy of the Government, but sympathy without adequate financial assistance is like mustard without beef - not at all satisfying. There is no reason why the Government should not pay a bounty of 4£d. a bushel on production in accordance with the policy which the Senate has advocated for the last three years, and utilize that efficient organization which is already in existence for its distribution. The farmers are in desperate need of cash. Under the arrangements which operated last year money was available when deliveries were made, and I congratulate the Government upon the fact that payments were made without any suggestion of malpractices such as occurred in connexion with the compulsory wheat pool. Time does not permit me to quote a number of newspaper reports which I should like to read to show to the Government the wide-spread feeling there is against its present proposals. Honorable senators supporting the Government have claimed that they forced the Scullin Government to pay the bounty of 4£d. a bushel last year. I ask them now to compel the Lyons Government to take a similar action this year. I conclude by moving -
That all the words after “ That “ be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words: - “ in view of the existing low price for wheat the Government’s proposals for the relief of wheat-growers are inadequate, and the Senate is of opinion the bill should be withdrawn with a view to the immediate introduction of a new bill in a form ensuring at least a continuance of the bonus of 4id. per bushel on wheat marketed, as was provided by the Wheat Bounty Act 1931 “.
– I wish to say at the outset that the Government cannot accept the amendment moved by Senator Johnston. I shall tell the Senate why. The times in which we live are times of great seriousness. The Government of the day is charged with the control of the destinies of the Commonwealth; it has” a serious responsibility to the people of Australia. No one who is not in close touch with the existing situation can fully realize how serious it is. I say, deliberately, that these are not times to go fishing for votes with both hands and feet. On the contrary, the responsibility of the Government is to listen to the claims of every section of the community, and to try to hold the scales evenly between them. Nothing is easier than to do what Senator Johnston has done here to-night. There is not an honorable senator who does not know that he did it in order to obtain votes.
– I am not looking for votes. I am endeavouring to serve the interests of the people who sent me here.
– I shall tell the honorable senator why the Government believes that the scheme which he has put forward should not be adopted.
– It is a scheme which the Minister .himself put forward a year ago.
– I say, emphatically, that these are times when no person who is able to stand on his feet has any right to dip his hand into the public treasury of the Commonwealth.
– In that case, why reduce taxation?
– Most of us know what happened in a great number of cases last year. There is a member of this Parliament who, if he were here, could tell the Senate that last year he made £3,000 profit on his farming operations, and that £600 of that amount represented the bounty on wheat.
– I should like to see his balance-sheet.
– To the eternal credit of that man, I say that he was one of the most strenuous opponents of a wheat bounty. I repeat that these are times when no man who is able to stand on his own feet has any right to dip his hands into the public treasury and take money out of it. I go further, and say that no government which has a proper sense of its responsibility has any right, at a time like this, to allow any one who is able to stand on his own feet to dip his hands into the public treasury. During the last two years, we have imposed on the people of this country additional taxation to the extent of £16,000,000. There is not an honorable senator who does not know that the imposition of that taxation, in order to pay our way, is one of the principal causes of unemployment in this country. We should direct all our efforts towards guiding the destinies of this country in such a way that that taxation can be taken off as soon as possible, so that the unemployed workers of Australia may be given a chance to get back to work.
– We shall have to follow a different monetary policy.
– I am not dealing with that subject now. I am pointing out what I believe the responsibility of the Government to be. Its first duty is so to shape the country’s policy that no man who does not need assistance can get it from the public treasury. What did Senator Johnston’s speech amount to? That taxation should not be reduced; that, on the contrary, additional taxation should be imposed and that the pensioners should get no relief, in. order that the wheat-growers should get everything. What was the position last year? In New South Wales 20,425 claimants for the wheat bounty were paid £945,674. Twenty per cent, of those claimants - about 4,000 wheat-growers - received 59 per. cent, of the amount of bounty paid to New South Wales farmers.
– That is no true indication of the position of the wheat farmers generally.
– I am not concerned with Senator Hardy’s opinion; I merely state what is a fact.
– Then why give the wheat-growers any assistance at all?
– In Victoria, 15 per cent, of a total of 20,840 wheatgrowers collected 47 per cent, of the amount of £813,000 paid as bounty. Of 18,599 wheat-growers in South Australia
– There are not 18,000 wheat-growers in South Australia.
– I have quoted official figures.
– Perhaps the Minister has given the number of claims.
– The total number of claims for New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia last year was 70,942.
– A fresh claim had to be made every time wheat was sent in.
– There are supposed to be about 74,000 wheat-growers in Australia. The number of claimants for the bounty was 70,942. In South Australia, 20 per cent, of the 18,599 wheatgrowers claimed 56 per cent, of the £871,000 paid as bounty.
– Every one of them made a loss on the year’s operations.
– I know that that is not correct.
– In that case, why give the farmers any assistance at all?
– In Western Australia, 31 per cent, of 11,078 wheatgrowers collected 67 per cent, of £712,000. These are official figures supplied by the department, and they tell an eloquent story. The Government does not believe that they ought to be repeated. The Government desires to help . the wheatgrowing industry; but it wants to do so by reducing the cost of production and assisting the farmers to plant their crops. It believes in helping those who need help most.
– Then help the whole industry.
– The Government desires to do the best possible- in the difficult financial position of the Commonwealth at the present time. If it had money to burn, and could yield to every clamant demand on the public treasury without imposing any further burden on the people, it might be prepared to do something for every farmer. I do not believe that every wheat-grower in Australia lost money on last year’s crop.
– I do.
– The Minister does not believe it because he is not sufficiently sympathetic with the wheat-growers. “ Senator GREENE.- I know of the circumstances, of a number of wheatgrowers, and I say definitely that it is not true that every wheat-grower produced at a loss last year.
– Why not substantiate that statement?
– I am not in a position at the moment to give the names of the men to whom I have referred.
– Were they doing any mixed farming?
– Nearly every wheat-grower runs a few sheep. One of the failings of Australian wheat-farmers is that they do -not go in sufficiently for mixed farming.
– Can the Minister tell us the average amount paid to the wheat-growers last year?
– Even supposing that the figures proved what is apparently in Senator Hardy’s mind, namely, that the amount was small, is that not all the greater reason why we should not grant a bounty on the basis of production? If an argument in support of the view of the Government in this matter is desired Senator Hardy has supplied it.
– Is the Minister aware that the man who obtained the bounty of £600 could not by any means have made a profit of £3,000 on his wheat?
– I did not say that he made a profit of £3,000 on his wheat.
– In order to make that gain he would have to make a profit of about 2s. a bushel.
– I repeat that in the present financial circumstances of the Commonwealth, the Government has no right to hand to any person who made a profit of £3,000 on his year’s operations a sum of £600 from the public treasury.
– He could not have made it on his year’s operations as a wheat-grower. He might have made it backing horses.
– Even so, my argument would not be affected in any way. The Government takes the view that, if a man” is able to stand on his feet, and if he is making sufficient to pay his way, there is no justification in the existing financial circumstances of the country, and in view of the tremendous burden of taxation that our people are carrying, for him to dip his hands into the public treasury, and take money out of it. If Senator Colebatch were in my place, instead of where he is, I believe he would take exactly the same view.
– I hope that I should be able to advance better reasons for my attitude than the Minister is putting up now.
– That may be. I suggest that this is not the time to be fishing for votes. On the contrary, it is a time when we should have full regard to the responsibilities resting upon us, as members of thi3 Senate, and as trustees of the public purse.
– If wheat-farmers are not in need of assistance, why is this Government making provision to help them?
– A number of our wheat-growers are in urgent need of assistance, aud we conceive it to be our duty, within the financial resources of the country, to do what we can to keep them on their holdings. The job of the Government, as I see it, is so to arrange its finances as to make it possible for our wheat-growers to remain on their holdings.
– They are on their holdings at the present time.
– And we want to keep them there. Senator Johnston, not once, but at least twenty times during the course of his speech, mentioned that there had been a drop in the price of wheat of at least 5d. a bushel - sometimes the honorable gentleman said 6d. a bushel - since the time when the last bounty was granted. When the honorable senator was quoting from my speech, I asked what was the date when wheat had declined by od. a bushel, and, in reply, he said that it was in July, 1931.
– I said that it was in November.
– I distinctly asked the honorable gentleman what was the date when wheat fell 5d. a bushel, and he said that it was in July, 1931. - Senator Hardy. - I dispute the Minister’s statement. I corrected Senator Johnston’s figures for him. In November the export price was 3s. 3½d.
– I have the official bulletin issued in June, 1932, and I propose to quote from it the export prices of wheat.
– A comparison with July would have been of no value. I was comparing prices of to-day and prices a year ago.
– I took a careful note of the honorable gentleman’s statement.
– The Minister is making a mistake.
– I was careful to note what the honorable gentleman was saying, and I feel sure that, when he reads the Hansard report of his speech, he will realize that he was creating a false impression as to the real position. When we were dealing with the bounty, we based the whole of our calculations on the then price of wheat.
– As it was’ when the Labour Government granted financial assistance to the industry.
– I know that Senator Johnston created a wrong impression, because over and over again he quoted figures which were incorrect. The official figures show that, in July, the average export price of wheat f.o.b. was 2s. 0.5d. a. bushel; ‘in August, 2s. 3.2d. ; in September, 2s. 4.9d. ; and, in October, when the Senate dealt with the bounty bill, it was 2s. 4.2d.
– There was a substantial rise at the end of October.
– I am aware of that, and I intend to quote the figures for November, because they also show that Senator Johnston was not correct. The average export price for November was 2s. 10.2d. - a little less than the price to-day. Not once, but at least twenty times in his speech, Senator Johnston endeavoured to create the impression that the price of wheat is 5d. a bushel less than it was when the bounty was granted.
– Look at the newspaper quotations and see what our farmers are getting for their wheat to-day.
– It is the custom in this Senate to rely upon official figures prepared by the Commonwealth Statistician, and not on newspaper reports. That is what I have done. I know of course that this does not suit Senator Johnston’s book, but I invite him to have a look at the figures and examine the position carefully. If he does he will find that the position is as 1 have stated.
Senator Johnston does not give this Government any credit whatever for the many things which it has done to assist the man on the land. The whole tenor of his speech and the language in which it was couched would give one the impression that he held this Government responsible for every tragedy that had befallen the unfortunate primary producers of this country during the last three years.
– Certainly not.
– If the honorable senator reads his speech to-morrow he will discover that what I am saying is true. As a matter of fact this Government is doing more of real benefit to the man on the land than any other government that has been in office for some considerable time past at all events. “We are trying by every means in our power to assist our primary producers. Already we have taken a great deal of taxation off their shoulders. In the circumstances, I fail to see why we should be attacked by Senator Johnston.
My concluding words are these : I wish to make it clear to every member of the Senate that the Government cannot, in any circumstances, accept this amendment. The Government has made up its mind fully for the reasons which I have given, that it will not, this year, pay a bounty. It is prepared to the full extent of the financial resources of the Commonwealth to assist wheat-growers, but it wants this assistance to be made in such a way that those farmers who do not need it this year will not get it. It says that it is nol right, at the present time, to pay money out to those who are not in actual need of it. I want to tell the Senate that if, in its wisdom, it decides in favour of Senator Johnston’s amendment, those who vote for it must accept full responsibility. I want to make it perfectly clear that if the amendment is carried, the Government cannot proceed with the bill.
– I listened with a great deal of interest to the remarks of the Assistant Minister (Senator Greene). To me his concluding words sounded remarkably like an ultimatum. Apparently he -had made up his mind before he rose to speak’ that he would not accept any amendment of the Government’s proposal. In other words the bill is to be bludgeoned through the Senate in its present form. This means that if any attempt is made by honorable senators to reconstruct it on what we may regard as more suitable lines, we must accept full responsibility should the proposals for relief be held up. It is my” intention to-night to speak at some length on the various aspects of the wheat problem, and I may add that, in view of the Minister’s tone, I may not be quite so diplomatic in my attitude as otherwise I might have been. I particularly resent the Minister’s criticism of the remarks made by Senator Johnston. It was entirely unwarranted and most unfair. Senator Johnston framed his amendment with one desire only, and that was to ensure that a reasonable measure of justice should be done to the wheat-growers of this country. We who represent that section of our primary producers are not looking for a Christmas box to help one of our greatest export industries over a difficult stile. When an honorable senator puts his case fairly and frankly before the Senate, he should not be accused of having ulterior motives. I suggest to the Assistant Minister who made the attack that he left a loophole for a similar attack against the Government. In two of the States, at least, elections are pending, and large sums of money have been the means, in the past, of enabling parties to buy their way into power.
One of the most interesting speeches on the measure was that made by Senator Guthrie, who dealt, particularly, with the unjust incidence of the federal land tax. He is thoroughly acquainted with the position of the wool industry, and his claim for a further reduction of the land tax should receive earnest consideration. He said that he desired a remission of the tax in order to bring about a reduction of the actual costs of pro,duction. His hope for the wool industry rests upon a reduction of costs. Nobody knows better than I do the injustice of the land tax, but I claim that no primary producer could get out of his troubles merely by a reduction of his costs. Last year, a committee of economists, comprising the best brains in Australia, declared that a policy of cost reduction alone would endanger the whole financial fabric of the nation. This committee advocated a middle course - a reduction of wages, and also a management” of the exchange rate so as to raise price levels, and give the people increased returns in terms of Australian currency. So far as I know, the Government has not acted upon that report, because it has not declared a national policy in regard to the monetary position. I realize that the position has slightly changed owing to the depreciation of sterling; but we must also recognize that even the export prices received to-day will fall still further immediately an appreciation occurs in the value of the English pound. The stability of our export prices, even on the present low level, is due to the factor of exchange a,lone. When the Ottawa agreement was discussed in this chamber, I heard the leader of the Government claim that it was responsible for a slight rise in the price of meat. I felt like interjecting that the price rise was not due to that agreement, but rather to. the depreciation of the English pound, which is now at the lowest level of 3.18 dollars.
I realize the importance of the abolition of the land tax to the pastoral industry. Only recently, the Government appointed a wool committee which knew its business thoroughly. I have studied its report only casually, but it dealt entirely with operating and marketing costs. Its personnel did not include one man who could be said to have a full knowledge of monetary management. Since every firstclass economist in the world declares that a managed currency is required to secure a rise of prices, why did not the Government see that the committee comprised a man who could advise on such subjects as exchange?
– I think that Professor Brigden was competent to do that.
– No doubt he is a competent economist, but that was a job for a number of economists.
– Economists all seem to have come to different conclusions.
– I do not think that that statement is correct. Professors Copland, Shann and Mills, and several others claim that the present high exchange rate must be maintained.
Unless some substantial relief is given to the wheat industry, it will inevitably collapse. I was astonished to hear the Minister in charge of the bill speak of prosperous wheat-growers, because, although I have been associated with wheat-farming practically all my life, I can say with confidence that, to-day, there is not a prosperous wheat-grower in the Commonwealth. This industry must be saved, and that result cannot be brought about by means of the amount of relief proposed to be afforded by the Government this year. When the Scullin Government provided for a bounty of 4£d. a bushel we thought that little enough; but the bounty that this Parliament is asked to provide is not to be granted on the basis of production, which would reward the efficient. The assistance proposed to be made available, even if distributed on the basis of the number of bushels of wheat produced, would amount to only about half the measure of assistance given by the Scullin Government in 1931. If wheat costs are analysed to-day they show that there has not been a reduction of them. It will be agreed, I think, that the export prices of wheat have fallen to unparalleled low figures. . The Senate does not generally realize that the fall in the export prices of wheat is greater in proportion to the general export prices of all other products. Therefore, the wheat man is suffering more, on the average, than the producers of any other commodity. I have taken out the figures since 191S, and they differ from those submitted by the Minister in charge of the bill. The average export price for 191S was 5s. 3d. a bushel, and I find that to-day’s price of 2s. 11½d. a bushel represents a fall in price of 43.7 per cent. As expressed in terms of Australian currency, the actual index figure today is 56.3. It may be suggested, that that does not prove that the fall in the price of wheat is greater than that in the price of any other export commodity; but I find that, taking the figures from January, 1929, while the average export price of general commodities in Australia fell, in terms of Australian currency, by 32.2 per cent., the wheat fall for the same period was 38.6 per cent., which was an additional 6.4 per cent.
– In January, 1929, the price was 4s. 7.3d.
– According to the figures given in the Commonwealth YearBooh it was 4s. lOd. I draw attention to the fact that the wheat industry has been infinitely harder hit than the wool and other industries. One of the reasons for this is that we have a rigid cost structure in the wheat industry, and despite our attempts to bring down production costs, there are few growers who can show a substantial reduction. The margin between costs and export prices is exactly the same as prevailed during the previous two years. The only difference is that we appear to be going bankrupt more quickly. I attribute that largely to the fixation of our internal costs.
I was particularly interested to hear the honorable senator who last spoke, state that this Government had proved itself a friend to the man on the land. This Government went to the country on a very definite policy. I fought shoulder to shoulder with many of the United Australia Party candidates, and every one of us espoused the policy of fostering primary production, and restoring it to a profitable basis. We said that the first constructive step necessary to obtain that result was a revision of the tariff in a scientific manner in order to reduce internal costs. I challenge the Government to say that it has reduced those costs by means of tariff revision. The recent instruction to the Tariff Board shows the opinion of the Government on the fiscal issue. Did not the Government instruct the Tariff Board not to take into consideration primage duty and the rate of exchange, in recommending tariff alterations ? Yet the Minister in charge of this bill, while practically condemning the whole of the wheat-growers as inefficient operators, still claims that his Government is the friend of the man on the land. That is entirely wrong. The wheat industry is one of the few unsheltered industries in Australia, and I submit that, in times of unforeseen adversities the duty devolves upon the Government to make every effort to help the unsheltered industries. I know the opinions of many honorable senators opposite regarding tariff matters. They consider that the unsheltered industry of wheat-growing is constantly calling attention to the disadvantages under which it operates. Honorable senators should analyse the difference that exists between sheltered and unsheltered industries. Recently, Professor Copland, one of our foremost economists, calculated that the value of protected secondary production is £110,000,000. He also said that protected primary production in respect of sugar, dried fruits, rice, &c, amounted to. £40,000,000. He has carried his investigations still further, and made the extraordinary statement that the amount which the Australian public contributes to the cost of that protection exceeds £36,000,000. In other words, the unsheltered industries, which have to compete in the markets of the world, contending against all kinds of labour conditions and accepting what the world is prepared to pay, are bearing the burden of that £36,000,000. Yet, when we criticize the extent of the assistance now offered by the Government, and ask that it be increased, the Minister in charge of the bill says that we must face the facts. The facts are simple and plain. If the wheat industry is not given reasonably substantial assistance its acreage will be restricted, and that will affect the value and volume of exports. In such a case, what would be the position of the Government? Can it look with confidence to a restriction of exports in the future, with a consequent restriction of the sterling available in London? I am dealing with the tariff, not because I feel that there is a prejudice against primary production in the minds of those who advocate secondary industries, but because the cost of protection in Australia is not generally recognized. In 1926-27, the Tariff Board found that in the case of goods imported into Australia and manufactured in this country, the amount added to the cost by reason of the tariff was 24 per cent. In 1929, the Commonwealth Government appointed a committee of economists to investigate the question of the tariff, and that committee came to the conclusion that the tariff increased the operating cost of the farmers by 8 per cent. Since then, other fiscal walls in exchange and primage duty have made their appearance, while, in addition, prohibitive customs duties have been imposed. In his recent book The Australian Economy, Professor Copland said that the disadvantage caused to the farmer by the tariff now represents 12 per cent. - and this book, it must be remembered, was written in the early part of 1931. .
– The Wool Committee fixed it at 16 per cent.
– Had the Government been prepared to adopt the policy of the Country party, and, by an amendment of the Customs Act, reduce the tariff as exchange rose, our internal costs would not have risen. Unfortunately, however, it refused to do that, or even to grant a royal commission to investigate the matter. The contention cannot be supported with sound and reasonable facts, that the Government has reduced internal costs to the man on the land, and adopted a tariff policy that is satisfactory to him. It is now prepared to throw what amounts to a financial lifebuoy to the wheat industry. This proposal is in the nature of an ultimatum; we must either take it or leave it, and if we leave it the responsibility will be on our shoulders. I say, frankly, that the amount allocated is hopelessly insufficient if the industry is to be held together.
The Minister says that it is the intention of the Government to keep men on the land. Can he show how many wheatfarmers have been put off the land? Although the wheat-farmer remains on the land, he is in a pitiably distressed state. If honorable senators were to visit the outback wheat districts, and see the conditions for themselves, their eyes would be opened. The amount of the assistance should be doubled, because the marginal difference between costs and sales price is so terrific that even a bounty of 4-Jd. a bushel on production would do little to bridge the gap.
Senator Johnston gave certain estimates of the current season’s crop. I have figures that do not quite agree with his, but my estimate has been given to me by ope of the largest wheat firms, that of John Darling and Sons. It amounts to 210,000,000 bushels. I agree with Professor Copland’s statement that, on account of seasonal conditions, the crop will probably be as low as 202,000,000 bushels.
– The last official estimate is 214,000,000 bushels.
– Then the Government will have to pay a good deal more than was expected, under the bill as it will leave this chamber. The following table gives a comparison of the crop for 1931-32, and the estimate for 1932-33 :-
If the estimate be realized, it will be the second largest harvest garnered. It is interesting to note that Western Australia now grows practically 30,000,000 bushels in excess of what was grown in 1918. The estimated crop of 210,000,000 bushels is a wonderful performance on the part of the wheat-growers of Australia, and they deserve to be congratulated upon it, particularly as the losses incurred by them must be tremendous. I believe that in another place to-day the honorable member for Macquarie, supporting the proposals of the Government, characterized the wheatgrowers as “ a lazy rabble,” and also said that they are inefficient, and as a class are not prepared to work. No greater slur than that has ever been cast on the men of the outback. It is to his shame that this gentleman represents a country electorate. I. am sure that no honorable senator would endorse his opinion. Every one is acquainted with the terrific struggle against overwhelming odds that has been made by the wheat-growers during the last two or three years. They live under conditions that are unsuspected by honorable senators, and that would not be tolerated for a moment by men who live in the cities. Their hours are inconceivably long, and their only reward has been to 3ee the equity for which they have struggled on their farms during the last few years gradually disappear under the onslaughts of the depression. They are one of the greatest assets that the nation could possibly have. If the Government is prepared to take the necessary action it can divert from the wheat industry, in common with other export industries, a great deal of the world’s depression. That may be done by the adoption of a monetary policy that would at least harmonize our internal costs and sale prices. The Government, however, refuses to countenance such a monetary policy. In another place, as well as in this Senate, it has also refused even to appoint an impartial committee or a royal commission to investigate currency matters. Some persons believe - I am one of them - that the Government is to-day following unnecessarily a deflationary policy that is imposing greater adversity upon those who represent our export industries. I feel sure that every one is aware of the action recently taken in Great Britain, and that even those who feel that the depreciation of currency was something to be ashamed of have reconsidered their view. I believe that most of us have made up our minds that a depreciated currency must be our standard at least for some time to come. As I have already mentioned, the exchange rate has been of tremendous benefit to our export industries. I admit that we are not getting the full benefit of the exchange; but if we were to go back to the gold standard we would be receiving only ls’. 4d. or ls. 5d. a bushel for our wheat.
– Does the honorable senator suggest that if exchange were free it would be higher?
– It will go higher, because the Government will be forced to make it higher in order to secure sufficient funds to meet its overseas commitments.
– Did the honorable senator say that the Government will be forced to increase the rate?
– There must be a tendency for exchange to rise to a sufficient height to enable us to deal with our exports and to provide sufficient money, to meet our commitments in London.
– To-day exchange can be purchased at 4 per cent, below the existing bank rate.
– Great Britain has an equalization exchange account of £150,000,000.
– That has gone long ago.
– No. Every country is managing exchange in an endeavour to harmonize internal prices with export prices.
– Did the honorable senator say every country?
– Australia is not included.
– Is not the Commonwealth Bank controlling exchange ?
– Yes; but we are suggesting to the Government the necessity for realizing that world’s prices will be low for some ‘ years, and that it is the responsibility of the Government to make some effort to investigate monetary conditions.
– Is it not the duty of the Commonwealth Bank to do that?
– It is the responsibility of the Government to indicate to the nation the lines which our currency should follow. *
– Does the honorable senator suggest that the Government and not the Commonwealth Bank controls the exchange rate?
– No. I suggest that the Government should investigate the whole currency question and lay down a definite policy. In the matter of currency the Government should npt interfere with the Commonwealth Bank; but it should investigate the whole question, which it has not done up to date.
– The Government is satisfied with the control exercised by the Commonwealth Bank.
– The fact that the Government is satisfied brands its policy as obsolete and unnecessarily conservative. After the Napoleonic wars the British Government appointed a bullion committee in an endeavour to avoid the full effect of the depression which followed. In 1924 it appointed the Cunliffe committee. Did not the League of Nations also appoint a gold delegation? The United States of America appointed a standing committee to * investigate matters of finance. This Government has merely been adopting a policy based upon costs of production.
I now wish to submit to the Senate some figures concerning the world’s position of wheat, because of the important decision which is about to be made by the wheat-growers. Is it the policy of the Government, by its legislation, to restrict the area now under wheat, or to try to maintain the acreage now planted? To say that the decision which the wheatgrowers are about to make is not of vital concern to the Government would be ridiculous. A restriction .of the area under cultivation will come about automatically,, and not as the result of a policy dictated by the Government. A fall of prices must have the effect of restricting the area under crop. It should bc the desire of the Government not to restrict the acreage, but to keep it at the highest possible level, so that the volume of exports may be maintained. Any one possessing a knowledge of the. existing conditions must know that a restriction of exports will result in ultimate default, because the Government will not be able to meet its financial commitments overseas. The following table shows the world’s wheat production from 1909 to 1931-32:-
Increased average, to 1909-13 period.
22$ per cent., Australian con-
Note. - : compared tribution to world’s crop equals 4 per cent.
If the Senate should reach a hasty decision, and pass legislation that will have a discouraging effect upon those engaged in wheat production, there will be an automatic restriction of the area under cultivation. On the figures I have submitted, it will be seen that the world’s production shows an increase of 25 per cent., and that our contribution to the world’s production is not more than 4 per cent. I now submit a table showing the chief exporting countries, and their estimated exportable surpluses for the season 1932-33. It is as follows:-
The estimated wheat imports for 1932-33 are as follow: -
From the figures I have quoted, it shows that there is a surplus of exports totalling 252,000,000 bushels.
– What are the world’s stocks to-day?
– In 1926-27’ the world’s wheat stocks were 907,200,000 bushels ; at the end of the 1927-28 season they were 916,800,000 bushels. In 1928-29 they reached the peak point of 1,248,000,000 bushels. In 1929-30 they were 840,000,000 bushels; at the end of 1931 they were 1,132,000,000 bushels, and at the end of 1932 they were estimated to be 1,104,000,000 bushels. To that quantity has to be added a carry-over of 252,000,000 bushels, which brings the aggregate this year up to 1,356,000,000 bushels. That includes this season’s wheat not yet harvested. It may be contended that those figures show a hopeless position of over-production, but even on the basis of export surplus it is only fifteen months’ supply. Wheat stocks to-day are lower than they were in 1927-28. On the basis of the world’s total wheat production they represent only three months’ supply.
– /Supply for three months would be about 215,000,000 bushels.
– We have fifteen months’ stocks on the basis of our exportable surplus. I say to the wheat-growers of Australia that the fear of overproduction is a bogy. I believe that the increased consumption of wheat throughout the world will compensate for that greater production. I have here an extract from Broomhall in this connexion which reads -
Relatively few of the countries of the world have exhibited during the years since the war any substantial evidence of a tendency towards changing per capita consumption of wheat, and these few all show increases: wheat has been replacing rye in certain European countries, notably in Germany, the Netherlands, and Scandinavian countries, and replacing various other foods in the tropics. It is clear that no substanial change in level of per capita consumption is under way in the United States of America, the United Kingdom, or India, which, with Russia, France, and Italy, are the world’s largest consumers of wheat. In France, Spain and Canada, threeother large consumers, no tendency to change in level of per capita consumption is in evidence, though for France and Spain the wide range of variation in the utilization figures might readily conceal important changes in the level. Data on Canadian flour milling and trade show conclusively that no important change in ‘average per capita consumption of wheat is in progress. It is worthy of note, however, that in the United States of America, the United Kingdom, and probably in Canada also, the post war level of per capita consumption is appreciably below the immediate pro-war level: in the United States of America and probably in Canada about 10 per cent., and in the United Kingdom about 5 per cent, below the pre-war level.
That shows that over-production is a bogy, and that the wheat-farmers of Australia would not be justified in restricting the acreage under crop. If Ave are to keep our wheat-farmers on the land, we must no longer continue to follow the conservative policy of a reduction of costs, but must accept the advice of outstanding economists and adopt a different policy of monetary management.
– That means getting rid of the present Government.
– Both Senator Johnston and the Minister dealt with the question of costs. The Minister said that there were numbers of wheat-farmers in Australia who were relatively prosperous. He quoted figures to show that a comparatively small number of them have collected the bulk of the bounty on wheat last year. If the Minister did nothing else he demonstrated clearly that he knew nothing whatever of wheat-growing. Had the personnel of the Government included a practical experienced farmer, the Government’s policy in respect of wheat would not have been changed so frequently. Unfortunately for the country, not one member of the Government has had practical experience in primary production. The Government’s insistence that it will not agree to a bounty on production shows that it is incapable of building a constructive policy which will put primary producers on their feet. It has been estimated that the average loss incurred in producing wheat is 9d. a bushel. On that basis, the total loss to the wheat-growers of Australia is about £7,000,000 per annum. Nevertheless, the Government claims that there are prosperous wheat-growers in this country, and on that ground offers to the industry something in the nature of a dole to necessitous farmers. There are no necessitous farmers in the sense that some are prosperous. All of them are necessitous; the whole industry is practically bankrupt. Senator McLachlan laughs. Were he to visit some of the wheat-growing districts of Australia what he would see would appal him.
– Some of us have had a much longer connexion with primary industries than has the honorable senator.
– That may be; but in supporting this scheme the right honorable gentleman is; supporting something that is not acceptable to the wheat-growers of Australia.
– That is a matter of opinion.
– If a ballot of the wheat-growers of New South Wales were taken, I am confident that 95 per cent, of them would favour a bounty on the basis of production. A” bounty Qf 4£d. a bushel would represent a little over £3,000,000. There are only two ways by which that amount could be made available, first, by the issue of treasury-bills, which would involve the question of the Government’s monetary policy; and, secondly, by the imposition of a tax on flour. I hope that we shall have an opportunity to discuss such a tax, in which case I hope to be able to convince the Senate that it would not necessarily lead to an increase of the price of bread. My investigations, covering the period from 1918 onwards, indicate that the price of bread rose when the prices of wheat and flour fell. A fall of 39.6 per cent, in the price of wheat, and 13.4 per cent, in the price of flour led to the price of bread increasing 34.5 per cent.
– Does not that indicate that there are other factors beside the price of flour which determine the price of bread?
– Yes. If we impose a tax on flour we shall have to bring some pressure to bear on the manufacturers of bread in order that that commodity will not cost more. There are many other things which ought to be said, but there is not time to say them now. I do not think that this measure should be dealt with in this hurried fashion. If the Government does its duty, it will withdraw this bill and substitute one more on the lines of the amendment submitted by Senator Johnston.
– I am glad that, in this comprehensive bill, the Government intends to give some relief from taxation, especially that upon land. I listened with interest to the splendid speech of Senator Guthrie, and I hope that the day will soon come when the Government will be able to vacate this field of taxation entirely. I have always regarded the land as being the machine by which farmers and graziers make their living. I consider that it is fair to tax income derived from the land, but that a tax on the land itself is wrong. I hope that before long both the Commonwealth and the States will be able to do without revenue from land taxes. The taxes imposed on absentees sometimes press on them with undue severity. I know of cases of men in England who send relatives in ‘ Australia small sums of money on which interest is charged. On the income derived from that source taxation at the rate of 10 per cent, is imposed, whereas if the money had been borrowed in Australia the income would be exempt from taxation. I do not know whether this bill provides for such cases, but, if not, I hope that the Government will look into this matter. When money is sent here from England in the way that I ha.ve mentioned, the position should be the same as if the money were borrowed locally.
In cases in which income from property is derived from the interest oil mortgages on farm lands, the taxation should be remitted so long as the mortgagor gets the benefit. At present many farmers cannot pay interest on borrowed money. If my suggestion were carried out, it would mean a reduction of interest to farmers, equal, in many cases, to 1 per cent. The States, by legislation, have decreased the interest on mortgages by about 22 per cent., bringing it in some cases as low as 5 per cent. With the present prices of primary products many farmers cannot pay 5 per cent. I suggest that 4 per cent, is as much as most of them can pay; and some cannot pay even that much. In such cases the interest is like a millstone round their necks. The rate of interest is a heavy burden to bear, because of the extremely low prices of produce. Fortunately, it is coming down, but not fast enough. It would be a tremendous help to farmers if the tax on the interest on small amounts lent to farmers were remitted. At the present time our farmers are becoming disheartened and it is our duty to do what we can to give them encouragement by lightening their burdens.
I wish now to say a few words upon a matter in connexion with which there is, I believe, a difference, of opinion in the Senate, namely, the relief to be given to our wheat-growers. If this were a proposal to give relief to all farmers instead of restricting it to wheat-growers, a greater act of justice would be done to all sections of our primary producers. Originally it was the intention of the Government to set aside £1,000,000 to assist farmers to purchase superphosphates. When I first learned of that proposal I felt that it was the best scheme I had ever heard put forward; because the assistance would have been given to all sections of the primary producers. Superphosphates are being used in increasing quantities and the price is far too high. But I understand that shortly after the Government’s scheme was announced, the wheat-farmers organized a deputation to wait on the Prime Minister in Canberra, and that, after having heard their representations, the Government altered its relief scheme to the form which now appears in the bill. Under it, £2,000,000 is to be provided for the relief of wheat-farmers and £250,000 to assist other farmers in Australia.
