14th Parliament · 1st Session
The Deputypresident (Senator Sampson) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers,
– Has the attention of the Leader of the Senate been directed to the following telegram, published in the Sydney Daily Telegraph, of yesterday’s date: -
G. Tracey, leader of the Nationalist Socialist Party of Western Australia, said to-day, “ My blueshirts’ will meet force with force “.
He said that the movement was 1,000 strong at the end of 1935, and that the membership was still growing, with a large following in the timber and gold-fields areas. The organization is organized on Hitler’s Nazis. Its public manifesto states that it proposes to abolish the present system of Government, and substitute a grand council of the Nationalist Socialist Party.
If so, can the Minister say what action, if any, will be taken by the Government under the Crimes Act to meet this growing menace?
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.InWestern Australia we are cursed with cranks, but I believe that the proportion is not larger than in any other State. Judging from the extravagant statements made by the gentleman referred to, I should say that he is either harmless or that, later, he will be dealt with by the State authorities.
Exports, Costs of Production and Price
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce, upon notice -
– The Minister for Commerce advises that the information is being obtained, and will be furnished to the honorable senator later.
Stream-Lined Diesel Locomotives
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.The Minister for the Interior states that inquiries are being made, and the honorable senator will be advised of the result as soon as possible.
Senator BRAND (through Senator
Foll) asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
Is it a fact that under the War Veterans’ Allowances Act 1935,New Zealand paysto ex-soldiers both of the Great War and of the South African War, who are unfit for perma- nent employment, and to their dependants,a service pension somewhat similar to that provided for under the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act 1920-1935? 2.If so. will he bring this matter before Cabinet with a view to extending the benefit of service pensions to South African war veterans?
– The Minister for Repatriation has advised that an answer will be furnished to the honorable senator at a later date.
Senator HARDY (through Senator
Abbott) asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
What quantity respectively oforegon logs and sawn Oregon has been admitted to the Commonwealth -
Will the Senate be given an opportunity of discussing the terms of this new Canadian agreement before it is finalized?
asked the Minister . representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.The Treasurer has supplied the following answer: -
The recent press statements in regard to an increase in bank overdraft rates were not officially authorized by the banks, nor has the Government been advised of any proposed increase of the rates.
The following bills were read a third time : -
Supplementary Appropriation (Works and Buildings) Bill 1934-1935.
War Pensions Appropriation Bill 1930. Appropriation (Unemployment Relief) Bill 1936.
[11.10].- I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill makes provision for an amount of £7,263,800 for the ordinary services of the Commonwealth for the first three months of the financial year 1936-37. This provision is necessary, because following the usual practice, at the conclusion of the present sittings Parliament will not be called together again before the 1st July next.
The following sums are included in the bill : -
These amounts are based on the appropriation passed by Parliament for the current financial year, and represent approximately one-quarter of the total appropriation for the year, except in one or two cases in which the expenditure on particular items is heavy in the first quarter of the financial year. The usual provision is also made for refunds of revenue and advance to the Treasurer of £500,000 and £1,500,000 respectively. The provision under “ Advance to the Treasurer “ is necessary to carry on uncompleted works in progress at the 30th June, 1936, and to cover unforeseen and other miscellaneous expenditure. The payments of the special grants to the States of South Australia,’ Western Australia and Tasmania, will be continued on the same basis as the grants approved by Parliament for this financial year, and will be met from the Treasurer’s advance, pending the introduction of new bills for the payment of grants during 1936-37, based on recommendations which will be received from the Commonwealth Grants Commission.
The bill does not provide for any new expenditure or for any departure from existing policy. It covers only the amount estimated to be necessary to carry on essential services on the basis of, and proportionate to, the current year’s appropriation. Although approval is now being sought for supply for three months, it is the intention of the Government to ask Parliament to meet again before the expiration of that period when, in the ordinary course, the budget for the year will be introduced. This will give Parliament an opportunity to discuss in detail the Government’s proposals as outlined in the budget.
Although the progressive figures showing the position of Commonwealth finances for the ten months ended the 30th April last are available, it is too early to forecast, with any accuracy, the results of the present financial year, except to indicate that there is every expectation that, from a revenue point of view, they will be satisfactory. I consider, however, that it would be of no benefit to honorable senators for me to attempt, at the present juncture, .to anticipate the excess of receipts over expenditure at the end of the present financial year.
– The Opposition does not . propose to delay proceedings by debating the bill at this stage. Any comments which we may have to make will be reserved until we are dealing with the various departments in committee.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 4 agreed to.
Proposed vote. - The Parliament, £44,140, agreed to.
Prime Minister’s Department.
Proposed vote, £110,900.
– Under the proposed vote for the Prime Minister’s Department, £7,100 is provided for the general expenses of the High Commissioner’s Office in London. I take this opportunity to bring under the notice of the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce), the matter of advertising Australia in Great Britain, which I mentioned a few days ago. The Minister replied to certain statements made by a Mr. Donkin, whose remarks were published in the Labor Daily of the 12th May. A full report should be made of the policy adopted in advertising Australia and its products, because there is a concensus of opinion that publicity work in Great Britain on behalf of Australia is ineffective. Mr. Kitchen, a past president of the Associated Chambers of Commerce, said -
Day after day the public cry of buy Australian goods is sent forth at considerable expense, but absolutely nothing is being done to link that slogan with some definite tangible labels or trade mark which would sink into the minds of buyers, and thus extract from the public the maximum result. Hundreds of thousands of pounds spent on advertising was being thrown in the gutter.
Dr. S. K. Dwyer, of Gosford, who returned by the Jervis Bay, said -
The striking display in the show windows of South Africa House were changed daily, and every phase of the country’s industry was advertised in this way. The windows were being used, not only to attract tourists to South Africa, but also to place the country’s primary produce and manufactured goods before the British public. Advertisements featuring South African goods and tourists’ attractions were to be seen in trams and trains, and in many other places. Australia’s publicity was poor in comparison. The window displays at Australia House were rarely changed, and were for the most part made up only of travel posters and models of steamers”. “ They were, therefore, mostly deserted, while there was always a crowd around the windows of South Africa House.
From the two statements I have quoted, and from information received from time to time from overseas travellers, it appears that the Commonwealth is not getting the full benefit of the money expended in advertising Australia in Great Britain. The Leader of the Senate should give further information on the subject, and State whether there is room for improvement. Some time ago, I mentioned that greater publicity should be given to the attractions of Canberra, and the Minister promised that the matter would be looked into. I trust that something will be done in that direction.
[11.22]. - It is a mistake to suggest that Australia is advertised only through the High Commissioner’s Office at Australia House, because a great deal of our overseas publicity work is done through the Department of Commerce, which last year expended £25,000 in advertising Australia’s products. Moreover, the Dried Fruits Board and, I believe, the Butter Board, expend considerable sums in advertising the products which they handle in an endeavour to find suitable markets. Recent visitors to Great Britain have informed me that Australia appears to be well advertised in that country.
– Is there any coordination ?
– Yes. The Australian National Travel Association, which is subsidized by the Commonwealth to the amount of £10,000 a year, is rendering valuable service to Australia. Even if the windows of Australia House are not as attractive as those of South Africa House, it does not necessarily follow that Australia’s products are not brought under the notice of the people. Australian products are advertised extensively in the provinces, and it is preferable to spend money in that way than to incur heavy expenditure at Australia House. I can assure the honorable senator that the Government it watching the position closely, in order to ensure that the best results are obtained for the money expended. The Minister for Commerce (Dr. Earle Page), who is at present in London, has expressed his satisfaction with what he has seen of Australia’s publicity in Great Britain.
– I believe that too much money is being expended in attracting bulk buyers instead of endeavouring to find additional retail purchasers.
– Australian fruit and butter are advertised extensively in the retail stores.
– Mr. Kitchen, a past president of the Associated Chambers of Manufactures, who said that money should be expended to attract retail purchasers, contended that Australian products lose their identity after they leave the wholesaler’s hands. If advertising were carried into the retail stores, I believe that the sale of Australian primary produce would increase.
, - 1 cannot agree with the views expressed by Senator Leckie. When in Great Britain last year I found that the principal retail stores displayed large posters advertising Australian primary products, particularly fruit and butter. So far as I could judge, the money expended on publicity is not being wasted. Captain Smart, the Publicity Officer at Australia House, travels all over Great Britain, and when I was in London he visited Glasgow with a cinematograph film to advertise Australia. He also visits the large retail stores, through which competitions are conducted to encourage the use of Australian primary products. I do not think that Mr. Kitchen could have studied the position very closely. Other overseas visitors have spoken favorably of the work of the publicity branch of Australia House, and although there may be room for slight improvement in some directions, I believe that Australia is advertised satisfactorily in Great Britain.
– I direct the attention of the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) to a parasite usually termed mistletoe, which is destroying many valuable trees and making serious inroads upon our forests. Will the Minister arrange for an officer of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research to see if, by inoculation or by some other means, the parasite can be destroyed and valuable timber preserved? The method of inoculation, I understand, is now being successfully employed in this direction. Australia cannot afford to allow the existence of its forestry areas and timber country to be threatened by this pest. Whether some insect or other factor will arise to create a balance in nature, I do not know; but experts in the subject of tree life have informed me that mistletoe is a problem which must not be neglected. The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research is the organization best fitted to deal with it, and steps to that ‘end should be taken without delay.
– In regard to the statement by Mr. Kitchen, that the advertisement of Australian goods in Great Britain leaves something to be desired, honorable senators may be interested in my experiences abroad. When I was in the Old Country last year, I noticed that Australian fruit and other products could be purchased at the majority of the principal railway stations, and advertisements concerning them were prominently displayed in big emporiums. If Australian goods were sought they could generally De obtained. While in the north of Scotland, 1 actually saw Australian fruit being hawked for sale, showing that it is well known to the general public. I regret that persons on returning to Australia should see fit to make damaging statements about our advertising services in Great Britain.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia - Minister for External Affairs) [11.33]. - I shall bring the remarks of Senator Arkins concerning the threatened danger to Australian forests from the mistletoe, under the notice of the Minister administering the activities of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research.
– The Labour party believes that the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research is performing excellent work. Some time ago I referred to the subject of road making, but I believe that the Minister misunderstood me. He was courteous enough to send to me a letter containing a statement in regard to the making of roads by the process of baking, which is one of the methods adopted in Queensland. I know full well that there are macadamized, bitumen and concrete roads, but I had in mind another type, which might wel! engage the attention of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. Has the Minister any knowledge of any effort, made either in Australia or elsewhere, to analyze the various soils with a view to ascertaining whether they could be hardened by a chemical process to make them capable of carrying traffic. In Queensland there are thousands of miles of bush roads which are not really trafficable; but they could be made so if science could devise a process of hardening them by chemical treatment. On one occasion I was travelling over a certain mountain road where the grade was steep. The soil, which was red in colour, was very wet at the time, and I asked the driver whether it would be slippery. In reply, he stated that it would not be dangerous because the soil, although wet, was just as safe for motoring as in summer time. In contrast with this, roads made of black soil in Queensland are impassable in the wet season. Perhaps a certain ingredient in the red soil, which is absent in the black soil, accounts for this difference. By scientific analysis it may be possible to discover why the red road should make a good surface in winter while the black soil was impassable. If the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research could investigate this matter, it might make a discovery which would be of advantage, not only to Queensland, but also to other States of the Commonwealth. Of course, I realize that when we get cheaper cement and bitumen, this investigation may be rendered unnecessary. I would like the Minister to bring this matter before the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research to ascertain whether scientific analysis have been made in Australia or any other country to treat the soil in the manner I have suggested.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia - Minister for External Affairs) [11.36].- I shall bring the remarks of the honorable senator under the notice of the Minister who controls the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research.
– I agree with Senator Brown that the discovery of a process for treating’ soils for the purpose of providing suitable road surfaces would be of great advantage to Australia. But I am under the impression that something in th indirection has already been done. A New South Welshman, I believe.. invented one method. He treated a black soil with a certain process,, baked it and rendered it into brick form. It was then laid down and rolled out, producing a surface which stood up to traffic remarkably well. If this process can be applied to black soil plains, it will render great service to the community. That method, although introduced in New South Wales, wa3 not widely utilized in Australia, but I believe that experiments were carried out in the Warren district, and the process has been adopted in parts of .Queensland. However, much remains to be learned in this direction, and I am gratified that the Minister has given an undertaking that the problem will be investigated.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Proposed votes - The Department of the Treasury, £185,120; The AttorneyGeneral’s Department, £45,340., agreed to.
The Department of the Interior.
Proposed vote £101,830.
– I impress upon the Minister the hope which is shared by all members of the Opposition and sympathetically endorsed by other honorable senators that, if it should be necessary to economize in any of the divisions coming within the ambit of the department of the Interior, the Forestry Department will not be one of them. Forestry operations should be encouraged in every possible way, not only for aesthetic reasons, and the beauty created by growing forests, but also for economic reasons. The Australian forests have a vast potential value.
Honorable senators are well aware of the difficulties experienced by members of Parliament in obtaining accommodation in Canberra. Those who are accommodated at the Hotel Kurrajong have no complaints; they are well satisfied with the conditions. But accommodation generally in the Federal Capital Territory is insufficient. I understand that the Department of the Interior is considering the enlargement of the Hotel Kurrajong, but even if this plan be carried out, it will not provide adequate accommodation at a moderate price, to which members of Parliament are entitled*
During the last four years in this chamber I have repeatedly referred to the unsatisfactory conditions obtaining at Molonglo and at the Causeway. So far as I know, the department has taken no action to remedy the position, which is a disgrace to Canberra and to the responsible authorities.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia - Minister for External Affairs) [11.42], - I enthusiastically endorse the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator. Collings) in regard to forestry. It is an Australian tragedy that the Forestry School in Canberra is not receiving the generous and wholehearted support of the Sates.
– Cannot something in the way of publicity be done to induce the States to supply forestry students for the school?
– The Commonwealth Government cannot compel the States to send forestry students to Canberra. It is necessary to train scientific foresters for Australia, which, more than any other country, requires a forestry policy; but the Commonwealth cannot persuade the States to supply pupils. As a result, there is a possibility of the school being closed.
– Why will not the States send pupils to the school?
– New South Wales, for instance, proposes to start a forestry school on its own account. This wretched non-co-operation and State jealousy are responsible for the position; it is a reflection on our forestry conscience. To-day, Australia is paying a big price for the neglect of its forests, and it will pay a bigger price in future. Our one great river, the Murray, is steadily deteriorating because of the absence of a forestry policy in relation frits head waters. I fear that the deterioration will continue, unless the government’s take action to safeguard the river banks from erosion, which is steadily proceeding, through the absolute ignorance oi those who control the country at its source.
– Has the serious ness of the position been represented io the States?
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.Yes; time and time again they have been approached. It makes one despair of anything being done.
The Leader of the Opposition referred to steps which are being taken to enlarge the accommodation at the Hotel Kurrajong. I understand- that increased accommodation is necessary, not only for members of Parliament, but also for the general public, because the problem is becoming a pressing one. This is due to the fact that’ Canberra is at last coming into its own as a . tourist centre. The Minister for the Interior (Mr. Paterson) is alive to the position, and plans are being prepared for the extension of accommodation for visitors.
The position at Molonglo, to which the honorable Leader of the Opposition referred, is being met by a vigorous programme of cottage building. I am sure that Senator Collings must have noticed the effects of that programme. As the new cottages become available, the temporary structures at Molonglo will be vacated.
– I heartily support the remarks of the Leader of the Senate (Senator Sir George Pearce), and the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) on afforestation. We have seriously neglected the development of our forests, and to-day we should do all in our power to counteract the evils which have resulted from ignorance and apathy. In parts of Central Australia sand drift, which is due to rabbits ring-barking and causing the destruction of trees, is reported to have progressed fifteen and twenty miles, rendering big areas of country useless. Large areas in- the Mallee district in Victoria have been desolated in a similar way; neither the authorities nor the farmers realized the necessity to leave chains of timber to form windbreaks and sandbreaks. Much sand blows across the railway in this district, and a large expenditure is incurred annually in clearing the track. Similarly, the water channels under the control of the Wimmera United Water Trust tire also periodically blocked up with sand. 1 can recall the time when in both the Mallee and Wimmera districts timber abounded, and no trouble was caused by sand drift. In the intervening years, however, millions of trees have been ruthlessly destroyed, and to-day there is such a scarcity of firewood in these areas that from 7s. 6d. to 10s. a ton is paid for firewood. But, to my mind, the most stupid destruction of trees is going on between Seymour and Wangaratta. Here the Postal Department or some other authority is chopping down magnificent trees which line the main highway. This is splendid timber, yet it .is being ruthlessly destroyed in order to provide a clearing for the telegraph line. If we cannot check such destruction, which is a disgrace to the community, and is taking place right under our very eyes, how can we hope to implement a sane policy of afforestation? Two days ago in this chamber I asked a question on this matter, to which the Postmaster-General (Senator A. J. McLachlan) gave a very unsatisfactory reply; he said that some other department, and not the Postal Department, was destroying these trees. In any case it is being done to facilitate the erection of a telegraph or electric line, and, instead of cutting down useless trees, the department responsible is destroying thousands of good trees. All honorable senators should unite to put up a determined fight in this matter.
