14th Parliament · 1st Session
ThePresident (Senator the Hon. P. J. Lynch) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
[3.2]. - by leave - I desire to make a statement with regard to the Italo-Abyssinian dispute. I previously informed honorable senators that proposal No. I. of the Sanctions Coordination Committee relating to the prohibition of arms and munitions of war to Italy had been put into operation, and the Commonwealth Government had accepted in principle proposal No. II. (Financial Sanctions).
The Government on the 25th October, also decided to accept in principle proposal No. III. (Prohibition of imports from Italy or Italian colonies), and proposal No. IV. (Prohibition of certain munitions of war exports to Italy). The nature and extent of these proposals were previously indicated to honorable senators. The Secretary-General of the League of Nations was informed of this decision and notified “ that the Commonwealth Government would be prepared to put the proposals completely into operation within a period not less than 14 days subsequent to the 31st October or any date agreed upon by the Co-ordination Committee.” This committee will meet on the 31st October to fix the date from which the sanctions will operate.
The Government has also given consideration to proposal No. V. of the Coordination Committee, relating to mutual assistance. This proposal indicates the obligations of State Members of the League under paragraph 3 of article 16 of the Covenant with reference to the operation of the most-favoured-nation clause, so far as obligations under treaties containing such clauses are affected by reason of the suspension of commercial relations with Italy.For example, in the case of the determination or suspension of a trade agreement between Italy and a State Member of the League, other countries entitled to any concession or preferential treatment would automatically lose the right of the particular concession. Section la of the proposal is designed to counteract this, and provide that League Members other than Italy entitled to claim rights, shall still continue to receive them as though Italy were still receiving those rights. This section would not affect Australia, as we have no commercial agreement with any countries under which preferential treatment in regard to any commodity is accorded.
In addition, proposal No. V. asks State Members to purchase commodities previously obtained from Italy from other State Members, and to endeavour by increase of purchases, to alleviate the position of State Members who have suffered loss through the imposition of economic sanctions. The Commonwealth Government has accepted this proposal in principle and the Secretary-General of the League is being so informedthis afternoon.
Legislation to give effect to proposals Nos. II., III. and IV. is now being prepared, and the bill will be introduced at an early date.
SenatorBrown. - Has the Leader of the Senate any information as to the number of nations which have agreed to impose these particular sanctions?
– Yes, but I have not the list at the moment. I may say, however, that additions are being made from time to time, to the list already published in the newspapers.
– by leave - In answer to a question asked by Senator McLeay on Thursday last with regard to the disallowance of regulations, I stated, off-hand and as my then opinion, that the Senate’s power of disallowance was over a statutory rule as a whole. I have considered the matter further in the light of section 10 of the Acts Interpretation Act, and have come to the conclusion that it may be permissible for a motion to ‘be moved pursuant to section 10 for the disallowance of an individual regulation contained in a statutory rule. I do not desire the statement which I made last week to be regarded as my considered opinion.
The following papers were presented : -
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determinations by the Arbitrator, &c. -
No. 19 of 1935 - Australian Postal Electricians’ Union; and Postal Electricians Supervisors and Foremen’s Association, PostmasterGeneral’s Department, Commonwealth of Australia.
No. 20 of 1935- Fourth Division Officers’ Association of the Trade and Customs Department.
Commonwealth Public Service Act - List of Permanent Officers of the Commonwealth Public Service (excluding the State branches of the Postmaster-General’s Department) as on 30th June, 1935.
Defence Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1935, No. 102.
Dairy Produce Export Control Act - Ninth and Tenth Annual Reports of the Dairy Produce Control Board, for the years ended 30th June, 1934. and 30th June, 1935, respectively, together with Statements by the Minister for Commerce regarding the operation of the Act.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.On the 24th October, Senator Cooper asked the Postmaster-General the following question, upon notice -
What were the contract prices paid by the Postmaster-General’s Department for the carrying of mails between (a) Winton and Middleton, (b) Middleton and Boulia, for the years from 1920 to 1935?
On behalf of the Postmaster-General I now furnish the following information : -
The contract prices for the WintonHiddleton mail service were: 1920, £528 per annum; 1921-23, £550 per annum; 1924-26, £200 per annum,; 1927-29, £49 per annum. The contract prices for the Middleton-Boulia mail service were: 1920-21, £330 per annum; 1922-24, £324 per annum; 1925-27, £300 per annum; 1928-29, £249 per annum. A combined service from Winton to Boulia was introduced from the 1st January, 1930. The contract prices for the combined service were: 1930-32, £286 per annum; 1933-37, £190 per annum.
On the 23rd October, Senator Brand asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
On behalf of the Postmaster-General I now furnish the following reply: -
– In response to the invitation of the Leader of the Senate to honorable senators during the passage of the Sales Tax (Financial Relief) Bill last week, to suggest any items which they considered required urgent attention, I submitted a request with regard to the ruling of the Commissioner of Taxation in respect of egg pulp in containers. I now ask how soon and in what form honorable senators may expect a response from the Government to our appeals on that matter ?
– I instructed the officers of the department who were present during the discussion of the bill in this chamber to note each proposal submitted by honorable senators. That was done, and the suggestions have been forwarded to the Treasurer (Mr. Casey). However, I am not in a position to say when action will be taken with respect to them. I understand that the Treasurer contemplated that any suggestions so forwarded would be considered in connexion with the next budget.
– In to-day’s Sydney
Morning Herald appears a paragraph, headed “Pacific Shipping: Mr. Lyons’s Helpful Message,”in which it is stated that the Cabinet is taking steps to deal with the Pacific shipping problem. Has the Leader of the Senate any information on that matter to give to honorable senators ?
– I am not in a position to add to the statement referred to by the honorable senator.
Assent to the following bills reported : -
Seat of Government (Administration) Bill 1035.
Invalid and Old-age Pensions Appropriation Bill 1035.
Supplementary Appropriation (Works and
Buildings) Bill i933-34.
South Australia. Grant Bill 1035. Western Australia Grant Bill 1035. Tasmania, Grant Bill 1035. Sales Tax (Financial Belief) Bill 1935. States’ Grants Bill 1935..
– I move -
That the ‘bill be now read a second time.
This is a bill to provide for the payment, through the States, of a subsidy of 15s. a ton on fertilizers used in the production of primary products other than wheat during the year ending on the 30th June, 1936. Payments of the nature contemplated in this measure were first made by the Commonwealth Parliament by the Financial Relief Act 1932. Under that act, an amount of approximately £245,000 was paid through the States. The subsidy proved of such benefit to primary producers, in encouraging the desirable practice of adequately fertilizing the soil, that the Commonwealth provided a further £250,000 in order to pay a subsidy of 15s. a ton on fertilizer applied to the soil in the growing of crops other than wheat during the year ended the 30th June, 1935. That amount also was paid to the State governments for distribution to the primary producers concerned. The accounts for that year are not yet com,*plete, but so far the sum of £215,000 ha3 been distributed, as follows: - Victoria, £58,500; New South Wales, £22,000; Queensland, £24,500; South Australia, £44,500; Western Australia, £52,000 ; and Tasmania, £13,500. A further £35,000 has still to be distributed. The primary industries which use artificial manures have benefited greatly from their use. Although artificial manures are applied chiefly to pastures, considerable quantities are also used in the production of oats, fruit and vegetables. The Government feels fully justified in assisting farmers to use fertilizers to the greatest possible extent where such fertilizers are necessary to obtain the best results from farming operations. It is essential that Australia’s primary production should be maintained at the highest state of efficiency. The £275,000 for which provision is made in the bill will be paid to the State governments for distribution to the primary producers concerned at the rate of 15s. a ton on fertilizers used in the production of primary produce other than wheat during the year ending the 30th June, 1936. In previous years it was found that a certain amount of hardship was imposed on farmers by excluding from the bounty fertilizer bought in less than 1-ton lots. It has, therefore, been decided that the bounty will be paid on half-ton lots during the current financial year.
No provision was made in the Financial Relief Act 1932 for a closing date for applications for relief in respect of the year ended the 30th November, 1933, and it has been found difficult to close the accounts in respect of that year, because isolated applications are still coming in. Clause 11 of the bill fixes the 30th day of November, 1935, as the closing date for applications in respect of the 1932-33 assistance. The allocation of the £275,000 to be provided this year will be approximately as follows: - New South Wales, £22,000 ; Victoria, £100,000 ; Queensland, £37,000; South Australia, £39,000; Western Australia, £57,000; Tasmania, £20,000; total, £275,000. I feel sure that all honorable senators will approve of this measure.