I assume, of course, that the Government has given this proposal its most careful consideration. I know that it consulted those most concerned, and I believe that the £2,000,000 will be distributed on an equitable basis. I am more concerned about the distribution of the £250,000, and I make a special appeal to the Ministry on behalf of Tasmanian farmers. While I admit that our wheatgrowers constitute a very important section of the community, I remind the Government that there are other farmers in Australia. We have them in the State which I assist to represent in this chamber. Last year, there was distributed, io round figures, £3,250,000 in the form of a bounty on wheat. Of that amount, the Tasmanian wheat-farmers received only £2,011. Knowing that in Tasmania the number of farmers in proportion to the population is greater than in any other State, when first I saw those figures, I felt sure there must be something wrong; but on inquiry, I learned that the production of wheat in Tasmania last year, which was an abnormally bad season, was only 180,000 bushels, compared with an average production of between 400,000 and 500,000 bushels. If the bounty last year had been distributed on a population basis, Tasmanian farmers would have received £116,000. As the taxpayers of that State had to find their proportion of the wheat bounty, the farmers in that State should, I submit, have received a greater proportion of the money available. If the amount to be provided this year were distributed on a population basis, Tasmanian farmers would get £75,000. This bill provides for a sum of only £2,400. But, as I have explained, £2,000,000 is to be ear-marked for assistance to wheatgrowers, and £250,000 for assistance to other farmers. I hope that our farmers will get a pretty liberal slice of the latter sum. Because they are not as well organized as are farmers on the mainland, it must not be assumed that they are not in need. I can assure the Senate that. they are feeling this depression just as much as are producers in other parts of the Commonwealth. In Tasmania, we go in for a good deal of mixed farming, but dairying is one of the main features of our farming practice. In one of the city newspapers on Monday, I read the following : -
Lowest tor 30 Years.
London, Saturday, Notwithstanding the announcement that Australia and New Zealand intend to restrict exports, butter prices continue to fall. The present value of choicest Australian and New Zealand butter (salted) is 80s., the lowest for more than 30 years.
In Melbourne, on the same date, butter was being sold at 116s. 8d. per cwt., or 12½d. per lb., the lowest price since 1914. 1 do not believe in dairy butter as a rule, but I have seen good quality butter of this description sold in Tasmania at as low as 8d. a lb. That is a ruinous price. Everything which a farmer uses costs at least from 40 per cent, to 50 per cent, more than it did in 1914. Senator Guthrie has said that the increase is at least 70 per cent. Something must be done to bring costs nearer to the sale price of the output of our primary industries, if we are to get out of our present difficulties. Dairy-farmers in Tasmania have been doing everything they possibly can to increase their efficiency. They have gone in a great deal for pasture improvement and for the building up of good quality dairy herds. A recent report issued by the Agricultural Department states that last year there was an increase of 12 per cent, in the number of dairying cows in that State, and an increase of 60 per cent, in the production of butter. But for the fact that the wives and families of our dairy-farmers work much harder than other persons in the community, their position would be much worse than it is to-day. They are now faced with the lowest prices on record, and something should be done to assist them. Our fruitgrowers also are in need of assistance. This year they shipped 1,000,000 cases of apples to London and did not realize sufficient tq pay the cost of the cases and freight. Instead of getting a credit note they got a debit note. They had to do all the work of cultivating the orchards: they had to prune and spray the trees, pay heavy fertilizer bills, pick and pack the fruit, pay rail freights and shipping charges, and in the end found themselves out of pocket. Actually they shipped three million cases of apples last year, but as I have just said, in respect of one million cases they were out of pocket. Although they appealed for assistance on many occasions nothing was done to help them. Potato-growing is an important industry in my State. It “costs anything up to £20 an acre to produce potatoes, and present prices are unpayable. Geographically Bass Straits is against our growers, because they have to sell their produce on the mainland, and their difficulties are accentuated by that most awful piece of legislation - the Navigation Act. If they were not the best and cleanest potatoes in Australia we should not be able to sell them. It is only the quality of our products that keeps us in the market. The costs of machinery, manures, bags and freight are all too high. Our hop-growers are also facing bad times. Theirs is a most efficient industry, but because of over production the growers were obliged to dig up a proportion of their hops which cost anything up to £100 an acre to plant, and still they were unable to find a profitable market for their output. Saw-milling is another Tasmanian industry that is in difficulties. Present prices for timber are extremely low while costs are extremely high. Again because of the Navigation Act, it costs more to freight timber from Tasmania to Melbourne than from Norway to Melbourne. At one time Tasmania produced a great deal of hay and chaff, but as the internal combustion engine has displaced horses there is now no market for that product. Oats are quoted at from ls. 4d. to ls. 8d. a bushel. I would just as soon grow wheat at 2s. 4d. a bushel as oats at ls. 4d. a bushel. Why should not our farmers receive a bounty on oats?
– No; but I know that this Government is going to give our wheat-growers assistance to the extent of £2,000,000, and if I thought that our mixed farmers in Tasmania would be treated as well as the wheat-farmers on the mainland, I should not grumble about details of the scheme. I sincerely hope that the Government will listen to my appeal on behalf of Tasmanian primary producers and see that they get their full share of the amount available for the assistance of farmers, as distinct from wheat-growers. The primary producers of Tasmania are industrious; but the fact that they do not agitate is no proof that they . are not in want’. As a matter of fact, they are in dire need of assistance, and not even the wheat-growers are more deserving of help.
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH (Western Australia) [2.31 a.m.]. - Although I intend to support the amendment, I ask Ministers to believe me when I say that I am thoroughly alive to the seriousness of the position, and when I assert that I sympathize deeply with the Ministry in the difficulties that it has to face. I was a member of a State Government for about seven of the difficult years that followed the war, less difficult, however, than at the present time. Ministers, particularly those in this chamber, are grossly overworked and inadequately remunerated, but that knowledge would not justify us in refraining from any criticism we may have to offer in the interests of our respective States, and in the discharge of our duties, though it makes me a little more tolerant of what I think are hasty remarks on the part of Ministers. I appeal to Senator Greene that he should not have accused honorable senators on this side of fishing for votes. I happened to be away, for reasons beyond my control, when the first step was taken in July of last year, but I read his speech then, and later, in December, and I find that although he did it in temperate and well-reasoned language, he argued from the same point of view as that from which we are arguing now - that the wheat-growers are entitled to this help, and cannot continue at a loss. He was speaking then on the very eve of an election at which he was to be a candidate, yet I would not for a moment suggest that he was angling for votes, and I do not think that it is at all kind that he should make such a suggestion against me or anybody else who advocates exactly the course that he proposed twelve months ago. He told us of one wheat-farmer who last year made a profit of £3,000 and got £600 by way of bounty. A simple calculation will show that to get a bounty of £600 at 4$d. a bushel would require an output of about 30,000 bushels, and that to make a profit of £3,000 it would have been necessary to net 2s. a bushel, which is about as much as wheat was worth on the farm, before going to the expense of carting it to the railway siding. The profit of £3,000 could not, therefore, have been made out of wheat-growing. If it is said that the fact that the man had the money shows that he was not entitled to the bounty, I suggest that there is no difference between a bounty given direct out of the coffers of the State and the bounty that industries are allowed to collect out of the pockets of the people through protective tariffs. To say that a man who made a profit of £3,000 in some other business was not entitled to the assistance that other wheat-growers who did not make a profit anywhere else were entitled to, is just as reasonable as to say that we ought to remove the duty on glass because Mr. Smith happens to win two or three well-backed “ doubles “ with his racehorses. While I do not doubt for a moment the accuracy of the statement of the Minister, I say that the fact that somebody who happened to be a wheatgrower, and collected £600 in bounty made a profit of £3,000 in some other way, has no bearing on the matter we are discussing.
We were told that those in the greatest need should get the greatest amount of help. To my mind, that is entirely a wrong way of looking at the matter. I remind members of the Government that they themselves set up a certain method by which this money was to be distributed. Why did they not adhere to that method? If their policy is that the producer in the greatest need should receive most assistance, why did the Government not stick to the bill as originally framed? I suggest that the reason is that the proposal could not possibly be carried out. A conference of Premiers was held at which the matter was thrashed out. I know that the .Commonwealth Government was not responsible for the decision made. The Premiers left the conference with the feeling that the Commonwealth Government was entirely in sympathy with their decision, that the Commonwealth do its best in the matter of providing the money and pass it on to the States for them to distribute it in the way they considered most proper. It would have been not only the simple and easy thing, but also the right thing to do, because the States are in the best position to judge how the money should be distributed. The Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) seems to be smiling at the suggestion, but I remind him that only a little while ago he was sending machine guns up and down the State of “Western Australia simply because he would not be guided by the people on the spot, who knew what should be done. It is a mistake to suppose that because a man is a member of the Federal Government he is necessarily _a better brained and bigger man than a Minister in a State Government. Even if that were the case, the State Minister has an enormous advantage in being on the spot, and that fact might well be recognized by Federal Ministers.
I am not altogether in accord with the suggestion of my friend, Senator Johnston, that we owe much to the Scullin Government for the bill passed last year granting assistance to wheatgrowers. As a matter of fact, the bill, if finally passed in the form in which it was introduced by that Government, would not have given a farmer a single penny. The subsidy provided for was to - stop when the f.o.b. price reached 3s. a bushel. There was opposition from this side of the chamber, and it was persisted in despite threats from the last Government, that if we did not take what it offered we should get nothing. That forced the Government so to amend the proposal that the farmers did, as a matter of fact, get 4£d. a bushel, although I do not think that a single bushel of wheat was exported, as the result of last year’s harvest, that did not bring 3s. f.o.b. or more. Senator Greene quoted the figures as they prevailed up to the time of the passing of the bill. Directly the bill was finalized the price of wheat went up, and during the whole of the export season the f.o.b. price was somewhere over 3s. a bushel.
If I had no other reason for supporting this amendment I should do so as a protest against the manner in which the bill kite been introduced. Here we have a measure to amend the land tax,- the income tax, the sales tax, and the Invalid and Old-Age Pensions Act, and it also provides for the granting of relief to wheat-growers and other primary producers. From the point of view of draftsmanship I do not hesitate to say that itis hopelessly bad, and from the parliamentary point of view it is entirely inexcusable. Politically, there may be a reason for it, but it is a bad reason, because it can have no other effect than to hamper discussion. In this chamber, we, very wisely, I think, limit our speakers to one hour. Nearly all the subjects dealt with in the bill are of sufficient importance for any honorable senator who wishes to make a useful contribution to the debate to spend an hour on each of them. We have had two or three instructive speeches during the debate, and for” the most part the speakers have not dared to go beyond one of the subjects dealt with in the measure; they knew that it would be impossible to coyer them all. The method of putting five bills into one restricts debate in a way which is not consistent with our parliamentary practice.
– This is a very striking instance of what is called “ tacking”.
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH.That means adding to a measure something which would make it impossible for the Senate to amend it. I think that the Constitution has fairly effectively done away with “tacking”. Whilst the Government in this action is not breaking the provisions of the Constitution, it is quite contrary to the spirit of the Constitution to submit proposals in this manner. The people ought to be our first consideration, and surely it must be admitted that a measure of this kind is a dreadful thing to launch on the public. Who will know what the land tax is, and who is to know how many acts must be looked up to discover the position in regard to invalid and old-age pensions ? This measure will lead, no doubt, to a great deal of litigation. Lawyers will be the only persons who can pretend to understand the measure. This method of legislating is capable of the widest expansion. It might be possible to lump almost the whole of the legislation of a session into a single bill. This practice also makes it most difficult for a person opposed to one section of the measure to offer any opposition to it without imperilling those portions of the bill with which he agrees.
– That is why this method has been adopted.
– I do not suggest that there is any motive behind it; but I ask the Government to abandon this practice. It may be said that it facilitates the despatch of parliamentary business. We are all anxious to complete the work, but I trust that we are still more anxious to do it properly.
I am in the same position as other speakers, and I shall confine my few remaining remarks to the one subject dealt with in the amendment, namely, the wheat bounty. My own view - and I see no reason to depart from it - is that all these bounties are bad, just as all protective duties become vicious when they go beyond the bounds of competition. If wo start in this manner where are we to stop? Who can take one word of exception to the remarks of Senator J. B. Hayes? We know that all that he said is absolutely true. If we oppose this bill and give a generous bounty to the wheatgrowers, we are still leaving without assistance many other people who are just as deserving as the wheat-growers.
– Some are even more deserving.
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH.I do not dispute that for a moment.
A little while ago, we commenced with the dairying industry, by imposing a heavy duty. It was not a direct bounty from the Treasury, but an equally direct bonus taken out of the pockets of the people, because it led to an increase of the price of butter. I am afraid that there are all too many evidences to suggest that that method will not for any extended period prevail to keep prosperity in this industry. I realize the necessity for taking somewhat similar action in regard to wheat. The quantity of wool exported is so much greater than the local consumption, that no such system could be applied to it. Therefore, the greatest and the richest of our industries has to bear the whole of the burden of all these other subsidies, while getting nothing for itself. Frankly, I find myself in a very difficult position in advocating any subsidy or bounty. I should get rid of the lot. But if any are to be retained, we must recognize the possible consequences. Last night, we passed a bill which, in effect, continued the bounty that has been received by the sugar industry, amounting to something like £5,000,000 per annum. Again I say that, from the point of the Australian people, it does not matter whether the assistance obtained by an industry comes out of the Treasury or out of their own pockets. It is easier to take it out of their pockets than to collect it as a tax; just, as it is easier to get revenue indirectly than directly. The ultimate consequence, however, is the same. This bounty to the sugar industry is to ensure its continued production of 600,000 tons of sugar per annum, one-half of which is turned out as a refined commodity, and is worth, at world prices, about £12 a ton, the other half being raw sugar worth about £6 a ton, or an average of £9 a ton. We give a continuous bounty of £5,000,000 per annum in order to secure the production of what, at world prices, is valued at no greater sum, and in the full knowledge that the bounty is given, not to increase, but to restrict, the production. As we do that, we must turn to the wheat industry, and ask ourselves what is its value. On the same basis, that of world prices, the value of the wheat industry to Australia is just about six times as great as the value of the sugar industry. t It is suggested that, for one year only, following a year in which a bounty was given, there shall be in the interests of an- industry the value of the production of which is six times as great as that of the sugar industry a bounty amounting to two-fifths of what is given to the sugar industry, and that it should be given, not to restrict, but to increase production so that we may have a greater quantity to export.
– It surely all arises from the fact that governments will not face up to the truth that tariffs must come down.
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH.That is the real point. The solution of our troubles is simple, if we will only face it, and get rid of things like the Navigation Act. I do not want to destroy any decent Australian industry; I wish merely to bring them down to a competitive basis. If that were done, the need for all these subsidies would disappear. Either one thing or another must be done - the necessity for the subsidy must be removed, or the subsidy must be given. I have heard the argument, “ What is the use of bolstering up this industry when it seems obvious that there is overproduction in the world, and that world prices will not stand it?” The answer is, that of all the commodities that can be produced in Australia, wool and wheat offer the greatest natural possibilities. I believe it is quite right to say that there is no other country in the world which has equal natural advantages for the production of wool; and I should think it would be quite right to say also that there is no other country which has greater natural advantages for the production of wheat. Consequently, we occupy a supreme position in regard to wool, and a position equal to that of any other country in regard to wheat. A big proportion of the wheat that to-day is entering into such dangerous competition with our wheat is produced in countries that are not adapted to its production. That would not occur but for the present disinclination of countries to trade with one another, and the necessity for being self-contained because of the constant fear of war. It comes to this, that if Australia cannot carry on the two industries for which it is best adapted, nothing is more certain than that there will be a very serious lowering of the standard of living of our people.
I revert for a moment to the bill that we passed last night. That measure embodied all sorts of conditions in regard to wages. My attitude on that question is quite clear, I want wages to be as high as possible; but at the same time I want something like equality of remuneration for- equal work. In our wheat industry to-day, very many thousands of men are working for less than £1 a week. My friends of the Labour party may say that they ought not to do so. I assure them of two things: First, that in the majority of cases the employers themselves are no better off; and secondly, that if they were not working for £1 a week they would not be working at all, and in that case there would be such a tragic drop in our exports that two things would happen very quickly - a compulsory repudiation of our overseas obligations, and a further tragic fall in the value of the Australian pound. Nothing else could happen. Although I know that my friends will say that it is a very bad thing for any person to work extremely hard in an industry - quite as hard as those who work in the cane fields - for less than £1 a week, I assure them that if this were - not done, not only would it be utterly impossible for the workers in the cane fields to draw the reasonably high wages that they do, but it would also be impossible for honorable senators to receive any remuneration for the duties that they discharge, because the country would not be able to carry on. So we come to the point: Can the wheat industry continue without some measure of assistance? I have had a long experience of this industry. I do not profess to be a practical farmer; but a man cannot live in the very centre of the principal wheatgrowing district of his State for more than a quarter of a century, and conduct a newspaper in it, without acquiring some smattering of knowledge concerning the industry. I say without hesitation that, although costs have been brought down considerably during the last few years, it is practically impossible for any farmers, except those who are most fortunately situated, to “ break even “ with the price of wheat what it is to-day. If that condition is to continue, if there is to be no assistance to an industry which has a right to it because of the contribution that it is making towards other industries, I am afraid that inevitably the area under cultivation will decrease, production will fall off, our exports will drop; and we shall be faced with a much more unfortunate situation than that in which we find ourselves at the present time. But if there is to be assistance, on what basis should it be given? I say that it has to be on the basis of right. I go back to the speeches delivered by Senator Greene, twelve and eighteen months ago, in which he said that the wheat industry was entitled to this assistance. It must be either one thing or another - a right, or a charity. The Government would make it a charity. I suggest that, from many points of view, that is entirely objectionable. It is a right ; and the principle is not affected in the slightest degree by the fact that some persons who are engaged in the growing of wheat may not need the assistance because they have been fortunately circumstanced or they have some other business or source of income. If the wheat industry, as an industry, is not entitled to assistance, do not give it. But I say that it is entitled to assistance, and that it is necessary to give it. I also say that there is no other basis on which this money could be distributed. Any one who attempted to distribute among necessitous farmers the sum proposed would not only get into the mess in which the Federal Labour Government found itself when it set out to distribute £250,000 to the unemployed at Christmas time, but also would merit the fate which befell that government.
– Hughes. - Fortunately, the word “ necessitous “ has been omitted from the bill.
– I know that it has. But what has really happened? The Government, having made up its mind that it would not distribute this money on a productive basis, looked round for this method and that; and having failed to discover a method, placed the responsibility on the States - almost, one might say, like Pilate, washing its hands of the business. But the States are to be told that they must not make the distribution in the one simple and easy way. It is almost like giving a man a nicely flavoured whisky and soda, and saying to him, “ Do what you like with it so long as you do not drink it “. I hope that, even at this late stage, the Government will relent to the extent of saying, “ It is our responsibility to provide assistance “ - which it is, because the position of the wheat-grower is due entirely to federal law, inasmuch as federal law has conferred advantages on all other industries and has thus prejudiced the farmer. If the Government cannot go any further in connexion with the amount to be found, for goodness’ sake give the States a free hand and allow them, because of their much closer knowledge of the circumstances, to do the best that they can.
The question of the amount to be provided is really the most difficult of all, and on this point the Government is entitled to the greatest sympathy. If it were pursuing an entirely consistent course, I believe that I should stand by it, even if it refused to give a bounty. But what is the position? This year, as in past years, the Government is financing deficits and putting in hand works for the relief of unemployment to the extent of £21,000,000, purely by the issue of treasury-bills.
– The treasury-bills issued this year will amount to £22,000,000.
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH.When the Labour Government proposed to finance a wheat bounty, and to carry out works for the unemployed, by means of a fiduciary note issue of £18,000,000, we took strong exception to that course. I often wonder whether we should have adopted the same attitude had that Government suggested the doing of those . two things by the issue of £18^000,000 worth of treasury-bills. I am quite confident that the fiduciary note issue would very quickly have found us all out and resulted in disaster. I am also well aware that the system of financing with treasury-bills can be prolonged very much longer; but I am equally certain that it cannot be prolonged indefinitely.
– The principle is practically the same.
– It is not quite the same. The issue of treasury-bills is a much more restraining principle, one that can be he1d in check for a certain time, but not indefinitely. That £22,000,000 is created credit; and, leaving out of the question the wisdom of creating it, we cannot escape the point that our fate will depend upon how we use it. My remarks apply equally to borrowed money, money raised by taxation or created credit such as treasury-bills. It is not so much a question of how the money is raised, as it is of how it is spent. I have no hesitation in saying that if that money is to be applied for the relief of the unemployed there will- be more permanent relief by applying it to the stabilization of those engaged in our great industries than by carrying out public works, many of which will have no- permanent value.
– How does the honorable senator propose to stabilize those engaged in the industry?
– By giving assistance to the wheat-farmers to enable them to carry on. I do not mean by providing a . permanent price for wheat. If we reach the conclusion that, without some concession the farmers cannot carry on - and that is my firm conviction - and if we also say that we shall create currency to prevent the spread of unemployment and gradually relieve it, when we come to the distribution of the money so created we shall get more results in the way of a permanent and present curing of unemployment by applying a fair proportion of it to place farmers in a position which will enable them to “ break even “ with their year’s expenditure, than we shall get by using it for carrying out public works which will only afford employment while they are in operation. I remind the Minister of the remarks made by the Minister for Labour in the British Cabinet, and which have been repeated by other Ministers, when he said “ We have tried this thing out “ - it was tried out in England 100 years ago - “ and we are satisfied that the expenditure of borrowed money on public works is no cure for unemployment. Whatever advantage there was in it was of a purely temporary nature, and we have got out of it.” If we are raising £21,000,000, we should make the best possible use of it, and I honestly believe that the best use we could make of £3,500,000, would be to pay a bounty to the wheatgrowers on the same basis as last year rather than spend a similar amount on public works that will afford only temporary relief. I counsel the Government to take the criticisms directed against the bill in the spirit in which they are intended, and to-give to those who hold these views as much credit for being sincere in their desire to help the country out of its present difficulties as I am prepared to give to the Government.
[3.3 a.m.]-. - Listening to my colleague (Senator Colebatch) and his homily to the members of the Government, and to the Assistant Treasurer (Sénator Greene),
I was reminded of a little couplet in a musica] comedy that was popular some years ago, in which one of the characters appealed to the other by saying -
Of course you can never be like us, But be as like us as you’re able to be.
I hope that Senator Greene, Senator McLachlan and I will, in the language of that couplet, try to take to heart the lesson we have just been learning, and if we cannot be as good as Senator Colebatch, we shall at least do our best to be as like him as we can be.
– The Minister need not be satirical.
– I am prompted to make these remarks because I have a lively recollection of the fact that Senator Colebatch has a past in this regard, and I am trying to recall it, because it has a very interesting application to the situation we are dealing’ with to-night. About October, 1931, the Scullin Government brought in a measure for a bounty on wheat and for the purpose of authorizing expenditure without making any provision for finding the money, and Senator Colebatch pointed out that there was very good ground for the belief that, having got Parliament to agree to the bill, the Government would proceed to use that fact to bring undue influence to bear on the Commonwealth Bank to find the money. .
– That is so.
– The honorable senator, in his concluding remarks to-night, suggested that we should do the same thing.
– I did not say anything of the kind. I object to the Minister misrepresenting me. I referred specifically to the £21,000,000 that the Government has already obtained.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.The honorable senator is not so simple that he does not know that the whole of that money is being raised for the States, and is beyond our control. If we are to find an extra £2,000,000 for a wheat bounty we cannot take it from the £21,000,000; that is ear-marked for the States; we must raise it by treasurybills. To do that would mean increasing the overdraft of the Commonwealth Government . with the Commonwealth Bank, and would amount to that inflation which Senator Colebatch criticized when he attacked the Scullin Government in 1931. If the honorable senator will refer to his speech, he will find that he suggested that we should amend the bill to provide that the money should not be found by that means, and to prevent the Government, once having obtained the imprimatur of Parliament, from going to the Commonwealth Bank and increasing the issue of treasury-bills. Now he wishes to put this Government into a position against which he warned the Scullin Government.
– I did not suggest anything of the kind.
– I suggest that when we have such a homily on perfect behaviour-
– The Minister has no right to misrepresent me.
-That is not misrepresentation. I challenge the honorable senator to refer to Hansard.
– The Minister is misrepresenting, not what I said then, but what I have said to-night.
Senator ‘Sir GEORGE PEARCE.That is the position the honorable senator took up in 1931 when dealing with a bill introduced by the Scullin Government. In this bill the Commonwealth Government is making provision for remissions of taxation, and also for assisting the’ wheat-growers out of available revenue. We have used the last penny of available revenue in order to give the utmost assistance possible to the taxpayers of Australia, and to the wheat-growers. We have strained the resources of the Treasury to the limit in order to give the utmost possible assistance. If the amendment is carried the obligation will be upon the Government to find an additional £2,000,000. Where are we to obtain it? There are only two sources open. One is to impose some form of additional taxation, and the other is to go to the Commonwealth Bank for treasury-bills. In a bill in which we were trying to lift the load of taxation off the shoulders of the people in order to reduce the cost of production, it would be farcical at the same time to impose an additional £2,000,000 in taxation. Yet that is the position into which the honorable’ senator wishes to force us by his vote. I for one would not accept the responsibility that would follow upon such a decision. This bill and the proposal it contains must have some relation and must be studied in connexion with the general financial position of the Commonwealth and the States. Fortunately the Government - not because of any particular business aptitude on its part, but through good fortune - happens to have a surplus of revenue. But that is not the position in the States. Every State in Australia is faced with a deficit. When the Commonwealth and State ministers met in Melbourne, they had to decide how the State deficits could be reduced to such an amount that the Commonwealth Bank and the associated banks would be able to finance Australia for this year. Have honorable senators forgotten how the matter was argued as to whether the banks would be able to find the money? Have they forgotten how the State Treasurers had to return, and, at the cost of making further extensive reductions in their normal expenditure, reduce their estimates still further because the money was not available? The Commonwealth Bank and the other banks had told them that they could not find more money to meet their deficits which the States said were absolutely essential if they were to carry on their ordinary services. They had to make cuts in education votes and such like, services which, in normal times, would not have been contemplated, in order to keep within the limits which the banks said was the utmost possible amount they could provide: This £20,000,000 to which the honorable senator referred as being available is part of the amount which the banks undertook to supply for the State Governments. Yet the honorable senator is coolly and calmly proposing to vote for raising another £2,000,000.
– I never said anything of the kind.
– Where is the money to come from? The honorable senator said that he would vote for the amendment and he must know that that would involve an additional £2,000,000.
– About £1,500,000.
– I said that it was useless to spend it on public works.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE The action of the honorable senator would be to place the Government in its relation to the Commonwealth Bank in exactly the same position as the Scullin Government whose action he denounced.
– I said that the money could be spent to better advantage by assisting the farmers, than on public works. If the Government has bound itself to spend the money in another way it has nothing to do with my argument.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.I have no desire to misrepresent the honorable senator. Indeed, I agree with what he had said in respect of our debts. But, so far as that money is concerned, my answer is that it is not Commonwealth money. It is being raised for the States, and the Commonwealth has no control over it whatsoever. We would have to call a conference, and ask the States tq abandon their rights to the money before the Commonwealth could lay hands on it.
– That would be a wise thing to do.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.Senators Colebatch, Johnston, and Hardy adopt a pharisaic attitude towards the tariff. One would think from their utterances that the present Government was solely responsible for the existing tariff. I remind them that the Scullin Government added a few bricks to the tariff wall, and that this Government has already removed some of them, and hopes to take ethers away in the future.
– The present Government has added some bricks.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.Behind the existing tariff wall is the 1929 tariff, which was the responsibility of the Bruce-Page Government of which I was a member.
– Does the right honorable gentleman suggest that I had anything to do with that tariffs-
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.No, but the honorable senator is always bringing up this question. He assumes tha$ the present Government and the party with which it is associated is the only party on this side of the House responsible for the tariff. I was a member of the Bruce-Page Government, as was also Dr. Earle Page. I feel sure that Senator Hardy has the highest opinion of Dr. Earle Page, and that he would not suggest that the right honorable gentleman is other than a true representative of the Country party. Since he is still the leader of that party, I can only assume that he possesses the confidence of its members. Dr. Earle Page and Mr. Paterson, as well as other distinguished members of the Country party, were associated with me in that Government, and they remained in it while the Pratten tariff was passed through Parliament. They did not disclaim it then. They share with me and the other members of that Government the responsibility for that tariff. I confess that I found the 1929 tariff a considerable handicap at the last election. Tariffs are not popular in Western Australia. That is probably the reason for the attitude of Senators Johnston and Colebatch. But Senator Hardy is a New South Wales senator, and he cannot edge the tariff off, and make it the responsibility of the United Australia Party. The United Country Party must take its share of the responsibility.
Senator Hardy also spoke of exchange. I had been waiting for him to do so, because I had read in the press, reports of some of his speeches delivered in the Riverina and elsewhere, and had tried to interpret what was in his mind. I know that sometimes press reports of addresses do not always give the speaker’s meaning, and since I could not make out from the press reports what Senator Hardy was driving at, I awaited with some interest a speech by him in the Senate on the subject of exchange. The honorable senator spoke of a managed exchange. Managed by whom? Senator Hardy must know that at present the exchange rate is being managed by the
Board of Directors of the Commonwealth Bank, but he did not tell us whether or not he was satisfied with that form of management. Since the honorable senator goes about the country talking about the need for a change, I can only assume that he is not satisfied with the present form of management.
– Definitely no.
-Then the honorable senator should say what form of control he favours. Does he want the exchange rate to be managed by the Government?
– Perhaps he would transfer the control to another bank.
-He may have the Bank of New South Wales in mind. I expected to be enlightened when I heard the honorable member speak on this subject, but I confess that I am still in the dark.
– Is the right honorable senator in favour of appreciating the currency back to par?
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE I have confidence in the Board of Directors of the Commonwealth Bank. They know more about this subject than I do, and I am willing to leave it with them.
The honorable senator went further; he suggested an investigation into the subject of exchange. What sort of an investigation does he suggest, and by whom should it be Undertaken? He went on to give us a list of countries which had already investigated this subject. The list was a long one, and I lost count; but I know that included in it were twelve of the leading countries of the world, which had already caused an investigation to be made. I thought of some of those countries, and of the wide choice of financiers at their disposal. London is still the centre of the world’s finance, and I remembered that Britain had conducted an investigation. So had France. I thought of the wonderful Wallstreet, of New York, and of all the gold there, and concluded that American financiers must know something about finance, since they held nearly all the gold of the world. They also had an investigation.
– There was an international investigation.
-I am willing to make Senator Hardy a present of a number of volumes containing the results of these investigations. None of these world financiers has found the touchstone which will unlock the mystery about exchange and put the world right; but Senator Hardy says that if we in Australia were to make an investigation, everything: would be all right. “Great is thy faith, O Israel.” I have not yet seen anything in the reports of these investigations which would lead me to think that the world knows any better system than that which is in operation in Australia. We appear to be staggering along as well as most other countries. I assure Senator Colebatch that my remarks are made entirely without offence. He read the Senate something in the way of a lecture, and I desired to return the compliment..
– It is unfortunate that several matters of such importance should have been included in one bill. In the closing hours of the session it is not right that we should be asked to consider, in 24 hours, important legislation, the proper consideration of which should take at least a week. During the last day or two we have been rushing through bills of considerable importance without having time to consider them fully. There are still other bills to come before us, and I suppose that they, too, will be dealt with in this fashion.. In regard to the measure now before us, I congratulate the Government on doing the best that any government could do in the circumstances. An amendment had been moved by Senator Johnston. A stranger listening to the honorable senator might have imagined Australia to be such a wonderful country, and its government so expert that it would be possible to produce cash whenever required. During the last few years Australia has been faced with many problems for which our public men have sought in vain to find a solution. The main problem is that of finance, although Senator Colebatch suggests that the main cause of our difficulties is the artificial methods by which we live.
– What does the honorable senator mean by “ artificial “ ?
– There .is an artificial atmosphere about almost every piece of legislation which has passed through this Parliament for the last fifteen years. When the world depression reached Australia we could have stood up against it, but for our artificial manner of living.
– A government which the honorable senator supported was in power for a good deal of that time.
– I do not suggest that the governments which I have supported were always right - I have often protested against their legislative proposals, and in some cases have done my best to prevent them from being passed - but I have always been of the opinion that those governments have been the best offering in the interests of Australia. Some of the speeches on this measure have been more interesting than I expected. I congratulate some of the speakers upon their valuable contributions to this debate. Senator Guthrie gave us a considerable amount of useful information with reference to the various forms of land taxation, and showed that the proposal designed to break up big estates in Australia has absolutely failed.
– It has resulted in the settlement of many hundreds of people on the land.
– We know well that much of the land on which the - tax is imposed has been found to be entirely unsuitable for that purpose.
This bill provides for financial relief to be given to certain sections of the people, and Senator Johnston has submitted an amendment with respect to the assistance proposed to be given to our wheat-farmers. I intend to oppose the amendment. I am- confident that the honorable gentleman does not realize what it would mean, and the Government, I believe, has done its best to evolve the most equitable scheme of relief.