– So far’ as the States are concerned in the development of afforestation, they excuse their inaction by lack of funds. During the last few years the Commonwealth Government has been in the fortunate position of having an overflowing exchequer, as the result of several large surpluses. All serious-minded Australians admit that the problems of afforestation and soil erosion are of high national importance. Why should it not be possible for this Government, not only to conduct a national forestry school, but also to assume a certain amount of direct control in these matters?
– At a conference between the Commonwealth and State governments, it was agreed that the Commonwealth should provide higher education in afforestation through a national forestry school, and that direct control of forests should be left to the States. That is why the Commonwealth Government has not done so much in this matter as we should like to see done.
– Such a division of powers in forestry matters is wrong. Like defence, afforestation and soil erosion should be completely under the control of the Commonwealth Government. In view of the earnestness displayed by the Leader of the Senate and the enthusiasm of Government supporters in this matter, I believe that it is possible for this Government to make some effort to overcome the apathy of the States and to improve the existing methods, as these, undoubtedly, have failed. It must bc made plain to the States that, despite the difficulties, which may have confronted thom in the past, they are not tackling this problem as seriously as they should. It is up to this Government to safeguard our soil and improve our forests by seeing that this jot is properly carried out.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Department of Defence.
Proposed Vote, £1,168,170.
– The vote for this department has been very largely increased. We know perfectly well that in defence matters the National Government is more or less obliged to accept the advice of its experts. The only comment I have to make at this juncture is that it seems to be too easy to persuade the people generally, and governments also in times of unrest, due to international un’rest, to agree to any expenditure which happens to be suggested; at the same time, when other matters of the nature of social services which appear to some of us to be of equal national importance are advocated, the cry of economy is invariably raised. Those charged with the responsibility of government in the national sphere should raise their voices in protest against such a practice, in order to ensure that at such times our people are not stampeded by the race in armaments, which is now going on in almost every country, and is merely an indication of a fear complex. Once an armament race commences, however, nations generally join in within a very short period. Whilst undoubtedly it is essential that we should provide adequate defences, we should be careful to see that we do so only to an intelligent degree. We must ensure that our defence policy is not dictated by that common fear which is now overpowering the different countries of the world. This was one of the reasons why honorable members of the Opposition declared yesterday their wholehearted support of .the appeal made by Senator Abbott for the establishment of a common thought exchange; we believe that, by such means, this psychology of fear could be counteracted. Every honorable senator, irrespective of party affiliations, will agree that, whilst a definite defence policy is essential to any country, those charged with the responsibility of framing such a policy should always keep in mind the danger of being unduly influenced by existing international unrest. We should temper such a policy with wisdom, and keep in mind that the small population of Australia can bear only a certain expenditure for defence purposes, and that we can never be justified in allowing unreasonable fear to govern our policy in this direction.
– The problem of defence is of great national importance. Although, as the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) has stated, the present international armaments race may be due to fear, Australians must, to a certain extent, be actuated by such an influence, because we hold a big country with a very small population, and if we should be attacked our danger would be very great, indeed. We should have a very powerful defence. I suggest, particularly, that we should possess an exceptionally strong air force; I do not think that too much money can be spent in that direction. We should be prepared even to establish factories in this country for the production of aeroplanes, from the making of the necessary bolts to the finished aircraft.
– We should follow such a policy so long as the national government completely controls such production.
– I am not antagonistic to the Government’s defence policy, but I emphasize that it should take immediate steps to ensure that, in times of war, our production of aircraft would be most efficient. This could he achieved by concentrating on such production in times of peace in such a way that all available aircraft at the outbreak of war could be immediately converted for war purposes. I emphasize that all of the industries concerned should be scientifically co-ordinated in order that they might be converted at short notice to supply the needs of war.
-Such a policy is very necessary.
– I suggest that it is the only means by which we can plan an effective defence, and it has the virtues’ of cheapness and efficiency. I urge the Government to develop this idea in connexion with its defence policy, because I believe that Australia could effectively defend itself in the air. As we are all aware, Australians are exceptionally air-minded; we have produced some of the world’s best pilots. Furthermore, I understand that, when applications are called from mechanics for appointments as pilots, thousands of responses are invariably received from our young men. This is a country of wide spaces, and we can best develop it for the needs of peace as well as of war through the air; any aircraft developed in a time of peace will prove most effective in defending this country in a time of war.
I suggest, also, that we should concentrate in peace time on developing a specially-trained mechanized force, because the next war will be fought by mechanized forces to a greater degree than was the last war. I believe, however, that this idea is being gradually developed in Australia to-day. Our artillery, for instance, is being mechanized in the highest degree, horses gradually being abolished. To-day a field gun can be brought into action more rapidly than it can be put out of action. The problem of distance has been overcome to such an extent by mechanization that the usefulness of the horse for artillery purposes has practically disappeared.
I am concerned to know whether any definite plan has been evolved to meet a gas attack. The old theory was that an enemy force which attacked Australia would attempt to land somewhere in the north, and consolidate its position before attacking our cities. In my opinion, an enemy would strike a quick blow at our cities, where the population is thickest. Honorable senators can imagine the panic that would occur if a fleet of gigantic bombers appeared over Sydney.
SenatorSir George Pearce. - I suggest that the general debate on the Government’s defence policy be postponed until the budget is before us.
-Why not leave these matters to the experts?
– I am not prepared to leave them to experts. Unless we see that there is a gas mask for every citizen in Australia, we are courting disaster. Were a fleet of modern bombing aeroplanes to attack Sydney, and drop even half a dozen gas bombs, the city would be panic-stricken. Effective gas masks are an imperative necessity. Even if the gas masks which are provided become obsolete the day after to-morrow, we should have them to-day.
SenatorFoll - It is not always wise to place all the cards on the table.
– I agree with the honorable senator. Nevertheless, I believe that it is the duty of Parliament to ascertain whether these precautions have been taken.
SenatorGuthrie. - Aeroplanes for defence purposes are badly needed.
– I agree with the American system of appointing a standing committee of parliament to deal with defence matters. Whilst I have faith in the men in charge of affairs, I do not believe in the parliamentary representatives of the people sitting dumb. Australia’s future defence is in the air, under the water, and in protection against gas attacks.
[12.3]. - I ask honorable senators not to indulge in a general discussion of the country’s defence policy at this stage. The Government has a definite and well-thought-out defence policy, which is gradually being carried out. It was outlined by me about two and a half years ago, and from time to time since then, both in Parliament and elsewhere, the present Minister for Defence (Mr. Parkhill) has made pronouncements regarding it. “When the last budget was presented a memorandum was supplied to honorable senators setting out exactly what was being done in regard to defence ; whilst the budget for the next financial year, which will be introduced probably in August, will disclose further plans. I assure the committee that the Government realizes its responsibility in this matter, as its record shows.
– -Can the Minister say whether additional assistance has been granted to gliding clubs, and whether the number of such clubs has increased? The need for developing an air sense in our people justifies every encouragement being given to gliding clubs.
Yesterday Senator Brand referred to the pay of men in the volunteer force. I should like to know whether there is any possibility of additional payments being made, and whether men who attend training camps are sometimes compelled to leave before the training ceases, because their employers require their services.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia - Minister for External Affairs) [12.5]. - In the last budget provision was made for gliding clubs. I cannot say to what extent the clubs have taken advantage of the funds made available for that purpose.
The rate of pay of members of the volunteer force is a matter of Government policy. The whole subject of citizen force training is under consideration by the Government, and its policy in this connexion will he announced in the budget proposals.
– I hope that the Government will keep before it the need for gas masks. Because Australia is a long way from other countries, there is a tendency on the part of its people to wait until the evil day arrives.
– This subject is being dealt with.
– I am glad to know that. I am concerned, however, that the people of Australia are not being taught how to use gas mask*. Probably not one honorable senator has seen a mask since the Great War ended. I still have the mask which was issued to me, but I imagine’ that the design has completely changed since then. Our laws authorize the master of a vessel at sea to require passengers to undergo lifebelt drill; and something of that nature should be done in connexion with the use of gas masks. During the last few months we have had an object lesson which shows the wisdom of the people of a country being instructed in the use of gas masks. All honorable senators know how the use of gas, and the unpreparedness of a people against gas attacks, affected the campaign which Italy launched against Abyssinia. The use of gas was particularly effective, becausethose against whom it was directed wereunprepared for it.
– In each State a committee is being formed for the purpose - of co-operating with the State authorities on this subject. Among other things, means to secure the cooperation of the civilian population is under consideration.
– Some time ago I was informed that certain private organizations, such as the St. John’s Ambulance Association, were prepared to co-operate with the Government in instructing the people in the use of gas masks. This is a matter which cannot be indefinitely shelved. I sympathize with the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) in his remarks about fear. It is refreshing to find that during the last two or three years the honorable gentleman has made considerable progress in his views on defence. I could quote from his speeches of a few years ago remarks which would sound strange to-day,- hut 1 content myself with reminding him that Samson, who was the strongest man of his time, knew no fear. But the time came when he was told “ The . Philistines be upon thee “ ; and they were.
– Like ‘ most other honorable senators who read a good deal, I have some ideas on the subject of defence, but the trouble’ is that as soon as one type of offence is perfected, another is invented. Recently. I read the opinion of an authority that gas, terrible though it may be, is not the thing of which the world need be most afraid, because means are being devised for dropping bacteria from the skies, arid against the germs so liberated no mask would offer any protection at all. Even a large fleet of aeroplanes would be of little value if, as is suggested in the article, germs could be liberated in Australia from rockets fired from countries far distant. I do not think that anything other than the practice of Christian principle can save the world if these predictions are realized. It seems to me that, in addition to providing masks, we should dig a number of caves, or underground protections, as shelter for the people in the event of attack. This matter is one that might well be left to experts. The building of underground retreats is an important part of the Maginot line which France has constructed for its protection. Lt may be well to organize working-bees throughout the country to provide underground shelters.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Proposed votes - Department of Trade and Customs, £141,440; Department of Health, £29,240; Department of Commerce, £100,440; Miscellaneous Services, £177,070; War Services, £21,920- agreed to.
Proposed vote, £128,900.
– A recent announcement indicated that the TransAustralian railway service would be speeded up, resulting in a considerable saving of time on the journey between Fremantle, Adelaide, and Melbourne. I suggest that that saving should not be effected by an alteration of the time of departure as well as of the time of arrival, but should all be made at the terminal point. It may be that, because of the speeding up, the train which now leaves Perth late on Saturday night need not leave there until the following Sunday morning, and instead of arriving at Melbourne early in the morning a few days later, it could reach there late the previous evening. Those two savings would not be of very great benefit to travellers, whereas if the whole saving could be made at the terminal point, it would be a great convenience. I desire to compliment the department upon instituting the service of air-conditioned coaches, which has greatly increased the comfort of travelling across the Nullarbor Plain during very warm weather. I hope that funds will be made available to extend the service to the dining-car, and to other passenger coaches.
– I undertake to bring the remarks of the honorable senator under the notice of the Minister for the Interior.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Proposed vote, £2,664,300.
Senator ARKINS (New South Wales; [12.17]. - During the consideration of the next Estimates, I propose to discuss the activities of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. I mention the matter now because, if I failed to do so, I might be asked at a later stage why 1 had not brought it up before. As a matter of fact I did try on a previous occasion to discuss the subject, but was prevented from doing so by the Standing Orders. This item provides an opportunity to do so, but as we are so limited for time, I do not propose to continue the discussion now. I shall at a later stage discuss fully the activities of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, and disclose matters which need to be ventilated in the interests of the people.
.- On the 29th April, I asked the Postmaster-General (Senator A. J. McLachlan), whether he was aware that an undertaking had been given by his predecessor to complete the conversion of the Petersham telephone exchange to the automatic system?
– These Estimates refer to salaries only; they do not cover works.
– Then I shall seek another opportunity to ventilate what is a definite grievance.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Proposed vote, £40,090, agreed to.
FEDERAL Capital TERRITORY
Proposed vote, £61,120.
– On a previous occasion I asked the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) to bring under the notice of the Minister for the Interior the need for more actively advertising the attractions of Canberra and the Federal Capital Territory. I asked whether there was any Publicity Department in Canberra, and if so, what it was doing to bring the attractions of this garden city under the notice of the people of Australia.
[12.21]. - I brought the remarks of the honorable senator under the notice of the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Paterson), and he promised that he would take the matter into consideration when preparing the Estimates for 1936-37. I understand that provision is being made in the Estimates for this activity.
– I have been informed that there is no industrial award in the Federal Capital Territory covering the conditions of labour of those employed outside public departments. I refer particularly to shop workers who, I understand, are sometimes required to work 65 and up to 70 hours a week. It is not right that workers in the territory should be sweated in this way.
– Conditions of labour cannot be discussed on this item.
– I shall bring the honorable senator’s remarks under the notice of the Minister for the Interior.
– I appeal to the Leader of the Senate (Senator Sir George Pearce) to do what he can to have included in next year’s Estimates, provision for the erection of a suitable hospital building in Canberra. Until I visited the President of the Senate at the local hospital a few days ago, I did not realise how hopelessly unsuitable and out of date the present building is.
– I shall bring the honorable senator’s representations under the notice of the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Paterson).
Proposed vote, agreed to.
Proposed votes - Papua, £15,780; Norfolk Isl and, £1,000; Refunds of revenue, £500,000; Advance to the Treasurer, £1,500,000- agreed to.
Preamble and title agreed to.
Bill reported without requests.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Bill returned from the House of Representatives with a message intimating that it had agreed to amendments Nos. 1 to 17 and Nos. 19 and 20 made by the Senate in this bill, and had disagreed to amendment No. 18, as set forth in the annexed schedule, and for the reasons assigned therein. The House of Representatives desired the reconsideration by the Senate of the bill in respect of the amendment disagreed to.
Reasons of the Bouse of Representatives for disagreeing to amendment No. 18 of the Senate.
In committee (Consideration of House of Representative’s message) :
Upon every such reference or appeal -
the taxpayer shall be limited to the grounds stated in his objection ; and
Senate’s amendment (No. 18) -
After “ objection “ insert “ and to such other grounds as the board or court hearing the appeal gives leave to add”.
House of Representatives’ message -
Amendment disagreed to.
Senator A. J.McLACHLAN (South
Australia - Postmaster-General) [12.32] . - I move - .
That the committee do not insist on the amendment, disagreed to by the House of Representatives.
This subject was discussed very fully by the State taxation commissioners and, in the interests of uniformity, the provision as originally drafted was agreed to. This morning I conferred with the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) and placed before him the views expressed by members of the committee. I informed him that the amendment is based on the legal practice of allowing pleadings to be amended. The Commissioner states that this amendment would not apply only to the court, and that the members of the Board of Review have not the advantage of the legal training . of a judge, who might allow objections to’ be amended under certain conditions. If the board had been disbanded there would not be the same objection to allowing grounds of objection to be amended; a clause could be so framed as to allow the tribunal to permit an amendment under certain conditions. In a court an amendment of pleadings may be arranged on terms, and a party to the proceedings may be asked to pay costs up to a certain point. The Income Tax Board of Review, before which objections might be placed consists of laymen, and, in these circumstances, I do not think that justice could be done so effectively as in a court of law. In some instances persons think that they have additional grounds of objection which should be brought forward, and if an application for permis sion to amend the objections were being heard before a judge, justice could be done. However, the matter will again be reviewed by Sir David Ferguson, who is still giving valuable assistance in this matter. If the Board of Review is disbanded the various governments will consider whether greater elasticity cannot be provided for. For the reasons given I ask the committee not to insist on the amendment.
– As I moved the amendment which the House of Representatives has declined to accept, it is perhaps proper that I should speak on the subject. We cannot congratulate the House of Representatives upon the generous manner in which it has treated the amendments made in this chamber, because I think that I am correct in saying that of the twenty or so amendments sent to the House of Representatives eighteen were ministerial amendments. If this amendment be not insisted upon the contribution of private senators to the improvement of the bill will be reduced to the insertion of “ shall “ instead of “ may “. The amendment which the House of Representatives declines to accept is important. The main reason given by the other chamber for disallowing the amendment appears to be No. 4, which gives the royal commission’s recommendation which the PostmasterGeneral (Senator A. J. McLachlan) quoted when the bill was previously before this committee. Although the members of the commission possess admirable qualities they have not the final word in framing this bill, and it should not be contended that the commission is right in every instance. I suggest, with the greatest deference, that that may have tended to a study of this subject from the legal viewpoint, rather than from the viewpoint of the taxpayer. I shall show that there is a strong feeling in favour of this amendment, and of other amendments which I moved. Reason No. 5 appears to be far fetched in the extreme. Can any one imagine a person, other than one with a. pugnacious temperament, withholding the principal grounds of objection until he appeared before the court. , or the board? Surely it is not suggested that an ordinary taxpayer is likely to hide his main grounds of objection until he gets into the court. Even if the amendment were accepted the court or the board would have to decide whether the objection was admissible.
– It might be disallowed.
– Of course it might. At the outset the taxpayer would tend to state the grounds on which he challenged the assessment. Season No. 6 reads -
The present state of the law has been the practice since the inception of the act. Tho proposed amendment would represent a departure from an established practice which has worked; satisfactorily for twenty years.
As I can perhaps be accused of being as conservative as most honorable senators,, it may be said that I should not have any objection to a provision which has worked satisfactorily for twenty years.’ At the same time, however, there is a suggestion that the Board of Review which has been in existence for about ten years, may perhaps give way to a new system.
