13th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. F. J. Lynch) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Defence been directed to certain comments which have been published in the Sydney Morning Herald, upon the proposal to make Cootamundra the terminus of the air mail service between Australia and England ? If so, can the right honorable gentleman tell the Senate the reasons for this decision?
– by leave - I have read the criticism of the proposal which has been published in the Sydney Morning Herald. It is directed mainly to the publication of the Government’s intention to adopt the report of the inter-departmental committee, which recommended that Cootamundra should be chosen as the terminus for the air mail service between Australia and England. I remind the Senate that the proposal is to subsidize, not a service for the carriage of passengers by aeroplane, but an air mail servioe. The air companies will, of course, to make a profit for themselves, cater for the transport of passengers, and there will be nothing in the contract to prevent the successful company from carrying its passengers on to any capital city of the Commonwealth; but the successful com pany will not be subsidized for a passenger service. Cootamundra, being on the main railway line, is in quick communication with Melbourne, Sydney, and Adelaide by express trains, and is, therefore, admirably situated for the rapid distribution of the mails. The arrivals and departures of the aeroplanes carrying overseas mails will be arranged to fit in with the train services, so as to avoid any loss of time in transport. Several companies are now conducting air passenger services in Australia without government subsidy, though where the railway service is not sufficiently convenient, or is too slow, subsidized air services connect with capital cities, as in the case of Brisbane and Perth and remote districts of Queensland and Western Australia. We should not be justified, however, in subsidizing nn air passenger service between Cootamundra and Sydney or Melbourne, to compete with the adequate and fast railway service which is already provided. These are, in outline, the views of the Government, which are based on the recommendations’ of the inter-departmental committee which reported on the subsidising of air mail services, but Ministers will, before tenders are called, again consider the various points that have heen raised.
The following paper was presented: -
Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1933. No.63.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The Minister for the Interior has supplied the following answers : -
asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are -
Costof Living Indexfigures - Advisory Council
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.The right honorable the Prime Minister has supplied the following answers: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow : - 1 and 2. The information desired is being compiled, and will be furnished as soon as possible.
Re-appointment to Commonwealth Public Service.
asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow: -
Debate resumed from the 2nd June (vide page 2060) on motion by Senator McLachlan -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- I have had an opportunity to study the provisions of this bill, and have no opposition to offer to its passage.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Debate resumed from the 2nd June (vide page 2081) on motion by Senator McLachlan -
That the bill be now read a first time.
Upon which Senator E. B. Johnston had moved by way of amendment -
That all the words after “ be “, be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words, “ returned to the House of Representatives with a request that the House will so amend the bill that the terms and the spirit of the Ottawa agreement shall be given effect to in so far as concerns the British preferential duties referred to in the bill, that is to say,- will so amend the bill that the proposed duties against British goods shall be reduced to the level of the 1921-1930 tariff in all cases where they have been raised above that level without report by the Tariff Board.”
– I intend, to take the opportunity afforded to honorable senators on the first reading of this bill to deal with some subjects not concerned by the measure, which are seriously agitating the minds of the people at the moment. I cannot allow the. occasion to pass without offering some comment on the remarkable attitude of some honorable senators opposite towards a government which they were elected to support, on this as well as on other questions. I have sat in this chamber for several days listening to the debate on this measure, and as one Government supporter after another rose and prefaced his remarks by saying that he commended the Government for some action it has taken in connexion with the tariff which this bill seeks to implement, I became more and more amazed to find that that was about the only suggestion of praise in their remarks. On the other hand, we have heard speeches, such as those of Senator Payne and Senator “ DuncanHughes, in which if the Government was not openly condemned, some fairly candid criticism of its tariff policy was offered. I suggest that that is a very substantial reason why honorable senators should examine the bill very closely before they permit it to be placed on the statutebook. In addition to the remarks of the honorable senators to whom I have referred, we have heard the most remarkable and astounding disclosures, made primarily by Senator Hardy and supported in the main by Senator Carroll. Senator Hardy has told the Senate and the people of Australia for the first time of the amazing negotiations that led up to the unity achieved by the United Australia party and the Country party prior to the last general election, which, as we know, was largely responsible for the present Government being placed upon” the treasury bench. After the last general elections, according to Senator Hardy’s statement, which has been substantially borne out by Senator Carroll, the United Australia party found itself strong enough to form a government independent of the Country party, and by declining to co-operate further, ignored its part of the election compact. Senator Hardy described the action of the Government in this respect. as “selling the Country party a pup “. Not only has the Country party been “ sold a pup “, an unpleasant little animal has been sold to the nation, and many electors of the Commonwealth will be placed at a great disadvantage if this measure is passed in its present form. I shall have other opportunities of discussing this subject on the second reading of the bill, and in committee.
While I was rather surprised at the disclosures made by Senator Hardy, I can assure that honorable senator, and other members of his party that, if his experience at the hands of the Nationalist party is unusual, similar experiences are by no means uncommon to those who have had dealings with that party in South Australia. When I was associated with the Parliament of that State, and even more recently, since I have been a member of this Parliament, I have known the country people, chafing under the rule of the Liberal party - which is synonymous with the Nationalist party - and seeking to combat the vested city interests which prosper at the expense of the country, to organize themselves into a political party. As soon as the party developed, and its representation in Par- .liament became a menace to the Liberal interests, exactly the same sort of thing happened there as happened to Senator Hardy and his supporters. That sort of thing, I am convinced, will continue to go on until the real workers in the country realize that their only hope of salvation is to join with their fellow workers in other branches of industry, who are substantially represented by my party in this chamber, and together form a united organization to further the interests of the workers and wealth-producers of Australia. Senator Hardy is a country representative of a somewhat unusual type. He does not accept the inducements offered by the governing party for his support and that of his colleagues. He seems honestly to believe that there is room for a real country party, and that such a party can be established and made a prominent part of the political life df Australia. He may be justified in that belief, and he may be successful in his mission. For my part, I believe that, if the measure of co-operation between the workers of the country and the town, which I have suggested, cannot be attained, Senator Hardy’s plan would probably be the next best, thing. However, in view of previous events, it would seem that only by a miracle could lasting success be achieved in that direction, and time alone can show whether such a miracle may be looked for.
The movement to which Senator Hardy belongs has had a meteoric beginning in New South Wales. It began in the Riverina as an agitation for the establishment of new States, and spread with what my friends opposite must have regarded as alarming rapidity. The leaders of the Nationalist party came to the conclusion that the leader of this new_ movementshould be roped in, and he was. He became one of the unity team at the last, election, and was duly elected a member of the Senate. They found, however, that, having got him into the unity team by what may almost be termed false pretences, they had difficulty in handling him, and I venture the prophesy that this young man from the Riverina will cause them a good deal of trouble before they have finished with him. On calm reflection, they may even come’ to the conclusion that it would have been better for them to have persisted in their support of ex-Senator Duncan for New South Wales, a man- who usually barked, but’ did not bite; who talked against the government, but always voted with it.
It is evident that a definite challenge has been issued, and in the next few months, something is going to break, or be broken. The result will be interesting to those who follow political developments, but it will not be edifying or encouraging to those who, at the last election, gave their support to the party opposite, thinking that they were voting for what was styled a “prosperity” government that was going to provide work for every one, and pilot us round that corner which we had become giddy in trying to reach.
Now we find that, in respect of a most important item of policy, there has been a lack of fair dealing between the two great sections of the Government party. This must be a severe disappointment to those electors who voted so hopefully for the Government.
– But think of the joy it gives the honorable senator, and the members of his party.
– My My party exists for a higher purpose than merely to take pleasure in the unseemly wrangling of political opponents. Our purpose is to carry on the government of the country so that we may develop our national resources, and build up the nation, at the same time giving justice to those who do the country’s work.
– The honorable senator’s party is not doing much good in South Australia.
– My My party is not in power in South Australia, but the party to which the honorable senator belongs is, though it was elected on a minority vote. I have observed, by the way, that the gentleman who leads that party in South Australia, the Honorable Richard Butler, has not been complimentary in his references to the Government which the honorable senator supports in this Parliament. During the few weeks that he has occupied the position of Premier of South Australia, 1 have read one or two trenchant criticisms by him of what he is pleased to term the “ Canberra attitude “ of this Government. It looks as though another family quarrel might develop further west than the Riverina. However, enough of that; I have other and.more important matters to discuss. These unseemly squabbles will continue until the country people realize which party truly represents their interests.
– Which party does that?
– The The Australian Labour Party, to which I belong. During this debate the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Barnes) and other honorable senators have criticized the Government for having failed to provide employment. In the course of his speech the Assistant Treasurer (Senator Sir Walter Greene) quoted official figures in an endeavour to prove . that unemployment had diminished as a result of the efforts of the Government. In reply to an interjection by me to the effect that the figures given by the honorable senator showed that unemployment had increased by nearly 2 per cent, during the term of office of the Government, Senator Sir Walter Greene assured me that I was wrong, as the official figures disclosed otherwise. I was merely referring to the statistics which the honorable senator himself had quoted in reply to Senator. Millen. They clearly indicated that the unemployment figures for 1931 were 1.96 less than those for 1932, and, as the Scullin Government was in office in 1931, and this Government was in office in 1932, my conclusion was a perfectly fair and sound one. I know that there has been a reduction in unemployment since the end of 1932, but I do not know that this Government has contributed in any way to ‘ that result. Many of the persons who, the honorable senator claimed, have been employed as a result of the activities of thi3 Government, have simply been transferred from the dole to dole work, for which they receive only rations. I knowthat to be the case in South Australia and Victoria, and I understand that a similar position exists in New South Wales. If those persons are taken from the number alleged to have been provided with work, it will be found that the unemployed position has not changed for the better since the advent to office of this Government. The honorable senator then endeavoured to show that his Government had done a great deal more than the Scullin Government to relieve unemployment. When the Scullin Government assumed office in 1929, the position of Australia was desperate, as the result of the mal-administration of its affairs over a long period of years by governments representative of honorable senators opposite. It found that employees were being thrown out of industry in every direction, and it engaged in an heroic struggle to prevent matters becoming worse. No government, particularly with the depleted resources that had been bequeathed to it by the BrucePage Government, could have reemployed those persons immediately. The Lyons Government has reaped the benefit of the Scullin Government’s endeavours to rectify the position, and its restoration of a favorable trade balance. It has also enjoyed the benefit of the tariff reform policy of its predecessor in office, which, however, it is now seeking partly to destroy.
I warn honorable senators to be wary about accepting the so-called “ official figures “ that are supplied to them. When we were discussing the Financial “Belief Bill last year, the Assistant Treasurer and I became involved in an argument concerning the number of farmers in South Australia. I have refreshed my memory on the subject by referring to the official record of the debate in Hansard. The honorable senator had stated that there were 18,599 farmers in South Australia. Knowing that that was not so, I challenged him. These are the relevant words -
In Victoria, 15 per cent, of the total of 20,840 wheat-farmers collected 47 per cent, of the amount of £813,000 paid as bounty. Of 18.599 wheat-growers in South Australia-
– The There are not 18,000 wheat-growers in South Australia.
– I have quoted official figures.
I had to accept the honorable senator’s assurance, which I have since proved to be incorrect.
– What authority has the honorable senator used to check those figures?
– The The South Australian pocket Year-Booh, issued by Mr. W. L. Johnston, Government Statistician, under the authority of the Honorable George Ritchie. M.L.C., who is Chief Secretary in the Butler Government. This authority gives the number of farmers in South Australia for the year 1930-31 as 14,038, including 850 who grow less than 20 acres of wheat, which is 4,531 fewer than the figure quoted by the Assistant Treasurer. I know that the Minister received his figures from an official source, but I contend that that source should be a little more accurate. The margin of error is altogether too great for the Senate to pass without comment. I have some regard for accuracy, and, when referring to official figures, I usually consult the proper authority to ensure that I am correct. I resent a Minister correcting me in an airy fashion and telling me that I am wrong, when he himself is in error.
– What was the bounty paid on that basis ?
– I d I do not know; but nobody is better situated than the State Government Statistician to supply State statistics, for he has at his disposal the police force to collect his data. Under the system of collecting statistics in force in that State, a complete canvass is made by police officers, and substantial penalties are provided for failure to furnish accurate returns. Consequently, the figures that I have given may be regarded as correct.
Another matter referred to by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Barnes), and other honorable senators, is the conversion of our overseas indebtedness. The Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) and other spokesmen for the Government, have, from time to time, deprecated impatience, and advised caution in the making of statements on this important question, so that the Government might conclude the negotiations on a satisfactory basis. Were the members of the present Government patient when the party of which I am a member occupied the treasury bench? Did they exercise care in their criticism of that Government? Any one who cares to consult the records of the debates that took place in this Parliament will find that their criticism was not characterized by consideration for the difficulties that that Government had to face. The Prime Minister himself, on a memorable occasion in April, 1931, made the following declaration of policy in the Exhibition Building, Adelaide : -
He had no hesitation in saying that he would go to London, and not only clean up the deficit there, but carry through a large conversion loan at a substantially reduced rate of interest.
That promise won the right honorable gentleman’s party thousands of votes. His Government has been in office for a period of eighteen months, yet only £23,000,000 of a total overseas debt of some £600,000,000 has been converted at lower rates of interest, and we, who were expected to remain quiet under the galling criticism of those days, are now asked to withhold criticism of the present Government, notwithstanding the absence of a clear statement of the present position or of the future intentions of the Government. Surely the right honorable gentleman should at least be able to make a clear statement of the position, having had at his disposal for eighteen months all the facilities for achieving the conversion of our overseas indebtedness at substantially lower rates of interest. But what do we find? The gravest doubt exists in the minds of responsible members of other governments. Prior to the recent conversion, the Premiers of the States, who are vitally interested in this matter, because of its effect upon their budgets, were led to believe that a fairly substantial conversion was imminent. A mysterious meeting of the Loan Council was then, summoned to meet in Melbourne, and they were given information that caused them to return to their States in a more or less despairing frame of mind. A few weeks later it was learned that a conversion loan of £11,000,000 had been successfully launched by the Resident Minister in London. It is significant that these conversion operations were begun after a fairly full debate on the question had taken place in the other chamber. It ought not to be necessary for honorable senators or members of another place, or for representatives of the States, to make strong statements on the subject. In the absence of a clear declaration of what the future is likely to disclose, I confess that I am perturbed and puzzled by the suggestion cabled to the Australian press from London,- that Australia is not exploiting to the full the present favorable position. I do not profess to know what the position in London is; but I do claim that the Government has not displayed candour, and that that is due to its not having done all that it might to relieve Australia of some of the burden of interest. We are told that we must not make statements that are likely to be construed into anything resembling Langism, that we must surround this matter with an air of mystery, and must not recite facts which are so obvious that they litter the earth and blot out the sky. A strong declaratiou by the Government is demanded. The patience of the taxpayers is becoming exhausted. The reason for that is obvious. During the boom period which preceded the present depress ion, Australia borrowed extensively both abroad and at home. It is of no use to beg’ the question, as the Minister attempted to do the other day; by saying that this is practically all State indebtedness. I remind the honorable gentleman and his Government that the same persons pay the taxation which discharges the interest and sinking fund commitments of both the Commonwealth and the States. Because the Commonwealth happens to have balanced its budget and obtained temporary relief, it should not emulate the ostrich by burying its head in the sand and saying that there is no criticism, anxiety, or uneasiness among the people. There is considerable anxiety and uneasiness in regard to the future of some of our greatest industries under the intolerable conditions that exist to-day. In 1914, the public debt of the Commonwealth and the States was £336,780,000, the average interest rate being approximately 3½ per cent. In 1930, the public debt had increased to £1,100,597,000, the average interest rate being about 5 per cent. There was during that period an increase in the public debt of the Commonwealth and States of £763,817,000, including £350,000,000 borrowed overseas. The significant fact is that in 1914 the index figure for Melbourne wholesale prices, . as supplied by the Commonwealth Statistician, was 1,149, and in 1930, 1,596. That increase would have been greater had it not been for the slump in prices at the beginning of the depression. The Labour party was not responsible for the increase of £763,817,000 in the public debt of the Commonwealth and the States, because it was not in office for any appreciable period in either the State or the Federal spheres, with the exception of Queensland.
SenatorFoll. - What were the relative increases in respect of the public debt of the Commonwealth and the States?
– I - In 1914, the Commonwealth public debt was £19,182,000, and, in 1930, £372,957,000.
– That includes the war debt.
