14th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. P. J.Lynch) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
The following papers were presented : -
FinancialEmergency Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1935, No. 28.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired at Essendon, Victoria - For Defence purposes.
Norfolk Island Act -
Ordinances of 1935 -
No. 1 - Timber Licences.
No. 2 - Slaughtering.
No. 3 - Sun Licence.
No. 4 - Apiaries.
Pounds Ordinance - Regulations.
Senator McLACHLAN laid on . the table reports and recommendations of the Tariff Board on the following subjects : -
Flags ant. Banners over 1 foot in length.
If no finality has been reached in the claim of Captain T. P. Conway for compensation, will the Minister for Defence agree to the appointment of three members of this Senate as a committee to inquire into the claim and report back to the Senate as early as possible?
I am now in a position to inform the honorable senator that his question was brought to the notice of the Minister for Defence and he advises that, from the departmental point of view, the case of Captain Conway was finalized years ago. His alleged grievances have been inquired into, and his representations replied to in detail time and time again. Captain Conway, however, refuses to be satisfied with the departmental replies, and persists in keeping his case before Parliament and the Defence Department. Since 1928, five Ministers or Assistant Ministers for Defence have investigated the case, and each has arrived at the conclusion that no injustice has been done to Captain Conway. Further, the departmental file has been made available to members of Parliament who have interested themselves on his behalf. The Minister for Defence is satisfied that Captain Conway has been given every consideration, and does not propose to take any further action in the matter. I would remind the honorable senator that an offer was made to him, on the 11th July, 1934, to have the file placed on the table of the Library if he so desired. This offer has not, been availed of, and it is still open.
What is the position in regard to the Wyndham-OrdRiver air service?
When will the service be resumed?
I am now in a. position to inform the honorable senator as follows: -
The Government has accepted the tender of the MacRobertson-Miller Aviation Company Proprietary Limited for an air service between
Wyndham and Ord River. The company will also operate in conjunction with this service a”Flying doctor “ service based at Wyndham.
The accepted tender makes provision for the service to commence within four months, but negotiations are in progress with the company with a. view to a much earlier commencement.
What is the amount of gold, valued in Australian currency,held by the Commonwealth Bank?
The following information has now been supplied by the Commonwealth Bank : -
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.On the 29th March, Senator Sampson asked the following questions, upon no tice : -
What is the position with regard to the preparation of the site of the proposed aerodrome in the vicinity of Cambridge, Tasmania?
Are his expert officers quite satisfied as to the suitability of the terrain?
If so, when does the department anticipate that the aerodrome will be open for traffic ?
I am now in a position to inform the honorable senator that I have received the following replies from the Minister for Defence: -
The Cambridge aerodrome is now in., course of preparation.
My officers are satisfied as to the suitability of the terrain. Gravel runways will be provided for use in wet weather.
Cambridge aerodrome will probably be opened for traffic early in the spring.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The Minister for the Interior has supplied the following answer : -
It was necessary to defer the painting of the bridge until the timber had dried out so as to ensure a satisfactory job, but the work will be carried out and completed immediately the timber is in a suitable condition.
Bill brought up by Senator Brennan, and read a first time.
The following bills were read a third time : -
Dairy Produce Bill 1935.
Invalid and Old-Age Pensions Bill 1935.
Copyright Bill 1935.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended. .
Bill (on motion by Senator Brennan) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Briefly, the purpose of this measure is to enable the bounty on raw cotton to be paid one week earlier than is provided for under existing legislation. Section 9 of the Raw Cotton Bounty Act 1934 provides that bounty shall be payable on raw cotton produced during each week ending on Friday, at a fluctuating rate dependent upon the Liverpool spot price on the Friday of that week. Although this section is in accordance with the Tariff Board’s recommendation, it is not by any means a vital part of the new cotton policy, and the Tariff Board mentioned the possibility of some of its suggestions being varied in order to meet the legitimate needs or convenience of the industry. The Cotton Board has pointed out that the Liverpool price on each Friday will not be known in Australia until the next Monday. This means that the despatch to growers of cheques covering market value and bounty for any of the previous week’s cotton cannot be started until eight days after the cotton is ginned. This delay of eight days is additional to the average period of a fortnight, under the previous seed cotton bounty, between the grower’s consignment of seed cotton to the ginnery and his receipt of a cheque for market value plus bounty. As most growers are dependent upon their cheques for the payment of wages to cottonpickers, which, I understand, is the largest item of production costs, and pickers usually have to await their wages in order to meet storekeepers’ accounts, it is thought that a considerable service will be rendered to the industry if the advancement of the date of payment, as proposed in the bill, is approved by Parliament. This measure consists of three clauses, and the necessary amendment is made in clause 3. It is purely a machinery bill.
– We, on the Opposition side, have no desire to delay the passage of this bill. The cotton-growers need the money that will be paid under it. Considerable dissatisfaction prevails amongst them regarding the action taken by the Government in connexion with their industry. A few weeks ago I was asked to tour the cotton districts of Queensland, but, unfortunately, owing to floods, I was unable to do so. A member of the Queensland Legislative Assembly informed me, however, that the cottongrowers were distressed, in many cases, because of the action of the Government in allowing certain cotton goods to be imported into Australia, thereby preventing the sale of about 6,000 bales of cotton on the local market.
– Is the honorable senator stonewalling the measure?
– The honorable senator’s interjection is unseemly. I am merely occupying the time of the Senate for a few moments–
– This unseemly attack on the Government is not justifiable.
– I shall leave the honorable senator to attempt to justify the Government’s action, at the conclusion of my remarks. As Senator Hoare has reminded me, I am one of the representatives of a State in which cotton is grown, and we desire to take this opportunity to tell the Government that, because it gave way to pressure from Lancashire^
– I rise to a point of order. This bill merely provides for an amendment of a section of the Baw Cotton Bounty Act. The honorable senator will have ample opportunity to discuss the position of the cotton industry generally when the tariff proposals of the Government are before us. I submit that his present observations are entirely out of order.
– The title of this bill clearly indicates that it deals merely with an alteration of the manner of paying the bounty.
– I thought that I was entitled to take this opportunity to refer briefly to the present position of the industry-
– The payment of the bounty must be justified.
– Yes. There is considerable antagonism to Queensland on the part of some honorable senators. We have been told in this chamber, on several occasions, that that State is bleeding the rest of Australia. I pointed out recently that Queensland was being bled by the Commonwealth Government-
– Is the honorable senator speaking to my point of order, or is he proceeding with a secondreading speech? I have submitted that he is not entitled to discuss any matter beyond the scope of this bill.
– I uphold the point of order. The honorable senator knows that the bill relates merely to the manner of paying the cotton bounty. If lie desires to express his opinion as to the action of the Government in any other direction, he may not do so in discussing this bill. He may not enlarge on the subject of the cotton industry generally.
– Seeing that I must confine my remarks to the question as to whether the cotton-growers shall be paid1 bounty in accordance with the wishes of the Government, I must commend the Ministry for bringing forward this measure. I should have commended it with greater enthusiasm if the bill had been submitted a few months earlier, because the growers are suffering on account of the action of the Government in not dealing with the industry in a proper way by stabilizing it through the medium of protection, rather than by providing a bounty.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
In committee :
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
Clause 3 (Rates of bounty).
. - This clause, as . I understand it, does not make any alteration of the amount of the bounty itself, but simply alters the date on which the bounty is to be calculated.
– It does not provide for any increase or decrease of the bounty; it merely changes the day on which payment of the bounty is fixed, having regard to Liverpool spot prices.
, - .Since the policy of the Government militates against the cotton industry I should like to know whether it will be possible to provide in this bill for an increased bounty. The Government has given way to pressure from Lancashire and so has caused disquietude and distress among the cotton-growers of Queensland. If it intends to continue that policy with the result-
– I rise to a point of order. The honorable senator is speaking to clause 3, which deals merely with the day upon which bounty is to be fixed. I submit that he is not in order in referring to matters concerning government policy and .1 do not propose to answer any questions regarding such policy.
– The honorable senator must connect his remarks with clause 3.
– Is it not in order for an honorable senator when dealing with clause 3 to discuss whether or not this particular provision is being made because of certain pressure from Lancashire?
– No. The honorable senator will not be in order in proceeding along those lines.
– ‘Upon what standing order does the Chairman rely for his ruling? The Minister has said that he will not answer questions in regard to ministerial policy. This bill evidences ministerial policy and the committee is entitled, I submit, to inquire into the justification of that policy.
– It is not a matter of ministerial policy.
– Senator Payne may be a candidate for the presidency, but I am not aware that he is a candidate for ministerial office or entitled to speak for the “Ministry.
- Senator Brown’s remarks must be relevant to the clause. The motion for the second reading of the bill afforded wider scope for discussion, but in dealing in committee with clause 3 an honorable senator would not be in order in referring to, for instance, pressure brought upon the Government by Lancashire. Such a matter has no bearing whatever on the clause.
– On a point of order, Mr. Chairman, I should like to have a definite ruling as to whether the subject of the attitude of Lancashire to the Queensland growers can be discussed.
– It cannot be discussed on this clause.
– Am I in order in asking, sir, on what standing order your ruling is based?