Sitting suspended from 12.J/S to 2.15 p.m.
– We are told that the existing provision has worked satisfactorily. One may fairly ask : “ In whose opinion has it worked satisfactorily?” It may work satisfactorily from the viewpoint of the Government, or the Taxation Commissioner, or a good many taxpayers; but that there is a considerable number of taxpayers, in whose opinion it has not worked satisfactorily, is undeniable. Every time I have spoken on this bill, each subject which I discussed was selected from a large number of points which had been put up to me by way of criticism of the measure, and with the object of indicating points which, it was thought, should be amended. I spoke upon this measure after considering those suggestions; I discarded many of them which I did not consider to be valid. In other words, from those many suggestions I selected some which were, in my opinion, arguable. This particular point was submitted to me by the Sydney Chamber of Commerce. I have a great respect for chambers of commerce, whether they are in South Australia or any other State.
– They are mostly composed of tax-dodgers.
– That statement is grotesque, and grossly unfair. I have never made an accusation against anybody in this chamber that would justify the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) in making that statement about a reputable and representative body of men. I do not know the personnel of the executive of the Sydney chamber; but I venture to say that they include some of the most reputable citizens of Sydney, otherwise they would not have been elected to the executive. The chamber gave reasons why this provision should, be altered. The clause, I admit, has probably been studied from a strictly commercial viewpoint; but, on the other hand, portions of the act which are most open to criticism by taxpayers are likely to have been studied. The president of the Chamber of Commerce addressed a letter to the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) on the 14th April last. I presume that its contents are not demonstrably false, or this fact would have been pointed out. That letter stated -
In further explanation of our views, we direct your attention to the following provisions of the Commonwealth bill with regard to objections and appeals: -
Once the 60 days have expired, the taxpayers cannot lodge an objection or add to or alter an objection already lodged. No matter what the circumstances may be, the period of GO days cannot be extended.
No matter how incorrect an assessment may bc, a court cannot order the Commissioner to correct it unless the taxpayer has token the proper grounds of objection. Neither has the court any power to allow an objection to be altered.
Irrespective of how grossly incorrect an interpretation of the law may have been adopted in the making of any assessment, no alteration can be made unless the taxpayer has lodged an objection and stated the (proper ground.
It appears to our special committee that these provisions are less liberal and are more rigid than those which are contained in the present law. In the first place, they take away the present right of appeal against penalties, while the. provisions mentioned in items .(6) and (7) are innovations. No. (6) is quite extraordinary, its effect being to authorize the Commissioner to decide objections without obtaining necessary information, and also to unduly withhold appeals from the court without the taxpayer’s consent.
The foregoing, in the opinion of our committee, fully support the conclusion expressed in our previous letter, that under the new bill the taxpayer will be worse off than at present with regard to right of objection and appeal.
For your convenience, we attach a statement of the principles which, in the opinion of this chamber, should be observed in connexion with abjections and appeals.
This suggestion made by tie special committee is appended, and in relation to the provision now before us the committee stated -
It is suggested by this chamber that, in a simplified taxing act, appeals should be provided for as follows: -
A taxpayer shall be limited on the hearing of his appeal to the grounds stated or disclosed by him and to such other grounds as the court hearing the appeal gives leave te add.
Such court shall give leave to add such grounds to any appeal as shall enable the taxpayers appellant to have determined any question or objection which he desired t<> bc determined.
The amendment I proposed is not so wide as that; nor have I accepted all of the suggestions of the Sydney Chamber of Commerce. Exercising my personal judgment, I have gone through this and other letters for the purpose of seeing what, in my opinion, is a defensible line to follow. I have selected this point, because it impressed me as being essentially fair. Some of the criticisms which T received from other people I have discarded, because they appeared to me to be biased. This suggestion seemed to rae to be sound;, I referred it to this committee, which also agreed that it was sound. I emphasize that, under my very small amendment, it is still left to the board or court to decide whether further grounds for objection should be allowed. It is quite within the range of the judge - or the board - to decide whether or not the taxpayer shall be permitted to add any additional ground. Surely that is a safeguard against any unreasonable use of this provision. In regard to the Minister’s statement, that the amendment would be more acceptable if the objection were “o be dealt with by a single tribunal, I admit that an experienced judge would probably be better qualified to state what to disallow than would an ordinary board of review.
– That is what the Chamber of Commerce suggested. It said nothing about a board.
– I admit that there is something in that contention, but surely the board is a reasonable body, lt is not likely to admit outrageous things; on the contrary, it is likely to admit only the things which it considers to be essentially just. I ask honorable senators to consider this final point: The tax gatherer has an unhappy lot in many ways and he is not likely to be a popular person ; but we find it necessary to have taxes, and they must be gathered. Generally speaking, they are equitably gathered, although there may be exceptions to that, just as there are exceptions amongst the taxpayers. In my opinion, it is not sound to make the gathering of taxes an unnecessarily criticized occupation. It is desirable, politically and ethically, that the man who has to pay the tax should not go away with a sense of injustice. He should be given, if anything, a little more concession than is granted to the other side. Under my proposal he will not be given any more concession than that which is granted to the other side, because the Commissioner, if he should choose to do so, can delay the hearing of the objection for a very long while. This is only a very small endeavour to ensure that the taxpayer shall be given a fair opportunity to put his case when he appeals against an assessment. He is not likely to appeal unless he has adequate grounds for doing so. The reasons stated by the House of Representatives for refusing to make the requested amendment do not convince me and I propose to repeat my previous vote on the matter.
– The committee should bear in mind the following facts: An assessment is levied, the taxpayer receives it, and he knows what has been done. An analysis of the whole position is put before him. There is then a period of 60 days in which he can make up his mind, after conference with his expert adviser or the departmental officers, as to the reasons why the assessment is excessive. It is a much longer period than is allowed in furnishing one’s pleading in a court of law, unless an extension of time is granted by the court. The Sydney Chamber of Commerce, I venture to say, is composed of men who are well enough versed in matters of taxation to decide within a period of 60 days whether they have grounds for appeal against an assessment. Not only have they access to expert advisers, but they themselves also have a wide experience of the taxation laws.
– They know what the prevailing feeling in the community is, because they represent so many interests.
– “While 1 would have a certain degree of sympathy with the proposal if it were decided to appoint a judge to hear the appeals, I feel that the effect of the request will be to place the taxation authorities in a most invidious position if some persons, who make a habit of appealing on every conceivable occasion against their assessments, are allowed to be able to change their ground at the eleventh hour. The tribunal either allows or disallows certain pleas, and is not empowered, I suggest, to visit pains or penalties upon taxpayers, who vary unreasonably the grounds of their appeal, nor can it give to the Commissioner any redress. This is particularly so in respect of a board of review, which would probably not be governed by judicial principles.
– If it is not a fair amendment in respect of the Appeal Board, how does it become a fair amendment in respect of a tribunal consisting of a single judge?
– The Board of Review, naturally, will allow a layman considerable latitude. In the case of a taxpayer who is a simpleminded fellow the provision in the bill may operate a little harshly, but in the case of the average man, or in the case of men like those who compose the Sydney Chamber of Commerce no allowance for illiteracy or inexperience is called for. The average man is fairly capable of understanding the details of his assessment, and many people who are unable to do so can afford to obtain expert advice.
– And pay for it.
– Is not that an argument against the provision in the bill?
– There is no ground for believing that taxation officers will be prejudiced in dealing with a taxpayer’s objections. The provision in the bill has been agreed to by the States. All I can say at this juncture is that when taxation matters are reconsidered in September this matter will again be reviewed. I would have had more difficulty in opposing the honorable senator’s amendment if th«> Board of Review had been abolished.
– If a taxpayer lodges his original objection within the prescribed period of 60 days, is he enabled, under the bill as it now stands, to enter further .grounds of objection before the expiration of the 60 days ?
– Yes ; he can lodge additional grounds of objection, or alter his original grounds, if he takes such action during the prescribed period of -60 days. I have taken such action myself. Furthermore, I remind honorable senators that an adviser to a taxpayer, whether he be a professional man or a tax agent, fully avails himself of this period of 60 days to make every point in the taxpayer’s favour.
.- The Minister (Senator A. J. McLachlan) appears to have a misconception of the members of such organizations as chambers of manufactures and chambers of commerce. Certainly members of chambers of commerce are the commercial leaders in their particular communities, but all of them are not big fellows, or representatives of big fellows only. Amongst the 2,300 members of the Melbourne Chamber of Manufactures there are many who employ as few as two or three hands, and I have no doubt a similar state of affairs exists in the Sydney chamber.
– The chamber employs an expert on taxation to advise its members.
– No. Certainly some big firms employ experts, but, the small men who are members of the chamber cannot afford to do so.
Occasionally, when taxation matters of a complex nature arise for the smaller men, the chamber arranges a conference at which these matters are discussed, and such members are given the benefit of expert advice secured by the chamber: The point I emphasize, however, is that organizations of this nature do not represent solely big men; they include among their members many small men, who are not well informed on taxation matters. I point out that when this Governmentproposes to deal with problems confronting primary industry it displays a willingness to confer with organizations representative of primary industry, such as the “Wool Council, or Butter Council, and it accepts the advice of these bodies; but when dealing with matters directly affecting commercial men the organizations representative of commerce appear to be suspect, and the Government never approaches them for advice, nor does it take any advice which they volunteer. I suggest that when dealing with commercial problems, the Government should confer with organizations representative of the commercial man before it frames its proposals.
– Experts in every State who have nothing to do with the taxation departments were consulted on every provision of this bill.
– That may be so, but on the other hand we have heard the opinion of experts who disagree with some of the provisions of the bill. These experts have pointed out certain difficulties which they believe would arise under certain clauses. I sympathize with Senator Duncan-Hughes iu this matter. The Senate did not ask very much from the House of Representatives. It appears generally that Senate amendments receive but scanty consideration from the Ministry. I again refute the statement that members of chambers of commerce and chambers of manufactures are big fellows; some of them are engaged in commerce on a very small scale indeed, and not a few of them are earning much less to-day than the average artisan on wages.
– I support Senator DuncanHughes’ amendment. The request that the Board of Review, or Court of Appeal, should be enabled to give leave to a tax payer to amend the grounds of his objection in the manner suggested by the amendment is reasonable and just. I have been surprised at the weakness of the reasons given by the House of Repre sentatives, and by the Postmaster-General (Senator A. J. McLachlan) for the refusal to accept the amendment. Reason No. 2 reads -
It would be most unwise to make such a practice possible seeing that the Commissioner would be denied the right of allowing the objection or of giving the subject matter reasonable consideration.
This. I suggest, is a ridiculous reason for refusing a proposal which is intended to ensure that justice shall be done in the fullest possible degree to a large section of taxpayers.
– What is the usual procedure with regard to the assessment and collection of income tax ? In every capital city of the Commonwealth the humblest citizen can walk into the offices of the Commissioner of Taxes and interview a special inquiry officer, to whom he may state every difficulty arising in connexion with his assessment; from that officer he will receive a clear and reasonable explanation which will enable him to understand every detail of the matter.
– That may be so in Queensland.
– It is the practice in every capital city of the Commonwealth .
– If the taxpayer desires to go right to the fount of authority, instead of interviewing an understrapper, he will be courteously received by the Commissioner, who will be quite willing to go into every phase of his assessment and explain it. I suggest that the purpose not only of this requested amendment, which was carried, but also of most of the other amendments which were moved in this chamber, was to make easier the way of the unwilling taxpayer. In my earlier remarks, I referred to tax dodgers, but perhaps that term is a little harsh. The average citizen, however, is prepared to resort to any ruse in order to escape payment of tax. There are few individuals in the community who believe, as I do, in income taxation and do not approve of any individual taking any step to escape any portion of a tax which has been justly levied on him. We are told in the scriptures that the way of the transgressor is hard, but the tendency on the part of some honorable senators is to make the way of the transgressor in taxation matters easy. Furthermore, the idea seems to prevail in some sections of the community that the Commissioner of Taxes is a kind of an ogre installed behind the scenes, who is anxious to take a mean advantage of every taxpayer for his own personal benefit. This official is a public servant, and part of his responsibility is to see that justice is done to every taxpayer. We have provided in this measure that he must refund tax which is overpaid by mistake. I submit that no delay would have arisen had the Senate been prepared to take the advice of the Opposition ; this amendment should never have been carried in this chamber in the first place.
– As I voted for this amendment when it was originally proposed by Senator Duncan-Hughes, I do not now intend to record a silent vote on the matter. The arguments advanced against it by the Minister and by the House of Representatives do not enlighten us more than at the time when we considered the. amendment originally. This is a reasonable proposal ; it isnot unfair or unjust. It is designed simply to give a taxpayer who objects to his assessment every opportunity to state his grounds of objection as clearly and as strongly as possible.
– He has now got that right.
– The request slightly extends it. The Leader of the Opposition told us what a wonderful body of men commissioners of taxation are. He represented Taxation Departments as organizations operating solely for the good of the people. I do not agree with that view, and therefore I support the amendment.
Question - That the committee do not insist on the amendment, disagreed to by the House of Representatives - put. The committee divided. (Temporary Chairman - Senator J. B. Hayes.)
Majority . . . . 5
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution reported; report adopted.
[2.48]. - I move-
That the bill he now read a second time.
This is one of those bills which from time to time are introduced to clear up the financial debris. It includes the items of expenditure in the financial year 1934-35, which were made from the vote for the Treasurer’s Advance. The authority of Parliament has already been given for this expenditure by the appropriation in the annual Estimates of a lump sum under the item “ Advance to the Treasurer “. This provision, which is usual, enables the Treasurer to make advances to the various departments to meet expenditure unforeseen when the Estimates were first presented, and for which, of course, there could be no provision in the ordinary way in the Estimates. However, details of expenditure met in this way are submitted to Parliament in the form of Supplementary Estimates. Accordingly, these items are now submitted for the consideration of the Senate. As copies of these Estimates have been circulated among honorable senators, it is not my intention to refer to the various items in detail.
The vote for the Treasurer’s Advance for 1934-35 was £2,000,000. In recent years it has been the practice to make provision for that sum. The expenditure from that vote was £689,625, being £672,112 for the ordinary departmental services and war services payable from revenue, and £17,513 for additions, new works and buildings. Full details of the expenditure now submitted for approval have already been furnished to Parliament in the Estimates and budget-papers for the current year.
Reference to the Estimates for the current year will reveal, on the righthand side of each page, columns showing the amounts voted and expended in the preceding year, and in cases in which the expenditure is larger than the vote, the difference is provided from the advance to the Treasurer, pending the approval of Parliament under these Supplementary Estimates. Details are also included in the Auditor-General’s report, and the Treasurer’s financial statement.
In accordance with the provisions of the Audit Act, the Treasurer’s statement was sent to the Auditor-General on the 10th October, 1935, accompanied by a statement of the amounts to’ be included in the Supplementary Estimates. It is usual to await the report of the AuditorGeneral before submitting the Estimates to Parliament.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
– I should like some information regarding the item, “ Expenses in connexion with Western Australian secession case, £15,837.” Is this a new expenditure?
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia -Minister for External Affairs) [2.56]. - The expenditure was incurred in the preparation of that very valuable document which set out the real facts of the effect of federation on Western Australia.
Schedule agreed to.
Preamble and title agreed to.
Bill reported without requests.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Nauru - Report to the Council of the League of Nations on the Administration of Nauru during the year 1935.
New Guinea - Report to the Council of the League of Nations on the Administration of the Territory of New Guinea from 1st July, 1934, to 30th June, 1935.
Ordered to be printed.
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determinations by the Arbitrator, &c. - No. 3 of . 1936 - Professional Officers’ Association, Commonwealth Public Service.
No. 4 of 1930 - Commonwealth Public Service Artisans’ Association.
Defence Act - Royal Military College - Report for year 1935.
[3.1]. - by leave - The desirability of the introduction into Australia of reduced working hours has received the fullest consideration of the Government. It had originally proposed to convene a conference, but, in the absence of representatives of labour, has decided not to proceed with the arrangements for that gathering.
The subject is regarded as of such importance that some method alternative to the proposed conference must be adopted to enable the whole subject to be fully considered. A consultation has been held with His Honour, Chief Judge Dethridge, of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, as to the best method of having the matter investigated from the point of view of all the interests concerned, and the conclusion has been reached, that, if a plaint were filed in the Arbitration Court, in which the claim, or one of the claims was for a shorter working week, the effect on Australian industry of the introduction of a shorter working week could be fully inquired into.
In the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act, there is provision for the full consideration by the court of the standard hours in industry, if that matter is the subject of a plaint filed in the court. In such cases the act permits any person or organization, or association of employers or employees, to apply to the court for liberty to be heard, and to examine and cross-examine witnesses. In order that, if any such hearing takes place, it should be thoroughly comprehensive, the Commonwealth Government would welcome the application to the court by all organizations interested.
Such a plaint, it is realized, could be filed only on the application by one or more organizations registered under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. If a plaint is filed, the Government will do everything in its power to facilitate the proceedings and the presentation to the court of all revelant evidence.
It is necessary that the Full Bench of the Court of Conciliation and Arbitration should hear the plaint. In the absence abroad of Mr. Justice Beeby, who is at present on leave, the case could not be dealt with until towards the end of the year. The Prime Minister has, however, been assured by Chief Judge Dethridge that the hearing should not occupy more than six weeks.