– The Opposition agrees with the principle embodied in this measure, and welcomes the provision to liberalize the conditions of the subsidy by making it applicable to half-ton lots, whereas for- merly the minimum quantity on which bounty was payable was 1 ton. When the measure is being considered in committee it may require closer scrutiny, but we shall not oppose the second reading.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
Clause 3 (Appropriation of £275,000 for relief to primary producers.)
, - I desire to know whether (the words “primary produce other than wheat “ cover wheaten hay and whether the growers of wheaten hay will share in this appropriation?
– As the purpose of the bill is to grant relief to the growers of primary products other than wheat, I should say that wheaten hay is included. It is a matter of interpretation. In my opinion, the clause covers wheat grown for hay.
.- A man who sows wheat with the object of reaping it may later decide to cut the crop for hay. Who is to determine whether or not he should share in the appropriation? I know of many instances of crops having been cut for hay contrary to the first intention of the grower.
– The bounty is not paid at the time of sowing, but after the crop has been harvested.
– It is important that we should know whether a man who sows a crop for grain, but later cuts it for hay, is to share in the’ subsidy.
.: - I understand that a ruling on this point was given on a previous occasion, and in order that I may refresh my mind regarding it, I suggest that the clause be postponed.
– The point raised to-day by Senator Duncan-Hughes, was discussed when a similar bill was before the Senate on another occasion, and it was then decided that the grower of hay was not entitled to share in the appropriation. As the grower cif oats, who uses artificial manures, will be entitled to relief whether the crop is cut for hay, or reaped for grain, so should a person who grows a crop of wheat and cuts it for hay be entitled to share in the appropriation.
Clause 4 -
The amount which may be paid under the last preceding section to any State shall be such as represents payments made by the State to primary producers in respect of the production of primary produce other than wheat, in that State, at the rate of fifteen shillings for each ton of artificial manure used in that State, in respect of that production, by primary producers during the year ending on the thirtieth day of June, One thousand nine hundred and thirty-six:
– As the words “other than wheat “ appear in this clause also, it seems to me that until the point raised in connexion with clause 3 has been disposed of, it would be well to postpone the consideration of the remainder of the bill.
. - I agree with Senator DuncanHughes that the consideration of the bill should be postponed until the point raised by the honorable senator has been determined. The words “ other than wheat “ appear also in clause 6. I am inclined to agree with the Assistant Minister (Sena-tor Brennan) that the grower of wheaten hay should share in the appropriation for the reason that wheaten hay is not wheat, and wheat is the only crop specifically excluded. If other primary products are grown in accordance with the provisions of the bill, they will receive the subsidy also.
– I am advised that the department has ruled in the past that the subsidy would not apply to wheaten hay, and I ask the Senate to accept that ruling. The producers of wheaten hay will consequently not come within the scope of the bill.
– Under those conditions, I move -
That after the word “ wheat “ the words “ for grain “ bo inserted.
– The Government cannot accept this amendment. This measure is a counterpart of bills that have been passed on many previous occasions and must be read in conjunction with them. It contains farreaching provisions designed to benefit wheat-growers particularly. If this amendment were agreed to, it would probably lead to complications which might have serious results. It is impossible, having regard to the mass of legislation dealing with the relief of the wheatgrower, to say what would be the effect of the amendment. I ask the honorable senator to recognize that in these measures the Government has tried to do the fair thing hy all sections of th§ industry, and this measure only continues what has been done on previous occasions. The main respect in which it differs from its predecessors is that it allows for the payment of subsidy on half-ton lots of fertilizer, whereas previously the minimum was one ton. Ohe effect of this departure has been to increase by £25,000 the total amount of money appropriated for this purpose. In these circumstances, the Government cannot accept the amendment and I request the honorable senator not to complicate matters by pressing it.
– Had I been in time, I would have moved an amendment having a somewhat similar purpose though couched in different words. I find myself in agreement with Senator Badman on this matter. It is difficult to understand why, if oats and other crops are included in this measure, wheaten hay should he omiitted. Obviously if the bounty is paid on wheat on the bushel basis, wheat which is cut for hay does not benefit by it. I submit to honorable senators for their consideration, three points. First, why make any distinction between wheaten hay, and such crops as oats? Secondly, if a crop of wheat is reaped for grain, it will get the wheat bounty on a bushel basis. but if it is cut for hay that bounty will not apply. My third point is of the first importance. The whole desire of governments nowadays is surely to reduce wheat production, and if the farmer cuts his crop for hay he must be conferring a benefit on the community generally by not increasing the wheat output. Instead of being discouraged, as he is by this bill, such a farmer should be encouraged to cut for hay.
[3.88]. - I suggest that it is somewhat undesirable, in view of the fact that this legislation has operated for several years and has been generally accepted by the community, that the Senate should now make a radical alteration. The wheat-grower has been assisted, and is still being aided by special legislation designed to tide him over a difficult period, and other legislation is now being introduced to fix the price of wheat for home consumption. For the moat part wheaten hay is cut incidental to the production of wheat for grain. Honorable senators are well aware that not many crops of wheat are sown with the intention of cutting the whole lot for hay.
– In some districts they are.
– Yes, in a few, but such is not the general rule. Most of the wheat sown is intended for grain. Farmers have adopted a very wise practice of cutting fire-breaks in order to protect the main body of the crop, and the wheat so cut is used for hay. The object of the bill is to encourage the growing of pasture grasses. Valuable work is being undertaken in all the States in the propagation of pastures, and the original idea was to promote pasture production by top-dressing with superphosphate. The Government therefore introduced legislation to assist in the purchase of superphosphate, and in that way encourage the production of good pasture. Representations were then made that oat crops which, in Western Australia and in some of the other States, are used largely as pasture should be considered. Farmers raising fat lambs deliberately sow oar crops, not for hay, but as pasture for their ewes at lambing time. .Sometimes such a crop is fed off two or three times before it is eventually cut for hay. As wheaten hay is largely incidental to the production of wheat for grain, and wheat for grain is dealt with by other means, the amendment should, not be pressed. Moreover, the Committee has not the power to increase the appropriation which has been fixed having regard to budgetary necessities. It is obvious that if the amendment be carried, the position can he met only by reducing the rate of subsidy per ton paid on superphosphate used, and I do not think that honorable senators will consider that that is desirable. Those who have received the subsidy in the past and have put it to such good use have based their calculations on 15s. a ton, and if the destination of the grant is to be altered by providing that the subsidy shall be paid to every one who cuts a fire break round a wheaten crop on which superphosphate has been used, the rate of subsidy will have to be reduced. For these reasons, I appeal to honorable senators not to support the amendment. ‘
– Obviously this measure is similar to other bills passed in previous years. Can the Assistant Minister (Senator Brennan) say whether the States responsible for the distribution of the subsidy have raised any question regarding the interpretation of the words “ other than wheat “ ? What assurance have we that the States have not interpreted the words more generously than they have been interpreted by Senator Badman and Senator Duncan-Hughes? It is only logical to assume that the States which have distributed the subsidy have not raised the point.
– The question of interpretation was raised in the House, of Representatives, and a ruling given in accordance with what I stated previously. That ruling has been accepted by the States; at any rate, no suggestion has ever been made that it should have a wider application. Section 5 of the Wheat Growers Relief Act (No. 2) 1934 reads-
The amount which may be paid by a State to any wheat-grower out of moneys granted to that State under the last preceding section, shall be calculated at the rate of three shillings for each acre which the wheat-grower satisfies the prescribed authority of that Stats was sown by him with wheat for grain during the year one thousand nine hundred and thirtyfour.
That section expressly meets the case of the f armer who originally intended to sow for grain, but who for some reason cut his crop for hay. If a farmer can satisfy the prescribed authority that the crop was sown originally for grain he is entitled to relief under the act, so that the only ones left are those who have sown wheat for fodder purposes. That class is extremely limited as very little wheat is actually sown for hay. If the crop is sown with the object of securing grain, and the farmer satisfies the authorities that it was so sown although it was ultimately cut for hay, he is entitled to relief under other legislation. If the amendment were agreed to a farmer might benefit both ways.
– A number of dairy-farmers sow wheat not merely for hay but for grazing purposes, particularly during the winter time. If the measure be passed in its present form, such persons will not benefit at all.
– Such persons would not be entitled to the wheat bounty because they had not sown originally for grain, and they would not come under this measure either. Only a small number would be affected.
– I do not agree with the Assistant Minister.
– In this measure we are repeating the words used in previous legislation on the subject. We have always been guided by the one interpretation, and it would lead to confusion if, at this late stage, we introduced a new basis of distribution.