– I ruled that Senator Brown was not in order in referring to government policy, and pressure brought to bear by Lancashire. The marginal note refers strictly to rates of bounty. If Senator Brown wishes to deal with the question of the rate of bounty, he will be in order in doing so.
– The Chairman has taken the words out of my mouth. I want to know whether it is competent for me to deal with the rates of bounty. If u. is, I take it that it is also competent for me to put to the Minister questions with regard to assistance to cotton-growers adversely affected by the policy of the Government.
– The honorable senator would be in order in making passing reference to that matter, but he cannot deal at length with the general policy of the Government. I ask the honorable senator to proceed with the discussion of the clause.
– I desire to avail myself of this opportunity to deal with the question of the bounty now being paid to the Queensland cotton-growers.
– I ask the honorable senator to proceed with the discussion of the clause.
– You, Mr. Chairman, have ruled that I may not in the discussion of this clause refer to pressure brought by Lancashire upon the Government of this country. I submit, sir, that you are limiting-
– Order ! I have ruled that the honorable senator’s remarks must be relevant to clause 3. The honorable senator may make passing reference to government policy in order to support his arguments, but he must not deal at length with any question of pressure exerted by Lancashire. An opportunity to introduce that aspect of the matter was afforded during the second reading of the bill, and a further opportunity may be extended on the third reading of the bill.
– According to your ruling, Mr. Chairman, I may deal with the bounty and advance reasons why it should -be increased.
– I ask the honorable senator either to proceed with the debate or to move a motion of dissent from my ruling. I have been tolerant with the honorable senator, and I ask him now to proceed in accordance with the Standing Orders.
– I have no desire to disagree with your ruling, Mr. Chairman, for I have every reason to commend your usual good sense in carrying out the Standing Orders of this Senate. Having said so much, I may as well resume my seat.
– I understand an opportunity will be given honorable senators to deal with the whole question of the bounty more fully on the motion for the third reading of the bill. I submit, however, that we should be permitted a! this stage, in dealing with a clause relating to rates of bounty, to discuss whether the. bounty paid is sufficient. I have read in the press recently, that the Theodore settlement in Queensland is becoming a failure.
– Is not the Theodore settlement in Fiji?
– The Minister has a number of investments; he himself may be interested in Fijian gold-mining. Newspaper articles hav*1 proved that 40 per cent, of the settlers on the Theodore settlement, a big undertaking financed by the Queensland Government, are in danger of being wiped out. I visited that district six years ago, and it was then flourishing. The main production on the settlement is cotton. The Dawson River Valley is particularly suitable for the growth of cotton, but the rates of bounty now being paid are not sufficient to enable the industry, to develop.
– On a point of order, Mr. Chairman, is the honorable senator permitted, under the Standing Orders, to deal with the question of rates of bounty or the settlement of cotton-growers on the land in Queensland, in view of the fact that this clause is designed only to alter the date on which the bounty shall be paid? Honorable senators may be misled by the marginal note “ rates of bounty “.
– Senator J. V. MacDonald is in order in discussing the rate of bounty on this clause, which is to amend a section of the principal act, which deals with the amount of bounty payable.
– I rise to a point of order. The marginal note, which refers to rate of bounty, is misleading. In this clause there is no reference to the rate of bounty other than the day on which the bounty shall be payable.
– As this clause refers to the bounty, Senator J. V. MacDonald is in order.
– I am anxious to deal with the rate of bounty payable, and if you, sir, rule that the rate can be discussed under this clause, I shall exercise my right in that direction.
Senator McLachlan. - I rise to a point of order. The marginal note to this clause is that of the section of the principal act which it amends. As I explained earlier, in answering a pointraised by Senator Duncan-Hughes, the amendment has nothing to do with the rate of bounty. In the section which is being amended the words “When the
Liverpool price on that Friday is 6cl. per lb.” are used. The proposed amendment is to strike out the words “ that Friday “ and to substitute in lieu thereof the words “ the last preceding Friday “. The clause deals only- with the day upon which the bounty is to be computed, and has nothing whatever to do with thc actual rate of bounty.
– I rule that Senator J. V. MacDonald is in order in referring to the rate of bounty, inasmuch as this clause amends section 9 of the principal act, which relates to the bounty payable. It is competent for the honorable senator to move a further amendment to the section now under consideration relating to the rate of bounty, should he desire to do so.
– It is not my intention to delay the passage of this bill ; but I submit that,, under this clause, honorable senators have the right to refer to the conditions in the Aus tralian cotton-growing industry, which have been before the public for some time, and particularly during the last twelve months. There are many reasons why a bounty higher than that at present paid should be granted to the cotton-growers. The Theodore settlement is of great importance to Queensland, and if something is not done to assist the cottongrowers in that district, particularly in the direction of increasing the rate of bounty, many of them will be compelled to leave their holdings. The areas in Queensland on which cotton can be successfully grown are not extensive.
– In discussing this clause, the honorable senator is not entitled to deal with the general conditions of the cotton-growing industry.
– I realize that; but I object to certain honorable senators, including the Minister in charge of the bill, attempting to usurp the functions of the Chair.
– The Chair will see that that is not done.
– Certain honorable senators opposite are attempting to prevent me from placing the position of the Queensland cotton growers before the committee. I trust that the bill will have a speedy passage, because I believe it will be of benefit to the cotton-growers. The Queensland cotton industry, which is very valuable to Australia, cannot expect the support of honorable senators opposite.
– Under this clause, the honorable senator is not entitled to discuss the cotton-growing industry generally.
– I do not propose to do so this afternoon, because I understand that an opportunity will be afforded when an amended tariff schedule is before the Senate. Honorable senators on this side of the chamber are anxious to do all they can to assist a great national industry.
Clause agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
. - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The bill is to amend sections 3, 11 and 12 of the Spirits Act 1906-1932 in respect of the period during which Australian and imported whisky shall be matured in wood. Until October, 1932, the minimum age prescribed in the Spirits Act at which whisky could be sold for consumption was two years. During the debate on the tariff schedule in 1931 it was resolved thatthe period of maturation in respect of Australian whisky should be increased to three years. This amendment of the tariff schedule necessitated an amendment of the Spirits Act, and. in October, 1932, sections 3 and 12 of the act were amended to bring them into line with the excise tariff with respect to the maturation period of Australian whisky, and. as a corollary, section 11 of the act was amended at the same time, so that similar conditions would be applicable to imported whisky. By the passing of act No. 23 of 1933 in November, 1933, the operation of the 1932 act was suspended until the 1st October, 1935. The Tariff Board was asked to report as to the necessity for increasing the maturation period for whisky from two to three years, and the conclusions of the majority of the board were as follows: -
A minority of the board came to the following conclusions : -
That the excise tariff provision for three years compulsory maturation of whisky should be brought into force as provided, but that early action should be taken to increase the period to four years, provided that three years’ notice be given before the four years’ period becomes operative.
The object of the motion adopted by Parliament in 1931 to increase the compulsory maturation period for whisky from two to three years was to protect the health of the consumers. The Tariff Board has, however, stated that no convincing evidence was submitted at the inquiry to establish that considerations of public health called for an extension of the twoyear period. In the trade, opinions are divided as to the necessity for a longer period of maturation than two years. The interests supporting the longer period claim that whisky improves in quality during the third and subsequent years of maturation, and that the cost of storage per gallon is low.
Whilst the importance of quality is recognized, the object of the maturation provisions of the act is not the fixing of a standard of quality but the safeguarding of public health by ensuring that no spirit shall be sold for consumption until it has been matured sufficiently to make it fit for human consumption. The evidence available indicates that a period of two years is sufficient to achieve that object. If, as stated, the cost of storage is low, and the quality improves with a longer period of maturity, the enhanced quality of the product should be sufficient inducement for distillers to mature their spirit for a longer period than two years. It is, therefore, proposed to amend the Spirits Act to provide for a reversion to the period of maturation for whisky which was in force from 1908-31, a period of 22 years.
.- I have no opposition to offer to this bill, although as one who likes an occasional drop of whisky, I. have strong opinions regarding the period of maturation. In the interests of public health, I think that a period of three years is short enough. But, after all, we may safely leave it to those who drink whisky to safeguard their own interests. If whisky were offered for sale in bottles whose labels indicated that their contents had been matured for four months, or even for seven months, not many whisky drinkers would touch it. I know that I would not. For that reason, I am of the opinion that the public will safeguard itself in this matter. Nevertheless, I should like to know the reason for the proposed alteration of the maturation period. Is some firm in such financial straits that it cannot hold on for another year unless the period of maturation is reduced from three years to two years, thereby enabling it to ‘dispose of its product? Some years ago I visited a distillery and was amazed at the quantity of spirit in storage there. It seemed to me that sufficient spirit was on hand to fill a building as large as Parliament House, and I thought that that one distillery contained sufficient whisky to supply the world for the next 50 years. Surely all that spirit has not gone into consumption! There must be large quantities of whisky still available, and, therefore, I cannot understand the reason for the introduction of this measure. I feel somewhat concerned about the reduction of the period of maturation to two years, because I know enough about spirits not to drink whisky which has been matured for only two years. I say to my innocent friends in this chamber that they would be well advised not to drink whisky which is only two years old. Whatever the age of whisky, there are some persons who would be better off if they drank less of it; on the other band, there are some who would be improved by an occasional drink. The Minister has not put forward any sound reason for the change.