Bill returned from the House of Representatives with a message intimating that it had considered the message of the Senate, requesting the House of Representatives to make certain amendments in the bill, and that it made requested amendments Nos. 1, 2, 6, 7 and 9; had made, with a modification, requested amendment Wo. 3; and had not made requested amendments Nos. 4, 5 and 8.
In committee (Consideration of House of Representatives’ message) :
By omitting the whole of sub-item (a) and inserting in its stead the following sub-item -
Senate’s request No. 3. -
Amend sub-item’ by making the duties, per cwt., British, free: intermediate,1s.; general,1s.4½d. and in respect of sub-item (a) -
For each £1 by which the equivalent in Australian currency of £100 sterling is less than £125 at the date of exportation - an additional duty of per cwt., British, . 36d.; intermediate, . 36d.; general, . 36d.
House of Representatives message -
Requested amendment made with the following modification -
The date “ on and after 1st December, 1936 “, has been inserted.
– - I move -
That the modification be agreed to.
As honorable senators will recollect, the amendment which the Senate requested was that the rates of duty should be - free British,1s. per cwt. intermediate, and1s. 4½d. per cwt. general, with provision for an increase of those rates as exchange, AustraliaonLondon, moved towards, parity. In modifying the requested amendment the House of Representatives took the view that the sudden change in the competitive position which would be brought about by the admission of cement free of duty, would not permit the smaller cement units, whose financial position is not as strong as that of the bigger companies, to adjust themselves to the new conditions. Accordingly, the House of Representatives suggests that the date of operation of the amendment which the Senate has requested, be deferred until the 1st December, 1936. As the amendment requested by the Senate has been adopted in principle, I ask the committee to agree to the modification.
– This is one of the most interesting parliamentary problems that has arisen since I became a member of this chamber four years ago, and I take this opportunity to tell the Government that I shall make it my business to let the people of this country know what kind of Government they have at Canberra. I shall remind the manufacturers that they cannot count on some of the elected representatives of the people to stand to their pledged word, made on the floor of either branch of this legislature. I shall also tell the people engaged in our secondary industries clearly that, in this Parliament, they have no champions upon whom they can rely except those who form the Opposition in both chambers, with a few very honorable and courageous exceptions in the ranks of members, who, in ordinary circumstances, are not opposed to the Government. In the House of Representatives, I regret to state, the number, of courageous exceptions dwindled to almost undiscoverable dimensions yesterday. This is a very serious matter. In this Parliament there are some, not all allied to the Opposition, who take their duties seriously; men who believe that, as the elect of the people, they should not declare allegiance to a principle merely to retract it later in certain circumstances. We all know what has been going on since, in the House of Representatives, duties on cement were imposed against the wishes of the Government. We all know, also, what happened before that vote was taken. Because of the large numbers of people employed in it and its importance from a defence point of view, the .cement industry is of national interest. Not long ago these duties had a much wider interest, for we had the High Commissioner for the United Kingdom telling the Government, or if not the Government, the people who, all too often, govern this country - the members of our chambers of manufactures and commerce, and of our constitutional and other semi-political clubs - where they “got off”. As a result, the Government whip has been cracked over the heads of its supporters. There has been a scurrying to and from party rooms ; meetings have been held at hours convenient and inconvenient, and the waverers among Government supporters were dragooned into voting for the ministerial proposals when the cement duties were under review in the House of Representatives yesterday.
I have said in this chamber on other occasions, and I now repeat, that the real governing institution in this country is not this democratically-elected Parliament, but those people who are behind the scenes. It has been asserted that the cement duties imposed in the House of Representatives were a. definite breach of the Ottawa agreement. We all remem- ber Senator Foll, for whom I have the greatest personal regard, but whose attitude in this matter is beyond my comprehension, pleading with the Government not to do anything that would harm this important Australian industry. We all remember, too, how the Minister in charge of the bill (Senator A. J. McLachlan) chided the honorable gentleman for even suggesting that the Government should do anything that might interfere with the sacredness of the Ottawa agreement. And after Senator Foll had been admonished by the PostmasterGeneral, the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) entered the chamber at the psychological moment, and, with telling dramatic effect, put over the “ sob stuff “, again reminding us of the sacredness of the Ottawa agreement, and declaring that surely we could not lay unholy hands on such a document. I was almost expecting the right honorable gentleman to go to the length of another honorable senator on a former occasion and speak to us about those “ great, grey, silent shapes that steal into the harbour in the dawn and which, alone, are the real protectors of Australia.” Some honorable senators said that those controlling the industry are exploiting consumers aud their employees to such an extent that the protection afforded under the tariff should be removed; but even that- was of no avail. Now, however, the whips have been cracked most effectively, the industry is to be thrown to the wolves, and the employees and their families are to suffer. I now ask the Minister if the Commonwealth Constitution is the supreme instrument in this country, and if an agreement entered into between the Commonwealth and another country can override the Commonwealth Constitution?
– The honorable senator must discuss the motion.
– I am doing so by showing that the proposal we are asked to accept is unreasonable, outrageous and ultra vires the Constitution. At Ottawa- an agreement was reached between the Government of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth Government, and it is now impossible for the elected representatives of the people to agree to an import duty on the products of the United Kingdom, unless such a duty is recommended by the Tariff Board, Section 90 of the Constitution reads-
On the imposition of uniform duties of customs the power of the Parliament to impose duties of customs and of excise, and to grant bounties on the production or export of goods, shall become exclusive.
I do not wish to raise any argument such as we had this week onthe meaning of “ may “ and “ shall “, but I suggest that there cannot be any argument concerning the definition of “ exclusive It is a simple and readily understood English word. The supreme power to impose import and excise duties rests entirely with this Parliament; it cannot be manipulated by political legerdemain. Our constitutional rights cannot be denied.
-Who said that they could.
– I am showing what has been done. Under the Ottawa agreement, this Parliament has not the power to impose customs duties on products of the United Kingdom higher than those recommended by the Tariff Board. On behalf of the members of the Opposition in this chamber I object to being asked to accept even the proposed modification. The Minister knows that my remarks are not directed to him personally. Last week the Minister made a definite ‘ statement that the Ottawa agreement is sacrosanct, but he now says that its provisions need not be strictly observed. Even if the proposed duty remains operative for only six months, the Government, on its own showing, is per mitting a breach of the agreement. What we are now asked to do is, or is not a breach of the agreement, and if it is the Minister should have said so last week. Owing to political exigencies, we are now asked to do what we were told last week could not be done. Owing to this political marriage of convenience between freetraders and moderate protectionists we are expected to juggle with words to such an extent that some of us hardly know where we are. Having at the invitation of the Government arrived at a decision we are now informed by the Government that that decision is wrong. I do not propose to support the motion moved by the Minis ter, and I am sure that other members of the Opposition will decline to do so. I trust that honorable senators will be sufficiently courageous to stand up to their guns, and, disregarding browbeating tactics and specious pleadings, oppose the motion.
. - Some honorable senators may be alarmed unnecessarily at the startling remarks to alleged breaches of the Commonwealth Constitution, of the Ottawa agreement, changes of front, and political marriages of convenience which have fallen so lightly from the lips of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings). The Ottawa agreement was entered into between the Government of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth Government, and ratified by the respective Parliaments. Of whatever responsibility there is in the matter, this Parliament must take its share. I still regard the proposed modification as a breach of the Ottawa agreement.
– If that is so, I do not intend to support the motion.
– Such a breach was contemplated when the agreement was adopted, because it contains a provision for consultation between the Government of the United Kingdom andthe Commonwealth Government.
SenatorCollings. - Has the Government conferred with the British Government on this point?
– The. British Government will not object to the action proposed, if we adhere to the spirit of the agreement. Does the honorable senator suggest that the agreement has been violated because for a few months the duty imposed on this commodity is to be higher than that recommended by the Tariff Board. Those engaged in the industry naturally require a little time to overcome the difficulties confronting them, owing to the abolition of the duty on British cement. Article 16 of the Ottawa agreement reads -
In the event of circumstances arising which, in the judgment of His Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom or of His Majesty’s Government in the Commonwealth of Australia as the case may be, necessitate a variation in the terms of the agreement, the proposal to vary those terms shall form the subject of consultation between the two governments.
This matter will be the subject of consultation between the two governments, and I feel sure that the British Government will realize that in principle we have adopted the recommendation of the Tariff Board, and that delay of a fewmonths will not seriously affect Great Britain. If therehas been a technical violation we shall not be held responsible. Personally I think that a breach of the agreement has been committed, but under article 16 there should be no difficulty in settling the matter to the satisfaction of the two contracting parties.
. -Of all the extraordinary speeches I have listened to in this chamber that just delivered by the Postmaster-General (Senator A. J. McLachlan) is the most outstanding. Had the Minister made that speech before a vote on the cement duties was taken last week, the vote recorded would have been entirely different. An extraordinary situation has arisen over the Ottawa agreement. Viewing the intangible spirit of Ottawa through one end of a telescope the Government saw stars and the wings of spirits, but having reversed the instrument, it can now see only moths. The Ottawa agreement should not be studied as a sentimental compact; it is a clear and definite business arrangement between two countries. The Minister cannot contend that the Government of the United Kingdom entered into the agreement to grant concessions to the Commonwealth, without an assurance that we should do something in return. That is arrant nonsense. The agreement, was entered into with the object of benefiting British manufacturers and Australian primary producers. When we raise our hands and speak in adoration of the spirit of Ottawa and the Ottawa agreement, the whole position becomes ridiculous. I am more amazed when I see what the Government has done. The Government could have agreed to the compromise advocated last week by Senator Foll. But no, it returned the request to the House of Representatives, and when a member of that chamber suggested a course similar to that proposed by Senator Foll, the Government said, “ Surely we have made a slight mistake. These duties constitute only a technical breach, of the Ottawa agreement, and are not something which will upset the relationship of the British and Australian peoples.” Studying the basic principles of the matter, I find that the British manufacturer of cement is prepared to send his product to Australia in British bottoms to be sold here at 19s. a ton, which is less than the cost of transporting the Australian cement from the centre of production to the centre of distribution. I stand for the observation of the whole of the terms of the Ottawa agreement, which I consider is a business relationship between two peoples. While we advocate that the British manufacturer should be given a fair deal, his Australian prototype should also receive similar treatment. I deeply regret not only that the Minister has seen fit to take this action, but also the tenor of his speech.
SenatorFOLL (Queensland) [3.32]. - Listening to the speech of the Minister, I can only assume that he has carefully read the remarks which I made upon this subject a few days ago. I made my position perfectly clear in connexion with this item. The Minister stated that the negotiations being undertaken in Great Britain by the Attorney-General (Mr. Menzies) and the Minister for Commerce (Dr. Earle Page) would be seriously hampered if a breach of the Ottawa agreement were committed, that such a breach would occur if the Senate sanctioned the duties imposed on British cement by the House of Representatives contrary to the recommendation of the Tariff Board. I said frankly that, for no other reason but the necessity for preserving the Ottawa agreement would I have supported the decision of the Government. Now, the Minister has stated that, in his view, a breach of the Ottawa agreement will still be committed by the proposal received to-day from the House of Representatives. For my part, I shall not be a party to committing any breach of the agreement, and I shall not alter my previous decision to support the request originally moved in this chamber by the Minister. I consider that I was treated most unfairly by the Government in regard to the suggestion for a compromise, which I made. After rejecting my suggestion, the Government adopted it a few days later in the House of Representatives. I know of no arrangement between the Commonwealth and the British Governments in this regard; but I know that the cement industry in Queensland would have been seriously affected had the decision to admit British cement free of duty been given effect to. I asked the Government to give consideration to the position of the industry in Queensland, where it is not in so flourishing a condition as in other States. I urged the Government to allow a period of time, before admitting British cement free of duty, in order to give the Australian industry an opportunity to adjust its costs to meet the competition of cheap overseas cement. The Minister said definitely that my suggestion to postpone the issue for twelve months would be just as much a breach of the agreement as was the original decision of the House of Representatives. But now I draw attention to the Minister’s change of front. He asks us to postpone for six months the free admission of British cement. Are we to believe that the postponement for twelve months would be a breach of the Ottawa agreement, while the postponement for only six months would not be a violation of it? If the agreement is to be subjected to manipulation of this kind, a most dangerous principle will be created. I believe that the Ottawa agreement is the most valuable trade arrangement that Australia has ever made, and I am prepared to support it to the last line and the last letter. I shall cast no vote which will commit a breach .of it. In view of the fact that the Government previously stated that as the recommendation of the Tariff Board must be adopted in full, in order to avoid a breach of that agreement, I shall not change my vote. I hope that the Minister will inform honorable senators whether any communication has passed between the Commonwealth and the British Governments in this connexion, and particularly whether the British Government has stated that it does not consider that postponement for a period of six months will constitute a breach of the agreement.
– The Minister has endeavoured to make out a solid case in support of his request to the committee to accept this proposal of the House of Representatives. In my opinion, he has failed. He has endeavoured to be sarcastic at my expense ; I do not object to that, because I have frequently been sarcastic at his expense. Certainly I would be justified now in heaping ridicule on his almost puerile efforts to justify the action of the Government. Why does not the Minister be frank, and state that political exigencies have compelled the Government to accept what it contends is a breach of the Ottawa agreement? The Minister has really made no bones about it; the proposed modification is a breach of the agreement. In order to justify the decision of the Government, the Minister quoted article 16 - . . In the event of circumstances arising which, in the judgment of His Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom or of His Majesty’s Government in the Commonwealth of Australia, as the case may be, necessitate a variation in the terms of the agreement, the proposal to vary those terms shall form the subject of consultation between the two governments.
What a weak case for the Minister to advance. What a climb-down on the part of the Government !
– It is the result of a deadlock.
– ‘Has the Government consulted the British Government, and has Britain agreed that the Ottawa agreement shall be broken for a period of six months ?
– No, of course not !
– I believe that thu Government has done nothing of the kind. I fail to understand why the Minister introduced article 16 into the discussion. The Minister may refer to termites and be sarcastic, but he cannot successfully cite article 16 of the agreement to justify the climb-down of the Government. The article deals with the terms of the agreement, and the Commonwealth Government is at perfect liberty to consult the British Government. Will the Minister inform the committee whether the Government consulted Great Britain in order to allow the terms of the agreement to be broken for a period of six months? Has the High Commissioner of the United Kingdom (Sir Geoffrey Whiskard) been consulted in this matter? What cables have passed between the two governments concerned? The Senate should be acquainted with these matters. In my opinion, the Senate was grossly misled by the high falutin’ references of the Minister to the spirit of Ottawa. Senator Sampson in his speech made the position quite plain. He referred to the huckstering at the Ottawa Conference, and stated that the agreement was really a trade arrangement between Great Britain and Australia. From my interpretation of the agreement, the cement duties did not constitute a violation of it. In consultation with several honorable senators who supported the Government following the explanation that the action- of the House of Representative constituted a breach of the agreement, I learned that they did not so regard it. Although I have had no legal training. I studied the document as a whole, anc I still contend that no breach was committed. But Senator Pearce and Senator McLachlan, with crocodile tears running down their cheeks, maintained that the relations between the two countries would be endangered if honorable senators did not support the Government; thereby they persuaded Senator Foll, who had agreed with my interpretation of the Ottawa agreement, to alter his opinion. The Government, I consider, has climbed down, because of political expediency, and the quotation of article 16 can be ignored as being irrelevant. Why does not the Government frankly admit that it has been politically beaten, and that it hesitates to go to the extreme course of seeking the verdict of the electors? Instead of adopting this course, it prefers to ask us to break the Ottawa agreement for six months !
– When this item was being discussed in the Senate on a previous occasion, I supported the entry of British cement into Australia free of duty as advocated by the Government. I was not persuaded to adopt this course on account of the plea that the original action of the House of Representatives in partially restoring the duties constituted an infringement . of Ottawa; in my opinion it did not. I, therefore, endeavoured to deal with the duty on ito merits. I stated clearly that it was with a good deal of reluctance that I supported the proposal of the Government because it was too harsh. Nevertheless, it was, in my opinion, the lesser of two evils, and, therefore, I voted for it. I had mentioned previously that I would, like this committee to steer some middle course, which would be less drastic than the proposal recommended by the Government, and which did not give such high protection, as was desired by the House of Representatives. Therefore, I am in the happy position of being able, conscientiously and wholeheartedly, to support the modification proposed by the House of Representatives.
.- I am not going to rub it in.
– What is there to rub in?
– If the honorable senator interrupts me I might reverse my original intention. I fought to save the cement industry, and I considered that the attitude adopted by the Commonwealth Government in regard to the Ottawa agreement was absurd. This latest proposal seems to be the best that can be obtained for the cement industry at the moment, and, for that reason, T shall support it. The Government acted most unfairly towards the industry. It is now saying, in effect, “ We know that you are going to die, but we shall give you six months in which to say your prayers “. Before the end of that period I hope that a reprieve will be granted. The latest proposal is better than nothing.