I wish to make one or two observations concerning what I regard as a serious omission from the bill. The Government, I know, realizes that if we are to get out of our present troubles, the burdens on our people must be lightened, because heavy taxation is a contributing factor in our unemployment problem. I had hoped that all those who were required compulsorily to make sacrifices under the plan evolved by the Commonwealth and State Governments for the rehabilitation of the Commonwealth would have received equal treatment under this bill to give relief from taxation, but such is not the case. Subscribers to the various Commonwealth loans which were converted recently were forced to accept an interest return of 4 per cent, on securities which, when purchased, gave them 5 per cent, or 5£ per cent. In conjunction with that portion of the Premiers plan it was decided that the States should legislate to bring down mortgage and all interest charges by 22% per cent. That has been done. Right throughout the Commonwealth those who entered into contracts to pay certain rates of interest on borrowed money, now have the right, under statute law, to deduct 4s. 6d. in the fi when paying their interest. This was, as I have explained, part of the general scheme. I therefore regret that this bill contains no provision to relieve persons who are subject to this deduction of 4s. 6d. in the £1 in their interest returns on mortgages and other forms of investment from the most objectionable 2s. property tax on top of the super income tax. Last year, when this matter was brought under the notice of the Government, it was suggested that provision to deal with it should be made in a bill then under consideration. The Treasurer pointed out, however, that as the transactions for that financial year would not come under the purview of the Taxation Department till this year, it was not necessary to include an amending provision in the bill then under considera-tion; but those who were interested were given to understand that the whole matter would be taken up during the recess with a view to amending the law so as to permit such persons to be relieved of that special tax, equally with those who had invested in government bonds. Up to the present, however, nothing has been done in that direction. It has been objected that to give this necessary relief would raise a number of administrative difficulties. I have examined the position very carefully, and I fail to see any insurmountable administrative barriers.
As this touches a matter of equity, administrative difficulties, if they exist, should be overcome. I hope that the Government will give serious consideration to the suggestion that I have made. Many people who are paying this special tax, for that is what the compulsory deduction of mortgage interest amounts to, expected relief to be given this year, because after they have met all taxation imposts, the burden on many of them is equivalent to a tax of 10s. or 10s. 6d. in the £1. This afternoon, when the Minister in charge of the bill was speaking, I asked him if the Government’s relief proposals included all taxpayers, and he replied that they did, with the exception of companies and absentees. On examination of the bill I find that the relief does not apply to all taxpayers. I, therefore, should like the Minister to give me an assurance that some provision will be made, if not in this bill, in some other measure, whereby the class of taxpayers to whom I have referred is given some measure of relief.
The Income Tax Assessment Act, No. 23 of 1931, provides in section 9 that a company may deduct from any dividends payable to preference shareholders “ an amount equivalent to the amount of that further income tax paid or payable by the company upon taxable income which has been distributed to its preference shareholders.” This means that a shareholder in a company which makes the deduction receives 2s.- in the £1 less than the amount of the dividend, the company paying the 2s. tax direct to the Commissioner. Possibly, there are many shareholders whose total property income does not exceed £250, but because of the provision in section 9 referred to, they have to pay £25 special property tax, notwithstanding that clause 6 (1) of this bill provides that, “ from every person’s assessable income derived from property there shall be deducted two hundred and fifty pounds “ as regards the imposition of the 2s. in the £1 special property tax.
– Is not the matter, to which the honorable senator refers, within the control of the directors of the company ?
– Perhaps it is, and next year they may not make the deduction, but may pay the dividend direct to the shareholder. I ask the Minister, however, to look into this matter and see if some arrangement cannot be made whereby, if it is proved to the satisfaction of the Commissioner that the tax has been deducted by the company a refund may be made to the shareholder to the extent of the exemption of £250.
– I give an assurance that I shall look into the matter, but I must confess that I do not quite follow the honorable senator.
– Perhaps I could explain the position better, if I quoted a concrete instance of this injustice. The other day I had a letter from a lady who had invested her savings in preference shares in a certain company. Her income is small, being under £250 per year, but when she receives dividends from the company, it deducts 10 per cent, so that, instead of getting £100, she gets £90, the £10 being paid by the company as a tax to the Commissioner under the provisions in the 1931 Act to which I have alluded. This bill provides that she should not be taxed at all.
– There should be some remedy if the amount is improperly deducted.
– But it is not deducted improperly. The 1931 Act provides that it may be deducted and, as I have explained, certain companies deduct the income tax payable before distributing dividends to their shareholders. In the case of the lady to whom I have referred, if the company paid her dividends without making a deduction, she would be liable, if she had other income, to pay income taxation, but under this bill, she should be exempt from the special property tax as regards income up to £250 per year. Because the company in which she has invested her money, makes the deduction, the Commissioner really gets the 2s. in the £1 property tax from a taxpayer who should be exempt.
– My impression is that it would be possible to get a rebate in such circumstances.
– The law provides that the first £250 of a person’s income from property shall be exempt from the imposition of the 2s. in the pound property tax. If this lady’s income were only £10 per annum, and it came from that investment, she would receive only £9 from the company, and thus pay a tax of £1.
– I promise to look into the matter.
– Referring to the imposition of this property tax on the profits of building societies, I have a letter from the Hobart Building Society, whose income is composed of moneys obtained from the investment of the contributions of the shareholders.
– If the Government were in a position to exempt building societies, it would have to be done under the Income Tax Assessment Act.
– I consider that the Government has adopted a proper attitude this year in the method decided upon of affording assistance to wheat-growers. I shall not discuss the total grant to be provided, but I approve of the decision that the money should be utilized only for the purpose of relieving wheatgrowers. I realize that under this arrangement Tasmania will benefit little, because it is not a large producer of wheat. But I am glad that provision has also been made for the relief of other primary producers to the extent of £250,000. I fully endorse all that Senator J. B. Hayes has said as to the need for giving relief to that section who are not wheat-growers, but are in equally necessitous circumstances, and I trust the State Government will avoid the many pitfalls that surround distributions of this kind. I hope that the amendment will not be agreed to.
– I am in agreement with other speakers who have dealt with the difficulty of debating a bill containing so many different proposals. “We on this side will support the amendment proposed by Senator Johnston with regard to wheat. Our reasons for doing this are obvious, in view of the opinions expressed on this side of the chamber regarding the position of the sugar and banana industries. We believe in encouraging all the grea t primary industries of Australia, and we look upon the wheat industry as deserving of every consideration because of its great national importance. With certain other features of the bill, however, we are not in accord. We cannot agree, under any circumstances, to have the land tax whittled down. Senator Guthrie may say that if this tax were abolished, increased employment would be provided, but we know that the industries witu which he is associated employ much less labour in proportion to the value of their products than is the case in most other avenues of employment. In Queensland the suggestion has been made more than once that the laws regulating the conduct of the pastoral industry should be altered to provide for labour conditions similar to those obtaining in connexion with the mining industry, and that unless the industry employs a certain number of men in proportion to the value of its products it should be subjected to penalties. In the pastoral industry in Queensland, shearing is done by contract. A contractor comes into a district with labour brought from any other place except the district in which the job is to be done, and the local shearer is kept out of work, and perhaps has to go to another State for employment. In common with other Australian products, the world price of wool is much lower now than it was a few years ago, but nothing is said by honorable senators opposite about the huge profits that were made in the wool industry until recently. The picture painted by Senator Guthrie was not in accord with the facts even to-day. I have travelled over most of the pastoral properties of Queensland, at any rate, and to-day the luxurious conditions of living on many of those stations contrast sharply with the conditions of the average employee in the industry, and the average worker in the cities. The biggest factor, I suppose, in the low price of the product is the interest burden. As we read the probate returns we find that farmers, sheep men, and pastoralists always leave considerable sums when they die.
– The amount of the gross estate is usually reported.
– I recently noticed that a man left £100,000, but the estate was bankrupt.
– Most of the newspapers report only probates of £2,000 and over.
– The fact remains, that these people do not die in poor circumstances to the same extent that the city dweller does, and expressions of sympathy towards them are often unwarranted. Senator Guthrie spoke of wool freights being worth very little to the shipping companies. That that is nonsense is proved by the efforts of these companies to reach the markets on the other side ahead of each other, so that they will secure- the next consignment. Senator Guthrie also spoke as though nothing is done by the nation for the wool industry. In Queensland, at any rate, during the fourteen years when a Labour Government was in control, splendid concessions were made to both sheep and cattle men by way of reduced freights to enable starving stock to be shifted to grass, and also in times of drought for the carriage of fodder and its sale on extended terms. The honorable senator said “ “We have heard a lot about sugar, but nothing has been done for the industry in which I am interested “. Every government has made concessions to that industry. What interests me intensely is the righteous indignation exhibited by honorable senators opposite when we who sit on this side are not fully in sympathy with all that they wish to do for their friends, remembering, as I do, their savage opposition - like a tigress protecting her cubs - when we propose anything of benefit to the class that we represent. That has happened in connexion with invalid and old-age pensions. We are told that Australia can no longer afford to carry the load it was carrying in making some recompense to the pioneers of Australia in the evening of their lives, although our responsibility in that respect is an absolute duty of paramount importance to- some of the proposals in this bill.
In regard to the land tax, I cannot speak with the same authority and accuracy concerning other States as I can in regard to Queensland ; but I know that estates have been burst up as a result of the tax. I have in mind one that is not more than 60 miles from Brisbane, which had only one family on it ever since I was a boy. That family was particularly wealthy, but it did not purchase anything in Queensland if it could avoid doing so, all its orders being sent to the southern States. The name of this landowner was Samuel - I believe that he afterwards became Sir Samuel - McCaughey. On one occasion, while the Fisher Labour Government was in control in the Federal Parliament, this gentleman gave a banquet, to which he invited Mr. Fisher and other members of his Cabinet. At a dramatic moment he handed over a cheque for a big amount in payment of his land tax, saying that he made the payment in such circumstances so that all might see how willingly he paid the tax, and as evidence of his gratitude and loyalty to Australia, which had enabled him to amass his great wealth. I relate this incident to prove that all of those who have to pay land tax are not opposed to it. The nearest town to the estate to which I allude is Beaudesert. In those days I was employed by a manufacturing firm, on whose behalf I visited Beaudesert soliciting orders. The lead- , ing storekeeper was strongly anti-Labour, and took every occasion to bait me in regard to my political beliefs. When the land tax was imposed he prophesied that it would result in ruin; but after it had had the effect of bursting up this big estate, as a consequence of which 120 families were settled on it, he admitted that I was right and he was wrong,adding,’ “ I am now getting business from a number of these farmers, whereas formerly the estate was not worth anything to me “. A good deal of misconception exists as to who pays this tax. I have encountered it all over the country while I have been campaigning. I say that it is paid by the big city monopolists who own business properties. In Queensland its bitterest opponents are the Brisbane Courier proprietary and the Telegraph newspaper proprietary, because they have to pay it.
– Has the honorable senator ever worked out exactly who pays the tax?
– I have. At political meetings that I have addressed in Queensland it has been my practice to reply to hostile interjections and questions from men on the land, by asking those of my audience who paid land tax to indicate the fact. I found that very few men on the land pay State land tax; and, as in the case of the federal tax the exemption is £5,000 on the basis of unimproved value, in nine cases out of ten I found that that tax was not paid except by the wealthy people who held big properties. I consider that such men should pay it, because, from a national stand-point, it is the fairest tax that can be imposed.
– In its budget for this year the New South Wales Government estimated that it, would not receive one penny by way of taxation from the primary producers of that State.
– There is something radically wrong if a person who owns property, the unimproved value of which is £5,000 or over, does not pay land tax. Land is the proper source from which to derive taxation, and it is a pity it is not the only source. If we have not the right to tax land, what in the name of Heaven can we tax? The land is the gift not of any individual, but of nature to all mankind. If we have not the right to tax land. under the system of private ownership, what rights have we? What would be the position in a small island such as Tasmania, if the Government had not the right to impose a land tax? It would not be long before the whole of the land would be under the control of five or six persons and the remainder would be dispossessed and told to live somewhere else. In this instance I think that the Government is on the wrong track. It was only a month or two ago that the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Pearce) in a coldblooded and heartless way said that the country was so poor and decrepit, that invalid and old-age pensions had to be reduced to the extent of £1,100,000. Yet a few weeks later the Government has the audacity to introduce another measure under which it is granting financial relief to its influential and financially powerful friends. While this is going on, I, in common with other honorable senators, have received a copy of a letter sent to the right honorable the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons), by the combined Federal Public Service organizations of Queensland, asking whether, in view of the -fact that the Government is remitting certain forms of taxation, it cannot consider the justice of restoring to the public servants the £8 a year of which they were deprived a few weeks ago, regardless altogether of the other serious reductions they have suffered. On the 30th of last month I asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister the following question -
Whether he has received a letter dated the 23rd November, from the Queensland branches of the combined Public Service organizations, appealing for some measure of relief from the recent wage cuts and if so, what decision has been reached upon the matter?
The reply I received read - t ,
An opportunity has not yet presented itself for considering the representations referred to, but the honorable senator will be advised in regard to the matter as soon as possible.
What better opportunity could there be than the present for the Government to take that request into consideration? A few moments ago the Minister in chargeof the bill told Senator Payne that hewould look into the position of the lady friend of the honorable senator who appeared to be able to draw dividends from preference shares in some company, . and who was anxious to know whether she was not entitled to some rebate. My friends in the combined Federal Public Service organizations in Queensland and elsewhere are entitled to the same kind of consideration with respect to the £8 which was recently taken from their salaries and also the other reductions made under the Financial Emergency Act.
I recognize that under this measure a number of anomalies that are pressing very harshly upon invalid and old-age pensioners are to be removed, and for that I am grateful. I would, however, suggest that with the Christmas season approaching, it “would be a fitting gesture on the part of the Government to restore to the pensioners at least 25 per cent, of the amount of which they were deprived some time ago. That would be a popular act for an unpopular Government to perform. On one occasion an American traveller sent out a questionnaire to 100 clerical gentlemen and business men asking them what, in their opinion, was the best day’ of the year. Numerous and varied replies were received. One was to the effect, that Christmas day was the best day in the year; another- excellent answer was to the effect that each day was a good day.
We are only sure of one day. The best of all days for doing a kindly deed is Christmas day, and I ask the Minister to take into consideration the splendid opportunity that is presented to the Government to make a Christmas present to the pensioners by restoring one-quarter of the amount of which they have been deprived. There are other portions of the bill which I intended to discuss, but I think that they can be more effectively dealt with in committee. Senator BADMAN (South Australia) [4.25 a.m.]. - I welcome the proposals contained in this measure, which provides for worried taxpayers concessions which they have been seeking for some time. The Government, though harassed owing to financial difficulties, is to be congratulated upon its determination to lift at least some of the burdens which are bearing so heavily upon the primary producers of Australia. I now wish to refer to the Government’s proposals to assist the wheat industry. I was rather pained by the Assistant Treasurer’s reference to the amendment moved by Senator Johnston. I refer to this at this juncture because I am not in favour of the amendment. Last year, when a wheat bounty bill was before Parliament, I followed the debates very closely, and I know that the Assistant Treasurer (Senator Greene) then expressed very definite opinions upon the subject. On that occasion, he said -
I agree entirely with the view expressed by Senator Colebatch and Senator Pearce, that it would have been infinitely preferable if the Government had been in a position to pay a direct bounty to the farmers on the export of wheat, and I also agree entirely that the wheatfarmers of Australia, in the circumstances in which they find themselves to-day, are entitled to any bounty which this Parliament is in a position to offer, and that it is impossible for the great primary industries of wheat and wool to carry on, as they are doing, indefinitely at a loss.
We are dealing with a bill which affects the interests of a vast number of our people who have been having a very bad time, and I am afraid that this proposal will prove a very inadequate form of assistance to them.
In view of that statement I felt, when recently making an application to the Government on behalf of the wheat-growers, that their claims would be acceded to and that a bounty would be paid on this year’s crop. We have since discovered that that is now impracticable. Studying the subject from all viewpoints, I cannot see how the Government can deal with the wheat-farmers more equitably than by paying a bounty on production if any relief is to be given at all. The Minister referred to a wheat-grower who had received £600 last year in the form of a bounty on wheat.
He would have to grow 32,000 bushels of wheat, and that would mean that he would be a farmer in a big way, and, therefore, liable to pay federal land tax, and probably also a fairly heavy sum as income tax. It will be seen, therefore, that the Government would get back from him a considerable portion of the bounty. lt was very reluctantly that the wheat-growers first sought assistance from the Government, and I regret that again, because of circumstances over which they have no control, they have been compelled to do so. When we approached the Prime Minister for relief, I did not think that the Government, because of its strenuous efforts to balance budgets, would be able to make any amount available this year to assist the wheat-growing industry, but, fortunately, it saw its way to do something for the industry, and it has now brought forward its proposal to make available £2,250,Q00 for the relief of farmers and other primary producers. In announcing its policy, the Government said that the money would be made available on certain conditions, which practical farmers did not think were just. Let us examine the matter from the point of view of a subsidy on superphosphates. Some time ago I asked a question about the quantity of superphosphates used in Australia during 1932. That information was not available, but I was informed that’ 660,000 tons of phosphate had been manufactured during 1931. Probably not more than 660,000 tons would be used for wheatgrowing. That would account for £660,000 out of the £1,000,000 subsidy which it was proposed to pay. The farmers did not approve of that proposal, and they again approached the Prime Minister, who invited them to see him at Canberra. They came here and placed their case before him. Out of consideration for those producers who were not growers of wheat, the wheat-growers at the conference decided to ask that of the total amount to be allocated, £250,000 should be set aside to provide a subsidy on the quantity of superphosphates used by persons other than wheat-growers. The Assistant Minister has said that no man has a right to dip his hand into the Treasury to help himself when he is -able to stand on his own feet. The farmers of Australia do not wish to be adjudged guilty of an action of that kind. I hope that the time will soon come when it will no longer be necessary for the farmers of Australia to seek assistance. Their position is indeed serious, for unless something is done almost immediately to reduce the cost of production drastically, the industry must go to the wall. Every year a considerable number of farmers are forced off the land, and those who remain are seriously embarrassed financially. The farmers are continually crying out against the increasing growth of taxation. Successive governments have piled more taxes on this industry, which directly and indirectly employs more labour than does any other industry in Australia. The wheat-growing industry is second only to the pastoral industry in building up national credits in London. If we examine the Australian position in regard to increased taxation, and reflect that the primary industries cannot pass on taxes as the secondary industries can, we shall realize how heavy is the burden that falls upon it. The total Commonwealth and State taxation in 1921 amounted to £70,000,000; in 1931 it was £86,000,000. If we add to that amount the deficit of over £20,000,000 we shall find that the total cost of government in 1931 exceeded £100,000,000. During 1931-32 Australia’s national debt increased by £3 lis. per head of the population. In 1931 our national indebtedness was £1,156,036,036, or £177 16s. 9d. per head. In 1932 the amounts were £1,187,827,868 and £181 7s. respectively. “Why have successive governments refused to hear the appeal of the primary producer? Other interests have had too much influence in the moulding of the policy of the nation. All along the wheat industry and other primary industries have been handicapped. The charge is laid against the farmer, that he is a habitual grumbler; but I suggest that he has had good reason to complain, because of his unenviable position. In the past, the farmer had felt nauseated at the sound of the -word “ bounty.” He has fought against bounties and embargoes; but now relentless fate has compelled him to seek whatever form of assistance he can obtain. He will not reject even a bounty. As a farmer myself, I dislike bounties. I do not believe in the principle underlying them, because, at best, a bounty is only a palliative, and not a permanent remedy. What the industry needs is some permanent form of relief. Australia has been generous to other industries. Between 1920 and 1930, the sum of £4,678,333 was paid in bounties to bolster up industries which were unable to stand on their own feet, and have not assisted in establishing our credit or in bringing wealth into this country. Our national credit is dependent upon our primary industries ; and to the credit of our producers it must be said that they have done their utmost to keep Australia solvent. During the war an appeal was made to the farmers of Australia to produce more wheat, and to that appeal they responded as well as the limited labour available to them . permitted. During the regime of the Scullin Government, a further appeal was made to them, in the interests of the nation, and again the appeal met with a generous response. During the five years prior to 1930, Australia’s wheat production, totalled nearly 600,000,000 bushels. During 1930 and 1931 our wheat production was 402,000,000 bushels, and the yield for 1932, according to estimates, will bring the total production to 600,000,000 bushels in three years, as against the same production in the fi vo years prior to 1930. The increased production of wheat has not only helped to keep Australia’s national credit good ; it has also meant increased railway earnings and harbour revenues. Unfortunately for the wheat-growers, while the. price of wheat has fallen by 58 per cent.,, freight, harbour, and other charges haveincreased in most States. Other costs are high also, and the farmer has found that,, although his returns are much less for the wheat he has grown, his expenses have not decreased. Last year the average price of wheat was 5£d. a bushel more than in November this year. Although in November, 1931, the export price of wheat at Port Adelaide was 3s. l£d. a bushel, compared with 2s. Hd. a bushel in November this year, the average price for November, 1931, was 3s. 3½d. a bushel, compared with 2s. lOd. a bushel for the corresponding period this year.
– How do those figures compare with the Minister’s statement ?
– The figures which I am quoting are from a reliable source - the Adelaide Advertiser. On the 15th November last year the price at Port Adelaide was 3s. 4d. a bushel, and on the same date this year it was 2s. 9%d. On the 29th November last year the price was 3s. Id.; on the same date this year it was 2s. 9Jd. From these figures it will be seen that there is a difference in the average prices for the two periods of about 5id. a bushel.
– That is exactly what I said, and those are the figures which I quoted.
– I have yet to learn that the Adelaide Advertiser has made any mistake. As regards the wheat situation, the Wheat Bounty Bill was passed on the 30th October, 1931. On the 1st November, wheat was 3s. lid. a bushel, and on the same date this year it was 2s. Hd. a bushel. I wish to be quite fair, so I shall add that during the month of November, 1931, wheat went up in price rapidly. On the 17th it was, I think, 3s. 8d. a bushel, but it receded rapidly, and on the 30th November it was quoted at 3s. Id.
The wheat industry is of more importance to Australia than any other industry. The country depends upon it for revenue. Business depends upon it because, directly and indirectly, it employs more labour than any other industry. The total number of wheat farms in Australia is 61,450, whilst the sugar industry, of which we have heard so much recently has a total of 7,392 plantations. The number of persons directly engaged in wheat-farming is not less than 200,000, whereas, according to figures given by the Deputy Registrar of Queensland, the total number directly engaged in the sugar industry is 21,000.
I mentioned just now that the prospects of good prices during the coming year are non-existent. There was a huge carry-over of wheat on the 1st July,. 1931, estimated at 679,000,000 bushels, being 100,000,000 bushels more than on 1st July, 1930, and we cannot expect better prices until this carry-over is reduced.
Let us now examine the position in relation to wheat production in the United States of America, Canada, and Australia during the years 1929-30, 1930-31. The following figures will, I have no doubt, be of interest to honorable senators : -
The figures for the United States of America represent a reduction of 4.7 per cent, in yield compared with the average for the previous ten years, and the Canadian figures show a decrease of 24 per cent, from the 1930 production. The Australian figures, on the other hand, show an increase of 50 per cent, compared with the previous five-year term.
In 1930 the wheat at Port Adelaide fell as low as ls. lOd. a bushel at a very critical period in the season, when many farmers were forced to sell. In 1931 the average price on the farm was 2s. 6d., plus the bounty of 4:£d. a bushel. If, because of the difficult farming situation, there was justification for paying a bounty last year, there is every justification for similar assistance this year.
– Then why not vote for the amendment?
– Before I close I shall give my reasons for opposing it. The farmer has been accused of spending his money recklessly,, and is sometimes asked why he is not able to withstand a lean .period. I venture to say that many of his accusers have spent their substance more recklessly. The farmer, as a rule, merely wishes to make his surroundings more comfortable. When he has money to spare he uses as much as possible of it on improvements. The majority of primary producers start in a small way, and have to put up with makeshifts in the form of galvanized iron huts. They have only sufficient plant to work their farms, and no outbuildings worth mentioning for the protection of their stock or machinery. Their land is only partly cleared. Can any one blame a farmer if, when ho has the cash, he erects a home for his wife and family, or purchases machinery to replace the obsolete plant with which he started, or erects stabling for his horses and sheds for his plant? Again, money is required to subdivide a property to ensure more economical working. Perhaps, also, a farmer considers it essential to get a permanent water supply. All these things are vitally necessary for comfort and for the reasonable working of a farmer’s property. Housebuilding, machinery, fencing, and water supply are costly. All materials required pay a high tariff, so whenever the farmer expends money on his property he is compelled to pay a high tribute through the customs to other industries.
I was invited just now to explain why I intended to vote against the amendment. I take the view that, as the Government has done as much as is possible in the circumstances to give relief to our primary producers, I am prepared to support it if the assistance is given in the form of a bounty. I stand for the bounty because I believe that it is the only just and equitable manner in which assistance can be given to our wheatfarmers.
– The Government has insisted in another place that the bounty shall not be distributed on a production basis.
– The Government declares that its intention is to help those who find it difficult to carry on. Many of our farmers are, I know, in an extremely difficult financial position. The proposal of the Government to appropriate £2,250,000 to assist our primary producers is welcome but is inadequate to meet the situation. The wheat-grower, knowing he has had to pay through the customs tribute to build up and keep other industries going, feels that when the Government has any money available for distribution he should at least recommend, not dictate, how it should be distributed. Hence the reason for the objection to the proposal to subsidize superphosphates to the extent of £1 a ton. If a farmer in a good district using 90 lb. of superphosphates per acre, at a cost of 3s. 9d., obtained a 22^-bushel return, the assistance given would mean a reduction of 25 per cent, on the cost of his superphosphates, which would be equal to ½d a bushel on his wheat. The cost of superphosphates to a farmer who could not use more than 50 lb. per acre because his land would not stand a heavier dressing, would be about 2s. Id. an acre, and if his return was ten or twelve bushels an acre, the cost of the superphosphates would amount to very little more than ½d per bushel.
It has been stated that the Government does not wish farmers having big returns and who are able to scratch along, although losing capital, to participate in a bounty. I would point out that the proposed superphosphates subsidy would have amounted to almost the same thing. For example, the man on first-class land and in a good rainfall area would benefit just as much as, or even more than, the man on lighter soil. The farmer on good country is able to use, in some cases, up to 1 cwt. of superphosphates per acre, whereas the man on poor country is not able to go beyond $ cwt.; his land will not stand a heavier dressing. Thus’ one’ will obtain a yield of 25 bushels; the other will get only 10 bushels. The benefit derived by the former from a subsidy on superphosphates would amount to about ls. 2d. an acre, or £d. a bushel, and the latter would receive about 5d., which would also be -Jd. a bushel. The bounty would be much more preferable, however small it might be, because if anything is needed more than another it is ready cash. Last year’s bounty meant in the case of South Australia all the difference between flat depression and a semi-buoyant condition of business.
The amount available this year, should, on present crop prospects, be sufficient to pay an export bounty of 3d. a bushel, but as some of this season’s wheat has already been sold, this would now be impracticable. I am sure that the farmers’ organizations appreciated the Prime Minister’s action in consulting them on the matter, but they were disappointed to find that the bill did not provide for the bounty which they sought. Personally, I am strongly in favour of the bounty, and failing that, I consider the next best thing would be to use the money to reduce transport or handling charges. As there is no provision in the bill to prevent any Government from reimbursing itself for any money which it has or may intend to use for farm relief purposes, the Government should stipulate that every penny should go towards the wheatgrower and the purchase of superphosphates by farmers other than wheatgrowers.
The wheat-farmers in South Australia have had as bad a time as those of any other State. Their plight was so serious that the State Government saw fit to legislate for their relief. According to the report of the South Australian AuditorGeneral for the year ended 30th June, 1932, of the sum of £391,336 advanced to 3,459 farmers who had applied for relief, £309,703 had been repaid.
This amount of £391,336 was, I may add, in addition to £800,000 received from the bounty of 4£d. a bushel. The bounty last year assisted our farmers to carry on, and purchased as much superphosphates as they required, and made it possible for them to crop a larger area this year than otherwise would have been the case. The price this year does not warrant the farmer striving to produce wheat when he knows that his losses will mean the shipping of his capital out of the country. I admit that this country cannot go on giving bounties indefinitely, because to do that would be uneconomical, but while conditions are so bad and while our farmers are facing almost insuperable difficulties, obstacles should not be put in the way of any proposals to assist them. The agricultural and pastoral industries are the roots of all Australian industries. If they are destroyed the whole industrial tree must die. All government assistance that can be given should be provided as soon as possible to save the wheat industry from disaster. The country which can tide its farmers over this difficult period in the history of the world is the one that will recover first.
As to the world wheat position, it happens that, at the present time, bountiful crop are being harvested in both the northern and southern hemispheres. Australia did not experience these conditions until 1928-29; but if growers in either hemisphere should fail, the price of wheat would increase very rapidly. I should not like to see Australia reduce its cropping area; but if the wheatgrowing countries decided to-morrow to reduce those areas the price would rapidly rise, even to the extent of 6d. or ls. a bushel. I hope that the Government will make the £2,000,000 available to the States in the form of a bounty. I am prepared to support action in that direction.
– by leave - By way of personal explanation, I point out that after I had spoken, the Minister, in the course of his reply, challenged the accuracy of figures quoted by me in regard to the price of wheat being 5$d. a bushel higher, when the last bounty bill providing for 4£d. a bushel was passed, than it was at the beginning of November, and higher also than it is to-day. Senator Badman has been good enough to quote those figures which I gave on the authority of the return which he showed me, as the result of his careful investigation of the files of the leading South Australian newspaper. I thank Senator Badman for his courtesy, and I hope that honorable senators will note that the difference between the Port Adelaide prices on the dates mentioned was as I have stated.
– I am surprised at the speech of Senator Badman, who appeared to imagine that the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) should be thanked for his courtesy in receiving a deputation of farmers. Personally, I consider that the honorable senator should have said’ that the farmers should have been thanked, for all the credit was due t o them for having left their homes and travelled hundreds of miles to wait upon the Prime Minister. How are. the farmers to be assisted? Senator Badman thinks that a bounty should be distributed, but he prefers a direct payment to the States for distribution among the farmers as the States may determine. I recall the fact that when the Scullin Government handed over £1,000,000 to South Australia for relief of the unemployed, the Premier of that State simply put the money into revenue, and used it to assist in balancing his budget, with the result that the unemployed in that State were only benefited indirectly. In my opinion, this Government should inform the State Premiers as to how we desire the money to be spent. It should be handed direct to the farmers. Senator Badman said he thought necessitous farmers should be helped: then why does he not accept Senator Johnston’s amendment? He intimated that big farmers in all probability were as badly off as the necessitous producers. To a great extent I agree with him, because, if the grower is producing at a loss, the more wheat he grows, the greater will be his loss, and a big farmer might be in need of help as much as, or even more, than a man who will be assisted under this bill. If I had been a farmer, I should have held out both hands for a bounty, for that would assist both large and small wheatgrowers. Senator Guthrie praised the Government because of its reduction of land tax. He considers that the tax should have been abolished, but he should not overlook the fact that this tax has had the effect of bursting up huge estates. Hundreds of thousands of acres of land that was formerly used for sheep walks is now under the plough.
If Senator Guthrie wishes to help men on the land he should fight tooth and nail for a bounty on the production of wheat.
Why does the Government lighten the burden of taxation of one section, when the public servants and the invalid and old-age pensioners are still to be called upon to suffer the recent reduction of their income? The Government has reduced the income of the invalid and oldage pensioners by 14 per cent., while it has made a gift of a 33 per cent, reduction of land tax to big city landowners and squatters. That is not a fair deal. I am reminded of the scriptural words - “ For he that hath, to him shall be given : and ‘ he that hath not, from him shall be taken even that which he hath.” Senator Hardy spoke of the exchange rate of 25 per cent., but I should like to see exchange at par, because that 25 per cent, has to be made up by somebody, and the burden is borne at present by the general taxpayers of Australia, who last year had to make up over £7,000,000 owing to the exchange rate being 30 per cent. While, on the one hand, Senator Hardy urges us to break down the barriers of protection, on the other hand, he says “ Give us a high exchange rate and build up a barrier of protection greater than we have to-day “. The consumers of our imports are paying the 25 per cent, exchange rate, which is similar in effect to a duty, because when the farming community imports agricuLtural machinery, &c, it pays for it an extra 25 per cent, owing to exchange. Senator Hardy also asserted that customs duties had had the effect of increasing prices. That should not happen in the case of an Australian manufactured article. If it does, it is due to dishonesty on the part of the manufacturer, and severe penalties should be provided to discourage the practice. Senator Johnston referred to a flour tax. Such a tax is absolutely opposed to the views held by honorable senators who sit on this side, because it would place the burden on the shoulders of those who are least able to bear it - the working class in the community. It would be much better to meet the position in the ordinary way, and provide for a bounty on wheat by a tax on the community generally. I wish to help the farmer.
– If we had the cash we could do it.
– The Scullin Government was in a worse position financial ‘y than is this Government, yet it paid a bounty of 4£d. a bushel. The revenues are now so buoyant that the Government is able to lower “the land tax in the interest of the big land-owners. On the other hand, however, it is still penalizing invalid and old-age pensioners. It is more culpable than David, of Biblical history, who robbed a mau of his one little ewe lamb, because it has reduced the old-age pensioners and, at the same time, given a concession to wealthy land-owners. A pension of 17s. 6d. a week is little enough. Having a few million pounds to spare, the Government might well have raised the pension to fi per week. If, having done that, a surplus still remained, relief from taxes could have been afforded.
– Although I represent Western Australia, I cannot support the amendment and must take the consequences of opposition to it that have been hinted at by Senator Greene in his reference to the seeking of votes. I regard this as a debate between irresponsibles and responsibles The Government has its responsibilities, of which no account is taken by those who are crying aloud for assistance additional to that proposed by the bill.
– Is Senator Johnston an “ irresponsible “ ?