– Between 1908 and 1931 the maturation period was only two years.
– Australia then had easy access to the more mature whiskies of Scotland, Ireland and other countries. During the war, the whisky stocks of the world were depleted, and it might have been necessary, following the war, to reduce the maturation period to two years in order to make supplies available; but surely those circumstances do not exist to-day. The distillers have had ample time to replenish their stocks, so that I cannot understand the purpose of the Government in submitting this measure. I do not wish to vote against the bill, but I should like to know the reason for the change. If there were danger of a shortage of whisky in Australia, I could understand the Government’s action; but there is no evidence before the Senate of insufficient stocks of spirits in Australia to satisfy the consuming public, even with the maturation period remaining at three years. I recently read in a book by Sir Walter Scott, a toast which it might not be inappropriate to mention when discussing a bill dealing with the maturation period of whisky. Three old gentlemen, having in front of them a bottle of good whisky, were seated around a table in a fine old library, discussing a number of congenial topics. The toast which they honoured, and which commended itself very much to me, was this -
Old wood best to burn, old wine to drink, old friends to trust, and old authors to read.
I hope that honorable senators on both sides of this chamber will always have plenty of these good things.
– I am opposed to the bill, because, for one reason, I am keenly interested in the establishment and maintenance of Australian industries. TheMinister in charge of the measure (Senator McLachlan) in his second-reading speech said, that it related also to the operation of overseas whisky firms. I suggest to him and the Senate that no overseas whisky less than three years old isimported to this country. If any honorable senator cares to visit the bar at Parliament House, and examine the labels of the whisky bottles on the shelves there,. he will find that each proclaims the contents to be “ matured old whisky “. The Minister, whilst my leader was speaking, interjected to the effect that from 1908 to 1921, the regulations under the Spirits Act provided for a maturation period of two years. He did not, however, say what was the quantity of whisky produced in Australia during that period. The figures for the years 1921 to 1934 show that the Australian distilleries have made great inroads into the trade of importers ofoverseas whisky. The Minister admitted that there was a difference of opinion in the trade as to whether the period should be two years or three years. During the regime of the Scullin Government, the period was fixed at three years, and the Australian industry was firmly established under that arrangement. Now some one comes along and suggests that the period should be reduced to two years. I happen to know something about the agitation which took place a few years ago as to the period of maturation, and I recall that only one firm at that time desired the period to be fixed at two years. The other firm, which had become well established, and was an important competitor of overseas whisky firms, desired the period to he fixed at three years. I should like the Minister to tell the Senate definitely whether the section which now desires the maturation period to be two years is the smaller or the larger section of the Australian industry. Personally, I do not know whether whisky can mature in two years or three years, because I do not drink it; but I do know that some years ago a complete investigation was made into the question, and, as a result, the Scullin Government fixed the period at three years.
– The maturation period was fixed at three years against the wish of the Scullin Government. Mr. Forde, the then Minister for Trade and Customs, was defeated on that item, in a snap vote in the House of Representatives.
– The view of the Government at that time was that the minimum period of maturation should be three years. There may have been a snap vote in the House of Representatives, as the Postmaster-General has indicated.We all know that when these matters are under discussion, a good deal of lobbying takes place in connexion with particular items, and sometimes snap divisions determine the issues. But there can be no doubt about my statement that the view of the Government at that time was that the period should be three years. Why are we continually tinkering in this way with private enterprise? If the encouragement of private enterprise is the policy of this Government why should it be necessary to legislate to tell private enterprise how to conduct its business? The consensus of opinion in the trade is that the minimum period of maturation should be three years. Therefore, honorable senators should hesitate before, simply on the statement of the Minister, they agree to pass this bill telling private enterprise how to conduct its business.
– Evidently private enterprise is not in complete agreement on this matter.
– Of course it is not. Yet, we are asked to sit in judgment on a violent conflict of opinion amongst the makers of whisky as to the period of maturation. If this bill is adopted in its present form, the manufacturers of whisky should be required to indicate clearly on the labels of whisky produced by them the period of maturation, so that the consumer may know what he is getting. I feel sure that, if the Minister made it plain that one requirement of the passage of this bill was that whisky offered for sale should bear a label indicating that it had been matured for two years only, those who agitated for this alteration of the law would at once urge the Government to drop the bill.
– How often does a whisky-drinker see the label on the bottle?
– I do not know, but if customers knew that a whisky offered to them was only two years old, they would, I am sure, insist upon being served with a whisky that had been matured for a longer period. I intend to vote against the second reading, and when the bill is in committee, I shall submit an amendment, requiring manufacturers to distinguish between a product which is two years old and whisky that has been matured for three years or longer.
– 1 listened attentively to the secondreading speech of the Minister in charge of the bill (Senator McLachlan). Notwithstanding the majority report and recommendations of the Tariff Board, I am still of the opinion that the passage of this measure would be a retrograde step. Heaven forbid that I should pose as a connoisseur of whisky, but I do know what is palatable and unpalatable. It is, I think, significant that whenever there is a discussion about the manufacture and maturation period of whisky, we hear imputations of motives from both sides. In his evidence before the Tariff Board, Mr. Ralph said -
Thu present proposal to arbitrarily increase thu minimum to three years is, although camouflaged nothing more or less than a device of thi- wealthy section of distillers to embarrass, and perhaps crush, their smaller and less financial competitors.
When this subject was under discussion on an curlier occasion, it was argued that the big manufacturer was intent upon preventing the smaller manufacturer from marketing his product. The period of maturation is a vexed question. The argument now is that as evaporation is more pronounced in Australia than in Scotland, the home of good whisky, the period of maturation may be reduced from three years to two years. This seems a plausible argument, but there is a wealth of evidence on both sides, and as this is a highly technical subject, it is difficult for the layman to thoroughly understand it in all its aspects. When I was privileged to visit Scotland after the war, like Senator Barnes I visited some of the best known Scottish distilleries and saw there vast quantities of spirit in varying stages of maturation. Some of the whisky, I was informed, had been laid down during the reign of King Edward VII., and I must confess that. I never tasted anything more satisfying and. agreeable in my life. That mellow whisky fully confirmed all that I had heard about the gustatory properties of this wonderful beverage. I, therefore, feel sure that all this talk about whisky reaching full maturity in two or three years, and that it does not improve after that period, is sheer nonsense. In the light of my personal experiences in
Scotland, where people have been making whisky for countless generations, the argument that whisky can be fully matured in the wood in two years is absolute tosh. The suggestion that the agitation for a minimum period of three years is part of a sinister scheme on the part of the large Scottish distilleries to crush Australian makers of whisky does not sound right to me, because we may be quite sure that Scottish whisky manufacturers would not put an immature whisky on the market. They have to think of their reputation as the makers of the finest whisky in the world.
Mr. Ralph, in giving evidence, proceeded to argue that, in Great Britain, a section of the distillers desired to have the period of maturation of whisky extended to three years in order to advance their interests as opposed to those of Australian distillers who manufacture whisky from grain. Most of his statements, so far as I can see, were quite antagonistic to those put forward by chemists and others connected with the distilling business, whose contention and experiments would go to show that the longer a whisky is kept in the wood the more palatable, smooth and mellow it becomes.
In 1915, the period of maturation in Great Britain was fixed at three years, upon the unanimous recommendation of a whisky committee that was set up, and after it had heard evidence from all theparties engaged in the industry there. Et would bc a retrograde step, I think, to make the period of maturation in Australia two years, and at the committee stage I shall move for the insertion of an amendment with regard to imported whisky. When the period was increased in Great Britain, the great distilling firms of Scotland were able to induce other countries to extend their periods. The list showing the maturation times in various countries is a very interesting one. A five years’ period is provided in Norway, the Irish Free State and New Zealand. The increased period will begin to operate in New Zealand on the 1st May next. In the United States of America, the period is four years, and a three years’ period is observed in Great Britain, the Union of South Africa, theBahama Islands, Bermuda, Ceylon, Denmark, Ecuador, Fiji Islands, Gambier,
Gold Coast Colony, Hong Kong, Kenya, New Hebrides, Papua, Peru, and the Philippine Islands. I point out that New Zealand has decided only recently to increase the period of maturation from three to five years. The policy adopted in the House of Representatives in 1931, to which Senator Daly alluded, was in line with that followed in other parts of the Empire, and I regard it as sound. It is in conformity with that laid down by the Whisky Association of Great Britain, which comprises the whole of the distilling interests of England, Scotland and Ireland.
Having read the bill, and having listened to the speech by the Minister, it seems to me that the measure seeks to apply the same maturation period to imported as to Australian whisky. The original act extended the period for imported whisky from two to three years as from the 1st October, 1935. The Tariff Board, in its majority report, dealt entirely with the maturation of Australian whisky, and I do not believe that the board has been concerned at all about the imported article.
– The honorable senator’s point is that the board’s reasoning would not apply to imported whisky.
– Yes. The board says that maturation beyond the period of two years makes no difference to the quality of the spirit, and that the twoyears period is quite sufficient in Australia. Apparently, the board has not considered the position of the Scottish distilleries, although one of the arguments put forward is that the processes which go on in the wood are much more rapid in Australia than in colder climates. Provided that that contention is sound, if we admitted to Australia a whisky made in a colder climate after two year’s maturation, it would be immature.