.- The reasons given by the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) are sufficient to” justify the committee in opposing the amendment moved by Senator Badman. If it were adopted, the subsidy would have to be distributed among a larger number of growers and the amount received by each producer would be smaller. In view of the fact that only a limited amount of money is provided in this bill, it would be wise to allow the clause to stand and have the matter raised by Senator Badman fully discussed next year in time to enable the Government, if it thinks fit, to provide a larger sum, and include those producers for whom Senator Badman is appealing this afternoon. The farmers in my State appreciate very much the financial aid which has been given to them in the purchase of artificial manures, and they welcome this proposal to liberalize the scheme by providing for assistance to farmers who buy fertilizer in half-ton lots. I therefore appeal to Senator Badman not to press his amendment.
.- In 1932, shortly after the Government announced its intention to introduce legislation for the assistance of wheat-growers to the amount of £2,250,000, the proposal was discussed at a conference in Canberra of wheatfarmers from all States. I take full credit for having advocated that £250,000 of the amount be set aside as a subsidy for the purchase of artificial manures by farmers who produced crops other than wheat. In 1932-33, the Government made available £2,000,000 to the States, which disbursed it on an acreage basis irrespective of whether the wheat was sown for grain or hay, and set aside £250,000 as a subsidy on the purchase of artificial manures. When the Wheat Growers Relief Bill for the 1934-35 harvest was under discussion in this chamber, I asked the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce (Senator Brennan) if he could indicate whether the payments would be made on an acreage basis for wheat and/or hay, pointing out that unless some such safeguard were inserted, the farmer who grew wheat for hay would not participate in the bounty or subsidy. Unfortunately, a decision was not given on the point. In my State, wheat-farmers received 3s. an acre if they could prove that they cut for hay more than the average acreage for the previous three years. The Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) has stated that the purpose of the present bill is to ensure the improvement of pastures, but I think that view of it is not borne out by the disbursement in 1932-33 of £250,000 to assist farmers in the purchase of fertilizers. Many farmers in my State grow wheat for hay to be used as fodder for sheep in seasons of drought. Unless my amendment be accepted, the wheat-farmer who grows for hay will be unprovided for, because he will not get the benefit of a home-consumption price for wheat, and unlike the wool-grower, the lambraiser, and the growers of fruit and vegetables, he will not benefit from the assistance to be given in the purchase of artificial manures.
– The- man who grows oaten hay is not overlooked.
– No, but the man who grows wheat for hay will get no benefit from this legislation, and I contend that he is as much entitled to this form of assistance as is the man who grows oats for hay.
– When I was discussing this matter with some Country party members of the House of Representatives this afternoon, I was informed that hay and oats would be included in the definition of primary produce, and therefore the man growing wheat for hay would be entitled to assistance in the purchase of artificial* manures.
– The Assistant Minister has given an opinion to the contrary.
– Perhaps the Assistant Minister will give us an assurance that he will give further consideration to the matter, to see whether or not wheat cut for hay comes under the definition of primary produce.
– It does.
– I believe that is the intention of the bill.
.- I should like to know what would be the position of a farmer who sowed a mixed crop of wheat and oats for hay. I have repeatedly done this.
– He would get the wheat bounty.
– Those who are raising objections may be likened to the man who looks a gift horse in the mouth, because after all, the money for the subsidy is to be found by the rest of the community. If any considerable number of farmers cut wheat for hay and get the assistance in the form suggested by the amendment, the other primary producers will get less. It seems to me that the amendment would make more difficult the administration of the act, and in the circumstances it should be withdrawn.
– I desire to correct an answer which I gave to Senator Abbott with regard to the position of a man who cultivates wheat for grain and turns the area over to grazing. I’ am assured by the head of the department that such land would be treated as pasture and the owner would be entitled to the subsidy. To show how relatively unimportant is the issue raised by Senator Badman I inform the committee that of the total of £244,288 distributed in 1934 as subsidy on the purchase of fertilizers, the amount distributed to growers of wheaten and oaten hay was only £7,299.
– “What were the amounts paid in each State?
– In New South Wales the amount was £672, in Victoria £745, in South Australia £1,743, in Western Australia £4,015, and in Tasmania £124. If a grower can show that he sowed originally for grain but because of adverse seasonal conditions was forced to cut for hay, he is entitled to the bounty..
– A farmer might cultivate for wheat, but if the grain did not mature properly he could cut for hay and apply for the bounty. He would also be eligible for a subsidy on the purchase of artificial manure.
– Before ho would toe entitled to the wheat bounty he would have to satisfy the prescribed authority that he sowed for grain. I really know of no class of primary producers that is excepted from the benefits of this legislation. No complaint whatever has been received from any of the States, or so far as the Government knows, from individual farmers. I ask honorable senators to accept the clause as it stands.
– The Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) has stated that the number of farmers who grow wheat for hay is negligible. It may interest the right honorable gentleman to know that in certain parts of South Australia - in the district, of Freeling for instance - a considerable number of farmers cultivate their holdings for wheaten hay because they can be sure of a better return from hay than from wheat. The fact remains that there are certain areas where wheaten hay is generally grown. The second point made by the Leader of the Senate was that oats are grown for pasture. I remind honorable senators that wheat also is grown for the same purpose. Does this bill cover such wheat ?
– According to the return furnished to the Minister, it appears that the department pays this subsidy in respect of wheaten hay as well as oaten hay
– If that be so, no harm will be done by expressly stating in the bill that this subsidy is payable to growers of wheaten, as well as oaten, hay. By so doing, we shall make it clear to the farmers concerned that they are entitled to such assistance. I point out that wheaten pasture is a stand-by in toad seasons, and that in good seasons also, when the wheat grows too quickly, stock are put in to eat it down. For these reasons, it seems to me that wheaten hay should be treated on the same basis as oats. At least three acts cover generally the granting of relief to wheatfarmers. The first of these, No. 59 of last year, provides a : bounty of 3s. an acre where the wheat-grower satisfies the prescribed authority that the acreage was sown by him with wheat for grain during the year 1934. Those emphatic words, “ wheat for grain “, exclude the grower of hay, although I understand from Senator Badman that the South Australian authorities have so interpreted this particular provision as to extend the bounty to a certain number of hay-growers. Act No. 60 of last year provides for the payment of a bounty to farmers on a bushel basis; the grower of wheaten hay cannot participate in that assistance Then we have this measure, which has been interpreted as not including wheaten hay.
– The hoad of the department has stated that this bounty is payable in respect of wheaten hay; therefore, there is no need to alter the bill.
– I am satisfied with that. Senator Leckie suggested that if wheaten hay-farmers were to be allowed to . participate in this scheme, the assistance available to other farmers would be reduced. If the wheaten hay-grower has an equal claim with growers of other primary produce, is it fair to exclude him in order that other farmers working on a similar basis may get more? It is more reasonable that all classes of farmers concerned should be allowed to participate in this assistance. I suggest that the honorable senator should contemplate this aspect of the matter.
– The Government has acted very generously in providing under this measure a subsidy of 15s. a ton on artificial manures, particularly as at the moment the price of superphosphates is the lowest it has ever been. When the original bounty was first granted in 1932-33, the price of superphosphates was £4 10s. a ton ; the 15s. subsidy reduced the price to £3 15s. To-day the price of superphosphates is £3 7s. 6d. a ton, and the subsidy of 15s. will reduce the cost to the purchaser to £2 12s. 6d. Thus the benefits to users of fertilizer is relatively greater this year than in past years. Am I to understand that under this bill growers of crops for fodder will benefit as well as growers of crops for grain? In South Australia several hundreds of growers of barley will receive no bounty on an acreage basis and will not be guaranteed a fixed price for home consumption, but under this bill they will receive a subsidy of 15s. per ton of superphosphate used by them. The Leader of the Government has interjected that this subsidy was paid last year to growers of wheaten hay; I did not know that that was so.
– Neither was I aware of it when I spoke a while ago.
– The Farmers’ Assistance Board, which distributed the money allotted to South Australia under the Wheat Growers Belief Act, refused to admit that the assistance it provided applied to growers of hay, and therefore it did not grant any help to such growers out of the bounty on an acreage basis, except where the farmer proved he had cut more hay than his average for the previous three years. My reason for asking a question on this matter last year was that no superphosphate subsidy was provided for the man who had sown previous to the 30th June, 1934. However, such growers participated in this subsidy in 1934-35. If the Minister in charge of the measure can assure me that a grower of hay, whether wheaten or oaten, will be entitled to participate in this subsidy, I shall withdraw my amendment.