– Of Of course. I suppose that this Government intends that Australia should pay its war debt, and I have heard nothing suggested to the contrary. I, for one, believe that we should make an earnest effort to meet our obligations, and that can be done only out of the proceeds of taxes levied upon the wealth producers of this country. The greater portion of this loan money was borrowed by the Com-‘ monwealth and the States at a time when the index figure for Melbourne wholesale prices was round abour, 2,000, when the purchasing power of money was not nearly so great as it is to-day, when wheat was worth from 5s. to 6s. a bushel in the world’s market, when wool was selling at an average price of ls. 6d. per lb., and when other exportable products and manufactured goods on which, in the main, money was expended, were selling at correspondingly high prices. Yet to-day we are asking the people to meet that enormous burden out of their diminished earnings. The following table sets out the Melbourne wholesale price index-numbers : -
The taxation imposed by the Common-r wealth Government, fades- into significance when compared with that imposed by ‘the State Governments. In South Australia we have now reached practically the breaking; point. We have reached the point at which industry cannot carry on unless relief is, given to it. A couple of years ago we were told by the economists and bankers^, who were at that time practically dictating, the policy of this country, that the reduction of wages and salaries would solve’ the financial problem which confronted Australia, and, in conformity with their proposals, public expenditure and the salaries and wages of every section of the Public Service were reduced. Has that action relieved the burden of the primary producers by bringing about a return of the conditions under which they were able to make a profit ? It has not. As Senator Collings pointed out the other afternoon, while Australia is meeting it’s obligations, the money-lenders on the other side of the world have forced us to pay back in value three times the amount that we borrowed. It is the duty of this Government to make a clear declaration of the position of Australia. Honorable senators who belong to the Country party contend that if the tariff were reduced, all would be well with the primary producers. But let me inform them that a lower tariff would not reduce the interest payment on our public debt overseas, and unless our interest payment is reduced it will be impossible to give any relief to the primary producers of Australia, and, in particular, of South Australia. Take the position of the wool industry. The cost of shearing and of paying for woolpacks, rail freights, commission and the selling expenses of the wool clip of that State - taking the average distance from the market as 200 miles - represents 18 per cent, of the total value of the wool clip. Rail freight represents 22 per cent., and all expenses 37 per cent, of the value of sheepskins. Rail freight represents 21 per cent., and all selling expenses, 26 per cent, of the present market price of sheep. The reduction of salaries and wages in the Public Service has not benefited the primary producers to any extent, because the distributing industries generally are burdened withexcessive taxes which have been imposed to enable this country to meet its huge interest obligations. According to the South Australian Year-Book, in 1929 the average price of merino wethers was 25s. 9d. per head, and in that year, a leg of mutton cost 9.9d. per lb. in the butcher’s shop, and loin chops 9.4d. per lb. The average price of merino wethers was 14s. 3d. each in 1932, a reduction of 11s. 6d. since 1929. In 1932, a leg of mutton cost 6.83d. per lb., and loin chops 7.65d. per lb., a reduction of 2.26d. and 1.39d. per lb. respectively in three years. The pastoralist or mixed farmer who produced those sheep suffered a reduction of 44.66 per cent. for each merino wether, whereasthe consumer who bought the meat from the butchers paid only 24.86 per cent. less for a leg of mutton, and 15.38 per cent. less for loin chops. In the case of bullocks, the figures are similar. The average price received by the man who raised bullocks was 45.71 per cent. less in 1932 than in 1929, whereas the price of a sirloin of beef dropped by only 31.16 per cent., and of steak by 26.30 per cent. in the same period. The farmer who produced wheat suffered a reduction of 32.14 per cent. in the price received for his product, and the baker who delivered the bread made from it had his wagesreduced by 22.68 per cent. ; but the consumer of the bread got it for only 23.70 per cent. less.
Recently, I had occasion to buy a quantity of harness leather. I paid 3s. per lb. wholesale for it, notwithstanding that for many months previously the average price of hides had been 3½d. per lb.
– How much would imported harness leather have cost?
– It It would probably have cost a good deal more. I am not developing an argument in favour of freetrade; I do not even know what the duty on leather or hides is. There is something wrong with our distributing industries. Itmay be that excessive taxation, due to our high interest bill, is at fault; or that there has been either undue profiteering or gross inefficiency. I am inclined to think that there is a combination of those three reasons. It is the duty of the Government to do something to remedy the position. No wonder that the people are becoming restive. In the face of such facts, the Government will want more than its slogan “ Vote for the United Australia party and prosperity “ to win the next election. The Canberra Times of Thursday, 1st June, contained an account of some questions asked in the House of Commons recently in relation to tariff matters, and the implementing of the Ottawa agreement. Mr. Perkins askedMr. Thomas, the Secretary of State for the Dominions, “ Will you impress on Australia that it will be impossible for Britain to continue buying her agricultural products unless Australia buys British manufactures in exchange.” Mr. Thomas answered, “ I think it is better to leave it where you put it. I understand that the Australian authorities read Hansard.” I do not know whether that statement was intended as a threat; if it was, somethingshould be said on behalf of the people of Australia. I have expressedmy views on. imperial preference so frequently in this chamber that I do not now need to repeat them. I believe in buying goods made in Australia, if procurable, and secondly, in order of preference, goods made in other parts of theEmpire.
– In that case, the honorable senator should vote for the amendment.
– If If unable to obtain our requirements from those sources, I favour trading with our best foreign customers. In addition to paying for the goods which we import from other countries, our export industries have to find each year approximately £28,000,000 to meet the interest on our external debt. Owing to the policy adopted by the Government, this financial year will probably close with an adverse trade balance; there is grave danger of our export industries being unable to meet the burden placed on them. In order to lighten the burden of overseas interest, the facts should be made clear to the financiers of Britain. When the Scullin Government was in office, the people were told by the party opposite that all would be well if there were a change of government. For eighteen months, a different government has occupied the treasury bench, and during that time, it has offered as many excuses for the non-restoration of confidence as there are spots on a leopard: The process of “pulling the people’s leg “ still goes on, but the people are becoming tired of it. Unhappily, the existing conditions favour those forces in the country which are .working against the interests of Australia. The only way to check these forces is to follow Germany’s example, and to tell the people to whom we owe money that we will pay Only what we are able to pay. Surely Australia is entitled to at least as generous treatment from the Motherland as has been given to Germany.
My mind has been considerably agitated of late -by the attitude of the present Government towards the necessitous States. Unfortunately, the party opposite has always been intolerant of the claims of those States. I remind the Senate that it was the Scullin Government which first recognized the disabilities of South Australia, and made substantial grants to that State by way of compensation, and that it was the present Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) who, a few months ago, told South Australia and the other needy States that they must expect a substantial diminution of . Commonwealth grants in the future. After 33 years of federation, the people of Western Australia recently carried a referendum favouring secession from the Commonwealth. It is significant’ that that vote was recorded during the regime of the Lyons “ prosperity “ Government. The reason for this is the lack of consideration shown by this Government for the smaller States, and the intolerant attitude of some of its members to the representatives of those States. According to the Sydney Morning Herald of the 31st May last, the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) recently visited Sydney, and discussed with the Premier of New South Wales (Mr. Stevens) matters that- are being considered ‘ at the conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers. That newspaper published a photograph of the Prime Minister and Mr. Stevens, under the caption “ Prime Minister and Premier in Conference,” and below the photograph appeared the words “ The Prime Minister, Mr. Lyons, and the Premier, Mr. Stevens (right) discussing matters of interest to’ the approaching Premiers Conference.” The Prime Minister did not visit South Australia to discuss with the Premier of that State, Mr. Butler, matters of interest in connexion with, the Premiers Conference. The right honorable gentleman did not go to Tasmania to “ talk over those matters with the Premier of that State, Mr. McPhee; nor did he -invite the Premier of Western Australia, Mr. Collier, to discuss them with him. Yet he went to New South Wales, and conferred with Mr. Stevens, on whose behalf he recently put up an heroic fight in order to place that gentleman in control of the political destinies of New South Wales. In the Canberra Times this morning, we read the following: -
Although the Premiers Conference has not yet met, an unhealthy atmosphere has, unfortunately, already been created as a result of the dispute between the States and the Commonwealth.
At a meeting of Treasury officers who are preparing the budget figures for the conference, the Acting Secretary to the Loan Council (Mr. Yandell), caused consternation by announcing that the Commonwealth would not produce the budget estimate for 1033-34. The conference was temporarily suspended while the Treasury officers reported to the Ministers, who were equally surprised. It is understood that the State Ministers will not present their budget estimates if the Commonwealth persists in this attitude.
There is strong- comment, at what is described as the unsympathetic attitude of the Commonwealth, but it is agreed that the compilation of figures will be continued by the Treasury officers, and in the meantime representations will be made to the Commonwealth representatives.
I hope that that attitude will not be persisted in, because the , gentlemen who largely constitute the Loan Council are the Premiers of sovereign States, which, under our federal system, have rights at least equal to those, of the Commonwealth. That the States are budgeting for deficits, and the Commonwealth is budgeting for a surplus, should not enter into consideration, because the taxpayers are the same individuals in both the Federal and the State spheres. It would be in the best interests of Australia as a whole, if the Commonwealth Government, instead of reducing federal taxation, because of its surplus, were to assist the States out of their difficulties in’ balancing their budgets. Then the people of the less populous States would, receive the benefit of a reduction of taxation; but if the reduction is made by the Commonwealth Government, most of the benefit will be derived by the taxpayers in the two most populous States.
To give one more illustration of the desperate position of the taxpayers in South Australia, I need only refer to the amount of income tax which they have to bear. “When I was a member of the South Australian Parliament - it was not many years ago - the employees in that State paid a total of £175,000 in income tax. They now contribute £755,000, or 78.8 per cent. of the total tax levied on individuals in that State. The income tax exemption figure in South Australia is £100 a year. Certain allowances are made, such as £30 for a wife, and £30 for each child uuder the age of fourteen years; but these allowances are on a diminishing scale, and they are eliminated when the gross income exceeds £650 a year. The result is that the taxpayer in my State contributes to the revenue, in most cases, approximately twice as much income tax as the Australian taxpayer, on the average, is called upon to pay. Therefore, the burden of the South Australian taxpayer is intolerable. The State Government can hold out no hope of relief, because of the budgetary position. Water and sewerage rates, and charges for social services generally, are higher in South Australia than in other States, and I have already referred to the cost of the State railways. Some honorable senators opposite say “Reduce the tariff and all will be well”; but the tariff has nothing to do with the capital indebtedness of the railway and other State services which are mainly responsible for the burden borne by the taxpayers in my State. A couple of years ago certain honorable senators told us that the highness of the wages paid was the cause of the trouble. But effective wages in South Australia are now lower than they have been for the past 30 years. The reduction of tariffs will not lighten the load of interest, or the burden of taxation which is necessary to enable interest charges to be met. We must seriously consider whether it is right for the Commonwealth Government, out of its surpluses, to make substantial taxation concessions, which, in the main, benefit the people of two States, while citizens in the other four States are staggering under the crushing burden imposed by one of the units of our governmental machine. These State disabilities encourage that section of the community which does not believe in parliamentary government; They breed Communists, and foster policies of repudiation. These problems will, undoubtedly, have to bo dealt with during the next few years. The present Government has proved itself incapable of facing them, and I believe that the only hope for the people lies in the return to power of a government that will be representative of both the producers and the workers of this country.
SenatorFOLL (Queensland) [4.18].- Last week Senator Hardy referred to certain agreements which he stated were entered into prior to the last election, between the Nationalist and the Country parties. He also made certain charges against the ex-Minister for Trade and Customs (Sir Henry Gullett), and, in order that the parliamentary records may be complete, so far as this debate is concerned, 1 propose to quote the statement of the Attorney-General (Mr; Latham) in relation to the first portion of Senator Hardy’s speech, and also the sworn declaration made by Sir Henry Gullett in connexion with this matter. The Attorney-General said -
The statements attributed to Senator Hardy, so far as they affect myself, are quite irresponsible and without foundation. In the first place, there is no such agreement with the Country party as is alleged. Everything is in writing, and the records show that certain members of the United Australia Party, the United Country party, the A.F.A., and other persons, met in informal conference in Sydney expressly without any authority to enter into agreements binding their respective organizations. As a result of discussion some proposals were developed on a number of political matters. Those who took part in the conference agreed to submit these proposals to their organizations for consideration. The election came quickly, and this was never done, as far as I am aware, by the members of the Country party who had attended theconference, or by the members of any other party. The conference did not succeed in finishing its programme, and did not meet again. There were proposals for a permanent council of coordination and a bureau of research and publicity. None of the proposals ever became effective as items of policy binding any party.
Secondly, the leaders of the United Australia party, and of the UnitedCountry party, made policy speeches in the election without consulting each other, and referred to the tariff in those speeches in substantially the same way, thoughin different words. These speeches were quite consistent with the general words relating to the tariff which were embodied in the conference proposals.
Thirdly, what the Government has done, and is doing, in connexion with the tariff, is absolutely in accordance with both the policy speech of Mr. Lyons and with the Ottawa agreement.
Finally, a statement which I made on tariff policy, published on 17th December, 1931 (to which I presume Senator Hardy refers), only repeated and emphasized the statement made by the Prime Minister in the policy speech some weeks before, to the effect that protective duties would not be altered without reference to the Tariff Board.
On the 4th June, Sir Henry Gullett made a sworn declaration in reply to Senator Hardy’s statement-
– Who was the magistrate before whom the declaration was sworn.
– I have not inquired. The declaration reads as follows: -
With reference to certain statements in the Senate last week by Senators Hardy and Carroll, I, Henry Somer Gullett, make the following declaration upon oath: -
This declaration is made without the knowledge of any member of the Government or member of either House of Parliament.
On a parliamentary sitting . day last year, some time before the departure of the Australian delegation upon June 23 for the Ottawa Imperial Economic Conference, I, as Minister for Trade and Customs, received a deputation of senators, who wished to discuss the question of the Lyons’ Government tariff policy. The deputation, which waited upon me in my small ministerial room at Parliament House, was introduced by Senator Sampson. Proceedings were brief and hurried, as, to the best of my recollection, we did not begin until shortly after two o’clock, and I recall that I had not concluded my reply when the bells rang at 2.25 p.m. for the assembly of the House of Representatives. The roomwas somewhat crowded, and, owing to misunderstanding upon my part, I believed the deputation to be made up solely of United Australia party senators, and was unaware of the presence of Senators Johnston and Carroll, members of the Country party.
Senator Hardy’s statement in the Senate, which I quote from the Hansard proof of the report, was that -
For some time after the Ottawa agreement was entered into, there was a slight suspicion in the minds of representatives of rural constituencies that the tariff policy of the Government was not the correct one, and thatthe agreement which had been entered into by the two parties was not being observed. A private deputation to the then Minister for Trade and Customs (Sir Henry Gullett) was therefore arranged. AtOttawa, that gentleman did not hesitate to expound the principles of Empire. He there said that it was necessary to knit closer the bonds of Empire by the making of trade agreements. His was a wonderful performance which I have no desire to discount, but I do challenge his sincerity in view of the fact that, at a private deputation ofhonorable senators, he expressed views entirely contrary to those that he voiced at Ottawa.
This statement is false in fact and detail. I received no deputation of senators or other members of Parliament between the day of my return from Ottawa in September of 1932, and my resignation, owing to illness, in January of this year.
Senator Hardy’s quotation in the same speech of what he alleged to be a verbatim report of part of my reply to the deputation is false in every detail. The sentences attributed to me by Senator Hardy and widely reported in the newspapers were as follows: -
It is true we (the United Australia Party) had an agreement with the Country party prior to the elections to include in our programme the reduction of duties. However, as the campaign progressed, we found that we could not win Maribyrnong and other half-way electorates on such a programme. So we decided to delete these words and substitute that we would ‘go on Tariff Board reports. That this new programme was justified is shown by the fact that we won Maribyrnong and several other seats, but what was better, we were able to form a government by ourselves, and leave the Country party out.
I did not express those sentences, nor, as to the facts they express, were my remarks, with one exception, capable even to a modified degree of the construction placed upon them by Senator Hardy. Those remarks which I am alleged to have made are, in plain words, an invention.
In my response to the request of the deputation that I should outline on behalf of the Government the tariff policy then being practised, I replied in close and specific terms in effect as follows: -
That the policy represented a scrupulous adherence to the tariff policy as enunciated’ by Mr. Lyons in his policy speech at the Sydney Town Hall at the opening of the general election campaign in November, 1931.
That that policy had been decided upon by the Lyons opposition executive at Canberra upon the defeat of the Scullin Government, after having been under discussion for some weeks before, and that it was to the best of my knowledge accepted by all United Australia party candidates fur both the Senate and House of Representatives.
That the tariff policy of the Government was, in fact, the policy of the Nationalist party since the establishment of the Tariff Board in 1922, and, apart from the Tariff Board, was in conformity with the tariff policy of the party, either under the name of Nationalist or Liberal, since the early days of federation.
That the main features of the policy as expressed at the elections, and then being followed, were (a) protection . to economically sound industrial enterprises; (6) a competitive, and not a prohibitive, level of tariff protection; (c) no arbitrary ministerial reductions in items without reference to the Tariff Board; (<f) adherence to, and expansion of, the practice of preferential trade with Britain.
As the assembly bells were ringing and the senators were rising, I added lightly (as Senator Carroll says, “ expansively “ ) that, while they might not be completely satisfied with the Government’s tariff policy, it had apparently gone well in both town and country at the elections, and I pointed to our success in certain industrial seats, which had enabled the United Australia Party to form a oneparty government.