The statement by the Leader of the Opposition that the Government had cracked the whip over its supporters, is enough to make the gods laugh. For a member of the Labour party, hidebound and tied between two walls, who cannot vote, or even think, against his own party, to cry out that honorablesenators have had the whip cracked over them is too ridiculous for words. Surely honorable senators should exercise somecommon sense in this regard. I recognize that the Government is not satisfied. with the compromise, and that it would not have given the industry six months in which to say its prayers, had its plans worked out differently. Nevertheless, I shall not growl. It does seem to me peculiar that the Ottawa agreement was drawn up to cement the feeling bet wee o the peoples of the British Empire; and now, as far as the cement is concerned, the “ darn thing has gone bung ! “
– On this vexed question I adopted the same attitude as the Government, which was apparently in conformity with the recommendation of the Tariff Board. The board accepted the necessities of the agreement made at Ottawa, and the Government decided that the original proposal of the House of Representatives to impose a duty upon the admission of British cement, which was contrary to the finding of the board, was an infringement of the agreement. Apparently, the British representative in Australia and the British Government thought similarly. In the circumstances, the decision as to what is right and wrong must apparently be left to the decision of individual senators. In my opinion, that is wrong. I voted for the observation of the Ottawa agreement because, if an agreement is made between two countries, it should be carried out to the full. In any future agreement, which we may make with Great Britain, our undertakings should be set out more plainly than was done in the Ottawa agreement. I admit that peculiar circumstances existed at Ottawa, but it . is most unsatisfactory that the agreement should have been so worded as to give rise to such ‘remarkable differences of opinion as have been expressed on it recently. I have met men who hold that the rejection of the Tariff Board’s recommendation in respect of cement duties would definitely constitute a breach of the Ottawa agreement, and others who, just as definitely, hold the opposite view. Such differences are hard to understand. With the object of studying this matter as closely as possible, I read all the speeches made on the Ottawa agreement in the House of Representatives, hut, finally, I was obliged to interpret it for myself, and I have come to the conclusion that the agreement leaves it to the Tariff Board to decide what constitutes opportunities for fair competition for British manufacturers. I agree with Senator Millen that if British cement were allowed to enter this country at abnormally low prices, the local industry would be destroyed, and if this should eventuate it will be the duty of this Government to take steps to preserve the Australian industry.
– Why give to British manufacturers the opportunity, in the first place, to destroy the Australian industry?
– The honorable senator knows my views on this matter. We are aware that some of the Australian cement companies have made abnormal profits, and that one or two State governments have actually set up companies in opposition to the existing companies in order that they might be able to secure cement at cheaper prices. It would be better, not only for this country as a whole, but also for the cement firms themselves if cement were sold as cheaply as possible. Again, I express the hope that when the Ottawa agreement is reviewed the new agreement will be more definite, and that no room for doubt will exist as to what will constitute a breach of either the spirit or the letter of the agreement. In the existing agreement, Great Britain’s obligations are clearly set out.
I cannot see any good reason why J should change ‘my previous attitude on this matter. I agree, however, that this is a compromise,- and therefore I shall not vote against the Government. If any breach of the agreement has been committed it becomes a matter for consultation and adjustment between this Government and that of the United Kingdom. I believe that we should endeavour to honour, both in the letter and the spirit, any agreement which we make with any other country.
– If Australia has failed to adhere to the spirit of the Ottawa agreement, it has certainly taken a long time to discover the breach. If it is a fact that a breach has been committed, then a very bad case can be made’ out against our neighbouring dominion, New Zealand. Under various governments, the duty on cement in that country has remained at Sd. a cwt., and nothing has been said there about a breach of the Ottawa agreement. I suggest that people who display such anxiety over the Ottawa agreement should send Sir Geoffrey Whiskard to New Zealand to see what he can do to rectify the position in that dominion. Developments in this matter have taken place in peculiar succession. The old duty of ls. operated for some time after the signing of the Ottawa agreement. The Tariff Board reported on it in 1935, but that report was not acted upon. Then, in 1936, the board made another report. It looked as though some interests were pushing this matter. Now, we find this Government declaring that in order to honour our obligations under the Ottawa agreement, British cement should be allowed into this country free of duty. It has been discovered that if we do not adopt this course immediately we shall cut the painter, or the silken thread, or whatever else it is by which we describe our ties with the Old Country. Why, and how, this discovery was made I do not know. The British cement companies are making tons of money ; they are rolling in it. The London Economist, the leading paper in England on such subjects, reports that one British company made 40 per cent, profit, and another a profit of £1,100,000 on twelve months’ operations. There can be no doubt then that the British cement companies are not starving; they cannot, reasonably appeal to us, on grounds pf poverty, for our trade, which we can only give at the risk of upsetting a number of our own companies. It has been stated that one Australian company showed a profit of 32 per cent, in one year, but it has also been shown that other companies have paid dividends not exceeding 6 per1 cent., and are really struggling, whilst, in the past, they paid no dividends at all. It cannot be denied that certain honorable senators have somersaulted in regard to this matter. Boiled down, the duty is only a matter of a few shillings, but the line of argument that has been used in this case can be used in respect of a number of things arising out of the Ottawa agreement. If British cement can be shipped to Australia at a freight rate of 5s. a ton, and it is allowed free entry, there can be no doubt that injury will be done to the Australian cement industry. In such circumstances, we shall be throwing it to the wolves; certainly, some of these enterprises, including the Queensland company, would suffer serious loss if not total destruction. Listening to the debate which took place on this subject in the House of Repre.sentatives, I was amazed at the way in which certain honorable gentlemen have changed their view. Senator Leckie, in reply to a statement made by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings), declared that the Government’s whips were not cracking. I believe that they are cracking very effectively, and we have ample evidence of itFor an honorable senator to say, after all that has happened, that the Government whips have not been effective on this occasion is pure humbug, and ai: insult to the intelligence of every member of this chamber.
– The position in respect of this matter is exactly as it was a week ago. The Government has not produced any fresh evidence to justify a reversal of the Senate’s decision last week to accept the recommendation of the Tariff Board regarding this item, when the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) and the Minister in charge of the bill (Senator A. JMcLachlan) told us in unequivocal terms that the immediate acceptance of the board’s recommendation was essential to the carrying out of the Ottawa agreement. I congratulate the Minister in charge of the bill upon the fact that he told us just as plainly to.-day, as he did last week, that in his opinion - and it is a high legal opinion - the position has not been altered. He reiterated that if this Parliament does not accept the board’s recommendation immediately it will commit a breach of the Ottawa agreement. Is this committee to have a mind and policy of its own; is it to-day. to stick to a decision which it made only last week ? If it was imperative then to accept the recommendation of the board without delay, there can be no justification now for saying that we will accept it, but will defer its operation for six months. I recall that in the previous debate Senator Foll made a suggestion along these very lines, although he proposed a delay of twelve months, but immediately he made that suggestion, the Minister in charge of the bill rose and said that the Government must regard such a proposal as being just as much a violation of the Ottawa agreement as would be the rejection of the recommendation of the board. I agree with the Minister that if such action constituted a breach of the agreement last week, it constitutes a breach now, and I do not intend to be a party to it. Therefore, I shall not alter the vote which I gave on this subject last week, when the Senate decided, by nineteen votes to ten, to adopt the recommendation of the Tari,il Board. I resent the fact that Ministers outside this chamber have given interviews to the press indicating what the Senate would do in this matter. I read in the press a statement attributed to the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) that the decision of the House of Representatives would be reversed by the Senate, and that proved to be the case. I object to any Minister outside this chamber endeavouring to dictate the policy of the Senate, and to any attempt on the part of any Ministers to treat the Senate as a rubber stamp, taking it for granted that one week the Senate will approve of the recommendation of the Tariff Board, and the next week, when the Ministry has changed its mind, will oppose the recommendation of the board.
X accept the opinion expressed last week by the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) and the PostmasterGeneral (Senator A. J. McLachlan), namely, that for the proper carrying out of the Ottawa agreement the recommendation of the Tariff Board should be accepted without delay.
– Honorable senators should consider two things. First, they should bear in mind the nature of the Ottawa agreement. As has so often been said, it is an agreement between nations. It contains no provision whereby a decision as to whether or not there has been a breach of it shall be given by any tribunal. It cannot be so tried. To a certain extent, therefore, the parties to the agreement must decide its terms, and also whether a breach has been committed.
– That was decided last week.
– That may be; but the fact still remains that, in the very nature of things, the agreement is something about which it cannot be said with precision that a certain thing is, or is not, a breach of the undertaking entered into. That aspect was recognized by those who drafted the agreement, for its very last article contains a provision that if any difference of opinion as to the meaning of any of its terms should arise, the signatory countries undertake to make it a matter of discussion. The second factor which honorable senators should bear in mind is the course which events have taken. The position has been put soundly by Senator Dein. Certain proposals which were in accordance with the recommendations of the Tariff Board were placed before the House of Representatives. That chamber adopted, in relation to them, the course that it thought right. The proposals then came before the Senate, which expressed the opinion that the duties should be those recommended by the Tariff Board - not the slightly higher duties suggested by the other chamber. I remind the Senate that the two Houses of this Parliament are branches of one legislature, which exists to do the best possible in the interests of the whole community.
– And of the cement industry.
– I hope that the honorable senator’s interjection does not mean that he thinks that the legislature exists to benefit the cement industry, regardless of the interests of the country as a whole. The position being as I have said, there is no need for any political crisis, or for anything heroic, or even for mock heroics.
– Chop and change, and be as changeable as a chameleon!
– The Leader of the Opposition has expressed amazement at what has taken place. He claims we are not here to retract opinions that we have expressed.
– Opinions that we hold.
– If we are like the Bourbons, who learned nothing and forgot nothing, we shall stick to the opinions that we have expressed merely because we have expressed them. But if we are trying to arrive at the truth, and to reach a sound conclusion, we shall reconsider the opinions that we have expressed, and possibly modify them. That is what honorable senators in some cases may be asked to do. A reasonable and sensible compromise has been arrived at. The House of Representatives said that the duty on British cement should be 6d. a cwt. ; this chamber favours the free entry of cement from Britain as recommended by the Tariff Board. The request of the Senate went to the other chamber. The necessity for some sort of legislative agreement was recognized, with the result that a compromise was agreed to by the other House. That sensible compromise is now before this chamber and the committee is asked to accept it. In accepting it no honorable senator violates any principle; he merely illustrates the truth that “ compromise is the essence of government.” These are not necessarily matters of conscience, but matters of expediency to be decided with due regard to the exigencies which have arisen. I ask the committee to accept the compromise which has been arrived at by the House of Representatives.
– “With many other honorable senators, I am placed iri a position to-day which is not of my own seeking. Usually I listen with interest to the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings), and occasionally I agree with much that he says. I do not think that I have ever been so much in agreement with the honorable gentleman as I am to-day; fully 90 per cent, of his remarks in respect of the Government are -well deserved. Before the Senate met to discuss the tariff schedule, the Press in almost all the States, and certainly in South Australia, announced that the Senate would do exactly as it was told. The public was informed that the trouble which had arisen in the House’, of Representatives would be righted’ in the
Senate. I resent being told what I am going to do as a member of this chamber. I was- sent here to do the best I know in the interests of Australia. “When the tariff debate began, I favoured a compromise in regard to the duties on cement, although I had an open mind and was prepared” to listen to argument. But when we met to discuss the item, the Ottawa agreement was fired at us from all sides. Adherence to, or departure from, the agreement became a burning question. Listening to Ministers speaking of the Ottawa agreement one would have been justified in believing that the House of Commons was waiting in suspense for Australia’s decision in regard to the duties on cement. I am now, and always have been, strongly in favour of the Ottawa agreement. The argument that a departure from the recommendation of the Tariff Board would be a breach of the agreement weighed with me, and I felt bound to support the Tariff Board’s recommendation in regard to cement. The request of the Senate has been reconsidered by the House of Representatives, and the result of its further deliberations is now before us. I am thankful to an Almighty Providence that I am not responsible for what Ministers have said in this chamber. But I am responsible for what I myself have said.. When I spoke earlier, I said that -
In these circumstances, I feel that I must, support the Government, but I repeat that I am yet hopeful that a compromise may be reached.
The opportunity to stand by what I then said has come, and I can do no other than accept the compromise.
[4.10]. - As I made some remarks in the earlier debate in relation to the Ottawa agreement, and its bearing on the duties on cement, in justice to myself, I feel impelled to make a few remarks now. I ask the committee to call to mind the subject that we were debating when I described the Government’s attitude towards the Ottawa agreement. The Tariff Board had recommended that British cement should enter Australia free; the House of Representatives had refused to acceptthat recommendation and had decided’. that it should bear a duty. The Government in thi3 chamber was asking honorable senators to reject the amendment made in the House of Representatives and to stand by the recommendation of the Tariff Board. My remarks in regard to the Ottawa agreement were made in those circumstances, and I stand by every word that I then said.
– Why did not the right honorable gentleman allow us to make a compromise here?
– I was about to explain that the question then before us was the acceptance, or otherwise, of the amendment made by the House of Representatives, which involved a rejection of the recommendation of the Tariff Board. I held then, as 1 bold now, that that amendment was a distinct breach of the Ottawa agreement. The amendment was rejected in this chamber; and I agree that, in rejecting it, many honorable senators were influenced, as I was, by the belief that it was a breach of the agreement. Now the other chamber has said, in effect, “ We are willing to bow to the Senate’s decision; we accept the recommendation of the Tariff Board, provided that it does not become effective until the end of December next “. I agree with my colleague, the Postmaster-General (Senator A. J. McLachlan), that by not implementing the recommendation of the Tariff Board for a period of several months we are committing a technical breach of the Ottawa agreement. But, whilst I hold that opinion, I also believe that the British Government will be willing to overlook that technical breach which, after all, is of a minor character.
– If it does not, what then?
– I assure Senators Foll and Millen that in my opinion the compromise which we are asked to accept is a technical breach of the agreement; but as I have said, J believe also that the other party to the agreement will regard it as a substantial compliance with its spirit. I have not altered my view, and, therefore, I resent any suggestion that the Ottawa agreement was brought into the discussion for the purpose of influencing the vote of honorable sena tors. Certainly, such a suggestion should not have been made by the Government Whip.
– I did not intend that.
– I accept the honorable senator’s assurance;, but his words suggested that the Ottawa agreement was brought into the debate, not because Ministers believed what they said regarding it, but in order to influence votes, lt was not used in that sense by me. My statement was honest.
– That argument was used in the other chamber.
There is only one other matter to which, it is necessary that I should refer. It was, I think, mentioned by Senator James McLachlan. The honorable senator remarked that the press had been using the names of Ministers in connexion with this matter, and said that one Minister whose name was given, had said what the Senate would do when this item, was under discussion. I should say that the Ministers who have the most right tospeak’ for, or forecast the attitude of, the Senate on this subject, would be myself or my two ministerial colleagues, Senators A. J. McLachlan and Brennan. I can say, and I feel sure that I speak also for my two colleagues, that at no time have I said to any representative of the press, or for that matter to any one else, what I believed the Senate would do in connexion with this item. Therefore, we are not responsible for press statements, attributed to Ministers, concerning the cement duties. The name of the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) was mentioned in one of the newspaper statements. He was credited with having said that the Senate would reverse the vote of the House of Representatives on the cement duties. I assume that if that Minister did make the statement attributed to him, he was merely forecasting what, in his opinion, the Senate would do. I repeat that I have never given any representative of the press, or any private individual authority to associate any member of the Cabinet with statements that have appeared in the newspapers, and I remind Senator James McLachlan, that this is not the first occasion on which the press has, without any authority whatever, associated Ministers and members of Parliament with newspaper forecasts of public affairs. Quite recently, some newspapers announced that members of Parliament in Canberra were bringing influence to bear on the Cloverrnment to restore the full parliamentary salaries, which had been reduced under the financial emergency legislation.
– At that time there was not one member of Parliament in Canberra.
– That is so. Nevertheless, the statement was published as coming from Canberra, and I have no doubt that, as it appeared in many newspapers of the different S’tates, a great number of the people believed that members of Parliament were actually using their influence to that end.
– That subject has never been discussed by members in Canberra.
– I know it has not. Nevertheless, that statement appeared in the newspapers. The Government is constantly being embarrassed by statements which appear in the daily press, especially certain sections of it, which, because of the phraseology employed, lead the people to believe that the announcements are made with the authority of the Ministry, when, as a matter of fact, they are not. f therefore ask Senator James McLachlan and other honorable senators not to blame the Government for the unfortunate habit which certain sections of the press appear to have contracted, of speaking for Ministers without their authority.
.- I move-
That the House of Representatives be requested to amend its modification by leaving out the figures “ 1936 “, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the figures “1937”.
As compromise seems to be the order of the day, we might as well have one worth while. If my request is accepted, the Australian cement industry will have until the end of 1937 within which - to put its house in order. We need not say anything more about the Ottawa agreement. Apparently that document can be abrogated by degrees, because the modification of the House of Representatives, made with the approval of the Government, is a breach of the agreement for six months, and my request merely extends the term. I feel quite sure that if it is adopted nobody will say anything, and I am not at all afraid that the British Government will send out its warships to call us to account.
– The question before the Chair is “ That the modification of the House of Representatives be agreed to “. I submit that it is not competent for an honorable senator to move to alter a figure in the modification contained in the message of the House of Representatives.
– The modification made by the House of Representatives of the Senate’s requested amendmentconsists in the addition of the words “ on and after the 1st December, 1936 “. Therefore, the request is in order.