– I give the honorable senator that assurance.
– I fail to see how honorable senators can say definitely whether or not this clause, as it stands, is fair to the wheat-grower, because at the moment we do not know the nature of the legislation which, we are told, is to be .brought before us later for the purpose of assisting the wheat industry. If the wheat-grower is not to receive financial assistance under such legislation, his industry will be in a worse position than other industries which are to be assisted under the measure now before honorable senators. Hitherto, substantial grants have been provided out of the general revenue, and if a similar course is not followed this year the wheat-grower will be worse off than growers of other primary produce who use artificial fertilizers and are to be given assistance under this measure.
Amendment - by leave - withdrawn.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 5 to 7 agreed to.
Clause 8 -
– It seems unreasonable to place the onus of proof upon the man who is required to produce documents, books or any other information. I would like to hear what the Minister has to say on that point.
– This provision follows a well established rule in legal proof. Where the means of knowledge upon any particular subject lies within the reach and power of a defendant, the law usually requires him to satisfy the authorities that it is not his fault that he has not done a particular thing. Under this clause the Minister may call upon any person to furnish books, documents and information required by the Minister, and any person failing to do so shall be guilty . of an offence and liable to punishment. It is quite clear that the reason why the person who has the books -does not produce them is entirely within his knowledge. No other person can have that knowledge. The clause does not impose any undue hardship on the person who is called upon to furnish the documents. He might, for instance, be able to explain his inability to produce them by proving their destruction by fire.
– If it is such a wellrecognized practice, why make provision for it in the bill?
– Unless this provision were made in the legislation, the onus would lie upon him who affirms, not on him who denies.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 9 to 13 agreed to.
Postponed clause 3 agreed to.
Preamble and title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
[4.35]. - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill, which I think honorable senators will find interesting, is designed to regulate the whaling industry. The necessity for its introduction arises from the acquisition, by Australia of certain territories in the Antarctic, and also from our international obligations. I shall give to the Senate a short outline of the circumstances which make legislation to regulate whaling not only necessary, but also urgent.
In 1931 the Commonwealth became a signatory to an International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling, which was drawn up under the auspices of the League of Nations. By that Convention, the High Contracting Parties agreed; inter aiia, to prohibit the taking or killing of certain classes of whales, calves or suckling whales, immature whales and female whales accompanied by calves. No vessel of any of the High Contracting Parties is to engage in taking or killing whales unless a licence has been granted authorizing the vessel to engage therein. The Convention provides that the fullest possible use is to be made of the carcases of the whales taken. It also regulates the terms of engagement of gunners and crews of whaling vessels.
Provision is made in the Convention for its subsequent ratification hy the respective signatories; but the Commonwealth will not be in a position to ratify the Convention until appropriate provision has been made by statute for the enforcement of its provisions within the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth. The power of the Commonwealth to legislate in respect of whaling is limited hy section 51 (x) of the Constitution, which empowers the Parliament to make laws with . respect “ to fisheries in Australian waters beyond territorial limits “. However, in order to implement the Convention fully, it would be necessary to legislate not only for extra-territorial waters, but also for the territorial waters themselves, a matter which is within the jurisdiction of the States. Early in February, 1934, this subject was discussed at a conference between Commonwealth and State Ministers, and it was then suggested that the Constitution might be amended to give the Commonwealth power to legislate as to whaling within State territorial waters, and that the States should yield to the Commonwealth the power to enact laws with respect to fisheries not only extra-territorially, but also within State limits. At the conference of Ministers it seemed that the States were disposed to be sympathetic towards the proposal to amend the Constitution along the lines suggested, partly because of the recognition by the States of the Commonwealth’s situation in regard to whaling, and partly because State fisheries, with particular reference to pearl-shell, trochus and beche-de-mer, had been adversely affected by poaching operations within territorial waters by foreign nationals. However, when the matter was referred to the States with a request for an indication of their attitude, it becomes apparent that there was no unanimity among them. Only two States - Tasmania and New South Wales - were willing to cede the necessary powers. The reason for the apparent lack of co-operation hy some of the States was that, although they recognized the necessity for a central authority to control whaling and to check foreign depredations within Australian waters, they did not feel disposed to grant unlimited powers to the Commonwealth in respect of fisheries. Rightly or wrongly, they concluded that a ceding of power to the Commonwealth in this respect might put an end to all control by the States of fisheries generally.
In view of the disinclination of the States to extend to the Commonwealth the powers necessary to legislate as to whaling in State territorial waters, the mat tei* is being approached from another angle. From the point of view of the Commonwealth it is more vital to regulate the industry in the Antarctic than in territorial waters whore the industry is, in comparison, of small compass. The bill has been prepared accordingly. At the same time, it must be borne in mind that whaling vessels ordinarily put in to neighbouring ports in order to replenish supplies and effect repairs. It follows that the regulation of fisheries can be the better effected if the authorities controlling the ports of call are prepared to assist. Breaches of the act and regulations can more easily be punished by an arrest of the ship while in port than by the issue of process while it is still upon the high seas and beyond the reach of governmental control. Consequently, it is most desirable that the States should pass legislation ancillary to the proposed Commonwealth Act; and each State has, therefore, been approached regarding the passage of legislation along the lines of the bill. Their replies have not yet come to hand, but there is little doubt that they will be prepared to assist the Commonwealth in this respect.
Pending the passage of State legislation, the Commonwealth Government could, on the enactment of the present bill, proceed to ratify the International Whaling Convention, Avith a reservation in regard to the territorial waters of the States. Should all the States adopt legislation similar to that contained in the bill, that reservation could be removed; in the meantime, it would be possible to regulate the whaling industry in the Antarctic, so far as Australia is concerned, during the 1935-36 season, thus placing a check on the wholesale destruction of whales which might otherwise take place.
With the enactment of the Australian Antarctic Territory Acceptance Act 1933, the desirableness of the Commonwealth’s ratification has become more pronounced. From the proclamation of the date of commencement of that legislation, the Commonwealth will have under its con trol the vast territories contained in the Australian Antarctic sector defined in the act, together with the waters adjacent thereto. In those waters a large proportion of the world’s whaling trade is carried on.
At the close of the 1933-34 whaling season, it became apparent that the stock of whales in the Antarctic was becoming seriously depleted. The main cause of this depletion has been the increase of catchments due to the establishment and growth of the pelagic system. Under the old method, captured whales had to be taken back to the base for treatment - an operation which limited considerably the scope of whaling - but under the pelagic system, mobile factories are sent out accompanied by chasers, and the whales are treated, as it were, on the spot. Honorable senators will readily understand that this method greatly increases the number of whales which can be taken and treated in any given season, and makes the regulation of the industry a matter of great urgency.
The governments of Great Britain and Norway have taken a serious view of the depletion of the numbers of whales. A suggestion that no whaling operations at all should be carried out during the coming season was made, but the proposal met with such hostility on the part of various whaling companies that it was eventually abandoned. Early this year, however, the two governments decided that, in order to place a check on the destruction’ of whales, it was necessary to limit the whaling season south of latitude 40° S. to the period between the 1st December, 1935, and the 1st March, 1936. Effect has been given to that decision in each of those countries, whilst in Norway it has been further decided to limit the production for the coming season to a maximum of 1,100,000 barrels of whale oil, reckoning six barrels to the ton. The Norwegian total catch for the previous season was 1,158,000 barrels, so that the reduction in its catch will be approximately 9,600 tons at least.
With the passage of the bill, the Commonwealth would be able to ratify the Whaling Convention, thus bringing itself into line with Great Britain and Norway.
It would also be able to regulate the industry in the Australian Antarctic waters by the issue and control of licences to whaling companies registered in Australia. This, in effect, is the underlying idea behind the proposed ratification of the Whaling Convention. It is recognized that signatory States cannot control vessels flying the flag of another State when they are outside recognized territorial limits, but they can control crews and vessels registered in their own States. Thus each State, by being in a position to police its own vessels and nationals, will contribute to the effectiveness of the convention. Honorable senators may not appreciate how this can be done, in view of the fact that Australia has not adopted the Statute of Westminster. But an arrangement was made with His Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom to cover the specific point in question, and the Imperial act relating to this matter, “ Whaling Industry (Regulation) Act 1934,” provides for Australian legislation to have extraterritorial operation. This is dealt with in section 15 of the Imperial act, which reads as follows: -
By this extension of its jurisdiction, Australia would be in a position to fulfil the duties imposed by our acceptance of the Australian Antarctic area in which the greater part of the world’s whaling trade is carried on. In addition, the regulation of the whaling industry in this arena would be an act of “ effective occupation “ in respect thereof. “Effective occupation “, I may state, is regarded by certain authorities on international law as necessary to constitute title to the possession of new territories.