Further, I declare that no reference whatsoever was made by me or by any member of the deputation to any preelection agreement with the Country party or (as claimed by Senator Hardy) to any deletion of words of any kind from Mr. Lyons’ tariff policy as expressed in his opening speech; and that the deputation was a private one, as is admitted by Senator Hardy, and of a kind held frequently while Parliament is sitting, but that this is the first occasion during 25 years of observation of Parliament that I have known the unwritten law on the subject to be broken, let alone broken with a carefully constructed story containing only one suggestion of truth.
Sir Henry Gullett also said
I would only add, that the last statement to the deputation regarding a single party Government would not have been made had I not been absent-mindedly unaware of tho presence of the two Country’ party senators. Under the circumstances, the remark was tactless, and perhaps even offensive, although quite without intention. It may be claimed, however, that in view of the failure of Mr. Lyons’ sincere, generous, and sustained attempt to coalesce with the Country party in a government after the elections, it was providential for Australia that the United Australia Party was strong enough and diversely representative enough, to carry on alone. There is a disposition in Country party circles to represent it as a crime against the United Australia Party that it .had, at the elections, the support of a great section of the manufacturers of Australia and their employees. Allowing for “ election swings “, I do not recall a time when the Nationalist and Liberal parties were without that support, even during the seven years of the Bruce-Page Government. Moreover, there is the interesting fact that the United Australia party in the House of Representatives now contains, as the result of our policy, including the specific tariff policy at the last elections, as many members from rural electorates as the Country party, while in the Senate, of course, our rural representation is relatively incomparably stronger.
I have read these reports so that a complete record of what has been said may be incorporated in Hansard.
.- In these days of artificial rush and sophisticated complication, I wonder whether we are getting anywhere or achieving anything. Are we going forward or slipping back? Most people to whom one turns to-day will admit to a mental condition of muddle and doubt. No real belief seems to exist. Some people commit themselves to party and make up for the absence of real belief by the excitement of attacking some other party. I wonder whether this lack of real belief affects, not only the rank and file of the people of this country, but also tho members of the National Parliament. My thought is that it does, and particularly affects- those members of the Government who are sponsoring the tariff measure now before the Senate. Had I not heard some, and read others, of the speeches delivered here eighteen months ago, I should have been inclined to doubt that such speeches could be made by Ministers now sponsoring this tariff measure. I approach the discussion of this whole subject with an innocent, simple, and inquiring mind, full of wonder and bewilderment. When in Opposition, in 1.931, Senator McLachlan, the Minister in charge of the measure, spoke with ‘ all the fervour of an evangelistic advocate, and described the tariff proposals of the Scullin Administration, which, I might add, were not quite so bad as the present schedule, as the illegitimate creation of a man who had not grasped even the fundamentals of economics. The views of the right honorable the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) on this subject are well known to all of us, and the letter written in 1931 by the Assistant Treasurer (Senator Greene) to the Sydney Morning Herald, and read by
Senator Johnston last week, was, to say the least, most interesting.
At the outset, I should like to place on record the opinions expressed by Senator McLachlan, when speaking in opposition to the Scullin Government’s tariff proposals in 1931. The speech is to be found in Hansard of that year, pages 1466 to 1474. From it I extract the following statements : -
We certainly should not levy extreme duties that immediately give rise to resentment on the part of some of the European nations which are not slow to show their annoyance by imposing retaliatory duties on the primary products that we have to export. . . .
At Geneva, I felt the hostility that was growing towards this country on the part of the nations, whose representatives showed me the greatest friendships; in fact, their tender regard. That hostility isdue to our fiscal policy. . . .
In dealing with the tariff, we must do everything possible to prevent the reaction which has already been caused in some countries, as indicated in the retaliatory tariff measures with respect to the primary products of Australia. …
It will be impossible to tell whether the consumers of this country are receiving a fair deal at the hands of the manufacturers. .
I agree with the declaration of Mr. Foletta before the Tariff Board, that already Australia has more factories than it can maintain - almost prohibitive duties imposed, not at the request of manufacturers, but to suit the whim of an irresponsible Minister for Trade and Customs. . . .
One of the worst features of this tariff is its arrant stupidity, inasmuch as it is bound to result in the destruction of industry which the Commonwealth has been at great pains to build up. . . .
It is criminal that tariffs of this sort should be introduced without investigation by some one at least competent to consider questions from the commercial or the manufacturing point of view. . . .
I do not speak as a little Australian. I have always stood for the realization of nationhood by the application of a tariff; but I feel that the justice which should have been meted out to the primary-producing States has not been meted out to them. . . .
But when we get into the realm of certain other activities, it makes us shudder at the attempt that is made to load these experiments, with all their attendant expense, suffering, and waste upon our handful of people. …
It is crass stupidity to insist on producing articles that cannot economically be made in this country. . . .
We should make as perfect as possible those industries that are worth while in this country, and give consideration . to the people who purchase largely from us. Above all, we should make some effort to give real preference to the Old Motherland, whence we have sprung.
My esteemed leader put the matter very concisely when he said that it was futile to talk about a preference when it does not exist.
The opportunity was never more favorable than that which now presents itself to Australia and the Empire generally to do something to bring about that which many of us have always despaired of attaining during course of our lives - the stimulation and consolidation of Empire trade and reciprocity.
Since those extracts quite accurately indicate the views held by the VicePresident of the Executive Council when he was in Opposition, I am tempted, now, to express doubt as to where the honorable gentleman stands.
When the Scullin Government’s tariff proposals were brought down, its supporters endeavoured to persuade us that the direct result of the imposition of higher duties on so many items would be to stimulate industry and would lead to a great increase in employment. If honorable senators will study, as I did on Sunday, the last quarterly summary of Australian statistics, they will discover that so far from improving, the position of our manufacturing industries has, during the last two years, deteriorated. In 1931-32, they provided work for 113,841 fewer employees than in 1928-29, and the number of factories had declined by 1,263-
– The decline in the number of factories is due to thedepression; most of the owners have gone insolvent.
– The total amount paid in wages and salaries in the secondary industries in 1931-32 was less by £35,055,000 than in 1928-29, and the value of material used in those factories lower by £77,739,321, while the total value of the output haddeclined by £138,799,503.
– Can the honorable senator give the volume, instead of value, of production?
– The decrease in the number of employees indicates clearly that there has been a serious decline in volume of production as well as in value. There can be no prosperity in the industrial centres of the Commonwealth until prosperity is restored to our primary industries. And lest Senator Crawford should still be in doubt, may I remind him that the percentage of gross profit to turnover in secondary industries after allowing for a return of 5 per cent, on the capital invested in plant, machinery, and buildings, amounted in 1928-29 to 19 per cent., and that in 1931-32, when the turnover was very greatly reduced, the percentage was approximately the same.
What is the reason for the reversal of opinion on the part of so many members of this Parliament concerning tariff and other problems which so vitally affect the people of this country? May we assume that this is merely the old political game,’ an instance of the tactics employed in the war between the “ ins “ and the “ outs “, and that an Opposition considers itself justified in making a concerted attack on every item of Government policy? I confess that the situation which has developed in this Parliament within recent years has puzzled me. May we take it that the attitude of members to tariff or other proposals is influenced by the expectation of favours to come from people engaged in industrial enterprises, who are so highly protected that they are able to make substantial contributions to party funds?. Is there competition between the Nationalist and Labour parties for these favours? I do not know. I merely ask the question.
– The Labour party believes in protecting secondary industries in order to ensure a wider field of employment for the people.
– Any proposal that is calculated to increase employment will find ready support from members of all parties in this Parliament. But I am forced to doubt the wisdom of these prohibitive tariffs and artificial restrictions on industry, because the figures show that for the last financial , year, the number of employees in our manufacturing industries had declined by 113,841. I shall be glad if the Minister (Senator McLachlan) will, in his reply, explain some of the things which to me are obscure. Will he, for example, make quite clear to the Senate, whether this solicitude for the welfare of our secondary industries, as disclosed in the Government’s tariff proposals, is influenced by the possibility of future favours? We all know it is impossible to get favours from primary producers ; they cannot afford it. In this I speak from personal experience.
All sections of industry, primary and commercial, are in difficulties. In a business in which I am interested, the year’s trading operations showed a profit of £1,400, but to my surprise and horror, I learned that taxation, customs duties levied, and other governmental charges, reached the astounding total of £12,860. How is it possible for private enterprise to surmount obstacles like that, and provide more employment for the people?
Are we governed by the departments; do Ministers become the tools of the Commonwealth Public Service? Is our form of- government a democracy? Is it an autocracy, or is it a bureaucracy? I am wondering whether our so-called democratic system of parliamentary, government is not, in actual fact, a bureaucracy, under which ministerial heads of departments respond to -the strength, influence and power of the permanent heads.
These tariff proposals are assumed to have some relation to the Ottawa Conference formula giving preference to British Empire products, but lately, there has been evidence of doubt on the part of the people of Great Britain concerning the sincerity of the Commonwealth regarding that agreement. Last week, Senator O’Halloran directed attention to certain questions which had been asked in the House of Commons, indicating a feeling, in the Mother Country, that Australia is not treating Great Britain fairly in this matter. I am inclined to agree with that view. If there is this doubt among members of the Senate, what must be the bewilderment of people” outside? I believe that in bringing down its proposals to implement the Ottawa agreement, the Commonwealth lost an opportunity which will probably never be given to us again.
– The honorable senator should consider whether Great Britain is being fair to Australia.
– Does the Minister know that Australia is the second highest taxed country in the world, the Mother Country being the highest? Our taxation amounts to £13 5s. 9d. a head. Let us go a little further, and compare this with the per capita production, which is £48 12s. 5cL, and we realize that taxation, State and Commonwealth, equals a fraction over 28 per cent, of the total value of our production. Is the Government aware of that fact, or is it deliberately ignoring it ? Surely the Government must realize that it is impossible to develop the resources of the country or, to carry on any form of business successfully, with that astounding weight of taxation to bear.
– What percentage of production does the per capita taxation of Great Britain represent?
– I cannot give the percentage figure for the. United Kingdom, but it is lower than ours, because there the turnover is greater. Taxation in Great Britain amounts to £16 8s. a head. It is interesting to note that last year Commonwealth taxation actually increased by 9s. 5d. per head, while State taxation decreased by 10s.
The amendment moved by Senator Johnston is substantially the same as one to which the majority of the members of the Senate agreed in a resolution that was carefully prepared and given to the press so that it might be published in Britain prior to the election on the 15th October, 1931.
– I vociferously dissented from the resolution.
– The honorable senator does not yet constitute a majority of the Senate. To refresh the memory of honorable senators, I shall read the resolution referred to -
This meeting of the majority of the Senate affirms its intention to endeavour to obtain amendments to the tariff schedule by a reduction of excessive duties, and by such a further reduction of the duties against British imports as will foster Empire trade and lead to the adoption by Great Britain, Australia and the other dominions of reciprocal trade agreements benefiting every unit of the Empire.
The resolution was designed as an assurance to the people of Great Britain that the majority of the members of the Senate, if they ever got the opportunity, would see to it that the opinions expressed by the Minister and the Leader of the House would be carried into effect, and that real preference would be granted to the Mother Country in return for the advantage and security afforded by the British market.
– Was that resolution carried in the Senate?
– It was not, but it was carried at a meeting of a majority of the members of this Senate.
– It was merely a resolution carried by a group of imperialistic title mongers.
– It was carried in the hope of influencing the electors of Britain towards a policy which would create markets to provide employment for the men whom the honorable senator professes to represent. The amendment now before the Senate complies with the requirements of that resolution, and if it is not carried, those honorable senators who voted for the resolution should find their consciences disturbing. The extraordinarily high rate of taxation in Australia is a direct result of the vacillating and uncertain policy pursued in Australia for too long a period. It remains for the Senate to restore the good name of Australia by taking a stand for the maintenance of the spirit and letter of the Ottawa agreement, and it can do so by passing this amendment.
-Has Britain stood by the agreement?
– Last year Britain purchased from British dominions and Overseas possessions produce to the value of £1,600,000 more than during the previous year, but from foreign countries her purchases were valued at £159,000,000 less than the year before. Is that not direct evidence that Britain is adhering to the Ottawa agreement, in spirit and in letter? Australia is not taking fulladvantage of the agreement. Canada has realized to the full what it means to her, and to every section of her community. She has concentrated on developing the British market, with the result that, during the past year, she moved from twelfth to fourth place among the exporters of goods to Great Britain. Her trade with that country increased by £10,000,000, while that of South Africa increased by £2,000,000.
– In the case of South Africa, does that figure include gold ?
– Yes. Australia has just held her own in regard to the money value of her exports, which means that the actual quantity of her exports has increased by roughly 20 per cent. Australia has not yet realized the opportunity presented by the Ottawa agreement. The Government fails to understand the vital importance of markets to Australia, and the importance of creating goodwill on the other side of the world. Practically every week doubts are expressed in the House of Commons regarding our sincerity, and yet the Government does nothing. The Government’s mental attitude is negative, not constructive. If it realized the importance of overseas markets it would have done something to encourage the industries of Australia to create that goodwill among the consumers overseas which is So necessary to our trade. In regard to almost every Commodity, disorganized selling is operating against organized buying. The Danes realize the importance of winning the goodwill of the British consumers. Taking advantage of the present low price of butter, they have rushed in supplies which may have had the effect of forcing the prices lower, but, at any rate, they are using that circumstance to extend the consumption of their butter. They send their product to England in carefully marked 1 lb. pats, which are attractive to the consumers, and recognizable by them. None of our governments has bothered to realize that our system of exporting merely creates a market at Tooley street, and Tooley street will not get us very far. It is in the mind of the consumer that goodwill and demand are created.
– Let us stick pretty labels on our goods, and we shall get. back to prosperity!
– We want trade, not politics. The Empire must produce its own foodstuffs; otherwise we shall be destroyed and damned. As a gesture of sincerity to Britain, and apart altogether from the Ottawa agreement, Canada has even gone so far as to stipulate that, in all government works throughout the dominion, Canadian goods are to be used, and, if these are not available, then British goods. Our Government, apparently, hasnot the vision to realize what such a gesture would mean. We cannot exist unless we get markets for our goods which will provide us with the necessary purchasing power to keep the wheels of the secondary industries in motion. At Ottawa we laid a foundation; we did not erect an edifice. Australia could have gone very much further than it did. The British representatives were prepared to go further, as the record of British imports since that time plainly shows. We stood On the achievements of the past. We had not the ability to look past the next election. We must look past the next election to the next generation, if we are to obtain security of tenure for our manufacturers, primary producers, and working people. I cannot understand the attitude of our manufacturing interests here in not realizing the need for overseas markets. They will never be successful, regardless of what duties we impose, or of how high the exchange rate goes, which is really another form of protective duty, until we have established profitable markets overseas for our primary products.
I was glad to observe that the Government was not successful in its attempt to dragoon the butter producers into restricting production, and accepting an export quota. Quotas are described as. designed to restore agriculture to prosperity; they do nothing of the kind. It is an iniquitous means which suggests salvation to a stricken industry, but tends to bind industry with fetters of controlmore complete and unyielding than anything known to British industry.
– It was the British Government that suggested the quota.
– The AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Latham) in another place explained that the original suggestion came from New Zealand, not from the British Government. We must set our faces against any proposal to restrict production, and concentrate instead on meeting the competition of the world, and finding markets for our products. Let the Government encourage industry to create goodwill in the markets overseas. We should be prepared even to make some sacrifice tothis end, because the British market is the onlyone for most of our produce.
SenatorGuthrie.- What is the use of flooding the market with butter when it cannot be absorbed except at ruinous prices?
– It is evident that the honorable senator is not familiar with the facts. The British market has absorbed this year many thousands of tons more butter than during the previous year. Our foreign competitors took full advantage of the situation. We send our butter overseas frozen in boxes, and if a housewife in Britain wishes to buy a pound, it has to be dug out of the box for her, and there is nothing to identify the pound she buys as Australian butter. We send abroad 60 per cent, of butter under the Kangaroo brand, 30 per cent, of what is called first-grade butter, but is really second grade, and 10 per cent, of third-grade butter, which should never leave the country at all. Can any one wonder that we have no goodwill on the English market? There is certainly a field available for development if the Government realizes the vital need for overseas markets. The Government could give a lead, but beyond that it is not asked to interfere. Industry must realize that the less government interference there is with trade the better ; but ‘ the Government can guide and encourage private enterprise. It has been said that Britain is making trade agreements with Denmark and the Argentine, and that is so ; but they are for three years only, and if .we had had the vision, the strength and courage to do the right thing at Ottawa, and had given to British goods that degree of preference on the Australian market to which they were entitled, there would have been no such agreements with Denmark or the Argentine. Those nations had given undertakings to purchase commodities from the Mother Country on a satisfactory basis. The people of the United Kingdom are just as human as ourselves, and they have a franchise which is almost as liberal as ours. We have been unfortunate in our transactions with Great Britain. We have given the impression of asking all and giving little. But the door is still open. If we concentrate on meeting the requirements of .the British market, and try to win the goodwill of the British consumer, we shall find that, at the end of three years, Great Britain will recognize our point of view, and will, by taking our products, assist the development of our resources, and create the employment which our people so greatly need.