– The Tariff Board submitted only a majority report in favour of the two years period.
– That is so. It would be a retrograde step, and one of serious moment if the Government reduced the compulsory maturation period for imported whisky from three to two years.
– What about Australian whisky?
– The board declared that two years maturation was sufficient. I have tried several Australian whiskies, but they do not appeal to my palate. I regard them as harsh and somewhat crude, and I think that they would be all the better for probably five or ten years’ maturation in the wood. I might then taste them, and express an opinion regarding them.
– Does the honorable senator favour putting “ snake juice “ on the market?
– No, I believe that all grog should be true to label. The public should be protected. It is wicked to supply men with fire-water. The health of the public should be safeguarded in every way. Cheap and immature whisky is being exported in large quantities by Japanese distilleries to all parts of the world. I do not know the maturation requirements in that country.
SenatorFoll. - Two years.
– I understand that that is one of the factors which influenced the New Zealand Government in increasing the period in that dominion from three to five years. A reversion to a two-years minimum would be liable to increase the risk of immature spirit being brought into Australia. I listened attentively to the Minister, and I was disappointed with the unconvincing case presented by him. I cannot see why the maturation period in this country should be reduced.
– My opinion on this matter is the same as that expressed by me in discussing the excise tariff in 1933, and it has since been supported by the report of the Tariff Board. Honorable senators who have spoken have said remarkably little about the terms of the Tariff Board’s report. Senator Sampson devoted some attention to the evidence given by one of the witnesses called before it, but he did not give us many details concerning the board’s finding. Its decision was not unanimous; it was a three-to-one finding, the three members including the chairman of the board.
Therefore its verdict might fairly be considered to be quite as worthy of consideration as the opinion of one witness. The attitude adopted by some honorable senators - the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Barnes), I think, did not have the position quite clear in his mind - has been that this is an attempt to reduce the period of maturation. Technically, that may be so; but I shall read what the Tariff Board said on several material points. On page 8, the board stated -
Compulsory maturation for whisky for two years has operated in Australia for 26 years. It. has operated since 1908, when it was brought in, until 1931 when it was altered by a vote in the lower House.
It would certainly appear that the alteration was made without adequate discussion, and without reference to the Tariff Board. In fact, it went through in opposition to the Labour Ministry, of which, I think, Senator Barnes and perhaps Senator Daly were members. That Government was in favour of the twoyears period, but a proposal in favour of three years maturation was carried against the Government, as was mentioned in the other branch of the legislature only last week by the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde).
– The motion was carried on the voices.
– I think it was. From the 21st October, 1931, to the 26th February, 1932, the three-years requirement was in force. Then the Tariff Board recommended reversion to the two-years period until the 1st October, 1933, after which date the three-years period should again be enforced. The two-years period was then further extended so that the board might inquire into the matter, and it would appear that, from 1908 to the present time, the three-years period has operated for only about four months. How any honorable senator can claim that the customary maturation period in Australia is three years, and that this bill is an attempt to reduce it to two years, when, in fact, the two-years period since 1908 has operated for 26 years, passes my comprehension.
– Is it not a fact that the three-years maturation requirement was suspended to enable stocks to be augmented, and that the bulk of the Australian whisky on the market to-day is three years old?
– I cannot say. The stock may be two years old, for all I know. Another point raised by Senator Sampson was the question of whether foreign whisky was properly matured. I point out that under the Spirits Act 1906 one of the qualifications of Australian standard malt whisky and Australian blended whisky is that it must have been matured while subject to the control of the customs by storage in wood for a period of not less than two years. As the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) has stated, a certificate is forwarded in respect of all whisky imported into Australia from Great Britain, and probably similar certificates of maturation are required in respect of imports from other countries. But whatever whisky is imported from abroad for the purpose of blending with Australian whisky it must remain under the supervision of the customs in Australia for two years.
Senator Sampson also raised the question of health. In regard to this matter I desire to quote again from the Tariff Board’s majority report. The report says -
Notwithstanding that the period had been extended to three years on the grounds of public health and that early in the board’s inquiry the “ health aspect “ was opened up, it is significant that no convincing evidence was submitted at the inquiry to establish as a fact that consideration for the public health called for any extension of the period beyond the existing two years.
And again, on page 8 of the report, the Tariff Board states -
The board has already stated that in its opinion consideration of the health of the community does not call for the proposed extension.
So that- a majority of the members of the Tariff Board, including the chairman, has decided that the question of health does not come in at all. It is really a question of prejudice; for health reasons there was no need for the extension.
– Will the honorable senator tell us why there is a division of opinion in the industry itself in regard to this matter?
– I shall make some short reference to that. I recommend the honorable senator also to read the Tariff Board report on the subject, because it contains some comments upon the fact that there is a conflict of interests. The members of the Tariff Board have obviously tried to keep the scales even as between conflicting interests, and though they admit the existence of conflicting interests they are not prepared to recommend that the period of maturation should be extended without good reason for the benefit of some of those interests. They say that no matter what may be the opinion as to taste and palate no question of health arises, and yet it has always been a guiding factor with regard to legislation of this kind that the two years period should be laid down for health purposes. Maturation to a great extent depends on evaporation, as honorable senators will find from the report in the summary of evidence of Dr. Hargreaves. According to Dr. Hargreaves, under ordinary conditions of storage, evaporation takes place in Adelaide approximately four times as quickly as in Edinburgh. Dealing with this subject the majority report of the Tariff Board is as follows -
In the opinion of the board, the evidence was convincing that climatic conditions do affect the rate of maturation, and that it is reasonable on that account alone that the period for compulsory bonding should be less in Australia than in the United Kingdom.
Evaporation in wood takes place much more rapidly in Australia than in Scotland, and therefore the period prescribed for maturation in Australia should be less than in the United Kingdom.
– Then how does the honorable senator account for ‘the popularity of Scotch whisky?
– Scotch whisky made its reputation when no restrictions were imposed as to the maturation period. There is nothing in this act to prevent any distiller from maturing his whisky for as long a period as he chooses. Then, too, no extension was made in the period for the maturation of brandy. If it was sound to provide a maturation period of three years for whisky, it should have been equally sound to fix the same period in respect of brandy.
– One is a grape spirit and the other is a malt spirit.
– There is no analogy between brandy and whisky.
– -Foi the purposes of this bill there is an analogy.
– In other words, the honorable senator would suggest that the same time should be stipulated for baking bread as for baking cake. As I have said, one is a malt spirit and the other is a grape spirit.
– If there is any difference how does the honorable senator account for the fact that the period of maturation of both spirits remained at two years from 1908 to 1931 ? The Government of which the honorable senator was a Minister was against the extension to. three years in the case of whisky, but. that extension was carried contrary to its desire.
– It was carried on the voices; the Government did not call for a division.
- Dr. Hargreaves says that maturation does not increase wholesomeness, and that there is no necessity to increase the compulsory maturation period from two to three years. I have made it plain that the two-year period of maturation has been accepted as the recognized period in Australia ; I have emphasized that evaporation in Australia takes place at a much more rapid rate than it does in Scotland, and I desire now to say a word or two in regard to the question of reputation. In this connexion I will use again the Tariff Board’s words : “ There have been suggestions that the reduction of the maturation period to two years will ruin the reputation of Australian whisky”; but no such claim was made when older firms were getting the advantage of the two-year period to bring their wares to market; only when they had become thoroughly established was it proposed to extend the period. The Tariff Board finally sums up its views on the subject in these words -
Furthermore, while it is recognized amongst whisky consumers that palatability generally improves with age, there was evidence that there is no marked improvement in some Australian whisky as between two years and throe years. The board is convinced that the adoption of the extended period will have very little, if any, effect on the general reputation of Australian whisky. 1 have shown that the reputation of Australian whisky will not suffer; that evaporation conditions make the procedure adopted in Scotland different from that adopted here: and that the extension from two to three years was carried in the first place against the wish of the government of the day, and, as a matter of fact, has been in force for only a few months. Further, after listening to the evidence of numerous witnesses, the Tariff Board, although not quite unanimous, has definitely decided that an extension of the maturation period is not required for health reasons. I support, the bill. I take precisely the same view that. I took in 1933, and my opinion is now more than reinforced by the fact that, with one exception, the members of the Tariff Board hold the views which I then expressed.
– in reply - There seems to be some misapprehension in the minds of honorable senators regarding the history of this matter and what is now proposed in regard to it. As Senator Duncan-Hughes has said, with the exception of some four months, we have never had more than <i two-years’ maturation period in this country. I have read- the scientific evidence presented to the Tariff Board and want to dispel from the minds of honorable senators any doubt as to whether an extension of the maturation period would have a beneficial effect on the health of consumers. It has been demonstrated beyond measure by. chemists that maturity is reached in two years, and that also is shown by the fact that for 26 years the prescribed period for maturation in Australia remained at two years. The maturation period in Scotland is three years. The period we now propose to provide for maturation in Australia is two years. But technical evidence, as submitted to the Tariff Board, shows that, comparing South Australia with New Zealand, evaporation takes place in the proportion of 44 to 33, in other words, evaporation takes place at a much higher rate in Adelaide. The suggestion that we are going back on something that has been the settled policy of this country is utterly unfounded. Senator Daly said that the policy of the Scullin Government was the same as that of this Government.