As to the supervision necessary to ensure the observance of the proposed law, we have the experience of other countries to guide us. It is possible to provide for inspectors to be sent out with various whaling fleets to -ensure that there is no infringement of the provisions of the act. This method has been adopted by New Zealand, and the revenue obtained by the dominion from licence-fees, royalties, &c, has always been sufficient to cover the cost of the provision of inspectors, even in depression years.
In the preparation of this bill, advantage has been taken both of the experience of the New Zealand Government in the Ross Sea Dependency and also of the provisions of the Imperial Whaling Industry (Regulation) Act 1934.
The bill has a very desirable purpose, and I ask honorable senators to facilitate its passage in order to permit of early action being taken to ensure the application of its provisions during the coming season. Doubtless many honorable senators thought that this bill would be largely of an academic character, but the experiences of New Zealand show that, far from being such, it relates to a matter of practical business. The British Government has continued to urge Australia to take this action to protect the industry, and to assert its rights to the territory of which it has taken possession. This industry can be made a valuable asset to the Commonwealth, but it stands in pressing need of regulation. Norway and Great Britain, which in the past have derived considerable revenue from it, have recognized this requirement, and have entered into this convention.
– Is Japan a signatory?
– Not at present, but it is hoped that other countries will become parties to the convention. In the meantime, it is Australia’s duty to do its part, especially in view of the obligations it has assumed in taking possession of that territory and the adjacent waters.
Debate (on motion by Senator Collings) adjourned.
Debate resumed from the 11th October (vide page 705), on motion by Senator Brennan -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- Such a long period has elapsed since this bill was last debated in this chamber that honorable senators may have forgotten the extraordinary outburst on the part of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) when he attacked the Government for introducing this measure. I shall refresh their memories in regard to some of his utterances and show how undeserved and irrelevant to the measure they were. It seems extraordinary that whenever such a bill, which may improve conditions in the Commonwealth, is introduced by this Government, the Labour party never wearies of charging the Ministry with being afraid to trust. the people, and anxious to hamper and gag them, by preventing freedom of speech. The Leader of the Opposition deprecated the tendency of freedom of speech to degenerate into licence, but the whole tenor of his remarks appeared to be an advocacy of this licence. In bringing forward this legislation, the Government is actuated by a genuine desire to protect Australia, from the foe who may lurk within its borders. Very often the menace to a country’s welfare is greater from within than from without its confines. Numerous demonstrations in this fair Commonwealth in recent years have proved this. “When the debate on this bill commenced, any honorable senator new to this chamber might have gained the impression that this was entirely new legislation.
– How could they when this is an amending bill?
– The denunciation of the Government by the Leader of the Opposition did not wholly relate to this amending legislation, but referred in parr to the Crimes Act itself. He overlooked the fact that for some years the Scullin Government was in power, and made no attempt to repeal the Crimes Act which he held up to the reprobation of the people. The Crimes Act itself has been in force for years. If honorable senators will turn to the statutes of 1926 they will see a definition of what constitutes an unlawful association. Yet, only recently, we have heard the Leader of the Opposition and his colleagues censuring the Government for presuming to restrain persons who may be members of such an organization, from employing to the full their powers of speech on each and every occasion. The memorandum which accompanies this bill is excellently prepared, and I compliment the Minister and the draftsmen on the compilation of it. It clearly shows the extent of these proposed amendments of the original act. I challenge any honorable senator to show that these amendments will unduly interfere with the liberty of the subject. I differentiate between liberty and licence.
– Apparently the honorable senator has not read the bill.
– I have, and I might claim that the Leader of the Opposition has never read the act closely, or he could never have made some of the statements that were contained in his speech. To bolster up his extraordinary attack on the Government he went into lengthy detail with regard to his early life. This discourse was pathetic and almost reduced me to tears - not tears ot sympathy for him, but tears of regret that a gentleman occupying his position should descend so low as to use such matter in his attack on a government which is doing its best to defend our fair country. In ito wisdom, and with the endorsement of the people, Parliament passed the Crimes Act. I was never aware of any revulsion of feeling against this act on the part of persons whose opinions are worth having. But the Leader of the Opposition generally manages to obtain due publicity for his extraordinary utterances, and, doubtless, because of that I noticed recently that in some parts of Austra]ia particularly in the metropolitan centre of Victoria, persons have been influenced sufficiently to summon a meeting and from a Democratic Defence League, to protest against the invasion by this Government of the liberties of the people. At that gathering indignation was expressed in unmeasured terms that any government should presume to hamstring the people by introducing such cruel legislation as the Crimes Bill. I have no recollection of the Scullin ‘ Government having attempted to repeal any portion of the Crimes Act which was passed in 1914. It has since been amended from time to time to make it more effective, particularly in connexion with unlawful associations. Does Senator Collings, who contended that such a law as the Crimes Act should not be on the statute-hook, suggest that the Government should not have the right to deal with unlawful associations ?
– I did not say so.
– That was the whole tenor of the honorable senator’s remarks. He. commenced by saying the hill was framed in a spirit of fear. Fear of what? Unless legislation of this nature is on the statute-book this or any other Government would not be justified in holding office. This bill has been introduced because the Government believes that at present the law is insufficient to deal with those forces which are anxious to cause disaffection in the community, and, if possible, to disrupt the Empire.
– What are those forces?
– I shall tell the honorable senator shortly. I give the honorable senator credit for being as sincere as I am, but he made some extraordinary statements. He said -
Recent happenings in Europe are the best indication of the fact that with a limited monarchy and our present parliamentary institutions the British people have the. best form of government known to the world.
I say it is our duty to preserve the best form of government known to the world, and that can best be done by legislating against unlawful associations. The honorable senator’s subsequent utterances lead one to believe that he considers that the present form of government is detrimental to the people of Australia, and should be dispensed with. After saying that he was endeavouring to lift the discussion to the highest possible plane, he did the reverse by referring to a public execution at Geelong in 1854, to the pathetic experiences of his father and himself in the Old Country many years ago, and to the transportation of a ‘boy from England for catching a rabbit on private property. What have such incidents to do with the hill ? He went on to say -
In all ages people in positions of authority have sought to im’pose their will by force on those not in a position of authority.
What persons in authority are endeavouring to impose their will by force on those not in a position of authority? The authority to-day is the Parliament elected by the people.
– The honorable senator did not mention the Crimes Bill during the election campaign.
– There was no need to do so. The electors knew that we would support legislation in the best interests of the Commonwealth.
– We told the electors that we would fight the Communists.
– We did. Many of the honorable senator’s utterances in support of his case can be forgiven but I cannot forgive him for his references to the Crucifixion. Did not the honorable senator also say -
There should be no restriction on freedom of speech, and Ministers will have to eat their words as others who have endeavoured to suppress the liberties of the people have been compelled to do.
The PRESIDENT. - The practice of questioning other honorable senators is undesirable as it leads to interjections.
– My remarks in this chamber are always criticized by honorable senators opposite, and I submit that I am entitled to quote the utterances of the Leader of the Opposition.
– A direct question to an honorable senator presupposes an answer.
– I have directed my “ questions through you. sir.
– That is the proper procedure.
– The Leader of the Opposition who said that there should be no restriction on the freedom of speech believes, I suppose, that any scoundrel should be permitted to incite a mob to ill-use a policeman, and that the law should not be invoked until the officer has been injured or killed. The honorable’ senator believes in action being taken only after serious trouble has arisen, say in an arm_of our defence system.
– I did not say that.
– I do not wish to misrepresent the honorable senator but that is my interpretation of his remarks. He even introduced eugenics and after giving his idea of a perfect racehorse suggested the application of similar principles to the human race. It was all very interesting but had nothing whatever to do with the bill. Shortly after the Leader of the Opposition spoke on this bill I had placed in my hands a copy of the Kew Advertiser of the 10th October in which the following paragraph appears -
Meeting of Protest at Kew Recreation Hall.
If you were asked “What do you understand of the terra Crimes Act” you would probably be compelled to answer “ Nothing “. While you have been in this blessed stateof ignorance the powers that be have evolved an act of very undemocratic flavour. Here are some of the items of the act. Any association to which you may belong can be declared unlawful if the Government of the day imagines such association to be hostile or liable to incite disaffection against the Government or the constitution of the Commonwealth or between different classes of His Majesty’s subjects.