– la not the Australian market worth a little attention?
– If we failed to give it attention, there would be something radically wrong with us mentally. Denmark and, the Argentine, however, surpass us in the business of negotiating for trade treaties. . They do not transact this business in the open, through the medium of cablegrams which are broadcast to the world many months before, an agreement comes to be formally discussed. We have much to learn from these peoples, who get right down to facts, and leave no room for misunderstanding. There has been misunderstanding in connexion with our agreements at Ottawa. The fact that this Senate passed the resolution which I have read, and despatched it to the Old Country–
– The Senate did not pass that resolution.
– I .amend my statement and say that the resolution was agreed to by a majority of the Senate.
– At a private meeting of senators.
– In any case, we did not send the resolution to the Old Country. It was carried, and made available to the press.
– With the. intention that it should be made public in the Old Country. Is this to be another case of trying to split straws, and giving effect to the letter rather than to the spirit? It is that sort of thing which puts the people into a state of bewilderment.
– Does not the honorable senator think that our delegates did well at Ottawa?
– Our delegates returned to Australia, and declared that they had not done anything to injure the manufacturers of Australia or prejudice our trade with foreign countries. I hold that that was a negative declaration: a negative policy that will get this country nowhere. We must have a constructive policy. These preferences were not arranged at Ottawa; they were arrived at four months earlier. The Ottawa Conference merely confirmed, and put them into agreement form. Did this Government take the Ottawa Conference seriously ? Had it done so, it should have sent our delegates to London, because it is well known that the open sessions of a conference are little more than -window dressing; that the constructive work is done more or less privately round the luncheon or dinner table. The people, however, are getting sick and tired of conferences, which have been described as devised to postpone action, and a committee as a device to postpone a conference. I feel that the Government made a fundamental error in sending its representatives direct to the conference at Ottawa.
– The most effective work of that conference was done during the last two days.
– If the honorable senator were to investigate the matter a little more closely, he would find that, with one or two exceptions, the preferences were arrived at in February, while the conference was held in July. But the conference merely, by the agreements, laid down a foundation, and it is for the people of Australia to erect an edifice on that foundation which I believe to be a secure and sound one. One of the commonest errors in politics is to stick to the carcasses of dead policies. It does not matter what Cobden, Bright or Chamberlain said 20 or 30 or 80 years ago, or what honorable senators thought or said three years ago. We are dealing with a completely changed economic world. Often, from the interjections of honorable senators, I am inclined to the thought thai they are attempting to deal with a 20th century world with an 18th century mind.
I have indicated my bewilderment at the changes that have taken place in the policy of the Government, and I have expressed the hope that when Senator McLachlan deals with the arguments that have been advanced during this debate, he will be able to disabuse the minds of inquiring senators regarding the reasons for those radical changes.
Primary industries are the fundamental wealth producers of the country. Agriculture is the greatest industry in Australia. There can be no prosperity in our industrial centres until prosperity has been restored to the primary community, and its purchasing’ power has been increased. The great secondary industries, and, indeed, Australia’s solvency, depend upon the success of primary production. If those industries fail, because of inability to produce at a profit, Australia fails with them, for they are Australia. I wonder when some honorable senators on my right will begin to acknowledge that fact on the floor of the Senate. They realize the fact in their own private minds, but for some reason they have not the courage publicly to acknowledge it. Senator O’Halloran is an exception. He has no right to sit on that side of the chamber, and, if he votes against the amendment with which we are dealing, he will have something to explain to his conscience. He knows that Ave must secure markets for our products.
For my part, I cannot dissociate the welfare and prosperity of the Empire as a whole from the welfare and prosperity of each or any of. its parts. To me, they appear to be indissolubly bound together. We shall probably hear some honorable senators say, “ We must do nothing that will give offence to foreign nations. Look at Japan, which is purchasing so much wool from us.” Japan purchases our wool, manufactures it, and sends it back to Australia at prices less than those charged by our own local manufacturers for similar goods, despite the tremendously heavy duty. Yet we are told to consider Japan when thinking of obtaining a secure market for our products!
Cannot we get back to the ways and thoughts on which the great position of the British Empire was established ? The sloppy internationalism - I do not think that 1 am using too strong a term - which has occupied too great a proportion of our recent thoughts, is explained by the modern forgetfulness of what Britain means to the world. Even statesmen of the Old Country sometimes urge us to bear our troubles in silence, as other people are in a similar or a worse plight. ‘.They are accepting, without question,- the impossible position that nations can be equal. According to that theory, the Empire must suffer on an equality with Spain and Portugal, until, by world agreement, everything is set right. A greater service will be rendered to the world if we rate the Empire, duty a little higher and, by precept and example, do more putting right in a week than world agreement can hope to do in a decade.
In conclusion, let me give expression to this thought. “What a curious people we are ! We are living in the midst of stirring and epoch-making events. To the man of affairs, it is an enthralling period ; to the spectator it is a fascinating drama. It is time for tuned-up nerves, sharp eyes, ready brains; for men who are prepared for the job. Yet Australia drowses in its easy chair before the fire.
I make an appeal to honorable senators who have at heart the interests of the working men of Australia carefully to consider the amendment that we are debating. Let them read it, and, if in it they see the possibility of getting this Senate to do something that will give Australia a secure market, and put greater purchasing power into the hands of our people, and thus set the wheels of industry again in action, let them vote for, and not against, it.
– I have listened with some attention to the speech of Senator Elliott, who, apparently, wonders why my party sought the support of the manufacturers. That is simply explained. The policy of the Labour party has always been that of protection, and protection favours the Australian manufacturer. Consequently, the Labour party expects to have the support of the manufacturing sections throughout Australia. And it had that support until practically a day or two before the last general election. The explanation for the change of front on the part of the manufacturers has been explained by Senator Hardy - that Sir Henry Gullett and many other members of the Lyons Government assured the manufacturers that they would not be injured by the operation of the tariff policy of the Lyons Government. The result was that the manufacturers changed front, and supported the present Government on election day, and the Country party were let down.
The Scullin Government has done more than any other government for the manufacturers of Australia, and no administration has been, treated with baser ingratitude. Particularly did the
Scullin Government assist a certain Melbourne manufacturer; yet that concern approached the Arbitration Court for a reduction of 10 per cent, in wages, which was a disgraceful action. That firm should have had more respect for its employees, and for the Scullin Government. In condemning the action of the manufacturers for having withdrawn their support from the Scullin Government, the Melbourne Age named individual firms, and mentioned the support that they had received .from that Administration. Senator Hardy and the other members of the Country party need not wonder any longer why the .manufacturers of Australia supported the present Government party at the last elections.
Senator Elliott referred to the lower wage fund, and the fewer employees, in certain industries, and said that the tariff was responsible. I do not believe that the tariff has had any such effect; it would operate in the other direction, by restricting imports. The present Government has adopted the policy of wholesale importations, which must increase the volume of unemployment, and reduce the output of Australian factories. Yet it boasts of having balanced its budget. I contest that claim. It has certainly had a surplus, so far, of £2,000,000 or £3,000,000 ; but on the other hand, it has built up abroad an adverse trade balance of at least £12,000,000 which, in all probability, will amount to £15,000,000 at the end of the financial year.’. The figure will probably reach between £30;000,000 and £40,000,000 by the end of December, and the position of Australia will then be similar to what it was when the Scullin. Government assumed office, and it will be necessary to balance the budget in reality by prohibiting imports, and having all our requirements manufactured locally. Manufacturers who wish to build up their enterprises in this country should deal fairly and squarely with all sections, and not take advantage of the protection given to them by raising their prices unduly.
– There is no adverse trade balance to-day; our exports exceed our imports.
– I am astonished to hear that, because, only a month or two ago, the press throughout Australia published the statement that the adverse trade balance was then £11,000,000:
– Last year, our exports amounted to £13 0s. 6d. a head, while our imports were only £6 17s. a head - less than the total Commonwealth and State taxation.
– The position may have been altered by the suspension of interest payments abroad; it is not due to commendable administration by the Government. If what 1 have stated is not correct at the moment, it was the case a month ago, and it will be in the future.
– I - It is supported by the findings of the Melbourne Economic Conference, which recently warned the Government of the danger of the position.
– .Senator J. B. Hayes argued that if primary producers were to hold their own, the arbitration system must be abolished. His reasoning is somewhat obscure. A lowering of wages must lessen the purchasing power of the workers, and thus adversely affect the home market. Surely the honorable senator would- not wish to revert to what are termed “ the good old days ?” At that time, girls employed at dressmaking in South Australia received 2s. 6d. a week for the first year of their service, 5s. a week during the second year, and dismissal at the beginning of the third year. There were then no arbitration courts to fix wages and working conditions. The honorable senator ought to adopt the motto of the Great Master whom he follows, that “ The labourer is worthy of his hire.” The destruction of the arbitration system would benefit the unscrupulous employer, and be disadvantageous to the honest, straight dealer. In the “good old days” before arbitration, when there was individual, instead of collective bargaining for employment, I worked alongside married men who had to struggle to rear families on a wage of 4s. 6d. and 5s. a day. Whenever labour offered, one man underbid another, and agreed to perform the work for 6d. a day less. The conditions then were a disgrace, and remind one forcibly of the lines of Burns, “ Man’s inhumanity to man makes countless thousands mourn.” When the workers received higher wages, the home market was more profitable to the primary producer. The destruction of the Arbitration Court would ruin that market. Senator J. B. Hayes related the case of a man who had had to pay considerably more for a windmill than one had cost him some years ago. He also referred to the price charged for plough shares by a machinery firm in Launceston. That firm should have told him that the higher price of the imported article today is due, not to the tariff, but to other factors, including exchange, which is responsible for the addition of 25 per cent. On the other hand, the cost of the Australian article ought to be less than it was formerly, because wages have dropped by 30 per cent. Apparently, the honorable senator is prepared to accept as gospel the statement that the tariff is the principal agent in raising the prices of these commodities. He further pointed out that the price received for Australian butter in England is only 7£d. per lb. What we of the Labour party would like the dairymen of this country to realize is, that low wages and unemployment are destroying the home market, and that, if all the people were employed at decent wages, the whole of the butter produced would be disposed of. The honorable senator asked how we could export if we did not import. A year or so ago we imported annually from the United States of America goods to the value of £38,000,000, while that country took from us only £8,500,000 worth. That would seem to destroy the honorable senator’s argument. I am reminded of what a prominent Japanese Minister said, when South Africa complained that Japan took only a certain quantity of her goods, while her importations from Japan were three times as great. The Japanese Minister replied that if his country wanted goods from South Africa, and prices were satisfactory, it would purchase them, but if prices were unsatisfactory, it would not require them. When Senator Collings was speaking of the banking and credit system, Senator Sir Walter Greene interjected - “How are we to raise credit?” Let me remind him of the fact that credit was raised to the extent of £7,000,000 to enable the east-west, line to be constructed. For that project, not one penny was borrowed or one penny of interest paid. It is the only Government railway in Australia that is clear of debt, and it was constructed as a result of the raising of credit by the Commonwealth Bank. In a . similar manner, the Perth post office and a’ jetty at New Guinea were constructed.
– Whoever told the honorable senator that story about the Commonwealth railway line, was pulling his leg.
– I know as much about that project as the honorable senator. The money was provided from the profits of the note issue. No money was borrowed. It was a matter merely of a book entry transferring a sum of money from one department to another. If we want credit, why not raise it by availing ourselves of the resources of the Commonwealth Bank, an institution which belongs to the people of Australia?
– Instead of that, we are allowing the thieving private banks to fleece the people.
– About 100 years ago, the people of Guernsey Island wished to build a market place in the capital city at a cost of £4,500. The Parliament met, but had to confess that it had no money with which to undertake the project. A man named Jacobs, who knew something about finance, suggested that the money could be raised by issuing treasury notes to the value of £4,500, and making them legal tender. His suggestion was adopted, and as the notes returned to the treasury during the construction work, they were destroyed. Guernsey has now a market pi ace “which cost it practically nothing.
– The same thing was done in Australia to finance the war.
– When war broke out, the Commonwealth Bank raised credit to the extent of £300,000,000, although the actual notes, gold coin and bullion in Australia at that time was only £53,777,126. If war were declared to-morrow, credit would again be raised to finance it. There is, therefore, nothing to prevent us from raising credit to alleviate the unemployment and distress that exists throughout Australia to-day. What is wrong with this Government is that it has not the will to put such a scheme into effect. Senator Sir Walter
Greene has asked - “ How are we to raise credit?” My reply is that credit was raised in wartime, and it can be raised in time of peace.
– Credit can be raised to enable the brains of men to be blown out, but’ not to fill their stomachs.’
– Exactly. The public debt of Australia amounts to £1,197,874,262, the annual interest payment being £50,000,000, or nearly £1,000,000 a week. Senator Elliott referred to the Imperial Conference. The delegates at that conference must have known that Australia had to meet an annual interest payment of £50,000,000, that of a population of 6,500,000, only 1,000,000 were in employment, and that these alone had to bear the interest burden. But those delegates had hot the common decency even to suggest that Australia should be relieved of its huge burden of interest. In many instances we have repaid to the British money lenders, by way of principal and interest, more than the original amount borrowed, and Great Britain has been mighty lucky in that Australia has honoured its obligations.
– Has the honorable senator joined the Lang party?
– The honorable senator well knows my sentiments and feelings towards that party. It is impossible for 1,000,000 people to meet an interest payment- of £1,000,000 a - week, and the sooner this Government informs the money lenders overseas of that fact, the better it will be for this community. A golden opportunity was lost at the Imperial Conference to give Australia the relief that it well deserves. Surely the delegates were aware that the spread of unemployment throughout various countries was destroying their home markets for their products. They should have agreed to shorten the hours of labour so as to provide work for a greater number of people. We are living in an age of machinery, but the scientific development of machinery has been, not a blessing, but a curse to humanity. The increasing use of modern machinery has gradually thrown men out of employment, and even some of the inventors themselves have ended their days in poverty. Unless something is done to restrict the use of machinery, there will be no need for any one to work, because everything will be manipulated by machine, and the effect will by no means be beneficial to the community. An unemployed army is a menace. The men who are on the dole would prefer to work, but they can be given employment only by the raising of credit and the shortening of the hours of labour. Increased employment would stimulate the home market for our primary products and manufactures. When the Country party came into being, I had some hope that it would become an independent driving force, and be of benefit to the people generally; but, immediately it became a power in the land, it sank its identity by joining another party. Had it not done that, it would have been a cleaner and better party. It has resorted to various subterfuges ‘and intrigues, and, prior to the last election, and even just recently, it was unable to announce a true and straightforward policy. My advice to the Country party is to preserve its identity, whether or not in doing so it sinks or swims, so far as representation in this Parliament is concerned. I advise that party to follow the example of the Labour party and not enter into any coalition with any other party in order to save its skin. In my opinion, the Country party in South Australia has destroyed its effectiveness by linking itself with another party. Its members claim that they still belong to the Country party, but I submit that a party which does not stand definitely for one thing or the other has lost its power. The Country party in South Australia lost a golden opportunity to stand firm for its principles. Those who believe in the policy for which that party once stood should stand by that policy, irrespective of the immediate results. If by so doing they died politically, they would at least die honorably. A party which, in order to win seats in Parliament, seeks support from another party, is always on the edge of a precipice, for at any time it can be threatened with destruction by those with whom it is associated. I am afraid that, on many occasions, the fear of political extinction has caused men and parties to depart from a policy in which they believe.
Thousands of the supporters of the Country party in South Australia are disappointed with their party leaders.
– That may be said with even greater truth of the various sections of the Labour party.
– The swing of the political pendulum places a political party in power, and, in turn, displaces it.
– To which party does the honorable senator belong?
– I belong to the Australian Labour Party - not to the Lang party, or the Willis party, or even to the Lionel Hill party.
– But they all claim to be the true Labour party.
– The Australian Labour Party, to which I have belonged for many years, is the same Labour party to which Senator Reid at one time belonged. That honorable senator was, in his day, described as a “ red ragger”, and I suppose that even, the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce), when a humble carpenter, led a strike or two. What was said in earlier days of those honorable senators is now said of the present members of the Labour party.
I suggest that Senator Elliott should, as it were, put on another pair of spectacles, so that he could see other causes of our trouble than the tariff. At one time the H. V. McKay Harvester Company paid freight on harvesters to different destinations in Australia.
– I was not discussing that company’s operations, but the question of securing markets for our primary produce.