– That vote would not have been carried against the Government had not the present ministerial party supported it. The Minister and his supporters have changed their policy.
– Our policy is the same as ‘that of previous governments; but the period of maturation we are now advocating has received the endorsement of the Tariff Board. A portion of the report of the discussion’ in the House of Representatives is as follows : -
Mr. WHITE. It is therefore proposed to amend the Spirits Act to provide for reversion to the two-year period of maturation for whisky which was in force from 1908 to 1931.
Mr. Beasley. Why was the three year period adopted?
Mr. WHITE. It was enacted as the result of a snap vote on an amendment moved to the bill introduced by the Government. I think the Deputy Leader of the Opposition will remember the incident.
Mr. Forde. Yes. My attitude then was the attitude now adopted by the majority of the members of the Tariff Board.
It is not the responsibility of the Government to consider this subject from other than the view-point of the health of consumers. In giving evidence before the Tariff Board, Dr. W. A. Hargreaves, South Australian analyst, said -
In maturation, many factors come into play, and of these the most important fixed factor is evaporation.
The country which is most favoured in regard to evaporation has the advantage of faster maturation - in this respect Australia hass a big advantage over Scotland.
There are three kinds of maturation, viz., compulsory maturation to remove deleterious substances, trade maturation to improve taste or flavour, and maturation of wine.
Under ordinary conditions of storage evaporation in Adelaide approximates four times that of Edinburgh. Maturation must, of necessity, be faster in Adelaide than in Scotland, oxidation and concentration must be faster, and flavour must be made or marred at a faster rate.
The Tariff Board stated that-
Notwithstanding that the period had been extended to three years on the grounds of public health, and that early in the board’s inquiry the “ health aspect “ was opened up, it is significant that no convincing evidence was submitted at the inquiry to establish as a fact that consideration for the public health called for any extension of the period beyond the existing two years.
On the other hand, the evidence was overwhelming that such substances as are deleterious to health, and are found in twoyearold whisky, do not decrease with age. In fact, the more harmful substances of furfurol and fusel oil tend to increase in percentage as whisky is stored. In making this point no inference is intended that the public health is endangered by the increase - the proportions of furfurol and fusel oil are very small.
A royal commission on whisky and other potable spirits, held in Great Britain in 1908-9, stated : - “ In our opinion, the compulsory bonding of spirits for a prescribed length of time could only be justified if it were established that such restriction of trade is necessary in the interests of public health “. After shortly reviewing the evidence available, the commission concluded that it was “ not desirable to require a minimum period during which spirits should be matured in bond “. It will be noted that the date of this finding was subsequent to the legal compulsion of the two-years’ period in Australia:
Having regard to the fact that whisky matures four times as rapidly in Adelaide as in Edinburgh, the following pertinent point contained in Dr. Hargreaves’ evidence is of interest : -
The actual evaporation that takes place in a warehouse where whisky is stored under normal conditions would be very difficult to ascertain, but it must be more or less affected by climatic conditions surrounding the warehouse, so that if two places are compared, one having four times the evaporation of the other as determined by meteorologists at those places, it follows that in normal warehouses the evaporation in one will be much greater than in the other whatever the ratio may be.
Having quoted official figures showing that the average evaporation in Edinburgh was 14.2, as against Adelaide, 55, he continued -
Under ordinary conditions of storage, therefore, evaporation in Adelaide will approximate to four times that of Edinburgh. Maturation must, of necessity, be faster in Adelaide than in Scotland, and oxidation and concentration must be faster, and flavour must be made or marred at a faster rate. From this point of view alone, without other considerations that point in the same direction, I am of opinion that the compulsory maturation period in Australia might reasonably be less than any that might be adopted in Great Britain.
The Tariff Board’s report continues -
The view that climatic conditions influenced maturation was adopted by the British royal commission of 1908-0. In their conclusion they stated (folio 498, page 44): - “Even in the case of spirits of the same character differences in conditions of storage, such as the nature and size of the vessels in which the spirit is kept, the relative humidity of the place in which it is stored, and climatic conditions generally have a considerable effect in determining the rapidity of maturation “. Sir James Dewar, an eminent chemist not connected with any distilling interests, made this point very clear in his evidence before the British commission: - Question No. 10,932 - “ What are your views with regard to the ageing of whisky?” Answer - “My view is thatI have noticed a very great difference in the rapidity with which the whisky matures when I use it in a damp cellar in Cambridge as compared with a dry atmosphere in London …”
As it would appear that a maturation period of two years in Australia is equivalent to four years in Great Britain, it may be held that a longer period should be provided in respect of imported whisky. The Government has been influenced by the recommendations of the Tariff Board, the adoption of which will be a means of assisting those engaged in the production of whisky in Australia. On two occasions the operations of the law have been suspended temporarily to give Australian manufacturers an opportunity to replenish their stocks and to meet the requirements of the Australian public. The Government has endeavoured to hold the scales evenly between all interests. Honorable senators should support the second reading of the bill, and, in committee, they may, if they so desire, move amendments.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
In committee :
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
Clause 3 -
Section eleven of the principal act is amended by omitting the proviso to that section.
Section proposed to be amended - 11. … ” Provided that, in the case of imported whisky, the period of maturity by storage in wood shall not be less than three years “.
– I move -
That after the word “ section “ second occurring the following words be inserted: - “ and inserting in its stead the following proviso: - Provided that on and after the first day of October, 1935, in the case of imported whisky, the period of maturity by storage in wood shall not be less than five years.”
The amendment is in accordance with the views which I expressed in my secondreading speech in that it seeks to bring Australia into line with New Zealand.
– I can understand the motive of the honorable senator in moving his amendment, but I am in some difficulty regarding it, because the period of maturation fixed by the British Government is three years. Although, from the point of view of maturation, that period in the Old Country may not be equivalent to two years in Australia, I think that we should be overdoing things if we made the period five years. I understand that the Minister for Trade and Customs is agreeable to a period of three years, and if Senator Sampson is prepared to alter his amendment to provide for that period instead of five years, I am ready to accept it in principle, although I should like an opportunity to study its wording: There have been so many amendments of the principal act, and suspensions of various sections of it, that I am not sure whether the amendment is proposed in the most appropriate place. It would be somewhat inconsistent not to allow the product of the British manufacturer of whisky into this country until it has matured for five years, although the authorities in Great Britain consider that a period of three years is sufficient.
– I should like to know the opinion of the Tariff Board regarding the period of maturation.
– The Tariff Board did not report on imported whisky.
– In that case, I suggest that the matter be referred back to the board for its opinion. . If the maturation period for Australian whisky is to be based on the report of the Tariff Board, it would at least be consistent to base the maturation period in respect of imported whisky on the report of that body. I do not know whether Dr. liargreaves has suggested that in the case of spirits travelling through the Red Sea in one direction a different system should operate from that which should apply to spirits which travel in the opposite direction. I do not know why the period should be three years for imported whisky and only two years for Australian whisky.
– The period in Britain is three years.
– The Tariff Board says that spirits take longer to mature in Britain than in Australia.
– Then the Tariff Board has. considered the subject.
– Witnesses before the Tariff Board gave that evidence.
– The Tariff Board referred to a report by a royal commission.
– That royal commission sat in Britain.
– It is illogical to quote the opinions of experts when a blow is to be aimed at an Australian industry, and to ignore the same experts when the interests of overseas industries are concerned. The committee is entitled to know on what ground the Government altered its attitude. When we on this side advocated a period of three years for the maturation of Australian whisky the Minister turned a deaf ear to us; but when a supporter of the Government makes a proposal the Minister says that he will accept it subject to certain modifications. I should like to know on whose advice five years was proposed in the first place. The Senate is entitled to know upon what facts the first decision was made, and what justification there is now for the Minister’s acceptance of three years instead of five.
.- The Tariff Board expressed the opinion that an extra year’s maturation would not improve the quality of Australian spirit. I admit that there is a diversity of opinion on that subject. Three members of the Tariff Board said that their considered opinion was that whisky made in Australia did not improve if kept three years instead of two years, but the Minister says that an entirely different state of affairs exists in regard to imported spirits. Maturation is the result of evaporation, and it is stated that evaporation is four times as great in Australia as in Scotland. On that basis, it is necessary for whisky made overseas to be of greater age than whisky made here, if the quality is to he approximately the same. The legislature of New Zealand recently altered the period of maturation for all spirits consumed in that dominion to a minimum of five years. That was done at the request of the Whisky Association, a body which represents not only the “ group “ companies, but also every distillery of any consequence in England, Ireland and Scotland. Seeing that the five-year period was fixed at the request of the Whisky Association, the overseas distillers have no ground for complaint. No question of immature spirits coining from Britain arises, because the distillers there are so jealous of their reputation that they will not allow immature whisky to leave their distilleries. I think that a period of five years is reasonable in the case of imported spirits.
. - A period which may be quite satisfactory in New Zealand may not suit Australia because there are no local distilleries in the sister dominion.
SenatorFoll - Does not the extended period of maturation for imported whisky assist Australian producers?