– I do not propose to occupy the time of the committee in discussing the requested modification of the amendment, but I wish to say a few words about the general question. The item covering the duties on cement in no way differs from hundreds of other items in the schedule; but, as the result of a discussion which took place upon it in the House of Representatives, it assumed an importance which, I feel sure, the manufacturers of cement did not appreciate, and which very few people expected that it would. It was asserted by at least one member of the Government that the amendment carried in the House of Representatives was a breach of the Ottawa agreement; but what, in my view, was far more important, was the protest which, we were informed, had been made by the British Government against what it considered to be a contravention of our undertaking at Ottawa. So far as I know, that protest lias not been withdrawn. The Leader of the Senate has expressed the opinion that this postponement of the duty on British cement was a technical breach of the agreement, and the Postmaster-General has told us that it will be a subject for consultation, but that he has very little doubt that the British Government will condone any breach of the agreement that may be made if we. retain the duty. But I recall that the Postmaster-General warned us last week when Senator Foll submitted a similar request, that it would be a direct breach of the Ottawa agreement.
– That request was for a postponement of the duties for twelve months.
– That is so, but the principle is identical with that contained in what is now the Government’s proposal in this chamber. The Leader of the Opposition now suggests that the period should be extended to eighteen months. I do not wish to revile anybody in connexion with this matter; but, for my part, if the imposition of the British duty is a technical breach, or in any other respect is a contravention of the Ottawa agreement, I stand for honouring our commitments. Last week I reminded honorable senators that the obligation was on us to see that the spirit of the agreement was carried out. I said, at the time, that I was in some doubt that what was about to be done was legally a breach of the agreement, but as it was claimed by the British Government to be a breach, and as this Governmentthought it was a breach, we ought to treat it on that basis. I admit that, in voting as I did last week, I was influenced by the knowledge that the British Government would regard the retention of the duty on British cement as a breach of the Ottawa agreement, and I am not now inclined to reverse my vote. Unlike Senator Leckie, I stand, not for the cement industry or any other industry, but for carrying out our obligations to the British Empire.
Question - That the modification made by the House of Representatives be agreed to - put. The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Senator J. B. Hayes.)
Majority . . 12
Question so resolved in theaffirmative.
Motion agreed to.
By omitting the whole of sub-item (b) and inserting in its stead the following sub-item: -
And on and after 2nd April, 1936 - “(b) Articles of cut glass, including bottles, decanters, flasks and jars ofcut glass empty or containing goods not subject to an ad valorem duty, and lamps and lampware of cut glass, but not including articles of etched or engraved glass ad valorem - British, 15 per cent; intermediate, 50 per cent.; general, 60 per cent.
Senate’s request No. 4 -
Make the duty, ad valorem’, general, 50 per cent.
House of Representatives’ message -
Requested amendment not made.
– I move -
That the request be not pressed.
In the special circumstances which exist in relation to this item, particularly as regards the stage which certain treaty negotiations have reached, it is impossible for the Government to agree to a reduction of the margin which exists between the general tariff and the intermediate tariff. For this reason alone I have moved that the request be not pressed. When introducing tariff proposals on the 6th December, 1934, in which the rates under the general tariff were, on the whole, somewhat in excess of the recommendations of the Tariff Board, the Minister explained that the reason for the retention of the higher rate was to place the Government in an advantageous position to negotiate with foreign countries by having something tangible to offer to those which trade freely with us and something to withhold from those who treat us badly.
This policy, with exceptions in special circumstances, has been observed in all Customs tariff proposals presented to the Parliament since that date, but more especially wherever adherence to the principle has been possible without raising the level of the duties applicable to imports from our good customer countries. In considering the position I should like honorable senators to appreciate that prior to the adoption of the practice of retaining duties somewhat in excess of the level necessary for the protection of domestic industry, the Australian tariff had not been framed as an instrument to facilitate treaty-making. It consisted, so far as foreign countries were concerned, of a single-column in which the rates of duty imposed on the commodities of treaty and non-treaty countries were alike and no margin was left for granting favours to treaty countries. In this respect the Australian tariff differed from the tariffs of most of the important countries of the world which consist of two sets of duty - (1) Minimum rates expressing the level of the duties which will be accorded to most-favoured-nations; and (2) Maximum rates ostensibly and admittedly imposed for bargaining purposes and applied to non-treaty countries. While some honorable senators may be opposed to the principle of tariff bargaining, I feel sure that the great majority will recognize that it is necessary to deal with conditions as we find them. It would be idle to deny that tariff bargaining enters into all trade-treaty negotiations. Moreover, it is a fact that cannot be disguised that restrictions are not. infrequently imposed on commodities of a particular country with the object of forcing that country into negotiations. It can, I think, be claimed that Australian export commodities have not escaped this treatment. If we ignore these factors in framing our tariff policy we are, to put it mildly, acting unwisely.
In negotiating trade agreements the Government is naturally seeking to safeguard or consolidate the position of Australian export commodities in particular markets. If on our side any tariff reduc tions that we are in a position to make, are granted gratuitously without at the same time obtaining undertakings as to the future treatment of Australian commodities, the Government will be open to the charge of failing to use the opportunity at hand to the best advantage. We should not seek to give these reductions away without benefiting our export trade. The item now before honorable senators has figured prominently in the negotiations with certaincountries. As all subsequent negotiationshave proceeded on the basis of the duties now proposed, it is desirable that no alteration should be effected at this stage. I trust that the committee will not press the request.
– The information which the Postmaster-General (Senator A. J. McLachlan) has just given in opposition to a reduction of duty is practically the same as that submitted a few days ago. After hearing the representations made by the Minister, the committee, by a large majority decided to carry out the recommendation of the Tariff Board, which, after careful inquiry, proposed a reduction of only 10 per cent. On this subject the Tariff Board stated -
The Tariff Board is of the opinion that rates of 15 per cent. (British preferential tariff) and 50 per cent. (general tariff) on cut glassware are all that are desirable under present conditions, with 35 per cent. (British preferential tariff) and 70 per cent. (general tariff) were exchange at par, its main grounds being -
These rates, when taken in conjunc tion with natural protection and exchange protection, form a very substantial measure of total protection .;
The group of companies manufacturing glass in Australia has been able to take a considerable amount of excess profits;
That is probably the reason why the committee approved of the board’s recommendations. It realized the tremendous profits being made out of glass, and while every one wishes Australian industries to prosper a majority of the committee felt that under the protection afforded unnecessarily high profits are being made. The report continued -
The rates found reasonable by the board represent a reduction in the existing rates of 3¾ per cent. under the British preferential tariff, and 10 per cent. under the general tariff, but represent an increase of 10 per cent. in both the British preferential tariff and general tariff rates were exchange at par. It is considered that owing to the relatively high value of cut glassware, the fixed rate of Is. per dozen under the general tariff in the existing item would not apply to these goods.
I emphasize the fact that the position is exactly as it was when the committee decided a little more than a week ago to adopt the reduction recommended by the board. The board also stated. -
It is recognized that under the rates found by the board herein, a large proportion of the Commonwealth’s requirements of cut glassware would still be imported, and be liable to duties, but on this aspect it is pointed out that-
It would be impossible to divide the item so as to provide protection on the lines that can be economically manufactured in Australia, and allow other lines in free or at a lower rate of duty; the local industry employs a large number of skilled employees possessing artistic ability, and should receive a protection that will permit its development on sound lines.
The board has provided a larger measure of protection, which will permit the industry to develop on sound lines. A further paragraph read -
The Tariff Board explained at length that in its recommendation it had allowed a very high rate of protection to the industry, and that was the rate which the committee approved. I trust the decision reached after careful consideration will be adhered to.
[4.43]. - I assure the committee that had the Tariff Board been charged with the responsibility of negotiating trade treaties, the probability is that it would have recommended the duty which the Government is now asking the committee to retain. As the board was not charged with that responsibility, it naturally was not concerned with bargaining margins. That is the only value which the Government attaches to these duties. It recognizes that there is not a great deal of difference; but the margin is of some value for treaty negotiations.
Question - That the request be not pressed - put. The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Senator J. B. Hayes.)
Question so resolvedin the affirmative.
Request not pressed.
By omitting the whole of sub-item (c) and inserting in its stead the following sub-item: -
And on and after 2nd April, 1936 -
Senate’s request No. 5 -
Make the duty general 10d., or ad valorem general 40 per cent.
House of Representatives’ message-
Requested amendment not made.
Motion (by Senator A. J. McLachlan) agreed to -
That the request be not pressed.
By omitting the whole of sub-item (e) and inserting in its stead the following subitem : - “(e) Parts of Bodies enumerated in paragraphs (1), (2) and (3) of sub-item (d), viz.: -
Pressed metal panels, other -
For bodies with fixed or movable canopy tops and bodies n.e.i., per lb., British, 9d.; per complete set, intermediate, £37 10s. ; general, £37 10s.
Senate’s request No. 8 -
Add new sub-paragraph - (d) As prescribed by Departmental By-laws, British, free.
Bouse of Representatives’ message -
Requested amendment not made.
. I move -
That the request be not pressed.
Honorable senators will remember that, when this request was previously before the Senate, I intimated that, in allowing the request to be passed on the voices, I reserved the right to recommit the subitem if, after consultation withthe Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White), there should be any objection to the request. I now inform honorable senators that the Government cannot accept the request. Different rates of duty have been provided under tariff item 359 e for British panels when imported unfabricated, and when imported in a fabricated state. In the former instance the duty is 6d. per lb., while in the latter, it. is 9d. per1b. These differing rates of duty were provided solely for the purpose of preserving to the Australian bodybuilding industry the maximum amount of work which must necessarily be performed upon these panels subsequent to pressing and prior to their assembly into motor car bodies. This additional work consists, in the main, of the welding to the pressed panels of strengthening supports, sill and trimming reinforcements, fender lugs and similar attachments. In respect of some panels imported the cost of the labour and materials involved in these further stages of fabrication has been estimated at almost 30 per cent. of the cost of the fabricated panel in the imported state. This work can well be done by Australian body-builders. The Government has already agreed to the request made in this Senate to admit unfabricated British panels free of duty under customs by-law. Obviously, if the request to treat fabricated panels in a similar manner be agreed to, an incentive will be provided to import the fabricated panels in preference to those in an unfabricated state. Thus, a certain amount of work involved in the fabrication of these panels subsequent to pressing would be lost to the Australian industry, and the object of the protective duties provided under item 359 e 2 would be defeated. The by-law provision for unfabricated panels, which has already been agreed to, would also be rendered superfluous. The Government is unable to see any reason why fabricated panels should be admitted duty free. The interests of British motor car distributors appear to be served by the admission, duty free, of the pressed panels when in an unfabricated state, and such a contingency has already been provided for. The Government is not prepared to adopt any course of action which would unnecessarily cause a diminution of employment in the Australian bodybuilding industry, and, on that account, I must ask honorable senators not to press the request now under consideration.
– This matter was exhaustively discussed last week and the Government found itself able, without a division, tentatively to accept this request. Honorable senators will recall that I cited numerous complaints received from distributors of British motor cars of almost every type and design in Australia, stating that during recent months they had not been able to obtain bodies in the Commonwealth for the chassis. I also pointed out that a similar position existed in regard to bodies for some makes of American cars. SinceI informed the committee of those circumstances I have received communications from British and other distributors setting out the hardship and injustice to which they have been subjected owing to their inability to obtain bodies. Repeated delays in delivery have occurred with resultant loss of orders. People are not. prepared, when ordering British cars, to wait three or four months before they can take delivery of them. I satisfied honorable senators last week that the British distributors had a genuine cause for complaint. Nor are they the only section affected; the agents for the less popular makes of American and Canadian cars have also been unable to procure bodies for their respective chassis. The concession granted . by the Government last week in regard to raw panels is of little value to the distributors. The agents for British cars state that if they are to derive any advantage from an alteration of the tariff it must apply to fabricated panels; if the advantage were restricted to unfabricated panels, just as much delay would occur in waiting for work such as boring and trimming to be done as is now experienced in obtaining bodies. “Without again quoting communications which I have received from many sources on this subject, I point out that British distributors of motor cars desire that any relief which the Government proposes to grant to them by way of an alteration of the tariff, should be given to them through the medium of this item - that is. by the free admission of fabricated panels. Last week, I informed the committee that the request which the Government accepted would be of practically no value to the British distributors if it was confined to raw panels If the committee adheres to its original attitude on this item, a stimulus will be given to employment throughout Australia. Under existing circumstances some of the agents are importing the whole of the body from Great Britain ; they would prefer to import the panels, which would give them the advantage of lower freights, and they would be assembled in every State by men who are to-day idle. I remind the Minister that the minority report of Mr. D. J. Foster, a member of the Tariff Board, stated in this connexion -
So far as the figures quoted in the majority report and the general reasoning concerning the economic effects of a considerable reduction of the rates of duty on motor body panels are concerned, I agree with my colleagues; also we agree with regard to the form of the tariff item, and that the adoption of the rates recommended would react favorably on the motor industry in Australia.
The rate of duty recommended on the British panels, I consider, is far higher than is warranted under the Ottawa agreement.
Honorable senators have been treated to extensive references to the Ottawa agreement during the last week. I now draw attention to the fact that a member of the Tariff Board has stated that the rate of duty recommended by the majority of his colleagues is far in excess of what he considers to be warranted under the agreement. I hope that the committee will adhere to its original decision in this matter.
Question - That the request be not pressed - put. The committee divided. (The Temforaty Chairman - Senator J. B. Hayes.)
Majority . . . . 1
Question resolved in the negative.
Resolutions reported; report adopted.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Sampson). - In conformity with the Sessional Order I formally put the question -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the negative.
In committee (Consideration resumed from the 19th May, vide page 1864) :
. - I move -
That the House of Representatives he requested to amend that portion of the schedule commencing with the words and figures “ by omitting ‘234’”, and ending with the figures “‘234(c)’” by leaving out all the words and figures after the word “ stead “ and inserting- “ ‘ 234(a) except as to goods entered for home consumption on or after 29th November, 1935, and before the 2nd April, 1936,’ ‘234(b) ‘ and ‘234(c) ‘ - up to and including 30th November, 1936. 234(b)’ and ‘234(c) ‘-on and after 1st December, 1936.”
At the present time, the British preferential tariff rate of duty under item 234(a), portland cement, is subject to exchange adjustment. During the discussion on the customs tariff schedule the committee decided to request the House of Representatives to make the British preferential tariff rate free, as on and from the 1st December, 1936. With the British preferential rate free, the exchange adjustment would be inoperative, and the request I have just moved is for the removal of the exchange adjustment from item 234(a), as on and from the 1st December, 1936.
Request agreed to.
Schedule agreed to, subject to a request.
Title agreed to. Bill reported with a request.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended ; report adopted.
[5.7]. - by leave - For some time past the Government has been much concerned in regard to our trade balances with certain countries. This afternoon in the House of Representatives the Minister directing negotiations for trade treaties (Sir Henry Gullett) announced the decision of the Government in regard to very important steps that are to be taken to apply the licensing system to imports from certain countries, to readjust certain duties with a view to correcting our trade balance with specified countries by diverting trade from them to others with which we have a favorable balance; and to divert certain trade to Australia. The matter is so comprehensive, and involves so many details of policy, that I have arranged for copies of the speech of the Minister directing negotiations for trade treaties to be distributed to each honorable senator this afternoon.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Brennan) read a first time.
Senator BRENNAN (Victoria- Acting
Attorney-General) [5.18]. - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill has been so much discussed and its provisions are so simple that not many words are needed in commending it to honorable senators. Its general principle will have, I believe, no opponents, though some honorable senators may feel a twinge of regret that the great wool industry, whose proud boast has been for many years, that, no matter what the conditions of other industries may have been, it has always stood on its own foundation, now finds itself, to some extent at least, coming into line with some of the lesser Australian industries. I hasten to say that there is no request on the part of the industry for pecuniary assistance; it merely asks that it should be given legislative authority to enable it more properly to organize itself, and to raise the funds necessary to enable it to secure a larger share of the world’s markets. The keen competition which the wool industry has to face, as the result of the increasing use of artificial fibres, was set out very ably and attractively by Senator Guthrie in this chamber only a few days ago. The funds to be raised are mainly to be expended, first, in carrying on scientific research, and, secondly, in the conduct of an intensive and extensive advertising campaign. The competition engendered by the advertisement of rival products has been so great that the wool industry has almost been compelled, in its own interests, to resort to similar methods. This bill provides for the establishment of an Australian “Wool Board, which will control wool publicity and research in Australia and overseas. The board will consist of six members nominated by the Australian Woolgrowers Council and one representative of the Commonwealth Government, and will be financed by a levy on all wool shorn in Australia after the 1st July next. The bill will be followed by two other bills which will provide for the assessment and collection of the tax upon wool, and for the amount of the levy. It is unnecessary for me to emphasize, in this chamber at any rate, the importance of the wool industry and how necessary it is for the woolgrowers to be given power to raise the necessary funds to conduct a world-wide publicity campaign, and to finance further scientific research in connexion with new uses for wool, and improved methods of manufacture. With over 110,000,000 sheep in the Commonwealth,, the sheep-breeders provide over one-half of Australia’s total exports, and although we produce the bulk of the fine wool of the world, there is still room for increasing the carrying capacity of our pastures. Millions of sheep are lost annually through drought and disease, many of which could be saved if proper control methods were thoroughly understood by stock owners. It is impossible to forecast what scientists may discover in the future, and it would be difficult to indicate what benefits may accrue to the wool industry from a carefully-planned, world-wide scheme. While the Acting Minister for Commerce (Mr. Thorby) was abroad last year he represented Australia at the International Wool Conference, held in Berlin. Upon his return to London, the High Commissioner for Australia, Mr. Bruce, called a conference of representatives of British wool manufacturing interests, the New Zealand Government, the South African Government, and expert officers attached to the Australia House staff, and many problems confronting the wool industry in the British Empire were fully discussed. The South African representatives pointed out that a fund, derived from a levy on wool, had been in existence in South Africa for some years, but that they were quite prepared to co-operate with Australia and New Zealand in an extensive wool publicity campaign, and to contribute to a fund to place the research work on a permanent and satisfactory footing. The representatives of the Government of New Zealand indicated that they would be prepared to recommend to their Government the adoption of similar action. On behalf of Australia, the Acting Minister for Commerce agreed to urge the Australian wool-growers to consent to a levy for the purpose of creating the funds necessary to undertake the work indicated in this bill.