– The honorable senator places the whole blame on the tariff. He spoke only of primary production ; but I remind him that our primary and secondary industries must go hand in hand; that if one is destroyed, the other suffers with it. Senator Elliott claims a long connexion with primary production, but I have probably had a longer experience of primary production than he has had. Before the introduction of harvesters it was a common sight on many farms to see three strippers in a wheat field, each in control of one man. One man was employed in what was termed “ rounding up the heaps “, and three more were engaged in winnowing the wheat. To-day, one man in charge of a harvester does the work which then required seven men’s services; and yet bread was cheaper then than it is now. Senator Elliott complained of the drift of population from the country to the city, but he failed to associate that drift with the introduction of machinery which has displaced men in the country.
– Apparently, then, it would be wise to get back to the sickle.
– In the days of the sickle there were less murmurings than there are to-day, because there was less distress. It is questionable whether machinery has really been beneficial to mankind. When I visited Iron Knob some time ago, it seemed to me that there were fewer men working there than I saw on an earlier visit. I asked the manager who accompanied me where the men who, at the time of my previous visit were working on the face of the hill, were to be found. He showed me a huge steam shovel, which was digging up tha ore and emptying it into trucks or bins, and said, “ That machine takes the place of the 120 men who were here when you visited Iron Knob previously.” The same kind of thing is going on throughout the world, and “some remedy must be found for it. If we reduced the working week to 44 hours, we could find employment for 110 men where now only 100 men are required. It seems to me that by reducing the number of working hours each week, we may help to solve this problem in the interests of the whole community.
– Previous speakers have travelled from Dan to Beersheba, and I will journey from “ China to Peru “. I am pleased, Mr. President, that your ruling of a few. days ago permits some departure from the strict subject-matter of this bill. In .my opinion, that ruling has the support of the Standing Orders. One of the principles applied to the construction of written documents is that custom cannot prevail against the written law. The Standing Orders declare that the discussion upon a bill which the Senate may not amend “ need not be relevant” to the subject-matter. No ruling can make those words mean “must not be relevant “.
I wish to say something on the subject, of the tariff, which is the subject-matter of the bill. In the discussion which has already taken place, entirely opposite views have been expressed, according to the party to which the speaker has belonged. A visitor from Mars, capable of understanding English as. spoken in this chamber, would have concluded from Senator O’Halloran’s commendation of Senator Hardy, that those honorable senators were blood brothers, whereas, in fact, each attacked the Government for diametrically opposite reasons. Those things for which Senator Hardy blamed the Government were, in the opinion of. Senator O’Halloran, the only redeeming features in the Government’s policy. The same may be said of the commendation of Senator Hardy by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Barnes), Senator Collings, and other honorable senators. So far as I could follow Senator Elliott’s almost breathless attack on the Government, I gathered that he was disappointed with the tariff schedule. I, too, am disappointed with it, for I do not think that it contributes much to a reduction of “ duties. If one opinion more than another is held by politicians and economists throughout the world to-day, it is that high tariffs have contributed at least something to the present unsatisfactory state of affairs. This tariff schedule at least indicates a tendency to return to sanity in fiscal .matters, but- I cannot agree that it gives effect to the spirit of the Ottawa agreement, even when that agreement is read in the light of our election pledges. This country “would benefit greatly if, by practical demonstration, it could be proved to those who live, or at any rate, profess to live, in terror, that the manufacturing industries would perish if the. least part, of the cotton wool in which they are wrapped were taken away, those very industries are actually suffering because duties are too high in Australia, * and, indeed, in many other countries.
If opposed to the attitude of the Government to the tariff, I at least pay due regard to the difficulties which it has to face ..to-day, “and which it has had to face in the past. In Melbourne, at the time of the election as the result of which this Ministry was returned to power, an outcry was raised about the slashing of the tariff which this Government would indulge in if returned to office, and only a week or two ago, when the Chamber of Manufactures met in Melbourne, its president expressed the view that we were living “ under the shadow of Ottawa,” and it was at least suggested that there were possibilities, not only’ in the tariff now before us, but also in some future action which the Government might take, that would gravely imperil the whole of the manufacturing industries of Australia. It is unfortunate for those who have taken this view that, only last week, evidence was given before the Arbitration Court with regard to the conditions of industry in the woollen mills in Victoria, and it was revealed that in some of them the employees had worked, not merely day and night, including Sundays and holidays, but actually upon Eight Hours Day, in order to cope with the rush of business. There was an effort to make it appear that all that prosperity was the result of the Scullin tariff; but the fact was quite overlooked that when this tariff was introduced, it was said that it would, and in fact already had, inimically affected the industry. Ye’t we now have this testimony as to an extraordinary state of activity in the industry, whatever may be the cause of it.
If we look abroad, we shall find that there is not one economist in the world who does not agree that “the time has arrived for some, realization of the danger of this spirit of intense economic nationalism. There is not a single economist of note who has spoken upon the subject who has not said that high tariff barriers are a contributing cause, at any rate, to the condition in which the world finds itself to-day. Senator Brown stated last week that the ills of this country could not be cured by breaking down our tariff wall. My answer to that is that nobody wants to do it; but we do object to those who say that every man who resists each further increase in the height of the tariff wall is trying to demolish it. The point at issue between the parties in this Parliament, whether in this chamber or in . another place, is between those who would go on piling up the tariff wall higher and higher, and those who think that it is time a halt was called, and that having regard to the position of the country, some trial should be given to the theory of those who ‘believe that customs duties should be reduced. It was this feeling which led to the Ottawa Conference. It was generally thought that if we could not do anything to increase world trade, we should at least see what could be done to increase trade throughout the British Empire. I am sorry that the Ottawa agreement has not been interpreted in a more liberal spirit. Senator McLachlan, whose observations were necessarily restricted by your ruling, Mr. President, said that the only way in which the Government could observe the spirit of the Ottawa agreement was in the way it had done. He said that it had to reconcile its election pledges with that agreement.
Of course, the expression “ election pledges “ is a little vague. I am aware that some latitude must be allowed; those pledges are not to be interpreted as written agreements. The Ottawa agreement, on the other hand, is certainly a written one, and one does know where the Government stands in interpreting it. I shall have a little more to say regarding election pledges when dealing with another matter.
As I have said, the. cry that members of the Ministerial party had to meet in Victoria, at the time of the last election, was that they were tariff slashers and tariff wreckers. Of course, they had to put the view very strongly that that was not their history, although isolate’d passages from views expressed by individual members might seem to indicate that they were in favour of very much lower duties. In any speech I ever made on the subject of the tariff in the election campaign, I proclaimed myself to be as strong a believer in the lowering of tariffs as any member of the Country party in this chamber or in another place; but I had to contest the view that this party was about to set up a tariff-wrecking policy. I pointed to the fact that the present Prime Minister had been a member of the Ministry that introduced the very tariff that was being held up as a paragon of perfection.
– He was very satisfied with it at the time.
– Th at may be. I had not the advantage enjoyed by my honorable friend of being a Minister in the same government with him. Senator Elliott has shown how the views of men change. Such change may come about for various reasons. Some one has said that in this life, to live is to change, and to be perfect is to have changed often. So there are honorable senators who must now have achieved perfection. The bugbear of consistency, as it has been called, has prevented many a man from fully developing his faculties, and from honestly stating his views. That is the reason why I suggest that perhaps it would be a great work, comparable with the burning of the Alexandrian Library, to destroy Hansard. That would leave honorable senators free to express views which they have honestly changed. If the time arrives when I think that any view I hold to-day is wrong, I shall not be afraid to say so.
The Minister’s statement with regard to the Ottawa agreement, I venture to say, can hardly be correct.
– Under article 11, it was clearly contemplated that the agreement was to be implemented as I have suggested.
– Let us, in the first place, compare article 8 with the schedule. This article says -
His Majesty’s Government in the Commonwealth of Australia will invite Parliament to pass the legislation making the tariff changes necessary to give effect to the preference formula set forth in part 1 of schedule F appended hereto. …
Part I of schedule F contains the formula by which the margins between the British and foreign duties are to be varied. Supposing there were high duties against the British Empire, duties which were almost prohibitive, how would the position in any way be rectified by raising the duties against the foreigner still higher? It is quite clear, it appears to me, that in such a case as that it was intended that there should be, not a raising of foreign duties, but a viewing of the situation as a whole. If two objects are stationary, and we desire to increase the distance between them, we may do it in three ways. We may shift this one or that one, or we may shift them both. We can, therefore, give preference to Britain by reducing the duty on British goods, or by increasing the duty against the foreigner, or by doing both. It seems to me that in the present tariff the Ottawa agreement has been interpreted only as requiring a raising of the tariff wall against foreign imports. Take article 10, under which the Commonwealth Government undertakes that during the currency of the agreement -the tariff shall be based on the principle of competition as distinct from prohibition. Everything depends on the rates of duty against Great Britain, and not in the least on the duties against the foreigner. Even though the duties against the foreigner were prohibitive, those against Great Britain might still be prohibitive, too.
– What has the honorable senator to say regarding article 11?
– Article 11 states -
His Majesty’s Government in the Commonwealth of Australia undertake that a review shall be made as soon as practicable by the Australian Tariff Board of existing protective duties in accordance with the principles laid down in article 10 hereof, and that after the receipt of the report and recommendation of the Tariff Board, the Commonwealth Parliament shall be invited to vary, wherever necessary, the tariff on goods of United Kingdom origin in such manner as to give effect to such principles.
The Government undertakes to invite Parliament to give effect” to the recommendations of the Tariff Board, and I think that only the Government can say whether that article has been observed. I hope that when the Minister in charge of the bill deals with this matter, he will tell us exactly what the Empire has got out of this agreement in the way of preferential treatment.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
– While I express some doubt that the tariff schedule carries out in its spirit to the fullest extent the agreement arrived at at Ottawa, I welcome it as a step in the right direction. When the Ottawa agreement was under discussion, in this chamber, in, the legislature itself, in the press, and on the public platform, the so-called surrender of the power of Parliament to the Tariff Board, .embodied in articles 9 to 12 inclusive, was made the subject of very severe, at any rate, loud, criticism of the Government.
Two views have been put forward as to the position of the Tariff Board. The first is that, having been appointed under an act of Parliament containing provisions that the Minister shall refer to the board for inquiry and report, among other matters, the necessity for new, increased or reduced duties, the Minister shall not take action in respect of such matters, until he has received the report of the board, the question arises whether a Minister, in bringing forward a proposal for either a reduction or an increase of a duty is breaking a law, if in doing so he has no report from the Tariff Board. In my opinion, Parliament cannot put hobbles on itself. No Parliament can bind itself irrevocably within the ambit of its powers. There may be some difference in the case of a Parliament with enumerated powers, as in the case of the Commonwealth Parliament; but, within the ambit of its powers, no Parliament can put hobbles on itself. Nor can it put hobbles on any future Parliament. Prom this it follows that if Parliament passes an act which is contrary to some earlier law, even though that earlier act is not mentioned in it, the later piece of legislation will prevail, and will be considered as a repeal pro tanto of the earlier act. The position, therefore, is that if a Minister does bring, down a proposal which has not been submitted to the Tariff Board, and it is adopted by Parliament, nothing can be done to call the Minister or Parliament to account. It may be contended that if a Minister proceeded to break the law by bringing forward some, proposal, he could be restrained by some form of injunction such as was attempted in New South Wales recently? My answer to that is that I do not think any court would interfere with the selfgoverning powers of a Parliament, or attempt to prevent a Minister from bringing before Parliament a measure in respect of which Parliament has full power to act. Another view taken of the functions of the Tariff Board is that, by clothing it with its present authority, Parliament has surrendered its powers of self-government. The answer to that is that it is an exercise of the Parliament’s powers of self-government, when it delegates some of its powers. We do this every day. Almost every act that is placed on the statute-book contains a regulation-making power, granting to the Governor in Council, or some other body, sometimes a board, authority to make regulations which have the force of law. This is done particularly in the States in connexion with the management of the various railway systems. Parliament, realizing that it is not in a position itself to manage railways, sets up a board to which it gives power to make regulations governing the control of such undertakings.
– P - Parliament always retains the power of veto.
– Parliament must, of course, have that right. We have a most striking example of the operation of this principle in the case of our courts. Surely no matter could be of more importance to the community than the right of the liberty of the subject. Parliament entrusts that to a court of law.
– Has not Parliament given to the Tariff Board the right to determine whether duties are in conformity with the Ottawa agreement?
– Then Parliament has surrendered its power to tho board.
– But, in the final analysis, responsibility rests with Parliament.
– That is so.
– I - If, in the exercise of its responsibility, Parliament departs from a recommendation of the Tariff Board, it violates the Ottawa agreement.
– Yes, but subject to the qualification that Parliament may take the responsibility, of repudiating that, agreement. It sent, not directly, but indirectly, certain of its representatives to Ottawa, where, acting within the powers given to them, they entered into a certain agreement; but, as I say, it may take the responsibility of repudiating that document. Otherwise, it is bound to carry out the agreement which its duly authorized representatives entered into with other Empire countries. The position is precisely . the same as if an agreement had been made with some country outside the Empire. If Parliament does not approve of the arrangement made, there is no law by which Parliament can be forced to accept it. But having, through its representatives, made an agreement, its non-acceptance by this Parliament would be tantamount to repudiation of its terms. For my part, so far from desiring to limit the power of the Tariff Board, I think we should have a board stronger in personnel, and with more defined powers.
– And And a board with more pronounced Australian sentiments.
– Tariff questions are immensely difficult to handle. Last year I annoyed an honorable colleague in this chamber, when I said that none of us was able to comprehend, without inquiry, what the indirect consequences might be of any tariff which we passed. I adhere strongly to that view, and I submit that the board is in a much better position than are members of Parliament to arrive at a decision as to what duties shall be imposed in respect of any given industry. I say this because the board hears the evidence, and has an opportunity to cross-examine the witnesses before arriving at a conclusion. Nor can I shut my eyes to the fact that sometimes members of Parliament have to keep their ears close to the ground. They have .to consider the views of the constituencies which they represent; they have to forget a little of what is due to the people as a whole, and to remember, possibly, what is due to opinion in their own constituencies. The ideal tariff board would be a body presided over by a chairman, who was a judge or a barrister of long experience - I am not after the billet - -well qualified to cross-examine witnesses and weigh the evidence given. Another member of the board should be an economist, able to advise as to the probable effects of tariffs, and the remaining members of the board should be ordinary capable business men. I believe that, if we had a board so constituted, we should not, as sometimes happens now, be presented with pictures on hearsay evidence of what was being done. in Japan, or of preparations being made elsewhere to dump goods in Australia* We should then have some assurance that no tariff proposals would be’ introduced without first having been the subject of an inquiry and approval by the board.
The difficulties of reconciling conflicting interests in a great continent like Australia are obvious. Senator Herbert Hays said last week that it was impossible to reconcile the claims of people living in one part of Australia with those of people living in other parts of the Commonwealth. I do not take quite so pessimistic a view of the situation as that; but I realize that there is conflict of interests, and I submit that it is the duty of this Parliament to pass such legislation as will, while helping one section of the community, rest as lightly as possible upon other sections. In other words, I believe that the varied interests of this continent should be considered when we are passing legislation of this kind. To illustrate the difficulties I have mentioned, we have only to consider the position in two of the States, and for the purpose of my argument, I cite Victoria - my own .State, which, if I may say so respectfully, is bigotedly protectionist - and Western Australia, which I may describe as being tepidly freetrade.
– How can their conflicting interests bo reconciled?
– I admit the difficulty, and I put it to the Senate that reconciliation will not be possible if Parliament is asked to pass legislation which will enlist the support of a larger number of voters in the industrial State of Victoria, rather than that . of the smaller number of voters in the agricultural State qf Western Australia. These conflicting interests can, I believe, be reconciled if, in all our legislative proposals, we bear in mind that the interests of Western Australia and the other smaller States have to be considered, and if to that end, we moderate our proposals on the principle of the greatest good for the greatest number, resolving not to impose excessive tariffs if their effect will be to press too heavily upon the people in some part of the Commonwealth. I believe that we can reconcile these conflicting interests, but not if one section thinks only of the needs of its own State, to the utter neglect of any other State.
– Who does that?
– I doubt that any honorable senator would admit that he has ever been guilty of doing this. But, when I think of the state of feeling in Western Australia - I had an opportunity of testing it quite lately- and know that the people there are convinced that Parliament in Canberra is doing it every day, I believe it is imperilling the whole fabric of the Commonwealth. We know what is the feeling in Western Australia for secession, and, so far as South Australia is concerned, we have been informed by its Premier that, if a vote were taken in that State to-day, there would be a very large majority for secession. We have been told that the same feeling exists in Tasmania.
– I am pleased to hear Senator Sampson say that, because he knows the feeling in Tasmania better than I do. I hope that he. is right. But I do know it has been threatened that, at the next election, the one cry in Tasmania will be for the repeal of the coasting trade provisions of the Navigation Act, and that those candidates who do not promise to vote for such a movement in this Parliament will not get the support of the Tasmanian electors as a whole. It is a reflection upon our powers of self-government that we cannot govern the whole country of Australia in such a way as to prevent certain States of the Commonwealth from feeling that they have been grossly injured.