In view of the speech of the Leader of the Opposition one can understand such a statement being made. The paragraph says that any association can be declared unlawful if the Government considers it liable to incite disaffection against the Government. A similar paragraph appeared in a Sydney newspaper. I have also a handbill inviting people to attend a meeting at Kew, Victoria, to protest against the Crimes Act. It contains the following head-lines : - “ You are guilty, till you prove yourself innocent: You are denied freedom of speech, if the amendments to the Crimes Act are not repealed.”
– It is not the truth.. The principal purpose of the bill is to deal with any person who - publishes any book, periodical, pamphlet, handbill, poster or newspaper containing any matter of such a nature as to, or as to be likely to -
King’s forces to commit an act of mutiny or any traitorous or mutinous act; or
– Who is to be the judge? This Government?
– Does the honorable senator suggest that we should have no laws because no one should be a judge? Such an attitude is ridiculous.
Will any one say there is no need for this legislation? My complaint is that it does not go far enough; that it makes no provision to deal with persons who distribute among members of our defence forces publications that are likely to incite them to mutiny, or to cause disaffection. I say this, because I well remember an incident that occurred at a Tasmanian port during the visit of the flagship of the Australian squadron. Shortly before the vessel was due to sail a well-dressed individual walked up the gangway and handed to the bluejacket on duty there a package with a request that he should distribute the contents among members of the crew when the ship was at sea. The naval rating, instead of doing as requested, handed the package to the first officer he met. An examination of its contents resulted in a telephone message being sent to the local police station, and the person concerned was called upon to explain his action. That man, it was stated, had deliberately endeavoured to cause disaffection among persons serving in the King’s forces. It is only right that such persons should be dealt with. I have in my possession a copy of the Workers’ Voice of the 10th August, 1934, containing a number of statements which amply justify the action of the Government in tightening up the Crimes Act. I take from it the following, which are included in the programme of action by a revolutionary government which the Communists hope to see in power : -
To guarantee to all toilers full freedom of organization, of assembly and of the press, placing at their disposal’ the large halls, the printing presses and all supplies of paper.
To conclude a fraternal alliance with the Soviet Union and Soviet China, arm all toilers and create a mighty revolutionary red army which in alliance with the international proletariat and particularly ofEngland, New Zealand, America and Japan, will destroy all attempts at intervention and all efforts of the capitalistic class to restore their power.
– What is a toiler?
– I have my own view of the definition of a toiler, and I know many people who, although they have never worked, regard themselves as toilers.
I have brought these matters under the notice of the Senate in order to snow that these subversive influences are at work in Australia, and that there is necessity for .this class of legislation.
– What about the New Guard in New South Wales ?
– I am not suggesting that Senator Collings has sympathy with the communistic movement, hut his speeches in this chamber, and the utterances of many of his friends outside encourage communistic activities in this country. It is our duty to prevent such organizations from gaining a foothold in Australia. I agree with the Leader of the Opposition that Australia, is the freest country in the world, and I appeal to him to help us to keep it free; I urge the honorable gentleman to forget what he said the other day, to withdraw his opposition to the bill, and support -the Government in its efforts to avert a grave danger that threatens Australia. I differ from the honorable senator on many subjects, but I have the best of feelings for him personally, and I hope that he will accept my invitation to support the bill.
Objection has been raised in certain quarters to that provision in the measure which gives greater power to the police, and, in certain circumstances, invests a magistrate with the power of a judge. But desperate diseases call for desperate remedies, and after our experience of the last few years there should be no objection to tightening up the law in order that it may more effectively protect the community from- the acts of subversive organizations. I feel sure that the proposed amendments of the act will be acceptable to the majority of honorable senators, and will have the indorsement of the people.
– The hill is a step in the right direction. Many reasons have been advanced in. favour of tightening up the law to deal with persons who are bent on making trouble in the community. In some countries disturbers of the peace a re dealt with in summary fashion. They are stood against a wall and shot. Al though the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) and his supporters are hostile to the bill, their arguments suggest that it is necessary. It is about twelve years since similar legislation was passed in England. The fact that we are now following the lead of the Mother Country indicates that we have reached a stage when some check should be administered to the increasing activities of disruptive organizations. I congratulate Senator Hardy upon his speech. It gave evidence of much research. I also support Senator Allan MacDonald, who takes the view that in some of the provisions of the bill the word “ shall “ should be substituted for the word “ may “, thus making action by the Government mandatory in certain cases.
The Leader of the Opposition, in a brief biographical review of the experiences of his father and mother, stated that they left Great Britain and. came to Australia because they were convinced that an honest man could not make a living in the Mother Country. Then the honorable gentleman, with characteristic inconsistency, was careful to assure us of his loyalty and allegiance to the land of his birth. I should have thought that if his father had left a country because of his belief that an honest man could not get a. living in it, the honorable senator would not have referred to it in such laudatory terms.
– There is a vast difference between a country and the laws which its governments pass. Australia, for instance, is not a bad country, but some of the laws passed by successive governments do not appeal to me.
– The Leader of the Opposition also produced a number of periodicals, the transmission of which’ through the post, he said, had been prohibited. He added that he had read the articles to which exception had .been taken, and could find nothing objectionable in them. I take it that the honorable gentleman sincerely believed all that he said, and I concede to him the right to his opinion; hut I could not help a feeling of surprise when, after having protested against the banning of these publications, I heard him say that the persons responsible for some of them were anxious to secure membership of his organization, and that he strenuously ob- jected. I put it to the honorable senator that if these people were not acceptable to him as fellow members of his organization, they should not be let loose on the people of this country, and allowed to print, publish, or say what they like.
– Read my speech, and see what I said about them.
Senator JAMES MCLACHLAN I listened carefully to what the honorable gentleman said, and I have since read his speech, so I am in no doubt as to his inconsistencies. Senator Brown also had rauch to say about freedom of speech. I agree with much of what he said, and I feel sure that no one wishes to prevent other people from expressing their honest opinions concerning public matters.
– Only a few nights ago the Sydney police prevented Mr. Clark, a member of the House of Representatives, from speaking.
– That was because he was holding up street traffic.
– That is the excuse, but it is nonsense. I have been put in gaol for expressing my opinion on certain subjects.
– Any government has the right to prevent a person from uttering anything of an inflammatory nature which will lead a number of people into a lot of trouble, from which they will suffer most. This Government does not object to freedom of speech. I point out to Senator Brown that a clear line of demarcation has to be drawn between freedom of speech and licence. This Government is endeavouring to protect the community from licence. Senator Brown also spoke of reformers, not only those of the soap-box type, but also young university students who, he claimed, often advanced ideas, the adoption of which might prove of advantage to the community.
– They will be our legislators in future.
– Probably; and nothing in this measure will prevent them from becoming legislators.
– Under this measure apparently we may think what we like but must not say it.
– Senator Brown admitted that at one stage of his career he was a ranting reformer, but had since reformed. - I am not sure that he has reformed; probably with age he has mellowed, and while he is putting out the same old stuff he is couching it in more attractive terms. No citizen of this country need incur the penalties set out in this measure, but should he do so the penalties he will suffer, under this bill, will not be too severe for his offence. I support the bill.
– I point out to Senator j ames McLachlan that what is one man’s liberty is another man’s licence. That fact has been demonstrated rather frequently of late. “When I rise to speak I like to have plenty of freedom, but when some one else speaks and I do not agree with his utterances I naturally feel inclined to ask him to sit down. So it is throughout life. Supporters of theGovernment have said that these are not the “ bad old days “, but most people believe that there is a danger in this country that we may get back to the bad old days.
– There is no danger of that.
– I do not feel so certain on that point; eternal vigilance is the price of liberty, and liberty was one of the principles for which the last war was fought. We have been told that this measure effects an amelioration rather than an aggravation of the act it seeks to amend.
I do not oppose what has been described as the “ main object “ of the bill, as outlined by the Assistant Minister in his second-reading speech. Any steps to safeguard official secrets or prevent information regardingthe defence of this country from leaking out should be supported. We should endeavour to protect the people of this country by checking the operations of persons who are mean enough to try to sell their fellow countrymen. Even when we may disagree with the Government’s defence policy and any measures it may favour with respect to Australia’s participation in war, we should be slow to stand in the Government’s way once it has decided, as representatives of a democratic people, to take a certain course in such matters. There are always individuals who are ready to sell or buy secret information and their activities should !be checked. My colleagues .and I agree with the Government on that point.