– He is irresponsible in his ideas concerning the allocation of this money; they are not in the best interests of this country. He is guided by his own wishes, and by his intense loyalty to the party of which he is a member. The Government has to hold the balance of generosity fairly between all sections. That is a very difficult thing to do. It, perhaps, has a better opportunity of knowing the desires and the needs of all classes in the community than have the gentlemen who belong to a party which must have a somewhat exclusive outloook on the political life of this country. That, perhaps, is an inevitable accompaniment of what one might call sectional representation. Roughly speaking, we have in this Senate representatives of - I was about to say four parties, but at present one party is represented only by a deputy leader and no following. We have the Labour party, which is frankly representative of labour only; the Country party, which has a very strong belief regarding the wants of the man on the land and does not concern itself to any very great extent with anybody else; and the United Australia Party, which has to take a wider outlook on life because it aims at serving the wants of everybody in the community. Outside the ranks of the Country party we have, in the Senate, men who are as keenly interested in the farming community as are those who directly represent it. As an ^lustration of that, let us take the speech of Senator Guthrie.
– It was a long diatribe against the land tax.
– The longer and fiercer it was in that direction the better I should like it. Representing another class of farmer, Senator DuncanHughes is just as good a representative of their interests as, shall I say, my friend Senator Elliott. Then there is Senator Herbert Hays, a practical working farmer from Tasmania. One aspect of this sectional representation is most amusing, and gives rise to very earnest but brief flirtations.
– Honorable senators of the Country .party are elected by the whole of the people of the State. If they were sectional, the electors would hesitate to support them.
– I remind the honorable senator that no member of the Country party in Western Australia could secure election to the Senate without the assistance of the United Australia Party. I should welcome an even closer and more intimate union between those two parties than exists at the present time. It is quite natural that honorable senators who represent other interests should endeavour to serve them adequately. They have -done so, and have been most successful in attaining their ends.
In dealing with the bill, I shall refer first to the amount of assistance that is to be given to the farming community. The Government is endeavouring to do its best with the money at its command. “We know that the sum available is limited, and that it is practically impossible to increase the amount. The question then arises as to how it is to be distributed. The constitutional aspect of this matter must not be overlooked. When the Federal aid roads grant was in operation, the Federal Government made money available to the States, with certain reservations and conditions which had to be observed. In Western Australia, those conditions were observed in some instances for not more than ten minutes. Money was provided conditionally upon the work being done by contract, but within a week or two, it was found that the greater part was being carried out by day labour. In some cases, the work was good, but in others, it was done in a shocking manner. The way in which a good deal of the money was spent was most discreditable to the State authorities.
– Was there not any supervision ?
– The Federal Government had no control over expenditure of the money when the work was done by day labour. I should like this money to be made available to the States under a system which will allow reasonable discretion, but there must be some form of control by the federal authorities. I support the opinions expressed by Senator Badman with respect to bounties. I do not think that the most desirable way of assisting the wheatgrowers is by the payment of bounties. Then, again, there is the question of differentiation between those who need money, and those whose needs are not so great. Some restrictions must be imposed. It may be all right to allow federal money to be spent freely by the State authorities when the financial position is easy, but in days of financial stress and depression, we have to cut our coat according to our cloth. The State Governments control the land, and should, therefore, be able to ascertain the requirements of the farmers and to assist in alleviating their distress. I was about to say that I am sorry that I cannot support the amendment moved by Senator johnston; but I am not at all sorry. I do not think it deserves support, because the members of the Country party have apparently overlooked the claims of other sections of the community. I have briefly expressed my views on this subject, and, whatever may happen in the future, I shall be able to justify the vote which I intend to record, and which I think will be in the best interests of the Australian people generally.
– Honorable senators on this side of the chamber did not intend to participate to any extent in the debate on the second reading of this bill; but, in view of the developments which have occurred, the discussion has become most interesting. For a time Government supporters were allied with members .of the Country party. Senator Johnston delivered an excellent speech, but, unfortunately, aroused the ire of the Assistant Treasurer (Senator Greene). A little later Senator Colebatch caused some annoyance to the Leader of the Government (Senator Pearce), who made an effective reply. Other honorable senators followed, but their remarks were so interesting that those who remained in the chamber went to sleep. Some have said that there are few, if any, practical farmers on the other side of the chamber; but in you, Mr. President, the farmers have a worthy representative. When a Wheat Bounty Bill was under consideration last year, Senator Lynch said -
If the market rises, there will not be so much necessity for this bill, because the wheat-buyers will come in, and help to rehabilitate our farming industry, and put our farmers on an even financial keel - a big job. But, if the wheat market goes down - and there is no certainty that it will not go down - the provisions of this bill will be much less satisfactory to the farmers than those in the measure which the Senate did not accept last week. A moderate estimate .of this year’s production is 140,000,000 bushels. Of that quantity 40,000,000 bushels will be required for seed and feed. That will reduce the marketable crop to 100,000,000 bushels. An easy calculation shows that a bounty of 6d. a bushel on that quantity of wheat would yield £2,500,000. By reducing the payment to 4d. a bushel, the farmers will get £600,000 . less than that amount.
He went on to say -
There is no guarantee that tha price will remain at 3s. a bushel, for no one can say what the position is in Russia.
In Russia to-day a great sociological experiment is taking place, and advanced methods of production are employed. On one Russian farm 80 miles long and 20 miles wide, the seed is sown from aeroplanes.
– I cannot accept that.
– I have letters in my possession stating that it is a fact.
– Is that why there is starvation in Russia?
– There is no starvation there. A lot is talked about Russia by people who know nothing of the conditions in that country. I suggest that, as intelligent men, we should be prepared to take advantage of anything that Russia can teach us. There is no doubt that Russia is using modern methods in all her undertakings. Time may show that it can produce such huge quantities of wheat that the markets of the world will be affected, and Australian wheat-producers will be in a serious plight, indeed. On the occasion to which I have referred, Senator Lynch adopted a different attitude from that of his colleagues from Western Australia. The honorable senator realized that, in these days, a protectionist policy is necessary. He said -
I declare at the outset that I am and always have been a protectionist, and that I hope to remain one so long as I am entrusted with the suffrages of my electors. I am a protectionist from conviction; I believe that, without a protective policy, Australia would not be able to survive. How otherwise could we deal with that portion of our population which every year passes from adolescence to manhood? We have a population of 6,500,000, and the normal rate of increase is 2 per cent. Therefore, at least 130,000 persons attain their majority every year. The problem presents itself, how are we to absorb that accession to the ranks of our wage-earners, unless we see to it that we have a properly-balanced system that will enable every task to be performed justly and ‘progressively? The prospect of converting our customs houses into playhouses, and tearing down our customs barriers, I confess is a bewildering one, because of the imperative necessity for placing those 130,000 persons every year in some kind of profitable employment. i
Different solutions of the problems confronting us have been suggested. For instance Senator Hardy suggested that the situation could be met by increasing the rate of exchange and recommended the appointment of a committee to investigate the whole matter. Senator Pearce was somewhat satirical in his reference to the proposal, but I suggest that a committee, comprising Dr. Earle Page and Senators Colebatch and Hardy, should be able to accomplish something. Men of such intelligence ought to be able to elucidate this problem, and so bring prosperity again to Australia. It appears to be a case of conflicting interests. Many of the so-called solutions and remedies which have been put forward offer no permanent solution of our economic problems; they merely take money from one pocket, and put it into another. The raising of the rate of exchange does not increase the wealth of any country; it merely diverts some wealth from one section to another.
– If more money is to be spent, the primary producer will have to find it.
– Men of normal mentality realize that, in our present state of society, the primary producer is only playing a part. Others, also, are playing their parts, and are equally necessary. If the exchange rate is further increased, it may help the primary producers, but it will also mean that prices in Australia will increase, which means that the prices of the goods required by the farmers will increase. There will be a levelling process; the farmer cannot receive everything, and give nothing. A good deal of financial juggling takes place; but, under our existing stupid economic system, that appears to be inevitable. The remedy of Senator Colebatch is the free circulation of commodities, which really means freetrade. The honorable senator seems to think that the world’s problems will be solved by breaking down international barriers, and by allowing a free flow of trade between all nations. We are telling the farmers of Australia that it is essential in the interests of the nation that they shall produce more wheat; but if every other wheat-producing country increases its productivity, what will be the ultimate position of those engaged in wheat-growing in Australia Will it be bettered? I cannot see any possibility of any good in the international situation, so far as wheat or other commodities are concerned, by the removal of international barriers. Any man who cannot see that the problem is bigger than one which could be solved by that simple means has something wrong with his mental outlook. In every part of the world the real problem is not a contest between freetrade and protection, but the reorganization of society in such a way that producers shall find markets for their products, and the rest of the people will have sufficient money -to buy those products. Concomitantly with increased production there must be an increase of purchasing power of the people if any good is to result. We can produce almost anything that this country needs; but we must organize our production and distribution to obtain the best results. As it is, we cannot distribute the commodities we produce because we cannot control our national book-keeping. A market must be found for the things we produce. The trouble is that other countries are faced with the same problem, and are trying a to solve it in the same way. The countries of the world are competing with one another, and in the effort for supremacy they are constantly making reductions of prices and engaging in a form of competition which must lead to poverty. A solution of our difficulties will not be found so long as the great bulk of the people are unable- to buy the things they require.
Senator Colebatch spoke of the need to reduce bounties. If we are to deal with fundamentals, these matters must be discussed. Some honorable senators are too prone to sneer at those who point the way to social reforms. Russia is at least making an effort to do something, and there is evidence that its great experiment will prove successful. Notwithstanding our boasted civilization, we are allowing our people to starve in the midst of plenty. While such conditions continue no government worthy of the name could stand idly by. We must set ourselves to find a solution of the problems confronting us. Senator Payne says that our troubles are due to artificial conditions in society. Yet these economic troubles are just as intense in countries which’ are not protectionist. Senator Guthrie, as one would expect, devoted much of his time to the consideration of the subject nearest his heart. “ Where your treasure lies, there is your heart also.” The honorable senator spoke of the land tax, and went on to tell us what a wonderful country this would be if only the Government would lift from the man on the land some of his burden of taxes. But, as we well know, the payer of income tax or land tax, if he is an employer of labour, seeks to get it back from the community. Accordingly, he devises a method to unload it on to some one else. He gives his political allegiance to a party which promises that if returned, it will reduce his taxation. Thus we find the great United Australia Party standing behind candidates who undertake to reduce taxation.
– Is not that a desirable object?
– I am not saying that there is something wrong with a government that gives effect to pledges given to its supporters. It is merely doing its duty as it sees it. For the same reason we, as members of the Labour party, must do our duty by our supporters.
This measure proposes to give financial relief, and provide certain remissions of taxes at a time when, according to the Prime Minister, there is every possibility of Australia being required to resume the payment of interest on war debts. Assuming that the Hoover Moratorium is not renewed, we shall have to provide approximately £2,250,000 before the end of the financial year, but in its hurry to give relief to its rich supporters, this Government brings forward its proposals to remit taxes, without doing a fair thing by public servants and invalid and old-age pensioners, who can ill afford to make the sacrifices demanded of them. I had intended to say much more in my second-reading contribution to this debate, but as the Senate is weary after the all-night sitting, I shall not detain honorable senators any longer.
– There was a prime Minister of Great Britain who once said to his Cabinet that it did not matter much what they said so long as they all said the same thing. Some honorable senators who are supporting the amendment have apparently not realized the importance of observing this good rule, ‘ because we have had indications that. Senator Johnston’s amendment is to be supported for a variety of reasons.
I do not go to the length of the Minister in charge of the bill, especially after the. mild rebuke delivered by Senator Colebatch, and accuse everyone who speaks against the Government’s proposals as having an eye upon the electorate. None the less, I cannot help thinking that some honorable senators who have taken part in this debate have not been unmindful of the fact that some day there will be an election, and there will always be Hansard to which they may refer. ‘
Although this is a measure to reduce taxation, to remove anomalies in relation to invalid and old-age pensions, to provide financial relief for wheat-growers and for other purposes, the discussion has almost entirely been confined to the wheat-growing industry. Because of this, one is inclined to inquire if there was any justification whatever for the emphatic declaration of the Government’s attitude by Senator Greene when replying to Senator Johnston. It is true that some attention was given by one or two speakers, including Senators O’Halloran and Hoare, to the proposals in the bill relating to pensions, but the general tendency has been to discuss the bill as though it were a measure dealing entirely with a wheat bounty for farmers.
– Was not that necessary when speaking to the amendment which deals specifically with the wheat proposals?
– I suppose that, as we are following Senator Johnston, the honorable senator is right.
– The honorable senator, like other speakers, is entitled to speak to the motion as well as the amendment.
– I was not prepared offhand to question the correctness of the advice given by Senator Colebatch, but I should have thought, with you, Mr. President, that it was competent for us to discuss the main principles of the bill.
I listened with the greatest interest, as I always do, to Senator Colebatch, and I entirely agree’ with the honorable gentleman’s criticism of the unwisdom of including a number of important subjects in this measure, which has been described as an “ omnibus “ bill. Senator Johnston declared that the scheme for the .assistance of primary producers showed no evidence that the Government realized the wheat-growers’ position. My answer to that is that Senator Johnston’s speech showed no realization on his part of the Government’s position or of the country’s position. It is easy to pose as the farmers’ friend when you are not invested with any responsibility. It is easy to argue that millions of pounds may or should be provided for the assistance of our farmers if the responsibility of raising those millions does not fall upon the one who makes the suggestion. Senator Johnston put it that it was the responsibility of the Government to , find the money. He offered no suggestion as to how it could be done.
– I reminded the Minister of his policy of a few months ago.
– And the honorable senator’s speech in support of his amendment reminded me of a story that was current at the time when I was learning a little of the law of which Senator Collings has spoken. A very eminent counsel at the Victorian bar, who was not noted for adhering to facts if they impeded his defence of a client, having, on one occasion, opened his case with the facts as he saw them, turned to his junior and said, “ Now, you prove those facts and we shall win our case”. He then left the court and trusted to his junior to prove the facts. In effect, Senator Johnston says to the Government, “You raise the money, and. the farmers will then be all right”. The honorable gentleman made no suggestion as to how the money was to be raised.
After listening to the discussion, one is inclined to ask whether the various speakers could lay their hands upon their hearts and declare quite conscientiously that they had spoken entirely in the interests of the farmers. But what will be the position, assuming the amendment is carried? Every one must know that, in the present stage of the session, the carrying of an amendment referring a bill like this back to the Government means that the whole bill will fall.
– That is a reflection on the Government.
– I think it is a reflection on the honorable senator’s long parliamentary experience to say otherwise. He must know that to amend a bill like this would be to take the whole scheme of finance out of the hands of the Government, and that the Government would drop these proposals for the relief of farmers, the remission of taxes and the removal of anomalies in connexion with the payment of pensions. One of the things for which the Government is criticized is that it has delayed taking action until it* is almost too late to assist our farmers. Therefore, the carrying of the amendment would further delay the bill until its usefulness would be destroyed. Much of the criticism from honorable senators opposite has been in the nature of objections, not to these particular proposals, but to the Government’s general policy.
– Stupid remarks made by Government supporters have been responsible for a great deal of the criticism.
– I do not suppose that all wisdom belongs to this side; but when the Government is censured for inaction, or because it changed its policy with regard to the form of assistance for the wheat industry, I ask those sturdy democrats who criticize it to inquire of themselves sometimes, for how much of that are we, as a people, responsible. Totally differing views have been expressed in this chamber. We believe in democracy, and we must take it with all its defects; it even leads to vote-catching. The general policy of the party opposite has been one of nobbling the farmer, and posing as his friend. We have had Senator O’Halloran contrasting what the Scullin Government had done for the wheat-growers with what the present
Government has done for them, and Senator Colebatch showing that when the farmer was less in need of help than he is to-day, £3,000,000 was raised, for him by the late Government compared with the smaller amount to be provided under this bill. We have Senator Brown saying that his party is a strong supporter of the farmer, though it does not seem long to me since in the Labour party in Victoria the farmer was usually referred to as “Farmer Hayseed.” Why is the farmer in such a position to-day that he requires a bounty ? I do not overlook the fact that we are passing through a condition of affairs at present which is world-wide and unexampled. This may be a result of the weaknesses of our political system as described by Senator Brown, and applauded by Senator Collings, but it seems to me to be the resultnot so much of the weakness of our present position as of the varying attempts which have been made to make the world better, and which have so sadly failed in achieving the end in view. Shocking as it may seem, I believe, with Senator Payne, that we have invested the community in this country with an artificiality which is responsible for most of our troubles. If Senators O’Halloran and Hoare are anxious to do much for the farmer, what will they do to relieve him of some of the burdens which the policy of their party has put upon him? The justification for Parliament agreeing to the payment of bounties for anybody is not the price of wheat. When we are asked why we favour a bounty for the farmer, our answer is, “ We do not believe in bounties for anybody.” Yet, when a crisis, such as the present one occurs, I admit that it is the duty of the Government to take steps to see that, so far as it can assist us, we are tided over it. The real argument in support of the claim for a bounty for the farmer is that he has been carrying the subsidized industries, which honorable senators opposite have been busy in fostering and fattening, for many years past. Although I do not think that Australia could have escaped the effects of the present worldwide conditions, I do think that she would have passed through this crisis almost unharmed, if it were not for the web of artificiality woven round the limbs of its people. That is why we are now bound to come to the assistance of the farmer. We find Senator Hardy and Senator Johnston convinced that high protection is the cause of the trouble, and Senator Hoare - and Senator O’Halloran pledged to the view that we should not import anything from abroad and asking us to manufacture everything here and be a self-contained country. The only example of a self-contained country is Tibet. The other night I brought a storm about my ears by stating that the fiscal question was a difficult one. Those who do not realize that there is a relation between what we bring into the country and what we send out, have not grasped the fiscal alphabet. When Senator O’Halloran spoke about manufacturing everything here and importing nothing, he showed that he had not grasped one of the elementary features of the whole fiscal policy. The difference, between Socrates and those with whom he discoursed was that Socrates was aware of his own ignorance; the others were not aware of theirs. I realize how ignorant I am. All I venture to say about my friends opposite is that they are content to hold the belief that it is only necessary to erect high tariff walls to make Australia prosperous. Senator Hoare said that under this bill we make a present of large sums to landowners, and that we take the money for the purpose from the poor invalid and old-age pensioners. That is excellent propaganda to read from Hansard at election times, but both statements are diametrically opposed to the truth. We have given nothing whatever to the landowners.
– It is proposed to reduce their taxes.
– We have refrained from taking something away from them. This is done in the interests of, not merely the land-owners, but also the whole community. Senator J. B. Hayes, in the course of an admirable speech, pointed out that the great need of the country was to reduce taxes in the interests of both those who pay taxes and those who are looking for employment.
– Does the honorable senator believe that any of them will get employment as a result of this bill?
– Yes. The first essential for the recovery of this country is some relief from the crushing burden of taxes. I remind Senator Hoare that not one farthing is being taken away from any old-age pensioner. The Government has been as liberal as it could afford to be, and I pray the time will come when it will be able to be liberal with the pensioners again; but, in the meantime, the Government has simply said, “ We are no longer able to allow you what we have granted in the past “. That is not taking anything away from them.
Senator J. B. Hayes said that the Government had given consideration to this position, and he was willing to believe that it had arrived at an equitable conclusion in the matter. I, too, am willing to believe it. It has been the cause of very grievous concern to those who are entrusted with the carrying on of the Government. If I went through every detail of the bill I might find things with which I do not agree; but this Government, twelve months ago, was entrusted with the task of restoring the financial standing of Australia. In that direction it has done wonderful work. Our standing in the financial markets of the world is again high. It will be seen at once that the very fact that the control of the country has been placed - in the hands of the present Ministry has had effect upon the position of Australia abroad, and is having its effect on the condition of affairs in this country. The Government has a difficult task in front of it, and I do not think it ought to be attacked here amongst its friends, at any rate. No good can result from the carrying of the amendment or from any other attack on the scheme presented. With Senators Hardy and Johnston on the’ one hand attacking the Government for one set of reasons, and Senators Hoare, Collings, Brown, and others attacking it from the opposite side of the chamber for other reasons, how can a government decide even what it believes to be its first duty towards the country? It is being attacked on the ground that 185,000 persons are to be put out of employment as a result of the Ottawa agreement. There will be another party attacking it for another reason, and some attacking it for no valid reason at all. Personally, I am prepared to give the Government credit, as Senator J. B. Hayes did, for having done its best in these troublous times. We should all like to be more generous to the farmers than the Government has been under this bill ; but it is not kindness to them, to the unemployed, or to the electors generally to be lavish in expenditure at a time when the utmost economies should be observed, and even, hardships still endured I, therefore, indicate emphatically that I shall vote against the amendment and for the second reading of the bill.
– I congratulate the Minister on the introduction of this bill, which will enable the sum of £2,250,000 to be distributed among the primary producers of Australia; but I entirely disagree with the system of distribution proposed. It is impracticable, will create nothing but dissatisfaction, and will delay for many months the succour which these men desire. We are told that there are something like 70,000 wheat-growers in Australia. Agents would have to be appointed to take evidence from every one who applied for relief. Honorable senators know how difficult it is to obtain evidence from a farming community. If an officer took the evidence of twenty men a day, it can well be imagined how many officers would be required for, and what length of time would be occupied in, the investigation of the conditions of 70,000 wheat-growers. The Melbourne Argus, one of the most’ conservative and level-headed journals in Australia, if not in the world, on the 29 th November put the views of the farmers in its usual honest and honorable way. It said -
It is not difficult to understand the objections which wheat-growers offer to a distribution of any bonus that may be approved on the basis of individual needs. There is a natural reluctance to place the claimants under the necessity of making appeals’ for favours, because such a system would involve invidious discrimination and cause unnecessary delay. The wheat-growers, moreover, base their claim for assistance upon the well-founded assumption that they are .entitled to participate in a national system of protection, to the cost of which they have contributed for many years without receiving any benefits from it. No other form of governmental aid to industry depends for its enjoyment upon the ability, of the participant to prove that he is in need of it and that he cannot live without it. The protective duty is given to the just and the unjust, to the efficient and to the inefficient, and industrial legislation confers its favours upon the accepted principle that all people for whom it is intended should profit by it. Governments have come to the aid of industries which have sufficient political influence, not as dispensers of charity, but as promoters of public policy; and the recipients, so far from adopting the modest tone of suppliants, have posed as public benefactors maintaining industries under conditions of severe trial or enjoying wages to which they have an undoubted right.
The wheat-growers, in demanding admittance to the charmed but ever-widening circle of beneficiaries from legislation, see no reason why their late arrival should put them in any position of inferiority. The Government “ fosters industry “ by its all-pervasive legislation; it does not purport to dispense charity. The Ministry, with whatever aid it may be in a position to give, will no doubt observe the same principle for wheat-growers as has been observed for the sleekest manufacturer or the most clamant industrial organization.
The Minister has advised us that Aus-, tralia is passing through very troublous times. That is well known to all of us. I question, however, if we fully realize how serious tho times really are, and how essential it is not to offend the individual who does so much to enable us to honour our obligations overseas. The .Minister brings along the princes of industry, points out the fineness of their type, stresses what they have done and are capable of doing for the advancement of the country’s welfare, and urges their claims, if not to a bounty, at least to further protection. On the other hand there is the man who has endeavoured to pay his way, and is now drawing on his capital. He looks for the same praise from the Minister, but that gentleman regards him with disdain, and says “ Who are you?” In reply the farmer says, “I am the man to whom you appealed a few years ago to come to the country’s rescue. I did as much as that other man you have helped, if not more, because I enabled you to meet and liquidate your debts overseas, and to avoid the dishonour that otherwise would have been forced on you. I produced wheat by the thousands of bushels, and sold it for ls. 7d. a bushel “. Is that man to be humiliated alongside the princes of industry? In troublesome times we welcome the poor farmer. 1 feel it in my heart that the Minister is anxious to assist him. We cannot overlook the fact that he is continually drawing on his capital, and that in the near future he will have to approach the Minister as a mendicant in order to obtain assistance. I strongly object1 to my fellow men in the ranks of the farmers being humiliated in that way. It may be said that some of them made a considerable sum out of last year’s bounty. That is beside the point. They played their part as citizens and farmers, and are entitled to all the assistance that can be given them. Am I to vote for a bill that humiliates my fellow man ? I should rather see the farmer fling aside the £2,000,000, than have him degraded as a serf. It i’s just possible that those men who are able to carry on will refuse to take any assistance with this insult thrown at them by the Minister. At any rate, that is the opinion of farmers throughout Australia to-day. They are endeavouring to keep alive and to remain as independent as possible.
I cannot vote for Senator Johnston’s amendment, although I realize his sincerity and honesty in endeavouring to obtain all that he can for the farmers of Western Australia, who are as badly off as, if not worse off than, the farmers in many other parts of the Commonwealth. A bounty of 4£d. a ‘bushel, should the Government see its way clear to accept it, would be little enough. .Harvesting is proceeding, trucks are carrying the wheat to the ship’s side, and in a few weeks the crop will have been garnered and the growers will be looking for their returns. Although I cannot support Senator Johnston’s amendment, I shall move in committee for the deletion of that portion of the bill which enables the Government to carry out what I can only describe as a nefarious policy.
– With tired eyelids, and a much heavier heart, I approach the consideration of this measure. I regret one or two incidents that have occurred during the debate. I am not unappreciative of the efforts of the Government to do what it considers is best in the interests of the farmers. It seems extraordinary, however, that having provided relief, the Government should challenge Parliament’s right to prescribe the means by which it shall be distributed. As I understand the Government’s attitude, Senator Johnston’s amendment is not acceptable to it, and if it is carried there is no hope of its being given effect. To me, that is a matter for regret. I am concerned as to what attitude the Government may adopt in connexion with the distribution of the amount that it is proposed . to appropriate. Rightly or wrongly, I take the view that when this Parliament makes a public appropriation it has no right to delegate to a State, in the manner proposed by the bill, the power to distribute the relief and to decide what policy shall be adopted in its distribution. Take, for example, the case of my own State. Between the Parliament and the taxpayer of the Commonwealth there is the Auditor-General, who makes his report upon all appropriations, not to the Ministry, but to Parliament. What right has the Auditor-‘General to criticize the action of Mr. Hill, the Premier of South Australia ? If the Commonwealth Parliament appropriates this sum of money for the relief of the wheat-growers on the ordinary basis of appropriation, it is the responsibility of this Parliament, to define the policy under which it shall be distributed. I favour the payment of a bounty on exports. I do so for many reasons, not the least important of which is that I shall not subscribe to the suggestion of some’ honorable senators that the farmer is so incompetent that he cannot decide how the money which is made available to him shall be expended. It seems that in what Senator Colebatch would describe as this uneconomic age, when industries are assisted by the payment of bounties provided by a generous parent State, certain industries are regarded as legitimate members of the Commonwealth family, and consequently are allowed to expend the money made available to them, while those engaged, in the wheat-growing industry are treated as illegitimate children and handed over to the control of the States. Apparently the wheatgrowing industry is to be regarded as a ward of the States. I contend that the wheat farmers are just as capable of handling money provided for their benefit as are Lysaghts Limited, the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, and other similar undertakings who receive concessions from the source from which thi3 money is also being made available. The State authorities are to decide how the money is to be expended, and consequently, it is an insult to the Australian farmer to treat them in this way. The sum of £2,000,000 is to be appropriated for their relief, but the procedure to be adopted in this instance is totally different from that adopted in assisting other industries. The Commonwealth Government is saying to the States “ You handle this money; we are afraid that the farmers will squander it.” I can understand the members of the United Australia Party, who are no more directly representative of the farmers than are the members of the Labour party supporting this proposal; but I am at a loss to understand why the members of the Country party should allow the farmers to be treated any differently from those engaged in other industries. Prom time to time, Parliament has considered the payment of bounties to Australian industries. Provision was made for the payment of a gold bounty, but it had not been in operation long, before it was suspended. When the payment of that bounty was under consideration, did any honorable senator for a moment suggest that the amount appropriated should be handed over to the Western Australian Government, that the well-established companies should receive nothing, and that those companies which were not so favorably placed would be assisted only according to their financial circumstances ?
– The Government gave £350,000 to Western Australia, and made it a condition that part of it should be used to assist the gold industry?
– The Minister is now making a statement which very much resembles one of Senator Brennan’s quibbles. The Western Australian Government was entitled to a disabilities grant as was the South Australian Government. But the Bruce-Page Government had the happy knack of attaching a ticket to the grants it made. To the South Australian Government it said that it would give £1,000,000 provided it completed the construction of the Bed HillAdelaide railway. To the Western Australian Government it decided to pay another amount provided that a certain sum was expended on the gold mining industry. Did we say to those in control of the Wiluna Gold Mining Company or the Lake View Company, “ Your company can pay dividends, so the money which has been made available must be paid to the tributers”? Did the Commonwealth Government inform Lysaghts Limited that it could not be trusted and that the money which had been appropriated for the payment of a bounty on the manufacture of galvanized iron should be paid by the New South Wales Government so that that Government could insist upon Lysaghts using products manufactured in that State? It did not do anything of the kind. A straight-out bounty was paid. The cotton-growers in Queensland received a bounty direct, because the Government considered that those controlling the industry were capable of conducting their own affairs. But the poor unfortunate wheat-farmer is’ not to be allowed the right to discard his old Ford tractor and purchase more modern equipment. He is a ward of the State - a State child. Of course if the members of the Country party care to treat the farmers in this way, I cannot help it. I believe in meting out justice to them as has been done to other primary producers. There is no magic in the term “bounty”. It simply means affording relief to industry. We are not prepared to trust the farmer.
– The relief is given to him.
– It is not. I intend to do all that I can to see that the farmer receives the money. If Senator Brennan will refer to the bill he will find that the money is not to be paid to the farmer. Because a certain member of the Cabinet is opposed to the payment of bounties this ingenious section has been drafted. This money will actually be paid in the form of a disabilities grant. In order to catch tome votes the words, “ Belief of farmers “ are used. As a matter of fact this measure is being passed to increase wheat production.
– In what clause is it provided that the money shall be paid to the States?
– In clause 26 which provides that -
Subject to this part, there shall be payable out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund which is hereby appropriated accordingly, the sum of £2,000,000 for the purposes of financial assistance to the States in the provision of relief to wheat-growers in the States and for the purposes of providing relief to wheat-growers in any territory.
I object to this measure being paraded around as one in which relief is being provided to the wheat-growers. It is a bill to make certain sums available to the States. I suggest that the clause should be amended to read -
Subject to this part, there shall bc payable out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund which is hereby appropriated accordingly, the sum of £2,000,000 for the purpose of financial assistance to the wheat-growers of the Commonwealth.
How is this money to be distributed? Senator Pearce WOUld not attempt to justify the payment of a gold bounty to the Western Australian Government to be distributed to the gold-mining companies. 1
– There would be nothing wrong if he did. Does the honorable senator think that the Western Australian Government would be likely to defraud the gold-mining companies?
– I dislike discrimination between the farmer and the rich gold-mining companies. What is fair to one should be fair to the other. Parliament has not laid it down as a general policy that the cotton-growers, the gold buyers, and others are to be State wards until they grow to manhood.
– They are citizens of the State.
– Then why this discrimination ? If we believe in the bounty form of relief, why does not this Government apply it in this instance?
– No one but an arch-quibbler could see anything objectionable in what the Government is doing.
– There is more than a quibble in this matter. The majority of honorable senators are in favour of a bounty, but are not prepared to support it, because the Government has threatened that if they do, the bill will be dropped. One Minister ever threatened to resign.
– Who told the honorable senator that yarn ?
– It appeared in the public press, and was never denied.
– It must have been an inspired statement.
– If statements about a particular Minister appear in the public press and are not denied by him, honorable senators cannot be blamed for taking notice of them.
– If we denied every silly statement that appeared in the press, we should not have time for our parliamentary work.
– It makes no difference whether the Minister threatened to resign or not. The members of my party, and indeed a majority of honorable senators, believe that the proper form of assistance is’ a bounty. Surely that is not a quibble?
– Suppose that a bounty were granted, would there be any harm in allowing the States to distribute it?
– Had we the constitutional power that would permit us to do that, there would be no objection; but that is a different thing. If I handed to Senator Brennan a cheque with an instruction to pay money to certain people on my behalf, that would be totally different from handing him a cheque and saying, “Now, Senator Brennan, you have a number of impecunious clients and I want you to leave this amount in their hands to be distributed as they think fit”. Is that a quibble? I hope that Senator Brennan wi>l appreciate my position. My party believes that the fair and equitable method of distribution is by bounty. Why should the Government threaten to drop the bill if honorable senators generally persist in their efforts to institute that form of relief?
– The honorable senator is now on a different subject altogether.
– I am challenging the statement of Senator Greene. I am explaining my attitude in respect of a bounty. 1 do not think that the Government would be humiliated if it accepted the will of a majority of this chamber based upon the precedents to which I have already referred. Again, Senator Greene has said that the real objection to a bounty on production is that it would give the rich farmer something to which he is not entitled. I remind the honorable senator that I am not in favour of giving relief to any industry unless it has some reasonable chance of recovery. It seems to me to be absolutely ridiculous to encourage to the maximum, say, a farmer in the Mallee country, and to discourage the man in an area which has an assured rainfall.
– That is certainly what this Government proposes to do.
– Exactly. If we are to rehabilitate this country, we must increase our production.
– In South Australia, the areas in the middle north have been closed in order to encourage the growing of wheat at Fowlers’ Bay.
– It cannot be denied that the Government’s first proposal was a bounty on superphosphate for the purpose, of increasing production, and enabling farmers to obtain a larger return from their land. The Government has withdrawn that proposal, and if this bill is passed in its present form, it is difficult to say what will be the attitude of the Government of South Australia. In saying that, I am not reflecting upon any members of the Ministry in that State, but I know their policy regarding assistance to the wheat-growers. It is definitely and unequivocally in favour . of a bounty on superphosphate, and Senator Badman and other representatives of the farming interests in this chamber, well know that, excepting for a small section of the farmers in that State, our farmers are opposed to that form of assistance. I shall vote for the amendment of Senator Johnston, and if that is defeated, I shall vote for the second reading of the bill in the hope of amending it in committee according to my views.