– I - I think it is a reflection on the present Government.
– That is not so, because the position was quite as bad under other governments. If the honorable senator is really serious about the matter, let me remind him that he and his party are what I described the State of Victoria as being, bigotedly protectionist; and if there is one thing more than another that has brought the people of Western Australia to the frame of mind they are in to-day, it is the working of this system of bigoted protection. The honorable senator’s party stands for that system more than does any other section of the chamber.
Let me turn now to some of the speeches that have been delivered on this subject. Those of the direct Opposition were all on the one pattern. Honorable senators had to pose as the friends of the primary producers, but dared not say one word against high protection. They balanced the matter very nicely, steering a course between Scylla and Charybdis, taking care not to offend those with the largest number of votes, and directing their animus to those who have not many votes - the bankers.
Now let us consider those who are attacking the tariff schedule. First of all there is Senator Johnston. I agree broadly with the fiscal sentiments expressed by him, though he may desire to go further than I would; perhaps not further than I would desire to go if I were beginning everything afresh, but further than I am prepared to go now. We must remember that we have built up, over a long course of years, a groat many industries which have prospered and developed, relying in good faith upon what the people of Australia would do. I do not think that we are entitled to disregard that altogether, and, therefore, at the present stage of our history, whatever my theoretical beliefs may be, I am not prepared to proclaim myself a revenue tariffist.
May I inquire of Senator Johnston how he reconciles his position as a senator here with his position as - what shall I call it? - a rebel in Western Australia? Perhaps he does not regard himself as a rebel, but, frankly, and without straining language at all, I find it hard to draw the distinction between those who would break this indissoluble Commonwealth into which we have entered, and straight-out rebels. I go so far as to say that a member of this Senate, a chamber specially charged with the responsibility of looking after the interests of the States, places himself in a remarkable position indeed when he puts himself at the head of a movement, the purpose of which is to break up the Commonwealth. That is a matter for him, and it is not for me to do anything further than let it be known that that is the attitude I, at any rate, take up, and it is the attitude, I think, of a great many other persons who understand the Constitution, and the solemnity of the compact entered into.
– It is not the attitude of a majority of the people of
Western Australia, including members of the Nationalist party.
– That may be so, but if the Nationalist party, and a majority of the people of Western Australia, took that view, then there was a special duty on the honorable senator, as a member of this Senate, to go out on the platform and point out to them that they were seeking to brand themselves as repudiators.
– Nothing of the kind-; they were seeking a fair deal for themselves and their State.
– I thank the honorable senator for teaching me that phrase. He says that what the people of Western Australia want is a fair deal for their Sta.te. What is a fair deal?
– In other words, the honorable senator wants to break up the Commonwealth which the States entered into, and for which, “ humbly relying on the blessing of almighty God “, the people of Western Australia voted. In effect, the honorable senator has told us that in Western Australia there are more people prepared to pursue a path of dishonesty than one of honesty. That is not a compliment to the State he represents. He has said that Western Australia wanted a fair deal. The honorable senator,” like myself, recollects the early days of federation. What is the fair deal the people of Western Australia require? I have said, and the honorable senator applauded, that the principal grievance is the question of the tariff. Has Western Australia ever returned to this Parliament a party; or any individual, pledged to secure justice in that respect?
– A motion was moved in the other chamber to give Western Australia control of its own customs duties, but the Government refused to provide facilities for the discussion of it.
– In 1914, there was a double dissolution of the Commonwealth Parliament. Both Houses went to the country. At that time the Labour party, which sometime previously had been fiscal agnostics, having left its members free to take what view they pleased, made the maintenance of protection a plank of their platform. At that election, six members of the Labour party w6re returned from Western Australia.
– What about 1932 and 1933?
– Oh, the people of the State have wakened up since then ; but, instead of sending representatives to this Parliament who would plead their cause, or of sending such representatives ,to their own State Parliament, they have come to the conclusion that Western Australia is suffering from special disabilities. As a matter of fact, the world is suffering from disabilities, Australia probably less than any other part of the world, and Western Australia less than any other part of Australia. They are like the Cornishman, the Jew and the crucifixion ; they have only just discovered that a depression has hit the world, and immediately they want to dissolve the Constitution.
– What about the Disabilities Commission of 1925?
– It may be’ true, as the honorable senator suggests, that, the people of Western Australia woke up as long ago as 1925. I thought that the awakening had taken place only in 1932.
I desire now to deal with Senator Hardy’s position. He, too, wants the redress of grievances. He, too, attacks the Government for not being freetra.de, or something near it.
– That is not correct.
– It is an oratorical exaggeration, I admit, and I meant it as such. Senator Hardy was a very young person when the first federal election was held, so I may inform him that, at that time, the matter that had troubled the builders of federation, namely, (he fiscal issue in New South Wales and Victoria, was very much alive. New South Wales had been freetrade, while Victoria, broadly speaking, had been protectionist, and it was feared that there would be a conflict between them. When the first election came, the fiscal fight was carried into the federal sphere. What happened then ? Does the honorable senator know the names of his predecessors? Does he know that Sir William Lyne, leader of the protectionist party of New South Wales, was returned for an electorate situated in the very district in which the honorable senator himself resides? Does he know that Mr. Chanter, the faithful henchman of Sir William Lyne, was returned for the adjoining district ofRiverina? Does he know that the Eden-Monaro electorate returned Sir Austin Chapman, also a protectionist? In a freetrade State, under the strong protectionist influence of Victoria, electorates just across the border returned protectionists, while in Victoria itself, for the constituency of Wimmera, a man almost unknown in the annals of Australia defeated Sir William Irvine, whose name, I venture to say, will for long be remembered. Mr. Kennedy, a protectionist, won the electorate of Moira ; Mr. McColl, also a protectionist, was returned for Echuca, and Mr. Isaacs, now Governor-General of the Commonwealth, won Indi. These are all constituencies along the river Murray in the Riverina. That was the time to shape the destiny of the nation, but the country people were, to use Senator Johnston’s expressive phrase “ sold a pup “. They all turned protectionist, and elected their representatives as such. Now we are told that it is protection that has ruined the farmers. I do not wish to be misunderstood; I do not wish any one to think that I have not the fullest sympathy with the farmers. I have. I believe that unfair burdens have been placed on them in the past, but it should be remembered that they themselves were responsible for many of the burdens they bear.
I now come to the remarks of Senator Hardy, and I regret that I have to disagree with much that he said, with his manner of saying it, and with the time he chose for saying it. His allegations may be classified under two main heads: first, his charges against the Deputy Leader of the Government, the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham), and, secondly, his charges against Sir Henry Gullett. With regard to the first, he made the following statement: -
I have the papers here, and I can show that the party I represent entered into the agreement, and that the agreement was jettisoned by the United Australia Party. It was an honorable agreement, whereby two great political parties entered intopartnership, and two days before the final election count, on the 17th December, the Deputy Leader of the United Australia Party threw overboard every principle we had agreed upon.
A little later he referred to the Attorney-General as having deliberately stabbed the Country party in the back, and made other allegations directly affecting his honour. I have known Mr. Latham since we were at the University together-
– There is nothing in Hansard which records me as saying that Mr. Latham stabbed the rural industries in the back.
– This is what the honorable senator is reported to have said -
I have no hesitation in saying that, on the occasion referred to, the Attorney-General deliberately stabbed the Country party in the back.
If he did not say that, he has been misreported. As one who knows the reputation which Mr. Latham bore when we were fellow students at the University, and knowing the reputation he bears now, I resent the honorable senator’s statement. I resent any allegation that the AttorneyGeneral stabbed anybody in the back, or was guilty of anything in the nature of a direct breach of confidence. The statement has been made that an agreement was entered into and was jettisoned. In spite of the certainty with which the honorable senator spoke, he has not shown us when the agreement was entered into, by whom it was entered into, where it is, or what are its terms.
– I did that in my speech.
– On several occasions the honorable senator quoted from statements that were published in the Sydney Morning Herald, not one of which bears out the statement that an agreement was entered into. Later, the honorable senator said - “I definitely challenge the Minister in charge of the bill to prove that I have not accurately given the reply of the Minister for Trade and Customs to the deputation “. That deals with the other phase, to which 1 shall refer later. I quote it now for the purpose of drawing attention to the fact that the rule is that the onus of proof rests upon him who affirms, and not upon him who denies. Since the honorable senator has affirmed that there is an agreement in existence, the onus of proof rests upon him when the allegation is denied. He has not done anything except make reference to a generalized account of a conference which was held in Sydney. I was not at that conference, and I cannot say anything about it; but I have no doubt that one of the Ministers in this chamber will have something to say upon the subject. All that I am relying upon is, not to prove that such an agreement was not entered into, but to show that the honorable senator has not proved that it was entered into. When the honorable senator speaks in such severe tones of the statement that was made by the AttorneyGeneral on the 17th ‘December, on the eve of the elections, he should remember one thing in particular, something to which 1 have already called attention, that in Victoria the Government, which was then the Opposition, was on the defensive in regard to the tariff issue. It was being accused of slashing; the tariff; or of harbouring an intention to jettison it. It was being said that the return of that party to power would place the whole of the manufacturing industry of Victoria in grave peril. The present AttorneyGeneral was the leading member of the’ United Australia party in that State, and very naturally had to act as spokesman for it. Very naturally, too, he had to meet those charges, and the statement which he gave to the press on that occasion was directed, to the attack which was being made on the party.
– Does the honorable senator mean to say that the party had a policy for one State, and another policy for another State?
– No ; but we are not, in this instance, dealing with a written contract or statement. The present Prime Minister was in Tasmania, the Attorney-General was in Victoria, anc! the Minister for Defence was in Western Australia. They could not be persuaded to talk like gramophones; but, in broadoutline, each was. giving the policy of the Government.
– This was a statement, not a speech.
– That may be; but it was a statement which was made in reply to attacks that were being made on the United Australia party to the effect that it was an anti-tariff party.
– Does the honorable senator mean to say that that was not intended to be a national statement ?
– I certainly do not mean to say that there was anything iii it from which the Attorney-General would desire to run away, either then or now.
– Did the honorable senator believe that the Government it> tended to revalidate the Scullin tariff?
– I know .that some tariff has to be in existence. The Soullin tariff was validated as a formal act to enable the Government to carry on until February, when Parliament was to meet. Surely no person believes that in the interval between the Government assuming office and February of the next year, when Parliament, met, it could, Minerva-like. fully’ armed, have evolved a new tariff consisting of from 1,100 to 1,200 items? If it could not do that, the only alternative was to revalidate the Scullin tariff or revalidate it with such modifications as could be prepared in the short time at its disposal. We have had the tariff before us in various forms, but it has not been properly agreed to by both chambers for at least three to four years.
Let me pass on to the allegation that has been made against Sir Henry Gullett, who is also a very old friend of mine, but whom I could not here defend if I thought that he were acting in any way unworthy of a man in his position. I. am one of those who were present at that deputation. I was not formally invited to be there, but was told that we were welcome, and I Went. I have to add that my contribution to the somewhat disedifying controversy that has arisen must be mainly negative. That fact in itself is not without importance. It is over twelve months since that gathering took place. Senator Hardy was not one of those who were present; therefore, any account which he gives of it is sub ject to two sources of error: The gentleman who told him about it may have mistaken or given a wrong emphasis to some particular phase; or Senator Hardy may have mistaken or given a wrong emphasis to the story that was told to him by that gentleman. Senator Hardy’s statement in this matter comes under the heading of what is known as hearsay evidence which, in the courts of law with which I am familiar, is not evidence at all.
– Was the deputation a private one?
– Was it a public deputation ?
– Not in the sense of being a public meeting, but certain honorable senators of a political party were informed that the gathering was to take place; I heard of it only at the last moment. I have said that my contribution to this subject can be mainly negative. That means that if the chief things that are alleged by Senator Hardy to have taken place had taken place, I certainly would not have forgotten them, and, what is more, I should not have left, that meeting without having expressed my views upon the subject. Senator Hardy, no doubt, is not responsible for the way in which certain items appear in print. In Hansard there appears, in what the printers call eight point solid type, what would be taken to be a direct or verbatim report of what was said by Sir Henry Gullett. Hansard reports Senator Hardy as havingsaid -
Replying to inquiries as to the manner in which the Ottawa agreement would be implemented, and the intentions of the Government in regard of the tariff, Sir Henry Gullett said-
And then there appears the following in eight point: -
It is true we (the United Australia Party) had an agreement with the Country party prior to the elections to include in our programme the reduction of duties. However, as the campaign progressed we found that we could not win Maribyrnong and other “ halfway “ electorates, on such a programme. So we decided to delete these words and substitute “ that we would” go on Tariff Board reports.” That this new programme was justified, is shown by the fact that we won Maribyrnong and several other seats, but what was better, we were able to form a government by ourselves and leave the Country party out.
I very much regret that my honorable friend, Senator Carroll, for whose personal integrity, and for whose marvellously accurate memory no one can have a higher opinion than I have, should have said that he regarded Senator Hardy’s statement as being substantially correct. I venture to say that if the honorable senator had said that it was formally true, but not substantially true, it would have been nearer to the facts, because the substance of it is not correct.
It certainly is not correct to convey the impression that Mr. Gullett, as he then was, said that we, the United Australia party, had an agreement, and that we varied that agreement by striking out some written clause that appeared in it, and substituting some other written clause. That is not true, either in substance orin fact. I venture to say - with diffidence I admit - that Sir Henry Gullett did not , on that occasion say that there was any agreement. In the course of his remarks, he most certainly did say something about winning certain seats, but he did not say that an agreement was altered by one of the parties to it; and, having regard to the fact that the honorable member fought the election on the same platform as we did, I regard as a reflection upon every member of the United Australia party who was present the insinuation that we would tolerate those remarks being made without uttering a protest.
– Sir Henry Gullett could not have said it, because there was not an agreement.
– That is not quite conclusive. He might have said it although there was not an agreement ; but it is extremely unlikely that he would have done so, if there was not such an agreement, and it is extremely unlikely even if those who, like himself, fought the election on the same platform, could know nothing whatever about its existence.
We then have this further astounding fact. This is supposed to have been a stabbing in the back, and Mr. Latham did the stabbing - what is contained in the press is the proof of it - yet if Sir Henry Gullett’s interview bore the interpretation that has been put upon it by Senator Hardy and was in the terms alleged, although two members of the Country party were present and heard it all, and were in a far better position to judge exactly what weight should be attached to it than anybody who was not present could be, they have not breathed a word of protest against it.
– The AttorneyGeneral has denied that statement a dozen times from the public platform.
– A statement by Mr. Latham was published in the press a day or two ago. I repeat that at no time in this chamber, in the other chamber, or in the precincts of this Parliament has a protest been raised about the supposed violation of an alleged agreement, until it was raised in this chamber last week by Senator Hardy, who was not present at the gathering.
– The honorable senator has referred to another place. I refer him to the speech made on the 13th April by the Secretary of the Conference, Mr. Abbott.
– I have not a copy of that speech, and I regret that I cannot digress to deal with it now. I merely repeat that it is remarkable that if this dastardly back-stabbing did take place, and the Country party was sold a pup, or any other canine freak, nothing was said of it until the subject was raised in this chamber by Senator Hardy.
Those who were present at the gathering know best the atmosphere that surrounded it. A man knows that, without anybody putting his finger to his lips, closing doors, or guarding them with tylers, gatherings can be held that are private, while others can be held whose deliberations are meant for the press. Senator Hardy was not present, and, therefore, had not an opportunity to sense that atmosphere.
– The honorable senator said that the gathering was not a private one.
– I am now trying to explain the difference between a gathering which is understood to be not for the public, but between ourselves, and another at which is made a declaration of policy which it is desired to send all over Australia.
– E - Evidently something occurred which the party desired to hide.
– I know of nothing which it was desired to hide. Senator Hardy may reflect that he has given joy in the ranks of the Opposition. Senator O’Halloran displayed the beauties of the web that he had spun, and invited all who wished to walk into it. but he will have much difficulty in reconciling the views of the party which he supports with those of the party which Senator Hardy supports. I do think that, in the long run, Senator Hardy will realize that although there may be little differences between the party he represents and the party which is in power, they are superficial, and not fundamental, as are the differences which separate the Labour from the Country party, and that his great talents as a persuasive speaker would be better employed in reconciling, rather than aggravating, those minor differences.
– I am the leader of a movement which has 800 branches.
– What a wonderful opportunity the honorable senator has to act as the conciliator to bring together two political parties which have no fundamental disagreement, but are divided only by those trifles of which Tom Moore has spoken in a well-known poem.
– Why not apply, those principles?