However, I take exception to certain aspects of this measure regarding which the Minister will encounter strong opposition in committee. Although we number only three, the Opposition will carry out its duty of defending the interests of a large section of the community when such ave threatened by measures of this nature. Whether it be due to the raising of false alarms, the dissemination of wrong information, or tho assertions of communists who, as such, are opposed to the Labour party, the fact remains that considerable numbers of people are alarmed at the introduction of this measure, and many labour and industrial organizations have passed resolutions condemning it. I object to clause 13 which enables a superintendent of police to give extensive powers to Commonwealth officers in respect of search warrants. The person to be entrusted with these powers should be more clearly defined. The bill refers to “ a superintendent of police “. Does that mean .a particular officer or any superintendent of police?
As to the civil actions, even although they may relate to sedition, the Government is going rather far in permitting seizure of forfeitable goods by “ any officer who is authorized in that behalf by a Minister of State.” This means that any Minister can suddenly create another police force. When we remember that such officers will be empowered to deal with matters that are usually causes of civil action such a provision breaks fresh ground, and it leads me to disbelieve the assertion that this measure is an amelioration of the act. I should not like to have my private affairs inquired into by some man whose only authority is that he is a Commonwealth agent - a man authorized by a temporary Minister of ‘State to act in such a matter. Such inquiries should be left in the hands of established police forces. We believe in freedom of speech and we should not delegate powers to any official which might lead to many awkward moments for citizens who may be accosted by such officials when following their lawful occasions. 1 am very chary of giving to special “Commonwealth officers the powers usually exercised by members of a police force. ‘Personally I respect a policeman and should he point out that I am infringing some minor traffic regulation I obey him without a murmur, because I recognize that he is carrying out a duty delegated to him by myself as a citizen of this country. However, this Government will be unwise to empower a man not in uniform to accost me and tell me that he is authorized to take me into custody or inquire -into my affairs.
Apparently clause 5, which deals with indeterminate sentences, mainly affects youths. Under this clause an official will have power to take into custody any person who has been convicted of some crime and such a person may bo committed to a reformatory. It has been pointed out that this provision already exists in the Victorian law and that judges have suggested that the Commonwealth should make similar provision in its Crimes Act. Following upon the provision that Commonwealth officers may exercise powers usually reserved to police officers, this clause and other innovations are naturally causing concern to the general .public. Many people have read this measure and criticisms of it, and they are naturally alarmed as to the extent to which this enlargement of investigatory and disciplinary powers will affect their freedom as subjects.
Clause 6 deals with incitement to mutiny. I would not protect any person who attempted to incite a member of our defence forces to mutiny. The Labour party is a constitutional party and none of its members would make or countenance such attempts. No political party, of course, can be expected to control irresponsible individuals. The bill places a publisher in an untenable position. Under the original act his position was bad enough, but with the deletion of the word “knowingly” he will never know when a charge may be laid against him. No publisher of a newspaper is in a position to know anything that is published above his name so the deletion of “ knowingly “ will greatly increase restrictions on the freedom of the press.
In committee the Labour party will oppose the provision for the amendment of section 25 of the principal act, although, in view of the speeches by Senator Payne and Senator James McLachlan to-day, its opposition will, no doubt, be ineffective. Those honorable senators, and others who support the Government, will, as usual, follow the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) when the division bolls ring. I have had experience of attempts to interfere with the liberty of trade unionists. In my early days I helped to form an industrial union, which, in order to provide against victimization, was forced to make each of its 40 members an officer. The union could have but one president, and one secretary, but it overcame the “difficulty occasioned by the lack of official positions by appointing about a dozen vicepresidents and a similar number of assistant secretaries. Every member of the organization held some official position, and was, therefore, regarded as a ringleader, yet those workers were only forming industrial organization, in order to obtain for themselves and their families a reasonable share of the good things of life which they produced. The history of the Labour party is the history of a fight for the right to express one’s opinions. Honorable senators know how the rights of individuals have been interfered with in Italy and Russia. Not many days ago Senator Hardy quoted from the penal code of Soviet Russia. Rut not only in that country has democracy been challenged, for both in Germany, under nazism, and in Italy, under fascism, the rights of the people have been trampled on. I have never believed that any form of control which is based on the destruction of democracy and a suppression of the rights of the people, can succeed. For that reason I believe that the extreme form of control adopted by Soviet Russia in some respects cannot prevail, and that that country will eventually get back to a form of government which., while not differing greatly from that which we have in Australia, will be infinitely better than the system which was in operation when that great country was under the despotic rule of the Czars. Australia has made greater progress towards social reform, and has achieved a larger measure of democratic government, than have most other countries, not excepting Russia, where the wheel of revolution has made a complete turn. I shall not make a disquisition on the higher principles of liberty of speech. I rejoice that those opposed to the Labour party entertain to-day a view of the right of freedom of speech different from that of the opponents of the party not many years ago. In these days people have a wider and broader outlook upon life than was taken a few decades ago. During his long parliamentary career, the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) must have noticed a great many changes of this kind. That a great deal still remains to be done the introduction of this bill is evidence. A measure which seeks to throw conditions back to what they were in less enlightened days demands our earnest consideration. In his second-reading speech the Minister who introduced this bill said -
Another provision which is of importance is to be found in clause 7, which gives power to require information from any suspected person The act of 1932 gave the AttorneyGeneral power to require answers to questions put to certain persons, but subsequently - I do not know whether it was because this provision was considered , to be too wide - an amendment wasmade in a crimes billbefore the Senate in 1932, which had the effect of considerably modifying the law. That bill, however, was never passed.
The Labour party opposed the bill which was introduced in 1932, and secured the verbal support of two members on the other side. So strong was the resentment of such unjust proposals that the ‘bill was withdrawn. Although not a lawyer, I spent many years in the law courts of this country as a journalist, but until the legislation of 1932, to which I have referred, was introduced, I had not known of an attempt being made to create an offence and make it retrospective for twelve months.
SenatorHardy. - Mr. Lang, when Premier of New South Wales, brought in a bill dealing with industrial arbitration which provided for retrospective operation.
– The honorable senator should be as thankful to Mr. Lang for his seat in this Parliament as Mussolini should be to the misguided and badly-led Communists of Italy who made it possible for him to attain to his present position of power. Similarly, the disciples of Lenin and Trotsky in Russia owe much of their power to the evils associated with the despotic rule of the Czars.
– Would the honorable senator like unity with Mr. Lang to be achieved?
– If Mr. Lang accepts the platform of the Eederal Labour party, there is no reason why that party and the New South Wales Labour party should not be associated. A few days ago the Senate disallowed a regulation which had retrospective effect, yet some honorable senators who supported the motion for its disallowance were not averse from accepting the legislation of 1932, which attempted to create an offence and make the penalties retrospective.
– This bill, like that of 1932, will probably he withdrawn,.
– I hope so. Contrary to the views expressed by honorable senators opposite, the Labour party believes in constitutional methods. It is not an extreme party; indeed, it cannot be extreme, for every three year3 it is subject to the swing of popular opinion.
Proposed new section 30 a b states -
If a police, stipendiary or special magistrate is satisfied by information upon oath laid before him by any person duly authorized by the Attorney-General that any person has in hia possession or custody any documents relating to an unlawful association or has knowledge or information . . . “ Or has knowledge or information “ - that provision is too wide. The methods of the Star Chamber fall short of this proposal for the Minister is, apparently, desirous of getting right inside a man’s mind, and with a probe, as it were, turning out the thoughts that are there. Such inquisition amounts almost to a form of torture. The proposed new section proceeds - . . relating to such an association the police, stipendiary or special magistrate as the ease may be, may bywriting underhis hand, authorize any constable to serve upon that person or, in the case of a corporation, upon a person holding a specified office in the corporation, a notice in writing requiring the person upon whom the notice is served to-
answer questions submitted to him in writing;
furnish information either orally or in writing; and
produce for inspection or authorize in writing the production for inspection of and the taking of copies of any documents, relating to -
any money, property or funds belonging to or held by or on behalf of an unlawful association or as to which there is reasonable cause to believe that they belong to or are held by or on behalf of an unlawful association ;
any payments made directly or indirectly by, to, or on behalf of an unlawful association or as to which there is reasonable cause to believe that they are so made; or
any transactions to which an unlawful association is or is believed to be a party.
It seems a drastic proposal that a man suspected of having knowledge or information in this respect shall be liable to incur the severe penalties prescribed in the bill. Sub-section 2 reads -
Any person who, without just cause (proof whereof shall lie upon him). -
I fail to see how that provision is compatible with the Australian sense of justice. If a man is charged under this section, the onus will be upon him to prove his innocence. The sub-section continues -
A suspect may be submitted to examination, and he may be required to prove that the information he gives is not false. He may even be in custody at the time.