– In view, of the serious nature of this bill, I feel compelled to draw attention to the contradictions contained in it. The first thing which strikes me about this measure is that our old friend the Taxpayers’ Association, which represents the big city interests, has as a result of its propaganda, emerged victorious from its fight to bring about some remission of land taxation. Under this bill the city and town interests will benefit to the extent of £1,900,000, while rural interests will benefit to the extent of only £900,000. There is absolutely no necessity for this remission of taxation, particularly in view of the fact that there has been a reduction of old-age and invalid pensions. The recent amendment of the Financial Emergency Act has placed grave hardships upon the pensioners. I fail to see how this Government can justify a remission of land taxation - a tax which can fairly be charged on the wealthy people of this community.
– Does not the honorable senator wish the people of Australia to be re-employed in industry?
– The honorable senator will not be able to convince me that a remission of land taxation is likely to put people in employment.
– What does the honorable senator think that people do with their money? Does he think that they eat it?
– Many of them visit Europe and the United States of America, and spend it there. They expend overseas £30,000,000 or £40,000,000 a year, and that fact can be confirmed by the National Traveling Association. Quite a number of wealthy Australians live abroad. It will, therefore, be difficult to convince me that the £1,900,000 which is being remitted to wealthy land-holders will place one man in a job.
– This is the only means by which people will be placed in employment.
– I take a different view. My main objection to the bill is the proposed remission of taxation. Contrast the position of the wealthy land-owners with that of old-age and invalid pensioners. It was due to the efforts of the Labour movement that the old and infirm in our community were first given pensions. Yet Senator Greene endeavoured to persuade honorable senators that the Labour party had been responsible for every reduction in the pensions, while the tory forces had been responsible for every increase. This Government only a few months ago placed the pensioners in a woeful and painful position. They are now forced to go to considerable trouble to supply the pensions department with particulars as to their family and any property that they may own. They have been told that they must comply with certain conditions, otherwise their pensions will be cancelled. They are hedged about with so many restrictions that few of them know their actual position. They cannot afford to seek legal advice and, therefore, honorable senators have been inundated with requests for information. The pensions of the invalids and the aged poor were reduced at a time when, as was brought to my notice by a public servant, the customs revenue was in a buoyant condition, and a satisfactory surplus at the end of the financial year was assured. There was, therefore, no need further to mulct invalid arid old-age pensioners, or that other helpless section, the public servants; for, undoubtedly, the civil servants, for the time, at least, are helpless. In common with other honorable senators, I have receive’d a document from the combined Federal Public Service organizations - the Queensland branches - and I shall read the following three paragraphs from it to indicate the true position : -
The budget proposals recently agreed to by the Federal Parliament included an amendment to the Financial Emergency Act, whereby the salaries of Federal Service employees were reduced by £8 a year in respect of adult males, £5 a year in respect of females, and £4 in respect of juniors, and it was estimated a saving in expenditure would thereby be achieved to the extent of £240,000 a year.
The reductions in expenditure above referred to were largely based on the statement of the Prime Minister during the course of his budget speech, where he said it was intended to. balance the budget for the current year by cutting expenditure to the extent of £1,479,000, and Federal Service employees and aged pensioners were to be compelled to suffer reductions totalling £1,340,000 of this amount.
A statement made by the Prime Minister on the 10th November, 1932, within two months of his budget speech, shows that the financial position of the Commonwealth has improved to an extent where it is now anticipated there will be a surplus of £3,500,000, and as a result of the improved position it is proposed to reduce taxation to the extent of £2,100,000.
– Shocking !
– It is absolutely shocking that these people, who are virtually the wage slaves of the Commonwealth, should be so treated. Naturally, they strongly object. The annual expenditure on salaries, wages, and other staff payments itf the Federal Public Service has been reduced from £11,214,669 at the 30th June, 1928, to £8,068,282 at the 30th June, 1932, a decline of £3,146,387. Since the 30th June, 1932, expenditure »n those services has been still further reduced by approximately £250,000. The money that has been taken from invalid and old-age pensioners and public servants is to be given as a Christmas present to the wealthy landowners of the community, in the form of a remission of taxation. The big insurance and banking people and newspaper proprietors, who have for many years strenuously opposed the incidence of land tax, will be the principal beneficiaries. That has been done despite a rising customs revenue and the certainty of a budgetary surplus at the end of the financial year. We know that the masses provide the bulk of our customs revenue.
I welcome the proposal to provide relief to wheat-growers, and a further £250,000 to assist other primary producers. Relatively, Queensland is not a wheat-growing State. It produces sufficient wheat for its home consumption, but not enough to export. Queensland wheat-growers are to receive £40,744 of the total amount to be disbursed, and it is estimated that £300,000 is the amount that Queensland will have to’ provide to make this £2,000,000 available. I point out to those honorable senators who opposed the continuation of the embargo on sugar, and wanted to reduce the price of that commodity by more than id. per lb., that Queensland producers are only too pleased to help their comrades in distress in other States, and that we shall shoulder our proportion of this cost cheerfully. As Queensland wheat-growers will not receive any appreciable help, I trust that banana and pineapple growers will share largely when the other amount of £250,000 is disbursed for the relief of other than wheat-growers. As honorable senators know, through the short-sighted policy of our representatives, the Ottawa agreement adversely affects Queensland pineapple and banana-growers, as the Empire pineapple trade, that should have gone to our producers, is to be given to an American-Hawaiian company established at Fiji. Perhaps a portion of it will go to growers in the Malayan States, also. By permitting the entry to Australia of Fiji bananas, our growers will be placed at a considerable disadvantage. I know that some honorable senators imagine that the producers of tropical products possess a sort of Fortunatus’ purse, and should always come to the relief of others.
– They have a very fine country.
– They are certainly fortunate in regard to fertility, but they have to suffer particular disadvantages.
– And, relatively, Queensland producers have not borne the burden of sacrifice to the extent that others have done.
– I have already pointed out that, while the wheat bounty will cost Queensland £330,000, our wheat-growers will receive only £40,744. I also remind the honorable senator that besides the £14,000,000 concessions in respect of sugar, Queensland really provided the whole of the grant of £300,000 that was recently given to Tasmania, just as New South Wales supplied that for South Australia, and Victoria the amount that was given to Western Australia. I hope that in the distribution of the £250,000 for the assistance of primary producers other than wheat-growers, the growers of bananas and pineapples in Queensland will receive the consideration that is their due.
– They will, in accordance with the terms of the bill..
– I am surprised at the criticism which has been levelled against the Government in regard to the various proposals contained in this bill. Six months ago, no senator could have imagined for a moment that the financial position of the Commonwealth would have so improved as to justify the Government in offering the relief it now proposes. The Government has done remarkably well during its term of. office in giving effect to the promises it made to the electors twelve months ago. The Government’s policy and its cooperation with the States in implementing the Premiers plan have been a big factor in improving the national credit both internally and overseas. Surely no honorable senator would be so unreasonable as to suggest that within twelve months of the elections the Government should be able to give effect to all its promises to the people. All honorable senators, particularly those who had ministerial responsibility in the Scullin Administration, know the difficulties that all governments have had to face in recent years. While that Ministry was in office, we who were in opposition offered to Ministers all the assistance that was possible, consistent with our principles, to cope with the big national problems that confronted the country. Will they deny that on more than one occasion we suggested the establishment of a national advisory council, or the adoption of some other means by which the Opposition might co-operate with the Government and share the responsibility of doing the many unpleasant things that had to be done in order to bring - about budgetary equilibrium and improve the nation’s credit. Yet members of the present Opposition are so unreasonable as to condemn the Lyons Ministry for not having already provided employment for all who are workless. The first responsibility of the Ministry was to re-establish the credit of the Commonwealth.
– It was re-established before the Scullin Government went out of office.
– The answer to that statement is to be found by comparing the prices of Commonwealth stocks overseas and in Australia, then and now.
Wheat-growing is one of Australia’s stable industries, and a few years ago, when prices were normal, no one imagined that a time would come when it would require financial assistance from the Commonwealth. It is generally admitted that Australia should be able to produce wheat as cheaply as any other country, yet to-day we are told that without a grant of Commonwealth money, thousands of wheatgrowers will become bankrupt. The Government has offered an amount of £2,000,000 to be allocated amongst the States on a production basis, and by them applied to the relief of necessitous farmers. In the light of recent developments, it is questionable whether the Government, had it known of them earlier, would now be proposing a remission of taxation and assistance to wheat-growers and other primary producers. Indeed, the Prime Minister, when introducing this bill in the House of Representatives, warned the Parliament that the relief was for one year only, and its extension to next year was not to be assumed.
– If the American note regarding war debts had been sent to the United Kingdom a few weeks earlier, this bill would not have been introduced.
– It is abundantly clear that if the war debt situation had developed earlier-
– It has not yet developed.
– The cablegram shows how seriously the people in Great Britain are viewing the war debts situation. Their financial troubles will re-act on Australia as the Commonwealth is so deeply interested.
– The American people are thinking very hard, too.
– All we know is that President Hoover has advised Great Britain that the war debt payment due this month must be made. Does any honorable senator suggest that if the Government were not anticipating a surplus from revenue it should borrow in order to provide the relief which this bill proposes? The Government, instead of being condemned for what it is proposing, is entitled to commendation for its decision to distribute its anticipated surplus in such a way as to give relief to the greatest number of people.
– The Government has not a genuine surplus; it is using borrowed money.
– The Treasurer has declared, presumably on the advice of Mb expert officers, that the Government will be able to finance these proposals from the surplus anticipated in the current financial year. Surely each of us has a responsibility apart from that of the Ministry, and when honorable senators propose that amounts shall be made available in excess of those provided in the bill, it is their duty to show how - the additional money can be raised. Do they suggest that it should be borrowed ?
– Will Senator Herbert Hays admit that he has never had any sympathy with the wheat-growers?
– Of course not, for it would not be true. The honorable senator is not serious. Twelve months ago, when a proposal was before the Senate for the assistance of the wheatgrowers, I said that the financial position of the country and its future prospects, would not justify us in discriminating in favour of the wheat-growers, although I admitted that wheat was being produced at much below cost. I say now that we are not justified in giving help where it is not needed. We all appreciate the difficult position of the man on the land. Being a farmer myself I thoroughly sympathize with land interests. But, unlike honorable senators of the Opposition, I do not think that the farmers should be used as a political crutch. I believe that the great primary-producing industries of this country should be our first care. I have said on many occasions that it is the duty of the Government to make things as easy as possible for them. This could be done in many ways. Their burden of taxation, for instance, could be lightened, and such resources as they have should be available for developmental purposes. I can quite understand that the wheatgrowers will be disappointed if a bounty is not provided; but the Government is not in a position to make the same generous provision that was made last year.
I do not say that that assistance was over-generous. The provision that is now being made is substantial, and on that account I do not propose to embarrass the Government in any way.
– But the honorable senator would embarrass the wheatgrowers !
– That is idle talk. % Honorable senators of the Opposition believe that the wheat-growers are organized into battalions, and they, therefore, pay more attention -to them ; but the other primary producers of Australia deserve consideration.
– The hop-growers, for instance !
– T believe that the wheat-growers will ultimately be compelled to do as the hopgrowers have done. “When our surplus production of hops became a serious embarrassment, the growers made arrangements for a limitation of the area under hops. Some honorable senators have said that it costs from 4s. to 4s. 6d. per bushel to produce wheat. I do not affirm or deny their statements. But even if the cost of production be 3s. 6d. per bushel, the future of the wheat-growers is not encouraging, for we cannot expect a substantial increase in the price of wheat in the near future.
– Then prosperity is not just round the corner.
– Prosperity does not depend entirely on increased prices. It may be stimulated by the reduction of taxation, the lifting to some extent of tariff duties, and the decrease of charges of one kind and another by Commonwealth and State authorities. Prosperity will be stimulated most of all by the reduction of production costs Unless production costs can ‘be substantially reduced, men who are growing wheat in areas with a light rainfall may have to review their position. It might be easy for a government to prop up an industry by a bounty, but before that is done, the interests of all sections of the community should be considered.
Reference has been made during this debate to the report of the Wool Inquiry Committee. I doubt whether any honorable senator ever expected to see. the great wool industry of Australia in its present position. I am glad that in the interests of this and other .industries, the Government is proposing the reduction of land taxation. The measure of relief that is being given in this connexion will greatly assist this and other primary industries, and will also help various city mercantile interests to provide more employment. Governments should not take from the people in taxation more money than is absolutely needed to maintain governmental operations. It is generally admitted that private individuals can spend money more beneficially to the country than can governments. I am glad that a reduction of income taxation is being proposed. In the past, various Commonwealth and State governments have increased this class of taxation with great reluctance, and the reductions now being provided will undoubtedly assist the workers in all industries, and make more work available. The reduction of sales taxation will also be reflected beneficially upon our wage-earners and the people generally, for it will lead to a reduction of the cost of living.
– If wages are reduced, the workers will be no better off.
– Whenever the representatives of the workers have appeared before our Arbitration Court in support of a claim for increased wages, they have argued that their claim is justified because of increases in the cost of living. If the cost of living ‘is reduced it is reasonable to expect that wages will be reduced proportionately.
Sitting suspended from 8.0 to 9.S0 a.m. (Friday).
– Labour supporters seem to think that there is some mysterious way of keeping wages up, while, at the same time, reducing the cost of living.
– Does the honorable senator think that labour should not obtain a greater share of the world’s wealth ?
– The only way to bring that about is to create more wealth. If labour helps to make industry profitable, it can share in the profit. Honorable senators must realize that it is impossible to take more out of industry than is put into it. The employers do not bury their profits; the money must be put into circulation if it is to earn interest.
There is a difference of opinion regarding the manner in which the money appropriated for the assistance of the wheat-growers should be distributed. In my opinion, the Government has adopted the proper course in handing the money over to the States for distribution. I believe that it would be to the advantage of the State Governments to seek the assistance of local authorities, such as municipal and shire councils, in distributing the money. In this way, those actually making the distribution would be in close personal touch ‘with those receiving it. It would be better, I believe, if the Commonwealth handed the money over to the States almost unconditionally, the only stipulation being that it should be devoted to the assistance of those engaged in primary production. The surplus revenue which is to be employed for this purpose has been collected from the people of Australia, and I believe that it could be most satisfactorily distributed through the local governments. Had the Government proposed to follow this line of action, the bill would have been assured of an easier passage through Parliament. Nevertheless, I support the measure as it stands. The Government has given very close consideration to it, and is; no doubt, more familiar with the matter than are we upon whom the responsibility for details does not rest.
I am pleased that the Government proposes, by means of, a subsidy on the purchase of fertilizers, to assist primary producers other than .wheat-growers. All branches of primary producers, whether fruit-gowers, dairymen, pastoralists or agriculturalists will thus participate in the distribution of the money available. Much has been said regarding the hardships of the wheat-growers. Their case has been argued hy some whose sympathy seems to begin and end with the wheatgrowers, but there are other primary producers who, by their efforts, also make a substantial contributions towards establishing overseas credits. Among them are the fresh fruit-growers, including the apple-growers of Tasmania. The local market can absorb only a small part of Tasmania’s production of fresh fruit, and the balance must be exported. Last season, far from making a profit on what was exported, the growers had, in most instances, to make a contribution from their resources to meet the losses incurred. While I do not begrudge the wheat-growers the help they are to receive, I remind honorable senators that other primary producers are suffering just as much. While the value of their product in the aggregate is not so great as that of the wheat industry, they are still a deserving section of the community. It is the duty of this Parliament, which must accept responsibility for national legislation, to assist all our primary industries, but we should try to avoid, as far as possible, assisting them by means which will encourage the people to depend on the Government for help in their difficulties. It would be better if we removed the burdens which have been placed on industry by taxation, the operation of the Navigation Act, and other forms of oppressive legislation and regulations. If we were to do this, we should make a substantial contribution towards the rehabilitation of primary industries ,in the Commonwealth. The assistance rendered to various secondary industries in the past has not come from some unknown and mysterious source, but has been provided by other sections of the community.
– And very often, unfortunately, money is taken from productive industries in order to help unproductive ones.
– When every one in this country was apparently prosperous, the great wool and wheat industries were able to carry the burden, but now we are face to face with realities. While the Commonwealth has surplus revenue to distribute, the position in the States is exactly the reverse, and we should remember that the difficulties of the State’s are the difficulties of the Commonwealth. We must work in the closest co-operation with the States, and try to balance our budgets, both Commonwealth and State. It seems to be almost an obsession with some honorable senators that there is a mysterious way of creating credit, and of making money available. There is only one way of governing a country successfully, and that is to run it in the same way as we run our businesses, namely, to pay our way, and not expect something for nothing.
– Senator Herbert Hays concluded by saying that we should run the country as we would run our private businesses, and that we should pay our way. That is a good maxim in private life. I try to pay my way, and to meet all my obligations to the extent of 20s. in the fi. The honorable senator is an intelligent politician, as his party understands things, and he must have learned from reading the press that governments all over the world are experiencing the greatest difficulty in meeting their obligations. Some, in fact, are frankly not in a position to pay their debts. That applies to foreign countries,. as well as to those of the British Empire, and we have no right to assume that foreigners are any less honest in these matters than we are ourselves. With the exception of the United States of America, where the politicians are insisting on their pound of flesh, practically all the nations of the world, including Australia, are burdened with debts which they find it difficult or impossible to pay. The Government first proposed to give relief to the wheat-growers in the form of a subsidy on superphosphates, but for some reason or other that proposal was withdrawn, and it is now intended to allocate money to the various States for distribution among the wheat-growers. The majority of honorable senators are in favour of relief being given to the farmers by way of bounty, and Senator Johnston has moved an amendment to’ that effect. However, the Government has threatened, in the event of that amendment being carried, to withdraw the bill. Even if the amendment is carried, I do not believe that the Government will have the courage to put its threat into operation. Senator Johnston is a practical farmer, and he knows the needs of the wheat-growers generally. He is making a great fight on their behalf, and it is to be hoped that he will not become entangled in the political net which the Government has spread for him in an endeavour to persuade him to withdraw his .amendment. Senator Greene must not think for one moment that he can get away with his threat.
– Does the honorable member take himself seriously?
– It is difficult for me to understand how the Minister can take himself seriously, in view of his speech in this chamber in 1931 on legislation introduced by the Scullin Government providing for assistance to the wheatgrowers. At that time I was the Government Whip and Senator Foll was the_ Whip for the Opposition, which, at that time was led by Senator Pearce. I was instructed by the leader of my party te endeavour to obtain support for the bill among the members of the Opposition, and it will be remembered by honorable senators who were then present, that Senator Greene walked out of the chamber and did not have the decency to inform even the Whip of his party of his whereabouts.
– That matter is not relevant to the bill.
– Speaking on the bill which was at that time before the Senate, Senator Greene said -
I agree entirely with the view expressed by Senator Colebatch and Senator Pearce that ‘ it- would have been infinitely preferable if the Government had been in a position to pay a direct bounty to the farmers on the export of wheat, and I also agree entirely that the wheat-farmers of Australia, in the circumstances in which they find themselves to-day, are entitled to any bounty which this Parliament is in a position to offer, and that it is impossible for the great primary industries of wool and wheat to carry on as they are doing, indefinitely, at a loss. I do not suppose that one wool-grower or wheat-farmer has made any profit on his enterprise during the last eighteen months. Every wheat-grower and wheat-farmer is practically” carrying on at a loss to-day.
How can the honorable senator reconcile that statement with his remarks in opposition to the amendment of Senator Johnston, which proposes a bounty on the production of wheat?
The first proposal of the Government was to distribute £2,000,000 among necessitous farmers by way of a bounty on superphosphates. Its intention was to adopt the methods that it has already applied in regard to old-age and invalid pensions. An army of government pimps was to be appointed to examine the financial affairs of all farmers who applied for relief, but because of the subsequent agitation on the part of the press, and of members of this chamber and another place, the Government hastily decided not to press that proposition. The Ministers, like jack rabbits scurrying to cover, -were unable to arrive at a general policy. Nearly every piece of legislation that has been introduced has had to be amended. Financial statement has followed financial statement. The Government is like a ship without a rudder. Under this measure, relief is being given to the wealthy land taxpayers to the extent of £700,000. Senator Guthrie, who represents the wealthy landholders of Australia, has stated that that section of the community is in a serious position. He said that the people of Australia had been riding on the sheep’s back for many years ; but the truth is that the squatters themselves, from the earliest days, have ridden on the backs of the people generally. The railways, roads, and other transport facilities which are .essential to the landowners, have been provided by the nation as a whole. They obtained their holdings at low prices, and by the employment of cheap aboriginal labour, amassed huge fortunes. A glance at the probate list will show the considerable sums that these land-owners leave at their death to their heirs. It was because of the efforts of the Labour movement that the landowners were forced by the Arbitration Court to pay a living wage to their employees. Firms like Goldsbrough, Mort and Company, and Dalgety and Company, as well as the Bank of New South Wales, and other banks, have big interests in pastoral holdings. Senator Guthrie’s Hollywood sob stuff story about the poor pastoralists made such an impression on me that when I go to Sydney I expect to find long queues of squatters, with sugar bags hanging from their shoulders, seeking the dole. Notwithstanding the depression, we do not find many of these squatters on their holdings. They prefer that their managers and overseers should do the work on the stations. One has only to pick up the daily papers and read the social notes, to find among the lounge lizards and loafers of the worst possible type, the names of some of the squatters of Australia. On the polo fields of New South Wales and in the luxurious lounges of the Hotel Australia, the Australian .squatter, this poor down-trodden individual, who Senator Guthrie says, is not receiving sufficient relief, is to be found. From the. invalid and old-age pensioners of Australia the Government is taking £700,000 per annum, but there is no outcry by honorable senators opposite about this robbing of the pioneers of Australia, whose only crime is that they have become old in the service of their country. Senator Brennan says that the squatters should receive some little recompense for what they have done; but he overlooks the claims of the poor oldage pensioner who pioneered the country. According to his habit, Senator Brennan picks every other speaker to pieces, and says this and that; but his vote is always cast with the Government. He stands for the robbing of the old-age pensioners to the extent of £700,000 per annum. He is one of the crew on the pirate vessel captained by that modern political buccaneer “ Morgan “ Lyons, the Prime Minister of Australia. The honorable senator is one of the crew who will hoist up the sail of prosperity. Senator Greene is one of the officers of the pirate ship ; he takes his turn at the wheel. Senator McLachlan is also on this crazy barque, and when it reaches the first port he will go ashore and follow the example of the noble Drake and have a game of bowls. Some day this crazy barque will come to grief. I always try to be fair to my political opponents who would rob the poor unfortunate pensioners in order to grant relief .to the down-trodden squatters.
The Government is relieving the wealthy persons in the community of super tax to the extent of £500,000 per annum. The special relief which it proposes to grant to primary producers will represent another £250,000. In addition, the wheat-growers are to be handed £2,000,000. There appears to be relief for almost every one except the invalid or old-age pensioner. I have with me a little “sticker/’ distributed by P. D. Shaw, of Brisbane. These “ stickers,” which were stuck on walls and other places in Brisbane, bear on them the words “ Protect your Pensions ; Vote for the Nationalist Party”. I have here also a copy of a letter sent to one of the most eminent and courageous gentlemen that the Labour party has ever known. It reads -
With reference to your personal representation concerning the case of … I have to advise that all pensions paid by the: 12th of
October, 1932, is a debt due to the Commonwealth and is recoverable out pf the pensioner’s estate at death. In consequence of that all pensioners Are required to give an undertaking* that they will not transfer or .mortgage any property in which they have an interest without the consent of the Commissioner .of Pensions.
That letter was sent in reply to representations made by the Honorable J. -T. Lang, M.L.A., Parliament House, Sydney. The Government professes to be desirous of helping the invalid and old-age pensioners who at the moment are defenceless and cannot fight, but its actions belie its profession. I have with me an article containing a criticism of the Lyons Government which appeared in a Melbourne publication which is read by most, if not all, honorable senators. It is as follows : -
LYONS’ INGLORIOUS BUDGET.
A Callous Renegade Hits the Helpless.
The Age in a leading article on the 2nd September, dealt thus with the federal budget of the callous renegade, Prime Minister joseph Lyons, from which we take a few extracts: -
It is to be assumed that the federal budget represents the Lyons’ Government at its best. The general verdict is certain to be that that best falls far short of what the public was led to expect.
Those from whom by far the most is to be demanded are the old-age and invalid pensioners. There is to be a reduction of 2s. 6d. per week in all pensions of the old and the sick. The callousness of the proposal is made more vivid by recalling that last year’s budget contained a precisely similar statement. A 25 per cent, reduction in advance of any complete .reform of the pensions system, within so short a space of time and on so narrow an income, permits of no justification. Can the financial ability and statesmanship, of which only nine months ago Australia heard so much, do no better than this? Cannot the Government sec any means of economizing except by making another attack on the extremely light purse of the helpless and the infirm?
The Government is generous to the wealthy land-owners who partake of its generosity at the expense of the old and helpless. For many years the Prime Minister of Australia was a member of the Labour party in Tasmania. He knew the party’s platform, for it was his support of that platform that won him a place in this Parliament. Previously, he was a member of the State Parliament, in which he rose to the position of Premier. Not long after he entered this Parliament he was made a full-time Minister. He. knew that one of the planks of. the Labour party’s platform was a general exemption of £5,000 for federal land tax purposes. Instead of assisting those among whom he once worked and still professed to serve, all his generosity is directed towards the wealthy squatters. What about relieving the general taxpayer who, all the time, is called upon to pay for the railways, roads, water conservation schemes, and other public utilities which benefit the squatter? The Government is only doing its job. It is willing to relieve that section of the community which, provided the sinews of war, and the political funds of the United Australia Party and the United Country Party for the purpose of broadcasting political lies, and to purchase newspapers in order to place before the people certain political views. -When the squatters of 0’Connell-street. Sydney, and of Swanston and Collins-streets, Melbourne, foregather with those from King William-street, Adelaide, in their nice station properties in the principal streets of the capital cities, they arrange their ultimatum to the Government which results in their being relieved of taxation. Senator Guthrie, who spoke- in the early hours of this morning, would have the people believe that the only section entitled -to relief from taxation or any other burden are the wool-growers of this country. Actually, this and all preceding Commonwealth Governments have spent many millions of pounds on social services in the interests of our primary producers, including the woolgrowers, and a great deal of scientific research has been done on behalf of the wool industry.
– The wool-growers have contributed heavily towards investigations carried out by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research.
– Possibly they have, but the general taxpayers of this country are called upon to make substantial contributions towards the social services of various kinds enjoyed by the squatters of this country. When these people wish to have a good time and spend money they go overseas, and when they return they go about in “ flash “ Yankee motor-cars. They are more concerned about themselves than in doing some- thing for our wage-earners. To listen to Senator Guthrie, one would almost conclude that the great majority of our wool- growers are on the dole and that, with a little encouragement, they would organize a march on Canberra to look for Christmas relief. During the regime of the Bruce-Page Government, they benefited to the extent, of £3,000,000 in’ trade with Soviet Russia, taking “ Bed “ gold in return for Russian purchases of our wool; and, until the Scullin Government placed an embargo upon the exportation of stud sheep, not only to South Africa, but also to Russia, they were doing quite a profitable business in selling stud rams and ewes to the “ hated “ Communist republic. The exportation of stud sheep to South Africa enabled the people of that country to become a formidable competitor of Australia in the production of finer wools. At one time, also, Australia had practically a monopoly of the wattle-bark industry for tanning purposes. Now wattlebark from South Africa, grown from Australian seed, is “ used extensively at Botany, Sydney, where the principal tanning establishments are located. I fully understand Senator Guthrie’s position. His interests are almost wholly on the land, and naturally he feels it his duty to air his views on the important subject of land taxation. The wealthy land-holders in this country are on a pretty good wicket. So also are the absentee land-holders. Some of the best of our wheat lands in the Riverina are held by absentee companies, including the Scottish Investment _ Trust. These are the people for whom Senator Guthrie made such a moving appeal this morning. If I had my way, I would compel absentee owners to put the land held by them to better use. Senator Brennan also had a good word to say for the landowning section of the community. The honorable gentleman, with almost six years to run as a member of this chamber, has a comfortable sense of security. If he were obliged to appeal to the country now the numbers would be against him, and his physical form would no longer grace the comfortable seats in this chamber. He owes his elevation to the Senate to the influence of the. Housewives Association and the squatters ‘ of Victoria. I come now to
Senator Greene. This morning that honorable gentleman handled Senator Johnston rather severely, and declared that the Government would not, in any circumstances, accept the amendment. Only a few months ago, Senator Greene held somewhat different views as to the ability of the Commonwealth Bank to finance a scheme for the wheat bounty. This is what he said in the Senate on the 23rd October of last year -
I feel sure that no honorable senator on this side - if I understand the feelings of my colleagues aright - wishes to take any step which would jeopardize the ultimate- passage of the Wheat Bounty Bill, and the implementing of it by the banks, if it represents, the last word that the banks have to say. I gather that the action taken to-day in adjourning the debate is for the express purpose, in accordance with the deliberate promise of the Government, of approaching the banks further on this subject, and to see whether it is not possible to comply with the general expression df opinion in this House that it is desirable in all the circumstances, that the assistance take the form of a straight-out bounty of 6d. a bushel on all wheat exported.
That speech was made only a little over a year ago. The Minister then had no doubt that the Commonwealth Bank would be able to find the money for the proposed bounty of 6d. a bushel. Why then this changed attitude towards the amendment proposed by Senator Johnston? If the Government really desires to help our wheat-growers it will accept the amendment and inform the Commonwealth Bank that it requires that bank to take up treasury-bills to the amount necessary to cover the bounty. But we know that the Government has not the political “ guts “ to do so. The wheat situation in Australia is exceedingly grave. The other day, in Western Australia, that State of secession rebels, wheat-farmers organized a strike and, so it is reported, decided not to sell their wheat at present prices. To my mind those wheat-farmers did the right thing in striking. As the organized workers often are, they were driven to the last ditch.
– They are striking for the bounty mentioned in my amendment.
– They will strike at a later stage, but it will be with a lead pencil at the ballot-box, when they get an opportunity to punish this Government. The Victorian farmers are holding a pistol at the head of the State Government. They have decided to fall into line with their Western Australian colleagues. Is Senator Brennan, who comes from Victoria, prepared -to go into the wheat centres and support his attitude towards this hill?
– I am.
– Then I am ready to go with him before the farmers of Victoria, and denounce the honorable senator for opposing the amendment. His attitude in supporting a cowardly government
– The honorable senator must withdraw that expression.
- T withdraw it.’ The president of the Western Australian Wheat-growers Union, Mr. I. Boyle, has stated that 1,500,000 bags of wheat are held up in the north-eastern portion of the wheat belt. He has boldly declared, “ It will be a fight to the finish “. On Saturday the union sent a cable to Alberta, Canada, informing the farmers there, who have resolved not to sow their spring wheat unless they get better prices, that Western Australia is behind them in the fight. Mr. Boyle said that supporters of the hold-up had been much heartened by a message from Mr. Chanter, secretary of the New South Wales’ Wheat-growers Union, that the New South Wales growers would not take advantage of the Western Australian hold-up to get better prices for themselves. In the case of both Western Australia and Victoria, action has not been taken by individual farmers, but has been ordered by the executive bodies of the two allied organizations; yet members of the Country party in another place have played the role of Judas. Many sections of the people are promised relief under this bill, and I am satisfied that more than one Guy Fawkes would be required to make any impression upon this Government.
– by leave - By way of personal explanation, I desire to inform honorable senators that in my second-reading speech on the bill I said that it had been alleged that the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. John
Lawson) had made a statement in which he had classed the wheat-farmers as slovenly and lazy people. On a close study of Hansard, I find that that statement is incorrect. I do not wish to do the honorable member an injustice, or to place him in a wrong light before the people, and, therefore, I withdraw that statement.
– The second reading of this measure has been debated at such length that I do not intend to delay the Senate by making a lengthy speech. Several honorable senators have commented upon the strange mixture of subjects dealt with in the bill; It has been pointed out that we may favour some, parts of the measure and disagree with others, and that it would have been better if an opportunity had been afforded to deal with the various subjects’ in separate bills. The conglomerate nature of the bill suggests to my mind that this is panic legislation. Last year this Government brought down measure after measure, almost daily, because of certain happenings in New South Wales. We are told that this bill is designed to give relief to certain sections of the community, and. that those who will benefit most under it are those sections which are suffering the greatest hardship. The Government . made provision in its budget this year for a surplus. Following upon the presentation of the budget, we were informed through the press that the revenue was so buoyant that the Government’s most sanguine expectations would be exceeded. The budget was prepared in the hope that the Hoover moratorium would be continued; but we were informed that, failing that, the financial plans of the Government would have to be altered. It is now fairly certain that, as the United States of America insists on the immediate payment of Britain’s war debt instalment, Australia will have to meet its war commitments to Britain. I am wondering to what extent this will throw the budgetary plans of the Government out of balance. One would think that the Government, knowing that the moratorium might coll apse, and that it would be faced with a huge deficit at the end of the year, would pause before remitting taxes; but, despite the fact that it is almost certain that the Government will be confronted with such a situation, it persists with its proposals in this direction. It is alleged that such relief will confer tremendous benefits; but, as more than one speaker has shown, the land tax that is being reduced is not paid by the small man. A man has to be in a fairly big way before he is affected by the federal land tax. The owner of £20,000 worth of land does not pay more than £15 or £16 a year, and it is only in the £100,000 class that men are to be found whose land tax amounts to £1,000. The banks, the big insurance companies, and institutions of that character, which have properties in the large cities, where land is valuable, will benefit by this relief. In sharp contrast to this magnanimous gesture to its wealthy supporters is the action of the Government in refusing to restore the invalid and old-age pension to its former level. The excuse offered for the taxation relief is that those who are affected have had a particularly bad spin, and cannot afford to pay the present impost. Recently, the Government appointed a committee to inquire into the conduct of the wool industry, and that body has . presented a report. One of its members, in a minority report, refers to certain charges that are so heavy as to cause serious embarrassment to the man on the land. The paragraph in question reads -
Some startling evidence was given in regard to what was termed the high charges made by brokers, and witnesses competent to speak from their knowledge and experience, considered the charges far too high, and were a first charge and burden on the grower. One witness, in answer to the chairman’s query as to “What do those charges cover which you call brokers’ charges “, said - “ Assuming that your sheep cut three bales to the 100, you pay 29s. 3d. per 100 to your shearer. The broker collects 38s. from the three bales of wool which 100 sheep cut, and he collects it in this way. He gets 6s. 4d. per bale warehousing charges, 3s. commission, and he charges the buyer 3s. 4d. for delivery; that is 12s. 8d. Three times 12s. 8d. is 38s., and that is what it costs to sell the wool from 100 sheep.”