- Senator Collings utters some guttural noises which, although indistinguishable as words, indicate that he is annoyed. Had the honorable senator not shown his annoyance in that way, I might have forgotten .that for about an hour and a half he spoke in such violent terms that one might have, been justified in believing that he felt keenly on the subject. The honorable senator had a cure for all our evils.’ He said that if the misguided people of Australia Would only reject the present Government, or, better, had they not put it into power, but had left the previous Government in office, things would have been all right. I merely say that both in the Federal and State spheres, the Labour party has attempted to govern, and that the world seems, to have gone (along much the same in countries which are governed by Labour parties as in other countriesnot so governed.
– No country has’ ever been governed by the Labour party.
– The world must be wiser than I thought. From the spate of words which flowed from Senator Collings, I gathered that he had a cure similar to that which Jack Cade had for. the world’s ills. The honorable senator would abolish money, and enter a lot of figures on each side of a big book. I do not know which would be the credit, side ; but, apparently, so long as it contained more figures than were shown on the debit side, things would be all right. Men of intelligence and acumen have devoted their lives to the building up of institutions - -
– Their intelligence has brought the world to the condition it is in today.
– I have here an extract from a press report - no doubt a tainted source, in the opinion of Senator Collings - of an article by Mr. Harold Cox, a well-known economist in the old world, who had something to say before the last election in England. It is so well worth enshrining in Hansard that I shall read two passages from it -
Perhaps the most dangerous of all the schemes now being put forward by the Labour party is the proposal that the banks should bc socialized. Briefly, this means that the Socialists propose to take into their own hands the whole of the marvellous financial machinery that the bankers and merchants of the City of London have built up; in the course of generations, by personal enterprise and traditional acumen. It may fairly be asked who arc these leaders of the Labour party who propose suddenly to take possession of, and to control, one of the most delicate pieces of commercial mechanism that has yet been devised.
– One of them was Viscount Snowden, the Chancellor of ‘ the Exchequer in a Labour Government.
– The article continues -
They are men who have won their way from the ranks of manual labour into positions of authority in the House of Commons, but they have no experience of the intricate problems which daily occupy the minds of our bankers - problems affecting not England only, but all parts of the world.
– They are all in a state of chaos now.
– That may be, but the position is not so bad as it would have been had the last election in Australia resulted differently.
– That is a bit of special pleading worthy of the police court, but not of this assembly. The honorable senator should try it on the people of “Woolloomooloo, or of Surry Hills, and see what answer he would get.
– I am afraid that I do not follow the honorable senator who sits there looking like Beau Brummel. but talking like Jack Cade. The honorable senator speaks slightingly of the police court, but I can tell him that I have seen more intelligence in the police court than might be expected at a meeting addressed by the honorable senator.
– For every insult which he gives to me, the honorable senator will receive an insult in return.
– That is encouraging. Unlike most elections, the last election was not merely a means to an” end ; it was an end in itself. Had that election resulted differently, the Commonwealth would to-day have been over the brink. The Opposition of that time was charged with the heavy responsibility of trying to avoid that dire disaster. After this interruption, I shall resume my quotation from the article by Mr. Cox -
But the banking scheme of the Labour party is even more grotesque than this. The paper money which is to be issued for the benefit of the poor would have no value behind it. There would be no backing of gold, or of goods; nothing but the rhetoric of Labour politicians.
– Is there any gold now?
– The article proceeds -
That rhetoric may be of temporary value on electioneering platforms, but it is worth nothing to people who want hard cash. If once our Labour politicians started on this scheme, within a very short time the value of their paper would fall as the German paper mark fell a few years after the war, till a billion paper marks were needed to pay for one postage stamp.
In spite of that tribute to the intricacies and difficulties of banking, written by a man with experience in such matters, we find honorable senators opposite prepared to rush in where angels fear to tread. One honorable senator opposite made some derogatory remarks concerning Mr. Montagu Norman, but I have no doubt that that gentleman will survive them.’ I commend to honorable senators opposite, who are so confident of regenerating the world by reconstituting the banking system, some views expressed by Mr. Montagu Norman at a bankers’ dinner held in London a few months ago, when he said -
Vast forces, including the herd instinct and the desperation of people having neither work nor markets, had .caused a series of events uncontrollable by any man or government. , It seemed impossible to get united world action. The difficulties are so vast, the forces so unlimited and so novel, and’ the precedents are so lacking that I approach thewhole subject in ignorance and humility. It is too great for me. I am willing to do my best. I see light at the end of a tunnel somewhat indistinctly, but we have not yet emerged from our difficulties.
I desire to correct some of the statements expressed with such confidence by honorable senators opposite. We are at a stage now, and will be when the next election comes round, when the great banking institutions should be in the hands of men who understand the business rather than of men whose ignorance of it is in direct ratio to their confidence when speaking about it.
– They have always been in those hands, not in ours.
– I hope that they remain there. I have likened my honorable friend’s sentiments to those of Jack Cade, some of which I shall read. For example -
For our enemies shall fall before us, inspired with the spirit of putting down Kings and Princes.
– Have I said that?
– The honorable gentleman has expressed somewhat similar sentiments. The quotation continues -
Be brave then, for your captain is brave, and vows reformation. There shall be in England seven halfpenny loaves sold for a penny; the three-hooped pot shall have ten hoops, and I will make it a felony to drink small beer.
Would not the honorable senator - a lifelong teetotaller - make it a felony to drink small beer? And does he not dislike all kings and princes? Here is another -
When I am King there shall be no money. All shall eat and drink at my score.
If the honorable senator does not agree with that, what is his view of this -
The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.
The honorable senator would couple the bankers with the lawyers and kill them off together.
I shall not detain the Senate longer. I conclude by saying that I am somewhat of a pessimist in regard to the power of Parliament - even if it were a united Parliament - to regenerate the kingdom of mankind. Broadly speaking, I have more belief in its power to do evil than in its power to do good. But I am not absolutely without hope. I think that a great deal might yet be done; and the greater part of what could be done would be done if we were prepared to adopt a law that was not passed by a parliament, but is older than any of them - the golden rule - if we were prepared to see that we did unto others as we would they should do unto us. If we always bore that in mind, we should settle not only our tariff, but also most of our other difficulties.
– L - Let the Government’s legislation be modelled on those lines, and it will have our support.
– On the contrary, I believe that if the Government brought forward for ratification the Lord’s Prayer, the Opposition, as a body, would oppose it. It is useless for honorable senators opposite to profess that they are always willing to assist whatever is good that comes from this side of the Senate. Their endeavour will always be to embarrass the Government if they can. The purpose of an opposition is to oppose, and that is the motto which honorable senators opposite live up to. Even though I may not have said one thing that many honorable senators may like to have heard, they will find that my actions will be dictated by the political tactics that arise when a vote is to be taken upon this question. I shall not be one of those who play into the hands of the Opposition by embarrassing the Government, if no good is to come out of it.
[9.5]. - At the outset I direct the attention of the Senate to the similarity between the present amendment of Senator Johnston, and that which he moved when the United Kingdom and Australia trade agreement, popularly known as the Ottawa agreement, was before this chamber. The honorable senator then moved -
That the following new clause be added: - “ 3. In operating the agreement the margin of preference in favour of British goods set out in Schedule F shall be obtained by lowering British, and not raising foreign duties, except on items where British duties are so low that the margin could not otherwise be obtained.”
The vote on that amendment resulted in its being defeated by 24 to 9. Thus theSenate has already expressed its opinion concerning a considerable portion of the amendment that we now have before us, which reads -
That the bill be returned to the House of Representatives with a request that the House will so amend the bill that the terms and the spirit of the Ottawa agreement shall be given effect to in so far as concerns the British preferential duties referred to in the bill, that is to say, will so amend the bill that the proposed duties against British goods shall be reduced to the level of the 1021-1030 tariff in all cases where they have been raised above that level without report by the Tariff Board.
Although the wording is different, the effect is practically the same.
Let us review the position in regard to the tariff. First of all, I would remind honorable senators that, when the Ottawa Conference assembled, an Australian tariff was already in existence. If honorable senators will cast their minds back, they will remember that, when the present Parliament assembled, it became necessary to validate what was, in fact, the Scullin tariff.
– It had just been validated prior to the dissolution.
– It was validated until February, 1932, in which month Parliament had to be called together to validate it again, with certain amendments based on Tariff Board reports. During 1932, the new Government acted upon the reports of the Tariff Board as they came to hand, and, up to the time tha.t the Ottawa agreement was made, a number of changes were effected in the tariff. In the light of that fact, let us consider article 11 of the agreement. It reads -
His Majesty’s Government in the Commonwealth of Australia undertake that a review shall be made as soon as practicable by the Australian Tariff Board of existing protective duties in accordance with the principles laid down in article 10 hereof.
The important words follow - and that after the receipt of the report and recommendation of the Tariff Board, ‘ the Commonwealth Parliament shall be invited to vary, wherever necessary, the tariff on goods of United Kingdom origin in such manner as to give effect to such principles.
When that article was agreed to by the Government of the United Kingdom and the Government of Australia, the tariff was in existence. The representatives of the Government of the United Kingdom, in accepting that article, were aware of that fact, and therefore agreed with the Government of Australia that, from and after the acceptance of the agreement, the procedure outlined in it should be adopted by the Australian Parliament in making any alterations of the tariff. The principles to be observed are contained in articles 10 and 12. Article 10 reads-
His Majesty’s Government in the Commonwealth of Australia undertake that, during the currency of this agreement, the tariff shall be based on the principle that protective duties shall not exceed such a level as will give United Kingdom producers full opportunity of reasonable competition on the basis of the relative cost of economical and efficient production, provided that in the application of such principle special consideration may bc given to the case of industries not fully established.
Article 12 is as follows:-
His Majesty’s Government in the Commonwealth of Australia undertake that no new protective duty shall be imposed and no existing duty shall be increased on United Kingdom goods to an amount in excess of the recommendation of the tariff tribunal.
Upon the ratification by Parliament of that agreement, the Government officially drew the attention of the Tariff Board to it, and requested that it be taken into consideration in all future recommendations of the board. From that time, every recommendation has been in accord with those principles.
The first point to which I draw the attention of honorable senators is that Senator Johnston’s amendment is not in accord with that procedure, but asks the Senate to affirm a line of action which is in direct conflict with article 11 ; that is to say, it asks the Senate to make a request to another place for the alteration of existing duties by arbitrary parliamentary action, without reference to the Tariff Board.
I shall now show that, even before the Ottawa Conference, action was taken by the Government to give effect to its election pledge that it would not alter the tariff by ministerial action, but would await recommendations from the Tariff Board, and implement them if it were in accord with them. In the total British preferential tariff rates, there have been 33 increases and 192 decreases, and in the protective British preferential tariff rates, 25 increases and 153 decreases. The total number of alterations in both theBritish and the general tariff have been-Increases, 473 ; decreases, 196. Of those 473 increases, 440 were necessitated by the application of the Ottawa formula margin of preference, which arose out of the Ottawa agreement. Excluding- these, there have been 33 increases and 196 decreases. Let us now consider those 440 increases. The number of. such increases at the various percentages in the foreign rate is as follows : -
The number of increases in the foreign rate, where the British rate was free, 3 percen t., 10 per cent., and 12½ per cent., are- Free, 89 ; 5 per cent., two ; 10 per cent., seven; 12½ per cent., one. Therefore, of these 99 increases, it can be said that the grant of the formula margin of preference - 15 per cent. is the lowest margin of preference agreed upon- necessitated an increase of the rates of duty in the general tariff. The only way in which we could implement the Ottawa agreement in respect of tbpse 99. items was by increasing the rates of duty in the general tariff.
– What about the other 300 odd items?
– In 244 of those, the duty on foreign goods is increased by 5: per cent. There is a difference of opinion as to whether the Government acted rightly or wrongly; but that subject need not be referred toat this stage. I have given the Senate an analysis of thetariff alterations as an indication of the Government’s policy.
I come now to the request of Senator Johnston. At the end of 1932, after the Parliament had adopted the Ottawa agreement, the attention of the Tariff Board was directed to its terms, and the board was requested to consider all tariff recommendations in the light of the articles of that agreement. Since then - during the present calendar year - the Tariff Board has recommended reductions under 53 items, most of which have been given effect in conformity with the Ottawa agreement. The board is proceeding to review all the protective duties not already dealt with by it in accordance with the principles of the Ottawa agreement.
– Can that be done before the expiration of the agreement?
– It can be done a long time before that. The reports as they are received from the board will be considered by the Government. If any are dealt with while the Senate is debating the tariff, the decision of the Government will be reported to the Senate, and action can then be taken by moving requests in the Senate. As the Government deals with the subsequent reports of the board, resolutions can be brought down in another place to give effect to them. In that way, it should be possible to have practically all’ items of the tariff reviewed during the life of this Parliament. I say that advisedly, in view of the valuable work that has already been done by the Tariff Board. In that review, honorable senators will not have to cover the whole range of the tariff, because many of these protective duties have already been the subject of reports by the Tariff Board, and will need to be reviewed only in the light of the principles laid down in articles 9 and 12 of the Ottawa agreement.
– Will the reports of the board be made available to the Parliament immediately they are received by the Government?
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.Certainly not. The honorable senator must, as a business man, know that the premature disclosure of any of the recommendations of the board might adversely affect the Commonwealth revenue.
– Will the ordinary reports be made available?
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.Yes, immediately resolutions upon them are tabled in the other chamber.
– Why does not the Government release the most vital report of the board?
– I understand that the honorable senator intends to raise that point later, and when he does, the Minister in charge of the bill will deal with it. If the request of
Senator Johnston were carried, the House of Representatives would have to be called together, and it would be at least a fortnight or three weeks before they could meet. I remind honorable senators that that chamber has already been tested on this question, and has rejected an amendment similar to this request by, I think, 38 votes to 18.
– At any rate it was rejected by a majority of 21 votes.
– It was rejected by a majority of over two to one. It is obvious that even if this request were submitted to it, the House of Representatives would reject it. Furthermore, if that chamber were called together again, and met in about three weeks’ time, the Senate would be doing nothing in the meantime, because it would have only two or three small bills to deal with, and could not proceed with the Excise Tariff during the postponement of the consideration of the Customs Tariff. It is absolutely certain that the House of Representatives would reject this request, and if a conflict took place between the two Houses this bill would have to be dropped and a new bill introduced ; and, as the present Government would still be in power, the new bill would be similar to the present one. In the meantime the tariff imposed by the Scullin Government would operate, and 192 decreases of duty in accordance with the resolution tabled by the Government in another place, would go by the board.
-Together with many increases of . duty.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.The increases of duty are negligible, and apply not to British goods, but to foreign goods. During the dispute between the two chambers, the Scullin tariff would automatically operate, and the rest of the life of this Parliament would be taken up in wrangling. The procedure which the Government has outlined promises some finality and progress in tariffmaking.If a dispute occurred between the two chambers respecting this request, the reductions of duty would have no effect If we pass this tariff with any alterations that may be made in it at the request of the Senate and in accordance with the reports of the Tariff Board, Cabinet will be able, during the recess, to consider any reports that are presentedto itby the Tariff Board, so that each session a series of bills embodying the decisionsofthe Government can be introducedandpassed as separate measures. I am hopefulthat, instead of having one long session of three years, we shall revertto the orderly parliamentary systemof prorogation, and that we shall be ableto pass the whole of the itemsunder review during the life of this Parliament,and thus have before the next election a tariff on the statute-book framed in accordance with the principles of the Ottawa agreement.
– Why not adjourn this debate until we know the nature of the board’s most vital report, so that we shall not be signing a blank cheque?
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.That report has nothing to. do with this debate. It raises an entirely different issue, and a discussion on it at this stage would be out of order. I appeal to honorable senators to hesitatebefore they plunge the Senate into confusion- by taking an action that would lead us nowhere. If this request were carried, the whole of the life of this Parliament would be taken up in a tariff wrangle, and I ask honorable senators to vote insuch a way asto ensure that we shall have an orderlydebate dealing with customs duties on reports from the Tariff Board and in accordance with the principles and spirit of the Ottawa agreement.
– After listening to the remarks of the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) on the request of Senator Johnston and his argument against it to the effect that, if the request were carried, it would allow the Scullin, tariff to operate, I am a little inclinedto support Senator Johnston; but, knowing that the freetraders in this Senate would on no account permit that tariff to. operate, I am afraid that, on this occasion,I shall have to support the Government. We have, of course, been told that the Labour party is the only party that has internal quarrels, or repudiates understandings or agreements arrived at between parties ; but it is interesting to note that some disagreement is now croppingup in the ministerial camp. I do not say that I welcome it, because dissension among members of a party serves no good purpose, and I should prefer the Government to carry out some constructive work, rather than engage in a wrangle with the members of another party. Before this bill was introduced, I was rather anxious to learn of the tariff policy of the Government. I must admit that I have been utterly disappointed. The present Government, when in Opposition, raised strenuous objections to the Scullin tariff. It adopted stonewall tactics* right from the start, and mainly because of that, the Scullin Government had but a short life.
– And a merry one.