A strong committee was formed in England among the wool interest.3, first, to secure their co-operation, and, secondly, to urge the dominions to agree to an Empire plan of publicity in order to combat the ill effects being suffered by the woollen industry from the competition of the artificial fibres made in various parts of the world, which are gradually robbing the wool-growers of part of their market. Later, the matter was taken up by the various graziers’ associations throughout the Commonwealth. The levy received strong support from the Australian Wool-growers Council, with the result that the proposals now before the Senate were almost unanimously accepted by the wool-growers of Australia. The council is composed of representatives of almost all the pastoral and agricultural societies in Australia and organizations associated with the land, and speaks on behalf of the owners of 55,000,000 sheep. It is proposed to provide for a maximum levy of 6d. a bale, 3d. a butt, and Id. a bag, which will raise a sum of between £60,000 and £80,000, according to the clip.
– The original proposal has since been altered in a number of details.
– The collection of the levy will be made through the wool-brokers and dealers, and will be deducted from the returns of the woolgrowers, thus avoiding the necessity for the wool-growers to furnish returns or pay the tax directly. I emphasize that whilst the three bills relating to this proposal will create a statutory board, with power to receive the levy from the Commissioner of Taxation, there is no intention to create government control of, or interference with, the wool industry. Six out of the seven members of the board will be direct representatives of the woolgrowers’ associations, so that those bodies will have complete control of the work to be carried out in the interests of the industry, in close co-operation with the wool-growers of New Zealand and South Africa as well as the wool interests of the United Kingdom. In all probability, the board will, later, extend its activities and influences beyond the Empire, widening existing markets and Seeking new avenues and uses for wool. The passage of this legislation should give to the wool-growers of Australia power to create an organization with sufficient funds to confer immense benefits upon Australia’s greatest primary industry, and, in turn, be of advantage to all sections of the community.
Of the other two bills, one provides for the assessment and collection of the tax, and the other imposes the tax. The first i3 a machinery bill, modelled on the lines of the Income Tax Assessment Bill. The second determines the amount of the tax. Three bills are necessary, because the Constitution does not permit a bill which imposes taxation to deal with any other subject.
– I shall be brief, and, like the Minister, will say in connexion with this bill what I might say in regard to the other two bills which are complementary to it. As I said recently, when Senator Guthrie outlined his proposals for the wool industry, the Opposition is in agreement with the provisions of the bill insofar as they tend to benefit the industry, but it is not in agreement with the way in which the bill has been drafted, I, therefore, move -
That all the words after “That” be left out, with a view to insert in lien thereof the following words: - “the bill be withdrawn and redrafted to provide for a ballot of all Australian wool-growers as to whether they favour the proposed levy on wool and/or the method of administration of the fund “.
The Opposition has been asked by the Selectors Association of Queensland, which, I am confident, expresses the view of selectors throughout Australia, to endeavour to obtain for them adequate representation on the controlling body. The association has given a number of reasons for its disagreement with the proposed levy; but with those reasons I do not agree. In my opinion, the only effective way to secure the levy is for the Government to legalize it as the bill proposes. The wool-growers, on whose behalf Senator Guthrie speaks in this chamber, are of the opinion that a levy is essential. The honorable senator gave good reasons for imposing a levy, and his reasons were elaborated by the Minister in charge of the bill. The Opposition stands for producer-control of this and other primary industries, and wishes to be sure that the small selector shall not be squeezed out.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Sampson). - There being no seconder, the amendment lapses. [Quorum formed.]
– I shall be brief on this occasion, because on the 23rd April I delivered a fairly long speech in this chamber, in which I set out the overwhelming importance of the sheep and wool industry to Australia, and the desirability of agreeing to the suggestion of the woolgrowers that they should make a levy upon themselves in order to raise funds for the protection of the industry.
When introduced in the House of Representatives, the title of the measure was “A bill for an act to make provision for improving the quality and increasing the production and use of wool.” I would not have supported it in that form. The quality of wool cannot be improved by legislation. The quality is the spinning quality. It would not be of advantage to Australia if its wool were made finer. That objection has been removed, and the date of commencement has been altered to the 1st July. I therefore offer no opposition to the measure.
The raising of funds for publicity purposes is necessary in the interests of Australia, so as to counter the antiwool campaign which has been launched throughout the world. Wool is now, and always has been, the best commodity for the clothing and other uses of mankind. There has been an enormous increase of the production of substitute fibres. The danger of this cannot be brushed lightly aside., as some members of Parliament who visited Germany were inclined to do, by saying that these fibres would not compete with wool. That is nonsense. It is not suggested that they are as good as wool; but that they compete with it cannot be denied. To illustrate the progress which has been made in Europe in the production of these materials, ^1 am to-day completely clothed in them, instead of in woollen materials, as has been my practice throughout my life. They can be manufactured at one half the cost of woollen goods, and consequently it is impossible to compete with them on a price basis. Millions of yards of the stuff are being manufactured in Germany, Italy and other continental countries. Funds are needed for research to combat diseases, if possible, to reduce the costs of production; and, by means of publicity, to prove to the world the inestimable value of woollen goods in comparison with those of artificial fibre.
I am glad that the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) supports the suggestion that the wool-growers should be allowed to make a levy upon themselves. I am proud of the fact that this is the only Australian industry, either primary or secondary, which stands on its own feet. It has never had, and never asked for, government assistance, either directly or indirectly. It is prepared to find money to fight for the welfare of Australia’s greatest asset.
A poll of the 97,000 growers would not be practicable, because they are so widely scattered. I go so far as to saythat the vast majority of them would vote for this measure. I have not met opposition from any small grower. Some opposition has been offered by a few wealthy growers, and the Settlers Association in Queensland, to which Senator Collings referred. He is probably not aware that that body proposes that a board shall be established in that State to raise a levy such as is here, proposed, but its scheme provides for government control, whereas under this measure the growers themselves will exercise control.
The Australian Woolgrowers Council is a broad and democratic body. It comprises the Pastoralists Association of Western Australia, the Stockowners Association of South Australia, the United Graziers Association of Queensland, the Graziers Association of New South Wales, the Pastoralists Association of West Darling, the Graziers Association of Victoria, the Graziers Association of Southern Riverina, the Tasmanian Farmers, Stockowners and Orchardists Association, the Northern Territory Pastoral Lessees Association, the Primary Producers Association of Western Australia, the Victorian Country party, the Victorian Chamber, of Agriculture, and the Farmers and Settlers Association of New South Wales. Any recognized bona fide association may join it.
I had intended to move an amendment to provide that at least 15 per cent, per annum of the funds raised should be devoted to scientific research in connexion with the industry in Australia, and to publicity, but have received the assurance of the Minister who introduced the bill in the House of Representatives, and is handling the matter, that at least 15 per cent, will be used for those purposes within Australia. I accept his assurance. Otherwise, I should have had to move an amendment in accordance with a promise I made to certain organizations. I also accept the assurance from the Leader of the Senate ^Senator Sir George Pearce) that, if we are not satisfied with these bills in their entirety or if we find that there are any defects in them, amending bills can be brought down in September. I commend the bills to honorable senators. It is a wonderful gesture on the part of the wool-growers of Australia to put up the money themselves, instead of asking the Government for assistance to fight the rich and highly organized opponents on the other side of the world, who have invested millions of pounds in the artificial fibres. The wool-growers have put their shoulders to the wheel, and, in co-operation with their kinsmen in South Africa and New Zealand, are finding the necessary funds to -
I commend the attitude of the Government for providing the machinery whereby the necessary funds will be raised, and I hope that these bills will be allowed to go through without amendment.
– I supportthe bill, but there are one or two serious complaints I wish to level against woollen manufacturers in this country, who are doing a lot to affect the sale of woollen goods in Australia. I do not know who will be the Government nominee on this board, but I commend to Senator Guthrie, whom we all recognize as a wool expert with long experience in all branches of the industry, that these serious complaints, which are real, should be investigated by the Government, or by some body on its behalf. It is recognized as a fact in the distant States that it is quicker to get deliveries from London than from Melbourne. The same position existed in 1932, when the question was considered by the Tariff Board. The Government again inquired into it in 1935, but the problem is even more acute to-day than it was in 1932. This industry is so vital that we are considering spending money on a publicity campaign, but we should take into consideration, if we give the manufacturers protection, the fact that they havea duty to perform to the users and distributors of their woollen products. As far as woollen piece-goods are concerned, it costs 125 per cent. to land in Australia to-day an article which coats 3s. a yard in Great Britain, 90 per cent. for an article that costs 6s., and 80 per cent. for an article that costs 10s. There is something radically wrong when we find that wool available right at the factory door needs so much protection.
SenatorCollings. - Surely that does not arise under this bill?
– I am not prepared to go into detailsatthis stage, but I commend these facts to the Government’s consideration. It is said thatwe have some 40 or 50 factories in Australia; It must be either that they are inefficient or that there are too many of them trying to make too many patterns. It has been admitted that the factories have overbooked to the extent of some 5,000 pieces, and when complaints are received, they simply intimate that they would be pleased to accept cancellations, because they cannot supply the goods. That is a deplorable condition. In giving evidence before the Tariff Board in 1932, Mr. S. F. Ferguson, federal secretary of the Australian Association of British Manufacturers, said -
Owing to the high prices caused by heavy duties on woollens, Japanese silks were being used now for many purposes where woollen fabrics were formerly used, thus lessening the demand for Australian wool.
The fact that it costs 125 per cent. to land a popular line shows that something is wrong. The Government should refer this aspect back to the Tariff Board, or appoint some one to make a full inquiry in order that the factories which are receiving protection will stand up to their obligations to the users and the distributors. The wool industry is our greatest industry; in fact, it is our No. 1 asset, and nothingin the nature of what I have mentioned should be allowed to hamper it.
– I desire to state that the New South Wales section of the Country party is solidly behind this measure. Perhaps, as has been suggested, the draftsmanship may not be all that is desirable, but it is well to pass this bill quickly with the assurance that an amending bill will be brought down if defects are found, in order that it may apply to the approaching shearing.
– The Leader of the Opposition (SenatorCoaxings) has mentioned the need for a poll of producers. Scanningthe amendments made by the House of Representatives, I find that provision has been made for a poll to be taken in 1940. That is some time distant, but it will give those wool-growers who are not in favour of the levy, and who do not wish to carry it on, an opportunity to do away with it. The amount of the levy, however, is so small - it is less thanonefiftieth of a penny per lb. - that even if the probable advance of price is only one-tenth of a penny per lb. the return from the investment will be substantial. I commend the bill, which is a noteworthy contribution to the solution of the problems which confront the industry. Can the ActingAttorneyGeneral (Senator Brennan) say whether British manufacturers are to contribute to the fund?
– Had a poll of the wool-growers been taken, as suggested by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings), an expenditure estimated at £12,000 would have been incurved, and a delay extending over the present season and possibly longer would have been necessary. A proviso has been inserted in the bill that at the end of four years a poll of al! growers may be taken. I may inform Senator Cooper that British manufacturers have promised co-operation and support.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 19 agreed to.
Ordered - ‘
That clause 4 be reconsidered.
Clause 4 (Recommittal.) (1.) There shall be an Australian Wool Board. (2.) The Board shall consist of one member (in this Act referred to as “the Government representative”) to be appointed by the Governor-General and to hold office during the pleasure of the Governor-General, and six members to be appointed by the GovernorGeneral upon the nomination of the Council.
– Senator Guthrie stated that the opposition to the constitution of the board was negligible. A definite request has been received by the Opposition from a body of wool-growers known as the Selectors Association of Queensland that a protest be made against the suggested constitution of the board. I do not agree with many of the submissions made by this organization, but one phase of its protest justifies consideration. I believe in the principle of grower-control, and, apparently, one section of the growers is likely to be denied representation on the board. I have been trying to discover the appropriate place to move an amendment to rectify this complaint, but have been unable to do so owing to the insane rush the Senate is being compelled to make to conclude its business this evening. I object, and always have objected, to end-of-session rushes of this description. It is impossible under such circumstances to consider intelligently the busi-ness submitted to us. In this particular instance, I have been unable in the time at my disposal to discover the appropriate place to move my amendment, but it appears that this clause affords a fitting: opportunity to . test the… feeling of thecommittee on the subject. I thereforemove -
That all the words after “ be ‘.’ sub-clause (2 )’ second occurring, be left out, with a view toinsert in lieu thereof the -words “elected by a. ballot of wool-growers liable to the provisions, of the Wool Tax Act 1936”.
The object of the amendment is to ensure” that grower-control shall be indisputably the underlying principle of the bill.
Clause agreed to.
Preamble and title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Brennan) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill provides the machinery for the levying and collection of the tax referred to in the Wool Publicity and Research Bill, which has just been passed, and its provisions are similar to those in other bills of the same kind.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Bill passed through all stages, without requests or debate.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Sir George Pearce) read a first time.
[7.37]. - I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
The object of this measure is to appropriate a sum of £250,000 for the encouragement of drilling operations in connexion with the search for petroleum in Australia, and in the territories of New Guinea and Papua. The intention is that moneys appropriated for this purpose shall be made available by way of . loans to approved companies or persons on a £1 for £1 basis. In dealing with the applications for assistance, the Government will -be advised by a technical committee consisting of Dr. W. G. Woolnough, Commonwealth Geological Adviser; Dr. L. Keith Ward, Director of Mines of South Australia; and Dr. Arthur Wade, an expert with experience in many parts of the world.
Clause 2 of the bill defines the meaning of the word “ petroleum “. In amplification of the definition, I desire to inform honorable senators that the provisions of this measure apply to petroleum or crude petroleum in a free state, to natural gases, and to solid and semi-solid petroleum. Natural gases are scarcely less important than flow oil itself. In other countries, large volumes are piped for distances of upwards of 1,000 miles for use as fuels in big industrial centres. Many of the wet gases contain sufficient petrol to make it economical to subject them to a process known as stripping, whereby a highly volatile petroleum is obtained in large quantities.
As the. result of slow and natural evaporation, and of chemical changes, petroleum which was originally liquid becomes solid or semi-solid. This petroleum forms substances including natural bitumen, natural tar, ozokerite and similar minerals, which have considerable commercial value, and, in some instances, are the sole outputof commercially important producers. Bituminous substances are used in road construction, whilst some others, such as ozokerite, yield the bases for the manufacture of lubricating oils, &c.
The search for petroleum has now been conducted in Australia and in the territories for a long period. Considerable preliminary geological surveys have been carried out, accompanied by some drilling, but the geological surveys are made far in advance of the drilling. Therefore, in the opinion of the Government, the time has come when special attention should be devoted to drilling. Geological structures may look favorable, but the only real test is that made by means of the drill. The major expenditure associated with the search for petroleum is that incurred in drilling operations. It is recognized that geological surveys are prerequisites to drilling and the technical committee to which I have referred will in all cases take full cognizance of the results of such surveys in dealing- with applications for assistance.
Some of the areas to which attention may be given include in Australia, the Carnarvon-North West Cape district and the Fitzroy River basin in Western Australia, the western portion of Queensland, including the Roma-Springsure and Longreach districts, the Hawkesbury RiverHunter River district in New South Wales, the Gippsland basin in Victoria, and possibly portions of central Australia ; in New Guinea the mandated territory north of the Sepik River, and , in Papua the Gulf and Delta divisions. There will, no doubt, be other areas in Australia and in the territories, but in this regard the Government will be guided by its technical advisers. The expert view is that districts possessing similar geological conditions to some of those which I have mentioned would, if existing in other parts of the -world, particularly in the United States of America, have been drilled many years ago.
Information in possession of the Government indicates that the prospects of finding well oil in commercial quantities are now more favorable than has hitherto been the case. The Government is determined to investigate every means of giving to Australia some independence in oil supplies. In this regard it has given attention to flow oil, shale oil and coal oil. The policy of the Government with regard to these three avenues of production was outlined by me in a statement which I made in the Senate on the 30th April last. At this stage I shall not say anything further on the matters dealt with in that statement.
It has been said by leading authorities that supplies of well oil in the United States of America are fast reaching the stage where that great country will no longer be an exporter of oD. No major oil field has been discovered there since 1930. I am not suggesting that a world shortage of oil is imminent, but merely emphasize that it behoves us, if we have oil within our territories, to bring it to production so that we may be able to fill the gap which would be created if the United States vacated the export field. In this connexion, I draw attention to a somewhat alarming statement published in to-day’s press concerning the probability of the oil supplies in the East Indies becoming exhausted. Such a development would create a very difficult position for the British Empire. We all recognize what a boon it would be to this country if flow oil could be discovered in commercial quantities. It would add immeasurably to our prosperity and would enable Australia to carry a substantially larger population. In commending this measure to the favorable consideration of the Senate, I feel sure that it will be accorded the support which a proposal of such outstanding national significance merits. The transcendent importance of the measure needs no emphasis.