It costs almost as much to sell the wool as it does to shear the sheep. This member of the committee states that the men in a small way are afraid to complain of exorbitant charges, because they are under financial obligations to the brokers.
It is well known that Australia has passed through a tremendously difficult period. Senator J. B. Hayes asked how the money was to be found if the amendment was carried, because an additional £1,500,000 would be needed. “Where did the last Government obtain the money for the payment of the bounty of 4£d. a bushel? The conditions were much worse then than they are to-day. The present Government entered a pleasant pasture, compared with what the previous Government had to face. The revenues are particularly buoyant to-day, and practically no difficulty is being experienced in financing operations. Senator J. B. Hayes referred to the fact that our bonds are being quoted above par. That is an indication of comparatively prosperous conditions. Surely, then, there should be nc trouble in financing an additional £1,500,000. The Government need not have reduced the taxes of the land-holders of this country. Had it refrained from doing that, it could have not only restored the invalid and old-age pension, but also given a further £1,500,000 to the wheatfarmers. Last year the bounty was a new piece of machinery ; but, so far as I know, it operated like clockwork, and no complaints were made concerning it. I cannot imagine why this Government wants to depart from what worked so smoothly and satisfactorily. It appears to be flying in the face of those who, it may be assumed, have the best knowledge of this subject. A couple of weeks ago a deputation” from the wheat-farmers visited Canberra to place their case before the Government. I “conversed with a number of those men, and found them most outspoken as to what ought to be done. It would appear that the Government is prepared to oppose every interest except the big financial institutions. It may have a purpose in so acting; but I hope that the results achieved will lead to the lifting of a burden from- those who, for quite a considerable time, have been suffering grievously, and are not yet able to see any silver lining to the clouds that encompass them.
Question - That the words proposed to be left out (Senator E. B. Johnston’s amendment) be left out - put. The Senate divided. (President - Senator the Hon. P. J. Lynch.)
Question so resolved in the negative.
– I do not propose to detain the Senate many minutes, but there are one or two points which I wish to mention before the bill gets into committee. Several honorable senators have complained that this is an omnibus bill, in that it incorporates quite a number of subjects. I admit that if the circumstances were normal the criticism would be well founded; but the Government had two objects in view in presenting the bill in this form. The Government wished to include the whole of the supplementary financial policy for the year into one measure so that the balance of the policy would be appreciated. If honorable senators will turn to the bill they will find- that the greater portion of it ceases to operate within six months’ time, and if the Government is unable at the end of the financial year to re-enact this legislation, it will cease to have effect. Its continu ance depends entirely upon the financial situation with which we are faced when we approach the consideration of the budget next year. If the financial circumstances are favorable, Parliament can be asked to re-enact this legislation. It may be that we shall not be able to do so. That has been one of the main considerations in shaping this policy, and, as I have said, it is limited to the assistance we can extend to those affected by this legislation. I do not for a moment contend . that the measure is entirely satisfactory to all concerned. For instance, I do not suggest that the wheatgrower is receiving all that he might very well claim he is entitled to receive. Further, I do not say that the taxpayer is getting all the relief that he ought to get in view of the special circumstances. The bill, however, represents what the Government felt it was justified in asking Parliament to agree to do at the present time. I need not remind honorable senators of the circumstances which have arisen, and which have been lurking in the background ever since the last budget “was prepared, and which have become urgent at the present juncture. Honorable senators know that I am referring to the war debt payments, and the obligation that will rest upon Australia in the event of Great Britain having to renew her payments to America. Honorable senators have been discussing this measure - at least a number of them hay - as if it related almost entirely to wheat.
– That was owing to the fact that an amendment relating to the wheat industry had been moved.
– I do not agree with the honorable senator. After that amendment was moved, honorable senators were free to address themselves to the main question, and also to the amendment at the same time. I was, however, limited to the amendment. In the discussion which followed, every one appeared to take it for granted that the amount which the Government is making available to the wheat-growers is £2,000,000. That is not the position at all. This year, the Government is finding £2,300,000, because it has to provide £300,000 to- meet the first payment towards liquidating the bounty which. was ostensibly to be paid last year by our friends opposite. The late Government did not .find the money; it borrowed it by signing treasurybills, leaving its successors to foot the bill. Senator Colebatch even went so far as to suggest that we should go on doing that. The honorable senator shakes his head, but that is what he suggested. Did he not suggest that the Government should take some of the treasury-bills issued this year, and use them for assistance to the wheat-growers. Those bills, however, do not belong to the Commonwealth Government; it is merely the channel through which they are issued on behalf of the States. If the Government could get the States to surrender their quota for the year, and divert that money, the net result would be that the Commonwealth, instead of the States, would have to meet these treasury-bills next year, and instead of the Commonwealth having to find £300,000 to liquidate a wheat bounty, it would have to provide £600,000. We could not continue in that way; the Government would soon become financially embarrassed. The Government, after considering this matter, made up its mind very definitely on the point that if it was to give assistance to the wheatgrowers, it could not give anything at .all if it had to borrow. I believe that that was a sound financial decision. The Government also reached another decision and .one upon which there has been a good deal of controversy - that it could not, and would not, agree to payment on the basis of production. That position has not been altered by anything which has since occurred.
I now wish to say a word or two concerning what the bill actually provides. I desire to give the Senate certain assurances as to what can be done. I do not suggest for a moment that every wheatgrower can obtain something. It may mean that every wheat-grower may do so ; but the Government is not prepared to do what was done last year, and pay a bounty on the basis of production. The Government feels that that is the right course to adopt, .particularly in view of what was done last year with the money which was made available. Turning to last year’s bounty figures, I find that 13,900 of Australian wheat-growers re- ceived £1,847,504, while 57,019 received £1,494,821. Such a discrepancy does not appear fair.
– Is the Minister prepared to consider a bounty on production, with a maximum amount for each grower ?
– No. The bill provides for practically the same thing, and is not so rigid. Clause 28 reads -
Any money paid to a State under this part shall be applied by the State for the benefit and assistance of wheat-growers by - («) reducing the cost of production of wheat (including the cost of transport and marketing) ; and (6) providing for the needs of individual wheat-growers, but not upon the basis of the quantity of wheat produced by individual wheat-growers.
That makes provision for the States to relieve charges in connexion with transport and marketing. That can be adjusted in such a way as to relieve the costs of all wheat-growers; and provided it is not done on the basis of production, the Government is satisfied for it to be done.
– It would- still be on the basis of production.
– Freights vary from different places, and all wheatgrowers do not pay the same freights. The relief could be granted . in such a way that the wheat-grower who normally would pay the highest amount in freight would get the greatest relief. I hope that it will work- that way. It would not be relief on the basis of production.
– The relief would be on the basis of production in the case of two growers who delivered different quantities of wheat at the same siding.
– Supposing a State made a reduction of 50 per cent, in freight rates; the man with the greatest freight costs would get the greatest relief. There is nothing wrong with that.
– The biggest producer would still get the most money, as was the” case last year.
– I do not say that it would be done that way. It would help individual growers if the £2,000,0Q0 were spread in such a way that the individual who pays the highest costs would reap the greatest advantage. Is not that more sensible than to’ pay out the same flat rate to all?
– It would operate in. exactly the same way.
– No. Clause 286 reads - providing for the needs of individual wheatgrowers’, but not upon the basis of the quantity of wheat produced by individual wheatgrowers.
Senator Plain objected to the wheatgrower being made a- mendicant. I sug-gest that the whole thing will work in an entirely different way from that which he fears. Every State has its departments which deal with needy settlers, and most of these people are known to the. departments.
– More wheat-farmers are becoming needy from day to day.
– The machinery of the States will find them. In addition to help of this kind, the States will, presumably, earmark some of the money for men who have no crop at all - crops destroyed by take-all, rust, hail, or “other means, tinder a bounty system, such men would get nothing, but under this scheme, they would get something. Again, what is wrong with giving a man whose crop has been a partial failure more per bushel than his neighbour, whose crop has been a complete success?
– He may be an incompetent farmer.
– We can confidently leave such matters to the States, which are quite competent to deal with them. My experience is that the majority of the farmers are not fools, but keen intelligent men who do their work well. There are not many inefficient farmers. Most cases of partial failure are due to other causes than inefficiency. I direct the attention of honorable senators to section 91 of the Constitution which reads -
Nothing in this Constitution prohibits a State from granting any aid to, or bounty on, mining for gold, silver or other metals, or from granting, with the consent of both Houses of the Parliament of the Commonwealth, expressed by resolution, any aid to or bounty on the production or export of goods.
The Government declines to agree to a straight-out bounty for reasons which I believe are well-founded. In another place doubt was expressed whether the aid mentioned in the Constitution could takea form which could give rise to some constitutional difficulty. To overcome that the Minister in another place gave a definite undertaking that, in order to remove any misunderstanding it would do anything which may prove to be necessary, namely, by submitting a resolution, to Parliament in order to enable the States to aid the production or export of wheat otherwise than by way of a bounty. The resolution referred to is that men’tioned in the section of the Constitution which I have read. I give that same undertaking in the Senate.
– Several States are already giving that aid.
– Yes ; but a doubt was raised in this connexion in another place.
– The Government will assist the States in any way necessary, provided that that assistance does not take the form of a flat bounty on theproduction of wheat.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 (Short title).
[11.27 a.m.]. - I take this opportunity to address a few words to the Senate on the possibility of our getting this bill through in time for honorable senators to catch their trains to-night. I take it that that is the general desire. Without desiring to be critical, I suggest that we have had a lengthy and complete discussion on the bill on the second reading. I know that some honorable senators desire to test the committee on various amendments which will be moved ; but I do not think that there should be any need for a repetition of the second-reading discussion when such amendments are moved. It will save time and, possibly, suit the convenience of honorable senators, if amendments are moved with, at most-, only a brief discussion of them. I remind honorable senators that should any amendment be agreed to, the bill would have to go back to another place, and be returned to the Senate. If expedition is used, we should be able to complete the bill in order to catch our trains to-night.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 2 and 3 agreed to.
Clause 4 (Seduction of land tax).
– For the reasons that I gave in my second-reading speech, I ask the committee to reject this clause.
– Will the Minister agree to postpone this clause until after the provisions relating to invalid and oldage pensions have been dealt with?
– I cannot agree to postpone the clause.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 5 agreed to.
Clause 6 (Special deduction in respect of further tax on income from property).
– It is monstrous for the Government to propose a remission of taxation of this nature before restoring to invalid and old-age pensioners those benefits which were taken from them so recently under the Financial Emergency Act. These people represent the most deserving section of our community. They should not be penalized to make possible remissions of taxation of this nature. I enter my strongest protest against this clause.
– This clause makes provision for a special deduction in respect of the taxes on income from property, but the provision does not apply to a company or person not resident in Australia. I do not propose to ask the Minister to make any alteration at the present time, nor is it my intention to detain the committee; but I should like to put it not only to honorable senators, on this side, hut also to all reasonable members of the Labour party that surely the time has come when we should revise our views concerning the imposition of penalties upon people who do not reside in Australia, but whose money may be employed here in useful directions, and for the general good. When I returned to the chamber a little while ago, I heard Senator Rae complain that we were not getting an’ increasing share of the world’s wealth. Surely the honorable senator and his friends, recognize that unless we are prepared to treat it hospitably, and unless we invite it to come here, we cannot expect to enjoy an increasing share of the world’s wealth. I am well aware of the attitude of the Labour party on this point. Members of that party hold that an Australian who resides outside Australia is a traitor to his country, because he is receiving his income from Australia and is spending it overseas. They believe that he should be compelled to make greater contribution to our revenue, and to secure this, they support the levying of heavy taxation on absentee property-owners. Besides being heavily taxed, these people, under existing conditions, also have to pay a heavy exchange on remittances from Australia.
– They should spend their money here too.
– I am not urging that action to give relief should now be taken, but I think the time is coming when the members of the Labour party should consider whether the interests of the whole people would not be served if this policy were changed. There are, I suppose, two types of people living overseas who pay taxation as absentees, one of Australian birth, and the other, possibly, ‘ of British birth, but owning property in this country. I urge strongly on the Government that it is an unwise policy, particularly at the present time, to do anything which might induce those people to take their money out of Australia, which they will do in some cases when the exchange rate improves, or which might prevent them from bringing their money into this country for investment here. It. appears to me that the Commonwealth Government and Parliament have adopted a very foolish attitude towards absentee taxpayers, many of whom have been “deterred from investing their money in Australia. Members of the. Labour party are, I imagine, quite keen to see Englishmen coming to Australia and bringing with them their money for investment in industrial enterprises. Surely the same principle should apply all round. It is, I think, a fact that, largely owing to the defeat of the’ Lang Government in New South Wales a -few months ago, Australia at the present time occupies a very favorable position in the eyes of English people, and I believe that if’ given reasonable encouragement, their money would be made available for investment in Australian enterprises. Surely that would be for the good of the country. I, therefore, put it to my friends in the Labour party that it would be in the interests of the employee class, which they claim particularly to represent in this Parliament, if we could attract more of this outside money to Australia to be used in industrial or commercial or other ventures which would give a large amount of employment. This foolish system of penalizing people who do not live in Australia should come to an end, because it cannot have any other than a harmful effect. We should give a hearty welcome to foreigners. I do personally, and I think it is all to the good. In this matter I claim to be speaking for the good of the Commonwealth as a whole. Many wealthy Australians are living abroad and many wealthy English people own property in this country. If we do not treat them reasonably they may not allow their money to remain here. In our own interests we should put an end to this foolish policy of penalizing them, simply because they do not live in Australia.
– I cannot claim to be one of the “ reasonable “ members of the Labour party ; but on behalf of that party, I can promise that, when it is returned to power, due consideration will be given to any representations which wealthy absentee property-owners may make. Probably the action to be taken will be to double the present impost upon them. I am quite in accord with Senator DuncanHughes that we should give a kindly welcome to foreigners who may come to this country. I am afraid that the honorable gentleman did not quite correctly quote what I said.
– I took a careful note of the remark to which I alluded.
– Then I can only assume that it must have been of some importance. What I meant to convey ‘ was that the workers were entitled to a larger proportion of the wealth which they produce. We who represent the workers believe in levying high taxation on those persons who draw their wealth from Australia, but spend it elsewhere. Many of these people take pleasure trips all round the world and indulge in big game shooting in foreign countries, living all the time from revenue derived from Australian properties that have been developed, not by their individual efforts, but by the introduction of capital. The penalty at present imposed upon them is a very slight one; they do not get the exemption allowed to Australian citizens under the income tax laws. It seems to me that they are the class of people for whom the least consideration should be asked, especially in these times. My argument with regard to our getting a larger share of the wealth produced is based on the fact that when the cost of living figures are on the upgrade, the general tendency is for wages to lag behind, and conversely when the. cost of living figures are declining, wage reductions, as a rule, are in the lead. Thisis one of the economic axioms which cannot be successfully challenged, and we contend that, under the existing social system, the status of the workers as a class can never be improved, because under that system no means can be devised by which they will be assured of a larger proportion of the wealth which they produce. I do not desire any special party advantages, but I contend that the wage-earners are not receiving the full benefits of civilization, and if they cannot get proper consideration of their claims by political means, they must get it. by any other means available.
– The honorable senator must deal with the clause.
– Senator DuncanHughes argued that concessions should be granted to absentee property holders; but I consider these persons to be a drag on the community. Owing to the fact that they belong to a parasitic class, if they do not return to Australia and assist it to progress, their property should be confiscated. While this class remains, the real wealth-producers, who are the wage-earners, must go short of their fair share of the good things of life.
– If the wage-earners are the only wealth producers, now is their chance to produce a little more, because the country needs their help.
– The system under which we live prevents, unfortunately, a large proportion of the community from doing any work at all. The system should be altered before the working class is asked to do what is impossible.
– I protest against any remission of taxes in the interests of certain sections, while federal public servants are penalized under what is known as the Premiers plan, to a greater extent than any other section of employees that I know of. I ask that the amount of £8 per annum recently taken off the income of males, and the smaller sum lost by females, be restored.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 7 (Exemptions - Sales Tax Assessment Act (No. 1)).
– I desire to have a new item inserted to provide for the exemption of brattice cloth, which is used for ventilation purposes in mines. I have no doubt that we are all in full sympathy with those who work in mines, because they undergo constant risks.
– I give an undertaking that I shall look into this request and ascertain what loss of revenue would result from the exemption of brattice cloth ; but I cannot at present undertake to make any further exemptions. This commodity will be listed, and if we find that it is desirable that it should be exempted, action may be taken later. “We have already exempted all explosives used for mining purposes.
– In view of the Minister’s reply to Senator Dunn, I do not feel disposed to submit an amendment; but I draw attention to what appears to be an obvious anomaly. “When the sales tax legislation was recently amended, provision was made for the exemption of machines, appliances, and commodities used in primary production. We particularly exempted sheep shearing machines, but not blade shears. Surely blade shears, which are still used on small sheep properties, should be exempted.
– I give the honorable senator a similar undertaking to that given to Senator Dunn. The Government is concerned as to the financial position, in view of the possible resumption of war debt payments, and at the moment we cannot extend the list of exemptions. I agree with Senator O’Halloran that blade shears should be exempted at the earliest possible date.
– I hope that the Government will be able to agree to the exemption of brattice cloth, yet there are many articles in the list which seem to be of minor importance, and could be classed as luxuries. I suggest that the exemption of goods that are required. for the protection of the health of men who work underground is more important than the exemption of articles such as pickles, sauces, buns, and tarts.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 8 to 19 agreed to.
Amendment (by Senator Dunn) proposed -
That the following new clause be inserted: - “ 19a. Vacant land to the value of £400 which is not revenue producing shall not .be taken into consideration in assessing the pension of an applicant for the old-age and invalid pension.”
– I am told that quite a number of persons, when better off financially, bought allotments of land, which they hoped to improve but were prevented, by economic circumstances, from so doing. There are certain encumbrances on the land, because rates have to be paid on it, although in no case is revenue being derived from it. It is unfair that the owner of such an allotment should, because of his ownership, be denied a pension.
– The proposed new clause raises the whole .question of the property that may be held by pensioners. Under the provision, as it has stood from the beginning, £400 is the limit of the value of property that may be held without rendering an applicant ineligible for a pension. If the proposed new clause were accepted, such persons would immediately become eligible, and, according to the estimate of the department, the cost would be at least £100,000 a year. A claimant for a pension may sell any land that he possesses, at a price which in the* circumstances the Commissioner regards as reasonable, and thus qualify for a pension up to the rate determined by the price, received, so long as it does not exceed £400.
Senator Rae, I believe, will find that the case that he has raised is dealt with by a new provision. Some of these cases, I admit, have presented difficulties in the past.’ Persons who have bought blocks of land find that, at the moment, they have no sale .value ; but a certain value attaches to them, and that either is a bar to a pension being granted or has the effect of reducing the pension. It is proposed to give to the pensioner the right to transfer the block to the Commissioner. In effect, the owner buys an annuity, which is probably worth a great deal more to him than the block of land. Proposed new clause negatived.
Clause 20 agreed to.
Section fifty-two e of the principal act is amended by inserting in sub-section (1.) after the words “ real property of the pensioner “ the words “ and except encumbrances thereon in respect of which the Commissioner has consented in writing “. ” Section proposed to be amended - 52e. - (1.) Upon the death of a pensioner and upon the death of a person who, after the commencement of this section, ceased to be a pensioner, the amount of pension paid to the pensioner or person, after the commencement of this section, and npt repaid to the Commissioner under the foregoing provisions of this part, shall be a debt due to the Commonwealth in priority to all other debts and liabilities of the pensioner (except encumbrances existing, prior to such commencement, upon real property of the pensioner) and shall be recoverable by the Commissioner in any court of competent jurisdiction.
– I move -
That the following words be added to the clause: - “ and except encumbrances created bona fide for value before the grant of a pension to the - pensioner “.
I wish to make provision for the case of a person who, not being a pensioner, has obtained a mortgage or effected an encumbrance on property since the coming into operation of the act. My. proposal is that any such encumbrance shall take. priority to the governmental charge. That, I consider, is perfectly reasonable. It is monstrous that the Government should come in in priority to bona fide advances to persons who, at the time, were not pensioners, but who subsequently became pensioners. So long as this uncertainty . remains, persons of moderate means who own real estate will find it practically impossible to obtain an advance on that security. This amendment of the act has been asked for in various quarters, and I have made representations to the Government on the matter for some time. I understand that the Government feels that there might be some risk of collusive advances being made to defeat the government charge. My reply to that is, that only bona fide advances are to be protected.
– I recognize that in the ordinary work of conveyancing, ‘ this prior charge of the Crown might, in some rare cases, be a definite bar to a person being able to negotiate a loan. There is a class of loan in which it would constantly occur, such as those made, by building societies and savings banks for the building of homes and things of that sort, to a class of persons, a number of whom it is reasonable to suppose may become pensioners. The Government has decided to accept the amendment, and to watch how the provision operates. I am inclined to think that we shall be able to do what we originally set out to do; that is, to retain a charge over those larger properties of which quite a number are held by pensioners, some being of great value. It is improbable that any considerable number of mortgages will be granted irregularly and unfairly in priority to the Crown.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 22 and 23 agreed to.
Clause 24 -
Section fifty-two h of the. Principal Act is amended by omitting all words from, and including the words “ to a .relative “ to and including the words “transferee” (first occurring) and inserting in their stead the words “ to a person who is -
the widow or widower of the pensioner; or -
b ) the father or mother or a child, sister or brother of the pensioner and who -
is a pensioner; or ^
was permanently residing with the pensioner at the date of his death and, being a male, is not less than sixty years of age, or being a female, is not less than fifty-five years of age and is in the opinion of the Commissioner in necessitous circumstances, the satisfaction of any charge to. which the property is subject under this act shall, in the case of a person to whom paragraph (a) and sub-paragraph (t) of paragraph (6) apply, and may, in the case of a person to whom sub-paragraph (ii) of paragraph (6) applies, be deferred until the death of the transferree “.
Section proposed to be amended - 52h. Notwithstanding anything contained in this act, where the interest in any property, being the home or household effects of a pensioner, passes upon his death to a relative being the widow, widower, father or mother or a child, sister or brother of the pensioner who -
is a pensioner; or
b ) was permanently residing with the pensioner at the date of his death and, being a male, is not less than sixty years of age, or being a female, is not less than fifty-five years of age and is in the opinion of the Commissioner in necessitous circumstances, the satisfaction of any charge to which the property is subject under this act shall, in the case of a person to whom paragraph (a) applies, and may, in the case of a person to whom paragraph ( 6 ) applies, be deferred until the death of the transferree
Provided that, where the transferree is the widow or widower of the pensioner, this section shall not apply if the pensioner and the wife or husband of the pensioner (as the case may be) were immediately prior to the death of the pensioner living apart pursuant to any. decree, judgment, order, or deed of separation.
– I move -
That the words “ who -
is a pensioner; or - (ii) » in paragraph b, be left out, with a view to insert in lieu. thereof the following words: - “is a pensioner; or
the father or mother of a child, sister or brother of the pensioner and who “.
There are consequential amendments to he moved later. The object is to make clear the intention of the clause, which is somewhat confusingly worded. I give the committee an assurance that the amendment does not alter what the Government originally provided.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause also consequentially amended, and, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 25 agreed to.
Subject to this part, there shall be payable out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund which is hereby appropriated accordingly, the sum of Two million pounds for the purposes of financial assistance to the States in- the provision of relief to wheat-growers in the States and for the purposes of providing relief to wheat-growers in any territory.
– I move-
That the words “ to the States “ be left out.
If that amendment is accepted I shall move that after the word “ territory “ the following words be inserted: - “ Such amount to be distributed on a production basis “ be added.
In this amendment I have not attempted in any way to interfere with the amount to be allocated by the Government, because, whether we like it or not, we have been forced to accept the decision reached. I still submit that the amount mentioned in the clause is hopelessly inadequate, and I do not think that the wheat-growers are receiving anything approaching the amount to which they are entitled by way of relief. As honorable senators are aware, they are suffering seriously as a result of our fiscal policy, and are in the position. of the victim who is held up by a footpad, and, after being robbed, is offered a tram-fare home. I am anxious to place this matter on an economic basis. I claim that the wheat-growing industry is a national industry, as it is responsible for 25 per cent, of the sterling funds in London. It should be regarded by this Government as a national industry, and if the wheat-growers are to be relieved it will be necessary to deal with them direct. The amendment embodies the method employed by the Scullin Government of paying a bounty on a production basis with the limited amount of money available, and making it available to the whole of the wheatgrowers of the Commonwealth. The method proposed by the Government is unacceptable to the growers, and can be regarded as “skirting”, or, to use an American phrase, “passing the buck”. I challenge the Government to show that under the old system any complaints were made, that the organization broke down, or that wheat-growers who were entitled to payment did not receive their money. The greatest need of the wheatgrower to-day is cash. ‘ Under the Government’s proposals there is no guarantee that the wheatgrower will receive a cash payment. At present those farmers who in better days possessed motor cars now have them suspended by ropes awaiting better times. The tractors which they once used are now standing idle as their owners have not sufficient money to purchase the necessary replacement parts. The farmers’ wives have been unable to replace their crockery and the household linen is worn threadbare. Unless immediate and adequate financial assistance is given, many of these unfortunate men who are working from daylight to dark will be paying interest on mortgages for the rest of their lives. The Government is opposed to payment on a production basis merely because it wishes to “ save its face.” It has been admitted by’ the Minister that the States are able to assist in the matter of railway freights. The State Parliaments could grant a bonus equal to 2d. a bushel on all wheat carried on State railways. I trust that the committee will support this amendment.
– When I first studied the amendment moved by Senator Hardy, it appeared attractive, but on further consideration I feel that it would not be in the interests of the wheat-growers, whom I am sure all honorable senators wish to assist, particularly in view of the figures quoted by the Assistant Treasurer (Senator Greene). He said that on a bounty of 4£d. a bushel, 13,900 of the wheat-growers received £1,847,000 of the bounty and 57,019 received £1,494,821. This amendment would provide £73 each for 13,900 growers, and £14 9s. each for the 57,019 growers. Those amounts would not be of any benefit to them, and by passing this amendment we should be limiting their opportunities rather than increasing them.. We should also take away from the State the right to add to the £14 9s. which the smaller growers would receive. It is cash which the farmers need. We know that some of the States, recognizing the national importance of the industry, are ready to give relief; indeed, that some State governments have already indicated their intention of .introducing measures for the purpose of assisting the wheat-growers. I feel that if we passed this amendment, we should be acting detrimentally to the interests of the growers, rather than to their advantage. On an estimated production of 200,000,000 bushels for this year, the growers would receive on an average an additional 2£d. or 2£d. a bushel, which I submit would not be of much benefit to them. I intend to oppose the amendment.
– Are there any safeguards either in this or in previous legislation to prevent a mortgagee, bank, or financial institution, to which growers owe money, obtaining money paid from Commonwealth funds?
– This appropriation is made on behalf of the States and a bank could not garnishee the Crown.
– I intend to support the amendment because I cannot see how the farmers are to receive payment unless under some comprehensive scheme. In some of the States, a number of the farmers conduct their business with agricultural banks and similar institutions, and, of course, the State governments could also afford them relief. Many farmers in the same district are short of cash, and how is the Government or its representatives to decide how assistance is to be given to these people ? Will they have to wait until all the applications are received, or is a start to be made when the first application comes in, and the number to be received is not known? If so, payment may be made on too generous a scale, and later it may be discovered that there is insufficient on hand to pay the balance of the claims.
.- I opposed the Wheat Bounty Bill introduced by the Scullin Government under which a bounty was paid on a bushel basis, and I believe that Senator Hoare supported me, because I contended that the man who had a heavy crop in a favoured locality would obtain more than his share of the bounty, while the pioneer, producing wheat .on perhaps inferior country, would not receive anything like the amount to which he was entitled. I intend to adopt the same attitude on this occasion, because I believe that it is essential to pay the money to the man who needs it most. Were £he Scullin Government in power to-day, and it found it necessary to introduce a measure to grant assistance to the wheat-farmers, the figures disclosed by the Minister this morning indicate that the measure could not have been along the lines of the legislation of last year. Those figures make it clear that the needy farmers did not receive the portion of the bounty to which they were entitled. It is gratifying to me to know that, on this occasion, there are others who hold the views that I have held all along, and still hold to-day.
– I support the amendment. Were the Scullin Government still in power, I should use whatever influence I possess to make any distribution of assistance to the wheat-growers on the same basis as last year, because that is the only fair basis. The figures presented to the committee by the Minister, and misinterpreted by impractical men, lead us nowhere. I know the position of the wheat-growing industry in South Australia; I do not claim to know a great deal about it in the other States. I know that farmers in the margin country of South Australia who had light crops, did much better out of those crops, with light cultivation and no superphosphates, than did others in what are regarded as the better wheat-growing areas. In South Australia, there are 13,000,000 acres of margin country under cultivation, where, over a period of 40 years, the crop has averaged six bushels to the acre. It is that class of farmer that this Government proposes to assist. I have long held the view that arrangements should be made to bring those farmers into districts with an assured rainfall. The present Government ‘believes in assisting these “men, while others in the better districts are to be driven to the insol vency court because they are producing wheat and selling it at 8d. below the cost of production.
– Some farmers who participated in last year’s bounty were called upon to pay income tax.
– It may be that some farmers in South Australia paid income ‘tax, and yet received the bounty. The income tax exemption in South Australia is £100, so that every wage-earner or other person in receipt of more than £2 a week is a taxpayer. Some farmers had an income of more than £2 a week. The Taxation Act does not exempt from taxation all the expenditure essential to the proper conduct of a farm. Take my own case; I have lost £1,380 in cash during the last seven years, and yet, I have had to pay income tax. The Government appears to be willing to distribute the grant on the basis of a reduction of freights which, in essence, is equivalent to a bounty on production. Take the case of two farmers delivering wheat to the same siding. One delivers 3,000 bushels, and the other 1,000. In that case, the man with the greater quantity of wheat would obtain the bigger concession. I desire to. improve this unworkable clause.” I fear the consequences predicted hy Senator Johnston. How is the distributing authority to assess the basis of payment? Will it withhold all payments until the position of every farmer has been investigated? In South Australia alone there are 12,600 farmers with at least 50 acres under crop. Of that number 5,000 are in receipt of assistance from the various debt adjustment and drought relief schemes. Such farmers are, of course, in necessitous circumstances. There may be other necessitous cases. If an inquiry were made into the finances of the farmers of South Australia, I predict that not more than about 500, out of the total number of 12,600, could be said to be able to carry on production without come form of assistance. I know a methodical and progressive farmer who possesses what is, perhaps, the finest wheat-farm in South Australia. It comprises 1,200 acres of freehold land in a district with an assured rainfall of 17 inches per annum. He is considering dispensing with the services of six or seven employees, and treating the farm as a sheep run until the price of wheat improves, because he has been producing at a loss for three years, notwithstanding that his average return has been over 30 bushels an acre for a period of four years. I could give other illustrations of a similar nature, but I hope that the one I have given will be sufficient to induce honorable members to agree to the amendment.
– I desire to define my position in relation to this clause, and the amendment. The first thing about the amendment of Senator Hardy is that it constitutes a direct negative of the policy embodied in the bill.
– Such was my intention.
– The measure when first introduced into Parliament was not in its present form, for it then provided for a bounty on superphosphates and assistance to necessitous farmers. I do not mind saying that I liked the superphosphates bounty part of that bill more than I did the other portion of it. But, as the result of solicitations and invitations, the Government changed its policy and introduced a new clause which is, I think, better than the original. It is drawn widely. There is nothing in it now to. prevent the money from being distributed in any way that the State thinks fit, except that it must not be used for the purpose of providing a bounty on production. It is wide enough to cover my views. I have a feeling that an attempt is being made to irritate and obstruct the Government. This clause must be read in conjunction with the rest of the bill, and the events of last year ought to be taken into account. If honorable senators will cast their minds back eighteen months and compare the situation then with present conditions, they will realize that there has been a considerable improvement. I do not say that this Government is ‘infallible, or that I would at all times follow its lead ; but I do say that during its term of office there has been a decided change for the better, which has made this bill possible. It is difficult to vote against a bill which attempts to improve conditions for many various sections of the people, including the wheat-farmers. I suggest that it is not fair to use the bill as a bludgeon with which to hit one’s host. The bill is one that almost any senator may reasonably accept, and in that way show some gratitude for whatever, parts of it are favorable to his views. It is obviously carefully considered, and it considers the interests of most classes of the community.
– It is a taxation measure.
– I wish that all taxation measures had its qualities. The little praise that it has received would lead one to think that it had no good points.
– It is a conservative bill.
– That the Government moved its ground, is evidence of its desire to do something for the industry. We should not be unmindful of that fact.
– Does not the honorable senator think that it will be a most difficult piece of legislation to administer?