– The Government of which the’ Minister is a member is fortunate, indeed, in that the Scullin Government steered the ship of state clear of the financial rocks, and left its successors with practically nothing to do but carry on its policy for the rehabilitation of this country. Putting aside all party considerations, the supporters of the Government must admit that the Scullin Government took the right action in view of the circumstances of that time. If this country has turned the corner, as is claimed by some honorable senators, it has been made possible only by the action of the Scullin Government, and that government should, at least, be given the credit. Senator Brennan said that the Opposition always opposes anything that the Government may do. Every one knows that it would be useless to have an Opposition unless its views conflict with those of the Government.
– “When the Scullin Government was in power, it was the Opposition in this Senate which helped it to pass two financial measures.
– When I was a member of the Labour. Government, it gave me no pleasure to vote for the Financial Emergency Bill, but there was no alternative. The party to which I belong was charged with having destroyed confidence, and with having introduced wild schemes for the inflation of the note issue. The leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) when in Opposition used to say that all that was required was a change of government, because private enterprise would do the rest, although Labour had’ been twitted with the state ment made by Mr. Theodore that, if Labour were put into office, the coalmines would be re-opened within a fortnight.
The present Government, which promised to restore confidence set out, in tho first place, to reduce the wages of the workers, and to increase their hours of labour. I believe that if this Govern ment had its way, industrial arbitration would be destroyed, and employees would have no means of obtaining redress of their grievances. This Government would have us return to the old system of individual bargaining between employer and employee. I believe that the Ottawa agreement is the thin edge of the wedge that the present Government is using for the destruction of Australia’s secondary industries. Apparently, it would be content to have the people of Australia mere hewers of wood and carriers of water. Honorable senators have stated time after time that there must be a movement back to the land. Do they wish to see every family in occupation of a small block, milking a cow, and growing its own vegetables ?
– Who said that?
– Senator Sampson has certainly spoken in favour of a “ back to the land “ movement, and I have no doubt that Senators Johnston and Hardy would support him.
– I have supported it.
– Have honorable senators given serious consideration to the logical outcome of the policy of placing every family on a small block of land, for the purpose, presumably, of producing its own milk, cream, eggs, and bacon? In that case, what market would there be for the products of the farmers? Butter factories would certainly be unnecessary. Do honorable senators opposite advocate the scrapping of the motor car, and a return to the horse and dray, or even the bullock wagon? How far back should we go? On one occasion I heard a lecturer even go so far as to contend that the workers would be better off if they all paid rent instead of owning their own dwellings, because in fixing the basic wage, allowance of 12s. a week is made for house rent. One honorable senator said that it would be a good idea to export our butter in pound packets, instead of in bulk; yet, in the next breath, he said, “ Never mind about the secondary industries. Concentrate on the primary industries.” Did he imagine that the packing of butter in pound parcels rather than in bulk would constitute a primary industry?
– No mention was made of discarding the secondary industries. The object was to put purchasing power in the hands of the people.
– The honorable senator was bitterly opposed to putting purchasing power in the hands of the people when the Scullin Government wished to raise moneyby means of a fiduciary note issue, in order to provide employment for the people. He was also afraid of the Scullin Government’s proposals to ship our gold overseas; but, when the present Government took precisely the same stand on that matter, its action in that respect was not hampered. The Scullin Government, through force of circumstances, had to do a number of unpleasant things. Its only alternative was to “ throw in the towel,” and let the enemies of Labour do the dirty work. In the circumstances, that Government did very well.
– If the Scullin Government had acted properly at the outset, there would have been no dirty work to do.
– If it had been able to obtain a double dissolution, there would have been a very different story to tell. Honorable senators opposite prate about their anxiety for the welfare of the man on the land, but they refused to support the Scullin Government’s proposal to raise the price of wheat to 4s. a bushel. Having had some experience as a struggling farmer, I claim to have as much sympathy as any member of this chamber with the man on the land. Australia is suffering to-day because the majority of the people are unable to purchase the goods that are produced in both primary and secondary industries.
I remind the Government ofsome of i ts promises.When the Scullin Ministry was in office, communism was prevalent, and, according to the United Australia party and the Country party, the red flag was much in evidence.
The present Government promised that, if it were returned to power, it would rid the community of the Jock Gardens, the Donald Grants, and others of that type. I have no love for the revolutionary who has no constructive policy. The party now in power was first known as the Liberal party, subsequently it assumed the name of the Nationalist party, and now it is called the United Australia party. I wonder whether its failure to obtain a complete agreement with the Country party is the reason why it has done nothing to remove a menace that was most pronounced during the regime of the Labour Government.
– Does the honorable senator think that that would be a tactical measure?
– Any individual who causes a disturbance in the communityshould be put in his proper place.
– Begin with the New Guard.
– I am not concerned about any particular organization. All I say is that if people do not obey the law, they should be dealt with. In this country we have the right to elect, members of Parliament on the principle of one vote one value, and if Parliament does not act in the direction desired by the majority of the people, the electors periodically have opportunities to change the personnel of Parliament.
Lately there has been trouble in all political camps, and because of this wrangling the unfortunate people are suffering. I have complained to the Labour movement that we should not. antagonize the Government if it is endeavouring to do something to alleviate the position. If, however, it acts in a way which, in our opinion, is detrimental to the interests of the people we represent, it is our duty to take every step possible to prevent it. But I strongly deprecate any attempt to bargain for place and pay; any attempt during an election campaign to hoodwink the people into the belief that, if a particular party is elected, it will be able to do certain things. There must be something in all this wrangling that is going on between the two factions that support this Government. I hope it will soon be ended, and that Parliament will have a chance to get on with the work that lies ahead of it.
Iadmit that in New SouthWales there isevidence that the Stevens Government istrying to do something to improve the position in that State. It has substituted work for the dole. That, at least, is something; but it is not nearly enough to meet the situation. Will any one seriously argue that the gradual improvement of the standard of living, which so many of our people have to endure, by small weekly increases extending possibly over a period of 20 years, is sufficient? But so desperate is the plight of. our working classes, and a great manyof our farmers, too, that they are glad of the smallest crumb of financial relief that may be thrown to them. Everything that is done in this way is appreciated, because the people have been ground down to such a state that they have almost lost their souls.
Isit not time that we took stock of our position, and, as a Parliament, had the chance to. consider practical proposals for the. relief of our people? I believe that all honorable senators are alarmed about the present position, but I am afraid that their individual concern is not sufficient to force the Government, to do the things which we, on this side of the chamber, believe to be necessary. Several honorablesenators supporting the Government are reputed to have a considerable amount of wealth. I suggest that they dip, their hands into their own pockets, and thus set an example to others who are more fully endowed with this world’s goods . Some will say that before we can induce the, people to work together in harmony we must change human nature. I entirely disagree with that point of view. All that the workers ask is to have a. chance to earn an honestliving. If this isgiven to them, 99 per cent. of the workers will gladly accept it.
Itmightbe argued that the Governmentis doing all in its power to right the present situation. My complaint is thatit is leaving this business almost entirely to private enterprise, which has always failed. throughout the ages. As a matter of fact private enterprise has brought this country to its present unhappy plight.The private control of our banking system, which so vitally affects the, lives of the people is, to a great extent, responsible for all the difficulties that confront us to-day. Even when the workers were in regular employment on the basic, wage, their income was merely a subsistence. It gave to them few, if any, of the comforts which they had a right to expect in an enlightened civilization.
One honorable senator said, the other day, that protectiongiven to the wirenetting industry had brought prosperity to Newcastle. I invite the honorable senator to visit that city and see for himself what is the real position there. Another honorable senator suggested that the Government should pull down all the shacks in the slum suburbs of Sydney and build decent homes for the working classes. Does he imply that the working classes desire to live in those slum areas? And is he aware that thousands of workers, having lost their employment, are unable to pay their rent, and having been forced to vacate even those undesirable dwelling, are now living elsewhere in tin shanties and other makeshift habitations? Does he think that, if these new homes were built to replace the existing slum dwellings, the workers could pay £1 a week rent? How could a man who was living onthe dole do that?
Australia being a new country, depends for its development on the. release of credits for the carrying out of necessary public works. This parliamentary building would never have been erected without a release of credit, for which the Government has become responsible. We have heard a great deal of criticism of the Scullin Government’s monetary policy, which, it was alleged, was simply inflation. Nothing is now said about exchange being pegged at its present high rate, although that is merely another form of inflation. The Scullin Government’s policy was definitely constructive. The works it contemplated putting in hand would have been worth-while assets. If now our people are driven off the land in increasing numbers, as is threatened, because of high taxation and high interest charges, our primary industries will collapse, and our secondary industries will suffer.
The Government and its supporters believe in an increase of the hours of labour as one way out of our present difficulties. They entirely overlook the fact that the mechanization of industry has increased productivity beyond the absorptive power of the people. In to-day’s newspapers there appeareda report that Japan was exporting goods to Great Britain, where theywere being sold at one-half the cost of production in the Mother Country. The problem confronting the world to-day is not one of production, but one of finding markets for the product of industries. Men without employment have no purchasing power, so they can make no contribution to the solution of the world’s troubles. We contend that every man has the right to employment, and that responsibility to provide this employment rests, to a large extent, upon the Government. If governments throughout the world had been a little more liberal in. their attitude towards their obligations the world would not have been in its present plight, and we should not have heard so much about the rising tide of Bolshevism or the menace of Communism. I warn this Government that the time is overdue for the introduction of definite proposals to give relief, and so make impossible any of those dreadful happenings which are spoken of in other countries. If trouble does occur it will be because those people who are in a position to help have not bestirred themselves. The consequence will be the destruction of our present system of government. I am. not sure that I would lose much sleep over that. I honestly believe that if only we see the light we shall be able to accomplish something in the interests of our people. But while we are wrangling about what markets we are going to secure for our goods, and while other countries are also wrangling about future markets for their goods, there will be grave danger of overlooking the most pressing need - the release of credits for the improvement of the home market, which, because of the prevailing depression, is,to a large extent, frozen. I am Australian-born, and I believe that whatever good things there are, Australia should get the benefit of them. If anything is left over, then the Old Country is entitled to it. We should be self- reliant and self-contained. . We should build up our factories and. ourindustries, so as to provide employment. We must release credits. I still believe that the only hope of getting out of our difficulties, even without altering the present capitalistic system, lies in accepting the financial proposals which were submitted to this country by the Scullin Government. The present Government has made no effort to relieve the situation. It has bargained with Great Britain regarding trade, and Britain has said in effect, “ Go and hew wood and carry water for us. Send us your primary products, and let your factories perish. Australia is fit only for primary production “. Honorable senators know in their hearts that that would be a wrong policy for Australia to adopt, and they know that it was wrong of Great Britain to propose it.
I have here a newspaper extract which shows how Japan is trying to capture markets by dumping her goods at unreasonably low prices. It is as follows : -
The greatest difficulty found in trading with Java was Japanese competition.
This was the view of the trade mission leader, Mr. R. F. Sanderson, when the showboat, Nieuw Holland, returned to-day from the East.
No one knew where it was going to end, he said.
It was not ordinary legitimate trade, but. directly and indirectly subsidized dumping. Instances were: British and French cement, 7s. to 9s. a barrel, Japanese 2s. 6d. leather suitcases of a type selling in Australia for 27s.6d. wholesale, were retailed by Japanese in Java at 7s.6d.
Many such lines were subsidized by the Japanese Government.
The mission,he contended, had laid a foundation for the building of a strong trade with the Dutch East Indies.
Similar demonstrations by South Africa and Japan were quite outclassed.
Compared with Australia, said Mr. Sanderson, the depression in the Dutch East Indies was deplorable. Buying power of both Europeans and natives had dropped tremendously, and the country was a burden rather than an asset to Holland.
Would those honorable senators who believe in freetrade be prepared to allow Japanese goods to enter Australia under those conditions?
– Practically all the members of the Country party do, and there is a sprinkling of Nationalists who believe in it also. Here is another extract. I take it from the Canberra Times of a day or two ago. It is as follows : -
In a broadcast speech to the United States farmers, the Minister for Agriculture (Mr. Elliott) this evening said there was a general idea that England was nearly all one big manufacturing town which was kept alive by food from abroad.
Actually Britain produced more value in stock and crops from her own soil than any domiuion except Canada, and employed more men on the land than any dominion, raising about enough food for 20,000,000 people. As a country in which agriculture was the third biggest industry, she was vitally interested in agricultural prices. The maintenance of a remunerative level of prices was the essence of the plan which recognized that the producer had the first place in his own market. The problem of organization had been tackled product by product. All objections to any scheme were investigated before it was presented to the legislature for adoption. As to whether the plans would work, Mr. Elliott said the price of British bacon, which was 76s. per cwt. last autumn, was now98s. The result of the plan in relation to some producers of milk and wheat, the producer would receive for 1933 about 50 per cent. above the present world prices.
Thus, even Great Britain finds it necessary to protect her primary producers, as well as her manufacturers. If that policy is good for Great Britain, surely, if the case were put to’ her properly, she would recognize that it is good, also, for Australia! The Leader of the Opposition said the other day that, had we put a strong case before the British bondholders, they would have been prepared to accept a reduced rate of interest on our overseas debt.
– Australia received little enough benefit through that transaction. There was no great magnanimity in drawing money out of the bank, where it was earning only2½ per cent., and putting it into gilt-edged securities at 3½ per cent. We have done everything in our power to meet our commitments. We havemade sacrifices, and it is time that the bondholders overseas were required to make similar sacrifices. It would, of course, be impossible for them to make sacrifices equal to those in Australia who have lost their jobs, or to those pensioners whose pensions have been cut down from £1 a week to 15s., in order that relief may be given to wealthy farmers by way of remissions of taxes.
– Belief to whom?
– The honorable senator may laugh - he who has his flocks of stud sheep; but let him put himself in the place of those unfortunate workers who have lost their jobs and their homes, and who cannot even obtain medical attention for their children. Compare their position with that of the graziers. If the honorable senator lost everything he has, he could not lose more than the man who loses his means of livelihood. I hope that the honorable senator and his colleagues will urge the Government to demand, if necessary, that the overseas bondholders shall assist in making the lot of many of our unfortunate citizens easier than it is. Heaven knows, these people do not want a distribution of wealth, as is claimed by some of our political opponents, merely to camouflage the issue. Something must be done, and if the Government will not undertake the task, it will be done for it by those who are so desperately placed. I want to see the job of the country carried out. I know that the farmer is in an unfortunate position, but he is infinitely better off than many in our city areas. I should like to take some honorable senators to see such persons. They have no outlet, not even an opportunity to catch a rabbit to eat, as has the farmer. The landlord allows them to stay on because he knows that if he evicts them, others similarly situated will take their places. Many of them are in the hovels to which reference has been made; but that is only because they cannot get out of them.
I believe that honorable senators are as conscientious as I am in this matter, but, unfortunately, many of them see only oneside - that of the section they represent. I should be reluctant to think that any honorable senator would stoop so low as to sacrifice another section not so fortunately situated, merely to derive advantage for the section he represents. I give the Government an assurance that if it will make an attempt to carry out a plan such as I have indicated, I shall support it to the hilt.
– by leave - During the course of my remarks concerning the amendment moved by Senator Johnston, and in reply to an interjection, I explained what would happen to the tariff if a deadlock occurred between the two Houses, consequent upon the bill being amended by the Senate and its request being rejected. I said that, in such circumstances, the Scullin tariff would automatically come into operation. I was under the impression that when the Scullin tariff was validated it was done without any limitation of the time during which it should operate. I find that that is not so ; that a period of time was named, which has now expired. Consequently, if a deadlock occurred, the present Government’s tariff would remain in operation in the form of resolutions passed by another place. I had forgotten also that this is different from an ordinary bill, which in like circumstances would lapse. It would not be necessary to seek the ratification of this chamber until an election was imminent. In the meantime, revenue would be collected in pursuance of the resolutions passed in another place.
Debate (on motion by Senator Herbert Hays) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Sir George Pearce) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I desire to bring under the notice of the Minister representing the Treasury, what I consider to be the great inconvenience that is imposed unnecessarily on many small landholders in Australia. Under the act as it is at present framed, it is necessary for all landowners possessing land to the value of £3,000 and upwards to lodge an annual return with the
Commissioner of the State in which they live. As honorable senators are aware, there is a federal land tax exemption of £5,000. Consequently, it is futile to ask persons who own land to the value of £3,000 or £4,000 to go to the expense and trouble of lodging the return to which I have referred. I understand that the matter has been referred to officers of the Taxation Department in Canberra, who can justify the return only by saying that the information is useful for record purposes. Because of the trouble and expense to the landowner, and the additional administrative expense involved by the lodgment of these unnecessary returns, I urge the Minister to have representations made to the Commissioner of Taxation to make it obligatory to render such returns only when a person owns land of the value of, say, £4,500 and over.
– I shall bring the remarks of the honorable senator under the notice of the Treasurer.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 10.19 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 6 June 1933, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1933/19330606_senate_13_140/>.