– I do not know that it does. Section 11 of the Spirits Act of 1906 reads -
After the 1st day of January,1908 no imported spirits (other than gin, Geneva, Hollands, Schnapps or liqueurs) shall be delivered from the control of the customs for human consumption unless the Collector of Custom’s for the State is satisfied that the spirits have been matured by storage in wood for a period of not loss than two years.
That section was subsequently amended by a proviso which set out that, in the case of imported whisky, the period of maturation should be not less than three years. This bill proposes to repeal that proviso; but why it is done in the way proposed is beyond my comprehension at the moment. It seems to me that it would have been better to make the period three years. I repeat my request to Senator Sampson that he be satisfied with a period of three years.
.- On page 7 of its report, the Tariff Board states that the British royal commission of 1908-9 had stated in its final report dealing with the effect of maturation on various kinds of whisky -
It must be borne in mind that spirits of different character do not mature with equal rapidity. A very much longer period is required for the maturation of a heavy pot-still whisky, for example, than for a light patent still whisky.
We are told by the Tariff Board that a a heavy whisky takes four times as long to mature in Britain as in Australia. No doubt Senator Sampson had heavy pot-still whisky in mind when he moved his amendment. As the customs authorities draw no distinction between a heavy pot-still whisky and a light patent-still whisky, I suggest a compromise, and ask the Minister to accept a period of four years for all kinds of whisky.
. - The Minister administering the act recommends a period of three years. I do not think that a period of five years would be fair to British distillers when we have agreed to a two-year period for the maturation of Australian whisky.
– Whisky takes four times as long to mature in Britain.
– So great a differentiation has not been made in the past. In my opinion, it is only fair to bring our legislation in this respect into line with that of Britain. The people of the Mother Country do not seem to suffer any serious disabilities from a shorter period of three years, and if the honorable senator will alter his amendment by fixing the period at three years. I shall agree to it.
-i accept the Minister’s suggestion.
Amendment - by leave - amended to read -
Provided that on and after the first day of October, 1935, in the case of imported whisky, the period of maturity by storage in wood shall not be less than three years.
– What is the reason for fixing the date at the 1st October, 1935 ?
– The Customs Department informs me that this is essential, as some consignments are on the water and some are in bond.
Amendment, as amended, agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 4 and 5 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with an amendment.
– I move -
That the bill be now read asecond time.
The object of the proposed amendment of section 4 of the Customs Act is to enable the rates of duty prescribed under the British preferential tariff to be applied to products of the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man. Except where specific provision has been made in trade agreements with other British dominions, or in relation to certain products of the British non-self-governing colonies, existing customs and tariff legislation specifically limits the British preferential rates of duty to goods produced or manufactured in the United Kingdom.
The Channel Islands and the Isle of Man are administered under their own laws. For customs purposes they have not been regarded as part of the United Kingdom. In consequence goods imported into the Commonwealth from those islands are legally dutiable at the rates prescribed under the general tariff.
The tariffs of the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands follow the lines of the tariff of the United Kingdom. Following the introduction of preferential duties by the United Kingdom, as a result of the Ottawa agreement, the islands introduced preferential tariffs, which extend to Empire countries preferential duties almost identical with those granted by the United Kingdom. Since January, 1933, Australia, along with other British countries, has participated in these preferences, which cover many of our principal export commodities. In addition, the Guernsey administration is prepared to recommend the local Parliament to grant a 50 per cent. preference on Empire wines. Imports into Australia from the islands have in the past been limited to small consignments received at irregular intervals. Until two small consignments reached Australia recently no imports had been recorded since 1929.
As the islands have gratuitously extended their preferential tariffs to Australia, it is desired to reciprocate. This can be done most conveniently by including the Isle of Man and the Channel
Islands within the meaning of the expression “the United Kingdom.” The retrospective application of the amendment will enable the British preferential rates to be applied to the two small shipments which recently reached Australia.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill, as honorable senators are no doubt aware, deals with two entirely different aspects of navigation. The first part, clause 3, has reference to section 7 of the Navigation Act which defines what vessels are deemed to be engaged in the coasting trade. It is proposed to amend this section to permit British overseas vessels of a stipulated tonnage and speed, under certain conditions, to carry passengers coastwise between ports not connected by rail. By the second part of the bill, clause 4, it is proposed to’ amend section 231 of the Navigation Act, so that small vessels, trading interstate, and not at present required by the existing law to carry a wireless installation, will be required to be so equipped. Regarding clause 3, let me say at the outset that the amendment proposed in it is designed to afford to Tasmania some relief from the pressure of the coasting provisions of the Navigation Act.
As honorable senators are all aware, one of the grievances of Tasmania is that the protection afforded by Commonwealth legislation to Australian shipping, by what are known as the coasting trade sections of the Navigation Act, has resulted in serious injury to what was, in times past, a valuable source of revenue, namely, the tourist traffic from the mainland to Hobart.
Before the war there was no restriction on overseas vessels carrying passengers and cargo between Australian ports. Not much was done in this way, it is true, but from this little, Hobart probably received the most advantage. Every year, in the apple season, big liners made a detour from Sydney to Hobart on their homeward voyages to pick up a cargo of fruit at that port, whence they proceeded to Melbourne to resume their ordinary itineraries. Many tourists, with money to spend, made each year what was known as the “ apple trip,” that is, they embarked on the overseas steamer at Brisbane or Sydney, proceeded to Hobart and, after a break of journey there, proceeded in some following vessel to Melbourne, whence they returned home either by some incoming overseas liner or by rail or coasting steamer. Other passengers, again, restricted themselves to day excursions while the vessel loaded at Hobart, and were carried on in her to Melbourne without a break of journey. In one way and another these tourists circulated a good deal of money in Tasmania.
These calls of overseas ships at Hobart for fruit were suspended during the war, and before they were fully resumed and things again became normal the Navigation Act was brought into force, in July, 1921. That ended, for the time being at any rate, the “ apple trips “, not because of any express provision in the act, but by reason of the way in which the protective sections worked out in practice.
Subject to certain exemptions and permits that may be, and have been, granted, and to which I shall shortly refer, the Navigation Act prohibits the carriage of passengers coastwise between Australian ports by ships other than those duly licensed to engage in the coasting trade.
All ships, British and foreign, locallyowned and overseas, are in one sense on a footing of equality in the matter of obtaining licences. The conditions attached to the grant of the licence - chiefly in respect of compliance with award rates of wages and hours of work, and the Navigation Act requirements as to manning scales and accommodation for crew - are, however, such that in actual practice the local vessels only have complied and become licensed. Overseas owners decided that it would not pay them to adopt these conditions for the short time the ships would be trading on the coast. However, this may have been, the practical result was that the apple boats carried no more tourists to Hobart. Whether due to this cause alone, or, as is more probable, to the post-war depression conditions, the number of visitors to Hobart greatly decreased. The people of Hobart attributed the falling away almost wholly to theoperations of the Navigation Act. They pointed out that the one licensed ship running between Sydney and Hobart compared most unfavorably with the large overseas liners, and was in point of size, speed and appointments, neither attractive to tourists nor adequate to accommodate the numbers which previously travelled.
– Was that the Riverina.
– The Zealandia.
– Both. At first it was the Riverina, but later the Zealandia.
In 1926, to meet, as far as was then thought possible, the demand for readmittance of the overseas liners into the tourist trade, the Navigation Act was amended by the insertion in section 286 of the following provision : - (6.) Where it is shown to the satisfaction of the Governor-General that the tourist traffic between any ports in the Commonwealth or in the territories under the authority of the Commonwealth is being injured or retarded, and the Governor-General is satisfied that it is desirable that unlicensed ships be allowed to engage in the trade, he may, by notice published in the Gazette, grant permission to unlicensed British ships of such size and speed as are specified in the notice to engage in the carriage of passengers between those ports subject to such conditions (if any) and for such period as is set out in the notice.
Under this new provision, orders in council were issued, for several successsive years, permitting British ships of not less than 10,000 tons gross register, and a speed of fifteen knots - subsequently reduced to fourteen knots - to carry passengers to and from Hobart during the tourist season, without bringing themselves within the scope of the coasting trade provisions of the act. For some reason of their own, however, the overseas lines declined to avail themselves of the concession, and it was not until December, 1932, that, by agreement among themselves, the companies concerned commenced booking tourists for the Hobart run. There was an immediate response by the public and during that summer season some 4,000 passengers were taken from the mainland ports of Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne to Hobart by the overseas ships alone. For the next following tourist season, ended on the 31st May last, the number of passengers carried to Hobart from the mainland, by overseas vessels, under the exemption, was approximately 3,500. For the current tourist season, the position so far is satisfactory, although it is not expected that the number of passengers carried to Tasmania by the overseas vessels will equal that of either of the two previous seasons.
A very interesting feature of this revival of tourist traffic is that, contrary to the anticipations of the owners of local steamers, the passenger traffic by the licensed vessels has actually increased since the overseas British ships came into the trade, under the exemptions. It is worthy of note, too, that the number of passengers travelling from Tasmania to the mainland ports of Sydney and Melbourne by licensed steamers is considerably greater than the numbers sailing by licensed vessels from those ports. Here are the figures showing the traffic by the Australian-owned licensed ships during 1931-32, when the overseas vessels did not engage in the tourist traffic, and for the two following seasons, when they did-
These figures show conclusively that the local licensed ships were not injured by the participation in the tourist traffic by the overseas liners, but were actually benefited by it.