– That is not my concern. I am not the draftsman for the Commonwealth. I take it that those responsible for the bill regard it as a workable piece of legislative machinery. It will be worked through the States. I do not suggest that its provisions will please every one, but the bill is evidence of the desire of the Government to assist all sections of the community. The only real criticism levelled against it is that it 1 will not enable a bounty to be paid on production.
– Is that not rather a petty stand on the part of the Government ?
– I do not think so.
Sitting suspended from 12.^5 to 2.15 p.m.
– The terms laid down in this measure to provide relief for our wheat-farmers are of considerable width and afford great scope to State Governments which will allocate the money provided. I hope that they will not pay too much attention to the farmer, who is simply unfortunate, but will take into account also the question of efficiency and the productivity of his land, because these are matters of great importance. The majority of the States have at their command efficient instrumentalities to administer a measure of this kind. In my own State, for example, there is the Debt Adjustment Act and the Farmers Relief Act in the administration of which the State Government must have acquired a considerable amount of knowledge concerning the more unfortunate farmers in various parts of that State. The Government has intimated that if any material alteration is made it will drop this bill, or certainly this particular portion of it. I do not intend to take the risk of that, because our farmers might, for a time at all events, be deprived of the measure of assistance that is provided for them under this bill. I hope that other honorable senators will not do anything that might jeopardize the Government’s proposals. I intend ‘ to vote against Senator Hardy’s amendment.
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH (Western Australia) [2,19]. - Even at the risk of exciting friendly sarcasm from the occupants of the ministerial bench, I intend to support the amendment. I propose to consider a point that has not been raised so far in the discussion, but which, I am sure, is deserving of very serious attention. It occurred to me first when Senator Greene was making his reply in closing the second-reading debate. It touches entirely on this clause but, to develop my argument, it is necessary that I should refer briefly to one or two other provisions which are closely related to clause 26. In the first place, I direct attention to clause 27, which sets out the sums to be appropriated and paid to each State for distribution. As the amounts were assessed on the production of last year, it would appear to be a little inconsistent on the part of the Government not to allow the distribution to be made on the same basis. In its present form, the proposal may deal unjustly with certain States and individuals. For example, the State of Victoria will, under this proposal, receive £442,421, and the State of Western Australia will get £436,145, the assumption, apparently, being that Victoria, according to the latest official estimates, would this .year produce 44,000,000 bushels of wheat and Western Australia about 40,000,000 bushels. But estimates that have been published within the last two or three days indicate that there will be an alteration in these production figures. It is now expected that Victoria will produce only about 37,000,000 bushels, whereas the output in Western Australia will probably be 45,000,000 bushels. It might be said that this allocation to the States is quite in accord with the Governments’ policy to make the money available to States and farmers who need it most. That is, however, a comparatively unimportant point. What we have to bear in mind is that when the States get this money they will determine the manner of its distribution. Clause 28 enacts that it may be applied for ‘ the benefit and assistance of wheat-growers by reducing the cost of production or providing for the needs of individual wheat-growers. As the cost of transport and marketing are to be taken into account, the money could be applied to reducing the cost of overseas freight on the export production. Let us see what would happen if that were done. I take first the case of Western Australia. In that State the estimated production now is 45,000,000 bushels. After providing 4,000,000 bushels for local consumption there should be available for export 41,000,000 bushels, or, roughly, 1,100,000 tons. If that State applied its portion of the Commonwealth assistance, £436,135, to the payment of overseas freight, it could subsidize the export production to the extent of 8s. a ton. This would automatically increase by 8s. a ton the value of the wheat sold locally, and it would be equivalent to a subsidy to the farmer of approximately 2d. a bushel, and would put up correspondingly the price of wheat and flour to consumers in Western Australia. In the case of Victoria, with an estimated production of 37,000,000 bushels, and a larger population, the amount required for local consumption would be 12,500,000 bushels, so that the amount available for export would be 25,000,000 bushels or 680,000 tons. Because of the larger proportion consumed locally and the smaller amount available for export, Victoria, with its contribution from the Commonwealth, would be able to pay 13s. a ton towards the cost of overseas transport, and the subsidy for the Victorian wheat-growers would be 4d. a bushel, while the price of wheat and flour to Victorian consumers would be increased in corresponding ratio. .Let us now take the case of South Australia. I have not late figures dealing with the estimated production, but, after, all, that does not matter very much because it does not affect the principle involved. On the same basis, after providing for local consumption the State could, with the Commonwealth’s assistance, subsidize the export production to the extent of 7s. 6d. a ton. This would be equivalent to a subsidy of 2-Jd. a bushel, and would increase the price of bread and flour to the South Australian consumer to that extent. In New South Wales the very much larger population would require a proportionately higher percentage of the State’s production for the home market, and the amount provided by the Commonwealth under this bill would probably, if applied to overseas transport charges, represent 8s. 9d. a ton, or a subsidy to’ the local grower of 2Jd. a bushel. These figures indicate that if the Commonwealth assistance were applied as suggested, there would be inequalities as between wheat-farmers in the different States mentioned, of from 2£d. to over 4d. a bushel. But the worst feature would bc the direct incitement to speculation, because of the wide difference in the value of wheat in the different States. The Minister should give careful consideration to this matter, because there is nothing in the bill to prevent any State from applying its proportion of the Commonwealth assistance to overseas freights. Senator Duncan-Hughes has said that the Government has given careful thought to its scheme. I do not deny that, but it has put out a scheme that is open to objection on the score of inequality of treatment as between the States.
.- The Government’s original proposal was to assist producers to purchase superphosphates. That proposal, I understand, was evolved by the present Minister for Commerce (Mr. Stewart) who with all his undoubted qualifications is not a farmer. I have no doubt that when he announced it he was firmly convinced that it would be accepted readily and with great jubilation, but when it was submitted to the party its weaknesses were disclosed, and it was evident that a drastic alteration was necessary. There were no conditions attached to the distribution. Let us consider how the scheme would have worked out, and how the Minister misconceived the effect of his plan. Take the State of New South Wales, with which he is well acquainted. He is familiar with land values and the conditions of land settlement there, although he may not have spent a long time among the men on the land. Consider the quantity of fertilizers that would be used by a farmer in the north-west of New South Wales, who cultivates 1,000 acres. In that area, the land is rich. It is mostly pine and box country, and fertilizers must be applied sparingly to prevent burning of the crops. In Victoria, and in the southern parts of South Australia, fertilizers are used extensively for the purpose of topdressing, and it is a common thing for a large land-holder to use for that purpose at least from 200 to 300 tons annually. The big land-owner applies it to the best advantage. The farmer in the north experiences many hardships with regard to his crops, takes the risk of drought, and applies, say, 8 tons of manure on his 1,000 acres. Under the scheme first submitted, he would receive assistance on the purchase of fertilizers to the extent of only £8, while the farmer down south, who experiences far more favorable climatic conditions, and is, perhaps, not so heavily encumbered with debt, would be assisted to the extent of from £200 to £300. Where would be the justice in that ? The Minister did not realize all these inequalities, so it can bc easily understood why I hesitate to be guided by his persuasiveness and earnest representations. His proposal, however, was put aside, and a new scheme is before us to-day.
I listened with interest to the speech of Senator Duncan-Hughes, but I can not overlook the fact that there are six separate States and six State Governments. The six State Premiers may have varying views regarding the best way in which this assistance, to industry should be distributed. Some of the premiers may know little or nothing about farming. The Premier of South
Australia still favours a bounty on fertilizers, and the Premier of Victoria has declared his sympathy with that idea. The New South Wales Premier prefers the granting of assistance on the basis of the railway freight paid by farmers, and that I consider the soundest method of all. In Western Australia, the Premier is prepared to be guided by the farmers and the wheat-growers of that State. Tasmania does, not grow a great deal of wheat, and, therefore, is not largely concerned in this matter, while the wheatfarmers in Queensland have “ slipped “ under the scheme. I assure the Minister that .if he confines the scheme to a distribution of the money on the basis of the rail freight paid on wheat, I shall support him up to the hilt; but I point out that he cannot tie the State Premiers down to such an arrangement unless he puts it into the hill in black and white. He will not do that; neither will he accept a bounty on production. In view of all these complications, the ramifications of the industry, and the large territory, over which it is carried on, how will it be possible to police the scheme, should the States take control of it? The States will naturally, have to detail a large number of officials for this, work, and I question if these can be got together in time to meet the requirements of the farmers. Even if the necessary officials are available they will have to examine the claims of thousands of farmers in the different States, and that work cannot be .done iri] less than several months. If the Minister can convince me that the requirements of the farmers can . be met before Christmas or the New Year, I shall be prepared to listen to his proposal. I feel keenly about this matter, but I am not personally concerned one way or another. I grow mostly oats and barley, and. if I were to study my personal interests, I should favour a distribution on the basis of the quantity of fertilizers purchased. If I wished to take advantage of my position, I could declare myself a non-producer of wheat.
– The honorable senator ‘would get assistance in regard to the fertilizers required for his own purposes.
– I am not dealing with my own- case. I was requested by the wheat-growers in New South Wales te represent them at the deputation which waited on the .Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons), and to fall in with others in order to protect their interests. The wheat-growers of New South Wales are a very large body of men, and their miseries are quite as great as those of farmers in any other State. Can the Minister show how it will be possible to give them assistance, in proportion to the amount distributed among them last year, before Christmas or the New Year, under the scheme which he suggests? Is it possible for them to receive any money at all under that scheme? Will the money not go into the hands of the creditors of the farmers, with the result that the poorer farmers, instead of receiving a bounty, will get nothing?
– How could the creditors get hold of the money this year ?
– I presume that the millers or the merchants would pay the freight, and that it would be recouped to them. As Senator Guthrie knows,, hundreds of farmers in New South Wales are committed to the merchants by an indebtedness from which they will never recover, and if the money were to go through the merchants’ hands, what chance would the farmers have of receiving this assistance?
– It rests entirely with the States. If they like to handle the matter in that way, it is their own business.
– -/That is the point which troubles me. If I were sure that the State Premiers would see eye to eye with the Minister, and if he would provide for a definite arrangement in black and white, I should be satisfied immediately; but I cannot for a moment conceive that there will be anything but the greatest discord among the State governments, and that the farmers will lose the benefit sought to be given to them.
– If the States preferred to give the creditors the money paid on fertilizers, they could also do it in the event of a bounty being paid on production.
– That is the whole question. Did the Minister hear any objection to last year’s scheme from any wheat-grower in Australia?
– Not one.
– That scheme was not turned down because of any such objection. ,
– That is the point. There are 70,000 wheat-growers in Australia, and not one of them had a word to say in opposition to the scheme that was controlled through the wheat agencies last year. What better assurance does the Government want than that?
– The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– Holding the position that I do in the Senate, I .arn loth to intrude in this discussion, and my only reasons for doing so are that I am interested in the matter, although in a comparatively small way, and I am prompted to say a few words in the belief that it may be of some assistance to the Government. I accept the bill for the simple reason that I believe in the maxim that half a loaf is better than no bread. Circumstances may conspire to make the proposal in the bill a little better than half a loaf, so long as reasonable circumspection is displayed in its distribution, coupled with the cooperation of the several State governments. I accept the bill in that belief, and hope that this particular portion of it will remain intact. According to the clear and unambiguous declaration of the Government, certain results would follow if it were altered. I am not prepared to run that risk, although, in the past, I was singled out for special attention in the public press by a gentleman who holds a leading position in the wheat industry in Western Australia and who forgot all the efforts that I had made on behalf of the industry in this Parliament for a period of 25 years. My only reason for accepting the bill is that I feel that by so acting I am serving the best interests of the wheat-growers not only of Western Australia but of the whole continent as well. I wish to avoid any interception of the cup from the time that it is taken in the hand until it reaches the lips. We have grounds for apprehending mishap, judging from our experience of the last bounty legislation, which was loaded with conditions that did violence to our political convictions.
I notice that no provision is made for the exercise of some sort of stewardship over the expenditure of this money. It is to be given to the States in a lump sum, and they are to be allowed to spend it .according to a certain formula. I should like to see put into effect the original intention of the Government to exercise some form pf stewardship. As the Commonwealth is to pay the piper, it should have some voice in calling the tune.
I am opposed to Senator Hardy’s proposal, because I believe that the thought which is foremost in the mind of the Government is that it has not sufficient money to give to the farmers the relief that it would like to give, and wishes this amount to go as far as possible in relieving distress. On the basis of last year’s results, there are some wheatfarmers who do not need relief as much as others. I know men in the western State who sold last year’s crop for 3s. 2d. a bushel at the sidings, thus being placed on a fairly good wicket. But there are others who are in extremely necessitous circumstances, and on that account I consider that the Government has adopted the wisest policy. If a rough and ready, rule-of-thumb method were applied, some wheat-growers who do not need help would get it, while others who are greatly in need of it would not be given sufficient.
– I am prepared to accept an amendment regulating the maximum amount that may be paid to each grower.
– If I were asked to suggest a formula for distribution on an equitable basis, I should reply that I did not know where I should begin, because the matter bristles with difficulties whatever form is adopted. Take the question of productivity. My practical friend, Senator Plain, referred to rich and poor soils. A man who produces on a rich soil may be just as poor as one who produces on a light soil. ‘ The only visible solution to me is to have investigations conducted by the Taxation Department, in the same way as inquiries are held into the cases of taxpayers who appeal to the Commissioner on the ground, of hardship. A certificate from the. Commissioner that, on . the basis of last year’s operations, a grower not only made ends meet, but also paid income tax, would show that that person was not entitled to assistance; but a certificate setting out that a grower had not been able to pay either working expenses or interest on borrowed capital, would show that he was entitled to relief. Further down the scale would be the grower who not only had not made ends meet or paid his interest bill, but had actually gone to leeward. Such a person would be entitled to the maximum relief. In my opinion, that is the only way in which these knotty difficulties may be overcome.
It is not provided that this assistance shall be given direct to the grower.
– The money is to be paid to the States.
– That being the case, the appointment of a steward is all the more warranted. We know that, unfortunately, the wheat-growers are deeply involved in many directions. If the intention is to help the grower by giving this money to a body of public trustees, who will distribute it in relieving the creditors of the farmer, it cannot be said that the wheat-grower is receiving it. It is necessary to provide for payment to the grower himself.
The last point that I wish to touch on is that of cartage. The grower who is pioneering new areas, ~ and has long haulages, is at a disadvantage compared with those who are reasonably close to the railway. On the basis of 7d. or 8d. a ton per mile, cartage for 15 miles would work out at about 4d. a bushel to the siding and a further 4d. a bushel on the rail. A grower who was only a mile or two from the siding would be involved in an outlay of only -Jd. or id. a bushel on account of road haulage, and should not receive the same consideration as the grower who was further, out.
– The Government believes that that matter is provided for under the term “ marketing and transport “. It is not limited to rail transport.
– What authority will make a reasonable adjustment between those who are favorably situated and those who are not?
– The Commonwealth and the States, by arrangement.
– Last night I indicated that 1 was not in favour of Senator Johnston’s amendment for the payment of 4£d. a bushel on production, for the reason that it involved a larger outlay than the £2,000,000 allocated by the Government for the relief of the wheat-growers. Under clause 26, £2,000,000 is to be appropriated for the relief of wheatgrowers, and that clause must be read in conjunction with clause 28, which provides that any money paid to a State shall be applied for the benefit and assistance of wheat-growers by reducing the cost of production, including the cost of transport and marketing, and by providing for the needs of individual wheatgrowers, but not upon the basis of the quantity of wheat produced by individual growers. The. latter provision is a safeguard against the biggest producers receiving the greatest benefit; growers who have produced only a small quantity will not be at a disadvantage. I cannot support the amendment moved by Senator Hardy because it is possible that if a bounty were paid on production, the full amount would be absorbed, and no funds would be available for farmers who have no crop this year.
– There was not a single complaint last season.
– That may be so. In South Australia last year, £390,000 was advanced by the Government for farm relief, but £36,000 of this amount has been repaid. If a bounty on production were provided, in many cases no repayments would be necessary. In the Telowie and Baroota districts of South Australia rust was very bad, and whereas a yield of 80,000 bags was expected, only 14,000 bags were reaped. In cases of that kind, the farmer who had reaped only a small crop would not benefit under Senator Hardy’s amendment. As suggested by Senator Lynch, I should like a representative of the Commonwealth to watch the farmers’ interests, and if the State Parliaments are allowed to formulate a policy, I think that any difficulty in that direction will be overcome.
– I desire to congratulate Senator Colebatch upon his contribution to the debate. The matter of subsidizing overseas freight introduces an entirely new line of thought, and one that is worthy of the consideration of the Government. I cannot understand why this Government, which is pledged to support primary production, and which, figuratively speaking, is always walking around with a watering can in its hand, sprinkling the seed of private enterprise, can ask the committee to adopt the proposal embodied in the bill. It is unreasonable to suggest that those who are growing wheat on a large scale, and have devoted time and energy to wheat production, should not receive any assistance, while those who have conducted their operations inefficiently benefit.
– This is a relief measure.
– The Government should be guided by what has happened in the past.- When a bounty of 4£d. a bushel was paid on the 1931-32 crop, no one suggested that the system then in operation was unjust. This morning, the Minister in charge of the bill gave the number of farmers who had participated in the last bounty, and the amount that they received; but if he wishes to get over what he may term a disadvantage in that respect I am prepared to provide for the payment of a maximum amount to individual growers. An analysis of the figures ‘‘shows that the highest payment to any individual grower did not exceed £60, and if that amount is considered too high, a maximum of £40 could be fixed. A system under which inefficiency is rewarded is objectionable. Senator Elliott said this morning that if a bounty were paid on production, the amount received by each grower would not be of much benefit to him.
– I said that if the honorable senator’s amendment were adopted, it would have the effect of limiting the amount paid to growers.
– I am anxious that they shall receive a cash payment, and am prepared to support any proposal in that direction. If cash were made available, farmers would be able to pay off arrears .of shire rates, purchase a mile or so of fencing wire, or perhaps two or three draught horses. No provision is made for the distribution of the money. Is there any guarantee that the States will satisfy the wheat-growers of whom this Government must be regarded as a trustee? I do not like the attitude of the Government when it says, “Here is the bill; we will not pay any attention to whatever suggestions are made.” The Government says that if those who are opposing its policy are instrumental in throwing out the bill, the responsibility will be upon their shoulders. What will be the opinion of the people of Australia if this measure is amended in a direction which the Government does not desire and it is dropped. If the Government persists in its attitude, it will be condemned from one end of Australia to the other.
Question - That the words proposed to be left out (Senator Hardy’s amendment) be left out - put. The committee divided. (Temporary Chairman - Senator Payne.) Ayes . . . . . . 10
Question so resolved in the negative. Amendment negatived. Clause agreed to. Clause 27 agreed to.
Clause 28 -
Any money paid to a State under this part shall be applied by the State for the benefit and assistance of wheat-growers by -
reducing the cost of production of wheat (including the cost of transport and marketing) ; and
providing for the needs of individual wheat-growers, but not upon the basis of the quantity of wheat produced by individual wheat-growers.
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH (Western Australia) [3.17]. - I move -
That all the words after “ wheat-growers “, first occurring, be left out.
If the amendment is agreed to, the States will be in a position to expend the money at their own discretion.
– I supported Senator Johnston’s amendment, because I believed that it was in the best interests of the wheatgrowers, and set out the course which the Government ought to have followed. I moved my amendment with the object of getting the Government to adopt a scheme which would have been universally approved by the wheat-growers of Australia. The amendment before us is merely to make the grant to the States unconditional. I shall not speak in support of it ; but I urge honorable senators to reflect on the consequences of their action, in which case I feel confident that they will agree to the amendment.
– I should not have risen had it not been for the statement of Senator Hardy that the scheme which he had proposed would have been universally approved by the wheat-growers of Australia. I have seen about half a dozen telegrams from one State expressing as many different views, so that it would not appear that his scheme had the universal approval of the wheatgrowers of Australia.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 29 agreed to.
Subject to this part, there shall be payable out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund, which is hereby ‘ appropriated accordingly, the sum of Two hundred and fifty thousand pounds for the purposes of financial assistance to the States in .the provision of relief to primary producers (other than wheat-growers) and for the purposes of providing relief to such primary producers in any territory.’ ‘
– I have here a series of amendments which I propose to move to this and subsequent clauses. If I explain them in relation to clause 30, the explanation should suffice for the other clauses as well. I move -
That the words “other than wheat-growers “ be left out with a’ view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ in respect of the production of primary produce other than wheat “.
As the bill is drawn, a producer who is a wheat-grower, may be entitled to obtain, fertilizer. The effect of the amendment will be to entitle him to obtain fertilizer for purposes other than wheat.
– Even though he is a wheat-grower?
Amendment agreed to.
Clause also consequentially amended, and, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 31 .consequentially amended, and, as amended, agreed to..
Clause 32 agreed to. Clause 33 consequentially amended, and, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 34 agreed to. Clause 35 - (2.) Any person who, . . . shall be guilty of an offence.
Penalty: One hundred pounds, or im-“ imprisonment ‘for six months.
– I am opposed to the imposition of this severe penalty. A farmer who makes a mistake may, under this subclause, be fined £100, or imprisoned for six months.
– That is the maximum.
– That does not matter. Under a State law, the maximum fine would be about £10, and the term of imprisonment, one month.
– I support the contention of Senator Daly. This bill is for the purpose, among other things, of granting a bounty to wheat-growers who are on, or below, the bread-line. Should such a person make a mistake he is liable to a penalty of £100, or imprisonment for six months. A man practically on the dole could not find £100, and six months seems altogether too long a term of imprisonment. I, therefore, move -
That the words “One hundred” be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “ Ten “.
If that amendment is agreed to, I shall then move to substitute “ fourteen days “ for the words “ six, months “. Senator GREENE (New South Wales - Assistant Minister) [3.29]. - I ask the committee not to agree to the amendment. This clause does not deal only with farmers. It may be necessary for the Minister to obtain information from companies. No one would suggest that the bigger companies would do anything that would be likely to involve them in a penalty of this sort. But there are several small companies operating, and it might be desirable to exercise supervision over them and provide adequate penalties for offences against the law.
– Drastic penalties defeat themselves because of the reluctance on the part of juries to convict. I am entirely opposed to the provisions in the bill.
– Strange as it may seem I find myself in agreement with those who have spoken from the opposite side of the chamber upon this clause. The whole of the provisions are, as I stated in this chamber last year when speaking to another measure, in the nature of Draconian penalties. Sub-clause 1 provides that the Minister, or any person authorized in writing by him may call upon any person to furnish books, documents and information ; sub-clause 2 states that any person who, without reasonable excuse, proof whereof shall lie upon him “, fails to comply with the requirements of the notice, shall be guilty of an offence. These’ powers are altogether too wide. Sub-clause 2 reverses the usual practice of the law and the penalty is much greater than is warranted by the nature of the offence. A feature of Commonwealth legislation appears to be a tendency to make punishments much more drastic than they are in the States. I do not think it is right for the Commonwealth, which is supposed to be the latest example of a democratic institution, to impose heavy penalties except for serious offences.
– It is the maximum penalty.
– I am aware of that, but I know from experience that when local magistrates look at these things they are impressed by the severity of the penalties provided and sometimes are inclined to think that an offence must be more serious than it really is.
– Is it not a serious offence for a person to defraud the Crown?
– Yes, but under this provision the penalty imposed is for failure to produce documents or books, and, in my opinion, it is too severe.
Question - That the words proposed to be left out (Senator Dunn’s amendment) be left out - put. The committee divided. (Chairman - Senator the Hon.
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 36 and 37 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments ; report adopted.
Motion (by Senator Greene) proposed -
That the bill be now read a third time.
– It is provided in clause 5 that release from land tax may be granted in cases of hardship. In the event of a man having two properties, losing heavily on one and making a profit on another, would there be release from land tax on the property on which the heavy loss was sustained?
– I think not. Whatever might be the source of income, the whole of it would have to be taken into account by the Hardship Board in considering a claim for a refund of tax.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and sessional orders suspended, and bill (on motion by Senator McLachlan) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now. read a second time.
This bill is one of a trio relating to one subject-matter - the collection by the Commonwealth, in Australia, as agent for the British Government, of light dues on ships which, in the course of their voyages to Australia via Panama, pass and benefit by lights in the West Indies. On the Bahamas and Leeward Islands, forming the eastward fringe of the West Indian groups of islands, the British Government has, at its own expense, provided and maintained no less than twelve lighthouses, together with a lighted buoy, for the benefit of passing ships in the navigation of the narrow coral-strewn -channels intersecting the islands and reefs. During the last four years alone, Great Britain has spent nearly £100,000 on improvements to these lights, and during this and next year an additional £50,000 is to be spent for the same purpose. The normal cost of the bare maintenance of the lights,, apart from improvements and renewals, is* roughly £27,000 per annum. Against all this expenditure, the returns, in the way of light dues, collected at ports in the United Kingdom, average only about £3,000 per annum. Many ships which do not call at United Kingdom ports benefit by these lights, without con«tributing a penny to their upkeep. In a circular despatch received from the Secretary of State for the Dominions advice is asked as to whether the Commonwealth Government would be prepared to take the. steps necessary to authorize the collection, in Australian ports, of light dues in respect of these lights, to supplement the collection in ports in Great Britain and Northern Ireland. This has reference more particularly to cases where vessels trading to Australia - for example, between New York and Sydney, or between Europe and Sydney, via Panama - pass and derive benefit from the lights, but do not in the course of their voyage call at any United Kingdom port. It is intimated in the despatch that similar requests for advice have been addressed to the Governments of Canada, New Zealand, the Irish Free State and Newfoundland.
Provision is made in section 670 of the Imperial Merchant Shipping Act, that where a lighthouse has been erected in any British possession at the cost of the Imperial Government, the light dues to be paid in respect of it by the owner or master of every ship which passes the lighthouse and derives benefit from it may be fixed by Order of the KinginCouncil. It is further provided,. however; that dues under such an Order “ shall not be levied in any British possession unless the legislature of that possession has, by an address to the Crown, or by act or ordinance duly passed, signified its opinion that the dues ought to be levied “. The Commonwealth is a “British Possession “ within the meaning of this provision. The Commonwealth’ Parliament may, by either of two methods, “signify its opinion “ that the light dues in question may -and shall be collected for the British Government in Australian ports. These are, firstly, by an address to the Crown adopted by both Houses, or, alternatively, by an act duly passed for the purpose. The second of these methods is being adopted. Under the Constitution, however, it is necessary to split up the enactment into three separate,- but related, bills. The first, the Colonial Light Dues
Collection Bill, ig a machinery measure, the second, the Colonial Light Dues Bates Bill, imposes and fixes the light dues, and consequently, in law is a taxation measure, and the third, the Colonial Light Dues Appropriation Bill, appropriates the amounts of light dues, collected, in order that they may be paid over to the British Government, for which they are levied and collected.
The rates of light dues to be paid by ships passing the lights on their way to Australia are those fixed from time to time by Order of the King-in-Council, under section 670 qf the Merchant Ship: ping Act. The rates prescribed by the Colonial Light Dues Rates Bill are those fixed by such an Order made in December of last year, and now operative, namely, one penny a ton on the registered tonnage of the ship if she passes through the groups of light in the Bahamas, specified in the first schedule to the act, and one half-penny a ton if she passes the single light in the Leeward Islands, mentioned in the second schedule. But provision is made that where the present rates in the United Kingdom are varied by Order of the KinginCouncil, the rates as so varied may be authorized by regulation to be the rates of light dues collected here. The machinery provisions of the Colonial Light Dues Collection Bill follow on those of the Merchant Shipping Act in theUnited Kingdom, and of the Commonwealth Lighthouses Act in so far as the latter relates, to the collection of light dues from ships benefiting by the lighthouses on our own coast. The bills contain nothing of a contentious nature, and I ask honorable senators to facilitate their speedy passage.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended, and bill passed through all its stages without amendment or debate.
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.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended, and bill passed through all its stages without amendment or debate.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended, and bill passed through all its stages without amendment or debate.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended, and bill (on motion by Senator Greene) read a first time.
– I move - That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this measure is to appropriate the sum of £10,000,000 from the Consolidated Revenue Fund for the payment of invalid and old-age pensions. As honorable senators are aware, similar appropriations are made from time to time. The last appropriation of £10,000,000 was made in May, 1932, but further moneys will probably be required to meet payments that will fall due before the Parliament resumes after the Christmas recess. The estimated expenditure for the year is about £11,000,000. The balance of the last appropriation that has not yet been spent is £3,600,000, and that will be sufficient to last till the end of February ; but as there is no certainty that the Parliament will meet before that date, it is desirable to make, a new appropriation at the present time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended, and bill (on motion by Senator McLACHLAN) read a first time.
– I moye -
That the bill be now read a second time. ..The principal object of this bill is to amend the Patents Act, the Designs Act, and the Trade Marks Act, to give effect to an international convention for the protection of industrial property, as revised at a conference held at The Hague in 1925. This opportunity is also being taken to make two necessary and desirable amendments of our existing law, having no relation to that convention. Before the convention is ratified by the Commonwealth Parliament, certain amendments of our legislation are necessary. I do not think it essential to describe in detail the effect of the decisions reached. I think, however, that I should direct attention to clause 4, which confers the power to permit the assignment of a patent for a part of the Commonwealth, or a territory under the authority of the Commonwealth. There are several other provisions of a highly technical character, including one providing how vessels and vehicles in Commonwealth waters shall be dealt with. There is nothing contentious in the measure. It merely gives effect to the conclusions reached at the Hague Convention.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended, and bill (on motion by Senator McLachlan) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read .a second time.
The Wheat Bounty Act 1931, provides for ‘payment to the wheat-growers of a bounty of 4£d. a bushel on wheat of the 1931-32 crop sold, or delivered for sale, on or before the 31st October, 1932. A number of claims are still coming to hand in respect of sales of wheat to other farmers for seed wheat, and to country and suburban storekeepers, poultry and pig farmers. In these cases it is considered that there is considerable risk of sales effected since the 31st October, 1932, being certified by the buyers and also of claims being made in respect of this season’s wheat, which is now being harvested in certain States. It is practically impossible to detect fraudulent claims of this nature. It is desired, therefore, to fix a date for the final lodgment of claims. This cannot be done by regulation, and an amendment of the act is, therefore, necessary. This measure fixes the final date for making claims for a bounty under the Wheat Bounty Act 1931, by providing that no bounty shall be paid under that act unless claimed in the prescribed manner on or before the 17th December, 1932.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its -remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended, and bill (on motion by Senator Sir George Pearce) read a first time.
[4.28].- I moveThat the bill be now read a second time.
The object of this measure is to alter the designation of certain government departments in accordance with the changes made some time ago when the name of the Department for Home
Affairs was changed to the Department of the Interior, with the consequent abolition of the Works and Railways Department and the Department of Transport. These alterations have rendered necessary a number of amendments in the Public Service Act.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time;
Clauses 1 to 5 agreed to.
Clause 6 (Third Schedule - Permanent Heads of Departments).
– It would appear that two appointments have been made; or it may be that one man is to fill three positions. I should like to know which is the case.
[4.31]. - There are two less permanent heads than previously; instead of there being three, there will be only one in future.
Clause agreed to.
Title agreed’ to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended, and bill (on motion by Senator Greene) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The sole purpose of this bill is to impose the same rates of income tax for the year 1932-33 as for the year 1931-32. It is not necessary to say more. The moving of this motion is one of those unpleasant duties which recur annually; it determines the rate of taxation which we and other members of the public have to pay.
– I have ]U3t had the -bill placed in my hand and have, therefore, not had an opportunity to study it. Are we to understand that it makes no alteration of the rates of taxation?
– There” are no alterations of the rates of taxation.
– It does not cover any increases?
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without requests or debate.
In committee: Consideration resumed from page 3323.
New clause 1a.
– I have already moved -
That the following new clause bc inserted: - “ 1a. Section twenty-five of the Principal Act is amended -
by inserting in sub-section (1.), after the word “ Penalty “, the words “ One thousand pounds or “ ; and (6) by inserting after sub-section (1.) the following sub-section : - (1a.) Any person who publishes any book, periodical pamphlet, handbill, poster or newspaper containing any matter of such a nature as to, or as to be likely to -
seduce any person serving in the King’s Forces from his duty and allegiance; or (6) incite any person serving i» the King’s Forces to commit an act of mutiny, or any traitorous or mutinous act; or
incite any person serving in the King’s Forces to make or endeavour to make a mutinous assembly, shall be guilty of an indictable offence.
Penalty: Five hundred pounds or imprisonment for two years.’.”.
This new clause is somewhat complex. Section 25 of the Crimes Act provides - (1.) Any person who knowingly attempts - (a) to seduce any person serving in the
King’s Forces from his duty and allegiance; or
King’s Forces to commit, an act of mutiny or any traitorous or mutinous act; or
King’s Forces to make or endeavour to make a mutinous assembly, shall be, guilty of an indictable offence. “Penalty: Imprisonment’ for life.
It is considered desirable to add a pecuniary penalty so that a term of imprisonment need not be imposed in certain cases. The first part of the amendment will, I think, be found by . honorable senators to be perfectly innocuous. The penalty is £1,000, or imprisonment for life. I explained yesterday how section 16 affected these penalties in respect of the Crimes Act itself. The more important part of this amendment is paragraph b, which relates to serious offences in respect of the publication of books, periodicals, pamphlets, hand-bills, posters or newspapers containing any matter designed to seduce or incite any person serving in the King’s Forces to an act of mutiny, or to make a mutinous assembly. That is really the operative part of section 25, which I have just read, and this amendment is being made so that the person who publishes this class of literature shall be held responsible. If there is an evasion of the law, and that can be proved to the satisfaction of the court, the provisions of section 25 will operate. The offences are serious, and therefore, it has been thought fit to place the editor of a newspaper in the position that he would be in if prosecuted under the civil law for libel. It is only right that the publisher should be liable if he permits seditious articles to appear in his newspaper. I ask the committee to accept the amendment.