– I agree with the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce), that the production of oil in Australia is of supreme importance to this country, and I agree, also, that it is proper for us to devote money to the encouragement of the search for flow oil. During recent months I took the trouble to collect a mass of information dealing with the production of flow oil, oil from coal, and oil from shale; but, owing to the rush that is now taking place - a reprehensible practice that has regularly characterized the concluding stage of each session in recent years - I do not propose to deliver, at this juncture, the speech I have prepared. I have always deprecated, and do so again - on this occasion, the end-of-the-session rush,, because in such circumstances the Senatecannot give proper attention to the business before it.. I see no reason why we should not meet again next week, and give to this bill the thorough examination which its importance demands. I know that, if I attempted to make the speech which I had hoped to make on this measure, I should have a very impatient audience, and would be doing something of which the majority of honorable senators would not approve, because they want to get away. I make this statement in order to let the people, who sent me here, know that I, for one, believe in earning my salary as a senator. The second-reading speech just delivered by the Minister sounds very innocent; but things are not what they appear to be on the surface. Tremendous amounts of money have been spent in the past in investigating the possibilities of oil production in Australia, and now the value of all our research will go into the hands of private enterprise, and this industry, which should be Australia’s greatest asset, not only in times of peace, but also in times of war, will, like many other industries, be allowed to fall under the control of people who have no soul or patriotism, and have but one god - profit. I do not intend to say any more at this juncture. The Opposition will support the bill, because it believes that money expended in the search for flow oil will be well spent. But there are numerous facets to this proposition; in the circumstances I have mentioned, however, these will not be satisfactorily examined.
– I am sorry that I shall be obliged to adopt an attitude towards this measure similar to that of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings). I sincerely regret that we shall not be given an opportunity to discuss at length this bill, which is of outstanding importance to the Commonwealth. I shall, therefore, reserve my remarks on the problem of oil production in Australia till some future occasion when the Senate is dealing with an allied subject. I believe that, not only the finding of natural oil, but also the production of synthetic oil and petrol, which is being successfully carried on in other countries, is essential to our future prosperity. It is high time that we established in Australia, even at as high a cost as £10,000,000, a plant for the production of oil from coal or shale, because in these days oil is most essential for defence purposes.
SenatorFOLL (Queensland) [7.49].- Is it the intention ‘ of the Government to take any steps to encourage the production of power alcohol? I understand that, in the face of serious obstacles, a factory for this purpose has already been erected in Queensland. This industry is firmly established in some European countries. I desire to hear from the Minister whether or not it is the intention of the Government to encourage this industry in any way; for instance, by exempting power alcohol from excise duty.
– I join with the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) in protesting against the usual rush of business at the. end of the session. We should sit for another week and do the work properly, instead of passing bills without having any opportunity to peruse them. I was glad to hear the Leader of the Government (Senator Pearce) refer to the oil areas which are being prospected in Western Australia and Northern Australia. Dr. Woolnough, one of the most prominent oil experts in Australia, has reported that the Kimberley, Gascoyne and Wooramel districts of Western Australia offer the best prospects of any in the Commonwealth for the discovery of petroleum. I welcome the bill, and I hope that a fair portion of the money being appropriated for the search for petroleum will be devoted to the prospecting of those areas.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia - Minister for External Affairs) [7.52]. - in reply - Power alcohol is at present free of excise. The Commonwealth fuel adviser, Mr. L. J. Rogers, however, has advised that there is less prospect of the successful development of the power alcohol industry than of the processes connected with the extraction of oil from shale and coal. Sir David Rivett is leaving for Great Britain next Tuesday to investigate various methods in operation there for the production of oil from coal and shale, and to inquire into the processes now being used in Great Britain and Europe for the production of power alcohol.
– With a view to establishing the industry in Australia?
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.He will report as to whether power alcohol could be economically produced in Australia.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Brennan) read a first time.
Senator BRENNAN (Victoria- Acting
Attorney-General) [7.57]. - I move -
That the billbe now read a second time.
This bill deals with two matters only, namely, the fees and expenses of members of the Dairy Produce Export Control Board and the licences granted in pursuance of the principal act. The amendments with regard to fees and expenses are designed to meet the case of those members and deputies of members of the board who are also members of Parliament. Honorable senators will remember that there is a provision in the Constitution which prohibits members of Parliament from accepting an office of profit under the Crown. On more than one occasion recently members of Parliament who could render very excellent service on one or other of the boards set up to control our primary industries have not been willing to run the risk of losing their seats, or of incurring other penalties, and consequently their services are not made available. This bill is designed to meet such a position, should it arise. It provides that no fee shall be payable to a member of the board who is also a member of Parliament if he makes a declaration that, during the period for which he is a member of Parliament, he will not accept any fees under section 8 of the principal act. It is not sufficient for a man to say that he does not want the fees; if he is entitled to receive them, he may be regarded as having held an office of profit under the Crown. He must be in a position in which he cannot take any fees. Thebill therefore provides that if he signs a document stating that he does not wish to be paid fees during the time that he is a member of Parliament, that undertaking will be binding and he will be unable to recover any fees. Members of the board who are also members of Parliament will be entitled to expenses, as prescribed.
– That is so. There is always the possibility of abuse unless particulars of the expenses claimed are supplied, and certified to.
The other proposal in the bill relates to sections 14 and 15 of the existing act, which provide for the issue of export licences. At first sight, it appears that two distinct licences - one under each section - are required. That was not the intention when the principal act was framed, nor is itthe intention now. The bill is designed to make that point clear.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 (Fees and expenses).
.-I should like to know’ whether the Crown Law authorities are convinced that a member of Parliament who is also a member of the board is sufficiently covered in relation to fees and expenses. There still appears to be room for doubt in this matter.
– The law authorities of the Crown are convinced that the position is amply safeguarded.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 3 and 4 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Message received from the House of Representatives intimating that it had agreed to the amendments made by the Senate in this bill.
The following bills were returned from the. House of Representatives without amendment : -
Wireless Telegraphy Bill 1936.
Removal of Prisoners (Territories) Bill 1936.
Sitting suspended from 8.9 to 8.40 p.m.
Bill returned from the House of Representatives with the following message: -
The House of Representatives returns tothe Senate the hill intituled “ A bill for an act relating to duties of customs “ and acquaints the Senate that, having regard to the fact that the public interest demands the early enactment of the tariff, and pending the adoption of joint Standing Orders, the House of Representatives refrained from the determination of its constitutional rights or obligations in respect of message 123 received from the Senate in reference to the said bill, and resolved to consider the said message.
The House of Representatives, though again requested by the Senate to make original requested amendment, No. 8, has not made such amendment as shown in the annexed schedule.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Sampson). - I invite the attention of the Senate to that portion of the message which reads -
Having regard to the fact that the public interest demands the early enactment of the tariff, and pending the adoption of joint Standing Orders, the House of Representatives refrained from the determination of its constitutional rights or obligations in respect of message No. 123 received from the Senate in reference to the said bill, and resolved to consider the said message.
The words quoted raise the question of the constitutional position of the two Houses in respect of bills which the Senate may not amend, the point at issue being the right of the Senate to press requests for amendments in this class of bill. I remind honorable senators that this matter received the consideration of the Senate early in its history; that, following such consideration, the Senate adopted Standing Orders setting out the procedure for the pressing of requests for amendments, and that such procedure has been followed by the Senate on. each occasion since then when such action has been considered necessary. As the House of Representatives has seen fit to deal with the requested amendments which have been pressed by the Senate, only after casting some doubt on the rights of the Senate in this regard, it is my opinion that it would be proper for the Senate, before proceeding to deal with the message, to pass a resolution reaffirming its undoubted right under the Constitution to follow the course which it has adopted in connexion with this measure.
[8.54]. - In view of what you, sir, have said in drawing attention to the message from the House of Representatives and to affirm the constitutional rights of the Senate, I move -
That message 137 of the House of Representatives in reference to the Senate’s requests on the Customs Tariff be taken into consideration forthwith, this House affirming that the action of the House of Representatives, in receiving and dealing with the reiterated requests of the Senate, is in compliance with the undoubted constitutional position and rights of the Senate.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Senator A. J. McLachlan ) agreed to -
That so much of message 137 of the House of Representatives as refers to the requests of the Senate for amendments in the Customs Tariff1936 be referred to the committee of the whole for consideration forthwith.
In committee (Consideration of House of Representatives’ message) :
By omitting the whole of sub-item (e) and inserting in its stead the following sub-item: -
Parts of bodies enumerated in para graphs (1). (2) and (3) of sub-item (d), viz. : -
For bodies with fixed or movable canopy tops and bodies, n.e.i., per lb., British, 9d.; pur complete set, intermediate, £37 10s.; general. £37 10s.
Senate’s request (No. 8) -
Add new sub-paragraph -
House of Representatives’ message - Requested amendment not made.
Senate’smessage. - Request pressed. House of Representatives’ furthermessage. - Requested amendment not made.
Motion (by Senator A. J. McLachlan) proposed -
That the request he not further pressed.
– I am surprised at the attitude of the Government in acceding to the desire of the House of Representatives. Whenever there is a difference between the two Houses, the Senate gives way. I cannot help comparing the attitude, which the supporters of the Governmentadopt to-day, with that which they adopted when the Scullin Government was in office. When that Government sent a message to this chamber of which they did not approve, they always adhered to their decision. There was no climbing down then. What is the position to-day?
– This is a “ yes-no “ Government.
– It is. If the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) says “yes” or “no”, apparently, the Senate will agree, even if it has to swallow opinions it has affirmed twice in a week. On two occasions, a message has been sent to the House of Representatives requesting that this amendment be made, but as Mr. White says it must not be made, then, unless the Government can avoid it, the request is not to be pressed in this chamber. I am particularly interested in this request, which, if adopted, would assist distributors of motor cars who are anxious to secure panels for British motor car bodies. On two occasions, the Senate has said “ yes”, and now, when it should reaffirm its previous decisions, the Government asks the committee not to do so. In the whole of the tariff schedule, the Government, which a week ago tentatively accepted this and other requests, has on each occasion thrown up the sponge, except in regard to one item, on which the House of Representatives agreed with this chamber. This committee has spent considerable time on these discussions. It affirmed that it wanted an alteration made in connexion with the cement duties, but the Minister for Trade and Customs and the powerful House of Representatives, in which the smaller States have little influence, desired something else, and the Senate collapsed. In regard to glass duties, also there was a big majority in this chamber in favour of a reduction of duties. But so soon as the House of Representatives showed fight, the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce), who always gives way to the other chamber if his party is in office, asked the Senate to alter the decision it had arrived at in regard to the great glass monopoly, and it reversed its previous vote. Therefore, it is not at all surprising to me to find that once more the rights and privileges of this chamber are being airily set aside, and its constitutional position abandoned. Although we have affirmed twice in ten days our request for this amendment, the Senate is now being asked to say: “ If you really do not want to have it, Mr. White, we shall agree with your wishes “. I dissent from that attitude. If the Senate accepts the motion moved by the Minister and reverses its decision arrived at twice within the last few days, all I can say is that when an anti-Labour Government is in office, the Senate is prepared to become a rubber stamp to implement the wishes of the House of Representatives and the Minister for Trade and Customs. I object to the Senate being used by Ministers as merely a rubber stamp. Why should honorable senators give way? In the whole of the tariff, schedule, this committee has carried requests on only three or four items against the Government. I admit that our range was considerably circumscribed, and that we were not permitted to consider galvanized iron and various other items of importance. Otherwise, this committee would have requested amendments to them in the interests of the people of the Commonwealth, particularly those in the smaller States, whose only medium of expression is this chamber. But in regard to three matters - cement, glass, and motor body panels - the Senate made a stand for lower duties; now, on each of them, it has done, or is about to do, exactly what the House of Representatives wished it to do. I regret that this has occurred. If the Senate is prepared to give way to the other House on every occasion, and if the majority of honorable senators are ready to alter their votes whenever another place stand.-! firm, the Australian Senate will fall into disrepute. In such circumstances it is not proving the bulwark to protect the interests of the smaller States that it was designed to be. I do not desire to review the whole of the circumstances surrounding this requested amendment; but I emphasize that honorable senators have received hundreds of complaints from the distributors of British motor cars, pointing out that they are unable to obtain bodies made in Australia.
– They will be able to import raw panels under licence.
– No honorable senator knows better than the right honorable gentleman that raw panels are of no value for this purpose. The distributors require the fabricated panels. If there he delay in obtaining Australian motor bodies, there will be similar delay in having panels fabricated and assembled ; the work can be done in only a comparatively few places in the Commonwealth. But the fabricated panels which would enter Australia under this item are the ones that the distributors of British motor cars wish to use, because they can be assembled expeditiously in Australia. If my request is pressed successfully, a great deal of additional employment will be created in various centres throughout Australia. The distributors of British cars will be most surprised if this committee reverses its already affirmed decision at the invitation of the Minister. I have no reason to anticipate that honorable senators who voted for the reduction of this duty a few hours ago intend to reverse their decision. But, judging by the confident smile on the face of the Government Whip, who actually moved this request a week ago, and my experience of the Senate’s confidence in reversing its decision whenever the Government invites it to do so, I fear that once more this chamber will give way to the House of Representatives, simply saying “ Yes, Mr. White “. On two occasions we have decided that it is proper, by the reduction of this duty, to assist the British motor industry.. In the circumstances, are we now to say to the Minister for Trade and Customs: “ If you really do not wish us jo take this course, there is nothing left for us but to give way.” I wonder what the Senate is coming to ! I wonder what the constituents of those honorable senators who are now prepared to change their votes at the invitation of . the Government, will think of their decision! A week ago, when they were called upon to consider this item, honorable senators stood firm; but now the Ministers, with confident smiles on their faces, are asking them to agree to a course which, for the second time, they refused to take only three or four hours ago. If the Senate takes this course now it will clearly fail in its duty. I urge honorable senators to consider the position of distributors of British motor cars. One firm in Sydney has about 80 orders for motor cars, but is unable to supply them, ‘because it cannot obtain bodies in Australia within the time of contract. When a person gives an order for a motor car he wants it at once ; he does not desire to wait weeks, or even months, before taking delivery of it. I understand that the orders lodged by British distributors for some bodies are four months overdue; yet the Government persists in refusing to permit the introduction of fabricated panels under by-law. I would have liked to have seen the minority report of Mr. Foster, a member of the Tariff Board, adopted. It would have enabled the admission, free of duty, of these panels without placing the British distributors under the obligation of going cap in hand to the Minister for
Trade and Customs. But the Senate did not go so far as Mr. Foster recommended. Nevertheless, on two occasions, this committee has said, “ We desire that these panels should be introduced, free of duty, under by-law “, which means subject to the approval of the Minister for Trade and Customs and his being satisfied that the demand for bodies or panels cannot be met locally. If the committee decide* to re-affirm for the third time the decision that it has twice arrived at within the last ten days, it will not be giving any great advantage to the British motorcar industry ; it will only be giving them a fair deal, as was promised at Ottawa. Even then the British distributors would have to satisfy the Minister for Trade and Customs that the introduction of these panels was necessary before he would permit them to be admitted free of duty.
– Does the honorable senator desire that everybody should miss his train?
– I desire that the request which Senator Foll originally moved be re-affirmed by the committee. Are we, in order to catch a train, to sacrifice our twice expressed opinions ?
– The Senate cannot carry it while the honorable senator is on his feet.
– If the honorable senator will give me an assurance that he will vote in the same way as he did last week, I will immediately resume my seat. Reference no doubt will be made to the new policy of the Government in regard to the limitation of importations of cars, chassis, panels and other body parts from nonBritish countries, and to the spirit of Ottawa, .although it has not been directed towards this item. In view of that decision and the agreement it seems all the more necessary, if we wish to further our trade with Britain along the lines outlined in the House of Representatives this afternoon by the Minister directing negotiations for trade treaties (Sir Henry Gullett), that the Senate should stand firmly by this request.
– The honorable senator has exhausted his time.
Question - That the request be not further pressed - put. The committee divided. (TheTemporaryChairman-Senator J. B. Hayes.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Request not further pressed.
Resolution reported ; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Bill returned from the House of Representatives with a message intimating that it had made the amendment requested by the Senate in this bill.
Bill read a third time.
Motion (by Senator Sir George pearce) agreed to -
That the Semite, atits rising, adjourn till a day and hour to be fixed by the President, which time of meeting shall be notified to each senator by telegram or letter.
Motion (by Senator SirGeorge Pearce) - by leave - agreed to -
That leave of absence be granted to every memberof the Senate from the determination of the sitting this day to the day on which the Senate next meets.
[9.18]. - I move-
That the Senate do now adjourn.
On behalf of the Government, I wish to thank honorable senators for the way in which they have assisted, particularly during the last weak, to facilitate the business of this chamber. I also express the Government’s appreciation of the services rendered by yourself, Mr. Deputy President, and officers of the Senate, during this session. Present indications are that Parliament will most probably be called together some time in August.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 9.19 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 22 May 1936, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1936/19360522_senate_14_150/>.