Two things are clear. In the first place, as compared with 1931-32, when the overseas boats did not carry tourists, there was, in 1932-33, an increase of 3,561 and in the following season an increase of no les? than 14,917, or 27 per cent., in the number of passengers carried both ways by the Australian-owned licensed ships.
Secondly - and this is a very significant point - during both the seasons in which the overseas ships carried tourists, the local ships conveyed back to the mainland ports more passengers than they had taken over to Tasmania. The excesses in the two seasons were, in round figures, 1,500 in the first season, and 3,700 in the latter. The explanation is, of course, that tourists taken in overseas ships to Hobart stayed there for a holiday, returning later to their homes by local liners. This is a condition likely to continue, and it is confidently believed, therefore, that the exemption of overseas liners in respect of the tourist traffic provided in the bill will be of considerable and lasting advantage to the Australian shipping industry.
In assessing the value to Tasmania of these exemptions to overseas liners it is necessary to remember also that a new travel feature, adverse to the Tasmanian interests, has been developed during recent years in the form of cruises from Australian ports by. some of the largest and latest of the overseas liners to New Zealand, Noumea, Norfolk Island, Suva, Papua and New Guinea, all of which, having the element of novelty, are strongly competitive with the Tasmanian tourist business. Tasmania has undoubtedly done remarkably well, not only to hold the traffic, but actually to increase it, as she has done, in the face of such competition. That she has been able to do so is directly due, without doubt, to the exemptions granted. The fact that it is now possible to visit the State in fast and commodious liners contributes greatly to the attractiveness of the trip, and, so long as facilities to do so are ensured, there is every reason to hope for a progressively increasing tourist business.
But the people of Tasmania, realizing, as they do, the benefits which have accrued from the operation of the exemptions, are desirous that the concession, granted at present by executive act only from season to season, should not depend upon the policy of the administration of the day, but should be given a statutory basis so that it could be withdrawn only by specific amendment of the Navigation Act, agreed to by Parliament. In order, too, that Tasmanian interests may be encouraged to improve and develop tlie attractions of the island, including its hotel and other accommodation, it is essential, it is contended, that there shall be some guarantee of not only adequate, but also permanent and attractive, shipping facilities for their visitors. Business people cannot be expected to go to heavy expense in improving accommodation, nor the State Government to spend money in the provision of roads to the scenic beauties of the State, unless there is some assurance of an adequate return, necessarily spread over a lengthy period.
Successive governments, during the thirteen years the Navigation Act has been in operation, have considered the question of giving relief. The difficulty in the way, however, lies in section 99 of the Constitution, which provides -
The Commonwealth shall not. by any law, or regulation of trade, commerce or revenue, give preference to one State or any part thereof over another State or any part thereof.
With a view to overcoming this difficulty proposals have been made from time to time for amendments of the act which, it was suggested, would have the effect, without violating section 99, of exempting the passenger traffic between Tasmania and the mainland ports from the coasting trade provisions of the act. On each occasion, however, the legal advice supplied to the Government has been that, as the condition, whatever it may have been, laid down in each case as precedent to exemption, was clearly applicable only to communication between ports in Tasmania, on the one hand, and those of the other States, on the other, and excluded traffic between any two mainland ports or States, the proposed provision could not but be regarded as infringing section 99. Further consideration has recently been given to the matter, with a view to ascertaining whether the constitutional difficulty could be overcome by some provision, of wider scope, which, while affording to Tasmania the relief desired, would, at the same time, by reason of its more general application, benefit other similarly isolated parts of the Common- wealth, and thus be free from any possible objection of discrimination or preference in favour of a single State. ‘
The present bill is the result. By the amendment of section 7 of the principal act, as proposed, it is hoped not only to remove the disabilities that have injured the tourist traffic to Hobart and retarded its development, but also to confer corresponding advantages as regards passenger traffic on. the outlying portions of the Commonwealth similarly cut off from the ordinary means of land communication with the more populated parts. This objective, it is believed, can be achieved without infringement of the Constitution. In this connexion, it is worthy of note that constitutional authorities, in considering the real import of the words “give preference”, as they appear in section 99, have expressed the view that, in deciding what is and what is not a preference, section 99 should be construed liberally, with especial reference to the evil which it is intended to prevent, namely, arbitrary and prejudicial discriminations between States or localities, and that, in determining what constitutes equality of treatment, recognition should be given to the practical necessities of the case. In this view, if the difference of incidence grows out of the” dissimilarity of circumstances of one State or locality as compared with another, or if it is based on recognized and reasonable principles of administration, it is not a “ preference “ within the Constitution.
The view of the Government and its advisers is that the present bill .is not open to any suggestion of preference to any one State or part thereof. It covers any two ports in the Commonwealth “ not connected by rail “. Thus, in addition to permitting the carriage, by British ships of the class specified, of passengers from any Tasmanian port to the mainland and vice verm, travel by them would also be permissible between any mainland or Tasmanian port and any other such place wholly dependent on sea communication, such as Kingscote, on Kangaroo Island, and Lord Howe Island, which is a portion of New South Wales. The exemption would have application also to travel between mainland ports in the northern parts of the continent. The northern railhead in
Western Australia is at Geraldton, and in Queensland, at Cairns. Between these ports there are some 2,700 miles of coastline with ports which have no rail connexion with any other ports in Australia. Under the proposed amendment, therefore, passengers might also be carried without restrictions between and to and from any ports in that area by any unlicensed British ships of the stipulated tonnage and speed, such, for example, as the new Blue Star liners, now being placed in the chilled beef trade between Australia and the United Kingdom, via Torres Strait. With respect to the ports along the coast mentioned, between Geraldton and Cairns, namely, the north-west ports of Western Australia, Darwin, and Thursday Island, travel to and fromthese places by unlicensed British ships is already allowed - so far as Darwin is concerned, under exemption, and, as regards the other ports, by means of continuing permits.
It may bo objected, and it is admitted that it would be theoretically correct, that the proposed amendment would make it possible for unlicensed ships to compete in the passenger trade between Melbourne and the northern ports of Tasmania, already well catered for by local licensed steamers. In actual practice, however, the depth of water in the Tamar restricts the shipping to Launceston to relatively shallow-draught vessels. Overseas vessels call at the lower Tamar ports - Beauty Point and Bell Bay - or at Burnie, in the north-west, at very infrequent intervals. The large passenger liners never do so, and the number of passengers carried by the cargo steamers calling, if any, would never amount to more than a score or so, at most, in a year. It may be objected that the proposed amendment would permit vessels of the Eastern and Australia line, the Nellore, Tanda, and Nankin, which are manned by coloured labour, and which call at Hobart at monthly intervals, to enter into unfair competition between Hobart and Sydney with the licensed vessel Zealandia. There is no danger of this, as the vessels in question are of only 7,000 tons gross register, and would accordingly, as being under the 10,000 tons minimum prescribed, be excluded from the exemption.
Clause 3 of the bill, as drawn, is considered to be free from constitutional objections; it will afford to Tasmania that guarantee as to tourist shipping facilities which they reasonably seek; it will, as experience has demonstrated, have no adverse effect on local shipping, but will rather benefit it, and it will be the means of improving the facilities for travel along our northern coast-line. The question is, moreover, a non-political one, as all parties are united in a desire to help Tasmania and the settlers in the more distant parts of the continent, more especially where it can be done, as in this case, without injury to local interests. I desire, however, to make it plain, on behalf of the Government, that the amendment proposed by the bill is designed primarily to remedy the disabilities suffered by Tasmania in the matter of her tourist traffic, and if it is found at any time that any considerable abuse is introduced - by such means, for example, as alterations of itineraries for the purpose of bringing ships under the exemption and not for legitimate trade purposes - and that consequently our shipping interests are being injured in respect of their trade between mainland ports, consideration may have to be given to the question of repealing the provision, leaving the matter of the tourist traffic to be dealt with from season to season, as hitherto, by exemption order under section 286. This section is being left in the act, available for the purpose.
I turn now to the second part of the bill, clause 4, which relates to the provision of wireless telegraphy apparatus on small ships, that is, on ships not already required by the existing law to be so equipped. The Navigation Act. as it now stands, requires the installation of wireless and the carrying of a certificated operator on the following classes of ships : -
In recent years, several small cargo steamers under 1,600 tons, and conse- quently not provided with wireless, have disappeared at sea, with a. heavy loss of life. As in most of these cases, the disappearances have occurred in times of storm, the presumption is that the vessels were overwhelmed by the seas and foundered, but, being without wireless, and there being no survivors, no definite information is available as to the actual cause of loss. These vessels were, moreover, not able to send out the distress call asking for assistance. Recent examples are the SS. Christina Fraser, a collier of 716 tons gross, which disappeared off Gabo Island on the 23rd Tune, 1933, and the SS. Coramba, an intra-state trader, running between Melbourne and Port Fairy, which went down in the abnormally heavy weather of the 30th’ November last. The disappearance of the vessels was investigated by courts of marine inquiry constituted, in the case of the Christina Fraser, under the Commonwealth Navigation Act, and, in the case of the Coramba, under the Marine Act of Victoria. In each case, the court added to its finding a rider to the effect that, in its opinion, all sea-going vessels should be equipped with wireless apparatus. That public opinion is definitely in favour of such a course is evidenced by the fact that, following on the loss of the Coramba, the Victorian branch of the Seamen’s Union announced that its members would refuse to man sea-going vessels which did not carry wireless, and the press, almost without exception, gave support to the seamen in the attitude adopted.