– With no charge actually levelled against him.
– Yes, and he will be required to furnish proof that any information which he has supplied to the examining officer is true. To my mind that is an enormity, and I hope that the legal gentlemen on the other side of the chamber, who are familiar with the principles of British justice, and know how far this country has progressed inthe administration of justice, will refuse to allow this provision to be passed. Paragraph d is on a par with the attempt in the 1932 bill to make retrospective for twelve months the provisions directed against industrial unions that had been connected with unlawful associations. That proposal was rejected in this chamber, where it originated, the bill was withdrawn, and has not reappeared. On that occasion the
Labour party’s criticism, which gained support from liberal minded members on the other side of the chamber, was based on the fact that the bill was entirely opposed to .British justice. The Labour party probably experiences more trouble- from communists and unlawful political associations than do the other parties. When I was occupying at one period a responsible editorial position, and interpreting the Labour platform, I was libelled by the Independent Workers of the World, bolsheviks, anarchists and people of various shades of political opinion. The Labour party does not desire to see Australia overrun by spies from abroad or to protect anybody guilty of having committed an unlawful act, but it does stand four square for freedom of speech. Only last year the Labour party opposed the . Immigration Bill, in which a similar attempt was made to reverse a fundamental principle of British justice, by placing the onus of proof upon the defendant. If this chamber endorses such a provision, I shall abandon all faith in the progress and enlightenment of Australia. I fear that we are going backward instead of forward. In the administration of the criminal law the tendency is to believe the best of a man. When I was a boy a first offender was put in gaol, but in later times, I believe, all States of the Commonwealth and New Zealand have introduced legislation which permits of leniency being shown to first offenders. Often the individual is thereby given the benefit of the doubt, and is not -classed as a criminal, or forced to become one. The administration of justice is partly governed by the opinion that the social system may be to blame to some extent for offences, particularly those misdemeanours committed by the young, and that harsh justice does not generally act as a deterrent of crime, as was believed in former years. But this bill proposes .a retrograde step by placing upon the accused the onus of proving his innocence. In my opinion, paragraph d is an enormity. A person under examination may] make an incorrect statement though he genuinely believes that he is speaking the truth, and, unless he can satisfy the magistrate of the honesty of bis intentions he may be fined £100 or imprisoned for six months. The whole of proposed section 30 a 6 requires minute scrutiny in committee, and I trust that Ministers will give it their earnest consideration. The Labour party is frequently charged with associating with the political criminals of the community - the extremists, preachers of sedition, and those seeking to promote civil war - so that any advice which members of this party can offer on this bill should be received with respect. Very few people in this country harbour seditious ideas. I have been closely associated with militant unionists and with the Labour movement, and, I know that the number of extremists is very small. A glance at the federal election returns will reveal the lack of support accorded to candidates representing the communist party. I warn the Senate that extremism breeds extremism. A negligible number of votes is cast for communists at election- time, and the majority of those who do vote for them, far from being sympathetic with the communists, are Labour “narks”, who are. dissatisfied with the policy of the Labour party or with some administrative act, and as a token of their disapproval give their support to the communists. To destroy the basis of British justice is foolish indeed. The Labour party has to bear all the odium for seditious movements but there is little to fear from communists in this country. I believe that Australia should be adequately defended and in every honourable way should co-operate with the other British dominions and with the Motherland. I have no sympathy for any man, Australian or foreigner, who sells official secrets. Such a bill as this, however, restricts freedom of speech and represents an attempt to shut the mouths of people who may be honest although misguided or foolish. Honorable senators have doubtless made utterances that afterwards they have regretted. I smile at tlie thought that anybody can be so foolish as to believe that communism is a live force in the community.
– Attempts are being made to make communism a live force.
– When I was promoted to a responsible position in the Labour movement, communists were then known as international socialists. I was so sure that they did not have very much support that I was quite prepared to publish their propaganda. I considered that the best way to cure ‘them was to give them plenty of free publicity. And that reminds me of the story of the editor who received a letter trenchantly criticizing him. The correspondent, after libelling the editor, ended with a challenge - Publish this if you dare; you have not the courage to do it.” The editor not only published the letter, libels and all, but added a footnote - “ I hope you are satisfied now that you see your venom in print, and now what do you think of yourself?” I adopted much the same policy and endeavoured to. keep the pages of the paper open, for the best method of curing a person of the extreme views which he holds is to give him plenty of freedom. The communists in Australia do not amount to a row of beans, and that is shown by the poor support their candidates get in every election.
Many electors vote for Communist candidates, only because they are dissatisfied with the representatives of the principal political parties. We should scrutinize this measure carefully, because it may contain provisions which may have a very detrimental effect upon lawabiding persons, including Labour supporters, who may be said to hold somewhat extreme political views. We should not attempt to suppress the opinions of progressive persons, and great care should be exercised before we place a dangerous weapon in the hands of any government. I ask leave to continue my remarks.
Leave granted ; debate adjourned.
Report and Balance-sheet of Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited - Broome Pearl Shell Industry - Employment of Youths.
[6.6]. - In moving -
That the Senate do now adjourn,
I desire to inform honorable senators that copies of the report and balancesheet of the directors of the Common wealth Oil Refineries Limited, as at the 30th June, 1935, havebeen placed on the table of the Library.
– I direct the attention of the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) to a matter of vital importance to the north-west of Western Australia. Recently a committee was formed to distribute a grant of money made available by the Commonwealth Government and the Western Australian Government for the relief of those engaged in pearl-shell fishing at Broome. Has the committee made a report, either to the Federal Government or to theState Government, and, if so, is the report available to honorable senators? I have received urgent requests from Broome to request the Commonwealth Government to make further financial assistance available, as the grant made is totally inadequate to enable those engaged in pearl-shell fishing to re-equip the fleet before the early neap tides. I should like to know the manner and conditions under which it is proposed to distribute the grant of £7,000 made available by the Western Australian Government and the £5,000 provided by the Commonwealth Government.
SenatorPAYNE (Tasmania) [6.9].- I direct the attention of the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) to the following paragraph which appeared in the Melbourne Argus of yesterday : -
Inquiries made recently by an officer of the Prime Minister’s Department show that no difficulty is being encountered in finding employment for boys aged between fourteen and sixteen years; that there is the greatest difficulty in finding employment for youths aged more than eighteen years. . . .
That discloses a very alarming state of affairs. The fact that so many lads after reaching eighteen years are practically excluded from employment is due to State laws. Some time ago the right honorable the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) said that the Commonwealth Government intended to do all in its power to absorb unemployed youths, but I do not know what has been done. I shall persist in bringing this matter forward untilI receive a definite assurance that a determined effort is being made to solve the problem. This awful state of affairs is due largely to the fact that State legislation provides that only a certain number of juveniles shall be engaged in any industry.
– Industrial awards made under law limit the number of juveniles to be employed and are responsible for robbing thousands of youths of all prospect of employment.
– The honorable senator would prefer to ruin their fathers.
– I do not suggest anything of the kind. The boy of to-day, who is the man of the future, has some rights. When he reaches the age of 21 we expect him to accept the responsibilities of manhood, and that being so we should enable him to prepare to assume such responsibility. I ask the Minister to confer with the Prime Minister and the other members of the Cabinet with the view to arranging a conference between the Federal and State authorities in an endeavour to provide a solution of this pressing problem. We cannot allow such a large percentage of our youths to be prevented from following useful occupations because of industrial awards.
[6.13]. - I shall communicate with the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) to see whether a report on the subject mentioned by Senator Allan MacDonald has been received, and if it has whether a copy can be made available. I shall let the honorable senator know at a later date.
If the Commonwealth Government approached the State Governments on the employment of youths as suggested by Senator Payne, I am afraid that it would be told to mind its own business.
– It is a subject of Australia-wide importance.
– The only industrial power which the Commonwealth possesses is in respect of conciliation and arbitration; all other industrial powers are held by the States. The Commonwealth has endeavoured to assist by making a grant for afforestation purposes, and, in Western Australia, sufficient youths are not available to provide the quota of 20 per cent, stipulated.
In that State at least the position does not seem to be so bad as is suggested by Senator Payne. Surely we can rely upon the governments and the people of the States to do what is right. We mustassume that State governments are as alert as is the Commonwealth in the public interest. I would hesitate before suggesting that the Prime Minister should approach the State governments on the subject because I am afraid that wo might be snubbed.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 6.15 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 30 October 1935, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1935/19351030_senate_14_147/>.