.- The first part of the amendment imposes a penalty of £1,000, apparently in addition to the existing penalty of imprisonment for life.
– No. The penalty is imprisonment for life, or a fine of £1,000.
– It is evident that mercy is not the motive behind this alteration of the law. I venture to say that if a man were found guilty of any of the .offences referred to in the amendment, no court would sentence him to imprisonment for life, and, no doubt, that is the reason for the alternative penalty of £1,000. Newspapers have always claimed the right to have practically a free hand in regard to what they publish, and if this provision is inserted in the bill, an innocent person may suffer.
If an editor publishes an article which is considered by the Attorney-General to be seditious, the printer may be held responsible, and, although he may -have acted in all innocence, he would, under proposed new sub-section Ia, be liable to a fine of £500, or imprisonment for two years.
– Under the civil law, the publisher of a newspaper is liable whether he is aware of the libel or not.
– This amendment, if carried, will inflict hardship upon newspaper publishers, and I intend to vote against it.
– I am not prepared to support the amendment. Senator McLachlan did not give the real reason for its insertion in the bill. The law, as it stands, enables the Crown to prosecute for offences where guilty knowledge can be established. What the Crown now desires to do is to indict a newspaper editor, place him in dock, and place on him the onus of establishing his innocence. The ordinary procedure under the law is that the Crown must establish guilt. I should not be so much concerned about this amendment were it not for the heavy penalties, prescribed. In this case, the defendant will enter the court garbed in the cloak of guilt, and the onus will be upon him to discard that cloak, whereas, in other cases, the defendant enters a court garbed in the cloak of innocence, and the Crown must endeavour to take that cloak from him. Despite that fact, there is, in this case, to be a heavy pecuniary penalty or imprisonment for life. Merely to enable the Government to succeed in its prosecution of the Truth for having criticized our Defence Force, I sincerely hope that this Parliament, being the National Parliament of the Commonwealth, legislating within the Commonwealth of Nations, will not abrogate those sacred principles of British law which distinguish our law. from the laws of other countries. In other countries, the accused person has to establish his innocence, whereas in British countries the Crown has to establish guilt. That is one of the distinguishing characteristics of our law, and if we destroy it in the way now proposed we shall destroy all the fine traditions of British law. Australia has been a nation for 31 years, and during that period only one newspaper has taken an action which the Attorney-General of the day believed to be a breach of the Crimes Act. Because the Commonwealth failed in its prosecution against that newspaper, this amendment has been introduced. I appeal to Senator Brennan, who has had a long experience of criminal law, to assist this side of the chamber to defeat this legislation.
– I cannot but think that there is much to be said in favour of the contention of Senator Daly. The words of the amendment are drastic, and deal with the liberty of the subject. Personally, I cannot see that there is any urgency for this legislation. It is not becoming to this Parliament that at the fag end of a session, at the fag end Of a tremendously long sitting extending over 24 hours, and at a time when many senators have had to leave the chamber on account of physical exhaustion, we should put a provision of this sort on the statute-book. Senator. McLachlan has said that, at present, the civil law makes the publisher of a paper liable whether he is aware of the libel or not. That is undoubtedly so; but there has always been a marked distinction between the proceedings of civil law and those of criminal law. It should also be remembered that the person who publishes may not be the person whose name is on the imprint,- and the publisher may be at home in bed and asleep when an offending article is published and may not know anything whatever about it. I fail to see how the matter can be regarded as urgent. I, therefore, suggest that the Government should allow a little more time for the consideration of these amendments, for they come, under the provisions in the act which state that the mere averment is prima facie proof and has to be disproved. I associate myself with Senator Daly to the extent of suggesting that more time should be allowed for the consideration of the measure in the interests of the reputation of this Parliament. The bill authorizes a .serious inroad on the liberty of the subject, and it is not possible, at the end of this very long sitting, to give the measure adequate consideration.
[4.53]. - I am sure that we all pay great deference to the opinions of Senator Daly and Senator Brennan, but I would put this aspect of the question to honorable senators, and I am sure that it will appeal to them. Recently we had a case in which there was evidence of incitement to mutiny in the Navy. There was circulated a rumour that an ultimatum had been presented to the Government and that, unless the demands made were accepted, the men in the Navy would march off the ships. Clearly that was a suggestion as to what the men in the Navy should do. When the case came before the court, counsel for the defencedid not attempt to dispute the facts. All that he said was that the publisher did not know that the article was in the paper. I appeal to Senators Brennan and Daly, and also to the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Barnes) to withdraw their objection to the measure. We have definite knowledge of. subversive propaganda being circulated in the Navy, and we feel that we should not be unarmed. On behalf of the Government, I give an undertaking that, as the House of Representatives will be sitting in February, if it becomes necessary to launch any prosecution under this bill, the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) will, inform the House. The Government would be very loth indeed to take any action except in extreme cases, such as the one which I have mentioned. No prosecution is contemplated at the moment, but in view of the deliberate attempt to stir up sedition in the Navy, we should be prepared for any contingency. A seditious journal, published anonymously, is being circulated in the Navy. Although the Victorian police have- been trying to trace the publisher, so far they have been unsuccessful. I invite honorable senators to read this seditious publication and see for themselves the kind of propaganda that is- being circulated. It contains reference to the Invergordon affair, and the inference is that similar action might be taken here.
In the circumstances, I tell the Senate that . the danger is real, and that the Government feels that the necessary precautions should be taken. In the case to which I have referred, the plea made by the counsel for the defence that his client did not know that the article was in the newspaper, was commented upon by the magistrate, and I have no doubt that it influenced the jury. I assure the Senate that, if this bill is carried, the Government will act with circumspection, and if another place is sitting, the AttorneyGeneral will inform members of any contemplated action.
– One hesitates to say much upon a subject of this nature, because it is so easy to misunderstand one’s motives. No one sympathizes with any attempts to cause trouble which may be made by any journal or person who would become liable to prosecution under this bill. But in spite of ‘ the assurance given by the Leader of the Senate, I believe it would be better if we had more time to consider this bill in all its bearings. The right honorable gentleman has assured us that there is no prosecution in contemplation, therefore, the matter cannot really be urgent. It is remarkable that whenever, prosecutions are launched under measures such as this one, they are always against persons or parties opposed to the conventional policy. The charges are always fastened on to persons who are not associated with the party which to-day sup- ports the Government of this country, shall not go into detail, but within recent months an organization, with which I have not the slightest sympathy or connexion, openly declared that it was prepared to resort to armed force and other unconstitutional methods - and it got away with it. The fact is undeniable that those who allegedly stand for peace, order, and good government always threaten, when the time comes for a showdown, that they will meet opposition with armed force; but when the workers begin to talk about force they find how drastic and terroristic the law can be. ‘ The publisher of the newspaper in question may, or may not, have known that the article appeared in his journal. He should have known. It would be possible for some enemy of, say, the Brisbane Labour Daily, or of the movement to which I belong, to manage, surreptitiously, to have inserted in that newspaper an article which, though not so definite as the one referred to, could be construed by the court as an attempt to incite in a certain direction. The editor might be perfectly innocent, yet, under the proposed amendment, he would be liable to imprisonment for life, or to a fine of a thousand pounds. The penalties are too drastic to meet the situation. The law as it stands should afford sufficient protection to the community.
I do not wish to palliate the offence of the newspaper in publishing such an article. I believe that its action was vicious and cowardly. But we should be given an opportunity to compare the amendment with the principal act. Although I do not desire to vote against the amendment, I am not prepared to give my imprimatur to it until I have more complete knowledge as to what its effect is likely to be.
– There seems to be some little misapprehension on the part of Senator Collings. Section 25 of the original act already makes it an indictable offence for a person knowingly to seduce a member of the King’s Forces from his duty or allegiance, to incite such a person to commit mutiny, or to endeavour to make a mutinous assembly. The amendment merely seeks to add that any person who publishes any book, periodical, pamphlet, handbill, poster, or newspaper, containing matter which would have the effect of doing any of those things shall also be guilty of a similar offence. If, through a trick played upon him, an editor unwittingly publishes such matter, the court has power to mitigate the penalty.
– He would be found guilty even if he were not negligent.
– Does not the honorable senator agree that this sort of thing must be stopped. If we countenance incitement to mutiny in the Navy or Army, the whole of our social fabric falls about our ears. Why should not the publisher of a paper be made responsible for what appears in his journal?
– I am concerned about the publisher who innocently issues a newspaper containing such objectionable matter.
– Section 16 gives power to judges to mitigate the penalty in such circumstances. If he is punished moderately for doing something against the law, he will see in future that such persons do not make use of his newspaper to disseminate this propaganda. Honorable senators will agree that the spread of the use of unsigned pamphlets and other subtle propaganda would bring about a highly dangerous state of affairs in the Navy. There is no intention to make tyrannical use of this power, but the Navy must be protected, or this process of attack by incitement to mutiny will continue. The instance referred to is not an isolated one; but perhaps it is better not to discuss that. I ask honorable senators not to allow this sort of thing to go on, as it strikes at the very root of our society.
– I hope that the Senate will not discharge its duty with the levity suggested by the honorable senator.
– I spoke with great seriousness.
– The honorable senator certainly dealt with the fundamental principles of British justice with something like levity.
– Are not these people tried by jury?
– Of course they are. But does the honorable senator know that the vital distinction between British and other law is that in a British trial by jury the defendant enters the dock clothed with the cloak of innocence?
– So he does in a court martial or any other British trial.
– If this amendment i3 passed, he enters the dock garbed in the cloak of guilt.
– I do not think that this amendment deals with the cloak of guilt; that is already provided for in the act.
– I point out to the Minister that the tendency of Commonwealth legislation in dealing with crime is to abrogate that British principle, and I am not prepared to subscribe to it.
– I called attention to the tendency more than, a year ago, when dealing with an amendment of this act.
– Exactly. As Senator Sampson very properly put it, a court martial is based on the principles that have stood for centuries in relation to the British Army. I contend that, in dealing with Australian newspapers, we should be prepared to lay down principles consistent with centuries of British law.
– This amendment merely provides that the newspaper is evidence of publication.
– The Leader of the Senate cannot deny that this legislation has been introduced deliberately because the guilt of a man charged could not be established, the Crown having failed to prove guilty knowledge.
– He said “ I did not know,” and how was it possible to prove that he did know?
– The majority of criminal cases are decided on circumstantial, not direct, evidence. The mere fact that an accused person says “I did not know “ is not sufficient ; after crossexamination, the jury may be satisfied that he did know.
– Is not the position the same as under the libel law?
– The distinction between the British civil and the British criminal law is that under the former, a matter is decided on the balance of probability; while, under criminal law, guilt has to be sheeted home beyond reasonable doubt. The Leader of the Government has put it to me “ How could the Crown prove a man’s knowledge?” But has he not heard of mens rea? In every criminal case, guilt has to be established, except in the case of crime created by the Commonwealth Parliament. I know of no other Parliament in the Commonwealth of Nations known as the British Empire, that has abrogated this fundamental principle to the extent to which this Parliament has, and I ask that we call a halt. I could appeal to the Parliament on the ground of the need to preserve the liberty, of the press, and suggest that only a negligent or vicious editor or publisher should, be punished.
The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Barnes) is the chairman of directors of Labour Papers Limited, which publishes a newspaper in Sydney known as The Australian Worker. That is only one of a chain of newspapers.
– That newspaper will not offend.
– There is a penalty of £1,000. If only one guilty man has passed unpunished during a period of 31 years, it is not a bad record. The principle upon which this doctrine of British law is based is that it is better that 99 guilty men should go unpunished than that one innocent man should be penalized. All that the Minister representing the Attorney-General could say in reply to Senator Collings was that, if the accused did not know that he was offending, it would be something in mitigation of the penalty. Of course it would be. But we have to decide how far we are to relax the law relating to the determination of a man’s guilt or innocence. I am not concerned so much about penalties. In my own State, the editor of one Labour newspaper was prosecuted on a charge of criminal libel for having dared to criticize the Defence Department. He has been supplied with his information on the very best authority, and he published it in absolutely good faith; but, if this (provision had been in’ operation, that innocent man could not have escaped conviction. If all the newspapers in Australia suddenly decided to issue seditious libels on the Crown and its agencies, we should, of course, have to take drastic steps. It is a weak argument to say that we should carry this iniquitous principle further, simply because one newspaper in 31 years has escaped punishment which the AttorneyGeneral of the day thinks is merited. I make a final appeal to the committee. The suggestion of Senator Brennan is, I think, a good one. I .should like to know whether Senator Lawson is prepared to subscribe to the principle of striking out the word “ knowingly “ in the criminal code of the Commonwealth, so as to abrogate that principle of British justice, which demands of the Crown that the guilt of an accused person shall be fully established.
– The honorable senator should state the position fully, and say that this provision applies to a traitorous act.
– No, an alleged traitorous act. The Minister representing the Attorney-General desires that, if the Attorney-General believes in the guilt of a certain person, that person shall be considered guilty until he can satisfy some court as to his innocence. Backed up by the competent opinion of my friend and colleague, Senator Brennan, I appeal to Senator Lawson to study the effect of this amendment, and if Senator DuncanHughes would also give consideration to the matter, we might be .able to convince the one remaining member of the legal profession in this chamber.
– The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– I am considerably influenced by the views expressed by the Leader of the Government (Senator Pearce) concerning the full recognition by the Government of the extent of this proposal, and his statement that it is introduced because of a real and pressing danger. That places me in an extremely awkward position, because I certainly do not desire to do anything that might retard the Government in its efforts to suppress the campaign which I am assured is being carried on. Such being the case, I shall not force the matter to a division, nor vote against the Government on it. I am influenced in that decision by one or two reasons. I doubt very much whether what is now proposed will have the effect anticipated by the Government. The clause provides -
Any person who publishes any book, periodical, pamphlet, handbill, poster or newspaper . . .
That, I think, will be read subject to the cardinal principle of the law, that no one is a criminal unless his mind is criminal. Senator Daly’s argument was a good deal beside the point. This measure does not affect what I think is an objectionable principle of the law, with- regard to the onus of proof. That is already in the law.
– I was dealing, not with the onus of proof, but with the presumption of innocence. There is a big distinction between the two.
– It is the paragraph which says that the averment shall be accepted in the absence of proof to the contrary, which substantially throws on an accused person the onus of proving his innocence.
– The onus might shift a thousand times.
– The honorable gentleman is right when he says that ordinarily it commences when a man enters the court protected by. the presumption of innocence. The Crown has to shift that presumption. In a case of this sort, he does not enter the court with that presumption because, in order to rebut it, it is sufficient to read the indictment against him. I know that the Government has a full sense of responsibility, and I concede that it has knowledge upon the subject which I cannot have. Having received an assurance of the sort to which I have referred, I feel bound to cast on the Government the responsibility for its own action. Consequently, I shall not stand in its way.
– This is altogether too serious a matter to be dealt with in this offhand fashion.
– The honorable senator is not entitled to say that the committee is dealing with the matter in an offhand fashion. ,
– “We did not have this before us at 5 o’clock, and it is not yet half-past five.
– The amendment was circulated several days ago.
– We have had no opportunity to compare it with the principal act, or to investigate its effects. It will be within the recollection of Senator Pearce, at all events, that not very many years ago there were some rather serious disturbances in connexion with the proposal to enforce conscription for war service abroad. The right honorable gentleman will remember that the Prime Minister of the day (Mr. Hughes) was at loggerheads with the Queensland Government Printer because of his publication in Hansard of certain statements by the members of the Parliament of a sovereign State, which did not suit Mr. Hughes temper. I made outside Parliament a statement that was repeated inside, and if I could now place it before honorable senators I am confident that not one of them would say that it contained anything for which I ought to have been punished. Although that suggestion was not made, the. statement was sufficiently objectionable to Mr. Hughes to induce him to commandeer the issue of Hansard in which it appeared, and to attempt to place an officer of the Commonwealth in control of the Queensland Government Printing Office. That incident was not fraught with the same possibilities as an attempt to suborn the navy and the military, but it shows to what lengths a panicky frame of mind may cause parliaments and officials to go. There is no evidence of any immediate danger in this case. Honorable senators have been informed by the Leader of the Government that there was no substance in the assertions that were made concerning the Navy - that the fleet had gone to sea and that discipline was not imperilled. The matter is worthy of the consideration of a full House; not as to whether the guilty should be punished to the extent provided for, but as to whether there are solid grounds for Senator. Daly’s contention that we should not, at one fell swoop, destroy a distinguishing feature of British justice of which ‘ we have always been proud, merely because we have become somewhat panicky about a danger which in reality has no existence. To test the feeling of the committee, I move -
That further consideration of the proposed new clause be postponed.
.- For the last 38 years, I have had considerable experience in connexion with the printing and publishing business, and I know of the risks which certain persons may incur under this proposed new sub-section. During the war period, I was sentenced to imprisonment for two months without the option of a fine because I had been associated with the publication of certain matter which was regarded as unlawful, although it was not disapproved by my employers. An innocent person may be found guilty, and under this proposed new sub-section be liable to a fine of £500 or imprisonment for two years. Recently, the Brisbane Daily Telegraph published a letter in which a certain correspondent asked the taxpayers of Queensland to refuse to pay taxation. Action was taken against Mr. M. L. Reading, the editor of that newspaper, and he had to appear before the court to answer the charge of having published a letter which was regarded as seditious. Mr. Justice H. D. Macrossan held that the case was frivolous.
– As the motion before the Chair is the postponement of the clause, the honorable senator is not entitled to discuss the clause.
– If that is so, I shall support the postponement of the clause.
Question - That the proposed new clause be postponed - put. The committee divided. (Chairman - Senator the Hon. Herbert Hays.)
Question so resolved in the negative.
– I see in this new clause a real danger to those engaged in the ‘business of printing and publishing. It would be extremely hard on a publisher who merely carried out the orders of his master if he were fined £500 or imprisoned for two years. In our legislation we are getting further and further away from the ideals of British justice. I oppose this new clause in the interests of the printing and publishing craft, of which I am still a member. A clause of such far-reaching effect should not be brought before a half-empty Senate in the last hours of a session.
Original question resolved in the . affirmative.
Proposed new clause agreed to.
– I move -
That the following new clause be inserted : - “ 1b. Section 30ab of the principal act is repealed.”
The section of the principal act which my amendment seeks to repeal, was ^ assented to only on the 30th May, 1932. It reads - “30ab. - (1.) If the Attorney-General believes than any person has in his possession any information or documents relating to an unlawful association, he may require the person, or, in the case of a corporation, any person holding a specified office in the corporation -
Penalty: One hundred pounds or imprisonment for six months.”.
That section has reference to the powers of the Attorney-General to demand documents from persons suspected of being members of unlawful associations. There is a strong view that the section goes beyond what was intended. The powers conferred on the Attorney-General by that section are wide. They even authorize him to search the premises of a religious body. I have spoken to members of. the Government, both in the Senate and in another place, on this subject, and I have reason to believe that 1the Government will not oppose the amendment.
Proposed new clause agreed to.
Clause 2 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Bill received from the House of Representatives
Standing and . Sessional Orders suspended, and bill (on motion by Senator McLachlan) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The measure requires but little explanation, as its objects are clearly set forth in the various provisions, and it contains nothing of a contentious nature. It is only within comparatively recent years that deep-sea fishing, by trawler, has been established as an industry in the Commonwealth, and it cannot be said that it is yet on an entirely satisfactory basis. Extending from, roughly, the mouth of the Clarence River in New South Wales, southwards and around the continent to the vicinity of, roughly, Geraldton in Western Australia, there are, it is estimated, no less than 80,000 square miles of trawling grounds within the 100-fathom limit. Only about one-eighth of this area has been experimentally explored, principally by the Commonwealth Fisheries Investigation Vessel, Endeavour. Since the loss of this vessel, in 1914, practically nothing has been done to test the capabilities of new grounds. The known grounds, chiefly off the coasts of New South Wales and Victoria, form, however, a valuable asset, and it is essential not only for the present, but also for future generations, that nothing shall be done or permitted which Would injure or. destroy them. The States have jurisdiction over only such waters as are within the three-mile limit. The Commonwealth, on the other hand, has power, under section 51 of the Constitution, to legislate with respect to fisheries in Australian waters beyond territorial limits. As trawling operations extend much beyond those limits, any legislative action to protect or assist them must come from the Commonwealth. The trawling companies complain that they are greatly hampered, and often put to heavy loss; by the action of local ship-owners and ship-breakers who dispose of the hulls of obsolete vessels, after removal of machinery &c, by towing them to sea and sinking them a few miles out. These hulls, in the still depths of the ocean, last for very many years - in some cases probably half a century or more - before finally decaying and disappearing. Frequently these are dropped right in the middle of a fishing area, and as there is nothing to indicate their presence, and the trawling people are not advised of the deposit of a vessel on the sea-bed, the trawling nets are snagged on the wreckage, and are torn and not infrequently broken away with perhaps hundreds of fathoms of the steel wire towing cable, and lost. There is also danger of damage to the towing winches and the vessels themselves. It is not considered a practicable proposition to require that the hulls be sunk only outside the 100- fathom limit, as this extends to varying, distances from the coast, in many cases, up to 40 miles. The whole of the Bass Strait, for instance, with its width of over 100 miles, comes within the 100 fathom limit. An alternative scheme, equally good, and which is adopted in the bill, is to prohibit the sinking of obsolete vessels &c, in other than selected and prescribed areas, where the rocky bottom would in any case render trawling operations impossible. These areas will form, so to speak, the official “ cemeteries “ of old and worn-out ships. To dispose of them outside these areas will be an offence.
The secondary purpose of the bill is to protect the public bathing beaches on our coast, more particularly in the vicinity of our big cities, from pollution by garbage and other still more offensive matter cast overboard or discharged from ships or garbage barges in such positions as to permit of their being carried by wind and current on to the shore. The principal complaint on this score comes from Sydney, where the beautiful beaches of Manly, Bondi and Coogee are often defiled as a result of such practices. Expert medical advice is that there is a definite danger to the health df bathers, and of children paddling on the edge, from water containing in suspension floating garbage or decayed vegetable or other organic matter. Power is consequently being taken, under the quarantine powers of the Commonwealth, to prescribe areas off the beaches within which garbage, &c, must not be discharged from ships or other vessels; and the bill makes it an offence to do so. Admittedly it will be difficult to police and enforce this provision. Doubtless, breaches of the law will occur, possibly under cover of the night, which it will not be possible to detect and punish. Ship-owners and masters are, however, as a class, law-abiding, and it is hoped by their co-operation, to minimize, if not entirely prevent, the fouling and poisoning of our beaches from the sources mentioned. ,
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Message received from the House of Representatives intimating that it had agreed to the amendments made by the Senate in this bill.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended, and bill (on motion by Senator Sir George Pearce) read a first time.
[6.5]. - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This measure deals with a number of technical amendments of the principal act, and I shall refer to them in the order in which they appear in the bill. Under clause 2, residents of Norfolk Island and the mandated territories are to be allowed the same concessions as residents of Australia in assessments of their Australian income. In this regard they will be placed on the same footing as residents of Papua in their relation to the Commonwealth. This will remedy what is at present an anomalous position. The concessions referred to are the general exemption, deductions for children, medical and funeral expenses, &c. Clause 3 provides for an extension for eight years - until the 30th June, 1940 - of the exemption of income from primary production in the Northern Territory. The present financial depression has occasioned a great setback to progress, and it is considered essential that the lessees of, the territory should be exempt from income tax, to enable them to carry on profitably, and also to encourage the advent of both population and capital to the territory. Clause 4 is an extension of the secrecy provisions, to enable information to be given to the DirectorGeneral of Health in connexion with the administration of any law of the Federal Territory administered by the Minister for Health. Clause 5 a provides for exemption of British war pensions received by residents of Australia, which, under the Income Tax Assessment Act 1930, were unexpectedly brought into the field of taxation, when Australian residents were taxed on income from exAustralian sources, where that income was not subject to tax outside Australia. This is not in keeping with the exemption granted to Australian war pensions, and * the amendment places these two classes of pensions on the same footing. Under clause 5 b, action is taken to prevent the allowance of ex-Australian business losses of an Australian resident who is not subject to Commonwealth tax on any profits he may derive from the exAustralian business. This unexpected position is also the outcome of the 1930 amending act. Clause 5 d exempts funds created for scientific research work, conducted in conjunction with a university or public hospital. This extends to such funds the existing exemption of the incomes of such institutions. Clause 5 e provides for the removal of double taxation of alimony or like moneys paid by husband to wife under a deed of separation, by exempting from federal income tax such payments in the hands of the wife. This amendment follows upon a recommendation by the Chief Justice of South Australia, in giving judgment for the department in a particular case in which the effect of the double taxation was to cause the husband to pay a greater sum in tax than he actually received as income.
Under clause 5 e another new subsection 4 is included, having for its object the exemption of dividends paid out of interest derived by companies from converted Commonwealth securities from the special tax on property incomes, and also from any increase in the normal tax since 1930. This is considered to be a logical extension of section 20 of the Commonwealth Debt Conversion Act to give full effect to Parliament’s intention in connexion with securities converted under the conversion loan. The exemption will also apply to dividends paid out of interest on securities issued in connexion with future loans. Clause 6 a deals with the removal of double taxation of interest paid by Australian companies to absentee depositors or debentureholders, and is in keeping with the general tenor of the act which seeks to avert double taxation. Clause 6 i has the effect of excluding the special tax on property incomes from the calculations of rebates allowable to shareholders out of dividends in certain cases. These cases are those in which dividends intended to be subject to the special tax escaped that tax owing to the fact that the rebate provisions were framed prior to the imposition of that tax. Clause 7 removes the existing anomaly that State unemployment relief taxes are allowed as deductions when they are annually assessed, but are not allowable when collected from the employer at the source. The amendment remedying this will have retrospective application to the assessments for the financial year 1930-31. Clause 8 extends the time limit within which taxpayers may, in certain cases, obtain refunds of tax. The cases to be provided for are those in which, in order to protect the revenue, an assessment is increased shortly before the ex piration of the time limit of three years, with the result that reductions found to be necessary after the expiration of that time cannot be made. This position is likely to arise in complicated cases, in which the ascertainment of the full taxable income is impossible before the expiration of the present time limit within which the department may include additional income. Clause 9 gives to the Commissioner the power to extend for a further .period not exceeding 30 days, first the period of 42 days within which an objection may be lodged ; and secondly, the period of 30 days within which action to appeal may be taken. Clause 10 provides for the application of the time limits imposed on the re-opening of the assessments of a living taxpayer, to assessments of a deceased taxpayer, with respect to income derived during his lifetime. The existing law imposes no such limit on the Commissioner, and the amendment follows representations that hardship often results to beneficiaries as a consequence. Clause 11 makes provision enabling penalties for omitted income or excessive deductions to be imposed without the issue of two assessments. This authorizes the departmental practice of many years, which in a recent High Court case was declared to be outside the department’s power. Clause 12 is designed to protect mortgagors against attempts by mortgagees to pass on liability for income tax on mortgage interest, and is in amplification of existing provisions that have this object in view.
I have given this information to save the time of the Assistant Minister (Senator Greene). As honorable senators generally, I believe, are anxious to leave Canberra by train this evening, I suggest the suspension of the sitting to 7.15 p.m., when the Assistant Minister will be present to reply to any questions that may be raised.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to. Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 7.15 p.m.
Clauses 2 to 6 agreed to.
Clause 7 (Alteration of assessment).
– In Western Australia two taxes practically identical with the unemployment relief tax of the eastern States are imposed. I think that one is known as a hospital tax, which is lid. in the £1 on total income without exemption, and the other is a financial emergency tax of 4Jd. in the £1 on total incomes. I should like to know if this proposed new section applies to those two taxes.
– I am not familiar with the Western Australian law, but if these two taxes are based on income, they are covered.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 8 to 13 agreed to.
Title agreed to. .
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Motion (by Senator Sir George Pearce) - by leave - agreed to -
That leave of absence be granted to every member of the Senate from the determination of the sitting this day to the day on which the Senate next meets.
[7.17]. - I move -
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn till a day and hour to be fixed by the President, which time of meeting shall be notified to each senator by telegram or letter.
.- When the Senate last went into recess, you, sir, in collaboration with the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce), were good enough to fix the date of resumption for a Thursday, which enabled honorable senators representing Western Australia to travel straight through from Perth without having to arrive in Canberra three days before the Senate met, or one day too late, as had previously been the case ever since I have been a member of the chamber. I wish to thank you, sir, and the Leader of the Government for having granted this privilege. The next meeting of the Senate may be a long way ahead, but I ask if you will be kind enough to keep the matter in mind in the interests of those senators who represent the only mainland State which has no daily railway communication with Canberra.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Next Meeting of the Senate - Tariff Discussion - Extended Sittings - Valedictory.
[7.22] . - I move -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
With reference to the point raised by Senator Johnston, I may say that I shall be pleased to collaborate with you, sir, and endeavour to see that a similar arrangement is made . when the Senate next meets. I think that I am justified in saying that when two Western Australian senators collaborate, anything is possible.
I believe that honorable senators would like to know what arrangements have been made for the next meeting of the Senate. As we view the position, it is contemplated that another place will probably resume early in February and enter upon a tariff session. It is assumed that a number of the Tariff Board’s reports will then be available. So far as can be seen at present, there will be no legislation necessitating the Senate to be called together at that time; but, of course, in these uncertain times, we cannot say what is likely to happen from day to day. We believe that there will be no occasion for the Senate to meet for some time. It is contemplated that during the two or three months when another place is dealing with the tariff, commencing about the beginning of February, the Senate will not be sitting. When another place is about to conclude the tariff discussion, the Senate will be called together to proceed with the tariff and another place will adjourn for a period. By then the time will be approaching for the consideration of the budget. Such is the programme as we see’ it now, but circumstances may arise to alter it.
I take this opportunity to thank honorable senators on both sides of the chamber for the consideration shown to the
Government in the transaction of business, particularly during the rush period which we have just concluded. I should also like to say how much we appreciate the courtesy and attention We have received from the officers of the House and the Hansard staff. To you, Mr. President, we extend our thanks for the able way you have guided our deliberations. Our thanks are due also to the Chairman of Committees for the capable manner in which, under him, the work of the committee has been performed. On behalf of the Government, I desire to wish you, sir, and the members of the staff, the compliments of the season. I trust that all will have an enjoyable holiday and an opportunity to recuperate. As the Leader of the Senate, I thank all honorable senators for their consideration and courtesy, which have done so much to enable us to get through some most important and useful business. The work of the session has been strenuous, but it has also been interesting.
.- I join with the Leader of the Government (Senator Pearce), in expressing, on my own behalf, and on behalf of the Opposition to you, sir, the” officers of the House, and honorable senators generally, our thanks for the kindly consideration and courtesy shown to the Opposition at all times. We have had a harmonious session. The work has been strenuous, but by good generalship we have been able to get through. Until the last week or two we did not have many long sittings; we generally managed to get to bed at a reasonable hour. The last few days alone have been strenuous. On behalf of the Opposition, I express the hope that all will enjoy the vacation and return in the New Year fit and vigorous to carry on the work of the country.
– I have no desire to delay the Senate, but as one who has at different times occupied positions on both sides of the chamber, at one time as a member of the Government, and at other times as a member of the Opposition, I suggest that it is not right for us to rush legislation through in the last week of the session, as we have done this week. I occupied the position of Leader of the Government in the Senate for a time, and I know that at Christmas time, senators wish to get away to their homes and friends as quickly as possible. It is the opinion of all members of the rank and file that it would be better if the business were so arranged that the Senate had an extra day or two at the end of a session to complete the work rather than that senators and officers should be kept out of their beds for two nights in succession. If ever it is my good fortune to be on the ministerial bench again, I hope to do what I now suggest to the present’ Leader *of the Senate.
– It is legislation by exhaustion.
– The honorable senator is probably right. I do not know whether work done in such circumstances should really be called legislation. We certainly passed a number of bills, but the conditions this week have been such that it has not been possible to give them the proper consideration. Last night, one honorable senator wished to know from you, sir, whether another honorable senator could be regarded as present in the chamber when he was asleep. We ought to do something to bring about a different method of dealing with the business that comes before us. I offer this suggestion to the Leader of the Government, in the hope that the future legislative programme will be so arranged that we shall not require two all-night sittings in a week. In saying that, I am fully conscious of the fact that the Scullin Government had four late sittings in a week. I join with other honorable senators who have spoken in wishing the Leader of the Government and his Ministers the compliments of the season, and a very pleasant recess. They have been very courteous to the Opposition. I also join in the good wishes which my respected leader has extended to you, Mr. President.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. P. J. Lynch). - Before putting the motion, I desire to thank the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce), and the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Barnes), as well as Senator Daly, for their kindly references to myself, which I assure them are wholly undeserved. I join with them in extending to the staff of the Senate, and the members of the Hansard staff, my appreciation of the unfailing -courtesy, civility and right goodwill which they have shown in the discharge of their duties. Every member of the staffs has been dutiful and loyal to the last degree, and has justified our highest .expectations. During the last few days of the session, we have lived strenuously and laboriously. Perhaps it is not necessary that I should say conscientiously also. A casual visitor to the Senate would probably have realized that we were working at a speed faster than could be maintained at all times, . but he could scarcely have formed any other conclusion than that the life of public mcn is indeed strenuous. The prevailing tone of the debates has been all that could bc desired. Even in the rush of the last few days the spirit of peace and goodwill has been evident in our midst. Although we have our political jousts, tinged at times with a little antagonism, the knowledge that we are doing our simple duty, and working together for the true welfare of the people of Australia, has kept the proceedings harmonious. I join in. the felicitations of those who have spoken, and hope that all honorable senators, as well as members of the staff, will have a merry Christmas and a bright and prosperous New Year. Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 7.34 p.m. till a day and bour to be fixed by the President.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 1 December 1932, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1932/19321201_senate_13_137/>.