In December last a regulation was issued under the Navigation Act requiring that, on and after a given date, every sea-going steamship not already required to be equipped with wireless should carry an efficient apparatus of an approved type which, when put in operation, would automatically send out, in the Morse code, wireless signals prescribed to be used for a ship in distress, together with the ship’s name and position. Such apparatus did not require the attendance of a skilled operator. This requirement, it may be added, represented the utmost that could be done without an amendment of the Navigation Act. The maritime organizations, representing officers and seamen on coastal vessels, strongly urged, however, that an automatic apparatus was not sufficient, and requested that, in all cases, a qualified wireless operator be carried. The Minister for Health and Repatriation (Mr. Hughes) received deputations from the maritime organizations and the shipowners, and, after conference with both parties, has prepared a scheme which the amendment contained in the bill is designed to implement.
The salient points of the scheme are as follows: All steamships engaged in the interstate trade, and not already required to carry wireless, are to be provided with a wireless telegraph installation having the same range, namely, 100 miles, as the standard installation on the larger ships. The installation, however, is to be of a modified and cheaper type. For apparatus the use of which is restricted to distress signals and communications consequent thereon, the cost of each installation to the owners will, it is understood, be in the neighbourhood of £91 per annum. Where provision is made for the sending of other messages, the cost will be up to about £125 per annum. The costs mentioned cover both rental and maintenance. In the case of vessels of 750 to 1,600 tons gross, the installation is to be in charge of a. certificated wireless operator, whilst on vessels of under 750 tons gross, it will be attended to by an officer or member of the crew holding a “ limited “ certificate as “ wireless signaller “, issued by the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. The wireless signaller, who will be the mate or a member of the crew, will be qualified both to send and receive by Morse on the installation. In cases where a wireless signaller is carried, an automatic distress sender of an approved type, capable of automatically sending out, in the Morse code, wireless signals prescribed to be used for a ship in distress, together with the ship’s name and position, is to form part of the installation. In cases where it is found impracticable to accommodate an operator on an existing vessel of between 750 and 1,600 tons gross, power will be given to exempt the vessel from the requirements to carry an operator, and to permit, in lieu, the carrying of a wireless signaller. Before, however, any ship is so exempted from the carrying of an operator, it is proposed that the
Minister shall refer the matter to a committee of advice of three persons appointed under the Navigation Act, to investigate and make a recommendation. Such a committee of advice will consist of the Director, or Deputy Director, of Navigation, who will be chairman, a representative of the ship-owner, and a representative of the maritime organizations. Power will be given for the exemption of a ship while in tow of another vessel fitted with wireless, or trading between ports not more than 25 miles apart, or proceeding on a single voyage.
The owners of certain vessels on the coast, which are not now required to carry wireless, have voluntarily provided installations on their vessels. Certain steamers, running between Melbourne and Brisbane, form an example. Each has a wireless installation; but, instead of an operator, an additional mate, a third mate, who attends to the wireless, is carried. In such cases, where it can be shown that the wireless installation satisfactorily fulfils the safety requirements, it will be regarded as acceptable.
The provisions outlined will not apply to ships trading on the river Murray, or, for the present, at any rate, to small sailing vessels. There is considerable doubt, it may be explained, as to whether wireless could be efficiently applied to small sailing vessels, where, among other disadvantages, the aerial would be very short and of little height above the water.
Commonwealth law, it will be realized, can cover only such ships as are engaged in interstate or overseas trade. Consequently, it can have no application to the great majority of the small ships trading on the coast,, which, being intrastate traders, are subject to State law. A communication has, therefore, been addressed to the Premiers of all the States urging that, in respect of vessels which come within their respective jurisdictions, a scheme not less efficient than that which I have described should be adopted, and, in the interests of safety of life at sea, given legislative effect as early as possible. In several of the States the local authorities are awaiting the passage of this bill in order that the federal requirements may be known. There is reason to believe that most, if not all, of the States will then take action to impose similar requirements on the shipping coming under their control.
I ask honorable senators to facilitate the passage of the bill, so that the Tasmanian interests concerned may be encouraged, by an assurance of some degree of permanency of the exemption, to undertake additions and improvements to the existing facilities for tourists.
There is nothing contentious whatever in clause 4. The amendment contained in that clause, as I have already indicated, has the support of all sections of thecommunity.Whilst it is impossible to say whether or not any of the crew of either the Coramba or the Christina Fraser could have been saved if those vessels had carried wireless, there can be no question that the use of wireless has greatly reduced the hazards of seafaring life. In the interests of our seamen, and of safety of life at sea generally, I hope honorable senators will co-operate in ensuring the speedy passage of the bill. Until this bill becomes law, there will be no power to require the owners of the small ships concerned to install wireless’ on their vessels. Even after the bill has been passed by Parliament, the manufacturers of wireless installations will require, I am informed, about twelve weeks in which to provide and install the necessary equipment. Naturally ship-owners will not order wireless equipment of the type required, nor will manufacturers build it, until they are satisfied that the bill will become law.
Debate (on motion by Senator Barnes) adjourned.
[5.45]. - I move -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Although Senator Reid, who did not seek re-election last year, has not yet reached the end of his term, I understand that this is the last occasion on which he will be present at the sittings of the Senate. I should like, therefore, to express the regret which we all feel at his departure from us. “We trust that in his well-earned retirement from political life the honorable senator may be blessed with, good health and good fortune. He richly deserves all the blessings that should be the reward of a life spent in the service of the people, and we trust that he may be richly endowed with, and long spared, to enjoy them. In the future deliberations of this chamber the honorable senator will be very much missed. He leaves with our cordial good wishes.
Honorable Senators. - Hear, hear !
.- Senator Reid, unlike myself, is retiring voluntarily from the Senate. Very shortly I am to go into compulsory retirement; but, whichever way we go it is probable that we shall meet again as we pass down the road of life and be able to greet each other with all the cordiality that has marked our long association. Senator Reid has spent many years in the service of his country and, judging from his present appearance, it will be a very long while before he receives the call to cross the River. For many years he was prominent in the industrial life of Australia. In the course of time our views may have differed; but when it comes to a show down no bitterness exists. I hope the honorable senator will spend a pleasant and happy retirement.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. P. J. Lynch). - I find myself in complete accord with the views expressed by the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Sir George Pearce) and the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Barnes) concerning Senator Reid. It has been said by an Australian poet that “ All the joy goes out of life as old friends go”. While that aphorism may not be applicable literally to the present occasion, it expresses the pangs which we experience in parting with an old, valued and tried friend. My personal acquaintance with Senator Reid extends over a period of 30 years. The starting point of his activities in public life goes back much further than that - so much further that it is almost lost in the twilight of memory. From the very first he has always been in the firing line, and his record is one that quite a number of his present-day confreres as well as the generations that will follow will always applaud and envy. I recall an incident that occurred some years ago in Queensland which illustrates the independent spirit that has always marked the honorable senator’s public service. It was really refreshing. A train in which we were travelling drew up at a crowded country platform, and a poor country man tried, as many might do, to enter a carriage which had been reserved by the Queensland Government for a party of which Senator Reid and I were members. The honorable senator, with native independence, brushed aside all formalities, despite the presence of a large number of his constituents, expostulated with the man, and told him in no uncertain terms that he had no right to enter that carriage. I mention that incident merely to show the magnificent spirit of independence which the honorable senator possesses. He did not go out. of his way to treat that man as other than an ordinary person ; he spoke simply as one citizen would speak to another. That incident, which I shall never forget, is an illustration of what, in my opinion, should be the relationship between public men on the one hand and electors on the other. The fact that he acted as he did speaks volumes not only for the honorable senator, but also for the electors of Queensland who have returned him as a member of the Senate for so many years. The honorable senator is a man of high character, and a much appreciated citizen of Queensland. His is an honoured name. We regret his retirement, but trust that he will long be spared to enjoy the fruits of a well spent public life.
.- Although I informed the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Sir George Pearce) and some of my friends’ in this chamber that I did not propose to attend any further sitting of the Senate after to-day, I neither expected nor desired any public reference to my retirement. I thank the Leader of the Government, the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Barnes), and Mr. President, all of whom are friends of mine of many years standing, for the kind things they have said concerning me. It is pleasing to have the good wishes of the Senate, and to hear the appreciative remarks made concerning my public life. I have had a long and fairly strenuous public life, but I am glad to say that I am still in good health and that my retirement is not duo to considerations of health. I trust that I shall live long enough to be able still further to work in the interests of the State of Queensland and Australia generally. If there is work for me to do I shall always be willing to devote my energies to it. In many respects it is with regret that I am retiring from the Senate; but there conies to every man a time when he must determine what is the wisest course to pursue. I feel that it is wise to retire while I am in good health so thatI may enjoy in my leisure what life has to offer. I appreciate the good wishes that have been expressed, and in bidding “ good-bye “ to the Senate I say to all my fellow senators “ Godbless you “.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 5.56 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 3 April 1935, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1935/19350403_senate_14_146/>.